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90g FOWLR (first SW tank) journal

Discussion in 'Marine' started by macphoto, Dec 25, 2005.

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  1. macphoto

    macphoto AC Members

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    90g FOWLR journal... my first SW tank

    Well, here goes... my first foray into saltwater aquariums.

    A little background... I don't have a whole lot of fishkeeping experience. I had a 20 gallon FW about 12 years ago, and just this past summer set up a 16 gallon bowfront FW tank. When I mentioned to my wife my desire to get that little aquarium, she wasn't exactly thrilled, having had a small aquarium when she was a kid that seemed to be a deathtrap for whatever fish she put in there. In the negotiation process (which began with me suggesting we get one of those 6 gallon Eclipse tanks, then grew into a 12 gallon Eclipse, finally ending up with this 16 gallon, the biggest tank I could fit in the small space that was available), I casually mentioned my dream to someday have a saltwater tank. "Why not just get one now," she asked, clearly more excited about having SW than FW.

    That set me off a flurry of research on this topic that I knew virtually nothing about, culminating in a disappointing discovery that my favorite SW fish, the Yellow Tang, would need a much bigger tank than we had space for. Even if we could somehow shoehorn a 30-ish gallon, it still wouldn't be nearly big enough. Standing in our living room, I gazed at the large amount of space occupied by a wet bar in the corner... what a great spot for an aquarium, too bad the wet bar was there!

    Mother nature intervened... with Hurricane Katrina sending 6 inches of water in our house, the flood repair was a perfect opportunity to get rid of the wet bar, freeing up the necessary space for a larger aquarium. My wife was set on a 55g, though I successfully lobbied for a 75, and was able to up that to a 90 since it didn't take up any additional space.

    My wife is smart, as this provided substantial motivation for me to complete the house repairs as quickly as possible!

    So, with the repairs now almost done (just need to do the garage and utility room), I ordered the aquarium and stand last week, and also began the unexpectedly arduous process of finalizing all the details (sand bed, powerheads, sump, skimmer, filtration, etc.). I decided on the following:

    • All-Glass 90 gallon w/overflow
    • "Modern Series" oak stand and canopy
    • All-Glass 20H to be used as a sump
    • Pentair Quiet One 3000 return pump (might be a little undersized... we'll see)
    • ASM G2 Skimmer
    • 2 Visi-Therm 150w heaters
    • 3 Maxi-Jet 1200 powerheads
    • Aragamax sand... 1.5 - 2 inches

    I'll also be adding an RO/DI unit, an auto-topoff, and (hopefully) a small refugium if I can fit it.

    The skimmer, live rock, and critters will be the tank's primary filtration, though I might run a HOB power filter sometimes if needed.


    Friday 12/23/05: The big stuff arrived at the LFS. Well, it's not exactly "local" to me. I have two local shops here in my town (Slidell, LA) that each have a modest SW selection, but they definitely do not specialize in it. We did have one very nice shop that had a lot of SW stuff, but it was badly flooded during the hurricane and looks to be gone for good now.

    Aquatic Specialties in Kenner, LA (about an hour drive) has a great SW selection. Sadly, they lost pretty much their entire SW stock during the extended power outage following the hurricane. The people are extremely knowledgeable and helpful. They've got tons of tangs, some really nice looking tank-raised clowns, a lot of neat inverts, even seahorses (not for me though!)... I'll definitely be getting most of my livestock from them!

    [​IMG]

    Loaded up and ready to roll! I ended up getting there before the freight driver made the delivery, so my stuff went straight from the supply warehouse's truck to mine (though we did pull the pieces out of the boxes for inspection first).



    Saturday 12/24/05: "No, we can't put fish in it yet," I have to keep telling my 2 girls and my wife (and to a lesser degree, myself)! Skimmer, powerheads, and some other stuff arrived today.

    [​IMG]

    (Need to move that painting). The back of the tank will be painted black or dark blue. The outlet visible behind the tank, oddly high on the wall, is a remnant of the wet bar, but will work out fine for the aquarium. I think the outlet is GFCI-protected from a GFCI installed in the bathroom on the other side of the wall, but I'll confirm this.

