GOFOR'S 52" x 36" x 26" CDA Peninsula & SoCal Tank Room Build

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#61
THE BRAINS/CONTROLLER

I know there are other options out there (like GHL), but, honestly, I’m not well-versed in programming or anything more than what the APEX Fusion interface asks of you. I needed something that was easy to program/use that has a good reputation within the hobby, so my decision on the controller was pretty easy. Here is the run-down how plan to monitor/control the tank (I’d say this is phase 1, since I’m sure I’ll find other functions down the road):

  • APEX Controller:
    • Programmed Functions:
      • Return Pumps: I set these both up for Feed Mode (where they reduce speed or turn off during Feed Mode for 10 minutes)
      • Heaters/Chiller/Fan: already explained the set up for these before
      • Skimmer: I have this set up to turn off if either return pump is off, then delay turning it on after the return pumps turn on to avoid unnecessarily filling the skimmer cup when the water is too high in the sump. I also have a float switch in the skimmer cup (came with the skimmer) that automatically shuts off the skimmer if the skimmer cup is full.
      • Auto Fleece Filter Roller: I have this set up to turn off if either return pump is off (otherwise, the float switch that triggers the roller would unnecessarily turn on and waste clean fleece filter).
      • ATO: I have this set up to turn off if either return pump is off and delay turning back on for 5 minutes
      • Kalkwasser Dosing: I have this set up to turn off if the pH reads higher than 8.5
    • EB832 x 2: each one of these is plugged into a separate 20 AMP circuit and I strategically will be splitting up specific pieces of equipment between the two power bars/circuits for redundancy and power consumption purposes. Specifically, I’m splitting up the two heaters, the two cooling units, and the two return pumps just in case one circuit gets tripped or something else goes wrong.
    • I/O Breakout Box: I have some plans for this, but not 100% certain what just yet. I’ll likely have it connected to a light/switch so that when I open the shed doors, a light automatically comes on. I’m also considering adding a toggle box to be able to turn on/off certain pieces of equipment by a flip of a switch and/or to notify my when my ATO reservoir is getting low. Still mulling this one over, but its part of the arsenal of control.

 
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#63
Lookin good! The gramma and cardinals look suspended in middair! Nice crystal clear water


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Thanks! Yup, the filter roller is doing its job, and I just started the carbon reactor after I put the fish in. Hopefully I can keep it this clear.
 
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#64
Lookin good! The gramma and cardinals look suspended in middair! Nice crystal clear water


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I just noticed you're in Laguna Niguel... I'm not too far away (near Mission Viejo)! Always nice to see reefers in my neck of the woods.
 
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#66
How is the temperature doing with the sump being outside, and it's been pretty hot lately?
Actually, to my surprise, it hasn’t gotten above 78 degrees in the tank without ANY cooling on my part. It’s likely due to the fact that the shed only gets about one hour of full sunlight during the summer because it’s on the northeast side of the house and is shaded for the rest of the day (plus it is insulated pretty well). Pretty happy with that so far.
 
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#67
AUTOMATION/MAINTENANCE REDUCTION

Again, one of my goals with this build is to minimize the daily/weekly/monthly maintenance so I can enjoy the tank more and have more time with the family. With that in mind, I tried to initially focus on some of the tasks that are either high frequency (need to occur multiple times per week/month), and the tasks that are simply time consuming per occurrence.

Auto Fleece Filter Roller:

I already discussed this before, but felt it was worth mentioning again under this section, since, from my experience so far, I LOVE not having to change filter socks at least weekly.

Auto Top-Off:

I've implemented this on all of my tanks before, but it is worth mentioning. However, something that is different with this ATO is that, with it being housed in my shed, and in close proximity to my FW reservoir, it is extremely easy to refill when the time comes.
  • Tunze ATO Osmolator 3155: I know there are other options out there, but this seemed to be one of the more reliable options on the market for a piece of equipment that can easily fail and in a bad way.



  • Advanced Acrylics 18”L x 18”W x 18”T (approximately 25 gallons) ATO Reservoir: I figured I might as well get a matching ATO with my sump from Advanced Acrylics!







Water Changes using DOS:

My plan here is to rely on a DOS to do my core water change daily (totaling about a 26 gallon water change weekly, or just over 10%), then, on top of that, I’ll likely still do some manual water changes once a month of another 10 gallons or so to keep the sand bed and sump clean. In all, about 115 gallons (or about 50% of total water volume) water being changed monthly.





