Introducting myself and retrospective build thread

Kai K

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First let me introduce myself as I am new to reef2reef. My name is Kai, aged 40 and I’m Dutch. I live with my family in Amsterdam. Yeah, just to be upfront, the only herbs I use is oregano on my pizza, some dutchman uh? About 10 years ago, before starting a family, I had a reeftank for only a short period of time and I had to leave the hobby as I moved to a small apartment in Amsterdam. It was too late and the marine aquarium thing grabbed me and never let go of me. It always stayed somewhere in the back of my mind. Now that my housing situation has improved, my daughters are out of the baby era and are starting to be a little less dependent and my life has become a bit more structured, I can’t contain myself anymore.

In March 2019 I decided it was time to give new life to the marine aquarium hobby again. After about 10 years of not having salty water, I couldn’t take it anymore and bought a little 200 liters (about 53 gallons for you non-metric people, when will you ever start making thing easy on yourselves lol…), used tank with a little sump. Just to make a humble start to the hobby again.

Tank dimensions were 68cm x 53cm x 58cm (w x d x h), that’s 27’ x 21’ x 23’ in inches!

My wife knew it was coming, but I did not notify her, so she was a bit in shock when I came home with “that thing”. Of course, I already had the whole thing planned out on where to put it, what other furniture had to be replaced and yada yada, but still it took some time to reassure my better half that everything would be fine, and I am totally in control…yeah.

So far so good, First I had to clean the tank because the previous owner wasn’t capable of cleaning it herself properly. No problem for me, I was completely stoked and ready to move a mountain… because I was going to have a marine aquarium! I was ready to get dirty! You guys must know this feeling, I can’t be the only lunatic here.

Ok, tank clean. Now I needed the basics: RODI unit, return pump, heater, skimmer, light and flow pumps. I also had to re-do the plumbing as a part of what came with the tank was crappy and the other half, I cut through to separate the tank from the stand. No problem, still ready to move a mountain, so I can do the plumbing and some minor fixes to the stand.

Tank clean, plumbing done and I came up with:

-a jecod DCS 3000 return pump

-the simplest RODI unit on the market 195 litre/24hrs (that’s about 50 gallons and I believe your planet rotates just as fast as ours, so the 24 hrs is the same, right?), but upgraded with a filmtec membrane and 2 extra DI resin cannisters. With the excellent tap water quality in the Netherlands, that should be more than sufficient. I have zero tolerance when it comes to TDS and silicate and every batch of water is tested.

-a single Maxspect Gyre XF 150 pump (which was later replaced by 2 x 230 gyre pumps, positioned vertically on either sides of the back of the tank.

-a Philips coral care unit, V1, 2016

-a Bubble Magus C3 with home made muffler

I collected these items all low-budget style, with the exception of the RODI unit, all were used and sold to me for mostly half price. So there you have it, a low-budget marine aquarium, right?

I was still determined to make this work and wanted something extra for nutrient export and biodiversity / bio load. Something with Chaetomorpha. I had to think about this as there was absolutely no more room in the small sump. I came up with an idea of an acrylic tray that could be placed on top of the overflow combs mid-back.

The pipe for the return water ran up through the overflow, normally taking a turn so the water can come out into the DT. My idea was to attach the return pipe to the bottom of the tray, so it can fill up with water and have 2 combs in the front panel of the tray for the water to drop down into the DT again on both sides, but not in the middle where the tanks’ overflow unit is. Aw crap, I think some pictures will clarify.
Afbeelding1.png

I started measuring and drawing and sent the final design to a company that very neatly lasered the acryl parts for me. A few days later I got my “LEGO” set in the mailbox and started gluing it together.

It fit perfectly, I designed it as a click-on system, so whenever I wanted to clean it or eventually get rid of it, I could just take it off very easily and run the tank without it. Here’s the chaetofilter filling up after a good clean:
Afbeelding2.png

And here’s the chaetofilter running over the combs and into the DT:
Afbeelding3.png

I put grow-LED strips in the lid of the cheatofilter and let it run counter to the DT light regime (the PCC):
Afbeelding4.png

After installing the chaetofilter and starting up the return pump for the first time, I was a bit euphoric because of how well it worked and how silently the water flowed down into the DT again. It was exactly the way I had in mind, awesome!

My wife and I soon were not very amused by the stray light that got into the living room. So back to the drawing board again to build a simple hood that had to fit around the tank, light and chaetofilter.
Here’s a pic of the tank at the start of it’s cycle. I used some PVC piping and real reef rocks to create these 2 pillars, which I “sort of” still have in use in my current tank:
Afbeelding7.png
 
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Kai K

Kai K

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Meanwhile the tank kept on cycling and there was a measurable NO2 spike and shortly after that the NO3 spike. Not very high values, but it gave me some confidence that something was happening. How exciting this period was!

Afbeelding8.png

Still not completely cycled out, but I found this old pic with some algae, my first Stylophora corals, that I still have and fuzzy in the background, the very first fish that I bought after the cleanup crew; 2 absolutely awesome chalkbasslets! I still have this pair and every night and sometimes during daytime as well, they spawn.

 
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Kai K

Kai K

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I ran this little tank for a little over a year and at the end of the run it looked something like this:
Afbeelding9.png
 
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Kai K

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So guess what I did without consulting my wife again?

Right, I got a bigger tank. This time about 550 litres (about 145 gal) and 150cm x 60cm x 60cm (59’ x 27’ x 27’ inch).

