Bainbridge Island Condo Reef

scolson

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I’m brand new to reefing.

I was nuts about fish when I was a kid and spent a lot of time riding my bike to the LFS in my small town. I kept a 10 gallon in my bedroom with the typical population of guppies, swordtails, tetras, and mollies.

One of the first things I did after starting my first high-school job, was setup a 29-gallon saltwater tank which I ran with limited success for a couple of years before I moved to Portland to go to college.

Fishkeeping went on hold for a long-time while I was in the Navy. After I left active duty, and my wife and I bought our home on Bainbridge Island, she gifted me a 10-gallon tank and I did run that as a freshwater tank for a few years, but the space for the tank disappeared during a remodel and I never found the space in our home for another tank.

Fast-forward 20 years, and I have not lost the bug for a saltwater tank, and I’m ready to make it happen. I have always been taken by the beauty and color of tropical marine fish and until recently that was my end goal.

I have enjoyed corals on my occasional warm water dives, but I really didn’t understand until recently that reef tanks are a thing. I’m blown away the beautiful environments that you all have created in tanks both large and small.

After a lot of research, I’ve decided to take the plunge and setup a mixed LPS/SPS reef tank. I know this is going to be a long-term commitment that requires discipline and a big dip into my savings account. I also expect some setbacks and frustration, but I’m all in!

So here is the system plan for my first reef. I'm posting it here mostly to help me remember but if your interested, read on. All feedback welcome. I do have some specific areas I'd like feedback on and I'll post those questions in appropriate threads.

Tank Goals​

  • A fish friendly mixed LPS/SPS (70/30) tank with a lot of color and motion.
  • Bare minimum visible equipment in or around the tank.
  • Quiet operation.
  • A stable and forgiving system that allows me to miss a maintenance cycle or two without disastrous outcome for the pets under my care.
  • Minimize any single points of failure on systems critical to life support.
  • A system that supports my work and pleasure travel which means 6 to 8 trips of 4 to 5 days with an occasionally absence of 2+ weeks.

Constraints​

  • Space - I live in an 875 square foot condo. I can support a tank footprint of 24” by 48” but I don’t have a lot of space to store the equipment typical for the logistics of a reef tank. As an example, I don’t have a garage or basement to store significant quantities of RO/DI and salt water, or even 5-gallon buckets. Finding places for all the gear will be a challenge.
  • Power Outlet - There is an outlet well placed for my tank, it is a lightly loaded 15A circuit and should pick up the load without issue, but I'm going evaluate running a dedicated 20A GFCI circuit. If not, I'll make the existing outlet GFCI.
  • Power reliability – I expect at least one power outages a year of 4 to 8 hours.
  • Water Supply – Buying RO/DI water is not economically sustainable, so I’ll need to produce my own. City water quality is good, but sediment can occur due to water main flushes. The water is disinfected with chlorine.
  • Me – I know this undertaking requires discipline, but I also know that I’m unlikely to succeed if success requires a complex schedule of daily chores. I also know that I will gravitate to more livestock in the tank than many would be comfortable with.
  • Cats – I have two cats. I’m not overly worried that they will go fishing but I am worried that they might try to jump “on top” of my topless tank and go swimming.

System Design Decisions​

I’ve spent a lot of time, actually, too much time, researching and planning, and this is what I’ve come up with. There is some over-building in this plan, and some expensive things that are not “needed” for success. I acknowledge that but think this plan will give me the best chance of achieving my goals.

Not all of this will happen right away but a good portion of it will be part of the initial build and I expect the remainder to fall into place within 6 to 9 months.

Display Tank​

I am going to install a Red Sea 425 XL (88 Gallon display/24 Gallon sump.) This is a good-looking tank/stand combo that meets my design aesthetic and space constraints. Reviews are generally favorable for the brand and the tank.

