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Old 06-28-2004, 05:46 AM   #1
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Pitfalls of a Reef Newbie

First of all, sorry for the long post, but I must give the history.
About two weeks ago I decided to take the plunge and start on a reef tank. I have not done saltwater before. I bought a 55 gallon tank, live coral substrate, a bunch of live rock, a protein skimmer, lights and assorted stuff. So far I am growing some very nice algae.

I went to a local LFS to get some expert advice. This store specializes in saltwater, and does little else. I purchased the water from them as well as the protein skimmer. It is a Sea Clone 100.

I had some specifics I wanted, and one was to have the cabinet supporting the tank as close to the wall as possible. We decided to go with a system with a pump in a sump, the skimmer in the sump, and the skimmer pump in the tank. The LFS guy came over to install the system, which required precise regulation of the skimmer pump and a valve in the sump. Needless to say, after my den was flooded twice, I shut it down and hung the skimmer over the back of the tank. 4AM adventures in aquaria.

Because of the hairbrained installation of the skimmer, I now had a skimmer with non-original connections. Nevertheless, I was able to hook it up after a weeks worth of trips to Lowes, and get it to work. I used 1/2 inch PVC and a bit of hose. The pump nose that came with the skimmer is missing, as is the adjustment valve. (They are probably at the LFS, but I'm not sure if I even want to go there to pick them up.)

To change the larger pump's plumbing, and to remove the extra (sump) tank from beneath the main tank, I had to cut into and reinstall all of the LFS guy's work. The knucklehead had glued everything together with no way to disassemble it short of a hacksaw. Of course, more water hit the floor. I replumbed everything with several compression unions in the system to allow me to take it apart again in the future if need be. I placed the main pump in a 10 gallon plastic tote box, and deadened the sound with gravel.

In the meantime, I found a deal on some used lights, a SmartLite unit with 50/50 compact flourescents. I took apart the cabinet's canopy and rebuilt it so I could install adequate lighting. My numbers are looking good, and I appear to be on the downhill slope of establishing my biological filter.
pH 7.8
NH3 0
NO2 0.25
NO3 5.0
spec grav 1.024

The main problem I am encountering right now is I cannot get the Sea Clone 100 protein skimmer to stop putting out a fine mist of micro bubbles. It has not collected anything in the twelve days it has been operating. Because of the screwed up initial installation, I do not have the original plumbing for the skimmer. It does flow well, but as far as the adjustment, it either makes a spray of bubbles, or the air is shut off to it. The air line has a gang valve on it instead of the valve that came with the skimmer. It seems to suck in gulps of air rather than sucking in a steady stream, which makes the adjustment all the more difficult.

So here are my questions:
Does this skimmer REQUIRE the specific air valve it comes with or can a gang valve be substituted as the LFS did?
Does a reef tank REQUIRE a protein skimmer at all?
Will the fine mist of bubbles harm coral as stated by the LFS?

Finally, should I stop while I am ahead, and reconsider this entire endeavor? I have found another LFS, but I am wondering if they would be any better. LFS#1 has an employee who is very good at what he does, (shame he did not set up this tank.......) and is very knowlegable. LFS#1's prices are a bit higher, but I considered that to be OK as long as I got good advice. It's not OK when you are sold incomplete equipment and bungled installations though. Later on, I think they might be the preferred place to buy fish at though, so I don't want to burn bridges.
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Old 06-28-2004, 06:27 AM   #2
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Welcome. I personally believe that the best advice can be found here on AA. If you could learn from my mistakes only then you would be a brilliant person.
Quote:
We decided to go with a system with a pump in a sump, the skimmer in the sump, and the skimmer pump in the tank
skimmers are needed for a reef, and are strongly reccomend for a fo, When you see the gunk that it pulls out you will always have one. I dont have a seaclone, but I think that the skimmer pump should be in the sump hopefully someone else with one of these can help with the setup. Bubbles can irritate corrals so it is a good idea to get rid of them. They are common in new skimmers, or where there is a pinhole leak in the plumbing, try to find it and maybe tighten a hose clamp.
Quote:
So far I am growing some very nice algae.
Quote:
pH 7.8
NH3 0
NO2 0.25
NO3 5.0
spec grav 1.024
yes it looks like your cycle is almost finished, and time to add some herbivouous snails or hermits. Don't panic at the algae, it is common in new setups. Just id the type of algae you have, find something that eats that type of algae and get a few of them. Most algae packs contain too many critters, start with a few and if they are not getting the job done after a week or so add a few more.
Quote:
Finally, should I stop while I am ahead, and reconsider this entire endeavor?
Getting your system set up and running can be a chalange, kepp with it , ask any questions here and I (WE) will try to help
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Old 06-28-2004, 06:33 AM   #3
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Wow, sucky way to start into the hobby. I feel for you. Most LFS's are evil evil evil and only want your money. If everything you buy dies, its better for them because you'll keep buying more until you get sick of it. A successful tank is a total failure in $$$. If you find a good one within 100 miles, I'd start going there.



