Finally have things set up & progressing well

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Terry

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Hi all. I haven't been around in a few weeks, as I've been heavily into learning a lot about saltwater & reef tanks on the web and in a Reef Central forum that I joined. I've had my tank set up for a few weeks now, and have been spending way too much money on it and the assorted equipment, etc. etc. Sometimes I think I should have my head examined for getting into saltwater, but it's been fun as well as challenging. Hopefully the expenditures will start to decrease now. Freshwater is so much easier to deal with than saltwater (as well as so much cheaper LOL). I used to think a water change was a pain with my freshwater tanks - now it takes me an afternoon just to prepare 5 gallons of water and get the salinity adjusted, do the siphoning and cleanup afterwards. But it's worth it to see the things that grow on the live rock and the little critters that crawl out of it.

I purchased a 34 gallon Red Sea Max reef tank, a nano tank with all of the equipment in a back compartment that's pretty much hidden by a dark glass background on the tank itself. The skimmer, heater, powerhead pumps, and filtration system are in that back compartment, and all of the powercords go into a powerstrip that folds up into a dry section of that back compartment, with switches for everything in a little hidden compartment on the side. It fit my needs for the one space I had left to put a tank, and having only one external powercord for the whole unit is a plus. My wife even likes it, which sure helps. But, it's a good thing that she doesn't really know how much money I've sunk into it so far! It's also got a built in 24 hours timer in the fan cooled hood - for the lights and the moonlights that come on at night.

Anyway, here are a few pics:

Here's the tank at the beginning - still a bit cloudy from adding the aragonite sand substrate:

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After it cleared up a day later:

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First batch of fully cured live rock (geesh this stuff is expensive!):

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First fish (my little Nemos of course!):

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Also got 2 of these Spotted (Pajama) Cardinals:

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One of my Peppermint Shrimp (they now come out as soon as I put food in the tank, and they scour the live rock at night).

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My latest addition - diadema pseudochromis (diamema dottyback)

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I also have (and need more) snails - Turbo & Nassarius.

This was after my second addition of cured live rock - brings me up to 50 lbs. and that's where I'm stopping!

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This life was on my first live rock and was opened up within 3 hours after putting the live rock in. Red mushroom coral lower left (these have all multiplied in number & size greatly since then), Brown button polyps going up the middle and a group of Green Star Polyps (GSP) on the right.

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These are showing up on the second batch of live rock. Red Organ Pipe Coral & polyps on the upper left, a little colony of some green center buttons on the top - left of middle, with a small group of buttons with a small orange center lower left, and what I think are green & brown majano anemones - hard to see & circled. The majanos are usually killed my most people as they're usually considered pests. i haven't dealt with mine yet - just keeping an eye on them for now & checking to see if they move or start multiplying.

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One of several types of sponges growing on the rock.

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I also picked up a couple hermit crab "hitchikers" that came on the last live rock - one is a fairly rare Electric Blue hermit crab with bright blue stripes on black legs. I left both in the tank for now, but disposed of some little 1" black crabs that have been the bottom of the cooler that the live rock is shipped in. Same with any bristleworms that were in the bottom (but I'm sure more are in the rock, although I haven't spotted any yet). Crabs are often a problem, especially if they turn predatory on your other livestock.

I never saw a cycle on the tank. With fully cured live rock this is typical - the cycle can be so small & quick that you miss it. I did put a dose of Red Sea Nitrobac (bacteria) in the tank with the first live rock, and also a dose of saltwater Bio-Spira at the same time that the first 4 fish were added. I've yet to see any ammonia or nitrite, but do typically get a 5-10pmm nitrate reading indicating that the bacteria are in place in sufficient quantity. I've just hung a bag of live rock rubble in the filter compartment to be sure it gets innoculated, and after a week or so I'll remove the bio-media that came with the tank. If things perform the way they should the live rock, water changes & macroalgae should control the nitrates and hopefully get those down to zero as well. I have no sump or refugium (and no room for one) so I may get some chaeto algae for the main tank, to control the nitrates, & just keep it under control.

