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How Not to Build A Reef Tank


  1. New tank setup... Serious help needed. [M] [F] may also find interest
    by (Ron Burns) (Wed, 1 Apr 1992)

New tank setup... Serious help needed. [M] [F] may also find interest

by (Ron Burns)
Date: Wed, 1 Apr 1992
Newsgroup: rec.aquaria,alt.aquaria

Hi, netter's -

I've got a question I'd like to pose to the collective wisdom of the net,
but first let me give you some background on my tank.

I have kept freshwater tanks for a number of years, and decided to try my
hand at a marine system.  The only aquarium I had available at the time was
an extra 10 gallon all glass stashed away in the basement somewhere.  I took
off looking for it, prepared to find it covered with dust and spiders, but
man, I was pleasantly surprised to find out otherwise.  I seems that my 
wife had put it to good use these past several years.  I guess she had been
having a problem with leaking bottles of laundry detergent and other cleaning
supplies and so she just placed them in the aquarium to keep the stuff from
running every where.  The excess seemed to just run under the UGF plates and
keep the bottles relatively tidy.  Obviously, cleaning up this tank was
going to be a snap!  I tossed out all those bottles, (the seemed fairly
empty by then) and got to work.  My first problem was removing those filter
plates.  It didn't look as if they were wedged in there very tightly, but I 
certainly could't pry them loose!  I thought that bleach or battery acid or
a good soaking with WD-40 would free it up, but they wouldn't budge, so I 
guess they were supposed to fit that way.  I cleaned up the thing as best as 
I could, and also scraped away most of that grey-green tar-like stuff, and 
started planning the rest of the system.
Now I knew that UGF's were not the filter of choice in marine systems, but
hey!  It was there so I used it!  There was that part of me that wanted to 
`do it right', though, and so I built myself a trickle filter.  It's really
easy to do, and I would recommend it to any one.  My first attempt used a
40 quart kitchen garbage pail as the tower.  I filled this with chopped up
IC tubes for the bio-media.  I was a little worried about the printing on the
side of the tubes saying they were anti-static coated, so I soaked the first
batch in acetone, to remove the coating.  The less said about that, the better.
I finally resorted to soaking the pieces in hot water, until the water doesn't 
turn quite so grey.  I did try frappe-ing one bunch in the blender, but the 
smell wasn't very nice and it took me almost an hour to get enough plastic
out from around the blades so that the motor would run again.  Anyway, I piled
all those pieces of chip tubes into the garbage pail, and filled it up.  I got
a used pump from an industrial surplus house (only $15.00!!!) and hooked
it up as my water return, after scraping most of that yellow stuff off of it.  
Now I know Thiel says to pump lot's of air into the trickle tower, but That
Fish Place wanted over $75.00 for the Whisper 1000 Thiel suggested.  Not 
while there's that old air conditioning blower from my '72 Chevelle out in
the garage.  I just got some drier vent hose and cut a hole in the side of
my garbage pail, and hooked the two up.  I decided to test run this setup a
little, and when I fired up the air blower, I blew darn near every single 
chunk of media plastic clear out of the tower!  I knew then that I needed a
drip tray over the top of the tower.  I fashioned one out of tupperware and
an old piece of plexiglass I had lying around, and fixed it firmly on top of
the tower.  Pouring water in the top assured me that the drip tray was working
out pretty well, so I turned on the fan again.  The most interesting thing 
about that was, the water that didn't actually fly out and onto the walls and
ceiling seemed to be little droplets suspended about 8 inches over the drip
tray and moving from one air stream to another.  Fascinating, but not what I 
was actually looking for.
 Once again, I hauled out the shop-vac to clean up, and suddenly it hit me!
I knew the perfect way to make a wet-dry filter!  I would use this great
old shop-vac!  It's made for wet or dry!  It has the capacity I need! 
So I fitted the shop-vac OVER THE TOP of the display tank.  That's the key!
I suck the water out of the tank, into the vac, over the media, with plenty of
air, and I drilled out a return hole in the bottom to drain the vac back into
the aquarium.  Perfect!
 Of course, I probably should have cleaned out the shop-vac little better 
before actually trying out the system, but it turned out OK.  It is kinda
