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Letterkenny

Advise starting a new tank

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I’m looking to start up a tank again. I had one growing up and most recently had a BioCube 29 for about two years during college that I originally got off of Craigslist. I had my ups and downs with that tank and ultimately broke it down when I needed to move. It’s been 4 years and after several dive trips I want to start up something again for the office of the new house my wife and I are getting. 

 

What also help catch my eye was the Fluval Evo 13.5 and the price point it comes in at. It is a route I am considering knowing that I will replace most things in it over time. I am also considering an IM Fusion 20, Lagoon 25, or Peninsula 20. I’m really only looking to keep a pair of clowns, a shrimp, and some hardy corals (zoas, frogspawn, green star polyps, etc). Since I want to do this right this time, I’m trying to seek the collective guidance of the forum. This time around, I will most likely make my own water and buy a more compact RO/DI and use Instant Ocean as that seems to be able to be kept mixed for longer. 

 

My main concern is the trips that my wife and I take which can be 2-3 weeks long. With my old tank, I set up an auto feeder when out for a week and had a hood to help with the evaporation and never had an issue. However, I’ve never had a tank when I did these longer dive trips. The main way of tackling this is automation. This seems to have advanced some but not as much as I would expect. 

 

An ATO will be a must and am thinking of just getting the AutoAqua ATO/AWC. I’ve read a couple people do similar builds while lurking around but never saw more concrete info on this. Is it possible to fit two 5 gallon jugs and a third 2.5 or 5 gallon in a stand for one of those tanks? In general, how well does that AWC work? Is it to the point that even when I am around I can have it do 2% daily changes and just empty the waste, fill the new salt water, and top off the ATO tank? That would definitely be a winner doing that every two weeks in general. 

 

I’d probably also look at getting an MP10 at some point primarily for the battery backup available for that pump in case the power was ever to go out. Is there anything else that I am missing for an automated setup and something that I can set for a couple of weeks in a worst case scenario of not finding a tank sitter? I used timers on my last tank but I’m thinking of using one of these internet connected power strips this time around since I could program the lights, skimmer, etc. on the fly and make it easier to turn off the pumps for feeding time (Alexa, trigger feeding time anyone?). 

 

Ultimately, I’d just like to make a tank that my wife and I can enjoy while we can’t be diving and trying to spend more investment on automation to make a more ULM build. Any advice is greatly appreciated. Q

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IMHO, leaving a tank unattended for 2-3 weeks is just asking for trouble. Power outages, technology failure, hamfisted tank babysitters, and lack of water changes are just a few of the potential issues that can rear their ugly heads. I would think long and hard about a tank’s needs before I committed time and money to something with that high a failure potential. Hate to be a nay-sayer or bust ur bubble but that’s just my $.02.

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I'm in the same boat as @Oldsalt01.

 

1 week vacation with automation most do- they also have back up sitters, video surveillance not relying on the equipment alone.

3 weeks leaving a tank alone is definitely going to need more than automation.

 

The more equipment to rely on is also more equipment to fail.

 

 

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I don't see how you could "automate" for 3 weeks.  You would almost certainly have to have someone come and check in on the tank at least a couple of times during that time period.  Or at least I would... I'd be completely paranoid 🙂 

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I vote for the IM 20 or Lagoon 25...bigger sump, so gives you more options for managing your aquarium. the rest will work of course, but they're sump area is quite a bit tighter, limiting the options for equipment, etc, you can get in there. bigger is always better too...more water means better stability.

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Automation isnt a bad thing. With proper planning and enough control. It can be done.

 

I dont use a auto feeder, so I cannot comment on them. However, i can comment on a ato and its reliability (assuming proper maintenance) a tunze would be my purchase in your situation. No float valves to fail, run dry protection.

 

Most lights are controllable and have built in timers. 

 

I dont see any reason why 14-20 days away cant be achieved, just keep your goals in check. Realize that your maintenance and husbandry will predict your success. Keeping things clean and running correctly will be key. Sps might not be in the cards. Softies and lps can handle some swings.

