Miracle Mud System

Miracle Mud System

I have always been a fan of the Miracle Mud Product, below is information I can find related to it:-

Miracle Mud

Pour water into the filter and let Miracle Mud settle to the bottom. (Approximately 2-3 hours).
After Miracle Mud has settled, remove any floating particles.
Turn on pump at a recommended flow rate as shown in table below.
Allow water to completely cycle through filter (6-8 weeks for new aquariums or until ammonia levels are undetectable). Add caulerpa algae during second week of cycling.
After cycling period, quarantined fishes and corals may be introduced into the aquarium.
To continue successful maintenance of your marine aquarium system, it is recommended that you add or exchange an appropriate amount of Miracle Mud@ (50%) every two years. To ensure that this replacement process will not disturb your aquarium inhabitants, the usage of an add-on filter is highly recommended. *For existing system – Addition of Ecosystem Filter provides benefits. Smooth transition is recommended to prevent shock to fish and corals.
Recommended Sump Model and Miracle Mud quantities for respective aquarium sizes is listed in the table below.


Model Ecosystem  Aquarium
Filter Box
Size (Gal)
(Gallons Per Hour)
50%  Mud Exchange NeededEvery
2 Years
 2410 24 x 10 x 12 40 to 65 600-800 GPH 10 lbs 5  lbs
3012 30 x 12 x 16 75 to 95 800-1000 GPH 20 lbs 10 lbs
3612 36 x 12 x 18 100 to 135 1000-1200 GPH 30 lbs 15 lbs
3616 36 x 16 x 18 150  to 240 1200-1500 GPH 40 lbs 20 lbs
Development History 



In 1989 I became interested in designing a filtration system that would reduce the need for
water changes and that would, and the same time, keep fish, coral and other inverts
healthy. My goal was to find a natural alternative to the current filtration system. This

filtration system would make use of well known micro-biological and photosynthetic

principles to reduce the concentration of waste products in the water, hence, the name

Ecosystem Filtration System. The task that remained was to test the Ecosystem in the real


I first used my filtration system in 1991 on a 55 gallon fish-only

saltwater aquarium. I was able to keep some twenty fishes

ranging from small to large (although most were medium sized to

large), fed them heavily everyday and did not perform any water

changes. The fish maintained their color and did not develop

lateral line disease. The quality of the water appeared good. I

used Instant Ocean salt and the water quality was tested. The pH

remained stable at 8.0 to 8.3. The test also revealed that there

was trace ammonia and trace nitrites present and that nitrates

remained within a safe range for fish. (less than 40 p.p.m.) It is

important to note that no protein skimmers were used in the

Ecosystem Filtration System at any time!

After the success of the 55 gallon salt water fish-only aquarium, I decided in Feb. 1992 to

test the filter on a 240 gallon reef tank (96″ x 24″ x 24″) which contained a large number

of fish. Unlike the 55 gallon tank, this tank did not have crushed coral nor sand at the

bottom bud did use Instant Ocean salt. The size of the filter was 60″ x 16” x 18″. This filter

differed from the prototype in that it included base live rock and was larger in size. No

water changes were made despite the fact that the fish were fed heavily on a daily basis.

Multivitamins and multi-mineral blocks were added to the tank. The tank consisted of a

mixture of soft corals and large polyp stony corals. The corals and the fish thrived for the

lifetime of the tank, which was moved in Sept. 1993. Water testing revealed that pH was

stable at 8.0 to 8.2. There were trace amounts of ammonia and nitrites, and some nitrates

were present but stayed within a safe range. The level of phosphate was not tested at that


When I opened my tropical fish store in January, 1994 I set up a 600 gallon reef aquarium

(96″ x 48″ x 30″) using the Ecosystem filter. The dimensions of the filter were 72″ x 24″ x

