Reefbreeders Lights Rock - 170 Gallon Mixed Reef - CADE 1500

mvbrandt

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Video of the tank most recently (7/23/21)

OK, finally getting down to this.

@AlgaeBarn 's CADE offerings put me over the edge on going for a bigger reef. I wrote a far-too-lengthy PSA on myself and my story on a nano reef thread, but I'll short-hand it as:
I used to be *really* big into reef-keeping nearly 20 years ago, worked as a reef aquarium service tech in my early 20s, etc. I've returned to the hobby, starting with a Nano back in April of 2020, and I'm very much a combination "veteran" and "absolute, total newbie." SO MUCH HAS CHANGED since I was involved, there's so much more technology, information, debate, concepts, etc. It's dizzying.

I expect to make lots of great decisions and lots of bad ones. I'm still not as patient as I should be, either. I'm also keen to start socializing more with the reefkeeping community in the Northern Virginia area (I'm in Springfield, VA). Anyway, I have high hopes and aspirations for this project, so here we go.

Full disclosure, I've had the tank running a couple months now; it always feels like a jinx to me to start a thread until I've gotten over the initial uglies, and I'm certain by saying as much I'll be setting myself up for all kinds of brand new uglies in the near future.

I'll create a couple extra posts to address each element. Baseline tank decision and set-up ... Filtration plan ... Lighting plan ... Cycling / build-out ... Fish stocking thoughts and plan ... coral plan ... and then go from there. I'm definitely running a build thread to help keep myself accountable in the long term. Hopefully it'll also end with a really lovely tank to look at :)

The Tank
CADE 1500 S2 Pro Reef.
This is a 5 x 2 x 2 tank with a total operating system volume of around 170 gallons, about 150 in the display.

The tank comes with a black glass cabinet based on an aluminum frame and it's SLICK, with 5 doors (2 on the sides, 3 on the front), a 16-outlet power control center, lots of intentional spaces for controllers, dosing containers, tubing, pumps, etc. designed into it. This kind of system was pretty radical for me to run into compared to what was in the hobby a lifetime ago.

The Equipment
Stock CADE pump and plumbing, which is all magical
Vectra L2
ReefBreeders Photon 50 v2
ReefBreeders 48" Lumenbar "Royal Ice"
Simplicity 240 DC Protein Skimmer
2 x ReefWave45 Gyre Pumps
2 x BRS Reactors (GFO/Carbon, Bio-Pellets)
16w UV Sterilizer (an older brand which I can't recall the name of)*
Inkbird Digital Controller running 600W BRS Titanium & 300W Eheim
Kamoer X1 Dosing Pumps

The Livestock
6x Blue-Green Chromis
Firefish
Black Storm Ocellaris Clown (Female)
"Regular" Ocellaris Clown (Male)
Blue-Eye Kole Tang
Sailfin Tang
Regal Tang
Foxface Lo
Diamond Goby
Lubbock's Wrasse

Various Hermits & Trochus snails
Small # of Nassarius

Various Corals

Most recent shot, 1/31 forgive my poor photography skills:
IMG_20210131_122514.jpg


2/8, with the Royal Ice lumenbar added:
IMG_20210208_163028_1~2.jpg


2/21 FTS, running smoothly
PXL_20210221_232637825~2.jpg


3/6:
PXL_20210305_223453916~2.jpg


3/12, 2nd Lumenbar:
PXL_20210312_175638253~2.jpg



3/21: Some mild brown algae patches on the back could have been removed for pics, but honestly I want the snail population and Blue Spot tang to have enough film algae for grazing. C'est la vie.


PXL_20210321_205323709~2.jpg


3/30 Evening / Night Shot:
PXL_20210330_012417547.NIGHT_2.jpg


April 26: So many NERITE EGGS

PXL_20210426_194754166~3.jpg


May 17, first Anthias in, started to get tired of Nerite eggs:
PXL_20210518_000715156~2.jpg


6/22: After the lighting disaster (pg 5-6), night shot with the new rigging.
PXL_20210622_002001725~2.jpg


7/22, Morning lighting:
20210721_102743.jpg


9/6, Evening light:
20210906_201634.jpg
 
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mvbrandt

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Baseline tank decision and set-up

Why CADE?
I was looking at Waterbox and Red Sea options before I came across CADE via Algae Barn. They looked like a really good choice for a variety of reasons. The salient ones that stood out were ...

