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Aquastudent

First Salty Adventure - Fluval Evo 13.5

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I'm creating this to hopefully limit my inevitable mistakes as I explore this hobby. I'm limited on space at the moment but am going to gain some experience with this Fluval Evo 13.5. I picked up a bit over 13 pounds of uncured dry rock and too large of a bag of fine aragonite sand. I washed it about 10x over but probably should have just taken it outside and used the hose. The tank was cloudy for about a day.

 

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Now for the funny story. I have a few 5G buckets that I plan on keeping fresh/salt water and doing any mixing in. To fill up the tank I read the instructions. For the reef crystals they say, "1/2 cup for every gallon." Well, I quickly did the math in my head. I have a degree in mathematics so this was just simple arithmetic. 1/2 cup for every gallon, that means 10 cups for the 5 gallon bucket. I'm scooping this salt and thinking to myself, "This is a crazy amount of salt..." After the first 5 gallons went into the tank and I nearly emptied the bag of salt on my second 5 gallon bucket I rechecked my math. Yup, I'm an idiot. Well, getting the concentration down from 4x the limit with a limited number of buckets was quite a fun time. After a bit of problem solving I  now have a super concentrated bucket of saltwater that I'll be diluting down for the forseeable future. DUMB DUMB DUMB DUMB!

 

The dry rock was fun to scape with. These rocks are definitely more difficult to manipulate than the river stones I'm used to in freshwater. Fitting together puzzle pieces which don't really fit together to make something stable is...tricky. I hope this scape gives something interesting to look at, caves for any future inhabitants, and coral spots for the future.

 

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My test kit should be arriving soon and I'll keep close tabs on the params and check the salinity with the refractometer.

 

My remaining purchases include a better heater (one that fits in chamber 3) and an RODI unit. Please let me know if you have any recommendations. I'm going to be searching the marketplace for an RODI unit and seeing what Ebay has to offer.

 

I also need to build the filter chamber. I'm out of bio media since my move so I'll have to rebuild my stockpile...unless I can just throw in some Kordon Kaldness and call it a day (no fluidized action). This is the start and I'm looking forward to getting the cycle going. I hope I can get everything done before Frag Fest.

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Good luck on your build. One hard lesson to learn is that you should take your time and let your tank settle in before adding most forms of livestock. The nitrogen cycle is only one small part of cycling a tank. It will go through various algae and bacteria phases.

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Thanks. I'm looking forward to tracking the progress.

If I add a piece of live rock will that give the tank an extra boost to the bacteria?

I have seeded new freshwater tanks by using filter media from an established tank but don't know if it translates.

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Thanks. I'm looking forward to tracking the progress.

If I add a piece of live rock will that give the tank an extra boost to the bacteria?

I have seeded new freshwater tanks by using filter media from an established tank but don't know if it translates.

Did you start out with dry/dead rock? Yes you can add a small piece of a live rock from an established tank to seed the bacteria. However your tank will also likely go through a cyano phase and algae outbreaks. Ride out this "ugly" and boring phase and you will be more successful down the road. The tank will settle in time.

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Did you start out with dry/dead rock? Yes you can add a small piece of a live rock from an established tank to seed the bacteria. However your tank will also likely go through a cyano phase and algae outbreaks. Ride out this "ugly" and boring phase and you will be more successful down the road. The tank will settle in time.

 

This is excellent advice! While it's doing that, take the time to learn about all the changes you're tank will start going through. Also, it's looking great, I like the size and dimensions, nice scape as well. 

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Just a quick note: If you concentrated the salt mix at 4x the normal level for anything other than a very short time, it's possible that you've abiotically precipitated out calcium carbonate, thereby lowering your calcium and alkalinity levels of your final mix. The extra concentration of magnesium in the water may help avoid this, but it's worth testing your water to ensure that you've not lost some of these ions to precipitate.

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Awesome! Thanks for the advice guys! I will try and pick up a small piece of live rock this weekend. I'm curious though, what feeds the cycle if there's nothing in the tank? I'm guessing there's some decaying organic matter even on the dry rock while it's curing but is that what's required to start the cycle? I would have thought there would need to be external nutrients added to feed the bacteria colony.

 

What I'm really interested to learn with this hobby is the chemistry involved in these tanks. Origami, that's an interesting thought that didn't occur to me. I don't remember seeing anything precipitate out but I still have the second 5G bucket of 4x concentrated water in my closet. I can check to see what's precipitated out. I don't have a powerhead or pump running in it so I wouldn't be surprised if something has settled out.

