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fenderchamp's 3.5 gal bow front


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This is my first reef tank.   I keep a couple of Orandas in a 40 breeder, the 2 I have were born in the tank, I've been keeping them for just about 2 years.  I do a full water change every week.  I pick up blood worms for them every week or so at the LFS 10 minutes for my house in Omaha.  About a year ago I noticed, and was intrigued by the fairly extensive frag tanks that they have.  I used to keep saltwater fish, a little bit, in the late 80's, I had a 29 Gallon high with a metal halide in a homemade hood and a Whisper HOB power filter pulling water through an under gravel filter.  I had a big anemone and a clownfish.  anyhow I've been out of saltwater, and I wasn't that big into it then anyhow, for... a long time.   


 I started reading some of the pico journals and build threads and was pretty impressed by the simple pico startup sticky thread and many of cool pico tank journals and reef bowl journals, so I decided to start up a tank. My goal is to get a few coral frags, I'm not really sure which kinds, and see what happens in a year or so of growing them.  Initially I just want to change the water and clean the tank  and see if I can learn to do it competently.


The tank is a 3.5 gallon bow front Aquatop.  I have a heater and powerhead in it, and a AI prime light.  I just put water in it today and 2 tiny hermit crabs and piece of live rock.  I mixed the water with RODI water I can get at the LFS.  I bought a little electronic Refractometer/Thermometer and a pail full of Red Seas salt and a little 100watt heater and a powerhead for the mixing bucket.  I intend to change all the water every week, like seems to be a popular approach around here, and I do it for my goldfish too, and it's been pretty effective so far for them.    


I downloaded  a couple of AI presets on my phone today, and I'm running one now that is surely too bright, but hopefully it won't hurt my live rock until I get things figured out a little more. 


in any case if it wasn't for this forum, I wouldn't have tried this so hopefully I can muddle through it and thanks everyone on here for the inspiration. 


I sent this picture to a friend, and I had to make them understand how small this tank really is.  I bought the AI prime gooseneck stand, but I really didn't like the way it fits on this little tank, so I bought some brass pipe at the hardware store and used it.  The bolt that fits in the ai prime is an M5 and the pin that fit's in the holder is 5/16.  I ground down the thread on some 3/8 ID pipe until it fit in the plastic AI holder.  








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Does anybody around here, have any suggestions about schedule and intensity for this AI light on a tank this tiny. 


I downloaded a couple of presets on the internet, one for a pico, the other for a nano.  I ended up using the quick start option on the AI phone app, and making a 12P-12A schedule then I tweaked the config file by hand and ran it through a node script, that I found on on the internet to rewrite the checksum, so it would work.  I  modified my original preset  to make the whites drop out later in the cycle a little early.   I find the little sliders and picking the times on the phone app a bit annoying. 


The app is a little clunky so I don't know exactly what watts I'm running ( I think the peak is about 7) according to the app. 


Any specifics or preset files would be appreciated.  I'm in no rush, though I noticed the Coraline algae that was on my rock already seems a bit faded compared to where it was, but I don't know that it has anything to do with light levels. 


I took a couple of pictures of the only tank occupants "little crab" and "big crab". The white dot on the front glass in the tank picture is the little crab in the first picture.  








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I grabbed a plastic chopstick out of my utensils drawer in the kitchen. 


First tool!   


I can scoot the rock around, and poke at stuff on it now, most helpful. 


I put 1 very small sinking goldfish pellet in the tank and little crab was on it in about a 90 seconds. 


He's so small that he can get on top of the pellet and fall all the way over upside down on it. 


I figure that one pellet should be plenty, I'm sure that big crab will get in on it too eventually, until water change one happens on Friday night (yeah I know, I know...Friday night<sigh>). 



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I had the water tested in my tank and LFS and I had 0 Ammonia/Nitrite so I decided to put a coral in it  It seems ilke it opened up and it's doing ok. 


I'd like to get it off that plug and put it on my rock.  I saw a video on the internet about some guy putting on some gloves and taking a rusty old scalpel and cutting the coral and part of the frag plug off and gluing it to a rock with some, I'm assuming, thick cya glue?  is there more to it than that, and should I wait any certain amount of time to do it?  I have an exacto knife with some sharp blades, will that suffice?  


Also I saw my little hermit crab switch around between 3 shells multiple times yesterday, It's back in the original shell today.  Is that normal? 