Price - Not going to lie, the cost included well over $1,000 of free rock, sand, gear, and things like macro and pod seeding "stuff" ... just couldn't say no to it. I'll probably upgrade some of my equipment over time, and I wanted to keep the initial total spend as far under about 7 grand as I reasonably could.

Auto Top-Off Solution - Also not going to lie, the CADE's solution to auto topoff is absolutely brilliant. They bake a 13 gallon auto-topoff reservoir into the BACK of the main display area. It gravity feeds via a float valve down in the sump, and there are several little redundancies that keep it safe, not least of which is the fact the sump itself operates with enough room for all 12 gallons to go into it without overflowing. No electronics or sensors required or that are able to fail helps a ton.

Overall size, cleanliness of presentation, etc. - I just thought, overall, this was too nice a tank not to snag while I had the chance. The customer service at Algae Barn was also FREAKING UNBELIEVABLE, and after trying to talk to folks with Waterbox and Red Sea, AB just helped take me WAY beyond where I was with those options.

Getting the tank into the house was a freakin' DISASTER of an experience. I have a ground-level basement for it (my "man cave" where I do all my Warhammering, Music, and Aquarium stuff), with a double wide door to take it through. I got all the things I needed, had my friends ready to come over to help, had shoulder strap systems and a ton of suction handles. Then UPS Freight told me, based purely on looking at my neighborhood on a map, that they would not deliver it to me. So, last second, I had to get a buddy, rent a 26-foot U-Haul, drive to BFV, get them to forklift the two pallets up onto a truck, then meet the friends with a healthy quantity of beer and gumption, and get the thing into the house. We had to de-palletize it on the truck, and go down the tiny metal ramp off the truck. Nerve-wracking to the point my wife felt so agitated by the whole experience she quit watching and went to work out, and told us all as much.

BUT, we got it in, got it on, got it perfectly leveled, and all was well with no damage to people or equipment.

In terms of placement and water management, out of picture below is a bathroom with a shower we never use, so I converted the shower to an RO/DI system with a couple of 30 gallon trash cans. I've got a couple of basic 1,000 GPH pumps in each to handle salt mixing and just pushing water, each ready to be quickly attached to 25 feet of hose (it's about 20 total feet from the shower to the tank). It works, and it's low impact on the usability of the overall space. The ATO runs low in about 6-7 days, so I run the hose to top that off once a week or so, and have been doing water changes twice/month.

I'm using TropicMarin salt; the AB came with a bunch of free Fritz salt, and I'm easing my way into it, as I've read a lot of mixed reviews. We'll see.

Filling the tank as the Leak Test Begins, with the basement a disaster of random stuff everywhere.
IMG_20201211_001316.jpg



The weir took some adjusting and then "leaving" for patience to get it to be perfectly quiet, but I loved it once it was settled and good to go.

For the rockwork, I read up a lot of the threads on here, and tried to follow a multi-island approach with asymmetry. After a lot of trial and error on the floor, I settled on a happy situation, cemented it all together around acrylic rods within the interior, and got it in the tank following leak tests and fill.

1-4.jpg


The "plan" is for rock formation "1" to have a zoa garden on the left (from this perspective) "foot," various lower light LPS or similar in the grotto, and an emphasis on "movement" for the corals across the rest of the formation (Euphyllia, Duncans, GSP, etc.).

Rock Formation "2" is meant to be SPS heavy, working over time to have tons of acro and monti types growing out and up across it, with perhaps a few passive lps or mushroom options around the front base area.

Rock Formation "3" is meant to be primarily overgrown by encrusting species, and I've intentionally "shaded" about 2/3 of it to facilitate things like Cyphastrea.

Rock Formation "4" is meant to have tall-growing leather types, i.e. sinularia, sarcophyton, etc.
 
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Filtration plan

This was a hard one to settle on, there's just so much technology and information!

