29 gallon AIO biocube reboot

9Trees29gal

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Hello all. I decided to be brave and start a thread on my pretty-sad biocube in hopes that someday in the future I will be able to see how far it has come.
As the first post it's a long read, but might help somebody avoid my errors, or at least provide some sympathetic groans ;-)

The back story; I have about 15 years of sporadic reefing experience in total. I fired up this tank roughly 6 years ago when we moved to our current home. I have limited resources to put toward the tank, so I have tried to find the highest quality mid-level equipment that I can. The tank is a 29 gallon biocube AIO. I have it retrofitted with a Captive Reef 120w LED lighting system (no longer in business as far as I can tell), a couple current USA circulation pumps on a wave timer, an AquaC remora HOB skimmer, and a Tunze osmolator 3155 ATO.
The tank ran well for 3 years as a mixed reef, with sps , lps, and zoa's all doing well. Then the trouble started...I brought in some live rock, did a carbonated water flush to chase out any bad critters (did find some fire worms) cured it, and added it to my aquascape. First I noticed an isopod stuck to the side of my clown fish. Turns out I had imported cirolanid ispods. I managed to catch them all over a period of several weeks, mostly by using my own hand as bait after the lights went out.... Those suckers are so predatory that they would dart out of the rocks and attach to my fingers! I could feel their bite as a little prick, but it was the only way I could find to catch them.
Shortly after the isopods were no more, I noticed my zoa garden receding. Then I lost a small goby, as well as my Pederson's anemone shrimp. Finally, after much flashlight investigation, I found a eunicid worm in one of the rocks. He was almost 6 inches long with pretty black and white mouth tentacles. Bad guy did a lot of damage before I caught him!
A few weeks after Eunice left the tank, I started seeing red planaria. The whole tank was soon carpeted, as they do. I tried every non-chemical method I could find to reduce numbers, but when they started stressing my sps corals I used Salifert flatworm exit. Despite running 4x the carbon that I usually did, the death toxins nuked all of my sps corals, including a 10-inch bird's nest coral, an 8-inch green planet acropora, and all of my LPS. So now, at about year 4, the fish, snails, some zoa's, sea whips, and one encrusting montipora were the only survivors.
At this same time, I started having some health problems, and my husband and I were also starting a small business. Discouraged and with plenty else to do, the tank fell by the wayside. I stopped testing, stopped dosing, drastically reduced water changes, and basically just kept it topped off.
This period of severe neglect lasted for almost 2 years. During this time, fern caulerpa proliferated until the tank was a green jungle filled with amphipods and spaghetti worms. The fish (two PJ Cardinals, an oscelaris clown, an orchid dottyback, and a kole tang) flourished in this environment, as did one particular zoa. Interestingly, there was so much life in the jungle that my fish were virtually feeding themselves, and were getting chubby on just a few supplemental feedings a week.

With the start of the new year, I decided that I needed to either revive the tank or take it down. After some soul-searching I decided that the joy I get from a healthy reef outweighs the time commitment needed to keep it that way. I wish that I had taken a picture of the jungle, but I didn't. I ripped that stuff out by the gallon-full. Talk about some nutrient export! What was left was a brown, detritus-filled landscape. I discovered a few choked-out zoa's and a sea whip under the green, as well as a surprise that my encrusting montipora (I think it's a mind trick, but too discolored to be sure right now), as well as a Duncan coral had managed to hold on.
Testing revealed that other than very low calcium, and fairly high phosphorus, the params weren't that bad, so I did a lot of detritus siphoning and water changes over the next week, then bought some new corals.
The tank is now re-stocked with some brand new coral frags that I will be adding to over time, and slowly getting cleaner and brighter.

Thank you to anyone who has made it this far!
My big takeaways; you can never quarantine enough, you can catch small isopods at night using your fingers as bait, fish like jungles, tanks can survive more than you may think, and nothing beats regular maintenance!

Current situation: same tough as nails 5-year-old fish (kole tang, oscelaris clown, orchid dottyback, and a pair of PJ cardinals), some new sea whips, sps coral, florida ricordea, favia, and cyphastrea, all too new to evaluate yet. Running the same equipment as before, but I have one filter basket set up with Innovative Marine nuvo purity pack (a combo of mechanical and chemical filtration), and the other set up with macro algae and live rock rubble seeded with pods. I have a submersible grow light on this side.
I dose kalk in my ATO reservoir, and hand dose calcium, magnesium, and alkalinity as needed based on testing. Once I have a routine down I will report it!
Future:
Continue cleanup and caulerpa control. I have a viparspectra 165w programmable LED light coming next week. It's off-brand but the reviews were good both here and reefcentral, so I will see!
I know I probably jumped the gun on starting new sps frags before I have everything completely worked out, but I will evaluate how my starter frags are doing and normalize my routine, then probably get a few more acropora and revive my zoa garden... I miss them!
I like having some interesting inverts, so will probably introduce an abalone, urchin, and possibly some smaller cleaner shrimp in time.
My goal is to really streamline my maintenance so that I can continue to do a good job over the long run, while keeping my tank as a stress-reliever instead of a stress-er

The post-clean-out wasteland Jan 2, 2020
(white lights)
IMG_20200102_162524653.jpg

The tank today (Jan 11,2020), 9 days later, white lights again
IMG_20200111_123102136.jpg

IMG_20200111_123110189~2.jpg

IMG_20200111_123123085.jpg
 
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9Trees29gal

9Trees29gal

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Another week by, and I got my new light. I am incredibly pleased. It is much brighter than my old captive reef fixture, and was easy to program. I currently have it set at 50% brightness on the blue channel /25 on the white.
Too soon to see what the corals think, but my frogskin acropora and green planet are both looking great, so hope to see some growth starting soon.
Still keeping caulerpa harvested as it tries to grow back, but the inverts are helping, and I will be ordering a few more alga-vores soon.
Here are some pics with the new light in action.

