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MR.FEESH

Commercial "methods" of reef-keeping well-suited for nano-sized tanks

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I've been out of the hobby for quite some time and am going through the research phase of planning a build, so please excuse any bits of info that are generally accepted as common knowledge these days.

 

I recently watched this video.

 

I find myself compelled by one of Ryan's multiple points from the video: that while water changes should certainly be a tool in the reef hobbyist's toolbox, they aren't always best-suited by nature to address problems people want them to, nor keep water chemistry at a NSW level-- and in some cases are so laborious in nature that if you do them regularly as a core way of managing your tank's growth and nutrient export, and then fall victim to a few busy social weekends, you may find yourself in a bad situation when the rest of your life requires the attention you normally commit to your personal slice of the ocean.  As I think about what would be feasible for me, personally, when I think of this impending pipe-dream of getting back into the hobby, I'd like to keep an open mind and consider alternatives to the traditional, water-change-centric approach to reef keeping...methods which may align better with my personal capacity to commit to this hobby over a 3-5 year period.  Whether or not I go this route will of course depend upon all this research, but I can't help but look into methods like these now that I've seen the tip of the iceberg. I think it's safe to say the water change method of reef keeping is tried and true; I'm not questioning that by asking this. 

 

I'm more so just curious whether there are any commercial alternatives to reef keeping methods that are adaptable or generally suitable for tanks as small as those which folks on this website keep.  As this video has piqued my interest and I begin to look into such commercial 'synergistic management solutions' for sustaining a reef tank-- I'm wondering if there are any that are better suited for small tanks than those like the BRS160.  The comical example I have in mind which may or may not be applicable for reef keeping methods like these, but an example I'm sure I'm not the only one to have encountered is this:

 

When I had my last tank, a 6 gallon nano cube, a well-intentioned but otherwise unknowing family member got me a basic elements dosing kit for a birthday or holiday or something.  I never ended up using any of it but I distinctly remember reading the back of one of the many bottles included only to see something along the lines of (and I'm paraphrasing here) "1 drop per 20 gallons".  My total tank volume at the time was 6 gallons and the total volume of my water change bucket was 5 gallons.  Without ill-dosing my tank I had no real way of arriving at a method of accurately parsing-out a quarter of a drop of the dosing solution.  Same with trying to come up with a way of collecting 20 gallons of tank-water to which I could add this element to bring it back up to level that would have compared with 20 gallons of freshly mixed water-change water, never mind that I had no way of even holding 20 gallons of anything at that time.  I could have gambled but chose not to for obvious reasons.  While this anecdote relates only to one element of reef water, methods like the Triton account for the overall general and perpetual livelihood of this prospective tank, so I can't be 'estimating' for years on end because the methods' measurement standards are designed for tanks with much larger volumes.  These methods don't impact only one element like the bottle I read from this story, but rather the entire livelihood of the tank on which its being used.

 

Knowing that there are alternative, commercial reef keeping methods out there and many folks in the hobby who employ them do not have teeny tiny tanks-- are there any methods that are more adaptable for the nano tank size than others that I can look into?  Or are regular water changes the only reliable method of sustaining nano-reefs because systems like Triton are not accurately calibrated to be applied to such small volumes of water?

 

Thanks for reading!

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Thanks for the video link.

 

I really don't see why these methods couldn't apply to much smaller tanks.  We are really just talking about replacing water changes as a means of nutrient reduction (and, to a lesser extent, element replenishment) with alternative filtration (and element dosing).  I think the key here is that we are still closely monitoring the levels and making appropriate adjustments.

 

As far as dosing substances which are designed for larger systems, we can often dilute these substances for use in smaller systems.  For example: One drop per 20 gallons could be diluted into 100 ml of RO/DI water (minus the dose size - one drop in this case).  Then we could use the corresponding percentage for a smaller tank.  So for a 7 gallon tank (7 / 20 = 35%, or 35 ml of diluted solution).

 

As far as a refugium goes, there are potentially numerous fuge options available.  This might be a refugium sump, HOB, chaeto reactor, etc.  However, it might need to be sized a little bigger than traditional refugiums that we may have chosen for a nano tank in the past.

 

As far as Triton testing goes, I think that is a great option for some (especially as a spot check).  I believe there are numerous dosing options available to choose from (and testing could help guide us in the right direction).

