Reret10's SCA 50 gallon Cube Build

reret10

New member
Introduction:
Hi everyone! I'm really excited to do a build thread because I started my first tank a while before I found the endless and wonderful resource of Reef Central way back in the day (We're talking early 2010s). Before I divulge into the fun part, I'm just going to give a little introduction to clarify why I'm starting a new build and also some of the caveats of this build.

So first off, I started my first tank when I was 12 and had literally no idea what I was getting myself into. With the amazing support of my family who I somehow didn't drive insane, we kept the tank going through a massive series of challenges. I learned a lot of things with that tank (thats still up and running) but mostly, never ever ever cheap out on the important stuff (Which is basically everything). While over the years, everything became gradually more legitimate, I was still running a tank with a pretty sketchy over flow, improvised return and overall pretty rough system. The whole thing was prone to flood every so often out of nowhere and was a bit of a time bomb. Wavemakers were held in place by duct tape, ya know the whole thing. That being said, I loved the tank more than anything in the whole world. Now I'm at college (studying marine biology :fish1:;)) and it's been running for over 6 years and somehow without catastrophic failure until recently.

Over the summer, I was away doing research and a combo of my house getting to 95 degrees inside, the lighting system going out and the person housesitting not caring really wreaked havoc on the tank. All the SPS and most of the LPS corals were long dead on my return but some of the polyps and my awesome torch coral miraculously survived along with some of the fish. When I got back I decided that as I was going to be away at college, I was ready to take everything down and maybe start again in few years when I graduate and live in some at least semipermanent area but my parents decided that they really like the tank and were really keen on keeping it. Because of that, they decided they'd be okay with funding a decent upgrade and automating the tank a little more just to make it easier.

I looked around for a goos setup and settled on the SC aquariums 24*24*20 inch 50 gallon cube. This setup was ideal because it was somewhat bare bones and allowed some modifications but still came with all the basics I'd need for a new tank. It was also nice because I'd be able to transfer over some of the more expensive equipment from my 30 gallon like my light and skimmer. Quick note though, the SCA 50 cube "PNP" system really needed some serious modifications in order to make it pass my safety and quality standards. First off, the thing doesn't come with any directions at all. Just a catalog and is terrible for anyone just starting out. Second, the plumbing that comes with Is absolutely garbage. They give you half the parts for a sort of jerry rigged Herbie setup and half the parts for a 2 drain Bean animal without a 3rd emergency drain. They have cheap vinyl tubing for drain and return and no way of regulating flow to do something like a Herbie. Plus, to fit any of the fittings in with no leaks, you'd have to use half a can of PVC cement. It's no bueno. I made a trip to Home Depot and picked up a bit more 1 inch PVC, some of the nice bendable PVC stuff you can mould with a heat gun (see photos of my drain) and a bunch of couplers and a few elbows. The return pump with this system is also insanely loud. You can feel an hear the hum though thew whole first floor. I decided to order a Jaebo DC return pump for a nice quiet return. I really only bought this kit for the really beautiful tank and stand. The sump as also fine. It works alright. I did end up cutting off one of the silicone dividers to fit my old skimmer and also because I don't use the included filter pads an such. This may seem like a bad review but honestly, it's exactly what I needed. I would tell a first time reefer to probably ask an experienced reefer to help set it up with them as it really isn't easy for a beginner (or someone who never works with PVC and such).

I also got a Neptune apex so I could monitor the temp, pH and salinity anywhere from my dorm room and my research station out in Australia.

So here's a list of some of the other basic equipment I'll be starting off with for this setup

Lighting: To light this tank I'm using a pretty new SB reef lights wifi 165 watt setup that I'm transferring over from my old tank. I like LEDS because they really cool running which is key in Riverside and also they're pretty cheap and you don't replace bulbs. That said, I don't love the color and growth rates of most hard corals under standard black boxes but in my view, they're acceptable. Though they have their limitations, they work quite well with what I'm planning on achieving with this tank. I'm also somewhat looking into getting a retrofit T5 kit to possibly augment them sometime in the future if I decide to go more SPS dominant.

Filtration: I've got a pretty sweet Reef Octopus skimmer thats quite the workhorse that I'm going to swap over to this tank when I transfer the livestock. It's all already worn in but still in decent shape. The skimmer that comes with the SCA 50 cube is honestly just okay. I don't plan on pushing it too hard but I would like to have a fairly decent bioload and I don't believe the SCA skimmer would really handle that as well as I'd like. I did have to make some alterations to the included sumo to accommodate for my skimmer. Other then the Reef Octopus skimmer, I'm going good old fashioned live rock and live sand. Eventually I will add a refugium in the center of the sump but for now, it's still cycling. The kit came with all of these filter pads and bio balls and such but honestly, I think they often create dead space and spots for detritus and filter pads just leak out nitrates when you get lazy and don't change them. I kept them in case I need to filter some silt out when I aquascape and such but otherwise, they're not totally any style.

