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KARTR's Mixed Reef Reefer 250 Build

kartrsu

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Time for an upgrade! Seeing as I will be working from home until the end of the year at the least, I decided I could afford the time to handle a larger system and pulled the trigger on a Reefer 250. I started reefkeeping in January 2018 with an IM fusion 20, which was the perfect size for my apartment at the time. I only kept LPS and softies in the tank, so it wasn't a fancy system. I had some good success keeping the majority of the corals I bought, but made a handful of mistakes along the way. This forum has been tremendously helpful in teaching me about the hobby, and I'm super excited to continue this journey in a bigger tank and document it here in a build thread! ;) This is my first system this large and with a below cabinet sump, so would love some advice along the way.

I plan to keep a mixed reef for this tank, with mostly LPS plus some easy SPS and softies. I've been told it's hard to keep everybody happy in a mixed reef, but hopefully I can dial it in to find the sweet spot for all the corals. Here are some initial system specs. Still working through the rest of the equipment I would want and how to organize the cabinet neatly (everyone makes it looks so clean in their builds!).

Equipment
Tank: Reefer 250 with V3 sump
Lighting: 2x ReefLED 90 with mounts 3 AI Prime 16HDs (just bought 2 new primes for my 20G, so trying to reuse as much as possible). Would have opted for Hydras or ReefLEDs if it was a fresh start)
Return: Varios 2 DC pump
Heater: BRS 200W titanium heater with controller 200W AutoAqua titanium heater with digital controller
ATO: 10G Trigger ATO with AutoAqua Smart ATO system
Salt: Reef crystals
Refractometer: Milwaukee digital
Par meter: Seneye
Test kits: Hanna Phosphate, KH, and copper. Salifert Nitrate, Calcium, Magnesium. API for the rest.
Powerheads: 2x Nero 5
Skimmer: RSK 300

Stocking-wise, I'm thinking about getting some more euphyllia, pocillopora, seriatopora, stylophora, montipora, and scolys for corals at the moment. A clam would also be super cool! On the fence about an anemone for my two clownfish, but going to wait to decide when the tank is wet and has had 6+ months to mature. For fish, I'm thinking of getting a baby blue tang, baby yellow tang, anthias, and wrasses for now. Fully understand the tangs will outgrow eventually and would definitely rehome when it happens.

Will follow up with some photos in the next post.
 
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kartrsu

kartrsu

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Work has been a grind over the past few months, so I decided to take this whole week off to decompress and do some fun stuff i.e. work on my new tank. Made good progress over the past couple of days. Here's a required photo to show the goodies I recently bought for the setup. Doesn't include the return pump which is a Varios-2, which I forgot to include in the pic. ;Facepalm

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Didn't realize the RSK300 is a huge skimmer! Great design but uses a bunch of space.

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After soaking my rock in heated RODI for a couple of days, I decided it was good enough without meaningful phosphate or ammonia in the water. This past weekend, I started doing some mock rockscapes and came to the conclusion that I didn't have enough to fill the tank. I will be going to my LFS tomorrow to get 15-20 lbs more rock, which will include some extra to give me options. Here is what I have so far.

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I wish the reef saver rocks from BRS came in more interesting shapes, but end of day, not sure if it really matters as long as the coral placement is good. After an hour or so of "playing with rocks" as my wife calls it, I dropped them into a 20 gallon brute with saltwater, and started the cycling process with Dr Tim's Ammonium Chloride and Instant Ocean Biospira. Proven formula for me to get the rocks cycled quick. I thought I'd get a headstart cycling the rock while I get other aspects of the tank ready.

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Today, I worked on a simple shelving unit to sit around the ATO reservoir so I can store equipment, bottles, what not. Went to home depot and picked up some laminated wood shelves (3 pieces of 12" x 24") and made this little unit. Leaves enough space to fill the ATO. Because I had to cut the boards, I worried about moisture damage over time, so for the exposed edges, I used white paint to cover and then sealed with polyurethane. We'll see how that works after the polyurethane dries.

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I finally got around to flood testing the tank with the hose and Seachem Prime. No leaks so far. I'm starting to see what people really mean when they say the stock valve for the main drain requires a lot of patience to tune. About an hour of fiddling, I finally got comfortable with it. Water level is about 1cm below the emergency drain. I have a DC pump which I read helps solve problems with fluctuations in the level of water in the overflow box. Been doing a lot of research on swapping the stock valve for a Spears gate valve, which I am inclined to try if the noise becomes a problem needing frequent tuning. For now, will see how it runs.

