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3.7g Pico instead

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I ended up getting a 3.7 gallon Petco AIO.

 

Hello nano-reefer,

 

I'm thinking of dipping my toes into some salt water.  After pricing nano tanks and reading lots and lots of threads about all the nice equipment, to me it looks like it is about $500 - $750.00 to do it right as most suggest.   It got me thinking what is the absolute minimum I could do and still have some success and create something interest.  

 

The Plan:

 

Setup a Zoa nursery in a standard 10 gallon.  The nursery would just be zoa's growing on small travertine tiles.  Once the tiles grow in then I could magnetically mount them to the back wall like a patch work quilt.  The zoa's and inexpensive LED (thinking maybe this one https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0727V8C5Q/ ) would be on one side of the tank and just a pile of live rocks on the other.  Add a power-head for flow, heater, and maybe a small clean up animal.  No additional filter and no fish.  For maintenance I would need to change 1 gallon weekly and add fresh water daily for evap.

 

What are your thought on this crazy/tame plan?  If I don't get bit by the reef bug then I haven't invested a lot, but if I do then I could easily convert the 10 gallon into a sump for a larger tank.

 

 

 

 

Edited by morecoffee
Made title match actual decision

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Are you planning on adding fish?  I would at least run an aquaclear filter or something unless you do bigger water changes than 10% weekly.

 

edit: saw it says no fish.  Not sure how I missed that.  Without a bioload I think you could get away without having any filters, but I would probably try and run the water through some filter floss at least too pick up loose particles floating around.  I would also keep an eye on water clarity without having any carbon or anything.

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if you are wanting to just do some Zoa's and Paly's,you can set up a tank for way less than $500-$700 without a doubt. Honestly,you are going to want to run a filter,even a cheaper AquaClear 20 or 30 or even a 50 filter. Dr.FosterandSmith carries them and starts out at $25. All I have ever kept was Pico's,my biggest tank being a CadLights Zen 7g tank 

 

 This is what I would suggest:

 

 A Aquamaxx tank 2g ($40 shipped FREE) or the 5g ($60 shipped FREE) {Marinedepot}

 AquaClear 20-50 $25-$35 from Dr.FosterandSmith

 Some base rock ranging from around 2-8lbs you can find locally or order on line for around $20-$30 

 Some good live sand

 Aqua Illumination Prime ($200) OR Kessil A80 Tuna Blue ($130)

 Jebao RW4  ($60 on amazon or fish-street) or SW2 ( about the same price as the RW4),either one are going to be too powerful with the stock power supply,I run mine with a 200maH power supply and even in my 2g Aquamaxx on the 2nd power dot,it moves some good water. I can say it will probably be too powerful for Zoa's causing them not to open all the way. Some will take higher flow,while some won't. 

ATO-you can find all over the internet and on here. 

 

 So all in all you are looking at around:

 

 Light-$200

 Tank-$60

 Filter-$35

 Rock-$30

 Powerhead-$60

 Sand-$25

 

 So with everything you need,you are at $400 -/+. You can find a boat load of used items here. People are always selling used equipment you could use. Shoot,if you're in the US of A,I may have some stuff laying around you can use I would just have to check. If you so happen to be in central florida,I have a 7g cube and my old CadLights 7g low iron tank I can see for dirty cheap that is a all in one,all you need is a return pump and you're good. 

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You can easily do a 10g on a budget for zoas and paly's.

 

Any 10g tank will do-it-yourself you can get standards for cheap, even used.

 

A hang on filter like aquaclear 

 

A powerhead- jebao sw-2 nano or hydor 240

 

Lighting- budget lighting that will be plenty for what you are planning. 

Aquamaxx nemolight or ABI par38

 

Rodi or distilled water

Filter media- filter floss and carbon

Salt

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Thank you all for the replys.  Initially, I was drawn to the nano/pic tanks after seeing some of the cool stuff people were doing with the Fluval evo 5/13.5.  I particularly liked the AIO look.  I thought the $150 entry price to play with corals was great, but then I saw they replaced the light, lid, pump, added media basket, and added powerheads.  If they are replacing everything, but the glass and a few pieces of plastic, then I've got a 10 gallon (1994 edition) in the attic I could experiment with. 

 

On 11/3/2017 at 6:01 PM, TILTON said:

run the water through some filter floss at least too pick up loose particles floating around.  I would also keep an eye on water clarity without having any carbon or anything.

