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Been a long time.   Didn't realize how long until I looked at my post history and PMs.    7 years I've been out of the hobby but I'm back for another round.  Time really does fly.  

I was doing a LOT of international travel when I left the hobby.   Definitely the root cause for my tank decaying.   Spending a week, or two, a month overseas means the tank is neglected.    Not good.   It started to decline, and I lost interest.     

Now, I have a normal travel schedule.  Just family holidays so maintaining a tank will be more feasible. I've got the itch to have some aquatic pets so I'm starting with a 40 breeder this time around.

I'll add more pictures, details, and progress notes below.   This picture was from the tank's launch on 2023/02/23

Hello to everyone!  



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On 3/8/2023 at 8:26 AM, Timfish said:

Welcome back!  :D

Thanks TIm!

More details on what I'm doing, and why.

Plans and Goals
In my last experiments, I tried to do way too many things.  I want this tank to do a few things very well this time.  Not a tank that does everything. This tank will be mainly rock, sand, and coral. Minimal bio load from a critter perspective.  This should be more of a garden.   

Design / Theory
Zero livestock so far.    If you read the list below and wonder, yes there is no sump, refugium, or skimmer.   I'm going back to my roots and doing what has worked for me before.  This is a very low-cost build except for the lights.  I went high-end on lights so I could have whatever coral I decided upon.

I intend to do 20-30% water changes every week or two.   I already have a large RODI system with storage tank from previous hobby excursions.  This takes up almost no time and should replenish various elements and remove any junk in the water.

The HOB filter provides surface skimming.  See the small inlets in the attached image?  "Tidals" are great there.   I can add carbon, media, etc. as well.  They even put the pump in the water, so it self-primes which was a major issue with other HOB filters.   These are way better than the HOB filter and setup I had to work with in the past.   I used Krylon to paint the blue bits black, so they don't stand out.   

The power heads provide flow.   I still need to hook up the wave maker.  

Between the above and the live rock, it should get the job done, as far as filtration and cleaning.  

Cementing Rocks
Built an aquascape from CaribSea LifeRock kits. PIcture attached.  I liked the color and seemed easy. It was.   Used some Marco Rocks mortar to 'glue' it all together dry.  Not my normal method but it was fun.   Took about an hour and cured overnight.   Next day it was SOLID.  I was happy with the mortar and would recommend.    I think this was a cool way to build a scape from dry rock but with live rock it may be different.   Great for dry rock.   Pro tip, wear latex gloves.  It aint good for your hands.

Palacios Sand
I have another house down in Palacios.  I harvested about a gallon of sand off of the deep end of the beach and brought this home and, added it to the tank.   Should add some diversity, but maybe some odd organisims, but oh well.   Honestly, I don't think it did a whole lot other than volume and color.  But I may be wrong.

Tampa Bay Saltwater Rock
Ordered 8# of base live rock from TBS.  Used their rocks in prior builds.   Here I wanted the base low-end rock for bacteria and pods, not rock with algae and sponges etc.   I want filtration for now, not showy rocks to start with.    These will be moved to the next tank after they sit in here for a month or two and seed this one.   This rock is ordered.  Not added yet.   Pending delivery.

Time Before Lights
Keeping the tank 'dark' for now.  It is in between the kitchen in dining area so it gets light but doesn't have a T5, halide, or LED on it.   It is essentially dark.   I intend to keep it like this for a while to avoid pest organisms.    Will it work?     :D The idea is cycle, add fish every few weeks, and then turn on lights after about another month.    Let's see how it goes.

