Congratulations to community member pokerdobe and his 200 gallon reef aquarium for being selected for our December 2020 Reef Profile! Like many hobbyists, pokerdobe started reef keeping with a nano tank, and became motivated to scale up to a larger system after finding success on a smaller scale. The final result is this incredible SPS dominant reef tank, home to an incredible array of coral and fish, including a few from that very first nano reef! In this article pokerdobe shares his experiences in the hobby and this aquarium's journey over the past two and a half years. Please share your comments and questions in the comments section below, and be sure to follow his aquarium journal for additional photos, history, and information about this stunning reef tank.
Pokerdobe's 200 Gallon RedSea Reefer 750 XXL
Display: RedSea Reefer 750 XXL, 200 gallons (160 gal display, 40 gal sump), 71”L x 23.6”H x 25.6”W
Rock: 150 lbs. approximate Marcos dry rock
Sand: Tropic Eden Reef Flakes
Lighting: Aquatic Life Hybrid Fixture; 4x Ecotech Radion Gen 4 XR30 Pros; 4x T5 bulbs, 3x ATI Blue+, 1x Coral+
Circulation: Powerheads: 2x Maxspect Gyre 350s, 2x Ecotech MP40QD; Return: Sicce SDC 9.0
Skimmer: Reef Octopus 202s Classic
Filtration: Mainly live rock driven. One media reactor with RedSea carbon.
Top Off: Stock Red Sea gravity fed ATO
Dosing: ESV B-ionic Alk, Ca, Mg. Sporadic Phyto
Controller: Me 🙂
Established April 2018
Feeding: I feed a variety of mixed foods, several times a day. My current line up consists of LRS Reef Frenzy, PE Mysis, PE Mysis pellets, Hikari brine, Hikari bloodworms. I have also been experimenting with small doses of live phytoplankton on the recommendation of another reefer.
I do not spot feed – mostly because I’m lazy. Everything is broadcast fed and I do not reduce powerhead speed when I do feed. I would venture to say that on average, my tank receives 3 feedings. I wish someone would feed me 3 times a day…
Dosing: I dose 2-part through a controller. ESV Alkalinity and Calcium gets dosed 12 times each throughout the day. ESV Magnesium gets dosed once a month (specific amount dependent on what the test tells me). I have been very tempted to run a CarX. But it looks intimidating and I’m comfortable where I am now.
Testing: I try my best to test once a week. Sometimes I skip a test, or I do not run through all my tests and I pick specific parameters to focus on. Mostly Alkalinity. You should go test now. I like Salifert for quick and dirty readings. Did you go test your parameters?
Daily Routine: Scrape the glass, check dosing container liquid levels, check freshwater top-off reservoir. If I feel up to it, stir up the sand in a few places. This reminds me that I need a larger dosing container.
Weekly Routine: 20% water changes (broken up over two days at 10% per change). Vacuum a portion of the sand to control detritus build up. I will also blow detritus off the rock work and all the little crevices. I also take this time to examine my corals from the top down to determine if there’s any signs of stress. Also, top down view is the best view. Fight me.
Cleaning: Let me start off by saying, I hate cleaning. So a lot of my equipment tends to go by with just an annual or semiannual cleaning. The one exception are my Maxspect Gyres. Their specific powerhead cage and propeller design means that even just slight bacterial or algae growth will really cut down on your flow. My Gyres are (reluctantly) cleaned once a month.
