View Full Version : Our 55 Gallon FOWLR Experiment

07-04-2011, 12:41 AM
My boyfriend and I were recently lucky enough to trade some computer parts we had laying around to a gentleman who wanted to get rid of a 55 gallon tank and accompanying stand. There's really nothing more awesome than getting lots of expensive stuff in return for crap you had laying around the house and weren't using anyway! :19:

So, we brought the tank, stand, filters and other paraphernalia home with us, thoroughly cleaned it all up, and filled it up with some freshwater, to check for leaks, make sure it sits level in our rather poorly constructed apartment and to make sure all the filters and pumps that we were given work correctly. We also wanted to check if its feasible to keep it set up in our bedroom -- which is pretty much the last place in the apartment with room for another tank.

This is an image of the tank, all filled up.

We decided there was really no better time than the present to get started on a salt water tank. We read all the stickies in this forum, bought a few books, and did a bit of research. We settled on attempting at FOWLR tank. We've decided we're going to take our time and really try to do this right.

07-04-2011, 12:49 AM
So, we began to do some research. I read all the stickies here. I had bought a few books on marine aquariums a few years ago and just never had the time, money, or energy to put into the hobby, so I never read them. I pulled those books out and we started reading.

We definitely want to go with the FOWLR tank. I already have a couple of pieces of (dead) live rock that were given to me by a friend who keeps marine aquariums. These are completely dead rocks - they've been out of the water for ages and are currently just kind of hanging out in the fresh water sitting in our 55 gallon tank.

The more we researched live rock, the more we became interested in the idea of man made live rock substitute. Rather than removing dead coral (which can still serve as habitat and substrate for many reef invertebrates) from the environment, some aquariasts have taken to making their own "live" rock.

Since we're both marine biologists who are keenly interested in habitat protection and conservation, and we're both generally handy, craftsy people, this idea appealed to us. We looked up several methods and settled on one. I'm going to document our attempt at a FOW(fake)LR tank! If it works out well, I'll make sure to post the rock making on a how-to thread!

07-04-2011, 01:00 AM
The boyfriend began researching refugiums, and started making noises about building our own. While I'm up for a little crafting and DIY-ness as much as the next guy, we DO live in a small apartment, and we don't really have a "shop" area.

I remembered several people posting on here about PETCO having their 1/$1 sale, so I nipped the refugium building in the bud, and we went and got one. Happily, our stand is long enough to accommodate a 40 long thumbs2: and the boyfriend was able to get his "handyman" on by restructuring the stand to accommodate the width. Now I have 95 gallons to work with! Yay for stability!

Today was our first attempt at making fake live rock. We started by driving down to the beach and grabbing 10 gallons of regular beach sand and putting it in a 18" x 36" plastic tub. We dampened the sand with some fresh water.

Image of 10 gallons of sand in 18" x 36" plastic tub

Then, we took the 5 gallon bucket to a different section of the beach near some oyster reefs, and filled it up with tons of oyster shells and shell fragments that wash up on that beach. We brought the bucket home and put it in the tub and flushed the whole thing with freshwater for a while.

Image of 5 gallon bucket full of oyster shells being flushed with freshwater

07-04-2011, 01:13 AM
Sounds like the start of a great journal. Researching first will be your key to success

As a alternative to rock collected from the ocean, have you considered rock from company like in the below link:


They are a few companies like this one out there, you just have to take the time to find them. They collect dry rock from ancient reef beds that are now inland. They are mined as apposed to harvested. IMO, this might be a better alternative to DIY rock which involves cement and could require up to months of curing time due to the additives in the cement.

I’m looking forward to reading about your progress as you go.

07-04-2011, 01:16 AM
We used one of my (grrr :tappingfoot:) kitchen bowls to mix 2 cups cement, 10 cups sand, and slightly more than 2 cups of water. My suggestion would be to start with 2 cups, mix it all up, and only add more if you feel you need it to get that putty-like consistency. After you have it mixed, add your shells. We did NOT do it in that order, but we certainly plan on it next time. We added about 5 cups of shells.

We used Portland Cement, Type I/II - a 90lb bag of it cost us less than $10

I meant to take a picture of the cement mixture, but my hands were coated with it! oops!

We decided that we wanted our first pieces to be for the base, and that "table" shaped pieces would be really awesome. We pushed a bunch of the sand away from an approximately 12" x 16" area. We "poured" a flat, nearly rectangular "table top" out of the cement in that cleared area of the tub. We poked a few finger sized holes in the table top, and filled those holes with sand so that there would be pores when the cement dries.

We then rolled some of the cement mixture into stout "legs" to attach them to the table. After attaching each leg, we packed sand around it so that it would not sag or lose its structure as the cement dried.

Table top (mostly covered by sand) and three legs mostly surrounded by sand already

Table top and fourth leg, before it gets packed with sand

Once the entire table was constructed, we covered the entire thing with sand and we are now letting it sit for at least 24 hours, so it can dry and set. Due to some of our past experiences working with cement, we know that one of the easiest mistakes to make with cement is to not give it ENOUGH water. Cement can set up, even if its submersed in water, so long as its inside of a mold. So, after covering the entire thing with sand, we drenched the sand over it with a lot of freshwater, hoping that the drenching would make up for the fact that we likely used less water than we needed to in order to keep it at that malleable clay consistency to shape the pieces.

07-04-2011, 01:31 AM
Thanks for the information on companies that don't take from the ocean. I hadn't really looked into it. We just stumbled on the DIY stuff, and fell in love with the idea.

I honestly don't mind the fact that I'll have to take it slow. That will give me plenty of time to save up for all the things we need for the tank. We're both still in college (I'm going for my Ph.D. in Marine Biology), and so we're your typically broke college students.

Trying the DIY rocks is a way for us feel like we're making slow progress on the tank, without feeling like we have to rush out with every paycheck and break the bank -- considering the kind of poundage of live rock most people have in their tanks and the typical price per pound.

I'm fully prepared for our first few attempts at the rock to be ugly; I plan to put them in the refugium! :hmm3grin2orange: And I don't mind taking a while to let all the chemicals leach out of the rock and get the tank set up properly. I've already got a couple of FW tanks that I adore to keep me satisfied until we can stock this new one.

The good news -- If the DIY rock just turns into epic failure, I'll have enough saved up to just buy the rock by then! lol.

07-05-2011, 12:16 AM
Okay, so the first "table" rock we tried to build failed a bit. The legs didn't set up well with the table top, so we ended up with several pieces of individual rock.

Oh well, back to the drawing board. We nixed the instructions we got online and paid closer attention to the instructions on the bag of concrete. This time, we only used 2-3 parts sand for 1 part concrete (instead of 5 parts sand per 1 part concrete). Also, instead of trying to make the table upside-down and pack sand around it, we made a right-side up table-shaped mold in the sand. We poured the concrete into the mold and covered it with sand. We're going to let it sit for a day or two and see if it holds up better.

07-05-2011, 12:32 AM
Wow! I thought I was taking it uber slow with 90lbs of quarried rock to the 10lbs of live I used when setting up my 75 Fowlr tank, and waiting 4 months for the tank to cycle. My hats off to ya, keep it up, reading this one with interest...

Good luck!!


07-08-2011, 12:09 AM
Well, our second attempt at making the table failed. I tried mixing in less sand this time, but the legs still did not attach well to the tabletop.

