Two veterinarians' attempt at a complete saltwater ecosystem

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Hi everyone, my name is Dane- my wife and I are both scuba divers with a passion for the ocean, and at one point in life we both strongly considered careers in marine biology. Instead, we followed our other passion to become veterinarians, where we met at the University of Georgia (Go Dawgs!) and now have a 16 month old son. Our son, Sterling, loves the fish tank at his day care, and we hope to be able to bring a piece of the ocean to our home to be able to foster this love and respect for the ocean as he grows. Not to mention, it melted my heart to see his face light up when the moray eel at our LFS swam out, mouth open, to greet him!

All of that being said, we both have some experience in keeping freshwater tanks, but saltwater is a whole new world. We are excited to get started, and I wanted to be able to share that with all of you.

One day, we hope to have a truly expansive tank, but we got a great deal on a used set up which I have detailed below. It was all used to successfully run a mixed tank, and we felt that 75 gallons was a good starting point. We plan on learning a ton over the next year or two with this set up, and will likely replace many of the components as we learn what works, what doesn't, and what we want out of this hobby.

As you will see, I know some specifics on this equipment, but a lot of unknowns, so this will be interesting!

75 gallon drilled glass tank with overflow box and stand. DISCLAIMER: Everything needs to be cleaned, I plan on a vinegar soak next weekend.

Our first step will be refinishing the stand- we are going to sand down and repaint the exterior white, and apply a layer of killz to the interior.
435117D5-3DFE-4485-A43A-BAE6400A19B8.jpg


It also has a 20 gallon sump and 10 gallon refugium that we are excited to explore the opportunities available with a refugium. That will be a future project though.
IMG_3391.JPG


IMG_3401.JPG


The pump is a Lifegard Quiet One 3000 that runs 758 gph. There is also a second Lifegard Quiet One 1200 that runs 317 gph. I'm not sure why there are two. Clearly a lot still to learn!
IMG_3409-1.jpeg


We have a CoraLife 125g Superskimmer.
IMG_3389.JPG


For power heads, there are 2 Hydor Koralina power heads, I am unsure which exact one. And there is a third unknown powerhead.
IMG_3393.JPG


For lighting, there are two Kessel A150w Ocean Blues, and one has 2 "moon lights" attached (whatever that is). Additionally, for the refugium is a Finnex red light, and an LED light
IMG_3407.jpeg
.
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We have 3 Eheim heaters (which seems excessive)- a 200w, 150w, and 25w. I don't think I will need all three for the tank, so I will probably use one to heat water for water changes.
IMG_3402.JPG


I think that covers all of the equipment! Once we get the stand painted, I'm going to have someone from the LFS come out and help me set it all up, to make sure we have all we need for the tank to function! I am interested in hearing anyone's opinions on what we've got. I already have heard that the lighting won't be sufficient for the long term, so I know I will need to make a change in the future, but hopefully this gets us started!
 
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Mikedawg

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Good start and your backgrounds will be invaluable in terms of understanding and managing tank biology. I would experiment with equipment you have before buying new stuff - for instance, assume lights were sufficient for certain coral species and you might want to use them for some low light corals as you gain experience. It is easy (and expensive) to be seduced by technology in this hobby. I've gone full cycle and have come back to a more "natural" approach.
Good luck fellow Dawgs!
 
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Pau Hana Reefer

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Welcome to R2R and the salt life! You're very lucky to have a little one who is interested in fish tanks. Our 3 year old has zero interest in our 90 gallon tank. Took her to LFS last week and all she wanted to do was play with fake plastic plants and rearrange the fish food. :rolleyes:

I'm very curious about your journey since you're both veterinarians and love scuba diving! Looking forward to your updates and progress!
 

Dr. Dendrostein

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Hi everyone, my name is Dane- my wife and I are both scuba divers with a passion for the ocean, and at one point in life we both strongly considered careers in marine biology. Instead, we followed our other passion to become veterinarians, where we met at the University of Georgia (Go Dawgs!) and now have a 16 month old son. Our son, Sterling, loves the fish tank at his day care, and we hope to be able to bring a piece of the ocean to our home to be able to foster this love and respect for the ocean as he grows. Not to mention, it melted my heart to see his face light up when the moray eel at our LFS swam out, mouth open, to greet him!

All of that being said, we both have some experience in keeping freshwater tanks, but saltwater is a whole new world. We are excited to get started, and I wanted to be able to share that with all of you.

One day, we hope to have a truly expansive tank, but we got a great deal on a used set up which I have detailed below. It was all used to successfully run a mixed tank, and we felt that 75 gallons was a good starting point. We plan on learning a ton over the next year or two with this set up, and will likely replace many of the components as we learn what works, what doesn't, and what we want out of this hobby.

As you will see, I know some specifics on this equipment, but a lot of unknowns, so this will be interesting!

75 gallon drilled glass tank with overflow box and stand. DISCLAIMER: Everything needs to be cleaned, I plan on a vinegar soak next weekend.

