My First Attempt at a Reef

fire/medic

Community Member
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
View Badges
Joined
Nov 29, 2022
Messages
26
Reaction score
76
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
Location
Bogalusa
Rating - 0%
0   0   0
The longwindedstory so far…

This is my first attempt at anything salt water. I’ve had the tank set up for about a month now. The tank is a Fluval Evo 13.5. Mostly stock. My thought process was start small, see how it goes, then go big. I know smaller tanks are more maintenance intensive due to how fast changes in water can snowball…but I had limited funds to invest and a wife with compromises to be made.

I bought the tank from a LFS, along with some already cycled live rocks, some ro/di saltwater, and some live sand. The guy talked me into buying a three striped damsel and a yellow tailed damsel. Knowing not much about reef setup, he convinced me they’d be fine. The were cheap…why not? I did talk to him about cycling the tank, having experience with that from freshwater. Again, he said I’d be fine.

Got home, got the tank set up, got the sand in, got my live rock arranged, got the water in, no issues…except one of my 5 gallon containers of water managed to spring a leak in back of my truck, so I was short a few gallons.

I went to a different local reef store this time, because, in all honesty, I was not impressed with the first one. Talk the the owner at the new reef store, awesome dude, tons of info. He asks about the setup and recommends a bottle of bacteria, Turbo Start 900. He says it should help the tank establish itself and make the whole process less painful for me and the fish. I also leave the store with two tiny clowns, two snails, and a cleaner shrimp.

Back home with the tank full, the heater in, the pump circulating, and the tank up to a cozy 78*, the fish, snails, and shrimp are introduced.

At first all seems okay. Everyone is checking the pace out. Swimming around minding their own business. Then I realize something: the damsels are jerks! They picked the smaller of the two clowns and bullied him. I went to bed he was fine. I wake up and he’s decease… Strike one for the damsels.

The tank is left alone for several days, running fine. Amonia, pH, nitrites, nitrites, salinity, and all of that stuff are right where they need to be. At this I decided to add skimmer to the setup. I got the Fluval Sea PS2. It was a royal pita to set up and tune. I fiddled with it for days. It’s a finicky little machine! After several weeks, I think I’ve finally figure it out. It’s been running smooth without over flowing the catch cup.

After Thomas Jefferson died (that was the clown, my daughter named it, I have no idea…) I decided to try another fish. A pearly jawfish. I acclimate him, get him settled in, and he disappears. I’m thinking he’s just hiding, new aquarium, ******* roommates, he’s a little freaked out. Apparently all of that was true. I found him two days later in the pump part of the aquarium. I scoop him out and back into the tank he goes. He seems okay for a bit, but the starts swimming funny, like maybe he had a spinal injury. Sick/injured fish watch ensues. He hides out in a cave. I go to be expecting to check on him in the morning. I wake up and he’s front and center…in two pieces severed directly behind the gills. I can only assume it was the damsels. Strike two!

Several days later I try again. This time with a chalk basslet. He goes in the tank, immediately starts hiding, only coming out to eat. On the Sunday after Thanksgiving I witness the three striped damsel attack him. Strike three!

Tuesday the two damsels were re-homed to the LFS. The were replaced with a small signal goby.

Thats how the tank stands now, except for adding a small (but possibly not small enough) power head, an emerald crab, two trochus snails, a brown blotch snail, and two small frags of “free to anyone that will take them” green star polyp. And the cleaner shrimp that’s been MIA for weeks. He molted and I’m betting those danged damsels for him in his fragile state.

I have a Tunze 3152 ATO in the mail as we speak. I also have a mesh lid on the way. The last bit of kit I want for now is a different light…and maybe a controllable wave maker.

