29 Gallon Reef Tank Build Thread

Kayliw63

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I started my 29 gallon tank after months of research (watching the whole BRS 52 weeks of reefing), reading (EVERY blogpost/groupchat/Facebook page I could get into), and preparation.

I'd previously tried to start a saltwater tank at age 13 (back in 2007/08) armed with nothing more than a copy of "Saltwaterfish for Dummies." I was less than successful; oversized fish kept dying, inexpensive corals melted, relatives nuked everything on short vacations... it was a disaster and I was ill-prepared. So this time, I planned a little better.
I've kept a spreadsheet/log of all things Saltwater here, so you're welcome to take a look at that for a concise and organized view of everything that's happened with my tank since I started it!
Screen Shot 2021-01-04 at 10.41.09 PM.png

In December of 2019, I started with a petco $1/gallon tank, some live rock from petco, and some bottled bacteria to begin the cycling process. I was patient and let the tank cycle for about three weeks before adding in a blue chromis and some CUC. A few more weeks in I added a small yellow watchman goby (so small and pale that I wondered if he'd make it), and then after a while, a royal gramma. At about 2 months in I added a clownfish pair and a pistol shrimp, who immediately paired up with the YWG.
Screen Shot 2021-01-04 at 10.41.27 PM.png

About 3 months in, I started adding what I'd hoped would be "easy" corals: mushrooms, a feather duster (who my clowns decided to host), green star polyps (isolated so they wouldn't take over the tank), and various zoas and palys.
Screen Shot 2021-01-04 at 10.42.18 PM.png

At 5 months, having kept the rest of the "easy" corals alive and looking well, I decided to try some more difficult items, adding in a duncan, an acan, a "frammer", a ricordea mushroom, a rainbow montipora frag, some cyphastrea, leptoseris, lepastrea, and a gorgonian. Of these, I ended up losing the rainbow monti, my pistol shrimp took the acan frag from the sandbed and hid it somewhere, the gorgonian frag was so small it ended up breaking and I tossed it, the frammer melted (polyp bailout), and the ricordea has shrunken to very small.
Screen Shot 2021-01-06 at 10.01.53 AM.png

Since then, it's been a battle of algae/nutrient overload, zoa color loss, etc.

Here's my current livestock list:
  • Fish
    • Gladiator Clownfish
    • Oscellaris Clownfish
    • Royal Gramma
    • Yellow Watchman Goby
    • Neon Blue Goby
    • Lawnmower Blenny
  • Inverts
    • Pistol Shrimp
    • Emerald Crab
    • 4/5 Hermits
    • 15+ Snails (Astrea, Ceriths)
  • Corals
    • Candy Cane Coral
    • Varied Mushrooms (Red/Green)
    • Varied Zoas
    • Green Palys
    • 2 Rock Flower Anemones
    • Feather Duster
    • GreenEye Cyphastrea
    • Hulk Leptoseris
    • Outerspace Lepastrea
    • Red Gorgonian
    • Blue Duncan
    • Green Star Polyps
    • Hammer Coral
And here's my current equipment list:
  • 29 Gallon Tank
    • Tank Stand & DIY Mesh Lid
    • Fluval Marine Light
    • 2 Powerheads
      • Fluval Powerhead rated for 15gallons 265gph
      • Hydor Koralia Nano 240 Water Circulation Pump, 240 gph, 3.5 W
    • AquaClear 50 Aquarium Power Filter
      • Thick & Thin Sponge
      • Carbon
    • Auto Top Off Unit (with low levels of Kalkwasser)
    • AQUATIC LIFE 115 Mini Internal Protein Skimmer/Filter, 30-Gallon, 10-5/8"H x 3.5"W x 3.5"D
    • Aqueon Preset Aquarium Heater, 50W
  • Water Changes
    • Aquatic Life Twist-in 100 GPD 4-Stage Ro Unit (Sediment, Carbon Block, Membrane, Deionization) RODI Unit
    • Red Sea Salt
    • Salinity Refractometer 0-100 PPT with Automatic Temperature Compensation
At this point, I'm debating whether I should try another route (cannister?) for filtration. I'm trying to manually remove algae as much as I can while dosing Vibrant on a weekly basis. I'm also wondering, in spite of the algae growth, if I need a stronger light to reduce the browning out of the zoas I have towards the middle of the tank. Definitely hoping to get some helpful input from the community on this forum!