20″ reflecting the size of the aquarium. I used about 600 lbs. of Marshall Island live rock in

the tank and a different type of salt (rich in phosphates as I later discovered). The

aquarium consisted of a mixture of soft corals, large polyp stony corals and small polyp

stony corals known as Acropora. It also housed a large variety of saltwater fish (about fifty

and most of them medium to large-sized) which were fed heavily each day. The fish

retained their color and never developed lateral line disease. Fish with lateral line disease

that were placed into the tank recovered in about 6 to 8 weeks. The soft corals thrived in

the tank while some large polyp stony corals did not survive. Acropora corals also died. The

water of the tank was never changed and thus led to a calcium deficiency which, in turn, led

to he disappearance of coralline algae. Although I added multivitamins and multi mineral

blocks, I could not stimulate stony coral growth. The water of the tank was tested and the

pH level was stable at 8.0 to 8.3. There were trace levels of ammonia and nitrites. Nitrates

remained within the same range, however, phosphates were tested and found to be present

at unusually high levels and were believed to be the cause of poor stony coral growth

(phosphates prevent the calcification of stony corals). The high phosphate levels appear to

be extraneous to the filtration system and may possible be due to the type of salt used. The

tank was disassembled in March 1996 due to our move to a

new location.

A 120 gallon reef tank was set up in July, 1995. Its

dimensions were 48″x24″x24″ and the filter’s dimensions

were 36″x12″x18″. I used reverse osmosis water mixed with

Reef Crystal sea salt. A combination of Marshall Island, Fiji

Island, and Indonesian live rock were used (about 180lbs.

total). Unlike the previous tank, both stony and soft corals

thrived (including the Acropora). The tank was set up bare-bottom for easier siphoning of

detritus and thus involved routine water changes. The tank was also placed so that it could

receive a mixture of natural and artificial light. The water was never tested. This tank was

dismantled in March 1996 and reassembled at a new location on the same day. The corals

and fish are thriving. The siphoning of detritus is done weekly and accounts for about 3.5

gallons of water changed.

In March 1996, another tank, a 400 gallon tank

(66″x48″x30″) , was set up. The Ecosystem filter dimensions

are 60″x16″x18″. This tank was set up solely for growing

small polyp stony corals. Reverse osmosis water mixed with

Reef Crystal sea salt was used. About 400 lbs. of a mixture of

base rock was used as well. A variety of species of SPS corals

were kept and monitored in this tank. They are growing at

their natural growth rate and all fish are very healthy (including a new addition recovering

from lateral line disease).

The Ecosystem Filtration System, when used in conjunction with a good salt and with

moderate water changes, can keep both corals and fish healthy while simultaneously

keeping the levels of nitrates and nitrites very low if they appear at all. Our goal to provide

an effective and nature friendly filtration system has been realized and all that remains to

be done is to fine tune the optimum conditions.

Leng Sy
Inventor and creator of Ecosystem



A Novel Reef-Keeping Method

Francesca Geertsma, MD – January 29, 2001
KORALLE Magazine, issue 8

I’ll be very honest – my success with the “Berlin Method” of reef-tank keeping has been less
than impressive. I have been an avid aquarist since age seven, yet my first attempts at
keeping a reef-tank using foam fractionation, live rock, a denitrifying substrate bed and

kalkwasser additions were only marginally successful. My first reef-tanks were set up about

7 years ago, while I was still a student. Perhaps my busy schedule detracted from some of

the necessary attention to detail that is important when first starting up a reef-tank. Or

perhaps a student budget led me to purchase less than optimal equipment and live stock.

I’m not really sure. What I do know, is that the beautiful fragments of small polyped

scleractinian corals that my well-intentioned friends would give to me would invariably die,

leaving white skeletons to litter the bottom of my tank.

Despite my lack of success with the “Holy Grail” of reef-keeping (SPS), I continued to

maintain an interest in the hobby. I read as many books and journals as I was able to find.

I became active in a local aquarium society and through them, met many advanced local

reef-hobbyists as well as nationally and internationally acknowledged experts in the field.

My tanks would go through brief episodes of general health followed by the slow decline and

eventual demise of more demanding species. Fortunately, my success with fish and

lagoonal-type corals was fair and this kept me from giving up my passion for the hobby.

I remember reading an article in Sea Scope by Mike Paletta about 3 years ago in which he

described a new system of reef-keeping which utilized “Miracle Mud” in what sounded to me

like a type of algae scrubber based system. My lack of success with the “Berlin Method”

had already fueled my curiosity in such systems. I remember being fascinated by the

description of Leng Sy’s system – one that did not utilize a protein skimmer, yet in which

even the most delicate species seemed to thrive.

