fish1Wow, I was certainly surprised upon being informed, that MY tank was nominated for TOTM. A huge and heartfelt thanks goes out to all that found my tank worthy of this nomination.

My name is Adrian Fynn, by profession I’m an IT Infrastructure, operations manager for a large corporate. I must say, being involved in this hobby helps me blow off steam after a hectic day at work. Having kept freshwater tanks many years back when still in high school, I always longed for a marine tank. Coming from Durban, I spent all my free time fishing in the sea. Having then moved to Joburg and the fact that I left the sea behind, culminated in me setting up my own bit of the ocean here in my living room.

I bought this tank 2nd hand with visions of keeping only fish, so at the time was not really stressed around the condition and dimensions of the tank. I started off with a fish only system, which was actually stocked with fish I had caught off Durban’s North Pier using a tiny hook and float, and that was six years ago. As my interest in marines grew, so did my love for reef keeping which has culminated in a mostly SPS dominated system. Seeing corals and fish grow in their somewhat unnatural habitat, is the most rewarding part of this hobby.



Description and Short History

fish1Main display
The tank is basically 2 meters long, 60cm wide and water level height of 60cm. On the left side it has an overflow box that is housed on the outside. From there, water drains into my nursery tank located next to the display tank. Glass thickness is 10mm with a 20mm base. The tank is braced in the centre.

The cabinetry was done by a professional cabinetry maker and he did an excellent job using solid meranti wood. I chose this wood for its durability as it is used on yachts and the like and would stand up well to salt creep and other elements. On the right hand side of the hood area is a bathroom exhaust fan that pulls in air from the living room and blows air into the hood which houses the metal halides. Hot air from the lighting is expelled through holes in the roof of the hood. The total water volume of my display tank is 689 liters.

Nursery tank
The frag holding tank is plumbed into the display tank from the overflow box. The tank is 60cm x 60cm x 25cm (water level height of 21cm) in 10mm glass. I made this myself and it has a simple 50mm overflow pipe that sends the water down to the 1st sump compartment. Total water volume is 70 liters.

I have three glass tanks which together act as one big sump which was also DIY’d. As I wanted to maximise the floor space under and between the legs of the tank stand, I had to build three separate tanks. The tanks are interconnected by a simple overflow of weirs that interlock the tanks together. The 1st sump houses live rock (all Kenyan), 2nd is my DSB and the 3rd sump houses my return pump and protein skimmer. Total water volume of these tanks measures 240 liters. My whole system volume is around 1000 liters.



Filtration Methods

fish1I have basically been through all types of filtration methods associated with this hobby. Yes, I even did the hair curler, trickle filter with bio balls thingy in the early days. There are some methods that I regard as being bullet proof for which I believe live rock and my huge DSB has given me most noticeable improvements over the years. I believe though, that your filtration method depends a lot on what you want out of your system, similarly what is best for the live stock and the conditions that it requires to thrive.

Live Rock
I have about 100kg’s of Kenyan live rock in my system. I have cut down considerably on the amount of LR in my display and in so doing, apply the principle that the only LR that goes into the display must have a coral attached to it. More swimming space to the fishes.

Deep sand bed
This is made up of 80 kilos of normal kiddies play sand, mixed with 10 kilos Caribsea Aragalive. This provides me with a depth of around 15cm of sand.

Algae turf scrubber
My ATS design is basically an all glass design that has a spray bar that wets an upright piece of glass from both sides. I ended up placing a layer of plastic flysheet screen on both sides to aid with the foothold for the algae. I’ve currently taken it offline to make some amendments as the spray bay portion is too far from the material and I want to move it closer to the fly screen. Perhaps my most questionable and experimental addition of late, the results I’ve seen of using an ATS with no other form of carbon/bacterial dosing, is nothing short of amazing.

More experimenting, I have also very recently started dosing with these live microorganisms. I’m running Prodibio in conjunction with the Brightwells NeoZeo (zeolith) method. The dosing regimen as prescribed by the manufactures.

Water organics and toxins
I run a ReefOctopus TS3 protein skimmer that takes care of the dissolved organic compounds. A Phosban fluidized reactor loaded with Waterboy’s carbon, to absorb all those toxic chemicals given off by the corals thereby providing excellent water clarity at all times.





