Tank Trials: Ultra Low Maintenance Tanks | BRStv Investigates

Discussion in 'Reef Aquarium Discussion' started by randyBRS, Dec 1, 2017.

  1. SantaMonica

    SantaMonica Valuable Member

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    Another technique is to lay 1" square LR tiles on the bottom (square frag mounts), and the tiles can have sand or zoa's attached. The tiles won't move, and can be easily picked up.
     

  2. Ryanbrs

    Ryanbrs Active Member R2R Supporter Platinum Sponsor

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    I thought about that but I am pretty sure that once you adhere the sand to something it will almost certainly get covered in coralline algae and lose the sand look :(
     
  3. Rip Van Winkle

    Rip Van Winkle Active Member

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    My experience has been that shallow sand beds are detritus sinks. If you're going to do a sand bed, it needs to be deep enough to be able to support the organisms that depend on it. IMHO, DSBs 2" and less will just end up being more maintenance in the long run, especially after 6 or 7 months. Actually, I really hate to put that out there because my vote is on a SB rather than a BB DT but I think it's pretty much been proven that shallow SBs are higher maintenance.

    @TankTrials, If you're going to do a SB in one or more of the DTs, I suggest do it right and as mentioned above by other members, have the right inhabitants to support sifting and cleaning.

    - 4" to 6" sandbed, based on coarse sand that will not be prone to being blown around by powerheads (but hopefully, still fine enough to be sifted through by fish like gobies, if possible)
    - Nassarius snails
    - Tonga fighting conches
    - Brittle stars
    - Goby/Pistol shrimp
    - Hermit crabs (smallest size possible)
    - Sea Cucumber (small - max 2")

    Not sure this is possible but I'd also like to see some macro algae combined with the DSB. Something with roots or runners going under the sand to help with cleanup, for example Turtle-grass (Thalassia testudinum).

    Setting up the sand bed like this will ensure that it's virtually maintenance-free.

    The issue with setting this up is the age of the system. Because you're starting from scratch, you won't be able to just throw a whole bunch of sand into the tank and then dump all the above critters in the following week. Setting a DSB up so that it gets to the point of being maintenance-free, takes knowledge and patience. That's the thing that's usually never talked about and taken for granted about DSBs.

    This post is already long enough so I'll be brief and just say that setting up the DSB will be a process in itself. If not done correctly, there will just be more problems and issues with the tank. So finally, it would have to be decided upon in the first place whether it's possible or not, to set this up properly for the ULM Tank Trials.
     
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2018
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  4. sbidny

    sbidny Member

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    Loads of respect for what you guys do, but I have to disagree pretty strongly with this advice. I oversee software development in a very risk-aware industry, and one of my mantras is to never have a backup system that works on the "cross your fingers" principle. This is just asking for the backup to be non-functional when needed most.

    Ideally, a backup should be running just as often as your primary, either in a load balancing (both heaters running) or an alternating solution. This way, you know both heaters in a functional state.

    Then you just need a way to alert when one of the heaters is no longer working.

    There is very little chance both heaters are going to fail at the exact same time (maybe around the same time but not at the exact same time). There is a much greater chance the backup won't work when you need it (having been submerged in saltwater for multiple months/years or improperly configured at some point).

    To detect a non-functional heater, you could employ one of a few methods using a controller.

    1. Detect a change in the current via the outlet

    2. Detect a change in how long it takes to heat the tank

    3. If alternating the heaters, detect a fall past a low temperature point while trying to heat with each of the heaters

    As for load balancing versus alternating, this comes down to whether heaters fail more often from increased cycling or increased usage. Load balancing decreases the overall usage but not the cycling. Alternating cuts the cycling on each heater by half and also reduces their usage.

    I personally choose alternating, but this does usually require more advanced controller programming knowledge.
     
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  5. TheWB

    TheWB Member

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    I’m trying something similar with my new build. I’m using the new Stax Rock from Two Little Fishies that is cut flat on both sides and laying it out like puzzle pieces on the bottom of the tank. It looks more natural than bare bottom, will have the filtration capability as the tank matures and will grow over with coralline and other cool stuff like zoas hopefully. Each piece can be removed if it had to be and there are plenty of nooks and crannies for shrimp, snails and crabs to get in and fish out detritus if my flow can’t keep it all suspended. Overall I’m liking the look and hopefully it works out to be low maintenance, the tank isn’t wet yet so no real world experience with it for a while.
     