I'm just now finishing the first expected algae outbreak - brown diatom algae, but it didn't get as bad as expected. Getting a little bit of green hairy algae now, and if that gets excessive I'll get a lawnmower blenny or some type of other cleanup critter(s) to deal with it. My turbo snails do a pretty good job on the green algae too.

Anyway, that's where I've been and where I'm at right now.

Time to get back to work now!

Terry
 

Bonochick

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It looks wonderful! Thanks for sharing.
 
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Terry

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Thanks! It's a lot of work and a big learning curve! Now I can hopefully sit back & enjoy the tank & live rock as things mature & new life forms grow on the live rock and in the live sand.
 

agsansoo

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Looks sharp !
Can you take pictures of the filtration system ?
 
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Terry

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agsansoo said:
Looks sharp ! 
Can you take pictures of the filtration system ?
All I could take is a picture from the top, and all you'd see is water & the top of the skimmer collection cup LOL. If you go to the Red Sea Max site, they have the pictures of the filter system and everything else there, and a nice 3D video if you have the time to download & watch it.



It's a cool nano tank. It has the usual advantages & disadvantages of having a unit with everything built in, and it took a while getting the Prizm skimmer broken in & tinkering with it to get it skimming properly. They even just came out with a hood fan upgrade that they're sending me for free - it's a quieter fan - with the hood fan going, the skimmer & skimmer pump, and 2 powerhead pumps all going at the same time it does make some noise, but it's not all that loud, and probably no more so than any saltwater tank. I got the matching cabinet too, and have most of my new Saltwater stuff stored in there, or you can fit a small chiller in the cabinet too if you expect the water to overheat in the summer. They also just released an additional fan to fit in an unused hole in the back of the hood - for additional cooling. I ordered that for only $7 to hopefully avoid having to get a chiller in the future.
 

agsansoo

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OK .. Now I know what kind of skimmer it has ... duh .. LOL

The T5 lighting looks great ... I'm sure it looks better in person ... I can tell which photo you use your flash, and which ones you didn't.
It's very difficult to get the white balance on a digital camera just right. My tank light looks great in person ... but really blue when i take
photos of it. ??? LOL
 
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Terry

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Yep - the skimmer is a Prizm, They don't always get good reviews but it's working fine now that I have it adjusted right and did some other little tricks to it. I know what you mean on the photos with the T5 wavelengths, the actinics etc. If I don't use a flash they come out really blue. Wish my old Fuji digital had a better macro lens on it too - I just can't get a decent pic if I'm trying to take a pic of something that's not close to the front of the tank.
 

COBettaCouple

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that's a great job on the tank! really feeds our urge to do a saltwater tank, but we need to find a good source for live rock and anemone. Did you use crushed coral for your substrata?
 
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Terry

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FLBettaCouple said:
that's a great job on the tank! really feeds our urge to do a saltwater tank, but we need to find a good source for live rock and anemone. Did you use crushed coral for your substrata?
Thanks. In a month or two I hope it looks a lot better, after my corals & polyps grow more and after adding some additional ones. My substate was Red Sea aragonite, but there are probably several suppliers of other brand names:

"The ideal substrate for all saltwater fish and invertebrate tanks, Reef Base consists of naturally occurring reef sand spheres mixed with aragonite coral chips, and comes prewashed and impurity-free. The spheres, highly porous calcareous shells of simple protozoa (foraminefers), provide a large surface area for bacteria colonization and serve as an excellent media for both aerobic (nitrifying) and anaerobic (denitrifying) biological filtration. While the high buffering capacity of natural aragonite, the most dissolvable form of calcium carbonate, helps to maintain natural, stable levels of pH in the aquarium."

So, in a sense it's coral.

Don't you live in Florida? If so, you're in probably the middle of one of the best areas for saltwater corals and anemones, etc. I correspond with another guy that got this tank about the time I did, and he lives in Florida and it sounds like he has so much more available than I do in my area, and at better prices & he doesn't have to pay overnight shipping costs. It's still going to be expensive no matter what, but it's really a whole different world than freshwater. Go for it!
 

