View Full Version : March 2008 Tank of the Month - Jon:Schwaggs

03-01-2008, 1:03 PM
March 2008 Tank of the Month - Shwaggs


Welcome to Schwaggs Reef! I am honored that ARC would even consider my tank for Tank of the Month honors. Like many of you, I don’t consider my system complete, but rather a work in progress. My system consists of a 210 gallon All-Glass display in-wall tank configuration with fish room directly behind the display in the unfinished lower level of my family’s home. The tank is an eclectic collection of soft, SPS and LPS corals.

My interest in aquariums began with an old, stainless steel framed, slate bottom 29 gallon fresh water tank that my father kept in our family room. I kept various fresh water tanks as a kid and young adult. In the early 80s, I stopped at one of my favorite fish stores for some supplies and noticed a saltwater tank with a pile of rock and a Mandarin Goby. I was mesmerized by its color and ability to effortlessly hover over the rocks on its everlasting search for food. Suddenly, fresh water fish would not cut it, I had to try a salt water tank. I setup a 20 gallon tank with crushed coral substrate with an under gravel filter and a couple damsels. The tank was a complete failure within a few weeks.

In the late 80s, I gave it another go. I used the same 20 gallon tank and took it a little slower and was more careful. I set it up again with an under gravel filter with crushed coral but I ran it with reverse flow (common in those days) this time. I started with a single damsel, then added a few pounds of beautiful live rock. The rock I got was so colorful it looked like it was painted with poster paint in primary colors. Everything was rolling along very well, I added my first coral, a small rock with Green Star Polyps. I was horrified when they didn’t open like they were in the store. I went back to the LFS a few days later and was told that a typical fluorescent strip light with an “aquarium bulb” wouldn’t work for my new acquisition, I needed an expensive (for a guy with fresh water experience) 50/50 bulb. It was all down hill from there. J

My next tank was a 90 gallon reef tank with VHO lighting, sump and skimmer. I ran the 90 gallon tank with various upgrades and modifications from about 1991 until moving all its inhabitants into the current tank in late 2005.


My job brought me and my family to the Atlanta area in early 2003. At that time, I moved the 90 gallon reef and a 55 gallon tank I was running at the time into the lower level and maintained them best I could while we settled into our new home. As it turned out, the unfinished lower level of our new home was perfectly suited to be a finished space. My wife granted me permission to build my dream tank, GAMEON!

I have run tanks on the main floor and in the lower levels of each of my homes over the years. I much prefer the lower level location for two reasons, the temperature is more stable and water spills are less traumatic. One end of my lower level does not have any windows, perfect for a fish room. I jack-hammered the concrete floor to install a floor drain and plumbing for a wet sink. I erected a wall to form the 6 foot by 14 foot fish room with a cutout large enough for an 8 foot wide tank. Installed plumbing and electrical into the walls, dry-walled, painted, tiled and finished the fish room over the next year. I intended to use an 8X2X2 foot tank but in the end, I decided to go with the largest commercially made tank I could get at the time, the All-Glass 210. The frame of the display stand was built with laminated veneer lumber (LVL) since it starts and stays much straighter than dimensional lumber. The stands for the other tanks in my fish room were constructed of typical 2X4 and 2X6 lumber.

The Fish Room

The width of the fish room provides just enough space for the 2 foot wide display tank on one side and a countertop and single row of tanks on the other. There is enough room for one person to work in this space, 2 would be a crowd. As you enter the fish room, there is a 55 gallon fresh water storage tank and RODI filter on your left. Straight ahead into the room are a couple ready-to-assemble type cabinets for the sink base and a couple wall cabinets for storage of supplies. A stock 8 foot piece of counter top is installed on the base cabinets into which is installed a laundry type sink which is perfect for filling 5 gallon buckets, cleaning the skimmer or just rinsing/washing your hands. On the countertop are a couple 15 gallon tanks with T5 strip lights that are used as pseudo-quarantine tanks. Above these tanks is a custom made 70 gallon frag tank. To the right of the counter top is a rack of two 15 gallon and a 20 gallon tank used for various projects. At the end of the fish room is my original 90 gallon reef tank, now doing duty as the refugium for the system. Below the refugium is a Rubbermaid 100 gallon trough, used as the common sump.