First off, and it may be controversial, but I Absolutely don't understand the desire for an Apex. I can manage all of the key elements of the system via individual apps on my phone, from anywhere, which doesn't bother me. I have a 16-plug power control system built into the CADE. I'm tracking water chemistry with pretty easy to perform Hanna checkers. Maybe it's something I'll do in the future, or maybe I'm too old school, IDK. Anyway, not doing it, at least not for now. It doesn't feel so much like a luxury to me, as it seems not to be all that important. Sacrilege? Maybe it'll bite me in the posterior in the future.

Main Pump
Vectra L2, which is honestly way more than the system needs. I started it off at a pretty high clip, and it was just WAY too much. I'm operating at around 1600 GPH. I do LOVE this pump, however, and the ability to control it on a % basis. I'll be adding battery backups to the whole rig in the future as well, starting with the Vectra obviously.

Wavemakers / Turbulence
This was really hard to figure out with the data out there. I ultimately went with 2 opposed ReefWave 45 pumps. I am EXTREMELY HAPPY with that decision. I have them operating on a constantly changing flow schedule to create a lot of flow with a lot of changing of turbulence zones throughout the tank throughout the day. There's not so much science to this as making sure it was turbulent and changing. So far, this has achieved no "dead zones" anywhere in the tank (I've tweaked it while WFH - hooray pandemic - by just observing it A LOT, and noticing if there are any areas of the tank where things have been dead, then adjusting the flow during a few of the time zones so that the dead zones got cleaned up by the gyres and turbulence).
Screenshot_20210131-144421.png


Filtration
Bio-pellets; carbon + GFO; tons of biological media; refugium; skimmer; plenty of mechanical filtration.

I started the tank with bio-pellets, which were brand new to me (but I did my homework), and I don't mind that I did. I don't really want there to ever be much in the way of Nitrates, except by virtue of me adding them to the system. I come from an "old school" perspective where you want pristine water at "baseline," to which you can add whatever you want. It strikes me as a bit risky to try to maintain a constant level of Nitrates when every time you feed slightly differently, that can go a bit out of whack. I can physically use bio-pellets and other mechanisms to force Nitrates and Phosphates down to 0, then add whatever quantity I need in the same way that I add food. Trying to "SWAG" a constant present level without it ever going too high or too low seems counterintuitive to me, and I don't mind adding whatever "foods" my animals need, as needed.

When I first started things off, I was feeling lazy by the time I added the 2 reactors, and I did a couple of things wrong. I jury rigged them into the tank resting on some spare acrylic rods, and also ran just one pump through two of them. This caused a situation where my pellets weren't really agitating at all. It also caused a situation where I couldn't really see or get access to the refugium; more on that later. Here's what my first layout looked like.
IMG_20210112_130845.jpg


So, pretty dumb. I finally got my act together and turned it into this, using the convenience of the hard plastic "dry wall" barrier in the CADE, and snagging another SS 1.5 to power the 2nd reactor. I also have the bio-pellet output going right back into one of my filter socks, which I've found helps prevent the build-up of any of the "sludge" that bio-pellets can sometimes create.

IMG_20210127_145823.jpg


A Note on Refugiums and Macro Algae
I started the tank off using Sea Lettuce instead of Chaeto, in part because of how I was going to attack the fish stocking (see other post later). I've since added Chaeto as well. A really interesting thing happened here. Since I couldn't really easily get at and see the refugium, there came a point where it looked like all my sea lettuce was gone / dead. So, when I added the LumenBar to the Photon, as I was thinking the fuge macro died because there just wasn't enough nitrate / phosphate / nutrient being produced for it, I just swapped the timer powering my fuge light to power my lumenbar instead, leaving the fuge light "off."

Well, for the next 3 days, the tank glass got COVERED in bright green film algae within hours every day. Hmmm, thought Mike, I guess it's just that phase in the cycle. Simultaneously, I fixed my dumb sump layout problem, giving me a much better view into the fuge compartment, where I realized all the ulva was just perfectly smacked up against the interior wall of the fuge, and growing fine. Ooops ... turned the light back on with a second timer ... and presto, no more bright green film algae. I also added some Chaeto a few days later. Since then, I really don't get any film algae of any kind anywhere in the tank, and find myself not having to really clean the glass. Cool.

