Minimum Cost, Maximum Enjoyment Reefer 250 Build

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DIFish

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Hey everyone! I started this build late last week and thought I would post as I will be working on it for a while. First time keeping saltwater fish so hopefully this build is as much of an adventure for you as it is for me. A little background on the build; I have always wanted a picturesque reef tank but have never had the time or funds. After countless hours of research and a few last minute decisions, I have decided to move forward and attempt to build the tank I want while keeping a relativity tight lid on time and money commitment. I will be making it a point to keep track of all dollars spent, my decision process, as well as tracking my full experience as a first timer in the hobby(for myself mostly). I have outlined my initial budget, goals, and plans below. I will update as often as I can and hopefully in year be happy with the results. Any insights or questions are appreciated!

Budget:
When looking at reef tanks similar to what I want, many builds were in the $10,000 range before year two, which is simply not an option for me. My plans are to leverage the used market, DIY, and make smart corner cutting choices to deliver an ideal reefing experience with less funds and time committed. I am setting a goal to spend less than $3000 total over the 1st 2 years in the hobby. Not including water and electricity. I am sure a 55gallon reef build can be had for less, but this amount should allow me to have a tank I can be proud of for years to come.

Goals+Timeline:
My main goal is to have a flourishing and fully stocked tank by the 1 year mark, with significantly grown in corals and a light maintenance schedule. To me this means full capacity on fish (10+), more than half the rocks filled with coral, and spending less than 4 hours a week maintaining the tank. I would also like the build to actually look good, and be free of as many cords, noises, smells, and problems. Idealistic? Maybe, but I am not a particularly patient person and if buying a fully done reef build and having somebody drop it in my living room was a cheap option, I would do it immediately. I don't think this will be easy, but I do think it is possible.

First picture of the tank below so that I can look back and have a nice visual on my progress. More to come on the tank and initial setup.

CRL Used 250.jpg
 
AS

dstockwell

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WOW, really ambitious one thing on the list, fully filled in corals, I don‘t think will make a 3K budget. Big enough pieces don’t come cheaply.

Now I don’t think I did too bad, new 55 tank and stand, used sump, new pump, etc. Small amount of live rock, more dry, 4 fish, 3 months. 2K
 
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DIFish

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First on the list is the tank itself. I have always been a huge fan of the rimless look, and a sump was all but mandatory to keep everything out of view. After doing some digging the Red Sea 250 caught my eye as appropriate sized for my room and awesome to look at. It also didn't hurt that this model is extremely common and for sale used everywhere. After considering a few listing I ultimately went with a pretty rough looking one because the stand and sump were in good condition, and the person selling it was willing to throw in some of their used equipment. A few messages on Craigslist and a short drive away, I picked up the following last week all used and in rough shape.
$400 for the lot-
Red Sea Reefer 250, V3 with stand, sump, plumbing.
IceCap k1-130 protien skimmer.
Syncra 3.0 return pump
Misc off brand powerhead
Jup-01 UV Sterilizer
A few misc supplies such as meds, coral food, hosing, api testers.

All in all felt like a good deal, and I did not see any major scratches on the glass so I moved forward with it.
Spent the better part of a weekend cleaning, refurbishing, and preparing the tank.
Was very happy with the results, and figured I could just re-seal if there are any leaks.
PRogress 2.jpg
progress 3.jpg
progress 4.jpg
 
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DIFish

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WOW, really ambitious one thing on the list, fully filled in corals, I don‘t think will make a 3K budget. Big enough pieces don’t come cheaply.

Now I don’t think I did too bad, new 55 tank and stand, used sump, new pump, etc. Small amount of live rock, more dry, 4 fish, 3 months. 2K
Agree will have to buy a ton of frags and let the coral grow out. Actually already purchased some the second I knew the tank could hold water....more to come.