Living in Northern California at the time made it fairly easy to attend MACNA X, which was

held in the Los Angeles area that year. I had met Mike Paletta previously at a local

aquarium lecture and chatted with him at the conference. He invited me to visit the office

of the “EcoSystem” creator, Leng Sy, in nearby Irvine. Upon arriving at the office, I was

amazed by the health of the corals in his tanks. Equally amazing was the large number of

fish that were maintained in these tanks, far more bio-load than I had seen in other

successful reef-tanks. At this point, I made the decision to set up an “EcoSystem” tank. I

purchased an instruction booklet and 40 pounds of “Miracle Mud” packed in plastic bags

from the “EcoSystem” booth the next day.

After returning home from the conference, I began to plan the new tank. It would consist

of a glass aquarium 8 feet long, 24 inches wide and 20 inches high for a total volume of 200

gallons. For lighting, I used two 175 watt 10K metal halide lamps, supplemented with VHO

actinics and a three-foot power compact fixture with one daylight and one actinic bulb. The

“EcoSystem Method” involves the use of a specialized sump, which acts the primary

filtration system for the reef-tank. To create the “EcoSystem” sump, I used an old 40

gallon acrylic tank and constructed acrylic partitions approximately 4 inches from each end

of the sump. The middle compartment between the two partitions was filled with

approximately 2 inches of the “Miracle Mud”.

The area behind one of the partitions on the end was filled with bioballs and the drain holes

from the main tank’s over-flow box emptied into this area. The compartment on the

opposite end of the sump was provided with a bulkhead to which the return pump was

attached. Water would flow over the bioballs then through holes in the partition into the

mud containing portion, and then over the other partition and back into the tank. A few

pieces of caulerpa were then introduced on top of the mud, weighted down by small pieces

of rock. Florescent lighting was then added over the middle portion of the sump on a 24

hour light cycle. My next step was to add some live rock from my old system into the new

main tank. I added the rock directly onto glass bottom without use of substrate. Then I


Very quickly I noted the development of dark slime algae over the mud and caulerpa in the

sump. This was frustrating and led to some doubts in my mind as to whether I had made a

big mistake. The sump was reminiscent of some of my failed aquarium endeavors as a

child, after the fish had died and I had shoved the tank in a corner. Several phone calls to

Mike Paletta helped me to be more optimistic and more importantly, patient. After several

weeks, I noted less and less of the slime algae. This was key in allowing the caulerpa to

spread over the mud. At this point I began to add my corals.

Approximately 2-3 months after setting up the system, I noticed an explosion of life in the

sump. Amphipods and copepods were appreciable in large numbers, as were transparent

flat worms with cephalic hoods that they would use to snare smaller creatures. Other

populations of animals have appeared sporadically – some of which have maintained their

numbers and others, which have disappeared. Currently, the sump is populated primarily

by small mysid shrimp, amphipods, copepods, orange flatworms, small limpets, small

bristle worms and small anemones. The anemones are small and delicate spearing, with

clear tentacles tipped with white spheres. I am unsure of their actual identification –

perhaps Pseudocorynactis species. Interestingly enough, I have never seen any of the

worms or anemones in the main tank.

The corals and fish in the tank did well after being placed in the new system. Soon after the

tank was set up I found that I was able to keep some hardy species of SPS alive without

difficulty. I added a calcium reactor next and was able to boost my alkalinity and calcium

levels with minimal effort. I continued to wait for an algae bloom, especially since I had no

skimmer. I waited and waited, but it never came. Instead, at about 9 months, I witnessed

increased growth, polyp extensions, and color intensity in the SPS. This was concurrent

with a general increase in the density of life in the mud sump. I began to take great

satisfaction in purchasing an average dull-colored piece of SPS from a store and watch it

transform into a brightly colored, fuzzy jewel in my tank.

I have had my “EcoSystem Method” tank up and operational for almost 2 years. I have

experienced the greatest rate of coral growth and general health of the animals during the

past year – concurrently with the maturation of my sump. I have a fairly heavy fish load in

the tank – 15 medium sized fish in addition to a 30 centimeter Naso vlamingii who’s

biomass is equal to twice that of all the other fish combined. My current maintenance

consists of blowing all the detritus from under the rocks to one side of the tank (using a

power head) every 2 weeks and then siphoning up the detritus along with approximately 15

gallons of tank water, which I then replace. I have added no trace elements, and the only

water parameters that I follow are pH, alkalinity and calcium levels. My pH runs between

8.15 and 8.25 depending on the time of day. My alkalinity runs approximately 13dKH and

calcium levels are maintained at about 425 ppm.

