My Waterbox 180.5 Build

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thewedge

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Hi! I'm taking a stab at my very first build thread in hopes of paying forward some of the help I've gotten from others who have shared theirs. My gratitude towards the generosity of many in this hobby can never be adequately expressed and I'd like to send a big thank you to all who share their tips and experiences with a spirit of positivity and mutual learning.
I cannot guarantee I'll be successful at updating this thread, simply because I'm a tremendous procrastinator and my work life keeps me very busy and tired. Great profile for a reef keeper, amiright? :) But I'll try my best.

This Water box 180.5 will be my 3rd reef tank. I started out with a 65gal Deep Blue Ocean tank with an Eshopps sump and skimmer as well as an Apex. About 2 years later, my wife surprised me with an IM 20gal dropoff tank. Both tanks are still running, with varying levels of success.
Here's a picture of the 65 at it's peak in 2019 when it was 5 years old:

65 Peak.jpg



Shortly after this picture was taken, the tank started to decline. I first struggled with some really nasty green palys that were very aggressive and spread all over. I tried everything to keep them at bay, starting with cutting, and then kalk paste and some other methods that were not successful. I ultimately succeeded by removing some of the rock it was on and doing a lot of hardcore scrubbing.

Then I hit the trifecta. I soon supplemented my AI Primes with the ATI T5 hybrid kit. This encouraged some mushrooms which were among the first coral I ever had to explode and spread everywhere. They had been fairly contained for 5 years as you can see, but I was quickly seeing them pop up everywhere. Each time I would cut them off the rock, 2 more would spring up. Kind of like Hydra ;). I didn't know mushrooms could be so aggressive. Everywhere they moved, they began killing off or depriving the existing corals of light. I was planning on doing a total swap of all my rock with my LFS when covid hit. Stuck at home and generally getting depressed watching the mushrooms take out coral after coral and with the crappy state of the world, I started to struggle with keeping my alk/calc in line and the few things not already under siege by mushrooms started to decline as well. I was dosing with BRS 2-part using the BRS pumps and I hadn't realized that I was having problems with air in the alk line. So I was going crazy trying to chase numbers and getting more and more depressed about the whole thing. Now I'm left with two humongous leathers and mushrooms literally everywhere. 2020 sucked, y'all.

I also had other challenges with this tank. I had many corals that very quickly got too darn big too quickly. There were a bunch of things that I had fragged and taken to the LFS for credit like birds nest, torches, hammers, etc. I had a fantastic bubble coral for a couple years that I also had to trade in because there was no more room on the sand. With my rock layout, I also had a lot of trouble with coral placement and early on I didn't quite grasp how much shadowing would come in to play. Not to mention the usual algae, cyano and dino outbreaks.

As far as cyano and algae, I do feel like I finally got a hold of how to keep them under control. Urchins and emerald crabs worked best for me for algae, even now. I recently had a minor algae flare up in my 20gal so I threw one of the urchins from my 65 in there and he took care of it in no time. Along with most of my coraline :(. In the beginning I was dead set against any sort of "chemical" solutions to cyano and bought into what I believe is the false mantra of "it's your nutrients, stupid". While I do believe that drifting nutrient levels can cause an outbreak, I was never able to fully contain it once it got a hold. I used Dr. Tim's Waste Away a few times but it seemed to eventually lose effectiveness. I eventually turned to Chemiclean and since then I do not sweat cyano. The stuff works. We're all going to get cyano from time to time. I should also mention that this tank started with a deep sand bed (yup). This worked fantastically for controlling nitrates, but I believe it eventually became a cyano factory. The DSB was replaced after about 3 years.

Which leads to the impetus for getting the Waterbox. Throughout my time in the hobby, my wife has been incredibly supportive and excited about the tanks. Pretty quickly after setting up the 65 and stocking it with corals, she was telling me we should get a bigger tank. I resisted on mostly financial grounds (this is a dang expensive hobby, in case you hadn't realized), as well as not being keen on stepping up to larger water changes. I had been relying on a 20gal brute for my salt water reservoir and using buckets to do my changes. Filling the reservoir involved filling up 5gal buckets with RODI in my laundry room and carrying them downstairs to where the tank and reservoir are. My house has a septic system and I always thought that I shouldn't be dumping salt water down the drain, for whatever reason. So when I had to empty buckets, I carried them out to the far end of my yard where I have a drainage pit. Real fun in the winter. It took way too many years, but back in Feb I was doing some searches and found that many reefers have septic systems and have been emptying their salt water in the drain with no issues. Someone also pointed out that the effluent from my water softener was many more times salty than reef water.

