90g living room reef

Schnizzle

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So after about a year and planning on a 120, I have a 90 long up and running. I am now (im)patiently waiting for full cycle so why not start my build thread.

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My father had a "pet shop" within his feed and seed business when I was growing up. I would sit for hours at a time watching the fish. I ended up with a job where I am frequently out on the water. I have always been fascinated by sea life but a work trip to Fiji really started a fire. Somehow, I kept finding reasons why I didn't need a tank. Fast forward several years and my fiance brought along a 50g freshwater tank when we moved her in. I would sit for at least an hour a day staring into her tank, watching all the fish and shrimp interact with one another. I thought that would placate my salty desires but alas, here I am...

By nature I over analyze EVERYTHING so I started out by researching for about a year. I really liked the idea of an AIO tank. CJsAquariums was a huge inspiration. I learned a lot watching through all of his success and failure and many other YouTubers. However, everything I knew I wanted needed more space and I like gadgets. I ended up ordering the SCA90 long PNP on a Black Friday special.

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Before I go on, after all my changes I still got a good deal and am happy with that decision. Haha So, Once the excitement wore off I realized I would not be able to handle the stress of having an MDF stand. I set about building my own between work trips. I am good at carpentry but I loathe it for some reason. I enjoyed the building process but I don't think I'll every paint my own stand again...

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I can finally relax and enjoy my tank. No, wait, a year of research did not prepare me for all the work involved in doing it all yourself. I that line scared you off, don't let it. The end result is well worth the work.

I already knew I wanted to run the "Triton Method" BUT using ATI essentials. My provided sump design did not facilitate this. More fun (I actually really did enjoy this part). I was all over the map during this process so yes, the pictures will seem out of order. Made the compartments just big enough for their respective items and the fuge as big as possible for nutrient export. I set the skimmer chamber waterline at the max for recommended operation of the skimmer.

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There we have it. Yes, I just realized I forgot to take a picture of my sump before the changes. It took a lot of elbow grease and 2 razor blades to remove all the silicone from moving the glass panels around.

Now you find out who your friends are. Time to move the stand and the dreaded tank inside. If you are unfamiliar with SCA, they have 1/2", rimless, euro-braced tanks with a center overflow. You can have them build to your spec and Steve is great to work with. My one regret is not going with a "ghost" overflow to free up more room in the center of the tank. However, this tank is a test for me. If I succeed and enjoy it I will be moving to something around 240g and giving this to the lady to convert to freshwater.

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It's in! I wanted a stand with room inside to hide everything and on top for food, testing and whatever else I'm currently unaware of. Still deciding on how to make door. For now, we shall use a curtain (after I finish staring at it nonstop, every night).

I wasted no time in getting to work to clean up my enormous pile of goods so I could reclaim the garage from myself. Sounds like a good spot for a list:
SCA90 long PNP (includes skimmer) with modified sump
Hand built stand
RedSea screen top kit
Ocean Revive t247 LEDs x2
MaxSpect Gyre xf230 x2
IceCap Battery Backup
Billy's Reef Connection dry rock
Natures Ocean live sand in Samoa Pink
Reef Crystals salt
Jebao DCP15000 return pump (holy overkill, I like it)
Bubble Magus T11 dosing pump
Ming dosing reservoir
Kessil H380 fuge light
InkBird temp controllers
Finnex Titanium primary heater
Eheim Jager secondary heater
Tunze ATO
lots of testing and maintenance goodies

Plumbing time. I really regretted (not at the time) doing this in the house. Listen to the instructions and be well ventilated.

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The far let pipe is the main drain. It dumps into my refugium. Controlled by a gate valve from BRS to get a full siphon and utilizes dual 45s instead of 90s for possibility of less flow restriction. It exits 2" below the waterline and runs silent. Return line has 2 90's and has NO PROBLEM with flow. Emergency drain is well above the waterline. This is great and serves as an alarm that something is wrong with the flow or main drain. The white lighting diffuser serves as a media/filter floss tray.