Screen Shot 2021-01-06 at 10.03.20 AM.png


I'll be posting my water parameters later today after taking updated measurements so I can show you where we're at as of now. Happy to have joined Reef2Reef!
 
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CORAL MANIA After Sale

Marine430

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First off nice looking tank! Don’t do anything drastic. I would keep the aqua clear. I would grab some GFO maybe chemi pure elite for example. Do your regular water changes and try and pick out as much hair algae as possible. My guess is your nitrates and phosphates are going to come out zero because it’s all in your hair algae. I would definitely consider lighting to be the main cause. Your lighting might have too much white in it. Make sure no sunlight is hitting your tank. Make sure the water coming out of your RODI system is zero TDS. If you’re using flake food I would stop and switch to a pallet or Frozen food an rinse it with RODI water. Keep in mind this is all growing pains and a learning experience.
 

tautog83

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So I'd take that fluval light and throw it in the garbage . Get yourself a tds meter and make sure the rodi unit is making pure water. I'd ditch the aqua clear and maybe upgrade you're skimmer . I mean at this point youre just using it for mechanical filtration and to run carbon. For me I only run carbon if I need it to do something for me( get something out of the water ) . So your algae is coming from phosphates and silicates probably from your rock . So if you decide to keep the power filter try using some sort of phosphate absorbing media to export it out of there . Obviously test your water first to see where your at . You want to fix the problem at the source ya know rather than treating the problem once it's there. Also I'd buy a refractometer or the hanna salinity checker versus a hydrometer because they arent really accurate . You might want to consider a knockoff wavemaker, it will eliminate having 2 power heads and create more randomized flow . The beauty of a small tank like is that you can a big difference with bigger water changes . So find out numbers then formulate a game plan based on the results . I'd scrub the algae off with a brush do a 15 gallon water change ,increase your cuc( trochus snails couple big turbos ) then go from there . But yea definatley ditch the light, lots of cheaper lights that are wayyy better . Check out reefbreeders or any of the "black box" fixtures. You'll get through it , theres not one of us that didnt have to deal with your problems at one point or another . Also that gorgonisn isnt phosynthetic and requires feeding so not a good choice for a first coral. Theres a bunch of photosynthetic ones you probably have much better luck with . Good luck !!
 
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Kayliw63

Kayliw63

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First off nice looking tank! Don’t do anything drastic. I would keep the aqua clear. I would grab some GFO maybe chemi pure elite for example. Do your regular water changes and try and pick out as much hair algae as possible. My guess is your nitrates and phosphates are going to come out zero because it’s all in your hair algae. I would definitely consider lighting to be the main cause. Your lighting might have too much white in it. Make sure no sunlight is hitting your tank. Make sure the water coming out of your RODI system is zero TDS. If you’re using flake food I would stop and switch to a pallet or Frozen food an rinse it with RODI water. Keep in mind this is all growing pains and a learning experience.

Thanks for the advice!

My RODI water is still reading at 0, so I don't think that's a contributing factor. I only very rarely feed flake food; usually, it's a cube of frozen Mysis every other day.

My light schedule for the Fluval Marine Light is one of their pre-sets, the "Preset - Color Boost." I know the whites are MUCH higher than what's typically recommended (30%?) but part of the reason I switched to this mode is I believe my zoas in the middle of the tank weren't getting enough light (they were browning out and losing their coloration). It's been really hard to find advice about this light's settings. I did find on their website their expected PAR outputs, but not quite sure what to do with that information.

IMG_2529.jpeg


Up until a month ago, I'd been using my own setting which looked like this (below). I still had a fair bit of algae with this light schedule.

Screen Shot 2021-01-06 at 12.11.24 PM.png


Here's the PAR chart off their website. My model is the 32W (second light listed).

