How to Upgrade Your Saltwater Tank Like a Reef Junkie Part 2

Here’s part 2 of my VIP tank build.  In this episode, I’ll show you the equipment side of the tank include what equipment is not part of the build.  Of course, we will have a look at how the tank looks today.

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Comments for this article (58)

  • Chipp says:

    Thanks for sharing, Mark! We had a ARC meeting yesterday and miss you 🙂

  • Tony says:

    Awsome Job! Did you have any blooms after cycle to now? and if so when did they happen? and why? Thanks

  • Redsea2012 says:

    Mark, 2 MP60’s and 2 MP40’s in the back?! Why you need the 40’s in the back wall?!

  • Lam Ma says:

    Where can I get the floor sensor and what brand is it.

  • James says:

    wow, super clean setup, very nice. All that LPS and no feeding though? wish you could explain your no coral feeding stance more.

  • Blake says:

    so mark, with dr. tims how long do you suggest the cycle should be with 1 fish in a larger than 75 gallon tank.

  • veeral says:

    thats kool…… no refuge no biopellets and still the tank is algae free…. the rocks and sand used were dead? what u dosing for mag., alk & calcuim? is it diy BRS?

  • Jason says:

    Absolutely stunning. Cracking work mark.

  • Mark H. says:

    Great video Mark, you are changing my mind about the need for a refugium…

  • Matt says:

    Wow… That’s a really nice build… What’s really nice is seeing how well your methods work on what is a relatively young tank… The old and heavily debated argument that LED lighting won’t grow coral goes out the window in an instant when you see this… 😀

    I bet your customer is more than a little happy and I hope you pass on my admiration for the obvious dedication and respect he has for our hobby… The tank is a triumph and I can tell will only get even better with time… Just let me be there when the next HUGE upgrade happens… 😀

    I hope folk don’t mind me answering a couple of questions aimed at Mark… Some extra viewpoints and honest and outsider experience of Marks methods might be useful…

    Tony – If you use the Dr Tims One & Only from the start using dead rock and dead sand and follow Marks methods (as outlined in the guides) you will see (or might even not see) minimal algae blooms of any sort… The One & Only really does allow the tank to almost skip this stage of cycling because the natural process is essentially completed by the product..

    RedSea2012 – Why not? 😀 Seriously though… The MP40’s are set to give a more random flow which gives a more natural movement of water in the tank…

    James – There’s more info in the guides as to why you shouldn’t feed your corals that aren’t NPS’s … If your tank is running well it really isn’t required… Each to there own on this one as it seems to work for some people… But they often have to compensate for what they throw in which isn’t ideal and can proove costly… The truth of that matter is simple to view… In the tank we’ve just seen it isn’t used and obviously isn’t needed…

    Blake – In my case I didn’t really see a cycle of any kind (135 US Gallons or 520ltr)… I did test every day and apart from a tiny bit of nitrate that was it… Nada.. zip.. zero cycle… 🙂

    Really enjoyed watching that build… I know its not possible with a busy schedule but I’d like to see double the detail and lots more viewing time 😀

  • Mark…unless your fuge is of good size (at least 1/3 of your tank size), it won’t do a whole lot for your nutrient levels

  • veeral…we are using BRS supplements for Ca, Mg, Alk

  • Blake…usually a couple of days. Depends on the bioload of the fish, how cured the rock is, etc.

  • James…my coral feeding stance is really easy – don’t feed them. NPS, gonipora and filter feeders excluded.

  • Lam…here’s where I get the water on floor sensors I use

  • Redsea…Matt pretty much nailed it and I’d add on that I wanted a lot of flow in this tank so the 40’s on the back made sense.

  • Tony…there was the usual diatom bloom and that’s all.

  • Chipp…are you coming to MACNA? You can catch me there!

  • Mike says:

    Very nicely done. Thank you for sharing that build with us. You mentioned in the first segment that the customer read one of your books. I went searching for “Mr Saltwater Tank” to see if I could locate it and nada. If I can order them through your website, where is the link?

    Thanks for your time in sharing your knowledge with us Mark.

  • Richard L says:

    Great video Mark! Love the equipment choices and how you approached this build. Looking forward to your next one!

  • Chipp says:

    Hi Mark,

    Yep, I’ll say hi to you in Dallas!

  • Scott says:

    Do you see a need for a UV Sterilizer in this setup?

  • walter says:

    can you please explain how the return pump is driving the gfo and carbon canisters?

  • Via the fitting on the return line that allows water to split off and go through the reactor.

  • Steve says:

    Mark, nice video! I noticed no buildup/solidifying on you Magnesium drip. I am dosing B-ionic (although I just ran out & am trying the Tech-M product), but my magnesium tube was becoming solid & clogged from the additive solidifying. Have you ever seen that before, maybe it is related to the B-Ionic supplement?

  • Ted says:

    How come no need for a UV sterilizer light?

  • Ted says:

    Sorry be redundant but please explain why no UV light.

  • Adam says:

    Without the refugium’s in this build and your newest build, you miss out on the added benefit of pH stability with a reverse photo period. How are you managing pH swings or are you noticing larger swings without a fuge.
    I realize your stance on the refugium not being necessary/efficient as a sole source of nutrient export but there are other benefits besides lower PO4 and nitrates.