 I see you all want me to have some floss &/or carbon.  I also wouldn't be against adding an internal sump or DIY AIO divider inside the tank to hide the heater and some floss.

 

I find lighting to the most difficult to come to come to good conclusions on.  For corals it seems to be the most important (growth and viewing), expensive, and hardest to supplement if under-performing (unlike filtration or flow).  I noticed no one really commented on the Hipargero Touch Control 30w CREE Nano LED I linked to.  Is there a reason I should avoid it for my application?  I think it is the same as Reef Breeder's Nano Light Touch.  While I haven't seen many recommendations for this particular light I have seen people recommend other nano sized lights sold by reef breeder.  

 

21 hours ago, Reefkid88 said:

ATO-you can find all over the internet and on here.

My thoughts are this would be my first upgrade after getting it up and running.  Since at first I would be checking very often I didn't think I would need it right away.

 

 

21 hours ago, Reefkid88 said:

Shoot,if you're in the US of A,I may have some stuff laying around you can use I would just have to check. If you so happen to be in central florida,I have a 7g cube and my old CadLights 7g low iron tank I can see for dirty cheap that is a all in one,all you need is a return pump and you're good. 

I am in USA, but not quite that far south.  

 

20 hours ago, Clown79 said:

Rodi or distilled water

Filter media- filter floss and carbon

Salt

My thoughts on water was to see if the LFS sold premixed and RO/ID at a reasonable rate and start with that.  They do maintenance work so I assume they would have the capability to provide it.

 

 

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On 11/5/2017 at 7:58 AM, morecoffee said:

Thank you all for the replys.  Initially, I was drawn to the nano/pic tanks after seeing some of the cool stuff people were doing with the Fluval evo 5/13.5.  I particularly liked the AIO look.  I thought the $150 entry price to play with corals was great, but then I saw they replaced the light, lid, pump, added media basket, and added powerheads.  If they are replacing everything, but the glass and a few pieces of plastic, then I've got a 10 gallon (1994 edition) in the attic I could experiment with. 

I'd go the experiment route, and am for that matter.   Take a look at the forum's pico competition, and see what they're all getting away with, or without as the case may be.  At the same time, that 150 price is not a bad package to play with as a starting point.  I don't think you'd have to change anything right now, just slowly upgrade as you wanted to. Some days I feel like doing the DIY thing, and other days I just want to throw money at it.  

On 11/5/2017 at 7:58 AM, morecoffee said:

 

 I see you all want me to have some floss &/or carbon.  I also wouldn't be against adding an internal sump or DIY AIO divider inside the tank to hide the heater and some floss.

Without your own ro/di unit, your ability to do large water changes will be diminished, so you'll want to compensate in the filter areas. 

 

 

On 11/5/2017 at 7:58 AM, morecoffee said:

I find lighting to the most difficult to come to come to good conclusions on.  For corals it seems to be the most important (growth and viewing), expensive, and hardest to supplement if under-performing (unlike filtration or flow).  I noticed no one really commented on the Hipargero Touch Control 30w CREE Nano LED I linked to.  Is there a reason I should avoid it for my application?  I think it is the same as Reef Breeder's Nano Light Touch.  While I haven't seen many recommendations for this particular light I have seen people recommend other nano sized lights sold by reef breeder.  

Lighting is a pain. It's just bloody expensive.  Some of the individual cree leds are like $12 per last time I checked. So it adds up.  I'm currently using a rapid led par 38 bulb.   You're going to get what you pay for really. And most of that cost/value on the nicer bulbs is spectrum related, not just brightness.   

On 11/5/2017 at 7:58 AM, morecoffee said:

My thoughts on water was to see if the LFS sold premixed and RO/ID at a reasonable rate and start with that.  They do maintenance work so I assume they would have the capability to provide it.

Just make sure it's actually ro/di.  Some chains for example just carbon filter, and RO, but no DI, or even just carbon. So you're still getting a fair amount of contaminates.  They'll be happy to show you the setup if it is what they say it is.  

 

In the end, all you need, esp w/o fish is a container, some saltwater, and a bright light.  Corals have such an amazingly low bioload, that as long as you're keeping their need met you really don't have to do much.  I've got 8 frags in a 5 liter container who I feed every day. There's no filter, no substrate, Just some air bubbles, and a light bulb. And no detectable ammonia, nitrite, or nitrate. I'll do a weekly water change. But at this point that mostly to just replenish the parameters in the water.   Point being, it doesn't have to be expensive, or complicated to be fun. If I were you, and I didn't have a bunch of equipment laying around. I'd go with the evo, and change things out as wanted, but for what you want it for, I'd bet you don't have to. 