Dosing using DOS and Ecotech Versa:

I’ll get into my plan for adding supplements (e.g., Calcium, Alkalinity, etc.) a bit more later, but I will, at least initially, be dosing the elements rather than using a Calcium Reactor. Obviously not wanting to do this by hand, I’ll be using two DOS pumps to add the Ca/Alk/Mag, and the Versa to add my Kalkwasser (separate from the ATO which is just fresh RODI water).








Auto Feeder Using the Eheim Automatic Twin Feeder

I ended up going this route (at least initially) since I do not have power cords running from inside the house to the sump shed, and, therefore, cannot connect the auto feeder to the APEX (otherwise, I would have just used the APEX Auto Feeder). Not a big deal though, as I now work from home, don’t travel nearly as much, and will likely only place this feeder on when I know that I’ll be away for most of the day or on vacation.





Future Expansion for Automation

APEX Trident: I’m really tempted to add the APEX Trident at some point in the future, as I know that testing can take up some daily/weekly time. So this would obviously be a pretty great timesaver.
 
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#68
FIRST MEMBERS OF THE CUC

The first members of the coral/invert quarantine tank are in (I got them over the weekend), and my approach here is to get inverts that not only serve a purpose, but also are diverse and will gain the interest of my kids. I also don’t want to get too many inverts as I want to avoid (as much as possible) them starving or turning on each other (particularly the crabs) due to lack of food. So, I’ll be slowly adding them in small batches.

With that being said, since I don’t have any algae to speak of yet (I haven’t turned on my lights in hopes to avoid much of the ugly phase that often occurs at the beginning of the tank’s life), I selected inverts that are omnivores and can survive (at least initially) on pellets/food I feed them until they make it to the big show. They will be in the quarantine tank for at least 45 days in hopes that this will avoid transferring any fish parasites that may have landed on non-living tissue (e.g., shells).

The first of the inverts include several small, red-legged hermits, but my kids’ stars of the show are the Halloween Hermit Crab and the two Skunk Cleaner shrimp. And since the quarantine tank is in the DT’s stand (and easy for the kids to look at), the kids get to look at them whenever they want.



 
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#69
Also, here's a quick picture of my jawfish in the morning daylight... I figured he was on the search for small pebbles to reinforce his den, so I crushed up some rock and sprinkled them in front of his den and he went right to work.
 

Smite

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#70
This tank is looking amazing so far.

I've been on the hunt for reef flakes but can't find them. Where did you get yours? My LFS doesn't seem to have any interest in special ordering me some, I don't think their supplier carries it honestly.
 
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#71
This tank is looking amazing so far.

I've been on the hunt for reef flakes but can't find them. Where did you get yours? My LFS doesn't seem to have any interest in special ordering me some, I don't think their supplier carries it honestly.
Thanks!!!

I actually ordered reefflakes from Premium Aquatics, but that was a while ago, and it looks like they don't have any in stock at the moment. I definitely like the look of it mixed with my CaribSea Special Grade.
 

Smite

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#72
Thanks!!!

I actually ordered reefflakes from Premium Aquatics, but that was a while ago, and it looks like they don't have any in stock at the moment. I definitely like the look of it mixed with my CaribSea Special Grade.
Gotcha, that's where I've been checking for the last few weeks. Thanks!
 
