Trials and Tribulations while starting the hobby

btucker7587

New member
This is what I have experienced thus far in starting up the reefing hobby. I started this because i really like my fish tanks and I am currently into it for about two to three months. I will be adding to this until i get caught up to my current status, but figured someone could learn from my mistakes.

Enjoy the ride..:thumbsup:
 

btucker7587

New member
So I live in Okinawa and decided since I am surrounded by Ocean on all sides, I might as well get a salt water tank running. I have been keeping fresh water tanks for years now and at one point I had five of them up at once. (two 40g, two 20g and a little 5g)

Well, a friend wanted my Oscar's and Redtail Catfish I had in my predator tank and I agreed that when they got too big for the tank, I would let him have them for his 90g freshwater and that would free up one of my 40g tanks for me to start a Saltwater tank.

The fun begins...
 

btucker7587

New member
Knowing I will be taking up a saltwater hobby, I start the research and I rent a quarantine tank at my LFS. The LFS’s here in Oki are very serious about the hobby. The next place to go, of course, are the forums. I read up on the process, the chemistry, the cycling, everything. Well, almost…I’ll get into that in a minute.

So my Oscars and Catfish are at the point where they are so cramped in the tank that they are bickering and taking nips at each other. I call up my buddy and we make a transfer from my 40 gallon tank to his 90 gallon. My fun begins.

I clean out my 40 gallon tank and my Powerbox filter. I figured, at the time, that my power box external filter could handle a 40 gallon setup. So I roll down to the ocean and start gathering ocean water. I ask my wife to pull up the sand for the tank and she agrees to, reluctantly. We did this separately, I rolled out in the water about 200m and started bringing in water and my wife had the sand loaded in the SUV by the time I got back. I took everything back to the house and I get started.

Here is where things take a bad turn temporarily. I have my wife set in the sand and I Start hauling the sea water and set it up on an elevated stand for easy siphoning into the tank. We get it all done, I roll back out to the ocean and pull up a few rocks and below is the result.

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btucker7587

New member
I took the forum and went got some great advice. Taking all the advice in, I decided not to do a DSB, but instead use about 3-4 inches of sand as a DSB will be a pain in the *** later down the road. So no problem, I pull up a bucket and start removing sand. As I am doing this, I am noticing a very familiar smell. I have served in the U.S. Army for nearly 22 years and I know the smell of diesel when it hits the sniffer. I grab a handful of sand and take a wiff…holy crap! Soooo, I ask the wife where it was gotten and I am informed that it was taken from the marina beach. Great. Time to start all over.
 

btucker7587

New member
Seeing as I want to use nothing but natural sea water and natural sand, I had to roll back to square one.

(digress) If you do a natural tank, make sure you get your sand from under the ocean surface where it is unexposed from tidal shifts. This will make sure it is packed with the good (and some bad) organisms needed for the tank. You can pull some of it from the beach as long as you sift it and get the foreign matter out of it, but you basically just have sand there. The water should be taken from 10’ below the surface (or more) optimally, however, if you do not have a boat, I would suggest wading in till the water is chest level and pushing your container below the surface before starting to fill. Wait at least three days after a hard rain as the water is diluted

I grabbed everything I needed, drove about a half hour to a remote beach next to an a breeding aquarium and went out about 500m to pull up some sand and then water. I don’t have a wagon, the vehicles are not allowed on the beach and the road level is about 200 to 300’ above sea level. So I have to carry five 10gallon cans from the water, across the beach (which was total hell), up a little rock outcrop then uphill another 200’ or so to the road and to the parking lot. Needless to say, I was tired. Once the water was loaded, I popped back down to the ocean, threw on some snorkel gear and looked for a few more rocks, pulled up a few and headed back to the house.

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btucker7587

New member
I would like to note that I had not even thought of a power head when I started the tank and was winging it with a water pump for a sump. Dang thing was huge. I purchased the Polario in the picture from the LFS here and it was expensive as hell because it was an import and it was the only power head they had.

The Polario 7ML and 10ML are both per-programmed and will alternate flow directions about every 15 seconds. The 7ML is loud and emits a "whining" as it spins up while the 10ML is a little quieter. I have three of these (2x7ML and 1x10ML) but they are no longer in my 40gal tank.
 

btucker7587

New member
Got everything setup, as seen above and started the process of cycling the tank. Here is what I have learned using water, sand and live rock directly from the ocean.