I’ve landed on Red Sea RL160S LEDs for lighting the tank. I’m not as certain about this decision as the tank decision because these lights don’t have as much spectrum control as others; but I like the mounting arms, the way the lights look with the tank, and overall, the lights are well reviewed. I’ve chosen the 160s over the 90s in case I end up more SPS heavy. I suspect I’ll end up running the 160s at lower intensity.

My aquascape will be an NSA made from MarcoRock. I’ve spent a lot of time going back and forth on this because I know live rock would make the first year or so of my tank much easier. However, I really want to make an aquascape that is going to give my fish a lot of hiding spots as well as room to maneuver all the way around the tank. I think the NSA approach will help me meet that goal and provide lots of spots for corals. I also think the NSA approach will give me better overall flow in the tank. Overall this will result in less rock surface area so I’ll make up for that in the sump.

The bottom of the tank will have a shallow sand bed because I like the way it looks. I’m leaning towards live sand to give the tank a boost in the early stages. I plan to regularly vacuum the sand during routine water changes to manage gunk buildup.

I’ll install a Red Sea DIY net top on the top of the tank to keep the fish in but I'm pretty sure it wont hold a cat that decides to jump up and take a look.

Tank Flow​

I plan to run my overflow through the sump in the 3X to 5X range so I am going to use powerheads for most of my tank flow and surface agitation for gas exchange.

I plan on using Tunze Nonostream pumps for tank flow. These seem to have a good physical size, good reviews, and a great backup power option. My current design has two 6095 wide-flow power heads for flow across the front of the aquascape and three 6040s in the back of the tank. A 6040 in the back left and right corners will push water towards the center and the third 6040 will be mounted back-center to push water forward through the aquascape.

I’ll use the Tunze controller to setup some wav like motion across the tank. The back center pump will work independently of that wave motion but vary in intensity.

Heaters​

For something so simple, there is a lot of conflicting review information on Titanium vs glass and the value of an external controller. Although heat is critical, the devices are the least expensive items in the overall tank budget so a mistake here that requires a change of equipment later will not break the bank.

After much deliberation, I’ve decided to use two 300W titanium heaters from BRS paired with an Ink Bird controller for each heater. In most situations a single heater should maintain temp, but I like to keep my living space in the mid-to-high 60s and sometimes the room temp can drop to the low 60s at night. When that happens 300W will probably not be sufficient.

I will be calibrating both controllers against a Hanna thermometer with one set at my target temp of 78F and the second set at 77F. I think this will give me reasonable temperature stability and also provides some redundancy.

Heating elements will go in the bottom of the return sump and sensor probes will go in the sump pump chamber.

I will use an APEX controller to provide over-temp shutdown protection and high/low temperature alerts.

Once I’ve determined this setup meets my needs, I’ll keep a spare controller on hand and most likely just plan on scheduled replacements of this highly cycled device once a year or so.

Sump/Filtration​

The 425 XL tank comes with a sump. It looks like a good sump, but I would prefer a roller mat rather than filter socks. I’ll start out with the socks but look into retrofitting a roller mat into the sump within the first year.

The sump has a refugium chamber and I plan on setting that up early to hopefully help with algae control in the early life of the tank.

I will also put as many Marine Pure bricks and spheres in the sump as I can fit to compensate for the reduced rock in the display tank resulting from my NSA implementation.

Skimmer​

I got a tour of a Red Sea skimmer running in a display E260 at my LFS. I liked the simplicity of emptying the Red Sea skimmers. Based on the system size I am installing the REEFER 600 which leaves enough room for a refugium.

I’m not sure if excess CO2 is really going to be a pH driver for me yet, but I want to leave enough room to setup a CO2 scrubber with my skimmer to help extract CO2 from the tank.

UV Sterilization​

I have elected to install a Pentair 25-watt UV sterilizer on the return from the sump to the tank to give me a tool to minimize bacteria. If space allows, I am going to plumb the system so that I can bypass it and then reduce flow through the sterilizer to a lower level if I need to manage parasites.

