Mattdg's 120G SPS / Mixed Reef Build and Progress

mattdg

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Tracking the progress of my 120 gallon SPS heavy mixed reef aquarium.

In March of 2017, a good friend of mine and I moved my 4 year old SPS dominated cube from a 3rd floor walk up in Brooklyn, to my families new home in the Hudson Valley. In November of 2017, I began the process of setting up the new 120 gallon system, to house the coral that had overgrown the little cube.

Our 120 gallon sps dominated mixed reef is now roughly 4 months old, with some colonies that have been with us in various tanks since 2011. Here is what the tank looks like today.

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And this is the overgrown 40 cube, that everything was transferred from, in November of 2017

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I had been looking for a good deal on a 120 - 180 gallon tank with dual corner overflow for months. I finally came across one on a local forum. Ironically, it was located only a few blocks from our old apartment in Brooklyn. I loaded it up into our station wagon, drove it back to the Hudson Valley and here it is sitting on our back patio, waiting for a stand.


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One of the first things I did for the new build was reinforce the floor underneath. Our home is over 200 years old, so it is built very strong, as they were, but at 8.4 pounds per gallon you can't be too careful. You can see the old system sits directly below where the new tank will be built. This will become the future quarantine and aquaculture area.

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In this hobby, plumbing is my least favorite thing. I figured, if I have to do it, I might as well make it look good with schedule 80 ball valves, unions and fittings and "coralline violet" pvc for the overflow.

I opted to make it upgradeable and serviceable, using a handful of unions. I also decided to use mostly 45 degree elbows to minimize back pressure on the return pump. I am very happy with how everything turned out.

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Making the water for the upstairs aquarium and performing one last water change on the 40 cube.

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I framed the stand in with 2x4's. A few shots of the nearly finished stand, with tank installed.

The Tonga branch is the dry variety from BRS. It had been cycling in a rubbermaid in the basement for 3 months. I enjoy minimalist aquascapes, creating lots of open flow, areas for the fish to swim and sps to grow.

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Here are some shots of the painted stand with the doors and Eshopps R-200 Gen 3 installed. It is important to me that this tank is quiet since it is in our main living area. The R-200 has a really cool overflow design, that reduces the sound of water splashing, as it enters the sump. I'll post more in the future about equipment choice in regard to quiet operation.

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I look forward to posting much more about this build, and future progress of the tank. Hope you enjoy this thread, as much as our Son enjoys his sea critters.

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mattdg

mattdg

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The lights are modified VIPARSPECTRA 165w. I swapped out 9 of the daylight LEDs for 6 warm, 2 red and 2 UV, Bridelux chips, in each unit. The stock spectrum was a bit cold, for my taste. I run them at just below 50% 8 inches from the water. Some of the better quality “black box” LEDs, in my experience.
 
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mattdg

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Current Equipment

1 x MP40 upgraded to QD wet side and controller
1 x Ice Cap gyre
1 x MP 10 first generation (placed low)
2 x Koralia 3G 1950
Reef Keeper 2 Controller
Trip Lite switching power strip
2 x Viparspectra 165W LED
2 x 4' T5 Sunblaster Fixtures (Blue Plus front & Fiji Purple back)
1 x AI Sol (for moon glow)
4 x water resistant purple LED strips (for moon glow)
Reef Octopus space saver 11o
Sicce Syncra Silent 3.0 Return
Two Little Fishies Phosban reactor with Danner 1.9
3 x BRS dosers for carbon (vinegar) and BRS two part
3 x BRS space saver jugs for Alk/Cal/Carbon
BRS 4 stage RODI
Sump Eshopps R200 Gen 3
Heat 3 x Eheim Jager 250 watt
Cooling box fan / room AC
ATO from BRS with Aqualifter Pump
ATO container Eshopps 5 gallon acrylic
RODI BRS 4 stage
Watchdog leak detector
Plumping and fittings from BRS
LED strip light for cabinet lighting
Tank 120 dual overflow Deep Blue low iron front and sides
Drains 2 x Durso stand pipes, loc line
DIY stand and hood
Rock work 80 lbs dry tonga branch from BRS
Gravel course dry 50 lbs
Marinepure biofilter blocks in sump
Salt Tropic Marin Pro or Red Sea Standard

Cost to run, using Marine Depot power consumption calculator is $42 / Month
 
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mattdg

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120g SPS update

Three weeks back I added two HO T5 48" Sunblaster strips to the front and back of my LED fixtures. The front strip is using the daylight bulb that came with it. The back strip has an ATI true actinic installed. I dimmed the white channel on the LED's to just under 10% and boosted the blues by 20%, basically swapping power between the white and blue LED's.

I was my hope to accomplish a lighting gradient of daylight to deeper blue, from front to back, to emphasize visual depth in the tank and encourage the sps in the middle to grow towards the front and the LPS and lower light SPS in the back to hopefully thrive under the additional actinic spectrum. So far so good, though the coral is obviously still adjusting to the changes. The mixture of LED and T5 seem to compliment each other and bring out some additional color in the fish and coral.

My NO3 has been hovering between 7-12 ppm since setting up the aquarium, so I decided that in addition to auto carbon dosing vinegar and the Marinepure Ceramic Biomedia plates, I'd need to add a reactor. I tossed around the idea of a sulfur reactor but decided on the much simpler method of adding Seachem De-Nitrate to an Aquamaxx FR-SE, to hopefully increase anaerobic activity. The additional benefit of this system vs other more complicated solutions is that I was able to split the line from the little mag drive pump going to the existing PO4 reactor, to slowly feed the anaerobic reactor, without adding additional pumps, plugs or manifolds. It's been about 1 month with a decrease of 3ppm in Nitrates. I'm happy with that and the FR-SE reactor is a high quality build for a very little money, a combination that is rare in this hobby.