Add the skimmer, gyres and heaters and now looks like a good time to water test everything. I did do a tank leak test outdoors first. That still didn't prepare me for the stress of filling this thing in the house.

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Success! No leaks and all works. Time to drain this as it isn't RODI water and begin the rest of the process. Time to hook up all the gadgets and start my reefscape. Many ideas and lots of failures.

More to come tomorrow as I am out of time (and available file uploads) for today.

Thank you for checking out my build.
 
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Schnizzle

Schnizzle

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I decided to go with the InkBird heater controllers for a few reasons. First and foremost for the large temperature displays right on the front. Having two of them allows me to be sure the readout is correct. You can calibrate them as well. Out of the box one was spot on and the other was reading .3°f low. I checked my readings with the Hanna calibration thermometer. This thing is really nice. It's like an old iPod with a temp probe hanging off.

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It's not very easy to see but my primary titanium heater is in the bubble trap between my skimmer and return pump. The secondary Eheim heater is in the refugium. Both temp probes are strapped to the primary drain outlet to get a good reading on the tank temperature. Reading from the tank shows a consistent variation of .1°f below what my InkBirds display. However, this reading is consistent with what I read at the drain outlet.

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Sidenote: This picture shows where I ran out of RODI water. I was dying inside being SO CLOSE, yet so far away from getting salty.

I only used to filter floss to collect the dust from my dry rock. (Do yourself a favor and rinse it first, like everyone says to do.) I do not want it to interfere with anything during my cycling. This design allows me to easily install floss or media anytime I want to do a deep cleaning of the tank and catch the debris. This is also where I will be placing bags of GFO or carbon as needed. I want to run this system as natural as possible. Water from the tank will be going unfiltered to the refugium to feed macro algae and pods. Pods can travel (hopefully) past the skimmer and back up to the tank to feed fish.

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At this point I realized I forgot to order the bracket for my T11 dosing pump. While ordering that I figured, why not add a second Gyre. I didn't think I cared but I found myself fascinated with the Lunar Tidal Cycle preset. Having two will also allow me to really tune my flow to increase turbulence wherever it is needed when I start placing corals. While installing the battery backup (that I got as an open box special) I realized it was missing the fuse and fuse holder cap. BRS was incredible in what the offered to do. I don't like waste so things got even better when the contacted me two days later saying they found them and were shipping them right out. BRS really went above and beyond. I cannot say enough that I am very pleased with my decision to buy the vast majority of my equipment from them.

Once everything was mounted and in place I was amazed by the rats nest of wiring I had created. The lazy bone in me really wished I could just throw a door on and say, "it's easier to service this way". haha Not a chance. Being an electronics tech by trade I had to make it pretty. I had a lot of leftover pvc hanger strap so I made 5" loops in a row across the front and back. Using 3/4" plywood on the top allowed me to use 1/2" screws to fasten the strap up. This made running the wires very easy. After they were all ran I could sort out and tie up all the power bricks and excess cabling. (I'll have to post up a picture of the underside later so you can see the hidden mess.)

I knew I wanted to make everything "pretty" as I could without going overboard. I'm a big fan of the "show sumps" that I have seen on here and YouTube. That meant I wasn't using a Lowe's bucket for an ATO reservoir. Innovative Marine has this beautiful 5 gallon reservoir with a drawer that slides out for filling without removing the tank. The drawer even has a thumbscrew to stop it from falling or to allow removal for pump access. Well worth what I paid, even though that's subjective.

Upon installing the Tunze 3155 ATO I was surprised by the weakness of the magnet. I did use the little rubber feet to add grip but it's still weak, even on my 1/4" sump galss. Maybe I'm just missing something, I'll investigate eventually. Other than that it works quite well. I'm still learning it and finding things I think are wrong that turn out to be operator error. One example is if the water is above the low sensor and you turn it on, it will start pumping in water, even while the high alarm is going off. I feel like this HAS to be me.

Everything is in place, time to move to rock work. So, I had this grand idea in my head that did not translate well...

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Please feel free to laugh with (at) me. I liked this for about an hour. I'm grateful for the support/criticism of the Facebook groups I am in. Once my brain started working again this came to life.

