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Billy's 40g Florida Keys Biotope


billygoat

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So I picked up a few things at MarineDepot's liquidation sale... including a LifeGard Crystal 17g tank and a bunch of stuff to run it. I forgot that MD had a west coast warehouse right here in LA, so I was quite surprised when all my gear arrived the day after I bought it! 😅 The tank is really nice, with ultra minimalist silicone and beautiful mitered edges. I got it for $75 brand new, which seems like a bargain.

 

This new tank is the vessel for my planted saltwater project, where I am going to attempt to grow mangroves and shoal grass. It's very much a work in progress and probably won't have water in it for a week or two yet despite arriving so quickly, but stay tuned for more updates about it in the future. 😁

 

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Not sure about the HOB filter yet. I also ordered an Aqamai KPS powerhead and I have another spare Koralia kicking around, so I may just use those instead since this system will have little need for mechanical filtration.

 

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There's the new tank next to my 40g biotope. The light fixture at the right will have three horticulture grow bulbs in it. I'm hoping those + the huge window will provide enough light to grow some cool marine plants.

 

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Sweet!  I think that huge window and the light fixture will have you covered for plant growth.  Looking forward to watching that one too!

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On 7/2/2021 at 7:45 AM, gena said:

Sweet!  I think that huge window and the light fixture will have you covered for plant growth.  Looking forward to watching that one too!

It's totally unexplored territory for me, so I am trying to approach it with no expectations. In traditional Billy fashion I have already spent a lot more than I expected to on the new project, so hopefully it comes together reasonably well! 😅

 

Behold my mud puddle biotope! Rocks and plants are arriving later in the week, but I wanted to get the tank going with just the sand because I have a feeling it's going to take a few days for the water to clear... I'm running a HOB filter stuffed with floss to expedite the process.

 

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Oh and if you've ever wondered what a real DSB looks like... just about four and a half inches, ladies and gents.

 

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That's 40 pounds of Bahama oolite, 10 pounds of bimini pink, 10 pounds of Miracle Mud, 10 pounds of plain old CaribSea aragonite, and 10 pounds of crushed coral. 80 lbs of sand in my 17g tank... we're going anoxic at the bottom for sure, but I am not a hundred percent sure that's a bad thing! This might be a giant disaster, but even if it is I'll be sure to document my experiences along the way!

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19 hours ago, billygoat said:

It's totally unexplored territory for me, so I am trying to approach it with no expectations. In traditional Billy fashion I have already spent a lot more than I expected to on the new project, so hopefully it comes together reasonably well! 😅

 

Behold my mud puddle biotope! Rocks and plants are arriving later in the week, but I wanted to get the tank going with just the sand because I have a feeling it's going to take a few days for the water to clear... I'm running a HOB filter stuffed with floss to expedite the process.

 

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Oh and if you've ever wondered what a real DSB looks like... just about four and a half inches, ladies and gents.

 

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That's 40 pounds of Bahama oolite, 10 pounds of bimini pink, 10 pounds of Miracle Mud, 10 pounds of plain old CaribSea aragonite, and 10 pounds of crushed coral. 80 lbs of sand in my 17g tank... we're going anoxic at the bottom for sure, but I am not a hundred percent sure that's a bad thing! This might be a giant disaster, but even if it is I'll be sure to document my experiences along the way!

Hahahah...that's "Gena fashion" too 😂.  Or it used to be.  I'm trying to be very good with my new tank.  But YOU......I want to live vicariously through you and this tank.  So keep doing what you're doing LOL.  I can't even tell you how excited I am for this!!!! 

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Any ideas / new research / plans to keep a deep sandbed clean?

 

When I started in the hobby it was a 3" sandbed is a must. Nowadays no sandbed is all the rage. 

 

I know when I had a DSB it would give me huge nutrient spikes if I attempted to stir beyond the top layer.

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7 hours ago, gena said:

Hahahah...that's "Gena fashion" too 😂.  Or it used to be.  I'm trying to be very good with my new tank.  But YOU......I want to live vicariously through you and this tank.  So keep doing what you're doing LOL.  I can't even tell you how excited I am for this!!!! 

