Old School SPS Reef v4.0

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Somehow I’ve gone this long without a build thread on R2R, which has been where I spend the most time on as of late.

This thread contains my progression of a continuous system started 2/5/14 through 3 tanks to the current one started 1/25/21.

History

I’m Ben, an SPS nut from MN. I’ve been reefing for ~15 years from when I came to the dark side quickly after trying out Cichlids. After a couple triggers and puffers a man overheard me discussing live rock with a friend at a gas station and said he’s into saltwater and I should come check out his systems some time. A week later he sent me home with some pulsing Xenia and that was all it took. Within a year I discovered the allure of growing reef-building corals and have been hopelessly addicted since. I had a thriving mixed reef (see below) until I moved into a cool apartment I later found to only have 1 15a circuit for all of the outlets so I tore the tank down and took a break. Then LED lights became viable so I started up a 32g AIO tank that has evolved a few time to my current tank. It was ugly and never really thrived until I built a 40 breeder setup with T5 and a skimmer. That lead to this when I ran out of room.

75g around 2010
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System Philosophy

I call it old school as I employ all the equipment and technique that gave me former success. I’ve tried a few newfangled things that have only lead to headache so I’ll stay the course. A modified Berlin setup- weekly water changes, T5 lights, strong skimmer, strong alternating flow, and as much German equipment as I can afford has always given me success. Years ago I ran DSB but now I have a thin sand bed I vacuum regularly and replace portions of throughout the year.


Equipment (see post #9 for current tank)

36x24x18 65g tank by Custom Aquariums
Trigger Sapphire 26 Sump
Apex Classic (replaced my AC Jr that just died after MANY years of service)
36x6 ATI Dimmable Sunpower
Deltec SCA1351 Protein Skimmer
Tunze Silence 1073.040 Return Pump
2x Jebao SW8
2x Jebao PP4
2x JB Wave Controllers
2x 150w Finnex Titanium Heaters (staggered on Apex for redundancy)
2x 1.1ml BRS Dosers for 2 part controlled by Apex
7 stage BRS RODI (2 carbon block, 3 stage pro-DI)

Parameters

The only parameters I aim to have exact are Temp, Alk, and SG as I feel these are the most important. Everything else I have an acceptable range.

Alk- 7.5 dKh (I’ve accidentally drifted to 5.9 with no ill effects unlike going higher.)
Ca- 420-450ppm
Mg- 1300-1400ppm
K- 400ppm
NO3- 1-5ppm
PO4- .03ppm
SG- 1.026
Temp- 78° F


Lighting

2x ATI B+ run 11 hours
2x ATI Actinic, 1 C+, 1 P+ run 6 hours

I’ve tried a variety of ATI bulb combinations with similar results. I used to prefer UVL bulbs as they gave me ***** success with VHO but you can’t get them these days unfortunately.

Fish
I would like more but I seem to have a peaceful hierarchy now and I really loathe the QT process so here we are.

Kole Tang
Female Onyx Clown
Flame Hawkfish
Midas Benny
Mated Pair Striped Blennies

Coral
This list is more so I can keep track.

Pink Lemonade
UC Strawberry Shortcake
Hawkins Echinata
Flashlight
Oregon Tort
Kelly Green Psammacora
RRC Pink Pink Caddy
BigR Walt Disney
Blue Tenuis
Red Dragon
Reef tech Starburst Cap
Yellow Turbinaria

Nubs:
RRC Pink Floyd
RR Orange Passion
Red Planet
Fox Flame
PC Rainbow

Pics:
All iPhone unfortunately. I own a Nikon DSLR and should probably pony up for a macro lens and a porthole. I’ll include some of the build and the 40 that sat on the stand before the current tank. I built the stand to accommodate gadgets behind the tank and plumbing but it allowed for a bigger tank eventually :)

2/20/17 40 got wet:

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4/24/17 almost past the ugly phase, corals thriving!
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Ugly phase complete, engage explosion phase!
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Can’t stop, won’t stop! Stag’s too big so it’s gotta go!
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Chop chop!
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3/20/18
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7/26/18 Tenuis is too big, chop a frag and sell the colony again!
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8/11/18 added a controller “board” aka PVC sheet from Home Depot, larger ATO reservoir, and just a system shot. Top rim is removable for tank access.

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10/1/18 Red Dragon and Bubblegum getting too big!
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11/29/19 last pic before draining for upgrade
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New tank and sump. I hate the blue back and regret ordering it vs/ black.
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12/6/18 the dust has settled and my woes began. I’ll explain that in the next post.
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Overthinking=Underperforming

So this system went on for a few months doing ok. I added a Refugium as the new sump allowed space for it and it seemed like a natural and controllable form of nutrient export. I had experienced a heavy bubble algae bloom leading up to the upgrade and figured it was necessary.

