Biokabe's Run-of-the-Mill 55g Mixed Reef

Biokabe

Active Member
View Badges
Joined
Oct 21, 2016
Messages
208
Reaction score
256
Location
Tacoma, WA
At long last, at the behest of no one, I will finally start the build thread for my 55g reef.

I've been reefing for about ten years now. My first real reef tank was an old Oceanic 29g Biocube, which I started at my fiancee's apartment. Through many ups and downs, that was my reef for about 7 years, until my now-wife and I bought our first house a couple years ago. Thus was born this tank, in late 2017.

FTS 3-14.jpg

The tank's specs, as of 3/15/2019:

  • Tank: AGA 55g
  • Stand: DIY 2x4 stand
  • Lighting: DIY LED array (2x Saltwater Aurora Pucks from RapidLED), 2x Kessil A160WE (w/ Spectral Controller)
  • Internal Flow: 2x Maxspect XF230 Gyre Pumps
  • Overflow: Skimz OM2500 HOB w/ Tom's AquaLifter pump
  • Return Pump: Syncra Silent 2.0 (568 GPH)
  • Sump: Trigger Crystal 30 (1st chamber Refugium, 2nd chamber skimmer, 3rd chamber return)
  • ATO: Tunze Osmolator 3155
  • Refugium Light: Tunze 8850.00 Full Spectrum Waterproof LED
  • Dosing Pump: Aqua Medic Reefdoser EVO 4
  • Skimmer:Reef Octopus 110 Classic
  • Heaters: ... some heaters that I've had forever. Will soon be replacing one... nothing wrong with it, just as a preventive measure.
In the interest of not making an enormous opening post, I'll put the livestock pictures in the next post. So, I close with a few other pics of sections of the tank. Enjoy!

Left Side 3-14.jpg
Right Side Close 3-13.jpg
Center 3-14.jpg

Flametail 3-15.jpg


Pink Skunk 3-15.jpg
 

ndrwater

Valuable Member
View Badges
Joined
May 7, 2015
Messages
2,476
Reaction score
4,985
Location
Anaheim, CA
Great start on the build thread!! Keep the updates coming!!
 
OP
B

Biokabe

Active Member
View Badges
Joined
Oct 21, 2016
Messages
208
Reaction score
256
Location
Tacoma, WA
Thanks!

Now to the current inhabitants of the tank. Although I lost most of the coral from my BioCube (I'll cover that in a future post), I still have three of the four fish that were in that tank when I made the switch. The current finned inhabitants are:

Flametail 3-15.jpg
Flametail Blenny
No reef tank is complete without a blenny of some sort. I'm especially fond of flametails; I once had one survive a heater failure that left the water at 98 degrees and killed literally everything else in the tank. Love the personality, and I'm rather fond of the smooth color gradient when compared to the sharp color transition of the more common bicolor blenny. This isn't the ultimate survivor that outlasted the apocalypse of the other tank - that blenny died about three or four years ago - but out of respect for its predecessor, I felt compelled to add this guy to the tank shortly before we moved. He thinks that anything that comes out of the feeding tube is his... whenever I try to feed the corals, I have to make sure he's good and distracted. If I don't, he'll hover at the mouth of the tube and steal anything that comes out. He'll watch it as it comes down the tube too.

Pink Skunk 3-15.jpg
Pink Skunk Clownfish
I have a visceral dislike of most things Disney. Thanks to Finding Nemo, it was years before I could even stomach the idea of putting a clownfish in my tank. When I finally convinced myself that I could, I had to compromise and make sure I didn't get one that looked anything like a stereotypical Percula clown. I decided to pick up this guy at my LFS' semi-annual sale about four years ago. Maybe five. The old man of the tank, he can be a bully when roused to it, but usually he's too chill to be aggressive. He used to attack my hand whenever it was in the tank, back when he was in the BioCube, but he hasn't done that at all since moving into the larger tank.


Chalk 3-25.jpg
Chalk Basslet
Chalk basslets don't get nearly enough love. The last of the BioCube fish, I've had him about three years now. When his stripes catch the blue LEDs just right, he practically glows. Deep orange, electric blue, purple highlights - if they photographed more like they look in motion, I think these guys would be far more popular. A little bit of a bully, he calms down once he has some food in his belly. A little bit greedy, he sometimes tries to take food pieces as big as his head. Silly fish.