Yeah, for some reason when I embarked on this project I thought "Oh, this tank and some of the gear I need is on sale! This can be my new budget build!" Only one week later and I've spent $125 on rocks, $100 on sand, $100 on bits and pieces from Indo Pacific Aqua Farms, $125 on seagrasses alone... I am normally a pretty frugal guy, but when it comes to aquariums I just can't help myself! 😂 I keep saying that once the new tank gets up and running I at least won't have to spend much to keep it going, but whenever I get to that point I seem to end up with a new aquarium, so we'll see how it goes.

 

24 minutes ago, melson said:

Any ideas / new research / plans to keep a deep sandbed clean?

 

When I started in the hobby it was a 3" sandbed is a must. Nowadays no sandbed is all the rage. 

 

I know when I had a DSB it would give me huge nutrient spikes if I attempted to stir beyond the top layer.

The prevailing wisdom seems to be: don't even try to clean it. Just don't touch it, ever. If you have animals that will burrow in the sand that is fine, but attempting to clean a DSB through any traditional means (hydrovac, sand stirring, etc.) seems to be highly ill-advised.

 

That being said, a seagrass aquarium is very different from a traditional reef tank, so a lot of the problems that DSBs cause in reef aquaria might be non-issues in a marine planted system. Having nutrients available isn't necessarily the end of the world for a tank like this (nor are hypoxic regions deep in the sandbed) and allowing the plants to spread their roots throughout the substrate changes the whole chemistry of the sand. I've tried to research this as much as possible, but there seem to be vanishingly few articles or testimonials dedicated to seagrasses in home aquaria. The definitive guide to growing these plants is Sarah Lardizabal's article in Reefkeeping magazine from 2006, which was written in an era before proper nano tanks existed, and doesn't even mention such modern staples as LED lighting. A whole lot has changed since then, but very little additional information has been added to our collective knowledge because only a few very dedicated hobbyists seem to be interested in growing marine plants. I hope to expand this knowledge through personal experience. I imagine that a lot of trial and error will be involved. 😅

 

Anyway, the tank cleared up nicely overnight so I removed the HOB filter for now. I am going to try running this system with just a heater, light (still waiting on that), powerhead, and ATO. Not 100% sure that the powerhead alone provides sufficient surface agitation to prevent nighttime pH from dropping, but I'll test it once seagrasses are in and add an airstone or something if that ends up being a problem.

 

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My very first reef tank, way back in the year 2000 LOL, had a DSB.  They were the rage back then.  Anyone who was anyone had a DSB.  I remember buying a LOT of bristleworms JUST to keep my DSB stirred up.  I was a bit nervous tearing that one down for a cross country move to California.  I was afraid of the size of bristleworms I might find.  But it was ok.  Felt bad throwing that sand away though.

 

I would never put a DSB on a coral reef tank today, but totally would on a planted tank like this one!!!!  One of the things I like about them is seeing the layers of colors of sand, through the glass, of the DSB.  With planted you might even see some roots which would be cool.  Plant people love seeing their plant's roots LOL.  

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On 7/5/2021 at 3:34 PM, growsomething said:

Sounds very interesting.  Will you be creating a thread for this tank?

In fact I just did! 😁 You can find it over here:

 

On 7/6/2021 at 8:12 AM, gena said:

My very first reef tank, way back in the year 2000 LOL, had a DSB.  They were the rage back then.  Anyone who was anyone had a DSB.  I remember buying a LOT of bristleworms JUST to keep my DSB stirred up.  I was a bit nervous tearing that one down for a cross country move to California.  I was afraid of the size of bristleworms I might find.  But it was ok.  Felt bad throwing that sand away though.

 

I would never put a DSB on a coral reef tank today, but totally would on a planted tank like this one!!!!  One of the things I like about them is seeing the layers of colors of sand, through the glass, of the DSB.  With planted you might even see some roots which would be cool.  Plant people love seeing their plant's roots LOL.  

