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By Bob Goemans
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Bob Goemans corresponds with Sergio Aguilar (Long Island, NY)

Sergio Aguilar (Long Island, NY) writes...

Greetings Bob,

First of all, thank you for your articles in FAMA. I have learned a lot from your suggestions to fellow hobbyists. Also, I found it interesting that you are from Queens, NY. I grew up in Astoria, moved to Ditmars when I got married and now we are living on Long Island.

I have three questions about a set up I'm planning on doing. First of all, I want to set up a reef tank with some easy corals such as Xenia, various mushrooms and Zoanthus. I also want some snails, blue hermits, peppermint shrimp, and easy to keep fish such as a Yellow Tang, damsels, and maybe a Dottyback of some kind. I am going to be using live sand from CaribSea, i.e., special grade reef. For live rock I will be using Rock from Tampa Bay Salt Water. Also, I'll install a refugium of about 20 gallons with different kinds of macroalgae.

First question is about the glass aquarium from ALL GLASS Aquarium with mega flow, do you know if this is a good product for a reef tank? Second question is a plenum in the main tank a good idea? And the third question is about the refugium, which is sold by the local shop where I'm buying the fish tank. Its an ECO SYSTEM refugium, the size is 30L x 12W x 16H. Is this a product you know of or can recommend or suggest something different? The tank with stand and this refugium will cost approximately $1,000. I would not like to go over this amount. In the future I would like to purchase a protein skimmer to put in the sump. Any suggestions you have will be greatly appreciated. Thank you for your time.

Sergio Aguilar

Long Island, NY

Bob replies...

Dear Sergio,

Thanks for the nice words about my FAMA writings.

As for the All Glass tank, from what I know of the model, it should be adequate for your purpose. But before going further, the only Dottyback I would recommend would be the P. fridmani (Orchid Dottyback) as others can be quite feisty, possibly causing much stress to its tankmates. And as for damsels, would prefer you go with Green Chromis, at least three, as they are peaceful and like to school, and make for much better tankmates than other type damselfish.

As for the main tank, would prefer the plenum not be used in this tank. Even though its filtration efficiency cannot be matched by any other methods, it's more difficult to maintain when in a tank 'with' live rock and animals. It's much better in an interconnected tank that is not used for anything else except its filtration benefits, except possibly holding a skimmer and return pump. This is how it's basically used in Jaubert public aquariums. Anyway, the choice is yours, but would seriously consider a 'very' shallow bed of sand (crushed coral - one inch) in the main tank.

As for ECO System refugium, I had an opportunity many years ago to visit Leng Sy's first shop in Irvine California. His mud system refugia teamed with life, and in fact, were the best I've ever seen! His main systems were also fairly impressive, yet were bare-bottom tanks without skimmers, as he did not recommended their use (skimmers & sand) at that time. However, much time has passed since those days and skimmers and sand are commonly seen in tanks that now have mud refugia, and appear to be quite successful. Nevertheless, you're asking for my opinion, and if I had the choice between a plenum or mud system interconnected tank, I would select the plenum method. - Why? - One must keep in mind that a sandbeds 'destructive' denitrification process (where nitrate is reduced to nitrogen gas), occurs in the bed's anoxic zone (0.5 - 2.0 ppm oxygen), which is supplied nitrate from the above mineralization and nitrifying bacteria in the oxic zone (usually about the first half inch in depth of 2 - 5 mm grain size particles) of the bed. However, mud systems have practically no oxic and anoxic zones because its particle size is so tiny there's practically no oxygen penetration! Therefore 'mud' harbors the 'ammonification' form of denitrification throughout the greater majority of its depth rendering ammonium as its final product. Therefore I would rather have the plenum method, which reduces nitrate to a harmless gas and rids the system of it, than a mud system that generates the primary algae nutrient 'ammonium!' In fact, in a properly run plenum refugia it's almost impossible to get algae to grow. But that's not the case in mud refugia, where it does quite well!

I'm of the opinion that I would rather have a very nutrient poor system, the plenum method, attached to my hopefully nutrient poor/algae free main system than attaching a very nutrient rich system, the mud method. Nevertheless, with this said, and the fact there appear to be many successful mud systems, as there are plenum systems, there will be varying views and opinions on both methods. But you asked for my 'opinion.'

Hope this helps,

Bob

Keywords:

Eco-System Method; Aquarium Setup Advice

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