Carpenter's 3-25.jpg
Carpenter's Flasher Wrasse
The shyest fish in the tank, he's been in for about a year now (picked up last April). I say shy, but mostly it just keeps out of the way of the other fish. It cruises around the tank with its own agenda, boldy darts in to the group to grab a tasty morsel at feeding time before retreating to its own corner to enjoy its catch.


Ruby 3-25.jpg
Ruby-headed Fairy Wrasse

Picked up at the same time as the flasher, it's probably the friendliest of the fish, and definitely the hungriest. It always comes up to greet its impending dinner whenever I take the lid off the tank. It's probably the biggest fish and wants to make sure everyone else knows it. Never nipped at anything, but he does like to throw his weight around. One thing he does not like, though, is my phone. He'll hover in a perfectly photogenic pose for the longest time, but the second I try to take a picture, it's off behind a rock, up at the top of the tank, hiding behind the overflow box... anywhere but where the camera is. I think his coloration gets a bit washed out in the LEDs. Bright red head, blue body, green flanks, lighter blue underbelly. I stopped by my office on the way home when I picked him up, and for some reason my boss insisted on naming him Maverick. I don't really think of my fish as having names, so I always have to remember who she's talking about when she asks how Maverick is doing.

And of course, no reef tank would be complete without corals:
Goni Bird Acan 3-13.jpg Pipe Organ 3-14.jpg three acro 3-13.jpg Upper Right Left Side.jpg Scoly Acan Acan 3-13.jpg Left side 3-25.jpg

Still getting started with most of these, and there's more that I haven't linked yet. A complete list, as near as I can remember:

3x Platygyra (Lavender, Multicolor, Einstein's Electric)
1x Goniastrea
2x Ricordea Yuma (blue-green, rainbow)
7x Acan Lords
1x Scoly
1x Christmas War Coral
2x Bird's Nest (neon, unlabeled)
6x Acropora
2x Pipe Organ
2x Goniopora
1x Cyphastrea
3x Zoanthids
2x Frogspawn
1x Trumpet
1x Psammacora
3x Chalice (When Worlds Collide, Strawberry, Moondrop)
1x Acan Echinata
1x Pavona Cactus

I'll eventually have individual pictures of all of those... but for now, this has gone on long enough!
 
OP
B

Biokabe

Active Member
View Badges
Joined
Oct 21, 2016
Messages
208
Reaction score
256
Location
Tacoma, WA
Well, a couple new additions and a loss. Plus a whole bunch of new corals.

First, the new additions! The first one, I actually added a while ago. I was at my LFS, Barrier Reef Aquariums, about six weeks ago to pick up some more Reef Frenzy. I'd been feeling that the tank was a little underpopulated, so I took a gander through their new arrivals.

Lubbock's Multibarred First Look.jpg

Some firefish, a six-lined wrasse... and what was that in the back? Looked like a fairy wrasse of some type, but I hadn't seen that particular coloration before.

Short version, he came home with me. According to the LFS, he's a multi-barred Lubbock's fairy wrasse. Seems to be a color morph that's fallen out of collection over the past few years, though maybe I just hadn't paid attention to them before.

Lubbock's Acclimating.jpg

And here he is, getting ready to go into the tank. I let him acclimate nice and slow, probably about an hour to an hour and a half. The other fish, especially the other fairy wrasse, lunged at him a little bit, but no actual nipping. Turned off the lights to let him settle down for a little bit, and he found himself a refuge underneath the lip of my overflow. He stayed up there for about a week, gradually getting bolder by the day. Thankfully, he was eating from day one. These days, he gives himself the run of the tank, and he's chosen a nice little cave for himself underneath one of my rocks.

Lubbock's In Tank.jpg

The pictures really don't do him justice. His main body is a nice, rich purplish-orange, fading towards a more lavender hue along the belly. The stripes along his back and tail fin are a solid black, and he has subtle stripes along his sides. Not a terribly expensive fish, not going to be winning any awards for dazzling color patterns, but definitely worth consideration.

