Worst. Movie. Ever. (an Illinois Stateline reef enthusiasts journey)

StatelineReefer

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Or "Everyone Else is doing a build thread, I don't wanna get left out!"
or "How I learned to stop worrying and love the crash"
or ... yeah, it's literally the worst movie you can ever imagine, but it's my tank build thread!

TL;DR, I learned a lot from reddit, so this series will be divided into two sections
The first section will be the current tank, and how it progresses day after day.
The second section will be the biography of my reefkeeping history, the tanks I've kept, my successes, failures, and what I learned from them!
The second section will be in italics, because why not.


Day Three! (Yes, it's just like Momento, you don't get to see how it started until the end!)

Journey log 01/02/2020 Salt has been added to the aquarium... an eerie fog hangs over the... wait, that's not fog, it's underwater... it's Precipi.....

20200102_220142.jpg


... tation. Yes, it's true, while adding salt, I goofed on the mixing time, so I went from crystal clear in the 55 gallon brute, to a blizzard of epic proportions in the display tank.

Speaking of which, the display tank is a 75 gallon reef ready by All-Glass, remember them? I wish I didn't!

Supporting cast and credits

Lighting!
2 Chinese Black Boxes, now fully upgraded with custom spectrum, Meanwell drivers, and better fans!

1 Storm LED Controller (With a nicely 3d printed case, and 0-10v add on board)

Plumbing!
Two Jebao SLW-20

Jebao DCQ-10000 The second of the brand new items to this build!

Reactor!!! No, it's not nuclear, or even GFO, it's a sulfur reactor. It's ugly, but it's mine and it works!
(Well, worked, during this reboot I've had to open the flow to it far beyond what it normally takes, and as such annihilated the anoxic zone within)


The reactor had to go. I'm happy that it provided a bacterial seed while the tank was down, but there was just too much bad stuff going on inside it to bother with.

Somatic 60s Sump

Somatic 60s Skimmer that came with the sump... (Insert ominous grumbling here about cordite and skimmer pumps)

Livestock!

Rock!
118 LBS of various and sundry rock collected through a 20 year tank lifespan!


Following with the movie premise of this build thread, I decided last October to start my tank up again. It had sat idle in the basement since 2015. I haven't been without a tank since 92 when I started the hobby with the help of my LFS in Lombard, IL. Through their guidance, I started a mixed reef in a 29 gallon, which, at the time, seemed downright unthinkable. The technology just wasn't there. LPS and Soft corals in a 29 gallon was like saying you're going to start the great barrier reef in a dixie cup. So I cycled, added live rock, and started, slowly, adding corals to the smallest saltwater tank anyone nearby had dared. I subscribed to Advanced Aquarist. I had Thiel's book, "Marine Fish and Invertebrate Aquarium", Nick Dakin (And Julian Sprung) put out a book right after I got into the hobby, in fact, right after I was done cycling the 29 gallon, which was titled "Book of the Marine Aquarium"

So now I had two books, a subscription, a tank, and I had a whole four people to ask about reefkeeping!

90's era me was THRILLED!

90's era me was also a 16 year old kid with a commodore 64, the 300 baud modem, and a curious streak.

90's era me found entire Bulletin Boards based on reefkeeping!

So 90's era me joined a cult... I mean... a reefkeepers online discussion board.

6 years of success with the 29, and one year after finding this bulletin board, I was tearing everything apart.

Jaubert!!!! We had discovered Jaubert!

Well, not technically, Jaubert had been around since before I started reefkeeping. Deep Sand Beds with plenums just hadn't been used at the time. They became repopularized in 1999. This is about the time I remember reefkeeping exploding. It's also about the time I remember reefkeeping becoming more work than enjoyment! I mean, up until that point, my only worry was nitrate, and calcium. My fish and corals looked healthy, even in my 29 gallon slice of the ocean (Which, yes, I looked! I tried to find old pictures, I could find none!).

Now with all these new ideas, these better ways of reefkeeping, these monumental breakthroughs in technology and innovation my 29 gallon was in grave danger of a tank crash! All the local stores, and local reefkeepers, and the experts said so! It must be true! Thus the 75 gallon Reef Ready was bought. Tank and stand and glass covers, eurobrace in the center. Big durso standpipes. It was everything I'd ever dreamed of... Well, everything I'd ever dreamed of if you completely ignored the Perfecto 220's on the other side of the store with a clearance price that makes them almost as much as my 75 gallon. But no... alas, I lived in an apartment at the time, and would never dream of leaving my apartment. a 75 gallon will be the perfect size forever and always....