    Lighting is provided by a double-strip standard fluorescent, with one white bulb and one blue actinic. Hopefully this will be bright enough.

    A Maxi-Jet 1200 is installed at each corner, and I plan to add another one (maybe centered on the back pointing towards the front, or on the right hand side with the flow down directed along the back of the rocks).


    [​IMG]

    We really liked the look of the All-Glass "Modern Series" furniture, but my favorite feature is the lack of a center post between the doors. I think I can fit a refugium on the right (drilled on the side to overflow into the sump), with an auto topoff reservoir behind it.


    [​IMG]

    I was all ready to start plumbing the sump, even willing to venture out into Christmas Eve traffic to get to Home Depot, but I was a little disappointed to find that the All-Glass overflow accessory kit came with barbed fitting bulkheads. From the product photos I'd seen, I was expecting MPT, and I had planned to do at least the drain stuff with hard PVC. But, the barbed fittings kind of threw a wrench in those plans. Further complicating the situation is the drain bulkhead, which is referred to as a 1 inch bulkhead, but actually has a barbed fitting for 1.25 inch hose. I'm struggling to find the fittings I'll need to plumb the sump now, since 1.25 inch doesn't appear to be a commonly used size. Rather than try to transition from vinyl tubing to PVC, I'll probably just plumb the whole thing (drain and return) with vinyl tubing.

    On a brighter note, All-Glass now appears to include a split outflow instead of just the single.


    [​IMG]

    The ASM G2 fits nicely in the sump... even with baffles installed, there should be plenty of space for a reasonably sized return section. The G2 reportedly likes a water level of about 10 inches, and the sump is 16 inches tall. So to be able to utilize as much of the sump space as possible, I'll elevate the skimmer around 4 inches (though it's not readily apparent in the photos, there's ample vertical clearance). I've since filled the sump about halfway with freshwater to let the skimmer run for a while, as per ASM's recommendation. It makes a low-pitched hum that seems to resonate through the stand... not an offensive sound, but still noticeable. I'll try adding some sort of cushioning material under the sump to dampen the vibrations.

    --Mike
     
    #1 macphoto, Dec 25, 2005
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2005
  2. macphoto

    macphoto AC Members

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    12/25/05: Skimmer pump noise, and a plan for the cabinet space.

    I let the skimmer run overnight (in FW), and this morning noticed a fairly loud and peculiar sound emanating from the Sedra pump... sort of a "low-pitched screech" would be the best way to describe it. I've heard a similar sound from failing computer cooling fans before. I took apart the pump and put it back together, and so far so good.

    I think I've finally nailed down my sump/refugium plan. Originally, I planned on a 20H sump, a 15H refugium, and a water storage tank for auto topoff and water changes. However, over the weekend I decided to add an RO/DI unit, and that kinda threw my plans out of whack. I could have fit it on the outside of the cabinet, but I don't think my wife would have been too thrilled about this nuclear reactor-looking thing being visible in the living room. To mount it in the stand would mean having to forego the refugium, or drastically downsizing it and the storage tank. So, I spent this evening trying to come up with a way to get it all in there (while still keeping the filter canisters for the RO/DI reasonably accessible).

    After a breakthrough realization that I could place a smaller (5.5 or 10 gallon) refugium ON TOP of the water storage tank instead of trying to squeeze all the pieces in next to each other, here's what I came up with...

    [​IMG]

    The storage tank was found at http://www.plastic-mart.com. The neat thing about this supplier is that they have A TON of shapes to choose from for any given capacity, so it's easy to find something reasonably close to the space you have available. Also, the tank is "blank" with no fittings installed, so you don't have to worry about it being laid out for an orientation different from how you plan to use it. It sticks out the back of the stand about 4 inches (the tank is not placed directly against the wall), but this won't be visible.

