Foodshape's 1st Time SW Build


Update -

Re-did the sump (removed the baffles, cut them a bit shorter and re-siliconed them in place). I also smeared a thin layer of silicone over all the joints in the sump tank in the hopes of closing off any capillary leakage from the stress it was previously under. I then re-installed the sump, stuck a thin shim under the corner most likely to sag under weight, and also placed a piece of wood under the stand in that location for additional support. 5-6 wks later and all is well.

The skimmer was just not breaking in - was a volcano of white foam for weeks on end, and whenever I tried putting the collection cup on it would simply fill with water in under a minute. I did read up as thoroughly as I could on this skimmer (Vertex Omega 150) and I believe I understand the break-in process and know how everything should work thereafter, even though it's my 1st skimmer. I realized that I had used Melafix in the tank at one point and figured the problem was related to that in the water, even though I had run some carbon in a hob on the sump for 1-2 weeks afterwards (I guess it doesn't effectively remove the stuff). I tried raising the skimmer to a water depth of around 5" instead of the usual 8" and that did the trick. Within 1-2 hrs the Melafix was mostly skimmed out (a medium yellow translucent skimate in which I could smell the Melafix). The skimmer is back at it's normal water depth now and working as I understand it should - collecting a modest volume of very dark and smelly stuff.

There is a small colony of zoas and a mushroom coral in the tank at the moment - seem to be surviving well enough, the mushroom may even be growing. For fish, there are currently: 1 one-spot foxface (2.5"), 1 royal gramma, 2 juvenile ocellaris, and 1 Carpenter's wrasse. Only after quarantining and adding the wrasse to the DT did I realize it seems to have one ruined/missing eye - don't know how I missed that before! (or perhaps it only happened after I added it to the DT). Seems to be healthy and eating otherwise. There is also the cleaner and fire red shrimp, and a few small crabs & snails. Survival of the snails has been about 50/50 during the months the tank has been cycled. One of the two emerald crabs spent an evening releasing eggs into the water (welcome snacks for the waiting royal gramma). The crab then died (or perhaps molted?) a couple of days later.

Now to tackle the green algae that I've been letting go (and I've really let it go too far!). Taking several measures:
- reducing # hrs the lights are on, to just 0.5-1 hr at morning feeding and 2-4 hrs in the evening.
- being a little more careful about how much food I add given the # and size of the fish.
- finally switching to RODI water. I got fed up waiting for the Boxing Day Special I had ordered - the few months I was warned it would take turned into 8+, so I got my money back and ordered a 75 gpd 5-stage unit from Bulk Reef Supplies. Got it up and running nicely yesterday. My plan is to do a couple of large (eg: 40 gallon) wcs with RODI water over the next two weeks. I figure that plus using the RODI water from now on for regular wc/s and top-ups, in conjunction with the above measures, plus some initial hand-harvesting of whatever algae I can, should slowly bring things back on track. Then I guess it'll be ready for more corals!

All feedback/suggestions welcome of course :)


Long, long fast forward (over a year)...

The tank has been in limbo for most of that interval due to life issues I won't get into here, but now it's time to pick it up again. I've at least done the bare minimum to keep it running and avoid a total crash, but this tank really needs some more money and attention before it can properly be called a reef tank.

Of the fish I had introduced: the damaged carpenter wrasse vanished a long time ago. The royal gramma and Siganus unimaculatus are doing fine, as are a flame angel and two ocellaris clowns I added in late 2013. No other losses and no new fish additions since then.

Of the inverts, the skunk shrimp and fire red shrimp are doing fine. Haven't seen the remaining emerald crab in a few months (but then it had been a few months from the previous sighting too, so who knows). The last I saw of the remaining hermit crabs was months ago also, but I think they're history as they were not reclusive. Quite a few of the snails I added (trochus or turbo, I'm still not sure - maybe a mix of both) survived and happily roam the glass and rockwork. Lots of little snails of two types have appeared, one larger than the other. Not sure whether both are the spawn of the snails I introduced or whether either type hitch-hiked their way in (would had to have been 9-12 months ago as nothing has been added to the tank in the past 9 months).

Of the corals I originally introduced, the mushrooms have thrived, as has the doughnut (or cat's eye). The zooanthids are alive but in really sad shape. The leather coral died after several months. I had put two pieces of stony coral (a type of table acropora and some type of vertical branching coral) high in the tank to see how they would do under my LED light fixture. Neither did much and I believe they are now both dead. The frogspawn was holding pat until a few weeks ago when my light died, and is now faring poorly under a pair of old T8's until my new lights arrive, which brings me to the following point:

LESSON LEARNED ABOUT BARGAIN BRAND LIGHTS! The 48" Deep Blue Solarflare DX LED fixture I bought on impulse at a boxing day sale was a mistake. When working the 48x3w LEDs seemed quite bright and did look good to the naked eye. As to how the corals fared under it, see above... of course the novice SW aquarist that I am could easily have done plenty else wrong, so it might be unfair to blame the lighting. THAT SAID, there is one thing the aquarist can't be blamed for here - the failure of the light after 20 months (and the warranty was only 12 mths). For starters, the power supply went. The replacement unit the manufacturer now sells for it (which is apparently improved over the original in several ways) costs half what I paid for the fixture. I looked around at electrical shops for a lower cost solution but this is a very non-standard part. I could not locate anything with the connector sizes on the power supply and the fixture, let alone anything matching the electrical specs. Add to that, the guy where I bought the fixture tells me they're having to replace a lot of ballasts for these units. On warranty that is. He says if it's past warranty forget it - the price of the replacement will make you gag. (Gave him heck for carrying/selling this junk in the first place, just to vent.) The fan had also become very noisy on the fixture and was probably about to go... now replacing a fan should not be too daunting, but then neither should replacing a power supply, so who knows how much of a treat the fan would end up being! All said, I would probably in short order have ended up paying what the fixture cost again just to keep it working after a very short time. I now have so little confidence in this light and its manufacturer that I decided to cut my losses before spending a penny to fix this light. I do want to stay with LEDs though. I have two Ecotech Radion XR15w PROs on the way. Pricey, but that at least is a company that has earned a good reputation in the hobby. They'll fit well on the opening at the top of my canopy and I figure two of those should provide adequate coverage for a 4' 75g to at least enable me to confidently get back into corals, at the very least some nice flowing softies, and hopefully some of the less demanding hard corals.

Will post an update (and perhaps a pic to show what I'm re-starting from) in about two weeks.
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