Greyson's 125g reef

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I decided to jump on the journal migration from that other place. Since I'm here all of the time maybe I'll update more.

We've had our DT up in some form or another since May 2020. We originally had a used tank, but noticed it was badly scratched so we swapped it out for a new one. Had the plumbing to our sump, which is in the basement, all wrong and had to redo it along the way. Running the following equipment:

ReeFlo Barracuda/Hammerhead Hybrid Gold external return pump
EShopps Overflow w/bean animal style drain system
Simplicity 320DC Protein Skimmer
Air Water Ice Extreme Typhoon III 5-stage RODI system w/booster pump
Neptune ATK
2 EcoTech VorTech MP40s
Apex EL
Aqua UV 40 watt sterilizer
CaribSea special grade reef sand
2 500W Finnex heaters
Glass lid tops
AWC with Apex DŌS
AquaticLife 61" T5/HO Hybrid Light w/ (2) ATI 80W 60" T5 Blue Plus and (2) ATI 80W 60" T5 Aquablue Special & 3 ViparSpectra 165W LEDs
IO Reef Crystals
EShopps filter socks (2)
Clear Water CW-100 ATS
Neptune flow meter

Stock so far:
4 ocellaris clownfish
6 blue green black axil chromis
2 orange spotted gobies
2 red-banded pistol shrimp
2 harlequin shrimp
1 Mccosker's flasher wrasse
1 banggai cardinal (started with 3)
2 conch snails
9 tuxedo/pincushion urchins
1 long-spine urchin
blue leg, scarlet hermits, various snails
1 cleaner shrimp
2 BTAs
1 rhodactis mushroom
1 cristata
1 torch
1 pulsing xenia
various zoas
1 candy cane
1 toadstool
1 monti frag
1 birds nest

I started off by QTing myself, then realized I suck at QT so I've been purchasing fish and inverts from Dr. Reef and have a coral/invert QT set up for everything else.

We're on Instagram as greysonsreef. We set this up for our 9 year old son who's on the spectrum. He's always enjoyed fish and anything visually stimulating so this is a perfect fit!
 

oceanfrontinNE

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oceanfrontinNE

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Nice build! Is it wrong how much I love the basement plumbing!? It looks mental and over-engineered and I love it haha
Yeah my husband loved doing it. Lol He is not a plumber and reminded me the whole time. :p

This is how we originally had it plumbed. The upside down “U” created cavitation and we had to drill the sump instead and feed the return from a bulkhead in the return chamber.
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oceanfrontinNE

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Looks awesome!! Always love a basement sump!! How are you liking the algae scrubber??

And good thing you switched out and drilled the pump inlet. The way you had it before was definitely hard on the pump.
It works great! I haven’t had it online for awhile because I had way too much nutrient export, my po4 and no3 bottomed out and I got dinos. But when I had it on it worked well.
 
It works great! I haven’t had it online for awhile because I had way too much nutrient export, my po4 and no3 bottomed out and I got dinos. But when I had it on it worked well.
Awesome!! Have you thought of running the lights on a timer and just cutting back on the time it's on instead of taking it offline? Or is that something you're doing now?
 

oceanfrontinNE

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Awesome!! Have you thought of running the lights on a timer and just cutting back on the time it's on instead of taking it offline? Or is that something you're doing now?
Yes! An outlet on my EB8 opened up and I’m going to get it on there so I can set the photoperiod on Apex. Just waiting to get some algae growth in the DT before I turn it back on.
 

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I was very wordy and detailed when I did my build thread "over there" so I'll break it down into smaller chunks over here. Here's where it all started...