Dosing: I'm going pretty simple with this tank and just using kalkwasser in the RODI topoff. It suits my needs well and keeps most things in check. In addition, I have a Neptune Apex that I'll us to control for pH and I'll use BRS two part if calc and alk ever get out of line. I also have magnesium supplements but to be honest, I've never had much of a problem and I test mag maybe once a month and add a little to bring it up every so often. I usually don't have too much trouble.

So as for where I am now, the tank and stand are all assembled in their final spot and its full of water and cycling. A decent amount of the system I'll be transferring from my 30 so its pretty bare bones. Currently, I've jut got about 35 lbs of live sand and maybe 8 pounds of live rock in the tank running with a heater and a powerhead. I also have about 15 lbs of "dead" live rock that was sitting in my friends backyard for the past couple of years thats seeding and curing in a home depot bucket with a pump and a heater as we speak. I'd like it to fully cure in a few weeks but honestly, I'm mostly hoping its just good by Christmas when my family comes to stay. Only time (And nitrate and ammonia levels) will tell.

Anyways, I hope you guys like the setup and please please, comment and let me know anything I should change or any suggestions at all. It's much much easier to adjust things now as opposed to months down the line when its half full of livestock and I cant syphon down water and such. (Also, sorry for the atrocious iPhone pics. I promise they wont all be this bad I just took them in haste out of excitement)
 

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reret10

New member
Okay so a few build updates. This weekend I came home for thanksgiving and the nitrates in the new tank were quite low, the ammonia was down to 0 and everything looked pretty decent. I decided it was time to do the full transfer considering my other option was to wait till Christmas break. So far, its gone off without much of a hitch. I started off by switching the light fixture from old to new. Then I changed over the ATO and adjusted it and then took out my skimmer, gave it the old hose over and RO rinse and plopped it right into my new sump. Overall, everything was pretty set. Then it was time to move livestock. the temp and salinity in both tanks was identical so I figured that any sort of acclimation would probably do more hard than good so mostly just shuttled everything from the old tank across the house to the new tank in the living room one by one.
For the most part, it was really pretty low-key with the exception of my pistol shrimp. I moved over all the rocks and such but I couldn't find the little bugger!! It took me about 30 minutes of sifting through the sand and rock rubble to finally capture the poor guy. Luckily, I finally did and he's safe and sound in the new tank. I was really worried about him but when I woke up this morning, he had already dug a little hole for his watchman friend. So far (24 hours later) I've had no serious casualties. All my corals are looking more open than ever! My bangaii cardinal is sort of staying towards the back corner and I'm slightly worried about him but he has been darting around in a typical cardinal fashion and doesn't seem to be swimming funny or anything.
The one thing I still have left to do is mount all my electronics and organize my chords. I was so worried about moving over all the livestock that I didn't spend much time with the electric components. I'll get to that this afternoon. I have the mounting board and just need a few screws and such. I've also got about 20 more pounds of rock curing in a bucket still so my aquascape is still temporary but I'm really happy with the results! I'm really happy my reef octopus skimmer works in the sump (with the slight modification) because it'll support a much heavier bioload than the included one. I'm not planning on having too many fish but it's still nice.
I'm very happy with the outcome and it all looks great. I am prepared for a bit of a road of trails what with moving a lot of livestock into a pretty new tank but the new setup is far more sleek and I look forward to stocking it up!

Im still figuring out how to upload pictures well on here. It usually just says upload failed even if I change the file format or even take a screenshot of the photo and try to upload it as a smaller file. Although many in my generation are tech savvy, I'm not really among them. For some reason one of the photos worked but the rest didn't? I'll figure it out
 

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reret10

New member
Hi guys so quick update.
I got back from school for winter break and the corals and everything are all looking great but there's a pretty massive algae outbreak. The nitrates are still undetectable on my API test kit but I suspect that phosphate may be a bit out of hand? My test kit is out of date (but tests 0) so I'll get a new one this week. I'm not sure how it got this bad in a few weeks considering I have two fish and only feed every couple of days but here I am.

I use 100% RODI water with instant ocean salt. I just changed my membranes before I started and have TDS of 0 so that can't be it. I did purchase some premade saltwater from an LFS in Rancho since I only make 50 GPD with my system and I needed some extra water. I only checked that water for salinity (silly me) and I believe it may be part of the issue. The fish store was a little rough around the edges with almost no livestock anyways.