This revelation had me re-examining my methodology and set my mind looking into larger tanks. I also saw people's water mixing stations and all the reports of people using the Neptune DOS for auto water changes. I soon ran a RODI line from the RODI unit in my laundry room into the boiler room in my basement. And stated thinking about how I could make water changes easier. I wanted to re-ignite my involvement in the hobby and part of that would involve either getting a larger tank or completely replacing all the rock in my existing one.

Thank you for reading this so far. I hadn't intended to start off writing a novel, but I figured some background info would be helpful. In all likelihood there are others who are struggling with a lot of the same issues. Once I accepted that I could in fact up my water change game, I started to think about what kind of tank I would want. I always knew something in the 120-150 gal range would probably be my sweet spot for cost and footprint. I also knew that I probably would not have the patience or confidence to make it a largely DIY effort and just didn't want to have to stress over things like plumbing and sump layout. I also knew that if I was going to do this, I wanted step up my automation and the overall appearance of the tank. Hence how I settled on the Waterbox Reef 180.5. It seemed they had done a lot of the thinking for me and I knew they were quality tanks and stands. And as we all know, there are no shortage of projects with this hobby, no matter what your setup. My next post will detail my new setup and where I am so far. Thanks for making it this far!
 
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Now on to the WB. I had been going back and forth on which way to proceed and tabulating the costs of the tank and all the needed equipment. I was definitely feeling paralysis. Then, during a personal low I was going through over the summer, my awesome wife made me sit in the car and order the WB while she did returns at Marshall's. I hate that store, so I guess I needed something to do:D . I then went on to put together my equipment list. Even though I have an existing tank, much of the gear was not sized for a 130 gal tank.

Here's the equipment list I put together and purchased through BRS:

Neptune COR 20 return pump
Reef Octopus Regal 150INT skimmer
2 x Vortech MP40s (will eventually supplement with the MP10s from my 65)
Finnex 800w heater and Finnex controller
3 x ATI Hydra 32HDs
Neptune DOS (for water changes)
Neptune LDK module
Neptune breakout box
XP Aqua Duetto ATO (will be swapped with the Tunze Osmolator from my 65)

I haven't decided what I'm going to do for phosphate management yet. I've always used a BRS reactor and GFO with a separate pump. I think I'd like to utilize one of the manifolds on the return line for a reactor if I go that route.

I will probably put my old Mag9 back on the 65 when I turn it into a quarantine tank and keep the Varios 4 as an emergency spare in case the Cor 20 dies.

Eventually I will add a Trident and a Neptune DOS. This was a non-negotiable condition for stepping up to this tank.

I will be moving my Apex (2016) over once I move the 2 fish from my 65 gal over. I will put my Apex classic over to my 65 and set it up as a quarantine tank.

About 4 weeks later, the tank arrived:

PXL_20210809_154516937.jpg
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I was nervous about Murphy and his dang law hitting me when the tank arrived, but everything went fine. It was well packed and there was no damage to any of the components.
Fortunately I have good friends in my band and they agreed to help me move the tank from my garage to my basement. We loaded the tank into the back of my friend's pickup truck and drove it around to the back door in my yard and used suction cup handles to lift it when necessary.

These are the suction handles we used. They worked great.

Here is the stand in it's final position in my basement:


PXL_20210816_015147691.jpg



Here's a few pictures of the tank on the stand and the gear:

PXL_20210822_211916121.jpg



PXL_20210829_013538565.jpg


I took a couple weeks and had to deal with a sprained wrist, but I eventually settled on this rock scape using Caribsea Life Rock. One of the many lessons learned from my 65gal was the need to mortar the rocks together, which I did this time around. Kind of wish I had gotten the purple mortar but in a year I won't care.

PXL_20210911_195919230.jpg
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PXL_20210911_195954989.jpg



I finally filled the tank on Sunday 9/5. Well, I started with the first 3 gal on the evening of 9/4. It took the entirety of the next day to mix up and add the remaining water. I think all told it was 5 full 32 gallon Brute cans full. I use HW Marinemix Reefer sand. I let each batch mix for 2 hours until it was clear. The salinity is where it needed to be. I'd normally mix for 24hrs but in this case, I wasn't too concerned.