My husband and I decided to dive into the world of saltwater aquariums and really challenge ourselves with a fish and coral reef. Our 8 year old son, who has autism, has always been a visual guy and loves the movement that our 55gal freshwater goldie tank brings, but has been begging us to get him a saltwater aquarium and we finally caved. We've had the tank for a few weeks now, so this first post might be lengthy to catch you up with what we've done so far.
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I'm not a person who goes head first into things and I like to research as much as possible before starting something new. So, I watched the 52 weeks of reefing on Bulk Reef Supply's YouTube channel and started the search for equipment. We live in a rural area of Nebraska so just going to the local fish store is a 3 hour round trip and I wanted to do as much research on the internet as possible. I found a used 125 gal aquarium on Facebook Marketplace that looked to be in decent shape, although the owner did disclose that there was a chip in a corner due to a rogue pool ball. He had the tank filled when we went to check it out so we knew it held water, but in hindsight I wish we would have taken a closer look after draining it because it's scratched up in places, which were not as noticeable when it was full. I talked him down to $200 from $250 (it came with a Sun Sun canister filter, which we're not using for the reef aquarium, but I've got a back up now if my canister on my freshwater aquarium dies), we loaded it up in the minivan and set off to the fish store to have it drilled since it wasn't saltwater-ready.

We went to Fish Freaks in Omaha and the owner was very kind and showed us all of the stuff we needed for the overflow box and returns. I'm pretty sure he could tell we were absolutely clueless. LOL While he drilled the tank an employee took the time to show us the sumps on their tanks and explain the various equipment to us. We picked up an Eshopps Ghost Overflow box, bulkheads, Loc-Line for the return water, gate valves and some dry rock. The overflow box is a Bean Animal style, with a primary, secondary and emergency drain. We got about 30lbs of regular bulk rock and a 5lb chunk of Fiji purple reef rock thinking that would be enough LOL. We decided on CaribSea Special Grade Reef Sand and picked up 5 bags for 100lbs total.
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We also looked the stands they had. My husband built the stand we have for our 55gal freshwater tank and he did a great job, that stand is very stable. We were still on the fence on what we'd do for a stand, so we waited until he could price out materials. It came out to a savings of about $100 for what he wanted to use, but considering how busy we are, we decided to go back the next day and get an already-assembled birch stand. We also picked up Instant Ocean Reef Crystals Salt, glass lid, Eshopps sock holder and socks (size XL, came with 2 socks) and a couple Aquatop Max Flow Powerheads. We also picked up a 40gal breeder from PetSmart for our sump.
 

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We decided to do some rearranging in our kids' room and relocated the 55gal freshwater aquarium in their bedroom. We put the stand for the 125gal where the freshwater aquarium was in our living room. We got it up on the stand and that's when I noticed all of the scratches. There are a few that catch my fingernail, but it seemed that most of them were superficial, so I started researching how to get them out. I couldn't find any cerium oxide locally, so I order some and a buffer pad from Amazon. In the meantime, I started researching fish with my son, watched BRS 52 Weeks of Reefing on YouTube, added some things to my Amazon cart with a refractometer and calibration fluid to test salinity, large display thermometer, a Jebao DCP-5000 Sine Wave Water Return pump, Simplicity 320DC Protein Skimmer, a Hydrofarm Active Aqua 800GPH pump for the skimmer (which we later realized we didn't need because it comes with one) I decided the next step was figuring out what works best for producing water.
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Our water isn't terrible but we didn't want to deal with really not knowing the effects it could have on a saltwater aquarium. We have a Reverse Osmosis system for drinking and cooking water as well as a water softener, all from Culligan. They offer RO/DI water in 5gal jugs but we would need around 30 of them and would have to pick them up ourselves or wait 2 weeks for delivery. We decided it would be more cost effective over time if we installed an RO/DI system instead. Our not-so-local local fish store had an Extreme Typhoon III 5-stage system as well as Neptune Auto Top Off Kit (ATK), so we made another trip to Omaha. We also returned the Aquatop Max Flow powerheads and picked up two EcoTech VorTech MP40s. I watched what these little guys can do on the BRS 52 weeks of reefing series and they are so cool! So many options for different waves and flow patterns! I also picked up a Red Sea Reef Mature kit even though my husband had picked up Seachem Stability on a previous run to the store.
 