Gear List
Imagitarium    Brooklyn Stand
Aqueon    40 Breeder

Seachem / Sicce    Tidal 75 HOB Power Filter
Hydor Koralia    P29301 (750-850 GPH) X2
Hydor Koralia    Wavemaker Basic Controller, Dual Pump, 12V, DC (not installed yet)
Eheim    Jager 3615 125W

Starter Stuff
Dr Tim's    60 gallon Fishless Cycle Bundle
API    Bacteria in the bottle
ARC    Pink & Purple Live Coralline Algae Kit

Rock and Sand and Salt
CaribSea    LifeRock Nano Arches
CaribSea    LifeRock Nano Reef Kit
CaribSea    Aragonite Aquarium Sand, 10 lbs X4
Instant Ocean Reef Crystals Salt
Marco Rocks    E-Marco-400 Aquascaping Mortar Complete Kit - Pink

Kessil    AP9X LED Lighting Panel
Kessil    AP9X Mounting Arm

Stocking Plans
All that planning and no talk of fish or corals.....  
Royal Gramma x1
Pygmy Cherub Angel X1

Cryptic 6 Line Wrasse x1

Helfrichi Firefish X1

Peppermint Shrimp X1

CUC Conch Snails     x1

CUC Other Snails X2

CUC hermits X10

Porcelain crab X2

Hollywood Stunner Chalice

Birdnest Coral

Orange Monti Cap

Mystic Sunset Monti

TCF Flurry Acro

Garf Bonsai Acro



Edited by Grog
Updating stock list again.
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Sounds good to me!   Some are familiar with how successful Le Chin Eng's systems were back in the 50's and fewer with the systems set up by Dick Perrin who was the first corals farmer in the US back in the mid 90's that were set up the same.

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Now I'm in the waiting zone. 

Ammonia at zero.   Been like that for days.

Nitrites were super high.  Solid dark purple in the test.   Wanted to get it to mid-range so I can see if it is actually coming down.   25% daily water changes.  Finally, today it is at 1 PPM.  Suspect it was between ~10 PPM a few days ago, when the ammonia got cleared up.  This is based on quick math on water change volume, no way to really tell.   It was off the chart.   

Now maybe I can see how it is progressing with my tests.   Not just that it is, 'really bad'.  :D

Still no livestock.   Not adding anything.  I'm just going to wait and go to the coast Friday and Saturday.   I'll test it again when I get home Sunday.  I'll post an update then.  

Have a good weekend. 

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Trip to the coast got cancelled.  

Home all weekend, which is not a bad thing.   It will give me more time with the dogs.  I couldn't resist so; I tested nitrites just now.   They are definitely coming down.  Hard to tell from the test but it is lower than 1 PPM and greater than .5 so I'm calling it .75 PPM.    Progress.   :)

I should sing it like Tom Petty, "the waiting is the hardest part."

I'll work on getting my 75G set up, and some stock plans while I'm home.  Yes, I'm doing two builds at once.  In my mind I can do both for about the same effort.  I'll start a separate thread for that one.  It will have different goals and slightly different setup.

Also, need to hook up the HK wavemaker thingy that is just sitting in the box.




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Tested the water this AM.   Called the tank cycled.  Just a trace of nitrates, ~.25.  Way less than expected.   

Tank is cycled, so one fish gets added.   Cherub Angel is the first addition.  Very tiny OMG. I don't use this word much, but it is 'cute'. 

Installed the Kessil AP9X and the HK wavemaker.    Kessil installation was super easy as I purchased the gooseneck mounting arm.    Very happy with it even though the app was a bit fiddly to connect.   Once the app was set up it is easy to use.   The Kessil has amazing color, and the shimmer does look like old school halides.   I'm happy with it and glad I'm not drawing 1200W and making all that heat like my halides used to.     Video attached, hope there is not dog noise in the background.

I did forget one thing in my vacation from the hobby.    Salt creep is real.   I'm doing good with my maintenance though.   

Tonight, or tomorrow, I'm going to make a custom screen top for the tank.   I've changed my stocking plans a bit and want a Helfrich Firefish now.   Saw one at Aquadome today and I have to have one.

