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Old 01-24-2010, 02:59 PM   #1
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Tank Journal Ė 125 Reef

I started working on this tank about the same time I started working on the 125 FOWLR (incorrectly labeled a 135) in these threads:

Tank Journal - 135 FOWLR
Tank Journal - 135 FOWLR - Reef Central Online Community
Tank Journal - 135 FOWLR - Reef Sanctuary

So I thought it was about time to chronicle my work on this tank also! Iím breaking this initial post up into several for purposes of limits on pictures per post, and timeline of work.

This is the tank that really got me thinking about diving into the aquarium maintenance business. I purchased a 92 corner bow off Craigslist for $200 (full reef setup) and in talking with the seller, I found out that he had a tank at his office and was very unhappy with the maintenance person. Youíll understand why in a minute.

Itís a 125 acrylic reef with an Oceanic 3 sump (30 long) located in a dentistís office. Effectively 140g system water. It houses a whole lot of live rock, and has been up and running for several years. It has been maintained by 2 different people before me, both associated with local stores, and neither of which apparently gave a ratís patootie about the health of the system Ė just in it for the money IMO.

The reason I say this is that the sump was filthy, the Nitrates were off the scale (over 200 ppm), the light fixture (Coralife 4Ē w/ 10,000k & Actinic CFL/power compact) had failed and a temporary one (4í T5 2 bulb) had been on there for 6 months while the maintenance guy took forever to find a replacement ballast, and during all this time the corals all died off, and fish were dying off (mainly smaller Green Chromis). It was also overstocked, mainly due to one fish, which we got out of the tank and sold. Here are some pics of the tank.

From 9/30/09, before I did anything

Full tank shot



Sump



Skimmer



Return side



Next, the fish & corals
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Old 01-24-2010, 03:01 PM   #2
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The Fish

This Unicorn Tang was beautiful, but too big for the tank. Also pictured is the Blue Tang



Flame Fin Tang and Pacific Rock Beauty Angel



Engineer Goby



Green Mandarin Dragonet: there used to be 2 of these, one died. My kids call this the Christmas Fish.



Pair of Clownfish



He also added another Goby, in the end of December, hereís that one



There used to be some Green Chromis, several of them but they all died. The previous tank maintenance guy (who is very knowledgeable) added a sand sifter goby (that lasted about a day) and a coral that lasted about a week.

Next, corals (or whatís left of them)
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Old 01-24-2010, 03:02 PM   #3
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The inverts

After I took over maintenance, and started to work down the Nitrates (will discuss that later), these corals started to come back to life:

Mushroom (he apparently had many of these all over one rock)



Another group of mushrooms (I believe Ė ID anyone?)





And thatís about it, besides these sponges, found accidentally when he re-arranged the LR and turned a few pieces around:



And he has a pretty decent clean-up crew, he routinely goes to Sea of Marvels in North Liberty, IA (by Iowa City) and stocks up on snails and crabs (a lot of them died off, naturally) so itís pretty good right now. No pics of those.

Next, the story of CLEANING
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Old 01-24-2010, 03:03 PM   #4
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Cleaning and current status

I had found another LFS employee who seemed quite knowledgeable and seemed like he had a pretty good plan of action, but he never really followed through very well. He did take the skimmer out and scrub it clean, but it took him a week to get it back in there. Several broken promises later with one excuse after another, they were very hesitant to do business with him. I had been routinely coming in and testing the water to see how the other maintenance person had been doing and to learn as much as possible. The other guy would come in and do a 10% or so water change every couple weeks, no regular schedule, and wouldnít give them any reports or test results, nothing, for $200/month. They finally looked at me and said ďSo when are you going to take over our tank maintenance?Ē So I did exactly that, I put together a fee schedule and on December 5, 2009, I got in there with the Doc and we started our clean-up job.

First, we mixed up the water (RO Wal-mart water) in 2 25 gallon Rubbermaid tubs and started heating. I do not recommend using those tubs, I thought they were going to blow. I got a Brute 44g trash can after this job. Much better.

Next, we shut down the sump and started draining and cleaning, which was gross. I didnít take many pics, but hereís a few:

What the water looked like



What the sump looked like



After much scrubbing, it was pristine. The Doc took apart the pump and cleaned it (it smelled like a sewer drian when we took the hose off), he had to replace the shutoff valve because it had stuck open and the handle busted. We also replaced the return line, which ended up leaking and I had to silicone and clamp the heck out of the connection. So there was a slight mess to clean up the next day, but luckily I had an old carpet cleaner. Anyways, hereís the sump on 12/10/09



And I was finally able to tune in the skimmer properly. It was pretty much wet skimming, just flowing right through the overflow tube. On 12/11/09, it looked like this



Öand has worked very well ever since.

