Jimbo's CDA 250 Build

Jimbo327

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A little background, I started reefing back in 2000, and it was a lot of fun, meeting people, frag swaps, and basically trying to keep things alive. I think I started with like a 60 gallon acrylic bowfront. But I had limited funds, so everything was 2nd hand and not set up correctly. Over the years, I had to keep downsizing as my time and energy keeps shrinking. After my kids were born, I was down to a 6 gallon nano, and eventually got out of hobby completely for many years to focus on my kids and career. My oldest is now 13 years old, followed by the 11 years old. How time flies!

Right before the pandemic, I relocated to a new city and bought my forever home. Finally settled down, and after the kids showed interest in fishes, I wanted to get back into reefing. Now I get to have my final build and set up the tank how I really wanted to. Only caveat is my wife said it needs to look nice and clean clean. I also needed a lot of automation as I do travel up to 3 weeks at a time.

I was fortunate enough to get an used Crystal Dynamics Aquarium tank from a local hobbyist that was planning to upgrade in 2022. The stand was originally black, so had it repainted to white.

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Tank and Stand
  • Crystal Dynamic Aquarium (CDA) 72”L x 30”D x 27”H
    • Euro-braced and armored seams
    • 3-side 1/2" Starfire glass
  • External Overflow: 36" Modular Marine Overflow Box (3x 1.5" drain)
  • Return: 3x 0.75"
  • White 36" tall steel stand with wood wrap (Built by CDA).
Lighting
  • 3x ATI Straton
  • DIY T-Slot Mount (Hung from ceiling)
Equipment List:
  • Sump: Advanced Acrylic PVC/acrylic sump 48”x21"x18" (2x 7" socks holder)
  • Denitrator: Advanced Acrylic PVC/Acrylic External Refugium Chamber
  • Skimmer: Reef Octopus Regal 300SS skimmer
  • Powerheads: 3x MP40QD
  • Powerheads: 1x Redsea Reefwave 45
  • Return pump #1 for DT: Ecotech Vectra L1 pump
  • Return pump #2 for manifold: Ecotech Vectra M1 pump
  • Controller: APEX Neptune (3x EB832; 1x AFS; 1x EB8)
  • Feeder: Avast Plank Feeder
  • Heater: Two 300W Eheim Jager heaters along with a Ranco controller
  • Chiller: 1/4 hp Oceanic Chiller
  • Calcium Reactor: Dastaco A2 calcium reactor
  • Doser: GHL 2.1 Doser
  • Doser: APEX DOS with DDR x2
  • ATO: Tunze Osmolator 3155
  • UV: Lifegard 3" Pro-MAX 90W HO UV
  • Ozone: Ozonetech Poseidon 200
  • RO/DI: Aquaticlife (Model 540087) RO100P with added DI and prefilter chambers
  • Tester: APEX Trident
 
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Jimbo327

Jimbo327

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I had started my build thread in another local reef forum in 2022, but I decided to move it here as I realized the local reef forum was not secure. Some of these posts will be looking back when I first set up the tank (which took me 1 year to slowly set up the way I want it), but I've finally gotten the tank wet in October 2023. So please bear with me as I try to give a quick review of the tank build until I can catch up to today.

The tank sat in my living room (dry) from April 2022 until September 2023, while I was figuring out how to set up a big tank and do it cleanly. Many DIY projects happened and I dug out many reef gear from my shed that I've been hording for years for this rebuild (which I thought would never happen).
 
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Jimbo327

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I had the idea to hide the gap of a external overflow tank setup. CDA did not have this, so I asked CDA to build this for me, but the quote came back higher than I wanted to spend. So you guessed it, a DIY project. I don't have a router, so I just used a dremel and utility knife to make the inset magnets which sticks to the metal stand. The wifey liked this mod.

(I've since seen CDA offer this mod on their site, so I guess they liked my idea. LOL.)
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Jimbo327

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I picked up a used sump, and decided to drill and modify it for my setup. I drilled like 15+ holes. I found that the baffles did not work, so I added silicone to the baffles and clear windows. String lights and wire conduit raceway were added to the stand. Plus wiring the control panel. Lots of trial and error.

I did all of the work myself, so that is why it took over a year just to get it wet. After a lot of planning, DIY, and a million trips to Home Depot, I was able to finish the basic setup. Now I know why people get brand new plug and play systems.
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Jimbo327

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Here is the controversial part. I cut a hole on my home's exterior wall behind the tank, so I can use a outdoor shed to store my dosers, chiller, RO water, and water containers. It was a lot of harder than it looks, and I had to do some patching and DIY ingenuity to make the pass through look clean.
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Jimbo327

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I started cycling the tank in October 2023. And basically for next couple months, the tank went through many different phases. Brown diatoms, algae bloom so thick that you couldn't see through the water (looked like the dentist tank in Finding Nemo), brown dino looking algae all over the sand, bad green hair algae (covering sand and back of tank), bryopsis, and other uglies. The typical new tank syndrome starting with dead rock and sand.
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Jimbo327

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I added a bunch of snails (Turbo, Trochus, Nassarius, Astrea, Cerith, Conch, etc.) and CUC (Hermits) to try to keep the algae under control. Luckily, the Trochus snails spawned in the tank, and I had hundreds of Trochus babies.

I added some bottled bacteria: Microbacter 7, Instant Ocean BioSpira, Fritz Turbostart, PNS Prodbio, AF Life Source Mud, etc. Trying to get some biodiversity and build up a good level of bacteria in the rocks & sand. I think if you had live rock and sand to start, you can skip this part.

