View Full Version : Jenn's 29G FOWLR/Almost Reef

03-14-2015, 11:36 PM
Others suggested I make a journal focusing on my 29G project. This tank features a DIY manifold system frequently used in FW hillstream loach "river tanks". The purpose of this is to create a one directional wave effect similar to that produced by a wave maker however at a fraction of the cost. $30-vs-$300 is essentially my rationale for this experiment plus it gave me something interesting to tinker with for awhile. In the past I have spent far too much on marine tanks only to become bored with them. I have designed this tank to show that you can have a successful marine tank without spending a fortune; it is also a challenge to myself to see if I can avoid being sucked into the thrills and frills of unnecessary fancy equipment. I plan to set the tank up this weekend so I will post a photo then.

Here are some specs for you nerds:

*Coralife 150watt HQI-scored this on Ebay for less than $50 shipped, it has also been used less than 1 year
*150watt 15K XM Bulb- I bought this cheapo bulb to test the fixture, I will probably use it and see how it does. $11
*Odyssea ProPak Skimmer-this is essentially a CPR BakPak clone. This was a steal for $40 shipped
*Taam Rio RVT 800-Skimmer pump...I had to DIY a new intake to fit the Odyssea skimmer. It seems that the Odyssea skimmer DOES NOT fit most standard powerheads. I suspect this is a marketing strategy to force you to use their brand of pump. I tried 5 different pumps/powerheads I had on hand and none fit the intake. I however had a piece of rigid tubing from an old water system which was a direct fit to the Odyssea intake. I used plumbers tape and PVC cement to attach the Rio output to this piece of tubing. The Rio fit inside the rigid tube but was a tiny bit too loose so some plumbers tape with the PVC cement made for a secure fit. Another great item and cheaply done at $25 shipped
*SunSun 320GPH powerheads...got 2 shipped for $20
*Hydor Water deflectors- these will create my wave effect and outfitted to my SunSun powerheads should provide great flow. $16 for both
*Eheim Jager 100watt- on sale for $18
*Whisper 40 HOB-many laugh at these but they have a solid design for my purpose. The PolyFilter is a direct fit and replacement for the biosponge it comes with, and I can also fill the poly bags with any chemical media I choose. In my case I will be using Seachem SeaGel which is a mix of Matrix Carbon and Phosphate media. $20
*AquaCultured Live Rock-got this as an Ebay auction from Gulf Live Rock. No environmental impact and at $150 shipped for 35lbs it is a sweet deal. This stuff is a real reef dropped in your tank. Lots of macro, sponges, feather dusters, clams, starfish, corals, coraline, etc. This rock is why I am calling this tank an "Almost Reef". I also may add a few polyps down the road but Im not going to have a coral focused or dominated tank.
*Special Grade Reef Sand-2 15lb bags on sale for $30 shipped
*Kent Marine Reef Salt-200G bucket for $45 shipped
*29G black seal TopFin-$90
*Aqueon Glass Canopy-$20

Ok...so that is $575 for everything thus far. The only thing I have left is to purchase livestock and an RO unit. Sounds like a buttload for a little 29G unless youve done marine and you know this is bottom of the barrel spending. In the past I would have already been up to over $1K by blowing my budget on lighting and $9/lb rock:hmm3grin2orange:

I have been looking at an Aquatic Life RO Buddie...its $60 for a 3 stage unit. My city's tap water is fairly clean at 226 TDS at my last water report, I also have a 1 stage carbon filter on my home's water supply. I feel this unit would fit my bill of needs for the FOWLR/Almost Reef...anyone have any thoughts on this unit?

I have also purchased a TDS meter for my personal use and to use to check my top off water/mix water.

03-14-2015, 11:55 PM
Hooray! Thank you for starting this journal. I'm just starting to dive into SW and appreciate being able to learn from those with experience. It will be exciting to see what all you end up with from your live rock. Hopefully lots of interesting additions for your tank. :)

03-15-2015, 03:15 AM
If this rock is anything like what I have received in the past it will be pretty sweet.

What type of LR have you chosen for your tank?