 

Your going to want a larger tank. The 25 lagoon will be your best bet for stability.

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As a person who leaves tanks unattended...you want a controller and plan for redundancy. I would go with the 20 or 25 for a bit more stability but still stock lite on fish as that will help when you are away.

 

There are very few auto feeders I trust on small tanks. The fishmate14 I have because its the only one I know of that will dispense an exact amount of food but it only lasts 14 days. I would have someone feed if you are gone longer than that. With the eheim you have to basically tape and mess with the door to get it to feed a small amount which I feel increases point of failure but it can be used with some modifications. 

 

You will want a apex controller for the heater and so you can monitor the tank while away and know if something is not drawing power..ect. I also use a nest cam I can turn on from my phone to visually inspect the tank. 

 

Once you have a lot invested in a tank...it is worth all that equipment.

 

It is much easier to leave a softy tank than a SPS tank as you have longer to catch and correct problems with soft corals before they die. 

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I have an amazon show that conveniently "points" at my lagoon. So as long as i have power in my house i can see my tank.

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I’m saying 3 weeks as a worst case scenario but will likely get a sitter. My other main issue is that I am quite busy during January - March. I’ll be able to check on it daily, etc but it would be ideal to keep things automated as much as possible. I’m only looking for LPS and softies and a pair of clowns. I know going bigger would be less maintenance but I think for our needs, one of the IM is the best bet. I like the MP10 so I can have that on a battery backup and I will also have a camera on it. What else are key things I can get to automate the setup? 

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I think you'll love the IM's . I have the 10 and 20 and I'll tell you this, there is a world of difference between the two with regards to "less maintenance".  My 20 once it was up and running is SOOOO much easier to maintain.  Less swings, a little less worry and is much more stable.  My 10 gallon is in a good spot right now but I can get swings in it if I'm not keeping an eye on it.  I also don't have an ATO with it (because of location) but have one with my 20.  Makes all the difference in the world.  If you can do it go with the 20 (one of their versions) do it, you won't regret it.

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21 minutes ago, Letterkenny said:

I’m saying 3 weeks as a worst case scenario but will likely get a sitter. My other main issue is that I am quite busy during January - March. I’ll be able to check on it daily, etc but it would be ideal to keep things automated as much as possible. I’m only looking for LPS and softies and a pair of clowns. I know going bigger would be less maintenance but I think for our needs, one of the IM is the best bet. I like the MP10 so I can have that on a battery backup and I will also have a camera on it. What else are key things I can get to automate the setup? 

The one thing to remember about auto water changers, is they only change water. Water changes for me have always been about removing debris, cleaning the sand, back chambers, pumps, sucking out the poop, ect. The actual exchange of the water itself does very little for me other than add trace elements. 

 

If it were my tank, I would go bare bottom to eliminate the need to clean sand regularly. Good flow to try and keep most of the crap suspended but there will still be some build up. 

 

I think as long as bioload is low, say 2 clowns in a 25g or maybe 3 fish max, it would not be too demanding. 

 

I would stay away from any hard to feed fish that can't easily eat pellets from an auto feeder at the surface and compete with clowns. 

 

If you do LPS, I would expect to get a doser at some point. 

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1 hour ago, Tamberav said:

The one thing to remember about auto water changers, is they only change water. Water changes for me have always been about removing debris, cleaning the sand, back chambers, pumps, sucking out the poop, ect. The actual exchange of the water itself does very little for me other than add trace elements. 

 

If it were my tank, I would go bare bottom to eliminate the need to clean sand regularly. Good flow to try and keep most of the crap suspended but there will still be some build up. 

 

I think as long as bioload is low, say 2 clowns in a 25g or maybe 3 fish max, it would not be too demanding. 

 

I would stay away from any hard to feed fish that can't easily eat pellets from an auto feeder at the surface and compete with clowns. 

 

If you do LPS, I would expect to get a doser at some point. 