All the tanks in the fish room are plumbed together. No mechanical filtration is employed on this system. Dual IwakiMD-20RLXT pumps powered by separate electrical circuits are the main display return pumps providing approximately 5X display turnover per hour. They are fed by a 2” spa-flex pipe from the Rubbermaid sump. The display overflows lead through Durso style standpipes into a custom made 18”X18” acrylic box where the Euroreef 8-3 PLUS skimmer sits. Another set of Durso standpipes maintain a consistent level in the skimmer box to achieve hands-off skimming. The skimmer box overflows into a 55 gallon acrylic tank that was originally designed to be a cryptic zone filter but limited access to the tank prevents this function. As it turns out, the water speed through this tank is slow enough that it is an effective settling zone for detritus which is siphoned out at water changes. It has 2 bubble traps before returning the water to the Rubbermaid sump. The other side of the fish room is fed by an IwakiMD-40RLXT pump. This pump feeds each of the remaining tanks, including the refugium which overflows into the main display allowing safe passage for critters. The pseudo-quarantine tanks are also fed by this pump however the output of these tanks is run through a UV sterilizer preventing any new pathogens from being introduced into the main system.


My earlier tanks used Maxi-jet power heads for flow. While they were very reliable and cost effective, they would not be powerful enough for a tank this large. I considered a closed loop for this system but decided on the Tunze Streams with a Tunze 7095 controller. They are quite expensive initially but will pay for themselves in electricity savings over the years. They move a ton of water. With just 2 6100 Streams Pumps, there is movement all through my tank. They are quite large but with some planning, they can be hidden fairly well. They have proven to be very reliable over the years.


Each of my previous tanks had fluorescent lighting, either NO or VHO. I had a problem with keeping up on bulb changes with them plus I wanted to be able to keep SPS corals in this new tank, something I didn’t have good luck with under VHO lighting. I decided on the Maristar MH/T5 light fixture. It has three 250W double ended (HQI) metal halide bulbs and four 39W HO T5 actinics. I am using three Bluewave 3 HQI ballasts which are magnetic and overdrive the 250W bulb somewhat. The fixture originally came with 10K bulbs which didn’t provide much color for the corals in the tank. I switched to Phoenix 14K bulbs and am very happy with the balance between color and the blue look of the tank. The frag tank is lit with dual 250W double ended 10K bulbs with dual 54W HO T5 actinics. The refugium is lit with a double 54W T5 strip light. The other tanks in the fish room are lit with various T5 strip lights.

Temperature Control

A Prime Commercial 1HP chiller fed by an IwakiMD-40RLXT is used to cool the tank. The chiller and pump are controlled by the Aquacontroller. The chillers internal thermostat is set to 75 to prevent over-cooling in the event of a controller failure. In the summer time, the chiller is placed outdoors so the tank heat can be transferred directly out of the house. In the winter, I bring the chiller indoors so the heat removed from the tank can heat the house. I have three 200W heaters at various locations in the system all controlled by the Aquacontroller. The internal thermostats on the heaters are set to 80 to prevent cooking the tank in the event of a controller failure.


I use an Aquacontroller III with a PX-1000 expansion module to control all aspects of my system. I use it to perform the following functions:
Monitor and record tank temperature, pH and ORP
Heater and chiller control
Sump fan as a backup when temperature get too high
Power off halides if temperature gets too high
Seasonal adjustment of tank temperature (~75-81 degrees through the year)
Sequencing lighting
Actinics on first
East halide on an hour later
Center halide on 30 minutes after the East
West halide on 30 minutes after center
Similar sequence at sunset
Seasonal photoperiod adjustment
Calcium Reactor pH control
Disable CO2 to CA reactor when chamber pH gets too low
Disable calcium reactor CO2 when tank pH gets too low
Alarm and send an email to my personal and office email when conditions get out of range
Feed timer to turn off skimmer for 60 minutes after feeding
Remote tank monitoring through the ACIII web interfaceFuture automation projects include: building an automatic top-off, flow sensors on the return pumps, high level alarm on the skimate collection container.

