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spiffish

Lifegard Crystal 24.09 gallon: Back to the hobby with my son

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spiffish

Hello folks!

 

Back in 2013, I had a complete tank disaster. 

 

I had a Solana 34 cube running for five years. It had its ups and downs (the downs were when I got busy with life and didn't maintain it well). One day, in the middle of the night, I awoke to the sound of water. The tank had burst a leak in one of the seams. Much effort went into getting the livestock in containers to keep everything alive but I had a huge mess on my hands to clean up. In the midst of the chaotic scramble to manage the tank catastrophe, my wife came out of the bathroom with a positive pregnancy test (after trying for quite a while).

 

"This is the best day of my life" I said amongst the buckets of salt water, rocks, and towels.  

 

Fast forward to Christmas 2018. My now five year old son loves animals and science and I thought that this would be the year to get back into the hobby- making this a great father-son type activity to do together.  I am prepping what I can to have everything ready, but ultimately on Christmas morning the empty tank will be wrapped on a stand in the living room, ready for us to learn how to set it up together.  I am planning to make a brochure type thing with the steps spelled out over the coming weeks so he can see and understand the process (Ex: day 1: fill tank with sand, rock, and saltwater, day 2: test water parameters and temp, etc)

 

EDIT- Current FTS:

IMG_3312.thumb.jpg.c85eae1294e0aa22a846b77f0aee138c.jpg

 

 

On to the tank and equipment:

 

  • Build goals:
    • Mixed reef (lots of Zoas and soft corals)
    • Mix of inverts and fish
    • Clean crisp aquascape and display
    • Modern overall design to compliment mid-century decor 
    • Keep it simple equipment wise, but go for quality when I can
    • Be able to leave this for a couple of days out of town without someone checking on it
      • Any suggestions on how to do this worry-free?
         
  • Tank: Lifegard Crystal 24.09 gallon
  • Lighting
    • Kessil a160we blue tuna
    • Gooseneck mount
    • Kessil controller
    • I really love the shimmer effect and the overall aesthetic of this light
  • Other:
    • Dry rock (found a 40lb box on amazon for $1/lb)
    • Fiji Pink Live sand
    • Cobalt aquatics 100w heater
    • XP Aqua Duetta ATO (I have read lots of good about the Tunze, but This was almost half the price, and both sensors are optical vs the float backup on the Tunze, though I like the smaller pump and tubing in the Tunze)
  • Back chamber:
    • ???
    • I have no idea on how to set this up!
    • I am thinking about making an in-filter style acrylic filter basket for intake chamber
  • Basic set up plan:
    1. Plan aquascape and rinse rocks in fresh water
    2. Mix saltwater in plastic tubs, add rinsed rocks and bio-spira to jump start cycle (one week before christmas)
    3. Christmas: add sand and rocks, add water, set up light and back chamber (run polishing filter pad to help with sand debris)
    4. ??

 

Eventually, I may add a skimmer or some sort of fuge depending on how things go. I may also make an acrylic top for this depending on evaporation and livestock.  For now, I will start simple!  I would love your thoughts/feedback/advice on the questions below:

 

EDIT: Moved the following questions to a post in beginners forum. Feel free to comment here or ignore my questions in this thread, since the journal is meant more for documentation.
 

  1. Any advice on setting up the back chamber? (see pics below)
  2. Do I plug the hole on the intake down near the bottom, or use the included intake thing?
  3. Are the intake grates too small? What do?
  4. The return doesn't have any sort of end on it to direct the flow, any suggestions?
  5. What basic setup plan should I follow after christmas day? I have never done a set up with only dry rock, life sand, and bio spira... is that enough to start the cycle and eventually turn my rock into LR?
  6. When can I add first Basic Zoanthids, inverts, or fish?
  7. Any suggestions on a book or internet guide that spells out all the reef keeping (better if nano-reef focused?) so I can use that as a guide to learn this together with my son?
  8. Any complaints, criticism, insults, or generally tomfoolery are appreciated! I want to get this right and have some fun doing it 🙂

 

On to the pics of the tank (I could find no good pics of this tank online anywhere, maybe this will be helpful for someone!)

 

 

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spiffish

Christmas Update:

 

IMG_1704.thumb.jpg.2d890a5c4de559f28235f45fff38079e.jpg

This is what my family woke up to see on Christmas morning.  The stand is a cabinet I ordered from Target, and substantially reinforced when I put it together.

 

Today I spent some time playing with the dry rock scape.  I am pretty happy with this rock, especially since it was only $1/lb.  I want this tank to be very zen like and natural looking. 

