ReefPig's 50g Breakfast Bar Peninsula

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Latest FTS (10th Jan 2021):
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Part 1 - Background:
In November 2019 I started planning out a new tank build, having had three previous tanks, and with them, various levels of success and failure, I wanted to build something which addressed some of the issues I had in the past.
I live in London, England, and it just so happens that the best custom tank company is based in South London, so it was a no-brainer.

Living in London has the challenge of space is a premium, in the past I've had 5 and 6 foot tanks, but alas, this wouldn't have been possible.
After much head scratching, I landed on an idea to have my tank situated at the end of our breakfast bar in the kitchen, but that I wanted it to match the perfect dimensions, so that it looked like it was part of the kitchen. This location had the added benefit of having a bathroom nearby, so that RO/DI and salt mixing / equipment cleaning would be easily achieved, essentially this bathroom has become my tank room (at least in my opinion, my other half seems to disagree).

The tank was built and installed mid by December 2019.

My detailed build thread is on a local UK reef forum, UltimateReef, and over the course of a little over the last twelve months, as you can imagine, I've had highs and lows. Right now we're on a high and I can see progress day on day, which is great news, it's all about stability now.

As with so many tanks nowadays, my lows were many many months of battling dinos, and on occasions cyano. Thankfully, these are now both resolved, and it was ultimately the natural methods would cured it. Algae reactor running heavily, increased nutrients, lots of phyto, manual cleaning each day and a little help from UV (ok, so not totally natural but close enough).

Tank dimensions are 800mm x 500mm x 500mm.
100mm of the length is taken up by a hidden back compartment, hiding pipes etc, so the tank is really 700mm long, but it's all one piece of glass. Display tank volume is around 150L, sump is around 70L

I'll be using old pictures throughout, until we reach present day, as there were multiple revisions as things progressed.
 
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Part 2 - The early days

Decided this would be the spot
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But had the challenge of having power on the floor, and limited space away from the tank for other related equipment.
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I did some measuring and mockups using cardboard.
This wasn't the final size, but to show how this evolved.
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I built myself a controller board to be inset within the breakfast bar, and would ultimately be behind the tank, which had the added benefit of protecting the breakfast bar.
I later discovered that this was a pain if you ever wanted to change out equipment. Hindsight and all of that.
The floor is sealed in, I used rubberized matting, I removed in the infloor power and extended this out to have an outdoor socket, I then sealed around this on the floor with silicone.
Under the floating unit was just enough space for a GHL controller.
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Big thing I learnt in the past, always have a backup pump, this unfortunately was the downfall of one of my previous, so I got myself two of the most critical components. Return pumps and heaters.
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Then came installation day, I had the tank builder, Vince @ Aquarium Connections, help me do the install.
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On day one, this is how we looked.
Filled with NSW and with a custom one-piece ceramic rock (more on this later).
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Part 3 - Lighting

I'll cover lighting from original to present day, so that it's more clear where I started and where I am now.
It's fair to say, I've changed my lighting a lot, but I'm finally at a solution which works for me.

My original plan was one XR30 G4 Pro and a Giesemann Stellar T5 unit.
This didn't last long, as partly due to the size of my tank, and the hidden back side, where the pipes are all located behind a false glass panel, I could just never get it to fit nicely.
It was impossible to hang the unit, as unfortunately, right above the tank, happened to be an air con unit, behind plaster board, but with zero space for screws etc. So it had to be tank mounted.

I also thought it didn't look right, it just didn't seem to match in with the room and was somewhat ugly, but also the light spill into the room was crazy, as you can see below. The whole room was blue.
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So this didn't last long.
I went back to my tank builder, and asked him to create me a hood.
A few weeks later, I had a matching hood, with a removable front panel.
I did away with the Stellar, and initially just installed the XR30 G4 Pro.

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Whilst this fixed a big part of the issue I had with my lighting setup, I now just had one XR30 in the middle, and this meant a lot of shadowing, which I hated.

