Uptown Reef: A Planet Aquarium 215 Gallon Mixed Reef

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Uptown_Reef_Keeper

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Uptown Reef is a Planet Aquarium 215-gallon display that has an actual total system volume of 200 gallons. This system was started with a tank transfer from our previous 75 gallon DIY build in July 2020. It's been seeded with live reef rubble.

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Gear Overview​

  • Planet Aquarium 215-gallon display tank
  • Trigger Triton 44 sump & 10-gallon ATO
  • Ecotech Radio G5 Blues - 2x XR15s on the sides & 1x XR30 in the center
  • 48" Aquatic Life T5 hybrid fixture - 4x blue+ bulbs
  • Ecotech Vectra L2 primary return pump
  • Ecotech Vectra M1 manifold return pump
  • Reef Octopus Classic 202-S skimmer
  • IceCap Co2 scrubber with recirculating airflow
  • Pentair 40w UV sterilizer
  • Neptune Apex automation
    • 2x EB832's
    • 1x EB8
    • 2x FMM modules
    • 2x Flow sensors
    • 4x Leak detectors
    • 2x DOS dosers
    • Trident
    • Breakout box
    • Lunar simulator w/ 4 LEDs
  • Powerheads
    • 3x Nero 5s
    • 2x IceCap 4Ks
  • Tunze Osmolator ATO
  • CaribSea special grade substrate
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Major & Minor Element Management​

  • Salt
    • Tropic Marin Pro
  • BRS Bulk Pharma
    • Soda Ash
    • Calcium
    • Magnesium
  • Sodium Hydroxide/Soda Ash Toggling Program (pH control)
    • There's a sodium hydroxide (lye) dosing head that toggles on/off based on the tank's pH reading. If the pH is greater than 8.2, the system doses BRS soda ash to maintain alkalinity. If the pH is less than 8.2, the system doses sodium hydroxide to maintain alkalinity. The sodium hydroxide is mixed to a concentration that matches the alkalinity supplementation dose of the standard BRS soda ash solution.
    • SAFETY PROTOCOLS: I have several layers of automation safety included to guard against issues caused by the sodium hydroxide/soda ash toggling program. If the pH exceeds 8.4, the system kills power to my skimmer and both DOS's. If the alkalinity (monitored 4x per day) exceeds 10 dkh, the system alerts me and kills power to the DOS's.
  • Reef Moonshiner Trace Element System
    • We use the entire Reef Moonshiner system to manage trace elements. This includes monthly ICP water testing using the ATI water testing kit. Every other month I also send out an ICP test from Coral Vue to monitor Rubidium since it is not included on the ATI test results.
      • Daily Dosing: Iodide, Manganese, Chromium, Cobalt, Iron, Vanadium, VitaCarbX, LiquiMud

AquaScape/Rock Work​

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We used a combination of the Two Little Fishies Stax rocks and Marco foundation rocks to build our rock structures. To bond the rocks together we used the Glue Masters THIN glue and some super fine sand to fill in the gaps. This glue is VERY strong and the only breaks I've had happened when maneuvering the scape and the actual rock broke, not the glued joints.

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We taped off the inside tank perimeter and added 4 inches to the inside so that the structure was sure to remain with the limits of the tank and leave enough room for coral growth and cleaning magnet clearance.

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Once the structure was built, we pre-cycled it in a 100-gallon Rubbermaid stock tank with several pieces of seeded media from our existing tank that had been running for over a year.

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I siliconed 1/4" white starboard in the bottom of the display tank to protect the bottom glass against the rock work and also display a bright white bottom should the sand get blown away over time.

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During the move from the Rubbermaid tank to the display, a couple of pieces of the rock structure broke loose. So, we have to make some last-minute edits to the structures to incorporate the pieces that broke off and ensure the final structure was strong and balanced so as not to risk a fall later as the tank matured and the corals grew out. The final results were excellent in my opinion and they've served the livestock well over the past year as we've added corals and the fish have laid claim to their respective zones.

