New to saltwater - The story of a recycled tank

Arthur_Dent

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Long time listener, first time caller here.

For as long as I can remember, I've been fascinated with the water. I grew up fishing freshwater in South Florida, and as soon as I had first contact with saltwater, like most Florida natives, I was addicted. Fishing, free diving and being a beach bum is in my blood. We had a few freshwater tanks when I was a kid, and I remember always wanting a saltwater tank, because I was fascinated by the diversity on the reef.

Well, here we are, several decades later, and I've setup my first tank.

I was fortunate enough to find a forum member who was getting out of the hobby, and the deal was too good to pass up. All in, I picked up the following:

- IM Nuvo 75 EXT, manufactured late 2018.
- IM Aluminum factory stand,
- octo 130 skimmer,
- two gyre 330s and a wifi controller,
- refugium light with wifi controller,
- 4 head dosing pump,
- two 300 series silent return pumps,
- small powerhead
- two 200 watt externally controlled heaters,
- a small internally controlled heater
- a bunch of dosing chemicals, test kits, a refractomoter and filter socks,
- an 8 bulb ATI fixture (bulbs are old),
- an ATO controller and ATO tank,
- a few wirelessly controlled power strips, and manual power strips, and other miscellaneous things

Came with the folllowing livestock:
- a pair of mated designer clowns,
- a pink streaked wrasse,
- a cleaner shrimp,
- a yellow-tail damsel, plus a clean up crew (snails and hermits. probably 20-25 of them in all)
- about 80 lbs of live rock. (rock had a ton of algae on it, but that's fixable)

So, this thread will inventory my journey into the world of saltwater tanks. Please do drop comments, suggestions, pointers, or hate mail here.

The booty:

Shortly after unpacking this stuff from the truck, and scraping off the inside of the tank, I realized I had a ton of work on my hands. Here's the mountain of stuff that was staring back at me:

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You get the idea...

The unpackening: new recycled tank edition:

First thing I did was go over everything and separate stuff out into its respective pile, and fill to tank with water to check for leaks. After scraping off all the growth on the tank, I plumbed it up, filled it with tap water, and let everything rip. To my pleasure, nothing leaked, and everything appeared functional.

Here's a picture of the triton sump that it came with, humming away:

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I then setup the RODI system that came with the tank, and started making water, in preparation for moving the tank into the house:

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My house water pressure is pretty low, and since I don't like waiting, I immediately ordered a booster pump. I strongly recommend one of these. It's well worth the 100 bucks. In fact, TDS out of the membrane went way down after I connected it, in addition to dramatically speeding up the watermaking process. I estimate that I'm able to produce 80-90 GPD with a 75 gallon membrane with this system now. It comes out of the box tuned to 90psi, so I turned it down to 80, and it did its job very nicely after that.

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The fishening: RTIC cooler edition:

Did I mention live fish came with this setup? Here's a photo of them in their temporary 70 quart RTIC cooler home. I put in a small powerhead , a heater, and two pieces of the live rock that the tank came with. Thankfully, the rock was still full of good bacteria, and I didn't struggle with ammonia. I did 80-90% water changes each day while I was bringing the tank online to make sure that I didn't kill the critters. Here's a photo of the clowns in their doublewide:

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The fishtank was coming from inside the house!

Being reasonably sure that I wasn't going to flood myself, I went ahead and conscripted a friend with a strong back to help me move things inside, and had the perfect spot for the new critters. Here's a photo of its temporary resting place:

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Cloudy water runs deep:

My first mistake was not washing out the aragonite and live sand that I put into the tank. I ended up mixing about 40% sand and 60% aragonite by weight for the substrate. So far, I'm pleased with the final outcome. To get rid of the cloud, I turned the Gyre X330's that came with the tank so that they pointed down, set the phasers to kill, and let them rip for a day or so, stirring up the sand really well by hand every 2-3 hours. I ran the pump while doing this, and loaded up the sump with a filter sock and filter floss between each baffle, and cleaned them out 3-4 times per day. It made for some interesting craters:

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Happy to report that the next morning, all was well with the cosmos. The agitation of the substrate seems to have gotten 99% of the silt out of the tank, and things were looking nice and clean. So, I went ahead and cleaned as much of the algae as I could from the liverock by scrubbing it with a hard brush in a bucket of saltwater, and dropped a few bits into the display, and piled as much as possible in the sump. Following this, I dumped in a bottle of Fritz Turbostart 900, and in went the inverts. I figured if I had to sacrifice anyone as tribute, it may as well be these guys. Happy to say that they survived, except for 1 or 2 snails that became hermit crab food, and it looks like I lost a small urchin as well. Poor little dudes.

