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Diamonds x Pearls

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State of the Aquarium, 1 July 2020, 2am EDT

 

 

the journal begins here:

Didn't realize image compression and Figure 1 looks terribad. yikes!

 

The story actually begins well before this photo on the 22nd. We rewind to December 27th to where I was moving a couple of aquariums in my wife's Honda Fit. (near professional aquarium mover at this point, it's my 4th move).

 

Quote

 

"You know a tank wouldn't look bad there."

"You think so?"

"Yeah you already have one bordering the bar. Another one to go along the wall wouldn't look bad."
"If I were to make another one, it would be saltwater."

 

 

She says she didn't say that, but from that video conversation through Facebook I started thinking real hard what would I make for a third aquarium. I wanted to be lazy and build another planted tank, but I was ready for something different like the tank I made before. I built an Amazon blackwater aquarium to just see how simple or hard it was to maintain that effect. Turns out it was just a matter of boiling botanicals to no end.

 

Wife was okay with another tank. Good enough for me. I was a newly minted aquatics specialist at my Petco and I turned the saltwater section around by not killing all the invertebrates. (That's another story to tell.) Then I thought, hey you're not at FOWLR tanks why not building a reef tank at home?

 

$1 per gallon sale happened right around the new year. I hemmed and hawed at the idea of getting a tank. I looked at Inappropriate Reefer's 10g build. Then I saw defekt's Sanity Saver. Perfect. I had to work around my property management for not having an aquarium of 15 gallons or more. I worked the legal gray area by getting a 20 gallon long since I remember measuring the inside dimensions came closer to 16 gallons than 20 gallons as advertised on the marketing label. I never enjoyed tanks that ran tall with a poor footprint. Bigger footprints mean more horizontal swimming room and unless you're caring for sea jellies or freshwater angels height can be a dimension to ignore. Fortunately there was only one 20L sold at my store and after 3 weeks of thinking really hard of how to build it and its life support elements I decided to go for it and blocked out the image of a nasty credit card bill (but hey points right?).

 

I bought the tank around January 10th and it just sat there sad without a stand for about a week. I was still wondering if this was a good move, but I didn't like the idea of just wasting a perfectly good tank. I built one of those nicer Petco stands (because my wife doesn't have her woodworking tools right now). And that stood for another few days. I painted the back of the aquarium with clearance acrylic paint from Michaels. I waited another week as I was picking out parts.

 

Life Support System: (thanks defekt)

  • AC70 from a previous tank with floss, purigen, phosguard (as needed since mid-Feb), and biomax rings
  • 2x Koralia 240s
  • Fluval 100w heater
  • Current Orbit Marine LED 24-36"

 

Parts arrived on January 21st. Thanks Amazon Prime trial.

 

CaribSea LifeRock, 20lb box arrived January 22nd. I bought CaribSea CORALine from my Petco store.

 

Figure 1. Insert awful photo.

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Diamonds x Pearls

If you're wondering what the lines on the tank are, those are guiding lines I marked off with a dry erase pen. I do this to all my tanks now to give me a visual guide while I aquascape. I'm a very visual person so I'll be creating images in my head on how I want the rocks to be arranged. These lines just help put the framework down, working the thirds of the tank and maybe going along golden ratios, but definitely creating a singular focal point.

 

January 24, eve of Lunar New Year and my week off in California.

 

Left work with a smile on my face with a big bottle of Bio-Spira. I'm flying back home after having to stick around for Christmas. Thanks to an employee discount and PALS rewards dollars I got a free chunk of live rock with some ulva and what I still think is rhodophyta growing on it. Free nutrient export, yes!

 

I went to House of Tropicals in Glen Burnie, MD and decided to get some of their saltwater. I didn't have totes so I just made with their SeaChem Hydrototes. It's an innovative concept to use LDPE as a collapsible tote, but I feel with my luck I'll break one within a month, so I'll go to WalMart and get real jerrycans. Someone nearly rear ended me on 95...wtf.

 

One worried wife later I filled the tank up. Yes cloudy water since I wasn't exactly careful in my pouring. I let the dust settle after eating dinner and hanging out with the wife watching her play Stardew Valley on the Switch I decided to run the machinery. I reprogrammed the lighting and the timer to reflect an average sunrise and sunset time. At the time I didn't know which region I wanted to emulate so I currently have a sunrise and sunset similar to the Great Barrier Reef. I'll change it later to reflect similar times to Okinawa and Yaeyama Islands.

 

Wow a quiet tank. My AC70 is an old unit so the motor gives a low hum, but I don't mind it. I'd rather her hums than dead silence.

 

Time to inoculate. I put in a small piece of frozen food, silverside onto the sand bed. In went the entire bottle of Bio-Spira, the one size that treats 70 gallons. Overkill? Nah, when the real net volume of the tank is just shy of 15 gallons.

 

I boarded an early morning flight out of BWI to PHX to SNA. I have some test kits ordered and hopefully they're at my doorstep right now.

 

Wife took these photos, so they're automatically better. Dated 1/28/20.

Figures 2a and 2b. A more appropriate photo representation with zoomed in look at the free live rock piece.

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So we're up to speed now. I'm a total newbie here on n-r forums and I'm more than settled in my parent's home in California. After just searching on Google maps of local fish stores. It made me remember why I still miss California while living in Maryland.

 

This past week there's nothing special to report since I'm so removed from my aquarium, but I do want to keep it up to date to what I've been doing for the tank in the abstract sense. Yes, the Amazon orders keep on coming. I just ordered some test kits, a refracto, and IO Reef Crystals (since I've had a meh experience with their normal salt). This past week also has been a lot vision and dream casting for what the aquarium will look like. The easiest part was the more obvious stocking being fish and larger invertebrates. I should probably discuss a little more on my design theory.