 

 

IMG_1752.thumb.jpg.e4cd895ac5a84534e7281cef7ad6e2c1.jpg

 

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I am really liking this arrangement.  Good asymmetrical balance.  

 

Here is a shot of my basement studio where I am working on the tank. In this pic you can see the start of the leak test as I fill up the tank.

 

IMG_1766.thumb.jpg.ac87d545d62f4983ec7d2423a1b532cd.jpg

 

 

LEAK TEST:

 

So I filled the tank and set up the Kessil light. (I LOVE the light so far!).  

 

I am concerned though about the intake into the back chamber for this tank. The slits in the glass are very thin. There is also a secondary drain hole about 2" from the bottom.  You can see the drain with filter plug in this shot:

IMG_1774.thumb.jpg.794c8357a49fc47e9f88fd534e9a12c1.jpg

 

So with the filter in the bottom hole and the pump running, I am getting a perfect water level. However, if I remove the bottom intake filter and replace it with a stopper plug that was also provided with the tank kit, the intake slits are not sufficient to balance the flow from the return pump. 

 

You can see in the photo below just how close to overflowing the tank gets with the pump running and using the upper intake slits only:

IMG_1772.thumb.jpg.a600b6799ca1ba37f5bd6d0edd2def8d.jpg

 

So I returned the filter plug into the bottom intake to let this thing run a few days to watch for leaks etc.  

 

 

IMG_1778.thumb.jpg.aed69cc6a1a5589b8eaf062fb8a7c2b1.jpg

 

I am really loving how this tank looks however! The closest tank to this one that I looked at is the Nuvo 20, which is about the same footprint, just a little shorter in height. I think the Nuvo has a far superior return and back chamber arrangement, however, I think this Lifegard Crystal tank has incredibly beautiful built quality (look at those edges!) and better proportions for my design goals.

 

IMG_1780.thumb.jpg.2f8b9fb2f4a5f265f82d3c9d44b7d197.jpg

 

IMG_1782.thumb.jpg.e7b32053031983c1ecc235ca75423916.jpg

 

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sadley77

That second aquascape is really sweet, it reminds me so much of trenches i've seen while diving. Will be following along!!

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flypenfly

What dimensions are the back chamber?

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misbarclwn

Any updates on your tank?

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TatorTaco

Just picked up a lifegard tank and found this through the search engine. 

 

Is the tank tank still running? @spiffish

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spiffish

Wow! Life got busy and forgot to update this thread! Working on it now.  

@TatorTaco I learned some stuff that might be helpful to you about this tank once I update this.

@misbarclwn 

 

@flypenfly back chamber is 2 7/8" width, length spans the tank (about 23"). First overflow chamber is 4 3/8" wide.

 

Here is an updated FTS:

 

IMG_3312.thumb.jpg.9a875ea2e7c2cb6f40adf4b0a2fec781.jpg

 

 

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spiffish

Update Jan. 2019:

 

As with many AIO tanks, the back chamber filtering stuff that comes with it isn't very good. This tank came with bio/carbon balls and a big block of foam.  I decided to try my hand at making an in-tank style media basket, since one wasn't available at this time for this tank.

 

I used adobe illustrator to draw the design, and I had access to a glowforge laser cutter to cut it out.  Welding the acrylic was tricky, and this doesn't look perfect, however it fits perfectly in chamber one!  The difficulty here with this tank is that there is both a top and bottom overflow, and I wanted both overflows to be running through filter floss. So I made sure the bottom shelf and top shelf hold floss and polishing filters. There is nothing currently in middle of media basket since only the water from the top overflow would pass through.  

 

Back chamber setup: 

In my first post, you can see good pics of the chambers for reference.

  1. Chamber one, media basket with floss and polishing pad
  2. Chamber 2: chemi pure blue & cobalt neo therm 100w heater
  3. Chamber 3 carbon (near corner where water moves to pump chamber)
  4. Chamber 4 MJ1200 return (I removed foam cushion that came with the tank)

Here is the media basket I made:

 

IMG_1875.thumb.jpg.d07b815394bad12d9396716a031903c9.jpg

 

IMG_1877.thumb.jpg.0d12e8d96fd69392a479f5559ace33af.jpg

 

 

 

 

On to some other mods:

 @TatorTaco I think the following mods are essential for this tank! Let me know how it is going for you!

