RSS My new reef tank after three months

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8 May 2007
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As we have all heard time and time again patience is a virtue, and in this hobby it is pretty much mandatory for long-term success. Truth be told, it is not really one of the virtues I am known for. But when I decided to put together my new 90-gallon tank I really wanted to do it right so I tried to be patient in everything I have done with the tank.

Now after three plus months of getting things together I am finally ready to unveil where it is at and what I have done. As I wrote previously I started with an Elos 90-galon tank as the result of seeing the craftsmanship and unique attributes of this tank at MACNA last year. Just putting the tank and stand up and having them in the area between my kitchen and family room has not only brightened up the area, but also furthered my appreciation of how much having an aesthetically pleasing tank has enhanced my home.

The view of my new tank and my plant tank as you walk in the front door

Now as soon as someone walks in the front door the first thing they see, and everyone who has visited has said this, is how much nicer my house looks now with the new tank in it. I guess I took for granted that most people look at what’s inside the tank, when in reality non-reef people look at the entire picture and how the tank looks in the house.

But obviously the overall look of the tank is just a small part of why I set up this tank. The tank is also quieter and much more functional than the old tank. The patented unique Elos QuietDrain overflow system is completely silent, which is great since it is in the family room where the tv and stereo are. So now I now longer have to bump up the sound on them so that I can hear them over the sound of the tank.

Not only is the overflow completely quiet, but so is the pump Elos supplied as well as all of the other equipment. I never appreciated how much more I enjoy the silence when I look at a tank and don’t hear water sloshing or the whir of pumps. These little things are definitely adding to my enjoyment of the tank.

The Elos Tank

Because it is a rimless tank I also better appreciate the craftsmanship that went into the tank itself. The beveled and polished edges constantly impress me every time I work on the tank of what perfectionists the folks at Elos are. So in setting up the tank I have tried to be equally as perfect, which though unlikely is now my goal.

So unlike many of the tanks I have set up in the past I have taken my time and done things slowly with this tank and tried to be patient, which as we all know is difficult when we have a beautiful new tank like this to work with. So in this regard the first thing I did even before I took down the old tank was to start curing the live rock.

The rock I used on this tank was dry rock, some rock from my other tanks and some new Pukani rock. I placed this rock in a large tub with powerheads and let it “cure” for approximately 3 months. During this curing process when I did my weekly water changes on my 300-gallon tank I would remove approximately 20 gallons of water from the vat holding this live rock and replace it with the water I had removed from the 300, minus the detritus that I had taken out.

I did this to remove or reduce as much waste material, detritus and nitrogen from the rock as possible before it would be used in my new tank. Once the three months had passed the rock was drilled and placed on top of concrete paving stones that also had been “cured” for 3 months through which fiberglass rods had been attached to provide structure.

The tank with just live rock showing the open structure I was striving for

I did this so that as little rock as possible would be used, and also to make the rockwork as open as possible. I manipulated the rock and moved things around outside of the tank in an area that was marked off to be the size of the tank so that I could see what it looked like before it was placed in the tank. Since there would be no substrate in the tank black starboard was cut to fit the bottom of the tank and provide the look similar to substrate but that would allow for easy removal of detritus.

However since the bottom of the tank was Euro braced the whole way around I had a piece of glass cut to fill in the bottom of the tank before the starboard was placed on the bottom. I did this so that there would not be space under the starboard for detritus to accumulate. Also before the starboard was placed on the bottom a thick layer of silicone was put down to also keep any detritus from accumulating under or around the starboard.

The empty tank getting filled with water showing the starboard bottom

While all of the rock was curing the tank and stand were put in place and leveled to make sure that they would not have to be moved once the live rock and water were added. Since the tank was on the second floor and my main RO unit is in the basement I decided to add a small Mighty Mite RO unit under my kitchen sink to provide the water for this tank.

I remembered, as did my back, what a pain it was to schlep up buckets of water to fill the 90-gallon tank in my sun room. I quickly found out that having this smaller unit made filling this tank with pure water much easier. However, I did find that once the tank was full of water the tank and stand did shift slightly so that it was no longer perfectly level.

So the water was drained and shims were placed under the stand to bring it back to level. Once this was done the water was pumped back into the tank and then all of the equipment was run for a couple of days so that I would check for leaks or and that it ran properly. Then Tropic Marin Pro salt was added over the course of three days to get the salinity right.