 

I'm new at reefing, so take what I said with a grain of salt, but that's been my experience so far. 

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On 11/5/2017 at 8:58 AM, morecoffee said:

Thank you all for the replys.  Initially, I was drawn to the nano/pic tanks after seeing some of the cool stuff people were doing with the Fluval evo 5/13.5.  I particularly liked the AIO look.  I thought the $150 entry price to play with corals was great, but then I saw they replaced the light, lid, pump, added media basket, and added powerheads.  If they are replacing everything, but the glass and a few pieces of plastic, then I've got a 10 gallon (1994 edition) in the attic I could experiment with. 

 

 I see you all want me to have some floss &/or carbon.  I also wouldn't be against adding an internal sump or DIY AIO divider inside the tank to hide the heater and some floss.

 

I find lighting to the most difficult to come to come to good conclusions on.  For corals it seems to be the most important (growth and viewing), expensive, and hardest to supplement if under-performing (unlike filtration or flow).  I noticed no one really commented on the Hipargero Touch Control 30w CREE Nano LED I linked to.  Is there a reason I should avoid it for my application?  I think it is the same as Reef Breeder's Nano Light Touch.  While I haven't seen many recommendations for this particular light I have seen people recommend other nano sized lights sold by reef breeder.  

 

My thoughts are this would be my first upgrade after getting it up and running.  Since at first I would be checking very often I didn't think I would need it right away.

 

 

I am in USA, but not quite that far south.  

 

My thoughts on water was to see if the LFS sold premixed and RO/ID at a reasonable rate and start with that.  They do maintenance work so I assume they would have the capability to provide it.

 

 

If you've got a clean tank (and it doesn't leak--leak test it first! or you can replace pretty cheaply at Walmart or a chain pet store), I don't see why you couldn't experiment, standard 10 gallons are still very nice tanks especially for starter/budget builds, and you see them less now with all the gorgeous AIO options out there.  I think (based on a cursory look but I am not a lighting expert) that the light you linked might be just fine, there's a question there where the response said it's good for LPS in a 10g so zoas should definitely be fine.  If it turns out to not be adequate, it can always be replaced later.  I'd add a small HOB filter to run filter floss and maybe carbon, at least in case of emergencies (some people don't leave them on all the time).  Get a decent powerhead or two (Hydor Koralias are a good starter/budget price point option that used to be very popular before all the controllable options became available).

 

Do be careful with LFS water, as someone mentioned above, they aren't always selling true RO/DI, and some have had very bad experiences buying "saltwater" that was mixed to an incorrect salinity (one member here had a friend who was sold basically freshwater and it crashed his tank!).  If you're willing to try it, mixing your own salt is very easy to get the hang of and gives you far more control over both what you're putting in the tank, and the ability to do water changes on short notice in emergencies.  At the very least I'd keep a couple gallons of Instant Ocean and distilled water in case you need it when the store is closed. :)

 

Finally, :welcome: to Nano-Reef and a great hobby!

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The fluval evo is a great starter and besides the media basket upgrade, the tank can be run stock even the lights are designed for sw.

 

Most ppl upgrade their aio's because they want to customize it to their needs.

 

The cheapest and easiest way:

Standard 10g

Hang on filter (still needs custom media)

Powerhead

Par38 light 

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Again, I really appreciate the help so far.  I'm an accountant by trade so I do thinking a lot about the total cost of ownership, how much value and utility does each upgrade really adds,  and how to avoid buying something that I would upgrade later and not continue to use (I can sometimes get analysis paralysis).  I won't be able to start cycling a tank until after Thanksgiving due to logistics with hosting family.  I'm not going to trying to convince the spouse that relatives would really enjoy staring at a purple and white rock with new tank algae.  

 

My lighting goal would be to have it strong enough that Zoa's  reproduction rate would not be slowed down very much so that I could start out with a few small frags and make multiple colonies on tiles for the wall mosaic. 

 

I was thinking two Hydor 240's.  Would I be able to run them with the stock power supply (not have to downgrade it)?    Would putting them on two different timers where they on at different times, but overlapping at little bit simulate random flow (three different flow patterns) and increase growth?  

