20 Gallon IM Fusion Build

Phistergosh

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It's been about 5 years since I had a reef tank. Suprisingly a lot has changed in the hobby. I sold off my 75g and moved to an innovative marine 20 gallon about 7ish years ago. We moved houses and I sold off all my livestock instead of attempting to make the move with it. That was 5 years ago at this point.

Now that my kids are growing up, they wanted fish. So that was the perfect excuse to start back up my 20 gallon that has been stored in the basement all these years. I have worked at home throughout covid. I put the tank in the back part of my house adjacent to where I work. This will give me something to look at a reason to take a break through the day.

I'm a little late on this build thread as I have had the tank up for around 3 months. I plan to document what has happened since the start and catch everyone up over the next few posts.

I started with an mj1200 return pump since I had it laying around from the previous build. I have my old AI prime (non hd) that fired back up. I had a 100w heater too and that was in working order. I have everything a nice vinegar bath and cleaned the tank. That's about it as far as hardware goes.

My RODI filters were all tossed besides the RO membrane. I bought new filters from BRS and decided not to use a DI chamber after some advice from a LFS. The RO membrane looks to be ok according to my in line TDS meter.

I bought some live rock from the LFS and added in some more caribisea dry rock. Tank has gone through it's cycle and I added a pair of clowns. All is well...for now...

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Phistergosh

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One month in and I ordered my first corals! WWC was doing a live sale and they seemed reputable. This was probably the biggest difference in the hobby. Online Coral sales have boomed. The quality and variety and pricing is ridiculous compared to my LFS. Stuff coats a third the price it used to and it's so much nicer. You no longer have to be at the mercy of what your LFS has in stock and their jacked up prices. Also since so many things are aquacultured, the survival rate is better.

I know this is a little early for corals but I'm an experienced reefer and used to sell a ton of frags 8 years ago. What could go wrong? Unfortunately, lots...as you will see later on.

I tried to get a little of everything to feel out what would work in my tank. I went with a mystic sunset montipora, an astreopora, two cyphastrea, some GSP (not pictured) and favites.

I also added a little more plain dry rock to the tank to help fill out the rock scape and give me some place to mount frags. I also added another piece of the purple dry rock.


Take a look at the corals!

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Phistergosh

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Now at the 6 week mark. corals seem to be fine. I ordered a few frags from AquaSD. I picked up a rainbow dragon soul favia, a Duncan, two un named acros, and another two cyphastrea. They threw in free leptastrea. My plan was to give away most of these corals if they started growing and keep just a few for myself. I was buying some of the cheapest stuff I could find.

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Phistergosh

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Corals were in but I was having a hard time dialing in my lighting. There's almost no par measurements or guides for an AI prime non HD. I started to worry my lighting wasn't going to cut it and bought a used hydra 26 hd from a fellow reef2reef user. I used the recommended BRS setting and put on a 50 percent acclimation period to go for a month.

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My flow is definitely lacking. I have a koralia powerhead from my 75 that I have been using to mix water but it's too big. I have an old jabeo powerhead from the 75 that's controllable but it looks like the magnet is swollen and cracked the plastic. Other posts said it could contain heavy metals and pollute the tank.

I opted for a jebao Nero clone. Other powerheads seem so large and the mp10s are pricey. I ordered the swl10 and swl25 from Amazon figuring I would return one. The SW25 was too strong for a little 20g nano. So I've been using the sw10. I like it a lot. I have it set to the "else" mode. Combined with my mj1200 return, the flow seems more random and has a racetrack loop going to keep detritus from sitting on the sand bed. I tried taking a picture to show how low profile it is. I would definitely recommend it.

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Phistergosh

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2 months in and the uglies are in full effect. I'm changing filter floss daily. I don't feed the clownfish much either.

Diatom bloom was short lived. Maybe a week? Cleaned those out through water changes.

I started seeing bryopsis. It must have come from the live rock at the fish store. I also had a bunch of brown stuff on the rocks which people on the forum thought was some sort of turf algea. Had a few scares where I was seeing what looked like dinos but agitating the sand and agreasivly using filter floss seems to have kept them at bay. Every other algea competing prob helped too.

Speaking of algae, the bryopsis started getting bad. It was everywhere. I tried to clean it manually but it doesn't come off the rocks even with a brush. I read about using reef flux so I ordered some on Amazon and dosed one capsule per 10 gallons. Here is an example after agressivly brushing. It looks pale and damaged but comes back strong after a few days.
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After 14 days of treatment the bryopsis has died off significantly. It's now kinda stringy as it holds on. Kinda looks like dinos a bit. Hope it isn't.
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Phistergosh

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3 months in and I've noticed a lot of issues with the corals over the past several week. Corals are losing color. One original cyphasrtrea completely bleached. Polyp extension sucks on all the cyphasrtrea. My Duncan has closed and been closed for like 2 weeks now. The favites started losing color. Some stuff was looking great though. The mystic sunset montipora is doing well. My dragon soul favia colored up GREAT. The astreopora seems to be ok.