Skimmer
I got the "Simplicity" DC240, as I couldn't see any inherent design, flow, or other advantages to some of the pricier brands. I'm happy with that choice so far. It produces excellent skimmate, I'm able to have it go a little "wet" (which I prefer, as I tend to remove and add about a gallon of water a day as part of a plan for daily micro-changes), and it's silent / powerful. Cool.

I've also added a bag of Purigen into the water, mostly b/c I'm OCD. I think.
 
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mvbrandt

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Lighting plan

Man, this one took a long time also. Everyone is really high on AI and other high priced lighting systems. LEDs were NOT A THING WHEN I WAS IN THE HOBBY. I didn't know what direction to go here.

I ultimately went with the ReefBreeders photon with more than a little trepidation b/c of the fact I was getting all the light I in theory needed for a fraction of the price compared to the others, while still getting a brand that wasn't cheap and came highly recommended.

I couldn't be happier I did! The BRS review put me over the top. I was worried my PAR wouldn't be high enough largely just due to personal perception based around the pricing. I used their heavier duty arm mounts, and rented a PAR meter from the local store. I mapped out my lighting schedule by pulling one from a recommended cycle (I can't remember which now) online, as I have no idea how to suss that out individually, and I figured I could make minor adjustments as needed. The results? Better than expected. WAY BETTER. OH CRAP. So I had to turn them down a fair bit, but you can see where they were before I did ...

IMG_20201214_152705 (1).jpg


I wanted just a little more pop and a little more lighting in the "Front" area of the tank just for fish watching value, so that's really the only reason I later added one of the ReefBreeders lumenbars, choosing the Royal Ice color pattern, and I'm really happy with that as well.

Overall, I would SUPER RECOMMEND the Reef Breeders. Color pop, appearance, color blending, they're all great and rival whatever I've seen from other products. And the thing puts out some serious juice, way too much if you're not careful frankly. So, ReefBreeders, <3
 
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Cycling / build-out

OK, so ... ya'll have it so much nicer than it used to be. There are a LOT of products out there to accelerate a cycle and the initial seeding of microfauna within a tank, way more than I remember there being "back in the day." For starters, I definitely cheated and seeded some stuff from my nano-reef in here to speed things up. I also acquired a variety of "starters" from IPSF and Algae Barn, both of which I highly recommend. IPSF also decided to just throw in a lime green sarco and a blastomussa with my order ... I mean, ok? I will probably eventually add a Canary Wrasse so things like amphipods don't get way out of control, but the tank's now loaded with amphipods and copepods, bristleworms, tons of sand-based worms, even a few peanut worms, etc. I've also pulled a bunch of the [I can't remember the name] weird-looking flat-shell-on-top good-for-you hitchhiker snails that have been breeding like crazy in the nano.

Nothing much more to add here. I went with a minimal sand bed to accommodate things like sand-sifting animals, future wrasse options, etc., but I didn't want it for anything other than the minimum. The CADE comes with a "white" bottom painted under the glass, which helps account for blank spots not looking bad at all, and I'm planning on letting the Diamond Goby and turbulence decide for me where the sand will ultimately "reside," and then will lay down GSP and Zoas to mat over wherever that ends up leaving exposed glass. NBD, and it looks nice anyway in the meantime.

I use microbacter7, and some other products focused on nitrate-consuming bacteria, to get me to a cycled stage, which went off without any major hiccups or unexpected consequences.

Once the cycle was complete, I dropped in 6 blue-green chromis and the 2 clowns from my nano, and endured the diatom stage with little consequence. I've not yet run into any cyano, which I suspect may be in part due to the excellent shifting turbulence and flow created by the RW45s, but we'll see.

I definitely tried a double dose of both Arc Reef Coralline algae in a bottle products. I couldn't tell if I thought they were especially legit, but it was too tempting that such a product even exists in today's world. I'm already showing Coralline breaking out everywhere, so it at least didn't hurt. This has been the thing which excited me the most, really, as my Nano is nearing a year old and still has almost 0 coralline and plenty of little spots of nuisance algae, but this system is already showing extensive coralline breakouts at only a couple months in. Cool.
 
