Reef nutrition

Maureen's Classroom DSA 105


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Hello! I'm an 8th grade science teacher setting up a reef tank in my new classroom. I thought I wanted a simple setup to minimize what could go wrong. However, after many nightmares and some amazing funding opportunities I opted for high tech to help me monitor and control the tank remotely and reduce my anxiety nights and weekends. Here's the very start:

DSA 105g Pro (48"x24"x21")
DSA stand with super cool front-flip canopy so arm goes in at tank edge
Trigger Ruby 36" Elite sump/refugium - 41g


Coated the stand interior with epoxy for water resistance and varnished the exterior for durability. (Then sanded and revarnished after vents spewed a swirling vortex of dust all over.) Good enough. I would love to have an open tank but 13-14 year-olds can do things without thinking and so many things could harm our tank without ill intention, not to mention a day with a substitute teacher.

Next steps:
1) Plumbing (starting this week): Considering closed loop in addition to large center overflow setup. Researching overflow flow rate. Looking at Herbie and Bean Animal drain info. I saw that BAR members have both. Objective is quiet and reliable. OPINIONS WELCOMED!
2) Circulation (2 x Tunze 6095 Nanostreams): No experience with them.
3) Lighting (2 x Kessil Tuna Blue A360WE): My old tank had PC lighting! Researching installation options.

That's about it for now. I am very excited and nervous. My students are in for some awesome surprises. They are already mesmerized by our 12g Eclipse with live rock and a clown pair!
what an awesome idea :)

In regards to overflow, that thing must already be drilled under the overflow, how many holes are there? that would dictate the type of overflow unless you want to drill more if needed...
Sorry no info or opinions here just wondering where you teach cuz I want my twins to go there! Wish my science teacher liked live fish she had a bunch of dead one for us to cut up though.



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It's drilled for 2 x 1" drains and 2 x 3/4" returns. I got the overflow kit from DSA but if there is a quieter option I can plumb it that way from the start.

School is Sequoia Middle in Pleasant Hill. It's a good place to be, made up of kids from all over the district. Science is a great subject because no matter what kind of abilities students have they can get a lot out of an activity-based program. Dead fish - LOL. Lower grade just did squid dissection (and eating).


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Very nice looking tank and stand! Not sure that would have helped me in science though because I'd be daydreaming while staring at the talk all class long :D

As to the plumbing, with 2 drains I don't think you can do a bean overflow, I thought that required 3 drains (I might be wrong though) a herbie can definitely be quiet though once it's dialed in. I'm not familiar with the overflow that comes with the kit though, I would say fire it up and see how loud it is, but that's a whole lot of water you need to fill it with just to test it out.

The pumps are fine, they're adjustable so you can get the flow rate that you want and they're more than powerful enough for a tank that size. I would suggest a DC return pump too, that way you can adjust the return flow as you want, which ultimately is what makes drains noisy or not, but also the pump itself tends to be less noisy. But ultimately you don't have to guess so much of sizing your pump.

And lighting is more than fine too. You'll have some brighter spots, and some less bright spots, depending upon what kind of corals you want to keep in there you'll have a wide range of places to put them. Simply mounting them inside the canopy hood should be fine, they'll be somewhat close to the water surface but that shouldn't be a big issue.

One thing I would make sure is to figure out what you're going to do as far as cleaning the tank, filtration/skimmer, that's one thing that can make a tank so uncool is dirtiness, and being on top of cleaning the glass (luckily it's glass because a razor blade can scrape off the toughest of coraline algae)


Very cool tank and VERY lucky kids!

Plumbing is designed based on your return pump. What flow are you shooting for?

I have a 120G tank and use either a Eheim 1262 or SICCE SYNCRA SILENT 4.0. Both rated at about 950 gph. Actual flow is probably about 600gph. My BA system is all 1" pipe.

Edit: after reading Mike's comments, I realize I assumed the four holes are all in the bottom of the overflow box. Is that correct?

BA and Herbie are both quiet systems. The advantages of BA are a higher degree of safety and more latitude for adjustments. It is usually done with three drains the same size. Because you only have two 1" drains, I'd keep the return flow down to something like I'm running. Use one 1" for the siphon, one 3/4" for the open channel upsizing the pipe on it to at least 1" and the third (emergency) use the last 1" drain.

The last hole can be used for the return.

Since you already have two circulation pumps, I'd skip the CL. Just another maintenance task! :eek:

Nice lights. I've seen some installations with the lights sticking thru the canopy. This gives them better cooling. Will the front flip allow enough room for that?

What's your coral and fish stocking plan?

Make sure if you need anything to give a shout out here. Lots of generous people in the club with garages full of stuff and tanks overflowing with corals! :D

If you haven't seen this, check out
well looks like you don't have much options on the overflow, 2x1" = herbie system, frankly I don't know a single person who had a leak/spill or catastrophic failure with their herbie overflow, sure beananimal is better but with a built in overflow and a pre-drilled tank it would become too much of a challenge converting to beananimal.

As mentioned earlier make sure you plan your filtration real well, ie; sump, skimmer, ato, etc. etc.

