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Chronicle of a Biocube 32
#1
I have always wanted to try saltwater. After I got hooked back into freshwater in the early spring, I looked at maybe doing a nano of some type just for the learning experience. Rightly or wrongly, we decided on a Biocube. We initially got a 16 from Amazon. That went back the same day. If salt is like fresh, bigger is better and that was waaay to small. 

The 32 came in near the end of October and I got the stand put together and had it all positioned ready to fill the first weekend in November. I had decided just to fill the tank with pre-mix water from 1Fish2Fish. A slight aside - since getting back into it, this place has become like Costco or Home Depot. With all good intentions, I can't get out of there without dropping at least $100.00!
If people don't like particular stores or staff, PM me. Don't bring it up publicly here, please! Unless it is amusing. I tend to go to 1Fish more than AFK because of proximity.

 Anyway, we swing by that first Saturday and they have no pre-mix but it should be in mid-week. I'm not really prepared yet to mix my own so we decide to wait. A discus and a couple orphans later (my wife can't stand to see a fish alone in a tank), we head home. More time to study up on this.

This empty tank in the corner is driving me insane. No pre-mix through the week. I start debating water. I am on a well. My TDS is about 130 normally. Okay for fresh but maybe not for mixing salt. I start debating water. I figure I can go into Sobeys or wherever and get 30 gallons  of distilled water and use that for my first fill. Mix right in the tank. But, I am not really fond of toting 30 gallon jugs of water to the car. How many actual carts would that be?

We head back to 1Fish on the next Saturday. Still no pre-mix. There is no way I am not filling this tank this weekend! After some discussion with the staff at 1Fish (I suck at names. So apologies if any of you are reading this. One day I will remember). I discover that they sell water. That big white tank across from the bathroom is not a water heater! Off to Home Depot.

Back at 1Fish to get six pails of water, salt, rocks and substrate! Told you I can't get out of there without dropping some serious coin. I still think live rock is funny. How do they grow it? I opted for a 40 pound bag of dead sand. I think I broke a wrist hammering the covers on the pails. Next time I bring a rubber mallet! and 20+ pounds of rock they claimed was alive. I couldn't detect a pulse.
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#2
Day 1 - Continuing the chronicle.

The Mrs just reminded me that there was actually two trips to 1Fish. The water and salt went home day 1. I didn't really want to risk killing the rock by not having the water ready by doing something stupid so...

If getting the lids on the pails was a bitch, getting them off is even worse! After tearing off my finger tips, I googled and discovered that you can actually get a tool to help remove the lids. Go figure. So, now I carefully measure the water into the Cube - 108 litres. I got Red Sea Coral Pro. I decide to go for mixed reef. It's some time before I can put any stock in so I figure I can always tweak it. 37.1 grams per litre. I get out the trusty cooking scale. I even know to tare off the container and I start into measuring and dropping. 

This where the Hydor Evo 750 got into the tank. No way I am sitting there with a spatula, stirring that thing like a mad witch! I rescue the Evo from the long community tank and mount it in the cube. 108 litres of RO water is freaking cold. The Eheim heater, also from 1Fish - can you buys shares in that place?) is working overtime.

So0, I got me a refractometer. Sorry, 1Fish. This came from Amazon. I have been refractomering everything - tap water, distilled water, the RO water from 1Fish. I think I even spit on it at one point. I carefully measure three drops on to the slide, wait the designated 30 seconds and hold it up to the light - 1.034 or 45 ppt! What the f---!

So, I dippered out about 1 gallon and tossed it off the deck. Then it dawned on me....WAIT! Why I am throwing this away? So, I carefully siphoned off a gallon at a time into one of the afore-mentioned pails and added back in the RO water. I let the EVO swirl it around for a half hour or so and tested again.