    The RO/DI will fill this tank directly. I don't totally trust mechanical float valves, so I'll manually turn the supply once a week to fill it (but will still have an auto shutoff float valve as backup just in case I leave it on too long). I'll cut a hole in the top of this tank and install a deck plate from West Marine, which will give me a way to place a small pump inside for the auto topoff, which will fill the return section of the sump as needed (2 float switches will be used, for redundancy). A few pieces of 2" PVC placed vertically inside the tank will provide support for the refugium.

    Also, since I'll have a sewer drain behind the stand, I may add a line to it from the return pump with a diverter valve, so that I can easily drain the sump for water changes.

    Anyone see any potential problems with this plan?

    --Mike
     
  3. macphoto

    macphoto AC Members

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    12/29/05: Sump plumbing mostly complete, freshwater test underway!

    I've been diligently working on getting the sump/refugium plumbed, and on getting the supply and drain for the RO/DI situated. Unfortunately, for me, this means hours (literally) staring at a shelf at Home Depot, followed by coming home and staring at the tank for another couple of hours, before I finally make a decision on how to proceed. I ended up finding the fittings I needed to plumb the overflow drain with PVC instead of flexible tubing, and aside from getting a little carried away with the purple primer in some spots, I think it turned out ok.

    [​IMG]
    (the aquarium is pulled away from the wall at an odd angle because I'm currently working on the water supply/drain in the wall behind it, and the back of the tank still needs to be painted)


    [​IMG]
    (the MRE box is temporary, until the topoff water tank is in place)

    My refugium plans changed. I wanted to put a 10 gallon in there, but after getting the plumbing installed, there just wasn't enough room. So, I decided to go with a 5 gallon acrylic tank from Wal-Mart. Yes, a 5 gallon glass tank would have been a lot cheaper to buy, but with the acrylic, I was able to drill the overflow holes myself (saving money and hassle of trying to get a glass tank drilled), plus I was unexpectedly able to make use of the supplied hood/light (don't know if the little fluorescent tube will suffice... we'll see).

    I'm a little disappointed that I had to downsize the refugium, and considered omitting it altogether as a result, but I figured a small 'fuge is better than no 'fuge.

    Anyway, with pretty much all the tank plumbing done, and with my wife eying me nervously, I brought in the hose and began to fill it up. For someone who recently experienced a flood, and JUST got carpet after living on concrete floors for the past 4 months, bring 90+ gallons of water into the living room is a somewhat stressful event. With the tank full, and the return section of the sump half full, I plugged in the return pump, and held my breath. Of course, there was no reason to believe that anything bad would happen as a result of that... I guess it's just kind of intimidating to see all this water and PVC, and irrational fears of setting off some sort of unstoppable demonic wormhole siphon that dumps the contents of the aquarium onto the floor. Needless to say, this didn't happen... the water began flowing, just as it should.

    That's not to say the event was not problem-free. One surprise was that, during my "turn off the pump and see what happens" test, the water level in the sump rose a lot more than I expected. Thankfully, I had not filled the sump as high as I thought I would be able to, but I didn't realize that so much would drain out (I thought this was something that primarily HOB overflow users had to be concerned with, and didn't realize it happened with built-in overflows as well). The level rose to within a few inches of the top of the sump.

    I was (and still am) a little nervous about the drain and return pipes in the overflow box... as per the instructions, they're just stuck into the bulkheads, and are not glued in place. Has anyone ever had a problem arise from this? If one of these pipes became dislodged, I assume that the approximately 3 gallons present in the overflow box would be able to freely drain down to the sump. The return pipe is jammed in there pretty darn good, but I'm not so sure about the bulkier drain pipe. Maybe I misunderstood the instructions... are these supposed to be glued in place?

    The biggest issue was noise coming from the overflow, basically sounding like someone repeatedly flushing a toilet, as the level of water in the overflow box went up and down, over and over again. Thanks to this thread, I was quickly able to determine that the problem was related to having too much return flow, more than the drain could handle. Because I suspected my pump (a 780gph Quiet One 3000, with a flow of about 550gph with the head as installed) would, if anything, be a little undersized, I didn't bother adding a ball valve to the return line. Either the pump is more powerful than it's supposed to be, or (more likely) the drain's effectiveness is reduced from the plumbing that it has to pass through. I'll obviously have to address this, but for now, with the drain to the sump wide open, the only way I could keep the overflow box happy was to increase the flow to the refugium A LOT more than I want it to be. Which brings me to my next issue.

