Latte's First Reef Tank - Red Sea Max Nano (AIO 75L/20G)

AquaCave

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Hey all,

I'm new to keeping a reef tank but I'm super keen to share my progress so far. Please feel to comment if you have any suggestions or advice as I have a lot to learn, or just feel free to follow the thread. I'm excited to keep this post up to date so I can look back on my progress all in one place.

PXL_20211107_051610090.jpg
 
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Fritz
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Update 0:

I'll start from the beginning...
received_439643487587735.jpeg


I picked up a red sea max nano for around ~$1200 AUD. It's a very inclusive AIO, comes with a pretty nice light, skimmer, return pump and a very rudimentary ATO. Here's a picture of the sump (is it still a sump if it is just attached to the back?)
images.jpeg

I do understand as a newer reef keeper, a smaller tank means harder - but I'm willing to research and put in the effort to make it work.

I went for an AIO over a sump ultimately for two main reasons. First, I'm high up in an apartment block and an overflow due to failure would be particularly bad for me (I'm probably more prone to such a failure as I'm new) and second because I have a tendency to overthink everything in these situations so cutting to the chase with an AIO that has most of the stuff included meant I could avoid that for my first tank.

The shop I grabbed it from was also out of the red sea max nano stand, but they had a waterbox stand that seemed to be pretty well exactly the same (and it was $200 cheaper!!) so I got to flat packing.
PXL_20211102_081705978.jpg


I only had to unscrew everything because I'd put something on backwards once! The instructions were quite bare bones, but everything fits together pretty easily if you've ever built any flat packs before. An hour or two later and... Voila!

PXL_20211102_104334834.MP.jpg
 
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Have fun! U will probably need an ATO like Tunze 3152 long term. Imo the water refill is kind of „rubbish“.
I actually installed an upgraded ATO yesterday! I lasted just under a week before I was fed up with the one that comes with the tank. I've got some plans to do with it though, I'll explain more in my next few updates :)
 
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Update 1:

I very quickly realised that the place I had planned out for my tank wouldn't actually work due to some shelves installed on the walls getting in the way (we live in a rental so moving them isn't an option). But that's fine - I've moved my desk over to where the tank would have been and put the tank over the other side of the room. The only issue is it's now directly next to a window, but the blinds are usually shut over that window pane anywyas as I work from home most days and the glare is ridiculous when they're all open.

With the tank I grabbed a few other items too.

I set up my RO unit, had to go to Bunnings (Australian hardware store) for the first of many times over the next week and pick up a few different connections so I could fit the RO unit directly to my kitchen tap. I then bored a small hole with a knife into the lid of this big storage tub we had laying around from our recent move interstate and set up the unit.
PXL_20211101_030949137.jpg


Quite shocking to me how much water you waste in the pursuit of cleaner water, but my girlfriend managed to save a bit of the waste water and hydrate all of our house plants! Note on this, how do I store the unit? Do I need to drain it completely or is just sitting it upright in the cupboard ok?

From there I added some salt!
PXL_20211101_051345880.jpg


I let the water sit overnight to dissolve properly.

PXL_20211101_060015054.jpg


While I waited I worked on my aquascape, I really liked the idea of balancing this arch to create some verticality in the scape.
PXL_20211101_032446556.jpg


I got really into this scape... and then promptly ruined it... I tried to chisel off a little bit of the red/purple rock on the top left of that stack and somehow shattered the thing into 4/5 smaller rocks in one hit. Additionally, I had some big concerns with the stability of the overhang rock.

I planned to pick up some live rock regardless, and managed to find the perfect piece to fix both of these problems. I let it sit in the saltwater overnight and found my first hitchhiker, this cute little limpet!

PXL_20211102_105526526.jpg


Ultimately, I decided to go with a mix of around 80/20 dry to live rock. I understand the concerns with live rock and that it's generally not recommended, but I believe many of the risks are minimised by a few things in my personal situation:

  • The tank is empty
  • The tank is quite small so worst case scenario I can just drain the entire thing
  • I don't plan to add any fish for another couple of months
And finally, I'm just ridiculously fascinated with the idea of live rock and all of the organisms you get from it - as I'm unable to add fish to the tank for a couple of months, this is a great way to keep the tank interesting in the interim.