Would be impossible to do new. I think you did well compared to some of the eye watering budgets I have seen
 

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First on the list is the tank itself. I have always been a huge fan of the rimless look, and a sump was all but mandatory to keep everything out of view. After doing some digging the Red Sea 250 caught my eye as appropriate sized for my room and awesome to look at. It also didn't hurt that this model is extremely common and for sale used everywhere. After considering a few listing I ultimately went with a pretty rough looking one because the stand and sump were in good condition, and the person selling it was willing to throw in some of their used equipment. A few messages on Craigslist and a short drive away, I picked up the following last week all used and in rough shape.
Red Sea Reefer 250, V3 with stand, sump, plumbing.
IceCap k1-130 protien skimmer.
Syncra 3.0 return pump
Misc off brand powerhead
Jup-01 UV Sterilizer
A few misc supplies such as meds, coral food, hosing, api testers.

All in all felt like a good deal, and I did not see any major scratches on the glass so I moved forward with it.
Spent the better part of a weekend cleaning, refurbishing, and preparing the tank.
Was very happy with the results, and figured I could just re-seal if there are any leaks.
PRogress 2.jpg
progress 3.jpg
progress 4.jpg
Nice job on the glass cleanup. Looking good already! I'm in the first few weeks of my Reefer 250 build so I'll be following this build thread closely!
 
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DIFish

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Nice job on the glass cleanup. Looking good already! I'm in the first few weeks of my Reefer 250 build so I'll be following this build thread closely!
Thanks! Will have to let me know how you like the reef mat. Hate filter socks with a passion
 
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DIFish

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Everything off of Craigslist was able to be cleaned and works except the Syncra return pump. It is in pretty rough shape and is making a ton of noise. Picked up a $40 800gph pump of off amazon as a replacement. Started filling in the rest of the missing pieces using ebay. Filled the tank with tap water and left it overnight. Nothing leaked so emptied and started filling the tank with RODI/Salt. Salt is old that came with tank purchase, will test once it has a chance to settle but seems okay. Plan on aquascaping tomorrow. Is now a bad time to mention I bought some coral frags during the WWC flash sale over the weekend? Oh well, they don't come in for another day so I should have time to set up. I think the list below puts me at all my main components and just over a week into the build. Hoping to have corals in and cycling by the weekend and fish next week.
Added the following to the build-
7 Coral frags from WWC sale- $150
New 5 stage RODI- $160
Used Icecap 3000 gyre with controller- $80
2 Used Hygger Heaters with controller- $40
Used Aquatic Life 36 Inch t5 Hybrid- $80
Hanna ULR Phosphorus and Hanna Salinity tester- $50
40 pounds dry rock from petco- $60
20 pounds dryrock BRS- $60
Arag alive special grad sand 60 pounds, $50.
New Brute Trashcan for mixing- $35

Total spent so far- $1165
progress 6.jpg
progress 7.jpg
progress 8.jpg
 
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DIFish

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Have done a ton of reading on it here and other places. Corals like stability and "pristine" water. Not much better water than a completely new tank mixed to the exact specifications on the label. Some other research I have read points out that some easier soft and LPS corals actually thrive with moderate ammonia and nitrates. Going to do a week long cycle and dose ammonia on purpose for the corals. If all goes well I will have thriving corals and a cycled tank just in time for the fish which I ordered last week. Wanted to add corals and fish at the same time but the fish are taking a little longer to quarantine. I am not expert by any means, but I have yet to find evidence that low levels of ammonia and nitrates alone kills corals. Here are two articles that got me thinking about it in the first place.
 
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Have done a ton of reading on it here and other places. Corals like stability and "pristine" water. Not much better water than a completely new tank mixed to the exact specifications on the label.

I agree, but what will happen when the ugly phase comes, it will.
 

Tiki Corals

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First on the list is the tank itself. I have always been a huge fan of the rimless look, and a sump was all but mandatory to keep everything out of view. After doing some digging the Red Sea 250 caught my eye as appropriate sized for my room and awesome to look at. It also didn't hurt that this model is extremely common and for sale used everywhere. After considering a few listing I ultimately went with a pretty rough looking one because the stand and sump were in good condition, and the person selling it was willing to throw in some of their used equipment. A few messages on Craigslist and a short drive away, I picked up the following last week all used and in rough shape.
$400 for the lot-
Red Sea Reefer 250, V3 with stand, sump, plumbing.
IceCap k1-130 protien skimmer.
Syncra 3.0 return pump
Misc off brand powerhead
Jup-01 UV Sterilizer
A few misc supplies such as meds, coral food, hosing, api testers.

