For so many aquarium hobbyists, the pandemic years were a time–while stuck at home–to really dive deep into the art. Mike Brandt became an aquarium hobbyist while working in pet stores to pay his way through college. However, he adds that a serious interest in aquarium keeping actually emerged some time after that. “I worked as a dolphin trainer and marine exhibit expert in Hawaii, then worked as a large custom reef service manager for a while in Washington D.C. I got out of the hobby for almost 20 years before returning during the pandemic with my CADE!”
Back in the game
And where did he first learn of CADE tanks? “Research.” He was immediately struck by how different these systems were from others in the market at that time. “I thought it was a significant change from Red Sea or Waterbox, and I anticipated an overall better commitment to quality from a newer brand in the states. I never considered acrylic, not a fan at all for a number of reasons, many of which stem from having installed and worked many-thousand-gallon systems before and disliking the prominent downsides.” Mike was impressed initially by both the overall build and also by specific features. “I really liked the auto top-off concept and the overall quality of design; I also liked the stand.” It wasn’t long before he found himself settling on a CADE system, and going all in as a hobbyist, too. “The package deal from AlgaeBarn put me over the top; I was among the first wave. I actually think without the deal I might never have pulled the trigger again on the hobby at that scale, so thanks!”
Installing a large, sturdy system such as a CADE can definitely make you break a sweat. Still, Mike feels this was made a bit simpler by the way CADEs are designed for trouble-free assembly. “Setup was easy. The thing was a monster to get inside and set up. I’m glad for lots of friends,” he laughs. “Honestly I was just excited to get it going. I think like most hobbyists, I’m now just terrified at the work and smells whenever I inevitably have to break it down or move house sometime in my future. Heh.”
A smooth-sailing CADE
As his system is presently, though, he believes that “the tank runs well; I don’t really have much more to say about it–it does what’s on the tin LOL.” It would seem that he definitely got the high-performance and feature-rich system he hoped for. The benefits of this level of tight integration has inspired him to imagine possible future CADE bells and whistles. “I’d actually like some kind of inbuilt wave pump system. That probably sounds needy, but I find the addition of WaveMaker pumps as a really unattractive [yet necessary] plus onto the system.” If he could make a recommendation as a CADE owner, he’d suggest improvements to the lid screen. “Not because I dislike screens,” he explains, but rather because the mesh could be tighter as to prevent sagging. Moreover, as he points out, future refinements could include a feature that facilitates handling as the keeper lifts the lid from the tank.
Regarding the aquascape, Mike “wanted three distinct structures, with a reasonable amount of negative space for fish movement.” He considers himself to be “done” with the tank, with the basic stocking complete. The predominance of fluorescent greens and rich browns in his coral collection lends to a more naturalistic reefscape (though one could say it also evokes the feeling of ‘greenery’ in a lushly vegetated forest). Interestingly, the smart placement of corals with respect to contrast of form is outstanding, and does seem to be accentuated by the mainly muted green and brown colors.
“Maybe I’ll add some random coral at some point in my future? The livestock is a Regal Tang, Desjardins, Blue Eye Kole, Foxface, pair of Ocellaris, Diamond Goby, Midas, Canary Blenny, 5 Blue Green Chromis, and 5 Bimac Anthias. I had a firefish, but despite not being a small one, it somehow 19 months in got through the CADE screen. Sad moment.”
His critique of the screen aside, he is more than satisfied with the look and function of his CADE. “I’d use CADE if I were to do another build heh. I think I’m happy with this one.” Though he admits to “slacking on updates of late,” he notes that he maintains a Reef2Reef.com thread (https://www.reef2reef.com/threads/2022-photo-baby-update-170-gallon-mixed-reef-cade-1500.799131/) for those who wish to follow the progression of his build. We hope he sticks to that, but also that he posts on the CADE keepers page on Facebook as well to keep us all up to date! And we do encourage everyone to at least take a peek at what Mike has accomplished– particularly his success in keeping a nice mix of both hard and soft corals. Oh, and his coralline algae, which he grows like a champion (someone needs to ask him how he did that!).
Thanks for sharing your experiences with the community, Mike, and happy reefing!
If you’re a CADE owner and would like to share your CADE experiences with the aquarium community in an article such as this, please reach out to [email protected]. We’d all love to hear from you!