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Within the cabinet, I mounted my power supply and controllers for the DC pump and heater using Scotch velcro strips. Supposedly can hold 10 lbs and holds in wet and dry conditions. We will see how it plays out, but really trying to avoid putting holes in the cabinet given how nice it is. Wire management will be a project down the road, and will need to get some organizers to keep it tidy, but for now, just wanted to plug it all in to see how it runs and if there are any leaks.

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One thing I noticed is that the thermostat for the heater shows 80F. We've been having a massive heatwave here in LA, with 100+ weather over the past couple of days. Stepping outside feels like jumping into a frying pan. Not sure if my tap is coming in 80F hot from the hose outside, but will need to monitor and see if the lowest I can go is 80F with an ambient house temp of 73-75F plus heat from the equipment.

Beyond the tank, I also picked up some other goodies. ;Happy I pulled the trigger on an aussie gold torch from Austin Aqua Farms. Coral arrived with more tissue recession than I like, with the flesh barely covering the septa down the side. I did lot of worrying and tinkering to find it a happy spot, but now it's fully extended during the day. Took about a 5 days for that to happen. Also went to my LFS to pick up my equipment and get some hermit crabs , and came across a dragon soul torch with two heads. He sold it to me for $250, or $125 a head. Almost picked up an orange hammer, but I had to pull the reigns to meter my splurges. Best part .. I got 10% off everything with a simple yelp check-in. Great stuff!

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I'm running 3 tanks right now: Nuvo 20, 10 gallon coral QT tank, and now the Reefer 250. I'm hoping to consolidate at some point soon because 3 tanks is just too much to handle. My plan is to finish cycling the rocks and setup the rockscape. Then I'll start to move my fish over and a couple of rocks from my Nuvo 20 to keep the cycle going and start the biome growth process. Without fish in my Nuvo 20, I'm going to transfer all my corals from the frag tank there to consolidate, and then break the frag tank down.

Think that's it for now. To be continued....
 
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Waffen06

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Looks good, I just set up my reefer 250 2 weeks ago, moved everything from a 60 cube. I also have a nuvo 20, like each tank for its own reasons, might want to keep both lol. Use my Nuvo for more of a frag tank before I move them to my reefer.
 

Parent_usmc

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I just did a build thread on my new rsr250. Switched over from a biocube. Can't wait to see yours all stocked up!
 
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kartrsu

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Looks good, I just set up my reefer 250 2 weeks ago, moved everything from a 60 cube. I also have a nuvo 20, like each tank for its own reasons, might want to keep both lol. Use my Nuvo for more of a frag tank before I move them to my reefer.
Thanks! I like the Nuvo 20 too. I was inclined to stay with it as my main tank until I ran out of coral real estate. Plan is to keep it as a transition tank for my corals just as you described! And, if I ever stop adding corals, convert it to a low tech freshwater tank.

I just did a build thread on my new rsr250. Switched over from a biocube. Can't wait to see yours all stocked up!
Awesome, will definitely check your thread out! Probably have a bunch of questions for you.
 
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kartrsu

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Made further progress on the tank over the past couple of days. Feels exciting to work on the tank. It's always on my mind, though unfortunately at the expense of attention for my wife and dog ...

After a successful flood test, I drained the tank. My 20 gallon brute was cycling the rocks, so I had to do it with 5 gallon buckets. What a workout. Atleast I watered the lawn with 65 gallons of water. ;Happy

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I finally picked up more rocks at my LFS and worked on the rockscape. Took an incredulous amount of time for some reason. I had a hard time finding arrangements that looked good and fit well, so at some point I needed to call it a day and pick it back up the day after. Anyway, here is what I ended up with. It's a big ole mound approach. Looked through almost all the build threads here for inspiration, but I decided this was good for me. I probably used close to 60 lbs of rock for this, while I have seen many others use way less.

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Had a couple spills along the way though. I used my old Nuvo 20 stock pump to get water into the tank, but used way too heavy of tubing from Home Depot which caused the output to fall off the tank despite a clip. Not fun to scramble looking for the plug to turn off the dang pump!

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With the tank filled and cleared, I worked on the cabinet a little more. I wanted to have better wire management so I made adjustments to my little shelving unit to extend the back wall and include some grommets for wires to feed to the back. I also bought some wire management clips off Amazon to tidy up the slack.