I then got back to aquascaping, and trialed out the AF Poly Glue I picked up. It's a little jar of these white polymer beads that you put into boiling water to melt, they turn to a malleable putty and harden as they cool until they're completely solid. Here's a video of me playing with some.


I'm still not quite sure what to make of these. They aren't super sticky so the adhesive between two things especially for something like dry rock seemed a bit limited the first few times I used it. However, if you really get the water hot, like to boil rather than the 60 degrees Celsius the manufacturer suggests (likely for safety reasons, obviously be careful playing with plastic at 100 degrees C) it does seem to work a heck of a lot better, and they are able to be reused by melting them again which is a huge pro.

While I was gluing the rocks together I caught sight of my second hitchhiker, or rather, I heard him scuttling across the cardboard.
PXL_20211103_054302610~2.jpg


I'm still not entirely sure what this thing is, to me it looks like some kind of mithrix crab. I thought he was great when I saw him then though, and didn't think much about adding an unknown crab into my display tank...

Anywyas, I added the scape to the tank and glued it together, using my brand new spanking live rock to replace the rock I shattered the day before (oops) and add support to the overhang. I filled up the tank, and was working with something like this.
PXL_20211103_035552170.jpg


I'll try and take a better picture/video to show of the scape when I can, but the water is less than perfect at the moment for reasons I won't get into just yet... But overall, I'm quite happy with my first attempt at this sort of thing!
 
Fritz
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Love your tank
Thanks I'm glad you like it! I've made a bit more progress and am writing up my next update :)
Always love AIO tanks, any plans to add corals/if so what you planning to put in?
Thanks! I do have some plans, I was thinking about renting a par meter to test out the zones before I commit to them though. I wanted to get some GSP for an island or perhaps the back of the tank (I wonder, how easy is it to prevent it spreading to the side glass walls?) Some pulsing Xenia on another island. I'm keen to put some encrusting corals down somewhere, get some nice softies around the mid level and I was even considering trying my hand at an SPS or two around the top once I've got the tank running for a while. Do you have any suggestions on what you think would look good in any spots?
 
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Update 2:

After setting up the tank I soon discovered some new hitchhikers!

PXL_20211104_054652648.jpg

I'm not sure if these are palythoas or zoanthids or even if it's possible to tell. They have been closed since I took this picture though unfortunately, I don't think they're enjoying my sky-high ammonia.

That brings me to, well... My sky-high ammonia. I've been using the redsea test kit and testing for ammonia every few days and it's always way off the charts. I did some research and read a few threads about people's cycles 'stalling' due to high ammonia, though I'm not really sure how much truth there is to it. I've just been trying to let the cycle do its thing and not worry about it too much.

It was around this point where I got some advice (that now appears to be wrong) on Facebook that the crab I'd put into my tank was a gorilla crab and that it'd kill pretty well anything I put in there which made me deeply regret my choice to leave him alone in the display tank. I quickly googled how to catch him and started making traps.

PXL_20211104_122653273.jpg


I tried out the inverted bottle trap with a piece of old chorizo from the fridge as bait (can you see the closed up paly/zoas in the background??) but didn't have any success.

I saw some posts online about crabs being unable to see red light, so I ordered myself a little red LED torch.

PXL_20211109_052424961.jpg


I then went to the nearby grocery store and bought myself a single prawn. I replaced the chorizo with half of the prawn and added the other half to an upstanding glass leaning against his favourite rock. I left these for a couple of days, and while they did succeed in very completely fouling up the water, likely doubling my already sky-high ammonia and making the whole apartment smell like bad seafood, our little friend had no interest.

This is where I got a bit crazy, and spent some of a night up between 3-5am just watching him trying to work out how to catch him.

From my reconnaissance I determined that his favourite activities seemed to include stuffing his face with algae off of the rocks:




And scurrying about like he owns the dang place!