I don’t want to see this thing, so I hope to install it vertically at a 45 degree angle on the electrical side of the cabinet separator wall in the cabinet and should be change the bulb from the front of the cabinet without unmounting the sterilizer. One downside of this strategy is that plumbing crosses into the electrical side of the cabinet. This will require some additional consideration to ensure that a small leak does not spray down my electrical equipment. It also reduces the mounting space for all the electrical gear.

Based on data from Pentair, I will run my sterilizer at 450 GPH for effective bacteria control which provides 5X tank turnover for the tank.

Return Pump​

I plan on installing two Reef Octopus VarioS-4 DC pumps. One of these 1050 GPH pumps provides enough flow at the height of my return. I’m plumbing in two pumps from the beginning so that I can respond quickly to a pump failure and will run two pumps at a lower output to achieve my UV flow rate.

Plumbing​

Overall, the plumbing will be setup as shown in the following drawing which does not account for 45 and 90 elbows needed to accommodate the 45-degree UV placement on the interior cabinet wall.
sump plumbing.png

There is not a lot of room in the cabinet for plumbing. Since the pumps are oversized for my target return rate, I’m not exceptionally worried about head loss from the plumbing so I plan on ¾ inch piping for the return piping, fittings, and valves except the flow sensors which will be 1 inch.

Backflow from the tank is not an issue with the Xl 425 but check valves at the output of each pump will minimize backflow through an idle pump when only one of the VarioS-4s are running.

One of the things I like about the XL 425 cabinet is the separation between the sump space and the chiller space where I will put the electrical equipment. I want to protect the electrical gear from water as much as possible so aside from the unions on the UV sterilizer, everything else will be a fixed connection.

All of the “alignment piping” for the UV sterilizer will be in the electrical side of the cabinet and will join the main plumbing via unions on the sump side. My goal is to be able break those unions and remove the sterilizer without a bunch of water spilling out, so I am installing a low point drain at the piping just before the inflow union. This, combined with an auxiliary supply valve on the sump side should allow me to drain the sterilizer well below the height of the unions on the sump side before removal.

I really wont know how the plumbing will route until I get the UV sterilizer and skimmer.

Water Reservoirs​

Plumbing for the backup return pump and the UV sterilizer will require me to remove the ATO reservoir that Red Sea ships with the sump.

This creates a problem because I really don’t want to place the ATO reservoir next to my tank. I’m aiming for a very clean look since this tank is in my main living space which is not that large and doesn’t hide clutter very well.

I am willing to give up some space in my bedroom, which is on the opposite side of the wall from the tank, for some logistics support. I don’t know quite what that looks like yet but I’m envisioning a cabinet that contains an ATO reservoir, dosing pumps, additives, and maybe a small supply of saltwater for water changes.

So, at a minimum, I will be cutting some form of pass through from behind the tank to my bedroom where I’ll keep the ATO reservoir. I will most likely replace the 5 GAL reservoir that ships with the sump with a 10 GAL reservoir and use the APEX ATO module and PMUP to implement my top off system. I’m hoping this will give me 2-weeks of runtime between firing up the RO/DI system.

At the moment I have an opportunity to pick up a used 55 GAL freshwater tank and stand from a friend. This tank was in operation until about a month ago and is water tight. I’m considering using the tank for a saltwater reservoir and putting a 10 gallon tank in the stand for my ATO.

I’m not yet sure how I feel about a giant tank of water in my bedroom but I’m considering it. Aside from the aesthetics I have three major concerns with this strategy:
  • Mixing efficiency in the long narrow tank. I think it could be hard to mix up saltwater directly in the tank which would be my preference. A pump might solve this but that’s a significant added expense.
  • Algae growth in the reservoir. One option here is painting all exterior sides of the tank black and then doing something “artistic” to decorate the structure.
  • Leaks. I have a lot of faith in the Red Sea equipment and although a leak is certainly possible, I think it is very unlikely. I don’t have the same faith in an old, large, low cost, glass tank from Petco.
Concerns aside, the ability to mix up change-out water once a month is pretty attractive. This would also allow me to plumb in an fill system with a pump that I could simply turn on after my sand vacuuming for the week is done.