COBettaCouple

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Yes, i live in NE florida, but a smaller town so there is nothing of saltwater life to be found here except the fish - we only have a petco in town. I'd love to find some good places within driving distance for us to shop at when we're ready to take the plunge into saltwater.
 
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Mike

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Terry said:
My wife even likes it, which sure helps. But, it's a good thing that she doesn't really know how much money I've sunk into it so far!
I can relate to that.

Man, that is a really nice lookin setup and you take some great photos. Nice job. You're right about the live rock being expensive, but it's so worth it!

I just wanted to warn you about a coupla things though. I've used the prizm skimmer and thought is was average and then it started leaking after a while. I was frequently adjusting it to try and get some good gunk in the collection cup. Also, you seem to be going kinda fast stocking wise and no mention of QT. Watch for disease in your fish and keep an eye on nitrates. I'd also frequently replace any mechanical filter media weekly (does the red sea max have this?) to export nutrients and to limit the algae growth while the tank stabilizes.

Keep us posted on your progress.

Thanks,
Mike
 

Radcliffe

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oooh, thanks for the amazing photos! Salt tanks are so incredibly beautiful, and varied. I love reading about the different things that gro on the rock and new discoveries as the tank ages and grows together. Updates are very welcome! I would be very happy to see how the rock looks over time in the tank!


----R
 
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Terry

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Hi Mike & thanks. I knew about all of the negative feedback (more negative than positive) on the Prizm skimmers before I got the tank. And it does take a lot of fiddling to get it working correctly. It's skimming great now. As far as leaking, it sits in the back water filled compartment of the tank so if it leaks, it can't leak outside the tank. The Prizm was my biggest concern about the tank, but (knock on wood) it's doing great now. Yes - it has mechanical filtration filters and I clean those every other day to keep the nitrates down, as well as keep the flow optimum. I have ceramic bio-media in there too, and I know that stuff is a nitrate factory. I plan on replacing that with a bag of LR rubble that I have sitting in the back compartment to get some good bacteria growth, and then replacing the ceramic media with the rubble, or just taking it all out and letting the live rock & substrate in the tank handle all the bio filtration. I know I'm pushing it on introducing livestock, but with the fully cured LR and additions of both Niitrobac bacteria and Bio-Spira I haven't seen any ammonia or nitrites and I test daily. Wish I had a Saltwater QT tank, & the room for it, but I don't so I've been lucky so far. No signs of ich, etc. and I have to keep my fingers crossed on that. I do a 2-3 hour acclimation on fish & inverts and I haven't lost anything yet and all the livestock is doing great. I do get all my stock at a fish only lfs near me that does a great job of keeping their fish healthy, and QTing them before sale, and I'm told they won't sell fish from a tank that looks questionable as far as the fish health in it. I pay a higher price but it adds a little bit of comfort that I'm hopefully not introducing any diseased fish. I'm about done with adding livestock now, except for getting some more Turbo & Nassarius snails - I need quite a few more of those for my cleanup crew. I know a few guys with the RSM unit that haven't had it much longer than me and their tanks are already full of fish, inverts and purchased corals & anemones. Their tanks look great, but I wonder if they'll stay that way with putting so much in so early. Time will tell I guess. On the live rock - I have almost as much invested in the rock as the tank cost. At time I think I need my head examined on getting into Saltwater, but the expense is worth the rewards.

Radcliffe - thanks for the nice comments. There are lots of little living things on the rock that I've yet to identify, and I'm sure they'll be more with time. A lot are just too small to get a picture of. It really is interesting!

Terry
 
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Mike

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I know it's extremely difficult to get a tank set up and then have to wait to add stuff to it. But there are cycles that need to stabilize (nitrogen, algae) and adding things too quickly can make things drag out, stressing both you and the fish. I'm sure you've found out that it's way easier to treat fish in a qt tank than in the main tank and that treating them in the main tank could kill off many desirable organisms living in the rock. Just wanted to give you a heads up.

