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AquaCave

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To preface this, I'm a reefer on a budget. A friend of mine who lives nearby has had saltwater tanks for 15+ years. So I started the tank on a whim as I was given a barely used 20 gallon tall Aqueon kit for free by my sister. I bought an AI Prime (my buddy just upgraded to two of them for his RedSea 250) so I was on board as far as how they work. Also snagged a couple bags of sand.
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My buddy gave me some dry rocks from one of his old setups that had been sitting outside for years... I set it up.
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One day I was at work my buddy dropped a mushroom rock into my tank from his DT
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Got a new heater because I wanted better dial in...
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Got a 6 line Wrasse. First fish...I should have read more.... Great fish though, never had any issues up til the day I got rid of it. Also got a Coral Beauty. Expensive LFS impulse buy; no regrets there however. Also got CUC members - blue legged hermits x1, red legged hermit x1 (big), 4-5 trochus snails, 4 cerith snails, 2 nassarius snails. A this point I'm feeding only mini pellets because they won't touch the flake and I don't know better...

For some reason I got it in my head I wanted a Mandarin Dragonette. LFS talked me into it I guess but I did a lot of research on copepods and wanted to get a refugium going. I got a breeder box that pulls water in and exits the other end and snagged a fuge kit off BRS.

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It worked great and soon pods were all over the place.

At this point I was planning on moving into a different apartment in my same building so I was planning a bit of a tank upgrade. I wanted a sump to hide the heater and offer a bit more volume/stability. So I snagged a 20 gallon from Petco and a sump kit off BRS as well as a skimmer, jebao return pump, etc. I went all HOB, never drilled glass and it scares me but I'm getting there :)
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Plumbed it up and got it running smooth. Figured out water volume, etc

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Added a clump of chaeto from my LFS (shouldn't have...maybe). Added a Tunze Refugium light from BRS. I finally got my dragonette after a while letting the refugium in sump run. Pods covered the glass between cleanings. Finding amphipods in sump...
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Had to let the skimmer overflow into a bucket for a few days to break it in.. If i let the foam fall back into the tank it would never stop foaming. Tip for anyone having trouble with this. Get rid of that foam...

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For some reason I picked up a Green BTA, although it looks bleached..
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Tank looks like a toilet at this point. In between water changes (5 gal weekly) I'm brushing the rocks, blasting them and siphoning out as much garbage as I can. Dinos, diatoms, etc.... I never did see cyano except in the sump (I think) where I let some pellets sit for too long... Bought some chemiclean but never used it... At least the snails are doin ok
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I think I got a skunk cleaner around this time as well. I also got a Emerald crab to try to fight some of this algae.

Time for an upgrade. Couldn't resist a $55 tank that would double my volume and I wouldn't have to buy anything else a few bags of sand... Enter the 40 gallon breeder
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Moved everything to tubs temporarily and setup the new tank. Livestock went into a bucket. I couldn't find the 6 line wrasse... Setup the new tank. GD nem decided it liked the top right corner (I now know I got this guy waaaayyyy tooo early). Wrassed popped out of a rock later on :) he was fine
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I got him down by covering that corner with some cardboard and aiming a powerhead at him. He climbed down the glass and walked across over to the rockwork. I was stoked. Woke up in the morning and he was inside the rockwork where I couldn't see him. I let him stay for a few days then I covered the glass over the rockwork with cardboard to make it VERY dark in the rocks. I left the line of light right where he should pop out and over the course of a few days he did just that.
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Also snagged a cheap zoa frag that was almost completely grown over the plug, couldn't resist..
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Tank looks filthy between water changes... getting a little discourage but started watching BRS and other YouTubers in general and learning a lot more, faster than I was before. Decided I needed more flow to combat crap from building up and feeding the algae, etc.. Snagged a Nero 5
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Decided one would do it for now, until things grow out a bit; makes a nice crash where it meets the flow from the return jet. I added more ceramic bio balls for filtration/biological breakdown as well as copepod habitat... Right now I have the wrasse, coral beauty and mandarin. All doing fine, getting along, eating etc. I wanted more rock work so I snagged a few pieces from my LFS and added them (I would do this way differently knowing what I know now, regarding cooking the rock, etc). The guy at the LFS talked me into trapping the 6 line, gave me a trap to use and everything before getting any more fish. I did just that. The trap failed but I got him in one of 5 poland spring bottle traps I put in. Gave him to the LFS and they gave me $30 credit which I used for 3 $10 frags. One GSP, one Xenia and one Candy Cane. Added em
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At this point the nem looks bleached white but not fading away... I have never fed it directly at this point, just letting it get photo energy, etc.

