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ISSUE # 5 page 3 May 1997
MY FIRST 55 GALLON REEF AQUARIUM FOR GROWING BROOD STOCK
On Feb. 14, 1996 my husband, LeRoy Headlee called me into my office, told me to keep my eyes closed then asked me to open them. What was displayed before me was a glass aquarium, stand with a hood and all the gadgets that go with it. He said "happy valentines day honey", I looked at him with caution and surprise. I had spent years watching his magic with reef animals, the incredible beauty of his aquariums and the many hours spent trying something new or spending money on some new toy,
NEVER DID I THINK I WOULD GET HOOKED!.
This was my very first attempt at my very own reef aquarium, although I had the fortune of being married to the expert, I still spent countless hours researching, reading books that scared me, and almost made me give in before I made my first attempt.
I would like to express right here that by no means do I want to ever discourage anyone from setting up a reef tank, nor do I want to share my research and methods as the only way to do this. I agreed to share this information more on the basis of making sure that the mistakes I've made won't have to be made again and if I can save someone a step or two that they might be stumbling on then we will all get to where we want to go safer and faster.
LeRoy started setting up my tank days after he presented me with this gift. He started by placing a ecosand filter on the bottom of my tank. Than he brought me in about 80lbs of Garf Grunge TM live sand to eveningly spread on top and told me to make sure that there were no holes and that the ecosand filter was completely covered. I can tell you my tank was so cloudly I never thought that it would clear and it did make it hard to be sure that I coverd all the black plastic mesh so just to be sure I'd add another handful to the bottom. I could not believe it when I came to work the next day the tank water was crystal clear!!!
LeRoy then put in the lights, we started with 6 - 40 watt lights which gave us about 5 watts per gallon. The next thing we added was some beautiful arches that LeRoy made by hand for me. I than began glue animals to these arches (yes I did this under water). I placed my base rock where I wanted it, then I added my live rock to fill in.
I went around the entire lab and picked pieces that had color on them and had unusual shapes to them. It was the second day that I begin adding creatures to my reef and to be honest with you I have not stopped even today!
ALL OF MY ATTACHMENTS ARE DONE UNDER WATER WITH SUPER GLUE.
I spent countless hours looking in all of LeRoy's tanks, turning over grunge and live rocks, whatever tiny animals I found I went running into my office and glued these animals were I wanted them. In the very first month I could tell this tank was going to be remarkable and no artist could paint a more perfect picture, yet the one thing we all lack is the patience it takes for this animals to come into their own.
There are many things that I have accomplished with my tank that I was warned I could not do (I guess everybody loves a challanege) and to everyone's surprise it grew and grew and grew. I would add a handful of GARF's janitors once a month and throw in a little grunge to my tank when some new stuff came in. I never went through any bad algae stage and my janitors keep the rock and glass so clean that this setup is really maintenance free.
I now have over 165 different species of corals living in my 55 gallon reef. I have to pay close attention that nothing is touching each other or stinging each other, or something hasn't knocked something over, or they get enough light and so on.
It took me forever to be able to keep a Xenia coral alive, but through trail and error I now have 5 different species and I affectionately call them weeds. It takes time to find the best condition for your coral, but you can move them around and I suggest doing so. I have my hand in my tank daily and it never looks the same from one week to the next because I move my animals around in my tank.
We have increased my lighting to 7 watts per gallon and in the next week will be increasing that even more. We now have 2- VHO 4' bulbs and 4 - 4' 40 watt bulbs. We will change this to 4 - 4' VHO and 2 -4' 40 watt because so many sps corals are growing now.
I noticed that when I figured out what additives worked best for my system that if I did it on a regular basis, meaning the same time and the same day of the week, I saw the best results. It is so important to keep your system as stable as possible. If your water evaporates then your salt content will increase, temperature increases and so on.
I have a water box on the sump in my system that drops water into my tank when the water level goes down. (SEE FIG.1) This box needs to be filled only once a week, but I believe it is one of the reasons my system remains so stable.
I am also committed to - when something works why change it! It took me a long time to come up with the right additives that would work for my system and believe me I lost a few things along the way trying!
I am very adamant about starting with smaller animals and giving them room to grow and establish themselves. Out of all the species in my system maybe ten of them truely come from the ocean itself. It is also important for you to decide what it is you want to accomplish with your reef aquarium. LeRoy and I have had a quarrel or two about adding too many fish and which ones to add.
Soft corals grows much faster than the small polyp stony corals so placement and space is really important.
After my first year of learning and growing with this aquarium LeRoy gifted me with my second aquarium for this valentines day.
I had one really bad experience on the propagating side, which I feel is important to share so that perhaps you will not have to encounter this. I was cutting my large colony of red Mexican Palythoas underwater in my tank, removing the polyp down to the stem and then gluing them to the plug and putting the cutting in my new tank. The next day I came into my office the the beautiful 4" peach colored giant calm was dead and had slimed up my whole tank. The only thing I can blame this on is the toxins that came from my Palythoa when cutting inside my aquarium.
When propagating Palythoas, I think one should remove the animal and rock from the aquarium, propagate it, dip it in salt water then place it back in your system where you want it.
THIS IS THE 55 CUTTING TANK
WITH THE PLASTIC RACKS
After the first month of having my second aquarium I made 143 plug cuttings, which had anywhere from 2-3 different animals on each plug. We decided to sell the plugs for $20.00 each. In the second month we had already sold over $1,500.00 (yes you guessed it LeRoy looked at me and said "now we have enough to buy you another aquarium").
The most amazing thing to me was that when I made all these cuttings I found I had a second layer of animals that were being covered up by some of the bigger creatures. It is truly important to trim, prune and cut back these animals.
Even after cutting and glue attachment I have seen the polyps expand the same day. Sometimes it is smart to heal some of the animals by placing them in slower current or less light and then to gradually move them up. Again the best way to tell what is needed is by paying attention to the looks of the animal itself.
I really hope this article is helpful and perhaps encourages more people to try to grow a more diverse group of corals. I would love to share more of this experience and to go in more detail with those who have specific questions. Just send your questions on to GARF and I will answer them as soon as possible.
Dry powders added to fresh water
Liquids added to sump
Liquids added to sump