Achilles Tang (Acanthurus Achilles)
Purple Tang (Zebrasoma xanthurum)
Copperband Butterfly (Chelmon rostratus)
Ventralis Anthias (4) (Pseudanthias ventralis)
Bartlett Anthias (8) (Pseudanthias bartlettorum)
Pintail Fairy Wrasse (Cirrhilabrus isosceles)
McCoskers Flasher Wrasse (Paracheilinus mccoskeri)
Blue Star Leopard Wrasse (Macropharyngodon bipartitus)
Mandarin (2) (Synchiropus splendidus)
Clownfish (2) (Amphiprion ocellaris)
WWC OG Bounce
Various Torches (Euphyllia glabrescens); Holy Grail, Indo Green, Aussie Gold
Various Hammers(Euphyllia paraancora); Teal branching, gold branching
Two chalices I can’t remember the name of
Various Goniopora; UC Amazeballs, ORA Red, Sunset, Jae’s Atomic Balls
Tyree Pink Lemonade
SC Orange Passion
Bali Green Slimer
RR The Vinh
Over 40 different kinds of Acropora. Listing them would spam out the entire page. Unfortunately, I’m an ignorant boor, so I don’t actually know the specific species of each acropora 😛
Varying numbers of Elite Reef Colorado Sunburst Bubble Tip Anemone (Entacmaea quadricolor)
Red Fire Shrimp (Lysmata debelius)
Harlequin Shrimp (2) (Hymenocera elegans)
Like almost everyone else, at some point, I had a fish tank growing up as a child, etc, etc. Let’s fast forward to the interesting bits.
I had just moved cities and was contemplating on setting up, yet again, another freshwater set up. Maybe something in the iwagumi style – something super zen. But before I could embark on another freshwater journey, a friend of mine told me to “do a small reef tank” and that it “wasn’t that much work.”
Yes we are friends, but I remind him every so often of that bald faced lie he told me.
IM Nuvo 16 - September 2014 - Original Tank Journal
So I put in my due diligence and spent several months researching what I thought would be my perfect set up – deciding on an IM Nuvo 16 off craigslist. I had convinced myself this was all I was going to need, and I would be perfectly happy with a simple pair of clowns. Yes, one of the many lies I would end up telling myself in this hobby.
It wasn’t even 6 months later when I upgraded from the Nuvo 16 to Fusion 20. Then another 8 months passed and I found myself with the Red Sea Reefer 250. Even with a tank that many here would qualify as a decent sized tank, I realized that my desired stocking plans needed something far larger. While I thoroughly enjoyed the nanos (at the time, @Rehype, @4x5 were my main sources of inspiration), what I really wanted to do would necessitate at least a 6’ tank.
From the fish I wanted (shoals of anthias (I hate you Christopher Kriens), tangs, future bandit angels), to the number of corals I wanted to keep. There was no way I was going to be able to fit that inside a nano footprint. I had deluded myself into thinking I could be content with incremental upgrades, but no longer.
Thus, the Red Sea Reefer 750 was born, my current tank. My goal with the 750 from the very start was to be acro dominant. Not much has changed since day 1 and I’m still committed to trying to densely pack as many acro colonies as I can.
I will however, not forget my roots – the teal hammer and clownfish pair has come along for the entire ride, and will continue to do so. They will always have a place somewhere in my tank (or in the case of the clownfish, across the duncans and 5 goniopora).
Because we learn so, so much more from when we screw up. And I have a ton of them. My more notable ones:
- Half-ass Triton Start: After cycling my tank, I wanted to jump on the “no water change” bandwagon. To do so, I adopted some parts of the Triton methodology. Alas, my tank was young, and you can’t con mother nature. It failed epically, with wildly swinging parameters, culminating in a very severe dino outbreak. I did not test often enough to understand what was going on with my tank.
- NoPox Swap Disaster: The first, in a string of bad decisions that would ultimately see my lose various colonies. To sum it up, I was tired of dosing carbon into the tank to control my N and P, so I decided that GFO would be the new road. Of course, I’m and idiot and I forget, GFO is highly efficient at removing Po4, but does nothing for No3. End result – I strip my water of Po4 and end up with a severe imbalance of No3. I did not test often enough during this change to catch the early warning signs it would have provided.
- Zeovit YOLO: I’m not sure who I was talking to, but I was convinced to try Zeovit. Now zeo is a proven system, with many successes out there. My problem? I decided that I was going to hit the ground running and instead of slowly ramping up my zeo dosing, I hit my tank with the full dose (and probably more). Lesson: Go slow. Don’t get cocky.
