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aclman88

Aclman's Petco Pico

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aclman88

Hi guys and gals!

 

After taking a decade long hiatus from fish keeping I started up again last year with a 20 gallon freshwater planted tank.  I got a good deal on a Petco Imagitarium 3.7 and, initially, planned on turning it into a better tank.  After getting bored with a small planted tank, I decided take it down.  Meanwhile, I stumbled upon nano-reef.com and was intrigued at the idea of starting a pico reef.  I used to keep a FOWLR tank back in high school and always had an affinity for salt water tanks.  After doing a lot of research and reaching out in different forums I decided to go for it.  I know that a pico is the most difficult, but I know others have done it and I enjoy the challenge of trying something new.  

 

I first want to give a huge shout out to user @TatorTaco who not only gave me a ton of start up material, but whose advice was invaluable in giving me the confidence to give it a go.  It also helped me to realize that I had a supportive community here that would be interested in my journey and would offer help if I needed it.

 

The first thing I did after receiving my start up supplies was to remove the baffle from the tank; I found the sump wasn't that effective at filtering and if anything, caused a lot of detritus build up in hard to reach areas.  It was surprisingly easy, and also freed up a lot more space in the tank  After that, I added the sand rock and did a fish-less cycle using a quarter bottle of biospira and Tim's Ammonia.  The cycle took about a week but I continued to monitor levels and dose ammonia while I researched more about running a pico tank. During that time I also built a DIY ATO using this guide by @mooker.  I found an old Aquaclear 20 that I created a three-tiered media rack using plastic canvas and zip ties. For lighting I am using a Luminie Asta 20 I bought off of amazon.  The heater is a used Neotherm 50W I got a good deal on from a user on reddit's aqua swap subreddit. I let the tank run a few more days to ensure that the cycle didn't stall or lapse and also that the ATO worked.

 

Below is what the tank looked like after it was set up and ready for corals.  You can see the float switches for the ATO in the top right corner of the tank.  Currently, I have GSP a couple different Zoas and a Xenia. For my CUC I started with hermit crabs, but was immediately annoyed how they crawled all over the coral plugs.  They went back to Petco except one "blue leg hermit" that turned out to be a cerith snail.  I recently added a trochus and also used more zip ties and plastic canvas to construct a snail guard (pics to follow).

 

 

 

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mooker

Looks like you're off to a great start! Glad to see my ATO guide is getting some use - let me know if you have any questions!

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aclman88
24 minutes ago, mooker said:

Looks like you're off to a great start! Glad to see my ATO guide is getting some use - let me know if you have any questions!

 

Thanks!  I really liked that it didn't require any splicing of extension cord wire or dealing with 120V currents which I definitely was not comfortable with.  I think it's the best option for those of us who don't want to worry about dangerous levels of electricity.  I also found a UL listed 12v DC power supply, so I was much more ok using it long-term without fear of failure.  I used these as float switch mounts by just drilling two 3/8" holes.  They were the perfect height for the water level I wanted to maintain and it was cheap.   Thank you again for the detailed write up!!! I would not have built my own if I hadn't come across your guide which saved me well over $100 and gave me the sense of satisfaction at building it myself.

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TatorTaco

Yay!  I'm so glad to see you on here with a running tank!  Crabs can be great, but can also be huge buttheads.  I don't blame you for ditching them.  

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aclman88

Quick update with some potato quality photos of the snail guard.

 

You can see the plastic canvas snail guard that I created; it's cheap, but effective.  I am running the lights about 9 hours a day at the moment to let things settle in but I am planning on cranking it up to 11-12 eventually.  I would rather go less in the beginning and slowly increase rather than in the opposite direction.    I am also considering adding a small powerhead to increase circulation and have the flow be a little less direct.  I was toying with the idea of adding an AC 30 with cheato (an AC 50 won't fit on the back and leave room for the light clamp and float switches) but after some reading I am thinking that it wouldn't really be enough to provide any real benefits.  I think I am better running chemo-pure nano packets and filter floss along with weekly water changes.

 

Any input for advice for lighting and flow would be appreciated.  I am also curious as to peoples opinion on cheato... would an AC20 provide enough space for beneficial amounts of cheato??

 

 

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aclman88

Update:  The Xenia is melting and wilting away!!!! It is tightly closed up with some parts that are white and look like they are rotting away.  The zoas and GSP seem to be happy and healthy. 

 

Parameters:

Ammonia - 0  

Nitrite - 0

Nitrate - ~5 (hard to read on API kit)

Temp is 80 (although it swings higher towards 81 or so.. getting a small fan to mount on the filter to take care of that).  

pH - 7.8-8.0 (It is difficult to tell using the color chart on the API test kit).  

 

From what I've read, Xenia tends to do poorly in a lower pH and prefers upwards of 8.3 or so to really thrive. Not sure if low pH is causing the issue or it was the temperature swings.  Apparently Xenia is a weed in many tanks but also prone to rapid decline. 

