I need help with multiple things.

Biokabe

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Limited to HOB filter parents didnt like the idea of having a tank of dirty water below the stand. I want to do a sump though I think I would benifit from it much better but HOB is so easy. Ive never heard about a algae scrubber or filter roller etc. If you guys know a better way to do nutrition export please educate me. Im kind of a begginer/intermediate reefer even though I have been doing this for years now. Can I still add a skimmer or are rollers and scrubbers sump exclusive? What could I add to help with nutrient exports? I saw carbon dosing but I know I might need a skimmer to do that.

A sump isn't a tank of dirty water. If you need an analogy to help them understand - it's basically an equipment shed for your tank.

But regardless, you don't need a sump - it just makes things easier. A sump gives you a lot more choices, but there are still options for you.

As far as the nutrition cycle goes - you add nutrients to your tank when you feed it. A certain amount of that food goes into feeding the things that you want to keep - fish, corals, CUC. Whatever is leftover will then go to feed whatever else can take advantage of it. Your first goal with nutrition is to get as much of that food into the bodies of the things you want as possible. Your second goal is to make sure that the waste products from your food don't pollute your water. And your third goal with nutrition is to not give nutrition to the things you don't want in your tank - algae, cyano, aiptasia and other nasties.

In an ideal world, you wouldn't need to do any export - 100% of the nutrition would be taken up by the things you want in your tank. This is possible to do (without starving your tank), but it's pretty difficult to achieve in practice. You basically need a tank absolutely packed with life that you have deliberately put there, and you need to be feeding just enough that everyone can thrive, but nothing rots.

With nitrates over 100, you're not there. Honestly many people never quite get there, but you can definitely get closer to that level without breaking the bank. Here are some things I personally would advise you to focus on:

First off, get at least a nitrate testing kit so that you don't have to rely on your LFS to test for you. You need to be able to assess the effectiveness of your actions, and having to go over to your LFS to do so is going to be a challenge. Either pick up the Nyos kit ($25) or the Hanna kit ($65). They work out to about the same cost per test overall, but the Nyos will obviously be easier to start with. The Nyos will also teach you how to do more traditional tests, but Hanna testers are, on average, much easier to use.

Second - if you notice a lot of food left over after you feed your fish, you may be overfeeding. If you see lots of uneaten food in your filter floss, that also is a sign that you might be overdoing it. If either of those are true, cut back on how much you feed, and change out your filter floss more often. That will help prevent the buildup of waste products in your aquarium.

Third - you need some method of removing built-up nutrients from your water. There are four basic methods here - they all work, but via different mechanisms.

First, add additional algae in an environment you control, allowing the added algae to use the waste nutrients as fertilizer. When you then harvest and throw away the algae that you grew, you're then effectively removing those nutrients from your water. This is the basic idea behind both a refugium and an algae turf scrubber. If your primary goal is simply reducing nutrients, go with the turf scrubber. There are a variety of models to choose from, or you can make your own for some cost savings. If you go this route, I'd recommend looking up the scrubbers from Santa Monica Filtration - they'll probably be the best fit for your situation.

A refugium can also work, but they're typically not as effective at pure nutrient reduction as turf scrubbers are. A refugium, as the name suggests, is a refuge for creatures and life forms that you either don't want in your display, or that wouldn't be able to survive there because of your fish. Most refugia use a specific type of algae called chaetomorpha, and in addition to being a convenient place to grow harvestable algae, they can also serve as breeding grounds for small crustaceans like copepods. It's not a bad idea to have a refugium, and they can be found in HOB formats, but for your specific situation I think a turf scrubber would be a better place to invest your money.

The second basic idea in nutrient reduction is to physically remove the nutrients from your water. This can be via mechanical filtration (filter floss), chemical filtration (activated carbon) or foaming action (protein skimmer). You're already using the first two options, but neither is really effective at removing nitrate from your system. For that, you need a protein skimmer. A protein skimmer is basically a fancy acrylic tube attached to a special pump that mixes air and water. This mixture creates millions of little bubbles, and the bubbles grab onto dissolved organic compounds (such as nitrates). The bubbles them bubble up through the skimmer body and collect into the filtration cup. Most skimmers are designed to be used in a sump, but there are a variety of HOB models that you can find. Most of those are designed for smaller tanks, but there are some that are sized correctly for a tank of your size.