    I've got some microbubbles in the tank, and they appear to primarily be originating from the refugium. I mistakenly assumed that microbubbles were primarily a byproduct of skimmers. I didn't realize that they'd be generated simply as a result of the drain coming into the refugium. So, while my skimmer is followed by a bubble trap, the refugium simply dumps directly into the return section via a couple of 3/4" bulkheads, elbows, and pipe.

    [​IMG]
    (drain from tank to refugium... I'd planned to add something, like a length of pipe with holes drilled in it, to spread out the flow across the tank so that it doesn't blow right onto the sand)


    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    (bottom of overflow pipe from refugium)


    I wonder if this problem might be exacerbated by the high level of flow that's blasting through there now. But that's probably not the only cause. Any ideas on what to do about this? I figure I can either add something in the refugium to take care of the bubbles (not sure what, and there's not a whole lot of space to play with in there anyway), or simply extend the refugium overflow lines so that they dump into the the skimmer section instead (I'll have to order and install new bulkheads though... elbows are solvent welded in place).

    Any thoughts?

    --Mike
     
  4. macphoto

    macphoto AC Members

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    12/31/05: Plumbing for RO/DI complete.

    This evening I finished the RO/DI supply/drain plumbing. Here's what it looked like in there originally (a small sink was located here)...

    [​IMG]


    Here's what it looks like now...

    [​IMG]


    Having the plumbing leftover from the wet bar did make the job easier, but I still had to do a lot of routing to get the copper and pvc in exactly the right place (plus add a p-trap).

    I used an icemaker supply box, flipped it upside down, and drilled a 2" hole in the bottom to bring the drain up through it. The valve has a 1/4" threaded connection to which the RO/DI will hopefully hook right up. I'll just stick the waste tube down the drain hole, and secure it with a cable clamp or something. This will also make water changes a bit easier, since I'll be able to pump from the aquarium (or sump, more likely) directly into this drain.

    My neighbor (who knows a lot more about plumbing that me) came over to inspect my progress, and was a little concerned about the drain having the elbow right there at the beginning, thinking that it might back up a bit. But I tested this by dry-fitting the assembly together, and using a 370gph pump with 3/4" tubing, dumped a bucket of water into it... worked fine. After the whole thing was complete, I also connected an icemaker supply hose to the valve, stuck the other end in the drain, and let the water flow through there full-blast (to flush out stuff in the copper pipe, test the drain capacity, and check for drain leaks), and all was well.

    --Mike
     
  5. macphoto

    macphoto AC Members

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    1/2/06: Redoing the sump baffles.

    I've drained the tank, and decided to go ahead and lower the baffles in the sump. The clincher on this one was when I realized that the refugium was not the only source of microbubbles... even when I totally shut off the refugium flow (and gave the existing bubbles plenty of time to dissipate), bubbles were still seen in the return section, and in the main tank. The reason, I strongly suspect, was the long drop the water had to make from the last baffle into the return section. And, because I had more "power-off" overflow from the tank than I expected, I could not simply fill the return section with more water to make it less of a drop.

    So, I lowered the baffles by 2.5 inches, making them now each 11.5 inches tall. This way, I'll be able to keep more water in the return section, and still have a little more than 5.5 gallons of overflow space.

    The RO/DI unit should arrive tomorrow, and I'm debating on whether or not to do one more tapwater test, or just go ahead and start filling up with the good stuff (since that will likely take at least a few days). Then again, I'm still finishing off the wall behind the tank from the RO/DI plumbing, so I guess there's no big rush for getting the good water in, since the tank will need to be moved afterwards.