I used this salt since this is going to be a Triton run tank and that is their recommendation of the salt to use. The tank was then run for three weeks with nothing in it but water, which was a real test of my newfound patience. After 2 weeks the first chamber of the sump was filled with Caulerpa on one side and Chaeto on the other and a 6500k LED bulb was placed above the chamber in a reptile light reflector.

The simple lighting system for the Caulerpa and Chaeto sections of the sump

I used this as I found that not only is it less expensive than an LED fixture, but it also runs cooler and the amount of light produced really produces strong growth. The light is left on 24/7 to keep the Caulerpa and Chaeto from going into dark reactions which is when the yellowing compounds are produced which also keeps it from sexually reproducing.

At this point the protein skimmer and media reactors from Ultra Reef were added to the sump of the tank. These devices were chosen as they are simple to adjust and maintain and my goal on this tank was for it to be easy to maintain once it was set up since it would be next to me every day and if things were simple I would be more likely to do them and I wanted to be able to work on them without making a mess.

Since this is a Triton tank, a GHL Doser 2 was set up to add the Triton compounds to the tank every day. I chose this doser as it is easy to program, a must for me, and it even has alarms to notify me when I need to refill the bottles. Again I wanted everything to be easy to do for this tank. Lastly a 5 gallon reservoir was set up beside the tank with freshwater with the Elos top off system to add water for evaporation.

The back of the GHL doser showing all the possibilities this doser possesses. Even someone like me who hates technology found it easy to program

This was attached to the Mighty Mite unit and twice a week when I am having breakfast I simply flip the switch from the unit and the reservoir is full by the time I am done eating. Again easy to do. So once everything was in place and working the tank was ready for the addition of live rock. At this point the rock was taken from the holding vat, remounted on the rods and placed in the tank.

The rock was moved around and placed so that none of it would touch any of the sides or back or the tank to allow for easy cleaning of the glass anywhere in the tank. This was the first time that I had not had rock touching any glass and it did make the tank look more open. Once the rock was placed in the tank, the LED lights were added and adjusted over the course of a week.

While I use Radion LEDs on my 300, I wanted to try a different light on these. I love the Radions, but I wanted to see how a different LED might affect color and growth of my corals. I especially wanted to see if different corals did better or worse under these lights as we have found that some corals, like Acropora millepora do not grow as quickly or robustly under LEDs as they do under halides so this would be a good test to see if they behave differently under different LEDs.

Some of the fish in the tank showing off some vivid coloration which the magenta LEDs really bring out.

Since I am constantly tinkering and experimenting I thought that this new tank would be a good chance to try out a new light, so I chose one from my friend Cruz Arias and his engineering team at Sixth Elements Systems to custom build lights for me. These lights have 9 programmable channels including 7 different colored LEDs with each of these channels being able to be changed as I desired.

They also have sunrise and sunset functions and pretty much all the bells and whistles found on other lights, although I do not really use any of these. The lights have been programmed to mimic 14,000K halides initially but they can be changed easily if I desire. Hey are currently set to run 12 hours per day. So once all of this was in place the real fun of having a new tank began.

At this point I again tried to show patience and instead of doing what I usually do and adding a ton of stuff I only added 4 snails and two Springeri damsels to test the water and make sure that it was fit for life. Once they had been in and alive for 4 days, I added “test” frags. I added two frags each of Montipora and Acropora and waited ten days to make sure they did not bleach.

The tank has been stocked only with sps frags to see how they grow and color up with the new lights and under the Triton system

Once these frags showed polyp extension and did not die the first batch of approximately 20 frags were taken from my frag tank and glued into place in the tank. The frags I am using for this tank came not only from my main tank, but also from Sanjay, Unique corals, Cherry Corals, ReefGardener, Inland Corals, Battle Corals, Shipwreck Corals, WorldWide Corals and Jason Fox and some others who if I have forgotten to name you I apologize.

I have tried to select a wide range of different colored corals from a lot of different sources to see how they all do. My plan was to grow all of the sps corals out from frags. Since I also want this tank to look appealing, I did place some chalice and other small slow growing colonies on the bottom of the tank in order to hide the paving stones. Given how slow most of these corals grow I did not want to wait for them to grow in to cover the rocks in order for the tank to look good. Yes I still am impatient.

