Growing Pains from a First Reef Build - 55g

Blutspitze

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Hi all, and welcome to my build thread!

Stock/Pics Updated 8/31


First, a bit about me: I've always been fascinated with marine biology and fish tanks in general. They're not only incredibly fun and relaxing to look at, but I love the idea of applied science and having a real slice of an ecosystem to look at and observe. Not to mention being able to see something grow and develop in a fascinating way. My family had a freshwater tank when I was growing up, and I always loved looking at it and watching the fish eat and just swim around. Around mid 2017 I started seriously reading about reef tanks, what they require, how they're maintained, etc. and learning as much as I could. That year's winter holiday season brought my first (and current) tank to me.

That said, this is going to be organized a bit oddly compared to most threads of the sort. I've been running it for about 18 months at this point, through numerous trials and tribulations, problems, a not-so-great LFS, a move after setup, etc., but I've been taking pictures all throughout the time I've had it, and have taken meticulous notes, as well, so I can still show a lot of the process that's happened, and more importantly the lessons learned. I've been lurking R2R essentially since I started researching, and I'm excited to finally share all my stuff! To start us off, here's the links to key points during my build throughout the thread:

Failing at initial cycling and stocking (Nov - Dec 2017)
Ich strikes and wipes (Dec 2017 - Jan 2018)
Busted pipes and regaining life (Jan - Apr 2018)
Moving day process and QT failure (Jun - July 2018)
New corals die, ammonia bomb, algae, QT still sucks (Aug - Sept 2018)

Damsels are jerks, wet floors suck (part 1) (Sept 2018)
The floor is still wet (part 2), Apex cabinet setup, and more deaths (Oct - Nov 2018)
Learn to test, noob (Dec 2018 - Jan 2019)
Damsels are STILL jerks, fuge setup (Feb - Mar 2019)
Bulkheads, hyposalinity, and slowing the roll (Mar - July 2019) (caught up to posting of build thread)

Latest update post is here (new on 11/25/19)


Current Pics (11/11/19)!

20191110_082302.jpg

20191110_082312.jpg

20191110_082322.jpg

20191110_082330.jpg

20191110_082341.jpg


Current Stock
As you'll see below in the build process comments, I've gone through far more fish than anyone would want, with numerous crashes, aggression, etc. happening. As such, I've aimed to keep the stock lighter and more gradual for the time being, not to mention being caused by a distinct lack of monies available.

  • Diamond Watchman Goby (Sandy)
  • Pacific Cleaner Shrimp (Jacques La Crevette, Esq.)
  • Blood Orange clown (Leonard Nemo - hosted on a Sebae nem)
  • Orangeback Fairy Wrasse
  • 1 Chromis (Connor FishLoed, because he's the Highlander who killed the other 2)
  • Red Bali Star Fish who's seen some stuff
  • Mexican and Trochus snails, blue hermits
  • Theoretically there's still a pom pom crab in there somewhere, but haven't seen it in awhile
Corals
I really do love the look of corals in a tank and have wanted some ever since I started. As with stock, I currently don't have much, mostly due to previous die off and missteps, and now waiting for some better financial stuff to come round to help me expand.

  • Hammer colony
  • GSP colony
  • 2 Zoa colonies (don't know names, they came as a frag pack)
  • 1 Favia (frag pack, lightly hanging on)
  • Utter Chaos zoa
  • Green Napthea
  • Pink Napthea
Equipment
One thing that really drew me to the hobby was the sheer possibilities of what could be done - the chemical maintenance, DIY possibilities, control-ability, potential automation, etc. It was a slow rise, but I'm happy to have some pretty cool stuff. Virtually nothing currently in use is original from when I set up the tank, but that's for later in the thread.
  • Tank - 55 gallon long (48") with basic Durso overflow and flex hose/vinyl plumbing; tank and stand came as a set
  • Sump - Leviathan SlimLine Reef Sump (only multi-chambered sump I could find in short dimensions)
  • Skimmer - Bubble Magus 5
  • Fuge light - Kessil H80
  • Fuge powerhead - one of the little Hydors
  • Lights - Current USA Orbit Marine LED (internally programmed)
  • Control System - Neptune Apex - all key equipment plugged into the main energy bar (skimmer & Tunze being main "external", non Neptune devices)
    • Wav pump kit
    • Leak detection Kit
    • DOS - pumps through A and B solutions from dosing container
    • COR 15 DC return pump
    • Apex Display
    • Programmed buttons and switches for numerous functions and timers, with breakout boxes to accommodate
  • ATO - Tunze controlled by Apex system
  • RODI system (not shown) - BRS 150 GPD (upgraded from 75)
  • Salt - Instant ocean reef salt
Parameters
While not too vital for a post like this, I'm proud to have gotten my parameters under control after a LOT of heartache and pain, and it was a main goal ahead of me really expanding stock and the like. I use API kits coupled with my Apex and a refractometer, so not the best, but better than nothing:

