Monday, October 20, 2008


Sometimes it seems like the corals you buy don't do well but the ones you get for free have no problems. Here are a couple of hitchikers that came with my live rock.

The first is some sort of a yellow polyp. It prefers to open up after dark but sometimes it opens when the lights are on. It is really small, about the size of a pencil eraser.

From Paul's Reef

The next one is significantly larger; about an inch by an inch. I', not sure what it is, however, it does not appear to be aptasia.

From Paul's Reef

From Paul's Reef

It has grown since I inherited it but it is not a super fast grower. Hopefully it is nothing too nasty.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Where have I been?

I haven't posted for almost three months.

What's my excuse?

a. It's been summer
b. Lots of stuff going on at home.
c. Busy at work.
d. Cat ruined my camera by peeing on it.
e. All of the above.

If you answered "e" you are correct. Yes one of our cats, I mean former cats, micturated on our Canon Rebel XTi digital SLR. My wife found it sitting in a pool of urine on our kitchen counter. I had to take the camera completely apart and clean it with alcohol and Q tips. Miraculously it still works. Both cats have been returned to the No Kill shelter where we got them.

So, what's been happening lately in my tank?

First, I completed my refugium with a deep sand bed. The largest size tank I could get in my stand was 10 gallons. Way too small for what I wanted so I used two of them. They are connected using 2" PVC pipe. I drilled holes in the tanks and used bulkheads to connect them.

The left tank contains the deep sand bed (DSB). It contains 30 lbs of sugar size Oolite sand and 40 lbs of live Caribbean reef sand mixed together. I also moved a few cups of sand from my main tank into the DSB.

From Paul's Reef

The right side houses my protein skimmer, auto top off system, sump and return pumps.
From Paul's Reef

The water flows down from my main tank into my refugium. I use a valve to control how much water flows into the deep sand bed (left tank) and how much flows into the right tank. The theory is that you don't want too much flow through the DSB. I have about half the flow going through the DSB.

In the right tank I used a piece of acrylic to construct a chamber. The height of this wall sets the height of the water in both the chamber and DSB portion of the tank. I built the chamber large enough to house a bigger protein skimmer. For now I'm using my hang on the back Remora skimmer. It used to hang from the back of the main tank but has now been moved under the stand.

I have two additional dividers used to implement a bubble trap. The middle wall does not make contact with the bottom of the tank. This forces the water to flow down and then up on the other side of the center divider. Once the water flows over the right-most divider it is in the sump.

The sump now houses my heater and and two 802 power heads. I had these laying around so I used these instead of buying a "real pump". These power heads move a lot of water. They are rated for 400 gph with no head pressure. However, the flow pumping up 4 feet. I believe the flow is reduced roughly but I haven't measured it. Therefore, with my two pumps I am getting about 400 gph total. To use these you just have to shove plastic tubing over the exit orfice. Be sure the hose covers the venturi opening. My two pumps are slightly different. One of them has the venturi opening elevated so I can't shove the plastic hose over it. Instead I found an air stone that fits perfectly in the hole to block the flow.

Note the max fill line on the sump. If the sump is filled above this level and the power goes out I'll flood my family room. I drilled holes in the return pipes into the tank just above the water line to break the siphon when the power goes out.

Finally, I constructed a top off system using a Coralife float valve and plastic storage container and some fittings from Home Depot and Ace hardware. This works perfectly keeping the water level constant in the sump. I just need to remember to refil the fresh water reservoir with RO water every few days.

From Paul's Reef

I purchased and overflow box and constructed a Hofer Gurgle Buster to virtually eliminate all noise in the overflow box. It works really well and was simple to build.

From Paul's Reef

From Paul's Reef

The sand went in the tank on 8/2/2008. It is now 10/8/08, more than 2 months later. So after all of this have my nitrates gone down?


Nitrates are still fluctuating between 25 and 50ppm as measured with my Salifert kit.

So now what? I purchased some Chaeto algae to put in the DSB side of the tank. Hopefully, the algae will absorb nitrate and reduce the level.

One final note. I chose to have water from the DSB / refugium flow into the chamber containing the protein skimmer. Many recommend against this because many of the copepods will get skimmed out. I did it because it made for a simpler design that maximized my water volume and reduced plumbing and pump requirements. I can tell you that after I added my DSB and sump I experienced a copepod bloom in my main tank. These "bugs" are crawling/swimming all over my live rock. I haven't seen any copepod corpses in the skimate.