The third basic idea is treating your water for nitrates, the most common form of which is called carbon dosing. This can be very effective, and honestly for your situation I would strongly recommend looking into it. Most people will use either vodka or vinegar as the carbon source; obviously, being 14, asking your parents to let you have vodka for your tank is probably not going to work out, so distilled white vinegar is probably going to be best for you. Research this THOROUGHLY before you start, but it can be very effective at getting nitrates down. I also wouldn't try this until you can test for nitrates and phosphates on your own without relying on your LFS.

Finally, the fourth idea (and the one that most mature reefs use) is the many-mouths method. You have so many 'mouths' consuming the nutrients in your tank that there's nothing left to fuel algae and other undesirables. These mouths include everything in your tank - fish, CUC, corals, decorative algae, copepods, amphipods, worms and more.

For you specifically, here's what I would recommend:

  • Get a nitrate test and eventually a phosphate test. Eventually you'll want tests for all the parameters, but start with those.
  • Once you have the nitrate test, see how much your nitrates change in the course of a week.
  • If you're not already, start a program of regular water changes. Use the amount that your nitrates raise in that time to figure out how much and how frequently to change the water. 10% every two weeks is what I aim for. You may want to do more until you get your nitrates down below 20.
  • Aim to get at least one of the following three items in a way that will work for your tank: Algae turf scrubber, refugium or protein skimmer. Long-term, you'll want two out of the three. I personally would go for a scrubber first, followed by a skimmer. I don't think a HOB refugium is going to give you enough volume to justify itself.
  • Finally, research carbon dosing until it makes complete sense to you. After you get your nitrate and phosphate tests, and once you're comfortable with the concept, start vinegar dosing.
As a last note - increase the size of your CUC, and give them a head start by manually removing as much of the long algae as you can. Zebra turbo snails, pitho crabs, scarlet hermits, astrea snails, tiger conches, nassarius snails, blue-legged hermits, cerith snails, Mexican turbo snails and emerald crabs are all excellent CUC members. All of these are effective at keeping algae in check, but they won't eat long strands of algae.
 

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Solid explanation above.. many tools available. Do research on each and choose. I personally would start with a hob skimmer, manual removal and water changes and herbivores(cuc,lawnmower blenny,etc). Scrubbers can be a efficient tool but most are pretty expensive (for what they are) and require a sump. Carbon dosing is the most powerful nutrient reduction tool. I could bring that 100 down in a couple months(depending on phosphate numbers) doing nothing but adding a skimmer and vodka(vinegar does same thing). But it's dangerous effective, can kill your tank a couple different ways if you're not on top of things. Manual removal and herbivores are instrumental. We can drive your nutrients down to a trace and algea will still thrive if nobody's eating it. Can't buy fish right now? Be the fish, remove the algea. Biofilms,coralline, corals will cover your rocks and one day algea just stops being a problem. Expect a year of ugly. Nothing good happens fast in a reef tank.(remember that)
 
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cdemoss01

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A sump isn't a tank of dirty water. If you need an analogy to help them understand - it's basically an equipment shed for your tank.

But regardless, you don't need a sump - it just makes things easier. A sump gives you a lot more choices, but there are still options for you.

As far as the nutrition cycle goes - you add nutrients to your tank when you feed it. A certain amount of that food goes into feeding the things that you want to keep - fish, corals, CUC. Whatever is leftover will then go to feed whatever else can take advantage of it. Your first goal with nutrition is to get as much of that food into the bodies of the things you want as possible. Your second goal is to make sure that the waste products from your food don't pollute your water. And your third goal with nutrition is to not give nutrition to the things you don't want in your tank - algae, cyano, aiptasia and other nasties.

In an ideal world, you wouldn't need to do any export - 100% of the nutrition would be taken up by the things you want in your tank. This is possible to do (without starving your tank), but it's pretty difficult to achieve in practice. You basically need a tank absolutely packed with life that you have deliberately put there, and you need to be feeding just enough that everyone can thrive, but nothing rots.