03-15-2015, 01:01 PM
I'm using some dry rock and corals that my dad had in his reef tanks back in the late 80s / early 90s. I'm planning to have mostly macro algae and a few mushroom corals with lower light requirements than most reef tanks. I'm thinking that any live rock I get will probably be rather small with mushrooms attached.
I think you're build will be fun to watch since you'll likely end up with a good variety. Mine will be simple (I hope!) with not a lot of variety. :)

03-18-2015, 10:40 PM
Teaser photo of the bare tank....

My LR came in today and must I say...simply amazing! Many coral, sponges, clams, etc which I hope all pull through. And OMG at the amount of coraline...tons of purple, red, and even yellow.

In bad news...my Rio pump's output nozzle snapped, so no skimmer going. I will probably just order an Odyssea pump and hell give it a shot too the skimmer is sweet so the pump might not be too bad. And if it is well I'll mesh mod it and get more mist than I can shake a stick at. :hmm3grin2orange:

03-19-2015, 01:59 AM
With 200 to 250 TDS, you can certainly get away with a smaller RO unit. My water supply has the same level and I have only changed the carbon in the past two years in my RO unit. Still getting 0 TDS out of the unit (as also confirmed by water tests at my SW LFS). I would also suggest having at least one of the stages of this RO unit to have catalytic activated carbon. That will break down most of the chlorimines in the tap water allowing your membrane to last longer.

Sorry if I missed this, but have you thought about a CUC for the sand bed yet ?

Set-up also looks pretty good so far. Can't wait to see it with rock in it

03-19-2015, 10:39 AM
I will be ordering a CUC in the next 1-2 weeks, however I havent given it that much thought as to what I will be getting. Most likely just some nass. snails, margaritas, and perhaps a few peppermint shrimp. I may also just order a "starter CUC pack" for a tank around my size. Also not really decided on who to place my order from either...closest LFS to me which deals saltwater is a 3hr drive and they dont really have much so I will be ordering online.

I did observe a small bristleworm in the tank yesterday...Im not too paranoid about the small ones or really having a few here or there in the tank. Bristles are a benefit on one hand as they are pretty awesome about eating waste; however the large ones trip me out and I know if their numbers become excessive they will start to bother corals or etc. I am thinking about my first fish in the tank being a 6line wrasse as I have had one really decimate a heavy population of bristles in the past so I figure a new one would at the very least keep my population in check.

03-23-2015, 12:06 AM
Here is a FTS, yeah I used my Iphone so the quality is meh...not great. But here it is with the 35lbs of rock, I personally feel the tank could use 10-15lbs more which I may order some of the cured "coraline rock" from gulf live rock. I have been getting quite a bit of die off but I do have some corals and dusters which appear to be going to pull through. I did a WC today to help with the levels and the curing process....I suspect when I get my CUC in things will also be more cleaned up.


Skimmer pump back ordered till tomorrow...thus I wont be ordering till tomorrow afternoon. Ill pick up some new bulbs for another tank while im at it.

03-23-2015, 11:20 PM
Seems that the home water filtration system I purchased has further cleaned my home's water up...my new TDS meter is giving me consistent readings of 154 out of the tap. With a reading that low...I may not bother with a RO unit for this tank.

03-24-2015, 12:57 AM
The rock looks good. Any chance of getting some closer pics of the dusters and corals?
Great news on your TDS readings!

03-25-2015, 03:23 PM
Once the rock is finished curing I will get some more close up photos of it...I fear however much of the macro and sponges will be lost. Unsure about the dusters I havent seen them since I initially put the rock in the tank. Corals are partially open...seems everything is now starting to slowly recover as the tank is crystal clear and appears to be doing well. In good news I found a nasty dead fire worm when I did a WC a few days ago. Im not one who minds small bristleworms as heck theyre super awesome at keeping a tank clean but large bristles or fireworms must go :hmm3grin2orange:

I am considering my stock for this tank...and I will admit I am having impulses to purchase coral. Which I think I will indulge to a point...I do want some mushrooms, star polyps, and a few colorful zoa/palys. Still debating on an anenome...I know its something which will need to wait at the very least 6-8 months. At the heart however this is a "fish" tank, so I will stock it a bit more than I would a true reef. I am however still planning to add more rock; this time I think I may go over to PacificEast aquaculture and get some of their reef rock...its fully cured and pretty much a very heavily encrusted Coraline rock. I figure 10lbs will be sufficient for adding extra color and give me more to work with for the scape.

