High Turnover Rate in a Pico Reef - What's TOO High?

Fishproblem

I'm working to choose all the gear for a pico reef, and have decided to use a small canister filter to provide flow, add water volume, and keep the heater out of the display. It will be empty save for some chemipure elite for phosphate control. The filter I'm looking at has a 79gph rating. This equates to roughly 31x turnover. I do NOT intend to keep advanced corals. Is this too much for, say, pulsing xenia or duncans? If so, would effectively baffling the filter by using a spin outflow lily pipe serve to reduce the flow to a more acceptable level for these corals?

Okay, so after some googling I've come to realize that this is on the high side of things. I'm coming over from the freshwater side, so I do have to wonder: is this turnover inherently bad if the outflow is altered or replaced with something that will "diffuse" the incoming water? The way my spin pipe moves water in my high tech tank is a bit random and perhaps, especially in a tank this size, would serve as both powerhead and wavemaker?

I learn much better in the act of doing, so I apologize if these questions seem naive to those of you with reef experience. As much as I've read and researched over the last two years about reef tanks, the process of actually getting into it has shone a light on areas where I really still have a lot to learn.
 

Jesterrace

If you are coming over from the freshwater side and this is your first reef tank I would strongly advise against a pico as they are arguably the biggest challenge for a newbie to maintain in the hobby. Picos are Advanced to Expert Level even for easier to grow corals. Not saying you have to get a huge tank but generally I don't recommend smaller than a 20 Long for a newbie, evaporation alone can easily crash a pico tank (since water evaporates but salt doesn't, which means it's very easy for salt levels to rise rapidly) . Canister Filters are also a poor choice for saltwater tanks as they are very prone to trapping the nasties. HOB is a much better choice for smaller marine tanks with a lighter bioload, particularly the more open designed ones that offer flexibility for various filter media or to be converted into a refugium for biofiltration. As for turnover and flow it will definitely be at a higher rate than freshwater (generally a minimum of 10x, but ideally closer to 20x if you are looking at a reef). A small powerhead is best for flow on a smaller tank combined with an HOB Filter. Xenia and Duncans are definitely not high flow corals. They prefer a more ambient flow.
 

Fishproblem

Thanks for the response! I know that picos are insanely difficult to maintain and succeed with, and am definitely going into it with that at the forefront of my mind. I do know about the potential for intense salinity swings as well. I'm building a tight fitting glass lid to reduce evaporation while still allowing for some gas exchange, and am also considering an ATO, all in concert with daily top offs and multiple large water changes each week. The setup isn't going to be a quick process.

I'm planning to go without a fuge, and don't want the canister for anything other than added water volume, and flow, with the aesthetic benefit of glass pipes instead of clunky black plastic in the display. It will be empty save for the possible chemipure or similar. Maybe it would be best to run completely empty: I don't see how it would become a nitrate sink if devoid of media. If you can confirm or deny that, I'd appreciate it as well. I do intend to start a build thread, so it may be a more appropriate convo then.

Most importantly for the moment, the issue of flow: does that mean 31x turnover is too much? And again, if so, would a baffled output allow for corals like xenias to thrive? I assume the answer is yes, but I want to be sure I'm not missing something!
 

Jesterrace

Thanks for the response! I know that picos are insanely difficult to maintain and succeed with, and am definitely going into it with that at the forefront of my mind. I do know about the potential for intense salinity swings as well. I'm building a tight fitting glass lid to reduce evaporation while still allowing for some gas exchange, and am also considering an ATO, all in concert with daily top offs and multiple large water changes each week. The setup isn't going to be a quick process.

I'm planning to go without a fuge, and don't want the canister for anything other than added water volume, and flow, with the aesthetic benefit of glass pipes instead of clunky black plastic in the display. It will be empty save for the possible chemipure or similar. Maybe it would be best to run completely empty: I don't see how it would become a nitrate sink if devoid of media. If you can confirm or deny that, I'd appreciate it as well. I do intend to start a build thread, so it may be a more appropriate convo then.

