Julian and Sarah's Reef Aquarium

Last Updated Monday, January 05, 2004


bullet50 gallons (48" x 13" x 18")
bullet40 lbs CaribSea "Arag-Alive" Aragonite Live Reef Sand
bullet30 lbs CaribSea Aragonite Dead Reef Sand
bullet40 lbs Fiji "Dead" Rock - from original setup
bullet22 lbs Tonga Ridge Rock 
bullet22 lbs Fiji Live Rock
bulletRed Sea fish pHarm "Coral Reef Red Sea Salt"
bullet50 Gallons Pasadena Tap Water
bulletCPR BakPak 2R skimmer (replaced SeaClone Skimmer)
bulletEheim hang-on-the-back filter with activated charcoal
bulletAquaclear 402 Powerhead
bulletZooMed 212 Oscillating powerhead
bulletGallon jar of Kent Kalkwasser for squirting into BakPak's overflow chamber


bulletTwo Yellow Tangs (Zebrasoma Flavescens)
bulletOne Lionfish
bulletOne Hawkfish

Lighting Hood

JBJ Compact Fluorescent retrofit kit, equipped with one 65W actinic, one 65W cool white, one 55W actinic and one 55W cool white (various manufacturers).

Other Animals

bulletMultiple blue-legged hermit crabs
bulletMultiple snails (Astrea etc.)
bulletOne Zooanthis sp. soft coral
bulletOne Fungia coral
bulletSeveral Hammer corals (started as a single tuft)
bulletSeveral mushroom corals
bulletOne candy cane coral
bulletOne Porites coral
bulletOne Squamosa Clam
bulletA lot of sea grass

Images from January 2004



Blue veined mushrooms

Brown polyps

Candy Cane Coral

Fungia Coral

Hammerhead Coral

Long tentacled Anemone

Red Mushrooms

Squamosa Clam

Unknown ???

Unknown ??? (porites?)

Unknown ???

Images from January 2003


Timeline (from December 2001)

Date Activity Comments Picture
December, 2001 Tank cleaned, and backing applied. 

Tank 3/4 filled with salt water. 

Heater installed 

Twin Powerheads installed. 

SeaClone Protein Skimmer installed

The backing is thick plastic sheeting that is coloured from almost black at the bottom to blue at the top. It was purchased at PetCo. It was applied by first smearing a very thin layer of Vaseline all over the rear glass of the aquarium, and then carefully placing the plastic (cut to exactly the right size) against the glass, smoothing out any air bubbles with a damp cloth.


December, 2001 30lbs of Aragonite sand added

50lbs of Live sand added

40lbs of Fiji rock added

The Aragonite sand is "dead", and was spread to a layer of about 1/2" on the bottom of the aquarium

The Live sand was then spread over the dead, producing a total sand bed layer of between 2" and 4".

It took about two days for the water to lose its cloudiness after adding the sand.

The Fiji rock was then added. This used to be "live" rock, but was kept out of water for several months after we moved house. Before adding to the aquarium, it was thoroughly cleaned using an old toothbrush and copious amounts of water.

This picture shows the aquarium at the tail end of its cycling: there is still quite a bit of brown algae, especially visible on the Fiji rock.

A small canister of activated charcoal is visible at the centre of the tank.

December 20, 2001 Added:
bulletFive yellow tail damsels
These damsels are to help cycle the water  
January, 2002 SeaClone Skimmer modified Two very worthwhile modifications were made:
bulletAugmented the air intake tube/valve supplied with the skimmer by an air intake needle valve which provides precise control of bubble size and flow rate
bulletRemoved the central tube of ~1" diameter, cut it down to about 4" in length, and then glued it back in position (tricky!). This generates much more turbulence and a longer bubble mixing time in the skimmer.

After making these changes, the gunk collected in the collection cup was much darker (and more foul smelling!) than before, and was more copious.

skimmer_thumb.JPG (7094 bytes)

Skimmer before modification

After modification


January 12, 2002 Added:
bulletPencil Sea Urchin
bulletChocolate Chip Starfish
bulletScooter Blenny 
Scooter Blenny hopefully will mess around in the sand bed and help to turn it over, as will the urchin and starfish.
January 14, 2002 22 lbs of Fiji and 22 lbs of Tonga Ridge Live Rock ordered Order placed with Flying Fish Express

Shows the curing tank ready for the Live Rock, with bubbler and heater.

January 15, 2002 Live Rock arrives from Flying Fish Express Incredible service!

The bubbler in the curing tank produces copious amounts of bubbles which carry off impurities and sit on the surface (see picture). They are then skimmed off using a bucket, and discarded. This is a primitive form of high-capacity protein skimming: no expensive equipment required!

The curing tank full of Live Rock.

January 23, 2002 Starfish Replication? The Chocolate Chip Starfish stops moving around the tank, and then appears to be splitting in half.

In the end it simply died :-(

Showing the starfish, with two legs fully detached from the body. Both legs and the body are independently mobile!

Another view.