Water Monitoring/Dosing

Wherever practicable I am going to use technology to simplify routine water quality testing and correction. I won’t depend entirely on automation, so I’ll validate my monitoring system against standard test kits at least monthly.

A majority of my monitoring will come through the APEX temperature, salinity, and pH probes includes with the controller, augmented by the TRIDENT for monitoring Alkalinity, Calcium, and Magnesium levels.

I’ll check phosphate, nitrate, and nitrate levels using Salifert test kits as part of weekly maintenance. To make this easier and more repeatable I will use a magnetic stirrer.

I’ll dose calcium, alkalinity, magnesium, and trace elements using a Red See 4-head dose pump and most likely use Red See additives.

Controller​

I like tech, and part of this setup is to find out how much I can effectively control through technology. I have decided to use the APEX because it is the current standard in the reefer community. For a while I was leaning towards DIY based on Reef-Pi but I know that I will want the Trident one day so APEX it is.

One of the concerns I have with using a controller is that it becomes a single point of failure. To mitigate that problem, and because my equipment load will nearly max out a single power bar, I will install an EB-8 power bar for my second unit, and might even replace the EB 832 that comes with the controller package with an EB-8 power bars on the system; I don’t really see a lot of value in the power monitoring feature and built in power supply and those just seem like failure points to me. I will split all redundant equipment (heaters, return pumps, power heads, lights) across the power bars so that the loss of a single power bar does not result in complete loss of a function.

Sensors​

The APEX controller provides probes for measuring temperature, pH, salinity and ORP (not of much value to me right now). The temperature probe will go in the display tank (if cable length allows) and the pH, salinity, and ORP probes will go in the sump.

I’ll add the auxiliary power puck to the APEX controller so it can sense a loss of AC power. This will enable the controller to turn down power loads when the system is running on backup power.

I want to measure flow through the sump and the UV so I will implement the APEX FMK module with a flow sensor on the output of each pump. This will allow me to independently measure the flow through the UV and the backup pump and the combined flow through the sump.

I will also setup the APEX ATO module to manage top off from my external RO/DI water reservoir.

Between the FMK and ATO modules I will have 4 unused inputs. I will use 3 of these to setup level sensing in the overflow with a high alert set at the level of the emergency overflow pipe, an overflow alert 1 inch below the top of the tank, and the low-level set 1 inch above the main overflow return. The primary reason for this is remote alerts in the event that flow through the sump is out of synch so I can fix it while I'm away.

Backup Power​

I want me backup power system to provide 8 hours of runtime with the tank running in a low standby power mode that keeps the heat and display tank powerheads running.

I plan on a DIY back up power system using a sine-wave inverter/charger combo and external batteries. The DC side of the storage system will run at 24VDC so I have the option of running the Tunze powerheads directly rather than through the inverter which will be more efficient.

A significant assumption in this design is the ability of the APEX controller to shut down additional power loads (lights and return pumps) on the loss of power.

I don’t really have any feel for what the average power use for this tank will be with minimum life support, but I assume I’d need to run the Apex controller, the two 6095 powerheads, a heater, and a return pump at some reduced capacity (heaters are in the sump).

One of the things I like about the EB-8 power bars over the EB-832 is I’m not wasting energy on a 100W DC power supply that I’m not using. So, this feels like another argument to replace the EB-832 that comes with the controller.

My swag right now is 300 watts on average. I’m using a reserve factor of 1.5 on that for sizing the backup power system and I’m assuming an efficiency rating of 85% on for the power inverter, and I want 8 hours minimum runtime in the event of a power outage.

This results in a total backup power storage need of (300 x 1.5 x 8) / 0.85 = 4,235 VA-Hours.

Based on this I will need an inverter/charger in the range of 500 watts to 1000 watts. And either two 24V 100AH or four 12V 100AH batteries. Although lithium batteries would be smaller, I plan on using sealed lead-acid batteries due to cost and stability concerns (they don’t catch on fire).

