fish1I have been in this hobby for about 14 years now. I have seen the good and the bad side of reef keeping and technology and methods come and go. I started my first reef aquarium at the age of 13.  My aim was to create a beautiful reef but what I ended up with was lots of algae and dead creatures. I read many, many books afterwards and over the years experimented with many methods and tactics. But of all the things I have tried, following nature’s way has proved to be the best.

I have owned just about every piece of reef technology and gadget you can imagine. From Calcium reactors, kalk stirrers, controllers, ect. I have had great success with these technologies but it was only when I shed the technology that I truly felt good about my reef.

I had a successful 225gl in wall that had won numerous awards, including TOTM on Reef Central  but I was bored of it. I have always liked the “Euro” styled rimless setups and I wanted to build something similar. I wanted to be sure that everything in the tank balanced out and looked pleasing to the eye.


Description and Short History

fish1Display Tank
48" x 24" x 20" Rimless
100 gallons from
2 Sided Starphire glass( Front and left side)
Right Side Corner Overflow with 1" return and 1.5" drain

The stand is hand built and tiled. No equipment will be under the tank. The sump and all equipment will be located in the room directly behind the tank.

Existing 45 gallon AGA tank



Filtration Methods

fish170lbs of fiji live rock

Existing Deltec AP851

I am hoping that this will not be over kill on a smaller tank such as this. Worst case scenario I can just feed the fish more; I’m sure they won’t mind.




Circulation & Waterflow

fish1Ehiem 1260 for Return pump
Tunze 6025 Nano Stream
Vortech Mp40w
Vortech Mp20
Modded Tunze 6045’s Nano Streams(in sump)






fish1Aquactinics Constellation 7x54W T5
The fixture will be hung from the ceiling
The bulbs will consist of the following:

ATI Blue Plus
ATI Aqua Blue Special
ATI Aqua Blue Special
ATI Blue Plus
ATI Blue Plus
ATI Aqua Blue Special
ATI Blue Plus

After running high powered Metal Halides for years I decided to change things up a bit. After running the fixture over my holding tank I can tell you that the color combo is outstanding. Along with the great color and output the unit runs very cool and quiet.

3x Blue+ : Noon-11:30PM
Blue+, Aquablue Special: 2:30PM-10:30PM
2x Aquablue Special: 4:30PM-9:30PM


Other Equipment

fish1I do not run any controllers, monitors, or probes.  I try to keep my system as simple and “low tech” as possible. The less equipment you have, the less problems you will have in the future. Follow nature, for it already has the best method of reef keeping.







fish1Filtration and supplements
Carbon in a mesh bag
Prodibio Reef Booster
Lugol’s Solution
Reef Crystals Salt
Seachem Strontium

CA: 110ML
ALK: 110ML
Strontium: 1 Teaspoon
Lugols: 1 drop
MB7: 14 drops
Vodka(80 proof): 2ml

MG: 110ML
AA's: 6 drops(twice a week)

30gl Water change Reef Crystals
Carbon replaced (3-4 cups in a mesh bag)

Calcium & Alkalinity Supplementation:

Randy’s Two Part Solution
I ran both a CA reactor and Kalk Stirrer in the past and honestly have had better results will a simple DIY two part solution. I may also look into the Balling Method, but for now I am happy with the two part solution.

Vodka/bacteria dosing

When I decided to setup the new tank I was trying to mimic nature as much as possible. I read extensively and found that the key was bacteria. Bacteria and the growth of it in a reef aquarium can not be underestimated. The addition of bacteria along with a carbon source, Vodka, to feed the bacteria has really changed the way I keep reefs and think. When looking into bacteria fueled systems I initially took a look into the Zeovit. The principle of Zeovit and its methods are a great way to maintain a beautiful reef system. I wanted to get into Zeovit but living in the United States it is hard to find and expensive. I looked around for a good alternative and found that the addition of bacteria and vodka could do a good job.
At first, I was only dosing vodka alone without any bacteria. The following two days after initially dosing vodka I was shocked to see how clear my water had become. My corals were equally shocked by the increased clarity in the water and lightened up a bit. I immediately cut back on my vodka dosage and the corals colored back up. The carbon that the vodka provides feed bacteria, sometimes the bad ones as I found out. A month after starting up vodka I had a large outbreak of red cotton like growth in my system. The bad bacteria had out competed the good and were taking over. I immediately stopped dosing vodka for one week and purchased a bottle of Brightwell’s Microbacter7 bacteria. I dosed a large dosage of bacteria daily for one week and the bad bacteria went away. I started the vodka again one week later and have been doing good for 5 months now with no more problems.
Benefits I have found with vodka:
-My skimmer is pulling out more waste then ever
-My water is even clearer now
-Polyp extension in corals has greatly increased
-Coral growth has exploded. Within two weeks of dosing I have counted 36 new, small coral heads coming out of my large mille.
-The sand bed is whiter.
-Glass and overflow box stay cleaner longer.

For those of you interested in vodka dosing please look here:


Feeding & Additives

fish1The fish are fed every other day with:

Formula One flake food

Spectrum brand pellets

The corals are fed nothing, other then the occasional amino acids.





