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55g Reef

  • 55g-w-flash

11/03/02 - New 55 Gallon Setup: It was in a home in the Azle area, and was in really sad shape. The husbandry was pathetic, merely because they didn't have someone good to mentor them. After spending $4000, they were fed up with the battle and decided to sell. They put it in the paper months ago, for $2000, and not a bite. I saw the ad when they wanted $1000, but I told them although it was surely worth it, it was totally out of my price range. A week ago, they called me again to ask me to take it off their hands. As I thought about it more and more, I got excited. I thought I'd accumulate the funds over 2 weeks, but by Sunday I was getting money out of my account and heading their way --- only to check it out, right? Nope. I brought my trailer, draining hoses, buckets and ziplock bags. (grin) I took Phillip and John, my reef-moving crew.

It really was in poor condition, although they had tons of hardware available. The Live Rock was all green colored, although they had zero algae. As I removed the rock, I found beautiful purple coralline algae under many pieces. I put the fish in one bucket as they seemed to school nicely. All the 'corals' went in baggies, and the rock was moved to a rolling trashcan that I filled with existing water to keep it covered.

Yellow Tang & Juvenile Blue Angel Juvenile Blue Atlantic Tang
Juvenile Blue Angel & Yellow Tang
Juvenile Blue Atlantic Tang

They included a chiller, two Magnum 350 canister filters, VHO lighting (with TWO YEAR OLD BULBS!!! that were supposed to changed every 6 months), tank, stand, canopy, 120 lbs of live rock, two extra 10 gal fish tanks, an 4-stage RO/DI unit, a wet/dry system (never used), a bucket of salt, over $150 in test kits, tons of accessories and powerheads.....

Anyway, I took the whole thing straight to N. Richland Hills to buy 4 buckets of silica based beach sand, giving me a nice 4-5" DSB (deep sand bed). Then I went to U-haul to pick up a appliance dolly to move my 29 gal tank across the room. Now it is in the corner between the sofa and loveseat. The newer tank is in the old tank's location.

Beautifully abundant when the lights are on
Star Polyps

I got it all cleaned up, tried to find every crab and snail possible in the old crushed coral, and put them in with the LR and sand. I added the fish to the cold tank (all the water had gotten down to 61 degrees) and turned on the heater to raise the temp in the tank back to 76-78 degrees. A couple of hours later, to my amazement, the fish were hungry and took food readily!

The next day I merely observed them, and screwed around with the crappy Protein Skimmer (Sea Clone), getting it to work as well as it could. I made a small modification to soup it up, but it needs replacing. Finally, I tested the water to see where it was, since they told me they'd finally given up testing and just watched the fish for any warning signals.

Interesting non-light dependant coral
Red Gorgonian

Horrible water!!!

  • Salinity 1.020 - supposed to be 1.024
  • pH 8.0 - supposed to be 8.3 
  • Nitrates - off the scale!
  • Phosphates - 2.0!! should be .2 ppm
  • Ammonia - 0 (thank god) 
  • Alkalinity - 14 dKH
  • Calcium - 600 - supposed to be 450 max 

So yesterday, I made 35 gals of fresh saltwater, and did a gradual water change over an hour and a half. I took 20 gals of new saltwater and put it in a trashcan in front of the tank. Then I drained 10 gal of dirty water from the tank into the fresh stuff, and let those 30 gals mix. Then I pumped 10 gallons back into the tank until it was full, let that mix with the pumps for a minute or two, and drained 10 gals again, repeating this cycle a total of 4 times. Then I threw away the 20 gals of polluted water, and took my other 15 gals of fresh saltwater and did the same another 3 times.

Now (11/06/02) the water tested at: 

  • Salinity 1.024 
  • pH - 8.1 
  • Nitrates - 50 
  • Phosphates - 1.0 
  • Alkalinity - 13 dKH
  • skipped Ammonia and Calcium 

I moved a couple of red sponges and a gargonian into my healthy 29 gallon tank, to hopefully see them improve. My clam recently did a nosedive off the top rock of the tank, and settled in the gravel below, but seems happy. And I'm actually starting to grow coralline algae in that tank (the purple stuff) for the first time ever! Yay!

