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KMitch's Double the Trouble Tanks -- Mixed Reef & Clown Harem — Problem Riddled and Going in Reverse

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Reefkid88

Plus,its one more thread I don't need to follow 😁

 

 Edit: new page needs new pics !!! 

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KMitch

It was another full and busy day of working on the tank. My back is killing me from being hunched over working in the stand all day!

 

I am a detailed planner (my wife would scoff at this), and have spent several weeks in the build up to this point thinking through all of the ways to build and run this tank. I'm philosophically sticking with the same thing that has worked so well in the 20 gallon -- simplicity -- but now on a grander scale. A larger tank and sump / stand also affords the opportunity to re-introduce equipment like the Neptune Apex, which will add additional stability to the tank and allow me to do some fancier automation. 

 

Last time I ran this tank as SW, I had all sorts of crap and gizmos going -- a reactor, algae reactor, CO2 reactor.... bleh. I was chasing gear rather than results. So while I have some gear in this tank, it's also focused on specific goals. Let's talk about those goals:

 

Efficient filtration

I hate filter socks. I probably had a dozen of them before and felt like I was constantly swapping them out and cleaning socks. I hate cleaning filter socks. Everything about filter socks sucks. So I'm going to eliminate that chore by installing and running a roller mat. This technology didn't exist when I started in the hobby, and it's really incredible to see what has been engineered in the last 15+ years! 

 

Powerful skimming

The roller mat will remove the crap that goes down the overflow, but it won't do anything about the organics that have broken down already and need to be removed. In my research and experience, protein skimming and refugiums can yield very similar results for effectively removing organics from the water, and its a matter of preference from there. A refugium has the benefit of helping with pH control if run on a reverse schedule, but I've always been partial to a skimmer. There's something very gratifying about seeing the waste come out of the water in the form of dark stink sludge. I feel like I know it's working that way! 

 

I opted for the new Red Sea Skimmer. It hasn't been on the market long, but it was a killer price during BRS's Black Friday sales, and I like some of the features they put into it. I'll certainly keep you all posted with how it works. Of note, the ZeoVit system recommends using a skimmer and not a refugium, and I've found success following their instructions. 

 

Low maintenance

Part of a tank being low maintenance is when it tells me that there's something wrong / I can check on it remotely. I have missed having the Apex running on the 20 gallon, because my eyes are the only thing that warns me if a problem is afoot. The Apex provides much more meaningful real-time feedback and alerts. Another component of being low maintenance will be minimizing how much RO water I have to make. This tank can chug through 5 gallons of ATO water in the same number of days, and I don't want to be a slave to the RO device. So I'm looking at a custom top / lid to help reduce evaporation. The 20 gallon tank can go 2-3 weeks on 5 gallons of ATO water, and I'd love to get somewhere in that same ballpark with the 55 gallon tank.

 

ZeoVit Friendly

To some, this might seem contradictory. ZeoVit calls for daily dosing of these little drops in the tank, and I just discussed being low maintenance. However, I enjoy putting the drops in the tank and spending a minute interacting with the tank. I like the results, and I think the amount of time it takes to get those results is minimal. I am planning to continue the same ZeoVit regiment that I've been doing, just scaled up.

 

Alright, and now for some pics of today's progress...

 

I started by painting the remainder of the interior of the stand and doing another coat of Modge Podge along the seams of the faux wood. Looks great. I already had some shelving that I had installed during my last build, but I wanted to tidy it up even more. I borrowed an idea from another reefer with a similar build and got these Ikea organizer peg boards today. Two of them was perfect -- One runs along the back of the tank and the other was cut in half and covers each side.

 

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The Ikea peg board on the back of the tank. The wires coming out are for a set of switches we'll discuss in a moment....

 

Up next, I started work on wiring the Neptune Apex Breakout Box. I want to run a few switches from the breakout box, and needed to tidy up how it was done before. I have the following switches setup to run on it (though I haven't programmed them yet):

- Feed mode (doorbell). Press and hold for 2 seconds will trigger a 5 min feed mode

- Skimmer off switch

- Return pump off switch

- Clarisea off switch

- Water change switch

 

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I am hoping this works like I think it should.... getting all of the negative grounds into the one terminal is hard, so I read about using a terminal block to simplify this. I'll find out if my wiring works soon when I start testing!

 

The manual off switches are so that I can quickly cut power to one of those devices without having to access the Apex app. This is handy in the event someone else is looking after my tank and I need to tell them to turn something off, I can point them to a switch vs an app. Likewise, these are the things I will most often turn off for maintenance -- emptying a skimmer cup, replacing a fleece roll, etc. 

