Levi Major checks out Slobodan Lazaveric's stunning reef tank.
This is one of the prettiest and most natural reefs I have seen in a while. What was your inspiration behind the layout?
For all my aquariums, freshwater or reef, I find inspiration in nature. When I was younger I used to do a lot of diving, so the beauty of the tropical seas left a big impression on me.
I live in Serbia, a land without a coast, and my longing for the sea led me to find consolation by creating my own personal slice of the ocean.
Creating a reef tank is a long process and it is important to have vision. I try to ensure what I build looks as natural as possible. However, aquariums are limited in space, making it hard to create something to resemble the seemingly endless reefs.
It is important to have an understanding of the world you create as there are so many rules related to the water chemistry and relationship between reef species.
There are many reef aquariums out there that I don’t consider to look like natural reefs — and many which have corals that do not look like corals would in nature.
It appears that many aquarists want corals with bright colours which are not typical in the natural environment.
If I wanted to go out and recreate this set-up what would it set me back?
This has taken me many years to create. The first aquarium was started in 2006 using many corals taken from some smaller aquariums I already had.
In 2007 I added the sump and subsequently added additional aquariums one by one. Now the system has four aquariums, more than 2500 l/550 gal of water and more than 400kg of live rock.
If we are talking about prices, this system is very expensive because I’ve done my best to find the highest quality equipment I could. It’s very hard to say how much it cost, but I consider it to be worth more than the money invested in it.
I’m not a rich man and my reef is not my caprice; it is my microcosm of ocean to where I can escape after a long day’s work.
Given your location, it cannot be easy sourcing many items from equipment to livestock. How have you managed to achieve this?
Unfortunately in my country there aren’t any reef aquarium shops at the moment. I need to find the majority of my equipment abroad and then find the easiest and safest way to ship them back to Serbia.
Thanks to this hobby I have many friends around the world who help me to find equipment. Without them it would be nearly impossible, and they deserve a bit of gratitude for their help.
My corals have come from halfway round the world and I would particularly like to thank T K Haw and K B Haw, my dear friends from Singapore for their invaluable help.
I see there is a good mix of SPS and LPS corals. Have you experienced any aggression between the corals? If so how have you combated this?
My system is home to almost 200 types of soft, LPS and SPS coral.
Of course many of them fight for space in different ways, such as using chemical agents or even by physical contact.
However, thanks to a bit of knowledge and experience gained over the years, I’ve managed to keep them together without experiencing any major problems.
Anyone who decides to keep such a coral mix has to invest a lot of time to learn about the needs and the habits of each one.
It’s also extremely important to plan in advance as to where to place your corals and to recognise any early signs of aggression so you can intervene, should the need arise.
What do you regard as the most important lessons when setting up and maintaining a reef system?
There are a lot of important lessons – in fact thousands! Reef aquariums need dedication, not only in the form of physical work but you also have to be devoted to continual learning.
Without doubt every aquarium has its ups and downs. Your aquarium’s success depends on education, knowledge and experience so that you know how to handle any potential problems that may arise.
As a biologist, this makes it easier for me to oversee and understand all possible problems and know how to solve them. However, despite some 30 years experience in this hobby, I’m still trying to learn and educate myself as much as possible.
Internet sources and the few true quality magazines out there, such as PFK, do help me a lot when I am faced with a specific problem that needs a quick response and action.
Thankfully however, I haven’t had too many problems with my aquariums. The biggest I have is fast growth of corals which require frequent fragging to ensure they do not damage one another.
With that many corals there must be a large demand for many elements. What and how do you supplement?
There are a lot of corals in this system and they are growing very fast, so a lot of macro and micro elements are required. The calcium demand is massive on this system because coral growth is rapid.
I have two reactors but found lately that they cannot meet all the corals’ requirements and I have to supplement with calcium chloride anhydrous (minimum 97% purity) and calcium complete with gluconate to keep the calcium levels at 400-430 ppm with an alkalinity at 7-8 KH.
With regard to micronutrients, the use of the IKS Aquastar and IKS Doser allows me to precisely add the vital nutrients for corals on a daily basis to provide all the important and necessary elements for growth.