I've spent countless hours observing the live rock in my tank. Get a flash light when the lights are off at night and just kinda look around. You should start seeing some interesting organisms developing or coming out of hiding. Just last night I noticed some type of brown and white colored worm that initially looked to be about an inch long poking out of a hole in the rock. I shined the flash light in there and woah - this thing has to be about 4 inches long and it can "telescope" to reach around the opening of the hole in the rock. I couldn't leave the flash light on it or it would retreat back into the hole. I took some photos and I'll post them when I find out what type of worm it is. Cool stuff.
 

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Wow that's a nice looking tank. You sure do move fast, but I guess not too fast. Do you have any side shots of your tank.

You sure got lucky on those corals that came on your LR, where'd you get the LR from?
 
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Terry

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Hi. Moving fast but all is fine. Still never did see a cycle - only 5ppm nitrates so it must have been quick. I think the cured live rock and the Nitrobac and Bio-spira adds did that for me. Fish are fine - no signs of any disease, etc. and they're growing well. the fully cured live rock came from reefscience.com - about a 1-2 drive from me in NC, but I had it shipped overnight anyway. I may set up a 3 gallon Eclipse I have as a small Saltwater QT tank, if nothing else to treat anything that may show up.

ATM: No side shots of the tank yet - I really need to take a few!

Mike - I usually look in the tank most nights under the moonlights and I have seen some weird stuff in there. Kinda spooky & I expect something to jump out at me! The other night I saw some semi-transparent critter about 1/2 - 3/4 inch long swimming around - very thin body with 2 long antenna looking things on it. I put the flashlight on it to see it better & it was swimming around and would occasionally grab onto the rock for a minute with the long antenna type things, then let go & swim around again. Freaky & no way to get a picture of the thing. I also see a lot of little things poking out of the rock, some I can ID now, some I can't. I did find 4 ricordia yuma mushrooms on the new live rock - here's a pick of one. Still small - about 1/2 inch across:

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Also several new what may be zoanthids or other polyps starting to appear on the rock, but too small yet to see what they'll become.

Lotta work, but a lotta fun too!
 

atmmachine816

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Ok, glad to hear it. How much per lb. did you pay for your LR, you sure got some good stuff.

is creature on here
 
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Terry

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Nice website, Thanks atmmachine. Couldn't see anything on that site that looked like what I saw though. I guess I'll have to draw it & get a pic that way.

The Reefscience rock, figuring the overnight shipping in also, came out to about $8/lb. The guy gave me a reduced price of 6.25/lb instead of hist "list" price of 6.27. It doesn't all look like the pic on their website, but most of it has a lot of coralline on it, and some nice hitch hiker zoes, mushrooms & ricordias. Not the cheapest, but cheaper than the cured LR from my local Saltwater lfs, and a whole lot more coralline on it than the 2 local Saltwater lfs near me (their rock looked more like base rock than live rock). Reefscience does have a 25 lb. minimum order though. It arrived overnight in great shape, and had no smell, and I had no dieoff that I could tell, visually or by my test readings for ammonia and nitrite.
 

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wow... the rock lifeforms are amazing i am now convinced i must have a salt tank ;D
 
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Terry

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ATM - here are the side shots you were asking for.

From left - no flash:

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From right - no flash:

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Front again - not much change from the other pic above - no flash:

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Front - with the flash on:

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Totally different look with the tank lights versus the flash. I think the actual appearance is between the two.

I've also had a lawnmower blenny (aka sailfin, aka eyelash blenny) for a couple weeks. He does a super job of keeping algae under control - on the glass mostly, but also on the rocks. Between the blenny & the turbos and my nassarius snails, my cleanup crew has really helped with the brown diatom (almost gone now) algae, and the green as well. I have some dried algae sheets to supplement the blenny's diet when needed. the blenny is really a neat fish - he looks a lot like a mudskipper, if you've ever seen those, and he can hang on the glass with his modified fins. Doesn't really swims - kinda hops around. There are times I look in the tank for him, can't find him, and find him staring at me right in front of me - very well camoflaged & looks like the rock! My wife calls him a walrus, and he does look like it from the front!

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That's it for now.
 
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