For fish....looking for suggestions, here are some I am interested in:

6line wrasse
Gold Stripe Maroon Clown
Cinnamon Clownfish
Flame Angel
4line wrasse
Fridmani Pseudochromis
Striped Blenny
Yellow Clown Goby

I want 3-4 fish...with one larger "center piece" fish. Any thoughts?

03-25-2015, 07:00 PM
lookin good so far. I love the flame angels as a centerpiece fish, but some nip corals.

03-25-2015, 10:05 PM
The gold stripe maroon clownfish is stunning! And I am partial to the yellow clown gobies, but the green and black clown gobies are cuties too.

03-26-2015, 03:33 AM
I would not suggest the goldstripe maroon clownfish. They can get as big as 6 inchs and have been known to become territorial.

What about a black ice ocellaris clownfish instead ?

03-27-2015, 12:09 AM
Those are lovely, however Im in preference of staying away from perculas and ocellaris as the last few clowns I have owned have been of this type. What about the Cinnamon clown or a Tomato still too large?

03-27-2015, 12:42 AM
A Tomato clown might work. Could be worth a try, less likely to become territorial. Maybe look into a Fiji Barberi Clownfish (amphiprion barberi). They can be hard to find, but they look like a Tomato clown but only get to around 3 inches and are said to be less likely to become territorial. Might be worth looking into

04-07-2015, 12:26 AM
Hmmm I will have to check into those...I have seen them listed online before and well I will be ordering all livestock online. If I were to go with the Fiji Barberi Clown do you feel I would have room for a dwarf/pygmy angel? I would stick to most likely a Cherub or at most Coral Beauty. With that I may also incorporate a 6line wrasse and yellow clown goby.

My tank is starting to get the dreaded brown algae....I did a 15% WC today. I have also been changing out my filter bag weekly. Since I am using the tetra whisper HOB its pretty simple I just add a couple of tablespoons of SeaGel to the media bag along with a bag of the provided carbon and some extra carbon I have on hand until the bag is full. I have also forgot to mention how well the manifold system is working...it is providing my desired results of a wave. The water movement crests and relaxes; it is honestly awesome how this is working out. And best of all NO dead spots! This is even without my protein skimmer going...AquaTraders has the pumps still on backorder so I am waiting.

I also havent gotten around to ordering more rock yet, and I havent yet got my CUC.

04-07-2015, 01:12 AM
I would think you could add in a dwarf angel and a 6 line wrasse a well

I'm not to sure about the clown goby tho. I know almost nothing about them.

Glad to hear the manifold is creating such a nice wave for you.

04-08-2015, 12:24 AM

Updated photo; rock is showing some progress. I will be doing a re-scape once I get more rock in, I am probably going to do another 10lbs and try to do 2 piles or if not just a better looking wall. This scape is very bland....

04-26-2015, 08:58 PM
Ive not really had time to focus on ordering more rock and curing it as of now...I did do a slight rescape which I feel is just a better looking wall. I also finally got my Odyssea EX250 pump in...and I must say I am in total shock at how well this thing is skimming. I have owned many BakPak versions which this is a cone of with various "better" pumps and I have never gotten this amount of mist in the chamber from any of them. I am mainly in shock because I did not expect much from the item...I expected to end up mesh modding it and rigging up an airstone in the skimmer to get enough mist. But none of this is necessary...and for around $50 I feel stupid for ever purchasing another type of HOB skimmer. My only complaint is microbubbles in the display however the comparable version of BakPak has the same issue. I will shove some chaeto in there and use the spillover light from my HQI to grow it. It will reduce my nitrates and cure the issue of the bubbles. The skimmer pulled out 1/4 cup of skimmate and let me just say it was very very foul so despite it giving me somewhat of a wet skimmate it is obviously doing some good work.

Vortex of bubbles

04-26-2015, 09:28 PM
This tank looks pretty. I like the colors the rocks are taking on.

04-26-2015, 09:47 PM
It's looking good. I'm glad you ended up being pleased with your skimmer and won't need to do any mods. One less thing for the to do list. :)

04-26-2015, 10:55 PM
Thanks all! The rock is looking good, many sponges have survived, some of the macro appears to be trying to regrow, and some of the corals are hanging on. I feel like I need 10-15lbs more to get a good wall going. Will however have to cure outside of the tank....alas I have a bucket. lol