(Editors Note! I SHOULD HAVE BOUGHT THE 220!!!!)


We will continue this journey in tomorrows edition of Worst. Movie. Ever.
 
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StatelineReefer

StatelineReefer

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Day 4 Journey Log 01/03/2020

The snowstorm has subsided, I can see both peaks before me.
Despite my fear of an ongoing blizzard, there is no trace of last night's disaster.
We shall continue to the summit in the morning.

20200104_000622[1].jpg


The tank is beginning it's cycle, as I promised in my meet and greet thread, bare rock will NOT make for pretty pictures.
I'm sorry, I'm also one of those old school reefers brought up on a 90 day cycle of caution and documentation. This isn't to say that the instant cycles in a bottle don't work, I know they do. And I WILL be using them. But everything in this tank will be measured, slow, and purposeful.

So I may as well go over what's going to happen in the next month or two. I've been looking at Noopsyche K7 II's to replace my CBBs and the Coral LED controller. I do like the storm effect the controller gives, but the CBBs aren't responsive enough to show anything more than a quick dimming and brightening, at the lowest setting they will not turn off, it has everything to do with how they're built and controlled, and I REALLY don't feel like gutting them and replacing the driver. If I'm doing that, I'd be better off gutting them, desoldering all the LEDs and replacing them with new, with different spectrums, and that's just plain more expensive than I'd like it, and more time than I'm willing to put into them. They made it 5 years. Good purchase, saved money over T5's, make like Frozen and Let It Go.

I'm also going to take my first steps into complete automation with an ATO and a dosing pump. That's a scary proposition because two things have never happened to me. I've never crashed a tank due to salinity, and I've never overflowed a tank.

(There won't be a part 2 in this posting! Yay! Memory Lane is closed for construction)
 
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StatelineReefer

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Change the title. Coolest. Adventure. Ever. :)

20200104_230719.jpg

Nope, that shrimp carcass in the center has the coolest adventure ever.
It will go from a fate of being breaded and served with marinara to being the fuel for an entire ecosystems foundation.

Ammonia is still at zero, nitrate at .2, bottle of Dr. Tim's added last night after the photo. (And the kind reply, thank you both!) So hopefully we'll see some chemical swings occur. I AM entertaining the notion that I had a colony of still living and quite active bacteria in the sulfur reactor though. We'll see how the test readings of the next week play out.

SG is at 1.028, which is right where I want it to max out at.

Step back, dear reader, to 1999. The world was abuzz with Y2K problems, I had a great career in the booming IT industry, replete with certifications that ensured I would have a long and happy work-life at my company, which was a privately owned VAR, or, Value Added Reseller. I built computers all night on the 3rd shift, and my daytime life was my own. I had made a lot of money in the year or so that I'd been working where I did, and there didn't seem to be an end to it all. My wife and I joked that if it kept up like this we would need to retire early. Ah 90's, what a cruel joke you were on me.

We bought a house. Well, no, we didn't buy a house, we financed a house. And thus came the time to move. A 75 gallon tank is not a difficult thing to move, I found out... the tank itself weighs nearly nothing. It's the rock, and livestock, and water, and keeping all these things safe that is an issue.

Incredibly, everything went amazing, the tank was installed in the living room, right near the entrance, where all could see it and enjoy viewing my accomplishments. Three months into owning... well... paying for... the new home, things started to go awry.

You see, the privately held company I enjoyed working for had been entertaining the notion of a separate branch, one in North Carolina. Awesome! Several people left to work there.... (And they were never heard from again!!!!) Didn't change my job one bit...

Except it did. I was now 'promoted' to second shift. Meaning all the cleaning, waterkeeping, and livestock management had to be put off until after I got off work, instead of before I left for work. So I would get home around midnight, and go about testing parameters, changing water, and generally making noise, which did not sit well with my wife, who, unlike me, worked a "Normal job at normal hours". So my waterkeeping went from four times a week... to two times a week, to once a week, to "Meh, I don't want to wake her up again... "

Shortly thereafter, things went bad.
 
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Katrina71

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I understand shift work and respecting others sleeping. Have you considered AWC or even no water changes?
 