Circulation & Waterflow

fish1Display tank
SPS corals demand lots of flow, for this I utilize four seio M2600’s (10 000lph each) and two Sun Sun double header pumps (12 000lph). This gives a total turnover rate alone in the display at 92 times an hour.  Only one pump stays on all the time, the rest are switched off on a timer when the halides are switched off.

My aquascape is actually sitting on stilts made of solid plastic 10mm rods. I drill 11mm holes into the base rock and propped the rock to give the rock scape overhang cliffs and a place for the fish to hide. The cave openings all face the back of the tank which again helps gives the fish an escape route even from me, making them not visible from the front.  Also this helps to hide’s three of the bulky Seio’s which provide flow at the bottom, underneath and behind the rock scape. This ensures that the detritus and sand are blown free from settling below and behind the rockscape by blowing most of it to the front of the tank.

For the return pump, I use a Hailea 6540 pump which is rated at 2880 lph. Return flow is first channeled through to the outside chiller before entering the display tank.
Nursery tank
As important as flow is inside your display, so I have applied the same logic to my frag set-up. The frag tank has a total of 70 liters and flow is provided by three Sun Sun pumps totaling 6 600 lph. This provides me with a turnover rate of 94 times an hour. All pumps are on timer and turn off when the lights go off.



fish1Display tank
Over the years I have simplified my lighting, previously having mixed and matched with 4x 80w T5’s (various brands) with 5x 150w metal halides all of which were adequate for my systems requirements and what I wanted to achieve back then with my system.

I currently utilize four SE 250w MH’s which provides me with 1000 watts of lighting. These are housed in Lumenarc styled aluminum reflectors. The BLV Nepturion range (BLV 20 000k globes) provide the tank with just enough blue to my liking which is not at blue as other make of globes of similar kelvin rating. I must say, coral growth is reasonably good with most coral types enjoying excellent growth. I currently provide no supplementation with T5’s.

Nursery tank
As a frag housing and grow out facility, I’m still experimenting to see what combination provides the best growth combination. I use two 150w metal halides (venture 10 000k and BLV 20 000k). On either side, mounted in its own reflector are 24w T5’s. I use Reeftek actinics and Arcadia whites (14000k). This amount to 396 watts of lighting.

I found with this combination, SPS frags would have visibly encrusted their coral cradles within two weeks of being super glued to their frag plugs. I’m thus able to promote coral growth and coloration of frags until they are ready to be added to the display tank or traded with fellow reefers.

Display tank
Halides numbered from left to right = 1,2,3,4
Each bulb burns for 12 hours.

09:00 = 1,3 on
10:00 = 2,4 on

21:00 = 1,3 off
22:00 = 2,4 off

Frag tank
All T5’s (blue and white), burn for 12 hours
12 noon = on
12 midnight = off

Both halides, burn for 10 hours
13:00 = on

23:00 = off


Other Equipment

Is provided by two Jager 300w heaters. In order to minimize the chiller from switching on, I only use one heater in summer. The second one in winter is linked to a timer that is only powered on when the halides are off. Understandably, the halides and internal pumps provide heating of their own and the large volume of water which is well insulated indoors, ensure that heat loss is kept to a minimum.

Provided by a very effective Haliea 1000B chiller. It is situated outside the house in a DIY enclosure that keeps it well ventilated and away from the elements. Temperature is regulated not to go above 27 degrees and maintained on average at 26 degrees with night time sometimes dipping to 24 degrees.

RO water and top off
I have a 4 stage RO machine, I bought it such a while back that I can’t recall the actual make. The company I bought it from visits me and services the unit every 6 months. It is situated below the nursery tank inside the cabinet. I had a tap installed there as well which provides feed via my RO unit,  to my top up reservoir bin (120L trash bin) located outside. The reservoir bin rests on top of the enclosure that houses the chiller.

Profilux autodoser with onboard PC controller which handles two dosing pumps (can be upgraded to four). This unit can be calibrated and provides either a manual setting or programmable setting.

Kalk stirrer
I recently added a ReefOctopus stirrer KR140, to help supplement calcium and other ions from the kalk mix. The auto top off is fed via this unit which is piped into the sump via 6mm tubing. The kalk mix also helps with the skimming efficiency and has thus added benefit to my set-up.

I use a SAGA PH monitor as well as an ORP meter that also governs the Ozoniser and is set to switch off should the redox reading go above 450. Ozone is delivered directly to both the venturi air tubes that are attached to the skimmer. I’ve only recently switched this unit back on as for some reason, I’ve had a bad patch of cynobacteria growing in my nursery tank.