Its been too busy of a week for me to try again, and so I'm waiting for the weekend to see if I can figure out a better way. I'm beginning to think I'm mixing in too much sand, shells, or both. Possibly, I'm not getting the concrete wet enough before I pour it.

I'll give it another shot this weekend, and see how it goes.

07-08-2011, 12:32 AM
What you need is some stainless steel wire a 16th inch or bigger. Shape it to creat an inner supporting skeleton and you will have better luck. Even if you do get the table to hold for awhile,it will crumble eventually without wire.

07-10-2011, 05:12 PM
Thanks SMAUG! We'll have to look into getting some wire to add strength to our pieces, and see how it works.

Whilst I was on vacation for a few days, my boyfriend continued making rocks without me. He actually managed to come up with a pretty decent cave rock.

Image: Cave Rock that looks disturbingly like the Wizards Hat from the Harry Potter Movies

He's got a few more bits that are out on our patio drying in the tub of sand. Now, its time to head off to the beach for a break ... and more sand! :shappy:

Meanwhile. Every time we finish a rock, we go ahead and put it in the completely empty aquarium to soak. That way, as we make more and more rock, any problematic compounds or chemicals are already leaching out of the ones we've made.

Here's what we've got so far (keep in mind some of this won't be used, and some will end up in the 40 gallon sump)

Image: 55 Gallon Aquarium with our concrete rocks thus far

07-10-2011, 06:14 PM
That pile on the right looks very unstable. If just one little thing give way an inch its all very close to the glass.

07-10-2011, 08:39 PM
Oh don't worry. Its not going to stay that way. We're still not even sure which pieces will be in the show tank and which will be in the sump. They're just kind of being tossed in haphazardly at this point as we make them. We're going to arrange them a bit later.

07-10-2011, 08:50 PM
Just curious, but are you using rock salt in your mix when you make your rocks ?

I’ve read a lot of DIY info on make rocks that suggests to do that. That way when you soak the rock to leach out the chemicals from the cement, the slat dissolves away and gives your rock a more porous surface and greater surface area for BB to grow.

Just a thought

07-11-2011, 09:07 PM
We've been playing with different ideas to create porosity and surface area. We saw one suggestion to try mixing in spaghetti, but we haven't tried that. Someone else suggested rolling the balls in corn chips. The idea with both of these being that they'll dissolve out in water.

I like the idea of rock salt better, so that I'm not putting any other sources of organic materials (food) into the tank, even though we're going to completely change the water out (more than once, I'm sure) during this endeavor.

I'm going to do some research on whether or not salt affects the hardening ability of concrete, then I may give it a try!

Thanks Cliff!

08-09-2011, 07:45 PM
So, I realize its been nearly a month since the last time I added to this. The creation of "live rock" from scratch has been slow. We have a limited amount of work space where we can create the rock and allow it to set up, so we can only make a few pieces at a time. In a way, this is good - it keeps us from trying to start the tank up too quickly.

After trying several different methods for creating the rock and increasing the surface area and porosity of the rock, we've settled on mixing the concrete with a very large grain, course sand mixed with very small bits of shells. These rocks come out nice and sturdy, but with a porosity similar to pumice or lava rock.

We did some research and some trial and error and decided that once the new-made rock has completely hardened, soaking it for 24-48 hours in fresh water, then for another 24-48 hours in vinegar, then for another two weeks in salt water, the toxins leech out, and they no longer affect the water quality when they are added to a tank. We've done this already with all the rocks we've made so far, and are continuing to make more in small batches. We have about half the rock needed for our tank made so far. Most of it will be used in the sump, as many of the pieces are not particularly attractive for tank-scaping.

With practice, however, we've improved our methods and we're starting to make caves, arches, and other cool shapes for the main tank.

I knew this was going to be slow. I'll try to update with some pictures when we get some of the newer, more decorative pieces ready for the main tank.

08-09-2011, 08:18 PM
You might want to re-consider the lenght of time you are soaking your cement before it is ready to add to the tank. I once looked into making rock as well and everything I found suggested anywhere from 2 to 6 months of soaking until the rock no longer had a effect on the PH of the water. Below is one example:


Just a concern.

08-09-2011, 09:11 PM
Thanks Cliff. I've been keeping a pretty close eye on the pH as we add rock to the tank, and its been very steady at around 8.2.

Maybe mine is taking less time because of the 100% vinegar soak?

I went too fast with my fresh water tanks, and only averted disaster through constant vigilance and lots of water changes, so I'm really taking my time with this tank. I'm certainly not close to actually stocking the tank yet, though - so I'll continue to monitor the water parameters closely.

08-09-2011, 09:37 PM
I'd be really concerned about the porisity of the rock too.

The method using rock salt really does work.

also white concrete is recommended as it will colour up so you can't even tell the difference once its livened up, grey rock will take alot longer and will more than likely always seem dark!

08-10-2011, 02:01 AM
agh not to keep beating the dead horse but making rock always scared me lol only because there's so many variables in the mix and I think that they tell you to give it so long it to allow for any toxins which you might not be able to test for are leaking out... just a thought though I've done more than scratch the surface of making rock.

Best of luck to you though! I'll be along for the ride as long as you keep the journal updated

08-21-2011, 05:38 AM
Your DIY rock looks pretty good. My attempt at that was an epic fail. The local dump now has a pile or wanna be reef rock. = )

08-26-2011, 04:44 PM
This is Janelle's boyfriend Joel. As you know this is our first saltwater tank and so I tried to research everything I could think of, and tried to work out a plan that was cheap and effective... Alas as most of you know that often causes problems.

My plan is to have the overflow from the display aquarium drain down a lit screen (algae scrubber) and flow into the sump. I was worried about the pump flow, because there is kind of a fine balance I am trying to walk in the algae scrubber department. To much flow and I make a huge mess, to little and the screen filter is ineffective. My flow goal is at least 700 GPH, and preferably no more than about 1000. Turns out my overflow is the issue, not the pump.

My current problem, an ineffective 1.5" overflow:


Here is a video of it, just click the picture:
http://i18.photobucket.com/albums/b124/JoelEspinoza/th_PICT0077_mpeg4.jpg (http://s18.photobucket.com/albums/b124/JoelEspinoza/?action=view&current=PICT0077_mpeg4.mp4)

When I designed this I was under the impression 1.5" of overflow would be plenty, as I research more I think what was not made clear is 1.5" of overflow running full siphon is plenty, but is not very safe by itself.

This is in my bedroom and while it does not have to be totally silent (I actually like some consistant water flowing sound for the white noise factor) it does have to be a consistant sound. If it sounds like a toilet flushing at any point it is going to wake me up.

So now I am considering 2 possibilities:

Glass-holes.com 3000GHP kit: http://glass-holes.com/3000-Overflow-Box-Complete-Kit-Blemished-3kblem.htm my concern with the design of this overflow is that it may go in and out of siphon flow as the water level rises and falls if they reach a certain flow rate, thus making the flushing toilet sound.

The BeanAnimal/Herbie 3 standpipe system using a slim box inside, acting as a wier, and another box outside the tank like this: http://www.glassreef.com/basics_overflow.php I like the idea of a full time siphon tube and overflow tube (that can switch to full siphon) AND a redundant overflow tube. I know this is made to go in and out of siphon but I dont think it would if adjusted properly.

With the second plan I am not sure how well I like the idea of a second box on the back of the tank. I could either pinch the 2 boxes through the glass with bulkheads (and washers on both sides), and then have 3 more bulkheads going out the bottom of the outside box. Or I could lower the water level in the tank a few inches, clean off the glass and make glass boxes I silicone to the tank.

