By Bob Goemans
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Tank of the Month in France - November 2003 - Laurent Fabre

(Reprinted with permission from

With his 650 Liter (172 US gal) tank where over 50 stony corals live, this colorful tank consists of awesome pink Acropora millepora with blue tips as well as other magnificent purple to green Acropora. Let's not forget the Stylophora and Seriotopora which do nothing but amplify this rapidly growing field of coral reef.

Before we begin with the interview with the owner of this month's featured aquarium, it should be pointed out that all of the coral colonies in this aquarium originated from the trading of frags. Laurent, contrary to many who experienced tank crashes due to the extreme heat wave this summer, experienced the opposite effect 3 yrs ago when the power went out during a snowstorm. For almost 5 days his corals asphyxiated little by little while he waited for electricity to be restored. Laurent had to restart his entire tank and he decided to redo it entirely with frags. As for the fish, he opted for species that would associate in pairs (as recommended by Helene Thailler). As for the rest, we will find out during the rest of the interview.

Corallium : Describe your system to us.

Laurent : This is a built in tank with the rough dimensions of 140x80x55cm. The panes were glued together in place by an aquarist friend. It replaced my older tank which was a bit smaller. Since then the old tank has served as a propagation tank, refugium and as my sump. As for other equipment, the skimmer is an Aqua Medic turboflotor 5000 Baby modified with two Eheim 1060 pumps using needle wheel impellers. For water flow I use 6 Turbelle 2002 pumps on alternating and pulsing mode: Alternating every 30 seconds from left to right and pulsing every 2 minutes. The pumps are placed on the ends of the tank and another Eheim 1060 is hidden in the rockwork. The turnover is about three times an hour.

Corallium : What technique do you use for your tank ?

Laurent : My sump is in the garage, underneath my tank. I use an Aqua Medic Ocean Runner for my return pump. The drain line falls a little to the right of the aquarium. It goes right into a receiving chamber filled with filter floss and a bag of carbon. The Sump is primarily a refugium and frag tank therefore it is divided into three parts. A large part is made up of the propagation area, in which I have placed 25cm of ESV oolitic super fine grade sand on a PVC structure and it kind of resembles a DSB. The height of the sand is maintained using a partition. The second part consists of live rock and assorted caulerpa. Another partition keeps the water high where it then flows into the true sump area which has the variable water level due to evaporation. The whole sump is lit on a reverse daylight photosynthetic cycle by a 250w halide and is circulated by various MaxiJet type pumps.

Corallium : What kind of light do you use on your tank ?

Laurent : I have a large angle, jet5 style pendant about 30cm above the water surface. The halide bulbs are 400W HQI 10K Hitlite, supplemented by 40W T5 JBL marine actinic and 2 blue fluorescent TL18 or Osram67. The photoperiod is 8hrs a day for the halides and 10-12 hrs for the fluorescents. All the bulbs are changed approximately once a year.

Corallium What kind of equipment do you use to maintain the water quality ?

Laurent : To maintain the total calcium around 450mg/l, I have a RATZ kalk reactor sing pharmaceutical grade calcium hydroxide. Water top off is accomplished by a top off switch, the Tunze osmolator, hooked up to a water reservoir (about 50litre volume). I also have a RATZ calcium reactor 75 filled with 3-5mm calcite by Aqua Medic. To maintain the alkalinity, I pass 3 liters per hour through the reactor with a CO2 injection rate of about 2 bubbles per second. The effluent from the reactor is about 35dKH which allows me to keep the tank alkalinity around 8 to 10 dKH. To increase the CO2 efficiency I have a second chamber that is 80cm high and 16cm I diameter which serves as a degassing chamber. As far as the tank setup, I have never had any filamentous algae problems except during the breaking in period. For optimum water quality I have a 30W UV sterilizer, a permanent handful of carbon, filtered actively using seachem carbon, and I also use a handful of Aquavie aluminum oxide.

Corallium : What other kinds of maintenance do you perform on your tank ?

Laurent : I add 5ml of iodine alternated with lugol's once a week (with a 1% strength Pharmacy solution) I add oligo-elements and aquarium systems strontium (with a dosage for a 400L tank as opposed to 600L). Occasionally I add a little iron once a month (1 to 2 ml of a chelated iron solution).

Corallium : What are your water parameters?

Laurent :

Specific Gravity: 1.023-1.024, using Red Sea and Instant Ocean.

pH: 7.9-8.3 without any regular control

Kh: between 8 and 9 dKh, if the calcium reactor stops it qickly drops to 5.

Calcium: The total varies between 400 and 450mg/l

NO3: practically unreadable

PO4: very low since I started using aluminum oxide

Magnesium: 1400mg/l

Most of my tests are done using Salifert test kits.

Average temperature: 25C, using 3 200W heaters. In the summer, the tank is chilled by a fan controlled by a thermostat.

Corallium What kind of arrangement did you aim for?