 

The water change switch will cut off a number of things simultaneously to facilitate doing a water change -- it'll cut the return pump, ATO, heaters, skimmer, etc. I often forgot to turn one thing back on when I did this manually before, so now it'll be a switch to turn it all off and on after a water change. It won't do the water change for me -- just configure the tank to be ready for one. 

 

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My various cutoff switches

 

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Feed mode doorbell. Ding dong, time to eat!

 

Wiring that was a tedious task, so I was glad to be done and move onto wiring the rest of the system. I am keen on good cable management and believe that clean is safe. I started by wiring up the MP-10s that will offer flow and the Vectra S1 pump that will serve as my return. 

 

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Fun fact -- the MP10 controller wire can be disconnected if you disassemble the controller. This allows you to fish the water through a small hole (like this 1.5" hole I have here). 

 

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The EcoTech pumps wired up and mounted on the Ikea peg board. This was a really easy surface to work with, and offers nice cord routing options because it sits slightly off the walls. I like using equipment from the same ecosystem, which is why I run EcoTech pumps and lights. Plus, I like that the pumps are super low-profile in the tank with no extra cords. 

 

With the pumps routed, I started playing with the placement of the skimmer in the sump. Originally I thought I'd put it towards the back, but now settled on a placement closer to the front, allowing for better access to the waste cup.

 

50689228646_8bb4b41300_k.jpg

 

Finally it was time to wire the Apex system and all the various modules for it. I once again mounted everything to the Ikea pegboard material, allowing me to route the cables cleanly. I also used some of the wire clips from the hardware store and some tubing holders from Neat Aquatics to tidy everything up in the sump.

 

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The control section of the tank. EcoTech drivers on one side, Apex on the other, and some room to grow

 

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I also have some space below the control section -- here I have the Apex powerbar, all the power supplies for the tank, and the Dos reservoir that will hold the alkalinity and calcium 2-part additive. 

 

Phew! It took a lot of work to get to this point, and I have a lot left to do still. I need to mount the battery backup for the pumps, plumb the ATO, clean up all the wires on the back of the tank, and... oh yea... plumb the whole thing too! Oof!

 

But for now, I'll leave you with a full sump shot!

50689228136_9bbe7118a2_k.jpg

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Reefkid88

You did insanely well on the stand,and making everything look so freaking clean. Kudos to that. I really like all the features you added as well,its a nice and good touch to the system 🤤 !!!!

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TatorTaco

I appreciate the work/time you spent documenting all the work you've put into getting this tank set up and running.  I can't wait to follow along.  

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KMitch

I did some test fitting of plumbing options using regular PVC tonight. Feedback on running the main drain like this? Is it bad to have it go up? It gets it out of the way certainly...

 

B832E448-7DAA-4BB5-9941-A12A6A5D7187

 

89C2698D-C60F-436C-803E-2B42ECB92178

 

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mitten_reef
10 hours ago, KMitch said:

I did some test fitting of plumbing options using regular PVC tonight. Feedback on running the main drain like this? Is it bad to have it go up? It gets it out of the way certainly...

 

B832E448-7DAA-4BB5-9941-A12A6A5D7187

 

89C2698D-C60F-436C-803E-2B42ECB92178

 

The point of this being??  Bringing it back up and over the fresh side of the filter roll?  

 

I'm not a plumber, neither have I plumbed a system before, but it looks fairly similar to a P-trap under a kitchen sink, so I would think it'll be fine.  

 

The only thing *might* be, that your quick disconnect looks lower than the horizontal run and the "P-trap".  when you turn the flow off and disconnect, will you have excess water coming out that side, instead of draining toward the intended outlet?  just a random thought.

 

 

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Reefkid88

I would consider using 45's to kill back pressure and help the water flow better. But essentially it basically is a p-trap like Mitten said. 

 

 I also would install unions in case it does not drain how you would like so you can re-plumb the drains. With gravity you should have enough pressure to push the water but maybe not. 

 

 As being a mechanical plumber,I know for us that would not work lol. I would probably take a inch or 2" of of your rise piece just to help. 

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A.m.P

Solid rule of thumb, never use a 90 unless you have to, and use as few as humanly possible to get the job done.
Get a union and some flexible hose, clamp the hose down tight on a barb and then run that however you need it imo, stay away from the tight 90's and the p-trap just waiting to clog or start a siphon.

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KMitch

Thanks everyone. I posted this in the BRS Facebook group and got similar feedback — it should work, but carries more risk. This is why I used white PVC to test fit! 
 