What do you guys think? Do you have a suggestion between these 2? or another suggestion all together? I have no problems drilling/cutting glass. I used to be a glass worker, but finding decently thick glass cheap might be difficult around where I live.

08-26-2011, 05:47 PM
With a 1.5" drain line, you should get ~1400 GPH. If you are not, then I would guess you are not getting enough air into the line to allow the water to flow freely, or too many elbows in the line

Have you considered a combination of option 2 and your current set-up ? You have enough room for a duriso standpipe to connect directly to your bulk head flange. I have personally seen tanks with this set-up on it and it seams to work really well. Almost no noise as well

08-26-2011, 06:45 PM
With a 1.5" drain line, you should get ~1400 GPH. If you are not, then I would guess you are not getting enough air into the line to allow the water to flow freely, or too many elbows in the line

That is not true in my case.... You can see my setup pretty clearly, even vented the max flow I can get is maybe 400. Not 1400.

08-26-2011, 07:12 PM
In that case, I would suggest trying one of the below

A) Increase the size of the air line into your drain to allow more air
B) Increase the size of your return pump. As you stated in your video, it has 800 GPH of flow without head hight. Once you add both 3 feet of head hight and 3 elbows, you are likely around 600 GPH now. I used a guess of 3 feet based only on what I had seen in the video.

If I were a betting man, I would bet on the air getting into the drain

I think it's just a matter of trying a few different things to make your system better. I have 1.5" drain lines on both of my sumped reef tanks and they handle between 1200 and 1300 GPH without a problems.

I'm sure you can get yours to work better


08-26-2011, 07:49 PM
I am not sure how much I am flowing, it is a quietone 3000 rated at 819GPH with 0 head height and 1" line. I have 2.5' of head height (water height difference between the display and sump) 3 90 degree elbows, 1 45 degree elbow, and I am also using 3/4" pipe, not 1".

I would assume your guess is probably somewhere near accurate at around 600 GPH tops. I wouldnt give this pump, under these conditions, credit for any more flow than that. My original plan was to use a pair of them to reach 1000-1200 GPH and have some flow redundancy, however it currently looks like 1 is FAR more than my 1.5" overflow can handle. That being said here are some videos I just took.

No vent, full 600 GPH flow more than the overflow can handle:
http://i18.photobucket.com/albums/b124/JoelEspinoza/th_0826111416.jpg (http://s18.photobucket.com/albums/b124/JoelEspinoza/?action=view&current=0826111416.mp4)

More or less the same thing, without the funnel top:

Same thing but vented, clearly no air in the overflow drain, same result:

It is tough to say for sure, but I would say my 1.5" drain can handle about 400GPH under full siphon (submerged), and around half that if I am using it as a skimmer. So If I had 2 of these drains, one under full siphon, and one being used as a skimmer I might pull off 600 GPH drain.

08-27-2011, 12:41 AM
Cliff do you have any pictures of your overflow drain? I am still a bit boggled by how they could possibly be 3-4 times difference in flow.

08-27-2011, 02:39 AM
I'll take some pics and post them tomorrow

08-27-2011, 09:08 PM
As promised, here are some pics of my 90 gallon set-up. Sorry about the dirty glass, I have no gotten around to cleaning it in a while. I have a duriso stand pipe inside the overflow. I have a quiteone 6000 return pump on this set-up



08-27-2011, 09:13 PM
Here's a few of my 120 gallon set-up. Very similur to my 90 gallon. 1.5" drain line with the same return pump




One question that I forgot to ask is how you tested the drain line to determine the flow rate ? Did you have a larger return pump in the sump before ?

08-28-2011, 06:00 AM
One question that I forgot to ask is how you tested the drain line to determine the flow rate ? Did you have a larger return pump in the sump before ?

I am not sure what you are asking..... This is my first saltwater tank setup, and my first tank with a sump setup. The 1.5" drain doesnt drain even half what the quietone 3000 pumps. Why would I need a larger pump?

The Doroso standpipe idea looks ok, not sure how it is supposed to flow 4 times the flow of my current setup, but I will give it a shot. I can make the standpipe behind the tank and have only the end go through to the tank. I am not sure if I should leave my current setup where is (for some skimming) and add the standpipe on the other side of the tank or what.

I am also going to try adding an air vent on the horizontal pipe the algae scrubber screen hangs from. I am trying to work out several issues at once, but so far this who tank has been a messy, expensive disappointment.

School is just starting, so I am going to have very little time to do anything fish tank related and Janelle is just starting Grad school so she will have even less.

08-28-2011, 12:30 PM
I would sugges a large adjustable air hole (link below)


You could try one like the below (with the adjustable air intake). You would just have to adjust the hight of it to match your targeted water level in your tank as you don`t have a internal overflow chamber


08-28-2011, 01:43 PM
You would just have to adjust the hight of it to match your targeted water level in your tank as you don`t have a internal overflow chamber

The amount of room I have from the hole in my glass to the desired water level is pretty limited, so the only way I coiuld try something like that is if I found a pipe with a jog in it that went up less than one whole pipe width.

I am currently considering 2 things, both of them involve just the end of the standpipe in the tank:

1) Making some sort of wier/overflow chamber. I wouldnt have to have it go all the way down, I could just make a box that kind of surrounded the end of the pipe that goes into the aquarium. Not sure what to make it out of though, maybe a large section of ABS, or perhaps I can find a small piece of plexiglass locally. Here is a rough idea of what I am thinking:

2) Leaving my existing overflow in place (for some skimming) and putting a new Doroso standpipe on the other side of the tank where the water return is now, and moving the return to the middle. To do this I think I would need to be able to regulate the water flow of the new pipe, so I would probably have to add a valve to it. This would actually work out fairly well as far as my algae filter setup goes, it would be nice to have water comming in both sides, and it would provide better support and a cleaner look behind the tank.



08-28-2011, 01:53 PM
I really like your idea (option 2)

The standpipe set-up you have shown will allow for better flow than the pic I had posted (less elbows). Having two lines would help a lot with your scrubber based on what I have read about them.

Putting a valve in place will also help balance out the extra drain capasity.

08-28-2011, 02:14 PM
Sorry the second image was supposed to be this one:


I think I will try option 2 then. Thanks for your input, and I will update when I get it all done.

09-04-2011, 01:48 AM
Ok, I am not done yet, but I have a working mock-up. I need to make the return line go on the outside of the drain line, make a new horizontal line with slits for the screens (existing one isnt long enough), chop the center vent lower and put a cap on it, and add add disconnects on both the drains (I need to drop the screen hanger down a bit too).

However on the upside it works great and flows exactly right, even without adding a valve to the main drain.



11-09-2011, 02:42 AM
Heres an update on my progress:

I'll start off with my big issue which is algae. I get this golden brown bubble slime, not sure if it is diatoms or dinoflagellates, it collects or forms some bubbles, and forms pockets away from the glass. It comes off easily with a good squirt on rocks or a scraper on glass, but still annoying. I could use some help identifying it and getting rid of it. Here is a couple pictures of it, the first is in my sump, the others are older pictures from my display. Its not as bad after about 4 days with no lights and a through scrubbing, but it will be back in full force soon im sure:

I got the algae screens and overflow worked out, with just the screens and my DSB (about 4-5") in my 40 gallon breeder sump, there is never ANY measurable ammonia, nitrites or nitrates in the tank. I got a couple fish (a damsel and a mandrin goby) and a small cleaner crew of "mexican snails" and "mexican hermits" from GARF.