The air bubles are mostly an irritant as they don't look good and will cause salt creep. However, air bubbles will kill any sponge growing in the tank, and cause other animals distress.

I have no experience with the seaclone, but I believe most people find its only good at making micro-bubbles and doesn't skim worth a darn. On the other hand, with a brand new tank there wouldn't be much for it to skim. A skimmer isn't "needed", but a properly running one will do a lot of good for your system.

Sorry for the rough start you've gotten, but welcome to AA.
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Old 06-28-2004, 06:39 AM   #4
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just saw a post below this one. "how to fine tune a seaclone skimmer" HTH
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Old 06-28-2004, 09:09 AM   #5
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Ok, here's the plan for today.......... Return to the LFS#1 and get the parts that I paid for when I bought the skimmer, or return the thing. I really don't think it is an air leak, as when the air flow is totally shut off, there are no bubbles.
Then I will go to LFS#2 and just price an Aqua C Remora skimmer. http://www.captiveraisedcorals.com/skimmers.htm They seem to be going for $165 or so online. The real kick in the pants is that LFS#1 sold me the Sea Clone for $140, and they go for $99 online (of course you have to pay shipping, but not $40 worth!)

If I can get ahold of an Aqua C skimmer for a fair price, I'll buy. It seems as if everyone is having a problem with the Sea Clone skimmer, and I just don't want the aggravation. I've had enough already. If I have to wait for a skimmer to arrive from an online order, say a week or so, will that affect my cycle?

Finally, the last part of the plan, give the first LFS no more business. That's a shame, because I had already planned on a second tank so I could house some triggers and puffers.

edited to add: I just spoke with Sea Clone's Tech Support, and they told me #1 it requires tweaking.....although I've tweaked for twelve days without sucess.
#2 I must have put some Stress Coat or something similar in the tank. Maybe my evil twin did, but I did not. I think it's time to ditch the Sea Clone and LFS #1.
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Old 06-28-2004, 10:23 AM   #6
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I used the seclone skimmer and had great sucess on my 55 Gal. It takes a while for the skimmer to breakin mt reef devil is still breaking in and it's been 3 weeks. During that time(and this includes most skimmers) you should only make small adjustments. See what happens then make another one. lost of things stop skimmers from skimming. 1 would be that there is not enough bio load in the tank, which is common for a new tank, 2 would be sticking your hands in the tank, 3 water changes. evertime I change my water my skimmer stops for a while.

Remember the key to this hobby is patience. but I know how you feel I went through the same pains when I started. It goes away fast though. I had to buy a new setup, becuase I bought all of the wrong stuff, but know I am doing fine.
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Old 06-28-2004, 12:40 PM   #7
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I have a sea clone and have had my tank for about 3 weeks now, mainly just 20lbs of live rock and about 12 hermit crabs and one lonesome snail. The skimmer pulls some stuff out, usually after i throw in an algea tabblet for the crabs every few days or so. I am not sure what your lfs did, but that is a pretty weird way to install a sea clone. Eventually if you want to do a full reed you may have to upgrade your skimmer, but since your tank is new it is something you can put off for now. I eventually would like to upgrade my skimmer but its not super high on the upgrade list currently.
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Old 06-28-2004, 02:39 PM   #8
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I just got back from LFS#2.
I was amazed that he did not jump at the chance to sell me a different skimmer. He uses the Sea Clone on most of his tanks, and stated that on a new tank with nothing making waste, any skimmer will have precious little to skim. He advised to leave the skimmer off for several weeks, until there is a decent load for it to skim. That makes perfect sense to this young reefer. He showed me his own Sea Clones, how to adjust them, and demonstrated that there is no significant difference between the Sea Clone air valve and a regular old gang valve. He stated that he prefers the gang valve himself, and gave me a Sea Clone valve.

I also found that his prices were a bit less expensive, and while not quite as good a selection of fish, a better selection of corals. It looks like some business is going to go his way.

Now, to control this green algae, should I get a fish, a crab, or a snail?
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Old 06-28-2004, 02:40 PM   #9
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I have a Sea Clone 100 installed in my sump with factory fittings sans air tube since I'm using it im my sump and had to add a longer piece of tubing to no ill effect. My tank is less than 30 days old and is 46 gal with sump and skimmer is definitely pulling bad stuff out but not a whole lot since the system is young.

With factory air control valve and using venturi connection to pump you should be able to tune it for proper air mixture. If you have room in your sump put pump and skimmer in the sump.

fyi - liveaquaria.com has the sea clone 100 for less than $67.99 don't get ripped on equipment by your lfs... since they f'd up the one they sold you they should refund you.
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Old 06-28-2004, 02:43 PM   #10
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What is your phosphate and nitrate levels. The will be the source of most of your algae. You can use a product like algone or rowaphos to remove it from the water. Are you using tap water or RO/DI water.

The snails will only help you keep the algae in check once you get rid of the source.

HTH
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