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6 hours ago, seabass said:

Thanks for the video link.

 

I really don't see why these methods couldn't apply to much smaller tanks.  We are really just talking about replacing water changes as a means of nutrient reduction (and, to a lesser extent, element replenishment) with alternative filtration (and element dosing).  I think the key here is that we are still closely monitoring the levels and making appropriate adjustments.

 

As far as dosing substances which are designed for larger systems, we can often dilute these substances for use in smaller systems.  For example: One drop per 20 gallons could be diluted into 100 ml of RO/DI water (minus the dose size - one drop in this case).  Then we could use the corresponding percentage for a smaller tank.  So for a 7 gallon tank (7 / 20 = 35%, or 35 ml of diluted solution).

 

As far as a refugium goes, there are potentially numerous fuge options available.  This might be a refugium sump, HOB, chaeto reactor, etc.  However, it might need to be sized a little bigger than traditional refugiums that we may have chosen for a nano tank in the past.

 

As far as Triton testing goes, I think that is a great option for some (especially as a spot check).  I believe there are numerous dosing options available to choose from (and testing could help guide us in the right direction).

 

Thanks for the reply!  The hypothetical explanation on the dilution was particularly helpful in my wrapping my head around how this would work.  

 

My main concern is out of such commercially available systems that align with this philosophy-- are there some that are better suited or better adapted to nano-sized tanks than others.  Or the converse, are there any I should stay away from because, in some way, the products or principles are particularly ill-advised for use in a nano-setting.

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IMO, maybe the best suited nano tanks for this method would be one designed for use with a sump.  Something like the IM NUVO EXT Lagoon 25.  Then you could run a suitably sized refugium and protein skimmer in the sump.  Granted, you can drill almost any aquarium for a sump.  There are numerous overflow kits out there (from a number of different vendors) that would work for various sized tanks.  Prebuilt sumps are available, or you can make your own custom sump.

 

I wouldn't think that the back chambers of a more typical AIO tank would be large enough for the type of fuge that BRS TV was talking about.  I don't know enough about chaeto reactors to recommend one.  However, in theory, you could probably run one of these on a more typical stock tank.

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1 hour ago, seabass said:

IMO, maybe the best suited nano tanks for this method would be one designed for use with a sump.  Something like the IM NUVO EXT Lagoon 25.  Then you could run a suitably sized refugium and protein skimmer in the sump.  Granted, you can drill almost any aquarium for a sump.  There are numerous overflow kits out there (from a number of different vendors) that would work for various sized tanks.  Prebuilt sumps are available, or you can make your own custom sump.

 

I wouldn't think that the back chambers of a more typical AIO tank would be large enough for the type of fuge that BRS TV was talking about.  I don't know enough about chaeto reactors to recommend one.  However, in theory, you could probably run one of these on a more typical stock tank.

 

Yeah...and especially because Triton's research suggests a minimum sump size as a percentage of display volume in order for the algae to have enough room to grow, and then a skimmer and carbon...I'm not sure you'd really have enough space to fully implement in an AIO.

 

My NC6 was an AIO and I used chaeto as the only method of filtration but in my case the tank was only fed by light and marine snow (filter feeders only, didn't have fish, didn't feed coral) so there was never enough food being introduced into the system so as to warrant a skimmer, carbon, etc.  The chaeto grew just enough to prevent any algae from forming in the display...it's a very simple solution if your tank is as simple as mine was, fighting algae with algae.  Once you have more mouths to feed and element uptake from coral growth out-paces water changes, I can definitely recognize the need for a reactor, skimmer, dosing which are the other core components in systems like Triton's.

 

 

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IMHO, when you have a small nano tank, like the 6  gallon one you mentioned, regular water changes are actually less maintenance then many other methods like triton.  The fact that you need a whole extra tank as a sump, with all of its various components is adding in extra variables for failure.  Those systems work well in large tanks because water changes are generally a lot of work and effort and they want to automate much of the tank, but when you have a tank that only takes a gallon of water to change every week or two the amount of work is minimal and it would probably take more time to just take water tests, send to triton, then dose accordingly when you have your results back than it did to just swap out a gallon or two.