All power to the tank is routed via two circuit breakers that are dedicated just for the tanks needs. The 16 amp breaker caters for the lighting while a 20 amp breaker is linked to everything else. Some trivia, if all items were powered on at the same time, which does happen now and then, my system, will use a total of 3876 watts of power. This would drive a total of 38 electrical powered devices.



fish1Water changes
These are done weekly and for this, I use Tetra Marine salt. I use water prepared from my RO unit and is mixed overnight in a 120L bin outside. The bin has a feed for an air stone, mixing pump and heater. I usually prepare everything Friday after work, ready for a Saturday morning water change. The same power head that does the mixing then has a pipe plugged into it and when switched on, pumps the mixed water directly into my sump and from there, my return pumps it to my display tank. The whole episode of draining water out of the DT and pumping freshly made water in takes no more than 20 minutes. I also give the glass a good clean on the inside while the water is being changed. I’m of the opinion though that one should not stick to one salt brand, rather switch brands periodically to prevent buildup of a single impurity (all brands have some degree of impurity), something I’ve witness first hand and only now started to practice myself.

Activated Carbon
This is a must when having a mixed reef, to ensure toxins are removed that are given off by all the chemical warfare that occurs between corals. The carbon is replaced every 3 weeks. Waterboy activated carbon is used and is placed in my Phosban fluidized reactor for maximum effect.

Dosing solutions
Every second week I prepare my solutions for calcium and alkalinity.

Filter sock
I use a low micron sock which I stuff with filter floss. This sock is connected to the outflow pipe that drains from the overflow box into my nursery tank. The sock is cleaned and rinsed out every day and the filter floss is replaced daily. I do not connect the filter sock during the night.

Perhaps the one area where I’m lax in keeping things in tip top shape. I’ll give the pumps a good scrub and clean when I visibly notice things looking a bit sluggish. After giving them a good scrub and rinsing, I place them all in a tub with tap water and add a good dose of vinegar to help loosen left behind coralline growth, switch them on and let them run for about an hour. Rinse in fresh water again before mounting them back in the tank.

Algae Scrubber
Remove algae by manually scrapping, alternating each side once every two weeks.


Feeding & Additives

I use the Balling method of which I am a huge proponent. It really makes short work of dosing the chemicals required to keep up with my systems calcium and alkalinity demands. The doser is set to dose at equal time periods, 10 intervals during a 24 hour period, the required daily ml that is required for my systems needs.

My calcium demands are around 18-20ppm a day. Using the Randy Holmes-Farley two part solution, using raw calcium chloride which I mix manually in RO water.

My alkalinity demands are around 1.8-2.0dKH a day. Again I use the Randy Holmes-Farley two part solution recipe. The solution is made up of Robertson’s bicarbonate which I mix manually in RO water. The bicarbonate is pre-baked in the oven to make it anhydrous, removing the moisture content. It also then has the added benefit of not severely affecting your PH when added to your system.

Once a month I mix with 2 litres of RO water, a box (500gr) of Robertson’s Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) and drip that into the sump if my readings test lower than 1300ppm.

Perhaps an additive that is often not fully understood by all and which can quickly lead to disastrous results if overdosed or at the other end, not being dosed in a system. I dose 3 drops of Brightwells Lugol’s solution every night.

Seachem Reef plus (Amino Acids)
Once a week 50ml

Seachem Strontium
Once a week 20ml

Fish are fed with two types of pellets, Omega One garlic and New Spectrum 0.5mm pellets. The latter being a much smaller sized grain suited for chromis and anthias which ensures that everyone gets their far share. The pellet feeding is taken care of by an auto feeder which dumps the required amount at 4 feeding intervals during the day when I’m not home.

Every second day my tangs enjoy a ¾ nori sheet attached to a feeding clip. Each evening all the fish enjoy a liberal helping of 5 cubes of frozen mysis shrimp which I thaw out and rinse before serving. Everyone goes to bed on a full stomach.





fish1I have listed based on what I am able to identify to the best of my ability (what a mission), as the variants in the Acropora sp. family is massive. I have a total of 32 different colored variants of SPS corals alone. These are grouped as follows, under the following genera:

A. abrolhosensisltata

A. cerealis

A. cervicornis

A. chathrata

A. chesterfieldensis

A. formosa

A. granulosa

A. insignius

A. millipora

A. parilis

A. prostrata

A. secale

A. tenius

A. valida

A. yongei

Montipora capricornis

Montipora digidata

Pocillopora damicornis

Seriatopora caliendrum

LPS, softies and other corals
I have a total of 22 color variants, grouped into the genera listed below:

Acanthastrea bowerbanki

Briareum sp.