I am going to revisit this design today. Rotating the sump position might help too so that I don’t have as long of a run...🧐

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Reefkid88

 I would definitely suggest rotating the sump. I agree with the barb fitting and silicone tubing,or reconfiguring the pvc in a way to eliminate that p-trap. 

 

 Here is I was going to do mine when I had the idea to sump my tank. I still have all the unions,full union check valves and ball valves waiting..:

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KMitch

Well I spent a long time today messing around with it and got it plumbed, minus the P trap. 
 

I started by playing with the idea of rotating the sump. Problem is that the clarisea filter sits so close to the drains then that there’s no space to work and get all the lines run. Too tight of a fit. 
 

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This is what it looked like when I flipped the sump around. Too little space with the Clarisea. 
 

I played with what felt like a hundred combinations of arranging the main drain. I even watched some YouTube videos on the air lock effect to see if I could think up an alternative. In the end, I settled on a more traditional plumbing setup. There’s still plenty of space, but I got the pipes tucked as far out of the way as possible. 
 

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Finished! I like how the orange pipe looks against the wood of the stand. It compliments the Apex nicely too!

 

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I found some stick-on bins from Amazon that I mounted inside the doors to hold all the little odds and ends- dosing syringes, test kits, ZeoVit bottles, etc. 

 

Finally, I also spent some time testing the configuration of the switches for the Neptune Apex breakout box. I am pleased to report that my Feed Mode doorbell and water change switch both work as intended. Very satisfying getting that code correct! 
 

I still need to program a few remaining items in the Apex and tidy up the electrical wiring on the back of the tank. I also need to figure out what I am doing for a tank lid...

 

More to come!

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KMitch

Anyone else have the clarisea? Did you glue the drain inlet on it? Or just shove it in there? I don’t have that piece glued Bc it’s below the water line so leaking isn’t really an issue. 

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Reefkid88

I don't see why you couldn't just jam it in there or even use a dab of silicone can you can just twist it out with a pair of pliers. 

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KMitch

Well it isn’t fancy and it doesn’t make for a great pic, but some dry rock in a bucket starting to cure. Used “old” water from my tank and Dr Tims bacteria to help get it up and running. 
 

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Reefkid88

Yaaaaayyy !!! 

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KMitch

Well I think I'm ready for water and rock! It's amazing how time consuming a few cord holders and organizers can take to install, but it is so worth it. Clean is safe. 

 

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Speaking of safe, this little mod was one I stole from a Reef2Reef thread. It's a plastic picture frame rail from Ikea. It prevents water that might splash behind the tank from falling onto the power strip and electrical stuff that I have mounted behind the tank, and offers a little stash spot to put things like fish food. Safe and functional? Win!

 

I ended up moving a few things around in the control area for the Apex; I realized I had some wasted space and if I moved the Apex head unit from the left side to the middle of my control wall, it gave me space to move the DOS up and then the DOS containers could come up as well. This all made the whole shebang less cramped when I dug the Trident out and put it in. I can't believe I didn't think to organize it this way sooner... I guess I just needed to stare at it a little longer! 🤷

 

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Also functional.... labels to remind me of my target parameters. I know this seems stupid, but I have the memory of a blue hippo tang named Dory, and hate looking it up constantly.

 

I previously had used my iPad mini as a display for the Neptune Apex, but the battery in my Mini died and I wasn't keen on buying something just to have as a fancy display. Thankfully my wife has an old iPad mini that she doesn't use anymore. It's so old, actually, that the Neptune Apex app isn't compatible with the iOS on it, but I worked around that by logging into the Apex dashboard through the browser. It's plugged in and on to always offer a glimpse of life in the tank.

 

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Final (?) sump setup. If you compare to the earlier pics, you can see how I moved the Apex head unit, affording space to move the DOS and DOS containers. I really like having these Ikea boards to mount things too -- makes it easy to move modules around if needed.

 

Speaking of life in the tank.... I have been working more on the programming for the Apex. I know I said I want to keep it simple, and you're looking at this thinking "that's hardly simple", but it really is. There's no gaggle of reactors or bounty of magic elixirs being dosed to the tank. The Apex system is there to supervise and make sure nothing goes haywire, and when something inevitably does go sideways, it'll hopefully alert me and take some steps to prevent extension of the problem.