Screen Shot 2021-01-06 at 12.02.17 PM.png
 
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Kayliw63

Kayliw63

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So I'd take that fluval light and throw it in the garbage . Get yourself a tds meter and make sure the rodi unit is making pure water. I'd ditch the aqua clear and maybe upgrade you're skimmer . I mean at this point youre just using it for mechanical filtration and to run carbon. For me I only run carbon if I need it to do something for me( get something out of the water ) . So your algae is coming from phosphates and silicates probably from your rock . So if you decide to keep the power filter try using some sort of phosphate absorbing media to export it out of there . Obviously test your water first to see where your at . You want to fix the problem at the source ya know rather than treating the problem once it's there. Also I'd buy a refractometer or the hanna salinity checker versus a hydrometer because they arent really accurate . You might want to consider a knockoff wavemaker, it will eliminate having 2 power heads and create more randomized flow . The beauty of a small tank like is that you can a big difference with bigger water changes . So find out numbers then formulate a game plan based on the results . I'd scrub the algae off with a brush do a 15 gallon water change ,increase your cuc( trochus snails couple big turbos ) then go from there . But yea definatley ditch the light, lots of cheaper lights that are wayyy better . Check out reefbreeders or any of the "black box" fixtures. You'll get through it , theres not one of us that didnt have to deal with your problems at one point or another . Also that gorgonisn isnt phosynthetic and requires feeding so not a good choice for a first coral. Theres a bunch of photosynthetic ones you probably have much better luck with . Good luck !!

I do have a TDS meter, and my RODI output reads at 0. I've also been using a refractometer since February (my mistake, listing the hydrometer above from when I'd originally started).

Any recommendations for a HOB skimmer/filter? I'm so hesitant to plumb a sump setup as I've never done one before, the tank isn't drilled, and I'm in a second-floor carpeted bedroom.

In regards to lighting, I'll definitely listen to any recommendations this community puts out. It's been SO hard to get any advice on what settings to use with the Fluval. You mentioned ReefBreeders/Black boxes, but do you have a specific light you'd recommend for a 29 gallon mixed reef tank?

As for the gorgonian, I've been feeding the tank AF Build and AF Energy (1 drop of each every 3/4 days). The polyps of the gorgonian have been extended more often than not, isn't that a sign of health/happiness in it? I've got it glued to one of my rocks so I'd like to try and keep it even if it might be a little more difficult for me.
 

terraincognita

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Id really recommend if you can, doing a DIY overflow and making a sump.

you don’t have to drill at all. Paint the PVC black and you’ll never see it. If you really want to take your reefing to the next level of stability a sump will change your entire life in reefing forever.




if you do want to drill a sump, buy a fresh 29G and try on that, then transfer the tank. A canister filter is not going to make much difference. You could DIY it for about $40-50 for the whole thing, excepting the cost for a good return pump. Which you may have already???

also yes throw that fluval AWAY

getting a black box from Amazon is a 10x upgrade.
 
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tautog83

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Well I believe a 29 gallon is 24"?. So its basically standard in terms of, you just want a light that can cover that area . For instance the reef breeders come in the lengths of standard tank lengths ( ya know most common) 24., 36, 48,. However a 24" light could cover a tank that's 30" , you just mount it higher and increase intensity . Most small black box LEDs would cover your tank no problem .You'll want to know much par your getting from your light . Have you considered getting an aio tank, the little innovative marine lagoon and the 30 long were nice little setups and help create a cleaner look.( heater, thermometer in back along with simple mechanical filtration and in this hobby relatively cheap .I'm throwing out ideas that's all. You can still use your tank obviously but like the guy above me said once you have a tank with a sump you'll be like what was I doing !! Also yes polyps out is what you're looking for however feeding also leads to nutrient issues so it's a tough balance at first that's why its not recommended. The others corals on your list are all good once you get a good light . You'll be surprised how good your tank will look if you stay up on the water changes . Couple little things to tweak and you're right there .
 
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Marine430

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Don’t worry about using a hydrometer they work fine. Make Sure you clean it out with rodi water after use or else Salt creep will Affect your readings. Your aqua clear will be fine for the time being if you’re terrified of using a sump. People with Sumps also have hair algae issues. Your RoDI system seems to be working fine. You’re feeding schedule is fine!
I will do some research on your light!
Scrub your rock with a toothbrush or get some tweezers to pull the hair algae off your rock and do a 10 gallon water change!
Get 2 Mexican turbos and maybe 4 Trochus snails and some chemi pure elite. Not Chemi pure blue or regular chemi pure. Just give it some time!
You’re corals browning out could be a few different factors maybe light maybe water chemistry. I think BRS did an episode on this.
I recommend Aquamaxx 1.5 hob skimmer. I use this one! Also reef octopus makes a good HOB skimmer, along with Eshopps hob skimmer is good!
 

\m/reefsnmetal\m/

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Build a sump! Eshopps makes awesome HOB overflows that don't require drilling. I use one on my 75g with no issues. In your sump you can place live rock, macro algae, and your skimmer. It will beef up your filtration like no other, plus the added water volume is good for stability.
 

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