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Today's Experiment


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#1
MrAnderson

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After seeing adin challenging authority by actually keeping a reef, I decided to risk my own mod-ship by starting one up myself.

I've always been fascinated by those close-up shots of natural reefs and all the variety of life found on a very small scale. For a long time now I've been mulling over how to achieve that level of diversity in the tank. I know that in all tanks there's a certain degree of competition and after some time dominant organisms outcompete others and one usually ends up with a dominant coraline, a dominant algae, etc, etc. Regardless, I've been wanting to attempt my own "diversity project" for a while and thanks to an offer I couldn't refuse for some mint second hand equipment from PotysGSXR I got my chance.

The tank is a 6 gallon Tru-Vu with integrated sump and skimmer. The equipment list is as follows:

6 gallon Tru-Vu
Red Sea Berlin Airlift 60 skimmer
Coralife Luft air pump
Visi-Therm Stealth 50W heater
Current Satellite 2x18W
Current Sunpaq 18W dual daylight 6700/10K
Current Sunpaq 18W dual actinic 420nm/460nm

Time for a leak test:

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shot of rear of tank:

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Fairly satisfied with the hardware end of things I ordered some drygoods from DrsFosterSmith.com:

Tropic-Marin Pro Reef salt
Carib-Sea Aragamax sand
Coralife digital thermometer
various test kits

At this point it was time for some live stuff. Many considerations came into play here considering the nature of my goals. Obviously I needed some very fresh live rock, and for this I turned to Premium Aquatics. They have a somewhat unique setup (but not the only vendor like this) in that they get their rock directly and VERY quickly from the collectors. I called to see what they had that was very fresh and their Kaelini was apparently very recently collected. As such, the rock was about as "fresh off the reef" as I could find. Obviously I ordered uncured, 15 lbs, knowing that not all would make it into the display or the tank itself. (I used some of the leftover to start a 2.5 pico, but that's for another thread).

Another consideration was that I had meant to order Arag-Alive sand in order to help with the cure/cycle, but instead I ordered plain dry Aragamax. To help this along I ordered a portion of their "Rock Pool Sludge" live sand to mix with the dry Aragamax.

Additionally, although they recommended 2 day shipping and assured me that it would ship fine, I requested overnight shipping; since LR typically ships wrapped in wet towels I wanted to minimize its out-of-water time to as little as possible, and also avoid having the box sit in some 100 degree truck or warehouse during shipping.

That done and expecting the rock and sand the next day, I mixed up 3 gallons of the Tropic Marin Pro Reef to a SG of 1.025 to heat and circulate overnight. As a baseline value for future dosing considerations I checked out the salient parameters of the salt:

carbonate hardness: 7.4 dKH
Calcium: 420 ppm

very close to natural seawater conditions - NICE!

The next day the rock showed up at 9AM and I immediately unwrapped it (smelled like the beach at low tide, not nasty at all) and got it into the water while I set up the rest of the tank. At first glance the rock looked incredible - almost completely covered in coraline of literally a dozen or more colors, a couple sprigs of Halimeda sp., two decent sized (~3" around) colonies of encrusting Montipora sp., and a 1" colony of Sinularia. I didn't think any of the corals would make it, but I'll get to that.

The live sand was indeed what one would expect of something called "rock pool sludge", very fine sand mixed with many small coral skeleton fragments. When ordering on the phone they aid this was the LS with the most life, and already I could see a few things moving about. Another score. I mixed about half of the sludge with the dry sand to make a sandbed of about 1" - 1.5". I then got the rock into the tank after making more water.

At every step after I got the rock into the water I took various steps to insure minimal stress and die-off. This means all water that came into contact with anything alive was premixed to exactly 1.025 SG, aerated and heated to 80 degF, and I kept things in the water as much as possible, minimizing contact with air from this point out. Even though it was shipped out of water, organisms will still get stressed each time it goes out AND back in in many respects like temperature, O2 levels, dessication and rehydration, pH, the list is endless. So once it made it into the water, it stayed in the water.

a shot soon after filling the tank:

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Great, now comes the scary part. Since this was uncured rock I was worried about what I might see regarding ammonia, nitrite and nitrates during curing/cycling; I was particularly worried about the corals. What to do? Normally, many reefers do not change their water during curing and keep and it dark. Considering my goals of keeping as much life as possible (yes, even the hitch-hikers) this wasn't really a viable route in my opinion. So I did my first test at 24 hrs to see what I was dealing with. During this time I ran the skimmer pretty aggressively. The results were:

Day One:
NH4: 0.08 mg/L
NO2: 5 mg/L
NO3: <0.2 mg/L

At this point I just DID NOT want to see ammonia so I did a 75% water change, kept running the skimmer, ran the lights about 4-6 hrs per day, and checked again the next day:

Day Two:
NH4: 0.02 mg/L
NO2: 5 mg/L
NO3: 1 mg/L

Another 75% water change.