03-01-2008, 1:05 PM
Equipment list

Display tank - 210 gallon All-Glass 6 feet long, 30 inches high, 24 inches wide
Refugium 90 gallon All-Glass 4 feet long, 24 inches high, 18 inches wide
Quarantine two 15 gallon
Holding tanks two 15, 20 gallon
Sump 100 gallon
Cryptic zone 55 gallon
Frag tank 70 gallonSkimmer – Euroreef 8-3 Plus with dual Sedra 5000 needle wheel pumps, gate valve
Calcium Reactor - Homemade highly customizes DJ88 design
Display - Maristar 72” fixture with three 250W double ended (HQI) metal halide and four 36” HO T5 actinics
14K Phoenix HQI
UVL HO T5 actinics
Built in T5 ballast
Three external Blueline 3 magnetic HQI ballasts
Frag - Dual 250W double ended HQI metal halide and dual 48” HO T5 actinics
Current USA HO T5 actinics
Icecap 660 electronic ballast for T5
Icecap 250W electronic metal halide ballast ( reflector and housing
Refugium – Dual 48” HO T5 daylight bulbs
Holding – NO and HO T5 lightingPumps
Main return - 2 Iwaki MD-20RLXT
Frag, holding and refugium return - 1 Iwaki MD-40RLXT
Display flow – 2 Tunze Streams 6100 pumps
Tunze 7095 Controller Prime Commercial 1HP Chiller
Neptune Systems Aquacontroller III
Neptune Systems PX-1000 expansion module
Prime USA 25W T5 UV Sterilizer
Three 20 Amp 120V GFCI protected circuits with cut-off switches in the fish room

I periodically measure the following parameters and try and maintain them in the following ranges:
Specific Gravity 1.025
Temp Seasonal Adjustment -.1 +.5
pH 8.0 – 8.3
ORP 300+
Calcium 380-420
Alkalinity 7-10 dkh
Magnesium 1300+I usually measure each of these on a weekly basis if something has been changing recently. If everything is performing normally, I measure them on a monthly basis. I do not measure phosphates or nitrates. Every time I try and measure them, they record 0 so I gave up. I perform a 20% water change about every quarter or so. I would like to perform them more frequently but I can’t seem to get in the habit. I clean the skimmer about once a week.


I feed the following every-other day:
½ cube of Prime Reef frozen food
½ cube of Formula One frozen food
½ cube of Dwarf Angel frozen food
~ 1 tablespoon of frozen PE MysisI feed dried Cycopeeze, frozen oyster eggs and dry filter feeder food once a week before the lights come on.
At every feeding, the skimmer is turned off for an hour and the Tunze pumps are disabled for about 10 minutes. I do not run any mechanical filtration so any un eaten food is either consumed by the filter feeders or skimmed out.

03-01-2008, 1:07 PM
I feel inadequate!

03-01-2008, 1:09 PM
congrats jon.... this was the most beautiful tank i had seen in atlanta since moving back here from new york 3 years ago... an honor well deserved.. many of my original frags came from this tank, and you can cleary see why..

03-01-2008, 1:13 PM

Fish display
Purple Tang
Desjardin Tang
Christmas Wrasse
6-Line Wrasse
Coral Beauty Angel
Pair Lyretail Anthias
Bartlett Anthias
Chalk Bass
Longnose Hawkfish
Pair False Percula clown
4 – Bangaii Cardinal
Lawnmower Blenny
Pair of Mandarin Gobys
Golden Watchman Goby
Royal Gramma
Pearl Watchman Goby
Green Clown GobyFish holding tanks
Bangaii Cardinal (offspring of Bangaiis in the display)
Pajama Cardinal
Neon Psudochromis
Pair of Flame Clowns
6-Line Wrasse


Several varieties of Zooanthids
Several varieties of mushrooms
Several varieties of leather coral
Several varieties of Acropora
Several varieties of Millipora
Several varieties of hydnopora
2 varieties of Green Star Polyps
2 varieties of red star polyps
2 varieties of Pipe Organ
2 varieties of Candy Cane Coral
2 varieties of Acan
Blasomussa Merltti
Blasomussa Welsi
Anchor Coral
Hammer Coral
Red Favia
Rose Bubble Tip Anemone
Several other unidentified


Blue leg hermits
Scarlet hermits
Mexican Turbo snails
Astrea Snails
Emerald crabs
Sand sifting star
2 sand sifting cucumbers
2 brittle stars
Several peppermint shrimp
Pistol Shrimp


I would like to thank my wife Beth, my children Rachael, Megan and Michael for putting up with and encouraging my addiction to reef tanks. I would like to thank photokid (Alex) and FutureInterest (Jin) for taking the time to photograph and document my system. I would like to thank the Atlanta Reef Club for providing a home to me and all those people new to the area. I would like to thank Mark, Nancy and Anna for taking such good care of my system while we are away. Last but not least, I would like to thank God for creating all these beautiful animals for our benefit and enjoyment.

Jin’s Note

It’s hard to get a grasp of how well designed and intricate this system is until you take a first hand look at it. I’m rarely surprised when I see a nice setup these days as I’ve seen my fair share of awe inspiring tanks. Although Jon’s display itself was visually stunning, one glance at the fish room with its myriad of support tanks and equipment shocked me to the core. Most ordinary reefers simply cram all the supporting equipment and sump under the tank in the cabinet. Some of the more advanced and dedicated reefers will have remote sumps in another room or below the tank in the basement. Jon cranks it up a few more notches though as he has ~8 support tanks for his display! The best part is that all of his tanks are interconnected into one giant fluid system and each of the myriad of tanks serves a function.