Depending on what type of algae this is I might pick up some more snails from reefcleaners.org. I was looking at this package, it comees with 185+ mixed snails and costs about 50 bucks shipped: http://reefcleaners.org/index.php?page=shop.product_details&flypage=flypage.tpl&product_id=250&category_id=20&option=com_virtuemart&Itemid=34
"98 Dwarf Ceriths - small cleaners that get to the nooks and crannies. Feed on diatoms, cyano, algal detritus, and film algae. Nocturnal cleaners that leave the sandbed at night to search for food.

23 Nassarius - scavengers that will eat leftover food and some fish waste. They will stir sand, but can also be kept in bare bottom tanks.

33 Florida Ceriths - small cleaners that get to the nooks and crannies. Feed on fine hair algae, diatoms, cyano, algal detritus, and film algae. Nocturnal cleaners that leave the sandbed at night to search for food.

15 Large and 16 Small to Medium Nerites - We are currently offering the longer lived and quite hardy Antillean Nerite. (Nerita fulgurans). It grows to a nice size,and consumes a good deal of diatoms, cyano, algal detritus, and film algae. It will also consume some fine hair algae. A nocturnal herbivore that will feed more often at night, they tend to need some time to adjust to the limitations of the aquarium during their first week. "

The artifical rock situation kinda sucks honestly, the best I have done is with 1 part concrete mix to 4-5 parts crushed shells off a nearby beach (think packages of crushed oyster shells with some larger chunks). Its a bit dense but workable. I tried the salt on the last batch by using 1 part concrete, 5 parts shell mix and 3 parts salt. They look good but are completely useless, they just crumble to bits under any strain. Its possible I am using too much salt. Honestly at this point I am seriously considering dry rock from reefcleaners or marcosrocks.

The tank still needs a better light than what I am using which is currently a overdriven t-8 shoplight (something like 2 watts/gallon) with a 6500k bulb running about 10 hours a day in the display. My plan is to go LED but my electrical engineer druggie friend is on the fritz right now and the budget is tight so thats on hold for the moment.

Any thoughts/suggestions/comments would be greatly appreciated, but remember I gotta stay cheap =)

11-10-2011, 11:10 PM
No guesses on what type of algae it is? I am mostly curious because from my understanding dino can be a real pain to get rid of and is potentially toxic, wheras diatoms seem pretty harmless and a natural stage of the tank cycyle that sould go away in time.

So depending on what is is I may or may not have to really scrub the rocks down and boil them etc.

11-11-2011, 01:06 AM
I had that stuff in my 75gal, and another member of my local reef club had it as well. It never did any harm, and eventually went away on it's own as the tank matured. Most snails won't touch it.

Also, I hate to be the party pooper, but I'm not so sure you are going to be able to support that Mandarin Dragonet in your setup. From what I can tell, you tank is roughly 5 months old. No nearly enough time to develop a sustainable pod population. Mandarins shouldn't be added to tanks less than 1 year old and should have a sustainable, substantial pod population. You will likely find yourself having to but pods to add to the tank.

11-11-2011, 05:07 AM
They eat artemia and some very small pellets too. I also seeded the tank with copepods about 5 months ago with no fish in the tank for several months.

I watch him pretty carefully to make sure he doesnt start having a shrunken belly.

11-11-2011, 11:21 AM
Did you get a captive bred mandarin?

11-11-2011, 02:28 PM
No guesses on what type of algae it is? I am mostly curious because from my understanding dino can be a real pain to get rid of and is potentially toxic, wheras diatoms seem pretty harmless and a natural stage of the tank cycyle that sould go away in time.

So depending on what is is I may or may not have to really scrub the rocks down and boil them etc.

I'm not 100% sure what you got growing there. I have included some links below to sites that I have found useful when trying to identify algae. It does a little like dinoflangellates and not diatoms (althought you might have both). I had a small patch of it a few months ago. I just used a gravel vac to suck up all the loose parts of it off the rocks. With a few extra waterchanges, the rest when away on its own within a week or two

Your current lighting will also help many different types of marine algae to grow. The lower K ratings, like your 65K lighting, has the warmer tones of light which promotes marine algae growth. Good plan to up-grade to LEDs, that will also help to get rid of what ever type of algae you have.



11-14-2011, 03:05 PM
Did you get a captive bred mandarin?

No, but I have seen him snatch artemia out of the water. I do the best I can with him, he was an impulse purchase while getting some indian puffers at the LFS. While it was a silly thing to do, its done now, and I just have to make the best of it.

I think I might be suffering from Dino.... this quote out of one of the articles really got my attention:
Snails seem to be especially prone to suffering from dinoflagellate toxins, so if you have pests such as dinoflagellates and notice that the snails seem to be moribund (near death, not moving, etc.), that may help finger dinoflagellates as the pests, although other pests can also produce toxins.

I am have been having some serious snail issues. That seemed odd to me with my water quality being what it is... However if dino toxin is killing them it makes more sense.

11-14-2011, 06:35 PM
I have done some online research about dino outbreaks, it seems the factor that leads to the most confusion is the differences between types of dino, so it seems you get people in posts saying something like: "Nonono thats all wrong i did XXXX and all my dino went away" and the next poster goes " No you noob, I tried XXXX for weeks and it didnt do jack, however I tried YYYYY and after a few days the dino outbreak was gone!". Here is the differences I have seen so far:

-Some are toxic and cannot be eaten, some are non-toxic and are fine to eat. I have read lots of posts about minor dino outbreaks being cured by cleaners like sea hares and snails with the addition of low light and clean water. But sometimes this has no noticable effect.

-Some are highly suceptable to small changes in PH and some are not. I have read a couple posts about changing the PH to get rid of them, here is a good article about it: http://www.reefkeeping.com/issues/2006-11/rhf/index.php. But others it had 0 effect on.

-Some have bacteria that CAN become parasitic under the right circumstances, here is a good article on that: http://www.revbiolmar.cl/resumenes/v382/382-57.pdf, followed by a post about it in action: http://www.reefcentral.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1620464. The issue here is that there are probably as many (or more) types of mutulistic bacteria as there are different types of dino. So figuring out what the bacteria in your case need to reach the exponential/parasitic stage might be hit or miss. The above poster swears by keeping nitrates at 2-3 ppm...

-Some seem especially sensitive to hydrogen peroxide and some seem nearly totally unaffected by it.

So it looks like my best bet is just to try any/all of these and see which works. I plan to start off no lights and the peroxide treatment, I have read 1ml/10 gallons once or twice a day. I also ordered 1 gallon of kalkwasser to use in my makeup water (which I was going to do anyway), and I figure I can start off dosing that normally, basically 1 saturated gallon/day (2 tsp).

If none of that is working I can perhaps try upping the nitrates, to do that I could probably just add kalk to water siphoned out of my FW tanks to add some nitrates.

11-14-2011, 08:13 PM
There is always more than one way to do something in this hobby. That can be the frustrating part at times, trying to figure out which way is best for you

I would suggest starting by trying the simplest method first, a manual cleaning. Sometimes the simplest solution can be the best. If that proves not to be enough, then some of the chemical methods (as you have mentioned) might be required. Just keep in mind, the chemical methods can have other side effects and create some problems as well.

The breakout that I had was not as big as yours, but the gravel vac cleaning approach was all I needed to do to get rid of my outbreak.

