RSS And Now for Something Completely Different

MASA Admin

8 May 2007
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A new car, a new house, a new job, just about anything new fills us with a sense of excitement and anticipation. We think of all the possibilities and what we can do since the concept of newness typically means we are not restrained but what occurred in the past.

For people in the hobby this constant opportunity to find something new, whether it is simply a new coral or fish that we had not kept or seen before or a new piece of equipment, is one of the aspects of this hobby that keeps it so enticing. However, the one thing that supersedes all the others in terms of what it represents is the new tank.

Getting and setting up a new tank is so alluring that when one of us gets to do it the full sense of camaraderie really shows itself as everyone seems to join in and wants to be part of the process. How else can you explain the popularity of the new tank threads that are on all the sites and how many people join in to express their opinions on how things look and what is going on. I truly doubt that when someone gets a new car or new house that there are threads where people tell them you should have gotten the leather interior or I would have gone with French doors. Our hobby is unique in that way, at least as far as I know.

So like most of us in the hobby, I too am very excited that I am going to set up a new tank to start the year. It may not seem like a big deal, since I actually set up two new tanks last year, however this tank is going to be significantly different from those and actually any other tank I have set up to date. I say that, as over the past twenty years or so I have set up approximately fifteen tanks for myself and helped or set up another forty or so for others.

The new Ultra Reef skimmer has an exceptionally small footprint

For the most part I set most of them up in pretty much the same way. These tanks all had lots of light and water motion, had big protein skimmers along with Ecosystem Aquarium’s Miracle Mud and Caulerpa for filtration, and relied on water changes using Instant Ocean salt to add and remove compounds that were missed. I used this method as for the most part it worked and I was comfortable with it.

Sure over the years I changed or added a few things as the technology improved such as GFO to control excess phosphate and once LED lighting finally made sense I switched out the metal halides, but for the most part all of my tanks have pretty much been set up the same. And I would be neglectful if I also didn’t acknowledge that my tanks are also usually overstocked with both fish and corals.

So how is my new tank going to be different from these past tanks? First, the tank itself is going to be different. Up until recently I really did not think much about the tank and stand other than it was what would hold the fish and corals that I cared about. So I generally went with the cheapest tank and stand I could find and really was not concerned with how it looked.

However since some of my tanks now sit in my family room and kitchen everyone who comes to my house sees them. I realized that I could no longer keep my tanks like I used to. So I looked for the tank and stand that would be the most pleasing to the eye and also be the most functional.

The new Elos tank I plan on setting up in the next couple of weeks

At last year’s MACNA I saw the tanks manufactured by Elos and I knew this was the tank I was searching for. These tanks are made out of a custom low iron glass that is to my eyes transparent. Nicolas, the owner of Elos, showed that if you put a business card with fine print behind the glass there is virtually no distortion, unlike what occurs with other glass. The edges are perfectly beveled and the seals are straight and perfect. The tank looks like one of the glass boxes you would find in a jewelry store where they keep their most precious jewels, which considering the price of corals is actually not a big stretch.

In addition to the clarity of the glass are phenomenal construction, these tanks are also appealing in that there is no “Euro-bracing” around the top of the tank. Instead Elos double seals the bottom, which not only adds strength but it also makes it unnecessary to add unsightly glass beams across the top. This also makes lighting the tank easier. But just having the glass be perfect is not enough, Elos also has incorporated into their tanks one of the most sophisticated overflows in the industry.

Unlike most overflows, which only remove detritus that has reached the surface, the QuietDrain overflow design on these tanks allows for detritus to be drawn in from every level before it flows over the overflow and is removed. Elos has engineered their overflow to be significantly more efficient at removing waste than any overflow I have seen.

The unique high capacity overflow box that draws waste from thoughout the levels in the tank

But even this is not enough, as the overflow is also designed to be completely silent in that the water level in the overflow can be adjusted so that it only needs to drop a short distance and hence be completely quiet, or if you prefer the sound of trickling water you can have that too. And just in case the overflow becomes plugged up there is a failsafe function that will allow the water to bypass the initial overflow and flow into the sump rather than overflow the tank and flood the floor. Since this tank will be in my family room, not having to worry about flooding is a big advantage over most of the other tanks I have seen.

Lastly the overflow also has the return plumbing inside it, so there will be no external pipes either going over the back of the tank or within the tank that I would have needed to hide. Because the overflow is so efficient according to Elos I will not need to add any powerheads or closed loops on this tank in order to have adequate flow. Needless to say I am quite anxious to set this up and see how all these improvements over the old standard tanks I have used function. But after seeing the tank at MACNA as well as several others operating it, I am quite confident that it will meet or exceed my expectations.

The clean seams, internal frame and ultra high visibility glass make it different from other tanks I have seen

Elos has also done similar engineering and designing in their Absolute line of stands. The stand I chose is a new design and is significantly lighter than comparable stands I have looked at. Also the stand has a gap along the back to allow for the plumping to be contained within it and not seen from the outside. This design also allows for the tank to sit flush against the wall, so even though the tank is slightly bigger than the tank it is replacing, it will actually take up a slightly smaller footprint owing to this. And unlike most stands I have used where the tank more or less rests on four legs, this stand is constructed so that the tank actually rests on the two stout side panels so the pressure the tank exerts occurs over a greater surface area. This further reduces my concern that someday the stand will collapse.

In addition to using what I consider the best tank and stand that I have seen for this system I also decided to use a different light and skimmer than anything I had previously used. So for the skimmer I chose a new design out Italy from Ultra Reef. This skimmer has a very small footprint as the Sicce pump is mounted within the skimmer body itself. As a result of the design and the pump that is used, it is a very efficient skimmer and incredibly quiet.

