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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello,

I'm looking for a little advise on the system I am looking to build. I'm moving into a new house in a few weeks and after having a smaller (15 gallon) system for several years want to go bigger. Up to now my system has pretty much been a - start with 35 lbs of uncured live rock in a 15 gallon tank, and just watch it grow and change for 3 years.

I've done some investigating and am looking at picking up the following, but was wondering if you talented folks had suggestions for me on the direction I am going, and if there are any suggested changes - either on what I am buying (too small, too big, don;t seem to match, etc . . .), or if there are better places to get those items I am buying.

* Tank - 170 gallon starphire glass, 48"L X 24"W X 35"H with a single overflow on the center of the back wall from glasscages.com for $970
* Stand - 30" high Oak Stand from glasscages.com $375
* 40 gallon sump - 36"L X 18"W X 13"H for $81 from glass cages (converting it into a sump myself)
* Skimmer - Bubble Master 200 from reefgeeks.com for $550
* Heater - 2X Jager TS Series Heater - 250W from reefgeeks.com - $25 each
* Lighting - Galileo I 30 from aquacave.com for $830
* Water Movement - 2X VorTech MP20 Propeller Pumps w/ Controllers from reefgeek.com for $720

So empty tank - $3,575

Questions on the build
- Not sure about a calcium reactor - are they necessary to start with, or can one get by with dosing with kallcausser?
- If I've never done a refugium and I have this much live rock and sand, and don't mind doing a water change every moth or two, should I go through the "learning experience" of doing one?

I am looking to build a solid wall on the back of the tank with the best stocked decorator rock I can find. I like the idea of a deep wall with a changing level of light as you move deeper into the tank (hence the 35" deep tank.) I am Thinking Tampa Bay Saltwater, Live Rock N Reef's or a mixture of Liveaquaria's premium large Fiji and Fiji fancy branch.; thoughts on these?

I am also thinking of starting with uncured live rock since it will be a new system and running it with just the uncured live rock for a few months with frequent water changes until it all stabilizes. Thoughts on this? Does it actually work? I know there is a higher risk of hitchhikers, but I love the variety and life that they bring.

170 lbs of live sand,
340ish lbs of live rock

A ton of inverts for cleaning - various hermit crabs, snails, Nudibranchs, mythrix crabs, brittle stars, serpent stars, cucumbers, etc . . .

Once all that is settled down, I am thinking of taking my time and finding a good mix of corals for the various color levels in the tank. I have very little experience with the corals and was going to ask questions on them when the system was up and running well.

Not sure on fish yet - those will come last.

All right, I'm sure I will have more questions to come. In exchange for lots of good advice, I'll take lots of pictures of this as it gets built and share them all!

Nate
 

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spaceman spiff
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Welcome, Nate! Look forward to seeing this come together. A couple of thoughts on basic reefkeeping ideology, though, and hopefully it can help you set up a tank that's successful for years down the road.

Your hardware choices are fine (if not great). While I'm not terribly familiar with the lighting you're looking at, it seems to be high quality and the rest of the stuff should serve you well for years. No real comments on that. What I would advice against, though, is the amount of substrate you're looking at. The one main cause of problems for almost all systems that are established for more than just a few years is the build-up of excess wastes. While the amount of sand is probably fine, trying to cram 300+ pounds of rock in a 170 gallon tank is concerning. You really need to consider nutrient import/export in your tank, making certain that you're able to export anything that you put in (foods, primarily). When rock is packed tightly together, it's almost impossible to have enough flow to ensure that wastes are kept suspended in the water column and make their way down to the skimmer. Over time, if this isnt achieved, the build up of these wastes in low flow areas will lead to long-term nutrient excesses that can be very challenging to overcome. So reconsider how you plan on aquascaping the tank, and make sure the amount of flow is adequate (the MP20s may be fine, but better a pair of MP40s in a 170). For me, I have about 120 lbs in a 150 gallon display.

I would say a 35" deep tank presents some unique issues, but you seem to have good logic on why you want to have a setup with those dimensions, so I'll yield to your preferences.

regarding a refugium, sometimes they make good additions, but not always. I'm not a huge fan of them, I prefer to do water changes (more often in the 2-3 week frequency) in lieu of relying on a refugium for nutrient export. They're relatively limited in what they can accomplish in those regards.

For a calcium reactor, just hold off until your tank is setup to the point of needing that much supplementation. While you may want to leave room in your stand (or wherever you plan on keeping hardware), I wouldnt invest in one at the start of the tank, as it's an easily deferred yet substantial cost. when you're struggling to keep up with supplementing manually (through two part dosing or even kalkwasser), then consider the reactor.

anyways, hope some of this helps or gets you thinking. Good luck, and keep us posted (and we love pictures!).
 