My dad make acrylic stands and display cases for antique dealers, so we made a new sump cover and dual filter sock holder (only one used right now) and that looks like this



Itís pretty slick, except it wasnít a perfect fit, and the top has warped due to the heat and moisture. Nothingís perfect, but itís fixable.

So the history of water changes has been this:

12/5 - 13%
12/6 - 13% (first day was too long, had to finish up the next!)
12/10 - 10% (leftover RO water)
12/17 - 25% (got the Brute 44g, 35 gallon change)
12/22 - 25%
12/29 - 25%
1/6 - 49% (69g)
1/21 - 29% (40g)

Hereís a before and after test log

On 12/10, after the sump cleaning:
pH 8.0-8.2
KH 7-8
Salinity 35
Nitrate 170 (best guess)
Phosphate 1.0

Now, as of 1/21, it is
pH 8.2-8.3
KH 11.5-11.8 (salifert)
Nitrate 20
Phosphate still 1.0

My next step is to re-pipe the overflow drain to accommodate a 10g refugium. I have already glued all the PVC together, and just have to drill the hole in the 10g tank for flow back into the sump. Iím going to stock the refugium with Miracle Mud and plants, algae, mangrove, etc. Havenít decided 100% yet. This will serve the purposes of Nitrate and Phosphate regulation naturally, as well as provide a constant live food source, specifically for the Green Mandarin. Hereís the new overflow piping



I made it so that it will split the intake into 2 filter socks in the sump, since the 1 thatís in there fills up with debris and overflow if you let it go more than a week. I used 2 90s and 1 45 on each outflow pipe so that it would force the water level to be high enough so that when the piping is completed so the Ďfuge (thatís what the shutoff will lead to) there will be enough natural pressure to supply flow to it, since the top of the 10g has to be higher than the sump to allow drainage into the return side. Iím piping to the sump with 3/4Ē hose and PVC, then drilling a hole for a bulkhead in the 10 and piping back with ĺĒ PVC.

The only issues Iím concerned with are related to the Ďfuge setup. After watching the videos on the Miracle Mud website, I want to keep pieces of plant and algae matter from reaching the DT. They suggest using bio-balls prior to the return to accomplish this, which makes sense, because it would let the pods and live food through, but snag any plant matter of any size. So Iím going to have to work on that, but for now, Iím just going to get it set up without anything in it to test for functionality. I should be installing the new overflow piping sometime this week.

Thatís it for now, thanks for reading! More to come.
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Old 01-24-2010, 11:52 PM   #5
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Wow, great work. That sump looked new. Keep us updated and more pics please.
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Old 01-26-2010, 06:02 PM   #6
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New lights, refugium supplies, CUC

Today I did a little research and found a better light fixture. Right now, heís running a Coralife 48Ē Lunar Aqualight CFL with 2 10,000K and 2 Actinic 21Ē 64W bulbs, so a total of about 260W. The tank is 64Ē wide, odd size to start with, and itís about 24Ē tall, so lighting is an issue. Also, temperature is an issue. The tank itself is in the waiting room, but itís recessed into the vestibule, which faces south and gets quite warm in the summer. This heat transfers through the wall and heats the tank, plus the CFL light pumps out the heat, and it can get as high as 84-86F in the DT. He doesnít want to get a chiller, so weíre working on temperature control solutions. However, the fact remains that he is running 260W of CFL on 125 gallons of a deep tank, which according to what Iíve been reading, is not enough.

Even using the WPG rule, adjusted for lumens, 1 W CF = 1.75 W effective, or about 450W / 125G = 3.6 W/G. Take that down 30% for the depth and width of the tank (pulled that # out of my behind, however) and weíre down to 2.5 WPG effective. Iím referencing this thread regarding the outdated WPG rule for these calculations:

Updating the WPG rule (theory)

In speaking with a rep at Drs Foster & Smith, I was informed that even low-light corals need around 3 WPG, and anemones and higher light corals need more like 5-6 WPG. I want the owner to have the ability to put whatever corals he wants in the system, and the fixture in there now, with old bulbs, isnít allowing that. His large anemone just disappeared and he only had it in the tank a week or so. The lighting may explain that disappearance.

So I narrowed it down to this fixture

T-5 Aquarium Lighting: Nova Extreme T-5 Fixtures w/Lunar Lights

and he decided to go for it. Itís an 8 bulb T5 HO fixture, 54W/bulb or 432W, effectively about 750W (6 WPG raw), less 30%, about 530W or 4.2 WPG, maybe 5 WPG if my 30% figure for dispersion is too high.

Now, we have to tackle the heating issue, but not until the spring/summer hopefully. Iíll have to post some pics of the tank placement and cabinet system so you can all see what the issue is. I think it can be solved with some creative fan placement and a makeshift ductwork system.