I felt the same way about the sandbed on my previous reef tank (the one that got converted into this 40g system). It was so rich, so full of life! I felt pretty bad throwing it away. But I could tell that attempting to combine it with the fresh sand in my new tank would cause too many problems, so I ended up tossing it. I managed to save a few weird worms that lived in it though. 😅

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  • 2 weeks later...

I've been focusing a lot on the seagrass tank lately, but don't you guys worry - I certainly haven't forgotten the Florida biotope here! I cleaned it up a bit yesterday and it is looking rather fresh right now.

 

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Dialing in the settings on my new light has been a bit of a journey, but I think I have finally got it in a good place. The A360X is quite a bit stronger than the A160 that I was running previously but it also has additional color channels plus a much wider lens angle, which means that getting the light just right is more complicated than simply comparing wattage and making the necessary adjustments from there. That being said, I'm pretty pleased with the new setup and most of my corals seem to be enjoying it as well.

 

These Ricordea in particular are going a little bit crazy.

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

I got this cool picture of my tube coral with tentacles extended at night. You can see how quickly it retracts when the light hits it! When extended it looks like a bunch of tiny dendros.

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Wow, this tank is coming up on the one year anniversary of its transfer next month. Crazy how the time flies. It seems like just a few months ago that I was still dealing with cyanobacteria and all sorts of other growing pains, but I guess that's more than half a year in the past already.

 

Here is an FTS from this afternoon. I'm down to scraping the glass once a week so it's a bit dirty, but everything is really doing quite well in here. Up at the rear of the right hand side you can see the new rock that I added last week. This was one of the ocean live rocks that I bought for my seagrass tank (shown reflected in the glass here - bonus!) but couldn't fit into the other system. This particular rock didn't have anything special growing on it, but it was the right shape to fit into the only space I had available so I went ahead and put it in here. Hopefully it will add some more diversity to my tank's microfauna and further bolster this system's turbo-charged biofilter.

 

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Another thing that came out of my seagrass tank is this little hitchhiker gorgonian - a slit-pore sea rod (Plexaurella sp.). It took a beating during shipping and was in super rough shape when I first transferred it over, but after a few weeks in this system it has completely reclaimed all the areas of bare skeleton that it came in with. I hope it continues to do well in here because this particular genus is usually not available to hobbyists, so I feel quite lucky to have gotten one.

 

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Meanwhile, on the other side of the tank... these lime green Ricordea are reproducing prolifically. Can they ever be stopped? Probably not.

 

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Still following the progression of this tank a year later! Absolutely love this tank. I finally will be moving at the end of the month into our new place and I can not wait to get set back up again 😁. This time I'll be going up to a 40 gallon myself. Its been fun following this tank and I'll keep following it as long as you keep posting updates lol 

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On 8/6/2021 at 5:15 AM, kekke1082 said:

Still following the progression of this tank a year later! Absolutely love this tank. I finally will be moving at the end of the month into our new place and I can not wait to get set back up again 😁. This time I'll be going up to a 40 gallon myself. Its been fun following this tank and I'll keep following it as long as you keep posting updates lol 

Thank you so much! I have definitely been focusing on my new seagrass tank lately, but this system remains my favorite. It's just so simple and easy to take care of, it's really all I've ever wanted out of a home aquarium.

 

That's exciting to hear that you will be back at reefing soon! I always tell people that 40 gallons is the ideal size for a home aquarium, because it's the biggest tank you can get while still being able to do a 10% water change with a single 5 gallon bucket. 😂 Are you planning to get an IM 40 too, or will you go for a different 40 gallon setup?

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On 8/7/2021 at 11:02 AM, billygoat said:

Thank you so much! I have definitely been focusing on my new seagrass tank lately, but this system remains my favorite. It's just so simple and easy to take care of, it's really all I've ever wanted out of a home aquarium.

 

That's exciting to hear that you will be back at reefing soon! I always tell people that 40 gallons is the ideal size for a home aquarium, because it's the biggest tank you can get while still being able to do a 10% water change with a single 5 gallon bucket. 😂 Are you planning to get an IM 40 too, or will you go for a different 40 gallon setup?

I'm planning to go with the standard 40B from petco and add either a fijicube internal sump, go sumpless and have macro algea in the tank again or drill it and do a diy sump/refugium. I have no idea lol. I have one of those muscle rack stands I got free a few years ago and it fits 2x 40B tanks perfectly. 

