Down to One Marine Aquarium—and So Far I’m Loving It!

Residents of the 125 enjoying the new lighting

Residents of the 125 enjoying the new lighting

For quite some time, I had at least two marine aquariums up and running—a 75-gallon reef tank and a 125-gallon FOWLR tank. As regular Saltwater Smarts visitors know, that 75-gallon tank had become something of a thorn in my side. Originally set up 15 years ago, what was once a nice mix of various soft corals and a few large-polyp stonies gradually transformed into an unsightly mess dominated by green star polyps. Well, I’ve finally begun the process of tearing that tank down.

Change at the speed of molasses!

What took me so long? Well, as “Caribbean Chris” can attest, when it comes to making changes to my tanks, I tend to move at the speed of molasses in January. Also, I kept going back and forth on how to handle the livestock and what I wanted to do with the 75-gallon once I could get it up and running again.

Despite the mess that tank had become, it still contained a handful of specimens I was loath to part with—specifically a sizeable leather coral, an open brain coral, and a few gorgonians. Where were those to go once the tank was torn down? Should I just give them away and be done with it? Set up a smaller tank just for them? Put them back in the same tank after reworking it? If I were to do that, where would I hold them in the interim? There were so many different permutations to consider that, like the proverbial deer in the headlights, I just did nothing.

Now, many of you are probably thinking, “Why not just put the corals you want to keep in the 125-gallon and trade the rest?” I’d thought of that but ruled it out since it would require purchasing reef-grade lighting for the system, which just wasn’t in the financial cards. I won’t say how much I earn in a year, but as a professional writer/editor with one child attending Ohio State University and another attending a private high school, let’s just say I don’t have a lot of disposable income to play around with. If I have to choose between costly aquarium lighting and food, food will win out almost every time.

CC saves the day!

Ah, but sometimes good things come to those who wait! The resolution to my dilemma came from none other than “CC” himself, who just happened to have an old (“old” for him equals “brand new” for me—sort of like dog years) 72-inch Current USA fixture, containing three 150-watt metal halides, 8 39-watt T5s, and 4 clusters of LEDs, lying around collecting dust. He gave me a great price on the unit and even delivered it personally and helped me install it on my 125-gallon.

Jeff's 125-gallon reef

Soon thereafter, I moved the “keeper” corals to the 125, leaving behind only the green star polyps, which cover much of the remaining rockwork, and a lone percula clownfish that I’ve had for 18 years. I’m still contemplating what to do with the clownfish. If moved to the 125, I suspect the resident—and rather cantankerous—tomato clownfish would murder it in short order. Perhaps a desktop nano is in the perc’s future. The rocks covered with star polyps I plan to trade with the folks at my favorite LFS.

Feeling bullish!

Having (almost) shut down my 75-gallon, I’m feeling pretty bullish. I love the look of the new/old lights and the way they showcase my fish and inverts. I’m also excited by the potential for future invertebrate livestock acquisitions that the larger tank affords. What’s more, I can now focus all of my time, energy, and finances on just one tank. Before, I sometimes felt as though I was spreading these meager resources too thin and getting less-than-satisfactory results from both systems rather than getting the most out of one.

Perhaps best of all, my wife, Melissa, is really happy with the new arrangement as well. She too loves the look of the 125-gallon with the new lighting and livestock, and besides, she’s had her sights set on redoing the room that held the 75-gallon for quite some time. With “Green Star Polyp Paradise” finally being disassembled, she has the green light to go ahead with her long-anticipated project. And I’m happy as long as she’s happy! You know how that old saying goes: “Happy wife, much lower risk of sudden death by blunt instrument trauma.”

That 75-gallon and I had a great run together, and I’m sure I’ll set it up again someday when time, space, and budget allow.

But what to put in it?


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About Jeff Kurtz

Jeff Kurtz is the Co-founder/Editor of Saltwater Smarts, former Senior Consulting Editor for Tropical Fish Hobbyist Magazine, and the aquarist formerly known as “The Salt Creep.” He has been an aquarium hobbyist for over 30 years and is an avid scuba diver.


  1. I like it Jeff, especially the candilabra and photo in the tank. (Must be hard to keep them lit)
    I to went down to one tank, ocasionally 2. At one time I had 14 tanks with various fry in different stages of life with the associated rotifers and brine shrimp also at different stages. Then I had to have local animal tanks and I couldn’t put my little flounders in with my 7″ mantis shrimp or horseshoe crabs. Then there was the terrestrial fiddler crab tank and the rock crab tank along with local eels. Now with just one or two tanks I can persue my hobby of bunjee jumping or cliff diving which I do every morning before breakfast.

    • Jeff Kurtz says

      He he! My son’s gonna kill me for that. He hates that photo. By the way, I think we’re going to need photo documentation of your cliff diving exploits!

  2. Matt Bowers (Muttley000) says

    We have talked about me going down to just one tank several times… I’m still trying to act like I don’t hear well. New tank looks great!

    • Jeff Kurtz says

      Don’t feel bad, Matt. I talked about taking that 75-gallon down for at least two years before I finally made a move. I’d hate to rush into anything!

  3. It can’t be helped until the fascinated child settles down to just one.

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