Bars' reefing adventure

Bars

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Time to start a build thread!

After many, many years of keeping freshwater tanks, I finally dove right into the saltwater hobby 2 years ago (2 years already! It still feels like it was only 6 months ago). A saltwater tank seemed so complicated and intimidating and even though I really wanted one, I simply didn't go through with it. My most complicated freshwater tank was one with a bottle of compressed CO2, other than that, a canister filter, heater and a decent light were all I needed and used.

Turns out, going salt was the best decision I could've made! I still had one freshwater tank left, which I converted to a paludarium, but eventually sold it because it didn't get me excited anymore. Plus, 1 tank down means more coral budget :eek: Despite the many challenges and frustrations, my current tank gives me so much joy. The awesome shapes and colors, interesting behaviors and all the little bugs. One of my favorite activities is taking a flashlight around the tank at night and spotting all the little critters.

Anyways, my first tank was a 20*20*20 cube, which I started around this time in 2019. Got most of my information from my lfs, which to me was a great way to deal with the enormous amounts of information and different ways of reefkeeping. In a way I'm glad I didn't join any forums around that time, because I'm sure it would've made everything even more confusing :p I had 2 simple Eheim powerheads, an inline Tunze skimmer and a simple heater with digital display (which I'm still using in my current tank). My first light is still going strong as well, a AM Qube 50. This is how it started:
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After a month I started with 2 gsp frags, a torch and hammer coral, as well as a pair of clowns and a pair of cleaner shrimp. 3 months after setup, it looked like this:
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Everything seemed happy and I wouldn't be me if I didn't think ''tank is doing ok, time to rock a bunch of sps!'' :rolleyes::rolleyes: A fellow reefer that was selling all his livestock sold me a bunch of beautiful sps for dirt cheap. Unfortunately, none of that survived my tank:
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Fast forward a few months. Found a cool, slightly bigger tank for sale which had a sump and an actual cabinet, instead of a wooden box:
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Moving day for the aquarium:
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Moving day was a straight disaster. Again, coming from freshwater I hugely underestimated everything. The sand was dirty, couldn't see a single thing and had to do the actual scaping a few days after putting everyone in. To make matters worse, all my fish and inverts had died except for the clowns, cleaner shrimp and hermits. They were all dead the day after the move.

Slowly the tank recovered and started getting prettier and prettier:
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Unfortunately, the elegance coral got way too large, expanding 1/3 over the length of the tank. Was definitely my favorite coral, after removing him, the tank started struggling.
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I couldn't keep zoas alive, some of my lps were struggling hard and all my sps started getting brown. Hammers were starting to decline as well. I never really realized what happened, until much later when I was looking back at older pictures. At that point, for some it was already too late.

Around July I moved the tank across the room. Although it's positioned in my living room 100% better now, this caused the tank to struggle even more. Later on I found out I had a bunch of heavy metals in the tank.
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These were chilling around and leaking in my sump:
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This one's from last October/November:
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Ever since the last move I have lost all my hammers and a torch. 2 Hammers bailed their skeleton (were already in decline for quite some time), actually gave away 1 hammer because it turned almost completely brown, lost my oldest torch (almost 1.5 years old) to brown jelly and just last week lost my last hammer to some mysterious white fuzzy growth. It popped up out of nowhere, which I removed. The next day, it was back ten times worse. After reading up on it, I decided to remove the hammer entirely in fear of it infecting my frogspawns and torches.
 
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Bars

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Currently my tank is about 1.5 years old. Oldest corals (also ~ 1.5 years old) currently are my very, very slow growing Blastomussas and the dark colored frogspawn in the back. Either due to lack of experience (and patience!!) I lost many corals, traded quite a few as well or simply sold a lot. Recently I decided to go all lps and softies, I lack the patience to wait for nice full sps colonies and I much prefer the swinging of lps and soft corals over the mostly still appearance of sps.

FTS from 2 weeks ago. I had some collapsing rockwork after removing my sps and decided to redo the entire thing o_O:
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A few corals:
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Few fishies:
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And a quick vid of my Yasha and pistol shrimp:
 
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The boring stuff:
- Light: AM Qube 50
- Flow: 2x AM Ecodrift 4.1 (or 4.2, can't remember) 1x Jecod SW4
- Return: Jecod DCP6500
- Dosing: Jecod DP4, running on ATI Essentials Pro.
- DIY algae scrubber installed a few days ago.