With nitrates over 100, you're not there. Honestly many people never quite get there, but you can definitely get closer to that level without breaking the bank. Here are some things I personally would advise you to focus on:

First off, get at least a nitrate testing kit so that you don't have to rely on your LFS to test for you. You need to be able to assess the effectiveness of your actions, and having to go over to your LFS to do so is going to be a challenge. Either pick up the Nyos kit ($25) or the Hanna kit ($65). They work out to about the same cost per test overall, but the Nyos will obviously be easier to start with. The Nyos will also teach you how to do more traditional tests, but Hanna testers are, on average, much easier to use.

Second - if you notice a lot of food left over after you feed your fish, you may be overfeeding. If you see lots of uneaten food in your filter floss, that also is a sign that you might be overdoing it. If either of those are true, cut back on how much you feed, and change out your filter floss more often. That will help prevent the buildup of waste products in your aquarium.

Third - you need some method of removing built-up nutrients from your water. There are four basic methods here - they all work, but via different mechanisms.

First, add additional algae in an environment you control, allowing the added algae to use the waste nutrients as fertilizer. When you then harvest and throw away the algae that you grew, you're then effectively removing those nutrients from your water. This is the basic idea behind both a refugium and an algae turf scrubber. If your primary goal is simply reducing nutrients, go with the turf scrubber. There are a variety of models to choose from, or you can make your own for some cost savings. If you go this route, I'd recommend looking up the scrubbers from Santa Monica Filtration - they'll probably be the best fit for your situation.

A refugium can also work, but they're typically not as effective at pure nutrient reduction as turf scrubbers are. A refugium, as the name suggests, is a refuge for creatures and life forms that you either don't want in your display, or that wouldn't be able to survive there because of your fish. Most refugia use a specific type of algae called chaetomorpha, and in addition to being a convenient place to grow harvestable algae, they can also serve as breeding grounds for small crustaceans like copepods. It's not a bad idea to have a refugium, and they can be found in HOB formats, but for your specific situation I think a turf scrubber would be a better place to invest your money.

The second basic idea in nutrient reduction is to physically remove the nutrients from your water. This can be via mechanical filtration (filter floss), chemical filtration (activated carbon) or foaming action (protein skimmer). You're already using the first two options, but neither is really effective at removing nitrate from your system. For that, you need a protein skimmer. A protein skimmer is basically a fancy acrylic tube attached to a special pump that mixes air and water. This mixture creates millions of little bubbles, and the bubbles grab onto dissolved organic compounds (such as nitrates). The bubbles them bubble up through the skimmer body and collect into the filtration cup. Most skimmers are designed to be used in a sump, but there are a variety of HOB models that you can find. Most of those are designed for smaller tanks, but there are some that are sized correctly for a tank of your size.

The third basic idea is treating your water for nitrates, the most common form of which is called carbon dosing. This can be very effective, and honestly for your situation I would strongly recommend looking into it. Most people will use either vodka or vinegar as the carbon source; obviously, being 14, asking your parents to let you have vodka for your tank is probably not going to work out, so distilled white vinegar is probably going to be best for you. Research this THOROUGHLY before you start, but it can be very effective at getting nitrates down. I also wouldn't try this until you can test for nitrates and phosphates on your own without relying on your LFS.

Finally, the fourth idea (and the one that most mature reefs use) is the many-mouths method. You have so many 'mouths' consuming the nutrients in your tank that there's nothing left to fuel algae and other undesirables. These mouths include everything in your tank - fish, CUC, corals, decorative algae, copepods, amphipods, worms and more.

For you specifically, here's what I would recommend:

  • Get a nitrate test and eventually a phosphate test. Eventually you'll want tests for all the parameters, but start with those.
  • Once you have the nitrate test, see how much your nitrates change in the course of a week.
  • If you're not already, start a program of regular water changes. Use the amount that your nitrates raise in that time to figure out how much and how frequently to change the water. 10% every two weeks is what I aim for. You may want to do more until you get your nitrates down below 20.
  • Aim to get at least one of the following three items in a way that will work for your tank: Algae turf scrubber, refugium or protein skimmer. Long-term, you'll want two out of the three. I personally would go for a scrubber first, followed by a skimmer. I don't think a HOB refugium is going to give you enough volume to justify itself.
  • Finally, research carbon dosing until it makes complete sense to you. After you get your nitrate and phosphate tests, and once you're comfortable with the concept, start vinegar dosing.
As a last note - increase the size of your CUC, and give them a head start by manually removing as much of the long algae as you can. Zebra turbo snails, pitho crabs, scarlet hermits, astrea snails, tiger conches, nassarius snails, blue-legged hermits, cerith snails, Mexican turbo snails and emerald crabs are all excellent CUC members. All of these are effective at keeping algae in check, but they won't eat long strands of algae.
Sounds good. I think I'll do an algae scrubber but they are EXPENSIVE. Do you think an Icecap 50 would work? about 180$ I am gonna have to work for a while over the summer just so I am back to a stable budget. What exactly does it do? And do you think if I add this will it put pressure on the back panel? I've already got a HOB back there I dont want my tank to have pressure on that back panel... What do you think?
 

Biokabe

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Sounds good. I think I'll do an algae scrubber but they are EXPENSIVE. Do you think an Icecap 50 would work? about 180$ I am gonna have to work for a while over the summer just so I am back to a stable budget. What exactly does it do? And do you think if I add this will it put pressure on the back panel? I've already got a HOB back there I dont want my tank to have pressure on that back panel... What do you think?

Most of the scrubbers on the market (including that Icecap model) are designed for sump usage, that's why I specifically recommended the Santa Monica scrubbers. They have a different design that can be used in a display tank - most people would still put that in a sump, but you could put it on your back panel and hide it behind the rockwork. There's also one that would float on the top of your tank, but it's more expensive. If $180 is something you can eventually swing, there are a number of models there which could work for you - HOB1x, Drop1.2, etc.

As for what a scrubber does - basically, it's a small space that is completely optimized for growing algae. Over time, as it grows more algae, it absorbs nutrients fast than the algae in the rest of your tank can. When you couple that with manual removal and increased herbivore load, the scrubber becomes the place where algae grows. And if it's in the scrubber, it's not on your rocks, and it's much easier to harvest it from the growing screen than it is to harvest it from your rocks.

If you can find a decent HOB skimmer secondhand, that could save you some money and get you started a little faster. I don't think it makes a huge difference whether you start with a skimmer or a scrubber, they'll both help your tank immensely.

Above all, practice good husbandry and work on manually removing as much of that algae as you can.
 
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cdemoss01

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Most of the scrubbers on the market (including that Icecap model) are designed for sump usage, that's why I specifically recommended the Santa Monica scrubbers. They have a different design that can be used in a display tank - most people would still put that in a sump, but you could put it on your back panel and hide it behind the rockwork. There's also one that would float on the top of your tank, but it's more expensive. If $180 is something you can eventually swing, there are a number of models there which could work for you - HOB1x, Drop1.2, etc.

As for what a scrubber does - basically, it's a small space that is completely optimized for growing algae. Over time, as it grows more algae, it absorbs nutrients fast than the algae in the rest of your tank can. When you couple that with manual removal and increased herbivore load, the scrubber becomes the place where algae grows. And if it's in the scrubber, it's not on your rocks, and it's much easier to harvest it from the growing screen than it is to harvest it from your rocks.

If you can find a decent HOB skimmer secondhand, that could save you some money and get you started a little faster. I don't think it makes a huge difference whether you start with a skimmer or a scrubber, they'll both help your tank immensely.

Above all, practice good husbandry and work on manually removing as much of that algae as you can.
I'm thinking a Icecap k1 i50 skimmer. Algae scrubbers seem way too expensive for me right now and quite advanced. Thinking of adding a peppermint shrimp and some emerald crabs. I need to keep my nitrates somewhat up there due to my LPS (hammer and duncan) they are both very unhappy right now however softies are happy. What should I try to get it to to keep everything happy? (if possible). This is supposed to be LPS and softie dominated no SPS has been added yet.
 

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I'm thinking a Icecap k1 i50 skimmer. Algae scrubbers seem way too expensive for me right now and quite advanced. Thinking of adding a peppermint shrimp and some emerald crabs. I need to keep my nitrates somewhat up there due to my LPS (hammer and duncan) they are both very unhappy right now however softies are happy. What should I try to get it to to keep everything happy? (if possible). This is supposed to be LPS and softie dominated no SPS has been added yet.