 

My plan today when I get home from work is to trim the dead material away and performa an iodine dip using seachem reef dip.  I am considering buying some lugs or other related iodine supplement to dose the tank (maybe a drop per week) as I have read light dosing of iodine can be beneficial to coral, especially Xenia.

 

Any thoughts?  Paging @Clown79 and @Lula_Mae I remember you both were incredibly helpful when I was asking questions about my supply list and would like your thoughts/advice as well as those of anyone following this thread/journal.

 

Thanks!

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Clown79

Xenia love light, it's a misconception that they do well in low light. 

 

They like nutrients and flow as well 

 

I don't even test ph, so couldn't say if it effects them or not but ph fluctuates all day long, so I don't focus on it.

 

Alkalinity on the other hand is very important.

 

Putting cheato in an ac filter is fine. Brs did tests on cheato and proved that even small quantities can reduce nutrients. Obviously the more cheato the more reduction.

 

It's also a good way to keep pods producing for the tank.

 

As for lighting, it's not necessary for 11-12hrs. There can be too much light and too little light. Corals use a certain amount of light and the rest is wasted.

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aclman88
9 minutes ago, Clown79 said:

Xenia love light, it's a misconception that they do well in low light. 

Good to know, I moved the frame higher up in the rock work.  The water tests really low for nitrate so I'm wondering if the water is possible not nutrient-rich enough for the Xenia to flourish.  The LFS I got it from was keeping a ton of it in an overflow box out of the main tank... it was just lumped in their haphazardly and seemed to be doing fine.

6 minutes ago, Clown79 said:

Alkalinity on the other hand is very important.

Do you think weekly water changes would be sufficient for provide proper levels of alkalinity?  I don't have a test kit for this but figured weekly changes would keep levels high enough.  

7 minutes ago, Clown79 said:

Putting cheato in an ac filter is fine. Brs did tests on cheato and proved that even small quantities can reduce nutrients. Obviously the more cheato the more reduction.

Sounds good... maybe I will upgrade to an AC50/70 and move the float switch mount/light to free up space.  Will pods naturally produce in the cheato or do I need to provide an initial starting population?  I hear a lot about pods but don't totally understand their role in the tank.  I will be researching that now.

 

 

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aclman88

I also realized that I am premixing and storing saltwater using a heater and powerhead along with air bubbles. I have noticed precipitation in the bottom of the mixing container and I am thinking the combination of sitting for a week at a time while being heated is leading to precipitation which means there is less calcium and carbonate available for the coral... might mean that my alk and Ca are lower than they should be.

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Clown79
4 hours ago, aclman88 said:

Good to know, I moved the frame higher up in the rock work.  The water tests really low for nitrate so I'm wondering if the water is possible not nutrient-rich enough for the Xenia to flourish.  The LFS I got it from was keeping a ton of it in an overflow box out of the main tank... it was just lumped in their haphazardly and seemed to be doing fine.

Do you think weekly water changes would be sufficient for provide proper levels of alkalinity?  I don't have a test kit for this but figured weekly changes would keep levels high enough.  

Sounds good... maybe I will upgrade to an AC50/70 and move the float switch mount/light to free up space.  Will pods naturally produce in the cheato or do I need to provide an initial starting population?  I hear a lot about pods but don't totally understand their role in the tank.  I will be researching that now.

 

 

Weekly waterchanges can be fine for certain corals as long as the salt is mixing to certain levels.

 

An alk test kit is always good to have.

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Lula_Mae
10 hours ago, aclman88 said:

Update:  The Xenia is melting and wilting away!!!! It is tightly closed up with some parts that are white and look like they are rotting away.  The zoas and GSP seem to be happy and healthy. 

 

Parameters:

Ammonia - 0  

Nitrite - 0

Nitrate - ~5 (hard to read on API kit)

Temp is 80 (although it swings higher towards 81 or so.. getting a small fan to mount on the filter to take care of that).  

pH - 7.8-8.0 (It is difficult to tell using the color chart on the API test kit).  

 

From what I've read, Xenia tends to do poorly in a lower pH and prefers upwards of 8.3 or so to really thrive. Not sure if low pH is causing the issue or it was the temperature swings.  Apparently Xenia is a weed in many tanks but also prone to rapid decline. 

 

My plan today when I get home from work is to trim the dead material away and performa an iodine dip using seachem reef dip.  I am considering buying some lugs or other related iodine supplement to dose the tank (maybe a drop per week) as I have read light dosing of iodine can be beneficial to coral, especially Xenia.

 

Any thoughts?  Paging @Clown79 and @Lula_Mae I remember you both were incredibly helpful when I was asking questions about my supply list and would like your thoughts/advice as well as those of anyone following this thread/journal.

 

Thanks!