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Tested everything today.   No change in parameters after adding the tiny Pygmy Cherub.  :)

Took the time to make a screen for the top.   Build a frame out of 1X2 materials and screened it with some window screen I had left over from a porch project.  Stapled it with stainless staples and painted black with Krylon Fusion.   Daily picture below.   The purple look is due to the phone.   Lighting is blue.

Yes, it will block some light but I'm not too concerned.    IMO this Kessil LED is total overkill for this tank anyway.  So, I can crank it up if needed.  If it becomes a low light situation, I can replace the screen with some metal square 'fencing' materials that have 1" gaps.   Not really a fan as that is galvanized.   I think this will work and help me keep that Helfrichi safely.   I'd be sad if it jumped.

And Tim, I took it to heart years ago when I was told to have surface agitation.   This probably causes more of my salt creep, and higher evaporation, but my gas exchange is likely very good.


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Hmm...  Turned off the HOB and powerheads to feed.   Little guy came out.    I don't think he is 'trained' yet to know "Hey its feeding time."   I'm wondering if there was too much flow for the little thing.   Leaving powerheads off and turned down the HOB to low.   I'll see how this works out, and gradually ramp it up. 

May need to wait till he's bigger.  That will give me time to get the tank to a mature state.  :P


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My suspicion why the cherub doesn't come out is there aren't any other fish so it doesn't feel safe.  Just give it time and a couple tank mates.  As far as flow I'm not sure what the minimum really is* and for the most part I'd say it's personal prefference.


*Nikko reef,  One of the most pristine reefs in the world, is fairly stagnate taking ~100 days to exchange water with the open ocean.

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Thanks again Tim!

He will have a buddy soon.  The Helfrichi is next but I'm waiting a few days to make sure I don't get any drastic spikes in my ammonia or nitrites.   

Looking good so far though.  :) Numbers are the same as when I added him.


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Tank parameters still looking good, so I treated myself to a Helfrichi firefish today.  :)

Added him, a peppermint shrimp, and a royal gramma to the tank.   They are all eating spirulina mysis without issue.

The flow was definitely too much.   Turned off the power heads and everyone is happy and being friendly.   Pic of Mr. Fantastic attached.

I'm going to switch out the HK heads I have for one of the nano HK heads.   I'll repurpose the larger HK heads over to the WIP 75 gallon tank.

I just noticed that all the fish in this tank are purple.  I need a red fish to balance it.   Six line is next, but it isn't really red.   Something small and red.

I'll admit, I'm kind of inclined towards purple.  Purple tomatoes and peas etc. always end up in my garden.


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Everyone is doing well and playing nicely together, which is a relief.   Peppermint shrimp is hiding somewhere (I hope).  He was hanging out under the rockwork yesterday.  No sign of him today.    

I try to name my pets.   Helfrichi firefish is now Mr. Fantastic.    Still need to come up with names for the others.

Swapped out the larger powerheads for the nano sized one.   The nano power head and the 110G rated HOB filter provide enough flow now.   Nice surface agitation and not causing the poor fish to run a treadmill all day.  I approve and the fish approve.   If I need more flow, I'll add a second one of these HK nano heads later but, this should work for now.


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I hate it when my clients name their fish, hard enough to keep up with all the different names given stuff.  Got a call one day Mic Jager commited suicide,said I hadn't seen that on hte news and it was their wrasse that jumped. 🙄

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Tested water today for the first time in a week.   Ammonia was not at zero.  Barely off the zero mark.  I called it .25 PPM.    Nitrites at zero.   Nitrates at 2.5, again not zero but not the next color on the scale.     I think I'm probably slightly overfeeding.     The fish are all doing good even if they are scaredy cats.   They all come out eagerly for feeding.   The royal gramma is by far the most agro feeder, he wants to eat.   Nice to see.    The peppermint shrimp has been MIA for days, suspect dead but no carcass has been found.   

I had planned a water change anyway, so I did it.  30%.   Why 30%?   Because I have a 12g trash can and that is what I mixed.    Figured that also dropped the numbers to close to zero.   :)   Didn't bother to retest afterward.  I'll do it again next week sometime.    Cleaned out the HOB filter during this process.   Lots of 'stuff' in it.   That should also drop the numbers down too.