It might be worth a try

11-14-2011, 09:25 PM
There is always more than one way to do something in this hobby. That can be the frustrating part at times, trying to figure out which way is best for you

I would suggest starting by trying the simplest method first, a manual cleaning. Sometimes the simplest solution can be the best. If that proves not to be enough, then some of the chemical methods (as you have mentioned) might be required. Just keep in mind, the chemical methods can have other side effects and create some problems as well.

The breakout that I had was not as big as yours, but the gravel vac cleaning approach was all I needed to do to get rid of my outbreak.

It might be worth a try

Sadly I have tried several times to manually remove it all. I have scrubbed scoured, scraped and vaccumed everything off I can at least a half dozen times since I first got the nasty bloom of it 3 months ago. It does seem to not come back quite as fast the last couple times but that might be because I have never added any more salt, or changed the water, in that amount of time. It is possible I have simply run it out of some trace mineral or something it needs.

However I need to find something to remove it faster since it seems to be killing off my snails, and I am worried it will do the same to other inverts.

11-28-2011, 06:36 AM
Ok... The dino problem is slowly disipating, however I now have another question about coraline algae growth.... I cant seem to get any growing on my rocks or the glass above the sand line, however it grows like crazy below the sand line (against the glass). Any thoughts why coraline algae only grows under the sand in my tank?

11-28-2011, 03:43 PM
Do you know what your calcium, alkalinity and magnesium levels are at ?

Typically, if those are not in line (along with your ammonia, nitrite, nitrate and PH) your coralline growth will be slow

Coraline also doesn’t like brighter light that you would typically see used for corals. That is why you will start to see it growing within the lower light areas of your tank first before it starts to spread all over the tank. I could just be that yours is only starting.

11-30-2011, 01:38 PM
Sadly I dont have a test kit for any of the above. It is on my list but hasnt made it there yet.

I use kent reef salt (not normal kent marine salt) which is supposed to be pretty high in calcium and magnesium, I have also been topping off with kalk water (1 tsp/gallon) and add about 5-6 gallons a week to the tank. Considering there really isnt anything in the tank that uses calcium much calcium yet, would guess my calcium and alkalinity are fine, magnesium however could be anyones guess.

I have never had any measurable ammonia, nitrite, or nitrate since I got the algae screens setup.

Currently I am still using the t8 shop light overdriven to about 110 watts. It is probably comparable to a 48" dual bulb 6500k T5HO with REALLY crappy reflectors. I cant imagine that is too much light for coraline algae.

I have been researching lighting and I think I am going to go LED, its hard to compare T5HO with LED but here is what I was looking at last night, these are all estimates, and the LEDs were rounded up in several places to cover unexpected costs of the fixture:

150 Watt DIY LED fixture
$108.22 - 8.460" Wide x 44" Long Heatsink. http://www.heatsinkusa.com/categories/8.460%22/

$155.00 (25 x $6.20) CREE XP-G R5 Cool White 3W LED On Star (6-6.5k) and matching 60 degree optics. http://reefledlights.com/shop/cree-xp-g-r5-cool-white-3w-led-on-star/

$113.75 (25 x $4.55) CREE XP-E Royal Blue 3W LED On Star and matching 60 degree optics. http://reefledlights.com/shop/cree-xp-e-rb/

~$100 LED Driver (havent decided on model yet)

LED fixture cost total: ~$500

LED: Yearly cost $90 (171 watts x 12 hrs/day at $.12/killowatt hr)

LED total lifetime (11 years) cost: ~ $1500.


$295.90 Sun System / Sunlight Supply SUN SYSTEM® TEK-LIGHT™ HO T5 - 46 FLUORESCENT LIGHTING FIXTURE 4' - 6 LAMP (48" L X 16" W X 2.5" H)

T5 HO: Yearly cost $270 - ($90 bulbs + $180 342 watts x12 hrs/day at $.12/killowatt hr)

T5HO total lifetime (11 years) cost: ~ $3270.

Seems LEDs are the way to go, but is like trying to compare apples and sheets of plywood.

11-30-2011, 02:10 PM
I found a great 6 part presentation on LED's from the Tampa Bay Reef Club on youtube. It lists where to get the products and all that for about 400 less than what you listed.

11-30-2011, 09:59 PM
I found a great 6 part presentation on LED's from the Tampa Bay Reef Club on youtube. It lists where to get the products and all that for about 400 less than what you listed.

I will look it up when I get home, but what I listed is a 150 watt LED system that should be more than sufficient for the sole lighting in a 55 gallon reef tank, even for the most light demanding corals. You are not going to get that anywhere for 100 bucks. The heatsink I plan to use costs significantly more than that.

Chances are for 100 bucks you are getting an auxiliary LED moonlight system, or maybe a couple spotlights. Not a independent lighting solution.

12-01-2011, 02:49 AM
No, actually, you can build your own LED system for about what he listed, but you will have to use second rate LEDs to do it, and low end drivers and end up with a system that probably won't last you more that 2 years.

12-01-2011, 05:29 AM
Hes wrong anyway I think. I have only got through the first 4 videos, but they say the drivers they are using cost $50 each and drive 12 lights. The guy in the video had 4 of them... Thats $200 right there. Where he thinks you are gonna get a whole 55 gallon reef LED setup for $100 is a mystery to me.

12-01-2011, 06:23 AM

Yea, Sandz was way off. I watched all 6 videos, they list the LEDs at $6 each, optics at $1 each, drivers at $50 each (that drive 12 LEDs), and heat sinks at $27 a foot.

So if I wanted to drive 48 LEDs according to that video I would need $200 for drivers, $336 for LEDs and $108 for the heatsink (if I wanted a 4').

Thats $644, no where near $100.

So now that we have that covered. Anyone have any opinion on my idea for LED lights?

12-01-2011, 06:32 AM
Or any other thoughts about the coraline algae growing in the sand, but not the tank? How likely my tank is out of magnesium without ever growing anything besides algae?

12-01-2011, 02:29 PM
Acctually its my mistake in reading to fast, I was looking at end numbers of 1k+, so my appologies!

12-01-2011, 03:41 PM
Or any other thoughts about the coraline algae growing in the sand, but not the tank? How likely my tank is out of magnesium without ever growing anything besides algae?

It would depend on your salt. I have never used the Kent brand that you are currently using. IME, most regular salt mixes do not produce a balanced Cal, dKH and Mag levels. I would guess these levels are a little off which is slowing down the coraline grow.

Coraline needs good Cal and dHK levels along with lighting that has more of a blue spectrum in order to really take off.

12-01-2011, 11:13 PM
Acctually its my mistake in reading to fast, I was looking at end numbers of 1k+, so my appologies!

Ahhh yea, I can see how that could be missed. The $1500 was the estimated cost of the whole fixture + the estimated electrical cost to run it for 12 hours a day for 11 years.

I got this 5lbs live/50lbs dry rock combo package from Marcosrocks: http://www.marcorocks.com/5lbs50lbsliverockdryrockcombo.aspx. When it came in today I took out all my existing rocks, and scrubbed the crap out of them (and the tank) and rearranged everything. Turns out there is little bits of Coraline algae growing on quite a few of my rocks, hopefully it will continue.

