REEF2REEF Saltwater and Reef Aquarium Forum
- 5 WINNERS!! Make Testing Easy in 2019! A New GIVEAWAY from Marine Depot and Hanna Instruments!, Feb 13, 2019 at 11:46 PM
Hi everyone! This thread will be dedicated to documenting my re-emergence into the reef keeping hobby through the build and maintenance of a fish-less pico reef. This project began with my interest in the global coral bleaching crisis and I hope that it will instill a greater passion for reef building (hermatypic) corals in myself and others who follow along. These types of coral are generally categorized as SPS in the aquarium hobby although many LPS "build" a small skeletal system as well. Disclaimer: I am an engineer and scientist (currently a graduate student/researcher), so many of my posts and comments will be heavily science based. I believe that is a good thing, especially in this hobby. So, in summary my plan is to grow reef building corals from frags obtained from fellow reefers in a pico reef tank. Feel free to follow along!
P.S. I will start posting only the latest update in the first thread message because I'm long winded and I know it. The older updates will be posted in thread comments below.
One Month Down (02/05/2019)
Well, the pico now has a name! It's Albrecht's Chateau, named after the pom pom that came as a hitch hiker on live rock rubble that I bought for the middle filter area of the overflow. Many changes have been made since the first few days the tank was running and I'll try to cover them briefly here. In general everything is going very well. I have lost two hermits to still unknown causes... And the biggest surprise is that the "nearly dead" jingle bell cyphastrea has fully recovered and looks great! I will summarize the first month into a few "projects": 1. Necessary Upgrades 2. Dealing with Evaporation, 3. Acquiring a Water Change Routine, 4. Building an Implementing a DIY Controller (Reef Pi), and 5. Planning/Stocking
1. Necessary Upgrades:
Well, as I mentioned in my first post, I purchased a Kessil A80 with the gooseneck clamp. I am happy with this light and my few softies seemed to respond well to me slowly ramping up the intensity over several days. I had a few thoughts about other lights but in the end I am very satisfied with the A80. I also purchased a refractometer which has been a great tool. I do plan on calibrating it myself but I already trust its readings much more than my old hydrometer (which consistently reads 0.002 higher). Another great upgrade was the return pump. I bought a 120 gph pond pump at my local hardware store and it fit perfectly where the original 40 gph one was. It did need some Teflon tape and patience to get the fittings well sealed in the tight return pump compartment. I began running a small (~3 tbsp) bag of activated carbon and placed the 40 gph powerhead in the display area just above the return pump outlet. It breaks the surface nicely. With these upgrades I am pleased with my flow and water quality. Not to mention my new ability to control everything (see below!).
It was immediately apparent that evaporation would be an issue, especially because I travel often and hope to leave the tank for up to a week at a time. So, I got to work on a diy lid made from single pane glass. I cut the lid using a diamond coated glass shaper (used for stained glass work) and covered the edges with split airline tubing (1/4"). It sits perfectly on the tanks glass rim. I also added a "hamster bottle" style ato, using a wine bottle instead. It is secured to the wall with velcro and I monitored the evaporation rate by marking the bottles level each day and it can last up to 6 days at a tank temperature of 79-80 F. I highly recommend this type of ato on a pico as it is simple and reliable, and picos do not need a massive ato reservoir. Thanks to these precautions I have had a very stable salinity, right at 1.026 (higher than I initially though I should run).
3. Water Change Routine
I have slowly adapted my water change routine as I have dealt with diatoms and hair algae in this first month. Some very helpful advice: 1. Add mechanical filtration to the filter media/overflow area while you scrub glass/blow off live rocks and substrate with a turkey baster. This requires that you leave on the return pump and do not yet drain the water. I do this while I am checking my freshly mixed SW's salinity and dKh. Afterwards you can simply remove the mechanical filtration media (I use pillow stuffing) and therefore remove excess detritus and algae.
2. Really think about your salt mix! I started with red sea coral pro and have since realized that I would have most likely killed any sps down the road due to alkalinity swings during the water change. I now use red sea blue bucket, but, am still wrestling with how to know how much an alk difference between tank after and fresh mix will affect the alk of the tank. I hope to post a detailed explanation of this soon... The key here is to test your water change water and know what you are putting in your tank. Seems obvious, but for us newbies it isn't always immediately apparent.
I am now happy and confident in my WC routine but I am sure it will continue to develop!