Currently running skimmerless due to it not doing its job properly. Has actually not performed as it should for quite a while and decided to try going with an algae scrubber instead. I'll be keeping a close eye on my already high nutrients and will be doing water changes if necessary. Had a refugium with chaeto going for a bit already.

Stocking:
1 Mccosker flasher wrasse
1 Blue flasher wrasse
1 Yellowfin flasher wrasse
1 Azure damsel
1 Midas blenny
1 Tailspot blenny
1 Yasha goby + Randall's pistol shrimp
A tuxedo urchin, tiger (?) conch, few hermits, an emerald crab and lots of snails and other critters.
 
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Few days ago I decided to redo the DIY scrubber. I had it hanging on a beam inside the cabinet before. Didn't get great water coverage and had a bit of splashing.

This time I took a piece of acrylic and used reef epoxy to secure it to the second sump compartment. It's only slightly angled, so no splashing and the entire things gets covered. Big plus as well is that all water coming in the sump now passes through the scrubber. I'm curious to seel how this will work out :)
 

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So a week or 3 ago I decided enough is enough. I upgraded my lighting to an ATI hybrid 4x24 watt and 1x75 watt led. A few people advised me to run the t5s at 100% straight away, so that's what I did. T5s at 100%, LEDS at 40%.

The differences I'm seeing already are insane. Corals are extending even more than before, my torches are rapidly getting more intense coloration and growth! I was never able to grow zoas or even mushrooms. I'm seeing a few new zoa heads already and the 2 blue Discosoma have multiple babies. The Favites has grown what it normally does in about a month in just 2 weeks time. Needless to say, I'm more than happy with the upgrade :)

I also picked up a nice light green finger leather, dark green devil's hand and a green/pink kenya tree:
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Got this pretty Rhodactis in exchange for a peppermint shrimp:
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More good news, this green ear has been struggling for months. Since the upgrade it's looking so much better already:
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Couple of random pics:
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This feather duster came in through the mail without crown, but within a month it has regrown it completely.
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Unfortunately, I believe my torches have begun war with their neighboring acans. The small red acan frag looked horrible yesterday. Bit better today, but one of it's heads seems to be halfway melted. All other heads look a bit crippled as well. It's still extending perfectly fine though, so hopefully it'll recover. The larger red/white acan frag is just a bit more retracted than usual as well. No damaged or melted heads I believe. The green torch suddenly has one bizarrely long tentacle as well, so I'm thinking he might be the problem.

I don't want to move the acans or the torches, so I'm thinking about elevating the torch island a bit so they can't sting their neighbors anymore.
 
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Had some very annoying film algae growing on the glass that came back just hours after cleaning. Decided to let it grow for a week and then remove it at night. Seemed to do the trick, because it mostly stays away now.

Other than that the ank is doing fantastic. Soft corals are visibly growing, especially the zoas :D Also spotted a few tiny new Acan heads and it looks like my green torch is starting to split. I've added 5 trochus and 2 nerite snails to help with the film algae. I also couldn't resist picking up a tiny 1 inch H. chrysus.
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(Un)fortunately I've got a small leak near the bottom of my overflow, which I can't fix without draining the entire tank. It's nothing major and salt creep sort of seals the leak. Every week or so it starts dripping again though. The good news is that this is a good opportunity for another tank upgrade lol. So in the next 2 months I'll be ordering/making a new tank and stand to transfer everything into.
 
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Beautiful reef!
I'm sorry you have a leak to deal with.

I'm going to follow your progress.
Thanks! I'm very excited about the new tank. I contacted the builder last week for a price. The biggest I can probably go without having to get a bigger light unit is 39x23x20 (l/w/h), so that's what it's going to be With a back drilled external overflow.

The worst part about all this is the wait...
 
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Update time. Over the last couple of weeks I've been gathering everything for the new tank. Dad and I already built the cabinet a few weeks ago and I gave it the final coat of paint a couple of days ago. Unfortunately I didn't take any pictures during the actual build, but oh well. I initially wanted the same color scheme as my old stand:
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However, that turned out very ugly:
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Different type of material. Used plywood for the new stand which has barely any structure in it. As an alternative I went with full black, which matches my interior much better anyway. Figured the contrast with a nice colorful DT will look fantastic as well.
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I wanted the cabinet to be somewhat spacious and neat, without spending a ton of money on it. There's a good 15' of cable gutters lol. Secured some cabinets lights this time as well:
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Still a bit of a mess, not everything is in its place yet:
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I also wanted full acces from anywhere (except the back) in the cabinet, so I decided to secure all 3 panels with magnet strips. Strong enough to hold them in place, but the panels are very easily removed.