My son's first tank!
Mated Gold Striped Maroon Clowns

I took one small 10 gal tank and put it in Phillip's room. It has 2 pieces of LR, some crushed coral and a mated pair of Gold-Striped Maroon clowns. The female is HUGE, with the male half its size, but this is normal actually. She is far too aggressive, so I didn't put her (or them) back in the 55 gal tank, as the other fish looked beat up. The 55 gal has a Yellow Tang, another Tang, a Coral Beauty and a Imperial Angel, plus a badly damaged Royal Gamma that may or may not survive. One very pretty coral that has been spreading in their tank has survived nicely, and some other polyps are scattered about... a couple of starfish hide in the rocks. Maybe in 6 months to a year, this tank will be very pretty, but for now it will just have to re-establish itself and get healthy again. And Phillip actually likes his little tank, which might stimulate some interest in the future....?

please help me ID this if incorrect

11/09/02:  I rewired the VHO lighting to accept three 4' bulbs, added a nice 48" PFO reflector, and installed two 6500K Philips daylight bulbs from Home Depot ($4.67 each!), and one URI actinic bulb. The tank is much brighter, at 330w of light.

11/15/02:  Added one pound of Kent's Phosphate Sponge to the two canister filters. After 48 hours, phosphates dropped from 2.0ppm to .25ppm!  -- Much to my surprise, the Royal Gamma has been healing well, and comes out to feed with the rest of the fish. It is very timid, and darts back to a place of protection. I'm not sure if that is this fish's natural inclination, or if it was so harrassed in the past that it is simply scared all the time.


Give glue 24 hours to cure...

11/17/02:  I added a 14 gal sump/refugium to the system. Using an overflow box, water drains quickly into this converted wet/dry filtration system. It came with a downdraft protein skimmer chamber; I installed a Rio600 venturi pump. It has begun to skim nicely, although I actually inserted the bubble chamber upside down, giving the bubbles more distance to rise. The center section has sand and the heater, and the return area holds a Mag5 pump that has been throttled back a little. To avoid any potential leaks, I put a piece of semi-rigid insulating foam under the acrylic tank to relieve any pressure points. The porous foam block (on the left) was added to prevent microbubbles from returning to the tank, and to lessen the splashing sounds. I still need to add a light over the refugium area, and then add some macro algae.

The pictures may lead you to think there are many separate chambers, but that isn't the case:

  • The first chamber is the inlet, which also contains the protein skimmer. This chamber overflows to the next section....
  • The next partitian is 15" x 9", where the sandbed is and the macro algae will be. Putting the heater here gets it out of the display tank.
  • The final chamber is the return area (5" x 15"), where the return pump is, as well as my make-shift bubbletrap. Evaporation will be apparent, as the water in this final section will get lower and lower each day.
  • I put a highwater mark on the front of the acrylic wall to help me prevent overfilling when topping off with fresh water. If it wasn't marked and the water level was too high, then when a power failure surely would occur, the extra water draining from the tank would overflow the sump.




Six Line Wrasse Target Mandarin
Six Line Wrasse
Target Mandarin

11/22/02:  I added a Six-Line Wrasse and a Target Mandarin today, hoping either or both of them might eat the flatworms in the tank. While doing a big water change today to reduce nitrates further, I siphoned out a couple hundred of these little reddish-brown creatures that are scattered all over the live rock. Both of the new fish are very small, about 3/4" long each.   Nitrates: 25   Phosphates: 0.2   dKH: 11   Ca: 400

11/26/02:  I may be reacting prematurely, but the tank appears to really be rebounding nicely. The temperature of the tank has dropped 2 degrees (78 F), the flatworms are less apparent, and the algae sheen on the glass is far less than it was when the nitrates and phosphates were higher. Both protein skimmers are pulling out skimmate daily, the one in the sump more effectively, in my opinion. The fish look healthier and more alert than ever, including the Coral Beauty and the Royal Gamma. And they are definitely becoming less camera-shy.

12/02/02:  I've had it!! I removed that piece of crap SeaClone from my tank. It did nothing beneficial, wasted power and probably added some heat to my tank via the pump. I installed an electronic Tunze powerhead that has a maximum flow rate of 700gph with a really cool pulse feature. This is what the tank looks like with it:

Tunze Electronic 7310/2 powerhead


Once this powerhead was added, I removed one of the Magnum 350 canister filters. Now the tank temperature ranges between 76 and 78 degrees. I have a 200w heater set aside for now, but the tank doesn't have a need for it yet.

 Aqua C EV-200 Protein Skimmer

12/07/02:  The yellow tang died today. I'm not sure what the cause was, but it never looked healthy or fat from the day I got the tank. I picked up a new protein skimmer that I'll be incorporating into the tank soon. (See: Right) It has been soaked in hot water and vinegar overnight, and looks brand new again. I'll make a small modification to raise the water outlet 3" higher. It runs with a single Mag 12 submersible pump.