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Also installed an LED motion sensor light in the cabinet to brighten it up. Love it!

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Lastly, I swapped out my Aquatop heater + controller combo to BRS's version. Read some bad reviews of complete tank wipeouts with the heater failing and cooking the tank. The unit works fine, so I will keep it as a backup heater, but not my primary. Plus the BRS one has two plugs which opens up dual heaters down the road. Getting the plugs through the grommet required some disassembly. Wasn't going to buy a 2 inch hole saw bit to make the grommet.

Did a test run on the RSK-300 skimmer. It actually makes a decent amount of noise, a low hum that's faintly audible with the doors closed. Gonna see if it needs a break in, but I was hoping for it to be quieter. Like dead silent.

The tank is still cycling. I wanted to be safe than sorry since I had to rockscape dry. I added ammonia again and more BioSpira to let the bacteria establish. Wish I had just done it in the tank vs the 20 gallon brute in retrospect.

Once the tank is cycled, I plan on transferring my fish from my Nuvo 20 to the Reefer 250, so I can move corals from my frag tank to the Nuvo 20. Had originally setup an optical sensor ATO for my 10 gallon frag tank, but today a snail crawled over the sensor and my tank overfilled with RODI, swinging the salinity by 3ppt. Thankfully, the warning sound came on and I immediately brought up the salinity with additions of concentrated saltwater. I have too many tanks to manage right now, and need to slim down to free up bandwidth for my fish quarantine system. One of the bathrooms feels like a science lab I've been told. Plus running full panel tests for 3 tanks takes like an hour.

Enough for today, but not going to lie, this journey is super exciting!
 
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kartrsu

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Tank is cycled. Nitrites were taking longer to hit zero, so I raised the tank temp up to 80F and added MB7 to speed things up. Took about a day to drop 0.5ppm of nitrate to undetectable. With no ammonia and nitrite, you know what that means. Added my clownfish over from my other system. Man they look small in a 54G display.

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Would love to add my neon goby, royal gramma, and firefish, but those fish are too hard to catch. I'm trying the trap method, but these guys are so cautious and wary of the acrylic box. We'll have to see if it will work with some patience, otherwise I'm going to have to pull out the rocks to fish them out. I will catch you someday, somehow!

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Other than that, I built a simple covered electrical board to slide behind the tank to manage my other power surge, plugs, and AC adapters behind the tank. Used another laminate shelf from home depot. A couple cuts with the circular saw and ironing of laminate edge bands and I was done. The corner bumpers are there to prevent scratching the tank, and the bottom is protected with felt feet to protect the floors.

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Oh and here's my goniopora stinging my xenia. Polyp extension in the frag tank is pretty crazy right now, so there's some coral combat going on. Soon enough, they'll all be in a bigger tank with more room for comfort.

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kartrsu

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Been a while since I've done an update. Not much progress has been made unfortunately, as I am still waiting on my ReefLED lights to arrive before I start moving corals over from my Nuvo 20. It has been frustrating, but I've learned that patience is needed in this hobby if you are going to do it right.

I got tired of hoping to catch my fish via the fish trap so I recruited the wife to help take out the rocks and scare the fish into a net. Man that was quite the task, these nano fish can hid in any crevice of any rock. Plus avoiding damaging corals in the process made it tricky. Nonetheless, all were caught and are now in the Reefer 250. There is NO way they will come out after this so I have to double down on QT protocols if I'm going to avoid having to go fallow at any point.

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I also moved over one of my primes from my Nuvo 20 to the 65 gallon since I needed to put in my coralline algae in a bottle. Starting to grow diatoms in the sand. Ironically, I'm actually quite happy because I am battling amphidinium dinos in my Nuvo 20 and diatoms supposedly outcompete them, so having themin the 65 gallon lets me know the amphidinium will be controlled for the time being before its seeded with other microfauna.

I decided to try my hand with some SPS corals in my frag / QT tank. I picked up an ORA pink damicornis pocillopora from Petco, montipora digitata from a local reefer, and two stylos from Unique Corals. So far so good! They look really cool and I'm excited to venture into the next category of challenge.

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Other than that, my gold torch is doing really well. It wasn't cheap and it came in with tissue recession in some spots, but with some TLC, the coral is bouncing back and the tissue is regrowing back over the recessed areas. The camera lighting doesn't do the coloration justice, but by no means is it the ultra gold color with blue tips. Saw one at Unique Corals, but the hit to the pocket would be too deep, even for me.