Most importantly for the moment, the issue of flow: does that mean 31x turnover is too much? And again, if so, would a baffled output allow for corals like xenias to thrive? I assume the answer is yes, but I want to be sure I'm not missing something!

It's more of the inherent closed filtration method of canister filters as there are lots of places for things to get trapped in them even without filter media. Bottom line you want easy, open access for maintenance at all times with a marine tank. I ran an Aquaclear 50 on my first 36 gallon bowfront marine tank which was well suited to that application (Seachem Tidal would also be a good choice). If you want additional water volume, a sump would be a much better choice and is ideally suited to marine applications (and would give you the added benefit of a natural refugium/biofiltration). A canister isn't going to add enough extra water volume to make much of a difference. Bottom line the canister will be more hassle than it's worth. As for the flow rate, yes, I would say 31x is way too high for Xenia and Duncan Corals. I would be shooting for more like 15x. Also FYI, Xenia can be pretty invasive and and potentially choke out other corals, so I'm not sure it's the best choice for a pico unless it was the only coral you were planning in the tank.
 

Fishproblem

It's more of the inherent closed filtration method of canister filters as there are lots of places for things to get trapped in them even without filter media. Bottom line you want easy, open access for maintenance at all times with a marine tank. I ran an Aquaclear 50 on my first 36 gallon bowfront marine tank which was well suited to that application (Seachem Tidal would also be a good choice). If you want additional water volume, a sump would be a much better choice and is ideally suited to marine applications (and would give you the added benefit of a natural refugium/biofiltration). A canister isn't going to add enough extra water volume to make much of a difference. Bottom line the canister will be more hassle than it's worth. As for the flow rate, yes, I would say 31x is way too high for Xenia and Duncan Corals. I would be shooting for more like 15x. Also FYI, Xenia can be pretty invasive and and potentially choke out other corals, so I'm not sure it's the best choice for a pico unless it was the only coral you were planning in the tank.
As far as easy access for maintenance, is that because I'll have to be in there cleaning and/or tinkering daily? I'm anticipating a lot of maintenance, but I'm sure I'll have no idea what "a lot" is until it's happening.
I had read that about Xenia... it's really pretty and I like that it's a good beginner coral, but I do worry that if the tank is sustainable I'll just end up with a Xenia problem (which is why I decided early that gsp is not an option). The movement is a huge appeal though. I've only just started considering what corals are the best choice, so it may not make the cut. Looks like it's back to the drawing board regarding filtration. The tank is going to be in a tough place for a sump, but I sure do hate the idea of a modified HOB refugium on a tank that's supposed to be a super attractive display. Could it be possible to have a sump positioned beside the tank, instead of beneath? Or is gravity key in returning water to the sump?
 

Jesterrace

As far as easy access for maintenance, is that because I'll have to be in there cleaning and/or tinkering daily? I'm anticipating a lot of maintenance, but I'm sure I'll have no idea what "a lot" is until it's happening.
I had read that about Xenia... it's really pretty and I like that it's a good beginner coral, but I do worry that if the tank is sustainable I'll just end up with a Xenia problem (which is why I decided early that gsp is not an option). The movement is a huge appeal though. I've only just started considering what corals are the best choice, so it may not make the cut. Looks like it's back to the drawing board regarding filtration. The tank is going to be in a tough place for a sump, but I sure do hate the idea of a modified HOB refugium on a tank that's supposed to be a super attractive display. Could it be possible to have a sump positioned beside the tank, instead of beneath? Or is gravity key in returning water to the sump?

You could do a sump but it would be a lot of work for very little benefit on a tank of that size and if you are going to add an additional sump tank you might as well just get a larger display tank so you have more stocking options. As for the movement, there are some really cool LPS Corals that have polyps sway in the current (ie branching Hammer, Frogspawn) that are generally pretty easy to care for.

As for the canister filter a big part is ease of access for cleaning and that it's not just a matter of cleaning the main compartment as there are many places for things to get trapped in a closed filtration system like a canister. An open HOB Filter (ie Aquaclear, Seachem Tidal) is much less prone to build up in it's various components (ie piping, etc) because it's a wide open format. With a sump a filter pad/floss/sock/cup/roll it is all caught in an easily accessible and removable thing. Bottom line you are already starting out with a very challenging setup and putting a canister on it is going to be the equivalent of you going into the hobby treading water with a 100lb weight tied to each foot.