 

My LFS is primary SW and and some specialty FW (plants, rainbow's and rarer nano fish) says it is RO/DI and I would make sure to test the salinity of the salt water (tropic marine pro) before adding to the tank.  I assume starting a zero everything (good RO/DI) is the gold standards, but my city's water is the best water I have ever tasted from a tap.   Could I maybe possibly use de-chlorinated tap water to mix my own based on the stats?   I hike the trails near the water sources and there is very low amounts of agriculture and no industry in the watershed.    This is the newest version of their report that lists harness.  http://www.carkw.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/2008_water_quality_report_final.pdf

 

Hardness: 1.2 - 1.9 (grains per Gallon)

Calcium 4.6 - 8.4 ppm

Magnesium .85 - 1.5 ppm

Phosphate (total) .37 - 1.80 (I'm assuming the possibility of the 1.8 is what might make it inadvisable) 

Potassium .44 - 1.86

Silica .44 - 1.31

Sodium 1.6 - 2.3

Sediment <0.5 ppm

 

 

 

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Lots of good information here. I would the Mosaic works sounds like a neat concept. Sometimes corals like a particular area and when placed in another area they can decline. Hopefully the zoas can grow and make an interesting mosaic.

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2 hours ago, morecoffee said:

   Could I maybe possibly use de-chlorinated tap water to mix my own based on the stats?  

I really wouldn't.  You get all sorts of things beyond chlorine that affect the quality of your tank water.  Like most of the rest of us, you've probably got chloramine in your water. Sure seachem Prime can bind that up, but only for 48 hours before it reverts.  Which given you're generally supposed to let your mixed salt sit for 24 hours leaves not much time for your bio filter to consume all of the bound ammonia from a large water  change.   Plus there's the phosphates and the nitrates and who knows what. I switched to RO/DI for my freshwater tanks and the difference was huge when it came to algae etc. I was aging, and running through carbon blocks and everything, but it never came close to what I get with an RO system.   You mileage may vary, but the best thing I ever did for my aquariums is get an ro/di system. 

 

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On 11/5/2017 at 7:58 AM, morecoffee said:

I am in USA, but not quite that far south. 

 

Just noticed you're in AR - me too!  Are you close to Cabot? 

 

I'm socially retarded so I don't usually participate, but Razorback Reef Forum is a thing.  Also, they're having some sort of frag swap thing next weekend (I think) at the Fish Bowl in Searcy, AR.  

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14 minutes ago, TatorTaco said:

Just noticed you're in AR - me too!  Are you close to Cabot? 

I am just south of you in Sherwood.  Do you happen to know if the Safari Pets store in Cabot has any live rock, frags, saltwater, or RO/DI?  Locally I've found The Fish Tank in West Little Rock seems to have some nice things.   The Petco in North Little Rock carries saltwater stuff, but they were not fully stocked last week due to a recent remodel.

 

I just heard yesterday about the Razorback forum and saw about the upcoming event.  I'm not sure if I will be able to check it out or not.

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19 minutes ago, morecoffee said:

I am just south of you in Sherwood.  Do you happen to know if the Safari Pets store in Cabot has any live rock, frags, saltwater, or RO/DI?  Locally I've found The Fish Tank in West Little Rock seems to have some nice things.   The Petco in North Little Rock carries saltwater stuff, but they were not fully stocked last week due to a recent remodel.

 

I just heard yesterday about the Razorback forum and saw about the upcoming event.  I'm not sure if I will be able to check it out or not.

Shoot me a PM so I don't clutter up your thread.  

 

Safari Pets had base rock, but I don't recall live rock.  Shoot me a message and I'll swing by and take some pictures. They have their corals in 4 different 40ish gallon tanks and they break the prices down like $75, $55, 35$, $25.    It's all the same corals though - a few polps on a small rock, and the more expensive tanks would have the same coral, with more polyps.  It's not like you see cheap zoas, then more expensive LPS, and then SPS in the most expensive tank. 

 

I'm all about supporting my LFS, but we've got slim pickings when it comes to corals in the area and they just can't compare to what you can find online.  Oh, their is a TL Reefs in Mountain Home, and he charges $15 shipped.  Send him a message on Facebook and he'll get you some stuff.  Haven't ordered from yet, but I planned to. 

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7 hours ago, morecoffee said:

Again, I really appreciate the help so far.  I'm an accountant by trade so I do thinking a lot about the total cost of ownership, how much value and utility does each upgrade really adds,  and how to avoid buying something that I would upgrade later and not continue to use (I can sometimes get analysis paralysis).  I won't be able to start cycling a tank until after Thanksgiving due to logistics with hosting family.  I'm not going to trying to convince the spouse that relatives would really enjoy staring at a purple and white rock with new tank algae.  