  • Nitrates - ~20 PPM
  • Ammonia - 0
  • pH - 8.2-8.4
  • Calcium - 460-480
  • Alk - ~8
  • Phosphate - ~0
  • Salinity - 1.026

20190825_084711.jpg

Pic from Late August 2019 showing the overall system setup

Current goals and ideas
As with anything in this hobby, we're never really done, and I'm excited to have some upgrades and improvements planned out, to varying degrees of completeness and viability. If you all have tips, I'd really appreciate it!

  • Upgrade to hardened plumbing - a splitter from the main drain and ball valves to each of the sock areas so I don't have to shut off the system to swap the flex hose to the other sock. Plus less leak prone. Difficult due to very confined space, though.
  • Phytoplankton and copepod growth, in and out of tank. Clean growth container for seeding/feeding phyto to bugs and bugs to fish, including getting Chaeto in the fuge
  • Stock expansion - more fish, more coral, more all. Primarily want a Mandarin, thus above point. Massively struggling with this ATM, as most new fish have died within ~a week.
  • Cleaning out some pests and undesirables - Aiptasia pops up once in awhile still
  • Try to better maintain sump - stop/reduce algal growths in skimmer section, etc.
  • Low priority - change out the cabinet lights to daylight LEDs instead of soft white. The brownish-yellow is meh.
  • Get better about taking good pictures, particularly of the corals (see below)
Here are a handful of attempts at white-balancing night-lit coral pics to look better:

IMG_2881.jpg
IMG_2873.jpg
IMG_2871.jpg


Thanks very much for stopping by!
 
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Blutspitze

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Reality Check 1 - How to NOT cycle and initially stock a tank (Nov 2017 - Dec 2017)

Let's roll back to the beginning! I got everything set up and was REALLY excited. At the time, had no RODI, so I relied on the LFS for everything. For the initial fill-up, I paid a tanker company to fill the tank with actual seawater and bought some LFS-cured live rock. Started with a T5 10k/Actinic lighting setup plugged into a simple timer and basic sump setup. Set up with a 850gph return and a 75gph Hydor powerhead

20171202_170458.jpg

The initial return nozzle was BRUTALLY strong. No matter what I did it kicked up sand from the other side. Reduced the pump size to 700gph AND opted for a loc-line splitter
sump.PNG

Initial sump setup as cycling started. Note overflow line is strained and too long. Can't be seen, but the overflow base is also a barb fitting with a clamp over the tube.
20171204_221751.jpg

Hi little fella!
20171205_230301.jpg

Dusters/bristleworms on the live stuff

I left the tank to settle for 2 weeks. Got some dry rock to fill out more of the areas and just waited. I didn't have any testing kits at the time, so I relied solely on my LFS for testing the parameters. I'm dosing A/B arbitrarily based on the recommended values, with a vague plan to maybe eventually get corals and the like.

20171209_122931.jpg

Initial stocking sees a Royal Gramma, black clown, crabs, a small but familiar torch and a zoa colony (zoa not picured).
20171211_124954.jpg

ALSO A CERTAIN PACIFIC CLEANER SHRIMP

Within 2 days the clown was gone :( . Went and got another one, same thing happened. Turned out to be Brooklynella. Traded up for a Coral Beauty and resolved to wait ~6 weeks for Brook to clear out, but keeping up with my water changes (5 gal/week) and arbitrary A/B additions.