I added a clump of Chaeto that started out doing ok and quickly soaked up all my nitrate and phosphate. Then the fudge started growing bryopsis instead so I tossed the dying chaeto and started pruning it instead. On and off pale corals and poor PE, fast forward to now. Got a wonderful dinoflagellate explosion, my first ever in the hobby.

I’ve since shut the the refugium, been dosing nitrate, sucking out Dino’s weekly and pumping water back into tank through a 20 micron RO sediment filter, and added a 25w Pentair UV, and a carbon reactor to help with the toxins causing snail death.

Not doing regular WC in an effort to raise nutrients has taken its toll on many acros (likely trace elements depleted) so I’m not doing great here but staying the course and maintaining patience.
 
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Successes and Diligence

I’d like to occasionally talk about the many things I figured out during the success of the 40 breeder that aren’t obvious things especially for newer reefers and OGs that have had it easy. Somehow I never had a large RTN event but I think I could have. I have to thank BRS for pointing many of them out to me, and just generally being awesome folks that are hobbyists just like us but doing awesome things for the hobby.

Today’s topic: RO Prefilters

Test regularly and set up a change schedule. I live in Minneapolis and have chloramines. I attribute the poor performance of my AIO to overlooking this. I was making less than 100g RODI water a month and had Chloramine blowing through my first carbon block in 3 months. I got a Hach CN-80 teste and established I needed to be changing the first every 2 months. I do the #2 block every 6 for good measure.
 
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Bob Weigant

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my tank follows your a little. I follow the KISS system ( keep it simple stupid ). A skimmer , regular water changes and constant testing and my tank is doing great. Your tank looks good. A wish you success.
 
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Fun update here. I suspect this issue was partly due to the changes made fighting dinos- UV and heavier feeding knocked out them out everywhere except the sand in less than a week. Ended up siphoning almost all the sand out and that was the trick.

Great right?

Acros kept dying and things were looking bad so I sent in a Triton test.

91 micrograms/L Tin- the highest I’ve seen anywhere reported. I suspect this is due in part to all the new pvc (huge cannon included) added installing the UV sterilizer. I pulled this off and started doing big WC and looking for other sources. I did find my probe magnet was a tiny bit corroded and had a suspicion about my TLF mag feeder so I tossed both. I sent in an ATI ICP test for a second opinion and to check RO water- tin was 31ūg/l and RO was perfect. I’ve since done another 2x 30% WC and things are bouncing back.

I lost my huge Pink Lemonade and SSC colonies and a handful of others which sucks but as Julian Sprung told me once, “Do not be discouraged by the ethereal nature of Acropora”. WD, RRC pink caddy and several other high end ones pulled through fine.

Nitrate now hovers around 7.5 and Phosphate is slowly creeping up to .08 so I will toss 1-2tbsp Rowaphos in a media bag and go from there. Trials and tribulations of a reefer, man.

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Long Overdue Update:

2020 has been the longest year ever, right?!

In May my wife and I bought our first house. It’s smaller than the place we were renting but the housing market in MPLS is crazy and we did t want to overpay- so we got a fixer upper.

Water supply to the whole house was 1/2” copper, necked down after the meter. Replaced with 3/4” to all the main tee points to improve flow. Supply is galvanized so that’s a fun $7000 problem for later. added a dedicated RO supply and shutoff.

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House had a janky 60amp panel with screw-in fuses, so this was first order of business. We had 2 months to move so I had time to do a lot of work on the house. I installed a new 100a service panel, meter, service mast, etc. This of course included my first ever dedicated tank circuit. Did this all between ripping up carpet, refinishing hardwood floors, and a Partial bath remodel.

Before
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After:
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Added a DoS for AWC and ran the lines to the basement through my cold air return. This has been a blessing allowing me to enjoy the tank without carrying buckets up/down stairs every week.

Next is the conundrum that my current tank doesn’t fit well, so I picked up a standard 75g to fit the space. I eventually want a 150+ in the basement once I finish the space but that may be years out.

