A High School Student's Quest to a Successful Reef - My 75 Gallon Build

Shnicnick

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Hello fellow reefers! Welcome to my first ever thread on R2R!

I am a high school student in Idaho, and I have worked, or I guess I should say learned, at a LFS here called Fish Aquariums and Stuff for 2 years now!

I have owned 2 reefs in the last 3 years, my previous being a 24 gallon in one of the Aquatop all in ones, and my current set up being my 75 gallon! This build thread will be following my 75, although I will gladly answer any questions anyone has about my experience with my 24! I currently have had my 75 up and running since around June of 2020, and it has gone through a couple of ups and downs.

Here is a picture of my tank just after setting in my rock structure, held together with some rock mortar, taken on June 17th:

IMG_3700.jpg


From this point until November 24th, 2020, I sadly do not have any pictures of my actual set up, although I will do my best to fill in this gap.
For around 2-3 months, I was putting my tank through the cycle, collecting equipment, and thinking through future stocking ideas, and what direction I wanted to go with the tank. I know everyone will want to know what equipment I am running on the tank, so here's the list!

For lighting I am running a Reef Breeders Photon V2, the 48" version.
For water flow I am running 2 Nero 5 pumps, I LOVE these things.
My skimmer is an Icecap K1-130, it is doing well for me and definitely gets the job done.
My return pump is a Current USA eFlux 1050, no complaints with this guy and great controllability.
My heater is just a Oase heater, working well so far but I have been thinking about potentially adding a temperature controller, I've been looking into both the Inkbird and the Ranco controllers for this potentially.
The lighting on my refugium is super simple, I am just running a full spectrum LED for around 12 hours when my display lights are off.
My sump was custom built, curtesy of my boss, and is just a 29g with a couple acrylic baffles!

Please let me know if there is anything else you've got questions about! I'll be glad to answer!



And now for the journey of adding fish, as well as my ish disaster... :(

Sometime around the middle of August, I decided to move my pair of DaVinci Clowns to my 75. Everything was great! My beloved, first ever salt water fish had been transferred from my 24g over to my 75g. Life was great. After around a month of having fish in the 75, I started transferring over some corals. starting with my zoas and rock of mushrooms that my clowns loved to host, and eventually getting over to my elegance and other LPS, and some SPS over the course of another month. This brings us to when everything went wrong.

I knew I should quarantine my fish, working at a LFS I knew just how many diseases were present in almost every unquarantined tank. But there was this one fish. A show size, yellow eye kole tang. This fish had been in the store for almost a month now, no sign of disease, extremely healthy. And that is when I made what I would say was the worst decision in the set up of this tank. I took this fish home.

Everything seemed fine for the first couple of days, probably up to a week. The fish was skittish at first, and wasn't eating. I told myself this was normal, as it would probably take a couple of days for it to acclimate to my tank. And then out of nowhere, there it was. Ich, and a lot of it. It didn't take long for the fish to meet its end, and then a couple of days later, my clownfish passed as well. From this point on, I was certain, I was going to be quarantining all of my fish, or buying them prequarantined from a source like Dr. Reef's Quarantined Fish (https://drreefsquarantinedfish.com/product-category/sw-fish/) Highly recommend this guy, he has been fantastic for me so far, and is a fellow hobbyist who isn't in it for the money, this has made it affordable enough for me that it is almost cheaper to buy from him, than it is to buy from the LFS I WORK AT after discounts have been given.

My tank then was fish free for 78 days in order to be 100% certain all the Ich was dead. On that 78th day, I added a pair of Wyoming White Clownfish to my tank, and two weeks later, I received an order from Dr. Reef containing:
1 Two Spot Bristletooth Tang,
1 Diamond Goby,
1 Mandarin Goby,
and 1 Yasha Shrimp Goby.

After about a week I lost the Mandarin. I am fairly certain that this was not due to a lack of copepods to eat, as the tank had almost 3 months to build up a population of them while keeping the tank fish free. It had even gotten to the point where I could find 100's of amphipods roaming around the tank during the day while there still weren't ant fish. if anyone has suggestions of what happened, I would love to hear them, my assumption is that it must have just been stressed out from shipping and wasn't eating.

From then on pretty much all has been well for fish, and my corals have been thriving. Here is where we begin to see some amazing pictures of the tank, and I really enjoy documenting the progress this way.

IMG_4350.jpg


In this next picture I have gotten a bigger elegance, and the smaller one is sitting around the rock on the right hand side of the tank.
IMG_4424.jpg


IMG_4355.jpg

At the moment I primarily only have softies and LPS, minus one unknown Acro who is sitting on my rock structure at the moment. This is when my other problem began to appear.

