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Raising the Dead: A BioCube Revival Journal [Updated FTS 3-4-14]


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HD video of my setup (July 2012)

Hi everyone, I've lurked on here for a while, but I suppose it's time I start participating more. I grew up around reef aquariums, as that has been my fathers hobby for the past 20 years. Though I never really did any first hand work with them. More or less just watched him do his thing. I was always really into snakes and such. The past 5 years I have focused on and worked primarily with venomous species. I decided that I should get out of that while I'm ahead and enjoy the experience I've had working with such amazing creatures, as I've never had any incidents with them. That said, a few months ago I ended up trading a few snakes to a friend of mine in exchange for a fully setup 29G BioCube, as I had been thinking about trying my hand at saltwater aquariums. I looked up the price of a new biocube setup witha stand and it seemed like I was getting a pretty good deal! I figured out later that that probably wasn't the case.

This is more or less a journal of my efforts to revive this aquarium without having to strip it down and completely start over from scratch. It's been challenging, fairly expensive, and I've learned a few lessons along the way. But every part of it has been a lot of fun!

In the beginning....
The tank I received was in less than stellar condition... I probably should have known better, but it's been a fun learning experience. They told me they'd had the tank setup for 2 years. It looked like it hadn't had a good cleaning in quite a long time. There were a pair of clowns, a couple gobies and a 6 lined wrasse. There were a lot of coral plugs littering the sand bed with no living coral attached to them anymore. Mostly just skeletons. There was 1 big piece of some type of leather finger coral, but it was in extremely poor condition and dying a slow death. There were entire sections of rock covered in dark red Cyano algae. Everything was covered in spider webs inside the hood, there was a black widow living inside the stand.

Anyway, we drained the water into buckets, and left enough to keep the sand bed submerged. Probably wasn't the best idea to do that, as the hour and a half drive to get it to my house stirred it up like a cloudy soup. Though I didn't know that at the time.

Once I got it back to my house, I set everything up and let things settle for the rest of the day. This is where we begin.

Immediately after setting everything up after the move

A few hours later after things had settled a bit

Within the first week or two after the move, a clown completely disappeared, no clue where he went. Also, the 6 line wrasse died a few weeks later, though I have other suspicions for the cause of that.

Pretty much everything was covered in a nice layer of detritus. I began doing weekly 30% water changes as all of my water parameters were looking pretty bad from the start. I'd vacuum up as much detritus as I could and got rid of all the red Cyano as fast as I could. Low and behold, under all the Cyano was a large bed of Green Star Polyps! Though they were pretty sparse it was a nice little sign of life :)

Life under the Cyano!

Next I upgraded all the pumps. The stock pump was barely pushing ANYTHING through, and the korlina powerhead seemed to barely be moving much water as well. I Swapped out the stock pump for a new MaxiJet 1200, and popped in a brand new Korlina nano powerhead.

After the first month or so, things were starting to look a little healthier. I added a carefully selected cleanup crew to help get things under control. At this point my ammonia and nitrites were down to 0, but my nitrates were still off the charts. Thats something I'm still working on. The next thing I needed to deal with was better lighting, and a HUGE heat issue.

I live in the top floor of a duplex, and have no AC. My apartment becomes an oven during the summer. My temp swings were some days hitting as high as 86-87. The first thing I wanted to do was ditch the hood. I really liked the look of rimless biocubes anyway, so I was kind of excited to do that. Though I still haven't taken the time to remove the plastic around the rim yet. I'll get around to it eventually! I shopped around for a while for lighting solutions and ended up settling on the new Kessil a350. So far it's been working beautifully. Along with that, knowing how hot my apartment gets, I know it probably wouldn't be enough, so I ended up finding a 1 year used JBJ Artica chiller on craigslist for $200. That was probably one of the best investments I've made as far as the health of my system goes. I get steady temps between 76-78 degrees round the clock!

Sometime around then I also started populating the tank with some coral:
Torch Coral that had about 5 heads
Frogspawn that had about 5-6 yeads
A fairly large colony of some orange colored Zoas
Some pulsing Xenia

The big dying piece of finger leather seems to slowly be making a comeback. It now has a fairly "fuzzy" appearance to it because of the presence of all of it's tiny poly/tenticle things all over it. It always turned from stark white to a tan color. Still now sure if that's good, as I thought it was supposed to be white. But now I suspect it wasn't in fact supposed to be white and was just bleached out because it was dying? Either way, it's looking much better now.

All the coral seems to be doing well. My single orange metallic mushroom has multiplied to 2 of them this last week!

I also added an anemone (I know, these are strongly discouraged and newbies always want them). So far I've had really good luck with him, though it's only been a month. He picked a spot on a rock, and hasn't moved from there since. He did eat one of my favorite small gobies though. Other than that, he's been awesome and looks healthy! I feed him brine shrimp weekly along with all the other LPS corals.

The new lighting installed a few months after I initially moved to thank to my house

One of the most recent things I've done was to clean out the back overflow area, get rid of all the gross bioballs, and turn the 2nd chamber into a refugium. I'm hoping having a big ball of Chaetomorpha will help get my nitrates under control. It's a big cramped back there, as I have to keep pump for the chiller (maxijet 600) in the 2nd chamber as well. I also keep a bag of activated charcoal back there as well.


Scraped paint off the back, media rack setup with charcoal and chaeto

Refugium light I built after reading a thread elsewhere on the forums. I'll try to go find that and link back here. Was perfect for what I wanted!

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Wow. Seriously awesome work!! That tank went from looking like the dead sea to looking like a pretty nice tank. Impressive. :) Making me really get the itch to get another tank up and running!

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Wow. Seriously awesome work!! That tank went from looking like the dead sea to looking like a pretty nice tank. Impressive. :) Making me really get the itch to get another tank up and running!


Thanks, it's been a lot of fun! Perhaps not the easiest path to get into this hobby, but I've definitely been learning a lot. I was just checking out your 14g biocube thread. Such a shame your tank crashed as bad as it did :( That was a really nice setup you had! I think you should get back into it and give it another shot!

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  • 1 year later...

Long overdue for an update. Took a new FTS last night after doing a water change.


I lost quite a few heads of my frogspawn a few months ago, because I hadn't been keeping up on my tank maintenance. I'm back on top of everything now with a re-ignited excitement. :) I'd like to frag off those living sections into two separate frags, and get rid of all the rest of the dead skeleton. Possibly could put the smaller of the two into my 2g pico.


The leather finger coral on the left side is doing great! All that you see in the pics have grown from a small frag I took off the original bleached dying leather coral that you can see in the first few posts of this thread. Made a really great comeback!


The single orange mushroom has multiplied into quite a few. More than you can tell in these pics. I think there's around 10+ of them on that rock now. I love how they pop under the light!


The anemone I put in there against a lot of people's recommendation (of couse) has been doing fantastic. He's never moved from that spot on the front of the rock (thank you for choosing such a perfect spot Mr. Anemone), and has grown a fair bit. My clown fish recently started hosting with it as well. Really stoked about that!


I have a fair bit of green hair algae right now because my cleanup crew is badly in need of a refresh. Should have a new cleaner pack arriving end of the week from reefcleaners.org. I've also started using a bag of purigen in the back refugium chamber. I've been looking into adding a sump to this setup, though I'd prefer to be able to do that without having to drill anything.





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