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  6. NS Mike D

    NS Mike D Active Member R2R Supporter Build Thread Contributor

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    good point

    There is a reason financial companies (and regulators require them to do so) periodically runs off site tests on Saturdays of their back up systems. All that system redundancy is only theoretical until it's actually used. The worst time to discover some flaw or failure in your back up is when your main system goes down. The initial "Oh Crap" moment is bad, but it's the second "Oh Crap" moment when t hits the fan.

    I use two basic standard heaters both set for the same temp with a controller that will turn them both off at a certain high temp and will alarm at a lower temp. Right now, my controller is saying the tank is with 0.1° of my target. Every so often I peak to see if their operational red lights are on.

    Not the perfect back up. But for a modest cost with reasonably low maintenance it works for me. I know that these have a lifespan of one or two years, so I'll need to check them individually from time to time. But I am confident I am protected from one or two heaters running amuk (not turning off) or a double failure (not turning on), and will notice wider temp swings in the case of a single heater failure as the reaming heater will struggle maintaining a constant temp without the help of it's counterpart, something I am likely to notice before a second heater failure.
     
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  7. FunkEngine

    FunkEngine Member

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    Reminds me of what often happens in RAID arrays. If you buy all your drives at once, which you usually do, and all from the same supplier (same manufacturing run), which you usually do, and use them all in the same way that once one dies when you go to replace and rebuild another dies and the array is lost.

    Would be better in that sense to have one that has had more use so that that its more likely that they'll kick the bucket further apart from each other. Which actually is an advantage to people adding redundancy after the fact, I suppose. If going with a set up with each heater being able to do the full load you could even start out with just the one for a while. Keep the other on hand, since if its going to fail its probably going to be a crib death or down the line.
     
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  8. Mandelstam

    Mandelstam Well-Known Member

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    The discussion between BB vs sand sometimes seem a little too broadly painted. A bare bottom is a bare bottom, not too many ways to skin that cat. But a sand substrate can come in many forms and some may require more maintenance than others. Depth, porosity, plenum, RUGF, etc, etc.

    An example, some say a sand bed is a detritus trap. Yes, if we are talking about a coarser sand with highly sorted grain sizes where most are the same size the porosity will be higher (~30%) and lots of empty spaces for detritus to fall into and collect. But if you mix different grain sizes together in the right ratio you can get a much "denser" sand with low porosity where detritus won't collect as easily. Depending on what you want the sand bed to do you can design it appropriately. And some designs will be higher maintenance and others quite care free.

    I would love to see a sand bed used in two of the tanks and to have those two sand beds designed quite differently so they can be compared easily.
     
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  9. Ryanbrs

    Ryanbrs Active Member R2R Supporter Platinum Sponsor

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    I don't disagree with anything you are sharing. There are certainly multiple approaches to redundancy and reasonable debate to each installation based on the actual tank and equipment installed.

    Depending on the controller you use and how advanced you want to get with your approach you could perform hybrid of approaches by setting the backup heater to turn on each day for a couple minutes and utilizing power monitoring to confirm the back up is functional while also limiting the power and duty cycles of the backup.

    For anyone who goes on frequent or lengthy vacations or work trips, I think it is important to be able to trust the back up is going to function for a solid period of time if the primary fails while you are away. I have personally found many types of identical electrical components with the exact same duty cycles tend to fail at very similar times. For me, this has been most evident with hard drives and light bulbs. I didn't know if it applies to the components in specific heaters, but I think you could argue it safer to assume it does than doesn't.

    That said, I bet someone has an even better way to approach this : )
     
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  10. flagg37

    flagg37 Member

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    @Ryanbrs, can you guys post a running tally of what each tank costs? I think that would be an interesting metric to factor in.
     