January 25, 2002 Live Rock curing Ten days after arrival, the Live Rock appears to be curing well: the number of bubbles sticking to the surface of the curing tank water is now negligible, and there are tufts of new macroalgae growth on the rock. This is in a variety of colours including pink, purple, light green and light brown.  
March, 2002 Live Rock added All Live Rock cured, added to tank. Outbreak of brown algae. Added hang-on filter with activated charcoal. Resorted to scrubbing rock with soft toothbrush to remove brown algae almost daily. Algae much reduced and no longer a problem after a couple of weeks.  
March 22, 2002 Current stock
bulletYellow Tang (Zebrasoma Flavescens)
bulletTwo Yellow-tail Damsels (Chromis xanthurus)
bulletOne Half&Half Chromis Damsel (Chromis dimidiata)
bulletOne Lawnmower Blenny (Salarias Fasciatus)
bulletOne Tomato Clown (Amphiprion Frenatus)
bulletOne Pencil Urchin
bullet5 Blue-Legged Hermit Crabs

April 12 2002 Added Royal Gramma A bit pissy to begin with, but soon settled down.
April 19 2002 Added Zooanthus sp. soft coral Apparently easy to keep. We shall see!
April 23 2002 Lighting System Replaced Removed all current light fixtures and replaced with a JBJ Retrofit Deluxe consisting of four 65W compact fluorescents (2x6500K daylight, 2x7100K blue), remote ballasts and ripple reflector. Model PL-RDX-41.

Difference in intensity is striking. All colours in the tank appear much more vibrant.

August 2002 Various Additions
September 2002 Strange trails on the aquarium glass What could these be?



horizontal rule



The following describes the original aquarium, which was set up in June 1999 and dismantled in March 2001 because we moved house ....


bullet50 gallons (48" x 13" x 18")
bullet18 lbs of Seaflor Aruba Puka Shell Substrate
bullet18 lbs of CaribSea Geo-Marine Florida Crushed Coral
bullet45 lbs Fiji Live Rock
bulletReef Crystals Marine Salt
bullet50 Gallons Pasadena Tap Water


bulletOne Boxfish [deceased]
bulletThree Yellow-Tailed Damsels (Chromis xanthurus) [deceased]
bulletTwo Four-Stripe Damsels (Dascyllus melanurus) [deceased]
bulletOne Four-Stripe Damsel (Dascyllus melanurus)
bulletThree Domino Damsels (Dascyllus trimaculatus)
bulletOne Yellow Tang (Zebrasoma Flavescens)
bulletOne False Gramma [Royal Dottyback] (Pseudochromis Paccagnellae)
bulletTwo Percula Clowns

Lighting Hood

bulletOne 150 Watts American Lighting compact fluorescent
bulletPowerlighting E432PI120G11 Ultramiser Electronic Instant Start Ballast
bulletOne F40T12 Marine Glow blue actinic (40 Watts)
bulletOne F32T8 Philips Alto TL70 Cool White
bulletOne F32T8 Sylvania Cool White
bulletOne F40T12 Sylvania Cool White
bulletCustom Wiring and Fittings

Other Animals (identified and unidentified)

bulletSebae Anemone [deceased]
bulletBubble Anemone
bulletCleaner shrimp
bulletSix Scarlet Reef Hermit crabs
bulletTwelve Trochus Snails [deceased]
bulletEighteen Red Leg/Left-Handed Hermit crabs
bulletChocolate Chip Starfish (Protoreaster nodosus)
bulletBlue Starfish
bulletRed Starfish (Fromia sp.)
bulletHawaiin Feather Duster worm
bulletLarge Hermit crab
bulletPeanut Worm (Sipunculan "peanut" worm)
bulletSeveral Serpulid polychaete worms
bulletUnidentified Discs (picture) (Ideas)


bulletSeaClone SCPS-100 Protein Skimmer
bulletAquaClear Powerhead 402
bulletAquaClear Powerhead 301 with Quick Filter (occasionally filled with activated charcoal)
bulletThermal 200W Submersible Heater
domino.gif (41772 bytes) striped.gif (9536 bytes)
niger.gif (19005 bytes) clown.gif (20315 bytes)
dottyback.gif (9553 bytes) tang.gif (26320 bytes)


Date Activity Comments Picture
June 6, 1999 Tank purchased. Substrate washed and added to tank. Tank filled with salt water. Conditioned with Seachem Prime. Hagen Cycle added. Heater installed, Powerhead 402 installed. Single F40T12 light installed Why do these bags of substrate always say "pre-washed" and yet they need about 1/2 hour of continuous washing in running water before the cloudiness disappears?!

julian.tank_thumb.jpg (7224 bytes)

June 7, 1999 SeaClone Skimmer installed This is a venturi counter-current device. Seems more efficient than the VisiJet I installed on my reef aquarium in France

skimmer_thumb.JPG (7094 bytes)

June 13, 1999 Uncured Fiji Live Rock arrives from Flying Fish Express. Dipped in saltwater and added to tank. The Live Rock is very different from some Indonesian I bought in Switzerland years ago ... the Fiji rock has no snails or crabs or other critters like that, but it does have much more attractive coralline algae on it ...  
June 15, 1999 Hood equipped with electronic ballast and tubes. Electronic ballast and end caps purchased at Home Depot. Very simple installation. Still requires a reflective layer of some sort to be attached on the underside of the hood, above the tubes ....

hood_thumb.jpg (2885 bytes)

June 19, 1999 Four damsels added. The fish seem to enjoy the tank.

