Hammer's 37 Gallon Tall Peninsula Reef

What should I post about in the future?

  • The behavior & keeping of my Maroon Clownfish?

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My build story begins with a co-worker of mine gifting me a 37G Tall tank with a stand & heater for free. I had been keeping freshwater fish for years, had a degree in marine biology, and was always looking forward to building my own reef one day – I just couldn’t afford it at the time. However, with this gift, I figured the tank and stand were half the cost (FALSE), so I might as well get my reef going.

So off I went on what I hoped would be the most cost-effective build I could muster. I knew I needed the following to get started:

Live sand
Live rock
Filtration
Protein Skimmer
Power head
Lighting


I did my research (or so I thought) and figured I would go with the following:

Live sand: ~50lbs (don’t remember the brand)
Live rock: ~45lbs (My LFS let me put a tarp down and play with different rocks until I landed on the pieces and structure I wanted)
Protein Skimmer: Red Sea PRIZM (this was the cheapest available at my LFS, rated for up to 100 gallons)
Power head: I don’t remember the brand, but it your standard power head rated for a 35-50 gallon tank
Lighting: Two AI Primes with mounting racks
Filtration: External Canister Filter (MASSIVE HULKING MISTAKE – DON’T DO THIS – MORE ON THIS LATER)

In June 2015 my tank was born. I created a peninsula tank to separate my dining area from my living room in my townhouse. With the lights on and the water moving, the live rock and live sand got the cycling going. I’d say within two weeks it was cycled and over the next few weeks I began buying my first livestock. I don’t remember all that I bought, but I know I got an anemone and two fish – a Pajama Cardinal and a Maroon Clownfish.
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July 2015 (4).jpg

July 2015.jpg


Over the next Year I would go out and buy a new frag or two each month. I was learning about different species, and how to care for the reef. I was performing weekly 20% water changes each week. I did not have an auto-top off, and so I was pouring fresh water into my reef directly at times. All of these rapid changes in water chemistry was bad for my reef. I lost some corals, but others still managed to thrive.

By July of 2016, my tank was looking far more filled in.
July 2016.jpg
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I had corals of all types, and I was learning about pests and how to combat them. I saw I had some zoanthid spiders and so I bought a five lined-wrasse to eat them. I also picked up an Azure Damsel and a Splendid Dottyback. I admit it was getting a little crowded, but everyone seemed to find their own space within the rockwork.

As my maroon clownfish (Bentley) matured, I noticed it biting off my golden torch’s tentacles. It was trying to host it like it would an anemone - but it wasn’t an anemone - so this activity eventually killed it. Heartbroken, I accepted that torches were not compatible with my maroon clownfish and that eventually I need to get him a new anemone (the original one I had died after a few months).

In December of 2016, the LFS I had been buying from this whole time decided to downsize and shut down their retail space – which meant MASSIVE coral sale for everyone else. I took advantage of the situation and loaded up on as much as I could afford, Including an anemone for Bentley.

Dec 2016.jpg
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My Tank was two years old and I was very happy with it. I learned about attaching razor blades to magfloats and got all that coralline algae off the glass. I also felt confident enough to buy a higher end anemone, which eventually split into two massive versions of itself for a few months. I started to notice diatoms and hair algae appear in my tank, but I didn’t think much of it. I checked my water parameters each week (or every other week) and everything was as it should be – or so I thought.

The Great Algae Bloom of 2017 decimated my tank. Early in the year, when the algae was just starting to show, I figured all I needed was some more clean up crew to combat the algae. So I got more trochus snails and Emerald crabs – but they didn’t seem to make a dent. The algae kept coming, and the crabs kept dying off. I could not figure out what was going on, algae began to overtake my corals and starved them of sunlight.

July of 2017
July 2017 Side A.jpg
July 2017 Side B.jpg
July 2017 Side C.jpg


By November 2017, I was doing water changes almost daily to try and get the phosphates down. While I had constantly been measuring my Kh, Calcium, PH, Salinity, and Temperature, I had not thought to check for phosphates before – which were off the charts……literally. The vial for the test turned so green that I the liquid was opaque (its supposed to be clear & yellow). This was a situation which we in the biz would call “bad.”

I went to my LFS and walked them through what I was experiencing, and naturally they wanted details of my rig. When I mentioned the canister filter, they jumped. That was the cause – while they may be great for a freshwater tank, they are the enemy in saltwater tanks. I thought that my tank would be small enough that I could get away with the canister filter – and I did for two years – but then I didn’t, and it was fast.

I cannot stress enough how stupid this was. If you are going to build a tank, spend the money up front to get it right the first time. Cutting corners will give you the experience I just described, and you will lose years’ worth of work (and time and money and hair). I share my mistakes with you so that you may learn from them and not have to experience it for yourself. Your nerves and wallet will thank you.
Nov 2017 Side A.jpg
Nov 2017 Side B.jpg
Nov 2017 Side C.jpg


So I needed a sump, and I built one.

**This is where originally I had all the details with pictures of that process, but it seems there is a 20 picture limit on each post. Therefore, I will create a separate thread for that, and post the link on this thread.**

By March of 2018, my sump was up and running, and the phosphate levels began to go down. There was so much algae though, it took over a year for it to all go away. There’s still some left even now, but its minimal and declining still (Did I mention you should never use a canister filter yet). So things were going well enough, I stopped buying coral for a while, the things that had survived the algae began to grow out again. But as fate would have it, another disaster was around the corner.