While I was spending my days fretting about this crab, I also found (as @chipchipmofo suggested I would) the included ATO to be extremely lackluster. It doesn't hold enough water, is very fiddly to set up so that the float switch actually works and takes up a ton of high value real-estate in the back of the tank. This is also around about the time I was trying to work out if it was feasible for me to add in a small refugium to my tank without relying on HOB equipment which I generally think is an eyesore and higher than normal risk of spilling my tank all over my rental apartment.

So I had an unwanted ATO and a need for a refugium... Can you guess what my plan was? I thought I'd take out two birds with one stone and convert the AIO included ATO into a small refugium. It'd fit perfectly in the tank and wouldn't require me to use any HOB equipment I didn't have an interest in.

I threw together a couple designs, this is my most recent iteration:

unknown-11.png

Note the holes at the top of the design for an emergency overflow into the sump of the tank incase the overflow becomes blocked. I'm pretty excited about this design, but I don't own any power tools in our apartment so I'm waiting until I can get them drilled over the holidays when I head back to my home state (Queensland for any Australians) for Christmas.

I'm still a few days behind my current progress, so I'll post another update in a few days and then this thread should be caught up with reality! I've got a nice big screw up coming up in my next update that made last night a bit of a nightmare for me... Until then, cheers!
 
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Update 3:

So I ended up picking up the AutoAqua Smart ATO Duo to replace the crappy inbuilt ATO that comes with the max nano. I dropped it into a decent sized reservoir (I think it's either 20L or 25L) and sat it in the cabinet underneath my tank.

PXL_20211109_101806012.MP.jpg



The day I installed it, I noticed it had been running quite consistently maybe once or twice every few minutes. I did some googling and people seemed to think that ATOs running frequently was a good thing as it'd keep the water level very stable, I shrugged and moved on.

This so where things started to go downhill very quickly... I wasn't super happy with how well the rocks were adhered to each other, and I kept having this anxious thought of the top of my rock structure falling off and smashing into the side or front panel like a hammer and shattering through it.

So, naturally, I stuck my arms in and started messing around with the rock trying to make it as stable and settled as I could. Around this point I realised my concerns were definitely reasonable, my messing around with the rocks caused the two front rocks you can see in my previous pictures (the green love rock on the left and purple live rock on the right) to detach where I had glued them together. The overhanging arch on top is supported and kind of wedged between both of these, so them departing means that it suddenly had to hold all its weight and so it disconnected from the spots it was still stuck to also.

I started to panic here, only solution I could really see was to pull the whole bunch out and glue them together again quickly. At least this had a silver lining in that I'd likely be able to finally catch this crab I'd spent so many hours looking for.

Then it got worse. While I had my hands in the water, I asked my girlfriend to switch off power to the ATO and pumps so they didn't keep running during this, about a minute later I heard water flowing (not a great sound go hear in this context) and looked down to see it pooling out of the cabinet from the ATO reservoir. The return from the reservoir must've dipped under water level during this ordeal and was now siphoning out the entire tank onto the floor.

Looking back now, I think this may have been what was happening the whole time, and why the ATO pump had to keep switching on so frequently. Whenever it turned off it created a siphon and started draining the tank, and then it'd need to switch on again to fill it back up. I was a bit annoyed, and still am, considering I've installed the siphoned break properly, I'm not sure what else I can do, but after this whole ordeal I tested it multiple times and it always drains the tank when the return is below water level. The siphoned break is installed tightly, facing the right way and above water, if anyone has any experience or tips here I'd highly appreciate them but for now I'll just t leave the return above water. I am glad this was an issue I picked up while I was there and ready to clean though.

So that's what I did, I sat down some towels on the floor and started mopping up the water. After that I got to work on re-gluing the rocks together. The process actually went a lot better this time despite the rocks being wet, I think I'd started to get the hang of it, here's how it ended up looking.
PXL_20211110_115133951.jpg
PXL_20211110_115147977.jpg
Pretty similar structure to last time, but there were some big improvements in general structural integrity as well as I think I did a much better job at hiding the connections between the rocks (though there's still some places this shows through pretty clearly).