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Now that's more like it. Plenty of hides and caves for fish to swim through. Overhangs for cleaner shrimp. Plenty of variation for coral placement. I'm figuring based on what I ordered and what I have left this is around 85lbs of rock. This is nice, if I do say so myself. One problem, now I have to glue this thing together and place it in the tank? Well I got it there...

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You can probably see the difference. I was unsure about this at first. However, I realized you can see more from the right side view now which is going to be a common viewpoint moving through the house. All is well, solid connections, time for water, salt and sand.

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Well, I THOUGHT I was prepared for the cloudiness that would ensue from the addition of salt and sand. I filled my tank with RODI water with rock work in place and allowed it to come to tamperature. I then added the salt. There was no life in the tank so this was not a problem. It took about 30lbs of salt to reach a salinity of 1.026. I am using a refractometer that reads out in ppt and SG. I also purchased a bottle of calibration fluid which I am glad I did. Upon checking I was reading .002 high on the meter. This was an easy fix with the screw on top the meter. Once salinity was stable I added my 80lbs of "live sand". The picture above is around 6 hours after the addition of sand.

Two things of note at this point:
First, I was amazed how light the flow was out of these Gyre pumps. I've seen all these videos on people saying it could blow their reef scape over or pin fish against the glass. Were my expectations too high? Am I secretly HeMan and feeling extra strong? None of the above... When using a battery backup, one must remember to turn on the primary power switch and not rely on battery power. What I was feeling is exactly what it is designed to do, reduce power and keep water moving for several hours when YOUR power is out. Let me say when that switch was turned on I created an entire new cloud of debris in my little attempt at a slice of the ocean and several mini tidal waves. The hype is real folks.
Second, I am still fine tuning my flow to prevent emptying the front right corner of sand. The Gyres set on the L.T.C. are great. (I may play with the random modes a bit more. I setup a 24 point cycle but had the power WAY too high.) It's my return pump running through the LocLine and VCA random flow generators that I'm fighting with. Eventually I'll find the needed angle with the turnover rate I want. I'm also hoping the addition of life will help keep the sand somewhat evened out. Though I'm sure it'll be more chaotic than uniform.

At this point I added a jumbo shrimp in a mesh bag to kick of the cycle. This was donated by my parents to save me the questioning looks at the market when I ask for 1 shrimp. I also opted to add a bottle of Dr. Tim's One and Only. I also ordered a bottle of Eco Boost to add at the one month mark for more diversity. To supplement my life support system I added to the bottom of my refugium a nice large flat rock, a bag of cylindrical ceramics that came with the tank and a 8x8x4 block of marine pure. I also stuck a similar block of marine pure in the skimmer chamber with two small rock for future trade/seeding/QT needs. Once everything was set and running I covered my display tank in cardboard for a 30 cycle/cure/blackout, inspired by BRS. Man is this painful. I was patient throughout the entire process thus-far but I am really struggling now. My build work is done but I cant even look at it?! Hopefully this will all payoff quite well if what they found holds true from me.

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With everything stable and running I went ahead and ordered my chaeto, gracilaria, pods and phytoplankton. To my pleasant surprise when the chaeto show up I found around 20 cerith snails embedded! Uh oh, I'm not far enough into the cycle yet am I? Well, as luck would have it (for once in my life), water testing that night showed NH3 of what I thought at the time to be between .15 and 0. Now I know this is actually a 0 reading. SCORE, I got free snails that I wanted and am happy to say a week later all are alive and well. Aside from the shrimp I'm "feeding" sinking .5mm coral pellets and LRS seaweed, which I stuff pieces in the rock and have seen the snails working on. I'm currently running an 8 hour photo period on my refugium. I will increase this 30 minutes per week until I reach 16 hours. This will have the Kessil running the 16 hours that the whites are off on the Ocean Revives. The blues will be running an hour before until a hour after the whites.

This brings us up to today. Where I get to enjoy a tank shaped cardboard box with a sump where I study my pods. I did cheat the day I added the snails and algae and remove the cardboard to level the sand and get some clean photos.