20171212_110842.jpg

Hello, friend crab.

20171213_093336.jpg

Coral Beauty, Gramma, Shrimp, torch, and a barely visible zoa atop the middle white rock

Remember, kids, cycle properly, take things slow, do your own testing, and unless it's your own stock, I say no to live rock.
 
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Blutspitze

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This is a nice build, you done a great job documenting and the tank looks nice. Following! :)
Thanks, glad to have you! And please let me know if you have any tips/recommendations. Over the next couple weeks I'll be adding all the build info, including my moving process and building the Apex's cabinet, so it should be fun!
 
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Blutspitze

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Someday I will take the leap and grab an Apex, but I'm afraid I will become lazier. :D
I mostly got it since I'm a massive programming nerd, and generally love all things tech. It's definitely made a lot of things easier, but I'm still sure to do many things manually (feeding, testing, taking notes, water changes, etc.) so I can be sure that everything is working well.
 

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Someday I will take the leap and grab an Apex, but I'm afraid I will become lazier. :D
I used to not be a controller guy. And then my wife gave me the thumbs up to get an apex....I'll never look back ;)
 
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Amazing build! Following along :D
Thanks! Glad to have you!

With the Apex, dos and other night equipment, I am very surprised to see you running current Marine lights.

I would upgrade that before you start tossing more corals in it.
I ended up buying two of the 48" light fixtures for only $100 USD about a year ago. It was a nice upgrade from the T5, offering some programming capability and replaced my previous night light setup, plus offered a backup. Got the apex well after so not much need to upgrade at the time.

Any particular recommendations for lights that'd work well? I know a decent number are controllable now.
 
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Reality Check 1 - How to NOT cycle and initially stock a tank

Let's roll back to the beginning! I got everything set up and was REALLY excited. At the time, had no RODI, so I relied on the LFS for everything. For the initial fill-up, I paid a tanker company to fill the tank with actual seawater and bought some LFS-cured live rock. Started with a T5 10k/Actinic lighting setup plugged into a simple timer and basic sump setup. Set up with a 850gph return and a 75gph Hydor powerhead

20171202_170458.jpg

The initial return nozzle was BRUTALLY strong. No matter what I did it kicked up sand from the other side. Reduced the pump size to 700gph AND opted for a loc-line splitter
sump.PNG

Initial sump setup as cycling started. Note overflow line is strained and too long. Can't be seen, but the overflow base is also a barb fitting with a clamp over the tube.
20171204_221751.jpg

Hi little fella!
20171205_230301.jpg

Dusters/bristleworms on the live stuff

I left the tank to settle for 2 weeks. Got some dry rock to fill out more of the areas and just waited. I didn't have any testing kits at the time, so I relied solely on my LFS for testing the parameters. I'm dosing A/B arbitrarily based on the recommended values, with a vague plan to maybe eventually get corals and the like.

20171209_122931.jpg

Initial stocking sees a Royal Gramma, black clown, crabs, a small but familiar torch and a zoa colony (zoa not picured).
20171211_124954.jpg

ALSO A CERTAIN PACIFIC CLEANER SHRIMP

Within 2 days the clown was gone :( . Went and got another one, same thing happened. Turned out to be Brooklynella. Traded up for a Coral Beauty and resolved to wait ~6 weeks for Brook to clear out, but keeping up with my water changes (5 gal/week) and arbitrary A/B additions.

20171212_110842.jpg

Hello, friend crab.

20171213_093336.jpg

Coral Beauty, Gramma, Shrimp, torch, and a barely visible zoa atop the middle white rock

Remember, kids, cycle properly, take things slow, do your own testing, and unless it's your own stock, I say no to live rock.
1. Welcome - and are you from Norway (the Name)
2. Nice tank. If you only had one fish loss (the clowns) its pretty good...
 
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The Book

Quick couple images for you all on this - since I started I've kept pretty careful notes about everything that happens with the tank. It's helped for some things, but mostly it's great for having a place to record key observations and info regularly as part of a routine, and I highly recommend the practice to anyone in the hobby. Enjoy!