 

My lighting goal would be to have it strong enough that Zoa's  reproduction rate would not be slowed down very much so that I could start out with a few small frags and make multiple colonies on tiles for the wall mosaic. 

 

I was thinking two Hydor 240's.  Would I be able to run them with the stock power supply (not have to downgrade it)?    Would putting them on two different timers where they on at different times, but overlapping at little bit simulate random flow (three different flow patterns) and increase growth?  

 

My LFS is primary SW and and some specialty FW (plants, rainbow's and rarer nano fish) says it is RO/DI and I would make sure to test the salinity of the salt water (tropic marine pro) before adding to the tank.  I assume starting a zero everything (good RO/DI) is the gold standards, but my city's water is the best water I have ever tasted from a tap.   Could I maybe possibly use de-chlorinated tap water to mix my own based on the stats?   I hike the trails near the water sources and there is very low amounts of agriculture and no industry in the watershed.    This is the newest version of their report that lists harness.  http://www.carkw.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/2008_water_quality_report_final.pdf

 

Hardness: 1.2 - 1.9 (grains per Gallon)

Calcium 4.6 - 8.4 ppm

Magnesium .85 - 1.5 ppm

Phosphate (total) .37 - 1.80 (I'm assuming the possibility of the 1.8 is what might make it inadvisable) 

Potassium .44 - 1.86

Silica .44 - 1.31

Sodium 1.6 - 2.3

Sediment <0.5 ppm

 

 

 

Some people with very low TDS use tap but I would not, sometimes there are dissolved heavy metals in the water and other stuff that can negatively affect the tank.  I'm willing to pay more for peace of mind lol.  I am not sure about Tropic Marin salt, I don't see it used much.

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Tap is simply not safe. Water quality changes throughout the year.

 

The quality of water has nothing to do with taste.

My water tastes good but the tds going into my rodi is above 480! 

 

Chloramines are used in a lot of municipalities and it's not easy to remove. Its a very long lasting chemical.

 

 

For most zoas, they don't need strong light and too strong of a light will kill corals that don't need it.

And there is the possibility of too much flow.

 

Placing powerheads on timers isn't good. They aren't built for the on/off settings. 

 

You would want to buy wavemakers that come with a controller.

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5 gallon tanks are the smallest I advise - even for zoas. They are cheap and easy to maintain.

 

Initially a small power head will work fine, but as the tank matures you'll wish you had a mechanical filter of some sort to filter the crud out of the water. Unlike really big tanks small tanks 'dirty up' fast. However, with a 5 or 10 gallon tank it's possible for a properly sized Hang on back filter to provide enough circulation on it's own to not require an additional power head.

 

A PAR 38 will light a standard 5 gal with no issues. Not so sure about a 10 gallon standard....at least full coverage.

 

You want a small fish to keep the biological filter going and provide some introduction of nutrients. Yeah...softies can grow via photosynthesis alone, but they grow very slow this way. Just throw a damsel in there. He won't bother the corals, will be happy to have a tank by himself, and will keep the biological cycle going along with fertilizing the softies. I feed mine a pinch of cheap flake food once a day like any other tropical fish, and he's fat and happy.

 

I also advise getting a piece of glass custom cut to set on top. All my small tanks are covered, and it drastically reduces evaporation. A 2.5 gal jug of filtered water from the grocery store lasts a really long time for top offs, and with softies only you can wait a really long time between water changes. 

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I ran a par38 on a standard 15g. It was fine and it only had 60 degree optics.

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I've changed my mind about 5 times since initially posting and finally decided on a tank.  Thanks for the help as I've thought through this so far.  I went ahead and bought a tank today. A Petco Imagitarium 3.7 gallon.  I ultimately settled on this tank because:

  • Really like the AIO look
  • Less water to haul home from LFS & encourage me to do more and bigger water changes.
  • Glass lid seems to be usable with any light & should help with top off's.  I was not as sure I could use the fluval evo hoods as easily with other lights as easily.
  • May try to use included light for ad hoc viewing when the timer is off on the main light (TBD).

 

I'm thinking..

Pump: Swap out for a Rio 180 as others have done Hydor 200 gph pump

Filter: DIY shelf system in camber one for floss and the little baggies nutrient absorbents (if needed)

Heater: TBD (something adjustable and small enough to fit in a chamber) Hydor 25w submersible glass heater

Light: Swap out/TBD Hipargero LED 30W (A029)

Location/stand: TBD

 

For now I'm going to skip the zoa's due to palytoxin concerns of the family (realizing the risk is somewhat overstated and can be mitigated). I'm not sure what types of corals I will get.  I really like some of the mushrooms and LPS (acans, favites, goni/Alveopora, and plates), and the encrusting types.

