Aquarium Portrait: Dietmar Schauer's 330-Gallon Reef


dive, keep, photograph: the all-consuming aquatic interests of Dietmar Schauer

By Inken Krause
Quelle: Coral - The Reef & Marine Aquarium Magazine

We aren’t supposed to poke our noses into other people’s business, but for the aquarist there is nothing more exciting than taking a peek into, behind, over, and under the tank of a fellow aquarist, especially one whose reputation is widely whispered about by serious European reefkeepers.

It’s always a thrill to discover what creatures live there, how technical and other practical problems are solved, and what the owner’s secret recipe for success is. Such aquarium visits can provide useful ideas for our own tanks, but often the people who keep them, and the tales they have to tell, are no less interesting. Dietmar Schauer is one such “specimen.”

Baker, diver, photographer
Dietmar earns his daily bread by making and selling bread in his own very popular bakery, and this is also undoubtedly his passion—but it isn’t his only profession. In addition to his work with flour and milk, he photographs and films life above and below water and produces breathtaking pictures. So which came first, an interest in marine life or the desire to immortalize it on film? Perhaps they both developed in parallel, each encouraging the other.
Dietmar felt drawn to the sea from an early age. In his youth, he learned to appreciate European waters, but for more than 20 years now he has been drawn to the tropics, where the corals grow. In the beginning it was his surfboard that accompanied him around the world, but for the last 15 years it has been his diving gear.

Achilles Tang in display coloration being groomed by a cleaner wrasse.

After the standard aquarium-hobby apprenticeship with livebearers, various cichlids, planted aquariums, and Discus, Dietmar’s experiences diving on tropical coral reefs led to a desire to bring this colorful underwater world into his living room back home. He keeps only creatures that he has encountered during his diving holidays, and the understanding of the ecological requirements of coral fishes that he gains while diving ensures that no animal ends up in his aquarium that will grow too large or whose need for swimming space cannot be accommodated within the confines of a glass box.

At the age of only 12, Dietmar began to discover the joys of photography with his first single-lens reflex camera (a Nikon EM). All his hobbies—first wind-surfing, later diving and photography—are closely entwined. With the increase in professional underwater photography in general, the demand for unique work also increased.

Dietmar realized that practically all the underwater photos possible for ambitious amateurs had already been taken. That wouldn’t bother the vast majority of photographers, but it did concern Dietmar, so he began using a new technology: high-definition macro video films. Since then, the three weeks he is able to spend diving each year have been dedicated to the production of underwater films. But his still camera is far from idle: in his personal “reef studio,” Dietmar takes photos of his fishes and invertebrates that would be next to impossible when diving. Social behavior—especially courtship, symbiotic relationships, and cleaning behavior—can be documented far better under aquarium conditions, where the photographer is not constrained by time or dependent on the moods of the sea. Even after all these years, Dietmar continues to find new subject matter.

Often aquarists focus on either fishes or corals, but Dietmar has both in abundance, and all his livestock is thriving, even though his aquarium maintenance is rather unconventional and bears no resemblance to any of the current recommended methods—specifically, those that advocate regular partial water changes as being essential for the health of the corals, and the painstaking replacement of “worn out” lighting. Dietmar doesn’t perform water changes very often, but when he does they are large: 30–60 percent every three months, spread over a week. HQI lighting is replaced only every three years; T5 tubes sometimes even less frequently. It seems like a miracle, but the corals grow exceptionally well and develop beautiful natural colors.
The reef foundation consists entirely of reef ceramic. Initially, Dietmar used live rock, but this resulted in repeated problems with introduced pests, so he went over entirely to artificial material. There was another practical advantage: because the material is more flexible than live rock and easier to fit together, it was possible to construct the reef in such a way that it provides an ideal backdrop for photography from various angles. Over time the ceramic has been colonized by all sorts of life forms: places where no corals were growing have been occupied by various sponges, tube worms, and other small invertebrates. The ceramic now looks no different than natural reef rock.

Pair of Multibarred Pygmy Angelfish, Centropyge multifasciata, during their evening display in Schauer's reef.

The biological knowledge of the diver and the aesthetic requirements of the photographer have combined to assemble a harmonious population of livestock; the aquarium closely resembles a wild coral reef. Despite the size of the aquarium, it is the many small fishes that dominate, and members of larger species are carefully selected. Anthias, small wrasses, and gobies set the scene, which pulsates with their bright colors. The Achilles Tang (Acanthurus achilles) catches the eye—this species is, in fact, regarded as extremely tricky to keep, but it is thriving here. Perhaps the reason for this unusual success lies in the absence of competition from other large and aggressive fishes.
Among the cnidarians, stony corals predominate, with small- and large-polyped species represented in around the same numbers. Thanks to powerful protein skimming and the careful addition of minerals (see AQUARIUM Details), they are fantastically colorful, appear not be be suffering any lack of nutrients.

