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Member Spotlight on au01st

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Introduction

I'm a 22 year old college student just reviving my fish keeping hobby. It all started with a school fundraiser when I was 5. There were a few games where you traded tickets for chances to win prizes. I found a game which involved throwing a ping pong ball into cups for various prizes, and top prize was a fancy red Betta. Being a naturally gifted athlete at 5 years old, I nailed the center cup and that Betta was mine. Let me tell you, my parents were thrilled. It lived in a little 5 gallon hex tank on the kitchen counter for the longest time. When we moved, I was a little older and wanted a bigger tank, so we upgraded to a 15 gallon tank with swordtails, neon tetras, some corydoras, and of course, the betta. That also sat in the kitchen for many years (looking back, I'm not sure how we avoided algae outbreaks as the tank sat in pretty much direct sunlight 8+ hours a day).

When I was about 12, my parents were doing some landscaping in the backyard, and I suggested a goldfish pond, complete with waterfall and fountain. They were all for it and soon enough a dozen "feeder" goldfish were placed into the 120 gallon pond. They lived happily for many years, but eventually we all got busy with life and it became a chore to walk down into the backyard and feed them. A few disappeared, possibly to raccoons, and we were down to 3 goldfish. A 40 gallon was set up back upstairs, nothing fancy, just some plain gravel, plastic plants, and a big undergravel filter. The biggest fish got to be about 8" long before it finally died.

About that time, I was working in a pet store, Pet Supplies Plus. I had the urge for more exotic fish, and wanted them to be "my" fish. I saved up a few paychecks and set up a 10 gallon tank in my room for some African Cichlids; it quickly became apparent that I would need a bigger tank, so I splurged for a 55 and set it up in the game room. I had many colors and species, and it was great. When I turned 18 and left for school, my parents kept the tank running. I never bothered setting anything up while I was away because I had moved a few times and did not want to have to deal with breaking it down every 8-12 months. I finally got a place that I know I'll be for a few years, but I still wanted something low maintenance, so I opted for turtles. Some light, good food, good water, and that was all they needed. I set up a 20 gallon (long) tank in the bar, which they outgrew rather quickly. They now reside in a baby pool set up in another room.

Fast forward to today. I missed having a tank in the bar, so I got a 10 gallon and set it up with some danios and cories. (This was about the time I joined the site last summer). I scoured Craigslist and found a local 55 gallon setup, stand, filters, rocks, etc, for $100, so I jumped on it. I set that up in my room with Gouramis, Angelfish, Neon Tetras, Cardinal Tetras, and Cories. The 10 gallon became a divided 10 gallon for a male and female betta. About a month after the 55 was set up, I was still itching for something else; I looked into a Discus setup, but decided if I was going to spend that kind of money on a fish, they were going to be saltwater fish. I found my 75 on Craigslist for $150 with stand and everything. I spent a month researching that setup and began ordering stuff back in September.

These are my current tanks:

10 Gallon
Set up since June '08
Divided for male and female betta, and 2 otto catfish on each side
Whisper 60 (turned down of course)
50watt Visitherm Stealth heater
Dual incandescent hood
Every morning the Bettas are fed some Hikari Betta pellets (5-6 each), and in the evening, they get a treat of bloodworms (again 5-6 each)
I try to do a 2 gallon water change every week, but sometimes it goes 10 days or so between changes. Nothing fancy on the care side, the lights are on a timer and I don't really have problems with algae thanks to the ottos. All the plants are fake silk plants and the gravel is white gravel with a mixture of colored marble flats to give some contrast.

55 Gallon
Set up since August '08
4 Superveiled Angelfish
2 German Blue Rams (1 male, 1 female)
1 Red Tailed Shark
9 Corydora catfish (mixture of false julii, peppered, and albino)
1 Clown Loach
A school of tetras (mix of neons and cardinals, probably 10 in all)
For filtration I have a Penguin Biowheel 350 on the left side and a Whisper 60 on the right.
250 watt Visitherm Stealth heater
Standard incandescent fixture, nothing fancy
Every morning the fish are fed a mix of Tetra flakes, sinking shrimp pellets, and one algae disk which the cories usually fight over. I try to do a 10 gallon water change every 2 weeks and siphon up the gravel to get as much detrius out as I can. There is a large piece of driftwood that is the central display, with a rock pile on the left and an old boat propeller on the right. All the plants are fake, $12 for 12 plants from eBay. The lighting on this tank is also on a timer and it pretty much stays clean as long as I keep up on the water changes.