This tank is also just as noteworthy for its longevity and stability. You really don’t see tanks with ~5 years of growth in this club. Why is that? Partially because few people are able to maintain a reef tank without disaster or calamity over a long period of time. Accidents happen, equipment fails, mistakes are made… Corals and fish suffer the consequences. As such, it was truly refreshing to see a well established tank packed full of mature corals. The corals were intertwining and literally growing right out of the water!

Thank you Jon for sharing your wonderful tank with us! It is truly an inspiration.

As always THANK YOU ALEX for the wonderful pics. They are absolutely stunning! We spent almost 6 hours at Jon's place taking pics. These were the best of them... It's a helluva lot of work to do the photo end of ToTM and it would absolutely not be possible without Alex's uber skills.

03-01-2008, 1:13 PM
Great tank and write up!

03-01-2008, 1:24 PM
Wow.. very nice..Hope mine will be like that one day.

Big D
03-01-2008, 2:13 PM
Absolutely incredible tank!!! :thumbs: Very well laid out!!!

Very nice setup Schwaggs... fantastic pics Alex... and a great write-up Jin! :up: Props to all involved!!!


saltwater junky
03-01-2008, 3:26 PM

03-01-2008, 7:33 PM
Awesome tank Jon. In fact, it is the tank that made me decide to join the ARC. You were selling frags, and it was almost like a "mini meeting" you had so many folks come. I still have one of those frags today.

Thanks again.

03-01-2008, 7:50 PM
Jon, you da man!!!!

I can say it only looks that much better in person..........

03-01-2008, 8:12 PM
WOW, those pictures turned out GREAT! Nice work Alex! Thanks for putting it all together Jin!

Thanks for all the compliments guys!

Linda Lee
03-01-2008, 8:31 PM
This system is amazing and the display is stunning!!!

Thanks for the inspiration.

Kudos once again to the photographer. Great job!!!

03-01-2008, 8:48 PM
wow!!!!! very impressive. It is awesome that there are so many beautiful tanks here in the ATL area

03-01-2008, 9:44 PM
wow! good work, looks amazing

Ralph ATL
03-01-2008, 11:42 PM
now that's an awesome tank!

03-01-2008, 11:57 PM
nice Very nice

03-02-2008, 12:06 AM
I have seen this tank in person it is truley amazing. Great job Jon, :thumbs:
it has been about a year since I was there, and your tank looks as great as ever. The purple pipe organ that I got from you has been fragged and spread to a few more tanks.

Jin and Alex thanks for the continued efforts with TOTM.


03-02-2008, 10:27 PM
man you talk about feeling uneasy. i look at this tank and am ashamed to say i am in the hobby. this is the tank i strive for every day i make adjustments to my tank. this is a wonderful tank. congrats on all your hard work

03-02-2008, 11:35 PM
very very nice!

03-03-2008, 12:14 AM
Very impressive. Congratulations!

03-03-2008, 2:27 PM
Jon's setup is amazing! The best fish room I've ever seen, and a beautiful tank.

03-04-2008, 9:37 PM
Very nice and mature tank with lots of diversity.


03-04-2008, 11:23 PM
jons tank is very nice, if you get the chance go see it.

03-05-2008, 5:32 AM
Very nice! Glad I got out now because I would never catch up to this tank.

03-25-2008, 5:11 PM
guys i can't get a hold of Chris at work must be on the front on a plane .. so i hoping some one could please give me advice his 60 gallon cube is at 84 degrees and counting i turned off the light its 400 watts ( i think i got that right).. it cooled a degree but i worried he going to over heat the fish and fry them.. he will probally kill me when he see's that i have asked this but i would rather say i tried then fry the fish .. if any Chris buddies our on and can help please call the house at 770-627-2276.. with a friendly free advice....

thanks in advance .. you try reponding via im but i dont think i know how to check it ... this is a wild guess at this one:wow2:

Ralph ATL
03-25-2008, 6:24 PM
well, I called your wife and as I was talking to her, you bumped in the conversation! She was awesome trying to take care of the situation!

03-25-2008, 10:44 PM
That's awesome! :)

I'm assuming everything is fine, right? 84 isn't that bad. Let us know if everything is cool (no pun intended!).

03-26-2008, 9:46 AM
Wow I want one just like his!!!!