 

 

So, as posted previously, this tank has what I think is a flawed overflow and return setup.  The return pump was lousy (noisy as heck) and I replaced it with and MJ1200, which had similar, slightly higher flow.  I then found some various plumbing parts and lasercut an acrylic washer to replace the return plumbing. What came with the tank was a terrible loose fitting rubber thing that seemed in danger of popping off at any time, resulting on water pumped into the air, floor, etc.  This gave me a much more secure fitting.

 

My upgraded return plumbing:

IMG_1881.thumb.jpg.741d9179048c1ae9bd766803ee595239.jpg

 

 

The main problem to me now though is since the top overflow has such tiny slits, the bottom overflow must be used to keep a proper water level, which also results in not enough surface skimming.  The bottom overflow (the round intake thing) simply allowed too much water through. So, I found that one of the plastic fittings from the factory return that I was no longer using, fit perfectly inside the bottom overflow, which reduced the diameter slightly, which was just enough to raise the water level of the tank just slightly, which greatly improved the amount of water going through the top overflow, which has helped with surface skimming. It is still not great however, I wish this tank had wider grooves like most tanks and no bottom overflow.

 

Here is the round bottom overflow thingy with the return plumbing fitting inserted to reduce flow: 

IMG_3323.thumb.jpg.8813d332ba8dd6a0493c47aeca62e496.jpgIMG_3325.thumb.jpg.55fd3e731cfde24608bf09ebcfb926a3.jpg

 

 

Finally, the tank moved to the stand! I am really liking how this setup is looking so far!

 

IMG_1883.thumb.jpg.f6982351b7d112400aa235771e7490a4.jpg

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spiffish

Jan. 2019:

 

Finally filling the tank!

IMG_1884.thumb.jpg.3a92e6dbcf70d640a7f6f8d2142d9b75.jpg

 

 

The sand cloud

IMG_1887.thumb.jpg.d5d7cd08a0c89561097b2641bc72c6d2.jpg

 

 

 

 

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spiffish

Hmm... I've hit a 25mb upload limit? Is this for me as a user, for this thread, or what? Not sure how to add more pics.  I searched for upload limit on the forums, and didn't see an answer. Sorry if I missed it somewhere.

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Ratvan
1 minute ago, spiffish said:

Hmm... I've hit a 25mb upload limit? Is this for me as a user, for this thread, or what? Not sure how to add more pics.  I searched for upload limit on the forums, and didn't see an answer. Sorry if I missed it somewhere.

I believe the limit is by post. You should be able to carry on posting photos in your next post.

Looking good!

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spiffish

@Ratvan thanks, that's what I was hoping but I was still getting an error even with a new post so I cleared my cache and logged back in, and it's letting me upload more pics.

 

 

Here is a quick pic of the cabinet setup. I really wanted a mid-century style cabinet to go with the design in this room, and all tank stands I could find were either ugly, cheap, dated, or ultra modern.  I found this one on target.com.  I heavily reinforced the inside, and used glue on all joints when assembling. 

 

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 FTS Progression:

 

Jan. 2019. That one lovely purple piece of LR I got to help seed the dry rock was INFESTED with bristle worms. I've read that they are neutral/helpful as CuC, but I think they look horrible, and there were simply too many. I placed this rock in QT tank to lure out and flush the bristle worms. I did this many times, and still there were lots of worms.  I tweezed out what I could, then accepted the rest. Over time I've seen fewer and fewer of them.

IMG_1892.thumb.jpg.0aacf433544789f4e26aa83640e7b483.jpg

 

 

 

Feb 2019: First stock added.  Pair of captive bred clowns, CUC, and a few little frags.  Things going well so far, but I lost the second clown. He just vanished. Probably died and eaten by CUC, but one day he was there, the next day, poof!

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April 2019: Changed up the scape. A few more frags and a shrimp. Trying to take it slow with this tank since I still am learning.

IMG_2296.thumb.jpg.fa4370fa3589c289816d3158f5adceda.jpg

 

 

June 2019. 

So, things were going very well with lots of coral growth!

However: I kept losing fish. I added a little firefish (was in QT tank for 2 weeks) and he died after a week or so. Later tried again, and at one point had three fish die within days. My water params were looking good, and I did weekly or bi-weekly water changes.  Also, in the last month the corals were not doing as well. I could not figure out what was going wrong.

 

This is what I think was my mistake:  For that first fish loss, I believe I was underfeeding. I feed every 2-3 days, and I think I was too conservative with food.  But more recently, My salinity level dropped to 1.020. I had gotten out of the habit of checking that.  I think a combination of not enough salt when mixing new water, and at times the ATO being set in the wrong spot, adding too much RODI got the tank here. I feel like an idiot.  I still feel very frustrated at losing so many fish. I did not get into this hobby to kill animals- this is very upsetting to me.  I am hoping that my feeding and salinity issues were the problem and I plan to watch things much more closely.  Here's to hoping that another update in a month or so shows progress!