Our first step will be refinishing the stand- we are going to sand down and repaint the exterior white, and apply a layer of killz to the interior.
435117D5-3DFE-4485-A43A-BAE6400A19B8.jpg


It also has a 20 gallon sump and 10 gallon refugium that we are excited to explore the opportunities available with a refugium. That will be a future project though.
IMG_3391.JPG


IMG_3401.JPG


The pump is a Lifegard Quiet One 3000 that runs 758 gph. There is also a second Lifegard Quiet One 1200 that runs 317 gph. I'm not sure why there are two. Clearly a lot still to learn!
IMG_3409-1.jpeg


We have a CoraLife 125g Superskimmer.
IMG_3389.JPG


For power heads, there are 2 Hydor Koralina power heads, I am unsure which exact one. And there is a third unknown powerhead.
IMG_3393.JPG


For lighting, there are two Kessel A150w Ocean Blues, and one has 2 "moon lights" attached (whatever that is). Additionally, for the refugium is a Finnex red light, and an LED light
IMG_3407.jpeg
.
IMG_3398.JPG
IMG_3396.JPG


We have 3 Eheim heaters (which seems excessive)- a 200w, 150w, and 25w. I don't think I will need all three for the tank, so I will probably use one to heat water for water changes.
IMG_3402.JPG


I think that covers all of the equipment! Once we get the stand painted, I'm going to have someone from the LFS come out and help me set it all up, to make sure we have all we need for the tank to function! I am interested in hearing anyone's opinions on what we've got. I already have heard that the lighting won't be sufficient for the long term, so I know I will need to make a change in the future, but hopefully this gets us started!
Don't forget to leak test all big tanks outside for 3-5 day, for leaks.

Here's what wait for you one day.

Carnation corals, dendronephthya sp

1268152-9fe72e3ba0aca56de75741bffb11ed1a.jpg IMG_20191216_160914_716.jpg image11.jpeg
 
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Being that heaters are the greatest failure point for a reef. I would not use any of those used heaters on display tank, always use and buy new with heaters.
That is good advice, seems reasonable. I'll have to see if I can find a thread about different heaters. My LFS (and I may be quoting them wrong) said about 2-3 watts per gallon? How many heaters/what heating capacity would you recommend for this set up? Thanks!
 
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BGrand

Only dead fish swim with the stream.
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That is good advice, seems reasonable. I'll have to see if I can find a thread about different heaters. My LFS (and I may be quoting them wrong) said about 2-3 watts per gallon? How many heaters/what heating capacity would you recommend for this set up? Thanks!
Watch this to help you decide on heaters:


and while you are at it go ahead and watch their 52 weeks of reefing. There is a lot of great advice.

 

WiscoFishNut

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That is good advice, seems reasonable. I'll have to see if I can find a thread about different heaters. My LFS (and I may be quoting them wrong) said about 2-3 watts per gallon? How many heaters/what heating capacity would you recommend for this set up? Thanks!
+1 on replacing those heaters. I'd recommend going with 2 for redundancy. 2 x 300 watt should do the trick. I keep a handful of cheapo 50-100 watt heaters on hand to warm up water for water changes and FW top off. Down the road you'll definitely want to look at heater controllers to add some protection from heater failures.
 
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Just to update, life has been hectic the past month between work, a sick baby, traveling for a work conference, and rainy weather on all of my free days. Finally had a chance to vinegar bath all of the equipment and tanks which cleaned Up nicely! Also sanded down the stand in preparation for painting these next few weeks.
I did find what I think is a leak in the refugium, I’m not sure what to make of it or how to go about fixing it. Any advice would be appreciated! (I’ll also post over on the beginner forum)

 
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drknudsenx2
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Much overdue update! The tank is set up and salt water is mixing as I type. I am using Instant Ocean Reef Crystals to start, but will probably switch to Tropic Marin for water changes and long term. It took some playing around with my Durso standpipe, but for the most part it's fairly quiet. Still a little noise as the water enters the sump, kind of a dishwasher sound. After doing some research, I will probably come up with a plan to convert to a Herbie, which seems safer anyways. The tank is located just off the kitchen, so it would be nice to make it as quiet as possible.

I plan on letting the salt mix for about 24 hours, and hopefully tomorrow night we will be able to start cycling- I have a bottle of Seed bacteria in a bottle (I know it's not Dr. Tim's or microbacter, but it was relatively inexpensive and figured I'd give it a try), and will be using Dr. Tim's ammonia- fishless cycle all the way!

I'm really not sure how the previous owner got the skimmer to fit in the sump, I have been having a really tough time of it, so I will be going skimmer-less for the meantime, and then maybe looking at a reef octopus.
I also will let the external refugium sit empty, I don't love that it empties into my first compartment, BEFORE the skimmer, which seems like it would negate a lot of the benefits the refugium can offer. I will simply replumb and let it drop in at the pump, I think.

Lastly, my wife and I spent many hours setting up the ideal (in our eyes) fish playground and coral garden. We are excited for what the future brings, and plan on quarantining our first fish, 2 ocellaris clowns while the tank cycles. They will be named Moana and Maui (which is my son's favorite movie...not a day goes by that we don't watch it at least once or four times!)

IMG_3675.jpeg
B699C2D9-EB85-4875-933B-E92CD8270B71.jpeg
 
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Wooo hooo big day! Thoughts on your plan for Ca and alk repletion?
My plan is to get through cycling the tank, the first couple of water changes, addition of fish and cuc, and track those levels through the process. Probably 2-3 months of worth data to evaluate stability and see what normal levels end up once the tank is stable. Then we will start slow with 1-2 beginner corals and keep a close eye on levels, supplementing as needed. I know a calcium reactor may be in the future, but I’m unsure if I have the space at the moment.
Speaking of which, any recommendations for apps to chart reef parameters? I was just going to use an excel document, but thought there may be a reputable app that makes it easier to see trends?
 

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