I would love to say that with all of my planning and patience the reef gods smiled on me and everything went perfectly and according to plan. However they are a mischievous bunch, so despite everything I did a couple of things that happen to new tanks still occurred. First, soon after the lights were added an algae/diatom bloom occurred even though the water tested completely negative for nitrate, or phosphate.

This was taken care of by the addition of snails and urchins and time. Then after the tank was seemingly “clean” and the first batch of frags added, a cyano bloom occurred that was a real pain. This was a type of cyano I had not encountered before in that rather than growing in the usual easy to remove sheets, it grew in more difficult to remove threads and was everywhere including where the current in the tank was strongest.

Despite showing as much patience as I ever have the tank still had the new tank algal bloom

Since it was such a pain it took almost two weeks to eliminate and I had to resort to a chemical treatment in order to eliminate it. I will talk about cyano and removing it in a future piece. Fortunately once it was eliminated the tank was ready to be fully stocked.

At this point an additional 25 frags were added as well as the first batch of fish. I know over time the tank will be as packed as most of my tanks once the frags start to grow out, but this is how I like my tanks to look. The frags are placed so that there is at least 3-4” between them, so there is a lot of space for growth and right now the tank looks empty to me.

So to make up for the current lack of interesting corals, I have made up for it but adding what I think is an interesting mix of fish. Currently the tank houses the original pair of Springeri damsels, a true Peppermint Hogfish, (Bodianus opercularis) a Katoi Wrasse, a Pintail Wrasse, an Earl’s wrasse, 2 pairs of tank raised clownfish (only tank raised will get along), a Desjardinii tang, a Foxface rabbitfish, a pair of Helfrich’s firefish, 2 flasher wrasses, and the stars of the tank a pair of Marshall Island Multibar Angels and a Pair of Joculator Angels. I know 20 fish is a lot of fish for a 90 and eventually the tang and the rabbit and a pair of clowns will be removed, but for now they are helping to keep any algae from getting established, which can always be a problem in a new tank until it reaches and equilibrium.

The stars of the tank the pair of Joculator angelfish

Because I am keeping wrasses and firefish, both of which love to jump from a tank, I built a custom screen for the top to keep them from becoming fish jerky. Also a ReefBrite Actinic strip has been added to my lighting as I still like the pop that these lights bring to my corals, which is really impressive in the evening when the Sixth Element lights are in sunset mode which really brings out the reds in the fish.

The tank came with a 6000 liter per hour return pump, which in most applications should provide more than adequate flow, however due to the cyano outbreak and my desire to have as little detritus as possible settle on the floor of the tank, a Ecotech MP-40 was added to enhance the flow. And since none of the wires need to go over the top of the tank it did not detract from the overall tank’s appearance.

And since it now employs the quiet drive motor, it has not added any increased noise from the tank. Since the tank is right in the main traffic area of my house I not only get to see it all the time, but I also now feed the tank small amounts five or six times per day, which in my opinion is a good way to not only keep the fish fat and happy, but also keep nutrient levels low due to there being little wasted food.

Even though the tank has now been up little more than 3 months I am already quite pleased with how it is progressing and how it looks. Since I have tried to be patient in setting it up and taking things slowly and since it is in the main area of my house, I do not plan on tinkering and experimenting on it like I do with many of my other tanks.

My hope is that within a year the corals will have all grown out and filled the now empty spaces and that the colorful assortment of fish that are now in it will thrive and grow in the stable environment that the Triton system promises. In this regard the first test on the water that I sent in showed that all of the parameters were within their optimal ranges. I hope to keep you posted as to if this changes over time without there being any water changes done on the tank and with the only supplementation being the addition of Triton solutions. It will also be interesting to see how fast and with what coloration the corals grow in this system.

For me this tank is far different than any tank I have done in the past, not only because of how long I took to have it up and running, but also because it won’t be constantly tinkered with and it is using a system where I have to trust the manufacturer. So time will tell and over time we all can be the judge as to how well it works, which should be interesting.
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29 Mar 2016
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Wow Loved This Thread, would love to see how this tank grows, and can i say what a stunning tank, I want one like that when im big.