That sounds like a good plan. IceCap is good for being a more budget-focused brand. They won't be as nice as something like a Reef Octopus, but it should work at a much lower price point. Get the skimmer, up your manual removal and increase your CUC. If you're still having nutrient problems at that point, then you can think about either starting carbon dosing or saving up for (or building) an algae scrubber.

Emeralds are a definite yes, peppermints are... I won't say problematic, but I would say hit or miss, especially if you're bringing them in to clear out your aiptasia. If you're just bringing them in because you like them and you want them to help clean up leftover food, they're pretty good there. The issue with peppermints is that there are something like 6 different species that get sold under the "peppermint shrimp" label, and only one or two of them reliably eat aiptasia. They're also notorious for stealing food from LPS corals, potentially in ways that damage the coral.

If you're aiming to run a mostly LPS and softie tank, I'd shoot for somewhere between 20-40 ppm of nitrate. Don't go below 5 ppm - you don't even want to do that in an SPS tank. You can be a little more lax on it with your tank goals. If you keep the nitrates between 10-20, you might be able to do SPS down the road if you want to, at least from a water quality perspective. You would need to upgrade your lights if you ever get the SPS itch. Those particular Kessils are fine for what you're using them for, but they're not powerful enough to support more light-intensive corals. That's an issue for future you, though, and only if you do want to add SPS.
 
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cdemoss01

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That sounds like a good plan. IceCap is good for being a more budget-focused brand. They won't be as nice as something like a Reef Octopus, but it should work at a much lower price point. Get the skimmer, up your manual removal and increase your CUC. If you're still having nutrient problems at that point, then you can think about either starting carbon dosing or saving up for (or building) an algae scrubber.

Emeralds are a definite yes, peppermints are... I won't say problematic, but I would say hit or miss, especially if you're bringing them in to clear out your aiptasia. If you're just bringing them in because you like them and you want them to help clean up leftover food, they're pretty good there. The issue with peppermints is that there are something like 6 different species that get sold under the "peppermint shrimp" label, and only one or two of them reliably eat aiptasia. They're also notorious for stealing food from LPS corals, potentially in ways that damage the coral.

If you're aiming to run a mostly LPS and softie tank, I'd shoot for somewhere between 20-40 ppm of nitrate. Don't go below 5 ppm - you don't even want to do that in an SPS tank. You can be a little more lax on it with your tank goals. If you keep the nitrates between 10-20, you might be able to do SPS down the road if you want to, at least from a water quality perspective. You would need to upgrade your lights if you ever get the SPS itch. Those particular Kessils are fine for what you're using them for, but they're not powerful enough to support more light-intensive corals. That's an issue for future you, though, and only if you do want to add SPS.
I really do want to add acros or Acans. What light would I need? I already have two160s currently. I think I'll do an Icecap I ment a skunk shrimp instead of a peppermint I know they don't do much I just like them. Although I am worried about buying one because my wrasse eats some inverts. Ive had one before and it never ate it. Just worried I guess. What light would I need exactly?
 

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Assuming that you have an ro/di system, I would do a couple of big water changes to reboot your system and reduce nitrates.
Get a 32 gallon brute and partially fill with your aquarium water
Take out rocks one at a time, rinse and scrub from water in the brute.
Clean the sand.

You'll still have to deal with the aptasia and even if you scrubbed all the algae it may come back. A 3 day blackout may help with the algae. As for the peppermint shrimp, you mention that your wrasse goes after your existing shrimps so that should not be an option. A copperband butterfly may be work.

An HOB skimmer is a good idea. As mentioned, make sure you have plenty of water flow.
I would not do any kind of carbon dosing as I think that it will just complicate things.
Maintaining with water changes (10 - 15%) bi-weekly should be all that is needed for your system after doing some big water changes. Make sure the salinity and temperature is stable on your system. Other then that I don't think you need any test kits.
 
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Assuming that you have an ro/di system, I would do a couple of big water changes to reboot your system and reduce nitrates.
Get a 32 gallon brute and partially fill with your aquarium water
Take out rocks one at a time, rinse and scrub from water in the brute.
Clean the sand.