IMG_3330.thumb.jpg.02fa4bc85ccca17178cd7f15f2800313.jpg

 

IMG_3313.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

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TatorTaco

That sucks about the salinity and fish losses. At least you’ve learned from the mistake and know how to avoid it moving forward. 

 

Im not a creative person. I look at what is the most popular tanks here and compare it to my needs, and do everything I can to copy others’ success so I struggle less. That’s worked well for me with my Fusion 10 and Fusion 20 tanks, but I’m clueless when it comes to my new Lifegard 4G. I should REALLY create a journal entry for help, but the site is flooded with picos at the moment and I think it’d just get lost in the crowd. 

 

I ended up plugging my bottom hole to force water through the overflow slits. I was disappointed with the stock pump, so I picked up another at PetSmart. The PetSmart one was too loud so I re-installed the stock pump. Turns out, I had the valve nearly closed restricting flow. Lol. I made a couple Amazon orders before I realized this, so I’m going to try out the new pump. Hoping it’d be more reliable. 

 

I don't have access to fabrication tools, but I really need to do something about that rubber gasket that connects the pump to the return nozzle. It genuinely concerns me. I can’t fit a powerhead so I’m counting on all the flow to come from the return pump. I hadn’t considered how that would affect water flow back to the AIO section. 😞

 

Thats a terrific design on the media holder! Due to my tank’s small size, I plan to fix most problems through water changes. I found a floss holder by Waterbox on Amazon that I’m hoping will fit. Fingers crossed. 

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ReefahBarra84

Any chance you'd be willing to make any more of those baskets? I'm ordering this tank as we speak!

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Mike4500

Hi! Amazing fish tank, could I ask, what are the dimensions of the first chamber? 

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Hagwood

Hey guys, nice write up! Any updates? I myself have the 24gal Lifegard and have only been using the blue sponge it came with wedged into the 3rd chamber I believe (chamber right before pump). The tank looks all dusty like particles floating all around so I need to clean it up, what are you guys using in the back chambers and what goes I’m which one? Thanks!

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spiffish
On 10/6/2020 at 7:19 PM, Mike4500 said:

Hi! Amazing fish tank, could I ask, what are the dimensions of the first chamber? 

Hi There! Sorry for missing this- I haven't logged in here in a while.  The first chamber where the returns are is 2 7/8"by 4 3/8" wide.

 

My tank is going well, I'll update new photos sometimes.  Just the ups-and-downs from varying levels of maintenance on my end. Had a bad cyano outbreak a while back, all good now.  I now am running two cheapo amazon pumps for flow in the tank, and a skimmer in the middle chamber that I am not sure is doing much, lol. 

 

I stand by some of my original comments that this tank has nicer proportions, and better build quality with prettier joints (45 degree miters!) than many others, but the overflow and return setup stock really is lousy. My mods for the return really helped, and my waterlevel is solid, but it is still hard to get good surface skimming.  All in all, it's been a reliable easy to maintain system.

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spiffish
On 7/27/2019 at 11:50 PM, ReefahBarra84 said:

Any chance you'd be willing to make any more of those baskets? I'm ordering this tank as we speak!

I am so sorry that I missed your comment way back in 2019.  I don't have regular access to the materials to make laser cut stuff- but if that ever changes I can shoot you a message.

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Hagwood
On 10/24/2020 at 9:07 PM, spiffish said:

Hi There! Sorry for missing this- I haven't logged in here in a while.  The first chamber where the returns are is 2 7/8"by 4 3/8" wide.

 

My tank is going well, I'll update new photos sometimes.  Just the ups-and-downs from varying levels of maintenance on my end. Had a bad cyano outbreak a while back, all good now.  I now am running two cheapo amazon pumps for flow in the tank, and a skimmer in the middle chamber that I am not sure is doing much, lol. 

 

I stand by some of my original comments that this tank has nicer proportions, and better build quality with prettier joints (45 degree miters!) than many others, but the overflow and return setup stock really is lousy. My mods for the return really helped, and my waterlevel is solid, but it is still hard to get good surface skimming.  All in all, it's been a reliable easy to maintain system.

Can you upload a pic of your two pumps and how you have them angled? I have the 24g and just picked up a Jebao OW-10 Wavemaker but not sure where to put it.

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