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My First (2) Marine Tank(s)


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#1
creacom

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I have always liked fish and have had aquariums from time to time with tropical fish, but never a salt-water tank. After I discovered Nano-Reefs, I really liked the idea of a self-contained, simple marine tank. I have been reading on this and other threads and setting up some tanks since December of 2008 and am starting this thread to get feedback and suggestions and to (eventually) help others who have the same questions I have.

I am new at this and expect to make mistakes. Feel free to comment/correct.

#2
marinebiologist

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what tank are you getting?

Fear marinebiologist. He has a hamster with a gun, and isn't afraid to use it for some frags.

04/09/2009 02:21 PM <fullmeal88> nobody hates u im sure ur gods greatest gift to mankind


#3
creacom

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Equipment and Modifications


I purchased two JBJ Nano-cubes, 12 gallons each. They are the older "G" model I think. They just have one 24W lamp in the hoods which I have read is not nearly enough. I set the tanks up with "live sand" and a bit of "live rock" (both of which I doubt were truely "live") and left it running for months while I researched and considered what I would do.


After a few months, and when I finally had a moment, I emptied the tanks and made the following modifications:


Filtration:


The first thing that had to be fixed was the filtration. I could not get the water to look clean enough. My water comes from my CoraLife RO/DI system with 0ppm TDS. I add the Red Sea Pro salt (I heard there was a difference), and experimented with maintaining the water level and salinity as well as testing for NH3, NO2, and NO3. All was well, but the water still looked dirty to me.

I removed the sponges and bio-balls. I finally read somewhere that the problem with the bio-balls is not so much that they produce Nitrate - they themselves don't produce it but collect what does. The problem, as I understand it is that: they don't get cleaned enough to remove the Nitrate-producing waste; and, they do not have deep porous material that can promote anaerobic denitrification. (Did I get that right?) The live rock allows for both arobic and anarobic, the later being required to remove the Nitrate (NO3) from the water.

I did manage to find "filter media bags" which I have filled with: live rock rubble; and, lava rock. These two bags sit in the bottom of my first chamber under the filter floss. There was still a floating "scum" on the water unless I used the skimmer that came with the aquarium. There were two things I did not like about the skimmer. The first is that it did not attach to the tank but fell off the wall periodically. The second is that it was difficult to regulate the flow rate through the chambers because the change in flow affected the skimmer's ability to hold to the back wall. If the flow was too high the skimmer would fall off. I decided to use aquarium silicone to fix the skimmer to the back wall.

I also felt the stock pump was too slow and too noisy. I picked up the Marineland Max-Jet 1100 and fit it with a 3/4" hose. I quick test showed that it could out-flow the filtration chambers if the skimmer was too high. To use the larger hose size (without which there was little point in putting in a larger pump), I took a 1" hole-saw drill bit and drilled out the stock pipe fitting. The hole is just the right size to fit the larger tubing I am using. The stock JBJ return nozzle fits inside the tubing as does a 3/4" elbow. When the elbow is pressed into the tube and through the hole, it seals it up. The flow rate is phenomenal.

After replacing the pump and fixing the skimmer to the tank, I simply broke off the tines from the skimmer to increase the flow rate through the rear chambers. I also needed to remove a portion of the wall between the second and third chambers. I removed the part of the wall that was above the drain from the second to the third chamber which allowed for a faster flow between those two sections.

As long as the water level is high enough, the water level stays high enough to keep the pump submersed.

My water is now crystal clear and my flow rate through the tank is excellent.


Circulation:

Someone finally explained to me that the reason we need so much flow in salt tanks is that we need to keep food suspended until the corals can eat them. For this reason added a Zoo-med Powersweep 212 oscillating powerhead. I like that it oscillates. Regrettibly, one of the two I bought no longer oscillates.

Heat:

I put my heater in the first chamber next to the bag of aggregate and under the filter floss. I put it there because I need it to always be submersed and I cannot garantee that the pump won't drain down the second and/or third chambers if the filter floss becomes dirty.


Lighting:

This is a long story. The short version is that I tried the Nano-Customs modification and am not impressed. Instead I am going to order the 70w Viper and glass top. There is no real rush as there are no fish or corals in here yet.

ATO:

An ATO is not an option, I just don't have one yet.



How the tank looked back in January 2009 (I think I previously stated December 2008 as the start of these tanks. It was not. That was when I bought them but they did not see water until the start of 2009.):
NC1_Modifications008.JPG


A 1" hole in the back wall:
NC1_Modifications009.JPG


A comparison of pumps and tubes, 150gph vs 290gph:
NC1_Modifications010.JPG


The 3/4" elbow installed:
NC1_Modifications011.JPG

Edited by creacom, 12 April 2009 - 09:27 AM.


#4
creacom

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Lighting Modification, any recommendations?

(NOTE: Please do not think that this post is intended to knock JBJ or Nanocustoms. It is just a record of the issues I had with the hoods I have and the retrofit kit I purchased. You may have a better go at it if you try.)


So I understand that 24W is not enough. I was not convinced that I needed a MH lamp. I was certain I did not need the heat or the electrical bill. I decided to try the Nano-customs 2.24 modification for the JBJ 12G. It did not work so well for me.