- If you are going to do it, start off with it and DO NOT add another rock straight from the ocean once established.
- Ensure to inspect your rocks and sand multiple times a day, every day for the unwanted critter (mainly crabs)
- Dispose of crabs back to Ocean…you moved em, take em back.
- If there is algae attached to your rock, so what? The clean-up crew will dispatch most of the unwanted stuff. Just take care of what you don’t want before you settle in for the cycle.
- The cycle is VERY short lived. My 40 Gal tank cycled to triple-zip in 19 days.

Once the tank cycled, I went down to the beach and picked through the hermits and snails. I pulled in some Chestnut Crowies, a few Miniature Queen Conch’s and bumblebee snails and I bought some Tiger Sand Conch and Banded Trochus. The hermits I pulled up were Red Dwarf, and Yellow Lined Hermits. To help control algae and because they are cool, I also grabbed a few Urchins and a few brittle sea stars. I even rescued a sea star from being tortured by a couple kids. He is doing well in the tank and has started growing his legs back. Lastly, I pulled up a few sea cucumbers. These little guys, as long as your tank stays stable, will sift through your substrate at night.

One of the rocks I pulled up had some Green Button Polyps on it. I didn’t know at the time since they were completely covered with sand and silt. But they survived the cycle process and are doing great. I figured, I might as well put a little money into their care, so I picked up some two-step Reef energy by Red Sea. The challenge here was the fact I did not have all the crabs out of the rocks.

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Getting the crabs out of my tank was a hell of a task. The only crab I wanted in was a hermit. So began the search. I would dedicate an hour a night looking through the glass with a high powered LED and a pair of 16” tweezers just looking for the crabs. I particularly wanted any decorator crabs out right away since they would pull up my Polyps. I did have other types of crabs mess with my polyps, but I didn’t let them for long. I would put them in a little breeding tub and dump them along the sea wall when I went to work the next day.

What I did not know I had, however, was some Mantis Shrimp. I first noticed these guys when I threw in a few pieces of Hermit food and one of them zipped out of its hole and snatched one up. I started contemplating how to remove them and get them back to the ocean, but after extended reading and seeing one snatch up a stray crab for dinner, I decided to just keep em. Besides, if you keep em fed and happy, they won’t mess with your fish. They may snatch up a snail or two, but that is ok.

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btucker7587

New member
At this point, I decided that I was going to do a large tank. Figured between 100 to 150 gallon would be a good start. So I got to looking around locally to see what kind of price I would be looking at. So I went to my local fish store and asked where I could get a tank 1200x600x600mm (48x24x24in). I have to remind everyone that I am in Okinawa and I do not speak Japanese (yet). So I get what I want expressed to the guy at the store and he gets on the phone with a “Special Order” place somewhere in fantasy land I guess because he gets off the phone and quotes me $1400 JUST FOR THE TANK. No drilling, no sump, nothing. Just for shits, I ask him how much for the sump and the custom work for the overflows, bulkheads, etc…$4400. ***? Needless to say, I bid him farewell and took to the interweb looking for a tank.

Finally found a place in Tokyo that would build and ship to me. Got a friend that lives there to talk to them and we arranged for a tank to be built and completely ready with sump for about $1900 plus $400 shipping. I was good with the deal and of course, the **** company closes indefinitely due to a family crisis before I can make the purchase. So much for that idea. The search goes on for a few more weeks and I decide, screw it. I’ll just order from the states. So I got online and found a ma and pa custom tank business called Acrylic Creations (https://www.facebook.com/AcrylicCreations). Called him up and I ordered a 150 gallon tank (60x24x24) and a 50 gallon sump (48x16x16) completely customized for $1300 with shipping to my dad’s house. I will have to wait until summer to ship it to Okinawa since that is when my next partial shipment will be authorized. Meanwhile I have started designing the stand for the tank. That will be a different thread…or I’ll add to this one…we’ll see.

In the meantime I decided to take and build a sump for my 40 Gallon tank; my in-tank skimmer arrived, so what the heck. I went and got another 40gal tank and started the project.