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I understand shift work and respecting others sleeping. Have you considered AWC or even no water changes?
I went the no water change route for a couple years... (You're spoiling my next episode with that! ;) ) While I didn't have any issues at first, it did lead to a general apathy, and later, to a decline in my tank that couldn't be recovered from. And I mean that in multiple ways. Thankfully my wife and I are on the same sleeping schedule now, well, for the most part. And tank maintenance is done in the early morning and late evening.
 
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Well, the last 21 days have been slow but smooth sailing. The tank has been doing tank things. Dr. Tims one and only made short work of the nitrogen cycle, and this morning marked one week of being ammonia and nitrite free.

So I celebrated by returning to the place where it all began, Tropi-quatics in Lombard, IL. Things have certainly changed, and I had a mild apprehension upon first walking in. Livestock was healthy, and the college kids behind the counter weren't as horrible or inattentive as I had initially feared they might be.

Thankfully, TQ's stock of live rock was as plentiful as ever, and the stock tank that holds it was full of pods and critters. So I picked up a few pieces, and an algae blenny that looked fat, happy, and young. A two hour drive later, and I was home. blenny's water tested at 1.017sg, liverock water tested at 1.023sg, so set the observation 10g to 1.020 and began acclimating the blenny. One piece of live rock went in the tank, the other into the observation tank/quarantine so he'd have a perch.

There was a single bubble of bubble algae on the rock that went into the observation tank... It stays until I know that valonia isn't virulent.
 
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Thirteen days later... the tank is still beautiful, to me anyways. Algae is well under control. That piece of valonia I was worried about is gone, as is almost all of the algae in my tank.

20200208_223902.jpg

This little guy has been absolutely wonderful in my tank. Sorry about the blue, it's his bedtime.

20200205_142630.jpg

I must be a gambling man, because I took a chance on a Raccoon Butterfly.

Thank heavens for Rod's Food, because he eats like there's no tomorrow.

Hasn't touched a coral polyp yet, although he does like the mucus the chalice at the bottom produces... in fact, the only reason the chalice is at the bottom is he moved it there himself. That little overhang in the middle is apparently 'Home'. He hangs out there whenever it's not feeding time, or when I'm not at the tank. I'm sure one day he'll turn corallivore on me, but right now, he's doing alright.
 

MombasaLionfish

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Thirteen days later... the tank is still beautiful, to me anyways. Algae is well under control. That piece of valonia I was worried about is gone, as is almost all of the algae in my tank.

20200208_223902.jpg

This little guy has been absolutely wonderful in my tank. Sorry about the blue, it's his bedtime.

20200205_142630.jpg

I must be a gambling man, because I took a chance on a Raccoon Butterfly.

Thank heavens for Rod's Food, because he eats like there's no tomorrow.

Hasn't touched a coral polyp yet, although he does like the mucus the chalice at the bottom produces... in fact, the only reason the chalice is at the bottom is he moved it there himself. That little overhang in the middle is apparently 'Home'. He hangs out there whenever it's not feeding time, or when I'm not at the tank. I'm sure one day he'll turn corallivore on me, but right now, he's doing alright.
Good luck with that racoon butterfly. I do not know much about them.
 

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Don’t think you can have any sorta lps or softies in your display with that Raccoon. Maybe some stony sps.
 
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So I don't have any softies in my tank, and probably never will. Not keen on Acans and blasto/micromussas either.

The chalice you see at the bottom was a free extra tossed in when I bought the other frags and the raccoon. He picked the coral mucus off that the first day, and hasn't gone after it since.

That chalice is the closest I'll come to an actual LPS. Everything else will be battlecorals sticks and plates.

I'm a sucker for sps, and it's always been my dream to have a colony dominated reef.

That being said, I AM keeping an eye on my corals and their polyps, as many have said that their raccoons went wild on even sps after getting a taste and liking it. So far however he's been quite content to devour any and all copepods that he sees and any Rods Food that he can fit in his mouth (I have to chop it fine, probably going to get a different type next time)
 
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So clearly I cannot exist without Murphys Law impeding my progress. I just finished soldering new drivers into my LED fixtures, wire up a new 230v circuit, my son wires the outlet above, and we step back to take a look at our handiwork...
15823333439743357963998896099107.jpg



Yeah that's not gonna work.
 
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So I've been rebuilding my CBB's... again. This time I went with quality parts from US suppliers

$154.34 well spent... here's the breakdown.

