Ben Lobaugh Online

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Tag: aquarium

Second week update on the nano reef cleanup

Today ends the second week of the new saltwater nano reef tank. Here is the update on the cleanup project.

The tanks started out overgrown with algae an aiptasia. The tank had crashed. Here is a photo of how it started.

Nano Reef Tank Crashed

I am dedicated to bringing this tank back up to snuff and giving it back to my buddy looking like the beautiful reef it should.

I started by removing all three large rocks for cleaning. The rose bubble anemone refused to be moved, so I wound up leaving that rock in. You can see the anemone on the left most rock in the above photo. Leaving that rock in has made the revitalizing of the tank more difficult as I have been unable to simply kill off and scrub it like the other two rocks. Minor speed bump!

Later, I took a good look at the default sump configuration and was not too thrilled with what I saw. The built in sump is convenient, and certainly makes this tank much easier to maintain, but it has not been doing a great job out of the box. There are three chambers, in the first chamber was nothing but water. The second chamber held a highly porous black sponge that contained a tiny bit of activated carbon and even less bio material. Not nearly enough bio material to build the level of beneficial bacteria I would like to see.

For the short term, I need to be collecting junk in the water, which the black sponge cannot do. I pulled that and the carbon out, then dropped the bio material to the bottom of the second chamber. Then I took filter floss and stuffed the second chamber full. The first chamber was still empty. Here is a photo of the water change 2 days after updating the sump. The filter looks whiter than it really is in the photo, it is dark brown.

Yowza! That is some gross water!

Both chambers one and two now are packed with filter floss. More bio media should be arriving shortly, and that will fill most of the second chamber. There are other specialty saltwater gadgets that could be used, but I am attempting to keep this as simple as possible.

The sump pump was also replaced. It had an anemic 80 gph pump in it. Or at least it felt like the same output as my other 80 gph pump. A 200 gph pump replaced it. This provides much better flow that everyone in the tank seems to be enjoying. The water is much cleaner as well.

Onto the critters!

Removing the other rocks helped the stock feel much better. Everyone is more active now, especially the shrimp, which had stayed in one place for the most part. I also picked up some cleanup crew to assist:

  • 10 Trochus snails – general algae eater
  • 3 peppermint shrimp – aiptasia eater
  • Emerald crab – bubble algae eater

The anemone was looking depressed initially. I fed it some brine shrimp and the next day it looked better. I have been feeding it directly every other day and it is looking happier now. It has fully emerged and opened up, and it’s arms are floating up again.

I have been heavily consulting with a couple pro saltwater buddies, Josh and Jordan. Their guidance has been invaluable. Barrier Reef Aquariums has also been critical to the success of this rehab. I highly recommend you check them out if you are in the Seattle area.

Here are some photos of the tank now:

Click on this link to see a video of the Emerald Crab dining on some algae.

New fish tank, saltwater- I have never had this before!

For over three decades I have kept aquariums. I tried to calculate of all the individual tanks over the years and came up with a rough 400 gallon number. In all of that time I have never had a saltwater fish tank! My friends Joshua and Jordan were the salt pros and I was the freshwater guy. 

A  buddy with a nano reef tank asked me a couple weeks ago if I could take care of his tank for a while. An established tank, with a built in sump. It is the perfect salt water aquarium starter package. I gladly agreed and the tank is now sitting next to my desk where I get to look at during the work day. 

Tank: Fluval Evo 13.5 

Current stocking:

  • Rose bubble tip anemone
  • Frosted Clown
  • Black and White Clown
  • Watchman Goby
  • Pistol Shrimp
  • Yellow Coral Banded Shrimp 
  • Peppermint Shrimp
  • Emerald Crab (I added)
  • Trochus snails

Photo of the tank after moving it to my house

Algae and Aiptasia got a foothold during my buddy’s vacation. We are currently battling it out, but I am confident that we will be the victors and the tank will be pristine again soon!

Some photos of the stock:

Video of the Emerald Crab

How I made my first, CHEAP, aquarium sump

Sump filtration systems are popular amongst fish hobbyist, but in 33 years of fish keeping I have never had one on my tanks. My filter of choice is the good ‘ole under gravel. It can be a hotly debated method, but it has always served me well. Of course I have lived in places with good water straight out of the tap! Currently I am living in a real estate rehab house, and the water quality here is awful for fish. There are wild fluctuations in chemical composition, sometimes the chlorine is overwhelming. I do not trust it, and it has made keeping my tank level a chore.

As much as I like under gravel filters, I recognize their strengths and weaknesses- one weakness being the (slow) speed at which they can process the water. Larger established tanks can absorb spikes ok, but my little 30 gallon struggles under the load…. enter the sump filter.