Happy with the way things are going. :)  

Will likely add the 6-line next.

Ordered some corals this weekend.    Looks like I have a Galaxea 'colony', a Hollywood Stunner frag, some fireworks polyps, and a green birdsnest on the way.   

Did a hack job of editing the photo of my rockscape to show where I think I will place them, once they arrive.

  • Birds nest top right, where the HOB filter overflow is and in higher light.  
  • Galaxea down in the bottom right, on a piece of rubble. Should get good flow from that HOB overflow from above and be far enough away from the birdsnest.  It is a temporary tank inhabitant and will go to the 75 soon.
  • Fireworks polyps left sand area on a rock island.  Again, using some rubble.
  • Hollywood stunner on the lower left side of the rock work.

coral placement.png

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Got in the corals today.   Super happy with the experience from thecoralfarm.com.   Great communication, packaging was suberb, came in on time, corals were healthy, and bigger than they looked in the ads.    Zero complaints.     The birds nest was so happy, when I pulled it out of the bag and put into the dip, it opened in the dip and has been open since.    Some pics below: Galaxea, Hollywood Stunner, and Birdsnest.    Sorry for the crud on my glass.  I normally do my cleaning in the evenings, and it is a bit dirty.   The purple tint is from the camera.  It freaks out with the Kessil depending on the angle.

 The only sad coral are the fireworks polyps, I'll get a pic of them after they recover.

Everyone is at the bottom of the tank.   I put the Kessil on 'acclimation mode'.   Never had a light that could do that before.   I think it is running at like 20% and ramps up over 14 days or so....






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Ok first question on the chalice.    I've never had a chalice before so no clue about growth patterns etc.   Looking at the edges here, is that growth, where it is kind droopy oozing on edges?  (Hoping this is not something bad...)

Also, I put it on that piece of rock as a temporary measure, for acclimation and elevation off of the sand bed.    I kind of like the rock and chalice combo.    Do I need to glue it or will it encrust and attach itself?  I can take it out and glue it but I like to leave things alone as much as possible.

And yes, the other frags are a little close to the chalice.  Temporary during acclimation.

Edit:  Tested the water this evening.   All good.  Nitrates barely noticeable. Not zero so I called it 2.5 PPM.   Ammonia and nitrite both at zero.  (I'm being more careful about feeding quantities and swishing the sponge from the HOB filter in clean saltwater every three days or so, to dislodge any food particles stuck in there.)



Edited by Grog
Added water parameter notes.
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OK, not going to worry about it.   Looking at the pics from the vendor I purchased from, it looks like this edge is where it was supported by egg crate previously.  I think it will be OK and is the growth edge.  Blue line is my highlighting.

I could be wrong but I'm not too worried now.   I'm going to leave it be.

But I do still wonder if I need to glue this one, or if it will encrust?




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Definitly not anything to worry about, the new growth is really thin and it takes very little effort to break it.  Hollywood stunner doesn't "grab" as well as some other corals but it will conform enough over time it will be pretty much impossible to remove with out breaking it.

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No real huge changes or issues to report this week.

Water parameters holding nicely.    Did a 10% change on Monday.

Got a clean up crew today, so that should help.

Also, added a cryptic six line wrasse as my potentially final fish.     I may  have room for one more....  

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UPS truck just dropped off my TBS order for this tank.   So, 8# or so of gulf rock added to the system.   This should add some biodiversity.    They included two porcelain crabs and a chunk of macro.    I put it all in the tank, but the macro will be moved in a week or two, to the new 75 g.   Not sure I want a bunch of macros in this tank.   But don't want to toss it.

And the CUC did their job.   The sand bed looks much sandier, less algae than yesterday.   They did a number on it in about 4 hours.   Earned their keep.

Edited by Grog
updating status.
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