I’ve used Grotech A, B, C and M additives for some time now. I have acquired good equipment for precise measuring and reliable water testing. This permits me to provide for the needs of my reef and planted aquariums.
How often do you maintain the system, what do you do and how long does it take you?
Water parameters are tested once a week when I change approximately 8% of the aquarium water using Tropic Marin Pro Reef and Reef Crystals. I need to clean the protein skimmer every few days and, of course, I inspect all my corals and fish daily to make sure they are OK.
My RO/DI cartridges are changed every three months, activated carbon is changed each month and Rowaphos changed every three. I change the T5 bulbs every 12 months.
How long has the system been set up and how long do you plan to keep it running?
This system was started in 2006 and subsequently it has been added to over the years. I plan to keep it up and running as long as possible. However, as I am increasingly finding less space for the corals I am planning to add a 1000 l/220 gal aquarium to the system for frags.
I see you have had success with breeding the likes of the Lawnmower blenny (Salarias fasciatus). Any chance you can share some tips?
Sexing Lawnmower blennies can be quite hard. You will, however, notice that both the male and female have two spines in their anal fin. In the female, one or both spines may be smaller or even embedded, while on the male the anal fin spines may be capped with a fleshy tissue.
I was young when I bred my first marine fish and believe I succeeded because I already had experience with freshwater fish.
In this system many fish breed because they are in good condition and fed a high quality, varied diet. If you provide this, they will do the rest for themselves. It’s just up to you to watch and learn from them.
Name: Slobodan Lazarevic.
Location: Belgrade, Serbia.
Years of experience: 22 years in marine, 31 in freshwater. I started my first marine aquarium in 1988. It was only 200 l/44 gal and at that time I already had a lot of experience with freshwater aquariums.
Occupation: Fishkeeping, corals and aquatic plants are my business, my hobby and still my obsession. My business involves breeding freshwater fishes, aquatic plants and corals.
Number of aquariums: More than 300 freshwater aquariums and this reef system. Most are located in a separate space, which my wife has named Laza’s Greenhouse.
Size: Four tanks in system: three are 200 x 55 x 50 cm/79 x 22 x 20”, the other is 200 x 55 x 60 cm/79 x 22 x 24”.
Total system volume: 2,700 l/595 gal.
Skimmer: Bubble King 300 Internal Deluxe.
Display aquarium: Arcadia 3-series metal halides (two150w MH Iwasaki 14000K and one 150w Iwasaki 20 000K).
Second aquarium: AquaConnect LumiMaster eight T5 lamps.
LPS aquarium: DIY light eight T5 80w lamps.
Frag aquarium: DIY light eight T5 80w lamps.
Pumps: Six 2500l Red Dragon, two Tunze Master.
Heaters: Four 250w Jagers.
Chiller/cooler: AquaMedic Titan 1500, eight fans over surface water, air conditioner.
UV: Two De Bary Aqua UV, 25W.
Phosphate reactor: Deltec.
Calcium reactor: Two Deltec PF 601.
Kalk stirrer: Deltec KM 500.
Dosing pump(s): Three AquaMedics, an IKS Vario and IKS Doser for microelements.
Control system: IKS Aquastar Bassi system, Tunze redox controller set 7075/2, Tunze temperature controller set, Tunze water level alarm, Tunze pH control set.
RO unit: Six-stage RO unit.
Other equipment: Ozonizer, plankton reactor Grotech Phytobreder 2, Grotech Phytocontrol
Water parameters: pH: 8 at night and 8.2-8.3 during the day; sg1.026, nitrate 2, phosphate 0, calcium 410-430, KH 7-8, magnesium 1,350-1,400; iodine 0.03 ppm; strontium 10 mg/l, potassium 400 mg/l, ORP 420-450mv.
Why not check out some of the other fabulous reef tanks featured on the PFK website:
Slobodan's freshwater aquascape is also featured on the PFK website.
This item first appeared in the December 2010 issue of Practical Fishkeeping magazine. It may not be reproduced without written permission.