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Did the first water change on the tank today.  I changed 100% of the water took out the rock and everything and put it in a bucket with the first gallon or so of tank water the drained out.  I completely emptied the rest of the tank into another bucket, scrubbed the glass and the hardware. Put clean water back in the tank.  I removed the plug off the frag and glued it onto the rock, I was kind of sloppy about it too.  I'm a noob so, practice makes perfect. I did forget to really baste off the rock, so when I put the tank together I was rewarded with an immediate little pile of crab poop! Next time I'll remember.  


I might have done this too soon, as I had many many copepods on the tank walls (I added a bottle) before the water change, and there aren't so many now, hopefully they won't be wiped out. 


Also in 3.5 bow front news, I went to the LFS and they gave me some more shells for my hermit crabs to play around with, and one seems to have a crab in it. 


I'm torn, do I take it back or simply pay for it.  It's bigger than the other two and has a sweet pink shell on it.  Are 3 hermit crabs too many? 

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Those zoanthids look nice. Gluing them to the rocks is fine. Many people do it right away and the frag plug is not put in the tank at all. It is normal for hermits to try out new shells and may end up back in the original shell. Since you are feeding the crabs 3 should be OK but if you feel it is too many go ahead and return one. You can baste the rock even if your not doing a water change and the HOB should filter some of the crap from the water. Sounds like things are going well in the tank.

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here's a couple of pictures of the rock after a water change today.  


this was the 2nd %100 water change that's been done on this tank.  I honestly used a hydro-syphon a few days earlier just to suck some of the crab poop and detritus off of the bottom, and that ended up being, like almost a %50.  This thing is small!


I have also been sucking the piles of crab poop up with a turkey baster daily or so.  This morning I started really hitting the rock with the baster.  The rock, I noticed was starting to have some kind of hairy looking spots on it, as was the glass, but when I really hit it with the baster I was amazed at how much stuff started flying out of it.   I'm going to for the most part keep this thing pretty clean, unless I start having problems.  I'm going to try to control myself and keep the one coral and the 3 crabs for a while yet, too try and keep it simpler to evaluate, maintain and learn on. 


This morning I put my saltwater in a bucket with a heater and powerhead and then in the tank I turned off the pump and basted some more, and when things started to settle I saw many copepods, not only on the glass but actually flitting around in the water column too, so I kind of hesitated to really do much cleaning, but I decided to clean it pretty throughly anyway, because I'd like to see it through with radical cleaning and %100 weekly water changes and see how it works.    


I first took about 1/3 of the water out and sucked some stuff off the bottom.  Then I took the rock with the coral attached, and one of the crabs too (who was on the rock) and put it in about a gallon of clean saltwater in a bucket.  Then I carried the tiny little tank up to my kitchen sink and tipped it over in there, took all the seashells and the other crabs out and put them in the clean bucket of clean saltwater with my rock, took this little soft scrub brush I got at the hardware store and scrubbed the bottom and the front glass, I left the back and sides alone, even though they are a little fuzzy, put another gallon or so of clean saltwater in the tank, and rinsed it again.   Then I put the empty tank back on my stand and filled it with enough clean saltwater to cover the rock. I didn't use any thing but saltwater in the tank, despite the fact I was at the kitchen sink with it. 


Then I picked the rock up and rinsed it with a quart of clean saltwater back into the bucket to get any more crab poop or detritus that might have settled on it, put the rock back in the tank along with the crabs and the shells, filled it up to my fill line. and that was it.

I didn't scrub the rock at all, I only rinsed it, but all the hairy and fuzzy stuff seems to be gone.  


Whole process took maybe 30 minutes.  I hit the temp by 2 degrees F. (I can do better than that I think) and I hit the salinity pretty much on the head at 34.9.  The coral seems to have come back out with the light coming on. And hopefully the copepod population hasn't been decimated, we'll have to see.  


The rock is noticeably cleaner and I'm not positive but I think I've been getting some Coraline growth since the tanks been up, and the in the last week I have one tiny new polyp on the zooanthid.  


Sorry if this goes on and on, but I like to hear exactly what people do sometimes, there is generally never too much detail as far as a noob like me is concerned, plus I'll forget exactly what the hell I did and when, so I might as well record it here.  


Also I changed my photoperiod from 12 hours to 8 hours and bumped the blues up from like 22% to 28%, kicked down the whites and bumped up the UV/Violet to like 20%.  I also put it in acclimation mode again fo %80 for 5 days, just to be gentle, I did that yesterday.  

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  • 4 weeks later...