I had to fight off the brown diatoms/dino/algae, so I encouraged the green hair algae to grow out of control. Green hair algae was covering all the sand, rocks and the whole back wall. (Some of the GHA was 3 inches long.) I did not clean the tank at all and just let it grow for months. Also, I turned on the UV and ozone. And the brown stuff started to fade away. (I don't have a microscope, so can't confirm)

By December 2023, I used Reef Flux (1/2 dose) for 21 days to kill off the GHA and bryopsis.

By January 2024, I had a somewhat "clean" tank.

From there, the army of baby Trochus snails and bacteria seeded tank was able to keep the uglies away.
 
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Jimbo327

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Here is my fish list.

Clowns:
Black Ice clown and a True Percula clown. I was hoping they would pair up, but they sleep on opposite corners of the tank. Not host anything since I don't have an anemone. The black ice clown has a very distinct coloring on its tail that looks like a Pac-man, so that's his name "Pac-man". And were hoping they would pair, so we can call her "Ms. Pac-man". Oh well, you can't force love.

Flame Hawkfish: Funniest fish in the tank. He darts in and out of rockwork to snatch food. He just waddles around, zooming up to the water surface for no reason and sit on powerheads. And he would stare at you. His name is "Googly eyes" for obvious reasons.

Springeri Damsel: Pretty azure blue and black patterns. He is territorial about his rock. Kids named him "Hale'akala". A good fish for pest control if they pop up. Many LFS keep them in their frag tanks, and one of the lesser aggressive damsels.

Cooper's Anthais: Pink and fast. Always hungry and likes to blow up his mouth. Kids named her "Pinky Pie".

Royal Gramma: Cool fish. Just chillin. Gets along with everyone. Such unique color in 1 fish.

Yellow Coris Wrasse: Since I don't want to pay for a post-Hawaii ban yellow tang prices, this fish has a great bright yellow. Cool fish that just picks on the sand all day long. Another great fish for pest control especially those flatworms which took over my 1st tank.

Mandarin Goby: One of my favorite fishes. I could not keep one before because you had to feed it pods and it wasn't readily available as it is today. But this one actually eats pellets and flakes, and I have a big enough tank now with plenty of copepods. Just a beautiful fish. This one likes to hide and very shy, but fat and happy. One of the main reasons I have a sand bed.

Blue/Greem Chromi: There are 3 of them, and one is bigger and dominant. Kids named them "The 3 Musketeers". I really like how they school together and just simple nice fishes.

Tang Gang:
  • Desjardini Tang - Smallest of the bunch. Gets picked up since he is the smallest, but he is the most fierce in getting food. Always with a fully belly. The kid's named him "Lil Yachty".
  • Scopas Tang - He's the biggest one, and likes to throw his weight around. He likes to chase the Desjardini around. He tried to tail spike some of the other tangs to establish his dominance. We call him "The Godfather".
  • Powder Blue Tang - The 2 powder tangs like to chase each other. Hopefully, that's all...we'll see when they get bigger. Just a must have tang for any fish tank.
  • Powder Brown Tang - He's fearless. New to the tank, and he was just cruising already. The colors are even better than the powder blue in my opinion.
  • Naso Tang - This is the fish that my wife loves. Tried to QT 2 blond nasos myself previously, and both didn't make it through QT. At first, I thought I was doing something wrong with QT, but it seems to be hobby wide that Nasos have poor survival through QT (plus dewormer). I highly suspect it is the Prazi / GC that is the issue. But I can't prove it. So far, this naso has been really cool and swimming around happily. Not fighting with any of the other tangs, just doing his thing cruising around. And his name is "Spike". He is a like a bull in a china shop, just loves to eat. Very fat.
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Jimbo327

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So this is pretty much the current state of the tank. The tank is about 6 months since cycling.
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I'm dialing in the major parameters using Randy's DIY 2-Part for Calcium and Alkalinity, and testing with APEX Trident. I'm carbon dosing Vodka into my converted external refugium chamber to keep my nitrates down.

I'm stocking the tank with corals now. Been to 3 local corals shows in past 6 months. Driven all over the place to buy coral frags locally. Met lots of cool reefers. All of my SPS are tiny frags at the moment. But as more coralline algae appears and most of my starter corals are surviving (green slimer, bubblegum digitata, ORA SPS, Montipora, etc.), I'm starting to get nicer corals online and auctions.
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Jimbo327

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Here is a shot of my 2 clams.

One is a captive bred Derasa from Biota. And the other is a wild Red Sea Maxima. Both started as less than 1 inch. Fast growers! Now, they are 2-3 inches. (I won the derasa at a coral show raffle. )
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Jimbo327

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Got a tiger tail cucumber to clean the dirty sand bed. It is really cool looking. A good size 6”. Also picked up some big Nassarius snails as well, just trying to get more movement in the sand. Fingers crossed that my wrasse doesn’t make them a snack.
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Jimbo327

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Thank you! Yes, I was actually not able to log into SCR forums because of some website cookies error. Also, the constant spam/scammers PMs...that didn't help with confidence for security/privacy. I still use SCR forums because I do enjoy talking with local reefers community, but have moved the build thread here for stability.
 
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Jimbo327

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I've got my calc/alk/mg dialed in with Randy's 2 part dosing, and I'm still figuring out trace elements and nutrients.
  • Calc: 400-430
  • Alk: 8.0-8.5
  • Mag: 1400-1430
  • Nitrates: 10-15ppm
  • Phosphates: 0.15ppm
I would like to get Nitrates below 10ppm, and Phosphates below 0.10ppm. I think I will remove all the extra rocks from my sump, it is getting filthy and makes it harder to clean the detritus in the sump.
 
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