Going BIG when buying small! My Fluval 22 gallon Dual Display Mangrove Frag Tank!

KellyCorals

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I’ve had a total of 5 saltwater tanks through out my lifetime so far - all used (2nd hand). When you buy a used tank in essence your buying someone else’s dream - someone else’s vision. Sure you can change the equipment inside and make it to your liking. I’ve never bought a tank brand new...until now.

So after much deliberation, I’ve decided to go ahead and start my build thread. I purchased my current project in Jan 2021 and have been slowly working on it ever since. My original idea was to wait until the tank was done so I could show a start to finish progression, but the thought of posting everything at once seemed like a daunting task.

So here it is -

My Fluval 22 gallon freshwater to saltwater conversion dual-display mangrove frag tank in all it’s over engineered over done glory. This tank is not going to be for everyone. That’s ok because I’m not building it for everyone...I’m building it for me. I’ve got a lot done on it over the past 4 months and I’ll try to post every couple of days until I’m caught up to present day. So on with the pictures -

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Here is a pic of the tank the first day I spotted it at my LFS. I already have a 90 gallon drilled and was looking for something easier to manage my love of growing and fragging corals.
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Here is the little pamphlet that came with it. What really appealed to me was that it was already a drilled tank and I knew I wanted a sump - not an AIO. It was of course meant to be a freshwater planted tank...but I had other plans.
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After I purchased the tank and brought it home, for fun I put it together as Fluval intended. Ohhhh Ahhhhh ....yeah that’s nice. Yeah...well time to tear it down...it’s not going to look anything like that when I’m done.
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The basic factory LED light even had a moonlight setting, which was a great selling point for the guy on Craigslist I sold it to.
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Step one - remove and sell off everything besides the tank itself and stand.
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The inside was meant to have your canister filter on one side and all your fish food and supplies on the other.
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Remove the stand top and center section to make room for the sump.
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The other reason I just had to have this tank was after doing some basic measurements in the fish store, I realized a 10 gallon aqueon tank fits perfectly inside.

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Next thing I did was have my father in law help me add a “lip” to the stand to help keep the tank centered on the stand. I have crazy kids and being only 22 gallons I know they will find a way to knock the tank and shift it on the stand. I know that’s not the popular “look” these days but I’m going for function not “sleek”.

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Next I added a shelf for my ATO container. I’ve never had an ATO and decided that was something I really want on this tank to keep salinity stable.

Next post will be all about continuing to modify the stand! 2CC1AF35-10F5-431E-BBC5-FECB244B5E0E.jpeg
 
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KellyCorals

KellyCorals

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So next thing on my build list was to install fans into the cabinet. This might not make much sense to you now but it will later. Like I said this is a dual display set-up and instead of hiding my sump behind closed doors, I will be showcasing my filtration system.

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I chose 2 12” fan assemblies made by Airplate. I installed the first one under the shelf that will hold the ATO container (that fan blows air out of the cabinet) and installed the second one in the lower back wall (that fan blows fresh air in)
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Next I removed the temporary brace for the shelf and installed 2 metal brackets to support the weight of the ATO container. These are actually handrail brackets I found at ACE hardware. (As you can see I’m building the tank in my garage...don’t mind the clutter

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I love to repurpose things when I can. So after taking one of the cabinet doors to the table saw and redrilling the holes for the hinges, I remounted it to the outside of the cabinet to hide the ATO and fan systems.



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My ATO is hard mounted to the shelf I added. To accomplish this, I first drilled a hole through the shelf.


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Then I SLOWLY drilled the same size hole in the bottom of the ATO. Then I added in a bulk head and fittings from bulk reef supply.
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Then I added my Hydros DC solenoid to allow and shut off water flow into the sump
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Next post - time to do a little work on the sump!
 

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KellyCorals

KellyCorals

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So I jumped around a lot from one part of this project to another. One day I would work on the tank, one day the sump and then back to the stand. It all depends on what I was feeling like that day. But for this post I want to talk about the sump!