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The GSP just stayed a pimpled gray mat forever. I was a little worried seeing this is supposed to be a unkillable weed like coral lol. Still trying to figure out where to place the corals. Snagged a Yellow Watchman Goby that was/is not yellow right now... Tank looks like a toilet in between cleanings. Parameters are testing ok though, just losing the battle to algae... Decided to grab some more rock to fill in the left side and get any further cycling done with now. Made it into a shape i liked...

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After about 3 weeks the GSP finally started opening! I may regret this someday but for now, ya know I just want to know what I'm doing is working
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I'm still watching a ton of BRS and reading R2R, soaking it all up. Picked up a Royal Gramma and a AIP Filefish (weeks apart). Here's the tank under white lights. I kept the cardboard up top covering the rocks and added some more anywhere I did not have corals yet (as best I could) to try to slow the algae, etc.
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Algae going away slowly, focused around this front rock. At this point most of my trochus snails have died. Their shells litter the sand. All the cerith and nassarius are accounted for. My buddy gave me a large turbo and a medium turbo snail. They start going to work. The emerald crab has molted twice by now and has gotten quite big. It's starting to bother the nem and I feared it would make it walk again so I threw it in the sump. At this point I'm trying to tip the scales away from the algae toward my corals. I bought a big ball of chaeto off Algae Barn. The emerald crab ate most of it in 2 days. I gave him to my buddy... It did however take down all the bryopsis in the sump. Corals are looking decent

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Trying to get more nutrient uptake by corals I snagged a few more zoa frags (cheap)
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I snagged a small branching hammer frag and the next day the AIP filefish took a chunk out of it. At this point I've switched off dry/pellets and am feeding frozen mysis twice a day with the occasional hikari seaweed frozen crap. I covered the frag with a pee cup for a few weeks til I decided what to do with the fish, he was awesome, spikey, changed colors, lots of personality but I want more corals, he had to go. My buddy just bought a filefish on his own to try to fight some aiptasia he has so i gave it to him where he is happy to this day.
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Added a CO2 scrubber on the skimmer line after countless videos, threads, articles. I had been running a line out past my AC for a while but idk if it made any difference. Still not sure on the scrubber. I need better test equipment :)

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Just the other day I picked up a Flame Hawkfish and here is the tank today. I think things are starting to really come together. The only fatality I've had so far is the Mandarin. He didn't make it :( (lasted maybe 3 months). Was doing fine it seems but he would ride the top current. Well one day I found him in the filter sock. I put him in the breeder box on the sump and started hatching baby brine and the refrigerated pods. He was in there for a month maybe. Seemed to be doin good so I put him back in the DT. He just sat and didnt move so I put him back in and started again with the brine shrimp. Well one day he just stopped moving.... Still feel bad about it. Poor guy.

The GSP is basing out over the rock it's on. The candy cane stays nice and puffy all day with tentacles out in the early morning. The BTA has gotten huge; I feed maybe once a week if I remember but it gets a lot from drifting food. The snails have wiped out the last of the algae and I think because I have enough corals it can't compete to come back (with the current system params). The Xenia aint doing anything but I've got it in a low light area, kind of on purpose now that I've read more on it, I'll keep it in a slow grow state... I stopped siphoning the sand and just change water now. Also immunid isopods have taken over the sump keeping it nice and tidy.

