The Puget Sound Aquarium Society Frag Tank

A quick preview of the system


I took over as President of the Puget Sound Aquarium Society (PSAS) in the summer of 2012 and served until the following summer. The PSAS is Seattle's biggest organized marine hobbyist group. In fact, we are the biggest club in Washington. It is a relatively obscure hobby, but our goal has been to educate members on the responsible care of the inhabitants of their salt-water work from coral to fish. We encourage members to preserve the world's reefs by buying captively grown coral and captively bred fish.

When I first took the position, I had to start planning for the year's activities. The biggest event of the year happens every February when we organize a state-wide expo to bring in vendors, local hobbyists, and speakers to learn more about what everyone has been up to sell/trade the latest in coral and gear. We had 100 members join at that event alone. As a bonus to club members at the event, we give away coral that has been donated, bought, or harvested from our own tanks. If you want to read more about the event, you can click on the following link to one of the two major forums we participate at:

Bob Moore Frag Swap 2013 on

Collecting and growing out that coral over a period of a year requires a lot of space and equipment. The club already had some equipment on hand and a 40B tank sitting empty. Being a carpenter, I decided that the club needed a permanent tank setup that could be passed on to future members of the Board of Directors. I donated the materials and time to build the system and this is the process:

The cabinet needed to be kept in my garage because there wasn't space in the house for another tank. I wanted it to blend in with the existing cabinets in my wood shop. I built the base with multiple layers of 2x4 bracing across the top so that I could guarantee no sag over time because I planned on having no centre brace. I painted the outside to match the garage cabinets and inside white.

The hood was designed to be a separate cabinet that could bear some weight if needed and be easily removable in case future owners didn't want an enclosed space. I eventually installed a bathroom vent fan in the ceiling of the hood that would exhaust the humid air from the stand outside. I wanted to keep the humidity in the garage at a minimum because all of my tools would quickly degrade in a high humidity environment.

With the cabinet together, the next step was to start working on the filtration and electrical systems for the tank.

The main sump for the skimmer and return section was scavenged from an old project. The skimmer came from my old SPS tank. It was undersized for a 120, but performed great on the 40B with a total system volume of around 70g. I believe the return pump was a pan world pump that pushed somewhere around 700GPH after head space loss. It supported both the return to the main tank and a few supply lines to the refugium that sits in the far left of the stand. Eventually, the filter sock was removed and most of the initial chamber was filled with rubble rock that provided good filtration.

The drain line from the tank entered the sump in an elevated chamber that could be accessed by removing the union and lexan top that was in place to keep moisture contained. The right picture is the sump with the initial pump that was used as a return before the more reliable external pump was installed. The system is fairly simple, which makes maintenance easy and the system thrived.

The electronics were isolated in the hood on the far right end. I added a removable divider that would contain most of the moisture in the tank area and leave the electronics dry. The exhaust fan that was added later helped keep humidity down which had the added benefit of cooling the system during the summer. Simple timers were used for the lighting system. A Korallia wave controller was used on the tank while I had ownership of it, but they didn't go with the tank when it was passed on. Lighting consisted of 6 x 36" T-5 bulbs. They are still a completely viable lighting choice. You can easily tweak the lighting spectrum with all of the bulb choices still on the market and with the number of bulbs used here, they can still support SPS coral that have higher lighting requirements.

Here is a quick preview of the tank while we were collecting and growing out coral. We sometimes received larger coral colonies that would need to be cut (fragged). Or, we would receive fast growing coral that could be cut numerous times over the period of time we had it before giving it away.

Fragging Time

If you aren't familiar with the hobby, the term "fragging" refers to the process of removing a fragment of a coral for reproductive purposes. By removing a small section, you can mount it to some piece of substrate. If done correctly, the coral will attach itself to the new home and keep growing. This process allows hobbyists to pass around existing coral colonies without doing any damage to the world's reefs. It ensures that a diverse population is preserved and you know that someone has a piece of your reef. If something catastrophic should ever happen to your own, maybe they'll be kind enough to help you recover.

Following that philosophy, every December/January, we frag all of the coral we've gathered throughout the year. That coral is allowed to heal up to be given away at our swap in February. The last two years, we've been able to gather thousands of dollars of coral to give away. The pictures below are from the temporary setup I put together for the process. Having a lot of extra water and tanks on hand makes the process a little easier.