Day 3:
NH4: <0.02 mg/L
NO2: 2.5 mg/L
NO3: 0.2 mg/L

Since these levels seemed to be below what I would consider alarming, I didn't change any water, and ran the skimmer a bit more conservatively. Here's a shot of 24hrs of skimmate on Day 3:

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About the corals: I was using the Sinularia as a readout for overall water quality, watching the polyps each day to see how they fared. I figured that if they looked happy the water quality was probably OK, a backup to my testing. The Sinularia had arrived a bit banged up and polyps didn't open in the middle of the colony. Over the span of the last week, the coral has healed nicely and all polyps are out and very well extended. However, the Montis never opened up and didn't make it, nor would I expect SPS shipped dry to do so.

The Sinularia towards the bottom of the photo on day 3 (sorry for the poor pics, it's my phone, LG Chocolate):

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you can see how not all the polyps open...

onward...

Day 4:
NH4: 0.0 mg/L
NO2: 0.5 mg/L
NO3: 0.0 mg/L

This result was surprising. Since the rock was uncured and I hadn't changed the water for 48 hrs, I expected everything to go up, or at least SOME values to go up, not drop like this. NOT COMPLAINING THOUGH. Again, I didn't see a reason to change the water.

Day 5:
NH4: 0.0 mg/L
NO2: 0.1 mg/L
NO3: 0.0 mg/L

Again, surprised but not complaining. Again, no water change.

a pic of the tank at this time:

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Because of all the detritus and the water quality being ok, I added 2 Astrea sp. and Nassarius sp. snails to help clean off the rock. Will this muck things up? I thought maybe it would. Luckily it didn't.

Days 6, 7, 8:
NH4: 0.0 mg/L
NO2: 0.0 mg/L
NO3: 0.0 mg/L

So is it over? Cured and cycled already? Only time will tell... However, I can say with some certainty that up until right now there has been very little die-ff, as evidenced by the nitrogen cycle parameters and I'd venture to say that every little bit probably helped.

Today is day 8, a pic of the tank ten minutes ago:

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The rock is still a bit dirty, the snails are moving like... well, snails. Once it's fully cleaned off and if I can get a decent camera maybe people can see how nice the rock really is. You can see the Sinularia in the bottom right quarter of the tank - it's so much happier looking!! Also, the Halimeda has strted growing new buds. The coraline started bleaching overall on day 3 or 4, but the last day or two it has colored back up noticeably. Yes, the lighting arrangement of the pics is a bit different, but it really has changed.

I'll try to post frequent updates, I plan on using this thread as a logbook of sorts to back up my real logbook.

THANK YOU FOR LOOKING!!!

MrA
my inner strength flowing, I mastered chi kung
ya'll planet of the apes, standing next to king kong

#2
121a

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love the aquascaping. wonder how it will look stocked.

Main Tank: 150g Reef

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#3
r20crazy

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that rock on top one larger piece? looks good.

dare I say it...... not bad for a mod.... :o B)

... if you stick your finger in your arse long enough you can talk to your fish.
(I apparently lack the patience needed for this)

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man, look at all that delicious meat nestled between those 2 huge breasts

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#4
MrAnderson

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oh yes, about the aquascaping:

looking down from above, it's a c-shaped canyon. from the front you can see there's room at the top in various fashion for high-light, and at the bottom for whatever. the sides are fairly dappled with shade, and I'm hoping this will encourage coraline growth since that usually does not take well to high light.

my plan for stocking is for one or two Montipora capricornis on the middle-sides of the canyon, the shaded areas should encourage growth towards the center and up, towards light. I think a nice scroll or plate formation would look good right in the middle as a centerpiece. Perhaps a few shrooms, rics or GSP near the bottom should do it. Nothing crazy, the rock is beautiful enough to stand on it's own if I'm able to properly preserve it....

that rock on top one larger piece? looks good.

dare I say it...... not bad for a mod.... :o B)


lol thx...

the upper left? yeah, that really makes the "canyon" complete.
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#5
pheallox

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does look god but how vertical is that rock it looks like a sheer cliff might be hard to stock...but again nice tank(for a mod) :D

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So you know what I did? I punched him in the face for a couple of minutes. That shut him right up.


#6
Gvtv44

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More Pics! Looking good.. need more info on flow and stuff like that- if you want some extra cheato, I may have some after your tank is all nice and cycled- it should have pods too. (Freebie of course)

Edited by Gvtv44, 08 September 2007 - 08:55 PM.