    A few things still need to be worked out... I need to deal with the noise in the drain to the skimmer section of the sump, and the bubbles from the refugium. I'll probably end up redoing the drain plumbing, to incorporate mogurnda's suggestions on how to reduce the noisy air in the drains, but just for the heck of it, I might see if I can implement the same idea (a vertical vent near the end of each side to let the air out) by drilling a 1 inch-ish hole at the top of the pipe or fitting and gluing in a short section of vertical pipe. If that doesn't work, I'll trash it and start over (but will use threaded ball valves and unions this time!).

    For the refugium-originated microbubble issue I'm leaning towards just running the drains from the refugium over to the skimmer section (or, rotating the sump so that the skimmer section is adjacent to the refugium), so that this water will have to pass through the bubble trap. I suppose the downside to this plan would be that it's possible that some of the goodies from the refugium could end up in the skimmer.

    I'm also giving some consideration to possibly eliminating the drain that goes to the refugium (so only the skimmer section would receive water from the tank), and doing a tee with a ball valve from the return pump to supply the refugium. I realize that the skimmer will remove stuff that the refugium residents might enjoy, but some of it will get through. If I do eliminate the drain from the tank into the refugium, that frees up some vertical space, making it possible to have a larger refugium.

    Decisions!

    --Mike
     
  6. macphoto

    macphoto AC Members

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    1/3/05: Dry rock & RO/DI arrive, a change in plans for cabinet space.

    My order of rocks from hirocks.com arrived. I ordered a 60lb. box and a 30lb. box... here's the 60lb. box.

    [​IMG]


    The 30lb. box contents look pretty much the same. I think that once I get it washed off, it will look really nice in the aquarium... the holes and crevices should make good homes for the critters that decide to relocate there from the LR/LS.


    The RO/DI arrived also, and I quickly got it temporarily hooked up to try it out.

    [​IMG]


    With a quick test during the initial "throwaway water" period, I estimated the unit is producing water at a rate of about 65gpd.


    [​IMG]

    I put it right to work, making about a gallon of good water for the FW tank. Because my tap water has a very high pH, I'm going to acclimate that tank to this water via small water changes over the course of a few weeks. To add back the goodies that FW fish need, I'm using something by Kent called RO Right.


    In more significant news, I've made a pretty big change to my cabinet space plans. Originally I was fixated on having everything (sump, refugium, RO/DI unit, water storage) all contained within the stand. However, after receiving the RO/DI unit, I started giving some more thought to just mounting it on the outside of the stand on the right hand side where it would be between the stand and the wall. I cautiously floated a few trial balloons with my wife on the idea (using the "this was the plan all along, didn't you know?" method), eventually receiving full approval. We can always put a plant or something in front of it to obscure it.

    So, what does this mean? Quite a bit more room in the stand!

    [​IMG]

    The water storage tank will now sit vertical. The 15g tank I had planned on was just a little bit too wide to fit in this configuration, so I changed the order to a 14g tank. In reality, I think the 14g tank is going to hold more vertically than the 15g would have horizontally... because of the float switch cutoff for the RO/DI, I estimate approximately 3 inches of the top of the tank will go unused. For the 15g tank horizontal, this would take away about 4.5g of capacity. For the 14g vertical, about 1.75g is lost.

    Anyway, the space that is freed up as a result means I could now theoretically fit a significantly larger 15g refugium. However, since I've already bought and drilled holes in the little 5g refugium tank, I'll probably keep it for now and see how well it works. If I need to upsize it later, I'll have the room to do it.


    Now, I need to texture/paint the patched wall behind the tank, paint the back of the tank (probably black), and figure out the sump plumbing. I'm hoping to start filling the tank this weekend.

    My next big decision is whether to go with a small "The Package" from TBS for seed LR/LS and initial cleanup crew, or to get these things separately from other sources. I'm excited about the potential diversity of life to be found with the TBS rock and sand, but on the other hand, I'm not as thrilled about the blue-leg hermits (would prefer scarlet reefs), cucumbers (just too creepy looking), and the reported density of the rock (the 20 - 30 lbs. I would order would probably just be a couple of pieces!). Regardless, I'm leaning towards TBS, but I'm still largely undecided.