20190621_181422.jpg

SHARK PEN OO HA HA!!

20190621_181439.jpg

I was far more wasteful of space back in the day, though I did pick up the testing kit quickly, at least

20190621_181453.jpg

The first notes. Was feeding every other day, and relatively little. Fish not doing so great, and OH how I do not miss those blasted filtration sheets. So frustrating. Also, "Carmen" is Carmen Sandiego, the royal gramma. Because she hid a lot.

1. Welcome - and are you from Norway (the Name)
2. Nice tank. If you only had one fish loss (the clowns) its pretty good...
1. No, the name is German and from my warcraft gaming days, just sort of stuck with me
2. Sadly, the list is only starting :(

Lots of nice black box options right now.

If you are seeing decent results right now then I wouldn't worry about it. That brand is just usually pretty bad.
For sure - it's not great, but for the price I couldn't say no. Not very good reviews overall, but it seems to be growing the corals decently well and I personally haven't had issues yet. Definitely on my list to upgrade, but they're SO pricey.
 

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The Book

Quick couple images for you all on this - since I started I've kept pretty careful notes about everything that happens with the tank. It's helped for some things, but mostly it's great for having a place to record key observations and info regularly as part of a routine, and I highly recommend the practice to anyone in the hobby. Enjoy!

20190621_181422.jpg

SHARK PEN OO HA HA!!

20190621_181439.jpg

I was far more wasteful of space back in the day, though I did pick up the testing kit quickly, at least

20190621_181453.jpg

The first notes. Was feeding every other day, and relatively little. Fish not doing so great, and OH how I do not miss those blasted filtration sheets. So frustrating. Also, "Carmen" is Carmen Sandiego, the royal gramma. Because she hid a lot.



1. No, the name is German and from my warcraft gaming days, just sort of stuck with me
2. Sadly, the list is only starting :(



For sure - it's not great, but for the price I couldn't say no. Not very good reviews overall, but it seems to be growing the corals decently well and I personally haven't had issues yet. Definitely on my list to upgrade, but they're SO pricey.
Es gibt auch ein Berg in Norwegen:)
 
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Reality Check 2 - a wipe-out from blind trust (Dec 2017 - Jan 2018)

As mentioned above, I'd had some issues with (not) testing and dying fish already. I waited about 6 weeks after the last clown death to (hopefully) remove the Brook, and things were going along nicely, for the most part. I tried adding a couple more coral colonies (still on plugs - they kept falling), while not testing any key parameters, and my gramma ended up vanishing. Just stopped coming out of the rocks. I'm sure it died and was eaten by the crabs in the rocks somehow/somewhere.

IMG_20180128_085132.jpg

I was happy to be getting some nice coraline algae, at least. The rocks were beginning to look far more natural than before, so that was a big plus for me. Torch started to expand out a bit, as well, which I was ecstatic about.

Soon enough, I purchased a couple upgrades and livestock. I bought a couple of night light LED modules and another timer, set to turn on ~a half hour after my T5. It gave that nice LED "wave" on the sand and I loved it.

20180129_214731.jpg

Not the best picture, but you can see the infamous LED "shimmer" effect on the sand. I was basically over the moon.

For livestock, I wanted to try out some more of the family Damselfish, but didn't want to spend a ridiculous amount of money on another clown, so I made a couple of key errors:
  • Got a yellow tail and spotted damsel
  • Also got a 6-Line - making me have a massive bioload increase AND Some notoriously difficult/aggressive fish
  • Not a quarantine tank in sight, because why would the LFS give me a bad fish?

20180128_124609.jpg

This really cool yellow/green bristleworm hitchhiker began to come out and I really loved how it popped against the red/purple of the rock. You can also see the 6-Line under the rock on the right side.