 

Here is a pick of the leak test.

5a11f1aee9a8d_petco3.7AIOstock.thumb.jpg.c291372a88dd3217081414e290c45f2e.jpg

 

Edited by morecoffee
Update for actual equipment
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Score!  I have the same tank, but I'm not sure how it does for saltwater since I use mine for a freshwater shrimp tank in my office.  The stock motor is incredibly weak - even for freshwater so you'll certainly want to replace that, along with the mechanical filtration.  The back compartments are pretty spacious though.  I think you could use a Kessil A160 for lighting and still keep the stock glass top to reduce evaporation. 

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Below is a diagram I made of the sump (proportions may vary).  I noticed when filling it up that some chambers started filling up before I thought they should be able to.  What you are seeing below is the back side of the aquarium.  When full and running the water enters at the top left through the over flow slits and a slit towards the bottom half #3.  I assume this is to keep the water flowing going  if the water level drops too low.  Then the water would move from the front to the back through a mechanical/carbon filter then a filter with tiny media.  Once it gets past filters #1 & #2 it can go through the bottom of the plastic insert.  The bottom of the insert only covers the front half.  At point #4 where the plastic insert meets the back glass it is not fully siliconed so water could pass through in small amounts without going through the bottom of the chamber.  Then it hits the glass that most of the water must then go over.  But at #5 the bottom of the glass is not siliconed and there is a less than 1 mm gap.  The water that goes over the glass then would have to go down a sponge and come out in the final camber before getting pumped back in the tank. 

 

At point #3 would you recommend sealing it and what product should I use?  I assume some type of black silicone.  I can easily fill it with something thick from the main side of the aquarium and it is narrow enough that it should not need reinforcement.

 

#4 & #5 would be much harder to seal.  Should I just not worry about it?  If I did seal it is there a marine safe product like plummer's putty I could use?  I am envisioning rolling something out like play-dough and just smushing  it in the seam.  Possibly even product that doesn't ever really set.

 

 

 

5a12fcf2e28f4_3.7Sump.gif.9889afdb86d7f3a9428dde228e223bfe.gif

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I've ordered my equipment and updated the equipment listed three posts up.  I'm getting excited about this whole coral reef thing.  I've also ordered some Pukani dry rock and some Dr. Tim's One & Only.

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I've also received my dry rock.  I've cut the bottom, back, and right sides square and have it against back wall and side of the tank.  The front right of the rock is about two finger widths away from the glass.

 

Is it bad if my rock is against the back glass and right side?   I assume that it would not create any worse dead spots than caves and other crevices in the rock, but as a beginner I have no idea. 

 

Here is a shot of the front of the tank.   For scale the tile is  1 & 7/8 inches.

5a1d6e8201e16_fronttank.thumb.jpg.e438fbb102512b4b53a0fb0d47937cb6.jpg

 

Top View

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Aesthetically I like looks of my rock work and cave, but I'm not sure if it is good fit for my goals.  Currently I'm leaning towards non-anemone looking LPS.  Many of these seem to be well suited for placement on the sand bed and this particular scape would limit my available sand bed.  An alternative I'm considering is to mount a part I sawed off the main rock to the back wall instead.  I could use spacers on the back to make it look like it is floating in front of the back wall.  I might also add small pieces on the sides using magnets (thanks pico contest for all the ideas).   Is this a better idea considering my goals?

 

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I've went ahead and started the salt water and Dr Tim's One & Only with the big rock with the cave against the walls.   Is this going to cause me any system instability or just a little difficulty with cleaning algae on that side?  Thanks for helping a newbie.  

 

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Nah, you shouldn't have any trouble with the rock touching the glass other than it being difficult cleaning the right side with a magnet cleaner. 

 

The rock on the back glass may capture a bit of detritus though and I'd be weary of that.  I can't think of any solution to prevent detritus from getting back there and rotting out. It's such a small tank though, it may be worth experimenting with to see what happens.  Worst case scenario, you'll have to rockscape a 3.7 gallon tank, which shouldn't take very long. 

 

Did you end up replacing the stock pump?  I'm staring at my tank with the stock pump and it's VERY low flow and it constantly has stuff floating/swirling on top of the water.  

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