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4 gallon Biorb rock flower anemone garden

Peter Gott

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Ok, so, I'm really self-conscious about this because I've never posted a build thread before, but since the last build I did was super awesome and super effective and super beautiful and I never posted a build thread and now it's gone ([emoji24][emoji24][emoji24]), I've decided to go ahead and make myself do this, even for my simple little pet projects like this.

And this little pet project is indeed little. It's my first venture back into reefing since my heart broke after the crash of my Dream build, and I'm doing it all with leftover and gifted equipment since I'm a little broke after just moving, lol. My new roommate remembered my dream build, though; and I'm the one who got him into reefing. So he gave me a little 4-gallon Biorb aquarium and told me to get back into it...

So here goes. In my past I've had a lot of success doing pico reefs with 1.5-2.5 gallon hexes with undergravel filters I modified slightly to support a deep sand bed, almost plenum style, but with more water motion derived from airdromes to keep large pockets of completely anaerobic conditions from developing. That idea is what I'll be basing this one on. And since my heart is still broken over the loss of my montis, leptastreas and acans, I'm not diving back into stony corals. Instead I'm going to make an anemone garden, partly because I've never done that before and partly because my partner loves xenia and I want something that won't let them completely take over for contrast.

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So for my initial equipment list (subject to change as I set this up), I've got:

1 four gallon Biorb, lacking its light

1 hand-me-down air pump

1 PAR38 custom LED fixture

1 liquid crystal thermometer strip

It's not a lot to go on, right? But that makes things interesting!

The first step was to test the Biorb itself. I wanted to test three things:

1: Make sure it didn't leak! This was originally a thrift store find (roomie says it was $6!) after all.

2: See how much current the air stone produced and also get an idea of what I would be looking at in terms of salt spray and evaporation.

3: See how accurate the liquid crystal thermometer strip was.


So, in order:

1: It doesn't leak! [emoji75][emoji119]

2: Flow is decent, and salt spray is surprisingly low, especially compared to picos I've run on airstones in the past. The bubbles largely float out to the edges before popping, and their curvature means that most of that is caught and flows back down.

3: Surprisingly, the little liquid crystal strip thermometer is spot-on. (This was tested with one of those traditional floating red alcohol thermometers.)

As a bonus, the light fit over the top like it was meant to; however, the evaporation rate was pretty high so I need to fix up some sort of cover. Here is where I should note that one of the reasons I have never posted a build thread is because I'm cheap, not an equipment genius, and ultimately way more concerned with what's inside my tank than how the setup looks. Y'all put me to shame with your DIY genius and awesome aesthetics. So on this note, I decided to try plastic wrap, lol.

Here's the LEDs from the PAR38 fixture btw!


And how it looks, currently in a cheap clamp-on desk light fixture. This is probably temporary, as it covers up most of the awesome heat sink.


That's all for now!

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Here is where I should note that one of the reasons I have never posted a build thread is because I'm cheap, not an equipment genius, and ultimately way more concerned with what's inside my tank than how the setup looks. Y'all put me to shame with your DIY genius and awesome aesthetics.

this is exactly what build threads are for...not just showing off the tank but bouncing ideas off everyone.

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this is exactly what build threads are for...not just showing off the tank but bouncing ideas off everyone.

Well in that case, hahaha, my reasoning for using the plastic wrap (besides being cheap and easy to shape) is twofold:

1) I can easily cut a slit in it to allow airflow without taking away from the overall splash-guard effect.

2) It is drapey, so the weight of any water droplets will curve it down toward the center, creating a concave effect and thus hopefully minimizing the amount of drip and then salt-creep over the edge and onto the outside of the aquarium.

So far in my testing this is actually working out! But for some reason, even though the gravity-induced concavity is occurring as expected, I'm still having some drippage over the rim until the water level drops a certain point past the rim. I think that probably has to do with some of the splash from micro bubbles hitting where the rim meets the plastic wrap. That's my theory anyways.

So this is a time-lapse video of the aquarium without anything in it yet, just the bubbles and the light. It makes me think of a TARDIS for some reason.https://vimeo.com/188575770

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More photos of the light fixture in test mode:



I didn't really like that fixture so I got a new one:


It came with a plastic sphere-cage-thing that you put together from two pieces to keep a light bulb from touching whatever lamp it is in, and I was struck by inspiration: I can use part of this plastic fixture to attach to the lamp for future additions of blue LEDs to be wired through.



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Sooooo it is time to get started. First off, this entire Picoreef design that's worked so well for me in the past relies on an undergravel filter, an air stone and a deep sand bed. Of course, the challenge with this is that undergravel filters aren't made for fine grains of sand, even when it's made mostly of crushed coral. So the next part of this project is to work with the filter, then put it all together!

Here's what we're working with:



I don't need all that carbon; I won't be able to change it once it's under the sand and rockscape! So I took it apart:


The carbon rests on top of a shelf that remains empty to draw more water through. I will keep that idea, but then put filter floss where the carbon is to help keep sand from getting sucked into the tube. The last thing I need is a volcano raining live sand down around my rockscape!

That process has to start by keeping the sand from getting into the filter though. I was going to use screen, but upon taking it all apart I realize the intake was at the bottom of the structure where it's attached to the sphere. So I decided to use a filter floss pad for both parts, and just cut it to shape!


I took the circle I cut and traced a smaller circle out of that to fit inside the filter apparatus. The ring that's left will fit outside it around the intake ports on the base. To be super safe, I super glued its outside edge to the sphere itself. 6ffbf03e03a05d7aec6dfc45f200eb2d.jpgf46d75aec8a74916bda683760e84a0d7.jpg


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Getting ancy waiting to see this stocked... whistle.gif

But seriously looks like it's going to be a really cool tank. Can't wait to see how this turns out.