March of the Ich

As one would expect to see from such naivete, one of the damsels (yellow tail), had ich, and it was BAD. Wasn't visible at first, but showed up after a few days. I immediately ordered everything that I thought would work to make a quick QT tank (more on that later), and got going on Cupramine treatment. Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures of the fish in the QT, but just know that it was a disaster :( . I over treated the copper, and it killed the wrasse in a matter of days. The spotted damsel held on for awhile, but died not long after, as well. Just before the 8 weeks QT was up, the coral beauty passed. By that time there was no ich in sight and they'd all been eating well. Parameters all came back fine (0 N, 0 Ammonia, etc.), so I figured it was stressed. Damsel heads back to the tank, and it seems good, at least. Losing them all was HARD. I knew I screwed up and it was 100% my fault for not being more careful. At least I had the QT up and running, though, so I could better combat issues like this. At least, that's what I thought at the time. That'll be the end of this particular story, though, and there's plenty more to come!
 
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Bad up-to date news:

Last night (6/25), my Firefish died. It had been in hiding pretty much since the release of the angel. I guess the angel's physical size was too intimidating for it and the shyness/timid nature kicked it. I didn't see it for a few days, but still tried to feed it. I figured it was dead, but in the evening I saw it come out from it's hidey hole and was initially excited, but it soon started the "death throws". I've seen them before in other fish and it's one of the worst things to watch - random twitching, darting around, and curling up before stopping altogether. Managed to get it out of the tank before the crabs got it, and there's no sign of disease, but very saddening. Had it for just over 3 months and really enjoyed seeing it in my tank. Today basically regretting decisions and debating if this is all really worth it :(

RIP my Todo, but continue blessing the rains and water :(:(

I'm planning to do another progress post later this week following the above about dealing with ich - there's a good amount left to go to today still.
 
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Reality check 3 - A lesson in torsional strain and rebuilding from the crash (Jan - Apr 2018)

You may remember that I showed this image of my old sump:
sump.PNG

The hose is ~3 feet long for a distance less than half that, with straight vertical connectors both from the tank and to the sump. In order to fit, the top of the portion going to the sump had to make a VERY tight turn, and significantly strained the outside edge of the tube. One say, it had ripped and contained a small hole. Thankfully, it was spilling atop the sump itself (sorry, don't have pictures), and I used the obvious solution available at the time - duct tape. Because obviously. Wrap anything in enough duct tape and it becomes completely water-tight, right? After nearly the entire hose was ripped in two, I thought it might be a good idea to buy a new one, so I did, along with a couple plumbing fittings to reduce the strain almost completely. Still have that blasted barb fitting from the overflow, though....
Sump fix.PNG

Here's my fancy Paint-based illustration - The red area is where the tear occurred, thankfully in the upper portion, so spillage was minimal. After getting a new hose and fittings, everything was all good. Would prefer hardened plumbing, but the sump I had used filter sheets, so I had to remove the lid and replace them weekly. Definitely do NOT miss that. So annoying with the cutting and the replacing.

After the massive scare and deaths from the infections of varied sort, I went out and got some new fish for my QT
  • Watchman Goby
  • Japanese Damsel (velvet damsel)
At this point, I was mostly trying to keep things going smoothly - keeping the new fish in the tank for a couple of months to watch for infections, maintaining my parameters with water changes, including getting an RODI system set up in February (previously I'd been driving ~15 miles to my LFS for water every couple weeks with 3-4 buckets and basically hoping that nothing crashed. Decent few upgrades, at least, and the fishies both did well in QT, and joined the lone yellow tail damsel in the main tank after a couple months.

IMG_20180331_210641.png

While not a perfect setup (due to the emergency style in which it was built, the QT was OK. Even got some sand for the goby, which it never used. After all that hard work getting it in there. You can see the damsel in the reflection on the right side, as well, behind the filter.

32700313_1__92241.1522380596.jpg

Velvet damsel image courtesy of Bluegrass Aquatics; I don't have a good one of mine in the QT

I also expanded out the rock formation with some more dry rock in the DT while this was all going on
20180225_173422.jpg

The pic isn't great, but I was trying to fill out the tank space with some new rock I'd purchased, particularly trying to get some crevices and "swim holes".
20180423_183312.jpg

After QT, goby quickly makes a nice burrow by some of the new rock formation. Plus guest appearance by a fast-moving velvet damsel.

At this point, I knew that I was going to move out of my place, so I elected to keep everything the way it was, not adding new stock, doing QT, etc., since it was only a couple months out. Thankfully, everything seemed pretty good - everyone getting along, parameters pretty solid, and no signs of disease. We're out of the woods now, right? Right??
 