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It was a simple three chamber sump. The receiving chamber shared housing with my skimmer, next was my bubble trap and then the refugium. I put a small pocket between the refugium and the return chamber so I could throw in some active carbon packs and ammonia controllers. Then back to the tank. I tried to build an overflow box, but I sucked at it…so I am using it until the Eshopps PF-800 shows up.
Few things when building your own sump for a tank that is NOT pre-drilled.
- Do Not use ball valves unless all you need to do is turn it on and off.
- Do not use anything less than ¼ inch plexi for the sump dividers.
- Take the time to build the stand or modify an existing one.
- If you do not use a stand, but a hallway table or something, ensure you attach the plumbing somehow to prevent it from moving around
- Make sure you understand the dynamics of water-flow through pipes.
- Never turn your back on a 2 year old who is eyeing your sump…

For the record, that last one is important…I’ll pick it up again tomorrow, it’s getting late here.
 

btucker7587

New member
Alrighty, so time fly’s when you are having fun. After almost five months, I decided to go ahead and get something in the tank. Advice to all would-be aquarists out there, do not let your wife go to the LFS and get crap. Just don’t, unless she has done as much research as you. I send her over to get a few fish. I suggest a few Damsels and maybe a Lawn Mower Blenny or something along those lines. I really prefer just a reef tank over having fish, but it’s a start.

I head over and upgrade my litgts from a two bulb T5 to Two LED Lights. The first is a Kotobubuki 900 Ra84 (1830lm / 10,000K Color Temp / 120 deg LED) and the second is a Zensui White 120 deg LED. I got two thinking I could increase light in the event that I needed to. They both run very cool and their lumens are excellent.

So, got my lights, so went looking for the wife. Not at the fish, so headed up front, paid for my stuff and went out to the car where she was waiting with the little ones. Hopped in and off to the house. Got about two-thirds home and she pulls out three bags, one with two clowns, one with a bubble tip anemone and one with a Magnifica anemone. Holy crap.
 

Mtwreef

New member
Wow must be nice to just go to the beach and grab some stuff lol. when I was living in San Diego it was nice just being able to get water from scrips pier but not all the goodies you are getting
 

btucker7587

New member
So now I have two anemone’s and I have no clue what to do with them. I have done zero research on anything with exception of general knowledge. Now questions are screaming through my head. Will my light be sufficient? Is my tank big enough? What kind of flow will they need? Should I be testing for any additional chems in the water? What are the limitations on what should go into my tank now? These and many more questions were eating at me.

Got the anemone’s and clowns home and started a drip for the clowns. While I was starting to get the anemone situated, I realized that I had a QT tank at one of the LFS. So While I squared away the clowns and got them introduced to the tank, I gave my wife SPACIFIC instructions to drop off the anemone for QT. I called Koudai, my QT manager, and let him know my wife was on the way and asked about how long they should be there. He recommended two weeks and also answered a lot of the questions I had. So a few tips for the beginner –
- Wait a little longer to introduce anemone. While you can actually do it as early as three months, it doesn’t mean you should.
- Select a spot for the anemone and put it there. Then wait for it to move, because it will. Once it finds it’s happy place, don’t try to move it again, you’ll stress it out.
- You do not have to test for additional chems.
- Water flow is important, however, it varies between species of anemone as well as the individual anemone. They will find a spot good for them.
- Once your anemone is in place, leave them alone. Give them a week to set in and get use to where they are. I would suggest even waiting to feed them. Let them get comfortable.
- If you start early, as I did, ensure you conduct water changes more often. I do bi-weekly to ensure trace elements the anemone need are present in the water. (your carbon can remove these elements)

I have the clowns into the tank and slightly adjust the rocks to allow accommodations for the anemone. Basically gave it options for placed to latch on. I ensured I had a fresh bag of carbon in the sump and also decided to start bi-weekly water changes at 10gal per exchange. To do this without shutting anything down with exception of my skimmer, I used a old submersible filter pump and attached a hose to the output. Stuck the hose in a 20 gallon tub and plugged it in. Meanwhile, at the tank return pump, I used a gravity siphon to put the fresh water back into the tank.

So, I am waiting for the anemone to come out of QT and decide to get two blue damsels a peppermint shrimp and a lawn mower blenny. I get em, acclimate them and get them into the tank. What a mistake that was. Completely forgetting that the Clown and the Damsel are in the same class of fish, I have just started a turf war. These cats are all over the tank just beating the crap out of each other. I know that the only way to get them out is to dismantle the tank, so I modify it a little (again) to allow the fish to have their own “turf” as best I can. It slowed down the frequency of the brawls, but did not stop them. Two days after the damsels were put in the tank, I found one of my clowns had become a victim of a swim-by-beating. 