    --Mike
     
  7. macphoto

    macphoto AC Members

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    1/7/05: Fill-up is underway!

    [​IMG]

    I finished patching the wall behind the aquarium, and installed a GFCI outlet behind the tank.



    [​IMG]

    Painted the back of the tank with a nice dark blue (Rustoleum brand "Multipurpose" Navy Blue... in a 1 quart can, not spraypaint) using a foam roller. I had a few minor problems here. First, the roller sometimes would stop rolling and simply slide over the smooth glass surface. Really had to watch out for that on the second coat... I think I did not let the first coat dry long enough (about 2 hours), because at one point, I could see the first coat of paint sliding around slightly as a solid skin over the glass. Second, though I masked the tank trim, paint "wicked" slightly down between the glass and the trim at both the top and the bottom, resulting in a bit of an uneven line in some spots. This is definitely no big deal on the bottom, because it will be hidden by the substrate. On the top, the waterline will probably obscure it. Third, I should have sliced along the tape before I removed it... it peeled up a little bit of the paint, which I was able to press back down and, in some cases, touch up with a brush.

    The tank has now been moved back to its normal position, and the RO/DI is mounted on the side of the stand. I left just enough space on the right hand side so that I could squeeze myself between the wall and the side of the tank, and also did not put the tank close to the back wall (left about a 4 or 5 inch gap), both because there is an outlet back there preventing it from being totally flush with the wall (though a power strip with right-angle plugs would mostly take care of that) and because I wanted to be able to reach back there if needed.

    Checked to see if the tank was level, and it was off from left to right and from front to back by about 1/4 inch each. Probably not enough to cause problems, and since it's on carpet, it might shift a bit after it's filled. But I went ahead and shimmed the stand anyway. It's still not perfect, but it's very close (maybe 1/8 inch).



    [​IMG]

    Here is the new sump plumbing. I elected to, this time, only have the overflow drain to the skimmer section, and will feed the refugium with a tee off of the return line. I decided on this for several reasons. First, it simplifies the drain plumbing (maybe the long turn elbow will result in less turbulence). Second, it will make it easier to change the refugium to a 15g tall if I decide to do so at some point. Third, the return flow seemed more than adequate, so I don't mind diverting a little bit of it. Fourth, this might solve my bubbles in the refugium problem (the water coming from the return pump probably won't dump nearly as many bubbles into the refugium as the drain line had).

    I ended up having to solvent-weld the assembly again... no matter how long I stood and stared at the shelves in the plumbing section of Home Depot, I couldn't figure out how to fit it all in there with male adapters/female adapters (it would have simply been too long). The use of a 1.5x2x2 tee at the end will hopefully solve the "boiling water syndrome" in the sump (thanks Mogurnda!). The bottom pipe that extends into the sump is not glued in place, so that it can be removed to facilitate getting the sump out (or I could just detach the whole thing from the drain bulkhead if needed).

    Baffles have been lowered by a few inches (I left the center baffle high, since if the water gets that high in a power-off, it can just flow over the top, but I did also drill a few holes through it). Removing all the cured silicone was quite a project. Also, anyone who has doubts about securing acrylic baffles to a glass aquarium should rest assured... with a heavy bead (and 1" wide braces between the baffles), it was very difficult to get the baffles out. I had to slice away at the joint with a razor. Of course, once they were out, the silicone came off of the acrylic relatively easily, but as long as the baffles don't flex too much so that they pull out of the silicone joints (I used 1/4 inch), they stay firmly in place just from the silicone surrounding the edges.

    I decided to go ahead and, in the overflow box, glue the bottom parts of the drain standpipe and the return pipe to the bulkheads. I left the top parts as press-fit, and the standpipe is still fully adjustable... it (and the return pipe) just can't be pulled out of the bulkhead now.



    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Substrate is in, and the tank is filling. Lemme tell you, there are few things more exciting than watching a 90 gallon container fill with a tiny trickle of water. I decided to let it fill overnight, despite my irrational fears that the RO/DI unit would somehow suddenly transform into a 800gpd and fill the tank before I awoke. Here's how it looked this morning...