 

Ever since I started keeping fish, I had this belief where if you were to keep an animal you should probably do your best efforts to have your animal feel most at home. It's probably most true if you're keeping wild-caught specimens. Lately in this day in age where aquaculture has progressed pretty well we don't really need to do it. However, I feel like there's a charm and challenge when you're building any tank and you want it to reflect something plucked from any body of water. A lot of my previous tanks were stocked region or even down to the corresponding river. I always made efforts to not "mix the rivers" in my freshwater aquariums.

 

So I had to pick a region. I wanted to challenge and frustrate myself. No, I can't pick this coral and that fish and that other thing because neither all those elements could occur at the same time. Sorry, royal gramma as much as I like you...species not found in the Pacific. Same principle "don't mix your oceanic currents."

 

Recently, I was a little frozen over how speciose this region "Indo-Pacific" really was, so I immediately went poleward so I can restrict the list even more. I went north along the Kuroshio current and decided "why not do a Japanese reef? Biotopes aren't exactly a thing in the reefing world. Do that biotope." Admittedly, there's a level of Japanese bias within my wife and I. I began googling coral species found in Japan. To my surprise corals grew as far north as the Sea of Japan and even just outside of Tokyo Bay where I would assume those waters would be a little more on the temperate side like my home waters in California.

 

Reading List: (available upon request)

Ministry of the Environment. Coral Reefs of Japan, 2004

Veron. Hermatypic Corals of Japan, 2000

Benayahu, Y. Soft Corals (Octocorallia: Alcyonacea) of the Southern Ryukyu Archiepelago: The families Tubiporidae, Clavulariidae, Alcyoniidae, Briareidae. 2002

Iha, C and Yoshino T. Octocorals (Coelenterata: Octocorallia) in the collection of Department of Marine Sciences, the University of the Ryukyus. 1997.

Muko, Suzuki, et al. Transitions in coral communities over 17 years in the Sekisei Lagoon and adjacent reef areas in Okinawa, Japan. 2018

Koido, Imahara, Fukami. High species diversity of the soft coral family Xeniidae in the temperate region of Japan revealed by morphological and molecular analyses. 2019.

 

Viewing List:

Prime Scuba Ishigaki - Diving Okinawa Ishigaki  沖縄県石垣島ダイビング

Diving Ishigaki Japan

Gareth Leonard - Scuba Diving in Japan | Ishigaki Island

Ronald Stark - Diving the Sunabe Seawell in Okinawa, Japan

Miru Kim - Underwater | Iriomote, Okinawa, Japan

Iriomote-jima SCUBA diving

奈良谷優季 - Dive in IRIOMOTE 2017

Leonidas1993 - Chibishi Reef, Okinawa Japan

Tidal Gardens - Okinawa Scuba Dive 2016 Manza Beach Onna

 

If you're going to pick one video I would recommend Tidal Gardens since not just he's part of the industry we care about but also he lists the genuses he sees as we dive. There's a treat towards the middle-end of the video many of us would definitely appreciate. (whole video is 12 minutes of your time)

 

There's more that I looked at, but I'm just going to share what is most relevant.

 

Yeah, I learned that it's freaking SPS dominant. Fortunately with the power of Ctrl F I was able to find tiny glimmers of soft dominant coral communities. I built a stocking list on my OneNote app on my phone.

 

You made it this far in the journal. I'll reward you with a stocking list.

 

CUC

  • 8x Trochus snails
  • 8x Cerithiidae
  • 10x Nassarius snails
  • 3x Margarita snails

 

Fish

  • 1x Misbar ocellaris (April 18th)
  • 1x Frostbite ocellaris (Moved the other one out due to aggression)
  • 1x Yellow watchman goby (divorced TT__TT )

 

Other invertebrates

  • 1x Pistol shrimp (divorced q.q)

 

Corals

Upper two-thirds

  • 1x Sinularia spp.
  • 2x Sarcophyton spp.
  • 2x Lobophytum spp.
  • 3x Caulastrea furcata (ORA origin)

Lower third (it'll be a shit show)

  • 1x Fungia spp. to add something interesting to the sand (maybe repanda species)
  • 2x Favia speciosa
  • 1x Acanthastrea echinata

If sweeper action gets bad I'll just let whoever wins wins and get some powerheads to blow the sweepers in a safer direction. Initial LPS colonies will be spaced out to ensure less violence occurring and I'll spend some time staring at the water flow pattern to create an educated guess where and how the sweepers will behave. Based on the AC70's flow pattern there will be an imaginary bifurcating line that anything to the right of it the sweepers will passively go right. True of the left side.

 

Of the leather corals, I still feel a little hard pressed on distribution as there's somewhat of a lack of publication on soft corals. I probably should have used that as a potential master's thesis if I do go back to school. However based on people's dive videos it seems that if there was leathers to be found it would fall either Sarco or Lobo genuses. I noticed based on videos when dominant species they were right up there where an Acropora would be. I also sense based on reading care requirements for leather corals they need a little more light and at least moderate flow so their skin will shed whenever its kind to grow and/or exfoliate. The plan is to generate enough leather coral cover. I also didn't want to risk the LPS to be overexposed to light and suffer, so I'm having them occupy the lower parts of the aquarium. I would also guess less flow would help them capture whatever food is thrown at them at night.

 

Speaking of food. Reef-Roids.

 

When I get good, I'll sprinkle in some Montipora digitata or Pocillopora damicornis, but that'll be for another year or two down the road. I'll mow down some leather corals to ensure real estate for the SPS arrival. Of course, I'll get a better LED strip.

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Christopher Marks

You're off to a great start @Diamonds x Pearls, welcome to the community!

