Pico reef vase

MadsDK

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My Pico Reef Vase
I showed my local LFS a video of my pico reef vase and he told me to make a build tread on one of the bigger Reef forums, so here I am :D
The build started back in 2016 and was my second pico reef system. My first system was based on the same principles as the reef vase produced by @brandon429. However, for my second system, I wanted something big enough to have one or two fish, plus invertebrates. Thus I adapted the setup a bit.

History
The display tank is a vase that I bought in IKEA and roughly measures 65 cm tall, with a diameter of 23 cm at the bottom and 27 at the top. I bought enough live sand to make a DSB since I wanted a diverse population of invertebrates as well as the additional filtration. From my first pico system, I had a bubble tip anemone that needed a new home. Since I knew that anemones like to move around I tried to make an area (using the rockscape, flow, and light) where they could be somewhat contained with optimal conditions for anemones. The rockscape consisted of 3 large rocks, placed in a 3-dimensional structure with the middle rock protruding forward with the intense flow on both sides and good lighting for the anemone. As a bonus a got a baby rock boring urchin as a hitchhiker unknowingly :D For equipment, I started out with a small jebao SOW 4 flow pump, a standard heater, and an internal canister filter filled with carbon media.
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After the system was cycled I bought an e27 led reef light bulb and introduced my anemone to its new home and various corals as well as a few inverts such as hermit crabs, snails, and a red sea star. The red sea star sadly died after half a year, and I have become smarter since.
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I found that the Duncan coral is an excellent coral for beginners as it quickly tells if something is wrong in the aquarium. As time progressed I added more corals and my two first fish which were two clownfish.
I maintained religious weekly water changes and all was fine :)
IMG_20161031_123717.jpg

Corals on the above pictures included:
  1. Duncan
  2. Birdsnest
  3. Montipora
  4. War coral
  5. Hydnophora
  6. Discosoma blue
  7. Protopalythoa green
  8. Sinularia
  9. Green star polyp
  10. xenia
Fish and inverts:
  1. 2 Clown fish
  2. Snails
  3. Hermit crab
  4. Rock boring urchin
  5. Pistol shrimp.
  6. Anemone
  7. Inverts
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During summer vacation, my two clownfish sadly died, and I decided to try out two new and different fish - a royal gramma and a bangai cardinal. I additionally added 4 sexy shrimps for the anemones. After a bit more than half a year the royal gramma ended up killing the bangai cardinal :(. Another lesson learned.
In an attempt to reduce water changes and to increase pH I added a small nano protein skimmer and a canister filter filled with Biohome media and a bag of carbon. The setup worked fine and everything grew, however, I found that SPS corals are annoying things as they kept breaking off every time I put my fat hands in the small tank :p. I gave the Birdsnest and the Hydnophora to a friend and replaced them with a Kenya tree and a green harry mushroom.
One day I came home and found the skimmer motor not working. So I took the skimmer to the bathroom sink to be cleaned. After I cleaned the skimmer I plugging it in, to see if the motor would turn without any resistance. The motor exploded in a black cloud and that was the end of that skimmer. The skimmer was newer replaced, and the aquarium has run fine for more than two years without.
Sadly, history ended up repeating itself and I went on another summer vacation and my royal gramma died due to stress as the setup needed to be transported to a friend for safekeeping along with my pistol shrimp.
Two new clownfish were added to the aquarium back in spring 2019 who are still alive today.
The above videos are good representations of how well the aquarium has been running from summer 2016 - spring 2019. Sadly I have no videos of the aquarium primetime which was during summer 2018, where it for a couple of weeks vas cared for by a friend of mine due to vacation. I almost did not believe my eyes as it was like everything doubled in size over the course of a couple of weeks. The tank was completely stocked.