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  11. Bouncingsoul39

    Bouncingsoul39 Well-Known Member

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    A bare bottom tank is the antithesis of a ULM system. There will be piles of detritus where the option would be either weekly siphoning, or having massive flow, which will only work well for the SPS system. Even with massive flow it may be near impossible to have not a single dead spot so there will be an ugly detritus pile somewhere.
    A true ULM Substrate would be a sugar fine DSB 4 inches or more thick, seeded with lots of detrivores. That is a Substrate that is truly low maintenance. You never touch it. Awesome for Nitrate removal as well.
     
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  12. Cronicreefer

    Cronicreefer Active Member

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    I like to think that my tank is about as low maintenance as you can make a tank. I test alkalinity once per day to confirm my daily consumption and then add my 1.5grams of sodium carbonate to the overflow. I replenish calcium with my weekly water changes with elevated levels in the new saltwater. If I skip a water change then I dose the calcium into the overflow. I will get a doser when the alkalinity consumption is greater than 2.5grams/day which is a swing of >0.5 dkH for my tank. I empty my skimmer cup when full and that's about it for maintenance. Lighting is on a controller, heaters are self controlled, gravity fed ATO, no filter socks and no chemical filtration to change, no reactors to bother with. DSB is self maintained by microfauna and the right types of inverts.
     
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  13. brandon429

    brandon429 why did you put a reef in that R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award

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    added raising of bar for this thread:


    nobody's system under 60 months living should be evaluated as ULM. What new tanks do (and sandbeds) is not the same as a 60+ month test setup. I claim no early/new tank that hasn't weathered a few unpredictables, and shown how they deal with waste compounding, perhaps a few normal poweroutages, that time you forgot to plug back in heater, all the little tests of time, can claim the ranks of ULM. this is all for fun and to keep a nice high bar all in good bio fun.

    we should be evaluating middle aged tanks in order to find true ULM variables in place.
     
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2018
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  14. flagg37

    flagg37 Member

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    I don’t know if I agree that you need the tank to be 5+ years old in order to design it for the purpose of it being ulm. I also don’t see how power outages and user errors such as leaving a heater unplugged have to do with ulm. To me ulm doesn’t have to do with how well a system will endure user errors and accidents; those aren’t maintenance items. Things like a dsb that require maturity would be the only caveat. Doing a dsb on one, regular sand bed on another, and bare bottom on the last would be great to see just how much a difference they make but I don’t know if it’s really feasible since the dsb takes a good amount of time to mature.
     
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  15. brandon429

    brandon429 why did you put a reef in that R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award

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    Here’s one of the tie ins to aging I was considering:

    duality of the hands off sandbed.

    for ULM systems that might use traditional sandbed models, w the aim being a processing zone for waste that the keeper would otherwise have to remove through work, those take time to compile with waste (claimed to be gassed off as n2 ideally once matured vs hand removed work) and when you add years to the mix...some power outages are bound to occur


    Sets the stage for BOD testing... what wastewater techs do at water treatment labs so their catch ponds meet govt standards.

    The older a sandbed gets, the more compacted with waste they favor (do a clouding test on any old sandbed to see) even if it is producing n2 bubbles as it would ideally, the more liability it becomes as a commander of oxygen for the entire system during a power outage.

    Double edge sword

    Every new waste pellet added, by the diversity of life claimed by ideal sandbed modeling from the 90s, is one more bit of mixed heterotrophic bacteria substrate. Fish poop landing and sinking into the substrate is the strongest bacterial substrate I could envision for an aging sandbed. Oxygen competers...which do fine right up till test time/power outages which lessen gas exchange at the surface compared to norms. That bed becomes an oxygen sap.
    There’s the added test of hands off sandbeds surviving light challenges like rock slides or scape changes mixing up the stratifications that needed to stay separate...and causing mini cycles or loss cascades.


    Take a 3 month old, hardly compiled sandbed...functions during a power outage much like a bare bottom would since the high energy bacterial feed portion (that which makes a tank go full cloud/mini cycle upon disturbance of a traditional sandbed) is missing. In a test lab, it’s bod is lower since it’s organic fraction is lower. You can mix and move around a newer sandbed without much fanfare or risk.

    Age certainly matters as the key tester in my opinion
    when I wrote that above I wasn’t pondering ways to make a tank run ULM... I was pondering ways that suggested models in this thread might catch up to ULM systems already running 10+ that had to meet (and best) all these challenges to be as old as they are.