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My husband did the acrylic baffles in the sump based on what we've seen on YouTube videos. The first chamber is for the socks and skimmer, the second chamber will house a refugium, the next space will be for some sort of filter media, then the return chamber. Once that cured for 24 hours we brought it home. Initially, we were going to put the sump under the aquarium in the stand, however, the 40 gallon breeder tank we were using was too wide to fit. Before we had decided on this, we also threw around the idea of putting the sump in our basement. The space right below the area on our main level is being used for storage, but could easily be cleaned up and organized a little to allow space for the sump. The breeder not fitting in the stand forced our hand and the sump was going in the basement. We cut a hole in the corner to make sure we could route pipe through the floor joists around the ventilation duct work, sat the sump on the floor and got to work with piping the plumbing. We used regular white schedule 40 PVC and fittings from Menards. Everything has unions for easy dissembling if necessary.

While my husband worked on the plumbing, I started adding the rock we had to the tank and quickly realized we need more. I am in a local reef society Facebook group and put a call out for anyone in our area that had some. The president of our state reef society responded that he's got a bunch, as well as an Apex EL, UV Sterilizer, a BRS GFO and carbon reactor with pump and some chemicals that he's not using. Talk about a score! He gave us a very fair deal on all of it and really helped us get the process going.
 

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I went through the rock the next day and threw out all of the rock that was heavily crusted with organic matter and decided not to cure the stuff that didn't look so bad. My first attempt at aquascaping was pretty flat, so I stacked some of the rocks to make more caves and bridges. I got some pretty cool pieces from the previous owner that I think will add a lot of dimension to the aquarium. After that, I added the sand and spread it out.
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We picked up a large BRUTE Rubbermaid trash can from Menards to start filling for RO/DI water. Our RO/DI system came with everything we needed and the instructions were very clear. After installing the float valve and flushing the canisters we were ready to go! The only catch is that this takes FOR.EVER. It is sooooo slow. LOL It was full the next day, so we started adding salt and put one of the MP40s on the side of the can to mix the salt and put in a heater. We purchased 2 500W Finnex heaters from BRS. After about an hour or so, we put in a pump and started moving water to the sump. When the first trash can was depleted we turned on the return pump and started moving the water to the aquarium. We were disappointed when the return lines into the tank only trickled and we realized we have a problem with our return pump. This was originally going under the aquarium in the stand, but now since it's got to push water 12'6" vertically it was on the struggle-bus. Max head on this pump was 13'. I took a video of the output and posted it to our state reef society Facebook group to see if anyone had a used pump available that could handle the vertical distance. It wasn't long until we got a response and later that day we were, once again, on our way to Omaha to pick up a basically brand new ReeFlo Gold Hammerhead Hybrid Return pump. It's an external pump that can move up to 6000 GPH. We had to move around some pipe and get different fittings, but the next day we had great flow as we filled and moved another trash can full of salt water to the aquarium. In all I think we had to refill 4 times before we had enough water in the aquarium and sump. I added the 2 MP40s to each side of the aquarium for flow and added the water clarifiers that came with the sand. Last, I put the glass lid on top, added a heater and thermometer. We turned off the return pump when the aquarium was full so we could tune the overflow box, which basically looked like me upstairs yelling at my husband downstairs, over the noise of the water and the external return pump LOL. We had to prime the return pump and since it was already hard-piped, we had to get creative and weren't quite sure what we had in mind would work. We pumped water up the return pipe to the external return pump until it was as full as possible then turned it on. This was enough to start the syphon. After a LOT of fine adjustments to the ball valve on the return pipe and gate valves on the output pipes, we got the water level in the overflow box to settle. The rush of water through the weir is still audible and we're not sure what to do about that, so if you have any ideas, we're all ears. It's not that bad though. Many times when the freshwater tank needed topped off the flow from the HOB filters were so loud you couldn't hear the TV. ;) After a few hours, I checked the salinity with the refractometer (which I previously calibrated) and added more salt until I got to 35ppt.
 

