I want to stand up a outdoor mixed reef tank in Los Angeles


New member
Hello and thank you for your help on this. I have been away from the hobby for several years. Previously I designed and had built custom tanks. The largest being 120 gallon. I am now looking to get back into the hobby but She Who Must Be Obeyed *HATES* the idea of a indoor salt setup. She has memories of the lugging of 5 gallon salt containers, spilled salt water, and the like. So no can do in the house. We are completely redoing out backyard. Including putting up a fully covered roof pergola.

My idea is to stand up a custom build tank with sump. My plan is to design it with graceful failure built into the system. By that I mean plans for the standard problems like power failure and heavy weather. It would be a reef tank with a sump but all telemetry would be in the main tank as would plumbing to the chiller and heaters in the main tank as well as a way to oxygenate the tank if it is in a power out state. I plan to put solar panels on the roof of the pergola and have a battery that can power the essential functions of the tank (oxygenation of the water, heat, and chiller) in the event that SCE power fails for at least 2-3 days. I would fully automate it, likely with an APEX system, so that ATO, water change, dosing, etc was handled. Tank size would be 60-80 gallons with a 15-20 gallon sump for normal operations. And making the tank long enough so that I can generate a wave motion. I found this to be optimal for coral health and growth.

It would be a mixed SPS/LPS tank. LPS would be blasto's, acan's, zoa's, etc. The only animal with heavy chemical warfare tendencies would be a yellow Fiji sarcophyton elegans and it would be positioned so that any slough would quickly be taken up by the overflow and down stream from other corals. SPS would be the standard acro's and monti's.

In terms of "inverts" I am a big fan of the staghorn hermits, tuxedo urchins, cleaner shrimp, fire shrimp, horseshoe crab, pom pom crab, acro crab, and clams. I had a Derasa grow to about 14 inches. I had to give it away because it was just too big. No more Derasa's for me. I like clams because they are natural filters for the tank. In terms of fish I plan on the obligatory clown fish, a Helfrichi fire fish, a blue spotted jaw fish, a Bartlett's anthias, a pajama cardinal, solar fairy wrasse, and black cap basslet.

I live in Los Angeles. Our weather is mostly sunny and our temperatures range from 32 f/0c in the winter to 110f/43.333c in the summer.

So am I crazy? Need to stop huffing paint? Or is it something that is doable with not a herculean effort?


Cloning Around
Staff member
RC Mod
Premium Member
You're not crazy. You might want to talk to o2manyfish (Dave) about his experiences with an outdoor tank, as he had one in Encino for many, many years.



RC Mod
Staff member
RC Mod
What Kevin said. I have a good friend that used to keep vats in a greenhouse. That was here in Pittsburgh. It's cold here!!!!