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I first attributed it to the reef flux but after reading 100s of posts I don't think that's it. My nutrients are really low. I'm still not seeing any nitrate. I started thinking they were starving.

For father's day I went to visit my parents in buffalo. I didn't realize A reef creation and the coral Kings are right there by the airport. I stopped by and bought a cheap rainbow monti and a bizarro cyphasrtrea frag since they were too cheap to pass up. I was VERY impressed. ARCs owner gave me his number and was such a great guy. I am definitely coming back. These places were nothing when I stopped reefing years ago. Now they are huge names in the business!

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Side note, the frag plugs at ARC are awesome. They are thin and break easily and purplish blue. Wish everyone used them.
 
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Phistergosh

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3 and a half months in. The corals are doing worse. The Duncan is still closed. The cyphastrea are closed and losing color. Even the new monti and the new bizarro are losing color and not extending. My nitrates are unreadable. I had a friend check phosphate and it was too low. I think I need to get the ULR Hanna checker and a better nitrate kit.

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My alk and calcium have been fine with just water changes until I had to stop doing them during the reef flux treatment. Cal was 390 and all was 8.1. previously 450 and 10.5 (I use redsea coral pro salt). So I got some BRS soda Ash and calcium and have been manually dosing. Mag is fine still. I have an old jebao doser I might set up if coraline and corals take off.

I headed to the local fish store to see what they thought the problem could be. They immediately pointed to high phosphate and products they sell to reduce it. I said it was unreadable on the tests. I told them I plan to get a fuge going as soon as nutrients pick up and probably a skimmer as well. I liked the AIO Intank brand fuge baskets so thats what i will get eventually. I have a gfo reactor and some gfo from my last tank but haven't had the reason to use it yet. Anyways, phosphate wasnt the issue. the owner wasnt in though so i figured i would come back later and ask again.

I picked up some red sea reef energy plus coral nutrition AB+. Quite the long name. Of course amazon delivered me an empty envelope at first so it took a week to get it. After dosing the first dose, polyps looked good on my Montis. A few cyphastrea perked up. Duncan didn't come out still. My astreopora polyps were the longest i have seen in a month. The favia/faviets didn't respond at all (I give them mysis once a week at night anyways though).

I also noticed my clean up crew was slacking. The ceriths seem to stay in the gravel and on the glass occasionally. The nerites hide all day and sit at the waterline for the most part doing nothing. The hermits are out and about though. Nothing besides the hermits seems to like the rocks. So I bought a few black turbos and astrea snails an the LFS. Wanted some trochus instead but they were all out. While acclimating they managed to work into a human centipede style train. Needed to include that picture here haha.

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Phistergosh

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That brings me to today! Just a few days since the last post. So a little over 3 and a half months in. My corals that were fading haven't perked up more. They look worse. I headed back to the LFS to check on the trochus snails but they were still out.

While there, they asked me about my photo period and light settings. I said I used the BRS latest recommended settings on my hydra 26hd. They said the white lights are too intense. I must say the whites are pretty strong in the newest recommendation. They told me to reduce the white power level even more and reducing the photoperiod on the whites. They think the pale corals are irritated by the light. That makes sense. The cyphastrea could be closing because they get too much light. They are also pale...but not quite bleached. The Montis and acros seem to be fine but they like the light anyways. Things seemed to get worse as time went on and the acclimation setting on the hydra would have been slowly ramping up that whole time. Maybe they were on to something!

This is the new schedule:
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I am tired of constantly adding water. I found a used duetto ATO on the reef2reef market place. I bought it. ATO reservoirs are pricey for basically a fancy jug! Hobby Lobby had a large glass vase on clearance that's about 3 gallons. I bought that and it now doubles as a cat water bowl because our kitten won't stay away haha.

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ATO still has the protective sticker even!

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Phistergosh

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I have been treating with reef flux for almost 3 weeks. Bryopsis is either gone or severely weakened. I did a water change for the first time in a while since I was treating the tank. The corals really opened up nicely afterwards.

Unfortunately I think many of the corals lost a lot of color from the lighting issues. I also checked my refractometer and it was off by .015. so my salinity was around 1.275 for a little while. I worked on bringing it back to 1.26. I've never had to recalibrate the refractometer before. I'm thinking the kids might have played with it.

I started dosing and worked on my alk. I brought it up from 8.5 back to 11.5 over the course of a week or so. I use coral pro so the tank was used to higher all before the bryopsis break from water changes.

Hopefully things will stabilize and my corals can color back up.

I also stopped by A Reef Creation while driving through buffalo for a work trip. They have an amazing selection that's not shown on their website. I might pick up some of the 10 and 20 dollar frags on the way home. I might get another rainbow monti and keep it in lower light, a burning banana Stylo, and another bizarro cyphastrea (how can I turn down a 10 dollar frags of that??).