My tank is still coudy here, and my phone camera makes it look MUCH greener than it actually is:

As far as the Kent Reef Salt goes here is what Kent claims:

To reach the recommended specific gravity of 1.024 to 1.026 for reef aquariums, dissolve ½ cup + 2 tbsp of KENT Marine Reef Salt per 1 gallon (3.8 L) of purified 78°F water. This will yield a solution with the following properties:

Specific Gravity: 1.024 - 1.026
pH: 8.2 to 8.3
Calcium: 550 to 575 ppm
Magnesium: 1,350 to 1,450 ppm

I read some reviews other places and got results like this:
mixes clear, calcium 475, mag 1440, alk 10.2 at 1.025.

I will have to get a test kit and check all my parameters.

I also got some freshwater Malaysian trumpet snails, I am going to see about acclimating some to saltwater after they start reproducing in my freshwater tank.

12-03-2011, 08:45 PM
love the scaping! make sure you have flow behind those rocks some how though so you don't have a crud build up back there that could haunt you later!

12-03-2011, 10:50 PM
love the scaping! make sure you have flow behind those rocks some how though so you don't have a crud build up back there that could haunt you later!

Yea, Marcosrocks are very nice. They seem quite porous and have lots of fingers etc and the aquacultured live rocks so far seem nice, they dont have good or bad hitchhikers but are at least 50% covered in purple and red coraline, they are also covered in what might be green coraline, time will tell.

I will probably have to add a few powerheads as time goes on, The total flow of the tank right now is something like 1000 gph, which I think should be enough for a 55, but there are probably some dead spots.

A close up of the live rock (and a green mandrin goby head)

A picture of the tank that is much closer to the actual color:

12-16-2011, 05:54 PM
Here is a video of me removing some of the unidentified slime that keeps plaguing my tank, it starts of like clearish slime and I think it only turns greenish-brown-gold after picking up other crap. There was about 1/4" of the on the tops of most of my rocks, hopefully this video will help with telling what it is, and how to get rid of it.

Sorry about the clarity, its hard to get a video of a tank one handed, without looking.

http://i18.photobucket.com/albums/b124/JoelEspinoza/th_1216111002.jpg (http://s18.photobucket.com/albums/b124/JoelEspinoza/?action=view&current=1216111002.mp4)

12-19-2011, 12:28 AM
Here are some pictures of the growth. No one has any idea what it might be? Or how to get rid of it?

12-19-2011, 12:50 AM
Have you been able to rule out dinoflangellates ?

Do you know your nitrate and phosphate levels ? Typically reducing those levels are the key to getting rid of a lot of problems in a SW set-up

12-19-2011, 01:23 AM
I am not SURE it is not dino, however from what I have read dino grows in brownish/green/gold wheras this stiff actually grows in clear (as you can see above) and then turns that color over time, I think that it changes color from collecting crap.

The nitrates are at zero. I dont have a phosphate or a silicate test kit, but the sand in the sump came off the local beach, so it is possible silicates are high too.

12-19-2011, 02:31 AM
Janelle, I've had that and a local business had that as well. As I mentioned before, it simply takes time and patience. It will go away but it will take a few months. It's annoying and unsightly but water changes do nothing for it neither does changing your feeding or your light cycle. I know for fact that my local business took it to some extremely knowledgeable people (including a sample to the biology department of a local university) and nobody could identify it.

12-19-2011, 02:48 PM
A couple months isnt a problem. However I have been having this problem since the the end of July, and it shows no signs of slowing down.

12-19-2011, 10:27 PM
It took 6 months for it to go away in the coral prop. system at that local business.

12-21-2011, 08:45 AM
Here is how nasty that stuff is after a couple days.

http://i18.photobucket.com/albums/b124/JoelEspinoza/th_PICT0122_mpeg4.jpg (http://s18.photobucket.com/albums/b124/JoelEspinoza/?action=view&current=PICT0122_mpeg4.mp4)

http://i18.photobucket.com/albums/b124/JoelEspinoza/th_PICT0123_mpeg4.jpg (http://s18.photobucket.com/albums/b124/JoelEspinoza/?action=view&current=PICT0123_mpeg4.mp4)

12-21-2011, 01:19 PM
I’m not going to pretend for a minute that I have any idea of what that is growing in your tank. That looks just nasty and I do badly for you having to deal with it

When I was researching SW set-ups before getting my first tank, I had found at least a few references that explained is you water parameters are not balanced (similar to what you find in the ocean) then you will be a risk of getting all types of algaes and other stuff growing like wildfire in your tank.

It might be worth you while to take a water sample to a SW LFS to get all your parameters checked (nitrite, ammonia, nitrate, phosphate, PH, dKH, Cal, Mag).

It might be worth looking into. Just a guess on my part tho

12-28-2011, 09:43 PM
In the continuing search for answers about this nasty stuff all over our tank, I ran into an article containing this:

From The Reef Aquarium Vol 1, Delbeek and Sprung pg 270
"Dinoflagellates occasionally bloom in reef aquaria, and they can be toxic to invertebrates and fish. They form nearly colourless to rust brown {In my case, it was green} gelatinous mats and films that trap oxygen bubbles. They can also be present in large numbers in the water column and on the surface of the water during a bloom. They coat bare surfaces so quickly that it is futile to siphon them off."

TRA Vol 1, pg 326-327
"...the appearance of a mysterious slimy material coating both living and non-living surfaces in the aquarium. This material has the consistency of nasal mucus and it can be dark brown, light tan or nearly colourless. It usually develops as a light coating but soon entraps air and forms long strings that float up into the water."

"... blooms are toxic to aquarium inhabitants. Herbivorous snails may roll over, stop eating and die. Tangs that eat the dinoflagellates may stop feeding and starve to death. Sea urchins that eat them may loose their spines and die."

This perfectly describes what is going on in the tank, and explains why we haven't been able to keep snails and hermit crabs alive.

Unfortunately, Dino's are a HUGE, diverse group of organisms, and even scientists can't agree on naming or classifying them - so the new challenge is figuring out exactly which dino I'm dealing with, and how to destroy it!

12-28-2011, 11:51 PM
One common approach that I have found in reducing dinos is to reduce nutrients. Once I started to use a phosphate remover in my 120, the dinos stopped coming back every now and then. But then again, I wasn't dealing with a bad outbreak like you are right now. I also read that once you have your water parameters stabilized, increased water changes will also help.

12-29-2011, 05:19 AM
Today was the last day I am putting up with this crap. I bought 200 gallons of kent reef salt and a 100gpd 5-stage RO/DI system from www.melevsreef.com this morning. The pictures below are what I did with the rest of my day. Sorry about the quality, they were with a cell phone and both my girlfriend and I were covered head to toe in slime and saltwater.

Bathroom of DOOM!:

Tub full of saltwater, live rock, algae screens and plumbing. This is where all the scrubbing happened:

Tank pulled away from the wall to clean out the sump:

Deep sand bed leaving:

12-29-2011, 05:20 AM
In the midst of cleaning out the sand:

This is where some of the very scrubbed rock, all the corals, the mandrin goby, the damsel and most of the snails ended up. Its a 5 gallon hex on my kitchen counter. It is getting 5 ML of 3% hydrogen peroxide per day until I am sure my dino is dead:


After the scrubbing, this is what the tub looked like:

12-29-2011, 05:23 AM
Sump ran away:

There it is:

Cleaned and all the base rock put back in. It is full of normal tapwater and 32 ounces of 3% hydrogen peroxide, just in case chlorinated tapwater wasnt enough to kill everything:

Closet live rock and some snails:

I plan to drain the tank and fill it with RODI water and reef salt when it comes in, then leave the lights off and keep heavily dosing it with peroxide. Then if the 5 gallon hex, 5 gallon bucket and the tank all look dino free, they will be converging once more.