Around this time, maybe end of Feb 2020, the Radion G5's had just become available, so I decided to upgrade and get two XR30 G5 Blue's. Which would surely fix the shadowing issue.
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Granted, it did indeed fix my shadowing issue, but XR30's are not meant to be installed so closely together. Not at all.
Even an idiot should have known that two XR15's would have been better, but I am indeed a real idiot.

Over the next few months I battled with trying to figure out the best lighting parameters using a PAR meter, but I could never get away from the fact that two XR30's, so close together created a massive overlap in the middle, and basically doubled the PAR at the intersection point, whilst the other side was relatively low.

Next up, I removed one of the XR30 Blues and installed ReefBrite XR30 Addon's.
Whilst these were much better overall, the reefbrites are the same length as the XR30's, which meant shadowing did still exist, but better than a single XR30 alone.
I still wasn't happy.
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Now this brings us to my current setup, timeline wise, we're talking around November 2020.
That blanket of light look, with minimal shading, as close as possible to what I remember from T5's years ago.
I swapped out the ReefBrites and went with two Orphek OR3 Blue's, along with one XR30 Blue, which sounds very blue, but it's not too bad.
The Orpheks were the full tank length, twice the length of the XR30, and now filled the tank with light.
Finally I'm happy!

If I would do it all again, I would either go with two XR15's, or a single Orphek Atlantik (which I was recommended right at the start, and I ignored, hindsight again).
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Part 4 - Filtration

My initial goal was to follow Triton method as closely as possible, with a Triton style sump, refugium first, then skimmer, then return. I had the sump built with the tank, and also included a nice little RO top off section.

Challenges I had in the early days were partly due to the Ceramic rock, and the leaching of various elements, but I'll cover rock in a later post.

I couldn't for the life of me get any chaeto growing, although my params were seemingly where they needed to be to grow it.
During this time I was starting to experience big challenges with my rock and GHA, along with grossly elevated elements from leaching, so I decided to knock the chaeto on the head for a while, and go back to basics with regular water changes and a little GFO.

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When I designed the sump, I had assumed my RO section would be enough for a week, but it turned out to last no more than 4 days, as it was only about 12L. This wouldn't work for me long term, so I made a few changes, seeing as I no longer had a chaeto section.

I also had the smallest Bubble King Mini (the 160), but Royal Exclusiv are telling you the truth when they say that the skimmers are sized correctly. Back in the day, we used to say "double the size of your skimmer", as they were rubbish at sizing them. The BK Mini 160 is good enough for 200L to 400L, and as my tank was just shy of 200L, it was WAY to big for the job.

So I had a new sump made, without an RO section, this I now achieve with a separate container, and I also swapped out the skimmer, for something more suited for my tank, the Deltec 400i, which works prefectly.

I decided that if I wasn't going to run chaeto, then I would try our Siporax, big mistake, but I'll cover that separately when we talk about dinos and the story of how that started.

I also installed a roller mat.

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What I found was that the roller mat and siporax were extremely effective, far far too effective in fact.
They would strip my tank of nutrients. I ran them for a number of months, and ultimately I was having to dose Nitrates and Phosphates just to keep up. Which isn't a long term strategy I wanted.

So I simplified things and removed the roller matt and the siporax.
This did however mean I now didn't have any biological or mechanical filtration, so I was pretty much back at square one.

I put a little live rock in an egg crate structure, under the overflow pipe, and I then installed a Pax Bellum, in the hope that this would allow me to grow chaeto. Bingo, this worked.
I also installed a TropTronic 55W UV, which is fed by a small pump, and the output of which is what feeds my Pax. I find this prevents micro algae growing in the reactor and keeps it clean.

Bare in mind though, the original setup, to this final setup, has taken 12 months to evolve, so it wasn't as aggressive as this summarised update appears.

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Part 5 - Rock and Sand

As you've seen from the pictures above, my original idea was a really nice custom made ceramic structure, which I commissioned.

I asked the guy which made it multiple times if I need to soak it for any period of time, and I was told no. That it would be fine straight away.