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You should add in an ammonia source. Look up fishless cycling. I typically add in pure ammonia up to 2ppm. You can also throw in a piece of raw shrimp and let it decompose. However you have to deal with the smell and need to remove it once you have enough ammonia. Some others on here will also says to pee in the tank, but I have never tried it lol.

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Perfect. I started feeding the invisible fish in my tank a bit ago since I assumed there needed to be an ammonia source. I literally was going to mention the peeing in the tank method on my previous post because I had heard of folks doing that in the FW hobby. I don't think I want to go that far for my hobby. We have to draw a line somewhere. :)

 

My ammonia was up around 1 ppm and I had measurable nitrite a few days ago. I'm going to be testing the water again today to see how things are progressing.

 

I also picked up some of the "bacteria in a bottle." I have always been able to use cycled media when I started a new freshwater tank so I have never had the opportunity to try this style product. I wanted to see if this will have a big effect on the cycle. I don't really have a control so it's not really an experiment...but perhaps something will stick out.

 

The aragonite is the sugar grained version. I love the way it feels and looks but it does blow around quite easily and still isn't perfectly dust free. I'm having trouble getting the flow through the tank to work just right. The pump from the "sump" is not pushing water around much. I added a Hydor 425 but I probably should have gone with the 240. It would be nice to have two pumps that I can hook up to a controller and get a more turbulent action. Those are great potential upgrades for the future.

 

I'm hoping to get this cycle completed before the July meet-up. It will be close...

 

Thanks all for the help and suggestions.

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I tested the parameters and the cycle is done. I can't believe how quickly that went!

I picked up a Trochus snail to start with my CUC and help expand the bacteria colony.

Diatoms have definitely latched on. I expect they will go away once the tank stabilizes.

 

Now I must be honest. I don't know what I'm going to stock the tank with. My original idea was a firefish (either standard or purple) but I do love the movement of oscellaris clowns.

 

I'm open to suggestions :)

 

For CUC I plan on going with a couple of a few different snails (trochus, asterea, cerith) and eventually a fire shrimp or red cleaner shrimp.

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Not a lot of options with smaller tanks, but a Gobie + pistol shrimp pair might be cool?

 

https://www.practicalfishkeeping.co.uk/features/articles/special-relationships-keeping-pistol-shrimps-and-gobies

 

You might need to mix in some corser substrate with your sand I think.

 

Remember to add in livestock slowly.

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In a 13 gallon, you could do a pair of ocellaris clowns (most of the designer clowns are ocellaris, so you have all sorts of choices when it comes to looks), a single or pair of firefish (if you add two at the same time), and a pistol shrimp/goby combo and be fine, so long as you keep up with water changes and add them over the course of a few months once the cycle is completed. You could also add a cleaner shrimp or something like a strawberry crab almost immediately once cycled. The reason they all work is because these fish are all peaceful and tend to find a spot in a tank and almost never leave it, regardless of the tank size, and they all have relatively small biological footprints. I kept a clown pair, a randall goby/pistol shrimp, a fairy wrasse, and blue spot puffer in a 20 nuvo with lots of rock and coral for years before upgrading and they were all healthy and fat, and I never had any issues with water quality (kept sps in there for a while before the maintenance became too frustrating).

 

In your tank no wrasses, mandarins, dragonets, tangs of any kind, or angelfish would be okay, so stay away from those, even if they're small. And as others have said, add slowly.   

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Thanks for the feedback everyone. I think I'm going to go with a single/pair of Clowns. I was looking at some of the variants ocellaris. I love the snowflake and regular ocellaris clowns. If adding a pair is it best to add at the same time or just make sure that they are two different sizes when the second is added? I don't want to overload the tank but it's also easier to get two at once.

 

It was great meeting some of you at Fragfest this weekend!

 

I dipped the corals when I got home but didn't have my plugs until today. Got them secured down as best I could. The corals are sitting on the sandbed receiving light water cirulation. Figured that would be the best place to start and I can move them to a higher location after some adjustment time. Unfortunately, in all the chaos I forgot a couple of the names of the corals.

 

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I believe this one is a Green Montipora. I hope I attached it in such a way that it'll be able to expand.