Let me start with a word of caution. If you think you might buy the Coralife 24W bulb (as I did), it is not the same size as the 24W JBJ bulb. You can see from this photo that is it considerably larger and does not fit with the retrofit kit as shipped:

NC2_LightingMod003.JPG



Before I discovered that little problem, i ran into this one. The heat shield could not sit flat since the mounting post for the rectifier circuit (removed with the ballast and transformer) is in the way. Here you can see the heat shield sitting as best as it can with the post in the way:

NC2_LightingMod001.JPG


I drilled a hole in the heat shield to let the post through:
NC2_LightingMod002.JPG


I also trimmed the end of the heat shield to just behind the two light sockets so that the heat shield could be moved over enough to allow the Coralife lamp to be used. Of course, that meant that the hole I drilled for the post was no longer in the right place so I cut out a square to give me room to move the heat shield without having to align the post.

You will note also that there is no facility with this retrofit to power the LED night-lights, just a place to mount them. I think they could be wired to the fans, but what would be the point in that?

With a square cut out and the end of the shield trimmed, the Coralife bulb now fit.

NC2_LightingMod005.JPG


Unfortunately, when I went to attach the splash guard I discovered that, with the heat shield shifted to one side, the splash guard would no longer mount correctly. It recesses at the ends and the light socket has been moved there to facilitate the larger bulb.

In short, the only way I can use this retrofit is to stick with the JBJ bulbs or cut a hole in the end of the hood so that the Coralife bulb can protrude.

Or, I could buy a glass top and a JBJ Viper 70W. Opinions anyone?

Anyone want an unused but partly modified and assembled retrofit kit? Ah, make that two kits.

#5
creacom

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The water is back in the tanks along with the sand, the original live rock, and some new live rock. In all, this amounts to roughly 20lbs of sand and crushed coral and 17lbs of live rock in each tank.

The live rock that I purchased the other day at least looked like there was some life on it recently. Most live rock that I see in the stores around here look pretty dead and clean. This one had some algae that looked alive and what may have been the remains of a sponge.

Does this look good? Or should I have picked up the clean (aka dead) looking stuff?

NC3_LiveRock006.JPG



I put a bunch in one tank:

NC3_LiveRock007.JPG
NC3_LiveRock008.JPG

While I started to aquascape the other:

NC3_LiveRock009.JPG


There was more aquascaping, some rock chipping, some rubble making, and ...

The tanks have been up for a day with Ammonia 0, Nitrite 1.6mg/l, Nitrate 0. The wait begins...


FYI: I have written an application to keep track of my tests and results. Anyone interested in trying it? I can add as many tests as I run for each tank. Each test can have any number of steps and each step can have a timer associated with it. The Test can then be started and a countdown timer shows me how long I have to wait to complete each test. Of course multiple tests can be running at the same time. If you would like to try it, let me know. I would like to find three or four people to test it and suggest improvements.

After I do my aquarium management of my fresh-water tank today, I will test the nano-cubes again and post and update on the chemistry along with pictures of the aquascaping. Perhaps someone can tell me if my aquascaping ideas will work. I am doing something I have not seen anyone else do yet.

#6
Psychosis

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That's a bummer. Congrats on haveing two tanks to start though. I have conflicting stocking ideas.

I'd just go with the viper. You'll be able to keep any thing you want, as long as your water is up to par. I'm relegated to lower light coral with my pc's. Or, better yet, you should get two of the fishneedit T5HO fixtures. Less heat, and all you have to do is replace the bulbs with better ones if you want. At 90.00 a piece it seems like a better option. Plus you can play with the color in a much more specific way. OR, if you have the mullah, get two nova extreme pro's. Or just one for a high light tank and stick with the pc's in your lower light tank.

In short, there are a lot of options.

edit: Sorry, I didn't read your second post. I would be interested in trying the program. A test group is all ways a good idea. Oh, and sorry for the wall of text. I do that on occasion.

Edited by Psychosis, 11 April 2009 - 11:02 PM.

Sig-1_zps8ba86648.jpg

 

^ It's now click-able. Awh yea.

 

Lawnman, on 31 Mar 2013 - 15:31, said:


Where is psycho at today? I need to read some of his awesome ramblings.

 

 


#7
creacom

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I'd just go with the viper. You'll be able to keep any thing you want, as long as your water is up to par. I'm relegated to lower light coral with my pc's. Or, better yet, you should get two of the fishneedit T5HO fixtures.


Thanks for the pointer to Fish-Need-It. The T5HO that they have are too long for these tanks. Ditto for the Nova Extreme (which happens to be what I am running on my fresh-water tank). I need a smaller light. They also have a 70W MH pendant which may be an option to the JBJ Viper. I will probably get the Viper, I just have some questions before I do. You know, things like: Are people happy with them? Are the bulbs readily available? Are they reliable? Will they cook my fish?



As to the software, I'll need another week to clean up a few minor annoyances that I have run into. At that point it will be ready for Mac-OS and/or Linux-x86 users. Windows will take a week or two longer as I don't do Windows. I'll let you know when it is ready for beta testing.