As a compromise you could look into the likes of a 5 gallon All-In-One Tank as it would give you more water volume and offer a rear sump chamber compartment and the clean look of an all in one unit with no external filtration required:



That is but one option, there are others that don't have lighting with them that are cheaper.
 

Fishproblem

You could do a sump but it would be a lot of work for very little benefit on a tank of that size and if you are going to add an additional sump tank you might as well just get a larger display tank so you have more stocking options. As for the movement, there are some really cool LPS Corals that have polyps sway in the current (ie branching Hammer, Frogspawn) that are generally pretty easy to care for.

As for the canister filter a big part is ease of access for cleaning and that it's not just a matter of cleaning the main compartment as there are many places for things to get trapped in a closed filtration system like a canister. An open HOB Filter (ie Aquaclear, Seachem Tidal) is much less prone to build up in it's various components (ie piping, etc) because it's a wide open format. With a sump a filter pad/floss/sock/cup/roll it is all caught in an easily accessible and removable thing. Bottom line you are already starting out with a very challenging setup and putting a canister on it is going to be the equivalent of you going into the hobby treading water with a 100lb weight tied to each foot.

As a compromise you could look into the likes of a 5 gallon All-In-One Tank as it would give you more water volume and offer a rear sump chamber compartment and the clean look of an all in one unit with no external filtration required:



That is but one option, there are others that don't have lighting with them that are cheaper.
Thanks a lot for all the additional input! I hope I don't sound argumentative when I ask this, but I'm trying to understand the concept of these nitrate sink situations in saltwater aquariums to the best of my ability - How would the tubing and surface area of an empty canister filter be more of a nitrate sink than the complex plumbing in so many reef tanks you see around? I totally understand the issues around keeping media in one (I think) but as far as the overwhelmingly smooth surface area and impeller, I'm struggling to understand why that's so bad. And nowhere on the internet that I've found so far can explain. Is it actually just that any additional surface area is a bad thing? Empty, the canister don't have any more surface area than a rear sump would. I've used similar all-in-one setups for freshwater (one that's frequently also used as a pico reef, too). How frequently do owners of all in one setups like the fluval, or folks who make HOB fuges actually tear down and scrub the rear sump or the fuge?
 

Jesterrace

Thanks a lot for all the additional input! I hope I don't sound argumentative when I ask this, but I'm trying to understand the concept of these nitrate sink situations in saltwater aquariums to the best of my ability - How would the tubing and surface area of an empty canister filter be more of a nitrate sink than the complex plumbing in so many reef tanks you see around? I totally understand the issues around keeping media in one (I think) but as far as the overwhelmingly smooth surface area and impeller, I'm struggling to understand why that's so bad. And nowhere on the internet that I've found so far can explain. Is it actually just that any additional surface area is a bad thing? Empty, the canister don't have any more surface area than a rear sump would. I've used similar all-in-one setups for freshwater (one that's frequently also used as a pico reef, too). How frequently do owners of all in one setups like the fluval, or folks who make HOB fuges actually tear down and scrub the rear sump or the fuge?

They don't tear it down very often as it's not needed when you toss filter floss/clean the filter sock that comes with it every few days. The difference is that a canister system is totally enclosed and there are more places for things to get trapped in them as opposed to the sump system where everything goes straight into a sock. Freshwater is totally different than saltwater and so a system that by nature that is designed to trap things (ie canister filter) in a freshwater application can help build the biofilter. Since the biofilter in a marine tank is established in the live rock all the additional trappings just cause nitrate and phosphate issues. Can you use a canister filter with lots of maintenace? Sure, are you likely to have more long term issues with a pico reef than those who run HOBs or Sumps? Absolutely. I have seen many fix their nitrate and phosphate issues by going from Canister to HOB or Sump, but I have NEVER seen it happen the other way around. BTW you are planning on using RODI water, right?
 