Also added in a sea cucumber, a pincushion urchin, a bunch of corals and a sand-sifting goby. Pics of all soon, but I didn't take any when they first came into the tank. Urchin gave me a bit of a scare when I first got him... ordered it in from Pacific East, and the water was super cloudy when I took it out of the box.

Cloudy Urchin.jpg

Didn't move at all for the first 30 minutes or so of acclimation. Finally, just when I was sure it was dead, it moved just a hair. Pretty soon, it was slowly scuttling along the acclimation box. So I was cautiously optimistic, but then I noticed a couple of dropped spines after I put it into the tank. Over the next day or so, it lost pretty much all its spines, and for the second time I was sure I'd have to be pulling its corpse out of the tank soon.

But, three weeks later, and it's still going strong. The spines are regrowing now, and it now makes regular circuits around the tank, picking up hats as it goes. It's only grabbed a coral frag once so far, but I have had to rescue the occasional hermit from its grasp.

And now for the sadness... about two weeks ago, the flametail blenny decided that it had had enough. Usually I just come across their bodies in the morning, but we actually saw its end. Still don't know what happened to it, if it was just old age, disease, or an injury... probably never will know. We were in the kitchen, near the tank, when we heard a soft "plunk" from the tank. My wife looked over and the blenny was just going nuts, swimming erratically every which way. At first I thought it was trying to snatch some algae off one of the gyre pumps, but after a second burst of energy, it settled to the bottom of the tank. It was still breathing, but no movement. I covered it to protect it from curious hermits, in case it just needed some time to recover... but after several hours, it was clear that he had swum his last swim.

So, for just the second time in over a decade of reefkeeping, the tank has no blenny. So we have a sad.
 
OP
B

Biokabe

Active Member
View Badges
Joined
Oct 21, 2016
Messages
208
Reaction score
256
Location
Tacoma, WA
Time for another full tank shot:

Full Tank Shot 4-30 #1.jpg

Huh, that doesn't look right.

Full Tank Shot 4-30 #2.jpg

That also doesn't seem quite right.

Full Tank Shot 4-30 #3.jpg

Oh. Yeah. Right.

So eating dinner tonight, and the cats started giving the tank a weird look. A moment later, heard a dripping sound. A moment after that, a trickle sound. Run over to the tank... water trickling out of the bottom everywhere.

Finally I was able to isolate it... the seam in the back left corner (right underneath the overflow, coincidence?) had given way, and water was slowly draining out. Thankfully we were home and sitting basically right next to it when it first started, so I was able to get right on it. Unthankfully, there's no saving the tank.

I had a spare 20 long from when I thought I would make a sump out of it, and my Brute container can also hold 20 gallons, so I let as much drain down to the sump as possible, filled up the two containers I had, and pulled out the rocks, corals and fish. I also have a spare 10g tank in the closet, I'll probably pull that out tomorrow to mix some fresh saltwater in.

Obviously a major disappointment, and I fully expect to lose at least some of the livestock. Sadly, it happened too late in the day to get any kind of replacement started, so we'll see what tomorrow holds. My wife and I briefly toyed with the idea of just washing our hands completely, but we've been at this for ten years... I don't think we could just walk away like that.

I have some money saved up in my New Tank fund, so we'll use that to get the replacement and maybe some upgrades to prevent such a thing from happening in the future, or at least to give us notification if something like this happens when we're not around. Would have rather kept that money for a bona fide new tank, but c'est la vie.
 
OP
B

Biokabe

Active Member
View Badges
Joined
Oct 21, 2016
Messages
208
Reaction score
256
Location
Tacoma, WA
Well, the first two fish losses came yesterday. The ruby-headed wrasse and the pink skunk clown didn't make it.

Corals are dying at a predictable rate. Not looking good.

After deciding that I would set everything up the Right Way this time, I laid down some foam on the stand before placing the new tank on it. Big mistake, as I was an idiot when designing the stand. I'm not sure what I was thinking when I decided on the dimensions I did - maybe it was a concern about getting a sump in the bottom - but the stand was wider than it should have been on top. Basically, there was no way to set the tank down and have it rest on both the front and rear support beams. So, put down the foam, put down the tank... and by the end of the first day, it had developed a noticeable and alarming lean from back to front.