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#74
REDUNDANCIES

Hey All… at this point, while I continue to quarantine and add fish (which I will post some pics of as soon as I can get a decent picture of each) to build up the bio-load in the tank, I’m really just fine tuning some stuff so that this can be as “set-it-and-forget-it”, or, more like “set-it-and-stop-messing-with-it”, as I can get it before I turn the lights on the real fun (and work) begins. The first thing on my list is making sure I have as many redundancies/back-ups as I can, so that when I’m not near the tank, my fish (and eventually corals) will still live on when something fails… so here are the steps I’ve taken so far (and would be interested to hear what you guys have done):
  • 2 Return Pumps: As I’ve discussed before, I wanted to have two Return Pumps (one handling the manifold and the other going directly to the DT) so that if one ever goes out, I at least have something pumping water through the sump and into the DT.
  • Electrical Redundancies:
    • Battery Backups:
      • 2 X MP40: I have two Ecotech Battery Backups, one each dedicated to each of the two MP40’s located at the top of the tank so that gas exchange can still occur for up to 36 hours when the electricity goes out.
      • 1 X Vectra M2: I wanted to add another redundancy to my return pumps and have at least the Vectra pumping water to the DT in times of an electrical outage.
    • Two Tank-Dedicated 20 AMP Electrical Circuits (and a third non-dedicated 15 AMP circuit): the last thing I want to have happen is that one of the circuits trip, and the whole tank shuts down. So, not only is the tank running on multiple circuits, I’ve also strategically placed key pieces of equipment on separate circuits.
      • 20 AMP Circuit A:
        • Return Pump 1
        • Heater 1
        • Fan
      • 20 AMP Circuit B:
        • Return Pump 2
        • Heater 2
        • Chiller
      • 15 AMP Shared Circuit C:
        • Lights
        • Powerheads
  • Temperature Redundancies:
    • 2 Heaters/Controllers with APEX as Backup Controller: I’m still undecided on how to approach this. I started with the approach of relying on the BRS Heater Controller to control the heat, and only have the APEX Controller act as a back-up (turning the heaters off if the tank goes over a certain temp), but I’m thinking of switching this so that the heaters thermostat is always on if the APEX tells it to be on. Positives/negatives you guys have found with each approach?
    • 2 Cooling Elements- Fan and Chiller: I actually have not even had to plumb my Chiller into the system yet despite some really warm days in August and September (although it is just sitting there ready to be plumbed), but I do plan to run both fans and the chiller so that if one fails (or if the heaters fail on), the redundancy will at least buy me time to fix/correct things.
  • Multiple Sources for Dosing Ca/Alk: I think I’ve decided on using at least two sources for my Alk/Ca. One, mostly for the pH benefits and added redundancy, will be kalkwasser (dosed separately from my ATO so as to avoid fluctuations). The other will be the Balling Method (using BRS two-part paired with Tropic Marin Part C). I realize this could also increase the risk of overdosing, but I’ll be using two elements that increase pH (Kalkwasser and Soda Ash), so my thought is that I’ll be notified by my APEX if my pH is higher than normal before a lethal overdose occurs. I’m still figuring this one out, but I have some time before I place all of the supplementation on line.
  • Multiple Tunable Filtration Components: As I had mentioned before, one of my goals with this build was to make things tunable. Aside from my auto fleece filter roller, everything else that helps remove excess nutrients is tunable (the skimmer, the refugium light, and my auto-WC system). This not only, in theory, will help me better tune my filtration to fit the bio-load of my tank at any given time, but also creates redundancies so that if one piece of equipment fails, the other pieces of equipment can be tuned to pick up the slack.
Sorry for the “wordy” and “picture-less” post, but I hope some of you find this information useful… or at least I can refer back to this for my own use later (if I’m the only one reading this post :D).
 
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#76
How do you like the Versa so far?


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That is a great question... I have it all hooked up, but I haven't calibrated and started using it just yet (since I haven't started dosing the kalkwasser yet). I'll definitely report back on it once I do though.
 
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#77
FISH UPDATES

So over the last several weeks I have resisted turning on my lights and have been slowly but surely adding fish through my quarantine tank (usually 2 or 3 at a time, each group with about 3 weeks total quarantine), and I also plan on obtaining a few fish through vendors that will quarantine for you. While I am not even close to the number and variety of fish I plan to have, I think I’ve put together a pretty cool group of fish so far.

As I have posted before, I have the Bluespotted Jawfish, who is probably one of the biggest characters of the tank and known around the house as “Jaws”. He has made a few dens/burrows that he seems to rotate between every several days or so, and adds a very different kind of fish to the tank (especially since my kids like to see where he’s made his latest burrow).



I also have a single Bangaii Cardinalfish, “Bandit”, who I tried to pair up but to no avail. Another very different looking fish with very cool patterning and I feel is an underrated “common” fish in our hobby.



Another fish that I’ve added is the Royal Gramma, “Kobe”, another underrated “common” fish in our hobby that adds an awesome splash of color in the tank.



Benny the Starry Blenny is another member of the fish family. Another “character fish” that has a ton of personality. And, honestly, this was one of the fish my wife specifically requested, so I HAD to get one.




I also added a Yellow Longnose Butterflyfish, who has been named “Bubbles” because when I saw him in the LFS, there were some bubbles in the tank that he constantly tried to eat. Not the smartest fish, but is another interesting looking fish that adds a nice splash of yellow.



