One Year Anniversary on a Waterbox 10 gallon Coral Only Tank

Big Mistake

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May 27, 2020
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So today is one year exactly since water went into the tank.

A 10 gallon Waterbox (details at the end.) Coral and invert only.

The only real issue, assuming it is one, is coral growth. Or the lack there of.

I have no way of knowing if what I have experienced is low, medium or high coral growth.

I guess this is a hobby that needs more than just YouTube channel "friends".

After a year I still have 6 frags.

In one forum post about coral growth the recommendation was: "Buy bigger frags".

But a year ago I bought a softie frag pack from World Wide Corals. That was a mistake.

At least at that time I could have done much better at a LFS that at that time would get regular shipments of very nice corals at a nice price.

But I did not, from a fear of getting hitchhikers, to the whole pandemic thing. WWC seemed like the logical choice to seed the tank.

Those WWC corals have grown.

Zoa went from one polyp to two. Xenia went from a 3 brown polyp ugly duckling to something of a swan. Would have never bought the xenia as it arrived.

But the xenia has not grown off the frag plug. I fully expected a Xenia would literally overrun the tank in a year (or days.)

The other 3 corals are ... well ... just not very interesting. Two zoas with tiny polyps and a xenia with tiny polyps. Nothing I would have bought at an LFS.

No mushroom, no cabbage, no toadstool.

Added a green star polyp as an "easy to grow test coral" and it has grown quite a bit, but no risk out growing the tank and coming after me one dark night.

In say 6 months it has gone from a dime size to 4 quarters. Not going to cover the back of the tank anytime soon.

Like the normal Xenia, probably a total body increase of 100X to 1000x the original 3 little brown polyps ... but not crawling out the tank anytime soon.

Had a really nice $25 Hammer, was happy enough, then stopped extending, moved it to less light and flow, and it eventually detached from its base. Go figure.

Prompted a Seneye purchase.

I have dosed RedSea AB+ from the start (though not at their rate), fed Reef-Roids, and recently dosed AlgaeBarn phytoplankton and copepods.

(Copepods from AlgaeBarn added little red flat worms which seem to be beneficial so far. )

(The weird coral that appears to be Xenia with 3 mm polyps liked the copepods and phytoplankton ... the softies frag pack from WWC, were to say the least, money better spent elsewhere. Good things come to those that wait, but start with nice corals you want, not odds and ends in the mail.)

Been trying to get nitrate and phosphate up, I wonder if nitrate and phosphate levels are just an indicator of general nutrient input, and not critical in themselves.

I have apparently made it as far as most in this hobby, one year, and since I have the perfect location for a tank, it will continue on for a while more.

(This tank replaced a 5 year old very nice planted black water Neon Tetra tank which is another story. I miss feeding them raw hamburger ... )

I spent two years convincing myself by studying that this was going to be a "big mistake", but the pandemic suggested we would have a least a year stuck in the house so lets give it a go. And basically I am where I thought I would be - except I expected a tank overrun by softies to have been the big mistake. Or Boston harbor at low tide.

I have a much better sense of the interplay of all the chess pieces in subtle interconnected play, and a small coral only reef tank is a unique challenge in itself.

Need to figure out where to go with this experiment.

An anemone and two clownfish? I could feed the anemone like I fed the Neon Tetras. :oops:

But the coral growth "issue" is a concern.

As is finding corals and macro algae and other thing to stock the tank. I am very leery of mail order corals.

If corals only double in size every 6 to 12 months under ideal conditions ... I would be better off growing Giant Sequoias from seed. ;)

It is said nothing good happens in this hobby quickly, but my patience has limits. :rolleyes:

Or I need bigger corals. :cool:

-Big Mistake

So details of my approach.

10 gallon Waterbox. I have used nothing that came with it except for the filter sock.
Distilled water and Tropic Marin Bio-Actif (sterile saline)
Hanna Salinity Meter (and a swing arm for a sanity check at the start.) (And calibration solution for the Hanna).
RedSea AB+
One Fluval Sea Nano 20 Watt ( I now run two and have nearly perfect coverage)
Duetto ATO (absolute necessary even with a Lexan cover.) And a fresh water container behind the tank.
Home made Lexan cover. Usually used just a night.
Cobalt 50 watt heater (75 would have been better as the house is kept at around 64 in the winter.)
Cobalt MJ Mini 606 to replace the Waterbox supplied pump. (Silicone rubber hose so it hangs in the water and does not touch the tank at all.)
Hygger wave maker HG-951
RedSea TestKit
Tropic Marin All-For-Reef (recently the dkh has dropped from 9 to 7/8 and All-For-Reef at first helped but now is not pushing up the dkh as expected.)
(Tank has the wrong biology for this to work?)
Replaced the filter sock with a media cup but now use it to hold home made filter socks with felt media from Marine Depot.
More recently Coralline Algae in a Bottle and AlgaeBarn copepods and phytoplankton.

