IM 25 Mangrove Lagoon: Invert Heavy Build

BurlyWizard

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Hello!

I am starting the build of an Innovative Marine Fusion 25 Gallon Lagoon invert heavy tank.

This will be a semi-planted tank with sprouted mangroves and some marine plants in the mix. The plan for the aquascaping is a central "mountain" / "volcano" with exposed rock above the waterline. As this will be invert heavy with (maybe) just a few fish, I'm going to go with a low-budget / low-maintenance approach. The thought is that the tank will be teeming with life & motion, despite not many fish. Because of this, I won't be focusing on much flow, filtration, etc. unless the tank really can't support the "bioload" I plan. The vibe will be a tidepool / planted tank with the star of the show being what most people use as cleanup crews.

I'm open to thoughts, comments, suggestions (good, bad or indifferent), and thanks for following along!


Equipment
  • IM 25 Lagoon
  • Pumps:
    • Stock pump on 1 output
    • Tunze 1073.008 on other output
    • NOTE: I wouldn't have done this setup, but it's the way the tank is being sold, so I'm going to go with it for now. Subject to change.
  • inTank media basket which will run:
    • Chemipure Blue
    • Filter floss
  • Light: TBD - I have an unused MarsAqua 165W I can use if needed, but really I just need a grow light for the marine plants, so not sure yet what we'll do for lighting
  • Heater: 2x Jager 50W

Livestock (Planned)

Inverts:
  • 1x Skunk Cleaner Shrimp
  • 1x Fire Shrimp (NOTE: I know these 2 might not get along, but I'm going to give it a try with a bigger skunk introduced first)
  • 3-5x Peppermint or Camelback shrimp
  • 3x Emerald Crabs
  • 3x Porcelain Crabs
  • 2x Pom Pom Crabs
  • Tuxedo Urchin
  • Brittle sea star
  • Potential to add additional hermits, snails, sexy shrimp, etc. if all goes well & there's leftover real estate
  • Potential to try an arrow crab if I can find one small enough and put in last
Plants:
  • 2x Mangroves (XL) sprouted with roots and leaves
  • 2x Mermaid's Brush
  • Potentially some sea grass or other leafy green
Fish:
  • 3x of some low-cost, low-maintenance, high-motion fish
  • Thinking either blue damsels, yellowtail damsels, or chromis

Welcome to the thread! I'll be updating this soon with details on the fill.
 
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P-Dub

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Move forward. Let's get this going.
 
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BurlyWizard

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While waiting on the tank, I practiced some aquascaping out back. The folded towel is roughly the interior dimensions of the tank. Going for height with lots of open space around for water & critter movement.

This rock was previously live rock from a 29 reef. Has been dry for a while so will need to get that back up to speed during the cycle.

IMG_2105.jpg
 
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BurlyWizard

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Tank finally arrived! It'll be a countertop setup in the kitchen. It's somewhat under an existing pendant, so lighting might get interesting here in a bit, but as this is no coral / no anemone and high invert, some extra algae probably isn't the worst thing in the world...

IMG_2110.jpg




Unboxing...

IMG_2111.jpg




Rough placement on the counter (notice pendant):

IMG_2114.jpg



Another angle:

IMG_2115.jpg



Next stop: Leak test!
 
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BurlyWizard

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With the tank dry, I attempted to reassemble some of the aquascaping I had practiced. I found a setup. Iiked. I plan to have the sand at 2-3 inches, so a lot of the bottoms of these rocks will be covered. Also picked up 40lbs of live sand. Not sure if I'll use it all, but I'll be using more than 20 lbs.

IMG_2136.jpg
 
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BurlyWizard

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Water is in, for real this time.

I wasn't super impressed with how little the top rock stuck out of the water on the previous aquascape, so I propped it up by one additional and I love the look now. Not sure how it'll play out but this is exactly what I was looking for.

IMG_2143.jpg



IMG_2146.jpg



IMG_2147.jpg
 
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BurlyWizard

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Day 2: I removed one of the filter socks to begin to clean out all it had done and the tank got very cloudy (not surprising). After the cloudiness cleared, it still remained yellow. I'm sure this will clear up as the cycle continues and once carbon is introduced.