PXL_20210912_043629621.jpg
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I began the cycle using Dr Tim's One and Only and I'm currently on day 5. I'm looking forward to the next steps as I wait for the cycle to complete. I have an Adaptive Reef controller board on order to house all the controller parts in the left side of the stand. Right now, the plan is for my ATO reservoir to sit beside the stand, but I'm toying with the idea of moving it to the RODI reservoir in the salt mixing station in my boiler room. I will also be running the lines for the auto water change from the tank to my boiler room and then up to my laundry room sink. Oh, and I'll also be starting work on building the mixing station proper. So far I have 2 32gal Brutes and have been manually transferring the RODI to the saltwater can using a 1040gph Sicce pump that will be plumbed in to the mixing station.

Once the cycle is complete I'll be moving the clownfish and whatever the big purple fish I have is called over to the new tank. I also have a serpent starfish that will be getting moved over. Several of the mushroom covered rocks will go to my LFS for credit. The remaining bristleworm infested rock will probably spend 6 months in my front garden and then who knows. I'll then remove the sand and any remaining mushrooms and convert it to a quarantine tank. I'll try to post updates as I have interesting things to share. Thanks for reading!
 
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thewedge

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All I can say is that I wish I had your problem with mushrooms. Looking forward to updates!
Man, be careful what you wish for:

PXL_20210918_201308590.jpg


It pains me to share this with the outside world because I'm embarrassed this is how the tank ended up, but I learned many, many lessons.
 
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A brief word about the Finnex heater. A day after putting it in the tank, it began beeping non-stop. At first I thought it was the controller but I realized it was the box on the heater cable making the noise. According to the Finnex documentation, this is the "out of water" sensor which alerts when the heater is out of the water. Clearly the heater was not out of the water. I called BRS, and they are sending a replacement. it was a very easy transaction. The guy I spoke with said he never uses Finnex heaters because of having a bad experience when he first go into the hobby. I have been using them regularly for the past 6 years or so. In general I think their failure rate has been less than the typical glass heater, but they do eventually die as well. Just not usually on day 2. I started off with having freshwater tanks back in 1998 and have gone through many, many heaters. Fortunately I have never cooked my fish. I'll be relying on the Apex to control the heater, with the Finnex controller as a backup.
 
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Man, be careful what you wish for:

It pains me to share this with the outside world because I'm embarrassed this is how the tank ended up, but I learned many, many lessons.
Well, whatever you're doing - it's working, lol. I've only got a half dozen or so frags (a few with multiple heads), but they're not in any hurry to expand out and dominate the tank. Actually, they seem pretty content with not doing much at all!
 
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Well, whatever you're doing - it's working, lol. I've only got a half dozen or so frags (a few with multiple heads), but they're not in any hurry to expand out and dominate the tank. Actually, they seem pretty content with not doing much at all!
Yeah mine were very contained for a number of years. I really feel that adding the T5 lighting to my AI Prime LEDs kicked them into high gear. What kind of lighting do you have?
 

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Yeah mine were very contained for a number of years. I really feel that adding the T5 lighting to my AI Prime LEDs kicked them into high gear. What kind of lighting do you have?
XR15/XR30 G5 Radions (I haven't augmented them with anything). The majority of my corals are soft and LPS, so my PAR ranges from around 75 at the low to around 175 at the high point for most of my corals.
 
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XR15/XR30 G5 Radions (I haven't augmented them with anything). The majority of my corals are soft and LPS, so my PAR ranges from around 75 at the low to around 175 at the high point for most of my corals.
Getting or renting a PAR meter is in my future. I plan on using the Waterbox AI recipe for LPS/softies to start. I'm sure eventually I'll have an easy SPS or 2 like I had before. Bird's nest and a red planet or something like that.
 

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Getting or renting a PAR meter is in my future. I plan on using the Waterbox AI recipe for LPS/softies to start. I'm sure eventually I'll have an easy SPS or 2 like I had before. Bird's nest and a red planet or something like that.
I went with the Neptune PMK kit. Now I can graph areas of the tank, make some tweaks and see the effects within 24 hours. It even comes with a free rock!
 