Thanks for the insight. I would plan on having good flow in the tank. Like I mentioned earlier, I’m not trying to never do any of these maintenance items. Rather, I know that there will be times that I won’t be able to pay as much attention to it as I’d like. How much better off would I be with an AWC versus just the ATO? I really only plan on having a pair of clowns (might try Picasso’s this time around), a cleaner shrimp, and some corals (torch, zoas, green star polyp, and maybe a blue candy cane). I’ve had these all before in my last tank and was doing pretty well with them before being hit with a red planaria outbreak. I was able to get everything out fine but ultimately ended up moving once I had everything QT’d and broke down and sold the tank. My plan is to invest in quality automation and then buy some corals when the timing is right. 

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1 hour ago, Letterkenny said:

Thanks for the insight. I would plan on having good flow in the tank. Like I mentioned earlier, I’m not trying to never do any of these maintenance items. Rather, I know that there will be times that I won’t be able to pay as much attention to it as I’d like. How much better off would I be with an AWC versus just the ATO? I really only plan on having a pair of clowns (might try Picasso’s this time around), a cleaner shrimp, and some corals (torch, zoas, green star polyp, and maybe a blue candy cane). I’ve had these all before in my last tank and was doing pretty well with them before being hit with a red planaria outbreak. I was able to get everything out fine but ultimately ended up moving once I had everything QT’d and broke down and sold the tank. My plan is to invest in quality automation and then buy some corals when the timing is right. 

I would start with a ATO and add a AWC if you feel you need it. Some tanks run better without regular water changes so at this point you don't know how often the tank will need it. Quality live rock and maturity will effect this as well. You don't want nutrients getting too low, especially for LPS and softies. 

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17 hours ago, Oldsalt01 said:

IMHO, leaving a tank unattended for 2-3 weeks is just asking for trouble. Power outages, technology failure, hamfisted tank babysitters, and lack of water changes are just a few of the potential issues that can rear their ugly heads. I would think long and hard about a tank’s needs before I committed time and money to something with that high a failure potential. Hate to be a nay-sayer or bust ur bubble but that’s just my $.02.

Agreed.  unless you have someone who knows what they are doing to take care of your tank while you are gone, I wouldn't bother.  Too many things to go wrong unattended for that length of time and a smaller tank and it is highly likely that a smaller tank will need a water change at some point in there.  

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Well I appreciate the replies. I don’t want to completely break the budget here but what should I be looking for in the build as when I did my last one, things were a bit different. I will probably go with an IM 20, 25 lagoon, 20 peninsula, or the 30l. I assume the back return pump should be upgraded as well as adding those rotating novel heads. Lighting seems like a pair of Hipargero might work well and not be budget breaking or getting the AI Prime HD (but would one of those be better than two of the Hipargero’s?). I never had an ATO before and was mainly looking at the Autoaqua ATO/AWC combo but is there something better there? I know I just want to go optical light sensor versus float. I used to have some Koralia’s for my old tank. The MP10 is pretty expensive but having at least one in the tank seems smart given that the backup battery is rated for a couple days versus not really sure what a normal UPS would give you on a single Koralia. Any heater and skimmer preferences for this tank?

 

Ultimately I just want to do this tank right and be able to reuse a lot of the build down the road if I ever break it down after a couple years. I also just plan on getting purely tank raised corals and fish for the tank. 

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A 1500va ups would give you a mere 2 hours of run time for 100 watts (assuming you had a heater and a koralia 1) . 2 hours :yikes: . A vortech battery back up gives you a whopping 72 hours on a mp10.

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11 hours ago, JBM said:

A 1500va ups would give you a mere 2 hours of run time for 100 watts (assuming you had a heater and a koralia 1) . 2 hours :yikes: . A vortech battery back up gives you a whopping 72 hours on a mp10.

Main reason I’ll get an MP10 starting out. 

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Fyi, you can also use the mp10 on a upgrade. I went from a 20 long to a 80 lagoon. Granted i went from 20-30% to 80-90% power level. But i didnt need to buy a new powerhead

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