4. Reef Pi
This is a long story... Simply put, if you like DIY and are comfortable with both electronics and software/programming (or you want to learn like me!), then you should consider building a Reef Pi! This is a controller developed by R2R member @Ranjib and his build thread and website have everything you need to know. I built an "all in one" system with one raspberry pi zero and it controls two temperature sensors, my heater, the Kessil A80, a small moonlight, and a total of 8 power outlets. It is incredibly useful and I love it so far. I have the 40 gph powerhead timed to turn on and off throughout the day. The Kessil ramps up from morning to midday and back down for dusk as the moonlight takes over. And, my tank stays at a constant temp of 80 +/- 0.1 F thanks to the two temperature sensors. It did take a couple weeks and cost about $150-$180. I do plan on adding a water level sensor in the future as well.
My stocking plan has changed rapidly and more than anything else. It was initially a mixed/sps dominated reef with a goby, but, I now plan to make it an sps tank with some zoas and mushrooms and NO FISH. I'm not against having a fish for any reason other than stability for the sps. Plus, Albrecht the pom pom is plenty fun for me. He comes charging out every night and loves mysis. He is very shy though and is easily scared back into his cave. I plan to get several monti frags soon including digitata, setosa, spongodes, and capricornis. Hopefully they'll be featured in the next update! For now, everything is really stable except the dKh which I'm currently working on (I'm shooting for 8.5). I also have some algae growth after a heavier feeding of mysis... hopefully that slows down.
o Temperature – 80 +/- 0.1 F (perfect)
o Salinity – 1.025-1.026
o Imagitarium 3.7 g tank
Glass glued to cover overflow except for the upper section (surface skimming)
o Kessil A80 Tuna Blue (~4-5 inches above water at a slight angle, timed by reef pi)
o 120 gph stock return pump
o 40 gph powerhead to break water surface (scheduled by reef pi for “random” flow)
o Prizm HOB Protein Skimmer (cut return to fit tank and sitting on small wood scraps)
Operating at approximately 70% flow (skimming wet)
o Standard dial heater and in tank thermometer (monitored/controlled by reef pi)
o Some type of biomedia and carbon in the filtration inlet section
o Glass cover
o Wine Bottle ATO
o ~2 lb aragonite substrate
o 1.5-2 lb piece of live rock and two small pieces
Recovering jingle bell cyphastrea on rock near top
o 1.5 lb LR rubble in middle filter area
o 1 eagle eye zoa (6 heads)
o 1 yellow (maybe rasta) zoa (3 heads)
o 1 red mushroom rock (4 shrooms, one detached and is now behind the large LR piece)
o 1 grey/green ricordea on frag plug (4 shrooms, 1 has two mouths)
o 1 Recovering jingle bell cyphastrea on a broken reef plug
o 1 cerith snail
o 1 nassarius snail
o 1 scarlet hermits (another died)
o 1 pom pom crab (named Albrecht by Keri)
o New media rack (maybe)
o Feed/clean more (sps food?)
o Test dKh and monitor dKh
Healing Jingle Bell Cyphastrea:
Reef Pi Controlled Power Strip:
Kessil A80 with Tiny Moonlight Mounted to Body:
Ok, I am revisiting this as I have learned a lot since I reported this, and I think others would find it useful,
After @Randy Holmes-Farley pointed out this can not be correct, I went read some of his prior write ups and also some technical documentation about pH probes. I was not using a voltage isolator along with the pH sensor circuit, without this the sensor reading are prone to aberrations from stray voltage, from tank or from controller's internal circuit. I didn't panic after the initial findings as my corals were OK and there was ample advice in this forum to not chase pH without understanding whats going on.
Couple of days before I have added the recommended voltage isolator in pH sensor circuit and that address this issue. There were two noticeable difference, first, my tank pH suddenly jumped by 1, earlier it used to vary from 6.6 to 7.7 and now it varies from 7.6 to 8.2 . Second , the ph readings do not show a jittery curve any more, they are smooth contiguous readings. Here is a chart showing the changes from past two days
I have orderd a separate pH testing kit as well, to validate the readings independently. But I think I have dialed it now. #reefpi
reef-pi has built in dosing module as well, but thats bit different, more like other commercial doser where you get to choose speed, frequency and duartion of the dosing process
Thank you @TheEngineer
@IzzyT3 reef-pi is an opensource reef tank controller based on Raspberry Pi, capable of doing powerstrip (AC equipment) control, daylight simulation (kessil and other LEDs), ph monitoring, temperature control and various other things. The thread @TheEngineer mentioned has detailed guides in the very first page, that should help you get started if you are interested. The thread itself is used for ongoing reef-pi development as well as any help others may need in their build process. Feel free to ask questions there or start a build thread or just use this thread to ask questions if you do decide to build a reef-pi controller or test it out. There are quite a few folks who have now reef-pi controllers so you'll surely get help if you seek, just tag #reefpi