I am going to use the Tunze safety power connectors on the 6095 pumps and hook them directly to the battery rather than suffer the inefficiencies of the inverter and Tunze power supply which is probably only about 85% efficient. So even if the inverter fails, I’ll at least have surface agitation.

I hope to get an inverter/charger that is configurable to work with lithium or SLA batteries, so I have an upgrade path to lithium batteries.

I will be able to better evaluate the actual loads once the tank is setup and modify the backup power system design accordingly.

Assuming the water reservoirs go into the bedroom as described above, then the backup batteries and inverter will most likely also go in the “support cabinet”.
 
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KrisReef

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Comments:
1. Very through plan; a lot more rigorous effort than a typical hobbyist, ime.
2. SPS consumption of calcium and alkalinity will likely require more than just water changes to supply essential elements. Dosing 2-part, or adding a calcium reactor, or a Calc reactor can help furnish the SPS needs.
3. Consider adding even a tiny bit (3lbs) of live rock into the sump to supplement the bricks and spheres with living micro fauna beyond what a bottle of bacteria contains.
4. If you don't like the look of the UV sterilizer I would encourage you to reconsider the usefulness of that item and the purpose(s) that you have for including it. You may not need it to be successful?
5. Same general concern for the pH probe. Look at what other users experiences have been. They require routine calibration and the results provided have mixed reviews (from my reading on here). Same for ORP probe. I know you like tech, I'm not knocking that, it's cool, but make sure they are going to provide you with something you need or want to monitor constantly and maintain along the way.

If you feel that you have already answered these questions for yourself and you are confident with your reasons then I trust you will ignore and not take offense with my comments and go forth and concur! Again, a very good plan and I only commented to encourage you and support your effort to set up a fun and enjoyable mixed reef. :)
 
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scolson

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Comments:
1. Very through plan; a lot more rigorous effort than a typical hobbyist, ime.
2. SPS consumption of calcium and alkalinity will likely require more than just water changes to supply essential elements. Dosing 2-part, or adding a calcium reactor, or a Calc reactor can help furnish the SPS needs.
3. Consider adding even a tiny bit (3lbs) of live rock into the sump to supplement the bricks and spheres with living micro fauna beyond what a bottle of bacteria contains.
4. If you don't like the look of the UV sterilizer I would encourage you to reconsider the usefulness of that item and the purpose(s) that you have for including it. You may not need it to be successful?
5. Same general concern for the pH probe. Look at what other users experiences have been. They require routine calibration and the results provided have mixed reviews (from my reading on here). Same for ORP probe. I know you like tech, I'm not knocking that, it's cool, but make sure they are going to provide you with something you need or want to monitor constantly and maintain along the way.

If you feel that you have already answered these questions for yourself and you are confident with your reasons then I trust you will ignore and not take offense with my comments and go forth and concur! Again, a very good plan and I only commented to encourage you and support your effort to set up a fun and enjoyable mixed reef. :)
Thanks for your thoughts @KrisReff. Much appreciated.

Regarding the UV, if I can't find a way to wedge it into the cabinet in a useable way then I won't install it. Right now I think it will fit at 45 degree angle but I'm a bit concerned about the top horizontal support at the front of the cabinet blocking my ability to easily change the bulb. I won't know for sure until I have parts in hand.

Regarding the probes, I'm using them because they are included with the controller. My hope is that even if they are not accurate they will be consistent. I'm pretty sure that will be true with temp and salinity but not so sure about pH. However I think it will be an indicator that can show me some trend that I can evaluate even if the number itself is not spot on.
 

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Welcome to R2R! Very well thought-out implementation plan! Looking forward to reading about your Reefing adventures.

Also have RSR425XL, bought used.

EB70B6CA-8768-4DAD-8F91-70829EB9218D.jpeg
 

PeterC99

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Thanks for your thoughts @KrisReff. Much appreciated.