All in all felt like a good deal, and I did not see any major scratches on the glass so I moved forward with it.
Spent the better part of a weekend cleaning, refurbishing, and preparing the tank.
Was very happy with the results, and figured I could just re-seal if there are any leaks.
PRogress 2.jpg
progress 3.jpg
progress 4.jpg
Sweet clean up!
 
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Tavero

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Some other research I have read points out that some easier soft and LPS corals actually thrive with moderate ammonia and nitrates.
Yes they do, but they still need stability to thrive and if this is your first tank you lack the experience to keep it stable in the beginning.
The cheapest tanks are the ones where animals dont die all the time.
I don't see alkalinity, calcium, magnesium and nitrate tests in your shopping list.
From my experience, first time reefers spend a lot in non essencial things, so that may be a cash trap.
 

djs4him

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If it was me, and this is just my opinion, I'd set aside a cheap frag tank like a large shallow Tupperware or something with a cheap blue light that you can get nice and close to them. This has the advantage of letting your corals grow out while you muck around with your new tank and allow it to stabilize over months of time. I would challenge you to resist adding your corals to your tank until you see coraline algae growing - typically a really solid indication that corals will thrive in your tank.

And yes to the point of Tavero, corals need clean water BUT they also need essential minerals and adequate lighting to grow and thrive. According to your deadline, you need those corals growing ASAP. I'd set aside a cheap little frag tank so I can monitor them and care for them more easily while my main display tank undergoes its initial setup and establishment phases.

Very interesting build .. I love that you have clearly defined goals .. just be sure you don't get discouraged if some of your goals aren't achieved. Reefing truly does take patience whether we like it or not lol. I will be following your build!
 

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If it was me, and this is just my opinion, I'd set aside a cheap frag tank like a large shallow Tupperware or something with a cheap blue light that you can get nice and close to them. This has the advantage of letting your corals grow out while you muck around with your new tank and allow it to stabilize over months of time. I would challenge you to resist adding your corals to your tank until you see coraline algae growing - typically a really solid indication that corals will thrive in your tank.

And yes to the point of Tavero, corals need clean water BUT they also need essential minerals and adequate lighting to grow and thrive. According to your deadline, you need those corals growing ASAP. I'd set aside a cheap little frag tank so I can monitor them and care for them more easily while my main display tank undergoes its initial setup and establishment phases.

Very interesting build .. I love that you have clearly defined goals .. just be sure you don't get discouraged if some of your goals aren't achieved. Reefing truly does take patience whether we like it or not lol. I will be following your build!
What is the difference between putting corals in a brand new DT, and putting them in a brand new frag tank? Don't you have the same Cycle and parameter issues with the frag tank? If not, why?
 
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Scottrshoe

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Hey everyone! I started this build late last week and thought I would post as I will be working on it for a while. First time keeping saltwater fish so hopefully this build is as much of an adventure for you as it is for me. A little background on the build; I have always wanted a picturesque reef tank but have never had the time or funds. After countless hours of research and a few last minute decisions, I have decided to move forward and attempt to build the tank I want while keeping a relativity tight lid on time and money commitment. I will be making it a point to keep track of all dollars spent, my decision process, as well as tracking my full experience as a first timer in the hobby(for myself mostly). I have outlined my initial budget, goals, and plans below. I will update as often as I can and hopefully in year be happy with the results. Any insights or questions are appreciated!

Budget:
When looking at reef tanks similar to what I want, many builds were in the $10,000 range before year two, which is simply not an option for me. My plans are to leverage the used market, DIY, and make smart corner cutting choices to deliver an ideal reefing experience with less funds and time committed. I am setting a goal to spend less than $3000 total over the 1st 2 years in the hobby. Not including water and electricity. I am sure a 55gallon reef build can be had for less, but this amount should allow me to have a tank I can be proud of for years to come.