Caulastrea echinulata

Cladiella sp.

Discosoma striata

Echinophyllia sp.

Euphyllia glabrescens

Euphyllia parancora

Hydnophora grandis

Lobophyton sp.

Physogyra lictensteini

Protopalythoa sp.

Ricordea florida

Ricordea yuma

Sarcophyton sp.

Sinularia dura

Trachyphyllia geoffroyi

Turbinaria peltata

Xenia sp.



fish1I have a heavily stocked fish population which totals 36 fish. As I don’t feed my corals with coral food additives, it’s the fish pooh that becomes coral feed.

Anthias - Pseudanthias squamipinnis x10
Banggai cardinal - Pterapogon kauderni x3
Cleaner wrasse - Labroides dimidiatus
Copperband butterflyfish - Chelmon rostratus
Foxface - Siganus vulpinus
Green chromis - Chromis viridis x13
Naso/Lipstick tang - Naso lituratus
Pacific Sailfin Tang - Zebrasoma veliferum
Powder blue tang - Acanthurus leucosternon
Regal tang - Paracanthurus hepatus
Yellow tang - Zebrasoma flavescens x2
Yellowtail Blue Damsel - Chrysiptera parasema


Other Livestock

fish1My cleaning crew forms an integral part of my set-up. I have around 80 hermits and about 50 snails in my setup. Most of these are locally caught off the south coast of KZN. I also have two serpent banded starfish and a breeding pair of cleaner shrimps. There are hundreds of tiny Asterina starfish that don’t seem to bother my corals at all, they also assist in keeping things clean.




Tank Specification and Water Params

fish1Tank Specifications 

Tank Dimensions: (cm) 200l x 60w x 75h (water 60cm)
Sump Dimensions:  (cm) 50l x 60w x 45h, 80l x 44w x 40h, 40l x 60w x 35h
Frag tank Dimensions: (cm) 60 x 60 x 25h (water 21cm)
Tank Volume:  689L water volume
System Volume: 999L water volume

Water Parameters

Temperature: 24-26
PH: 8.1 – 8.4
Salinity: 1.026
Ammonia: 0
Nitrite: 0
Nitrate: 0
Phosphate: 0
Calcium: 420-450ppm
KH: 8-9dkh
Magnesium: 1300
Iodine: not tested
Redox: 380-420




fish1It has been a very long journey, where I practically wrote the book in doing things the wrong way, as well as experiencing all the tragedies, to a point where I almost threw in the towel and thought I would never get it right. I managed to turn things around with some welcomed surprises one could experience within this hobby. Perhaps notably for me, was witnessing cleaner shrimp hatchlings in my tank (which very quickly became fish food) and of late, my Bangaii Cardinals bred and I have three babies swimming around.  

If I had to turn back the clock and do things differently, I would have gotten a wider tank, 60cm is far too narrow for those table acropora’s. Perhaps also taken better care of the glass and have less scratches on the viewing panes. I lost all my fish on new year’s day (was on holiday) stemming from a power trip, due to an overloaded circuit. Proper electrical cabling and circuit breakers dedicated to the tank is a must and I should have installed this on day one.

 Also for those who aspire to be “Die Hard” reefers with big systems (also when planning that next upgrade J), having a nursery frag tank of sorts is almost a must. Plan in it into your design layout so that it can be plumbed into your display system.

I would like to thank all the reefers out there whom through dialogue and their commentary postings on forums, have helped me make better calculated decisions which assisted in getting me here.

Last but not least, thank you to my kids for all the time spent away from them, for putting up with daddy’s constant fish tank antics. To my loving wife for her enduring patience with this obsessive hobby. For assisting me on those days spent scrubbing live rock and those countless early morning mopping operations…could not have done it without you guys.

If I may impart some passing thoughts, a big part of this hobby is about understanding what really makes things tick and how best to tweak your system that will yield best results. If I may be blunt here, laziness is not an option. One should always research and do your home work. Each outstanding set-up I have encountered is unique in its own right. Try and emulate the best combination that would suite what you aim to achieve in your system, take things slow and don’t rush into anything. Above all, enjoy it and share your stories and experiences with fellow reefers and non reefers alike.