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Hi! I'm taking a stab at my very first build thread in hopes of paying forward some of the help I've gotten from others who have shared theirs. My gratitude towards the generosity of many in this hobby can never be adequately expressed and I'd like to send a big thank you to all who share their tips and experiences with a spirit of positivity and mutual learning.
I cannot guarantee I'll be successful at updating this thread, simply because I'm a tremendous procrastinator and my work life keeps me very busy and tired. Great profile for a reef keeper, amiright? :) But I'll try my best.

This Water box 180.5 will be my 3rd reef tank. I started out with a 65gal Deep Blue Ocean tank with an Eshopps sump and skimmer as well as an Apex. About 2 years later, my wife surprised me with an IM 20gal dropoff tank. Both tanks are still running, with varying levels of success.
Here's a picture of the 65 at it's peak in 2019 when it was 5 years old:

65 Peak.jpg



Shortly after this picture was taken, the tank started to decline. I first struggled with some really nasty green palys that were very aggressive and spread all over. I tried everything to keep them at bay, starting with cutting, and then kalk paste and some other methods that were not successful. I ultimately succeeded by removing some of the rock it was on and doing a lot of hardcore scrubbing.

Then I hit the trifecta. I soon supplemented my AI Primes with the ATI T5 hybrid kit. This encouraged some mushrooms which were among the first coral I ever had to explode and spread everywhere. They had been fairly contained for 5 years as you can see, but I was quickly seeing them pop up everywhere. Each time I would cut them off the rock, 2 more would spring up. Kind of like Hydra ;). I didn't know mushrooms could be so aggressive. Everywhere they moved, they began killing off or depriving the existing corals of light. I was planning on doing a total swap of all my rock with my LFS when covid hit. Stuck at home and generally getting depressed watching the mushrooms take out coral after coral and with the crappy state of the world, I started to struggle with keeping my alk/calc in line and the few things not already under siege by mushrooms started to decline as well. I was dosing with BRS 2-part using the BRS pumps and I hadn't realized that I was having problems with air in the alk line. So I was going crazy trying to chase numbers and getting more and more depressed about the whole thing. Now I'm left with two humongous leathers and mushrooms literally everywhere. 2020 sucked, y'all.

I also had other challenges with this tank. I had many corals that very quickly got too darn big too quickly. There were a bunch of things that I had fragged and taken to the LFS for credit like birds nest, torches, hammers, etc. I had a fantastic bubble coral for a couple years that I also had to trade in because there was no more room on the sand. With my rock layout, I also had a lot of trouble with coral placement and early on I didn't quite grasp how much shadowing would come in to play. Not to mention the usual algae, cyano and dino outbreaks.

As far as cyano and algae, I do feel like I finally got a hold of how to keep them under control. Urchins and emerald crabs worked best for me for algae, even now. I recently had a minor algae flare up in my 20gal so I threw one of the urchins from my 65 in there and he took care of it in no time. Along with most of my coraline :(. In the beginning I was dead set against any sort of "chemical" solutions to cyano and bought into what I believe is the false mantra of "it's your nutrients, stupid". While I do believe that drifting nutrient levels can cause an outbreak, I was never able to fully contain it once it got a hold. I used Dr. Tim's Waste Away a few times but it seemed to eventually lose effectiveness. I eventually turned to Chemiclean and since then I do not sweat cyano. The stuff works. We're all going to get cyano from time to time. I should also mention that this tank started with a deep sand bed (yup). This worked fantastically for controlling nitrates, but I believe it eventually became a cyano factory. The DSB was replaced after about 3 years.

Which leads to the impetus for getting the Waterbox. Throughout my time in the hobby, my wife has been incredibly supportive and excited about the tanks. Pretty quickly after setting up the 65 and stocking it with corals, she was telling me we should get a bigger tank. I resisted on mostly financial grounds (this is a dang expensive hobby, in case you hadn't realized), as well as not being keen on stepping up to larger water changes. I had been relying on a 20gal brute for my salt water reservoir and using buckets to do my changes. Filling the reservoir involved filling up 5gal buckets with RODI in my laundry room and carrying them downstairs to where the tank and reservoir are. My house has a septic system and I always thought that I shouldn't be dumping salt water down the drain, for whatever reason. So when I had to empty buckets, I carried them out to the far end of my yard where I have a drainage pit. Real fun in the winter. It took way too many years, but back in Feb I was doing some searches and found that many reefers have septic systems and have been emptying their salt water in the drain with no issues. Someone also pointed out that the effluent from my water softener was many more times salty than reef water.