My favorite of the fish was the blenny. This thing was awesome and it had character. It would curiously look at everything and just cruise the tank. I would sit down and just watch this guy making his round through the tank. It was really cool.

The day comes and it’s time to bring the anemone’s home. I head in to pick them up but Koudai is off so I get with one of the other care takers and they retrieve my anemones. He walks out and hands me three bags. One BTA, one MA, and a Carpet. I look at the guy and tell him, “That one is not mine.” pointing to the carpet. He looks at me funny and goes back to the back, comes back to the front and says it’s in my tank, so it must be. I insist that the anemone isn’t mine and then it clicked…call the wife. Sure enough she bought it when she dropped off the other two anemones. ARE YOU FRICKEN KIDDING ME? What the hell am I supposed to do with my little 40 gallon tank with three anemones going in at the SAME FRICKEN TIME!? If I was a smoker, this would be where I would have lit one up. Now I have to figure out how to get these three different anemones to live in my 40gal tank. Holy crap.
 
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btucker7587

New member
Wow must be nice to just go to the beach and grab some stuff lol. when I was living in San Diego it was nice just being able to get water from scrips pier but not all the goodies you are getting


After a few trips to the beach and reading the laws, I figured "What the hell" and dove in head fist to the hobby. Having the availability of these things is definitely an advantage the benefits for the tank dwellers is great.
 

btucker7587

New member
I got the anemone’s home and placed in the tank. The BTA and MA immediately took to the rocks and found their happy place. Unfortunately, the carpet did not. It was deflated and gaping. I kept it overnight and in the morning decided to take it back to the LFS. I went in and luckily Koudai was working. I showed him the anemone and he put it into his med tank there. He told me that he would watch the anemone and if it didn’t make it, they would exchange it for a new one. So I went to the house to find my wife looking at the tank and then at me, to the tank and then me. I’m like “What?”. She waves me over and behold, the MA has captured a blue damsel. Well, at least it’s healthy…and my fighting issue has ceased.

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My MA and BTA doing great

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My poor Carpet...he did not make it due to the guy at the LFS damaging his foot. :(

Went back to the LFS to check on my anemone the next day and was told that the anemone’s foot was damaged, most likely when taken out of the QT tank. They apologized and gave me an order ticket for another carpet. All I am thinking is Awesome…gives my tank time to stabilize. I head back and later that week I do a 50% water exchange. Unfortunately, I brain-farted. When I filled up my sump, I should have filled all three chambers at the same time. I had to use 1/8 in plexi on two locations and both critically failed, Fricken great. So after some creative bracing, I got my sump running again until I can get my tank stable at which point I will eventually pull it out for a few days to fix it. Coincidentally, my overflow box failed at the same time. What a fricken mess. The dang thing got bumped by my daughter and it dislodged from it’s support. So I got that fixed up and put back on. Man I cannot wait to get the overflow box I bought hooked up.

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Another pic of my Anemone. Wife got the current clown a friend. No issues so far with the damsel.


The day arrives and I go to pick up my carpet. Koudai removes it himself and gets him to me. He took it directly to my QT tank when it came in so I wouldn’t have to wait, even though the wait would have been MUCH appreciated. I got the anemone home and cleared a spot for it in the sand. Put it down and…not luck, it won’t attach. So I grab a small rock from the sump, bury it with a little sticking up…no dice, won’t attach. Ok..lets wait overnight and see what it does; so I let it do it’s thing. A few tips when placing your carpet..

- Turn your flow off to that area, it will just blow him around.
- Only one of the four species of carpet prefer rock. All others prefer a sandy bottom and some will just sit on the sand.
- Research, Research, Research. To start you off, this is a pretty good article. (http://www.qualitymarine.com/News/S...imate-Test---Large-Carpet-Anemones-(06/14/10)) It establishes species and general information that can easily be plugged into a search engine and researched.
- Leave it alone. It will do what it wants.