In the meantime, I managed to catch the crab that was hiding in my rock work and in another forum post here had him identified as a non-emerald mithrax crab.
PXL_20211110_093422216.jpg

PXL_20211110_132317799.jpg


To be extra safe I ended up putting the little guy into the AIO sump anyways. Hope he's doing well back there! If/when this refugium idea gets rolling I may move him in there to enjoy the chaeto.

I ended up being able to move the rock structure back into the tank in one group. The water was super cloudy after all this stuffing around, but overnight it really cleared up. I'm super happy with how the water looks right now, it's pretty pristine.



I also picked up the tunze care magnet cleaner which seems to be working pretty well, you can see it in the above video.

So that's about where I'm up to now. I'm 2-3 weeks into my cycle now, but ammonia is still way off the charts on my redsea kit, hoping it starts dying down soon.

I've been looking into a controller or monitor for my tank, I'm thinking I'll go with the seneye for now, as the apex is way out of my price range, and all the decent alternatives I could find that are available in Australia seem to be discontinued :'(.

Until next time! PXL_20211110_093427722.jpg
 
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Top Shelf Aquatics

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I’m going on a year making due with the ATO box the tank comes with! And now I’m just about ready to stop hand dosing, so am looking to upgrade the ATO and get back some of that sump real estate to set up a doser. The reason I stuck with the ATO it comes with is b/c I haven’t seen a nano ATO that didn’t have a ton of online horror stories attached to it. I would love to know more about how you fare with yours as I decide which one to upgrade to…

FYI on why the original box sometimes doesn’t work — the carbon bag floats up and blocks it. I put an extra small piece of rock on top of the carbon bag to keep it down, and that resolved it.
 
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Looks like a nice start.
Well Done Clapping GIF by MOODMAN


I love my Tunze magnet.
Thank you! I'm loving mine too, seems to work really well :)


I’m going on a year making due with the ATO box the tank comes with! And now I’m just about ready to stop hand dosing, so am looking to upgrade the ATO and get back some of that sump real estate to set up a doser. The reason I stuck with the ATO it comes with is b/c I haven’t seen a nano ATO that didn’t have a ton of online horror stories attached to it. I would love to know more about how you fare with yours as I decide which one to upgrade to…

FYI on why the original box sometimes doesn’t work — the carbon bag floats up and blocks it. I put an extra small piece of rock on top of the carbon bag to keep it down, and that resolved it.

The original box just won't really work for me - it only seems to last a few days and I'm coming up on going away for ~10 days over Christmas which would well exhaust the box. I'm really happy with the Duo I ended up going with, though I think I could've probably also got their smaller model or the Lite like @attiland suggested above.

I was tossing up between this and the Tunze 3152 but ended up going for the Auto Aqua model as the Tunze had a ton of really negative experiences. The only negative experience I've had so far has been the siphon break not working for me despite me following the instructions, but just holding the return pipe above the water level you want in the back seems to work fine (and the attachment the pipe slots into holds steady).
 
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Update 4:

Few little updates here! First of all and most exciting is that my ammonia is finally starting to go down. I've been recording it every few days from the red sea kit, and this is the first time that it's even been close to being on the scale since I started my cycle.
received_1208265362994454.jpeg


That looks like 1.2 to me, I'm getting super excited now thinking about making some little additions to the tank soon but I'm trying to prevent any impulses. I want to stock the tank well and not have any regrets!

My plan ammonia wise is to wait until it gets to 0, dose to 2.0 and see how long it takes to get back down to 0. This is super exciting for me though after no movement in the cycle (that I could observe in ammonia) for the last couple of weeks.

There have also been some visual changes within the tank.

PXL_20211115_051935181.jpg


There's a ton of little air bubbles being released all over the tank. You can see the pockets in the picture above, as well as the bubbles coating the rock. I'm not sure exactly what it is from, maybe from the diatom that's growing everywhere? Or from me stirring up the sand as I clean the sides with the magnet cleaner? There's also been a notable bit of hair algae growth across the rocks, especially the live rock. It isn't out of control yet but I'd rather keep it that way!