At this point, I think I can rule out it being diatoms just because its way past any "light rust colored dusting". Any thoughts on whether it's dinos or cyano? I'm going to try to physically remove as much as possible but its pretty insane. I'm also considering a 3 day dark period to weaken them off but obviously that's useless if I don't get at the cause. I wasn't expecting to have to run GFO this early on with this few fish but I might have to.

Any advise for removal? Suggestions on Cyano or Dinos or something else? Think its just part of the cycle and will go away with manual removal over time or do I have a serious problem on my hands?

https://imgur.com/1kWA3yn
https://imgur.com/wPVZwdj

I cant seem to embed pics for the life of me so you might have to see them on imgur if thats okay.
 

reret10

New member
On second thought, I don't really see any air bubbles in the slimy brown algae which are a classic characteristic of dinoflagellates. I think that indicates that its more likely to be cyano or possibly just really bad diatoms. Really bad diatoms would be logical if the water I got from the shop had high silicates. I'm not sure exactly. Regardless, the next move is vigorous manual removal but a second opinion on what it is might help me combat the source more efficiently. At some point, I might have to take a sample back to my uni and sneak into a bio lab to use a microscope if I cant figure it out ;).
 

reret10

New member
Well I did a major clean of all the cyano the stuff on the bottom. I still can’t figure how it got so out of hand but I’m still working on figuring it out. I did order a pair of mated snowflake clowns from LA Divers den and one is doing alright but the other is a little wonky. He was fine before I started the cleaning but a little after I started cleaning, he started frantically swimming at the top of the aquarium, almost jumping out. The other clown and both my other fish seem to be fine. It’s a little suspicious. I’d think maybe something like brook but his mate is totally normal and fine and they’ve been together for ages. My nitrate and ammonia are still testing 0 so I don’t know. I’m a little bummed because if he dies, his mate is gonna be depressed. I feel like there’s not much I can really do. Maybe he’a just stressed but idk. Any advice?
I’m going to change more water tomorrow and probably do like 20% every few days to try to limit algae growth but I don’t really know. As with all of reefing, I guess I’ll just wait and see. Rule of thumb is always do frequent small water changes I guess.
 

CNGH

New member
Well I did a major clean of all the cyano the stuff on the bottom. I still can’t figure how it got so out of hand but I’m still working on figuring it out. I did order a pair of mated snowflake clowns from LA Divers den and one is doing alright but the other is a little wonky. He was fine before I started the cleaning but a little after I started cleaning, he started frantically swimming at the top of the aquarium, almost jumping out. The other clown and both my other fish seem to be fine. It’s a little suspicious. I’d think maybe something like brook but his mate is totally normal and fine and they’ve been together for ages. My nitrate and ammonia are still testing 0 so I don’t know. I’m a little bummed because if he dies, his mate is gonna be depressed. I feel like there’s not much I can really do. Maybe he’a just stressed but idk. Any advice?
I’m going to change more water tomorrow and probably do like 20% every few days to try to limit algae growth but I don’t really know. As with all of reefing, I guess I’ll just wait and see. Rule of thumb is always do frequent small water changes I guess.

i'd suggest keeping the lights dim or off for a day or two (doesn't have to be pitch black), but dark enough that the little guy doesn't feel stressed and can feel like he can hide a little better. then gradually ramp up the light duration. is he eating? what are you feeding? hopefully he makes it!
 

CNGH

New member
whoa, looked at your imgur pics you uploaded earlier...that doesn't look like diatoms or cyano to me. you're right that the only way to confirm is under a microscope, but it sure looks like dinos to me. i saw a janky way to test dinos that said if you suck some out, and pour the water through a paper towel into a cup, if the gunk binds or coagulates in the cup, it's dinos.

what do you have for flow in your tank? it looked like from what i could see that you have your returns and 2 powerheads in there. for the way your rock is structured, you need more flow than that. or at least pointed down towards your rocks/sand bed.

with minimal LR, you might get away with a powerhead and return for flow. but with that much LR, and structured like it is, it looks like you're going to have a lot of dead spots flow-wise. that's a perfect setup for dinos/cyano since the nutrients are just settling into the rock/sand and not being flushed out by the flow in the tank.

i would re-scape it so water can flow between all the rock or as much as possible. you're early in the tank's life, so now is the time to do it.
 