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Lastly, we added the CaribSea special grade substrate to the bottom of the tank. We then added a dose of ammonia to the system and ensured the rockwork and substrate were cycled over the following 3 weeks before we started the tank transfer from our existing 75-gallon system we'd build the year prior.

Filtration, Sump, & Stand​

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The sump is based around the Trigger Systems Triton 44 acrylic sump was originally set up using dual Durso drain pipes. I've since edited the plumbing returns and drains. I lined the inside of the tank stand with an expanded PVC board to protect the interior from water damage and provide me with a durable surface to mount controllers and dosers to.

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The system now drains using dual Herbie overflows and a single return pump that goes over the top center of the tank. The plumbing edit also allowed me to move the UV sterilizer output to dump directly to the display which is the recommended arrangement to ensure proper sterilization rates. The Herbie overflows significantly quieted down the system! I will NEVER use Durso's again.

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I use a 40 watt Pentair UV sterilizer ran at roughly 200 gph to target fish parasites and diseases.

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The water drains directly into the large refugium full of chaeto and lit with a 300 watt grow light I purchased on Amazon. The light runs opposite my display lights for 12 hours total. I only use a little bit of filter floss in a couple of filter cups. I also keep 2 bags of Siporax biomedia rings and 2 trays of sand. In the trays, I used the Ocean Direct original sand for the added bacterial diversity and finer grade vs. the special grade sand. I also keep about 20lb of live reef rubble in the sump for mounting frags to keep down on the sand bed at a future date.

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After the water travels through the bed of chaeto in the refugium, it falls into the skimmer chamber. I use a Reef Octopus Classic 202-S skimmer in about 8.5" of water. The skimmer is slightly edited to incorporate a large IceCap Co2 scrubber media chamber in a recirculating airflow arrangement. The media lasts about 4 weeks and not only boosts my pH slightly but, it also smooths my daily pH swings. The skimmer cup has an emergency float valve connected to the Apex breakout box. If that float valve engages, the skimmer is shut down so that the Co2 scrubber doesn't dose a lethal amount of melted calcium hydroxide to the tank.

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In the back of the skimmer chamber is a second pump that powers the manifold. The manifold runs a complete loop through the UV sterilizer. I've used 2 additional quick disconnect fittings to run both a carbon and a GFO reactor as needed. The reactors, if running, return right back to the skimmer chamber so that any potential dust can be skimmed out. I use Two Little Fishies Phosban 150 reactors and gate valves to fine-tune the flow to the reactors and the UV. The UV sterilizer line includes an Apex flow sensor to ensure I have the proper flow rates to maximize the positive effects of the UV targeting fish parasites.

After the water travels through the skimmer chamber it travels up through the bubble trap and into the return chamber. The return chamber includes the dosing lines for the soda ash, calcium, magnesium, and sodium hydroxide. There is also a dosing line for vodka that's run by a Kamoer dosing pump. The primary return pump is an Ecotech Vectra L2. It travels directly to the tank and pumps roughly 650 GPH to accomplish about 3.5x display tank turnover. I've calculated the actual system volume to be about 200 gallons.

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I added magnetic latches and door sensors that connect directly to the breakout box.

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If the latches are "open" the outlet with the LED light bars plugged in turns on so that the entire sump area is illuminated. This is something I HIGHLY recommend for anyone with an Apex system and sump doors. I also lined the entire stand with a soundproofing layer. All the doors have a layer of soundproofing as well as a perimeter seal to keep any gaps from letting the refugium light glow out at night. The soundproofing works very well and was extremely easy to install. I purchased the foam on Amazon and it came in a large roll with an adhesive back so I could simply stick it on. In addition to sound, it also provides an additional layer of moisture protection. You may also notice a fan on the far left of the sump. It runs 24/7 and keeps airflow throughout the sump area to keep the humidity down as much as possible.