I came from a world in all of my previous tanks of using live rock, and I never appreciated quite how difficult dry rock / ceramic rock was to mature, in fact it's a bit of a nightmare and needs 6-12 months easily in reality.

Live rock is practically insta-tank, at least within a couple of months you're up and running, but the downside is the potential for pests, and it was for this reason I went with ceramic originally.

If I had been told I would have had quite so many issues with the ceramic, I would have soaked it in RO for at least a couple of months, then I would have done a very long "cycle" (for want of a better description), with no lights, for maybe 4 months or so.

I mentioned it was leaching stuff, according to multiple ICP's, my silicates and phosphates were off the charts and nothing I did was reducing them. Vanadium, Lithium, and various others were 1000x what they should have been, even after six months, it was still hundreds of times higher than it should have been.

Again, hindsight is a wonderful thing. If i had soaked it and long cycled, I would have probably still been running the ceramic.
At roughly the six month mark, and having daily battles trying to get it to settle down, I gave up and threw in the towel.
I decided to get rid of the ceramic and replace it with live rock.

Before we jump into pictures and the likes, let's talk about sand.
I love sand, I would love nothing more than to have sand in my tank. What I discovered is that in a peninsula style tank, where you want all of the flow coming from one end, to hide the pumps etc, that this forces water against the other side glass, and down to the sand. For months, I spent daily moving the sand back. It wasn't a small patch, it was half the tank was essentially bare bottom due to the flow.

If I had my time again, and I built the same tank, I would go with a closed loop, particularly from the end viewable panel side, so that water was being pushed equally in both directions and not all being forced from one end.
I firmly believe this would have allowed me to have sand in this tank, but alas, once it's built, it's built.

So with the plan to replace the ceramic firmly set in the mind, I decided to also remove all the sand and go bare bottom.

This whole plan wasn't an overnight activity, it took a few weeks to achieve.
Moving corals and fish out, removing old rock and sand, building a new aquascape etc, and then effectively recycling the tank. Thankfully, the live rock was very mature, so I had a running start.

A bunch of pics below to show the evolution.
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I then swapped over to live rock and bare bottom after six months.
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Part 6 - Flow

As a mentioned in part 5, if I had my time again, I would have had a closed loop, supported by powerheads, which would have made it practical to have sand.

The other challenge I had was that my tank is built like a tank, the glass is 15mm. It was intentionally built like this, as despite not having a hood built from the start, I know I would likely want one in the future, and that the tank would need to support the somewhat heavy hood entirely. It's also rimless, so I wanted something which would be tough, as I'm far from gentle :)

Small tank and thick glass, is a challenge finding good powerhead options.

In addition to my return flow, via the Royal Exclusiv RD3 50W, which is turning over around 10x volume per hour, I originally started out with two MP10's on the back wall.

For a few weeks, the MP10's would always spin off overnight, as the MP10's are not meant for glass this thick, they just barely held on. Until I figured out a better solution, I used a tiny dot of super glue on the back of the wet side to hold them in place, which worked, but it was a temporary solution.

I tried out Maxspect gyre, but I couldn't find a position to put it which I liked, I think I used this for less than a couple of days.

Finally, and where we are right now, is two AI Nero5's.

The Nero's do a fantastic job and the magnets are more than man enough, I hate the wire in the tank, but it is what it is.

Unfortunately, when I first installed them, this was right before AI released the new guard for the back of them. I didn't know it wasn't uncommon for fish to get killed in the back of the pump.
Within the first couple of days, one of my clowns got sucked into the back of it, and was found dead the next morning.
Luckily, the guards were then released and I got myself two of them. Just in perfect time, as I was once again going to swap out the pumps, as no way was I going to let that happen again.

If I had swapped them, I would have gone with two MP40's, which are FAR too much flow for the tank, but they are much stronger than the MP10's and would have worked with the glass, and they don't have the same issues with fish being sucked in.

Luckily the Nero5 guards work a treat and thats where we are today.