Another member of the tank is a Firefish who has yet to be named (suggestions are welcome). I’ve always enjoyed these fish with their splash of red and white with their “spike” dorsal fin, and very intricate purple and yellow markings on their face.



Finally, I’ve added two Longfin Ocellaris Clownfish, who my kids simply call Nemo and Nemo Goforth (my last name), but I’m trying to push some other names (suggestions are welcome). I originally wanted to just pair an orange and a black/white Ocellaris, but when I saw the Longfin variety, I just had to have them. Clownfish have a hard enough time trying to swim, and these two seem to "trip" over their fins at times which is pretty comical. They are like the French Bulldogs of the fish world (almost not even functional fish).



 
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#78
GETTING READY FOR CORALS PART I- PREPARING FOR EXCESS NUTRIENT REMOVAL

I’ve been adding all of these fish without turning the lights on in hopes that I will get through the uglier phases of many new tanks without the tank getting too ugly. The rationale, of course, being that if I don’t have lights on while the phosphate/nitrate levels are not optimal, the nuisance algae won’t have much of a chance to take hold of the tank. So far, this has worked perfectly, since I didn’t really have any algae to speak of before turning the lights on (there was a very minor diatom bloom on the side of the tank where the sun hits in the afternoon after my first group of fish went in, but that went away within a matter of days).

So, I have been checking the nitrate and phosphate levels about every week to see any trends and address any upward/downward trends by increase/decreasing my auto water changes.



And now that I have detectable levels of both (been averaging about .16 ppm phosphates and about 7-10ppm nitrates), I decided to add on my refugium after acquiring some Chaeto from PodYourReef (and quarantining it in my invert/coral quarantine tank for over 16 days to ensure no fish borne diseases make it to the DT and observe for any other pests) and my refugium light.




Now that this component of the filtration is online, I’ve continued to monitor the phosphates/nitrates weekly to make sure I adjust the auto water changes and/or refugium light schedule/intensity so that I still have detectable/stable levels of each in the range of .03-.1ppm phosphates and 1-10ppm nitrates. Ultimately, when my tank is fully stocked with fish and corals, my plan is to see how effectively I can export excess nutrients by running the refugium at 100% - the sump chamber full of chaeto and running the A360X at 100% intensity for 12 hours – balanced with a specific percentage of auto water changes. If all I have to do is test my tank’s nitrates/phosphates weekly/bi-weekly and tweak the auto water changes to increase or decrease excess nutrient export in order to stay within my desired range, then that would be pretty awesome (since it is extremely easy to do with the APEX DOS). And if I need to make more dramatic changes that may not be addressed by increasing or decreasing my water changes, then I can turn to my refugium (intensity/duration) and/or my skimmer (wetter or drier skim).

Finally, I also introduced coralline algae using the ARC Reef “Coralline Algae in a bottle” to get the coralline algae seeded while turning on just the T-5 lights for now. Once I get some herbivores in the tank, I’ll turn on the Radions too, but no need at this point since I don’t have any corals in the DT yet.



Next up is adding more fish (two of which are the top-2 fish on my wish list!) in the coming days and weeks. I plan to have most of my planned fish list (minus some smaller fish) in the tank by a week into 2021, but we'll see.
 
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#79
smart move on the lights. in looking back at starting up my tank i basically had the lights on the entire time despite not having any corals, but i also didn't have enough herbivores to handle the hair algae outbreak when it came.

i really wish i would've done no lights for a couple months at least, got a proper CUC, and then rolled with lights on for another couple months to see what kind of algae issues would pop up so i'd have the ability to turn the lights off for weeks at a time if need be. instead i got antsy and got corals so now i just gotta deal with it
 
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#80
smart move on the lights. in looking back at starting up my tank i basically had the lights on the entire time despite not having any corals, but i also didn't have enough herbivores to handle the hair algae outbreak when it came.

i really wish i would've done no lights for a couple months at least, got a proper CUC, and then rolled with lights on for another couple months to see what kind of algae issues would pop up so i'd have the ability to turn the lights off for weeks at a time if need be. instead i got antsy and got corals so now i just gotta deal with it
Thanks! Yeah... I've made the same mistake on prior builds and swore to myself that I would just wait it out this time around. The first two herbivores are slated to go in this weekend (after the T-5's have been on for about 10 days), and, while there is a small film of algae that I can notice on parts of the rock, it's nothing I'm concerned with. Like you said though, if the algae starts growing more, I can just turn off the lights for a while longer until the rest of the herbivores make it to the tank.
 

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