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Old 05/30/2015, 09:29 AM   #1
ReefWreak
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ReefWreak's 29g SPS Biocube Adventure!

Okay, I’ll stop being a lazy moocher and contribute to the forums that have given me so much. - Sorry in advance for the long post, RC doesn't support spoiler text, so this is long!

For your review, is my 29g Biocube build log.
My reefkeeping history
I started with a 24g nano cube as my first tank. I bought it used, and it came with 13 fishes, including a yellow tang, and was mostly just liverock, caulerpa, and fish. I traded in most of the fishes to the LFS in exchange for some basic corals and a lot of knowledge and assistance from the LFS owner, Scott at High Tide Aquarium Service in Tallahassee, FL. He got me started on the coral bug, as he used to wax poetic about the newest Tyree Purple Monster, and how with a lot of patience and a bigger tank, in time I could learn to keep SPS too.

That got me started into looking for a larger tank. In August 2006 I found a 120g barebones setup on ebay near my parents’ house for dirt cheap. I started it not knowing much about the hobby except that water + salt + skimmer = success. I had that tank for about 4 years before it crashed. Most of that time I was in school 450 miles away, so stability and the ability of the tank to largely take care of itself (or only having basic enough needs that my parents could help take care of it) was paramount. This requirement for stability I believe was the biggest contributing factor to why it was so successful.

Early tank:


I wasn’t around to constantly tweak and play with the tank, so things grew nicely and fully. The knowledge gained by expert reefers in Tallahasee, the Miami/South FL area, and the FMAS group here on ReefCentral were the biggest reasons for my ability to attain success starting up and continuing forward with minimal upkeep.

Ultimately I built a 120g SPS-dominated tank with the full complement of controllers, calcium reactors, big halides and reflectors, and giant skimmers, and I ended up with this:



That ended December 2009, when my hubris got me to try “the next bigger thing” of 2 part dosing instead of using a calcium reactor. My alk went crazy while I was at school for 2 weeks, and the tank absolutely fell apart, and I lost almost all of my corals. I quickly parted that system out for pennies on the dollar, and took a break from reefing, which I should have done anyway since I was in school the past 6 years, and now was preparing to move with my wife to Michigan for her continued education. I had no tank in Michigan for the 3 years living there. I made do on videogames and the local Ann Arbor culture.

Setting up current tank
Now that we’re settled into our new place in Astoria, New York, we thought it would be a good time to start a new tank. This tank I picked up off of craigslist. It already had Ecoxotic Panorama Pro 2.0 modules, 2x white/blue, and 1xblue/magenta, as well as the rear vinyl cut so I could have a refugium, and had an AquaticLife 115 skimmer, 1/10hp chiller, and reefkeeper lite controller. Solid setup to start going on my 29g SPS-dominant adventure.

It also came with live sand and rock which were dried out in buckets for a month. I found out a few weeks in that some zoanthids, green start polyps, and a hermit all survived that dry month, and are now flourishing (for better or for worse) in the tank currently. I cycled it with Dr. Tim’s nitrate bacteria stuff and ghost feeding. I went light on the feeding because I strongly believe that whatever you put in has to come out some way, so the less I put in, the less I would have to take out later through algae export or skimming. All set up with that boxed saltwater stuff, and since then using ReefCrystals and RO/DI (my first adventure into artificial seawater!).

As the tank started, I have kept logs of salinity, nitrate, phosphates, alkalinity, calcium, and pH, and I started regularly changing water every two weeks. I have slacked off a bit now that things are running well, but I think that bi-weekly water changes are very valuable. This first pic is the tank as I originally had it set up, about 2-3 weeks in (Nov. 13, 2014), when I first added fishes:



Growth (not really, mostly just additions) through 12/22/2014:



Recent changes I have made (besides adding new corals) have been adding a refugium to the back of the tank, powered by a 10w LED outdoor floodlight on the outside of the tank shining in, upgrading the panorama pro modules to a RapidLED 29g solderless retrofit system, and adding 2 part dosing modules to the second power strip on the ReefKeeper (in the end physical relay positions).

Thank you, RC community, for teaching me and holding my hand through this experience. I hope that I can ultimately give back some fraction of what I have learned from this amazing community. Please feel free to ask any questions you may have after reading my thread. I will try to post updates as they come!

Most recent FTS (5/19/2015):



Now for the fun updates:

Some play with macro and flourescent photography techniques:


Coral growth shots - Left side is a Stuber Stag (A. Formosa) and next to that is an ORA Joe the Coral, then a M. Digitat (RIP), then the right side is a "Berlin Acro" that was very blue when originally purchased.
Before (12/27/14 - Happy Birthday Me!):


Now:
A little macro and blue happy, but at least you can see most of the new growth and coloration. Really stunningly beautiful corals!




Last edited by ReefWreak; 05/30/2015 at 09:42 AM.
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Old 05/30/2015, 09:31 AM   #2
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Some misc pics of the setup:

Tank newly moved in:


The internal workings of the support system:

Inside stand:



Back chambers:



Light quick disconnects from Amazon, so I can undo the RapidLED retrofit kit as needed without having to mess with the internal workings of the hood.