Here's the tank today. Everyone seems to be doing ok. Still gotta mount the small zoa frags but I just decided where I wanted to. I am going to do that today when I do a wc.
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Still have a piece of cardboard above the rocks until I put some corals there I see no reason to move it. A deep red coraline algea has taken hold all over (from my buddy's mushroom rock). Has anyone ever seen deeeep red?

Anyway, sorry for such an incredibly long post. I'm off today and I don't do much social media so I've never really shared these images/experiences and most people around me don't care about these details lol. They love the tank though!

I'm sure I've missed a million things along the way but hope it paints a picture :)

Oh and I got a tail spot blenny. Little pig of a fish :)

So I've got
1 Coral Beauty
1 Yellow Watchmen Goby
1 Flame Hawkfish
1 Royal Gramma
1 Tail Spot Blenny
1 Skunk Cleaner
1 Trochus (one left) - only ever seen it eat filamentous, not GHA...
4 Cerith - these guys go in and clean up the leftover GHA the big turbos missed; seen it
2 Nassarius
2 Turbos (big) - anyone that says these guys don't eat GHA...I have to disagree. I know the BIG ones do if you can get your hands on them
1 Blue leg hermit - in the sump, gave all other hermits to my buddy after they killed a few trochus, no more hermits for me, he cleans the fuge ok for now
 
AquaSD
Tidal Gardens
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Welcome to the addiction. I have been a reefer for 50 years.

PS: On your budget, what made you decide you needed a CO2 scrubber.
Thank you. It has become just that for sure...an addiction :)

I got the CO2 scrubber because I wanted a PH increase and for $30 out the door it seemed like the cheapest and easiest/less complicated route to try first...definitely didn't consider the cost of replacing the media lol
 

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Thank you. It has become just that for sure...an addiction :)

I got the CO2 scrubber because I wanted a PH increase and for $30 out the door it seemed like the cheapest and easiest/less complicated route to try first...definitely didn't consider the cost of replacing the media lol
Why do you need higher pH? More importantly, what is your alkalinity.
 
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To preface this, I'm a reefer on a budget. A friend of mine who lives nearby has had saltwater tanks for 15+ years. So I started the tank on a whim as I was given a barely used 20 gallon tall Aqueon kit for free by my sister. I bought an AI Prime (my buddy just upgraded to two of them for his RedSea 250) so I was on board as far as how they work. Also snagged a couple bags of sand.
My first tank was a 20 tall also! Still going 8 years now!

looks like your doing it right so far!
 
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Nice! Got pics? I can only hope to stay in the hobby that long but I see no signs of quitting anytime soon lol.

I'm limited now by living in an apt but I'll be house-hunting again eventually and boy does my mind wander when I think of a fish room haha
 
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1 Blue leg hermit - in the sump, gave all other hermits to my buddy after they killed a few trochus, no more hermits for me, he cleans the fuge ok for now
I’m surprised that a blue leg hermit would go after a trochus for its shell. They prefer cerith shells.

I’ve heard that Hawk fish eat shrimp and other CUC. Is your skunk shrimp ok still?
 
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Well at the time I had trochus dropping left and right and now, the more I've learned I think that might have been dinos doing them in and maybe I unfairly judged the hermits...maybe :)

Yeah my skunk cleaner is doing great. Just molted last night. I've heard similar about the hawk fish but also almost equally the same with people saying they're model citizens so I took a gamble; has been the latter so far
 
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The ones I’ve seen in my tanks are laid in an S curve pattern. Maybe post in the hitchhikers forum. I don’t know what those are. Do look like an egg sac of some kind though!
Hmm. Yeah when I do a goog I either find those S shaped ones or a few that sort of look like these. The white part is made up of smaller spheres (once I can get my eyes to focus that small with the magnifying glass; ugh getting old I guess). Maybe I should post in the critter forum; good idea, thanks!
 
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