First Reef Tank, 130g Custom LPS/Softie Tank

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MarsReefer

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Hello everyone! I wanted to go ahead and lay out my first reef tank journey, hope everyone enjoys going along for this wild (and expensive) ride with me.

I started keeping fish about 10 years ago with a 36g bowfront planted freshwater tank. When I bought my house I also upgraded my tank to a 130 gallon tank I got from a local guy who was upgrading his tank. I kept that tank as a high tech freshwater planted tank.

IMG_2668.jpg



My biggest struggle with this tank was I had both angelfish and loaches, which ate every single clean up crew I put in the tank. As a result I was constantly battling algae. I eventually gave up and tore the tank down last year after having it running for about 5 years.

That brings us up now where I decided to convert this tank to a reef tank. I always wanted a reef tank but up until this point in my life I couldn't justify the expense for doing it how I wanted.

Here's a brief overview of my plan for this tank:

Equipment:
Return Pumps: 2x VarioS-2 Reef octopus DC pumps
Overflow: Durso standpipe with reverse durso in the sump
Sump: 40g Breeder with 4 chambers: Filter, skimmer, refugium, return
Skimmer: Reef Octopus 6" Regal SSS
Reactor: BRS mini carbon reactor
Powerheads: 2x Octopulse 2 pumps and 1 MP-10 on the backwall
Light: Reefbreeder Photon 50 Vs Pro
Controller: APEX with DOS, 2x FMM modules, and PAR monitoring
Water storage: 2x 55 gallon barrels, one for ATO and one for SW
RODI: BRS 4 stage with booster pump
Dry Rock: Mix of Marco Rock and Marco Shelf Rock

Planned Livestock:
2x clowns
2x Mandarin Gobies (captive bred mated pair)
1x flame angel
1x blue throated fairy wrasse
5x Zebra Barr Dartfish
1x Yellow Tang
1x Whitetail Tang
2x Cardinal Fish

IMG_7526.jpg


Got the tank cleaned up and emptied. First step is to remove the old sump, redo the inside of the stand, and put in the new larger 40g breeder sump. The journey shall continue...
 
Tidal Gardens
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MarsReefer

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Got the new sump, and redid the cabinet recently. The cabinet was a bit of mess. I had a couple floods when I first set up the freshwater tank over the years, and the bottom of the cabinet was in pretty rough shape. I pulled the center brace out, ripped out the bottom layer of wood and redid it with a nice new sheet of plywood.

IMG_7793.jpg


I also bout a piece of acrylic sheet, and built an acrylic box inside the cabinet so that any small leaks or spills won't get the wood wet and just sit in the box.

IMG_7820.jpg


Next was the sump. Caught the tail end of the dollar per gallon sale at petco and picked up my 40 breeder, sketched out a sump plan and got some glass cut from a local shop. Turned out pretty nice though I made one little error... the legos I used for spacers no longer are removable lol.

IMG_7828.jpg


This gives me an initial drain chamber which overflows into the filter chamber, then under the next baffle into the skimmer chamber. Next is the refugium chamber then back around the other side to the return chamber. My return is right next to my drain so I made it loop back around to reduce the amount of plumbing needed.

IMG_7829.jpg

Leak check successful, filled the chambers individually to make sure they all held water.

Moved the sump into place, took a trip to home depot to get all the plumbing supplies and then put it all together. Turned out pretty nice I think.

IMG_7855.jpg
IMG_7831.jpg


Next stop rocks and aquascaping...
 
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MarsReefer

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Another week, another step in the journey. My initial funds for this endeavor are quickly dwindling, my current plan is to have first livestock into the tank in August.

I decided to go all dry rock, using various marco rocks. I love the look of some of the shelf rock so my plan was to mix normal and shelf rock. I looked around for about a month for local people getting rid of rocks, and I got some, but not enough so I went ahead and ordered a large amount of rock.

IMG_7867.jpg


Also got a number of foundation rocks (2 large, 3 medium) , which were really nicely shaped, I was really happy with those.
IMG_7864.jpg


The shelf rocks were really nice as well. requested big shelf rocks so I didn't end up with little scraps and I got a really nice mix. Overall very pleased with what I got.

