In-Situ Chairman Chris McKee takes his reef-keeping seriously; not a big surprise given the business he is in. The Fort Collins-based company makes water quality testing and monitoring equipment, including an innovative line of products targeting aquaculturalists.

Chris has installed a 540 gallon custom aquarium at the company’s Fort Collins facilities. To create a robust reef that requires minimal maintenance, McKee enlisted the help of AquaMart owner Jeff Harris. Harris’s impressive design provides spectacular views of the reef both from the shop floor and the main lobby. Measuring 8 ft. x 3 ft. x 3 ft., the stunning tank is being stocked with a wide variety of coral species.

540 gallon aquarium for a coral reef

AcroOptics’ Mike Hurowitz gets perma-grin when he sees the size of the aquarium.

Lighting a tank of this size to meet the requirements of the Acropora, Montipora, and other SPS corals that McKee plans on keeping is no small feat. To address this challenge, Harris and McKee chose a 6 pendant Reef Slope lighting system from Boulder-based AcroOptics.

The six CRAVE24 pendants, mounted 14” over the water surface, provide unparalleled light uniformity with enough punch to keep the SPS inhabitants of the reef happy and healthy. AcroOptics’ custom TIR lens arrays allow ample room for access to the aquarium while keeping the light in the tank. Opting for LEDs over metal halides, the duo have created a set up that ensures stability for the livestock, negligible heat transfer to the aquarium, and drastically reduced energy consumption.

Along with the AcroOptics system, the custom tank from Planet Aquarium includes a sump with the return driven by Aqua Medic’s Eco Runner 12000. The sump contains an ATB Deluxe Internal 12.5 skimmer, and Aquatop MR-30 media reactor. Water movement within the tank will be provided by a pair of EcoTech Marine’s MP 60 Quiet Drive powerheads.

Custom reef tank installation AcroOptics LED lgihting

Jeff Harris installs overflow and sump plumbing. The return is driven by an Eco Runner 12000.

AcroOptics’ control system is fully integrated within the fixture and accessible from Chris’s computer over his wifi network.

AcroOptics Reef Slope pendant set over 540 gallon reef

Jeff’s live rock masterpiece gets a brief moment of light before being allowed to cycle.

With the substrate, rock and water loaded into the aquarium, Harris has begun stocking. It’s a tough call at this point who is more excited about the process, Jeff or Chris.

Strawberry Shortcake Acro under AcroOptics LED reef light

Strawberry Shortcake (A. microclados) – this one should really color up well.

A. gemmifera

Large a. gemmifera thriving.

What is clear is that AquaMart and McKee have created something special. Keep an eye out for updates as the reef comes to fruition. The drive up from Boulder to observe the progress is worth the trip to AcroOptics’ Steve Tappert:

“This is a really exceptional installation, and I’m intrigued with how it develops – there aren’t many opportunities to work on a set up as nice as this one from the ground up. Plus”, he adds with a smile, “the Poudre is a stone’s throw away – no reason not to enjoy a little fresh water as well”, referring to the excellent trout water just upstream from Ft. Collins. “Win, win.”