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I'm hoping these pictures are enough that I will stop pulling off the cardboard and leave well enough alone.

In hopes of making this all worth while and keeping a system that is clean as possible I will be quarantining everything before it splashes in the reef. I cheated here as well and used Biospira. This tank is cycling completely already and I finally get to go pick out my first fish this weekend. I cant wait.

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The only remaining project is my lighting mount. There is a good thread somewhere on here that inspired me. I'll be making a stand out of 3/4" aluminum tube that will sit on my eruo-bracing. The better half didn't like the idea of a floating canopy, and I have to say she is right. It wouldn't be a good fit in our house. The included mounts we not an option either. I'll be sure to post up some pictures of that build when it happens as well. I'm sure I'll be posting too many fish pics as well when I get them home.

Thanks for taking the time to read and feel free to offer any advice. One thing I always taught those that worked with or for me, "Always listen without interruption. Even if you THINK you know what they are saying, you never know what new little piece they may add."
 
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Schnizzle

Schnizzle

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This weekend I decided to go and get my first fish. I have had this list planned for months now. There aren't many good places close to me so it was all day. However, I was thrilled that I managed to find all 3. Now, these are all going in quarantine for the "observe and treat if needed method". I don't like the idea of needlessly medicating.

One Spot / Blotched Foxface
This one surprised me. 5 Minutes out of the acclimation bucket he went right back to normal coloration.
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Spotted Mandarin Dragonet
I purchased some extra pods to put in the QT tank for this girl. I was worried she wouldn't eat. Well, I was very pleased to see her start chowing down the second she hit the tank floor. She's even eating some of the smaller pellets.
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Hi Fin Red Banded / Striped / Blackray Shrimp Goby
Just being a Goby. He was in a tank with a Pistol Shrimp. I wanted both but we couldn't get the shrimp out of the rook it wedged itself in.
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Blue Legged / Caribbean Pistol Shrimp
Fortunately (I thought), there was another lonely shrimp nearby.
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I had done all my research and knew what I wanted. Yet still, in the moment I went for the unknown "cool" looking shrimp. As it turns out this guy will not pair with gobies and many people report them treating CUC like an all you can eat buffet. After much debate I'm going to try and take him back to the LFS. I don't have the heart to flush it. I also don't want it terrorizing the snails in my refugium. This is going to be a peaceful community tank and I can see no place for him in it.

Another lesson hard learned. Do your research and stick to the plan.

On the bright side of things, I was so happy when everyone started eating right away and looked happy in the QT tank. I just hope this shrimp hasn't caused much chaos by the time I get home.
 
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Schnizzle

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One week into QT and all is well, I believe. I'm seeing a single speck on my Dragonet that I'll post about this separately in the appropriate area. The shrimp did get returned and I am awaiting a Candy/Randalls Pistol Shrimp. If everyone went by scientific names it would be much easier.

Speaking of her (identified as female buy the top fin), she is very curious and doesn't mind me staring into the tank. She does NOT like my phone. Every time I try to get photos she swims away. Maybe its the red case? I'll try removing that tonight to get some better photos. She has stopped trying the pellets but I have seen eat mysis 4 separate times. I don't know if she is wild or tank bred but she's always hunting for pods. I'm ordering more today to further seed mt DT and to keep her fat and happy in QT.
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The foxface has been very entertaining. It is a picky eater. It has stopped eating the LRS seaweed sheets unless I don't give it any gracilaria for a day or 2. It goes after the gracilaria so hard that I believe I could hand feed it. I haven't been brave enough to try that yet. It will also eat mysis and the occasional chunk of LRS fish frenzy. I've stopped feed the fish frenzy for now just to keep the tank cleaner. Bed time for this one is around 2030 and it goes right into camo mode. The coloration is hard to see in the photos but the pattern is pretty clear. It also seems to also go to a black stripe down the back when it's feeding time (much darker than pictured below). It DEFINITELY gets enough to eat.
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The goby is as shy as they say. Which I could have guessed considering we found it hiding IN a rock. Yes in, not under. It does eat plenty as long as I make sure the food falls by it. It doesn't like moving far from the cover of it's PVC pipe. I make sure pellets and mysis float by and it gets snatched right up. The size of some of the pieces it will grab hold of is impressive! I discovered I can peek the camera over the couch arm and get pretty decent pictures of this one.
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That's all that is new this week. Hopefully the spot amounts to nothing but a grain of sand. We shall see and I shall keep you all posted.
 