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I also picked up some cool acans from Austin Aqua Farms, and a pink nepthea from Petco. Frag tank is getting packed and I think I'm at the end of purchases for the time being. So hard to turn down sales and other rare corals when you see them.

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On the fish side, I picked up a blue tang, yellow tang, and splendid pin tail wrasse from my LFS. They are in a 20GL QT right now with 2ppm chelated copper. Got about 5 more days left in copper before I move them to an observation tank to see the success of my copper treatment. I will finish with two rounds of prazi pro afterwards to rid any internal and external worms and we should be good to go if I did it all correctly.

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Also, I've been reading about biodiversity and stable reef tanks, so I picked up some live rock from a local reefer who sourced from GulfLiveRock. In addition I'm waiting on live sand activator and wondermud from IPSF. These will be in a 5 gallon tank for 45 days to observe and see if there are any unwanted, before being added to the display.

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Probably will have a much better update when my lights arrive, fish go in, and I move things over to the display.

One a side note, I had some explaining to do when I told my wife, we are now currently running 5 tanks spread over 110 gallons of seawater in the house. Everywhere she turns there is a tank. I promised her our house wasn't going to turn into a public aquarium (I hope!). Jokes aside, managing 5 tanks, with only 2 having solid automation is a chore. Water tests, topping off. Need to consolidate ASAP!
 
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kartrsu

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Lots of things to run from a schedule perspective, so I built this excel spreadsheet to help me track.

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Also log my expenses so I don't lose control with my wallet. Biggest categories so far are the tank, equipment, and corals. Can't imagine what a larger system would cost! ;Nailbiting

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Rincon_Reefer

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Love the build! I have a reefer 250 on the way. I am going to start soaking my rock this weekend. I love the organization. Lots of good ideas for the cabinet. I also have a spreadsheet! awesome
 
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kartrsu

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Love the build! I have a reefer 250 on the way. I am going to start soaking my rock this weekend. I love the organization. Lots of good ideas for the cabinet. I also have a spreadsheet! awesome
Thanks! I love the reefer 250. Was hesistant about going bigger for a while, but now I am so happy I did make the plunge. Look into live sand activator and wonder mud from IPSF. Great way to start the microbiome in your tank!
 
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kartrsu

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Feels like it’s been a while since I last updated. The past month has been quite hectic because I tried to do too many things at once. I ended up managing 5 tanks at once and all the maintenance was consuming WAY too much time.

The biggest headache has been quarantining my 4 fish. After two goes at copper, I was unable to eradicate the parasites on my fish. It was driving me crazy, because my tangs would develop white spots at therapeutic copper. Plus hippo tangs are known to have copper skin reactions, so I just didn’t know what the problem was. Once I realized it was copper resistant ich I was battling, I tried hybrid TTM with peroxide dips, and now my fish look much better. They are still going through TTM, but no more flashing and healthy appetites. Quarantining fish can super frustrating at times!

For the tank, I started introducing corals and all looked to be fine. I saw a couple of spots of amphidinium dinos start to show up, as they were brought over via the corals from my other tank. I didn’t want it to take over so I decided to dose silicates and nutrients to grow diatoms and algae to compete. BIG mistake. I fueled the worst diatom and Dino bloom I have ever experienced. It got so bad, my fire fish died and my corals were super stressed. Had to pull the corals out and move back to 20G nuvo. Then did a water change and tried to siphon out as much as I could. Ran the skimmer with 2 days lights off. Pulled the worse smelling skin mate ever. Now the tank is finally clear and looking much better and dinos are contained. You can see the progression below.

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Doesn’t end there! I decided to introduce live sand and wonder mud from IPSF to my nuvo 20 and it ended up ticking off my corals even more to the point of expelling zooxanthellae and receding tissue. Thankfully I had a stable 10G frag tank going, so I moved them there. All these moves and stressful environments have taken a toll on them, but they are now recovering. Lost my pocillopora in the process. Also had a torch fall on my wall frogspawn, so that needed iodine dips to prevent bacterial infection. ;Rage

After all the water changes, the worry and feeling defeated, I literally thought of throwing in the towel, but the situation is controlled again. Definitely took 10 steps back this time, but atleast I’ve got things managed well now. Going to take it slow in adding the rest of the corals to give them time to recover, and hopefully the fish QT proves successful.
 

Do you have a iPad or similar type screen mounted somewhere near your tank for control or display?

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