And of course, nutrient export:

Aquaticlife 115. Not too shabby a skimmer for a small system. Not the best nog, but hey, it's a nano.



Siphoning algae and detrius with water changes:




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Old 05/30/2015, 10:54 AM   #3
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Wow. This makes me rethink my BioCube. I thought I was doing at least "okay" keeping a closed brain & finger just ALIVE (they have not grown in 1.5 years) but you nailed the SPS in the BioCube!


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Old 05/30/2015, 10:58 AM   #4
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Thanks! I'm not sure why it comes to this, but I feel like my tank never really gets to the "next level" until it hits "SPS quality." That's when the coralline takes off, the coral colors darken, and everything in general looks much better. For me, it was a combination of the lights (probably fixed the colors) and the calcium/alkalinity dosing (consistently, and probably got the growth to take off).

I think there are a lot of ways to make the cube work, this just happened to work for me. My 24g ended up being pretty hopeless


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Old 05/30/2015, 11:46 AM   #5
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PS, your 120g is prize winning imo. I want to go bigger then the BioCube but wife would kill me. Not on space, she'd love it and the kids too, but on the $$$$$


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Old 05/30/2015, 12:31 PM   #6
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Thanks again!

Honestly, a lot of the equipment is similar in price to the cube. Sure, you have to buy more liverock, change more water, and run more lights, but there are so many ways to save money cutting corners (buy 20lb of LR, buy 100lb of dry and cycle it up) on the big expenses, and seeing how some people spend on their nanos, it wouldn't be a big upgrade in price from a lot of the nano users who are spendey.

There's also a huge market for used aquarium gear for medium/large tanks, here on RC and on craigslist and stuff, so there are a lot of really good deals to be had. The only thing on that tank I bought new was MH bulbs.

The biggest expense to a large tank is the monthly electric bills if you have big expensive heat-generating lights like I had. I love MH, but I don't miss the chiller or the electricity usage.


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Old 05/30/2015, 12:41 PM   #7
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Dammit! Now you got me thinking =) thanks!


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Old 05/30/2015, 06:02 PM   #8
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About freaking time you started a thread. Though now I am not sure I have anything to bust your balls over at reefapalooza...


I like the clean stand. I need to redo mine to clean it up a bit but cant seem to find the willpower to do it.

That ric is very colorful. Always nice to find multi color florida ric...


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Old 05/30/2015, 08:26 PM   #9
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You can bust my balls over resizing the pictures before posting next time.

And my stand is certainly not that clean normally. That was right after installing the pumps. I have a few "bags o' crap" that go in there normally with all of the misc hobby items. I still have the ro/di and water changing buckets floating around our little NY apartment not in the stand too.


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Old 05/31/2015, 12:47 PM   #10
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Bout freaking time you made your own and stop mooching off the rest of us!!

I'm very impressed with your tank, I really like the aquascapeing you got going on. Although I'm not really into SPS's, you definitely got some nice ones growing.


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"He's just taking his lunch to work"
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Old 05/31/2015, 01:59 PM   #11
ReefWreak
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Thanks. Glad I got around to doing it too.

Always feel free to ask questions about how I did any of the stuff you see.


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Old 05/31/2015, 02:44 PM   #12
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I'm actually finding by having a build thread ongoing, and rereading my old posts, I'm finding things I could have done different, and things I need to do that I didn't think I had to.


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Old 05/31/2015, 03:04 PM   #13
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That's definitely a great reason for keeping a thread updated. I kind of mentally remember everything I've done with this tank.

The old tank, no way, too many things, should have done a build log. At least I took lots of pictures at different times in the tank's development, and have lots of growth shots too.


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Old 05/31/2015, 03:58 PM   #14
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Yeah I was just looking back over some older shots I have of when I first put some frags in my tank. I didn't think they were really growing until I looked at the old pics. Some of them have more then doubled!! but looking at them every day, its hard to notice sometimes.


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Old 06/01/2015, 07:09 AM   #15
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You know until I read this it never struck me to do that. I do it with my kid all the time looking at older pics and videos to see how much she has changed.

Did it last night myself and realized I have another head on my torch that I thought had been there all along and my zoas are nearly 3 or 4 times as large now then when I got them. All of my acans have at least one new head as well. The stunning thing though is my palys. I knew they had grown but they are at least 10 times larger then when I got them. Going to have to trim them back here shortly or find a way to cut those rocks...


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Old 06/01/2015, 07:34 AM   #16
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FWIW, I've noticed that if my torch shrinks up for a day or two, and then returns to normal, it pretty regularly means that it is splitting a head into another head. Sometimes they're hard to see if the tentacles are all bunched up, but I've had my torch shrink up for 2-3 days twice now, and each time there is a new head under the tentacles.

Picked up a trumpet/candycane coral (caulastrea) with the war coral, platygyra, and blasto (which I think is dead ) and it's splitting heads really quickly too, and when I fed rods food I saw it catching food and taking it in already. I've never had any problems with caulastreas before. If you look at the 120g tank, on the left side, you can see a head of neon green/cyan caulastrea heads that grew from a single polyp to the size of a softball in 2 years.