 

So to recap the whole system:

  • Red Sea Reefer 250
  • 2x EchoTech XR15 Lights
  • 2x EcoTech MP10 powerheads
  • 2x Heaters (primary and backup)
  • EchoTech Vectra S1 return pump
  • Clarisea roller mat (mechanical filtration)
  • Red Sea protein skimmer (nutrient export)
  • ZeoVit system

The Apex will monitor parameters for me and report on anything / adjust dosing to try and maintain stability in the reef. This is something I'm lacking in the 20 gallon setup.... I test Alk/Cal once a week and dose once a week. The result is much wider swings in Alk/Cal than the corals and tank would like. The other problem with testing weekly is that I don't have as much insight into the happenings of the tank -- Alkalinity consumption is probably one of the best indicators of something being amiss in the tank, so with more regular testing, I hope to eliminate the surprise when something does go bad. Otherwise, the Apex is just here to help make things easier with features like the feed mode and water change system.

 

I am going out of town for a few days, so I'm not going to put water in yet... it'll give me a little more time to consider anything else I outta tweak before the tank becomes immovable! Look for water and rock to go in hopefully around Christmas.

 

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A look at how the tank looks in the room. I'm excited to have a couch that faces the tank.... I think I'll be spending a lot of time here watching Fish TV.

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KMitch

Snapped a few shots of the nano reef today....

 

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For anyone wondering, yes, you can keep two pistol shrimp together with a shrimp goby. 
 

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Clam!


I have also been looking at ideas for aquascapes for the Red Sea Reefer build; I don’t want a blob of rocks and have been trying to see what other options exist that also have some negative space and good flow options. 
 

One idea I have considered is to get the Real Reef Tonga branch look-a-like and build something like this:

50720963582_7faab8fa71_z.jpg


Other ideas... not all of these would work super well because of the shape of the tank. 
 

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TatorTaco

I like this tank build sooooo much.  

 

Have you seen BRS's Negative Space video?  It looks super snazzy and they've already put it in the tank and have videos up showing it off. 

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mitten_reef
17 hours ago, KMitch said:

Snapped a few shots of the nano reef today....

 

50720142503_b14915bf02_b.jpg

For anyone wondering, yes, you can keep two pistol shrimp together with a shrimp goby. 
 

50720877611_39d74936db_b.jpg


Clam!


I have also been looking at ideas for aquascapes for the Red Sea Reefer build; I don’t want a blob of rocks and have been trying to see what other options exist that also have some negative space and good flow options. 
 

One idea I have considered is to get the Real Reef Tonga branch look-a-like and build something like this:

50720963582_7faab8fa71_z.jpg


Other ideas... not all of these would work super well because of the shape of the tank. 
 

50720919356_82763f1a83_b.jpg

 

50720919346_f16d25b0ce_c.jpg

 

50720919371_1748be168a_b.jpg


 

 

if you can pull off any of those designs, or combination thereof, I'm gonna need some pointers when I go to set up my new tank. 

 

I have had that jumbo Elos tank (2nd pic) saved as inspiration pic since dipping my toes into reef tank hobby.  

 

 

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KMitch
5 hours ago, TatorTaco said:

I like this tank build sooooo much.  

 

Have you seen BRS's Negative Space video?  It looks super snazzy and they've already put it in the tank and have videos up showing it off. 

I have, but I don't like how unnatural some of those NSA aquascapes look. I want something that is super unique and creative, but also looks like it could possibly be real.

 

I did score some leftover Tonga branch rock from a tank tear down that my LFS did recently. Some good pieces, though not huge. Still, a good step in the right direction. I have that rock added to my curing bucket now.

4 hours ago, mitten_reef said:

 

if you can pull off any of those designs, or combination thereof, I'm gonna need some pointers when I go to set up my new tank. 

 

I will be thrilled if I can pull any of these designs off! 

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A.m.P

To be fair absolutely nothing looks more unnatural than nature.

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KMitch
36 minutes ago, A.m.P said:

To be fair absolutely nothing looks more unnatural than nature.

Lol yes, but some of the NSA aquascapes are so outlandish that they don’t feel at all realistic. 
 

I have added a few more ideas to my gallery of scape designs I like. Can’t wait to work on it in a week once I am back from vacation.... until then, enjoying vacation!

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TatorTaco
12 hours ago, KMitch said:

...NSA aquascapes are so outlandish that they don’t feel at all realistic. 

I think they look neat, but think it's a newer technique (right?).  I can't recall seeing a mature reef using a negative space aquascape. 

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KMitch

Tomorrow I start filling the tank! One or two last adjustments need to be made, but she’s ready for prime time. Looking forward to getting this tank going. 
 

(Also still need to get more live rock...)

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