If you go with herbie you eliminate most concerns with overflow but you will have to make your return plumbing failproof (so water doesn't siphon through the returns and overflow the sump) and you mentioned that you will rely on a controller to safeguard from failure so that's another aspect to research and decide which controller is going to be your best option, likely an APEX. The right plumbing design combined with a networked reef controller and you'll have most every angle covered. There are a few of us who are obsessive about control/redundancy so don't hesitate to share your plans or ask any questions, we are sure to figure out the best option possible :)


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WOW. I really appreciate everybody's help with this!
Turns out I misunderstood what a Herbie drain was and I guess I had a similar one on the tank I just took down at home, only it was from an external overflow. I loved being able to adjust simply with the gate valve. Checking out the possible return siphon part of it - thanks for the tip HiFidelity. The Apex is my controller but I have not yet looked into it at all. I had to jump immediately when funding deals popped up unexpectedly so I just went for items I had heard great things about. I thought Tunze osmolator would be most safety redundant top-off system but maybe Apex does topoff itself. I have no clue!

Yep, 4 holes at bottom of center overflow.
I plan to use a return pump we already had - need to double check the name before I post it.

41g sump arrives tomorrow and should hold a good amount of drainback in case of power outage and will hold my skimmer - AquaC EV-180. Not a new type but it should be great.

Not sure about lights. Thought I would have the Kessils on goosenecks shining thru holes just just behind where the flip part of the canopy rests when open, so I don't have to move the lights. Or I saw Jonmos's set-in installation which is nice and could work. Or do I want them inside as suggested by sfsuphys? Need to look into heat issues.

AquaNut - think I will skip the CL like you said. I kinda wish there was a lower place to have flow out when I want but there is not. Thanks for the link to Brandon's school. I found out about him last fall when I started my plan. He is amazing for that school and all the kids!

I have ideas about corals and fish but now I am overwhelmed with daily work and getting the tank equipment going. : ) Thanks to Darcy, Jon and Apon for the GSP, xenia and capnella at the swap! They will be perfect introductions to corals. As far as I know NONE of my 220 students know about corals. Enderturtle, I would love coral donations in the future when the tank is stable. : )

The master plan to keep the tank clean is child labor. I have 5 members of an after school club so far. Super nice 7-8 graders, all my size or smaller. I was hoping for a couple of 6-foot tall ones, too. Weird water finding at reef club today - for something to do I had the students check tap water TDS at 6 sinks. TDS varied 190-400! I thought it was dirty beakers but they got the same readings using the exact same beaker for all. Flux in pipes? Building opened in August. One of the highest TDS faucets is one we use most often. Why the difference?
Thanks again to everyone.


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I use my apex to control my ATO pump with float switched combined with a OSO (oscillating programming....OFF/ON/OFF), a BOB (break out box) and an ATO reservoir....

But I have had my ATO programmed a lot of different ways but I am happiest with this due to the redundancy....but we can discuss different ways to do this if you are interested...
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add fan to the list of of things to do, you'll need one if you use a hood w/ lights in it, good for the tank and good for the equipment. If you are handy this can cost less than $20, further details if needed...


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Whew! It was a busy spring at the school! Now that school's out I can breathe a bit and spend some time working on the tank and getting some advice.
First of all, the tank is up and running and my students LOVED it. Now they are off to high school. One full tank picture is below. I will be aquascaping this summer but don't plan to add anything new until the fall - I want to be sure it survives its first summer and I'd like students to see its evolution. For sponsorship reasons I had to set up a comprehensive website for this tank project which is at if anyone is interested. I could try to summarize later but first I have a few questions...
1) Back siphon - HiFidelity cautioned earlier about preventing a siphon through return lines that could flood the sump. In the second photo you might be better able to see the returns - 4 LocLines. Any suggestion/specific resource for online search about this topic? Drilling a hole in the fitting is not enough?
2) Placement of Neptune Apex conductivity probe - says it needs to be angled to avoid air bubble buildup. At the moment I have probes in a magnetic holder at a angle and it seems ok. Any reason why other probes should not be mounted at an angle? Without a magnetic mount how do you mount a probe diagonally?
3) Food info - Got AMAZINGLY live liverock from Tampa Bay Saltwater. Incredible. I have never had rock like this before and would really like to keep as much as possible alive - sponges, gorgonians, serpent and brittle stars, porcelain and other crabs, urchins, tiger tail cucumbers, shellfish. I have been target feeding homemade seafood mix to a goby, anemones, peppermint shrimp, starfish. I was feeding PhytoFeast and two weeks ago added OysterFeast which made everyone in the tank go nuts. Polyps on a sea fan have started coming out more and I fear I have not been feeding enough. No clue how much to feed and am also confused by who needs what food and particle size.
4) ATO reservoir - Would like to install Tunze Osmolator ATO next week. Decided on sump placement and would like reservoir water level to be lower than sump level. Any suggestion on a wide, low container 10-15g or so? Cheap, too. I have a 20"x28" or bigger footprint open next to the tank. Just thought I'd ask in case there is something common I am not thinking of.
Enough questions for now! 20150423_122156.jpg20150514_152105.jpg


Tank is looking great!