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I've since added more liverock to the sump and tank, and plan to move things back into the display tank once the algae dies off on the bits in the sump. Once that happens, I'll drop in a few marine pure bricks, and eventually, a "poor man's nitrogen reactor" to keep nitrates in check with minimal oversight.

In retrospect, I kept the live rock in buckets of saltwater during transport, and probably didn't need the turbostart, but what the heck. Can't hurt. Special thanks to @brandon429 and @Dr. Reef for their articles on quickstarting a tank. That helped me out a LOT and helped me to understand water chemistry and the modern way to cycle. You guys are legends.

The fishening:

After adding some rock and bac juice, in went the fish. Here's some glamor shots for your viewing pleasure:

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And lo, the fishkeeper said let there be light, and there was, and the fishes saw that it was good, and there was much rejoicing:

Although the system came with an ATI T5 8 Bulb fixture, I decided to go with LED's instead. I found three of these Viparspectra setups on marketplace for 200 bucks and pulled the trigger. I have one on the tank as a temporary solution sitting on 2x4's (the fishtank equivalent of an old Nova on bricks in the front yard, you say?) until I can build an adjustable hood, which I'm planning to create using 1515 T-Slot aluminum, bolted to the lower cabinet, with rollers designed for linear motion present. This should allow me to raise and lower the lights at will, and will also look "factory" if I do it correctly, since the stand is made from the same material.

I have to say, I'm pleased with the light so far.

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Rate my rock pile. What can I be doing better here?

Odds and ends:

I also finished setting up all the under cabinet/sump gear, tuning the gyres, tuning the skimmer, installing the ATO, etc. ATO is eating about a gallon per day to evaporation at the moment. I have to say, this is the first ATO I've had, and I don't think I'd have a saltwater tank without one.

Future plans and to-do's:

- Continue to monitor ammonia, ph, nitrite/nitrate and get a baseline for how they change.
- Begin monitoring other params (alk, o2 capacity, calc, etc) using the testers that came with the gear I acquired.
- Wait 3 months
- Add an emerald crab if the algae doesn't get eaten by the snails
- Finish arranging the rock and epoxy it together
- Add 4-5 corals
- Build a UPS that will support the bare essential life support systems for 24-48 hours

Conclusion:

Our livingroom is at least 40% more comfortable with swimmy creatures present. This has been a cool experience so far, and looking forward to continuing to learn and grow with the little slice of paradise that now resides in the home of yours truly.

Thanks for reading, and thanks for all you gals and guys post on the forums here. Definitely helped me as I was figuring things out.

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Arthur_Dent

Arthur_Dent

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Tank update (Tank online since 10/16 - start of week 3 online)

Done this week:
- 12.5% water change on 10/24
- changed filter sock (weekly)
- moved skimmer up; reduced flow from "12" to "8"; skimmate is dryer.
- while moving skimmer, disturbed crud in sump. Water got cloudy, but filtered clear in an hour or so.
- turkey basted detritus off rocks and half the sand in the tank
- changed light cycle from 12 hours to 6.5 hours. White light cycle stays at 4 hours.

Observations:
-Noticed some tiny bubbles coming from the tops of my liverock last night toward the end of the light cycle. This morning, noticed some bleached areas of the liverock starting to change colors. (beginning of lobophora, cyano or other outbreak? will research and see)
- turf algae that was on the rock appears to be dying off
- corraline that was on the rocks appears to be darkening and expanding
- bubble algae is growing larger
- new greenish crap on rocks didn't blow off with turkey baster

Todo:
- murder the bubble algae that came in on the rock (h2o2 injection in the tank - extract and spray if this approach fails) (note - performed peroxide injection on 4-5 patches on 11/3. waiting to see what happens. also added emerald crab)
- wait.
- 12.5% water change on 11/1 (done 11/1)
- determine the difference between phosphorus and phosphate checker and how to use them
- consider moving rock base to bottom of sand bed

Tank parameters:
- PH - 7.86 (Calibrated Hanna checker. API kit looks more like 8)
- DKH - 9
- SG- 1.025
-ammonia/nitrite - 0
- nitrate - ~10
- light settings - 1x Vipar spectra. 30blue / 1 white. 12 hour light cycle. white channel on for 5 hours.

Pics inline for future reference:

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Arthur_Dent

Arthur_Dent

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11.2.20 - tank params (ran through all tests that I have available)

calc (salifert) ~ 470
mag (salifert) ~ 1400
dkh (hanna) - 8.9
ph (digital calibrated on 11.) 8.01
temp - 76.2 f
SG - 1.0245
phosphorus (hanna ulr phosphorus checker) - 191ppb (0.586ppm phosphate)
nitrate (API) - 5-10ppm (need to get something more accurate for testing)

TODO
- bring phosphate and nitrate down
* reduce feeding and measure next week after water change
 
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Emptyness

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Nice setup! Keep the updates and fotos coming. It should be a nice journey and you got a lot of gear right from the start, which is always beneficial.