Tank Crash
Sadly the tank has crashed for still unknown reasons, however, I am now testing water parameters in an attempt to identify the problem/s.
The crash started with my green harry mushroom withering away followed by my xenia, Duncan, GSP, and lastly my Kenya tree. The Duncans likewise have shrunk in size however has for the last month been growing back a bit.
So far I have identified that I feed too little as my Phosphate and nitrate both are at 0 ppm. I have now increased feedings and I see slight changes but not enough.
Calcium is at +500 ppm, magnesium is at 1650 ppm, and alkalinity at 12,6 dkh, while salinity is at 30/1.022. So either I am useless at testing water or my salinity measure cup is broken?
The plan is to fix the problems so that the setup can be a success again.

What have I learned from this system
I have learned a lot but here are some different pointers. After making my first bunch of mistakes, such as impulse buying livestock and corals, I have learned that one can save a lot of money and energy by waiting. while waiting I spend my time reading and getting smarter on the hobby, which in the end helps safe fish and money.

Pistol shrimps: One of the challenges with such a narrow and tall aquarium is the difficulty of cleaning up detritus settling on the sandbed. A solution I found helped greatly was the addition of a pistol shrimp. Pistol shrimps dig holes in the sand under rocks in which they live and they like keeping their homes clean. With their tail fins, they will blow out settled detritus which then with the current will find its way to the canister filter, thus helping in keeping the whole aquarium clean.
Royal gramma does well in tall narrow tanks with lots of rock due to their interesting way of swimming. Royal Gramma can swim upside down, downside up, sideways, and much more. This the swimming space need for a royal gramma can therefore be somewhat easier be obtained in a high but narrow tank.
Bangai Cardinal can likewise be a good fish for nanosystems however possibly with less flow. They don't move much around and mostly like hanging around the same spot. However, for future pico systems, I would choose a slightly wider and deeper aquarium.
Clownfish while small I think are well suited for pico and nano aquariums as long as they have a nice coral or anemone to host in. However, that being said I would like to transfer my small clownfish to my new 300-liter set up one day in the future.

Pico reefs don't have to be difficult: If doing ones research a pico reef with easy to keep corals and invertebrates, can easily be maintained with good results by the use of religious water changes, and simple equipment. Look around on the internet and see how others have made their pico systems and adapt it to your own system.

I will keep posting updates on the recovery of the Pico reef vase.

Happy reefing everyone :D
 
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brandon429

why did you put a reef in that
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Im so shocked at the detail and planning that's real artisanship and nice to meet you! Welcome, this is going to be popular its the best looking scape I recall, that container is gorgeous

with that array of inverts it will make heads turn, and they're set in place, coralline is apparent locking in the growth like a real reef, its ideal.
 
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Bnutz

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Very nice build. My 8yo thinks he is ready for his first reef tank and I'm definitely gonna follow some of your tips for setting him up a pico/nano in his room. How's the ehiem filter seem to do with salt, I've had them on planted tanks before never thought about salt.
 
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MadsDK

MadsDK

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Im so shocked at the detail and planning that's real artisanship and nice to meet you! Welcome, this is going to be popular its the best looking scape I recall, that container is gorgeous

with that array of inverts it will make heads turn, and they're set in place, coralline is apparent locking in the growth like a real reef, its ideal.
Coming from one of the best, it must be true :) thanks allot. However, as showed in the last video the tank is not as pretty as it once was. But hopefully, I will find a solution to the problems.

I have just recently bought a cleaner shrimp and 4 bumblebee snails to try and control the vermetide snail population. The tank is growing a little Coraline algae, however not much as the sea urchin likes eating it. If I took out the sea urchin I would grow a lot more Coraline, however, it is the oldest inhabitant in the aquarium thus it has sort of a sentimental value to me.
 