The next morning I had an SG of 1.026 - 35PPT. So now, according to the Red Sea people this was going to be an SPS frag tank - whatever the hell that means.
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#3
Day 2 - 

I am not sure that anyone is reading this, or cares, but it's keeping me from staring at the stockless Cube.

Back at 1Fish, I get a couple more pails of water, using my trusty rubber mallet to close the lids. Still giggling at live rock- yep, I'm 61 and I giggle. Comes from smoking too many strange cigarettes in my youth. 

Back home, I siphon off about half the water in the Cube into empty pails. I carefully place the rock onto the bare bottom. I move it around a few times, getting it situated into semblance of what I think I remember coral looks like from my diving/snorkeling days. My wife reminds me that the coral I saw was probably the barnacles on the bottom of the old ships I dove off.

I am going to use the sand to anchor the rock so I wash it and hose. I don't have a whole lot of patience so my washing and hosing is probably not as well done as it should be. You will find that patience is not a virtue of mine. Remember that when I start doing plop and drop over drip!

Well, a 750 gpm circ pump (yes...forgot to pull the plug) and a half tank of water make an interesting sand storm! I am thinking...damn, I am glad there was nothing living in there. Even with teh pump off, I had to stop every so often and let the water settle.

Anyway, the attached pic, if this worked, is the Cube at the end of day 2.


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#4
Excellent posts! I was laughing the whole way through reading them! (in a good kind of way)
And better watch the red sea pro salt, i find they tend to be over ambitious in their salt mixing estimations, better off to figure out your own mixing ratio lol.
Keep up the good work and looking forward to hear more about the progress and see some pictures!
EDIT: apparently you read minds, as i was typing this up you managed to post again!
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#5
Yes, I read every word. Great write up so far. I chuckled a few times, cringed a few times as well, but in the end it worked out for you so far.
I will say, and others will agree, one thing you will have to learn is to be patient. I know you mentioned it is not one of your strong points, but the key to a successful start of any saltwater setup is lots of patience and not rushing on to the next step.

Unlike freshwater, you can't (i tread lightly on this comment) just throw some water and fish in the tank and voila, saltwater setup. Ask lots of questions on here and do lots of research along the way, it will pay off in the end. Just remember, with the amount of money you will be investing in the hobby, it is a lot cheaper to do things right starting out than end up paying more in the long run.

With regard to the salt mix, generally, most all salt mixes on the market are 1/2 cup of salt for every gallon of water. I mix up 5 gallons at a time and the ratio works out to 2-1/2 cups for a 5 gallon bucket. That ratio should yield you a salinity withing the 1.023-1.026 range every time.

You will also want to point your powerhead away from the live rock. Angle in in such a way that it will indirectly give you good flow by bouncing it off the glass. You may need to add a smaller one pointed in an opposing direction so you won't end up with a tornado effect.

Keep us posted on the progress and Welcome to the hobby and the site!

Happy Reefing.
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#6
Ah yes the chronicle a good read so far need a good giggle now and then,so seems your doing great
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#7
Day 3  to present - and Rant 1

I know I have to wait for the tank to cycle but I have never tested saltwater before. Out of curiousity, I decide to test the TDS. Yes, I know salt is a TDS. Yes I know it will be high. No, I didn't know that a TDS meter can go off scale!

I have freshwater aquaria. I know how to test. I use API's master test kit. I am doing my research and determine that I need a salt water kit. If I use API's kit, it is mostly for the chart. I don't think I need a reef kit as yet. Amazon doesn't really have any good deals on these that I can see. Petsmart has a Nutrafin kit that looks interesting. And, we are making a stop there today. Yes, I don't mind Petsmart. They have some decent stuff there. In fact my 65g long community tank came from there. As well as a lot of the freshwater live stock. Not so much the cichlids and discus mind you!

So, I am home with the Nutrafin test kit. Here is my first rant. Maybe it is just me, but I can't distinguish the colours on this think. They all look pretty much the same to me. The API kits have a decent change of color and seem to be fairly accurate. This Nutrafin thing sucks. If I don't learn how to read it soon, I will be going back to API.