Since you have a sump, why not get your thermometer in there? For the esthetics.


At the beginning, I was wondering if I should follow your build or not, since I am more interested in nano/pico tanks, but you got me with the "set the phasers to kill"-phrase :).
 
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Arthur_Dent

Arthur_Dent

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Nice setup! Keep the updates and fotos coming. It should be a nice journey and you got a lot of gear right from the start, which is always beneficial.

Since you have a sump, why not get your thermometer in there? For the esthetics.


At the beginning, I was wondering if I should follow your build or not, since I am more interested in nano/pico tanks, but you got me with the "set the phasers to kill"-phrase :).

Thanks! Good call moving the thermometer to the sump. I have it on top now so that I can check it at a glance. Will probably move it down there.

Nice catch on the trek reference. I love anything involving spaceships and lasers. :)
 
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Arthur_Dent

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Crazy how fast algae grows on bare rock. Here's a photo of a section of the live rock that was "bare" when I got it, and how fast it has grown over. Working on a phosphate and nitrate control plan and should have it implemented soon.

Also have what I believe are diatoms showing up on the sand. Very minor, but I'm planning to throw them under a toy microscope, verify they are diatoms, and then figure out what to do about it. Assuming they're diatoms, the plan will likely be to just do nothing and let it run its course.

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Arthur_Dent

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11.8.2020

Did a ~12.5% water change. Sand vacuumed. Blasted rocks. Re-arranged sump rock. Cleaned up skimmer.
Ordered BRS dual carbon/GFO reactor in preparation for bringing phosphate down.
Planning to vodka dose for nitrate along with running the GFO.

Observations:
- nem retracted when water clouded due to disturbances. Came back out almost immediately after flow was restored.
- everything looks healthy.
-Algae still growing.

ph - 8.05
phos - 100ppb (0.3 ish ppm)
nitrate - 5-10 (toward 10)
temp - 76.2
sg - 1.0235
dkh - 8.6
 
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john.m.cole3

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Hey Pat good to see your build thread over here. I like ATI fixtures, gyre pumps, and reef octo skimmers too! I have some old build threads on here but have not been as active here as I used to be. Looks like you have a good foundatuin to your build.
 
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Arthur_Dent

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Spent some time this evening installing version 0.2 of the hood I built. Planning to attach the face with some heavy duty magnets, that are in route right now, and paint to match the tank stand.

Overall, pleased with this design. Next step to get it to 1.0 is to install brackets on the back to allow for linear motion.

Also, these Vipar Spectras are heckin bright. 3 may be overkill....

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Arthur_Dent

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11/15 - Did a 10 gallon water change today. Going to check all levels when I get back from a birthday gathering today. All fish are healthy and tank is doing great. Lots of new purple on the rocks.

Water parameters post water change (instant ocean)
- salinity- 1.0255
- alk - 8.7 dkh
- mg - 1245 (note - I don't think I did the test right a week ago. fixed)
- ca - 425 (note - I don't think I did the test right a week ago. fixed)
- phosphate - 36ppb (about 0.1ppm on hanna, confirmed with salifert) - I believe diatoms and reduced/cleaner food are responsible for the drop.
- nitrate - between 2 and 5 on salifert. jives with the API test.
- temp 77.8F ( target is 78F. not bad)

Other observations/ actions:
- added magnetic feature to the hood front cover.
- added a chunk of rock that was in the sump to the DT
- cleaner shrimp molted; anemone tried to eat the shell and spit it out
- pink and purple coralline dots are multiplying
- anemone appears to be growing
- urchin is much more active. stupid [email protected] can't seem to stay upright, though.

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November 22nd - 12:40 p.m.

- All tests done about an hour after stirring the sand and Blasting rock with a turkey baster.
- Decided not to water change this week.
- Diatom bloom appears to be slowing down. Haven't really changed much, other than increasing flow.
- Nitrates steady over last week. Phosphate down a tad.
- Calcium is up for some reason. I suspect I'm getting better at using the test kit, or possibly increased flow and PH dips dissolved some sand. Will continue to monitor.
- All creatures healthy. Appear to be getting larger.
- Coralline continuing to expand slowly. Purple and pink, mostly, and some that I suspect is green.
- Green hair algae and bubble algae slowly going away. Crab and other inverts doing what they do.
- Removed all floss from sump. Probably going to light the sump and start running carbon this week.

PH 7.8 (Hanna probe)
Temperature 76.7 (Hanna probe)
Specific gravity of 1.024 (refract)
Dkh 8.4 (Hanna)
Phosphorus 28 parts per billion (0.086 ppm - Hanna)
Calcium 450 parts per million (salifert)
Nitrate 2.5 to 3 parts per million (salifert)
 
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