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KIS System (Keep It Simple)

In our focus groups, we find that almost everyone wants a saltwater aquarium, and preferably a basic mixed reef — some easy to keep fish, corals, and inverts.

We also found that most reefkeepers give up and quit for a variety of reasons related to the complexity, and resulting stress (lost animals, time, money, and frustration). They either quit in the planning  stage, or within the first year or so.

Since to us the hobby has clear benefits versus the cost, we started thinking there has to be a better way. Over a two year period, we eliminated sub-systems, processes, and devices little-by-little, one-by-one. We operated our KIS System with minimum functions and complexity, and not a single loss of an animal (one Firefish managed to jump).  In comparison, we followed “reef junkie” systems that employed every imaginable gadget and water treatment.

On balance, both systems survived and even thrived.  We list here and in our blog every difference between the two approaches.  The beginner to intermediate reef keeper could quite easily setup and manage a similar KIS System in our opinion.

Our aim includes low stress, less than 1 hr per week in hands-on maintenance, and an affordable monthly total cost of ownership.

Our 180 gal KIS System

Relatively low bio-load, generally easy-to-keep critters.

coral beauty
assorted damsels
pair of clownfish
copper band butterfly (our canary in the coal mine)
coral-banded shrimp
cleaner shrimp
emerald crab

variety of LPS and soft corals


peninsula;  3-sides Starphire glass; 2-surface drains


LED lighting, 18K

skimmer; operated a few days per week then finally removed

water changes, 10 to 20% every one to two weeks

two power heads in display tank

live rock in display tank

sump in stand underneath tank
filter sock on drain lines
return pump
macro-algae on reverse photo period (lit at night)
heater in the sump

70 gal, external, display refugium
big ball of chaeto
no special lighting, just bright ambient natural light

140 gal KIS System

Low bio-load, easy to keep critters (with exception of Copperband Butterfly)

Mocha Clownfish
Three Striped Damsels
Blue Damsels
Domino Damsels
Green Chromis
Copperband Butterfly
Cleaner Shrimp
Hermit crabs
variety of SPS and LPS


cube; 3 sides Starphire glass
bare bottom
LED lighting
one wave maker in display tank
live rock in display
powerhead in sump with dragons tongue macro algae
heater and thermometer in sump
return pump