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I unpacked the secondhand ApexEL I got and started researching the ins and outs of that system. We wanted to have everything organized and my husband had some leftover shelving at his shop, so he brought that home and cut some holes to feed cords through and I mounted the Apex, Energy Bar, and FMM that came with the ATK. I will say that the instructions for the Apex are not the best and even the current videos on their site have not been updated to reflect the most current version of their app. I tried going through the steps in the video and then decided to just follow the steps in the app instead. It went okay after that, even though I still felt like I didn't know what I was doing. The ApexEL comes with a pH probe, as well as a temp probe. I placed those in my refugium compartment in the sump with a probe holder I got from the previous owner of the Apex. The Tasks function on the app is very helpful for adding things and does a good job with walking you though the various steps. However, after plugging a few things I started getting notifications at all hours of the night and spent some time pushing buttons just to get it to stop!
 

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I assembled our Simplicity 320DC Protein Skimmer while my husband worked on plumbing and realized it has an internal pump so the Hydrofarm Active Aqua 800GPH pump we got from Amazon wasn't necessary. We decided to keep it though in case we need a back up for something later. I mounted the controller to our command center and connected it to the Apex. I couldn't figure out what the digital display numbers were telling me and couldn't find an explanation on the stuff that came with it or the website. Yesterday morning when I went to check on everything, the collection cup on the skimmer was overflowing with bubbles and the cup was full. I couldn't remember how to get the cup off and didn't know what to do so I chatted with a Simplicity customer service rep. They advised that the numbers indicate what level of power the skimmer is set to (1-20) was well as the power that was being currently used. The skimmer was running on level 4, so they advised it could be something in the water and asked if it was a new aquarium. I said yes and that we hadn't even added the bacteria starter yet and they asked if we have sand. When they asked that I had remembered reading that the water clarifiers that come with the sand can cause your skimmer to go nuts while it works to remove it. Removing the collection cup was easy, just a small counterclockwise turn and lift off. I dumped the water in the collection cup and put it back. The customer service agent recommended setting the skimmer at a level where the collection cup fills every 4-5 hours and gradually increasing it until we can get up to level 20 during this breaking in process.
 

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I went to put together the Neptune ATK yesterday. I've watched the BRS videos a gazillion times and finally sat down to just do it. Pretty simple, the only thing that hung me up was that they changed the type of valve to the input from one that you put the tubing through with a nut over it to a push valve but did not include that in any instructions that came with the kit or their videos. After figuring it out, I didn't know where I should put it. I asked the #AskBRSTV group on Facebook and they advised in the return compartment in the sump since that's the only place evaporation will be realized. I wasn't sure (and still not) what level I needed to keep the water at, so I just placed it with the lower optical sensor as close to the same height as the last baffle that water flows over before the return. This left the bottom optical sensor completely exposed out of the water. I connected the sensors to the FMM as well as the power to the PMUP (the annoying name for the pump you put in your top off reservoir which we decided would be another BRUTE Rubbermaid trash can) and plugged in the FMM. And, nothing. The power to the FMM was on and the status light was green, which was supposed to mean the ATK was actively filling, but the pump wasn't going. I sat down and played with the Fusion app a bit and got it going, although I don't know exactly what I did and walked away. I started looking into the ATK programming on the Fusion app and read a Facebook group thread about the ATK overflowing the sump somehow and it made me think I better check it. I went to the basement and the bottom and top optical sensor were both underwater with the pump still running. The float valve was not quite high enough for it to close off the flow of water, so I switched the pump to Off on the Fusion app dashboard. I googled my problem, which actually led me to r2r and a series of tutorials by John Halsey. The ATK tutorial mentioned making sure the probes are pushed all the way into the port on the FMM. I went to check and of course, they weren't. You really have to shove them in until you hear a 'click'. After reading the tutorial and understanding more on the Apex Fusion app I was able to properly program them. Although this morning when I checked on it I noticed a small trickle coming from the ATK. The float valve wasn't high enough to cut it off and the pump wasn't running, but a little wiggle of the float valve and moving the tubing around stopped the trickle so maybe there was a small siphon there. I've got the lids on the DT up to promote evaporation to counter the top off overdoing it yesterday. My salinity is low but I'm waiting until l get more evaporation to retest.
 
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