Sumps can process the entirety of the tank’s water several times per hour, but they tend to be expensive if purchased from a fish store. When you break down their components, it turns out sumps are relatively inexpensive to build yourself.

Here are the major components:

  • Method of getting water out of the tank automatically
  • Filtration method to run the removed water through
  • Method of getting the water back into the tank

That’s it!

“But wait!”, you say, “It cannot be that easy!”

Really, the most difficult part of the project is getting the water out and back into the tank. I promise! The sump itself is simple. It consists of three parts:

  • Mechanical filtration
  • Biological filtration
  • Reservoir of cleaned water

Here is the big picture of my setup:

Getting water out of the tank utilizes a siphon and gravity- no electricity required. Just like the gravel vacuum you use when cleaning your tank. The water return is accomplished via an electric pump in the water reservoir, in this case, at the bottom of a 5 gallon bucket.

A cut away view of my sump looks like:

* The circles with an X in them are the biological filtration.

How does this work?

  • Water comes into the bucket
  • Then it is mechanically filtered via a layer of polyester
  • It tickles through the polyester into several layers of plastic pot scrubbies (yes, that you clean pans with!) that act as the biological filtration media. Bacteria loves to grow on this stuff!
  • Then falls into an empty space at the bottom of the buckets, the reservoir
  • Finally, an electric pump pumps it back into the tank

All told, this system cost less than $60 to build, vs hundreds to purchase from a pet store.

Here is a list of the components I used:

I put a ball valve on the water return line to be able to control the flow rate of water. I believe 250 – 300 gallons per hour is the current flow rate through this system. That means the entire tank water gets processed up to 10 times per hour! That is a lot of filtration….maybe a little overkill. Recommendations I saw around the web were around 5 times per hour as a minimum.

Overall a very simple project. The water clarity is outstanding and the fish are moving around happily. The main caveat here is that since this is a brand new sump it means it has to go through the whole cycling process. I am hoping it will be accelerated though since the tank as it was was cycled already. Some of that good bacteria should make its way into the sump to help prime it.

Have you built a sump before? What is your method?

If this post has inspired you to build one please drop a comment below. I would love to hear about your experience.

A couple great resources on the web for all things fish keeping

30_gallon_stand_cardboard_mockup

The 30 gallon fish tank stand is getting an upgrade – Sides!

With Clara crawling, it is time to baby-proof the house. One big project to tackle is the fish tank. Currently the 30 gallon tank sits on a custom stand made of 2x4s. There is a shelf on the bottom, that inevitably winds up holding tank gear. It is open for all the world to see. We are going to be closing it in  so that Clara cannot get ahold of any of the chemicals or electrical connections that are kept on that shelf.

This stand is fairly old, so this update will give is a whole new life. I do not recall exactly when we found this, but my buddy Jordan got it first I think- when we were teens still!

Here is the cardboard mock up of our solution.

30_gallon_stand_cardboard_mockup

free 90 gallon tank and stand

Free 90 gallon fish tank! Big project alert

Some of you may know- to add to the list of crazy traits I have, I love fish keeping. When I was born my parents had 21 fish tanks in the house, in fact, they met at a fish club show. Growing up I was around all varieties of tanks, from 5 gallons to 125 gallons. Small community fish to fish large enough to take a finger off.

Over the last four years I lived on a small powerboat- not really enough room to have a proper tank, so I have been without fish a while. After moving into our project house, I set up my old 30 gallon tank, but I wanted more.

Yesterday on OfferUp I saw a 130 gallon tank listed, FOR FREE! Hard to pass that up. I headed over and picked it up a few hours after it was posted.

free 90 gallon tank and stand

Tank size from a picture is a bit hard to determine, so I will post photos of the measurements below. Suffice to say this is a 90 gallon tank, not a 130. But hey, it was free!

The tank material is acrylic. I believe this is the first acrylic tank I have owned. There is a slight haze to it that I can get off with a good buffing. Sometimes when filled with water the haze disappears, so I will try that first.

The stand looks rough in the picture- because it is rough. There is a lot of rot and water damage on it. I do not trust it with the 800 pounds it will be holding. No big deal, we were already knew it needed work from the posting photos. I will take the doors off the front and build a new skeleton inside it. Piece of cake.

Sadly, there are several projects around the house that are higher priority than getting this tank running, so it will be a few months until she is up and running.

I prefer under gravel filters but am tossing around the idea of building an external sump. What do you think? Shoot me a message.

Outer tank size

Inner tank size

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