Laurent : It constitutes of 100kg of live rock placed on a PVC framework. There arrangement is 2 faults and a main reef. The sandbed is aragonite sand, about 2-3 cm deep and very fine (sugar sand).

Corallium : What is the population of your tank ?

Laurent : As far as invertebrates, I have no soft corals sice my regal angels, Pygoplites diacanthus, have a tendency to confuse soft corals and salad. As for the stoneys which are almost all raised from frags, I have the following:

* 4 Acropora millepora candy pink, yellow green, mauve and lavender

* 5 Acropora parillis blue, brown with yellow tips, green with blue

* 1 Acropora humilis orange polyp green

* 1 Acropora gemmifera green

* 1 Acropora nana violet

* 1 Seriatopora hystrix rose

* 1 Acropora caroliniana violet

* 1 Acropora kimbensys

* 5-6 Acropora sp

* 1 Acropora granulosa beige white

* 1 Turbinaria reniformis yellow

* 4 Styliphora pistillata rose, violet, raspberry and green

* 3 Montipora digitata violet, orange, brown

* 3 Montipora capricornis green with purple rim, orange and purple

* 1 Porites yellow

* 1 Caulastrea electric blue

* 1 Trachyphyllia green orange

* 1 Psammocora contigua

* 2 Tridacna crocea 10 cm

* 1 Tridacna maxima 2 cm

As far as fish go :

* 2 Paracanthurus hepatus (10 cm)

* 2 Acanthurus olivaeceus (7 cm)

* 2 Pomacanthus navarchus (10 cm)

* 1 Chelmon rostratus

* 1 Pseudocheilinus hexataenia

* 2 Gobiodon okinawae

* 2 Pyglopites diacanthus

* 1 Synchiropus splendidus


* 1 holothuria tubulosa (Mediterranean sea cucumber)

* 3 brittle stars and urchins

* About 30 blue leg hermit crabs and some snails which are in perpetual decline

* Harlequin shrimp

Corallium : What regular maintenance do you perform on your aquarium ?

Laurent : Besides cleaning the glass and the skimmer cup, I siphon the gravel every 6 months along with a thorough servicing of the pumps. I change the carbon every week and the phosphate absorber every 3 months. I change an average of 10% water change every month, I clean the calcium reactor every 6 months and I renew the kalkwasser once a week with 5 tablespoons of calcium hydroxide.

Corallium : What would you like to say about how your tank has evolved since you started it ?

Laurent : For 3 yrs I have had no losses of corals or fish hand my water parameters have been consistently stable. I have been really satisfied with the coral growth (10-15cm/yr), I think this is due to the overall well being of the tank. Since I had to start over and with my reef aquarium experience, I think that it is due to a good control of the water parameters, methodical additions of elements and an adequate light and flow regime for the animals being kept. I also think that a calcium reactor and a UV sterilizer have facilitated the captive maintenance of my animals. It is true that like everyone else I had some difficulties during the maturing phases of the aquarium. One of my biggest problems was an infestation of flatworms which I got rid of with a treatment of Levamisol. After some trial and error I had to eventually d a triple to quadruple dose of the product to get rid of my the pests and in the end, I had no losses, just a little color shift on some of my corals although I did have to retreat the tank 3 weeks later. About death of fishes : A Pyglopites diacanthus is dead without reason. A Neocirrhites armatus jumped out of the tank. Two Acanthurus leucosternon got some white points. At this time I haven't got uv lamps. I'm convinced that a uv lamp is very usefull for fishes and corals (no rtn in my tank).

Corallium : Why do you have a propagation tank in your sump ?

Laurent : It is the ideal occasion to expand the volume of my aquarium. My prop tank has the following configuration: UI have a reserved space about a meter long for oolitic sand that is 25cm deep with a plenum underneath. I can hold 50 frags which are lit at night by a 250W 10K halide pendant. After that, I have a pile of live rocks that is covered by caulerpa and the final compartment is for the return to the tank. As far as frags go, I think it is important to place an emphasis on exchanging frags with fellow hobbyists. Having lost my tank over 3 yrs ago, recuperating corals that I had traded out allowed me to rebuild my reef in less than 2 yrs. We should all have this precautionary habit

Corallium : What would you do with 1500 Euros ?

Laurent : I would definitely make my tank safer in case of emergency, backup batteries for the circulation pumps. I would get a remote monitoring system with a phone calling system in case of emergency. I would also add another 400w pendant.

Corallium: In conclusion, what do you expect from a website like ?

Laurent : Above all I expect an exchange of information regarding corals and fish. Consequently, a good information base which must be evolving as our knowledge expands. We should all participate and share the experiences they have had.

Corallium : I would like to thank Laurent for his hospitality, his awesome tank which we will be anxious to watch progress in the future. Simplicity, passion and experience makes Laurent's reef crest a sight to behold.

Writing by Kris

Translation by Jacke Adams

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