 

I always love seeing hobbyists pursue reef biotope tanks, a northern indo-pacific focus would be neat. Those dive videos of Japanese reefs are really something, the Tidal Gardens Okinawa video was fascinating. I hadn't realized there were such colorful reefs that far north.

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billygoat

Hello and welcome to N-R! :welcome:

 

I'm a big fan of biotope tanks as well, so it's great to see another one in the works! Okinawa definitely has some beautiful reefs, and Japan in general has more to offer than people realize, I think. The Kuroshio Current is really amazing. It just brings everything up from down south and puts tropical wildlife in places you would never expect. I've even seen tropical fish in Chiba, directly east of Tokyo, in the summertime!

 

Great posts so far, and I can't wait to see how things develop for you. I'll be following along. 😁

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February 1st. Edward arrives in Baltimore after a long flight from Santa Ana. Wife picks up a mildly tired husband and begin discussing whether plastic is better or worse than aluminum in the purpose of transporting to-go orders from our favorite fast casuals.

Quote

How do I address people when it's late at night? Like 0248hrs late?

Please comment with your answers below. Much appreciated.

 

Also thanks for the recent support so far. I appreciate that the most and it really motivates me to really complete the starting touches. To have an aquarium have a finishing touch feels like an unattainable goal as they too like dogs and cats live, thrive, and get old like us. This build is giving me a lot of excitement to what it may become.

 

I am jetlagged and still running on Pacific time zone. I am also bubbling and oozing with enthusiasm coming home to my tanks. My freshwater tanks were much due for a water change and to my chagrin the cat seemed to pick off a neon tetra. Time for another 30" lid. My betta seemed happy but I forgot to top off as the heater was entirely exposed. YIKES! I need to remind myself that my freshwater fish need some love as much as I am really focused on getting this reef tank going in the best direction that I can do.

 

Wife complained about the water noise from an emptier tank. It turns out the tank loses a little less than a gallon in a winter's week. I topped it off with some water leftover from a purchase from House of Tropicals. (Remember I bought 15 gallons, but came up shy in using all of it). I know. I'm not supposed to top off with more saltwater, but thanks to the handy refractometer the LFS under salted the water. It was 1.020. After the top off, I measured the salinity (calibrated yes) about an hour after. 1.026.

 

This story gets a little more fun. Figure 3: IS THAT CYANO I SEE?! REEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE and some white bacteria growth eating up the silverside.

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Shut off the pumps and filter and remove the rock in question. No doubt the spores have probably spread. Wife misidentified it as red algae. She did say the little ulva snips were covered. I got a soft toothbrush and started scrubbing the rock. I also managed to get rid of a dead oyster. Yay life rock. This gave me an opportunity to place the rock in a location that hopefully cyano won't slick up, but probably too late. At this point I'll definitely be running Purigen and Phosguard immediately to lower the risk. The image below also has only the right powerhead operating as I was tracking how the currents behave in the tank. I was trying to picture long sweepers from the Favia or the Acanthastrea.

 

Figure 4: Revised aquascape.

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Figure 4a: A cleaner rock hopefully.

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I fiddled with the powerhead angling so there would be a good ripple at the top for the leather corals to enjoy. I have heard that employing more flow to the leathers help them shed old tissue. I probably need a good shower and scrub too after a whole day of travel.

 

Here's more photos. Prior to testing I remember Inappropriate Reefer's trick of telling if a tank is cycled. Looking for the brown diatom grow on the sand or rock. No not misid'd cyano.

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Seems legit?

 

After shutting off airplane mode, my phone was bombed with text alerts from Amazon about the products I bought for the tank. Sorry, courier but you signed up for this. Today I received my Instant Ocean Reef Crystals, Flipper Nano cleaner, and my water testing suite. I was really tempted not to buy water testing stuff since I was arguing in my head that I can just pilfer a few supplies from work, but the better side of me didn't budge. As for water testing, I have this:

  • ATC Refractometer
  • API Phosphate Kit
  • API KH Kit (it was missing instructions?)
  • API Ammonia Kit
  • API Calcium Kit (arriving 2/2)
  • Tetra 6 in 1 test strips

I'm already hearing boos of using test strips and API kits from some dark corner of internet. However I do find API to be little less time consuming and precise enough. I almost believe that color recognition is anyone's game. You might be right. I might be right. We can probably blame the light fixtures we have already installed in our fish rooms. I wish I had the money for the Hanna colorimeters or something more precise and involved as a lab grade Hach test kit. Maybe one day. But for the first inhabitants of this tank, we'll make do with the stuff we have for now. I probably could have done better and just gotten an API master test kit, but that's already saved in my "save for later" pile on Amazon. Don't worry it's coming. I just needed test strips to just get a nitrate reading so that my Bio-Spira actually was living.

 

Well here's the good news. The bugs worked! Also no compressed images.

 

I don't think my eyes are fooling me. Figure 4a: A puke yellow ammonia reading and a clear gold phosphate reading

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Figure 4b: A lazy fishkeeper's test. No sign of nitrite, but nitrate signature apparent

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Alkalinity don't look bad either!

Figure 4c: I have a love-hate relationship with titrations since 2008, my chemistry honors class in high school.

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Reagent goes from blue to "orange." I call this like a goldenrod after 11 drops. Apparently it's 1 drop per 1 value of dKH. I saw a throw up color at 10 drops.

 

Thanks imprecision...I'll probably go get that Salifert test then.

To be on the safest side, I'll look to get a 3oz bottle of Bio-Spira and dose it more. The media bag now holds a few more BioMax rings for good measure. Filter floss added to polish up.

 

Takeaways:

We're probably ready to add fish. Edward needs to not be lazy and actually buy something a tad more precise. I really don't like cyano. I'm surprised I don't have phosphates.