So, that was fun. Drained the tank, re-set it on the stand to correct the lean, but it was obvious after a few hours that we would end up with the same problem in the other direction. So a new stand was required. Building one would have taken too long with things already starting to die, plus I didn't trust myself to not design it stupidly, so down to Petco for a steel stand with leveling feet. So that was fine, except that the inner pocket on the bottom was nowhere near enough to hold the sump, so had to build out a platform on the bottom to hold the sump. So now the sump can sit down there, but now it's raised the level of the sump relative to the tank, so it's off to redo the plumbing.

Still need to get that up and running and then replace the one light... should all be taken care of today, my LFS has the Radion XR15 in stock, looking at the PAR tests from BRS it looks fairly comparable to the light I lost.
 
OP
B

Biokabe

Active Member
View Badges
Joined
Oct 21, 2016
Messages
208
Reaction score
256
Location
Tacoma, WA
Things have stabilized now, I think the losses are over.

FTS w Stand 5-14.jpg

Here's the new set-up. Steel stand, dead-level. The ATO reservoir (AKA super-fancy 5-gallon bucket) can now live on the stand, but now there's no room for the power in the stand. Well, after what happened with the last tank, I didn't really want anything with electricity directly under the tank. $15 bookcase from Amazon now serves as the power center, power strip attached to the back of the stand on the far side from the tank. Dosing pump now level, above the water level of the sump. Thankfully, the ATO and the dosing pump didn't actually get immersed as I feared they had, so all I had to replace was the light as far as equipment goes.

FTS head-on 5-14.jpg

I think I had a bit of a mini-cycle after finally getting everything into the new tank... that, plus the extended lights-out, ended up costing me upwards of 20 coral frags. Most of my Acros died - just left with a single yellow anacropora, and the remnants of an ORA Blue Voodoo that I had trimmed before everything started. My favorite millepora didn't make it, I lost at least three of my Acans, both of my pipe organs, two of my three platygyras, and (most likely) my scoly. My lobo is on the rocks, but looks to be recovering. Both echinatas survived, and my goniopora looks like it might make it.

Frag Rack Mid 5-14.jpg

Frag Rack Left 5-14.jpg

Left side 5-15.jpg

I did have a really pleasant surprise yesterday though! A couple days ago, I noticed that the Lubbock's wrasse didn't come out for food. He's always been really good about eating, even when he was brand new, so I immediately thought the worse. Throughout the next couple of days, my wife and I both watched for him, but to no avail. No sign of a body anywhere - the CUC wasn't gathered anywhere, and there was no dried-up fish anywhere - so I figured, either he died in the night and the CUC had already finished with the body, or he managed to jump out of the tank despite the lid and one of the cats had an expensive treat.

Sitting on the couch yesterday, I saw a little flash of movement from the sump. Thinking it was maybe the peppermint shrimp I'd sent down there months ago, I wandered over to check. And... it was the Lubbock's.

I'd had the overflow comb off of the box for a little bit just to raise the water level in the sump while I was prepping for my first post-disaster water change (ended up having to send some water down the drain, so I didn't have as much in the tank as I typically did). I hadn't yet verified that the ATO was functional, so I was just trying to nurse the water level along for another day until the make-up water was ready. So, he'd apparently found the unprotected overflow, swam into it, swam under and through the first wall, under and over the second wall, and down the pipe to the sump, where he'd been living for the past few days. A quick netting later, and he was back where he belonged.

We'll do another water change tomorrow, and then the day after my LFS is having a nice sale, so hopefully we can replenish some of what was lost.

Mid-left 5-14.jpg


Full Left Side 5-14.jpg
 
OP
B

Biokabe

Active Member
View Badges
Joined
Oct 21, 2016
Messages
208
Reaction score
256
Location
Tacoma, WA
Pretty big update here. Since the last update, I picked up some nice new corals from Barrier Reef Aquariums, picked up some bryopsis from said new corals, added two new fish, lost a fish, dosed the tank with fluco to get rid of the bryopsis, and picked up some great new corals from the TCK/ARC live sale.

