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

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KMitch

So this happened today...

 

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Currently about 40% full.

 

Also got some great rock and will work on the scape tomorrow 

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KMitch

After nearly 14 hours of running the RO unit, the tank is finally full of water, sand, and rock! My wife (who is a firefighter) is working over the holiday, so it gave me a chance to spend the whole day working on getting the tank in order. Let's recap!

 

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As the tank started to fill, I had a chance to work on some of the final programming I had to do for the Apex. I also was able to finally turn on things like the MP10 pumps and connect them to the new Mobius app. I am pretty pleased with how Mobius' interface works compared to the old EcoSmart Live system. I was also able to update my Vectra pump and Gen 4 XR15 lights to work on Mobius, which means everything works properly in one ecosystem. I love it when the technology works the first time.

 

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As water went into the tank, I had a chance to do final setup on the Apex, including calibration of probes. Before I calibrated, however, I tested my pH probe by sticking it into 10.0 solution... and this is what it read. Well then, I guess I don't need to calibrate!

 

With the tank full of water and salt mixed, it was time to start aquascaping. My LFS, Capital Aquarium (Manassas, VA) loaned me some aquascaping goodies that I'd never had a chance to use before, including these "Reef Welder" beads. I had never seen this stuff before, so was interested it try it out and hopefully save myself some insanity with glue and mortar.

 

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The Aquamaxx Reef Welder beads. Essentially a reef safe moldable plastic

 

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The beads! The purple ones in there help to dye the product to more of a Coraline algae look. Since it's plastic, I'm optimistic that Coraline algae will grow on it and cover it up, much like our pumps and glass. I've found Coraline doesn't grow well on the putty and some of the other aquascaping materials, so hopefully this fairs better.

 

The beads are "activated" (aka they melt) at 140*. I used an hot water kettle to boil some water and pour it into a bowl with the beads. When you do so, the beads turn translucent and become like a putty.

 

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Once the beads have melted, you can pull them out and wad it into a ball to attach to the aquascape. It hardens pretty quickly once removed from the hot water, so I kept what I wasn't using in the water until I was ready to use it. When it dries, it is rock hard... plastic.

 

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Using the plastic beads, which are now in a putty-like form, to attach rocks together. 

 

I found that it was super easy to work with, and I loved that you could remove and re-heat a piece that you wanted to adjust over and over again. I found it to be very clean, not wasteful, and pretty strong. However- it's not strong enough to glue two heavy rocks together, without using a lot of it. However, since it molds so well, you can use it with a little super glue to create some really strong bonds. I found that the beads alone weren't strong enough to hold my whole aquascape, so I used a combination of this material with zip ties and a little super glue. In fact, this material was great for using to help cover up the zip ties to make them less unsightly and even stronger. Win!

 

As I mentioned before, my goal was to try and create an aquascape similar to this:

 

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I wanted good negative space below the aquascape, and the sensation of a floating structure. Of course, recreating this was harder than I thought it would be, and after hours of designing on the kitchen table, this is the outcome:

 

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The left side is two large boulders with some branch and shelf rock mounted to it, and then there is a long series of branches connected to that jutting out to the right. I have one piece of branch going down to help support the weight of the structure, and the rest is free standing. Nothing is touching the back glass, so there is good water flow all the way around.

 

I took the pictures while the water was still a little cloudy -- a byproduct of adding sand, salt, etc to the tank. I expect it'll be much cleaner in the morning! I'll take more pictures as it clears up, but open to any thoughts on the 'scape.

 

The only part of today that has me flummoxed is my Red Sea protein skimmer. That sucker is MUCH louder than I expected it to be, and it produces a billion micro bubbles (which ended up back in the display). I don't need it to run quite yet, so I turned it off for now, but going to have to figure out why it's being so difficult. 

 

Merry Christmas everyone!

 

 

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mitten_reef
1 hour ago, KMitch said:

 

As I mentioned before, my goal was to try and create an aquascape similar to this:

 

50720963582_7faab8fa71_z.jpg

 

I wanted good negative space below the aquascape, and the sensation of a floating structure. Of course, recreating this was harder than I thought it would be, and after hours of designing on the kitchen table, this is the outcome:

 

50756867241_6c198cdcb8_k.jpg

 

50756867236_b26d6b3586_k.jpg

 

50756969972_22d26444c3_k.jpg

 

The left side is two large boulders with some branch and shelf rock mounted to it, and then there is a long series of branches connected to that jutting out to the right. I have one piece of branch going down to help support the weight of the structure, and the rest is free standing. Nothing is touching the back glass, so there is good water flow all the way around.