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On 8/3/2021 at 10:10 PM, billygoat said:

these lime green Ricordea are reproducing prolifically. Can they ever be stopped? Probably not.

I wouldn't complain if I were you.  mine are always happy, but never show major growth or split.

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On 8/9/2021 at 6:52 PM, kekke1082 said:

I'm planning to go with the standard 40B from petco and add either a fijicube internal sump, go sumpless and have macro algea in the tank again or drill it and do a diy sump/refugium. I have no idea lol. I have one of those muscle rack stands I got free a few years ago and it fits 2x 40B tanks perfectly. 

So if it fits two 40 breeders... why not set up two tanks?! 😁 If I had the glass drilling expertise I would plumb the two tanks together and have one be a reef and one a full-size refugium with macroalgae. That would be amazing.

 

On 8/10/2021 at 5:53 AM, mitten_reef said:

I wouldn't complain if I were you.  mine are always happy, but never show major growth or split.

Oh don't get me wrong, I'm definitely not complaining! I love the Ricordea. They're starting to get to the point where I can't fit them all inside a single photo, and I hope they never stop.

 

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This system is truly a blessing. It is so easy to take care of, and everything seems to do well with a minimum of effort - all I do is manually dose KH and Ca supplements, feed the fish and occasionally the corals, and perform a 10% water change once per week. I wish I had a better understanding of how I accomplished this balance, but whatever the cause I hope the tank keeps on cruising at the same pace forever. I'm knockin' on wood! 😅

 

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1 hour ago, billygoat said:

So if it fits two 40 breeders... why not set up two tanks?! 😁 If I had the glass drilling expertise I would plumb the two tanks together and have one be a reef and one a full-size refugium with macroalgae. That would be amazing.

Hmmm good plan lol you know what i just might do that. My 3 tanks might turn into 6ish lol

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  • 2 weeks later...

A few days ago I finally got fed up with the aggression between my chromis and managed to catch the runtiest of them. I transferred the poor pummeled fish to my 17g seagrass tank, where hopefully he will be able to recover. That puts this tank down to three fish - two blue chromis and the cherub angel. There is still some aggression between the remaining chromis so the situation is certainly not yet where I'd like it to be, but it's nothing like what I was seeing before. 

 

"Blue chromis trio," they said... Ha! I can't believe I fell for that. The ideal number of chromis for a home aquarium is zero, but if you're dead set on having them I recommend just getting one.

 

Anyway, the entire rest of the tank looks pretty good, so I really can't complain too much.

 

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2 minutes ago, filefishfinatic said:

sick tank, whats it stocked with? 

Thank you. This tank has two blue chromis, a cherub angelfish, a large (12") red brittle star, and a wide assortment of Caribbean soft corals and anemones.

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Looks like the rock flower 'nems are at it again!

 

Male (orange) and female (green):

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These guys spawn pretty regularly, maybe once every two or three months. I feel like they used to have better success in my old tank, since it wasn't as big and didn't have as much flow, but I still do have a few rock flower babies here and there in this system.

 

The two are right around the corner from each other, but the current moves sperm from the male up and back towards the rear of the tank. Hopefully at least some of it will make a full circuit of the display and wind up landing on the female. 🤷‍♂️

 

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You could probably turn off the pumps for a bit and use a turkey baster to put some of the sperm directly above the female, if you wanted to be reasonably sure of successful fertilization. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

I am happy to report that there's still nothing much going on in here. Chad the Rad Crab is back in town, so that's an event I guess? He was tearing up my seagrasses, so I had to evict him from my other aquarium. I'm still interested in getting him his own place, but for the time being he'll have to hang out in here.

 

Last week the tank quietly hit its 1 year anniversary since everything was transferred from my previous 18g tank. Wow! Where does the time go? Seems like just yesterday everything was still settling down. I suppose it is pretty well settled by now though, and I have to say it lines up with my original vision of a Caribbean reef pretty much perfectly. There have been some twists and turns along the way but I like where things have ended up.

 

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