You'll still have to deal with the aptasia and even if you scrubbed all the algae it may come back. A 3 day blackout may help with the algae. As for the peppermint shrimp, you mention that your wrasse goes after your existing shrimps so that should not be an option. A copperband butterfly may be work.

An HOB skimmer is a good idea. As mentioned, make sure you have plenty of water flow.
I would not do any kind of carbon dosing as I think that it will just complicate things.
Maintaining with water changes (10 - 15%) bi-weekly should be all that is needed for your system after doing some big water changes. Make sure the salinity and temperature is stable on your system. Other then that I don't think you need any test kits.
I never like to do things like this and here's why. Number one reason is I'm a kid. 14 years old scared of my parents disapproving of this 5 year adventure or busting a seam, cracking the glass, killing everything and getting rid of it. I have a plan currently of getting a Ice cap skimmer and doing 15% water changes every 2 weeks constantly for 3 weeks to get nitrates down. After that is done I am getting my LFS owner to do a house visit to help with coral placement and do a small rescape of a couple of rocks. I have nobody to turn to except for the forums and my LFS! I said before the tank isn't dirty enough to do a rip clean its just in between that area.
 

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I did not see where you mentioned that your tank was not dirty enough for a reboot...must have missed that.
I think your plan is good. Getting your LFS specially is a good idea.
 
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I did not see where you mentioned that your tank was not dirty enough for a reboot...must have missed that.
I think your plan is good. Getting your LFS specially is a good idea.
Might've mistakened. Algae isnt all over the place I should say. It's just in the places I cant reach and places that just dont look good in general. Same with brown algae on my glass I dont know how to stop it from growing.
 

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I really do want to add acros or Acans. What light would I need? I already have two160s currently. I think I'll do an Icecap I ment a skunk shrimp instead of a peppermint I know they don't do much I just like them. Although I am worried about buying one because my wrasse eats some inverts. Ive had one before and it never ate it. Just worried I guess. What light would I need exactly?

There are any number of lights you can get, but I wouldn't worry about that for now. Save your budget for dealing with your current issues. =) Once you have things dialed in and are happy with the way the tank is going, then you can worry about upgrading your lighting. But for reference - on my tank, I have 4 T5 bulbs and 3 Radion XR15 fixtures. I have about 350 PAR at the top of my rockwork, around 220 at the sandbed. But that's close to $2,000 in lights, so I definitely wouldn't recommend doing what I do. Simply adding some more of the A180E Kessils to your tank could be enough to keep acros near the top of your rockwork - earlier in my tank's life I had a pair of those exact lights per half of my tank, and I was able to grow acros at the top of the rockwork. But like I said - save that for later. Lighting can get expensive (though there are some cheaper fixtures that work these days, like Noopsyche or Viparspectra).

The shrimp could be at risk with your wrasse. My Melanurus has a thing for emerald crabs... I wouldn't trust it with a shrimp either. I think the little legs scream out to it, "Eat me, eat me..." But each fish is different, if it hasn't attacked shrimp there's no guarantee that it will now.
 
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There are any number of lights you can get, but I wouldn't worry about that for now. Save your budget for dealing with your current issues. =) Once you have things dialed in and are happy with the way the tank is going, then you can worry about upgrading your lighting. But for reference - on my tank, I have 4 T5 bulbs and 3 Radion XR15 fixtures. I have about 350 PAR at the top of my rockwork, around 220 at the sandbed. But that's close to $2,000 in lights, so I definitely wouldn't recommend doing what I do. Simply adding some more of the A180E Kessils to your tank could be enough to keep acros near the top of your rockwork - earlier in my tank's life I had a pair of those exact lights per half of my tank, and I was able to grow acros at the top of the rockwork. But like I said - save that for later. Lighting can get expensive (though there are some cheaper fixtures that work these days, like Noopsyche or Viparspectra).

The shrimp could be at risk with your wrasse. My Melanurus has a thing for emerald crabs... I wouldn't trust it with a shrimp either. I think the little legs scream out to it, "Eat me, eat me..." But each fish is different, if it hasn't attacked shrimp there's no guarantee that it will now.
Alright sounds good. Ill make sure im feeding less and I will get a i50 Icecap skimmer as well! Thanks for your help.
 

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