New Tank Equipment:

75g Aqueon
Modular Marine overflow
Custom Bashsea sump
Red Dragon 3 mi50w return
6x54 dimmable Sunpower
BK Mini 160
2 MP40QWD I’ve had NIB for a year
2x Finnex 100w heaters

Current Acropora:
Oregon Tort
Big R Walt Disney
RRC Orange Passion
RRC Pink Caddy
WWC Heartbreaker
BC Secale
BC Aquatic Man
BC Bubblebath Unicorn
BC Battle de Fuego
BC Sex Feast
Greg Carroll Ultimate Blue Stag
Greg Carrol Line in the Sky
JF Solar
Bali Green Slimer

Other Corals:
Yellow Turbinaria
Kelly Green Psammacora
JF Dayglo Favia
JF Raja Rampage
JF Jack-o-lantern
Tyree Bubblegum Monster


Starting the stand with a slightly modified Rocket design to accommodate the equipment under the stand. Went with Douglas fir vs pine as you can find much straighter, dryer boards. I will skin in red oak to match the Craftsman style of my 1926 home.

Squaring 2x4 masterclass:
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Finished the frame:
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I’ll follow up later today with a tank pic, as I realize I haven’t taken one since the move, other than a video of snails spawning.
 
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2 photos today from my “dang I need to get a better camera” collection:
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new pile of frags from Coral Euphoria getting settled in. Highly recommend checking out his site. Beautiful clean healthy corals and hobbyist prices. My camera doesn’t do them justice.

Left to right: Tyree lime in the sky, BC Secale, Random BC tennis, WWC Heartbreaker, Cornbread pink tips
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Stand is built, stained, and finished. Doors are built but still need finish, which I can do while the tank trial run takes place. Top Coat boat paint for the inside of the stand as usual. I went with water based finishes due to our house being small and the last piece of furniture I built with oil based poly smelled for like 2 months.

I went with General Finishes black cherry water based stain, which was very stressful as it dries very fast and is easy to blotch. I think going forward I will use oil based stain and just let it dry for a few days as the stain doesn’t smell as much as poly.

The finish was General Finishes Enduro-Var, an oil modified water based poly. I like it because it’s very low VOC but still gives that yellow glow of oil based. Turned out great!

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Painting the back of the tank today, basic flat black. Then I can start plumbing.

I’m going to run this system for a month in the basement with just heated RO water to pull out any tin from the plumbing, plastics, etc. Hopefully this will save me the nightmare of losing most of my acros again.
 
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Plumbing done, filling with RO to water test and “break in” the system!

Why sch 80 on the drains and sch 40 on the returns you ask? The gate valves are only available in sch 80 and wanted it to match, and thicker quiets them a little. For the return i just did 40 as I had many of the parts. Grey and white works with the color scheme of the sump anyway.

Notice how it’s got couplers on the drains because I’m SUPER pro and messed up on the lengths :p

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Tank in place and running with no casualties!

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Doors on! You can see how the doors are darker- water based stain is a nightmare to use so I think with future furniture I’ll be doing oil based stain and water based poly. The stain isn’t what causes the month of smell after all, it’s the poly.

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I also got the dosed hooked up and running for TM Balling part c.

Now I just have to make a decorative trim for the top rim and then get to deciding what I’m to do for lights. Thinking of making a hanging canopy with 4x54 T5 overdriven with a 660 and add a reefbrite i have collecting dust. That should be pretty close of not more PAR than I have now with 6x36 and better coverage.
 
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Great thread. Thanks for sharing. Believe it or not after 20 years with a large tank, I'm considering downsizing to a 75 and was looking for inspiration. Love you minimalist layouts, and I'd probably go ATI as well. Wish I had your wire organization skills. My nano in my kitchen is in desperate need of help. Really gotta try harder I guess :D

wires.jpeg
 
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Great thread. Thanks for sharing. Believe it or not after 20 years with a large tank, I'm considering downsizing to a 75 and was looking for inspiration. Love you minimalist layouts, and I'd probably go ATI as well. Wish I had your wire organization skills. My nano in my kitchen is in desperate need of help. Really gotta try harder I guess :D

Thanks Sunny! If you saw the rats nest behind the sump it would make more sense. I was just inspired by So many builds way nicer than mine I figured it would be a shame for a 15 year reefing veteran to continue to be such an embarrassment
 
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Tank is coming along very nicely. Corals growing well for the most part.

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I replaced the return pump with a RD3 Speed 50w to cut down on vibration noise, which for some reason is more significant on this build even though return pump is decoupled with silicone hose and sump sitting on a thick yoga mat. I’d guess it’s either just the acoustics of the stand or resonating through the 3 drain pipes.

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I need to get the better camera and take some coral pics as they are looking great!
 
AquaCave

What are some of the challenges of reefing with a cube?

  • Swimming space for fish

    Votes: 28 58.3%
  • Smaller front viewing panel

    Votes: 8 16.7%
  • Adding space between corals

    Votes: 19 39.6%
  • Flow pattern

    Votes: 23 47.9%
  • Other

    Votes: 4 8.3%
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