12-29-2011, 01:20 PM
yikes your using peroxide? nasty stuff make sure you're careful! And make sure you have it all out before you put anything living back in there

glad to see you guys can tear down a tank so efficiently though! lol that would take me a couple days to get everything out of there and really scrubbed haha

12-29-2011, 03:57 PM
I am changing the water in the big tank today. Yesterday I filled it up with chlorinated tap water and 32 ounces of h2o2, which was basically a cleansing rinse, today I am going to drain all that out and fill it with RODI water and then add the salt when it comes in.

I am also treating my livestock with H2O2, they are getting 2.5ml/day to about 4 gallons of water (I said 5 yesterday, but I think that is a bit excessive)

All the other suggestions, which have pretty much been to do more water changes to lower your nitrates and phosphates, have been completely useless. Even though I repeated again and again that I didnt have any nitrates (or phosphates it turns out) the same people kept giving me the same suggestion. I dont know why that is viewed as the end all, beat all solution to any kind of growth in your tank, but for me it was a total waste of time.

If this doesnt work the tank is getting a gallon of bleach and I will consider trying again later.

01-02-2012, 08:14 PM
So can anyone explain to me how changing tank water is supposed to reduce nutrients, if there is no nutrients in your water?

01-02-2012, 08:58 PM
Your dinoflangellates were using the nutrients in your water as soon as they were being produced which is why you did not get a test reading when you tested your water. Dinos, or any other type of algea for that matter, needs food to live. This food is either: nitrates, phosphates, or both. There's really just no way around that fact.

The below link is for a artical written by Dr Randy Holmes-Farley, a leading scientist who studies marine chemistry. He is among the more accomplished scientist in his felid and one of the better subject matter experts out there, at least IMO.

It explains the science behind what I have just stated


01-02-2012, 10:43 PM
Your dinoflangellates were using the nutrients in your water as soon as they were being produced which is why you did not get a test reading when you tested your water.

Yes I agree completely. There are no nutrients in the water because it is being taken up instantly.

So once again, how do water changes help lower nutrients available to the crap, when there are no nutrients in the water?

01-02-2012, 11:04 PM
As the nitrates and phosphates are there for a extermly short period of time, you have at least a window of opportunity to take them out before being used by the algae

Large and frequent water changes will help you get ahead of the process of the nitrates and phosphated from being used. You would be removing a very small amount of nutrients with each water change, likely lower than what most test kits can measure (between 0.25 and 1ppm). But rest assured, you will be lowering it enough to make a difference with each water change.

This is very similar to the principals behind cycling with fish in a fresh water tank. With each water change you remove a small enough amount of ammonia and nitrites to make a difference.

It will take a little time and effort tho, and a lot of larger water changes, but it does work IMO.

01-04-2012, 01:48 AM
Well lets hope thats true. If it is then me removing all the crap, along with all the sand and doing a 100% water change with RODI water will fix the issue.

Heres to hoping.

01-05-2012, 03:36 PM
definitely hope it works for you... it's weird that you got that dino on there in the first place though... wonder if it was just seeded in your rock waiting to explode or what triggered it's growth as compared to say another type of algae?

01-21-2012, 12:36 AM
I know this quote is from a while back, but I really feel I should share what I have learned about feeding my dragonnet mandrin goby.

Also, I hate to be the party pooper, but I'm not so sure you are going to be able to support that Mandarin Dragonet in your setup. From what I can tell, you tank is roughly 5 months old. No nearly enough time to develop a sustainable pod population. Mandarins shouldn't be added to tanks less than 1 year old and should have a sustainable, substantial pod population. You will likely find yourself having to but pods to add to the tank.

I dont know why this is not common knowledge but no one should EVER let one of these beautiful fish starve to death. Mine has been in a 5 gallon tank for nearly a month now, a 5 gallon tank that was not even really cycled. Let alone had a year old pod population.... And if there were any pods in it the goby took care of that in the first 5 minutes.

It may not be the most nutritious food for them, but they LOVE prawn roe. Get a syringe, dump a bunch of it on their head (about a dime sized mass), and keep dumping it about every 5 minutes until they accidently slurp some up when they are looking for coepods, you will know when they discovered it. Mine had a look on his face like he had just discovered food for the first time. He was SOOOO excited. Now he starts looking for it every time he sees the syringe, or feels the sudden spurt of water nearby.

Sorry about the picture quality, the lighting, cellphone camera, and the camera shy goby dont help:

01-21-2012, 01:34 AM
wow thats great to know, where do you get that food from?? i love these little fish but dont have a pod pop big enough ,and i plan to keep on in my 55 after a year of having the tamk

01-21-2012, 06:47 AM
wow thats great to know, where do you get that food from?? i love these little fish but dont have a pod pop big enough ,and i plan to keep on in my 55 after a year of having the tamk

All the places that sell frozen food around here have it, I think it cost me 4 dollars for a small ziploc bag of it. That was around 2 months ago and I have used less than 1/4 of the bag. All my fish seem to love it, its pretty much all my damsel eats and I even threw some in my freshwater community tank to see what would happen, they all went CRAZY over it. My cardinal tetras went totally piranha all over it, I have never seen them so excited.

02-08-2012, 12:22 AM
2/7/2012 Updates: Seems I have kicked the dino issue, although I am still not 100% sure. I recently bought a mixed zoanthid rock locally, a pack of cleaners from reefcleaners.org, and a couple zoo med t8 bulbs (unexpected expenses made me hold off on the DIY LED setup, so that got pushed down the list)

These these first 2 are terrible quality, but you can see the difference between the old t8 bulbs and new t8 bulbs:


The damsel and the pulsing xenia:

02-08-2012, 12:23 AM
The bubble coral and the (recovering) gorgonia:

Galveston rock anemone:

LFS Zoanthid rock:

02-08-2012, 06:17 PM
Wow what a difference with the new bulbs!! Tank looks great now, and glad to see some corals:)

Take some more pictures when things open up! Those zoas look like they'll be a cool mix

02-10-2012, 03:38 AM
Just so there is no mistaking, this is Janelles boyfriend Joel.... Just realizing the mistake of the century... The refractometer I got was listed as a "combo" refractometer, it reads in specific gravity, and in the customer reviews several people talked about how much of a difference it made compared to their hydrometer for marine aquariums.... Well me, them and I assume a couple other people made a COLOSSAL mistake.

The refractometer I got, while listed as a "combo" is actually designed for measuring sugar, not salt, or seawater. Since sugar and seawater (and salt, although it is close to seawater) have a different refractive index, my salinity has been off, WAY off. So if anyone out there has a refractometer that has a "brix" scale (or anything similar) in addition to the specific gravity or PPT scale, please do your livestock a favor and make sure that you are not salting the living crap out of the poor buggers.....

Thats all for now, I ordered a new refractometer, and in the mean time I get to go drain about half my salt water and start (very) slowly filling it back up with RO/DI water......

04-14-2012, 01:05 PM
I know I have not updated this in a LONG time, but there has been some significant progress made lately on the tank.

We bought a new refractometer and corrected the salinity issue.