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Reality check 4 - moving day and QT build errors (Jun-July 2018)

For a good while, things were progressing smoothly. As I mentioned above, I knew I was going to be moving in a few months, and didn't want to have to worry about overstressing new stock by doing a QT and move within a couple weeks of each other. I (mostly) kept up with water changes, tested my parameters, and everything seemed to be pretty good with my tank getting up to the move and beyond.

If anyone has ever experienced moving a tank before, you know it SUCKS. As such, I made sure to do as much prep as possible, and plan ahead as best as I could. It should be noted that I had 5 portable aerators and my RO system already set up in the new place ahead of time. In addition, the tank was new enough that I was able to keep my sand. The move itself was also only ~10 minutes away from my old place, so I was probably overcautious there, as well.

Plan basically broke down thusly:
  1. Prior prep - get trash can for water, sealing bucket lids drilled with 1/4" holes for portable aerator tubing, and long (20 feet) of vinyl tubing. All new materials rinsed with RODI ahead of time.

  2. Pack up rock, fish, and sand into buckets with aerators

  3. Get overflow and sump water along with sump materials packed without aerators

  4. Move majority of remaining water to trash can

  5. Get everything to new place before movers arrive

  6. Set up as regular tank - sand, rock, water, fish
All in all, especially with the prep ahead of time and getting an early start, everything went quite well! A few hiccups, but nothing too terrible.


Taking off the canopy, lights, and covers was easy enough.


Buckets with aerators were done very simply - packing tape on the aerator and write on the tape what's inside. You can also see the plumbing upgrade with the side elbow.


As the aquascape crumbles and withers around him, Jacques La Crevette remains calm and poised


Major buckets done! Time for the sump and overflow. Incidentally, easier than I thought, but I didn't do it very smartly. I disconnected the sump-feeding hose from the sump and placed it in a bucket, then popped up the overflow pipe from the bulkhead. Strained the bulkhead a bit, and we'll see consequences for that later :( . Sump was pretty easy, simply redirected the flow from the tank return to a bucket and turned on the pump.


Living on the second floor helps when you need a solid siphon down to a can. Far less work trying to move it around. Originally planned to use the return pump, but this was easier.


Strapped in and ready to roll!


Head over to the new place, ready for the tank


Getting things set up just as the movers were done. Water was added to the large can (containing the pump - you can just see the white cylinder on the floor by the plaid shorts) from the buckets as rock, sand, etc., was emptied out so the water could be added back to the tank. Rock was also scrubbed and rinsed in the overflow and sump water buckets. This effectively made a water change, and I made some new water from my RO system while doing the re-set up.

Lights and canopy were NOT set up the day of the move, just the main pieces of rock, sand, heater, etc. Left main tank with plug-in aerator and sump with battery aerator overnight to allow max settling time. Also added a bit of Prime and Stability the first few days to be safe.


Initially getting the canopy and lights back, along with pump back on, meant there was still some cloudiness, but everyone was acclimating back nicely.


A few hours later, looking much better!, and seems to be going well, with testing showing solid numbers across the board and torch started opening just a bit, as well. Still, a crazy time.

Almost immediately after getting the tank set up and at least mostly moved into the house, I set up the QT and got a couple new fish for it, as well: a Blood Orange Clown and a Sunset Anthias. I was ridiculously excited to expand out my stock and have some really beautiful colors added to the tank.
20180707_185333(0).jpg

Hi Fishies!

Unfortunately, I soon realized a couple of things. First - a filtration system designed for a betta tank is NOT good enough for a marine aquarium, QT or otherwise. Second, anthia HATE being in QT of any sort. Within days the anthias was dying and the clown was looking lethargic and barely eating. I tried everything - live brine, other frozen foods, everything. Nothing worked and the anthias died soon after. I also ended up moving the clown to the DT early to try and keep it alive. I also went and bought an HOB filter for the QT tank to improve flow and filtration.

IMG_20180707_184030.png

My gf went and got what was nearly the biggest sebae nem the LFS had, as well. It looks REALLY cool. Good lord is it huge.