First, today's FTS:

FTS head-on.jpg FTS Angled.jpg

Barrier Reef Aquariums, up in Renton, is without a doubt my favorite LFS in the Puget Sound. They'll occasionally run appointment-only sales (typically two a year); if you can make it work with your schedule, they're a great opportunity to get nice corals at good prices without the stress of live sales or the hassle of fighting through crowds. They're in the middle of renovating the store, but they still took the time to run one of their sales back in May, so I took the opportunity to pick up a few pieces. Two nice acan colonies, a third acan that was too cheap to ignore, three acropora (one of which didn't do well from the moment it hit the tank), a hammer, and a nice platy (forgot to snap a picture of the platy):

Left Top.jpg

The three acros - bottom right is an ORA blue bottle brush that struggled from the moment it came home, other two are locally cultured and unnamed.

Big Acan Colony.jpg

The big acan colony. Probably 15-20 heads for $45. With the frag rack in, it's hard to get a good angle on it. Still recovering a little bit from being mounted to the rock - it had been down in the sand, but with the way current flows in the tank, it was tough to feed it, even when I put the gyres into feeding mode. Plus, with Mr. Urchin running around the tank, it kept getting moved about. When it's all extended, though, it's quite nice. Nothing too unusual as far as color goes - purple, green and a little blue - but hard to pass up at the price.

Frag Rack - Barrier, Goni, Tiger Stripe.jpg

The second acan colony, on the left side of the picture. Forgive the film algae - tough to get the algae scraper up against the glass there. I apparently have two or three colonies of acans in this (or a similar) color morph... I must like it, because I keep buying it. I think I now might remember that I already have one or three of them the next time I see one. =)

Frag Rack Left.jpg

The third acan, in the back right of the picture. Kind of a brown and green mix. I think it cost me all of $5 and was pretty nondescript in their tank, it's colored up a bit since coming into the tank. I have a soft spot for acans, what can I say?

Hammer.jpg

The hammer coral. They had some multi-headed frags, but I enjoy buying small and watching things grow. So does my bank account. Since coming in, it's already sprouted 3-4 mini heads along the central skeleton. It'll be a while before it equals my old frogspawn, but it'll be nice to look back on this years down the road. Assuming it thrives, of course. =)

All in all, some nice additions from Barrier Reef. I'd hoped to pick up some fish to replace the ones lost in the disaster, but they were a little light on fish. Some nice clowns, but I was under strict instructions from the wife not to get a clown unless it was a pink skunk.

To prevent this from spiraling into an epic post, probably best to split it all into multiple posts, so we'll stop here.
 

Billfromtr

Member
View Badges
Joined
Dec 28, 2018
Messages
30
Reaction score
10
The leaking tank horror story gave me some anxiety. Any reason for the different lights?
 
OP
B

Biokabe

Active Member
View Badges
Joined
Oct 21, 2016
Messages
208
Reaction score
256
Location
Tacoma, WA
The leaking tank horror story gave me some anxiety. Any reason for the different lights?
Yeah, probably took at least a year off my life. :)

As to the different lights... money, and not buying everything at the same time. My financial situation has changed rather drastically over the course of putting this tank together. When I started, buying corals was a once or twice a year thing, and adding new equipment took months of saving and research to make sure I was buying the right thing. Nowadays, I have quite a bit more funding to devote to the tank. With what I know now, I'd probably just go with a pair of Radions over the entire tank if I were buying lighting all over again.

My original plan was to have the entire tank lit by a pair of DIY LED lights using RapidLED's Aurora pucks, with each light having two pucks. RapidLED had a sale on the pucks on Black Friday one year, so I picked up a pair of them and planned to buy the second pair later, when the tank was closer to being set up. Well, turned out the reason those pucks were on the Black Friday sale was because they were discontinuing them, so when I went to buy more that summer, there were none to be had.

At that point, I needed another light for the other side of the tank, so I decided to add on a Kessil A160WE. I'd heard good things about it, and the price was right, so I gave it a try. Truth be told, though, I've never been that happy with it. After a few months, I had a feeling that the Kessil side was underpowered. I picked up a PAR sensor and confirmed my suspicions. At that point, the most cost-effective thing was to simply add another A160WE, so I did.