Here is what I have in my first set...

My temp is at 80. I have it slightly high to help with cycling. I understand that this might be best around 78 or 79?

Salinity is still at 1.026. Do people here prefer SG or ppt?

This is where it gets murky since I can't tell the colours.

PH is 8.0
Ammonium is zero. I start dosing with ammonium today. 15 drops in the tanks, nightly for a week. Nitrites are at 1.2 and Nitrates 50. I am guessing this is from the rock. 

At this point, I am not worrying about KH, phosphates, calcium, etc. I think those will mostly be skewed by the new salt mix anyway.

Day whatever and it's been 10 days since water went in. Last night I still cursed on the Nutrafin test kit. I am definitely getting an API saltwater kit this weekend.

Temp is 81. I have a digital thermometer installed now. PH, near as I can tell is about 8.

Salinity still at 1.026. I did top off last Saturday when I did water changes on the FW tanks.

Ammonia looks to be about 1.2. Nitrites - 1.6 and nitrate at 80.

Diatoms seem to like the tank - see the pic.

More to come when the algae turns green or the Nutrafin kit decides to cooperate. 

I have a broad back and a think skin. Comments, critiques and and suggestions welcome. 

The only stock I know for sure will be fish. What kind...no idea! Depends on what 1Fish or AFK have around that strike my fancy when the cycle finishes. Snails and crabs for sure. I don't think I really have room for a starfish unless i can locate something that won't grow a foot or more. Corals, yep. When I learn more about them. But, that is the whole point of this!


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#8
Looks like it's coming along nicely.
With regard to test kits, I've used a few different brands over the years and have come to settle on and trust the RedSea brand. I find them to be the most accurate and the easiest to read. Others may have different suggestions, but the RedSea brand is a trusted name in the saltwater hobby, and backed by a whole selection of additives and their own salt mix.

With regard to TDS, i've only heard people measuring it before they mix up a batch of saltwater. I've never looked into measuring any other way so I personally can't comment on that part of your recent frustration. A lot of people add a TDS meter on their RO/DI unit to easily keep track of TDS levels.
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#9
(14-Nov-2017, 09:29 PM)kman_2smooth Wrote: Looks like it's coming along nicely.
With regard to test kits, I've used a few different brands over the years and have come to settle on and trust the RedSea brand. I find them to be the most accurate and the easiest to read. Others may have different suggestions, but the RedSea brand is a trusted name in the saltwater hobby, and backed by a whole selection of additives and their own salt mix.

With regard to TDS, i've only heard people measuring it before they mix up a batch of saltwater. I've never looked into measuring any other way so I personally can't comment on that part of your recent frustration. A lot of people add a TDS meter on their RO/DI unit to easily keep track of TDS levels.

I didn't really expect to measure anything by sticking the meter into the salt water. I was thinking more like...how high would this thing go.

Thanks for the info on the Red Sea kits. I've started looking into them already.
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#10
good to see another reefer join the ranks!

what is the lighting system your using and is it adjustable as far as power output? how long do you have it on during the day? the reason I ask is you can cycle a tank with minimal light but in the beginning of a new tank too much light can really promote algae growth and some are good but it can get out of hand quick. I wanted to see the tank as long as possible from the start and I had the lights on too long and too high and paid for it.

I have never used those test kits only API(reef) and then I switch to read sea and have had better results when I use to test 3 times a week chasing levels! don't get me wrong your tank is young so test it a few times a week but don't get caught chasing the rabbit with regards to your levels and if something is off a good water change will help a lot more than any chemicals

Lastly, in my don't do what I did tips! be patient, take your time stocking and keep your frigging hands out of the tank!!! if you feel the need to rearrange rocks or corals or whatever make a note and do it all during the next water change.

glad to see you here and taking the plunge, and keep the chronicles coming!
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