75 Gallon
Set up since September '08
Mating pair of Ocellaris Clownfish
3 Blue Reef Chromis
1 Flame Angelfish
1 Blue Jaw Triggerfish
1 Yellow Clown Goby
1 Sixline Wrasse
1 Orange Firefish
1 Purple Firefish
Corals are too numerous to name them all, but I have a mixture of softies (xenia and Kenya Tree), zoas (Lunar Eclipse, Whammin Watermellon, Mint Chocolate Chip, and Eagle Eyes), mushrooms, LPS (frogspawn, hammer, pagoda cup) and SPS (montipora digitata, starry night, tri color valida, green millepora).
I also have a 3.5" maxima clam that is doing great on some rocks right off the sandbed directly under the light fixture.

The water is mixed with Instant Ocean Reef Crystals and I try to do a 10 gallon change every 2 weeks to keep calcium, alkalinity, and magnesium at the correct levels. In the tank I'm running 2 Hydor Koralia 3 power heads for circulation. The tank has about 100 lbs of rock, some introduced as "dead" rock, some "premium live rock". I'm looking to add another 50 lbs or so.

Lighting comes from a T5 Nova Extreme 4x48" fixture running ATI and UVL bulbs in both spectrums of actinic (420nm and 460nm), a 75.25 sunlight bulb, and a 12,000k bulb. The tank is run open top for heat reasons, and the fixture is about 4" above the surface. I run an Eshopps PF-800 overflow box to my homemade sump. The water runs through a 100micron filter sock before entering the skimmer section where a Coralife 125 Super Skimmer takes care of waste. I am also running a Phosban reactor to keep the phosphates down. The heater is a Visitherm Deluxe 250watt heater. The water is returned to the tank via a Mag 9.5 pump which outputs to a spray bar that I keep pointed along the back wall to keep detrius from settling. I have a simple automatic top off set up with a float valve and an empty trash can. When the water level drops due to evaporation, the float valve allows a few drops of fresh water to drip in and the level is returned to normal. I evaporate about 1.5 gallons per day.

I aim to keep my calcium at 400 ppm, alkalinity at 10-11, and Magnesium at 1300. My specific gravity/salinity is maintained at 1.025, and the fish and corals seem happy. PH stays around 8.2-8.3 and the temperature is kept at 78-79 degrees F.

Most of my fish will eat flake food, but I don't currently have a setup that makes it easy to turn off all the equipment to stop water movement, so flake food usually floats straight into the overflow box and down into the sump, wasted, so I feed frozen food. Every day around 1pm I thaw one cube of Marine Cuisine for carnivores, strain out the high-phosphate liquid that the food is frozen in, and pour the food particles into the tank. It's pretty much a free-for-all, and everyone gets some, including corals who often grab small bits that float by. Every other evening I feed flakes, but it requires me to put them in a cup, fill with tank water, and get them water logged first so they don't float. I keep a veggie clip on one side of the tank and put nori in there every 3 days or so for the grazers. Finally I feed my corals Kent Microvert, which is usually target fed from a turkey baster.

Aquarium Pictures

Divided Betta Tank Freshwater Aquarium Saltwater Aquarium
Coral Frag Rack Zoanthids Pagoda Cup

Future Plans
Future plans for my fish keeping are already in the works. My roommate has expressed interest in a tank, so we're moving the 10 gallon betta tank from the bar into his room. I'm currently working on a 10 gallon nano tank for the bar that will house some cool saltwater fish and macro algaes, as well as a few corals.

I'd like to upgrade the 75 tank to a 90, or possibly a 110, just to fit a few more fish in there. Of course, I'd have to upgrade my lighting again and add more rock, so that may be a ways off in the future. I also want starfire glass and a reef ready tank, so it will likely be a much larger investment than my current income can provide.

Acknowledgements

I'd like to thank my girlfriend for putting up with me spending countless nights at the computer researching, understanding when I want to make the 2 hour drive to Atlanta to see some real fish stores, and for listening when I talk about the new coral or fish I want.

I want to thank my roommate Paul, who puts up with my "fish stuff" all over the house (especially when I'm doing water changes on the 75 and there's a large Rubbermaid tub in the middle of the kitchen). He said it's okay because when he brings girls over, they all want to see the "Nemo" fish and think they're cute.

Finally I want to thank my parents, because without them, I'm sure I wouldn't have any of the tanks or knowledge I do today. Instead of telling me they're too busy or just plain "no", they encouraged me to research and learn about the lives I was bringing into the home.



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