It's all about the inputs (light, calcium/alkalinity, and food)!


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Old 06/01/2015, 07:45 AM   #17
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Yeah it is interesting what one thinks is no growth or very minimal to be crazy amounts of growth. We are just so close to it. My planted tanks need to be trimed weekly so much easier to see there (and also a PITA).

Hopefully my water change gets me back in order so I see full PE again and my SPS come back.


I still think the biggest challenge to this hobby is to wait on things to grow and not come home with a new piece.


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Old 06/01/2015, 08:13 AM   #18
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Yea, that's always the hard part. It's especially true for fishes, and it's especially hard. They don't grow, but the impact that each fish has on your tank can be so dramatic, it's very different than just one more colored stick, or one more puffy rock thing.

I've got 2 female McCosker wrasses on order from the LFS, and if/when those come in, I think I'll also pick up a helfrichi firefish, and be done. DONE DONE DONE. NO MORE FISHES.

The only reason I'm okay with that amount of fishes, is the filtration is pretty good, and I should be doing water changes more frequently than I have to now (every two weeks, but I don't really feel the need if I'm at 0/0 for nitrate/phosphates). I also want to get a tiny bit of nitrates into the tank, so maybe this will help while adding to the beauty.

Also, I LOVE HELFRICHI FIREFISHES. Now that I have a J-O-B I can afford to get one


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Old 06/01/2015, 08:26 AM   #19
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thought those wrasses needed larger tanks? That is why I steered clear as I was thinking same thing as you...


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Old 06/01/2015, 08:51 AM   #20
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Everything online says between a 20g long and 55g. It's really variable on the tank contents, maintenance, etc.

Ever since I saw the recommendations from an dwarf angelfish (centropygae) breeder to house a breeding pair in a 30g tank, I've really started rethinking the requirements for size tanks for fishes.

Obviously you want minimum 4' running length for tangs, and you want copious amounts of liverock for wrasses and angels to pick on and eat out of, so I think if you can satisfy those requirements, then the tank recommendations can be adjusted accordingly.

I feed my fishes daily, and have a reasonably populous pod supply in the back fuge (though I contemplate removing it if I don't get the fishes, so that the algae isn't out-competing the corals for nitrates), so I don't worry about the fishes getting too hungry. The only fishes I really worry about starving to death are planktivores, which the clowns are the only ones who are true planktivores in my tank. The wrasses are mixed planktivores and grazers (for pods), the angel is largely a grazer only. I have a lot of live rock, supplemental refugium, and feed reasonably heavily, so I'm feeling okay.

We'll see. If I really **** it up, with too many fishes, then I can always re-home the wrasses. Who wouldn't want a trio of healthy flashing wrasses? Obviously I don't want to run into that scenario, but it's good to always have a plan B. Maybe if it became a problem, it would motivate me/us to set up a 10g tank for the clownfishes to breed in


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Old 06/01/2015, 09:47 AM   #21
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I guess I didn't post this, but for reference, this is the current list of inhabitants:
1x Dwarf Flame Angel (Centropygae Loricula)
2 x Amphiprion percula clownfishes (pretty small, do the mating dance, haven't found eggs yet)
1 x male pseudocheilinus mccoskeri (flasher wrasse)

I could stop there, these guys are small though, and I'm not too worried about overcrowding. Dunno, could play it safe. I think 2 more small fishes wouldn't be the end of the world though. Maybe I don't need the helfrichi. We'll see.

Move along Tang Police, nothing to see here


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Old 06/01/2015, 09:53 AM   #22
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I have 5 in my tank between the 2 black ice clowns, six line wrasse, tail spot blenny, and court jester goby (and he is far from humerous...)


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Old 06/01/2015, 10:19 AM   #23
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Do you feel like you're at your tank's limit, or there's room to expand? You have smaller fishes too though which is good.


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Old 06/01/2015, 10:24 AM   #24
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Probably at a self imposed limit. The tank can handle another fish with all of my extra filter capacity but I dont want that to cause issues. Probably done with this tank in terms of fish unless something perishes.

If I did not have my current wrasse I could see adding another fish or two but I have to remember that the clowns are still growing and as such will need their space. They like to surf in the gyre flow and I wouldnt want other fish to impede that


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Old 06/01/2015, 10:41 AM   #25
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Yea, I hear you. So it's more about space and aggression than biological capacity.

Since none of my fishes are particularly dominant, I guess that's why I'm feeling okay.

The clowns nip at each other more than they do at the other fishes (but they're definitely paired). They leave the other fishes alone, including when the other fishes are near their nesting area. The only thing they really aggressively nip at in the tank is me when I'm working in the tank

My wife now has the job of chasing the male clown away with my ghetto two-glued-together-chopsticks extra long probe while I'm gluing things down or rearranging things.

After you brought up the tank size for the wrasses I had a mini crisis over whether it's reasonable that I have one, let alone potentially 3 fairy wrasses in my tank. I still think they have a great time, and will likely not outgrow the tank. And I hate to say "by the time they outgrow it, I'll have a bigger tank" because that's what everyone says, but A. it's probably true, and B. I don't think they'll out grow it either.


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