First 18 Months ... and 13 Tanks

JoshB94

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Hello R2R I'm Josh. Welcome to my first thread. I've been contemplating this for months. I got my first Partner badge today and it motivated me to get this going.

The title might make me sound like a crazy cat lady for corals, but it's finally time I start a build thread of this hobby that has taken over most of my life in the last 18 months. After swapping through/owning 13 different tanks (about half of which I didn't use or haven't used yet) and pushing $30,000 in purchases, I hope you enjoy this story. I will be making multiple posts instead of one mile long post you'll never want to read.

I selected big tanks as my primary and largest tank is the Waterbox 230.6 ...which we will get to later.

Where to begin?

I had 2 tanks about 5 years ago, I never speak of them because I was not a well educated reefer and was irresponsible. But it happened, I only have 1 or 2 pictures that I'll throw up. Not proud of that.

Fast forward to post-military life and a real house.

I begged the wife and with her reluctant approval, I put a $100, 55 gallon tank with HOB filters and coral "wall paper" scene in the living room. Those were the days your grandparents talk about where everything was a nickle.
 
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Sounds like a fun thread!
 
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JoshB94

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The 55 gallon was set up in December 2018. It came with a few fish, standard clowns, damsels, a cardinal fish (Cardi B) and our firefish Abu and our snail, racing stripes.

Abu was a very special fish. When I put him in the tank, I didn't see him again for two weeks and was certain he was gone. Then one day he popped out as if nothing happened. I mentioned post-military in the intro. Well, I spent 6 months of my life helping to hunt down terrorists including Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. My firefish hid in a rock and we thought he was dead … as Abu hid in Iraq. Hence the name.

Racing Stripes is the only Snail I've ever loved. Somehow when we set up the tank, he found his way onto the floor. Then into my dogs mouth, who delivered him at our feet. I have no idea... Anyways, he was always front and center and our first interaction was memorable.

There are a few corals in the picture, cue tank TWO. A similar 45 gallon tank but came with a load of corals that I knew almost nothing about. ( looking back, there were some pretty nice pieces in there too!) The 45 gallon I had as a potential quarantine tank and to cycle the bigger rocks we had purchased, this tank was upstairs in the loft, out of the way of everything (this is important for later).

55 stock.jpg Abu.jpg racing stripes.jpg the start.jpg
 
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JoshB94

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The 45 gallon (tank two) was where I learned about LEDs. I convinced the wife that the $250 Radion XR30 G4 was a great idea. Notice a pattern yet? Wife's approval and used gear is the true theme here.

I scored this awesome backdrop canopy at a going out of business sale from a local store. My other expensive addiction is Saltwater Fishing in Charleston, S.C.

I don't have any pics of when it was empty, but notice it is stocked. Thankfully I had this tank because what comes next was the worst day of my life and almost ended my reef keeping passion very early on.




45.jpg
 
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JoshB94

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Two months in and two tanks later, I'm learning a lot, constantly testing with my API test kit and hydrometer, putting floss in my HOB filter. Everything is alive though and looks acceptable.

I watched the Patriots win the super bowl and went to bed. Little did I know, the next day was going to be the worst day of my life.

I woke up and walked downstairs to hear a loud pump noise and water splashing. I knew something was very wrong. I saw half of my 55 gallon tank poured onto the vinyl hardwood floor and it was all hands on deck for clean up. The 55 busted a seal on the bottom between midnight and 7 AM and was leaking pretty fast. Luckily I had the 45 cycling the new rock upstairs. We pulled everyone out and transferred them while cleaning up the giant mess. I was stressed but it was okay, I went to the going out of business sale where I got that canopy, and some new fishing rods. Got to work late then came home.

That night, I got a call that changed my life. My 21 year old, little brother made a choice he could never take back. The next day I was packing my bags and flying to Kansas City to bury my brother. I told my wife to stay home as she has a business to run and it was going to be a very long week and did not want her seeing what my parents and I would be going through. I asked her to sell everything fish related I had while I was gone. I posted it on the local page and hoped I'd never see the tanks again. It didn't sell.

The Worst Day.jpg
 
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JoshB94

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I forgot the precursor to the 55. I bought a boat from a gentlemen who had a 120, sump, pumps, lights, etc. sitting on his back patio. He gave me it all for free and I was able to use a couple of the parts for spares, and sell / give away the rest. It was a super heavy duty homemade tank but after being in the sun, I didn't trust it. It did however, get me thinking more about tanks and took up a ton of garage space.

The 45 suddenly became our only tank and I got my head on straight and was able to focus more on the tank. I was glad I kept it, and honestly not sure I would of sold it had someone offered.

This was our first tank with a sump and … the HOB overflow. Never. Again. It was awful, I almost flooded a couple of times, had a leak, all sorts of issues with it and it was ugly. But the new Radion light and the colors it gave on the corals kept my attention.

It was in the loft, out of sight and out of mind which I didn't like. So I started planning my next upgrade.

45  rack.jpg 45 frags.jpg 45 plumbing.jpg 45 side.jpg
 
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JoshB94

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Hopefully I haven't lost you with the ugly tanks, bad pictures and beginner corals. It get's much better.

I wasn't happy with the 45 and convinced myself I needed a "Red Sea" that I always heard about. So I searched high and low locally. I would up getting the Red Sea 130D. … Not quite the crown jewel of Red Sea systems. But luckily, buying this tank introduced me to someone who would be the main seed for my next tank. He had a 40 breeder that had been left alone for years, filled with nice colonies and was planning on moving.