I am very satisfied with the “EcoSystem Method” of reef-keeping developed by Leng Sy. My

tank contains many varieties of SPS, including some challenging species as A. gemmifera

and A. nobilis, which thrive with minimal effort. The coloration and polyp extension on my

SPS are exceptional. I attribute much of my success in keeping these corals to a supply of

natural plankton from the sump, which acts as a refugia. At night, when I shine a light into

my tank, I notice vast amounts of fine particulate matter in the water, reminiscent of what

one experiences on a night dive on a tropical reef. I also see many amphipods and

copepods covering the rocks, likely feeding on some of the particulate matter in the water

column. The density of these animals is much greater than I observed using the “Berlin

Method”. Recently, I have also noticed a proliferation of small feather dusters (B. viola)

that are likely thriving on bacteria and plankton. These micro-fauna are in a large enough

quantity that they have enabled me to keep a captive-bred specimen of Hippocampus reidi

alive in a portion of the sump for the past year without any supplemental feedings.

The only negative experience I have had using this system occurred when I allowed the

caulerpa in the sump to grow so dense that little light was able to penetrate down to the

lower levels. I noted a subtle yellowing of my water, which subsequently led to some fading

of color in the corals. I thinned my caulerpa drastically and used some activated carbon for

a week with complete resolution of the problem. Now I routinely thin the caulerpa about

every three months, and since making this change have had no more problems with yellow


In summary, I feel the “EcoSystem Method” of reef-keeping is a viable alternative to the

“Berlin Method”. Perhaps the “EcoSystem Method” provides a chance for greater diversity of

micro-fauna and flora within a reef-tank. This diversity of organisms may provide a closer

approximation of an actual reef, thus allowing us to avoid many of the frequent

interventions required of other methods. For me, the final result has been a more successful

reef-tank, with less upkeep than I experienced using the “Berlin Method”.




Back To Nature

Natural Reef Aquarium

 The Ecosystem Filtration System

by Mike Paletta (Aquarium Fish, Nov. 1997)

Over the years in the reef aquarium hobby numerous individuals have come to be associated with the
development of various reef technologies. Examples of this include Lee Chin Eng (1961) with the
“natural system,” George Smit (1986) with the “Dutch mini-reef,” Dietrich Stber (1992) with the “Berlin

system,” Dr. Jean Jaubert with the “Jaubert system” (Frakes !995) and Dr. Walter Adey with the “algal

turf scrubber system”).

I recently had the opportunity to review a methodology that successfully uses and hybridizes

techniques from all these other systems in a completely unique manner that I have never seen before.

This may be time to add another name to the list – the name is Leng Sy, and his system is called the

“Ecosystem Method” (patent number 5054424). I know some of you have heard a lot of this before,

and the term “snake oil” immediately comes to mink. I, too, must admit to having been as skeptical as

anyone when Leng gave me a very brief description of his system over the phone.

I have seen more than 300 reef tanks set up with just about every method over known – from systems

using undergravel filters to beautiful Berlin displays. So, my original assumption before actually seeing

any of Leng’s tanks running with his system was that it was probably just a slightly modified Jaubert of

algal turf scrubber system. I was still skeptical when I first set eyes on his system and could not

detect andy method of filtration.

Upon first viewing his tanks, my initial reaction was that these

were simply meticulously maintained Berlin tanks. Bright lights

over absolutely crystal clear water revealed a lot of really

healthy, growing corals in each tank.

On closer inspection, one factor stood out more than any other:

the polyp extension of the corals was absolutely phenomenal.

Leather corals had polyps that were extended well over 2

inches, and the branches of a Sinularia looked like a cat’s paw because its polyps were so furry. But,

the clincher for me was a colony of Stylophora Postillata – I had a fragment from the same original

colony. In my tank, the polyps of the colony were extended a couple of millimeters giving it a fuzzy

appearance like sandpaper. In Leng’s tank the polyp extension was so great I could not tell that this

was the same coral that was in my tank. The polyp extension in this Stylophora was the greatest I had

ever seen in a Stylophora.