A peanut worm is spotted hanging half out of a piece of live rock.

tank062099_thumb.JPG (2777 bytes)

June 23, 1999 Status Much hassling in the tank between the two yellow-tailed damsels.

There are many clumps of purple coralline algae growing on the lice rock.

Lighting is currently two F32T8 cool white and one F40T12 blue actinic.

June 24, 1999 One yellow-tailed damsel added, plus one large Hermit crab and two smaller Hermit crabs. The extra damsel was added in an attempt to calm down the existing two. However, the fracas continues. hermit1_thumb.gif (6523 bytes)
June 27, 1999 Large piece of coralline live rock added    
July 5, 1999 One Boxfish and one Sebae Anemone added Damsel fracas seems to have ended. Anemone very difficult to place, even with powerheads turned off: it tends to "swim" around the aquarium randomly! SG 1.0215, NH4 <0.25 ppm, T 82F  
July 7, 1999 DISASTER Boxfish found with snout up the the powerhead intake: dead. Only remaining fish alive in tank is one of the striped damsels: the rest have been killed, probably by the toxin which is reportedly produced by the Boxfish.

There has clearly been a "spurt" of activity in the protein skimmer... enough to blow the top off the collection cup!

Dead fish removed. Start filtering with activated charcoal granules.

July 23, 1999 One chocolate chip starfish, one red starfish and three domino damsels added. These are the first living things added to the tank after the disaster on July 7.

Lighting is currently three F32T8 cool white, and one F40T12 blue actinic.

chocolate.chip1_thumb.gif (5605 bytes)
July 27, 1999 CleanUp Crew (from Flying Fish Express) added, plus one False Gramma and one finger leather coral.   dottyback1_thumb.gif (10115 bytes)
July 31, 1999 One Yellow Tang added Water slightly cloudy so adding activated charcoal in a cannister to the tank, attached to powerhead intake.  
August 14, 1999 One cleaner shrimp added Some very small black dots have appeared on the Tang. shrimp1_thumb.gif (8238 bytes)
September 12, 1999 Two Percula Clowns added Most of the turbo snails have died and been eaten by the chocolate chip starfish. There are four left.  
October 20, 1999 Sebae Anemone shrank, hid, then disappeared: probably eaten    
October 31, 1999 Finger leather coral dead Probably insufficient light  
November 1, 1999 Installed 150W compact fluorescent Light from this is "warm", and predominantly yellow: probably not ideal  
November 7, 1999 One Hawaiin Feather Duster added

One Bubble Anemone added

March, 2001 Tank broken down Moving House. See above for Sarah & Julian's new Reef setup  

Several people have suggested what the mysterious disks might be:

bulletFrom: "Martin Miller" <mmiller@mcmail.com>

Could be disk worm.
If they are, the only problem with them is they can choke coral to death.
The best way I konw to get rid of disk worm is a Mandarin, they love them.

bulletFrom: ahartplus4@aol.com (Ahartplus4)

I have these in my tank also. My tassled filefish eats them sometimes but my
friend has a China Wrasse that made short work of the many in his tank.

Just a thought...

bulletFrom: Edith Hedges <cferh@eiu.edu>

I have something like that in my system and it seems to be giving the hard
corals some problems. If you chase it off the glass and it swims in a
unulating fashion I would guess that it may be a nudibranch. If they are
like my little critters they reproduce.......rapidly. Solution:???Maybe a
small Wrasse.
bulletFrom: nanoreef1@aol.com (Nanoreef1)

This ones new to me.
They could be sand dollars.
Which if you have a thin sand layer in
your tank will be quite beneficial.
But to be sure ask a Klingon.
bulletFrom: nullman@hotmail.com (Nullman)

Hey, I have a few of those in my reef too! I seem to remember having
quite a few when I first set up my tank, then didn't see any more for
months. This weekend I saw two of those! freaky....

No, I have no idea what they are. I didn't even think they were alive
until the next day they were both in different places.

bulletFrom: "KaboomMn" <kaboommn@gateway.net>


I had Charles Delbeek look at your photo to see if he had any thoughts as to
what it may be. He thought it could be a rather pale_ Acetularian sp._,
which is a type of algae. I blew up your photo in PhotoShop5 for a better
look and then viewed a number of pics. of various Actel. and I don't think
that's what it is. I also thought it was some type of algae and maybe it
still is.

Chuck also thought that it may be a Foraminfera, which is an amebic animal,
with a calcium carbonate test (shell ). I remember these things from Invert.
Paleontology and I know some get quite large. I check all of my books and
found one that deals with the Meio-Fauna and to my surprise there was a
diagram of a species that very closely resembles yours and gets even a
little larger. I'm not saying that is it, just some thoughts.

From: Alan Monroe [monroe@cpinternet.com]

Looks like a chiton (Kiton)...I'm unsure of the spelling ... but there sort of snail like but they never move ...sort of like barnacles



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