Also, I ordered some ROWAphos, 20 lbs of Miracle Mud for the 10g Refugium, and some snails and hermits from reefcleaners.org. Hereís whatís on the way for him:

5 Hermits, assorted
6 Fuzzy Chitons
10 Large Nerite Snails

Iím interested mostly in the Fuzzy Chitons. That was his request, Iíll have to get them in the tank as soon as they come in.
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Old 02-03-2010, 09:56 PM   #7
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Lights on, Xenias Pulsing

I got my whole shipment from Foster & Smith on Friday to my surprise. So on Monday 2/1 I went ahead and installed the new light fixture, which I must say, is totally frickiní awesome looking. The tank looks fantastic with that fixture in there, but see for yourself:





The thing is as bright as a tanning bed off the tank, I thought it would be way too bright, but itís perfect. I removed 2 of the 10KKís so it didnít shock the tank, but I couldnít remove one of the actinic without another shutting off. The bulbs alternate slot 1 ACT slot 2 10KK, slot 3 ACT etc. They must be wired so that slot 1 canít operate without slot 3 occupied and vice versa, but the 10KK slots work fine no matter which bulbs are out. Weird. So the tank is really, really blue right now. Which is ok, because on Monday night, I went and bought these cute little guys

Red Sea Pulsing Xenia



off of a Craigslist ad I happened across. Originally, he only had 2 left, but I ended up with an extra +it has sprouted another colony (the center one is 2, one is pumping the other closed). I got these 3 for $30.

Added ROWAphos to the sump, in addition to some Brightwell Aquatics Phosphate resin that I added a few days before that. The BA stuff didnít seem to be working fast enough, the ROWA does work very fast, cut the Phosphates in half within 48 hours and Iím sure itíll be down to negligible the next time I test. Iím guessing that the BA product works a little slower, and I needed the phos down to 0 fast so that the Xenias, among other corals already in the tank, could do better.

I almost forgot, when I got there to add the Xenias, I found the missing Anemone. This guy went AWOL within a week of when he was put in the tank, so while I was drip acclimating the Xenias, I moved a bunch of LR around and snagged him and put him up near the light and left the timer set to stay on for a few hours:



He is less than Ĺ the size he was when the doc bought him, so I donít know if heís going to make it or not. The next day he was scooting around the tank, but he just looked bleached out or something. Hopefully the new lights will help.
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Old 02-03-2010, 10:11 PM   #8
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I forgot to add that his Mag 12 drive shorted out at 7:15am Tuesday morning, I got the call at 7:30 when the doc got there and it had popped the GFCI and took down a few circuits in the office with it. The doc had lowered the outlet jets to eliminate a stagnant surface area in the corner, and I thought about doing a power outage test, but hadn't gotten to it yet. Thankfully, the sump stopped filling at about 1/2 inch from the bottom edge of the top trim casing. WHEW! One Mag 12 pump later and all is right in the world once again.
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Old 02-15-2010, 06:51 PM   #9
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I am going to break my arm patting myself on the back!! I did the last PWC on this tank on 1/29 and 3 days later the Nitrates were 15 (down from 20), then on 2/5 still at 15. Today, 2/15, they are between 2 and 5 - hardly distinguishable on the API scale, so I ran Salifert to get 2-5. THE BATTLE IS BEING WON!

However, the Phoshate war still rages. Even with 125mL ROWAphos and 125mL Brightwell Phosphat-R, both in for 2 weeks, the phos is still 0.25 to 0.5 ppm.

I'm going in tomorrow to do a PWC and will probably just go ahead and replace the ROWAphos and see if that brings it down, either that or I'll just reposition what's in there.

He added a coral, I'll have to get a pic of that. There is an ongoing problem with light timers, he's blown through 4 or 5 of them. I got 2 separate ones to turn the Actinics on 45m before the 10KKs and 10KKs off before Actinics, so hopefully splitting them up will do the trick.
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Old 02-16-2010, 06:25 PM   #10
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I have a question regarding the photoperiod. I have set up this tank's new light fixture with 2 timers (due to some issue, he's been blowing through timers about every month) so that the actinics come on around 7:30 and off about 3:45, and the 10KKs at 8am and about 3pm. I did this so that they could visually verify that the timers are working properly while the office is open. We've had instances where they stayed on all day and off all weekend.

Once we verify the timers are working OK, I'm thinking of extending out the photoperiod. Now, I understand that while the actinics aren't bright to us, they are to the corals. So it 7:30 to 3 (7.5 hours) a long enough time, or should I extend it to 7 to 5 with the 10KKs 8 to 4, giving 10 hours of actinic and 8 hours of 10KK?
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