Featured September Tank Spot Light is Squist


Supporting Member
Thanks everyone. Thanks Rostato. Though this was purely on a voluntary whim in response to the post looking for volunteers, it is great to celebrate the tank's first year, share how I went about it, and have the opportunity to get advice on next phase: coral and livestock stocking and placement. Thanks BAR for encouraging participation in this forum.

My current tank (RSR 250) is my first reef tank in 20 years. I started planning January 2019 and the tank cycled July 2019. Early-on I figured out I needed automation (able to go away for more than a couple weeks at a time) and out-of-box simplicity (I didn't want the vital plumbing project added in). The tank has been running for just over a year. And it—with me pushing the buttons—finally is hitting stride.

SQUISTS RSR250 BAY AREA FIRES 20200909 01.jpg
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Tank has never looked as ecologically sound as did today, against a wildfire smoke saturated sky. Bay Area Wildfire Reefers.

Starting from scratch, I went with a strategy where:
  • fewest variables possible: out-of-box, plug-and-play;
  • programmable automation: using latest integrated pumps, lights, controllers; auto-water changes; able to run on its own for three weeks;
  • minimalist system: minimalist rockscape; minimalist methods;
  • while maximizing bio-capacity, coral, and fish;
  • a mixed reef tank with a zone for SPS;
  • ability to scale to a larger future tank;

  • the tank to integrate with decor and with adjacent fish room (no visible gear; for the spouse’’s buy-in);
  • I wanted to purchase from a Bay Area LFS. (Once I discovered how market advertised pricing works and how thoroughly the aquarium trade has uniformly adopted the practice, it became evident the there was no significant benefit to mail ordering current/late-model equipment. I liked the staff at Aquatic Collection on my first visit there and picked them as my buyer on that alone. AC handled all the ordering and had everything squared away for me when I picked-up.)
I selected the tank and equipment based on reviews, marketing, price point, and what I remembered. It was great fun catching-up with current techniques and technologies. Visiting shops, learning about BAR, and attending the Spring 2019 SF Frag Swap where I met some of you for the first time.

Living Room and Tank Room.png

System includes:

- Red Sea Reefer 250
- Ecotech Radion XR-30 G4 LED light
- Ecotech Vectra S2 return pump
- Ecotech VorTech MP10 heads
- Red Sea RSK 300 skimmer
- Neptune Apex with DOS, ATO and WXM modules
- Heater, and a bunch of odds-and-ends.

Added later:
- AquaUV 25W sterilizer @ 500 gph (part of dinoflagellate eradication strategy) (BAR)

With the intro kicked-off, the spotlight will come in parts.

Coming next in follow-up posts:

- Dry rock Stax rockscape, sand, bio media, artificial cycling
- gear added: UV, CO2 scrubbing
- fish, corals, and inverts
- ups, downs, and close calls
- PAR, water parameters, maintenance cycles and supplements
- Spotlight WebEx Meetup

Spotlight WebEx Meetup
I’ve got a bunch of questions about going into year two and I am hoping there might be members available at the end of the month on an evening that works best for those able, to meet-up for an hour to talk about the tank, discuss coral placement, fish selection, suggestions, and the like. If you're generally available, please let me know and I'll work on a date and time.
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Supporting Member
Awesome write up so far. Thanks for sharing! One thing I’d be interested to hear is how you approach nutrient balance for long times away from the tank, do you have feeding automated so it is consistent whether you are there or not? I worry that if I leave my tank too long, with my somewhat heavy manual feeding, that it will drop nutrients and things will die


Supporting Member
*rising my hand * i have a question, how is the light coverage in the tank since I only see one xr30? Do you feel like it’s enough? Have you taken Par readings from different areas of the tank.
I’m loving what you got going so far, I can’t wait for year 2 of the tank.


Supporting Member
SQUISTS RSR250 20200910 01.jpg
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A little heavy with blues at time of photo. But helps reveal polyps and show coral growth. I have a bunch of photos when frags were added that will make for nice comparison shots. Working on that.

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A few current photos. Thanks for your questions! Following up in next post.


Supporting Member
PART II - Aquascape, sand, bio media, and other stuff

A question and comment are right along this post's theme.

Q: "Are the layered slabs reef safe?"

The slabs are made of oolitic limestone. All the aquascape is built using Little Fishies' Stax and crazy glue (for the column) and loosely-stacked Stax for the zoa and LPS zone, on the right of the display. This was my first attempt working with dry rock and Stax has been great. Stax has great uniformity in thickness and density. Dry pieces are easily glued into very rigid larger plates and then combined again to form larger structures.