 

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This one I think is a Blue Ridge Coral. Stupid me. I think I had the wrong picture in my mind and should have glued it vertically instead of horizontally. Should I adjust it or did I get lucky and not mess it up?

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The next two I'm completely stuck on. I tried looking through a list of common corals but most of them are pictures with polyps out.

 

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Are these Blue Star Polyps? Most of the stems seem to have fared ok.

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One step at a time!

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Before I get into the text here are the results from my latest water test. I tested the params using an API liquid test kit (high range):

 

Temp:78 degF (I would like to lower this to 77 or 76)

Specific Gravity: 1.026 (I hope to get down to 1.024 in the next month or so)

pH: 8.2

Nitrate: Reads 0 ppm or near 0.

Calcium: 400 ppm

Carbonate Hardness kH: 179 ppm, dKH: 10

Phosphate: 0.25 ppm (could be less, I could tell there was at least a little color)

Ammonia: 0 ppm

Nitrite: 0 ppm

 

 

 

My first marine fish is in the tank! I picked up a nice looking Davinci Snowflake clown (B Grade). The movement of a clownfish is definitely fun to watch.

 

The CUC now consists of two trochus snails, two cerith, and one each of astrea and nassarius.

 

Most of the corals from Fragfest seem to be doing well. The mushrooms still look green and mushroomy. The blue ridge coral spits out some tentacles when the lights are on, and whatever the whiteish soft stem coral is (I'm thinking it's a Sinularia coral) is doing well but keeps getting pulled from the plug. It got knocked over by one of the snails and now needs to be reattached. The coral I was calling a "blue star polyp" disintegrated pretty quickly. I wasn't able to get it on a plug the first night and I don't think it ever really recovered. A couple weeks ago I added a green star polyp (definitely doesn't look like what I was calling a "blue star polyp" before) and a small set of zoanthids. The zoas don't seem to be adjusting as well as I would have hoped. It's not in a heavy flow but the polyps don't seem to be fully opening and many remain closed. I'm a bit concerned.

 

I am having trouble with an algae bloom. It's a green dusty algae, looks like diatoms but not as dark. The algae melts away when the lights turn off which clouds the water.

 

I find it strange that Nitrates are so low. They have steadily been declining since the cycle finished. This is definitely different that freshwater and there shouldn't be any anaerobic bacteria yet, right? I'm thinking the algae is consuming the nitrates.

 

 

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Don't worry too much about the algae bloom. Your tank is going to go through a bunch of ugly algae stages as the system finds a balance, given that it's a brand new tank and it started with dry rock. Different kinds of nasty looking algae are gonna coat and discolor the rock as it matures. Keep cleaning the glass, but fight the urge to mess with the tank too much.

 

Also, that's a nice looking clown. In a cycled tank your size, you could add another and not have any issues. Yours looks like a juvenile, so when you add another, try to find one that's noticeably smaller or obviously larger. You don't want to add a similar sized clown or they'll end up fighting for dominance (had that happen when I added two small clowns in an old tank. Lots of lip locking and chasing). Make sure it's another ocellaris. The larger one will almost always become the female and will stay much larger than the male, so keep that in mind when deciding whether you want the next clown to be bigger or smaller than the one you already have. It would probably be easier to add a smaller juvenile since the clown in the tank will already be settled.

 

You're way ahead of the curve for a first-timer (in salt). Just keep doing less than you'll think you need to aside from water changes and you'll avoid most of the expensive mistakes the rest of us made with our first tanks.

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Thanks much Rt! It's funny how tanks stabilize like that. My 75G has a huge Central American cichlid in it who is super messy but I barely have to clean the glass, maybe once a month. Big waterchanges there help though.

 

I'm hoping the zoas are able to rebound and open up. I'm thinking this weekend I'm going to turn the lights off before I do my waterchange. That way this algae will melt away into the water column so I can remove at least some of it. Make some room for some new algae to grow :D

 

I'm all for learning all the lessons that everybody receives with their first tank...I'd just prefer to not learn the hard way! Thanks again for the help!

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hoRs4WZ.jpg

 

 

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Everything has been a bit stagnant over the past month. I am concerned that the GSP and mushrooms aren't doing well. There is something off in the tank and I'm not sure what it is. Nitrates are still reading negligible.

 

I'm currently fighting blooms of cyanobacteria but fortunately (or perhaps not) much of the previous algae variants seem to be under control.