20 15000 kelvin whites.
20 6500 kelvin whites
20 470nm blues.
20 450nm royal blues
10 380-840nm 'full spectrum' pinks... these are the same that are used in 'grow lights'.
10 430nm violets
10 510nm 'turquoise'

Powered by a new 230v circuit and four Meanwell ODLC-65a-700's

It's... a LOT brighter than a standard 'Mars Aqua' light.
The LEDs are driven at their true rating, so it's a crisp, clean light.
I've also got true 0-10v control, and dimming to 0%, thanks to the ODLC's and a Storm controller.

For the price, I probably should have gone with a pair of Noopsyches... but this way I got to select the exact spectrum I wanted to display. Pictures to come as I cobble together the second one, the first is done, but I'm way too tired to fire it up again and photograph it. At least on the second one I'll document everything, including my horrible solder job and how mind-numbingly tedious it is to remove 55 LEDs off an aluminum substrate with a cheap soldering station.

10/10 would yawn while desoldering and burn my arm again.
 
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So I figured I'd show the breakdown and rebuild process of these CBBs I love and hate so much... Starting with what they look like when they fail.

See this top center diode? Dead, burnt, and stopped the rest of the chain from working.

It's gotta go.
20200222_011514.jpg


It doesn't help that to begin with, they look like this one below.
20200227_021833.jpg


Or, when they begin to fail due to heat, this one... see the 'cataract' in it?
20200227_022013.jpg

Some gentle heat...

20200227_022132.jpg

And a little pry with a curved esd tweezer.

The pad completely seperated from one... that is the little orange square.
20200227_025452.jpg


A little heatsink compound...

20200227_042955.jpg


And a working map... you can see the multispectrum LEDs already soldered on.
20200227_045652.jpg

Fan work... I've pulled the old fans and replaced them with 80mm 5v USB fans.
20200227_063935.jpg

230v 65w ballast. I got tired of having a cheap power supply for these.
This is 0-10v controllable, and so much easier to work with.
Meanwell makes a great power supply.
20200227_065910.jpg

The finished pattern.
20200228_071940.jpg

And finally a full tank shot on 30% brightness all channels.
20200228_133743.jpg
 
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Captain's Log, day 61.

Alk 11.2
Calcium 440
Mg 1620
SG 1.028
0 Ammonia and Nitrite
Nitrate 28 ppm
Phos .06

Having the lights on my bench for a week has killed my montipora, although I suspect my naughty raccoon butterflyfish had a hand in it's demise as well... he is a coral picker, and he must go.

The pink coralline from ArcReef is starting to take hold... the urchin doesn't want it to, but the urchin doesn't get a say in it.

The algae blenny has been getting fat... like, comically fat. He now fills the little crevice he sleeps in... if he keeps it up, he won't fit. At least I know any algae that dares to grow will be snuffed out. Best fish ever.
 
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Day 64: My Raccoon butterflyfish has been safely returned from the store whence he came. I now have three banggai cardinals in quarantine, but still something feels lacking.

The little troublemaker grew on me even while he was in quarantine. It only took me 10 minutes to catch him, and most of that was preparing a bag to transport him in once the store agreed to take him back. He just swam up to my hand when I put it in the tank, and I slipped the bag up around him as he nibbled the Rods Food in my hand.

When I lifted him out of the tank, the look of bewilderment and betrayal in his eyes said it all.

I miss him more than the corals he ate, but I have a Battlebox coming, and it is not supposed to be a butterflyfish happy meal.
 
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Day 65: So much work to do, and I still don't know where to begin.

Finished up preparing the dosing pumps, I look at my tank, and I feel like there is a lot missing that I should be doing.

Coralline spots are growing slowly on the old rock. It's a good sign, the parameters are right for it. I might get a second bottle from @ARCreef but I REALLY am waiting to hear about their blue coralline, as two of the rocks I currently have were actually thickly coated in the stuff before I took the tank down in 2006. I've missed the sight of deep blue under orange and green ever since.

Coming closer to the deadline of when my first corals will be arriving... A little over a month. Starting to get that gnawing feeling at the back of my mind that says I should be doing more to prepare.

I know it's probably because I'm used to the old ways of doing things, when keeping SPS was voodoo and science rolled into a crispy art shell and deep fried at 36ppt, but I've never had truly long term success keeping coral, and that old fear comes back every time I'm ready to enjoy the hobby again.
 
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