When the water from the leak got all over the power supply for the DIY light, I had a choice. I could try and get a replacement power supply, but I also would have had to get replacement hardware for my reefPi to control the DIY light; the Pi itself survived OK, but the breadboard and add-in cards got soaked. Or I could pick up a tried and tested, commercially produced light that would be plug and play and save me a few plugs on the power supply. After toying with the idea of Kessil's new A360X, I decided to instead get a Radion XR15 Pro.

I've been really happy with the Radion, other than the fact that the diffuser has a habit of falling off if I accidentally bump it while working in the tank. When I eventually upgrade to either a Red Sea Reefer 425 XL or Peninsula 500 later this year, I'll be picking up another Radion to go over the other side, along with a 48" Aquatic Life T5 Hybrid fixture. I'll probably also get one bracket for the A160WE and put that in the middle of the fixture, and put the other one over the little kitchen tank.
 
OP
B

Biokabe

Active Member
View Badges
Joined
Oct 21, 2016
Messages
208
Reaction score
256
Location
Tacoma, WA
Meant to get back to this earlier, but time has a way of running away.

Quickly touching on a couple of things from earlier:

At some point, a patch of bryopsis got into the tank, probably on a frag plug. Dragged my heels on dealing with it, hoping it wouldn't be bryopsis, so I brought in some more grazers and manually removed patches of it. Still it spread, especially after the tank crash caused die-off and liberated nutrients into the water column. Eventually, as it's wont to do, it had completely covered one of the rocks and made significant inroads on the other rocks. So it was time for a round of fluco. I didn't take pictures of it - I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm embarrassed by algae-covered rocks - but it was just as effective a treatment as it's always been. Within two weeks, there really wasn't any left.

Just before I started the fluco treatment, I added in two new fish. They were kind enough to pose together for me:

Stripey-Josie.jpg

My wife hadn't told me this until he died during the death of the first tank, but the pink skunk was her favorite fish in the tank. So getting a new pink skunk was an absolute must - she doesn't always have strong preferences when it comes to the inside of the tank, but when she actually talks about liking something in there, I make an effort to make sure it's there. I showed her a great big montage of different clowns, including some of the fancy designer perculas and ocellaris clowns. She still insisted on the pink skunk, so the pink skunk it was.

For my part, I'd always wanted an anthias from the moment I put up my first reef tank. I'd never really had the tank to support one, though, as a BioCube is nowhere near long enough for an anthias. I still don't think I have a large enough tank for a school of them, but reading about them more closely, I decided to give a single Bartlett's anthias a try. So, courtesy of Saltwaterfish.com, I added in a pink skunk and a Bartlett's.

Josie with Corals.jpg

Both ate from day two, and it only took the anthias about a day to stop hiding, and by about day 5 it was fully acclimated into the group. The pink skunk has been fairly confident as well, though it still spends a lot of time up near the top of the tank. The original pink skunk was the same way, though - it took quite a while before it would reliably hang out closer to the main body of the tank.

As a treat for all of the fish, I picked up a brine shrimp hatching disk from Brine Shrimp Direct (https://www.brineshrimpdirect.com/hatchery-dish). It's a nice little gadget - no aerating required, no shining lights, no swirling, no separating cysts from live shrimp. Is it the most efficient way to hatch? Probably not. I've hatched before, and I think I had higher hatch rates with the more complicated setup. The dish is dead simple though - just clean, fill and harvest. I like simple. I won't go over how it works - there are plenty of videos out there detailing it. If you're just using brine shrimp nauplii as a supplemental food source, it's probably the easiest way to keep some on hand reliably.

Sadly, just before I added in the new fish, my chalk bass started going downhill. At first he started hiding reasonably often, then he hid pretty much 24/7. Occasionally he'd be out a little bit from the rocks, so I was able to spot feed him from time to time, but it wasn't enough. Finally he stopped moving well, and a day or two later, he was no more. Didn't look to be any disease - there were none of the spots or speckles that you see from ich or velvet - but it very well may have been something. Also might have been accumulated stress, old age, injury... hard to say for sure.
 

Online statistics

Members online
833
Guests online
1,892
Total visitors
2,725
Top