IMG_20180806_174825.jpg

Clown hosted in the nem, but seriously. SO BIG.

Towards the end of July/early August, I also got a new forktail blenny, as well. Within a day it found a way into the overflow. Thankfully I saved it, but still. It was pretty freaky.

That's it for this update, but don't worry, there's plenty more on the way!
 
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Reality Check 5 - Algae strikes, ammonia bombs, corals die, QT still bad (Aug-Sept 2018)

I was pretty excited to have my stuff running reasonably well at this time - my fish were happy, nem was happy, and I had my updated QT with the new filter and more going. So... enter what's been the darkest part of my reefing experience so far :( . I was excited to move forward, so I got some corals from an online frag pack - lots of Zoas and Favias, mostly. I took a lot of precautions, dipping them in dilute Bayer, and rinsing HEAVILY. Here's a sampling of some of the pics I took prior to the dips.

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Unfortunately, a few days before the corals arrived (after ordering all of them), my nem went partially nuclear. It was in the process of dying (went down to the size of less than a golf ball and stayed that way), and released a substantial number of nutrients into the tank. I removed the nem before it fully died, but much of the damage was already done. It seemed like the fish were OK, but the nutrient spike caused a HUGE upsurge in algae growth and subsequently stifled growth and opening of all the corals, both ones I'd had and the new ones. I also didn't have a frag rack at the time, so I did the best I could to get the plugs to stay in nooks and crevices of the rocks. These are pics from the day after putting the new corals in the tank - you can see the significant algae growth and majority of corals not opening much, if at all. Some of them already sealed shut. I was in way over my head and didn't know exactly what I should've been doing to help make sure everything works well.
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My long-lasting torch was really circling the drain. No extension at all and virtually no color on it anymore.
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I was particularly worried about the GSP - I'd waited months to get one from my LFS and only had it a couple weeks before this.

After all was said and done, nearly all the corals died. Between falling off the rocks mid-day and spending the time in the sand bed to the nutrient spike(s), there was essentially nothing left. I was devastated and did my best to keep what few were still alive up and going. Unfortunately none were still up after ~3 weeks. A very costly and painful mistake, to be sure. I did daily water changes and scrapped, scrubbed, and razor'd every tank and rock surface I could manage to get into in order to clean up. Eventually, the algae was gone along with the corals. Not good. And, on the other side of the house:

"Blutspitze's QT" is latin for death, apparently
Along with new corals, I was ecstatic to try and get some new fish. I kept running into similar problems as before, though - dying within days or a week, with no sign of disease. Several times I put them in the display tank as an emergency measure (stupid, yes, but no disease signs + desperation = stupidity). I had abandoned the previous LFS due to the problems I'd had with their advice and compatibility issues, and the new one being far superior - QT'ing all fish with copper for a few weeks before putting them in the store, things like that. Thankfully no issues at all with disease have occurred whatsoever, but over the first few months following the move, here's a smattering of what was lost:
  • 4x Queen anthia (2 pairs) - one pair in QT, one in DT
  • 2x Firefish - one died in DT after emergency move, second died in DT sans QT
  • Sunset anthia - died in display (no QT because anthias, after the problem when I had one with the clown)
  • 6 line wrasse - died in QT
  • Coral beauty - died in QT
  • Cleaner wrasse - died in display after emergency move to DT. Put in a home-made (last minute) acclimation box consisting of a tupperware container with knifeholes stabbed in it. Not smart. Poor thing sliced itself on the box's edges and died in minutes :(
I tried everything I could think of - every type of food on the market to make sure they were eating, daily water changes/testing, working from home so I could observe things a bit more closely, just.... everything. I was unbelievably frustrated and more than once seriously considered quitting the hobby. Each fish and coral death hit me really hard, not only because of the money I'd spent, but because I cared for them as animals, and wanted them to be happy and healthy.

Thankfully, one thing stuck nicely in all the chaos and horror show - I got a new, smaller nem for my clownfish to have. Much more modest and reasonable, but fishie enjoyed it :D
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I still had to figure out what was going on, though, and hopefully find a way to bounce back.
 
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