Regarding the UV, if I can't find a way to wedge it into the cabinet in a useable way then I won't install it. Right now I think it will fit at 45 degree angle but I'm a bit concerned about the top horizontal support at the front of the cabinet blocking my ability to easily change the bulb. I won't know for sure until I have parts in hand.

Regarding the probes, I'm using them because they are included with the controller. My hope is that even if they are not accurate they will be consistent. I'm pretty sure that will be true with temp and salinity but not so sure about pH. However I think it will be an indicator that can show me some trend that I can evaluate even if the number itself is not spot on.
MY 57 Watt UV light is on top of sump, secured to underside of cabinet. Not ideal with the way the water flows from return pump threw it but has been working effectively. Will eventually get UV input/output horizontal instead of from the bottom like pictured. As I said bought used and this was the way it was setup.

29D1A0C7-BB40-407D-8403-EF9445C4A578.jpeg
 
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scolson

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MY 57 Watt UV light is on top of sump, secured to underside of cabinet. Not ideal with the way the water flows from return pump threw it but has been working effectively. Will eventually get UV input/output horizontal instead of from the bottom like pictured. As I said bought used and this was the way it was setup.

29D1A0C7-BB40-407D-8403-EF9445C4A578.jpeg
Thank you! I've been looking at the Pentair sterilizers which seem pretty long for what they do. The 25watt is 29 inches which exceeds the interior height and depth of my cabinet and I think the available horizontal space in my sump compartment. It looks like yours is not near that long based on the size of the skimmer. I'll look around and see if I can find something more compact because that would make it much easier.
 
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Welcome to R2R! Very well thought-out implementation plan! Looking forward to reading about your Reefing adventures.

Also have RSR425XL, bought used.

EB70B6CA-8768-4DAD-8F91-70829EB9218D.jpeg
Is that the Red Sea cabinet that came with the XL 425? It looks like my options are white or black but I really like the yellow that you have.
 
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scolson

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Just a quick update. The above plan goes to the shredder.

Given my limited I've decided to go all-in on something that will support a larger fish population. So I've moved away from the 425XL to the maximum size tank I can fit in my space which is a custom 165 gallon that is 28" deep and 56" long.

I'm getting a quote from Clear Fabrications, in Seattle for the custom tank and designing an 8020 aluminum stand that I'll assemble myself. This is the current plan:

Custom tank.png


I'm picking up odds-and-ends when opportunities to save some money come along, but for the time being I'm mostly focused on infrastructure stuff such as RODI, mixing station, and QT. I've figured out a space to wedge in a mixing station (outside of my bedroom - which proved to be a really bad idea) that consists of a 40 gallon Brute can for RODI storage and two 55 gallon Brute cans for SW mixing and storage. I'm also building a mixing station/work bench (also out of 8020) to contain the chaos.

I hope to be in a position to start working on the DT build sometime in September. A lot depends on lead times for the tank and materials for the stand.

With any luck I'll get the materials for the mixing station in a couple of weeks so I can get that built, and then have a space to set up my coral QT tank and to start working on the DT aquascape.
 

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Really, really smart to get the bigger aquarium upfront. Very jealous!

Best of luck with your 160g aquarium build, plans look solid!

Looking forward to seeing pics of your progress!
 

KrisReef

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You will be much happier with the second plan, imo.

With all the lead time, you might adjust your plan to add a few pounds of live rock in the sump, or maybe a few in the display? If yes, order now and let it "cook" in a bucket for a few months while the rest of the hardware come together?

Either way, I think you will do well based upon your rigorous planning.
 
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scolson

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I've been thinking about seasoning some rock but it didn't dawn on me to get the sump early and use it for that purpose until I'm ready to install it!

I'm planning on breaking up a bunch of reef safe rock and then gluing it together to make an NSA. I'm not sure if there is much value in cooking the rock before I break it up because it will be out of the water for a long time while I'm building the NSA.

Regardless, probably a good idea to at least get some rubble cooking.
 
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Do you have a build thread or tank journal here on R2R?

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