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Perfeshunal Hikk
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I would be worried with the lighting. A light fixture (even if its LED's) that is 30"x8" on a 24x48" tank is going to leave a lot of dead spots around the edges. Also, I would do a lot of research to make sure the LED's can reach the bottom of a 36" tall tank. Thats a lot of water to get through. Are you planning on just lighting the back half of the tank?

As for rocks, I would start with base rock. A lot cheaper and in 6-9 months its going to be live anyway and covered with coralline.

Chris explained the issues with that much rock. I would start around 100 pounds, start decorating/aquascaping and see where that gets you too. Then add enought to finish the tank and get the look you want.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
First - thanks for the input. Great comments, and I think from what you have said, I'll stick with the mantra of reef keeping in general - go slow - start out with the 100 or so lbs of live rock and see how it does. Wait a few months and see what happens.

Questions on the lighting since that is where I was the most unsure, and there seems some doubt on your part (and mine.)when we talk about the light getting all the way to the bottom - is there a real need for the light to reach the bottom? If I go into this knowing that the light will be good for some things at say 12", at 24" for other stuff, and for not much at 34", and let the rock grow itself out that way, and place my purchased corals at the right light level each item . . . (provided I in fact have the right light level somewhere in the tank for what I want) is this an issue?

Are there other suggestions for lighting? I was mainly going with the LED's for two reasons -

* lower ongoing costs due to the nature of LEDs giving more light per watt
* lower heat in the tank, allowing, hopefully, my tank to not need a chiller if I can keep the house at around 73 max. (going to pump water from sump to tank with an in line, non submersible pump (pluming it in beside the sump with a through fitting) and spending the money on the VorTechs so there will only be the skimmmers own pump that is in the tank giving off heat. but I digress. back to the matters at hand . . .

There is not much that will penetrate that deep, I had thought I would place the narrow strip in the front of the tank, angle back just a little so that the light would hit the tops and front of the "wall." this would give the added benefit of having the corals reach more to the front a few degrees than straight up.

So yeah, the reason I'm asking all this up front is to make sure I hear lots of other ideas. Any specific suggestion on lighting that won't break the bank (not cheap, but say under $1,000) for this setup and won't break the bank running them? If I can avoid laying out the money for a chiller, that would be ideal as well . . .

as always - THANKS!

Nate
 

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spaceman spiff
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To answer your first question, if you place corals strategically, then no, there's no issue with light not penetrating to the bottom of the tank. If that's your preference, then it is absolutely a fine solution.

But, in terms of other lighting solutions that are easy to mitigate in terms of heat, at a minimum I'd look at a 48" six bulb T5 fixture with individual reflectors. Here's a good brand.

http://www.reefgeek.com/lighting/T5_Fluorescent/Sunlight_Supply/Tek_Light_Fixtures/

If you wanted to go to 8 bulbs, all the better, but 6 bulbs will support a LOT of different corals, especially in the upper half of the tank. I think heat can be easily mitigated with fans (I run 8 overdriven T5 bulbs on my 150 gallon, and I do not have a chiller), so I don't think that's really a worry.

The real question remaining then is long term costs. That reefgeek fixture is $400 cheaper with bulbs. If you assume that LEDs last 5 years (that was the going rate, I don't know current numbers) and T5s ~18 months, then you have to spend about $300 in bulbs over those 5 years to go with T5. Considering electricity costs, the six bulb T5s are about twice the power draw, so that's probably another $200-$300 in electricity costs over those 5 years (hard to say, as this depends on $/kwh and how long your run the lights). So yeah, T5 will be a bit more expensive to run, but youre only talking about $100-$200 over 5 years. What that money buys you is better light penetration and coverage and the ability to keep a wider variety of coral.

Does that make sense?
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
It makes great sense! Do you have any idea what bulbs come with the "w/ bulbs" version? I might be missing it, but it doesn't seem to say anywhere. It would be nice if it had more than 2 switches so you could do more of a gradual turn on and off, but hey, you can't have it all right?

Suggestions for getting really great live rock?

Thanks!
 

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spaceman spiff
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Your choice on those fixtures, any of the bulbs they carry you can add on to the order for that price. I've bought all my lighting stuff from reefgeek, it's a great company.

I'm not sure about good sources for liverock. I'm more intrigued by making your own baserock of late, but those sources you've pointed out are pretty popular. Hopefully someone has some insight on that.
 
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