Also picked up the Tunze ATO off FB marketplace, so I'll be excited to get that in soon.

For now, the SG has been low. I need to add more than I'm used to. Water on Day 1 was 1.019, I'll keep topping off with salt until it gets up to 1.025. Only ended up putting about 17 gallons in after all was said and done.
 
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BurlyWizard

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Day 3: Morning ammonia tested at <0.15 per Salifert kit. Dr. Tim's arrived. I'll dose in the afternoon and pick up on the website instructions from there on out. Nitrite test kits got delayed in the mail and won't be in until Day 6 unfortunately.

IMG_2169.jpg
 
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BurlyWizard

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Day 4: Tested ammonia, read at 1.5 ppm, which I assume is good because the tank is processing some of it? Per Dr. Tim's instructions, I'll redose tomorrow.

Tank is clearing up nicely, added a pick below. As you'll see, working on a lamp. More about that below...

IMG_2170.jpg


So from the earlier posts, you probably saw the tank is under a kitchen pendant. And as you can see in the pics, the kitchen lights actually do a great job of illuminating the tank. So both because of the adequate kitchen light and the preference to not offset the symmetry, I'm toying with what to do for lights.

On the one hand, I have a Mars Aqua ready to hang. It'll just look a bit funky with the other pendants in the kitchen. On the other hand, the no-light look is actually very clean. Counter looks good, no additional lights or wires being hung or mounted, it's all neat and orderly. However, going no-lights would essentially nix my mangroves & marine plants, which are a big part of this tank. So, on the third hand, maybe I could use a small lamp or a clip on gooseneck with a grow light for the plants so it's still minimally invasive to the kitchen but would allow some greenery.

I'm definitely open to suggestions.
 
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BurlyWizard

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A couple other pics just for fun. Raised the temp on the 2 heaters to 80. Also included a top-down look of the back chambers (for now). This will change.

IMG_2171.jpg



IMG_2172.jpg


Chamber contents from top to bottom:

1) Live rock rubble. Started in a mesh bag, but due to the skinny & tall nature of that chamber, ended up just dropping in several more pieces on top of the bag. This may have been an oversight as it'll be hard to get them all out. The thought here is as much rock in there as possible given the no skimmer, low maintenance, low cost vibe of this tank

2) Jager 50W heater #1

3) Both pumps on their own 1/2 inch hose to the outputs. First is the stock IM 25 pump. Lower is the Tunze 1073.008 that came with the tank. Both flow outputs are aimed up right now to get some O2 bubbles down in the water column. Also have the float valve for the ATO in here but it's not functional yet. I need to get tubing for it and I'm still slowly raising the salinity.

4) Jager 50W heater #2 - I'm thinking about combining this with heater #1 both in chamber 4. This would open up chamber 2, where I could move the live rock rubble, and use chamber 1 for the inTank media basket that's coming soon, or additional filter floss. Not sure yet.

5) Stock filter sock


Thoughts?? Trying to keep costs low and not do the typical reactor, skimmer, inTank retrofit of all chambers.
 
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Day 4: Tested ammonia, read at 1.5 ppm, which I assume is good because the tank is processing some of it? Per Dr. Tim's instructions, I'll redose tomorrow.

Tank is clearing up nicely, added a pick below. As you'll see, working on a lamp. More about that below...

IMG_2170.jpg


So from the earlier posts, you probably saw the tank is under a kitchen pendant. And as you can see in the pics, the kitchen lights actually do a great job of illuminating the tank. So both because of the adequate kitchen light and the preference to not offset the symmetry, I'm toying with what to do for lights.

On the one hand, I have a Mars Aqua ready to hang. It'll just look a bit funky with the other pendants in the kitchen. On the other hand, the no-light look is actually very clean. Counter looks good, no additional lights or wires being hung or mounted, it's all neat and orderly. However, going no-lights would essentially nix my mangroves & marine plants, which are a big part of this tank. So, on the third hand, maybe I could use a small lamp or a clip on gooseneck with a grow light for the plants so it's still minimally invasive to the kitchen but would allow some greenery.