IMG_7868.jpg


I set up a cardboard mockup of my tank started playing around. It took me about 2 weeks to get something I was happy with.

IMG_7886.jpg


I used marco cement to cement everything together, in about 6 separate pieces so I could get it into my tank. Then once it was in the tank I used epoxy to firm everything else further.

IMG_7905.jpg


Next step is to set up the controller and water creation/storage.
 

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Another week, another step in the journey. My initial funds for this endeavor are quickly dwindling, my current plan is to have first livestock into the tank in August.

I decided to go all dry rock, using various marco rocks. I love the look of some of the shelf rock so my plan was to mix normal and shelf rock. I looked around for about a month for local people getting rid of rocks, and I got some, but not enough so I went ahead and ordered a large amount of rock.

IMG_7867.jpg


Also got a number of foundation rocks (2 large, 3 medium) , which were really nicely shaped, I was really happy with those.
IMG_7864.jpg


The shelf rocks were really nice as well. requested big shelf rocks so I didn't end up with little scraps and I got a really nice mix. Overall very pleased with what I got.

IMG_7868.jpg


I set up a cardboard mockup of my tank started playing around. It took me about 2 weeks to get something I was happy with.

IMG_7886.jpg


I used marco cement to cement everything together, in about 6 separate pieces so I could get it into my tank. Then once it was in the tank I used epoxy to firm everything else further.

IMG_7905.jpg


Next step is to set up the controller and water creation/storage.
Looking really good!
 
Tidal Gardens

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Got the new sump, and redid the cabinet recently. The cabinet was a bit of mess. I had a couple floods when I first set up the freshwater tank over the years, and the bottom of the cabinet was in pretty rough shape. I pulled the center brace out, ripped out the bottom layer of wood and redid it with a nice new sheet of plywood.

IMG_7793.jpg


I also bout a piece of acrylic sheet, and built an acrylic box inside the cabinet so that any small leaks or spills won't get the wood wet and just sit in the box.

IMG_7820.jpg


Next was the sump. Caught the tail end of the dollar per gallon sale at petco and picked up my 40 breeder, sketched out a sump plan and got some glass cut from a local shop. Turned out pretty nice though I made one little error... the legos I used for spacers no longer are removable lol.

IMG_7828.jpg


This gives me an initial drain chamber which overflows into the filter chamber, then under the next baffle into the skimmer chamber. Next is the refugium chamber then back around the other side to the return chamber. My return is right next to my drain so I made it loop back around to reduce the amount of plumbing needed.

IMG_7829.jpg

Leak check successful, filled the chambers individually to make sure they all held water.

Moved the sump into place, took a trip to home depot to get all the plumbing supplies and then put it all together. Turned out pretty nice I think.

IMG_7855.jpg
IMG_7831.jpg


Next stop rocks and aquascaping...
I Like the custom sump and solid move fixing up the stand there
 
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MarsReefer

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Well a lot has happened since my last post. I got water in the tank and got the controller and storage all set up. I am currently fighting with the salinity probe, I might just call it a lost cause. It will only read 53-55 PPT even directly after calibrating with calibration solution and quadruple checking there are no bubbles in the probe.


IMG_7915.jpg


Control board is not quite complete, still missing powerheads and a skimmer, but most of it is there. It sits on the wall behind the tank so it is nice and safe from salt and water. I ran its own 30A circuit so that it hopefully never trips outside of total power outages.

IMG_7916.jpg


I have two 55 gallon storage containers, one for ATO and one for salt water. my RODI runs directly into the ATO but I run it manually when the optical sensor at the bottom opens and tells me it needs refilling. That way it should never overflow. It also has a float valve in there in case I turn it on and forget about it for some reason. The saltwater storage is connected to my DOS which will be doing 2% daily water changes, with the output running to the utility sink. I'll have to refill it every 2.5 weeks which shouldn't be too terrible, I just run a pump from the rodi into the salt water tank to refill.

IMG_7914.jpg


Got my two QT tanks set up as well, just simple air stones and heaters with a lid so I can run a hybrid TTM quarantine. I am also setting up a separate frag tank quarantine as well so that I can QT invertebrates and corals for 6 weeks separately.