Here is the latest tank shot. Hard to tell in the picture but most of the rock is set up using arches and there is a lot of gap between rocks to avoid complete dead spots. 0710211409b_HDR.jpg
 
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Phistergosh

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I rented a PAR meter from a LFS. I definitly bleached a few of my corals. I'm surprised at the lack of differneve height makes in a nuvo 20. The tank is fairly shallow at around 12 inches so I was considering light drop off vs depth to be much more significant than it is. I had corals on my sandbed getting his with 200 par that I thought were getting "low" lighting.

Based on spread inside a nuvo 20, you aren't going to see a huge difference in the par between center and 6 inchest to the right or left of center when using a hydra 26hd. I thought I could get away with corals high up being high lighting at 250 par on the center 2 thirds of thank and corals near the sandbed getting 80 par. That just isn't possible unless you put something high lighting dead center and low light all the way to the edges of the tank. There's a 150 to 200 par zone that will make up the majority of the tank of you try to do something like that. It seems like no lower lighting corals will survive there, across need more light than that, and euphylia will also get bleached there.

I've decided to give up on the higher might demand sps and turn my hydra26hd down to 40 percent. I'm going to focus on keeping cyphastrea, Stylo, favias, chalices, euphylia, letpos, leptas, etc untill I upgrade to a new tank. I have a few of the montis up top but they are only getting around 120 to 150 par. I hope that's going to be enough. I have one spot with around 200 so I maybe I can get an acronym color up there?
 
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Phistergosh

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I've been battling dinos for a few weeks. They mostly disappear into the water column at night and are easily kicked up using a turkey baster. I have read everything and anything about them. It seems like the more I read, the more contradictory advice I see. I don't think there is a one size fits all solution, even for a specific type of dino. I have read every one of the major threads and tons of other posts.

It seems like they are brought on by keeping the tank too clean and not having a diverse enough biome. In the age of dry rock tanks, overskimming, a briopsis cure, highly configurable full spectrum led arrays, refugiums, carbon dosing, bacteria additives, reduced feeding, dipping, and killing off everything we see, we have brought this upon our selves. That's probably why they are so prevalent now vs 10 years ago. My phosphates bottomed out after my reeflux briopsis treatment was done so i think thats when the dinos saw their opportunity and bloomed.

I tried vacuuming them out. I have been using the turkey baster twice a day. Tried Microbacter7 for 2 weeks. I tried raising my temp to 82. My filter floss gets full overnight from all of the dinos. I tried stopping water changes, over feeding, and using coral AB+. They come back every afternoon. None of this stuff seems to get rid of the dinos.

I decided to start dosing phosphate (brightwells) and purchased the Innovative Marino 9w nano UV. Hopefully those two things will be enough to turn the tide. After a day the dinos seem to not be as bad so maybe that trend will continue.

Microbacter7 seems to be hit or miss. If your tank is super clean, microbacter may be out competing other organisms and stripping more phosphate or nitrate out of the water and hurting any progress. On the other hand, the additional bacteria can help the biome of the tank. So maybe it's more conditional. Microbacter alone did nothing for me.

It seems like getting the biome going is where a lot of us get stuck. I've read people adding in phytoplankton, copepods to help eat the dinos, adding all sorts of bottle bacterias. I feel like introducing live rock and sand from a pest free fully matured tank would do wonders. Does anyone have any advice other than going to the LFS or another bottled bacteria?
 
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Phistergosh

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only about 3 days since I turned on the UV and phosphate dosing. dinos are much better. bubble algae is starting to ramp up. ill need to grab an emerald crab or 2 from my LFS.

new corals arrived! the duncan hasn't fully opened after 24 hours. hopefully it opens up. heres some pics of the new stuff. Everything is chilling low and to the sides. I put the lights into an acclimation mode for the next few days.

Top down of the new corals acclimating
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New Duncan. Not extending but he was completely closed till a few hours ago.
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Pumpkin head chalice
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Blue rim lord
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Dark cherry aussie lord
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Megatron favia

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Candy stripe zoas

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Chemical romance enchinata and tan lady leptoseris
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Phistergosh

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The lower water level in the fusion nuvo 20 started to bother me. I don't know why they have such a large gap between the water line and top of the tank. If anyone is trying to find a way to raise the water level in a tank with wiers, all you need to do is weave black zip ties through the teeth and snip the ends off. I wove two on each side to raise the water level. Looks so much better and you can't even see the zip ties.

Doing this created a new problem. The tank lid holder clips somehow pull water up over the top of the tank and it occasionally trickles down the sides. I saw someone drilled holes through the clips to break the section that is drawing water up and over the top of the glass. I used a razor blade to shave the bottoms so that the don't touch the water and that solved the problem.

I recently bought and added the new red sea dosing tubing and holder to my tank. The holder is great for an AIO where you have to see the tubes. Worth the 30 bucks in my oppinion
 

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