What nano bubble injection looks like in a reef tank, why it will only be used at night

In addition to this skimmer, the tank will also have nano bubbles introduced into it every night as perfected by Elegant Corals (Cruz Arias). For those of you unfamiliar with this concept it is rather new method to help reduce nutrient build up using tiny micro-nano sized bubbles of air to kind of make the entire tank a sort of protein skimmer. This process was introduced in Japan and is being used there to clean up Tokyo Harbor and first introduced to the reefing hobby publically by Cruz Arias mid last year. For more information I have included a few links that summarize this methodology. Link 1, Link 2, Link 3.

Obviously it will be used on a smaller scale in this tank, and it will be the first time I am trying it. I do not have the space to elaborate on it fully here, but if it works I will explain it more fully in the future. It will be interesting to see how all these potentially improved efficiencies affect the water quality over time.

The intense coral coloration under the lights that will be used on my tank

For lighting, a custom built LED lighting systems from the team at Six Elemental Systems will be employed. I chose this light rather than the lights I had used in the past as it offered a custom 47 LED array with nine independent and dedicated controlled spectrums using only high end LEDs including six at 420nm and two and 660 nm and 7 sets of RGB’s.

What is also innovative is the design for the overall cooling of the lighting system for overall longevity in operation of these units designed by the engineers at Sixth Element Systems, LLC. The choice of LEDs and how they are arrayed has shown the potential to bring out the coloration in sps corals to a high degree as I have seen in the coloration of the corals in the frag tank of Cruz Arias with Elegant Corals. I realize that to many of us, LEDs are pretty much LEDs, but after seeing how healthy and vibrant these corals were I felt I needed to try this light for myself.

This array can easily produce over a PAR of 1000 umols/m2/s down to at least half the depth of the tank, so as with all LEDs slow acclimation to the light will be done. Cruz will be preprogramming the lights to 14K growth and coloration ratio of spectrum intensities for this build, as I am not changing my love of a “blue tank” sorry Sanjay.

Triton elements that will be used to maintain alkalinity calcium and magnesium levels as well as trace elements

Obviously the above listed equipment for my tank is significantly different than anything I have used in the past. In the same vein, I am also going to operate this system completely differently than I have done previously. Due to my curiosity and the potential advantages and time savings it might produce the Triton system will be employed on the tank.

For those of you not familiar with this methodology it is basically a method that strives for stability and water quality close to natural seawater through advanced testing and frequent dosing of the base and trace elements that get used up in our systems. So as a result of my using this system the tank will be started using Tropic Marin Pro Salt rather than Instant Ocean or Reef Crystals as this is the salt that Triton recommends and feels has the qualities closest to natural seawater.

Once the tank is set up and the values of the tank water ascertained, the Triton elements will be dosed daily using a GHL 4 channel Doser 2. I have chosen this doser from Germany, as it is the easiest doser I have found to program and not only can it dose four different solutions at four different times and be programmed easily to do so, which is crucial for the effective dosing of Triton elements, but it also sends an alarm when the solutions are either getting low or empty.

The new GHL doser that will be used to add Triton base elements daily

This is important, as I hope to run this system as close as possible to the methodology outlined by Triton and if I were to forget an element for any length of time I’m assuming the results would not be good. Using this “balling” method is different than how all of my other tanks are set up in that on all of them use a calcium reactor rather than dosing solutions to maintain alkalinity, magnesium and calcium levels. So seeing how easily the dosing can be adjusted and if this improved stability shows benefits will be interesting to see.

The tank will also use Ultra Reef fluidized GFO and carbon reactors to remove compounds that the protein skimmer does not. The carbon in the carbon reactor will be changed monthly and the GFO as needed as the phosphate levels rise. In addition to these reactors, the sump will also house chaetomorpha algae rotating in its own chamber as well as a second chamber housing a variety of different Caulerpa. Again this will be different than how my tanks have been set up in the past as there will be no Miracle Mud in this system. I am curious as to whether this constant use of carbon without any Miracle Mud will result in lateral line disease, which I have seen occur in the past with the constant use of carbon.

This tank will also be different from my past tanks in that “dry” i.e. man made live rock will be used as the base for the corals in this system and the tank is going to be stocked exclusively with coral frags. I will not add any colonies to this tank, not even small ones. I am doing this so that the growth and coloration of the corals can be easily seen and documented over time and so that unlike virtually all of my tanks will not be overstocked, well at least until the corals grow in. This will be the hardest part for me of setting up this tank. By the same token, unlike my other tanks, this tank will not be overstocked with fish either. The plan is to add no more than 10-12 medium to small fish to this tank. We’ll see how well I can keep from my obsessive nature to overstock every tank.

Needless to say I am very excited to get this tank up and running and trying all of this new technology and methodologies. Unlike most of my tanks where I am constantly tinkering, experimenting and changing things, since this tank is an experiment from the beginning I am hoping that I can keep from doing that and instead be patient enough to let this tank mature and run to its full potential using all of this new equipment and new methodology. In this regard I will give updates on here as things progress and I am also planning on showing everything about this tank on my videos on AmericanReef from the initial set up though everything for the next couple of years.

Frags like this will be used to stock the tank

As I said I really have not used any new methodology for the most part for the last twenty years so I would be very happy if this new tank was the gateway which caused me to change how I do things or at the very least shows me ways I can improve things I have done in the past. At the very least I know I will have a tank that will look better on the outside than any tank I have set up in the past and that will be unique for at least the next couple of years.

I should note that after reading about the experiences numerous hobbyists have had with some of this I do not expect this tank to reach near its potential for at least six months, which is about the time it takes for my old tanks to do so. So in that regard it will be interesting to see how else they are similar or different.

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30 Mar 2010
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It will be very interesting to follow this build. I like many of the methodologies and equipment mentioned here (I am doing the same in some instances) and will be interesting to see in action.