As I am sure most of us know, LPS enjoy a little bit of "dirtier" water, with higher nitrates and phosphates. And that was my issue, I have none of either, and still do. The first place I noticed it was in my two plate corals and extremely large elegance. The short tentacle plate coral seemed to start losing some of its fluffiness, and my elegance began to open less and less by the day it seemed. After about 2 weeks of slow recession, I finally realize that it might be because of my low nitrates and phosphates.
Everything else seemed spot on, Alk was kept between 7.5 and 8.5 with dosing every other day, and calcium was kept at about 420ish the same way. Specific gravity was at 24, and temperature was 78. Once I realized it could likely be nitrates, and my coworkers/ boss agreed, I dramatically upped my feeding, as well as spot feeding to my corals. I went from one cube of frozen a day up too 2, and from feeding reef roids 3x a week to practically every day, as well as supplementing amino acids through the AquaVitro Reef Fuel. Sadly this did not work. To this day, my nitrates are still 0 (has been tested with multiple kits), and I am now without both of my plate corals, as well as both of my elegance.

I have been pestering my boss to try and order some nitrate supplements, either through EVS or Brightwell, but he has not been able to get any in yet. My tank has been running without my skimmer and with my refugium only being on for around 4 hours a day, just enough to keep the chaeto alive long term. If anyone has any other suggestions on how to raise my nitrates I would love to hear them! I don't want to risk losing anymore of my corals!

Amazingly enough, the rest of my corals are doing great! Of course it always works out that you lose the favorites, in my case the plates and elegance. I plan on doing as close to weekly updates as I can on here, as well as responding to all of your comments! More pictures to come upon request and future updates! Thanks for reading everyone!
 
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Shnicnick

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Awesome start following along. have tried just feeding your fish more? Do you feed your corals at all?
Yes I have! Once I realized nitrates were the problem I doubled feeding frozen, and I now feed Reef Roids about once a day, missing every once in a while. I am also adding amino acids for the corals!

Thanks for following!
 
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ThePurple12

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FWIW, you can dose with sodium nitrate, bought on Amazon or elsewhere. It will last you longer. I dose it using this calculator: http://www.theplantedtank.co.uk/calculator.htm. It doesn't actually have a sodium nitrate option, but you can just use the option for Potassium nitrate. They're very similar.

When you say salinity was at 24...do you mean 1.024 or 24 ppt? :D
 
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Shnicnick

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FWIW, you can dose with sodium nitrate, bought on Amazon or elsewhere. It will last you longer. I dose it using this calculator: http://www.theplantedtank.co.uk/calculator.htm. It doesn't actually have a sodium nitrate option, but you can just use the option for Potassium nitrate. They're very similar.

When you say salinity was at 24...do you mean 1.024 or 24 ppt? :D
Oh great thank you! I’ll definitely check that out!

Hahaha I meant specific gravity, and yes i meant 1.024!
 

Lost in the Sauce

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Oh what I would do for like 5 gallons of your water haha

update coming soon! I have just ordered some nitrate supplement from @FishOfHex as we haven’t been able to get any in locally!
I just dumped 25g down the drain today. Didn't know there was a good market for it
 
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Shnicnick

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Hey everybody! Here is the update...

1) This week I have and order of fish and inverts coming in from Dr Reefs Quarantined fish! As for fish, I will be getting three bangaii cardinals, a McCosker's Flasher Wrasse, and a Blue Star Leopard Wrasse. Plus a new diamond goby because I happened to find mine as a crisp on my lids as I must have barely left one of them open.

For inverts I will be getting an assortment of snails, 3 fighting conchs, and two peppermint shrimp with hope that they will eat some of the aptasia in my tank. I am just praying that they don't have a liking for any of my corals. What is your guys' experience with what they tend to nip at?

2)New Coral!!!!
I couldn't hold back any longer, and I gave in on a very cool, yet still basic, elegance, as well as an extremely large green goniopora! I will post some pictures of these later tonight! There have also been several other small frags of zoas added, as well as a small frag of a red goniopora.

3)Nitrate!
I think my issue may slowly be getting better, as I am starting to see some nuisance algae pop up, a little bit of some hair algae here and there, which would mean that there is at least something in the tank. My nitrate supplement is not here yet from fish of hex, but hopefully will be later this week, although I am not sure if I will be needing it with me practically doubling the amount of fish I have in my tank.
 
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