Hey! Thanks for thinking of me. I've been horribly sick so my brain's a little on the fritz but I will try to help. I've never tested pH so not sure on that; whatever you do, don't chase numbers. I feel like xenia might be one of those that either does too well or very poorly; hopefully once it gets over the shock of a new tank it will perk up and stop melting (I've yet to keep it successfully for very long).  I definitely recommend Lugol's to have on hand; I use it to dip stressed corals and new ones and have had it really help struggling ones before.  Some kind of dip for new corals is always advisable because it's so easy for them to track in something nasty. I have heard people say xenia likes extra iodine but most people don't recommend adding anything you can't test for and apparently iodine tests aren't necessarily accurate for the addition of iodine like Lugol's (I don't fully understand it but I believe it's related to different forms of iodine that may be present).  I would definitely do research before adding any. I wouldn't expect a 1-degree temp swing to be too big of a deal for most livestock although it's always possible.  I run my lights on around 8 hours a day; too much can lead to algae issues or corals melting.  Some salt brands are not designed to be kept long term in a bucket after mixing; I believe Red Sea is one brand that needs to be used fairly soon after mixing.  You can mix 1 gallon at a time for your water changes (1/2 cup salt to a gallon of RO/DI or distilled is the usual ratio).  Instant Ocean usually leaves a bit of precipitate in my experience; I didn't like that so I moved away from it.  Most likely pods will already come in the chaeto if not already in your tank so you shouldn't need to add any.  Hope I remembered everything, check back if you have more questions!

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aclman88
9 hours ago, Lula_Mae said:

Thanks for thinking of me. I've been horribly sick so my brain's a little on the fritz but I will try to help. I've never tested pH so not sure on that; whatever you do, don't chase numbers

Hope you feel better! Yea I tested first thing this morning and it still looked to be around 7.8 so although it’s on the low end it’s stable which is good. 

 

Do you have any experience with aquaclear refugiums? I’m considering either a 50 or 70 to convert. 

 

I have a 50 lb bag so I might consider switching when that runs out. 

15 hours ago, Clown79 said:

An alk test kit is always good to have.

Is there one you recommend? 

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Clown79
3 hours ago, aclman88 said:

Hope you feel better! Yea I tested first thing this morning and it still looked to be around 7.8 so although it’s on the low end it’s stable which is good. 

 

Do you have any experience with aquaclear refugiums? I’m considering either a 50 or 70 to convert. 

 

I have a 50 lb bag so I might consider switching when that runs out. 

Is there one you recommend? 

Salifert or hanna checker.

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Lula_Mae
11 hours ago, aclman88 said:

Hope you feel better! Yea I tested first thing this morning and it still looked to be around 7.8 so although it’s on the low end it’s stable which is good. 

 

Do you have any experience with aquaclear refugiums? I’m considering either a 50 or 70 to convert. 

 

I have a 50 lb bag so I might consider switching when that runs out. 

Is there one you recommend? 

Thanks, I've been in bed for two days after an ER visit and I am over it lol.

 

I converted an AC70 for my 5.5, I believe I followed what el fabuloso did in his legendary pico thread. It seemed to work pretty well but I realized belatedly that a refugium maybe wasn't the best idea for a macro pico lol. The chaeto kind of outcompeted my decorative macros as did the turf algae I had in that tank.  If you don't plan on a bunch of decorative macros you should be fine and it should help reduce nitrates.  I do believe I switched out the impeller for one from an AC20 to reduce the flow as it was a little too strong for my corals, although I think one from an AC30 would've been a better choice as the 20 was a bit too small I feel.  I also shaved off the little tab like el fab did so I could turn the flow down even further if needed.

 

pH will fluctuate between daytime and nighttime but if it's steady at the same time of day you should be fine.  Even if there's slight fluctuations I don't advocate adding anything chemical to change it because that can lead to issues. 

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aclman88

Update time!  Tank has been running smoothly for a couple of weeks now.

 

Current Livestock:

Three Zoa Colonies

Favia (according to LFS guy)

Acan

Duncan 

Green Star Polyps

 

All corals seem to be happy and healthy.  The duncan is a little temperamental so I am moving it around trying to find out where it will be happiest.

 

Salifert tests came in so I tested them this morning (tested Alk and Ca twice for accuracy).

 

Parameters:

pH - 7.8

Alk - 10.3 dKH

Calcium - 485

Magnesium - 1440

Nitrate - 0.0

Temperature - ~79.5

 

Lighting:

 

10 hours a day.  

100% Royal Blue and Blue LED Channels

70-80% UV/Green/Red

0% - Whites

 

Feeding regimen:

 

Spot feed acans, favia and duncan mysis shrimp two-three times.

Target feed Reef Chili with DIY Julians things all others twice a week.

 

Water Changes:

Changing approx 30% water a week.  

 

Moving forward the plan is to test Alkalinity and Calcium daily over the next few days to get an idea of usage and if dosing will be necessary in the near future.  Other than that sitting back and enjoying the tank without trying to mess with it too much.

 

 

 

 

 

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