Now I have a few questions with stocking. Does it make sense to add some cleanup crew now? I was thinking a conch to clean up the diatoms and a couple critters to clean up the algae all over the rocks like an urchin or some kind of shrimp? Very much open to suggestions!

I do understand though that CUC tend to eat the scraps from feeding, so I might be jumping the gun by adding them before fish? I do want to keep my algae problem under control though. Would appreciate any suggestions!
 
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Update 4:

Few little updates here! First of all and most exciting is that my ammonia is finally starting to go down. I've been recording it every few days from the red sea kit, and this is the first time that it's even been close to being on the scale since I started my cycle.
received_1208265362994454.jpeg


That looks like 1.2 to me, I'm getting super excited now thinking about making some little additions to the tank soon but I'm trying to prevent any impulses. I want to stock the tank well and not have any regrets!

My plan ammonia wise is to wait until it gets to 0, dose to 2.0 and see how long it takes to get back down to 0. This is super exciting for me though after no movement in the cycle (that I could observe in ammonia) for the last couple of weeks.

There have also been some visual changes within the tank.

PXL_20211115_051935181.jpg


There's a ton of little air bubbles being released all over the tank. You can see the pockets in the picture above, as well as the bubbles coating the rock. I'm not sure exactly what it is from, maybe from the diatom that's growing everywhere? Or from me stirring up the sand as I clean the sides with the magnet cleaner? There's also been a notable bit of hair algae growth across the rocks, especially the live rock. It isn't out of control yet but I'd rather keep it that way!

Now I have a few questions with stocking. Does it make sense to add some cleanup crew now? I was thinking a conch to clean up the diatoms and a couple critters to clean up the algae all over the rocks like an urchin or some kind of shrimp? Very much open to suggestions!

I do understand though that CUC tend to eat the scraps from feeding, so I might be jumping the gun by adding them before fish? I do want to keep my algae problem under control though. Would appreciate any suggestions!
I recommend adding them before the fish and just dropping food in the tank anyway, I’ve always done it this way (Usually I don’t need CUC after the first few fish are in the tank and it stabilises itself - This may have also happened due to the first few fish being a Clownfish, CBB and a Foxface rabbit) I’m currently having a long and harsh battle with cyano in my Red Sea max nano tank so I do not recommend having 6 fish long term haha.
 

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Update 4:

Few little updates here! First of all and most exciting is that my ammonia is finally starting to go down. I've been recording it every few days from the red sea kit, and this is the first time that it's even been close to being on the scale since I started my cycle.
received_1208265362994454.jpeg


That looks like 1.2 to me, I'm getting super excited now thinking about making some little additions to the tank soon but I'm trying to prevent any impulses. I want to stock the tank well and not have any regrets!

My plan ammonia wise is to wait until it gets to 0, dose to 2.0 and see how long it takes to get back down to 0. This is super exciting for me though after no movement in the cycle (that I could observe in ammonia) for the last couple of weeks.

There have also been some visual changes within the tank.

PXL_20211115_051935181.jpg


There's a ton of little air bubbles being released all over the tank. You can see the pockets in the picture above, as well as the bubbles coating the rock. I'm not sure exactly what it is from, maybe from the diatom that's growing everywhere? Or from me stirring up the sand as I clean the sides with the magnet cleaner? There's also been a notable bit of hair algae growth across the rocks, especially the live rock. It isn't out of control yet but I'd rather keep it that way!

Now I have a few questions with stocking. Does it make sense to add some cleanup crew now? I was thinking a conch to clean up the diatoms and a couple critters to clean up the algae all over the rocks like an urchin or some kind of shrimp? Very much open to suggestions!

I do understand though that CUC tend to eat the scraps from feeding, so I might be jumping the gun by adding them before fish? I do want to keep my algae problem under control though. Would appreciate any suggestions!
Yes the first uglies has started. Keep up this will pass too. Add your fish and enjoy
 
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