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Schnizzle

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I forgot to mention I sent off my first ATI water test today. I thought it would be nice to have some peace of mind that the water is as good as I hope. It will also be a nice baseline for what the water naturally is without fish or coral.
 
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I have a 75 running the Triton method & really like it. I got the same return pump and like the fact I can run it at 60%. I do not even hear it running.

Great build! Enjoy seeing an sca because I’ve been browsing their tanks for a upgrade soon.
 
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Schnizzle

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I love the tank and their customer service is awesome. You can request anything you want as far as changes to standard tanks or getting something custom. If you order one I would highly suggest getting it drilled for the synergy or ghost overflow. I lose a lot of space in the center due to my overflow "tower".
As for the return pump, you are absolutely correct. I'm at 58 and can't hear a thing from it. My skimmers bubbles are louder.
 
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Schnizzle

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Time for an update: I got my ATI test results back and it proved interesting. I need to refresh my RODI system and up the pressure. I also need to ditch the brass fittings for plastic.
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More troubling in the tank results. High levels of chrome and vanadium?! I'm going to do a magnet sweep of the sand tonight and a deep inspection of all the magnets and pumps. A quick glance this morning yeilded no results. I have seen some suspicion of ceramics leaching vanadium and I did have drums in there prior to replacing them with marine pure. I have also heard of marine pure leaching aluminum. Neither of which explain the chrome. The first thing that came to mind was the cheap wrenches in the garage labeled "chrome vanadium". haha
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Throwing one more giant wrench in the gear, we will now be moving in the next few months. An opportunity came up that I thought was off the table before starting this build. Thankfully, I have found many threads and videos on that process. Though it still is an endeavor I am not looking forward to.
 
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Schnizzle

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Inspecting my pumps and magnets yielded no results last night. HOWEVER, I got a magnet out and dragged the surface of the sand. Here were the results.
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Pretty alarming! At that point I decided to really dig around and stir the sand bed top to bottom.
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Jackpot! Lots of rusty metal in my sand bed and a few really big flakes. I can only assume they came from one place.
 
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Why-Me

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Sweet build, looks great so far. Good detective work finding that bad corroded magnet. Do you know the culprit of the magnet material in your sand?
BTW how do you like that Jebao DC return pump? I replaced my return pump that came with my SCA50 cube, with a Jebao DCP 8000, just making sure I want to keep it before everything gets wet.
I also thought of cheap wrenches as soon as you said chrome vanadium lol.
 
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Schnizzle

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Sweet build, looks great so far. Good detective work finding that bad corroded magnet. Do you know the culprit of the magnet material in your sand?
BTW how do you like that Jebao DC return pump? I replaced my return pump that came with my SCA50 cube, with a Jebao DCP 8000, just making sure I want to keep it before everything gets wet.
I also thought of cheap wrenches as soon as you said chrome vanadium lol.
I inspected all my equipment and found nothing wrong with any of it. All I can figure is that being "live sand" it was in the area or "batch" they pumped it out of. I used a telescopic mechanics magnet wrapped in a white trash bag for the exploration/collection process.
I love the Jebao pump. It is WAY oversized, running at 48 right now and dead silent. When I turn it up above 50 it blows my sand everywhere and could probably pin fish against the walls at full speed. haha

I might have missed this somewhere in all the text but why do you have what appears to be 2 ATO pumps in the ATO reservoir?
HA! I just noticed the picture. I wish I could say something witty like it is for redundancy but it is actually just a really clean tank with a perfect reflection. There is only one pump in there.
 
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