Sharkodile's First Tank

sharkodile

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After years of fascination with reef tanks, and decades of love of snorkeling and diving, I decided to try to attempt a box of beautiful ocean in my home.

I spent a number of months reading and watching videos before buying. I'm fortunate enough to not be very cash-constrained, so I was optimizing my build around the space in my home and difficulty of the build and maximizing my chance of success. I ended up with:
  • Innovative Marine 50 INT (with 22 gal sump), and I'm using the included Mighty XL pump
  • Neptune Apex for controlling all the things
  • Neptune ATK for ATO
  • Neptune SKY for light
  • A RODI system (BRS)
  • Nero 3 Powerhead
  • A bunch of other stuff / random gear (so much stuff)
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We live in a NYC brownstone, it's over 130 years old. I thought a little about the weight but decided that the location is adjacent to a load-bearing wall and that the 2 stories and roof of the house above weigh so much more than the ~500 lbs of the tank that it wasn't worth worrying about. I couldn't figure out what to do about the hardwood floors, and in the end decided just not to worry about it: they're old and stained as it is. That said, I wish the tank supported a better strategy for access to the floor under the sump: if I slop some water and it goes through the under-sump base, there's no access to it at all.

On the subject of tank setup, I had another thing happen, I'm interested in people's thoughts. When I first set up the stand and got the tank on top of it, I filled the tank with water to check for leaks and to confirm it was level. I had not yet plumbed in the sump so I just filled the front portion of the tank. Everything seemed OK, but after a couple of hours I discovered I had a spill of water on the floor because water was leaking past the overflow partition then out through the drilled holes. At the time, I wrote this off as newbie error; since both sides of that partition are filled with water, it doesn't need to be water-tight. So I proceeded to plumb in the sump and that was fine.

However, I eventually realized a concern: if the recirculating pump fails, there's a path for water to go from the overflow partition down into the sump, even after it drops below the drain levels: the drain pipes above the bulkheads that go through the glass are just slip-fit into the bulkheads, so water can leak around those fittings and drain towards the sump. So that's a scary amount of water to potentially have flow towards the sump, but possibly manageable if I plan for it. But if there's also a leak from the main display to the overflow, then there's hypothetically a path for the display tank to flow out to the sump as well. This would be quite slow, but I'm scared to death of 50 gallons of water on my floor, so it's concerning.

I reached out to IM support to ask for their advice on how to mitigate this risk, and didn't have a great support experience: the support guy was really focused on treating this as a warranty repair (me sending proof, scratching "VOID" into the tank, etc.) and wouldn't give me any other advice. Before he could discuss other solutions he wanted a video showing the issue; I drained the overflow and sent one, and he rejected the video because it didn't show the tank's serial number (which I hadn't been asked for and which doesn't seem relevant to giving me some help with understanding, diagnosing, and mitigating the issue). This was despite me repeatedly saying that a tank replacement was not a good outcome for me. (In NYC, getting even a midsized tank from curbside delivery to installation in the house is an undertaking, I have to hire people to move it, it's a production.) I put off producing the requested video with serial number for a few weeks because I didn't have the time to drain the overflow area, but did it during a water change the other day, and the leak has apparently stopped. This did not leave me filled with confidence: do you have any advice?

This doesn't catch us up to the present yet, but I'll add an update soon: in our next episode, rocks, sand, and cycle.
 
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sharkodile

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I spent a lot of time agonizing over my rock / sand / cycle plan. In the end, decided to go with "The Package" from Tampa Bay Saltwater; I find the value of a more complete biome to be a compelling concept, and I decided I'd rather have a lot of life and complexity and battle some hitchhikers over the challenges of growing the various bacteria and other life which make for a balanced, clean, cycled tank.

I am very pleased. While I do have aiptasia from day one, I had a zero-day cycle (or as close to it as I could measure), and the life and vitality of the tank is amazing and engaging even before the first fish or coral gets added.

Their new tank package is sized by default as one pound of sand and two pounds of rock per gallon of tank. I ordered the 50 lb package and used their guidance. The first shipment had the sand and 50 lbs of rock, their "base rock". This is all live sand and rock which has been shipped in water direct air freight from Florida.

I believe they harvested the sand and rock from their patch of Tampa Bay a few days before shipping it to me: they dropped it off at the Tampa airport Sunday night and it flew up to NYC (LGA) Monday morning on the first Southwest flight. The first delivery was 4 boxes, which I collected from Southwest Air Cargo. That pickup is a little complicated (involves installing an app, scanning your face, and navigating a very NYC air cargo office which is not very user-friendly), but I got through it.

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Rock and sand arrives in heavy plastic bags, styrofoam packaging, and included heat packs.

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Packaged sand, with a bonus mangrove pod

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Found this friendly hitchhiker (calico clam) in the sand.

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Example base rocks

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Bonus Emerald crab

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Some hitchhiker feather fern caulerpa

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Base rock has some sponges

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Rock in the tank. Given the two-stage process in which a second round of premium rock comes a week or three after the base rock, I didn't attempt to aquascape, and sand bed is very uneven.

Again, I couldn't be more pleased with Tampa Bay Saltwater. I have no experience with aquariums, so I don't have any baseline, but this rock is bursting with life.

The tank was basically cycled from day one: I never got an elevated ammonia reading and I started growing nitrates immediately.

Next episode: the second shipment with "premium" rocks and CUC.
 

Figuring out the why: Has your primary reason(s) for keeping a saltwater aquarium changed over time?

  • My reasons for reef keeping have changed dramatically.

    Votes: 4 7.5%
  • My reasons for reef keeping have somewhat evolved.

    Votes: 20 37.7%
  • My reasons for reef keeping have no changed.

    Votes: 28 52.8%
  • Other.

    Votes: 1 1.9%
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