And a comment: "I really like the natural looking aquascape!"

Thank you! The inspiration came from John Ciotti’s “Upside Down Reef” nano tank I learned about in an article I stumbled upon very early in my 'poking-around' phase.

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“Upside Down Reef” nano tank

Knowing of this, I started searching and learned about "Japanese style" minimalist reef tanks. Fast-forward after a month or two of pricing, planning, financing, and calendaring the orders, work began on the scape.

For the aquascape, I glued small pieces into larger slabs, or plates, let them dry and then stacked and glued the plates to form a larger layered topper piece.


An early upside-down prototype. No glue. Just playing around. The pieces to the left were stacked on top of each other with the column stacked atop. The blue tape represents the dimensions of the tank. I suspected if upside-down the rock could stack into the desired shape without cement, then with cement, I'd just flip it right-side-up after it sets and and voila! It worked.

SQUISTS RSR250 08.jpg

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After allowing glue to dry well, the two parts (column and top) went into two vats (now the ATO reservoir) and daisy-chained with flow from an old canister filter. The filter pushed the water through the two vats while holding 50 MarinePure Biocubes. (Biocubes are now in a cryptic fuge providing biological surface area equivalent of two hockey rinks.)

SQUISTS RSR250 10.jpg

My first attempt at artificially cycling began using Dr Tim's. Took months longer to complete than it should have. Operator error. I was light on the ammonia I think.

With the tank delivered and assembled (early July) when I transferred everything to the display to finish cycling.

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The column is ziptied and cemented to a 3'-long 3/4"-thick acrylic sheet, under the sand.

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I ended up adding a 25W UV sterilizer to the system to help eradicate dinoflagellates that took hold. Big-time. Caused by, what I suspect, an anorexic microbiome that stemmed from first attempt at artificial cycling with dry rock and poor equipment-related practices; "I've got the gear--must use it" practices. Things I won't do again so early, such as: employing auto-water changes on an artificially cycled and bio-weak new system to try to avoid ugly tank syndrome. Or running the protein skimmer 24x7--with filter socks--for same reason. This, I hypothesize, stymied biodiversity at the microfauna level and allowed dinoflagellates to rage for more than 6 months before I, along with help of BAR members, figured it out and set on a course of action. (TL;DW: in my case, increase bacteria load, reduce skimming, remove filter socks, add food, and get NO3 and PO4 up from 0; increase biodiversity by adding live sand, fish, bacteria, pods, and CUC; added a UV sterilizer; vacuumed sand every couple days to physically remove dinos; and in what seemed to be as much time as it took for the dinos to emerge, they disappeared.)

There were a few other questions:

Q: "... how you approach nutrient balance for long times away from the tank, do you have feeding automated so it is consistent whether you are there or not?"

I've been away a few times for up to two weeks. The tank was/is super early stage so it's hard to tell if there was any adverse effects. I do feed the tank with an Eheim auto feeder (courtesy of a BAR member) 3x a day a small dose of pellet food dusted in Reef Roids (7:1). And while I'm home, I'm feeding nori (every day or two a small 4"x1" portion folded-up and clipped), frozen brine and mysis shrimp. I want to build a refrigerated live food feeder sometime. With a live food feeder the tank and reservoirs should be able to go 3 weeks.

Q: "How is the light coverage in the tank since I only see one xr30? Do you feel like it’s enough? Have you taken Par readings from different areas of the tank."

Yeah, lighting seems good. I run the lights at 17K and at 50% intensity for 10 hours, with a low intensity blue-heavy ramp-up and -down for two-hours at the start and end of the cycle. I've PAR mapped the lights from 50% to 80% intensity and what I'm seeing in the PAR values and in coral growth is that the light is plenty for what I am doing. The rock column suspends SPS just inches from the surface too so I get high PAR in that zone with lower PAR for LPS and softies at the lower level.

Q: "What fish do you have?" and "... looks like you didn’t follow the fancy ocellaris trend, is that a Clarkii clownfish?"

I have 4 chromis, a yellow tang (adopted from The_Lazy_Reefer), a kole tang, two Evans' anthias, and two simple Bicinctus clowns. I haven't gotten onto the fancy trend yet. Still getting my feet under me. I've lost some along the way. A couple jumpers before I installed a lid and a wrasse that disappeared on day one never to resurface. I'd like to add a few more.

Coming next in follow-up posts:

- fish, corals, and inverts
- ups, downs, and close calls
- PAR, water parameters, maintenance cycles and supplements
- Spotlight WebEx Meetup