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Livestock thoughts and plan

I definitely want mostly utilitarian fish where I can, with a few exceptions for things like aesthetics and making the wife happy (read: Hippo/Regal tang).

So here's the fish situ:
6 Blue-Green Reef Chromis. Some things haven't changed as much, like ... you know, fish behavior. I quite like these fish, for a variety of reasons. First off, they're lightning-fast pigs and eat even VERY, VERY small bits of food (i.e. cyclops), so I have very little that goes uneaten, and little scraps dropped by bigger fish get consumed by and large. They also add a ton of "movement" to the picture. And they get along fine in groups of 6+. As a busy schooling fish, they tend to distract bigger fish from lengthy pursuits. Big fan.

Foxface. Pretty straightforward ... really pretty, constant grazer, won't fight with other tangs, lets me skip on a Yellow Zebrasoma. Bulletproof.

Blue Eye Kole Tang. Honestly I'm not a huge fan of how they look or their "dumbest tang in the tank" personality (IMO), but they eat film algae and are pretty hardy. This one also eats Nori, which doesn't bother me, as his mouth isn't equipped for the big pieces and he helps snag little shreds from the other guys.

Sailfin Tang. I like these guys "best" of the Zebrasoma. I don't really want to do a massive tang gang, and this also meshed well with the fact I was covering my "big yellow fish" base with the Foxface. I think "fat" Sailfins (which I hope to make sure mine remains) also look better than "fat" Yellows and Purples, which ... well, look more fat than healthy when they're ... well, fat.

Lubbock's Wrasse. Most of my fish stocking approach has been to quarantine in store, as I'm not set up yet properly for a quarantine situation. So, for the most part, that's where the fish are coming from. I know this is a bit "my bad," but I absolutely trust Reef Escape in FFX. Lubbock's have as good a reputation as any Cirrhilabrus. I could see myself getting a "flashier" one in the future.

Firefish. I just think these guys are one of the prettiest fish in the hobby. With a tight-fitting screen, they're also pretty bulletproof.

Diamond Goby. How can you not love them? He's turned the central rock formation into his fortress of solitude, and my wife likes him best of the fish I think, as he's just the most "interesting." Their utility for keeping the sand sparkly white at all times is irreplaceable IMO, and when they're well-fed and comfortable, they also look really nice IMO.

Clownfish. I have what I guess is called a Black Storm variant and a regular "fancy" Ocellaris. They were the fish in the Nano, and went through the maturation, female-ification, fighting, and pairing process in there. I was really happy to put them into a bigger aquarium, and they're as bulletproof as clowns tend to be. I love how much more captive breedingthere is in the hobby now.

Regal Tang. I was not going to get one of these for a long time, and planned to wait for a Captive Bred one to show up at Algae Barn again, but there are exceptions to all rules. Reef Escape had a fat and healthy-as-heck looking one with 0 HLLE that had been in their tanks and out of quarantine since early November. That was too promising an opportunity to turn up. I am still quite nervous, however, that I've gotten one and this early in the tank's history, but it was the wife's one requirement for setting up such a much larger tank in the house. I'm in the process of balancing feeding volume requirements with the relative newness of the tank as well, as he's a fair bit bigger than I wanted to add for any of my fish (all the other adds so far are small to medium-small).

I have a minimalist clean-up crew that I'll grow only if I need to, with about a dozen hermits, 3 nassarius, a dozen trochus snails, and a collection of invincible and SUPREMELY ANNOYING snails whose species I don't know from IPSF. Seriously. These guys spend a large % of their time dried out above the water line. They find their way even out of a tight-fitting screen top and end up halfway across my den, dried out on the floor, and TOTALLY FINE. They also forced me to put a tight-fitting fine mesh cover on the ends of my ReefWaves, as they somehow would find a way to wedge themselves in there and pop the cages off the impellers, which on one occasion sent water sloshing over the sides of the tank. I have 0 hate for the animals, because I'm just so impressed by how invincible they are. But they're a pain, too.