I am still having a mini battle with cyano and hair algae, but it could be much worse. I know much of it is due to this tank still being under a year old and high Nitrates. The SPS are still acclimating, but mostly doing well. I did lose a colony of teal acro, most likely due to the issues I have had with my Ice Cap Gyre randomly stopping for no apparent reason. I have updated the firmware and done everything I can think of. Despite my best efforts it has been one of the most finicky, intermittently noisy and difficult to manage pieces of gear, installed in my tank. I like the gyre movement in my water column, but am overall much happier with the dependability of my Vortech QD's, so will be switching over to all Vortech and Koralia circulation pumps, if the problem persists.

I do my best to not change anything too quickly or add too much new tech to this system. With that said, I am really liking the idea of automatic filter changes, since the daily maintenance of this tank is nearly entirely automated anyway. The Klir Di-7 filter roller may find its way into my filter sock chamber one day soon. I will have to research if they have a unit for sumps with rectangular filter sock holders.

I'll have an update on how the changes to NO3 reduction and t5/LED lighting are effecting my system, along with more pictures, when changes become evident.
 
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Blue LED's 85% - White LED's 10% - Front T5 Daylight 6500k 100% - Back t5 Actinic 100% - Evening lighting 4 12v water proof LED strips and a first generation AI Sol blue at 1%

Blue LED's on from 11-8:30pm - T5 Lamps on from 11-6pm - Right side white LED's on from 11-2pm, Left side white LED's on from 2-5pm - Moon lights 8-11am and 8:30 - 12 pm
 
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mattdg

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As happens in the summer, I have been very busy with work, friends and family, so the 120 has undergone some neglect. I have kept up with husbandry, but have missed a few details that would have been noticed had I been paying closer attention.

The aquarium has slowly amassed more HA and Cyano. It got to the point where it was obvious something was up, though it is still a bit of a mystery exactly what.

In an attempt to figure out what nutrients are feeding the rising NO3, I added two additional stages of DI resin to my BRS RODI. That was only a few weeks ago. I'll report on any noticeable changes in a month or so. I suspect that since there has been no change to feeding, which is very light in general, some of the algae has to be coming from another nutrient source.

Up to this point, I keep up with Trace via weekly addition of Red Sea Coral Colors, according to calcium uptake, so have had little need for weekly water changes. For the time being, I will be switching to 10% weekly WC for one month and 10% bi weekly thereafter, until things level out.

Coral health is mixed. My red dragon, Hawkins and rainbow milli continue to do very well. some of the acro's I've had for a long time such as Strawberry SC and Pink Lemonade have lost most of their color and are growing at snail pace. The newest additions such as the PC Rainbow, Fox Flame and two Aussie Milli's are growing relatively fast and showing acceptable color. One of the large no name acros on the left will STN and then regain tissue, only to STN again. I have examined the coral for pests, but haven't found anything. The fish are all doing very well, so of course my wife and 4 year old couldn't be happier. I have no shortage of theories, but will start with hopefully reducing the HA and Cyano and move on from there.

Since my last post, I am now changing activated carbon bi weekly and placing it in a DIY media reactor installed in line with my TLF, GFO reactor. The change in water clarity is noticeable. I have reduced my blue LED output by 10% and only have the T5 and White LED's on for four hours a day. I vacuum out as much HA as I can, with an old Algae Mower Vac that is now held together with duct tape and super glue. It is still a very useful tool. I recently purchased an Icecap handheld MS-31 Gravimeter. Like many of the units it reads 4 points low, so I just add 4. It absolutely saves time taking Specific Gravity readings and is also a simple way to double check the temperature.
 
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mattdg

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Update

I am happy to report that I finally have HA and Cyano under control. I can only assume the the bi weekly water changes, reduction in NO3, weekly removal, reduction in lighting intensity, growing coral and the fact that the tank is reaching the 1 year mark have worked together to reduce overall nutrients in the system.

The sps that were losing color have recovered and the tank is starting to look the way it should.

Contrary to my issues with nutrients, I have actually increased feeding a bit. My son now feeds the system frozen food every day after he gets home from kindergarten. The feeder goes off 2x / day dropping PE mysis flakes into a feeding ring. Overall, a much more stable method of feeding the fish and coral, which especially helps when I am away traveling for work.

I am still on a bi weekly 10% WC schedule. Red Sea trace is dosed according to calcium uptake on the weeks where I do not perform a water change. I will continue on this schedule until the tank reaches the two year mark. Once it has I will consider doing away with water changes and move back to dosing trace weekly and monthly ICP tests.

I recently added a few more coral frags to the tank... WD Tenuis, Space Invader original and rainbow pectinia, Lime Light Hydnophora, Weeping willow leather and a few others. One of the coolest aspects of this hobby is watching 1" frags grow into impressive colonies. So far, so good.

I continue to be unimpressed by the loud performance and occasional freezing up of the Ice Cap Gyre. I do my best to stick to the equipment I have, but will be moving it down to the cultivation system adding an additional MP40QW or moving the existing MP40 to the back and installing two AI Nero 5's. I 've liked what I've seen as far as small size, ease of maintenance and quiet performance. Will post an update when I do.

More pictures to come.
 
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