When a marine keeper won't reveal how much he spent on his latest passion, you know it has to be special. Daniel Nguyen answers only some of Levi Major's questionsâ€¦
This is one of the prettiest and natural reefs I have seen. What was your inspiration?
Having met many local reefers over the years, my final inspiration came from my friend Kevin who had a magnificent Hole In the Wall (HITW), mixed reef. That drove me to try and excel with my own creation.
Clearly that initial drive has taken you a long way! However, if I wanted to go out and recreate this set-up how much would it cost?
I am a reefer with a passion and therefore don’t calculate the cost because it could make me feel dizzy! I just enjoy what I do and it costs what it costs.
Things could always be done more cheaply, but if you love what you do then you sometimes don’t want to economise.
You clearly did not economise on that skimmer! At a price tag of some £1,200 here in the UK it costs more than many of my previous tanks put together!
It is nice though isn’t it! If you ask a lot from your equipment you need the right equipment in the first place.
I see you have a mix of SPS and LPS and soft corals. Have you experienced any aggressive behaviour between them? If so, how did you go about tackling the problem?
There are only a few LPS and softies and they are doing pretty well in my tank. As I run a Low Nutrient System I have to feed a lot to keep them happy.
Other than that careful placement of the corals and general regular maintenance keeps any aggression at bay.
What do you regard as the most important lessons when setting up and maintaining a reef system?
Patience is the key! You have to take it slow and abide by one of the other fundamentals, which is water testing. You can’t win the game without knowing your enemies, so you need to know your parameters and maintain stable ones.
Nothing good happens quickly with marine aquariums, but I find that when a problem arises a good quality partial water change goes a long way to help.
I also find it helpful to look at placements of corals in the dealers’ tanks, I then simply try to replicate them by positioning new corals in the right light/flow zone of my aquarium.
It also pays to use a good method of dipping new corals to eliminate unknown creatures, bugs, pests or disease.
With that many corals there must be a large bio-demand for many elements. What and how do you supplement?
I simply dose a two-part solution to cover most of my tank’s needs. However, given the bio-demand, I also use Kalkwasser for top-offs.
I also add Brightwell Bacteria 7 and dose some Amino Acid, Sponge Power and K+ Zeovit supplements when needed.
How often do you maintain the system, what do you do and how long does it take?
I do about a 20% water change every fortnight. At the same time I simply scrape off algae, change carbon and GFO (granular ferric oxide – phosphate resin) which takes about an hour.
How long has the system been running and how long do you plan to keep it so?
The tank has been going for 15 months and I intend to keep it running until the eventual upgrade. Doesn’t everyone?
What advice would you offer beginners who wish to replicate this style of aquarium?
Be patient, test your water and maintain the tank’s stability, and simply keep up with water changes! Try to get the best equipment you can afford at the outset, as it will save money and headaches when you have to get something better in the not too distant future!
Name: Daniel Nguyen.
Location: Garden Grove, California, USA.
Years of experience: Five.
Occupation: Civil engineer.
Number of tanks: Two. Display tank and frag tank.
Favourite fish: Countless.
Favourite inverts: Countless.
Pet hate: Bugs.
Display tank: 150 x 60 x 60cm/60 x 24 x 24”; frag tank 122 x 40 x 45cm/48 x 15 x 17”.
Volume: 568 l/150 US gal.
Construction: Eurobraced custom by Leemar, dark red pine stand 150 x 60 x 94cm/60 x 24 x 37”.
Sump: 227 l/60 US gal DIY sump with built-in RO reservoir.
Lighting: Two ATI Powermodule, four 54w HO T5 and Odysea Moonlight.
Protein skimmer: Royal Exclusiv Bubble King Supermarin 250 Internal.
Water circulation: Tunze 6101, Tunze 6105, two Tunze 6100, 7096 Tunze controller and Laguna Maxflow 1500 return pump.
Calcium reactor: Deltec 600S.
Other filtration: TLF phosphate reactor, TLF carbon reactor, DIY top-off. Controller: Neptune AC Jr.
Heating/cooling: Marineland 400w heater and fan.
Specific gravity: 1.025.
Calcium: 400 ppm.
Alkalinity: 7-8 KH.
Temperature: 25-25.5°C/77-78°F winter, 26.6-27.2°C/80-81°F summer.
Nitrate: Not detectable.
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This item first appeared in the August 2010 issue of Practical Fishkeeping magazine. It may not be reproduced without written permission.