 

Even less work if you buy your water premixed from an LFS like I do.  I find it easier to just fill up jugs of premixed salt water from my LFS that I trust, and keep one around for top off, and once a month I need to go fill em back up again.  I have a 24G aquapod with a lot of rock in it.  I go through MAAAYBBEE 10g of salt water every 4 to 6 weeks depending on how I feel and how many times I'm already taking trips to the store to blow money on shit I don't need like more coral. 😄

 

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All perfectly valid points.  But there is some beauty in the nutrient uptake of the Triton method.  Although certainly not the cheapest method for nano systems, if the goal is to achieve stability, potentially feed more, and have the display free of algae.  Then the Triton method might have an advantage.  And when we start trying to feed the food chain, (with phyto for example) it might win there too.

 

The truth is that there are a number of ways to be successful.  No water changes, partial water changes, or even 100% water changes.  I have to say that this no water change method (with comprehensive testing to achieve ideal water parameters) is an intriguing model, even if it might not be a good fit for everybody.

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Well, like everything, its a risk vs reward and work vs reward kind of thing.   Just with smaller tanks it' generally a lot more risk and a lot more work for a lot less reward.  Tank stability can be achieved just as easy as triton if you are doing weekly water changes.  Unless you are sending in your water for triton testing every week then you are only making best guess estimates on your dosing, and weekly water changes with the same stable mix will be pretty stable.

 

Generally long term tank stability requires the 'long term' part to be in place first.  People have long reported that as their tanks mature they find water changes less and less often needed, though IMO they definitely start to suffer effects somehow or some way.  You can achieve this without triton, but obviously triton makes it a loooottt easier, but takes a lot more money, equipment, and pre-planning on build.

 

Also, in regards specifically to that BRS series, they DID end up doing more then a few water changes throughout to combat various issues that arose, so I wouldn't call it a resounding water change free success.   They did do less, of course, but not completely free of them.  Goes back to the work/cost vs reward issue.  They have all the hardware (expensive), including big tanks of premixed salt water, hoses to change it, drain it, etc.  They aren't lugging buckets and stuff anyway.  

 

I think for a nano tank you are better off making your water changes easier than you are switching to triton for a 6G tank.  If you are going to go that heavy into equipment and setup you might as well just build a bigger tank setup.

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When simply considering time invested... Water changes are one of the easiest and fastest part of maintenance for me. The testing... Dosing... Taking apart skimmers or pumps and so on is way more tedious. I don't think being able to skip water changes will help with a few busy social weekends. 

 

I think the best way to have a lower maint tank is simply lower maint corals that don't require dosing... Display macro and a lower stock of fish. This way you can skip dosing and some testing and pass on the extras like skimmers so less to fuss with over all. 

 

 

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I definitely don't disagree with the two of you.  I certainly wouldn't want to discourage anyone from doing something that has been tried and true for decades.  Myself, I perform partial water changes to export excess organics and don't have plans to stop anytime soon.

 

However, I also recognize that (like weekly 100% water changes on picos) the "Triton" method [we probably need another name for it] of reduced or eliminated water changes, a large efficient chaeto refugium, activated carbon, along with comprehensive testing and dosing, might also have its place in reef keeping.

 

And while the equipment required, dedication to occasional comprehensive testing (supplemented by typical element testing), and dosing, might not be the perfect fit for most nano keepers, I wouldn't want to discourage exploration of these ideas or methods either.  It's a relatively new take on things that we have been implementing for quite some time.  And while I'm sure that it has a place in keeping larger reefs, maybe some people will discover how to better implement portions of it for keeping nanos.

 

Anyways, a decent discussion nonetheless.

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I think it really depends on the tank set up and the owner of the tank.

 

There is no perfect way to run a reef as we have numerous examples of successful tanks all run differently.

 

I personally like doing water changes, I like removing detritus from the rocks, sand, and in my back chambers which couldn't be done without me physically doing it.

 

Every tank is different. One may miss 1 waterchange due to social events etc and end up with huge issues whereas another may not have that problem at all.

 

Bioload, feeding, etc play a role in that as well.

 

Some ppl prefer doing no waterchanges and just dosing.

 

Some like having tons of equipment and others like simple systems.

 

I think a person before set up needs to decide what type of system is good for them and their lifestyle.

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