 

I took the pictures while the water was still a little cloudy -- a byproduct of adding sand, salt, etc to the tank. I expect it'll be much cleaner in the morning! I'll take more pictures as it clears up, but open to any thoughts on the 'scape.

 

The only part of today that has me flummoxed is my Red Sea protein skimmer. That sucker is MUCH louder than I expected it to be, and it produces a billion micro bubbles (which ended up back in the display). I don't need it to run quite yet, so I turned it off for now, but going to have to figure out why it's being so difficult. 

 

Merry Christmas everyone!

 

 

You did an amazing job recreating that scape. Are the branches from Real Reef?

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KMitch
4 hours ago, mitten_reef said:

You did an amazing job recreating that scape. Are the branches from Real Reef?

Thanks Mitten! There is a mix of rock in here - some is real Tonga from a tank breakdown, some is from my current 20 gallon (to help seed bacteria and also coraline algae), and some is real reef. 
 

It’s hard to see in the pics, but the bottom rock on the left side has a cave that runs through it too. That rock is also from a past tank breakdown. 

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KMitch


Water cleared some more overnight (still a little ways to go) so I snapped a few more pics this afternoon...

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Also officially started dosing the ZeoVit to start the cycle. Curious how long it’ll take since most of the rock came from cycled tanks. 
 

I also moved the bubble plate around on the skimmer and hope that helps with the bubble situation. Letting the bacteria sit for a few hours before I start the skimmer, so I’ll report back soon. 
 

Merry Christmas everyone!

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KMitch

A video of the aquascape:

 

 

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mitten_reef

Curious if you could get away with just one or neither of these to keep things stable.  It’d dramatically opens things up a lot more.  
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KMitch
8 hours ago, mitten_reef said:

Curious if you could get away with just one or neither of these to keep things stable.  It’d dramatically opens things up a lot more.  
7DAB9170-6A60-4933-951F-00EA3FCD0453.thumb.jpeg.8f6f494d62c7095dfb300e46df58562a.jpeg
 

 

Yeah, I tried but was unable to get those pieces out right now. The rock on the left doesn’t weigh enough to offset it. I would have to build some sort of hidden structure to support the weight if I wanted to do that. 
 

it’s something I hope to keep playing with. A small piece of rock wedged in might do enough to help... 

 

In other news, I scored an almost brand new Vertex ZeoVit reactor today from a local reefer, which is great. Now I can run the ZeoVit media a little more traditionally and clean it easily. 
 

I also decided the RSK300 skimmer isn’t going to work out for me. It’s way too loud for my likes, and the micro bubbles it produces are stupid. I know people talk about a skimmer break-in, and maybe the bubbles would go away with time, but the sound isn’t going to improve drastically. I’m going to look for a skimmer from a more proven brand, like Reef Octopus. I looked at the 110SSS at my LFS today, but it wasn’t what I want either. So back to the drawing board for that...

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KMitch

Well today was not a good day for the forward progress of the tank. Sigh. 😔 

 

Let's start with the heater. I noticed the tank has had a hard time maintaining the set temp of 78*F, and although both heaters are lighting up and look like they are working, I decided to do a little more forensic analysis. Queue Apex graphs of energy usage by heater 1 vs heater 2 (my backup, in case heater 1 failed).

 

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Yeah, you see the problem? Heater 1 barely drew 1 watt of power in the last 24 hours, whereas heater 2 was regularly drawing 200+ watts. In other words, heater 1 is drawing power just to turn on the indicator light, but isn't actually working. It's a Cobalt Aquatics NeoTherm heater, btw.

 

So now I need to figure out a new primary heater situation, and hopefully can do so before I cook my way through heater 2, which is working double time to compensate.

 

However, that problem is much cheaper and easier to deal with than this problem...

 

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The left light is supposed to be on.... "supposed to" being the keywords. We had a very brief power flicker at the house last night (lasting seconds), and I'm guessing that somehow pissed off the electronics inside the light. The power supply is still good (I swapped it with the other light to test it, so I know the issue isn't the power supply). There is no power getting to the head unit itself -- none of the lit buttons are illuminating, so I also can't do a hard reset. Not a lot of information on the internet about this issue that I could find -- normally when they fail, the lights for the buttons still respond and flash an error code. So annoyed by that, I took it off the tank and put it into a spare box and will ship it to EcoTech tomorrow for service. I guess it's better that this happen before coral is in the tank, but since I'm out of the warranty period, I'll certainly be paying for whatever repairs out of pocket. Sigh.

 

Hope everyone else is having a better fish tank day! 🤷

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Reefkid88

Man that is a swift kick to the yams.. I'm sorry this stuff happened bud. 

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KMitch
2 hours ago, Reefkid88 said:

Man that is a swift kick to the yams.. I'm sorry this stuff happened bud. 