1/23/03  In the past month and a half, very little has been done. Once a week, I siphon out whatever flatworms I can find. I made a little "vacuum cleaner" for this task that works nicely. Taking a 10" piece of rigid tubing, I heated the end and bent it on a 90° angle to fit into tight spots. On the other end, I attached a length of airline tubing, which runs down into a micromesh bag that is sitting in my sump. As I vacuum out the flatworms, they collect in the sack, and the water drains back into the sump. I can take my time as I do this and the water doesn't get wasted in the process. When I'm done, I take the sack out and rinse it in the sink. This has worked very well.

I did a single large water change of 20 gals, and Nitrates are now 10ppm.

Trading with other reefers, I picked up some green button polyps, a kenya tree frag, some green striped mushrooms, a couple of blue mushrooms, a devil's hand (which is really pretty), and a recordia. Everything is small and new (to me), so I'm always looking closely into the rockwork to see how these new creatures are doing.

I haven't had the time to build my new sump yet, so the EV-200 is still waiting to be installed. The refugium is growing macro algae like crazy. I picked up some Chaetomorpha that is supposed to suck up nitrates as well.

2/03/03  Installed new sump & refugium as well as the Aqua C Ev-200 Protein Skimmer finally.   Removed the other Magnum 350 canister filter.  Tank temp: 77F

5/21/03  The tank has remained stable, and water changes are rare. The Blue Atlantic Tang and the Blue Angel were given to another member of DFWMAS, and are very happy in their new home. With them gone, all the other fish are swimming out in the open rather than hiding timidly. The corals have all shown much improvement, with that angel no longer picking at them. I'm feeding about one pint of phytoplankton every other day, and the softies have responded nicely.  Click here for growth pictures.

8/10/03  After months and months of procrastination, I finally installed Metal Halide lights over the tank. The two reasons why this took so long were #1) I didn't have the quick disconnect cords that ran from the mogul sockets to the PFO ballast, and #2) I didn't want to have to build a new canopy that would keep the lights off the water sufficiently.  See more pictures with details about the lighting and canopy. I built a new feeding timer for both tanks, to turn off my protein skimmer so everything has a chance to eat.

Full tank shot on 8-15-03

I rewired the stand for nice multiple outlets, which replaced the previous 6-outlet power strips I was using.
Half the outlets are GFCI, the other half are not. Now there is plenty of room for the light timers.

8/24/03  Finally after 9 months, I'm adding my first SPS frags to this reef tank. I've been waiting until the MH were installed as VHO lighting is simply inadequate for the job.  View the macro shots of all the new fraglets.

9/21/03  I picked up a few new corals. These are the new ones for this tank.

Acropora millepora

10/03/03 I've been vacuuming flatworms from the tank on and off since I got this tank, so today I decided to dose the system with Salifert's Flatworm eXit. Many people on Reef Central had already used the product with success, so I felt reasonably secure in doing so. The first thing I did was install the Magnum 350 (canister filter filled with carbon) in front of my sump. After running it for a few minutes to make sure it would run correctly, I turned it off. Within minutes of dosing the tank with 60 drops of Flatworm eXit, I saw many flatworms dying, floating on web-like threads in small clusters. I vacuumed this out with airline tubing every few minutes. After 30 minutes, I added another 30 drops, and turned on the canister filter. The skimmer was on the whole time, but didn't start skimming until several hours later. The tank didn't react to the chemical, except for my featherduster. It looked curled up and wilted, but recovered quickly. I changed 18g of water after about an hour. No losses, and no more flatworms! Step by step instructions

03/15/04 Three images of the tank as of now:

4/12/04 - Threadfin Anthias

04/26/04  While shopping at Home Depot, I came across a new bulb that works perfeclty over my refugium. It only costs $10, and Cheatomorpha (macro algae) grows like crazy under this lighting.After I was sure of this by observing it for three months, I told others about it. Read my review and get more details.

05/11/04 The tank has been reaching 83F and it isn't even summer yet. I finally installed some cooling fans in the top of my canopy. They blow air down, sucking fresh air from the living area. The fans blow on the surface of the water, and the flow forces the heated air out the back. My Personal Logs include more images, but here is one with the lid flipped back.

05/13/04  I'm trying out the new T-5 lighting on my tank. They now come as a one-piece setup with the bulb, ballast and reflector all built into one device. Best of all, it uses a simple two-pronged plug! Here are all the details.  I also picked up a baby Tridacna Maxima at the same time.

07/07/04 I took a bunch of pictures today, trying to get a shot of every item in my tank. Here is a page with 60 images, and that I know that it wasn't quite everything!

08/02/04 The 55g tank was broken down today, and the contents were transferred into my new 280g reef!!

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