TANK:
Fluval Evo 13.5
Stock pump
Stock lights
Stock filter
Fluval Sea PS2 skimmer
Aquatop MaxFlow CPS-1 power head

LIVESTOCK:
one little bitty clown
a much happier chalk basslet
one signal goby
two trochus snails
one brown blotch snail
two nerite snails
one red emerald crab
two pitiful pieces of green star polyp

Tanks current state
190F3D74-4268-45D3-A249-68C4639A60B6.jpeg


Tiger the Chalk Basslet
53169857-6E1E-470F-8369-49FAE23D7072.jpeg


Jacques
310CAE5E-9A06-4CA3-975F-5EA0E5FF5F5D.jpeg


Marty, the re-homed, but very attractive damsel.
9889D8B7-5531-481F-8A33-B877C556F05B.jpeg
 
Top Shelf Aquatics

Grootzilla

Active Member
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
View Badges
Joined
Jan 20, 2019
Messages
119
Reaction score
194
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
Rating - 0%
0   0   0
Jeez the first fish store was kind of sleezy for convincing you to take those damsels. Cycling with live fish is kind of frowned upon in the hobby nowadays; regardless of any nitrifying bacteria added to the tank, four fish at once in such a small tank is basically guaranteed to have an ammonia spike. I wouldn’t be surprised if the ammonia spike lead to those fish dying, especially if those damsels were harassing them. Were you testing for ammonia and nitrite during this time? Also a Pearlhead jawfish requires a much larger tank tbh…
I’m glad you are enjoying your tank and everything has settled down, though but I would caution you against adding more than three fish to a tank that is probably only holding about 8 or 9 gallons of water. Especially since it is only a month old.
 
OP
fire/medic

fire/medic

Community Member
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
View Badges
Joined
Nov 29, 2022
Messages
26
Reaction score
76
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
Location
Bogalusa
Rating - 0%
0   0   0
Jeez the first fish store was kind of sleezy for convincing you to take those damsels. Cycling with live fish is kind of frowned upon in the hobby nowadays; regardless of any nitrifying bacteria added to the tank, four fish at once in such a small tank is basically guaranteed to have an ammonia spike. I wouldn’t be surprised if the ammonia spike lead to those fish dying, especially if those damsels were harassing them. Were you testing for ammonia and nitrite during this time? Also a Pearlhead jawfish requires a much larger tank tbh…
I’m glad you are enjoying your tank and everything has settled down, though but I would caution you against adding more than three fish to a tank that is probably only holding about 8 or 9 gallons of water. Especially since it is only a month old.
Yeah. That’s why I didn’t go back to the original store. I was testing my water…daily. No ammonia spikes.
The tank is holding closer to 12 gallons, but every little bit counts. I was heavily stocked, but, going by the inch-per-gallon rule, I was fine.
I would have re-homed the jawfish when the time came.
 
Reef Chasers Aquaculture
OP
fire/medic

fire/medic

Community Member
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
View Badges
Joined
Nov 29, 2022
Messages
26
Reaction score
76
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
Location
Bogalusa
Rating - 0%
0   0   0
Added a Tunze 1352 Nano ATO today. Caught it on Black Friday at BRS. Super easy set-up. Instructions didn’t offer much in the way of positioning the sensor, but it’s pretty self-explanatory.
 

Idech

Valuable Member
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
View Badges
Joined
Feb 21, 2021
Messages
1,632
Reaction score
1,339
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
Location
Canada
Rating - 0%
0   0   0
I was heavily stocked, but, going by the inch-per-gallon rule, I was fine.
That rule has been disputed for a long time in the freshwater hobby and it certainly doesn’t apply to saltwater.

In this Evo, as you said there are a little less than 12 gallons of water depending on the sand and rocks, and 2 little fish and maybe 1 shrimp is the most you should have, along with a few snails.

You’ve made lots of mistakes in that short month. In part because the stores mislead you, but probably also for not doing enough research.

Every fish, every invert, every coral, every product or piece of equipment you add has to be thoroughly researched or you will end up paying for it later, one way or another. So many things can go wrong in this hobby (and many will), it’s important to avoid at least those mistakes that are avoidable.

Having said that, welcome to the hobby and enjoy ! :)
 
OP
fire/medic

fire/medic

Community Member
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
View Badges
Joined
Nov 29, 2022
Messages
26
Reaction score
76
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
Location
Bogalusa
Rating - 0%
0   0   0
That rule has been disputed for a long time in the freshwater hobby and it certainly doesn’t apply to saltwater.