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Nothing special here...standard 10 gallon aqueon tank. Nothing special yet that is.
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My local graphics guy made me several prints for my tank/stand/sump. Like I said before, this is a DUAL DISPLAY MANGROVE tank. You’ll see. (Side note - I live in Cocoa Florida...mangroves grow wild here all over the place...it’s a thing)
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Here it is! This custom made piece of acrylic that I designed and had Modular Marine make is unique and is what makes my tank...well...my tank. It’s a custom made basket holder that fits perfectly on the inside lip of the 10 gallon sump and holds 3 x 3.75 inch hydroponic baskets that the mangroves will grow in.
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With the baskets in it!
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Ebay sells quite a few DIY sump kits. This is the one I chose...really affordable too considering how much sumps can cost these days. it comes with a 4” filter sock hanger and surround and 2 walls that would be bubble traps...if I had a skimmer. Instead they will keep my substrate away from my pump and house my bio media.
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For bio media I went with Eshopps Bio-Lux. I’m really impressed with almost all the eshopps products I’ve ever purchased and this is no exception. It’s got a ton of surface area and has so many flow thru holes there is no way it’s ever going to get clogged
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That brings me to the probe holder. Another company that I’m extremely impressed by is Zen Reef. He has a lead time, but his products are top notch. Really, really nice stuff I can’t say enough good things about them really. Anyways I purchased a probe holder from them and here it is -
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That last picture is just the box it came in...even that was nice.
Next up...I worked on the tank a little. Trying to put this thread together in the order things happened.
 

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KellyCorals

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Next I decided to put some work into the tank itself.
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This is the pump flow and return that came with the tank. It’s meant for a canister filter and not for a sump...if I ever lost power this would have drained about 15 gallons of water directly on to my floor. So out it comes.
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So another thing I had to do is remove the light mount brackets that Fluval preinstalled on the tank with no less than the world’s strongest silicone. It took 30 minutes and a guitar string to cut them off...I was seriously worried I was going to break the tank doing this but it survived.

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After the tank was stripped of its original bulkheads and light mounts...it looked like this

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I decided I wanted a background image to hide cords from my light and wave maker. Most people go with a blue or black background which is great but I really wanted an image so I contacted my local graphics guy again. I actually started a thread because I couldn’t decide if going with an image would be too tacky and the responses were almost 50/50. But I like what a couple people said and that was “do you - it’s your tank after all”. Ever since then I’ve reminded myself that over and over again while I’m building this tank...so I’m just doing what I like. So here is the image I picked -
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My tank is going to have a Day and night kinda theme. Dark and blue light on top with daylight on the bottom...kinda a yin and yang thing. Here’s a picture with the image applied -
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Next I installed a couple 3/4” bulkheads from BRS to replace the Fluval setup -
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After that it was time to install my overflow. I ordered a custom overflow from Modular marine to the dimensions of my tank since I couldn’t find one already the perfect size.
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A nice feature of this overflow was the slots were tapered so the water quietly flows into the overflow area. I’m at the point today where I’ve filled the tank with test water and I can say it makes a difference for sure -
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It doesn’t come with a hole drilled for the pump outlet so I measured and did that. I actually made the hole a little too big so I had to fill the gap with silicone so water didn’t back flow from the outlet into the return area -
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I started working and mocking up the drain and return pipes next -
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Here is a picture of my original return pipe that I actually ended up trashing...I didn’t like the way it returned water to the sump...too loud.
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I can’t remember if I purchased my quick lock nozzle fittings from Marine depot or BRS but here was the assortment I ordered. I also ordered the tool to help put them together but found it unnecessary with the exception of one fitting that it came in handy for.
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I ordered 2 random flow generators for my nozzle tips made by VCA. They seem to work and I liked the look -
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Here’s a couple pictures of the return nozzles fully assembled. I’m happy with how it turned out.
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With that stage of things complete, my tank was starting to look more like a saltwater tank.
Finally I was getting somewhere!

Next post - I started working on the plumbing.
 

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KellyCorals

KellyCorals

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Very cool! You have a gasket placed between the ato and shelf I assume?
Actually there is a gasket on the bulkhead so it seals to the bottom of the ATO container. I used some silicone before I mounted it to the shelf to make sure it’s a watertight seal. Thanks for checking out my thread! I’m posting up more soon...I’m actually much farther ahead then this...just trying to catch up to where I’m at today.
 