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Wow killer build!
 
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Part 7 - Never enough space

To say that I underestimated this build, would be a gross understatement.
I went into it with the mindset of "this is my forth tank, I know what I've done wrong before and I'll make this perfect".
Whilst I did indeed fix issues of old tanks, I found a whole bunch of new challenges.

My previous tanks were all much bigger and had tonnes of space in the cabinet and around it.

In such an exposed position, at the end of the breakfast bar, my space was very limited.
I had not anticipated well enough all of the equipment and how in practise it would all fit.

I mentioned earlier about my RO top off section of my sump being grossly undersized. So when I had a new sump and this was removed, I need to locate a container somewhere.

I also had a whole bunch of equipment, and ideas in my head of even more. In reality, it was never going to work quite how I thought it would.

What I'd say to anyone planning a tank, however much free space you think you have, you'll need at least twice that amount, if not three times.

Below was how things were originally setup, with the integrated RO and controller/dosing pumps underneath the floating unit of the breakfast bar.

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Needless to say, this had to change, this was nowhere enough space.
Below is where we're at today.

Not the clean, perfect, idea I once had, but it's practical and serviceable, and I have space free.
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Part 8 - Monitoring and Control

I'm an IT consultant, and pre-covid, I would travel to european countries every week, away for 4 days. I've been doing this each week for years now, thankfully due to the advancements in technology, it allows us to have monitoring and control remotely.

Working in IT, I know redundancy is critical, so I planned my solution around this.

This is one topic which hasn't changed 100 times since setup, in fact, it's barely changed at all.

I've used GHL equipment for about 12 years, I had the old Profilux 3, then Profilux 4 on older tanks.
I've never had a failure on any GHL equipment, and I trust them, so it was a no-brainer as to the direction I took.

Temp control can sometimes be a point of failure, so I decided to implement two GHL probes, through the use of an expansion card within the P4, and that my temp would be controlled using the mean of the two values.
This also gives me the added benefit, that if either of them fail, I get an alert, but that my temp is then managed from the working probe automatically.

I'm running two digital temp probes, one PH, one Redox and one Salinity.
The expansion card allows me to also run another PH or Redox, and additional level sensors.

Level sensor wise, I'm running three: Sump high/overflow, Sump Low/Dry, Sump top up position.
I'm also running a leak detector and flow monitor.

I'm running Triton method and I achieve this with the help of the GHL Doser 2.1
I also have the KH Director, and this is supported with a second Doser 2.1.
ATO is managed with the various level sensors, and the GHL Maxi Doser.

In addition to monitoring the flow on the return, I also have my Red Dragon pump using the integrated controller, connected to the Profilux, so I can control the flow from the computer.

I then use the GHL six socket powerbar to control various things, such as the algae reactor, and orphek bars, but also the skimmer, return pump and heater.

Using a complex set of custom rules of the various probes and sensors, I control all of the equipment.

For example, if the water level is too low, too high, or there is a leak, various bits of equipment switch off and alert me.
Everything has a backup, such as the ATO. Not only is there an optical level sensor which triggers the top up pump, but it is time limited to five minutes and there is another float sensor to detect overflow.

Lastly, the P4 itself is battery backed up, this alarms immediately on a power outage. As the other GHL equipment is not battery backed up, so the P4 alarms that the equipment is down. This works really well. Obviously, ideally, everything would be backed up, but I don't have a solution for that right now. (albeit my powerheads are also on battery).

Regarding the KHD. I love mine, it's been working well for six months now and I test with it 3 times per day.
I haven't even calibrated it for 3 months, and the results are still spot on.

The P4 controls my heater based on the two temp probes, but I also have the GHL 4 fan unit to control cooling, this has the additional controller to allow me to scale the cooling/flow, so it's not just on and off.

Yes, GHL is a bit more techi than other solutions. Yes, the UI could do with some work. Yes, it's not Apex, you cannot just code anything you want, you have to work within the framework. Yes, it doesn't have push notifications, only email alerts.