Fishproblem

maybe I'm not understanding. I'm trying to figure out how the setup I've described is a nitrate sink and this isn't: MBR127 Macroalgae Reactor - Skimz

Maybe I'll have to try the 100lb weights to see why they'll stop me from treading water
 

Jesterrace

maybe I'm not understanding. I'm trying to figure out how the setup I've described is a nitrate sink and this isn't: MBR127 Macroalgae Reactor - Skimz

Maybe I'll have to try the 100lb weights to see why they'll stop me from treading water

Honestly I have never used a reactor before as they are hit and miss with effectiveness. You don't need a reactor to do Chaeto, just a light and a place to grow it (can be done in the in sump chamber on an AIO tank I mentioned, you just have to trim it periodically) I use Chaeto in my Sump along with an in sump skimmer and 200 micron filter sock and a high flow return pump. Change out the filter sock every 3 days and it takes care of itself. BTW you are planning on using RODI water, right?
 

Fishproblem

Honestly I have never used a reactor before as they are hit and miss with effectiveness. You don't need a reactor to do Chaeto, just a light and a place to grow it (can be done in the in sump chamber on an AIO tank I mentioned, you just have to trim it periodically) I use Chaeto in my Sump along with an in sump skimmer and 200 micron filter sock and a high flow return pump. Change out the filter sock every 3 days and it takes care of itself. BTW you are planning on using RODI water, right?
I'm still trying to figure out if chaeto is even a good call for me. If I do use it, I don't think I should start the system with it in or it might keep phosphate and nitrate TOO low? Is that right? I'm also toying with the idea of macroalgae in the display, in which case, no reactor.

Hahah, yes to RODI. I currently use remineralized distilled in my high tech planted tank, but if I'm doing that and a tiny reef with multiple weekly WCs, I should finally refresh the used RODI system I picked up a while back and never got around to setting up. I've gone through it carefully and I'm pretty sure it just needs new filters. My dad had a 150 gallon reef tank wayyy back when, and I asked him a few weeks ago what he did for water. Tap. He said it so casually I couldn't help but laugh, because I know just about any reefer around today would blow a gasket hearing that. Things have changed a lot in 25 years.
 

Jesterrace

I'm still trying to figure out if chaeto is even a good call for me. If I do use it, I don't think I should start the system with it in or it might keep phosphate and nitrate TOO low? Is that right? I'm also toying with the idea of macroalgae in the display, in which case, no reactor.

Hahah, yes to RODI. I currently use remineralized distilled in my high tech planted tank, but if I'm doing that and a tiny reef with multiple weekly WCs, I should finally refresh the used RODI system I picked up a while back and never got around to setting up. I've gone through it carefully and I'm pretty sure it just needs new filters. My dad had a 150 gallon reef tank wayyy back when, and I asked him a few weeks ago what he did for water. Tap. He said it so casually I couldn't help but laugh, because I know just about any reefer around today would blow a gasket hearing that. Things have changed a lot in 25 years.

Chaeto would die quickly in an uncycled tank. The problem with it in a display tank is that it tends to overrun things since algae grows faster than just about anything else and in a tiny tank like that it would happen very quickly. Just to give you an idea of how fast it grows I started with 2 small handfuls of chaeto, a month later and this is what it looks like (keep in mine this is in a 29 gallon sump and it's in the largest partition in my sump):


 

Fishproblem

Chaeto would die quickly in an uncycled tank. The problem with it in a display tank is that it tends to overrun things since algae grows faster than just about anything else and in a tiny tank like that it would happen very quickly. Just to give you an idea of how fast it grows I started with 2 small handfuls of chaeto, a month later and this is what it looks like (keep in mine this is in a 29 gallon sump and it's in the largest partition in my sump):


Cool vid! And yeah, from what I can tell if I do a chateo reactor in the canister I'll be emptying 75% of it at the end of every week. If I do a macroalgae in the display, I'll go with something more decorative though. Laurencia poitei is a conteder, for its size and because it's rhizomatic - I'd love to attach it or similar to the hardscape in the back of the tank.
 

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