#8
NANOYED

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I started my 12 gal. with 18 watt pc's, then went to 55 watt pc's, and finally with the viper 70 watt mh. With the a/c on my tank temp is 80. I got a little clamp on fan from ebay and that keeps the tank temp at 78 with or without the a/c. I really didn't notice a difference in my electric bill. I think its a great light, and it gives you easy access to work in the tank without moving a lid or light.
Posted Image
NANOYED'S New 70gal frag / breeder tank
NANOYED'S 10g Half Show - Half Frag tank

Ground wires are for wimps.

So you need a stick and get ready to bite the thing in the head before it bites you.


#9
amnestia

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You're being very thorough with this props+++ starting careful and preparing makes everything go sooo much more smoothly

#10
creacom

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You're being very thorough with this props+++ starting careful and preparing makes everything go sooo much more smoothly



Thanks. I was slow (okay, extremely slow) for three reasons: I know enough to know that I don't know enough; I did not have the time to get the tanks set up the way I wanted (if I only knew what that was); and I did not want to experiment with flow rates, filtration, dosing, water quality, et cetra with any livestock in the tank.






I started my 12 gal. with 18 watt pc's, then went to 55 watt pc's, and finally with the viper 70 watt mh. With the a/c on my tank temp is 80. I got a little clamp on fan from ebay and that keeps the tank temp at 78 with or without the a/c. I really didn't notice a difference in my electric bill. I think its a great light, and it gives you easy access to work in the tank without moving a lid or light.



Thanks for the info about the light. I think they sell one with a fan now. Are you running the fan continually? Are the bulbs lasting a long time? Are they a standard bulb or something you can only get from JBJ or the LFS?

Does the clamp on the glass not concern you? Can it be mounted to the wall or table instead?

#11
NANOYED

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Thanks for the info about the light. I think they sell one with a fan now. Are you running the fan continually? Are the bulbs lasting a long time? Are they a standard bulb or something you can only get from JBJ or the LFS?

Does the clamp on the glass not concern you? Can it be mounted to the wall or table instead?


The JBJ bulb is crap, mine lasted 2 weeks!! The fixture will take any 70watt DE bulb. The fan turns on and off with the light. The one with the fan is 150 watt i believe. The clamp has all plastic connections where it sits on the glass. I guess you could mount it onto something else. I personally think it's the best light for the 12 gal nano's. I also cut a piece of plexiglass to cover the top at night, during the day its open.
Posted Image
NANOYED'S New 70gal frag / breeder tank
NANOYED'S 10g Half Show - Half Frag tank

Ground wires are for wimps.

So you need a stick and get ready to bite the thing in the head before it bites you.


#12
creacom

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I also cut a piece of plexiglass to cover the top at night, during the day its open.


Thanks for the information. I was thinking of cutting some acrylic to cover the tank but I was concerned about the heat from the lamp and possible off-gassing of the acrylic. I take it that you think it would be an issue.

#13
creacom

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Time for an update...

The debate over the lights got real when I built a lamp out of stainless steel. I put four 24w CF bulbs in it. Two were the original JBJ ones that came with two of my tanks. The other two were Coralife bulbs. They have the same raing, but the Coralife is larger physically and not nearly as bright as the JBJ.

The fixture was an ugly prototype and unacceptably bulky. I made a list of the pros and cons and the cons won. I cannot make the lamp look good because it has to be that large. In the end, size was the factor that made me go Metal Halide.

The next decision was on the wattage. I think 150W is too much. You can disagree if you wish. I really like the look of the JBJ 70W, but, I found it hard to find 70W bulbs. 150W, no problem. It seemed to me that buying the 70W would be like buying a Delorian and hoping to use it to commute. It will be great, until you need a part. If I cannot easily get 70W bulbs, the lamp will be left off. Not good.

So a 150W MH it must be. And now is. Ouch, that is bright. I picked up a pair of Coralife Hang-on-back pendant lamps. I don't think I will leave it mounted on the back though. The mounting bracket is so large, I won't be able to access the chambers with it mounted.

When I turned the lamp on and it finally warmed up, I saw a lot of what turns out to be copepods on the back wall and glass of the tank.

The heat will also be brutal so I have to alter my plans for the tank cover (I had cut pieces of plexi-glass) and cooling.

Short of a chiller, what is the best way to cool the tank?

#14
creacom

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The hermit crabs seem to be doing well. I have put some fish food in the tanks every other day now so that they are fed. Two of the Blue-Legged and one of the Scarlet-Red hermit crabs have molted. (I thought they had died. What a surprise when the Scarlet got up and walked away.)

It's time to put fish and shrimp in the tanks. Suggestions?

I like the fire shrimp so I am thinking of two for one of the tanks. (How many should be in a JBJ 12g?)

I would like a Yellow Watchman Goby and a Pistol Shrimp in the other tank.

What else should I get?

Here is a photo of one of the tanks sporting it's new Coralife 150W MH lamp, the requisite fan sitting on the egg-crate top, and a fancy auto-top-off by Brita.

NC2009050202.JPG