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So after getting some of the basics out of the way, my tank finally started gaining some ground. Here’s a picture of what my tank looked like at that point -
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It was finally time to start working on the plumbing. My tank is literally the definition of stuffing 20 pounds of stuff into a 10 pound box...that being said I had to make peace early on that a lot of my equipment that normally would live under the tank would have to be moved to the back side of the stand. I was ok with this because my tank backs a wall and it would all be hidden anyways. Most people use the stand to hide everything, but my sump was part of the display. I started mocking up my plumbing, starting at the DC controllable Hydor pump.
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This was my first mock up which I later changed and removed the elbow over design and one way check valve. I added in a manual flow meter made by Konaflow so I could keep an eye on how the pump was performing. I wanted an electronic flow meter but could find one with good reviews and sized for my small tank.
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I had a long list of elements I wanted my tank to include...among them was a UV sterilizer. I went with a Turbo-twist by Coralife. It matched the recommended flow rate of my pump, only down side was it was rather large.
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To hard plumb the sterilizer, I used a hacksaw to cut off the hose barbs and threaded on PVC couplings.
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Then I plumbed and mounted it to the drain side of the plumbing so there wouldn’t be much pressure on it.
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My tank quick connect fittings come out of the tank and immediately exit to the back of the tank to keep as much of the plumbing external as possible -
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Here is a picture of all the plumbing that will be visible when looking at the sump -
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A big factor for me in building this tank is I wanted things that are normally a pain to become easy. So I added plumbing that comes right off the pump pressure side and added a tee and 2 manual valves so when the pump is running I can open the valves and change some of the water. All this is hidden behind the exterior cabinet door I reused so when the tank is against the wall, you won’t see any of it. I used 2 valves for safety in case one of my kids gets smart and starts playing with the round valve it won’t do anything until you open the secondary valve also. Also a good idea incase one of the valves decides to leak. Having only a 30 gallon total system I figure my 10% water change is only 3 gallons which my sump holds just fine before the pump runs dry. I’ve tested the system already and it works beautifully for a small tank like this.
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After mocking up everything I removed it all and this is what the inside looked like -
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To trick my mangroves into thinking they were in there native environment, I started adding my images to the inside of the stand...LOL Just kidding. The images did help hide a lot of the ugly fasteners and marks I made while doing the plumbing work. (On a side note, getting those big vinyl stickers to lay down just right right was a pain)
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I didn’t lay down the last image just yet because I knew there was still work to be done on that wall of the stand. My parts and equipment for the tank came in the mail randomly...at this time my heater and heater holder came in so I put that on real quick. I chose a 100w titanium heater from BRS that will be controlled by my tank...well...controller.
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One thing I can say I have a strong opinion on is that suction cups...suck. I’ve had too many probes, air lines and heaters that were held on by suction cups just randomly let loose one day and let my equipment just float around the tank. Magnets are the way. I was surprised by the lack of heater holders on the market BUT my guys at Zen Reef were here to save the day again with a REALLY nice heater holder -

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Originally I was going to put the heater in the sump but then I noticed the overflow had just enough room to squeeze it back there and keep the clutter down in the sump. Here it is all mounted up -
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That’s all I got done on the tank that night...
Next post I started working on my controller box!
 
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Now that all that was out of the way, I was eager to start building my control panel. Parts were showing up left and right and I wanted to finish applying the last image inside the stand so I had to make my cut outs for my controllers and wiring. Here is how that went - first, here is the acrylic box I used to hold my 4 controllers. It came with a lock which is perfect because flashing LED lights + my kids = touch it and break it.
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Here is a pic of me planning out where the controllers will go. I have an Airplate fan controller that will auto regulate the inside air temp of the sump area, Hydros 4 controller for all my probes/sensors and ATO and 3 power strips, Hydor pump controller and Reefwave 25 controller.
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Here is me marking out and cutting out all the holes I would need to mount everything-
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After that time consuming task I mounted it to the cabinet with a couple screws so I could trace my cut outs for the hydros and Airplate controllers. The hydros has to mount from the inside of the cabinet so there is room to plug wires into the face of it and the Airplate controller wires attach to the back of the controller so it has to mount thru the outside of the stand...tricky tricky!
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Testing the fit on the 2 controllers that mount thru the stand...little bit of trim work had to be done here...
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Finally after that I can remove everything once again and apply my last inside mangrove image -
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And mount my fans back into their final resting place inside and outside the stand -
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Then mount the Hydros from the inside of the stand -
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I’m kinda big on these vinyl images as I’m sure you noticed by now...if you don’t like them or they are not your thing, that’s ok! But I like them and the real bonus about using them is they hide A LOT of sharpie marks, rough cuts, fasteners...ect. So naturally I picked a techy looking image for the inside of the control panel...my wife helped my apply it because my hands were just too shaky that day...probably from excitement LOL
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Then I mounted it back to stand, installed my controllers and ran a couple power wires so I could see how it looked and here it is -
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And the best part is I can close it up under lock and key so people can look but not touch!
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And for fun I mounted the Reefwave 25 to the inside of the tank (even though there is no water yet) just to see what it would look like. I have a Reefwave 45 on my 90 gallon and I’m very impressed with the power that thing puts out and their APP. So it was no question in my mind which wavemaker I was going to use on this tank.
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After that I called it a day for now!
Next post will be all about getting all the plumbing glued into it’s final positions! Thanks for reading along!
 

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Lilmatty5dimes

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With that stage of things complete, my tank was starting to look more like a saltwater tank.
Finally I was getting somewhere!

Next post - I started working on the plumbing.
Quick question do you something that’s going to break the siphon on the return line? If not that’s going to drain the tank all the way down to where the flow nozzle are at which could end up a flood in the house.
 