reret10

New member
They did rise to the top of a cup. I honestly don’t understand how there could be that much like physical biomass of algae in a tank with that much volume and that little livestock. I haven’t even added that weight in food. Also, my nitrates have tested 0 for over 2 months and longer for ammonia. I do agree on flow. Initially I had 2 massive power heads but my corals were really upset so I cut it down to one big one, the overflows and the small Sicce one. Too much more flow and it really messes with the sandbed. I realize how it contributes but I really don’t see how the problem could be so extensive in so little time just because of flow. There must be an underlying issue.
I used 100% IO reef crystals sant with 0 TDS RODI water
I used 100% new live sand
I used 100% established rock from my old tank (which had its fair share of algae but nothing ever like this and no Dino)
I used my workhorse reef octopus skimmer that’s skimming well on the new tank
At this point, I’m considering draining, bleaching and completely recycling it for another 4 months. I just don’t know what I’d do with the livestock I already have.
I’ve heard of new tank algae blooms but nothing like this. Especially if it’s Dinos.
Regardless, if I wanted something beautiful that was easy, I’d just mount a photo of the great barrier reef in its heyday on the wall instead. It’s all part of the process.
 

CNGH

New member
They did rise to the top of a cup. I honestly don’t understand how there could be that much like physical biomass of algae in a tank with that much volume and that little livestock. I haven’t even added that weight in food. Also, my nitrates have tested 0 for over 2 months and longer for ammonia. I do agree on flow. Initially I had 2 massive power heads but my corals were really upset so I cut it down to one big one, the overflows and the small Sicce one. Too much more flow and it really messes with the sandbed. I realize how it contributes but I really don’t see how the problem could be so extensive in so little time just because of flow. There must be an underlying issue.
I used 100% IO reef crystals sant with 0 TDS RODI water
I used 100% new live sand
I used 100% established rock from my old tank (which had its fair share of algae but nothing ever like this and no Dino)
I used my workhorse reef octopus skimmer that’s skimming well on the new tank
At this point, I’m considering draining, bleaching and completely recycling it for another 4 months. I just don’t know what I’d do with the livestock I already have.
I’ve heard of new tank algae blooms but nothing like this. Especially if it’s Dinos.
Regardless, if I wanted something beautiful that was easy, I’d just mount a photo of the great barrier reef in its heyday on the wall instead. It’s all part of the process.

Flow won't totally fix it by itself. but enough of it will help. too little and you're fighting an uphill battle.

i'm going to just repeat what i've read on threads here and other reef websites in the course of my research fighting dinos in my tank. i'm a lay hobbyist, and at this point, you've got more bona fides b/c of your schooling and major than i ever will, but i suggest you do what i did and read the threads.

but basically, dinos need almost zero to survive and thrive in our tanks. it's also been said that water changes can often make dinos worse...i dunno how that works, but that's what i read. anyway, since dinos need almost zero food/nutrients/whatever to live, the little we have in terms of food/nutrients/life/etc in our tanks is often more than enough for it to blow up. when the dinos get a foothold, it smothers everything, and in the process, kills what its smothering, whether it's other bacteria, micro algae, film algae, whatever, and feeds off the decay.

siphoning the dinos out helps, but since it's in the water column, it'll just reproduce and be right back the next day.

i also just set up a new tank back in june from scratch. dead rock, dead sand, totally fresh cycle. i've had probably a half dozen nanos since i first started, in various iterations, that i set up and broke down or moved or consolidated into other tanks. in all that time, i've never had the pleasure of dinos. i guess i was just lucky, till now.

i only started stocking this new tank in late august (i think?) after about 8-10 weeks of going through the cycle. about a month or two ago i got dinos, but a pretty mild case, nothing like yours. to battle mine, i cheated, if you want to call it that. i cut back feeding, lights and got a better skimmer. i did not do any water changes.

i cheated by using vibrant. i have to say, i'm pretty impressed by vibrant. after a few weeks, it took out my mild case of dinos. i then had a mild cyano outbreak from the dino die off, but the cyano has also run its course. my tank is not showing any dinos or any cyano. i haven't had to wipe the glass in weeks and the water looks really clear. but i've increased my feedings and resumed an almost normal light schedule and so far, knock on wood, dino free and cyano free.

anyway, i recommend reading the threads on dinos, and also the threads on vibrant. just google "vibrant dinos" and one of the first links will be very helpful.

so, flow is just one component, but an important one, in the fight. the other components are finding what the dinos are feeding on and fighting it, either by natural means, or by cheating, or some combination. also, you might consider borrowing a uv sterilizer if you can. that's next on my list of equipment to buy.
 

reret10

New member
Thanks so much! Most of what I’ve read about dinos is pretty abismal but good to see there’s hope. It’s mostly just a little overwhelming as I’ve set up a few tanks and all have algae cycles but nothing like this. It seems like they’re growing back with less vigor at least in the past few days which is at least somewhat nice to see. I will up the flow ASAP though.
 
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