    A five year tank will have weathered tank invasions and either be clean or under challenge at mo sixty (nobody wants just a living reef at mo sixty, they want an invader free one) some losses within the system which test your surface areas ability to nitrify a quick load will have occurred... proving ability to withstand time and variation is the current bar I envision based on existing ulm work. All the extra external hardware supports keepers tend to put in place are really well tested over time as well, weak link tests.
     
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2018
  16. Rip Van Winkle

    Rip Van Winkle Active Member

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    No offense and really not trying to be confrontational here but for one guy to walk in and basically decide that 60 months (5 years) is the judging standard isn't something I'd identify with. My opinion would be that the standard will most likely be variable depending on the effort going into creating, setting up and also maintaining the test reef system. I remember there being discussions on R2R about how long it takes (in terms of months) for a system to be considered "mature" and most everyone was saying about 12 months (a year). Aside from that if there had to be a decision on ULM only applying to mature systems (mature DSBs), I think the discussion should include the reefing community, not just one person's view. I think you can't blame me for saying so because it's seems like that's only fair.

    I'll say that while I agree in principle with what you are putting forward, there'd have to be some kind of scientific reference, rather than just someone's say so. (Myself, I chimed in on this in a post above) The other thing is, 5 years? So BRS will run these tanks and 5 years from now we'll come back to this forum and talk about the kind of results they've managed to get? I'm smiling here, I mean... Practical much?
     
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  17. brandon429

    brandon429 why did you put a reef in that R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award

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    But I’m evaluating approaches while staring at a 12 yr running ulm system. I know it’s not a discussion of cost/ease of care but the physicalities we use are literally what you guys are discussing in this thread...we elbow in smaller reefs among large tanker discussions by having them account for age, years of coral production, time spent monthly, salinity controls and other characters comparatively. The salinity control aspect we use for ULM design in my opinion must be considered by large tankers...no arrangement of machinery or redundant automation can touch a system that simply doesn’t evaporate. It’s not ULM without ULR :) (ultra low risk, of fail points)
    Just my opinion that a minimum age frame has to factor as well, so that all these claimed gears have time to set in, see what holds.



    I think in all of google scholar, not one link can tell us about a ulm reef (just guessing haven’t clicked) although I know that source w have peer reviewed articles about ocean reefs or details about aquariums in general.

    It’s getting hashed out here all in good fun. The tanks must be the documentation, formal studies are lacking. ULM approaches are in the Wild West phase still, neat to be part of new science in my opinion
     
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2018
  18. randyBRS

    randyBRS BRStv Host :-) R2R Supporter Gold Sponsor

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    ULM Tank Trials Ep-6: Rock and Sand for Ultra Low Maintenance | BRStv

    We're back with this week's episode where Ryan discusses what we chose for rock and sand in our three ULM tanks and the reasoning behind those choices. We'll also share your thoughts, from the YouTube and Reef2Reef community on what makes a specific rock or sand choice Ultra Low Maintenance!

    A big shout out to all of you helping to drive the conversation forward! Here are the special thanks recipients from this past week from YouTube and here from the Reef2Reef family! Thanks to Luis Reef Tank ; Reefers Life ; @Arrecifero ; @aarbutina ; @Shawn Dahl ; @Reefer Keith ; @Toxic727


    This week's question:


    -Can ATOs, Salt Mix and Water choices be classified as ULM? What would your choices be and why?


     
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  19. ._Z_.

    ._Z_. Active Member

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    @randyBRS You guys should add a bag of pods to one of the tanks! I'd be really interested to know if doing so would have noticeable affects down the road. Will it reduce the early algae outbreak? Will the pod population be noticeably larger than the other tanks at various time intervals? Will it reduce maintenance in any way? How about the tank parameters? The livestock and filtration among the tanks will add variables to the results, but I think we could still gain some valuable insight. I guess this would fall into a BRStv Investigates
     
  20. siggy

    siggy Which way do I go R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award Build Thread Contributor Partner Member 2018

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    Ato to be ULM you cannot be running Kalk, I think I have had every fault or problem possible.
     
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