This same maximum polyp extension occurred in virtually every colony of

small-polyped stony (SPS) corals in the tank, as well as every soft coral in a

nearby tank that was run in the same manner, but on a different system.

What this indicated to me – in addition to the sheer amount of encrusting

these corals were doing on the rocks and their overall appearance – was that

these were extremely healthy tanks.

Once I was convinced that there was indeed something different about these tanks and this system, I

sat down with Leng for eight hours and discussed virtually every aspect of the Ecosystem methodology.

Lend considers himself to be a lazy aquarist, but he has been perfecting this system for over six years.

As I discuss the details of this system, it will become apparent that some of the techniques have been

used in the past. However, Leng has made many modifications to these techniques that make his

method unique.

Leng’s overall goal was to allow his corals to thrive, while at the same time making the system as

uncomplicated and easy to maintain as possible. Very little gadgetry is involved, so there is little need

for adjustments of any kind – nor can many things fail. In addition, this system requires very little

maintenance, so it takes minimal time to operate or, for

that matter, even set up a tank.

The Ecosystem method basically works in the same

manner as most systems. Water is drawn from the

surface via an overflow box, from which it flows into a

sump. This is where the heart of the Ecosystem method is

located. The tank water first flows into a narrow chamber

full of bioballs. These balls are submerged, not dry, and

they act primarily to break up any large pieces of detritus ,

as well as to dissipate any large air bubbles that form from

the water splashing down. The water then flows out

through two outlet slots near the bottom of a partition

and into the main filtration chamber.

This central chamber is where virtually all of the filtration occurs. It contains two separate components

that work in combination with each other. In the bottom of the chamber, running from front to back,

are numerous 1- inch-partitions. Resting between these partitions is Leng’s special “mud” substrate –

Miracle Mud.

This mud is the crucial component that Leng has been working on throughout the development of his

system. It is a non-calcareous media that looks like a thick brown sludge. To the touch it feels like an

extremely fine silt, and appeared to be slightly buoyant in that it did not pack down. This slightly

buoyant property ensures that the mud is anoxic – low in oxygen.

Leng noted that initially, when he first set up this system, the mud was unpopulated by digging

organisms. When viewed after several years of use, however, this was no longer the case. The mud

was full of worms copepods, nematodes and so on, which had populated it from the live rock.

He also told me that over the years he had tried numerous types of mud, but that the formulation he

was now using seemed to be the crucial element in the system. He felt that this media performed many

functions, which I will elaborate below.

Perched above the mud in this chamber is a large bed of Caulerpa sertuloides. Many of you who have

read previous articles know of my general disdain for algae in reef tanks, and my opinion that algal turf

scrubbers are not the optimal method for filtering a closed reef system. The reason for these

conclusions is that in the past when algal scrubbers were used for filtering reef tanks, several problems

invariably arose.

First, turf algae has a tendency to overgrow the tank as it moves from the scrubber to the tank over

time. Second, in most tanks I have seen that use algal scrubbers, the algae released yellowing

compounds into the water that not only reduced the penetration of light but also seem to produce

negative effects on the corals, particularly SPS corals.

Also, some of the tanks I’ve observed that have algal filtration exhibit pH values that fluctuate widely

from night to day because of the algae releasing or consuming carbon dioxide. For this reason many

new algal filtration systems recommend lighting the algae tank in reverse of the way the main tank is

illuminated. Additionally, in some tanks with high algal loads the algae outcompete the corals for some

of the trace elements in the water.

And lastly, in most turf scrubber systems it is necessary to frequently remove the algae in order to rid

the tank of excess nutrients, which is often a labor-and time-intensive endeavor.

So, having giving you all these negative aspects about algal filtration, why am I so positive about this

system, which uses algae as one of the two components of filtration? To begin with, this algal bed in the

sump is illuminated 24 hours a day with four fluorescent tubes – the lights above the sump never go

off. This has caused some interesting results.

First, the wild pH fluctuations I have seen in other systems do not occur in this system. The pH

bottoms out at 8.2 one hour prior to the lights being turned on in the main tank, and it rises to a

maximum of 8.4 one hour before the light in the main tank going off at night.

