The Long Island Aquarium and Exhibition Center has been home to Joe Yaiulo’s incredible 20,000 gallon coral reef tank for 15 years! YouTuber and aquarium hobbyist, Marc Levenson of Melev’s Reef, just published a YouTube video that gives viewers a behind the scenes sneak peak, and includes an in-depth interview with Joe that provides insight on what it’s like to maintain such a large exhibit. oe’s huge tank began as a simple sketch and has transformed into an impressive coral reef display that has withstood the test of time. In the video, it is hard to accurately capture the sheer size of a tank that is 30 feet long, 14 feet deep, and 6 feet tall, and speckled with a plethora of ornate corals and about 600-800 tropical fish! In the video, we get a coveted glance at all the hard work and dedication that goes into taking care of the massive reef.
Interworkings of the Tank:
Joe, who is also the Curator of the aquarium, introduces the viewers to the tank by fondly recalling a number of special fish and corals that are “originals” to the tank. For example, there are still some 18 year old Yellow Tang and 25+ year old Gorgonian corals that live happily within the tank. Joe goes on to describe the jungle of lights that hang down from the ceiling to illuminate the tank. Humorously, Joe declares himself an, “old school guy” as he reluctantly makes the move to LED lightning, claiming that it takes away the depth of the tank and comes off “too crisp”. As opposed to other tanks that may experience a slightly different day to day light schedule, this tank keeps the same schedule each day regardless of events taking place at the aquarium. In the morning, blue lights come on first, followed by the daylights that are on for 8 hours each day (10-8), and then at 8:30 the blue lights again come on, and at 10:30 it goes dark. The complexities of water chemistry are also explored as Joe lists off the chemicals that are put in the water to maintain reef health and keep the pH level between 8 and 8.2.
Next the video delves into the many facets of the tank that are responsible for creating flow and water movement. Before watching the video, a simple aquarium admirer would never have guessed how many flow systems, filters, and pumps are required on a daily basis to keep the tank healthy. The basics include a high rate filter with closed loops that functions as the mechanical filtration system. Due to the size of the tank, water is flowing into the tank at 200g/minute on the closed loop, and with the help of a 1.5 inch educator the flow is accelerated to ensure that water is moved throughout the 30 foot tank. On a smaller scale there are 7 Sea Swirls that keep the water moving within the tank and greatly aid in allowing water through the coral and rock crevices. But wait…there’s more! The Hydro Wizard is near the back of the tank, and is a pump that pulses to move water forward. It is a very versatile tool as it can be moved up or down in the water column, vary its pulse pattern, and still pump 50,000g/hour into the tank. Lastly, the Carlson Surge Pump is a 300g container that is filled every 8-9, minutes from a closed loop, and once full releases a sudden wave of water and air that surges across the tank. As fish curiously come up to investigate the burst of bubbles, Joe describes how the “wave migrates across the tank”. Flow is an important aspect of coral reef tanks because the corals respond so positively to flow and the movement of water resembles a natural habitat and creates a healthy environment for all the organisms in the tank.
As viewers listen to Joe describe the intricate details that makes this 20,000g tank stunning after 15 years, they remain engaged and excited by watching the fish playfully dash across their screen as they observe the vivid beauty of the reef.
The Evolving Reef Aesthetic:
What really makes this video so interesting is the conversations with Joe about how he is constantly evolving his “vision” for the reef and altering it in order to fit the reef’s growing needs. When peering into the reef from the other side of the acrylic, the reef appears endless and bustling with activity and flashes of color. It was designed so that back wall is free of rock and corals in order to give off the façade of an endless expanse. Judging from the video alone, the reef looked as if it could be in the Caribbean rather than an exhibit at an aquarium – a testament to the Joe’s ingenuity. It was interesting to hear him speak of his treasured corals and recall how the tank has shifted and changed overtime. Surprisingly, Joe still maintains every inch of his tank, or as he fondly calls it his “baby”, as it requires constant TLC in order to maintain the health of the huge reef. From the video it is difficult to really understand the massive scale of this reef, as some corals are 3-4 feet in diameter, but the bird’s eye view really showcases the beauty and expanse of the perfectly kept reef.
As the reef grows, Joe must rearrange and landscape it in order to: improve water flow, prevent coral encroachment, or be more aesthetically pleasing. Joe happily describes several incidents when he either removed, repositioned, or “sculpted” the coral in order to give viewers a better experience and improve the overall look of the tank. What many people may fail to realize is that changes to reef structure must be made early in advance, as Joe compares the reef to an “oil tanker” where slow steady corrections need to be made to keep it on track. Fragmented corals have been planted in the reef over the years and have been very successful in filling in gaps and creating a fuller more biodiverse tank environment. Joe’s passion and dedication to the tank really shows as he dons scuba gear each week and goes down to scrub the tank clean; as he puts it he, “has visitors coming everyday” so it must remain in pristine condition.
The video illuminates how much work, time, and passion goes into maintaining a tank of this size and caliber, while highlighting how Joe stays deeply connected and excited about his tank after all these years.
Check out the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2pxTBHtnl-s