This revelation had me re-examining my methodology and set my mind looking into larger tanks. I also saw people's water mixing stations and all the reports of people using the Neptune DOS for auto water changes. I soon ran a RODI line from the RODI unit in my laundry room into the boiler room in my basement. And stated thinking about how I could make water changes easier. I wanted to re-ignite my involvement in the hobby and part of that would involve either getting a larger tank or completely replacing all the rock in my existing one.

Thank you for reading this so far. I hadn't intended to start off writing a novel, but I figured some background info would be helpful. In all likelihood there are others who are struggling with a lot of the same issues. Once I accepted that I could in fact up my water change game, I started to think about what kind of tank I would want. I always knew something in the 120-150 gal range would probably be my sweet spot for cost and footprint. I also knew that I probably would not have the patience or confidence to make it a largely DIY effort and just didn't want to have to stress over things like plumbing and sump layout. I also knew that if I was going to do this, I wanted step up my automation and the overall appearance of the tank. Hence how I settled on the Waterbox Reef 180.5. It seemed they had done a lot of the thinking for me and I knew they were quality tanks and stands. And as we all know, there are no shortage of projects with this hobby, no matter what your setup. My next post will detail my new setup and where I am so far. Thanks for making it this far!
I love your determination! I’ll be following this thread!
 
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thewedge

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Thanks!

Brief update on the cycle. Ammonia is reading 3 and I think nitrite is reading 0.5. I sat I think because on the advice of my LFS, I'm using API test strips. It's really difficult to match the colors. I used half the amount of ammonia drops because I used live sand, per the instructions.
I started giving some more thought to the qt tank and I'm now questioning converting my 65gal to qt. Sometime pointed out on another thread that more water volume means more medication. Meds aren't cheap and that's a good argument for going smaller. Plus every time I have to refill it, it will take longer. My salt water reservoir capacity is 32gal.
 

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I’ve heard the same a smaller QT tank may mean you have to observe a bit closer but the ability to Change water quickly is a bonus and like you said you have to match your capacity as well! I’m trying to wait until the next petco sale to get a 10 or 20 gallon. 1 for fish another for inverts/coral
 

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Great start. I look forward to seeing this progress.

also in one post you Saadi you were embarrassed by what your tank had become but you learned a lot from it. I will say OWN your failures and shout them out. I do that… now and I have learned even more from that. Others have learned from my mistakes and others still have given me advice because they had similar failures in their past. It’s one way to really make friends in this hobby…nobody wants to befriend the “know it all” we want to give and take, share and listen.
 
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I agree 100%! One of my primary motivations for doing a build thread is hoping someone learns from where I messed up. So many lessons learned over the last 7 years.
For instance, stay away from GSP! I know you've got your first tank up and you want something that will grow fast. Don't do it! At least if you've got a smaller tank. The stuff grows fast alright. But every LFS has it and they don't need more. At least mine doesn't. Eventually the awful, ugly green palys I had choked it out.
Which leads to another lesson. Just because you got a hitchhiker coral to doesn't mean it's a desirable one!
 
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My tests today show 1ppm ammonia, about 5ppm nitrite, and somewhere between o and 20 nitrate. So, things are progressing. I added a cup of sand from my 20gal today as well. I've been trying to keep this system separate from my other 2 tanks because I did not want to introduce algae or cyano, etc., but I think it could also use some bacterial diversity from an established tank. So I am treading cautiously. I placed a small dry rock in the 20gal and will move it over to the new tank in a few days. Definitely not moving anything from the 65gal over besides 2 fish and a serpent starfish. I do not want to risk moving any of those blasted mushrooms over.
 
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Today's readings are 0.5 ppm ammonia, 5ppm nitrite and 40ppm nitrate. So things look to be progressing. I have to go out of town tomorrow for 6 days and won't be able to keep up on things but I'm hoping that when I get back the cycle will have completed.
The remainder of today's tasks will be water changes in my two other tanks as well as general maintenance and making sure top off reservoirs and auto feeders are fully stocked so my wife doesn't have to do anything with the tanks while I'm gone.
 
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