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My New Carpet Anemone

The next morning I roll out and the carpet is flat against the sand an in full display. Very good looking. While looking at the anemone, I realize than my favorite fish is missing…the blenny. Damnit. Rest in peace and bon apatite. With the carpet simply lying on the substrate, I am unable to turn on a critical part of my flow. This just ****es off my MA. I also had a room issue, so I have to readjust the rockscape…AGAIN. Once I got it done, the MA is completely in a ball and ****ed at me while the carpet is loving life. In order to keep the harmony, I had to readjust flow to not hit the carpet so much and then let nature run it’s course. This is the hardest part for me. I don’t like seeing my anemones or the fish stressing, so naturally I am dreaming up ways to help. Don’t help. Your best help is when you don’t. As long as they are not deflated and gaping, just let them be and they will find their own way.

Currently all is good with the tank. My only concern is that my MA bunches up during the day and then inflates at night. I have not been able to find anything supporting that this is right, but I am assuming that my light change may be too much and I might have to tone it down a bit.

I will continue to post as things happen and when I do my projects. Hope this thread is, at the least, informative to new reefers.

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My Carpet under Violet light...


My Anemone's as of this morning.
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tkeracer619

Premium Member
Sounds like most of us. The trick here is not to put your wife up to random tasks but to get her involved in the research. If she likes to read grab her a book. Particularly one about anemones and their care. It can be touchy but you are a lucky person to have a wife that is excited about it. She just needs to read up on stuff like you do.

Take it slow and enjoy what you have. The real trials have yet to come. Each specimen you add needs to be researched prior to purchase and given the proper parameters for success.
 

btucker7587

New member
Sounds like most of us. The trick here is not to put your wife up to random tasks but to get her involved in the research. If she likes to read grab her a book. Particularly one about anemones and their care. It can be touchy but you are a lucky person to have a wife that is excited about it. She just needs to read up on stuff like you do.

Take it slow and enjoy what you have. The real trials have yet to come. Each specimen you add needs to be researched prior to purchase and given the proper parameters for success.

She is starting to get into it with me. Since she picked the anemone, I figured she should research it as well. I think we are well on our way. After a week, I finally got all my power heads running without blowing my carpet around. I am hoping to get good results from this 40gal setup. With three anemone, in it, I know either the carpet or the MA are going to have to go into the 150 gal tank once it arrives and I have it running.

For now, I will continue with bi-weekly water changes and move forward with care. I don't know how I am going to feed mt MA though...there is so much current flowing ove it that the food does not stay very long...
 

r-balljunkie

Registered Reefer
good luck with the build. you'll find the aquarium can be very educational for the kiddo's. i started off the same with aquariums...when i was stationed in Korea, i think i had 4 tanks going in my barrack room. I transitioned to saltwater once i hit the states. this was in the early 90's or so. a couple of pointers, dont think natural seawater is the holy grail, fix all. the technology in synthetic sea salts have come along way, and i think you will find more consistency in using it. secondly, the green carpet anemone you bought is a lean mean fish eating machine. just be warned...lost several fish having owned one.

once again, good luck with the build.

C
 

btucker7587

New member
good luck with the build. you'll find the aquarium can be very educational for the kiddo's. i started off the same with aquariums...when i was stationed in Korea, i think i had 4 tanks going in my barrack room. I transitioned to saltwater once i hit the states. this was in the early 90's or so. a couple of pointers, dont think natural seawater is the holy grail, fix all. the technology in synthetic sea salts have come along way, and i think you will find more consistency in using it. secondly, the green carpet anemone you bought is a lean mean fish eating machine. just be warned...lost several fish having owned one.

once again, good luck with the build.

C

Yea, I think the carpet will stay in the 40 and the other two will roll to the 150 when it gets in. Make the 40 a static and the 150 a little more lively.

The project here is to go ahead and use only NSW on the 40 and then maybe use Red Sea sea salt for the 150. (less water to carry Home) Want to see the difference in environment. It does not hurt anything and it is a learning experience.
 

chain

New member
I must say reading this thread amused me, especially hearing about the surprises your wife got you. =)
 

btucker7587

New member
I must say reading this thread amused me, especially hearing about the surprises your wife got you. =)

We had a long discussion. We are on the same sheet of music now. For now, i have zoned the tank and will sustain the anemone until I can stabilize my 150 and get it prepped.

I know I made mistakes, but the goal now is to not repeat any of them and, hopefully, not make many more.
 
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