 

Next steps:

I'll run another test of everything. Totally looking forward to a calcium titration test. Purigen and PhosGuard will be in the filter box.

 

**recent edits are resizing photos.

 

New update: I learned you shouldn't really tarry on how long the ammonia tests should run. When they mean 5 minutes they really mean 5 minutes or else the colors are off, get darker, and/or false positive/negative situation. I ran a second test this morning and I got a yellower color. It also helps that the solutions weren't freezing in an Amazon locker and are actually my room temperature.

 

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Diamonds x Pearls
18 hours ago, billygoat said:

Hello and welcome to N-R! :welcome:

 

I'm a big fan of biotope tanks as well, so it's great to see another one in the works! Okinawa definitely has some beautiful reefs, and Japan in general has more to offer than people realize, I think. The Kuroshio Current is really amazing. It just brings everything up from down south and puts tropical wildlife in places you would never expect. I've even seen tropical fish in Chiba, directly east of Tokyo, in the summertime!

 

Great posts so far, and I can't wait to see how things develop for you. I'll be following along. 😁

Thanks!

 

I think it's because of this current Japanese reefs can have a similar look and feel as their Australian and Philippine counterparts. The first publication I listed actually has an appendix comparing what species of LPS/SPS coral was present in the studied reefs in Japan (both mainland and Ryukyu chain) compared to already known distributions in Taiwan and Philippines. Interestingly enough, patterns can be cruelly similar. I should probably update that reading list to functional links.

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Diamonds x Pearls

February 2nd: Frostbitten

 

Small update. I was busy preparing for a Super Bowl party with friends.

 

I wanted to reiterate that I ran one more ammonia test to be sure.

Figure 4d: Ammonia test taken during AM. Color at about 4 minutes after shaking reagents and sample

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I can see it being hard to discern. I was certain that I was at or near zero since the result liquid isn't as green as 0.25 would suggest.

 

Now here's a real update. I bought two Frostbite Ocellaris from work since I didn't have anyone want to buy them. I would have thought having designer clownfish would draw more interested customers, but I suppose I have a crowd that may be more interested in other things. I always enjoyed how different they were and I also know my wife would have liked me to come home with fish that shared her favorite color. I like this specific color morph due to the small blue details in the black margins. I added another 3oz bottle of Bio-Spira upon adding the fish.

 

Figure 5: First inhabitants. A pair of Frostbites.

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For those who are curious I changed my light settings entirely for my Current Marine LED strip. I don't like having blues for a moonlight. I'd rather just have my tanks run dark. It also saves on the electricity bill a bit, haha. I run more red and white with some green to help balance it out. There's still some blue in it, but with white, you already have blue to begin with. Plus, I'm trying to get a similar effect of a shallow lagoon or patch reef.

 

Full daylight program: Reds 100%, Greens 70%, Blues 30%, Whites 100%

Sunrise/set program: Reds 70%, Greens 35%, Blues 15%, Whites 50%

Nighttime program: 0% all channels

 

10 hours full daylight. The sunrise and sunset program are not programmable in terms of duration. They're 1 hour each with a 15 minute ramp up/down event that pre- and proceed it.

 

Nitrates are running pretty high, so a water change is in order this week. PhosGuard and Purigen are installed to help manage organics. We will see how things go. The next inhabitants will be the goby and shrimp pair. Depending on how our cleaning needs are, I'll search for Trochus snails when the time comes.

 

Next steps: I hope I can figure out where to install an RO/DI unit...

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Dafish

I’m digging the rock work. Can’t wait to see it fully stock!!!   you enjoy the game last night??

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Diamonds x Pearls
16 hours ago, Dafish said:

I’m digging the rock work. Can’t wait to see it fully stock!!!   you enjoy the game last night??

I can't wait either, but good things happen with patience especially with reef tanks! I'm absolutely tempted to snatch up everything I like, but I'm certain cooler looking corals will come my way.

 

I thought this year's Super Bowl was pretty fitting for it's 100th season. I particularly liked the story lines going into the game: a real strength vs strength matchup, two coaches on opposite ends of experience looking for their first title, and the fact that there's no Patriots to deal with.

 

I also enjoyed the halftime show. I can't believe Shakira and JLo are old as they are. I want to be that hot when I'm in my 40s and 50s.

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February 4th. Edward travels to Baltimore for an interview at the National Aquarium for a volunteer position. Gotta get a foot in the door somehow. He also goes to House of Tropicals to check on the coral selection. He later goes to Fintastic in Frederick.

 

My nitrates are too damn high, about 30ppm. It wasn't as intense as 40ppm but it was certainly more saturated than 20ppm. The diatoms growing on the rocks are really taking off.

 

Water change day! I might as well get practiced as it's totally different from doing it at work than home. I went to my local Whole Foods because I learned they have a 3rd-party machine that churns out RO/DI water at 39 cents a gallon. I looked very much out of place with a cart full of totes. Imagine a wild looking Asian in shorts and flip flops during the lunch rush at a preppy Whole Foods.

 

This water change took a little longer because I was also doing a water test for the RO/DI I bought. Whole Foods RO/DI isn't bad. Nitrates aren't detected on the test strip. API Phosphate test is showing 0.1ppm, something PhosGuard can handle. I'm still strongly considering getting a planting of Gracilaria to operate as a redundant nutrient sink.

 

(Did you know the Japanese call it ogo-nori? They actually eat it!)

 

This was also an opportune time for me to test the calcium using IO Reef Crystals. According to the bucket, it'll achieve above 400ppm if the specific gravity reaches 1.023. From experience if you do level 1/2 cups per 1 gallon, salinity will be at 1.022. I decided to mix how I normally do and sure enough the API test got me from 340ppm to 380ppm.

 

I made just shy of 10 gallons of new saltwater. Yes, nitrates were that high.