surprising how small a wet dust bunny is.  One drawback, however.  I had to
remove the telephone from the room, 'cause somehow the new filter affected
it's operation.  It seemed like no one could hear me, and I know I could
hardly hear the callers.  Moving the phone to the basement cleared it right up.
 I decided to have a protein skimmer on my system 'cause by now I had been
reading the .aquaria newsgroups long enough to figure out that those reef
aquarium keepers seem to be having all the excitement, and they all rave 
about skimmers.  Besides, there seemed to a fair amount of foam being generated
in the new "shop-vac power trickle" filter.  I had some GREAT ideas on how to 
build one myself, from scratch, but my wife absolutely insisted on buying me 
one for my birthday.  Watta gal!
 Needless to say, I got a nice, big, free standing, powerhead driven, counter-
current, venturi style protein skimmer with ozone! Arr Arr Arr ooh ooh 
ooohhhyesss! Sorry, about that, a little Tim Allen lingo crept in there!
I fired that bad boy p. skimmer up, and dang if it didn't suck half of the water
out of the tank!  The foam was just a-churnin' out!  I topped off the tank 
water, and just sat back to admire the system for a minute.  I did wonder at
the quantity of the foam, considering that I hadn't yet put any animals in
the tank yet, but I supposed that dissolved organics might not be all that
it may be good at removing.
 Now I needed a light for the system, but this was even easier than the tricle
filter.  Natural sunlight!  What could be better?  I just replaced the panes
of glass in the south window with low refectivity, high transmission glass, 
and bingo! Bright, correctly color balanced, natural light!  One of the 
advantagious fringe benefits of being a ham radio operator is the fact that 
there is an antenna tower just outside the window, I was able to mount a pair
of big reflecting mirrors on the tower to shine full strength into the tank.
Of course, here in Minnesota, the days get kinda short in winter, so I picked 
up a pair of 500W Halogen bulbs, and an old carbon arc projector bulb to 
supplement.  I placed them in concentrating reflectors I made by pounding out 
some old hub caps (Chevelle again!).  Man, when I turn those babies on at 
night, motorists on my street can turn their headlights off!
 Since adding the lights, I haven't really seen the need for a heater, and it
seems to take the better part of the night for the temperature to come back
down anyway.
 Soooo let's see, I've covered the tank, the filters, lights, heat... What's
left?  Oh yeah, the water.  There is a fairly inexpensive product commonly
referred to as 'Ice Bite' and this is mostly Calcium Chloride.  I figured
that using this stuff and some off the shelf table salt, I could get by, no
problem.  However, after considering more carefully, I figured that you just
can't be too carefull about what you put in your tank, so I just used tap 
water and Reef Crystals.
 I ordered a case of live rock, which I thought would be great way to set up
the tank, and so I just plopped that stuff in there, turned on all the 
equipment, and set off to the fish store for some critters to stock this 
thing with.  
 I wanted a real nice assortment, and ended up coming home with:
	1 pair of Neon Gobies
	1 Cleaner Wrasse
	2 Copper-Banded Butterfly fish
	1 Percula Clown Anemonefish
	1 Pink Tipped Anemone (Candylactis?? (sp))
	1 Angelfish whose exact type escapes me for the moment
	1 Brain Coral
	1 Leather Coral
and finally,
	1 of those really nifty little Peppermint Shrimp things
 Wow, did that all look great!  I needed to rearrange some of the rocks a
little to allow all the fish to get completely in the water, but that was 
really no problem at all.
 I set the lights on a timer I picked up on the way home from the pet shop,
after getting the groceries, I guess it was, and left the fish to get used
to their new home.
 I was late for work the next morning, so I don't know what the situation was
in the morning, but when I got home that night, I was shocked.  The corals
and the butterfly fishes had both spawned!  No, only kidding.  Sadly, the whole
mess seemed pretty dead, and was well on it's way to smelling strongly, too.

My question is :   What did I do wrong?

;^)   ;^)   ;^)   ;^)   ;^)   ;^)   ;^)   ;^)   ;^)   ;^)   ;^)   ;^)  
Flames, complaints and whining >> /dev/null

Actual discussion of semi-reef setup of a new 100 gallon tank to follow.

Ron Burns     WHAT lawsuit? It's an OPINION! Can't you still have those? 
Unisys Corporation   UUCP: ...pwcs!rosevax!minnow!ron   
Phone:(612)635-6927  CSNET:   ron-at-minnow.SP.Unisys.Com

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