AOTW: James Mason's 180 Gallon Reef

This Friday we are featuring James Mason’s 180 Gallon Reef aquarium.


This aquarium comes with quite a story from James himself:image

I first got into fish when I was 11 years old I started in freshwater and after setting up 8 successful aquarium systems I decided I was ready to move into Saltwater when I was 12 or just about 13 years old. I Sold my Frank Mahovlich and Henry Richard etc and Mario Lemiux and all my old Parkhurst Hockey Cards to come up with 400 dollar to buy my first Saltwater system which was in 1993 so 400 bucks was a bad deal for me at that time but being young I was very excited to get into the beautiful hobby of keeping marine Fish and not 20 minutes after the sale I was at big als in Whitby buying a 35 gallon aquarium which I was told was the smallest size tank you could have a successful marine system in at the time.

The whole startup kit ended up costing me exactly $400 dollars. And that was with a 50 gallon box of salt ,a plastic canopy with a t8 florescent light I think it held 1 actinic t8 and one cool white or day bulb/white , a Fluval internal Bio life filter which I thought was the best filter in the world, To me it was anyhow it had a little window in it and man it look cool it even held the heater inside and i Think it came with it , also included a bag of crushed coral  a salinity Gauge the old Instant Ocean square shaped ones I believe that was the salt as well (they have been around a long time) Also came with an IO Nitrate and ammonia kit and that was it I went home set it up and let it run for 4 days then I bought 4 Damsels which to me was one of the happiest days of my life as I had always wanted to keep saltwater fish :) with that system I ended up keeping a 5 lb piece of live rock and back then it was really alive rock the stuff we get now they called base rock IMO..

I remember a little purple crab crawled out of it and polyps started to grow on it little feather dusters etc I thought it was like a surprise bag I fell in love with the hobby completely after that I ended up successfully keeping a green Goniopora and a Perc Clown (it was a false perc now that I think back but big als just called them percs ,They probably didn’t know the difference, a tomato clown along with the 4 damsels which was a 4 stripe a yellow tail a blue and a domino as well as a couple Hawaiian feather dusters and even a yellow tang  and everything did well as I was a hard worker and I did my water changes to the day every 30 days back then from what i read and heard from big als this was the best thing and way to do water changes. I eventually got an air pump powered skimmer from big als after having the tank for 6 months but i never really understood skimming as I do now back then so it just looked cool hanging on the back and made me feel good about the tank lol but really didn’t pull much skim-mate as i never got it dialed in.

Also was a crap Skimmer. I ended up getting a job at 13 my first real job at a pet store in port Perry Ontario and I was the fish expert there and i loved it even though it was only fresh water I really felt good giving people advice and learning from others well i worked there and it gave me some money to care for my fish and get a new fish now and then.

Anyway I stayed in the hobby for another 2 years and then I moved around so I had to leave the hobby I was out of the hobby until I was 24 or 25 and I got back into it by starting a 10 gallon piranha Tank and that wasn’t enough for me so I setup a 27 gallon cube mixed reef,after that I bought a 20 gallon long system then this wasn’t enough so I switched to a 75 gallon mixed reef also .

Then from there I went to a 65 a 90 and a 75 at the same time all mixed reefs all with sumps I got out of the hobby to go abroad for a couple of years where I lived in Cancun Mexico and saw the reef a lot also traveled around all of Central America and saw all the reefs along the way..Also I should mention when I was 17 I went to Australia for the 2nd time for 6 months and did some ocean fishing in Perth and a dolphin popped up one day right between my legs (at the time it scared the hell out of me but after I saw what it was it was beautiful) .

On the way home from Australia I stopped in Bali and saw what I though was the most beautiful reef I ever saw (my first reef was at 16 years old in Cozumel Mexico where I grabbed on to a wild manta ray and hitched a ride was very exiting) and I thought it was amazing seeing all the species I had kept, in there natural environment. I also swam with nurse sharks and picked up some played with them and sting rays in the wild in Belize Caye Calker was the first time the 2nd time in Belize I was in Placencia and I went to The Silk Caye and swam with a 5 foot lemon shark with myself and my 2 year old son at the time later that day I was stung by Fire Coral (and there is a reason they call it fire coral) all this was in the past 3 years I am 33 years old now and I have traveled the world 2 times and seen  a lot of reefs , most of my friends and family know me as an animal lover hell at one point I even had a pet Crocodile and every place I went I was Catching stuff in the wild from when I was 7 catching blue tongue Skinks in Australia to flipping stingrays out of the water with my flippers in Mexico to isolate in tide pools to red eyed tree frogs in Costa Rica and poison dart frogs , Full sized Iguanas , Boa Constrictors in belize swimming with Crocodiles all the way down to catching hermit crabs to give to locals in Central America who kept sea horses in 5 gallon tanks that they had caught in the mangroves I could go on and on But I will save that for another time.

To sum up what I am trying to say is all animals have and always will be my passion and I will never stop trying to master this hobby which is my favorite of all hobbies, It keeps me out of trouble and is a major passion in my life and I plan to do it my whole life (or as long as my wife lets me do so lol).

My current system is a 180 gallon tank that was bought at an estate sale, a 115 gallon sump and a 75 gallon frag tank all plumbed together there is a video coming soon so please keep watch. My Objective with this system is to eventually have only sps and maybe the odd lps but not much and I wanna grow them out with a really natural look. Also I would like to start selling frags to keep up with some of the costs of my reef keeping. I fee like I am getting close to my objective but as most reef hobbyists know you are never really done when it comes to this hobby! :) I have been through many trials and tribulations and I will never stop keeping Marine life and I love it more everyday .

Thanks so much for looking, Please feel free to ask anything about my story/stories I would be more than happy to answer There is a lot more to my story but like I said I just don’t have enough time to write it all right now

Thank You and Happy Reefing :)   


AquaticLog wishes James all the best with his tank and this wonderful hobby!