 

Figure 6: A "low tide" event.

IMG_20200204_132054.thumb.jpg.8aee1d75966662f87d0be441f61f1a89.jpg

 

Missing powerhead and heater because I was busy mixing and the water got to a mild 66 degrees F.

 

Out with the old, in with the new.

 

Figure 7: YAY NEW WATER

IMG_20200204_140545.thumb.jpg.79862effdf72947a565c59c8bfd90235.jpg

 

I continued to test all my interested parameters once more. Nitrates were diluted out that the shade of pink was certainly less than 20ppm. Doing math in my head I probably got it down to about 10ppm. I'm planning to do another water change within a couple days. I'm rather tempted to change all the water out so I can make it a blank slate of near zero ppm of nitrate.

 

I came back from Fintastic and I nearly bought a nice big Lobophytum, but I knew not to quite pull the trigger. I still want to put in the other types of livestock first. When I got home, I tested the water for nitrate and calcium again. Nitrate parameters were the same before: <20ppm. Sure enough, calcium was hitting 380ppm. I looked at my specific gravity again since it's been about 2 hours of mixing time. It was at 1.022. I decided to draw some water out mix in a quarter of a cup of Reef Crystals and poured it in.

 

I fed my wife leftover pizza.

 

I took a specific gravity reading and it was at 1.025 and I took a subsequent calcium read. Right at 400ppm. From what I'm seeing, I'll need to mix a tiny bit more than half a cup per gallon to get the water where I like it. I'm thinking long term with the Caulastrea, Fungia, Favia, and Acanthastrea corals. Might as well get it right from the beginning.

 

 

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Diamonds x Pearls

February 5th: Negative Tides and Dilution Problems

 

Thanks to PALS Rewards I had a $10 coupon. I was annoyed at the poor resolution that test strips offered so I relegated them to my freshwater setups. I guess I'll occasionally use them to spot check the reef tank. Using that coupon and my employee discount I got an API Nitrate test to get a better idea thanks to a better resolution. (Determine your orange when its 0 to 10 ppm ugh. This is why you have a semi-trained artist in your household. They'll tell you colors). This is the one instance I am chasing numbers since I made a small mistake of leaving a rotting fish for a whole week. Too much ammonia was converted into too much nitrate for a reef system.

 

$1 Nitrate kit cool. Wife said it was at 10ppm.

 

I went to my Whole Foods again and caught awkward looks again at the DI water machine; never ends.

 

Test the new water just to make sure NO3 and PO4 values were zero. Yes.

 

I changed out all the water. Yes as much water until my clowns were on their side wondering what happened. Don't worry; just a negative tidal event. I guess it was x>12 gallons I took out. I poured in two full buckets totaling about 10 gallons. I'm saying about since I didn't fill it to the brim or I'd never hear the end of it about a wet, salty carpet. I put in a gallon and a half to put the aquarium at the brim. Specific gravity looked good, 1.025. I ran another Nitrate test about 10 minutes into the water swirling around. It read a nice goldenrod color, not even 5ppm, good. I ran a calcium test a little early and I had a reading of between 390 and 400ppm. It's fine for what the tank is right now, but I know once the LPS are introduced I'll have to start thinking about it a little more. I could say I'm starting to a sense of buyer's remorse for getting a whole bucket commitment of a bucket of Reef Crystals. I'll take a look at my calcium parameter once more next morning. I should give the ions a chance to be fully integrated into the water column. 

 

I'm hoping this is the last "low tide" event I'll need to do until a catastrophe happens. I'm going to keep an eye on nitrates and try to cap it at 10ppm.

 

I noticed a spare 1 gallon pitcher we got from Dollar Tree recently. I don't think my wife would mind if I repurposed it, hehe.

 

If you're wondering why I decided to do such large water changes early. I'm using dilution equations I learned in general chemistry. M1V1=m2v2

I already know the desired concentration of my final solution of nitrate 5-10ppm. I started at about 30ppm. I know my final volume of the aquarium is about 14.5 to 14.8 gallons. I wanted to be aggressive so I used 14.8 gallons.

Quote

Equation is defined as M1*v1=M2*v2

So imagine day 1...Let's move some stuff around. I decided to make an aggressive estimate, so I said my aquarium net volume is 14.8 gallons. It's probably 14.5...

I need to get 30ppm to 10ppm. Treat old aquarium water as a "stock" solution to be "diluted." Question is how much am I drawing out?

30ppm v1 = 10 ppm v2

 

We know how much of a final volume

30ppm v1 = 10ppm * 14.8gal

30ppm v1 = 148 ppm gal

v1 = 4.9333 gal

 

Change out 10 gallons

 

I did the same thing for day 2. This time I have 14.8 gallons of a 10ppm NO3 solution. I want it to be as low as possible. This takes a little more tinkering since I don't want to dehydrate my clownfish that are in there right now.

In this case let's just say 2ppm

10ppm v1 = 2ppm * 14.8 gal

10ppm v1 = 29.6 ppm gal

v1 = 2.96 gal

 

So we arrive at the lowest tide event ever. I am taking out 14.8 gal - 2.96 gal = 11.84 gallons of old water. Theoretically.

 

I took out more than 11.84 gallons. It was at least 12, so based on math I am theoretically at under 1ppm.

 

Hope nobody dies.

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February 6th: New neighbors

IMG_20200206_175026.thumb.jpg.77ca6e7926159f7645f698effef5a8ca.jpg

 

Things going good!

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February 9: Wrapping up another week. That's three!

I haven't been doing much to the aquarium besides relatively light feeds with the jar of New Life Spectrum Pro-Biotix (.5mm pellet). Each clownfish is given 5-9 pellets. With a disposable pipette that came included with my refractometer I suspended another 5-6 pellets for the goby and pistol shrimp. Ever since introducing them, they've been absolutely reclusive in their hidey-hole.