Octopus escapades
Sooner or later, probably every marine aquarist has to contend with a few small problems. Dietmar’s aquarium has not been immune to pests, such as turbellarians, and he also fights a continuous battle against phosphate. But sometimes the problems are self-inflicted, and Dietmar’s biggest scourge came in eight-armed form: Octopus vulgaris.
When he first arrived in the aquarium, this little cephalopod was still quite dainty: only 2 inches (5 cm) in size and quite “frighteningly delightful.” Soon he was named “Gonzo.” He was very confident: if visitors approached the aquarium he would always extend an arm to greet them. Often, however, the devil would get into him, and if he didn’t like someone then there was no friendly greeting; instead, he would send a surge of water out of the aquarium. As long as the octopus was still small this behavior was a source of amusement, but Gonzo grew and grew and became large and powerful. At feeding time he would now try to drag his owner into the water, and he began to take the rockwork apart and rearrange the aquarium to his own personal tastes. When the then 210-gallon (800-L) aquarium came to look like a building site over which the octopus now held sole sway, Dietmar decided, with a heavy heart, that the time had come for Gonzo to go. Naturally the octopus fought hard against capture, and when the tug-of-war between the two human arms and the eight of the cephalopod was finally over, the aquarium had to be set up again from scratch, and eventually grew into its present size.

Baking bread and keeping marine fishes are perhaps not so different as one might initially assume. The lesson to be learned from Dietmar Schauer is that if you take good ingredients—a profound knowledge of the subject and a large portion of passion—you will be successful with your bread, your maintenance of delicate coral-reef creatures, and your photography. We wish him much continued success in all three!

Quelle: Coral - The Reef & Marine Aquarium Magazine


Article by Inken Krause

SIZE, VOLUME, TIME IN OPERATION:  Main tank (asymmetric in form), 100 x 27.5/31.5 x 27 in. (255 x 70/80 x 68 cm), around 330 gallons (1,250 L); refugium, 27.5 x 27.5 x 14 in. (70 x 70 x 35 cm), around 45 gallons (170 L); filter tank 37.5 x 24 x 20 in. (95 x 60 x 50 cm), around 74 gallons (280 L); since April 2006.

15 Acropora species—for example, A. desalwii, A. humilis, A. granulosa, A. echinata, A. elegans, A. monticulosa; 5 branch-forming Montipora species—for example, M. digitata in three color variants, M. hispida; 5 Montipora species with plating or vaselike forms—for example, M. hodgsoni, M. effusa, M. capricornis; 3 encrusting Montipora species—for example, M. hoffmeisteri, M. nodosa, M. verrucosa; Psammocora superficialis, Seriatopora spp., and Stylophora spp.

LARGE-POLYPED STONY CORALS (LPS): Acanthastrea bowerbanki, A. brevis, A. maxima, A. ishigakiensis, Blastomussa wellsi, Catalaphyllia jardinei (various variants), Cycloseris tenuis, Duncanopsammia axifuga, Euphyllia ancora, E. paradivisa, E. divisa, Favia danae, F. maxima, Favites speciosa, Herpolitha (orange variant), Micromussa amakusensis, Pavona decussata, P. frondifera, Physogyra lichtensteini, Trachyphyllia geoffroyi, Tubastrea faulkneri, Turbinaria reniformis, T. mesenterina.

3 Sarcophyton species (S. elegans, S. ehrenbergi, S. sp.), Sinularia flexibilis, Anthelia, Xenia umbellata, various Dendronephtya, Plexaurella dichotoma, Gorgonia ventalina, Menella sp., various azooxanthellate gorgonians, Entacmaea quadricolor, various sand anemones.

FISHES: Amphiprion percula (pair, living in an Entacmaea quadricolor), Acanthurus achilles, A. leucosternon, Zebrasoma flavescens, Pseudanthias evansi (group), P. pulcherrimus, Amblyeleotris aurora (pair, living together with Alpheus randalli, A. bellulus, A. ochrostriatus), A. diagonalis, Synchiropus splendidus (pair), Synchiropus stellatus (pair), Halichoeres chrysus (pair), Labroides dimidiatus (pair), Macropharyngodon ornatus (pair), Paracheilinus mccoskeri (pair), Pseudocheilinus hexataenia, 3 Chromis atripectoralis, Salarias guttatus, Centropyge multifasciata (pair), Centropyge flavissima (pair), Elacatinus evelynae (pair), 3 Gobiodon okinawae, Corythoichthys sp.

Alpheus randalli, A. bellulus, A. ochrostriatus; various crabs—for example, box crabs and rock crabs; various shrimps—for example, Periclimenes spp.

LIGHTING: Homemade lighting unit with stainless steel/reflective-foil reflectors (reflector length around 72 in. (1.80 m) with three 250-watt (10,000-K) and three 175-watt (10,000 K), plus four 80-watt T5 four 24-watt T5; total daily photoperiod 14 hours.

WATER MOVEMENT: Three Tunze Stream, 315 gallons (1,200 L) per hour; Three Tunze 6055, 1,450 gallons (5,500 L) per hour; Polario 22000, return from equipment tank, around 1,585 gallons (6,000 L) per hour.

DÉCOR: Almost entirely reef ceramic; older leather corals and Tridacna giant clams attached to live rock.

WATER MANAGEMENT: BubbleKing 300 protein skimmer, Deltec Wirbelbett filter, calcium reactor, carbon filtration, vodka method; reverse osmosis water preparation with MB20.

MINERALS, MAINTENANCE: Water changes, 4 per year, 30% and 60% alternately, 80% in the event of excessive PO4 levels, 5–15 ml vodka daily, iodine and strontium as required, NO3 less than 4 mg/l.

Almost exclusively dry food (frozen food only for new arrivals); in recent months phyto- and zooplankton (in variety).

Dietmar Schauer, Aachen, Germany.