I have a bonded pair of Fire Shrimp on the way to handle cleaning duties and being really pretty but probably NEVER VISIBLE, as Fire Shrimp are meant to be.
 
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Coral plan

This bit is pretty straightforward and wide open. Pulling the photo from above as reference:
1-4.jpg


Island #1: I designed the aquascape with 4 "looks" / aesthetics in mind "by island." Island #1 on the left is meant to have a lot of movement, with one or two sand-dwelling LPS in the "bay," and a Zoa island (mostly transplanted from my Nano) on the left "foot."

So far, that's going according to plan. I've transferred 3 of the zoa colonies over (there are a LOT left to go), and started with a really attractive GSP colony, Duncan, and Frogspawn. I'll be adding a Hammer and Torch as well, and then kinda letting it grow out. The "upper reaches" are pretty high on the PAR front, so SPS on top is probably in the future, but more encrusting Montis and the like, as it's plenty tall enough to not require up-growing branching corals.

Island #2: This is meant to be the SPS "centerpiece" island. It's coming along well on that front, with several acros, an anacro, a big monti, a monti cap, etc., settling in and showing growth. I think that'll just be an ongoing project, but the future vision is a lot of really attractive and interlacing acro growth up through the water column, with montis plating off the sides. We'll see how that goes. I'll probably keep some oddball corals and maybe eventually NPS along the base.

Island #3: Half and half, the intent here is some branching gentle LPS like Caulastrea on the "lightward" side (left) and encrusting lower light corals like Cyphastrea, Leptastrea, etc. all over it otherwise. I might put (common theme) a couple of branching high light acros or similar on the very top in time.

Island #4: For leathers, primarily, especially ones with plenty of vertical growth over time.
 
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As I read the "tips on your build thread" thread ... a couple of quick feedback pieces / reviews on a few things I've added to the tank ....

Reef Brite Live Rock Enhance - This came for free with one of the things I ordered, and I added a small dose of it during cycling. Since there was nothing wrong at the start of the tank, impossible to know if it helped anything. BUT my best guess is it's one part of many valuable things you can add to help set the microbiodiversity early; whatever % of the microbes it added would have naturally competed with anything else (i.e. cyano) during the early tank phase. I found reviews all over the place, which is why I kept my dose marginal.

Arc Reef Coralline Algae in a Bottle - Another thing it's impossible to say for sure "Worked," certainly didn't do any harm, but I had visible Coralline growth within 4 weeks of starting the tank, which I've never seen before. So ... I'll give this a cautious confirmation / positive review. It comes with various bacteria as well, so it certainly is as helpful to add as anything else to a tank launch.

ALL FOR REEF - I started with BRS 2-part, before finding out about this. I bought the biggest DIY kit on BRS, made the stuff, and started using it and dialing it in. SO HAPPY. It's not crazy expensive in DIY, so I'll probably use it for the foreseeable.
 
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@AquaSD sent me 1 freebie to go with 11 corals picked up in this weekend's live sale and I spent the afternoon getting them all situated. Really happy with the packaging. Photos to come tomorrow, but here's a couple of the new boys settling in.
IMG_20210203_195832~2.jpg



Evening on the young reef
IMG_20210203_214729.jpg
 
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Question - I've yet to find a set of gloves that I feel are even worth bothering with.

There are the big honking thick ones that go up to your bicep ... Cool, you stay dry. But they don't provide enough tactile control to use effectively.

There are the disposable nitrile gloves, which are decently tactile but let water in immediately.

Any suggestions?
 
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Have been chatting about the Reefbreeders lights lately and while I'm SUPER happy with the 50, I'd definitely suggest flat starting out with a lumenbar also, just to get pop. The photon let me hone in on a really good bright daylight look, as I really dislike the megablue "fish in a night club" look some tanks end up with. Adding the lumenbar kept me in the beautiful daylight / natural colors, but added all the pop you get from the night club look.

Plus the PAR is crazy, so ... No issues there. I can't see any reason to spend more on pricier lights really at all.
 
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Do you keep "Reef Safe with Caution" fish?

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