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The entire right side of the sump is dedicated to my dosing containers and Apex system. There is also one EB832 on the left.

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I use a small backup to keep my internet modem and router connected in the case of a power outage.

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In the case of a power outage, I will be notified by the Apex and have a 4500-watt generator that will run my entire system as well as our fridge and our microwave. This came in handy this past year when we lost power for an entire week. Without this generator, our system would have certainly crashed and there would have been major losses. I keep four 5-gallon gas jugs filled at all times and I also test the generator once a month. The test consists of starting the generator and running at least 1 high load device such as a hairdryer on it so it has a load and ensures the generator can handle not only running but supplying sufficient power.

Flow​

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The powerheads handling flow are all set to random and there are several points to add to the overall turbulence in the tank. There are two IceCap gyre 4K's at either end of the tank. Below the gyre on the left is a Nero 5 that runs at 100% all the time. Just above the Nero 5 on the left is the output of the UV sterilizer.

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On the inside back of the in-tank overflow boxes, there are two Nero 5's opposing each other. These powerheads keep the space behind the rock work clear and add to the dynamic flow through the tank. I used a food sealer to seal the outer magnets of the Nero 5's that are submerged inside the overflow boxes.

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The output of the return pump is a 1" pipe that splits to two 3/4" outputs that have VCA random flow nozzles on them.

Lighting & Canopy​

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The lights I'm using are the result of trying several different options. First, we have the Kessil/T5 hybrid setup. However, the Kessil shimmer was far too intense for us. So, we sold the Kessils and inserted the Radion G5's within the T5 hybrid fixture. We absolutely love the shimmer and light coverage over the tank now. We also chose to keep the 48" fixture we had over the 75-gallon tank and couldn't be happier. Being a mixed reef, it's nice to have lower light areas of the tank to keep our favorite LPS corals. We also use the Apex Lunar simulator LEDs on the back of the fixture and love the dynamic viewing they offer through the moon phases.

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The Radions run at 60% overall intensity for 5 hours with all channels at 100% mix from 12 noon to 5 pm. The T5s are on for 3 hours centered over that 5 hour period from 1 pm to 3 pm. I also include a period of ramping up and down to give me some low-intensity, super-blue viewing time in the morning before I leave for work and in the evening before I go to bed. I've tested the PAR through the tank and adjusted the lights so that the SPS sections are receiving 250-400 PAR at the peak of the photoperiod and the sand bed directly under the lights is getting 150-200 PAR. The far corners of the tank receive 50-100 PAR.

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I have two additional fans in the canopy that run for the 3 hours that the T5's are on. This aids in cooling the lights and keeping the tank from overheating. I also built a small shelf out of the leftover starboard I had from the bottom of the display tank. I added a piece of velcro to the shelf and use it to keep the autofeeder on. I used the Red Sea net cover kit to build the nets and highly recommend the Red Sea kit over the kits you can purchase at Home Depot. The Red Sea nets are much heavier and a higher quality option with the ability to notch around things you may have on the back of the tank.

Water Room​

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I'm fortunate enough to have a home that includes a utility room with a sink and a wife willing to let me use it for our reef. The utility room sits directly behind the tank and I would certainly plumb the entire system over there if we planned to be in the house forever. Regardless, I've arranged the room to house my water testing, daily dosing for Reef Moonshiner elements, and easy access to the RODI system to monitor TDS and change filter out when needed. I added a shelf above the sink area for added storage. I found some nice acrylic shelves on Amazon that fit the Reef Moonshine bottles perfectly as well. This opened up additional counter space for my magnetic stirrer, scale, and beakers. I used a piece of Rubbermaid slat wall to attach a paper towel holder and some additional hanging cups to hold various utensils I used regularly. I can keep my nets hung up and out of the way and use a small dry erase board to keep track of my weekly water tests and parameters not tracked by the Trident.