I'm definitely open to suggestions.
You gotta go with a grow light, that’s the tank you wanted until your thoughts evolved
 
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BurlyWizard

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Day 5: Redosed Dr. Tim's midday today. Per the instructions on the website, that's all for today and tomorrow is water test day, but I got curious and somewhat bored.

Parameters ~6 hours after dosing (for what it's worth):
- Ammonia: 1.5ppm
- Nitrate: 25 - not sure why these are already reading high, but I'm going to let it ride
- Nitrite: Still waiting on delivery. Due in tomorrow (Day 6)


Update on the light situation, I've decided I'm going to do a light of some sorts. I did find THIS on Amazon which is interesting, because I could just pop in any E27 grow bulb since I'm not doing corals.

I also may just pop on the Mars Aqua mounted to the wall and disturb the look of the kitchen. It would definitely be overkill for some mangroves and Mermaid's Brushes, but too much light can't hurt when it comes to plants. And it's free.

More to come, but for now, 60W kitchen pendant is keeping things lit.
 
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BurlyWizard

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Day 6: So, the inTank Media Basket and Nitrite test were delayed 1 day in transit, so no Nitrite test. I did go ahead and add 2 small pieces of dry rock in the substrate as "islands" for potentially more rock surface for all of the critters.

Tested ammonia again, still 1.5ppm. Hoping to see the numbers come down tomorrow to at least show the tank processing some of this ammonia.

Excited for the Nitrite test to arrive to really see what's under the hood.
 
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BurlyWizard

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Day 7: Exciting updates today!

First off, inTank Media Basket & Nitrite test arrived. Let's get to testing:

- Ammonia: 1.5ppm (4th day in a row with no change)
- Nitrite: 1 ppm - honestly couldn't tell the difference between 1 and 2 ppm on the card
- Nitrate: 25 ppm
- Specific Gravity: 1.025

I got to thinking, and reading more forum posts. It sounds like completely dry rock with bagged live sand doesn't have consensus on supplying enough bacteria to really get the cycle going. A few members posted that a cycle like this took 2-4 months to finally get the parameters down to 0. I'm fine being patient, but I want to be sure that all the ingredients were in the pot before waiting weeks-months for the chemistry to take place.

I tested my RO/DI water to make sure that's not topping off ammonia, and thankfully not, 0 ppm.

So, in general consensus with the forum research was that to ensure the bacteria is present, it would be better to have some combination of:
- Live rock (preferably from ocean with growth)
- Live sand (but actual live, from other established tanks)
- Bacteria in a bottle

In a weird chain of events, I ended up with all 3. Went to the LFS for a 1 lb rock, and the store manager ended up discounting some Fritz Turbostart 900 as well as the rock, and grabbed a cup of sand out of their reef tank for free.

Needless to say, we should have the bacteria we need to eat up that ammonia now. Rock, sand, and Turbostart are in.

And if you've managed to read this far, here's an updated FTS (single live rock on column on right). Looking forward to some tests tomorrow to hopefully get some more ammonia in there and see how this bacteria performs.

IMG_2205.jpg
 
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BurlyWizard

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Day 8: First signs of progress.

After adding in the sources of bacteria yesterday evening, I tested my water this morning, around 12 hours later, just out of pure curiosity. Well, things weren't reassuring:

- Ammonia: 1.5 ppm (still......)
- Nitrite: 2 ppm
- Nitrate: 100 ppm (yes really)

I started to worry that something had gone wrong. The tank was already producing Nitrates, which showed the ammonia was flowing all the way to the final stage, but the ammonia hadn't come down even a notch in 5 straight days.


However, even if I did skew the stats in some way, this is a cycle and they would all level out in the end, even if it just took a little longer. So I retested this evening, a full 24 hours after adding in the items. Better results:

- Ammonia: 0.25-0.5 ppm (FINALLY)
- Nitrite: 2 ppm
- Nitrate: 100 ppm

So as the ammonia had finally been processed down for the first time in the tank, I was able to see the bacteria working and knew we were in business. I re-dosed Dr. Tim's and will sit back and wait. I'll continue to test daily just to track progress in the tank log.

IMG_2219.jpg
 
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