Also, after several years of growth in each system, the culerpa in the filters

has never crashed and gone into sexual reproduction. As a result, none of it

has bound its way into his main tank, which has been a problem in some

other algae filtration systems. This may also be a function of the species of

Caulerpa that Leng has chosen. C. sertuloides is a rather sturdy type of


Even more interesting is how crystal clear the water is. Many of the reef

tanks I’ve observed that contained even small amounts of algae also had

water with a distinct yellow tint. The absence of this yellowing in Leng’s tanks

may be a result of the 24-hour light cycle. Without a dark cycle, the

production of gelvin (yellowing compounds) – thought to be a product of

algae chloroplasts breaking down at night and being released into the water – may be prevented.

Lastly, for reasons still unclear to me, this algae has never outgrown the filter and needed to be

harvested or removed. So, from what I saw, little maintenance is involved in running this system.

Once the water passes through the Caulerpa it flows over a partition, through slots near the bottom of

a second partition, and into a chamber containing bioballs, from where it is pumped into the main tank.

These last bioballs prohibit Caulerpa from being drawn into the pump and fed into the main tank. The

amount of water flowing through the filter is approximately three to 10 times the tanks volume per


All this may not sound like anything revolutionary, but upon seeing the tank and the corals, and also

the fish, I do indeed believe that this represents another methodology for successful reef husbandry. I

was particularly impressed that not only were the corals thriving, but so were the fish.

In this system, all of the fish had colors as vibrant as the day they were collected, even though many

of the tanks inhabitants have now been in the tanks for six years or longer. In addition, incidents of

ongoing lateral line disease have been reduced and even eliminated, and color has seemingly been

restored in fish that had faded over time (more on this later in the article).

Besides the overall health of the inhabitants, there are other advantages to this system as well. In

terms of maintenance, these tanks require less effort than just about any other system I’ve seen. These

tanks have bare bottoms in order to easily remove the detritus that settles out during the week. Once a

week Leng siphons out 10 gallons of water to remove as much detritus as possible.

To further reduce the detritus buildup, the current in these tanks is quite high. In the 400-gallon SPS

tank there are periods and circulation pumps producing over 4000 gallons per hour of circulation,

which keeps detritus in suspension so it can find its way to the filter. No doubt, this strong water

movement also helps to explain why the corals are growing so exuberantly, and there is great polyp

extension. In the 120-gallon soft coral tank the water circulation is approximately 1500 gallons per


Other than removing detritus weekly, the only other maintenance that is performed on this system s

additions of calcium, in the form of calcium hydroxide, and buffer. These are done to maintain a

calcium level of more than 400 parts per million (ppm) and alkalinity above 2.5 milliequivalents. Other

than this the system virtually runs itself. To date neither iodine nor strontium have been added, and no

deleterious effects on the corals are evident.

Combining the Caulerpa with the mud has also created a system in which there are virtually no

nutrients that encourage micro algae growth. During a daily two-month testing period, ammonia, nitrite

and nitrate remained at 0 ppm, while phosphate showed only a trace – 0.1 ppm. These low numbers are

in spite of the fact that the tanks have high fish and invertebrate loads and they are all being fed.

After reviewing this system again and again, the question arises, “How does this system work, and why

does it work so well?” Many of us have tried the Jaubert system, with mixed results, as well as the

algal turf scrubber, with less than optimal results, The results from using this system seem to be much


As already noted, the mud that Leng has developed seems to have some very unique properties. It

may help to prevent Caulerpa from crashing, and it may remove the organics released by the Caulerpa

before they reach the main tank. Whatever the effects, this system would not work without the mud.

Because there is no skimmer or other form of chemical filtration, this system may allow iodine to be

recirculated by the Caulerpa, so none needs to be added. Which may explain why the Xenia colonies are

thriving and have never shown any evidence of meltdown observed in numerous tanks over the years,

even though no iodine is added. The lack of a protein skimmer may also allow plankton to develop in

the tank.

One thing that I did notice is this tank is that there was a significant amount of particulate matter in

the water. This may have been plankton and could also factor into why the corals were doing so well. It

could be that plankton is an additional source of nutrition lacking in tanks with protein skimmers.

Unfortunately, I did not have the time or equipment to determine if this was indeed the case.











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