  • Adam…there are absolutely multiple benefits to a refugium and most of them require a large refugium to have any effect. Putting 12″ of refugium in the sump won’t do much (if anything) for pH stability. There simply isn’t enough algae in the fuge to make a dent in the pH swing.

  • Ted…I’m not a UV sterilizer fan. They have to be setup and maintained correctly to actually work and I’m not sold on the perceived benefits.

  • christina says:

    Its beautiful! But i don’t understand that there is no need for at least a refugium??

  • Christina…the refugium wouldn’t be big enough to make a dent in the nutrient levels in the tank. We didn’t have the option to make a remote refugium, therefore we’d have to stick it in the sump. Given the size of the sump and its design, the refugium would be about 12″ which isn’t big enough to process nutrients from this sized tank.

    And as you can see from the pictures, the tank is running fine w/out it. Nutrient levels are very low, or non-existent and the tank is thriving.

  • Joel says:

    Dang…..that’s a nice looking tank!

  • Bill says:


    I get the idea of the refugium being too small to dent a system 10x the size. How about culturing pods? Do you find the same size limitations to be true?

  • Bill…culturing pods is a great benefits of refugiums and of course a bigger one is better. Would a small fuge keep a big display tank stocked with pods? That depends on lots of factors such as how many predators of the pods are in the display tank, how many pods the fuge is growing that make it past the return pump, etc.

    Therefore, if you’ve got space for a fuge and you want to grow pods in it, it can’t hurt. Just keep in mind the size of the fuge and what you are expecting it to do for you.

  • Keith Hays says:

    Great distinction on the bacteria in a bottle. This definitely does not allow alot of fish to start with. I love the DR. TIMS product and recently used is start up a 300 gallon + system using the fishlish cycle. It is important to know that nitrite will continue to build in the tank for 20 days or so with or without fish. While nitrite in saltwater is considerable less toxic than freshwater, a large number of fish would definitely cause lots of death if you are using fish to cycle with. Using the fishless method nitrite will be off the charts for quite sometime after the 20 days depending on how badly you like to change water.

  • says:

    Whats an estimate on the cost of the whole set up excluding the finish woodwork and your fee, And without livestock?

  • Kelly…costs of builds is confidential.

  • phil says:

    I got an algae bloom that won’t stop growing. what should I do? all have is a basic. Filtration! Skimmer, filter that filters 200 gallons per hour in a 29 gallon tank, I do water changes weekly, is there anything I can buy or do to help get rid of this problem, my lights are on for 8 a.m. till 630 p.m. and then it’s just the blue leds. It’s the redder algae that’s becoming a nuisance problem and can take over a tank in no time if I uncheched.please Help.

  • Algae needs light and nitrogen to grow. You will need to eliminate the nitrogen. If you just cutout te lights, the algae will die and create more nitrogen availablity. The most expediant method is regular water changes and less food into the system. Make sure any physical filtration is cleaned daily as you work to get rid of the algae. The amount of water you are changing weekly should be directly proportional to the amount of nitrogen you add to he tank in normal situations. In your case, you will have to bump up the percentage until you see a difference in the amount of algae.

    This part is just my experience : if you have any kind of sand bed that has been in place for a long time, you may want to start gradually change it out.

  • Simon k. says:

    Hi Mark,

    Really wondering what flow setting you run on your sexy tank? I know you have an mp10.


  • Jack says:

    Awesome tank. I wish I had one!
    Also, Mark do you ever feed the triggerfish live foods like ghost shrimp?

  • Jack…no. I feed them large mysis shrimp. Although they eat anything I throw at them.

  • Simon k…the sexy tank is run @ about 30% intensity in lagoon mode.

  • Tyler says:

    I enjoy your videos every morning they are posted! Thanks to you I have become a well rounded coral farmer. I have people driving 3 hr drives just for 1 frag! I play your videos when people are in my shop, aka my house. People watch and ask me, “CAN YOU DO THAT TO MY TANK??” well yeah!!!
    So glad you moved to this side of the mississippi. I would love to have a nice long discussion on corals with you some time. I am planning a HUGE farm when I move to supply the surrounding LFS’s. I like the simple approach to this tank in comparison to some peoples. Makes life easier for everyone.

  • Tyler…thanks for the note and congrats on being a die-hard reef junkie! Where this side of the Mississippi are you located?

  • Tyler says:

    1.5hrs north of Indianapolis in a small town called Peru. (for an exotic name like that you would think we would at least have a Wal-Mart!)

    You can actually make it here by boating up the Mississippi, take the Ohio River Exit, and then you hit up the Wabash River, which leads straight here. So thats kind of cool. If The internet ever dies, we could send Frags Via Messenger Salmon

  • Donita says:

    Mark, I’m stumped. I have a 75gal reef tank with fish and shrimp. I believe to be stocked at the max recomended levels. Corals are mostly soft mushrooms, polyps, pulsing anthelia & xenia, Brain corals, and leathers.

    Problem: I had an algae bloom couple months ago, all parameters are now where they should be. Skimmer is working well, changing 5gal per week, limited feeding. Still cant get rid of all the algae? I’ve got it down to 3 spots in the tank, I pick it out each week, and cut it back so snails can work on it better.. But it continues to grow..

    What am I missing?


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