- AEFW Invasion: This did not actually happen in my current tank, but my Reefer 250. I lived life on the edge and I lost. After losing a few mini colonies and essentially being left with one katropora mini colony and some lemonade encrustment, I vowed never again. Now all corals go through a 1:1 Bayer dip (that’s right, you heard me) and all foreign material is removed. No outside plugs, rocks, disks, etc.
Stay the course – keep growing acros. I won’t be happy until every nook and cranny is covered with our favorite finicky corals.
Vivid Confetti - Under Blue Light
RR Orange Passion - Under Blue Light
FT Eternal Flame - Under Blue Light
One thing I have taken up is trying to “bake” wild corals. I’ve been purchasing maricultures to see what becomes of them over time.
My Advice, if you dare...
Keep it simple: Do not overcomplicate. The simpler your system is, the more likely you are to maintain it. It’s a lot easier to clean out one skimmer than to clean out a skimmer, swap the carbon reactor, swap the gfo reactor, trim the chaeto in the macro reactor, etc.
Think about the why: Think about what you’re trying to achieve and why you are taking a certain action. About to add a fuge? Why? If the action is against your desired goal, then don’t do it. Too often I see people in this hobby start off with a fully loaded, pimped out system with skimmer, 4x reactors on a manifold, etc. But they can’t answer why they need it.
Stability and Testing: What your numbers are is less important (to a degree) than how consistent those numbers are. Stability is king. Also test often (do as I say, not as I do). Yes, you should observe your tank as well, but the numbers can tell you about problems before they become catastrophes. Many times, corals can look great, right up to the tipping point. But of course, to be useful, you need a consistent history of parameters. A single snapshot in time is useless, and only becomes a valuable tool in context to past parameter readings.
Pick one or two mentors. Follow just their advice: Why would you limit yourself in an internet’s worth of unlimited advice? Because there’s so much advice, and so much of it is conflicting. If you want to run a SPS dominant tank, then someone who runs a softie only tank probably isn’t the tank you want to model/learn from.
Equipment is not a substitute for good reefing: Like in any hobby, whether it be music, arts, etc – master your basics and develop good habits. Technology will help a good reefer be better, but will not make a bad reefer good. If you’re foundation is strong, you are in a good place to go far.
You are keeping water, not fish and corals: At the end of the day, you are not keeping corals. You are trying your best to keep good, high quality water. To quote David Saxby, “if you keep good water, everything else tends to follow.”
- Lighting: Coverage > Intensity. Don’t get caught up on specific brands of light, as almost any decent light you buy these days is probably sufficient. Poor lighting will most likely not kill your corals. Great lighting will not save your corals.
- Flow: Flow is life. Especially for the acropora keeper. Flow takes away excreted toxins and waste while bringing food and fresh, oxygenated water to your stony corals. Why do you think that in a power outage, the priority is to keep your water moving vs. turning on your lights?
- Coral Fads: Trace element dosing, “programs”, etc – are all fun, but ultimately not required. People often ask me what I “dose,” like if there’s some kind of secret that I’m keeping away from the world. Sorry to disappoint, but I don’t. I keep my water relatively clean, I keep my big 5 stable, and I feed my fish often.
- Nutrients: Nitrates and phosphates are not evil. You don’t want too much, but you definitely don’t want too little either. I’ve started thinking of nutrients in the scope of availability. If you could always be importing a mass amount of food 24/7 while simultaneously exporting before it decays, then the numbers wouldn’t matter much. But since we’re rather limited in our systems, having some available amount of no3 and po4 essentially acts as a secondary source in our food starved tanks.
I’d like to thank Chris for featuring my very non-nano tank and for creating Nano-Reef. I’d also like thank all you crazy fools who put up with me and my ramblings, both in and out of this community. I think I mentioned it once before – I got my start at Nano-Reef and no matter what tank I have, be it 20 gallons, 200 gallons, or 2000 gallons, I will always find my way back to this amazing place.