Yesterday was the day I finally got to pick up the new tank! Coast to coast overflow, 8mm thick with eurobrace. 39'' long, 28'' wide and 20'' high. Chose a 4'' wide overflow, so actual DT width is 24''.
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I much rather wanted it 4' long, but that would require me to upgrade my lighting and I have no interest in doing so. For the next few years this will be more than fine in my small apartment :) Despite the small upgrade it looks huge next to the old tank:
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All that's left now is the plumbing and finishing the hood. Also have to make a few minor adjustments to the stand for the bulkheads to fit unfortunately. This Thursday is transfer day...
 
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It's been quite a hectic week. Built the new scape on wednesday, transferred all livestock on thursday. In the process somehow my heater stopped working. I found out they next day. Corals were extremely unhappy and fish very skittish.

The tank was 66 degrees o_O Salinity was low as well. Because the salinity was fine in the old tank, I decided to rapidly increase it to match the old water. Perhaps not the smartest move, but I figured maybe it'd be less stressful than sitting in low salinity for a while.

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Right side:
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Left side:
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FTS:
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Overall I only lost 1 rhodactis that completely melted away. Everything else is doing great, except for a couple that aren't fully extended yet.
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Inside the canopy. Made a small lid to prevent fish from jumping in the overflow:
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Sump area. Thoroughly rinsed and reused the old sand bed for a DSB in the sump:
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And this. Still need to do a bit of tidying. Soooooooooooo many cables:
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Very happy overall with both the tank/stand design as well as how the scape turned out. I'm loving the bean animal overflow, it's absolutely silent. .
 
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Had a huge diatom (?) bloom the last few days. I'm guessing my CUC is having the time of their lives, as most of it is gone already.

Couple pics from yesterday:
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This Blasto is a true warrior. Last year around this time, it receded and looked absolutely terrible for months. Then around July/August it started coming back and looked better than ever. Just a month ago, it lost all its tissue overnight except for a few specks here and there. Last week when I was transferring all corals to the new tank, it had grown a ton of new tissue already and even multiple new tiny heads. A week later and it's already twice as big. In 4 weeks time, it went from basically a skeleton to this:
1621693754774.png


Overall the tank is doing pretty well. No full PE yet, but that'll come with time.
 
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So, I'm curious and hoping someone knows the answer to this. I have never experienced a true ugly phase with my previous tanks, so I never had to battle diatoms/dinos/hair algae/whatever.

As I previously stated, I think the brown coating on my sand and LR are diatoms. New sand leeching silicates and my RODI water wasn't perfect either. However, everyday I see less and less algae and today, I think 90% is gone. Part of it has been replaced with a green film algae though. Surely my CUC has eaten a lot of it, but it's hard to believe a handful of snails, an urchin and 2 conches have managed to clean my entire sand bed and rockwork in just a few days.

I saved about 2 cups of dirty sand, which I dumped in the sump, topped of with the old, thoroughly rinsed, sand bed. Is this the bacteria in my LR and dirty sand hard at work? And is this also what new tanks usually experience, but over the course of weeks/months?

This was Monday:
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This is today:
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Actually,
This looks really good.
The ugly phase "usually" good away on its own and it looks like yours is doing just that.

The film algae is natural but you will want to watch your phosphates and nitrates.
You want then low but not bottomed out to zero.
 
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Actually,
This looks really good.
The ugly phase "usually" good away on its own and it looks like yours is doing just that.

The film algae is natural but you will want to watch your phosphates and nitrates.
You want then low but not bottomed out to zero.
Cool. It's actually quite fun to see this 'mini cycle' in progress. I'm just glad I'm not experiencing it over the course of multiple weeks or months :p

I'm not too worried about my nutrients, as they have always been high. That said, I do want to try and keep them on the lower side this time around, just to see how that affects my corals.
 
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Ugh, I cheaped out and made the new water with AF reef salt again, despite my previous experience with their salt. Just did some testing and my mag is off the charts again. Didn't even bother trying to go past 1500. Last time I did it measured 1800 mg...

Although I was planning to do no water changes just like I did with the previous tank, I'll probably do a series of smaller changes with different salt. I can't dose calcium and magnesium separate, so there's no way to let it go down naturally.

My LFS told me AF doesn't respond to customer complaints. Couple of months ago I returned my batch of reef salt after getting a kh level of 14 and off the charts calcium. I never heard from AF again. If their packaging says X and my results (and ICP results as well) say Y, that's enough reason for me to never buy their products again.
 
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