advice), so I overemploy filtration and
water changes. And the two most important
things, in my opinion, are a productive
refugium and constant surveying of (okay,
obsessing over) my tank.
The best barometer of the health of my
tank are the corals. My tank was small-polyp stony (SPS) coral dominant, so my
Acropora colonies were my canaries in
the coalmine, if you will. If I saw them
beginning to deteriorate or experience
tissue recession, poor coloration, poor
polyp extension, etc., I could begin to
assess if something was off. It’s important,
though, not to overreact to problems with
SPS corals, because they are difficult to
keep and extremely temperamental.
I wanted the look of my tank to be clean,
as it would be prominently displayed in my
apartment. That meant I wanted everything
to be contained under my tank in the
cabinet, so I designed my own sump and
had it custom-built.
I’m such a proponent of refugiums that
not only did I want one in my sump, but I
wanted it right up front where it could be
displayed when I opened the cabinet door.
I also wanted to incorporate a frag section
in my sump. As I mentioned, I like a clean
look—clean sand bed, clean glass, and no
acrylic frag rack as a permanent fixture in
my display. Frags are inevitable; if you are
doing things right, your corals will begin to
grow and they will need to be fragged.
The addition of a frag rack in my sump
not only kept the display looking clean,
but I also used this area as somewhat
of a quarantine area where I could keep
large-polyp stony (LPS) corals—I’m a
Micromussa fanatic—in a lower flow area if
I felt it necessary.
But the refugium, I feel, corrected a lot
of mistakes I made along the way. In my
opinion, when dealing with nature, the best
way to correct a manmade problem is to
let nature do its thing. I even kept oysters
in my refugium as an experiment due to
their reputation for being able to purify
water. My refugium contained a deep sand
bed, with a group of mangroves and live
rock to hold back a mass of chaeto from
overtaking other nicer macro algae, like
maiden’s hair and flame algae. It also led to
my greatest fascination, a gaggle of barnacle
blennies that lived down there, giving me
the opportunity to view them up close.
The refugium became so productive in
A diverse collection of colorful corals thrive in the miniature reef, including
a large green mushroom, various zoanthids, acan lords (Micromussa
lordhowensis), Acanthastrea bowerbanki, Favia spp., and many others.
A large, light-blue deepwater Acropora sp. (at left) grows among
several colorful zoanthids with almost equally colorful trade names,
including blondies, candy-apple reds, and purple hornets.