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MadsDK

MadsDK

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Very nice build. My 8yo thinks he is ready for his first reef tank and I'm definitely gonna follow some of your tips for setting him up a pico/nano in his room. How's the ehiem filter seem to do with salt, I've had them on planted tanks before never thought about salt.
Hi and thanks
For filtration, I am using a JBL cristalprofi greenline which did awesome at first. However, I am considering swapping it for an Eheim classic as I find the JBL has multiple problems long-term when used I saltwater. the siphon pump is completely blocked by sponges and other reef life to the point where it is completely useless, and it cannot be cleaned out. Additionally, I have considered if the part of the pump which I cannot clean might contains any metals as I have been wondering if the crash was caused by corroding metals. The pump pressure also fell a lot after about 1,5 years of use.

The Eheim Classic series on the other hand have received positive reviews also when used in saltwater :) in the linked video you can find a good explanation on how to optimise your filter
 
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MadsDK

MadsDK

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Really cool build, how do you keep the coralline off of the glass? Assuming complete disassembly of the rocks or a scraper on a magnet?
I use two small strong magnets (20mm*20mm*3mm, pulling 3,4 kg each) and wrap them with the coarse side of a kitchen sponge. Works like a charm, just remember to clean them under fresh water afterward or they will start to rust.
 
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MadsDK

MadsDK

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Today I did my first tests of alkalinity, magnesium, and Calcium and found alkalinity to be 12,6 dkh, magnesium 1650 ppm, and calcium at +500 ppm at a salinity of 1.022.

Nitrate was at 0 ppm and phosphate at 0,01 ppm.

I use Aquaforest reef salt and don't do any dosing. Why are my parameters so high and my nitrates and phosphates so low?
 
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MadsDK

MadsDK

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So I found this thread http://www.reefcentral.com/forums/showthread.php?t=957854 which might explain why my alkalinity (12,6 dkh), magnesium (1650 ppm), and calcium (+500 ppm) are too high at a salinity of 1.022, even though I don't use any dosing. My old hydromete might be broken. Next time I get to my LFS I will replace my old hydromete with a new refractometer.

Aquaforest Reef Salt at normal concentration only holds:
  • Mg – 1300-1360 ppm
  • Ca – 410-430 ppm
  • dKH – 7,4-8,2.
  • salinity 1.025
If I drop, let's say, Mg from 1650 ppm down to 1300 by diluting the water with RODI water, could I then use that as a measure for salinity until I get a new refractometer?
 

brandon429

why did you put a reef in that
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I haven’t heard of making salinity adjustments from non salinity measures

recommend hold course until new meter is attained. Can you take a sample of your water to a pet store to get a comparison salinity read for your current hydrometer

my own hydrometer is ten years old and reads .023 when a refractometer from the pet store says .024, it’s close enough I just keep my old swing arm still and never changed to the hydrometer
 
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MadsDK

MadsDK

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I haven’t heard of making salinity adjustments from non salinity measures

recommend hold course until new meter is attained. Can you take a sample of your water to a pet store to get a comparison salinity read for your current hydrometer

my own hydrometer is ten years old and reads .023 when a refractometer from the pet store says .024, it’s close enough I just keep my old swing arm still and never changed to the hydrometer
For a start, I have put the old hydrometer in my rodi water system for later cleaning. I will bring a water sample to the LFS - Good thinking :D
 

brandon429

why did you put a reef in that
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Can’t wait to see their comparison results, these little swing arm hydrometers are usually off compared to a refractometer but not so far off as to be useless, it’s how we were able to reef in the 90s!
 
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MadsDK

MadsDK

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Looked magnificent ! What a shame it crashed, so sorry for your loss. :(
Thanks :) I will bring it back from the dead #ZombieReef101.

New reef led light and Eheim classic canister filter just ordered, so that light and canister filter can be ruled out of the list of problems.
in addition, I am testing weekly to identify problems.
 
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MadsDK

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So my hunch was right. I brought a gallon of water to a fellow reefer and he confirmed that my salinity is way too high. The salinity was measured to 1.030. He gave me a free hydrometer which I will be using for now, until I get a new refractometer. The salinity is being adjusted over the course of a week, one cup full at a time.
 
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