Lights are coming next, going with the new Radion G6's since the increased spread means I should only need two XR15's instead of 3.
 

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Well a lot has happened since my last post. I got water in the tank and got the controller and storage all set up. I am currently fighting with the salinity probe, I might just call it a lost cause. It will only read 53-55 PPT even directly after calibrating with calibration solution and quadruple checking there are no bubbles in the probe.


IMG_7915.jpg


Control board is not quite complete, still missing powerheads and a skimmer, but most of it is there. It sits on the wall behind the tank so it is nice and safe from salt and water. I ran its own 30A circuit so that it hopefully never trips outside of total power outages.

IMG_7916.jpg


I have two 55 gallon storage containers, one for ATO and one for salt water. my RODI runs directly into the ATO but I run it manually when the optical sensor at the bottom opens and tells me it needs refilling. That way it should never overflow. It also has a float valve in there in case I turn it on and forget about it for some reason. The saltwater storage is connected to my DOS which will be doing 2% daily water changes, with the output running to the utility sink. I'll have to refill it every 2.5 weeks which shouldn't be too terrible, I just run a pump from the rodi into the salt water tank to refill.

IMG_7914.jpg


Got my two QT tanks set up as well, just simple air stones and heaters with a lid so I can run a hybrid TTM quarantine. I am also setting up a separate frag tank quarantine as well so that I can QT invertebrates and corals for 6 weeks separately.

Lights are coming next, going with the new Radion G6's since the increased spread means I should only need two XR15's instead of 3.
So much room to work with in there!
Those probes are so finicky I always here stories about the salinity or ph probes not working correctly
 
REEFTIDE
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MarsReefer

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Lights are here and installed!

I watched so many light reviews, and read up on so many different options that my head was spinning. It seems like people pick a light and then to justify their purchase go around and bash every other light on the market. I read more about how that "other" light is bad for all of these reasons then actual positive things about lights people are actually using.

After seeing the live test demos that BRS did I ended up going with 2x Radion G6 XR15's. The extra spread means I can cover my whole tank with just two fixtures, and they seem to have one of the broadest spectrums on the market with very little shimmer which I prefer.

IMG_7984.jpg

They mount low enough that there is no light spill when sitting on the couch watching the tank which is nice.

It took me a while to get everything dialed in, and I still have some tweaks to make but my lighting schedule currently looking like this:

IMG_7967.PNG


Which at peak intensity gives PAR readings of:

IMG_7965.jpg


Which should be just about perfect for my LPS/Softies If I ever decide to keep SPS i'll have to get another fixture which shouldn't be an issue since it can slide right on the rail.

Powerheads are on order and due in this week as well as all my Hanna checkers, so i'll be able to start cycling the tank by the end of the month hopefully and get my first fish in after I get back from Vacation in August.
 
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MarsReefer

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Well I turned the flow off for two days to silicone a small acrylic divider between my filter and skimmer chamber. I had the glass offset 1/2" but it ended up needing a full inch to not skip the filters and just overflow into the skimmer chamber. That went well, works like a charm now, but when I turned everything back on the heaters crapped out on me.

Both heaters. And then I added my backup heater... and it crapped out as well. So now my tank is completely unheated while I wait for new heaters. The backup one is already 3 years old so no shock there, but the others were relatively new so was surprised by that. I have two cheap amazon heaters on order for new backups, and 2 Ehiem heaters for my main ones coming as well.

This is exactly why I wanted to take my time and work everything out before getting fish, glad I did now.

Also got my two OctoPulse 2 powerheads this week, working on dialing them in. My first two attempts left giant piles of sand and bare spots, but I think I have it at a good spot now.
 
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Lights are here and installed!

I watched so many light reviews, and read up on so many different options that my head was spinning. It seems like people pick a light and then to justify their purchase go around and bash every other light on the market. I read more about how that "other" light is bad for all of these reasons then actual positive things about lights people are actually using.