I've yet to find something I cannot achieve with the GHL, somehow, granted though, it's not always obvious.

I'm a big fan, and I consider myself fairly experienced with GHL over many years.
Feel free to fire over any questions you have and I'd love to help you.

I keep meaning to start up a YouTube series of how to setup various aspects of it, as it is a little complex, and whilst there is information out in the wild, it's imperfect in my opinion, and often quite confusing.
Hopefully I can do something on this soon.

Dosing wise, I had Royal Exclusiv build me a four section custom dosing container, for no other reason than it's cool.

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Part 9 - Tank maintenance

I'm moving towards less water changes, due in no small part to using Triton and no real need to do so.
Earlier in the tanks life, when I was having issues and sorting out my filtration, I was doing weekly water changes, I moved to every other week, and now I'm moving towards monthly (this will be the first month).

According to my testing and ICP's, things are on track, so I don't see a big need for frequent regular water changes, but I'm not one of those people who doesn't want to water change. I'll only do so as long as things are working well and major/minor/trace and nutrients stay on track.

I clean my Nero5's each month using citric acid, I find that the flow is significantly improved when doing this.

I suck out detritus from the tank and sump once a month, but I don't get a lot in the tank, more so in the sump.

Glass gets cleaned twice a week using a Tunze magnet thingy, I could get away with once a week, but with the tank being in such an obvious position in the kitchen, I hate the glass looking nasty.

I avoid cleaning the back glass, largely my CuC and tang deal with this.

As I have two return pumps, one as a backup, I rotate the pumps once every 2-3 months and clean/prep the used pump for next time. Same as with the powerheads, even just in two months, flow loss is as much as 200L per hour just from dirt. I can see this using the flow monitoring on the GHL.

RO Top off, I have three 25L containers. Every two weeks I fill two of them, the third container I always have some mixed up 35ppt salt water to hand. I find this incredibly useful having some water to hand.
I add 3L of the mixed salt water to the RO top off container, I do this to compensate for the salinity loss due to the KHD and it keeps my salinity stable.

That's pretty much it.
 
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Part 10 - Dosing, Feeding and stuff

I run Triton method, currently dosing 13ml per day, as 13 x 1ml intervals. I'm finding this is increasing by approximately 1ml per month. Triton Core7 is, as the name suggests, 7 times more concentrated than regular solutions.

I'm having success right now with the "heavy in, heavy out" approach.

I feed in a rather heavy handed approach, pellets in the morning, then I alternative between one day feeding reefroids and two cubes of frozen throughout the day, and the next day I do three cubes alone.

Frozen wise, I try to use two or three different cubes each day and rotate them. Small mysis, big mysis, krill, brineshrimp, reef mixes, reef feast, sometimes red plankton.
Sometimes I rinse with tank water and drain, sometimes I don't. It depends on my Phosphate testing, which I try to do three times a week. I use Phosphates as my main guide to how much I feed.

I have one tang, a white tail bristletooth. He eats nori, but he's not the biggest fan. He loves munching on the rocks and glass. Despite this, I give him half a sheet once a week, which he normally eats half of.

I dose 1/2 the recommended amount of Fauna Marin Amin Amino Acid, over the next few months I'll creep this up a little.
I also dose 1/2 the recommended amount of Korallen Zuckt Flatworm Stop, I do not have flatworms, but this stuff is magic, and I've used it in past tanks with success, so I'm just doing it. It helps with growth, colour and general health of corals, I've zero idea whats in it, but thats typical KZ stuff, you just trust it.

Within my RO top off water, as per Part 9, I add a small amount of salt water to compensate for salinity loss due to the KHD, but I also add 10ml of my DIY mix of Sodium Nitrate.

I'm targeting 10ppm NO3, so the addition of the Sodium Nitrate means that I can run my Pax Bellum fairly aggressively, currently 11 hours per night. This keeps both my NO3 at 10ppm, but also, and more importantly, it keeps my PO4 at 0.03-0.04ppm with no additional phosphate reduction mechanism. No GFO etc.