 

My stocking is currently

1x Picasso Clownfish

1x Fire Red Shrimp

 

CUC of mostly snails. I added a couple of small hermits but I haven't seen them for awhile.

 

One of the upgrades I would like to do in the near future is to turn the second chamber in the filter into a mini refugium. I'd like an area to grow some macros and may try to find some bits of the super porous cube rock for it. Attaching a light to the back wall could give the energy required for the macros while I can cover up the panel so I don't have to see it. Additionally, I want to close up some of the top baffles to improve the flow through the filter. I feel it's rather poorly designed as the first block can be nearly entirely avoided.

 

I also don't have many places to place coral plugs in my current reef rock. I built some custom frag plugs that use an airline tubing as the stand. I think taking a drillbit to the reef rock will provide a bunch of places to move corals around while retaining the look of the rock.

 

Questions for the forum:

1) Is there a usual indicator/trigger for cyanobacteria (flow, phosphates, calcium, gold (jk))?

2) Is the best course of method for fighting cyanobacteria/red slime waterchanges (to restore/remove whatever the imbalance is)?

3) Are there any recommendations on building the refugium?

 

Thanks!

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It's been a quite a few months since the last update. Had the opportunity to see some of you at the Winter meeting. It was fantastic listening to Wayne Scott speak. He's got a great story to tell. I am still using stock lighting and return pump.

 

As rt502 said, the tank settled down and the algae blooms stopped. It's not quite as well balanced as my freshwater tank but getting there.

 

Fauna is currently only at a Picasso Clownfish. The Fire Red shrimp never seemed to flourish. My tank may not have been mature enough. He went through one molt but died shortly after (the molt didn't seem to have failed so I think I rushed things).

 

The corals seem to be doing well. Current stocking includes

  • Sinularia
  • Zoanthids
  • Blastomusa
  • Green Star Polyp
  • Hollywood Stunner Chalice - Thank you to whoever donated these at the Fall Meet-up.
  • Green Mushroom
  • Ricordea
  • Blue Ridge Coral

Trying to keeping it nice and simple as I learn the basics of this hobby. The Zoanthids and GSP have grown quite well and are already spreading onto the rock. The Blasto has just recently started sending out another head.

 

My current challenge is finding the best way to secure the corals to the rockwork. I want to get everything in a good position so I can stop having to pick them up off the substrate if they get bumped. I do not think I got the best rock for mounting coral because the holes aren't large enough to fit the frag plugs. I created some custom frag mounts using airline tubing and magic-sculpt. They still need some work. I'm considering taking a 3/8" drillbit and putting in a bunch of holes around the rock. Thoughts?

 

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Edited by Aquastudent

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Tank is looking good! 

 

Mounting everything to the rocks is always a good idea, it's usually best if you can get the coral off the plug and mount directly to the rock. I have had tanks in which I have drilled holes for the frag plugs, including some rock in my current tank. I don't see anything in there that would justify such a big project. 

 

You'll want to be careful with that green star polyp. It will overrun that entire rock. Those zoas will most likely grow out pretty fast as well and cover the other side of the rock. I see you having to move the blastos down or somewhere away. 

 

The chalice will most likely cover that top rock, watch out for it's long sweeper tentacles that come out from it's eyes at night, they are known to sting corals placed inches away!

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Awesome. Thanks Sublime. I didn't realize chalices were known for sweeper tentacles. I'm surprised it and the sinularia haven't had issues yet. I'll see if I can better place the chalice. The sinularia has done well to dig in.

 

I did recently pick up some instant ocean epoxy. I think I'll be able to take a dremel and grind off the pin on the plugs. Then I can more easily mount it somewhere with the epoxy.

It's tricky trying to visualize how everything will grow. Thanks for the guidance.

 

Eventually I would like to have something like a hammer or a torch for that extra movement, color, and anemone-like features. I'll see if I can clear up space for that. Not sure if I'll be able to do it.

 

 

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Let me know if you want to give an anemone a shot, I have plenty of hearty BTA’s, you’re welcome to one.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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On 2/23/2019 at 2:04 PM, YHSublime said:

Let me know if you want to give an anemone a shot, I have plenty of hearty BTA’s, you’re welcome to one.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

Thanks Sublime. I'm hesitant because I have such a small tank. I have a feeling a BTA wouldn't go well.

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