Your Q's:
1. There are basically three approaches to back siphon (or drain down). Check valves, siphon break hole and sump capacity.
Check valves are a flood waiting to happen. Stuff grows on the valve seat and when you need it the most they don't seal properly
Siphon break holes work if you maintain them. A small hole drilled in each return just below the water line limits the drain down volume. Be sure to clean on a regular basis and especially before leaving the tank for vacations, etc. All sorts of growth can plug the hole and then you are out of luck.
The best solution is to make sure your sump can handle the max drain down. This is tough using locklines because they can be moved lower in the tank and then siphon much more water. To make this much more reliable either replace the LL with rigid tubing or perhaps you could glue the LL into a permanent position.

2. I see no reason why other probes couldn't be angled.

3. Will you be feeding throughout the summer? If not you could add an auto feeder. They seem to work best with pellet foods. As to how often and how much to feed, well there's the true art of reef keeping! :D Go slow. Things die quicker with too much food!

4. ATO. Almost any food safe container will work. Creative shopping at Big Lots, Target, etc. might yield what you are looking for. Make sure whatever you find is easy to refill.


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Thanks for the back siphon info. Ignorance was bliss. I need to think about what to do about my LL.
Yes, I will feed throughout summer. Will need to go in often for now because ATO is not yet set up and there are small clown and mantis tanks with no automation. Still a lot to do like cover overflows, decide where to install RODI and Apex and all the cords (hope to beat fire marshal inspection), plan where to do plankton culture in the fall, and a thousand other things that I haven't gotten to. Was thinking about AFS last month and started looking at pellets and got more confused about feeding. : )
New building with air conditioning and after hours access (reasons I thought a tank might finally be possible) and since it's separate from the main school it never got hooked up to the main climate control system and acts independently. So far so good. I am watching tank temp via the controller; I couldn't find a cheap way to monitor the room temp remotely.
Main concerns include PG&E still not telling me when neighborhood system upgrade power outages will occur and what the annual floor stripping and sealing by the custodians will entail. Gotta get on that next week.


Did you ever get the Apex online? That would help to not feel so tethered to the tank(s). Is there wifi the faculty can connect to?

G/L with the fire martial. They made us remove some really nice surge protection and install junk power strips in a computer lab. Made NO sense!

Sounds like you've got a good situation being just far enough outside the campus system.

The Apex temp sensor can also record air temp. You don't really need that as water temp is where it's happening. :) If you have a spare temp sensor it could alert you to high/low air temps so you could take measures to help the tanks.

For the floors, have you made best friends with the custodians yet? ;) Open windows and a good cross draft might be all you can hope for. Raising concerns over the environmental effects of the process might get some action. :rolleyes:


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This is Day 3 of using Apex for lights, heater, temp, pH, conductivity. (Had been reading a lot online and making my little programs then found out new version of Fusion software did that all for me - ha! That's okay because we have students do a bit a coding a few times each year in science and I thought this was a cool, relevant application for them and now I know what it's like.) Do not have leak detector or circulation pumps on it yet. I thought I needed extra temp probe for ORP (not using yet) but anyway I have one and think I will use it for air temp like you said - thanks! I am so lucky there is an ethernet outlet 3 feet from the tank. School system is not as reliable as home and does not have any backup during power outage but still it's better than my old classroom which had only 1 outlet in the room.
Worried about fire inspection. First one happened when there was just freshwater circulating. I planned ahead and thought I had a special UL power strip with separate outlets and he wrote me up for having a non-approved multiple adapter. (He had no problem with people who had 12 laptops daisy chained on plastic power strips.) No one at our district knows what would qualify as "approved." Not surprised since the district person told me that zip tying "saggy cords" taut would be better than drip loops which he was not familiar with. And they also installed outlets directly over small sinks so water bounced up and tripped the GFCIs until I got baby covers. Back to topic, I do not see UL on the Apex Energy Bar 8. If he came tomorrow and saw my tangle of wires he might flip out. If cords can reach I might drill a hole and place the EB and modules in a cabinet over the outlet. And lock the cabinet door - heh heh. Of course I'm serious about safety and also don't want to jeopardize permission to have the tank. This is why I ditched placing the controller in the stand.
John, you are correct that the custodian is a teacher's best friend, especially for messy science class! Custodians and secretaries are the only ones who can actually run a school.
Heading out in search of ATO reservoir better than my tall skinny bucket. Funny you mentioned Big Lots because it is a block from Diablo Corals.


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No need for a temp probe for ORP, the only probe that is a "Must" for an additional Temp Probe would be a pm2 with a salinity probe...other then that you don't need to bother with temp compensation with pH or any other probes...

Yes as John said you can use the Temp probe on the outside of the tank for ambient temp, or you could even mount it in the Canopy/Stand to get the temp in those areas

Looking good


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4. ATO. Almost any food safe container will work. Creative shopping at Big Lots, Target, etc. might yield what you are looking for. Make sure whatever you find is easy to refill.
+1 I'm using a cereal container I bought from Walmart. $10. Holds 2 gallons which is enough for my tank for almost a week.