This has the added benefit of a nice (significant) PH boost, but I am also running a CO2 scrubber. I find my day to night swing is no more than 0.1, where I peak between 8.45 to 8.5 and night low of 8.35.

PH has a significant impact on growth, and I can see this with Alk uptake. I ran out of CO2 scrubber media for a week, and my Alk uptake dropped by 2ml of Triton. Whilst this is obviously artificial, I'm happy if the corals are happy and growing.

Lastly, I do a Triton ICP every 4-6 weeks, I buy them in bulk.
I adjust exactly according to the ICP recommendations, everything.

One off adjustments from ICP's are typically, Boron, Lithium and Molybdenum, I then do regular maintenance dosing, to supplement the Triton dosing, with Vanadium, Manganese, Zinc and a little bit of Iron.

By and large, this is due to the fact that I'm running my algae reactor quite aggressively, so these elements are consumed quickly, and currently my Triton dosing levels are not large enough to replenish these elements in adequate amounts to stay stable.
This is because Triton method is balanced dosing, so everything is dosed in accordance with alk uptake, including minor and trace element.

Over time, as my corals grow, my dosing will increase and then my supplementary dosing will reduce.

I do this supplementary dosing twice a week manually. I just take the daily recommendations from Triton x3.5 days.

Last, but not least, once a week, I add the low dosage of MicroBacter7, for no other reason than I've always done it, but it definitely helps keep my nutrients in check and helps keep my glass clearer for longer.

25FC246B-5285-4FFA-938D-E0032CA9BA44_1_105_c.jpeg
 
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Part 11 - Testing

Summarised as bullets:
  • Every other day Hannah Alkalinity checker
  • Two - three times a week Hannah Phosphorus checker
  • Once a week Nitrate test, I seem to rotate between Salifert and Redsea
  • GHL KHD auto testing Alk 3 times a day
  • GHL P4 monitoring PH, salinity and temp
  • ICP every 4-6 weeks
  • Daily observations, this is the most important, I find my corals tell me a lot

I never test, Ca or Mg, if my Alk is in check, I know the rest will be, but my ICP confirms this.
 
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Part 12 - Lighting Schedule

XR30:
  • Starts ramping up at 9am, peaking at 11am.
  • Peak is all channels at 100%, total intensity is currently 38%
  • Peak duration is 8 hours
  • Ramp down into "night mode" at 7pm
  • Night mode is 100% UV, violet, royal blue and 25% blue, 0% all other channels
  • Night mode duration is 2 hours
  • Ramp down starts at 9pm and lights out is at 10pm

Orphek OR3 Bars:
  • Left bar: On at 11am, off at 5pm
  • Right bar: On at 11:30am, off at 5:30pm

An expensive purchase, but here in the UK we have no options to rent good PAR meters currently, so I bought myself an Apogee MQ510, which if looked after, should last me a lifetime (touch wood).

This schedule is giving me peak of 350 PAR during the peak intensity time.
Again, I come from the old world of metal halides and T5's, you turned them on and away you went. If corals were pale, you moved them.

LED's seemingly are far more harsh then MH/T5 and you cannot punch them to the same PAR levels we used to. MH could push 600++, but if you try doing that with LED's, wave bye bye to your corals. I have no idea why this is the case, maybe it's spectrum related, or how the light is much more focused on LED's.

Either way, I think with LED's it's best to use a PAR meter and make sure you're not under or over doing it.

4D8FA573-3E59-4E49-BFC4-47FD98B8ED2B_1_105_c.jpeg


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Looks really nice. I may have missed it - what are the tank dimensions?

Cheers mate, knew i forgot something.
I've updated the first post to include the info for others, but copy/paste is below.

Tank dimensions are 800mm x 500mm x 500mm.
100mm of the length is taken up by a hidden back compartment, hiding pipes etc, so the tank is really 700mm long, but it's all one piece of glass. Display tank volume is around 150L, sump is around 70L
 
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