 

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I'm trusting they're in there. I do hear a snap a day.

 

New rockwork. The right most rock returned to its original position. Cave got wider. (There's a story behind that). And I acquired a new piece of live rock from someone moving to Aspen Hill and was tearing down a few reef tanks.

IMG_20200209_114715.thumb.jpg.4aa28759a2884049264231c64ee825ff.jpg

 

Scroll up and you may see the difference. At first the goby and shrimp were kinda lost and the shrimp wasn't sure where to hide. I tried to direct him to the right side under one of the smaller rocks facing towards the viewing side. It worked for one night. Goby was still being a dumb and just hung out in the back. However the next evening I noticed the antennae sticking out in the cave area...facing the wrong way. Refer to the first photo. Coming up I'm looking to purchase the SF Bay Brand mini-cubes of mysis shrimp to give a variety for the fish. I'm uncertain that the pistol shrimp and goby are eating the prepared food. However, I have cared for this pair at my Petco store for about 2+ months of being paired, and I have mostly fed my livestock the OmegaOne flakes and a smattering of frozen food one to two times a week. Something is telling me that we're still okay. (As long as I don't put in a flame hawkfish right?)

 

Let's talk water quality. You've all seen my math and brain gymnastics! Since Wednesday evening, I've been monitoring my nitrate level on a daily basis, and I've noticed a very small and steady climb. That Wednesday was about 2-3ppm NO3. Right now my wife was looking at the color with me and she said it was not quite 5ppm. Even with a planned soft coral dominant system, I still want to keep a relatively low level of nutrients in the water column. How do phosphates look? I have to admit I have not been paying as close attention to them as much as I should. However tonight I ran a test to see how well PhosGuard is performing and I still have that faint yellow urine look, still 0 ppm. I'm still getting quite a showing of brown diatoms, so my silicates are still up there. (Mommy, can I buy a sponge?) What do you know! I've been creating the beginnings of a coral reef food web.

 

I still haven't found Trochus spp. because the market demand has been so darn high lately.

 

This week I'll be picking out my corals. I've found a couple leathers at my store that I've grown for about a month and have grown pretty well. so I'll be taking them in. I also found a wonderful Lobophytum spp colony from Fintastic of Frederick that I look to get on Tuesday. The Sinularia will hopefully arrive in a couple weeks as I've asked my store manager to special order one from Quality Marine. Part of the special order from QM is my 5x5 clean up crew I mentioned in the original post. I am thinking of getting a couple of Cerithiidae to scrape goodies out of the tiny nooks and crannies in the rock work.

 

I've also selected where to get my LPS!

Caulastrea furcata - frags from Reef eScape, Fairfax, VA and may be a colony from House of Tropicals, Glen Burnie, MD

Favia speciosa - LiveAquaria Diver's Den

Fungia spp. - Fintastic, Frederick, MD

Acanthastrea echinata - LiveAquaria Diver's Den

 

Should be an exciting week ahead.

 

Say hello, you two.

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billygoat

I have to say I really enjoy reading your updates! I think it's awesome that you put so much planning into your stocking choices. That's a very admirable trait that will serve you well in this hobby. A few months down the line I am sure this tank will be a wonder to behold.

 

I think you can probably get away with a pretty reasonable level of nitrates in a soft-coral dominated system. I also grow pretty much only soft corals, and the last time I tested nitrates (which was admittedly quite some time ago) I came up with something around 20ppm. That's not to say that you can't make it work with a lower level of course - and in fact some systems would certainly do better with less; every aquarium is unique - but if you are planning on stocking mostly softies, you can probably get away with not worrying over-much about that particular parameter. 👍

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7 minutes ago, billygoat said:

I have to say I really enjoy reading your updates! I think it's awesome that you put so much planning into your stocking choices. That's a very admirable trait that will serve you well in this hobby. A few months down the line I am sure this tank will be a wonder to behold.

 

I think you can probably get away with a pretty reasonable level of nitrates in a soft-coral dominated system. I also grow pretty much only soft corals, and the last time I tested nitrates (which was admittedly quite some time ago) I came up with something around 20ppm. That's not to say that you can't make it work with a lower level of course - and in fact some systems would certainly do better with less; every aquarium is unique - but if you are planning on stocking mostly softies, you can probably get away with not worrying over-much about that particular parameter. 👍

Thanks! That's really good to know. I've been kind of obsessed over my NO3 and PO4 because at the Petco I work at I've been doing this 3 month (so far) long battle of handling parameters to support the corals I'm growing. The unfortunate part is that I'm limited to using filtered water rather than actual DI water. To combat this I bought over 20 bunches of macro and made them not for sale haha. I've seen other Petcos run their coral tanks into disarray with a lot of diatom and hair algae choking out some LPS. (I get bummed to see a dead Duncan frag.) Lessons and experiments I've been learning at work are applied to the tank I'm doing here at home. It's not fun when your new water is churning out 20ppm NO3 and 0.25ppm PO4.

 

My working baseline is 5-10 ppm so that there's enough nutrients for the corals to graze on. I did read that around Okinawa Island where there are some locations that are soft coral dominant because of the urban runoff that goes into the shore. It was speaking in general terms and I'd like to see more concrete numbers. Another annoying thing about publishers is that they'll list your stony coral species but hardly tell you which soft coral is there! Argh! I'm mildly regretting that I left my marine biology library back in California with my parents. I had a couple of useful biological oceanography textbooks that could give me a better idea of nutrient concentrations. I am trying to stick to the lower end knowing that my water volume is little to work with. Adding the additional piece of rock at the end probably displaced half a quart or something.