Yeah the heater.... whatever. They fail.

 

The light... swift kick. 😖

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Craig.

Any chance that your home insurance could cover the light if it related to an electrical supply issue?

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KMitch
2 hours ago, Craig. said:

Any chance that your home insurance could cover the light if it related to an electrical supply issue?

I doubt the cost of repairing it would exceed my deductible. Interesting thought though. 
 

I am miffed if that was the cause that the Kill-a-Watt surge protector didn’t prevent it...

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debbeach13

Dam I hope the light repair cost is reasonable. How old are the lights?

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KMitch
9 hours ago, debbeach13 said:

Dam I hope the light repair cost is reasonable. How old are the lights?

I bought them in 2017

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KMitch

Light went off to EcoTech today- since I am in Virginia and they are based in Pennsylvania, will hopefully get there quickly. 
 

In the meantime, I’ve been working on getting a custom lid made. I want to minimize evaporation while also not having a totally solid lid that collects a ton of condensation. We are looking at something like this - I welcome thoughts and critiques. Do you think this is enough venting to keep it from condensation? 
 

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Reefkid88

How bad are they going to screw you,or do you not know yet ? I also didn't know you were a VA fella,what part ? 

 

 That is a crazy looking lid !!! 

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KMitch
5 hours ago, Reefkid88 said:

How bad are they going to screw you,or do you not know yet ? I also didn't know you were a VA fella,what part ? 

 

 That is a crazy looking lid !!! 

Don’t know yet.... if it’s just the power controller one has to hope that part isn’t too expensive to replace. 🤷

 

I am located in NoVA - Manassas area. 
 

I like how the lid looks, just want to make sure if functions well too!

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KMitch

Starting to see a little brown algae forming on sand and rocks....

 

Nitrite: 0

Ammonia: 0.5

Nitrate: 0

 

Still have about 10 days in the ZeoVit cycle to go!

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Reefkid88

Definitely getting closer !!! 

 

 Oh nice,I was born and raised in Manasshole. Parents went to Stonewall HS,I went to Nokesville and MP Elem. School's,Marstellar Middle new and old then Brentsville High. 

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KMitch
1 hour ago, Reefkid88 said:

Definitely getting closer !!! 

 

 Oh nice,I was born and raised in Manasshole. Parents went to Stonewall HS,I went to Nokesville and MP Elem. School's,Marstellar Middle new and old then Brentsville High. 

Wow! Yeah I live not far from old town Manassas. Some good LFS in this area now too 😎

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Reefkid88

No way,that is crazy. My grandparents used to live in Sandlewood I believe it was called. Yeah ? That is crazy. I know that area has blown up tremendously. 

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KMitch

Well I was hoping my new skimmer would arrive today, but apparently no dice. It looks like I'll be waiting until Monday to unveil what I selected as the workhorse engine for under the sump. :happydance:

 

I also am waiting for a new heater to arrive to replace the one that broke. Hopefully that arrives soon.

 

I did get my new ATO reservoir installed today. I opted for the clear acrylic Trigger Systems version; it's a larger version of the one already running on my 10 gallon tank. 

 

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Fresh ATO in box scent!

 

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One night thing about this setup is that I can run my ATO line from the unit in the bathroom direct into my ATO unit, so I don't have to lug buckets to top off. Apologies for the clutter in the background - those are the boxes for putting away Christmas decorations.

 

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The RO line feeding directly into the ATO chamber

 

The ZeoVit dosing has been going well, and I built a little binder with all the ZeoVit guides and my specific tank dosing schedule in it to help me stay organized. 

 

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Dosing my ZeoStart

 

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My binder of cheat sheets and dosing information for the tank. 

 

I also realized I never shared a photo of the ZeoVit reactor I got used... so let me make up for that mistake

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KMitch

Well my fishy friends, we have met with some fish! ZeoVit recommends adding the first fish to the system on Day 10 if everything is stable, which it is, so we're off! I transferred the two clownfish from the IM20 tank into the RSR250, and added a baby purple tang! I'll give it a few more days to stabilizing since now there's more bio-load in the system, then move the remaining fish (one Yasha goby and one clown goby) from the IM20 into the RSR250.

 

I was pleased to find this purple tang; I have always loved tangs and love their big personalities and color. He's quite the juvenile - maybe 1.5-2" long - so I'll be attentive to feeding for him over the next several months to ensure he stays healthy. As soon as I let him out of the bag, he went to work cleaning the brown diatom algae that was growing on the rocks, and has been chowing down all evening. Quite the fat full belly now! I'm also thinking his name is Felix. 