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On the far right, I have another acrylic shelf to hold all of my water tests and the bacteria I dose weekly, Prodibio and MicroBacter7. The RODI system has output lines ran directly to the ATO container beneath my display tank as well we two different Brute containers out in my garage adjacent to the utility room. One of the Brutes is for fresh salt and the other is for RODI. I also have a single line output at the sink for RODI water I use to clean water test equipment.

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I have an Amazon Fire tablet mounted on the wall to display my Apex dashboard at all times.

Livestock Photos​

We have a ton of livestock - too much to list entirely. We have about 50 pieces of branching SPS, 20-30 pieces of LPS and softies, and roughly 30 different fish. Some of the highlights include a whitetail bristle tooth tang (Spaz), a blonde naso tang (Wilber), a tiny yellow coris wrasse, mystery wrasse, super male Bimac anthias, 3 female bimac anthias, 2 dragonface pipefish, orange back fairy wrasse, melanurus wrasse, and 2 clownfish (one onyx percula and one ocellaris). Some of the standout corals include an indophyllia, lobophyllia, several nice torches and hammers, walt disney, tyree pinky the bear, blue tort, strawberry shortcake, candleobra, foxflame, and pink lemonade.

Enjoy!​

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To wrap up the first post in my build thread here's a shot of the system will all the doors and canopy open.​

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Thanks for checking out Uptown Reef!​

Let me know what you think!​

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A Piece of the Ocean for Every Reef Tank

Jgerm

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The shine is where it’s at!
For sure!
Question for you, how are you liking the recirculating Co2 scrubber? I have mine not setup as recirculating and have been thinking about doing this for a little bit more stability.
 
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Uptown_Reef_Keeper

Uptown_Reef_Keeper

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For sure!
Question for you, how are you liking the recirculating Co2 scrubber? I have mine not setup as recirculating and have been thinking about doing this for a little bit more stability.
I wouldn’t run it any other way. The media lasts 4x as long. In addition to that, the fact that it’s continuously removing Co2 from the tank rather than simply injecting air without Co2 simply makes more sense and is inherently more beneficial in my opinion. The primary thing you absolutely have to if recirculating is use a float valve in the skimmer cup or in a skimmate collection container. You do not want a skimmer to overflow and dose that calcium hydroxide to the tank.
 

Jgerm

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I wouldn’t run it any other way. The media lasts 4x as long. In addition to that, the fact that it’s continuously removing Co2 from the tank rather than simply injecting air without Co2 simply makes more sense and is inherently more beneficial in my opinion. The primary thing you absolutely have to if recirculating is use a float valve in the skimmer cup or in a skimmate collection container. You do not want a skimmer to overflow and dose that calcium hydroxide to the tank.
The float sensor is sitting in my toolbox waiting for me to have some free time to install, so I am right there in agreement with you. I have been running on the low side of PH even with my scrubber. You can see my media died today and I had to change. I would bet I could raise it to a better range with the recirculating change. Granted I am seeing great growth and colors right now but it can always be better.
 

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Uptown_Reef_Keeper

Uptown_Reef_Keeper

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The float sensor is sitting in my toolbox waiting for me to have some free time to install, so I am right there in agreement with you. I have been running on the low side of PH even with my scrubber. You can see my media died today and I had to change. I would bet I could raise it to a better range with the recirculating change. Granted I am seeing great growth and colors right now but it can always be better.
It bumps min about .1 and I’m not sure what it’s do not recirculating. My primary pH management comes from the sodium hydroxide and soda ash toggling program. That said, I’m seriously considering using a kalk stirrer on a future build.
 
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Uptown_Reef_Keeper

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Nice setup How do u like that model skimmer Thinks of investing in one, Thanks
I have absolutely zero complaints about the skimmer. It's very easy to tune in and is predictable. Always produces a good amount of thick skimmate. If I had more room, I would probably choose a skimmer with an external pump simply to increase the chamber size and produce a taller column of foam.
 
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