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marine planted tanks

i never thought of my reef tank as a planted tank until Tom Barr mentioned 
Caulerpa in his response on marine planted tanks but it was.The Caulerpa 
occupied about one fourth of the space on the reef, provided the basic diet 
for all the fish, and also was the key to removal of the nitrates in the 
water as i did no water changes for 12 months and had reading on nitrates 
consistantly below 10. I harvested Caulerpa 4 times a year and traded it for 
book credit at a LFS and at the end of the year had enough credit to pay for 
the salt for the 90% annual water change.This tank was set up in 1993 and the 
filter system was bio balls in an internal chamber in an acrylic 100 gal. 
tank  No UV. no charcoal, no wet dry and the only "maintenance" was adding 
fresh water to top off the evaporation and some trace elements every 6 weeks. 
Once a year every thing was given a hard rinse in a salt water wash, and all 
water was changed except for the water in the filter compartment.

now before everyone spends hours typing responses saying why this was 
impossible let me tell you how i did it.

i had a friend who owned a LFS and who sold both fresh and salt water fish. 
He and i were trying to find a way to make keeping a reef take feasible for 
someone with minimal skills and without all of the equipment that was just 
coming out. Here is what we came up with:

1. NO hard corals. They make too much of a demand on water quality and need 
too many things to survive.

2. NO meat eaters. too much waste and the food supply goes real fast.

3.  If it can't live on a diet of Caulerpa it became food for the Caulerpa.

4.  NO big fish. Big fish are big eaters.

5. No more fish than the Caulerpa garden can feed. 

The final Tank inhabitants were a couple of Dwarf Angels, a Flame  and a 
Coral Beauty. a couple of pigmy angels, Cherubs, a couple of tank raised 
Clarki clowns, a tomato clown , a couple of blue damsels and a bicolour 
Blenny. One coral banded shrimp and a dozen snails for cleaning the glass and 
any areas where micro algae might pop up. All were in the tank from 1995 to 

The corals were all soft corals about 15 differen types and some of the 
mushroom corals actually multiplied.

In 1999 we moved from texas to arizona and i gave the tank to a man who had 
two young boys and no experience in aquariums. a year later i spoke to him 
and the tank was still doing fine and a person from the local LFS had come by 
and helped do the annual cleaning.. 

Tom Barr is right. Water changes are necessary unless you can do what i did 
here. It was amazing though how much the Caulerpa managed to remove from the 
water. yes at  the end of 12 months there was a bit of mulm buildup. and yes 
it would have been better to do partials. but the idea was the Zero Maintence 
Salt Water Reef Tank and i think we accomplished that.

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