 

Felix is very feisty, and he's not holding still for a photo at this time, so I'm sorry for the crappy picture. 😐

 

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Felix in his baggy, waiting to taste freedom and fresh saltwater

 

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Again, apologies for the rough picture...

 

The tank is looking good and brown, which is to be expected. I had the same look in the tank at this point when I cycled with the IM20 on ZeoVit, so I'm not the least bit worried about it clearing up. This ugly phase is just part of a new fish tank, and rather than be ashamed of it and pretend it didn't happen, I'm showing it off with pride and gusto as a reminder to junior and beginner reefers that it is OKAY and NORMAL for your tank to have these phases as it gets going. Fret not. Stay the course. I also moved two of my "crappier" frags from my IM20 into the RSR250 today to see how they do in the new system. They will give me a good gauge for how ready the tank is for my more precious specimens to move over soon.

 

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Brown is...beautiful! 

 

For the record, the tank looks absurd with one light missing, lol. According to the tracking #, the light arrived at EcoTech on Wednesday for repair, but with the holiday last week, I'm not expecting to hear anything for a few more days. Hopefully it's a quick (and cheap!) fix, and I'll have it back and running soon.

 

With fish going into the tank, it was time to start "cooking" my fish food. Ok, not actually cooking, but preparing. I'm not into the DIY fish foods, though I applaud those who put in the time and effort to make their own fish cuisine. However, I appreciate the benefits of fresh food, which is why I've always been a big fan of Rod's Food. The ingredients are all things I recognize -- clams, shrimp, oyster, scallop, krill, octopus, etc -- and there's not a single chemical in the package that I do not know. The problem with Rod's Food is that it's always been a pain in the you-know-where to serve up. A big ziplock bag isn't a serving mechanism that is friendly to feed regularly, and it's hard to portion.

 

I saw this solution somewhere else and have held it in my hip pocket to try one day, and today was that day. Basically, I thawed out the food pack and re-froze it into small blocks that I can now feed as needed. Much easier, and allows me to portion control. Plus, I am able to add some Selcon to the food this way and help ensure the fish get the nutrients they need to stay healthy.

 

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Step 1: Get the Rod's Food package and a silicone ice cube tray. I opted for one of the ones with the little squares.

 

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Step 2: Selcon is a great additive for a bunch of fish foods. It has omega-3 fatty acids and lipids needed to help the fish build a strong immune system, and many people report better coloration of the fish with this product.

 

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I put a drop of Selcon in each of the little cubes. I don't obsess over this step, but I do try to hit each food cube with some

 

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Step 3: Smear the Rod's Food into the ice cube tray with a knife. This is a little tedious because you need to make sure each cube is packed tight. 

 

Step 4: Return to freezer for a few hours, until hard.

 

Step 5: "Punch" the cubes out of the mold and store in a ziplock bag in the freezer. 

 

I like this method because it's scale-able and taking a few minutes every few months to do this saves a ton of time and makes the feeding easier later. The easier it is to do maintenance and work on the tank, the more likely it is to happen. Same with good diet... the easier it is for me to feed the fish a healthy meal, the more likely it will happen. These cubes of food are also small enough that I can put one in now with a smaller fish population, and gradually add more as the fish population increases.

 

Finally, two quick equipment updates:

 

1) I had the time to program the MP10 pumps in the tank. I want good, solid, SPS-friendly flow, but I also don't want to constantly blast the corals with high flow either. The way I have it setup now is that the pumps alternate which side is on powerful reef crest mode, while the other pump slows down to a moderate constant pace. In the middle of the day, each pump takes a turn doing an hour of nutrient export to help flush the system. I'll keep an eye on this, but the hope is that switching the flow so that it each side of the tank takes a "turn" being powerful means that there's less likely to be dead spots in the center of the tank, and that any waste won't have a good place to settle since the current mixes up so regularly. This is how the program looks.

 

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2) Finally, I've had my Trident running now for about 48 hours, though I have yet to calibrate it. Neptune recommends 48-72 hours after it starts doing tests to run calibration, so I have no real baseline for how accurate the numbers I'm getting have been. For fun, I tested it against the Hanna Alkalinity checker today. Trident says 8.5 dkh, while Hanna says 7.9 dkh. 

 

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(For those wondering about that big pH spike -- I dosed some Soda Ash yesterday to help raise the pH closer to 8.6, and that resulted in a pH boost. However, I've consistently been above 8.3 pH, and higher pH is often good for coral growth. I expect the pH to fall back to the 8.3 range in the coming hours)

 

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I'll be curious to see how closely they match after calibrating the Trident in the coming days. Stay tuned!

 

 

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Reefkid88

What an update !!! I'm really hoping EcoTech treats you right and does the turn around quick. 

 

 Tank is looking great I can't wait to see what you do with it. 

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