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KellyCorals

KellyCorals

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Quick question do you something that’s going to break the siphon on the return line? If not that’s going to drain the tank all the way down to where the flow nozzle are at which could end up a flood in the house.
Yeah I’ve been playing with my tank in the garage right now...figuring out the right water levels in my sump and nozzle heights, playing with the drain set up. I’ve been plugging and unplugging the pump over and over to see what will happen when I lose power. I tried drilling that hole in the drain but that didn’t seem to work for my tank, I think it has something to do with the way the UV is plumb in kinda a “p-trap” way.
 
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So by this point is was time for me to finalize the plumbing and add my power strips that will be managed by the Hydros. Everything on this tank is a tight fit with very little wiggle room. Im a mechanic for a living and working on my 90 gallon tank is like working on an old Chevy truck...plenty of room. This tank is like working on a high end German sports car...I can barely get my hands in there LOL.

The first thing I decided to do was finish my ATO drip line. I found this cool little bulkhead from BRS that is meant for passing RO tube thru a cabinet-

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Then I added a manual shut off valve and a couple 90’s and some RO line -
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On the inside I ran a small piece of line and added a straight union that I ground off some material from so that it would fit in the large hole of the probe holder which I wasn’t going to use anyways -
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So that’s all done and now my ATO is complete...gravity fed, no huge bucket or pumps required...my Hydros water level sensor will simply detect when the water level is low, open the DC water solenoid and will drip fresh water right into my sump...simple.

I took a minute and mounted up a couple of my power strips -

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The Reefwave uses a transformer. I found the best way to mount transformers on a stand is to buy a strap that has a buckle and use a screw and washer to mount the strap and then buckle in the transformer. Tighten the strap and cut off the excess, then burn the cut end with a lighter so it doesn’t start to unravel -
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I should have got a better picture but there is the strap and transformer next to the fan in the above pic.

Jumping around to the next thing I felt like doing, I mounted my Fluval Nano plant lights inside the stand. I mounted 2 for now because I wasn’t sure how bright they would be but I’m already planing to buy a third one -
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With the plant lights turned on, the back of the stand looked really cool to me from the small amount of light making it thru the gaps so I snapped a picture -
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I was just about to cement in all my plumbing when my brother mentioned it might look really cool if the pipes were clear. I liked the idea an found a company in Orlando that made and sold Clear PVC and fittings. Unfortunately they only really made straight pipe and elbows, so I had to use some of the regular white fittings too but I’m happy with the look. Here is how it turned out -
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It’s actually really fun to watch the water flow thru the pipes with little bubbles and what not. Plus if anything ever gets stuck in there I’ll be able to see it LOL.

That’s all for this post and I’m almost caught up to current day. Next post will be about the XR15...
 
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I did a lot of reading reviews about the current lights on the market and most people seemed to really love the Radion XR15. I went with the XR15 Blue, Mount arm kit and the diffuser. I wanted the diffuser because I grow mostly Zoas and they seem to like more of a T5 type light spread rather then being beamed with little LED lasers...at least that’s my theory...time will tell if I’m right. Here is the set up -
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Above pic is without the diffuser
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When I found out that reef brite made an add on kit for the XR15, I added that on too and I’m happy with how it looks...very futuristic!
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Even though it IS possible to control the Reef Brites with the Hydros 0-10 V outlet, the set up required to do it seemed too complex, so I opted for the Bluetooth reef brite controller-
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One thing is for sure! That light is ready to do some work! That’s all for this post and is about where I’m at today. I’m currently letting the tank run in my garage with just freshwater in it to make sure it’s leak free and fine tuning my water levels and drain set ups. More posts to come! Thanks for reading along!
 
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KellyCorals

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Thanks! It’s still going to be a while before it sees any sign of life unfortunately. I’m currently working on my RO and saltwater station in the garage because I can’t really trust the water from my LFS anymore...last time I got water from them the salinity was 1.030 and I always get an algae bloom in my 90 gallon after water changes from them so I think their TDS is high. Once the tank makes it inside the house, I’m going to let it do the full cycle which will take a couple months or more...I’ve always rushed to drop fish in too soon. My goal is to be completed and full stocked by Christmas this year.
 

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Thanks! It’s still going to be a while before it sees any sign of life unfortunately. I’m currently working on my RO and saltwater station in the garage because I can’t really trust the water from my LFS anymore...last time I got water from them the salinity was 1.030 and I always get an algae bloom in my 90 gallon after water changes from them so I think their TDS is high. Once the tank makes it inside the house, I’m going to let it do the full cycle which will take a couple months or more...I’ve always rushed to drop fish in too soon. My goal is to be completed and full stocked by Christmas this year.
Who are or were you using for water? Do you need a mixing station? I’ve got this one I’m going to be posting here soon.
 

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