#7
MrAnderson

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thanks fellas...

flow? there's a Rio (cough) blahblah. I forget the model number. It moves a LOT of water though.

here's a little history of this tank, mikeguerrero was the original owner and there are more pics of the hardware in this thread:

http://www.nano-reef...?...c=85683&hl=
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ya'll planet of the apes, standing next to king kong

#8
Gvtv44

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Wow, talk about staying in the N-R.com family :lol: It's been around! Pm me when you want cheato ;)

#9
ezcompany

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thanks fellas...

flow? there's a Rio (cough) blahblah. I forget the model number. It moves a LOT of water though.

here's a little history of this tank, mikeguerrero was the original owner and there are more pics of the hardware in this thread:

http://www.nano-reef...?...c=85683&hl=

i knew i've seen that truvu and berlin skimmer somewhere

#10
Diskusting

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thats alot of rock, not going to be much room for coral.
Yeah.

#11
MrAnderson

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As i mentioned I'm not planning on keeping too much. I'm not a fan of the dozen-tiny-frags-in-one-little-tank look, it's an unnatural arrangement. Corals don't end up packed together like that in the wild, and keep in mind this is a 12" cube. So that means one or two med sized colonies of SPS at most.

There will be one or two Monti caps as centerpieces, and there's plenty of room for that. The bottom has gently sloping rock and I plan for that to have some low-light stuff, prob zoas, shrooms or rics.

oh, also, there's a lot more deptyh than it seems , check the first pic. From the front it is very "flat" looking, even though it's 8" from front to back. It's the one thing I don't like about this tank, the diffraction of the acrylic makes it look like it's only 6" or so from front to back. When you look at it from the side you realize there's actually a decent amount of room.
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#12
Withers

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I LOVE that aquascape. Have you considered any zoanthids for the spots where SPS won't have room to grow?

#13
MrAnderson

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I LOVE that aquascape. Have you considered any zoanthids for the spots where SPS won't have room to grow?


thanks vic!

YES! Although the light is more than adequate for softies, I'm going to experiment with low-light things to grow on the cliff-y areas. I think the dappled light on those surfaces will a) encourage coraline and B ) allow for things to grow to find their own preferred lighting. Sort of "coral shelter" if you will, not everything likes to be roasted under the strong areas of light. In my old 6 gal, I noticed my GSPs grew to avoid the strongest areas of light when they were placed high in the tank, so that's sort of what I'm thinking. If they want the stronger light, they can grow towards it, if not, they can find mixed shade elsewhere.

oh and Gtv44: it's a Rio 600.
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#14
spanko

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Good stuff Mr. A. Just tagging along to see how it goes. Want to see what yo come up with as a diversity project and it's evolution. Keep us going with pics and information please.

#15
yardboy

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....Corals don't end up packed together like that in the wild, and keep in mind this is a 12" cube. So that means one or two med sized colonies of SPS at most.
...


I like your rockwork and am looking forward to seeing the tank developed but please avoid blanket statements like the above. I have dove extensively in the Caribbean, and yes the corals do not always grow very thick there, but I've also dove in many places in the Pacific and I've seen the same kinds of competition for space there as I've seen in my tank, with stuff growing so dense you can't see the rock underneath.
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Edited by yardboy, 17 September 2007 - 12:20 PM.


#16
MrAnderson

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I understand what you are saying, but that's not really what I meant. Do you really see 12-15 different species of coral growing in a single square foot the way people pack frags into their tanks? Don't forget that my tank is a 12" cube, if one were to teleport one square foot of reef from the biotopes you've pictured above, there would still be only a few species there, at least as far as I can tell from the pictures you've posted.
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#17
spanko

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I have seen the second picture before and love it. Wouldn't it be a great tank if you could have a large low cube with coral placed like that?

Sorry Mr. A did not want to hijack your thread but I just love the look of that reef.

#18
MrAnderson

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no prob, i don't mind that eye-candy in my thread! those pics ARE stunning, particularly the one you mentioned.
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#19
nano-paul

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Oh crapz....Mr. A found the reefin' section :)

Lookin' good!!

#20
Christopher Marks

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Cool setup MrAnderson! At this rate, I'll be setting up a tank soon :scarry:
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#21
MrAnderson

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omgomgomg I've been found out!!

thanks chris!
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#22
Withers

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Cool setup MrAnderson! At this rate, I'll be setting up a tank soon :scarry:


Blasphemy!

What is it with the mods and tanks all of a sudden?

#23
MrAnderson

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we've recovered from reefing burnout? that's my story at least. now that i have another 6 gal i'm back in top-off hell... shopping ATOs as we speak...
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#24
Duncan

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I like the tall rockscape, a real depth perspective.

Have you consider the non-photosynthesis corals? I think they'd look cool under the shelters and cliffs.
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#25
MrAnderson

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interesting idea... feeding those types of corals can be sloppy though, can't it? i'm a little worried about water quality at first glance, but I'm going to research that more.

thanks for the idea duncan!
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