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February 10th: I can't bottle my excitement so I'm just letting my inner child just go crazy.

IMG_20200210_181448.thumb.jpg.908a06ebfd2ae984a9aa20b0fb58e81d.jpg

Bad news! My store manager sold the leather corals I've been growing in the store specifically for my tank.

Good news! I should probably venture out and see what else is available to me in terms of a good looking green polyp leather coral.

Better news! I have my first two corals.

 

I was working on my live fish and invert inventory this morning and to my surprise we had Nassarius snails to begin with. I was able to sift out two. I also went ahead and got 5 big Cerithiidae to help manage the brown diatoms. (Still thinking about a small injection of zooplankton).

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I'm not going to lie. It does feel a little scary to jump into stony corals, but I don't ever get them then I won't get better at coral keeping.

A free sponge is nice though? The leather coral was such a good deal I couldn't pass it up. I thought it would be priced at $90 since the last time I came around to Fintastic, but it was $60.

IMG_20200210_180825.thumb.jpg.d1fca9bd2179db6173c459a8c5cecc30.jpg

 

This is what I saw, a nice 4 inch colony with tiny green polyps.

IMG_20200210_162054.thumb.jpg.13af4d650898e312c99701c8a3045f92.jpg

 

Here's some close ups of the Fungia.

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This is probably the one of the two anomalies of a hidden theme in this tank. I also wanted to make a pretty eco-friendly tank, meaning that a lot of the stuff primarily livestock that would go into the tank would be easy on the planet. The goal was to have a nice tank with aquacultured animals.

 

Oh yeah the Lobo...

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This was pretty soon after introduction. Hopefully after a couple days it'll perk up.

 

I did pick a very good time to introduce since my tank was already on its way to sunset to ramping down to full dark.

 

More corals to come. This week is off to a sprint. I've been monitoring the water quality in my head and so far the nutrient buildup is actually pretty slow. After a couple suggestions from other people here on the forum, it'll make sense to have a looser grip on parameters rather than getting caught up in numbers. It does bring up the question of good intentions or good husbandry or a little bit of both. Or it could be my informed training from moon jelly care seeping into what I'm doing. I'm unsure, but it seems the fishes are fine with how things are right now. Every once in a while I'll hear a snap from the tank. It's been a couple days since I've seen the shrimp and goby pair. I'll just have to trust them to survive until I get my hand on some mysis mini-cubes. I honestly would like to support my own department at work by purchasing the Sarcos off of myself, but at the end of the day I don't have control what the suppliers get me. At least I have a say when I go to the Diver's Den or the LFS. We will see. Maybe I'll find that good leather and plate coral like the ones I found this evening and I just see my name on them. In the meantime, I should probably shop for something to dose the tank once I get a few more LPS in here.

 

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Week of February 10th: An incinerated credit card statement later... (this will be pretty long)

 

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My goodness it was quite the week.

Monday was a small debacle where I couldn't get the leather corals I wanted from work so I opted to go to Fintastic in Frederick. There I got the Fungia and the big Lobophytum. Now I'm starting to wonder if it was a just a really big Sarcophyton. I'm not sure nor do I have access to an SEM and DNA testing. I'm super happy with those two nonetheless. The plate coral is offering nice colors and will eat the New Life Spectrum pellets I feed the fish and shrimp to.

 

I have noticed thIMG_20200211_092446.thumb.jpg.a9cdd420e60e9ed7bbd5451b257f2fe8.jpgat the pistol shrimp is doing a lot of burrowing in the left rock and I hear it snap away a couple times a day. I cannot see his goby friend. I'm a little worried, but I can't really rip up my aquascape again. I just have to hope the goby is going about his reclusive business. The show must go on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday was a funny day. I decided to go get a Candy Cane frag from somewhere, but I wasn't sure where. I decided to go to House of Tropicals and just see what they have. Unfortunately their tanks are incredibly blued out that I wasn't getting an accurate picture of how the colors would be or change in my tank. I don't run blues so heavily since I take a preference to something closer to natural lighting. Maybe I'll kick on the blues if I have guests over. However, nothing really attracted me since everyone goes by market name. This is why I have such a tough time at the LFS. It's market names everywhere and as someone that values scientific names over everything I have a seriously bad time buying in person because I'm not sure or too keen on what I'm getting. Just what Faviidae am I getting into!? I get emails from Fintastic and guess what. I had to go back in because its was buy 2 get 1 free because they needed to clear out space for their new Indonesian stock. I proceeded to get the two toadstool leathers I missed out on. Sure, I had to pay some more for a similar colony of a similar quality, but I got one neon green Caulastrea frag free out of it, not terrible. I spent the next hour acclimating, eating a big bowl from Chipotle, and preparing gnocchi in a creamy mushroom and sausage sauce. (I'm a solid home chef.) I also learned how to remove soft corals from their frag rocks/pieces they originally came from. It felt scary, but I got the feel for it after working with the two pieces I got that day.

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Why is the water murkier? I was trying to glue down corals, so I decided to pull water and try to glue right onto the rockwork. I don't think I'll do it again. Too stressful.

 

IMG_20200212_172647.thumb.jpg.e24ad604f75d95915f95ef442965e054.jpgWednesday I let the corals rest and get situated. I switched the positioning of the green polyp and the long polyp.

On another note, I wonder if this is a sign of splitting? I placed an order on LiveAquaria because thank goodness for species information.

 

IMG_20200212_165207.thumb.jpg.85b495e542c96e415d92409c91d23397.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thursday: Water testing. I decided to begin a 2 part dosing using Seachem Reef Fusion 1 and 2 given alkalinity seemed to be a little low and I'll be introducing nearly everything at once. I plan to dose 2-3ml of each every 1-2 days. 