I added a orange zoanthid colony a few weeks ago, and I noticed yesterday that this little feather work started coming out.  He might have been doing so for weeks without me noticing, but I doubt it. A few days ago, I programmed the light to leave a tiny bit of blue on all night long, because I like to watch it, so that might have made the difference. 





The first time I noticed the worm was yesterday, about an hour after I had the rock out of water and glued on this new duncan frag. 







Another picture of the worm coming out. I took all of these pictures under the white light of a regular incandescent bulb in a lamp that's next to the tank. 



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So now I have 4 corals and three crabs in my little tank.  


I put the Duncan on the top along with the Monitpora, I wonder if that was a poor choice, should the duncan be lower?


I'm not going to move anything yet, And I have some doubts if the 3 or inches max elevation difference, would make much difference as far as the brightness of the light on those two corals is concerned.  


Any suggestions as far as that goes? 


I think I like the way the tank is looking, and I doubt I'll add much more to it for a good while now.  


The aesthetic that kind of inspired me was the  @seabass contest pico where he spread out like 3 frags or something on 1 rock. 


I think I'll just change water for a while and see if this stuff survives, I'd like to be able to consider adding some macro-algae in the future, and maybe if I get enough growth, trying to frag off what's in it and spreading it out a little more. 


Should I be concerned about feeding this tank at all?


I've been giving the crabs 1 small goldfish pellet to split every week and that's it.   



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23 minutes ago, fenderchamp said:

Should I be concerned about feeding this tank at all?

Without fish, I guess I'd be feeding the duncan at least once a week (maybe like a mysis per polyp).  The zoanthids are probably fine with just nutrients in the water.  Maybe target feed (sparingly) some Reef-Roids to the monti once a week.  I might also dose phyto maybe once a week too (although purchasing phyto might not be very practical for such a small tank).


I say mysis, Reef-Roids, and phyto because this is what I have.  I don't know, maybe something like Rod's Food Coral Blend would be a decent choice instead.

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 2 weeks later...

here are few new pictures of the tank after %100 water change this morning.  The Duncan has a new branch and another on the way.  I've been feeding it a little brine shrimp with a turkey baster 1-2x a week.  the monty seems to be starting to spread onto my rather nasty glob of glue, I can't wait until that's covered. The Acan has yet to eat, though I notice in the dark of night it seems puffed out, thought I've not seen tentacles, but I'm a noob so what do I know.  I inadvertently re-enabled the moon cycle on my ai prime schedule which for some reason makes the light go pitch black at night (programmed a dim moon) but I noticed the acans looking puffy when I looked at it under room light when it was pitch black so I've left the schedule pitch black during the night.   I think there might be an aptasia on that green zoa frag, but I'm not really sure, I think I can see it on the top polyp in the photo.  I think there is a new little polyp on it too.  I had my water tested Friday afternoon before I did the water change. I didn't write the settings down but it looked like my calcium/alkalinity were fine and nitrates were at zero, so all good so far I guess.


It's pretty interesting how when I tell local reefers that I meet at the fish shop that I'm doing %100 water changes and breaking the whole tank down and cleaning it once a week, they seem a bit shocked.  The guys at my LFS understand what I'm doing though, and they seem kind of into it, and think the tank is looking good so far.  I think I'm the only person that goes in there, that is trying to do a pico, or at least that talks about it. 








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  • 4 weeks later...

Here's a couple of new FTS shots. I think things are still progressing. I've got 3 new heads with little legs on the Duncan so far, and there are a couple new mouths starting to form too.  I think the green zoas are multiplying, the montipora seems too be slowly working it's way down over my cruddy pile of super glue and I added a two zoa frags, 1 I broke in half.  I've been feeding the Duncan brine shrimp about 1x a week, I have them for the Orandas already.  


I did  lose all 3 of my hermit crabs.  Two I just couldn't find, and the other one crawled out of his shell and died.  I'm not sure why it happened but, I was not paying close enough attention, and inadvertently changed water %100 and missed the temperature by 10 degrees.  It was 10 degrees hot.  Within a week after that, the crabs were gone.  


I still have the acan coral, but he got knocked off the rock (by me) last water change, and I haven't reglued it on yet.  


I've continued changing water every week.  I'm getting some hair algae, so I've been removing it with a toothbrush, blasting the rocks.  I turned all the whites off of my light, I'm running 20% violet/uv 30% blue/royal with a little bit like 3% green 8 hours a day with a 1-hour fade in/out.  I just started this about 5 days ago, so I plan on continuing for a while and see if the algae subsides. 


I also added 3 new crabs 2 tiny electric blue 1 tiny red leg. 





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