In all I am pleased with progression and enjoying a prettier tank.

IMG_20200116_120323250.jpg
IMG_20200116_120330361~2.jpg
 
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9Trees29gal

9Trees29gal

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Thanks! I will bear that in mind. I do have a little bryopsis in addition to the caulerpa. I have always been able to clear algae problems in the past by staying up on maintenance and tank perams, which has been sadly lacking until this month, but if the problem persists I may go the chemical route.
 
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9Trees29gal

9Trees29gal

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This week's FTS. It's already fun to see the changes in just a few weeks.
Lumii_20200125_132005633.jpg

I have added all of the corals that I have room for. I am leaving a lot of room, as my goal is a mature reef that is shaped by big mature colonies.
I am thrilled to see that the stuber stag (the bleached stick front and center), which sloughed all of its skin during shipping, has a tip and a patch on the base that have come back.... With time I should still get a nice stag out of it!
Current acros;
Stuber stag, orange guttatus Stylo, red candy Monti cap, Northwoods tricolor valida, reef Raft Asia wolverine, PC rainbow acro, Crayola Plana, ORA Green Planet, ORA frog skin, JF Solar Flare Milli.
Changes this week; upped the blue channel to 75%, switched salt brands from IO to Tropic Marine Reef Pro, and upped the amount of Kalk in my top-off (Ca consumption definitely increasing!).
I am using Kalk as well as BRS 2-part and mg to balance parameters. I am adding the 2-part manually for now, although a dosing pump is on the wish list!
Algae growth has slowed, and the total amount of algae is slowly declining, although a bloom of cotton candy started. I am not distressed by the algae, as a "sterile" reef has never been a goal (plus I love the inverts that it allows me to easily keep!), but I do want to prevent it from crowding corals, and I see it as an indicator of tank parameters.
I have a few more inverts coming next week, and a few small fish (neon goby and one of the bristletooth blennies) on my wish list, then it's hands out of the water and watch things grow/ keep things stable.
Lumii_20200125_131848549.jpg
Lumii_20200125_132204798.jpg

See that beautiful turquoise Monti with the red polyps peaking behind the sea whip? That's the one that survived the "jungle". She's coloring up beautifully, developing a purple-to-turquoise color gradation right now. Can't wait to see new growth, and what the growth edges will look like!
 
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9Trees29gal

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Lumii_20200201_135811611.jpg

Feb 1st, 2020 FTS; one month anniversary!!!
New additions include a gold maxima clam, a neon goby, a six-line wrasse (added with some reservations in hopes that he may pick at some of the numerous vermetid and spaghetti worms that proliferated during the jungle period, plus they are gorgeous!).
New equipment! A Kamoer x1 dosing pump for part 2 alkalinity.
In all I am very pleased. My converted-filter-chamber refugium is doing well, and producing enough chaeto that I harvested my first "ball" last week, plus a steady stream of pods that my smaller fish really appreciate.
Current regimen;
Daily: ATO; 200ml Kalk/gallon
Weekly: Test parameters, calibrate pH and salinity meters
3 gallon water change w/ sand stir and back chamber vacuum, tropic Marin reef pro salt plus 25ml ml BRS part 1 calcium added/gallon. Empty and clean skimmer.
Monthly; change purity pack
 

45ZoaGarden

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You’ll have to get rid of that tang. That tank is waayyy to small. Better watch out, tang police will put you in the slammer for something like that! You should really try some fluconzanole to get rid of the byropsis
 
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Looks like your tank went through a lot. I'm working with a 14g all in one tank and have just recently started to see what I think is Bryopsis growing around a few plugs. Im considering using fluconazole as 45ZoaGarden mentioned along with a bunch of other reefers who swear by it. Im looking forward to the progress of your tank. Again, welcome to r2r!
 

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You’ll have to get rid of that tang. That tank is waayyy to small. Better watch out, tang police will put you in the slammer for something like that! You should really try some fluconzanole to get rid of the byropsis
admittedly i didnt even catch that...

wonderful looking fish but it seriously needs a larger space than a little cube
 
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9Trees29gal

9Trees29gal

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You’ll have to get rid of that tang. That tank is waayyy to small. Better watch out, tang police will put you in the slammer for something like that! You should really try some fluconzanole to get rid of the byropsis
I know; he was supposed to be temporary, then life happened. Considering he has been in the tank for 6 years, chubby, without any disease (which Koles are known for!), I figure he will probably be Ok, not that I would recommend it to anyone else!
The bryopsis is starting to recede.... I have been reluctant to use fluconazole because my fuge has been doing so well, and I am definitely twice shy about chemical interventions! I have it in my back pocket if needed :)
 
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Current parameters. Overall I am happy with this week and shooting for stability, but I would like to increase salinity to 1.026. I have been doing a 10% water change with 1.027 every week, but I am stuck at 1.024. I don't have any salt creep, so I am thinking I must be losing salt through the skimmate? I just don't get that much skimmate though? At any rate, I am going to put a trace amount of salt in my top-off water and see if that helps. Obviously slow is key here.
IMG_20200207_174144851_HDR.jpg
 

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