Afbeelding10.png


This is where I just had the tank up and running and just plunged the scape from the old tank in. Well… of course I made sure I had the waters’ parameters the same and used a large part of the water from the old tank.
I had some space to fill up. This was about March 2020.

Again the hood and the panels of the stand I fabricated myself and re-did the plumbing.

About a week after moving the scape and the fish into the new tank, I built and installed a new version of a cheatofilter. Only this time I had room for it in the sump and decided it had to be some kind of carrousel thingy. I ordered 2 acrylic circles and some sticks and started gluing it together. It turns on the flow of the incoming water and the light is connected to a WIFI smart plug so I can adjust its lighting time very easily and accurately on my phone or even on voice control if I want to.


Then about 2 weeks later, nutrient levels plunged to 0 and not long after a full-blown dinoflagellate outbreak was a fact.

I think this is one of the most horrible things that can happen to a reefer and even in the short time that was between the start and the end of the outbreak, I was a nervous wreck. This made me realize how much this hobby had become to mean to me. Kind of a dangerous thing for a hobby that is supposed give me relaxation and a piece of mind…yeah right!

I handled the dino’s by first getting to the root cause of the problem. I theorized that the dinoflagellates can continue their (photosynthesis) processes fine with very few nutrients in the water column as opposed to the beneficial microbial life in my tank which had become hungry and weakened and were no longer able to compete with the opportunistic dino’s.

I had to dirty up my tank! I don’t exactly remember what I did to achieve this, because there are quite a few buttons to push to get more nutrients. But I know for sure that I dosed both NO3 and PO4 and monitored the tanks parameters closely:
Afbeelding11.png

Afbeelding12.png

Here are the charts that show the timeframe into which I upped the nutrients, the orange line representing dosage and the blue representing actual measured values.

I also added a couple of bottles of microbelift during this period, many baggies of pods and phyto.

This helped to clear up the tank within 2 weeks, without any other measures, looking better each day. I had taken control again and became more confident on the future of my little home reef.

I might have lost 2 or 3 corals and a starfish but that was all. From that point in time lots of stuff happened of course but no more big disasters.

I added live rock for the right side of the tank, keeping in mind to add only small quantities at a time in order not to stress the tank with any nutrient spikes, I added lots of coral frags, changed some pumps, added 2 KELO 100w lights to the 2 Philips lights that were already present, added a Theiling rollermat compact1 and most recently I started running my skimmer on a tiny bit of ozone which is controlled by an Mv computer; ORP set to 300. I have never seen my water this clear!

This is the most recent pic of my tank I could find for now, end of December 2020:

Afbeelding13.png

Some things have changed, but as I will periodically update this thread, a more recent pic will appear, I’m sure.
Cheers!
 
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Kai K

Kai K

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Here's a pic yhat I shot today, please excuse me as I'm not the best photographer...
20210213_143659.jpg

As you can see there's a piece of bare PVC tubing as a result of a part of a bridge structure coming down. I'm not sure how to fix it yet but fornow I just glued a little Acro on top and let some zoa's creep up the PVC. Maybe in time that will suffice, but somewhere in the back of my head I'm allready building an entire new scape. So who knows what's going to happen in the future.
 
Orphek OR3 reef aquarium LED lighting
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Kai K

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A couple of months have passed, time for a little update on my tank.
In the mean time I have battled flatworms. I noticed a few slithering over my Alveopora and decided to give the alveo a dip to see what was going on. I just couldn't believe how many flatworms came off! A few days later I took a Euphylia and a duncan and dipped them as well. Flatworm paradise, so it seemed.
This started me off investigating the problem and reading upon other reefers' reports on how they dealt with it.
There was no damage on corals whatsoever, so I felt I had some time to assess and take well thought through measures.
Eventually I dosed a product called levamicil for 3 times with each a 7 day interval.
At the first dosage I noticed loads and loads of flatworms floating stunned in the watercolumn. These things can release toxins when they die, so I've read. So my plan was to power up my return pump to max and let all the water flow through the rollermat filter to catch as many as possible and "roll" them out of the system. It took some extra filterrolls but it seemed to work.
After this first dosage of levamicil, my copperband and rabbitfish stopped eating and appeared stressed. I feared for them. The rest of the animals, a young navarchus angel, some chalkbass, wrasses, cleaner shrimp, urchin, blue hermit and corals appeared unaffected. However, the many brittlestars I have living in the rockwork had a very bad day.
After a couple of days of offering live foods and everything considered a delicacy in a fishes mind, the copperband and rabbit started carefully taking food again. The fish started showing their normal behaviour and as a result, so did I. I was very relieved to have pulled this off without any casualties, exept for the flatworms. I never saw them again.
Just in case of some diehard fw might be left, I added a pair of yellow coris wrasse and a group of springer damsels to the tank. These have now established positions in the inhabitants hierarchy and there's no agression.
 
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Kai K

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Beautiful tank! Love the aqua-scape and the copper band! Best of luck and continue the good work!

Nigel
Thank you Nigel!
The copperband maybe my favorite fish, allthough I seem to switch between my other fish regularly, they're all awesome. The cbb is a real character though.
 

Do you prefer rubble rock, larger rocks or no rock in your sump and why?

  • Rubble

    Votes: 81 34.6%
  • Larger Rock

    Votes: 69 29.5%
  • Nothing

    Votes: 58 24.8%
  • Other (please explain)

    Votes: 26 11.1%
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