In this Evo, as you said there are a little less than 12 gallons of water depending on the sand and rocks, and 2 little fish and maybe 1 shrimp is the most you should have, along with a few snails.

You’ve made lots of mistakes in that short month. In part because the stores mislead you, but probably also for not doing enough research.

Every fish, every invert, every coral, every product or piece of equipment you add has to be thoroughly researched or you will end up paying for it later, one way or another. So many things can go wrong in this hobby (and many will), it’s important to avoid at least those mistakes that are avoidable.

Having said that, welcome to the hobby and enjoy ! :)
I have made some mistakes. But I’m learning… the fish are here now, it looks like I’ll be doing a lot of water changes.

I probably should have done some more research, but I’m also the type that gets stuck in a research loop and never pulls the trigger… so I just pulled the trigger.
 
Tidal Gardens

btmedic04

Well-Known Member
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
View Badges
Joined
Oct 7, 2018
Messages
745
Reaction score
924
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
Location
Cleveland OH
Rating - 0%
0   0   0
Welcome to the hobby! Sorry for the rough start, but you seem eager to learn. the biggest piece of advice I can give you is to find one good source of information and stick with it. We get into trouble when we listen to multiple sources and mix and match information to suit our predilections. While you're here, Id start in the beginner forum and just take a peek around. Lots of good information can be found there. Lastly, the Fluval Evo 13.5 is a great tank to start with. Very good for the money and very upgradable. regarding your water flow, you might get away with an upgrade to the return pump and a dual 1/4" random flow generator (RFG) from VCA. Something Like a Sicce Syncra Silent 1.0 would be great for that. I know its an added expense, but worth it. these pumps are very solid and match well with the dual RFG

Heres the pump Im talking about

and the RFG

Looking forward to seeing how you and your little slice of the reef progress :)
 
OP
fire/medic

fire/medic

Community Member
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
View Badges
Joined
Nov 29, 2022
Messages
26
Reaction score
76
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
Location
Bogalusa
Rating - 0%
0   0   0
Added a mesh top, AI Prime 16 HD, and inTank basket in chamber one today. Ditched the skimmer. Couldn’t get it to stay tuned to save my life. Also had my water tested at the LFS while picking this stuff up. Everything is looking really good, so I added a small rock flower anemone to the mix.
 
World Wide Corals

SteveMac84

Active Member
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
View Badges
Joined
Oct 25, 2021
Messages
217
Reaction score
274
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
Location
Clarkston WA
Rating - 0%
0   0   0
Added a Tunze 1352 Nano ATO today. Caught it on Black Friday at BRS. Super easy set-up. Instructions didn’t offer much in the way of positioning the sensor, but it’s pretty self-explanatory.
I have the same tank. New office nano. do you like the ATO?
 
Tidal Gardens
OP
fire/medic

fire/medic

Community Member
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
View Badges
Joined
Nov 29, 2022
Messages
26
Reaction score
76
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
Location
Bogalusa
Rating - 0%
0   0   0
Tha
Nice tank you have there!!
Thanks. I need to update my build thread. I had a bad case of velvet run through the tank and wipe it out. I’ve now made that tank a hospital tank and have set up a IM Nuvo Fusion 20.
 
OP
fire/medic

fire/medic

Community Member
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
View Badges
Joined
Nov 29, 2022
Messages
26
Reaction score
76
Review score
+0 /0 /-0
Location
Bogalusa
Rating - 0%
0   0   0
I have the same tank. New office nano. do you like the ATO?
I do like the ATO, but the instructions for setup are a bit lacking. Specifically about where to set the float to control water level. I was able to figure it out, just took some trial and error. Other than that, it’s been hiccup free.
 

How do I get smarter in the hobby?

  • Experiment with reefing

    Votes: 229 56.7%
  • Read books

    Votes: 158 39.1%
  • Subscribe to magazines

    Votes: 73 18.1%
  • Read Reef2Reef

    Votes: 307 76.0%
  • Talk to other reefers

    Votes: 228 56.4%
  • Watch YouTube videos

    Votes: 258 63.9%
  • Listen to podcasts

    Votes: 101 25.0%
  • Other

    Votes: 34 8.4%
First Choice
Top