We got 2 offbrand (shkerry aqua) 1300 GPH "wavemaker" powerheads, they seem to work great so far and were DIRT cheap ($30 shipped for both). I'll see how long they last: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B002480V32/ref=oh_o02_s00_i00_details

We bought a friends entire livestock from his 25 gallon reef tank just 2 days ago, its currently just sitting in the tank, due to a recent microalgae bloom we cant really see well enough to organize it yet. As soon as it clears up we will post more pics of it organized. It has a bunch of softies, some SPSS, some LPSS and some other encrusting stuff I am not sure about.

We just completed making our own DIY LED display lighting, it was fairly expensive but definately worth it.

Tank with lights off (and camera flash on), microalgae bloom is very apparent here, the Hagen Aquaclear on the back is just a temporary measure to help clear up the microalgae faster:

Tank with Royal Blue LEDs, True Violet LEDs, Deep Red LEDs and Turquoise LEDs on full and Neutral white LEDs on low:

All LEDs on full, which is too bright to run right now, without acclimation the poor critters would get fried:

04-14-2012, 02:37 PM
looks good, how ever that damsel you might have issues with when adding any new fish. i have a blue devil damsel and after 3 weeks in the tank i cant add any other fish in there :(. do you have any build pics of your ifixture? and also what leds did you use?

04-14-2012, 04:51 PM

Above is my build thread on algaescrubber.net, I changed my plan a couple times but listed below is my final build:

Heatsink ($170.10 shipped): 10.000" x 46" Fin Height: 1" Base Height: .300" Weight ~23lbs

Final LED count:

14 XP-G Neutral White (40 degree optics, 700mA max)

36 XT-E Royal Blue (40 degree optics, 700mA always)

6 3W True Violet (60 degree optics, ~600mA)

6 3W Turquoise (60 degree optics ~600mA)

6 3W Deep Red (60 degree optics~600mA)

The I violet/red/turquoise and 6 individual XT-E Royal Blue LEDs I added for extra color, but these could be considered optional. Here is the breakdown of what I got from all from groupbuyled.com, I subtracted prices for stuff that was not needed to do the basic 28 Royal blues and 14 neutral whites.

7 x CREE XT-E Royal Blue XP-G Neutral White 3 UP - $189.00
(Color: 2x XTE Royal 1x XPG Neutral, Quantity in Package: 2 Pack)

7 x 3UP - XT-E XP-G Optic- 2 pack - 40 Degrees - $36.75

1 x Arctic Alumina Thermal Adhesive 5g - $6.99

5 x Inventronics 40w driver - 700mA - $185.00 (if you leave off the violet/red/turquoise/6 individual Royal Blue LEDs only need 3 - $74.00)

1 x True Violet LED - 420nm - $27.00 (optional - $27.00)
(Quantity in Package: 6 Pack, Optic Degrees: 60°)

3 x Deep Red - 660nm - $11.94 (optional - $11.94)
(Optic Angle: 60°, Quantity in Package: 2 Pack)

3 x Turquoise - 495nm - $15.00 (optional - $15.00)
(Optic Angle: 60°, Quantity in Package: 2 Pack)

1 x CREE XT-E Royal Blue - $19.38 (optional - $19.38)
(Quantity in Package: 6 Pack )

1 x XP/XT Optic - 6 Pack (40 Degree) (optional - $9.54)
(Quantity in Package: 6 Pack )

5 x 10K Ohm 1/2 watt Linear Taper Potentiometer Easy Solder - $15.00 (only need 3 for for just white/royal blue LEDs -$6.00)

2 x Solid Wire 24awg (300 volt) - 25 feet each- White - $11.5

2 x Stranded Wire 24awg (300 volt) - 25 feet each- Black- $11.5

2 x Solder Tube 10g (63/37) - $8.50

$547.10 (what I paid)
$384.24 (what it would cost to just have 28 Royal blue and 14 Neutral white LEDs)

04-14-2012, 05:16 PM
The pice of the LEDs, Cover materials and heatsink came out to the following:

Grand Total:
~$750.07 For a fixture exactly like mine.
~$587.21 For a basic fixture similar to mine, but with just 28 Royal Blues and 14 Neutral Whites.

04-16-2012, 12:06 PM
Awesome build, any controlling function to the LEDs or are they just on or off?

04-16-2012, 12:59 PM
Awesome build, any controlling function to the LEDs or are they just on or off?

They are all dimable. They could be controlled via a sunrise/sunset controller as well if you wanted to make/buy one. These particular LED controllers take a 0-10v analog signal so they are not QUITE as easy to work with as some of the ones that can make use of a PWM signal, but its still easily doable.

04-16-2012, 01:07 PM
Gotcha cool cool, now is do you have it set up on channels? Meaning you can kill the purples without affecting any other colors or something to that effect? And do you have any reflectors on there?

04-16-2012, 11:26 PM
Gotcha cool cool, now is do you have it set up on channels? Meaning you can kill the purples without affecting any other colors or something to that effect? And do you have any reflectors on there?

Optics are the "reflectors" for LEDs, most CREE and other high end LEDs project light at a very wide angle (often 120 degrees), optics are to narrow the focus of that light. Most of my optics are 40 degree, however the reds, turquoise and violets are all 60 degrees. I did that to concentrate the high number of Royal Blue and Neutral White colors and to disperse fewer "colored" LEDs.

Each driver is dimable seperately, so in my case I have the following:

1 driver for 14 Neutral White LEDs
1 driver for 14 Royal Blue LEDs
1 driver for 14 Royal Blue LEDs
1 driver for 6 Royal Blue LEDs and 6 Violet LEDs
1 driver for 6 turquoise and 6 red LEDs

So the ones that have mixed colors on a single driver dim and brighten together, with the way I wired it I cant change the intensity of the turquoise without changing the intensity of the reds for example, which is fine with me. But all the channels are independant, and can be wired to different light timers etc.

So if wanted I could go down to wally world and get 5 $3 outlet timers and have the Violet+Royal Blue channel come on at 7am, the first full Royal blue channel come on at 7:15am, the second royal blue come on at 7:30, the red+turquoise come on at 7:45 and the whites come on at 8. Or I could get a reef controller and set it to control them all.

Does that answer your question?

04-17-2012, 12:45 AM
Yup that's what I expected just wanted to double check haha nice build!

04-17-2012, 01:20 PM
Thanks, I will post some more pics after it finishes clearing up, I am giving it a couple dark days to take care of the micro algae bloom.

04-22-2012, 04:38 AM
The tank is not totally clear yet, but is getting much better, so I thought I would post some pics. Also I measured today, like LEDs are almost exactly 5" from the water (from the optics to the waterline)

Video of the color seperation over rough water, and the color consistance over smoother water:
http://i18.photobucket.com/albums/b124/JoelEspinoza/th_PICT0265_mpeg4_001.jpg (http://s18.photobucket.com/albums/b124/JoelEspinoza/?action=view&current=PICT0265_mpeg4_001.mp4)

All LEDs on full:


Mandrin dragonnet is watching you:


04-22-2012, 04:38 AM




04-22-2012, 04:39 AM
Sad Hammer with a sunburn =(




04-22-2012, 04:39 AM




07-28-2012, 08:23 PM
Its REALLY hard to take accurate pics of LED lit tanks however these are the current pics:





07-28-2012, 08:23 PM



Old Marine
07-28-2012, 10:37 PM
I just Love the looks of that tank, Thank You for sharing with usthumbs2:

07-29-2012, 02:02 AM
I just Love the looks of that tank, Thank You for sharing with usthumbs2:

Thanks, its far from done, but is comming along nicely.