ORA Pearl berry
ORA Red Planet
ORA Blue Voodoo
ORA Turquoise stag
ORA Aussie Delicate
ORA Chip’s Acro
ORA Nathans Green Millie
ORA Tri-color Staghorn
ORA Tri-color Valida
ORA Marshall Islands Blue Bottlebrush
ORA Blue Tort
ORA Green Stylophora
ORA Green Birds nest
ORA Pink Birds nest
ORA German Blue Acro (getting this weekend)
ORA Green Bali Slimer
ORA Joe the Coral
ORA Hawkins Blue
ORA Miami Orchid
Blue and Busy Acro
Red Milli
Yellow Table
Yellow Tort
Blue hairy Tenius
Purple Monster
Unknown Deepwater acro
Green Slimmer
Blue Slimmer
Elias stag
Purple Bonsai
Deswali tabling acro
30,000 Leagues Lokani
Lime Green Lokani
Tyree Pink Lemonade
ATL Strawberry fields
ATL Pink Tulips acro
Palmers Blue Mille
Blue Turaki acro
Random Blue Stag

Orange cap
Idaho Grape
Pokerstar Monti
Superman Digi
Green Digi
Orange Digi
M. Setosa

Rainbow, orange, green, red, etc..
Multicolored acan's
Multicolored Chalice
Red Favia with green base
Red Rings of fire Lobo

King Midas
African Blue's
Tubs Blue
Green Bay Packers
Assorted colors



fish1Pacific Blue Tang
Sohal Tang
Yellow Tang(x2)
Male and Female Lyretail Anthias
Bartlett's Anthias (x3)
Royal Gramma
Ocellaris Clownfish(x2)
Blue Devil Damsel




Other Livestock

fish1Two snails
Two serpent stars

Two Blue Maximas
Gold Teardrop Maxima




Tank Specification and Water Params

fish1Tank Specifications

    Tank Dimensions:  48”longx24”widex20”high
    Sump Dimensions: 48”x18x12
     Frag tank Dimensions: 24x24x12
    Tank Volume: 100gl
    System Volume: 160gl




Water Parameters

            Ph 8.3
            Temp 78
            Salinity 1.027
            Kh      8.4
            Ca       440
            Mg      1330
            PO4   0
            NO3   0

Tips and tricks
1. Place a powerhead in sump. The powerhead will help keep detritus waste in suspension making it easier for skimmer and corals to take up. You should also make it a habit to stir up any detritus that has settled in sump at least once a week. People often neglect this simple chore and it creates problems down the road as the waste builds up. I have a Tunze 6045 in my sump and it keeps all waste and particles in suspension.

2. Keep your lighting systems as clean as possible. You should make it a habit to clean your reflectors, bulbs, etc at least once a month. Even a little salt spray can reduce lighting but up to 30%!

3. Carbon. I highly recommended that everyone run carbon, either in a mesh bag in the sump or in a Phosban reactor. If you run it in a mesh bag replace it once a month, in a reactor replace it every 2-4 weeks. Carbon is the simplest and easiest way to maintain a healthy and thriving reef system. Without carbon, Compounds such as yellow phenol can build up. Yellow Phenol is great at absorbing light, thus reducing the amount of PAR reaching your corals. Carbon is also good at removing compounds released by corals. Corals can and will release compounds to fend off other corals in the tank, the carbon will help keep all stress and damage to a minimum. Carbon is also a good insurance policy as it will absorb any harmful chemicals and contaminants that can enter the tank, such as aerosol air fresheners.

4. Create a routine and stick with it. Once a month you should clean out any detritus in the sump, clean ALL powerheads, pumps, probes, and inspect all equipment for defects. A dirty power head has been found to reduce performance, in some cases up to 40%+.

5. Account for everything that you put into the system. Chemicals and compounds build up over time and need to be accounted for. You must find a proper method to export the food and chemicals that are put into the system. Water changes work well and are probably the simplest method of halting the build up of harmful compounds. A refugium is also a good idea and it will absorb and process nutrient and may give off compounds that are beneficial to some corals. Bacterial driven systems such as Zeovit, Prodibio, and Fauna Marin are also good methods for keep parameters in line. Personally, I do daily additions of bacteria and a carbon source (Vodka). I have found a bacterial driven system along with a large skimmer to be the most efficient and cost effective means of keeping nutrients in line.

6. Get the biggest skimmer you can accommodate. I believe that a protein skimmer is one of the most important parts of a healthy reef system. The skimmer I have on my system is rated for 3-4 times more then my system volume. With a larger simmer you can keep a higher bio load and effectively keep the nutrients down. The skimmer will help add oxygen to your system and is a good insurance policy against unforeseen events in the system.

7. Plan ahead when purchasing and placing corals in your system. All to often, people pack more corals into their tanks then they can support. In the beginning this fine but corals soon grow and problems arise. Corals can chemically detect the presence of surrounding corals, and if corals are too close this will stunt their growth. I found the best success with giving corals ample space to grow stress free. when considering what corals to put in your tank, take the time to look up what they will look like as they mature. Do you really want a monster montipora cap. taking over your reef? This brings me to coral placement. By knowing what a coral will look like when it matures you can place it accordingly. obviously you would not want a Montipora cap. placed high up in the tank, as this will only lead to corals beneath it to eventually die due to lack of light from the shade.



fish1I would like to thank Marine Aquariums of South Africa for giving me this opportunity to share my setup and knowledge. I recommend that everyone reading this to “think outside of the box” and experiment with new methods in your reef aquarium. Take things slowly and do not get discouraged by setbacks and problems. Learn from your problems and try to imitate and take methods and philosophies from all the great reef tanks you see out there.

Sonny Harajly