Goals+Timeline:
My main goal is to have a flourishing and fully stocked tank by the 1 year mark, with significantly grown in corals and a light maintenance schedule. To me this means full capacity on fish (10+), more than half the rocks filled with coral, and spending less than 4 hours a week maintaining the tank. I would also like the build to actually look good, and be free of as many cords, noises, smells, and problems. Idealistic? Maybe, but I am not a particularly patient person and if buying a fully done reef build and having somebody drop it in my living room was a cheap option, I would do it immediately. I don't think this will be easy, but I do think it is possible.

First picture of the tank below so that I can look back and have a nice visual on my progress. More to come on the tank and initial setup.

CRL Used 250.jpg
Very interested to see how you come along with this...would love to hear the good as well as the challenges you face and overcome.
 

djs4him

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What is the difference between putting corals in a brand new DT, and putting them in a brand new frag tank? Don't you have the same Cycle and parameter issues with the frag tank? If not, why?
I just find it so much easier to control. If algae begins to appear in a small frag tank, a few copepods and a couple days later, my frag tank is clean again. Or one snail. Or one emerald crab.

If nuisance algae begins to proliferate in a larger tank, you have a larger problem that requires a larger, more costly solution. This is a very young tank. It is likely to experience nutrient swings and parameter changes as different members of its microbiome fight to get established.

But again, to each their own - yes it is entirely possible to drop everything directly into the main display tank and have it all thrive if you watch it like a hawk and take action immediately as needed.
 

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If it was me, and this is just my opinion, I'd set aside a cheap frag tank like a large shallow Tupperware or something with a cheap blue light that you can get nice and close to them. This has the advantage of letting your corals grow out while you muck around with your new tank and allow it to stabilize over months of time. I would challenge you to resist adding your corals to your tank until you see coraline algae growing - typically a really solid indication that corals will thrive in your tank.

And yes to the point of Tavero, corals need clean water BUT they also need essential minerals and adequate lighting to grow and thrive. According to your deadline, you need those corals growing ASAP. I'd set aside a cheap little frag tank so I can monitor them and care for them more easily while my main display tank undergoes its initial setup and establishment phases.

Very interesting build .. I love that you have clearly defined goals .. just be sure you don't get discouraged if some of your goals aren't achieved. Reefing truly does take patience whether we like it or not lol. I will be following your build!
My tank has been wet a few weeks and I'm trying to establish a timeline for adding corals, I'm going LPS dominant. I like the idea of waiting for Coraline growth as the green light to start my coral journey. Anything else you would recommend before placing coral? I assume you would want to make sure your Calcium, Alkalinity, and Magenisum levels are sufficient as well.
 
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djs4him

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My tank has been wet a few weeks and I'm trying to establish a timeline for adding corals, I'm going LPS dominant. I like the idea of waiting for Coraline growth as the green light to start my coral journey. Anything else you would recommend before placing coral? I assume you would want to make sure your Calcium, Alkalinity, and Magenisum levels are sufficient as well.
I would suggest adding some copepods and phytoplankton to get your microbiome established. The more established these little critters can get in your tank, the less nuisance algae can get a foothold. They are almost like your tank's immune system.

In the beginning, I'm running my lights at 50% to allow the copepods and plankton a chance to get established and thrive before algae begins to grow in. Algae is not the enemy - but it tends to grow quickly and without mercy once it gets going. In a small tank, its easier to combat that. In a larger tank like my own, an algae outbreak can bring everything down.

So in conclusion, add plenty of pods and plankton, stabilize your minerals, and don't hit your tank with full-throttled lights right out the gate.
 

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I started with bottled bacteria and I waited five weeks and added 10lbs of Gulf live rock, to my 40 dead rock, I got to small corals on this rock. I then had a Bio bloom from some of the halimeda that died off. After that I waited about 1 1/2 weeks added two fish, same time frame two more. Now I have turf algae because I have no nitrates, waiting for Sodium Nitrate to dose. And hopefully at 4 months or so I will be calmed down and ready for corals.
 
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