And of course a Seneye to see if coral growth was a lighting issue.

Light schedule is 12 hours on, but just 5 hours at full daylight Seneye measured PAR and PUR. Rest is ramp up and ramp down.

Regular water changes - but the theory is with just softies ... no big demand for calcium and dkh.

So ended up buying mostly everything I thought I would except $500 worth of Hanna testers and an ICP test!

Tank is bare bottom, with dry rock and a bunch of Marine Pure blocks for an architectural look (might be a problem.)

I would have added the Coralline Algae in a Bottle and the AlgaeBarn Copepods and phytoplankton from day one.

(Still no Coralline Algae even with two bottles.)

No bacteria blooms, but a bit of film on the dry rock and marine pure.

No algae problems, and had and have Astra and Trochus Snail and Emerald Crabs.

I am not sure what they eat, but I think it is more about "bacteria" than "algae".

No fish. Not too sure what fish would be happy ... I am a sucker for things with eyes so trying to avoid "eyes".

Might add sand to the 50% of the tank that is bare bottom.

I want to buy corals, but currently all the LFSs seem to have left overs that have been picked over or are tiny frags.

Coral shortage? Because aquaculture of corals is a very slow process? :rolleyes:

Big Mistake

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Think I will go back to my Dr. Evil life and keep Neon Tetras in my outdoor pond for the summer and tell "friends" go ahead jump right in. Have not lived until you have fed Neon Tetras raw meat.

Problem is come fall, I turn into Dr. Dolittle.

Ammonia is 0.000000000000 according to Red Sea Test Kit. As is everything else where nearly 0.0 is goodish.

The one problem with Seneye ... base unit needs to be connected to a computer.

The advantage is it is cheaper than a couple PAR meter rentals from Bulk Reef Supply.

I need a better source of corals. Maybe a different aquascape, some sand, and a fish.

The ocean is infinitely more complex than freshwater say the "simple" ecology of a Rocky Mountain trout stream. And that is reflected in the ecology of a reef tank.

Fortunately trout are not Neon Tetras, or I would be missing a lot of toes.

I always wonder what would happen if I added some unfiltered ocean water ... like rolling an infinite sided die.

Some reef keepers use sea water, but I believe they micron filter it.

-Big Mistake

Big Mistake

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Maybe they need more love?

Underwater speaker so I can talk to them? Or they can better hear music?

The recent addition of phytoplankton, isopods, and all-for-reef has made a change.

But everything seems to make a change. Maybe dose human growth hormone.

I had quite the Spirorbid Worms outbreak early on, but since, I believe they have all starved to death.

Now new dots forming ... could be Spirorbid Worms rebounding ...

Maybe a microscope to examine the life in the water column?

Water chemistry or water bio-diversity?

UV filters would seem to discount water biome as the key?

Bulk Reef supply has suggested in addition to ICP tests, some sort of DNA test.

-Big Mistake

PICK the Most Tested & Least Tested Parameters of your Tank (Pick 2)

  • Calcium (most)

    Votes: 48 6.1%
  • Alkalinity (most)

    Votes: 543 69.1%
  • Magnesium (most)

    Votes: 6 0.8%
  • Phosphate (most)

    Votes: 74 9.4%
  • PH (most)

    Votes: 74 9.4%
  • Nitrate (most)

    Votes: 83 10.6%
  • Nitrite (most)

    Votes: 7 0.9%
  • Ammonia (most)

    Votes: 24 3.1%
  • (least) Calcium

    Votes: 12 1.5%
  • (least) Alkalinity

    Votes: 4 0.5%
  • (least) Magnesium

    Votes: 76 9.7%
  • (least) Phosphate

    Votes: 16 2.0%
  • (least) PH

    Votes: 42 5.3%
  • (least) Nitrate

    Votes: 14 1.8%
  • (least) Nitrite

    Votes: 219 27.9%
  • (least) Ammonia

    Votes: 295 37.5%