Hahaha that's today!

Here's the next part:

First I built a rockscape around the tube and on top of the filter. I did it this way because the opening into the tank is just barely bigger than the filter, and it's hard to manipulate one's hand in there!


The once that was in I tried putting the live sand in. For the same challenge discussed aboce, that didn't work out quite as intended...



Anyways, now to add water!


...aaaaaaaand that's a mess. Looks pretty cool with the light though!


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So as a testament to the flow in here being pretty decent for an air stone and undergravel filter, it cleared up pretty quickly:78c69ec74e9361898bd9b59e96f5a938.jpg4e01d703aa9724a20639167c3fc8091e.jpg

I don't think I'm happy with the aquascaping though. Fortunately I got some extra liverock, so I'm going to see what I can do to fix it in a bit.

Also, I can see already that taking photos with my phone is going to be a challenge with this lighting. I put one frag plug of a shroom with some nice macroalgaes in already and you can't really distinguish it from everything else.

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Thanks guys!

So I finally couldn't wait any longer; and honestly, neither could the livestock I've been gathering! I think it's ready to begin. I put together all the pieces I've gathered this past week and this is what I've come up with: 113c85e44ab1f556d891df5aa7546dbe.jpg

First I figured out this rockscape, and I like it, but it was missing something:


The missing pieces were macroalgaes! They serve as a perfect backdrop, as well as helping with the overall balance of this little system. (Thanks Kim!)

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Assorted pics of hitchhikers and my first intentional pieces:

My first piece, the one that has been in here with the initial rockscape, is a tiny discosoma shroom. I actually got this because of the red gracillaria on the plug and saw the real beauty of the mushroom polyp later, when the sand started to settle. The colours just don't show; it's really lovely, with pale indigo striping on a rusty disc with gold flecks.495c952d94649ea02de629fc1fb6b498.jpg


Another discosoma, a bright red one, with a pink hitchhiker that I believe is some sort of colonial tunicate.


An orange and green and turquoise Ricordea yuma with a bunch of the awesome feather dusters in the chaeto Kim gave me.4f4d273f16f7d5ccfcf626894e8ecdb1.jpg

Some clove polyps I got from Pham, which match the ones I had in my last reef, which were introduced to me as Liam's clove polyps. They are currently at the apex of the reef, although I think I'll want some xenia to go up there too.


A beautiful little maxi-mini carpet nem...I know I said this was going to be a rock flower garden, but I couldn't resist this guy.


And finally, my first rock flower. Although the whole point of this aquarium is to be a showcase for them, this is the one thing out of all I've introduced that isn't doing well so far. [emoji17]We'll see how she fares tomorrow.6e55a4779fed4cb3a008140d56bc4dee.jpg

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Houston, we have a problem...1f3387d232f6647c2466da48eeb7e49b.jpg

I have no idea what this is from. The rock flower anemone is very unhappy, but still alive. Plus this just spiked over night, and before this all parameters were fine. The best I can think is that some sponge somewhere in the live rock where I can't see got an air bubble in it and died. And if that's the case I can't really access it either.

Soooo I guess I'm going to get several jugs of premium water from RCA and spend the day changing it out until this is gone.

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So I never figured out what caused the ammonia spike, but the water changes fixed it. They did not, unfortunately, fix the flower anemone.

With everything else looking good, I decided to get another RFA and see what this one told me. This one didn't immediately start puking its gut out, but it did keep moving around the aquarium until it was as far as possible from the red LED output. I've been having issues with that anyways and has been considering switching lights, but I like some degree of the warmth it adds. Ideally I would be able to dim it, but I can't on this fixture...

...cheap solutions time!!!

I got some heavy-duty heat-resistant translucent blue plastic and cut a square just slightly smaller than the total area of the circular end of the optic for the LED. Placed over it, the corners went off the edge so that I could attach it with tiny pieces of electrical tape, and there were four areas of the circle uncovered for some of the unfiltered red light to escape. Since if the corners were perfectly aligned with the circumference it would have covered roughly 63.66%, Ï think I effectively dimmed the pure red output by about 70%. Plus the remaining light filtered through the blue looks really cool. Overall the aquarium is much bluer and cooler in tone, but warm colors like pinks and reds and yellows actually pop even more now! [emoji75][emoji119]

And the rock flower nem was much happier. So I put in three more. The first one still hasn't recovered, but the rest are looking great.

The best part is, I can take better pictures now! ...except the diatom bloom I'm currently on my glass getting isn't being touched by my snails. Any suggestions for a DIY algae cleaner for a curved surface anyone?


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Wow, what a neat build! I'm glad you were able to fix the white balance so we can see what it really looks like in there. Very cool. I wonder if you can get a tiny glass cleaner, then put a slice of magic eraser against the inside on the magnet? That's what I would try. I have a couple really small nano glass cleaners if you want to try one.

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Thanks y'all! I have resolved the glass cleaning temporarily at least by taking a chopstick and a rubber band and balling up a plastic bag on the end and then tearing off another corner of a plastic bag and rubberbanding it over the balled up plastic bag. It's soft enough to conform to the sphere and not scratch the acrylic, yet allows me to apply enough pressure to get the algae off.

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I think the TLF nano mags are flexible enough you should be able to use them on this if you want a magnetic cleaner. For thin glass they're still one of my favorite cleaners.

But looks great. Such a cool and unique tank.

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