After seeing the live test demos that BRS did I ended up going with 2x Radion G6 XR15's. The extra spread means I can cover my whole tank with just two fixtures, and they seem to have one of the broadest spectrums on the market with very little shimmer which I prefer.

IMG_7984.jpg

They mount low enough that there is no light spill when sitting on the couch watching the tank which is nice.

It took me a while to get everything dialed in, and I still have some tweaks to make but my lighting schedule currently looking like this:

IMG_7967.PNG


Which at peak intensity gives PAR readings of:

IMG_7965.jpg


Which should be just about perfect for my LPS/Softies If I ever decide to keep SPS i'll have to get another fixture which shouldn't be an issue since it can slide right on the rail.

Powerheads are on order and due in this week as well as all my Hanna checkers, so i'll be able to start cycling the tank by the end of the month hopefully and get my first fish in after I get back from Vacation in August.
What template are u running ? and it shows schedule intensity at 100%, with par that looks low for those fixtures, esp at 100%
 
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MarsReefer

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What template are u running ? and it shows schedule intensity at 100%, with par that looks low for those fixtures, esp at 100%
I ended up using my own template for now. It’s everything to 100% except reds and greens at 50% during the peak.
It was certainly lower than I was expecting but it is also only two fixtures spread out over 5’ of tank. My rocks are also pretty far down, about 11” down to the highest rock, and there is a mesh lid on top along with 3 glass cross beams. So it’s probably about right.

I got my heater issues figured out as well. Turns out the apex switches failed not the heaters. Based on my previous apex usage it looks like the energy bar switches are only good for about 25,000 on off cycles. I moved them to different apex outlets that have less wear and set them up so the apex will only switch in emergencies and will rely on the heaters internal switch for day to day usage. I’ll replace the heaters yearly so it should be ok.

Power heads are hooked up to 0-10 now and running how I want them. The only thing I’m still struggling with is pH. My pH is running at 7.6, without a skimmer in place yet. No idea how I’m going to consistently going to get it up to an acceptable range yet.
 
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MarsReefer

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Took the day today to run a fresh air test in the house. The house is miserably hot now but the test was pretty definitive. can you tell when I opened and closed the windows?
F5E7C563-E9EE-446B-A1E0-101B2B093D2D.png

No idea how high it would have gone if I left the windows open but the house was getting too hot and humid for the wife. Looks like I will need to run an outside air line for my overflow and eventually the skimmer. I think I can get there in about 12’ of line, have a bunch of 3/4” PEX lying around so I’ll probably use that.
 
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Well I spent the last few days researching and building an outside air intake for my overflow, adaptable to handle my skimmer when I get one. It looks like a resounding success at this point. After my fresh air window test I went to home depot and get a bunch of fittings and used 3/4" PEX to run a line outside then reduced it to a 1/2" OD- 3/8" ID tubing connected to my durso overflow.

IMG_8018.jpg


I control the air intake with a simple valve. It has the added bonus of completely silencing the overflow so that the only noise is now coming from the sump.

I added an additional indoor intake valve so I can swap to indoor air if needed for any reason.

IMG_8019.jpg


Ran it just above the basement window, just need to silicone the hole shut to wrap things up. The outlet of the tube is on a covered overhang behind some bushes so it is protected from wind and rain, and can't be seen from outside. I did shove some filter floss in the end to keep bugs out. I don't spray any herbicides, and only limited pesticides, nowhere near that area so I shouldn't have any contamination issues.

IMG_8020.jpg



And the results, overall an increase of 0.2 over 48 hours, and it is still trending up so it may stabilize higher. Much better than the 7.5-7.6 I was averaging before.

Air intake increase.JPG
 
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MarsReefer

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I have started cycling the tank! Using Microbacter7 and ammonia concentrate to get things started. Have it up to 1 ppm ammonia and been dosing bacteria for a week now. It will sit for a month until I get back from vacation and then we will finally get some fish in there!

I still need to get a skimmer, which i'll do next month, and I need to build up a battery backup for my MP 10 which I hope to do next week. pH has been so much more stable since I switched to external air line. I'll start my automatic water changes up soon so I can get all the other parameters stabilized as well. The only other thing will be setting up dosing once I want to start adding corals.
 
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