I had a tank back in the living room, up and cycling. Then something great came along.

red sea.jpg
 
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JoshB94

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We took a work trip / vacation to Miami and I was able to snorkel in the keys. After seeing those tangs come up to us and the awesome sea life there, I knew I needed a bigger tank. I had recently and unexpectedly got a nice chunk of cash and it was burning a hole in my pocket. The tank that kicked this into gear came up locally for sale and I knew I had to have it.

Behold, the Waterbox 230.6 ! 72l x 26w x 24d (230 is deceivingly, the entire system volume NOT display)

I mentioned this tank before in a "Deals" thread. I paid retail for this tank of $4,000. Except, I got the radions, apex, mp-40s, CW-50 scrubber, skimmer, pump, rock etc. and... DELIVERED AND INSTALLED.

This was by far the most begging and negotiating I did with the wife. I promised to sell the 45 and Red Sea, a kidney, and few other things we didn't need and she agreed - until she saw it taking up her whole living room. She told me it had to go and wasn't staying there. Well.. it was setup already and weight about 2,000lbs so she had to get over it. (I think she loves it more than I do nowadays)

This is one of about 9 full systems I've taken down and set up in the same day. Luckily this one had no fish or corals, just rock so much less stressful. I am proud to say though, I don't think I've lost a single animal due to any of the moves. Being prepared with bubbles, heaters, a group of friends (local reefers in my case) and a good plan has helped make things go pretty well.

The suction cups and cart with wheels we used for this was a life saver. The glass weighs several hundred pounds and we only had 3 guys to get it into the truck.

The Fish Hippie sign over the wall is ironically another piece of art I got from the going out of business sale. I was glad I had bought it with no idea of where I'd ever hang it. It went well with it.

WB set up 2.jpg WB set up.jpg
 
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JoshB94

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At this point I'm 6 months in and went from a $100 55 gallon to the largest Waterbox available with some awesome gear. To this day, I'm yet to buy a tank or light new and have saved thousands doing so.

I wanted to highlight some of the equipment I've encountered at this point. I've finally gotten past the IO purple salt, API tests and hydrometer and now used Salifert / Red Sea and a refractometer. Most of which I have now replaced with Hanna and love (especially for Salinity and Alk, it's so easy!)

I had some cheap t5's that were very bland, and the radion G4 Pro that really made the corals pop. Today I run Kessil A360x, AI Primes and Radions between my three systems (totally over 500 gallons currently)

My return pumps have largely been Jebao's. For a cheap alternative, they have been very reliable for me and easy to control. I've got a nice COR 15 on one system currently and like it, but haven't used it to it's full capability.

One of the most important things so far though is switching to RO-DI. I waited FAR to long to stop lugging 25 gallons of water back from the LFS every week.
 
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JoshB94

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I kept the live rock (covered in aptasia) from the previous owner. We let the tank settle for a couple of weeks and started moving stuff over.

My method for accumulating so many corals (hundreds of pieces now) in a short time has been buying out full systems. It's the best prices and quickest way to fill a tank. The hammer colony is a part of the 40 gallon system I bought out. Notice the bright green one to the right, that's one that I got a few weeks earlier and the bleached ones were straight from the last owner under cheaper, lower end lights. They came back to full color and look great.

The nudi's clearly were well fed and I caught this monster out one night using my favorite little reef tool, my blue flash light.

bleached colony.jpg massive nudi.jpg scoly.jpg split color hammer.jpg superman lobo.jpg wb corals added.jpg wb lower side.jpg wb side.jpg
 
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JoshB94

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Between all the tank breakdowns I've been a part of, it's usually inevitable that I run into some pests but luckily I've yet to have any major incidents like fish sickness. But this monster crawled out of a live rock I was purchasing. A giant Bobbit Worm! This worm lived undetected in the owners system for who knows how long. She didn't report any missing fish but they are known to snatch fish.

Although I haven't lost fish to illness, I have made some rookie mistakes. No top cost me two fish jumping within 10 days. A melanarus wrasse and blue jaw trigger :/ so we had a DIY net until our spectacular Clearview acrylic custom lid came in.

Unfortunately, lids don't work if they aren't on. This past weekend my scissor tail goby jumped in the few minutes I took the top off while doing a water change and grabbed another bucket. It was the THIRD time he had jumped, the other two we got him fast enough. This time he was barely alive as he had probably been out awhile behind the tank and didn't make it through the night..

I was in love with Long Fin clowns the first time I saw one. I finally got a pair from a friend, the smaller one seemed very healthy but one day I saw it sucked against the MP40 after I had just seen it swimming. I have wondered if the MP40 was to strong for these oddities to swim with their long fins.

Lastly is the lesson learned the hard way. Reef safe vs Non Reef safe. I did the typical "I can make it work" with a beautiful Picasso Trigger. Everything was great for about four months. Then one day I noticed my acans looked really bad. A couple days later, they were scattered all over the tank, taken off the frag racks. Then I saw him snacking on every softie I had and he had to go. Luckily he found a good home quickly.

bobbit.jpg long fins.jpg longfin mp40.jpg Mel.jpg picasso trigger.jpg scissortail goby.jpg
 
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JoshB94

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Will be updating with more current pictures soon and details of equipment. It definitely gets much better than it started!
 
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