Parameters:

Ammonia 0ppm

Nitrite 0ppm

Nitrate ~5ppm

Phosphorous 0ppm

KH 8-9 dKH

Calcium: 400-420ppm

Salinity: 35 ppt

Temperature: 70F (This reef reflects similar conditions to winter time in Okinawa.)

I'm hoping relative humidity is about 70-80% because of the lid on it.

I will get a Salifert test for Magnesium at some point.

 

Friday! A wild morning indeed. My green polyp got pissed and cleaved itself from the a dying part of tissue and just wobbled on my live rock. The UPS guy just left the box out in the cold in front of my apartment door! Not cool! Good thing my wife was around making blueberry pancakes for us.

IMG_20200214_102431.thumb.jpg.4a8366c994e008fed7eb5d3d27a82a0d.jpg

 

My Favia speciosa maricultured from Tonga.

IMG_20200214_112008.thumb.jpg.9191a7e87fb18987df0d3dbe457c2fc0.jpg

 

My Acanthastrea echinata maricultured from Indonesia

IMG_20200214_112037.thumb.jpg.5c3690be4ac5c6f353db83450a7833ce.jpg

 

A neat little combo from Africa, a Sinularia(R) and Lobophytum(L). I got this because I learned my special order for a green Sinularia got zero shipped from Quality Marine. I think Petco got mad at me for ordering a coral above my store assortment level. F--- you, then.

IMG_20200214_112018.thumb.jpg.7674e20b4b7446b7f099932bd27784f9.jpg

I later removed it from the disk it was on and super glued it to small rubbles I had in the tank. This is why I always keep rubble. You'll never know when you'll actually need it.

 

I got a text from a coworker that my Caulastrea furcata from ORA arrived in the store. 3 arrived. I decided to just take all of them. Mild and petty retribution.

Here they are. With those in hand, I shuffled the positioning of the candy canes. Neon got shoved to a side rock.

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Not bad, ORA. It may be there was some bumps in transport. That I blame UPS.

 

Here's the redone frag of the African 2 pack I got.

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The lighting looks pink because this is the sunrise/sunset mood on.

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Glamour photos!

IMG_20200214_115604.thumb.jpg.7555f76be53d7bd926d5370acdcf652d.jpg

 

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Amphrites
On 2/9/2020 at 11:14 PM, Diamonds x Pearls said:

Thanks! That's really good to know. I've been kind of obsessed over my NO3 and PO4 because at the Petco I work at I've been doing this 3 month (so far) long battle of handling parameters to support the corals I'm growing. The unfortunate part is that I'm limited to using filtered water rather than actual DI water. To combat this I bought over 20 bunches of macro and made them not for sale haha. I've seen other Petcos run their coral tanks into disarray with a lot of diatom and hair algae choking out some LPS. (I get bummed to see a dead Duncan frag.) Lessons and experiments I've been learning at work are applied to the tank I'm doing here at home. It's not fun when your new water is churning out 20ppm NO3 and 0.25ppm PO4.

 

My working baseline is 5-10 ppm so that there's enough nutrients for the corals to graze on. I did read that around Okinawa Island where there are some locations that are soft coral dominant because of the urban runoff that goes into the shore. It was speaking in general terms and I'd like to see more concrete numbers. Another annoying thing about publishers is that they'll list your stony coral species but hardly tell you which soft coral is there! Argh! I'm mildly regretting that I left my marine biology library back in California with my parents. I had a couple of useful biological oceanography textbooks that could give me a better idea of nutrient concentrations. I am trying to stick to the lower end knowing that my water volume is little to work with. Adding the additional piece of rock at the end probably displaced half a quart or something.

There are hobbyists with successful tanks that have 50+ N03 and surprisingly-high P04, it just depends on the system. This is an easy-link I throw around to help take the edge-off people's nerves, the ULNS-craze is mostly to-blame for all the dino outbreaks folks have these days.
https://www.reef2reef.com/ams/tank-parameters-of-some-masters.263/

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24 minutes ago, Amphrites said:

There are hobbyists with successful tanks that have 50+ N03 and surprisingly-high P04, it just depends on the system. This is an easy-link I throw around to help take the edge-off people's nerves, the ULNS-craze is mostly to-blame for all the dino outbreaks folks have these days.
https://www.reef2reef.com/ams/tank-parameters-of-some-masters.263/

I've heard that before from other people on the forum here too. I am planning to be more lax in my nutrient loads as I'll want my soft corals to be the most dominant in terms of biomass as of right now. It makes me wonder if I should pull the PhosGuard out and let the PO4 trickle up a little bit. In a way, that can feed the corals in the tank.

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Updated photoshoot!

IMG_20200214_234632.thumb.jpg.33cd7231928d0b36707f4c02da80660d.jpg

 

Acan in normalish lighting

IMG_20200214_234639.thumb.jpg.889c89e211759187d6d68537e7cf2119.jpg

 

Happy toadstool

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My favorite

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Neat little complex

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Neighbors.

IMG_20200214_234709.thumb.jpg.242d236c1a7783cf8ddc16a7ff577108.jpg

 

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Amphrites

I probably would pull the phosguard until/if you need it

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Quick PSA to always check your corals for hitchhikers and dip them. The one day I forgot to bring the dip from work...

 

All these bugs came from the Tongan Favia coral I received on Friday. I checked the acan and it only carried an afraid brittle star.

IMG_20200216_223827.thumb.jpg.50440b3c8b844b77081d7a14101d9a97.jpg

 

Smaller of the two "worms." I used this "probe" to peel off shreds of the worm.

 

Here's a couple of photos of gall crab. This one was trying to form a burrow. There was another one well established and residing inside. I wasn't able to pull her out, so I went in with a probe and made minced crab out of her. The clownfish liked the appetizer.

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