Within 45 days or so, a large storm swept through the area, and knocked out power in the entire city of days. For three days, it was 40 degrees inside my home. I had wrapped my tank in an old comforter, and had a battery powered air stone, but there was no light, no flow, and the temperature was dropping. When all my fish were upside down on the bottom of the tank on day three I decided to take drastic measures. I used pots to take water out of the tank, put the pots on my gas grill in the backyard, and poured the super-heated water back into the tank. I did it for two or three hours straight, back and forth – and just as I was about to give up, the power came back on. I had saved 4/5 fish – but I lost vast amounts of coral (over 70% of rock cover).

Utterly demoralized, I didn’t have the stomach for my tank anymore. I took a break for a while. eventually I bought two rock flower anemones because they were on sale for cheap. I knew they could find a way to survive around the algae, but other than that I didn’t want to waste anymore money

By the fall of 2018, I got back into my process of buying a frag or two a month, slowly restocking my reef. The Algae was subsiding, and I only started buying things I was confident I could grow. I rarely spent more than $50 on a new coral (unless it was a special occasion or rare circumstance). I got into fragging, found out a co-worker that was into reefing as well, and began trading.

Over time, my reef began to fill up, the algae continued to disappear, and I was able to have a tank I was proud of once again. I downloaded one of AI primes’ signature series for my light schedule (Saxby’s), my corals have responded really well to it. I measure for salinity & temp almost daily. I measure Ph, Alkalinity, Calcium, Magnesium, Nitrates, and Phosphates bi-weekly. I had one hiccup when my heater died and my anemones went with it. But I got a new heater and a new anemone. Then my splendind dottyback decided it was through sharing space with the five lined wrasse, and now I only have three fish. I think it’s a good number though, and I don’t intend to add any more fish to the tank.

I'm finally at a point where I am happy to take pictures of my tank again (June 2019).
6-30-19 A.jpg
6-30-19 B.jpg
6-30-19 C.jpg

I do 10% water changes every two weeks, and my water parameters have been stable for months.

Calcium 440 ppm
Alkalinity 140 ppm
Salinity 1.024-1.026
Temperature 80 degrees
Ph 8.3
Magnesium 1300 ppm
Phosphates 0 ppm
Nitrates 0 ppm

Hardware
Reactor: Skimz BR83 Bio-Pellet Reactor
Protein Skimmer: Red Sea PRIZM
Lighting: AI Prime x 2
Overflow Box w/ Silencer: LifeReef Single Slimline
Auto Top-Off: Tunze Osmolator Nano 3152

Overall, I like having a “Nano” tank because its easy to make adjustments to the tank, and easier to spot hitchhikers. I have less fish, but that also means I have less to worry about in terms of things getting along. If you love the coral, and don’t need the fish, the smaller tank is a great way to go.

That said, one day, when I have a bigger home, I intend to level up and get a bigger tank (who among us doesn't?). I’m thinking something wide and short, but I haven’t landed on a model or size. I’d love to hear your input on my story, or on what you think I should do for my future build. I will try to post more pictures of my tank (and hopefully start selling my corals in the marketplace) very soon.

Thanks for reading -Cheers!

July 2015(3).jpg
 
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dbl

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Great looking tank but I'm a sucker for a peninsula!
 

Devaji

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great job on keeping with it! I also love peninsula's :D
out of curiosity how often did you take the canister off line and clean it out? I think they can work but need attention.
 
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specwar

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Yes I would also like to know more about how you maintained the Canister while you had it up. Thanks for the documentation of your journey.
 
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great job on keeping with it! I also love peninsula's :D
out of curiosity how often did you take the canister off line and clean it out? I think they can work but need attention.
Thanks for reading and commenting Devjali!

That's a fair question: I probably opened it up and changed out the filter pads once every 1-2 months. Maybe I would have had a different experience if I was opening it up weekly or every few days. It was a Fluval 306-strong enough for a 70g- so I didn't feel the need to change the pads that often at the time (seemed to be working for nearly two years too). I had used canister filters in freshwater aquariums with the same formula for years and never had any issues. But in the saltwater aquarium, what happened above is my only experience, and therefore all I can speak to.

I know there are media pads that take phosphates out of the water, but those did not work for me - maybe it was too far gone at that point to make a difference? That said, nothing in the canister filter takes on phosphates like the bio-pellet reactor. That thing is amazing.
 
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Yes I would also like to know more about how you maintained the Canister while you had it up. Thanks for the documentation of your journey.
Thanks for reading/commenting Specwar! I hope my post above suffices for your question as well. Happy to answer any others too
 

specwar

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Thanks for reading/commenting Specwar! I hope my post above suffices for your question as well. Happy to answer any others too
I'm going with a Penn Plax 1200 on a 37.5 tall. Let see how she does. I have been eyeballing the 5.5 sump as a possible evolution. Thanks for the response.
 
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Katrina71

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Why narrow down what to post? Include all of it. It's a fantastic tank!
 
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HAMMERofGold
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Thanks Katrina! Heres some more just for you
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P.s. I have tons of these pink shrooms. If anyone lives nearby I'd be happy to trade. I don't know the art of shipping yet, maybe that will be my next advebture.

As my Zoas grow out, I intend to frag and trade those as well.
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Katrina71

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I'm curious if your RFA chose that spot? I have one that prefers up top too.
 

Katrina71

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My son is planning a pico with zoas and RFA. I have not seen any warfare with zoas in my tank. Curious if you have?
 
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I'm going with a Penn Plax 1200 on a 37.5 tall. Let see how she does. I have been eyeballing the 5.5 sump as a possible evolution. Thanks for the response.
Specwar - Obviously I am very biased on this, it would say spend the money and build the sump. Its way better than having to restock your whole tank and fight algae for the next year. I built a 5.5 gallon sump, and my thread on how I did it is posted above (in case you did not see already).

I could not be happier with how the sump impacted my tank, my water is super stable now.
 
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