    [​IMG]

    The kids wonder why I'm filling our aquarium with milk. I had rinsed the sand pretty well, but it's still very cloudy, almost opaque. I hope it clears!

    The substrate is 75lbs of Aragamax. I rinsed it about 15lbs at a time in a 3 gallon bucket, drained as much of the tap water as possible, then placed it in the tank. I don't know whether or not the chloramines in this minimal amount of tap water would cause problems even after being diluted with the RO/DI water, so I put in a little bit of Prime just in case.


    Here's what I'm currently thinking of in terms of rock placement...

    [​IMG]

    (forgive my crude illustration)


    Instead of having the rocks distributed evenly across the tank, I thought it might look nice to have one single peak off to the right (since the right side is adjacent to a wall), leaving a lot of open space on the left. This would create a fairly big hiding spot behind the rocks for the tang once he gets bigger. I'm also thinking that, if I build this peak correctly, the fish (especially the tang) could swim "laps" around it instead of having to stop and turn around (perhaps I'll have to make it a little lower to facilitate this). I might also place a smaller peak over to the left somewhere.

    --Mike
     
  8. macphoto

    macphoto AC Members

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    1/8/06: Fill-up complete!

    [​IMG]


    Took almost exactly 24 hours to fill the main tank, reaching the top and starting to dump into the overflow last night at around 2:00am. I shut it off before I went to bed, and continued today, taking another 3 or 4 hours to fill the sump.

    I had added a small Fluval internal filter, visible through the murkiness on the right (will eventually be my hospital/quarantine tank filter) loaded with some fine polyester pads to help try to clear the suspended silt out of the water overnight, but it didn't seem to do much good.

    Today, I picked up a Magnum H.O.T. filter, which I've been running for several hours now (had a little trouble getting the top of the filter to seal... it was letting in air, causing problems). PetSmart had it for $89 in-store, $47 on their website. Armed with a printout of the webpage, after a little grumbling from them ("that's half off!"), they gave me the web price. It seems to be doing a pretty good job at clearing up the water... this photo represents a substantial improvement over how it looked just a little while ago.

    I also wanted to get the dry rock (90lbs. from hirocks.com) in before the sump was full (knowing they would displace some water). I hosed them down in the front yard, and I'm quite excited about them... with the loose silt washed away, the rocks look even better, with lots of holes, tunnels, etc. (Sorry, forgot to take a photo before putting them in the tank.)

    Between the 90 gallon tank capacity and the sump (about 15 gallons operating capacity), and the displacement from the rocks, I guess I have about 100 gallons total water capacity right now, so I had added four 25 gallon salt mix bags. Temp is 78 degrees, salinity is 1.024 (maybe a little high... but I'll be adding a bit more water to the sump).


    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Through the murky fog, the vague forms of rocks are starting to become visible (couldn't see at all when I was putting them in... made the experience somewhat nerve-wracking).



    With the lowered baffles, the sump is much more functional. I can have a higher level in the return section now, and still have plenty of overflow space.


    Operating:

    [​IMG]


    Power-off test:

    [​IMG]

    (looks like I can go even a little higher with the water in the return section and still have plenty of extra overflow space).



    [​IMG]

    I let the skimmer run for a while... a mostly-opaque white liquid is collecting in the cup (could the skimmer possibly be aiding in the removal of the suspended silt particles?).



    Overall, the tank is substantially quieter than it was before. In particular, that dreadful "glub glub" sound from the drain pipe is gone, and the whole thing seems to be draining more efficiently. However, the sound of the water splashing into the sump, heard through the top vent portion of the tee. The short section of pipe that I added (to prevent little bits of water from splashing out) seemingly amplified this sound. I solved it by creating a "muffler" consisting of an elbow with some filter floss stuffed in it (I initially tried just putting the floss in the top of the pipe, but a little water was contacting it, so I figured it would eventually become saturated). This effectively quieted the splashing sound, while still allowing ample air venting (to prevent the boiling sump effect).

    With everything running, standing next to the tank, a fairly soft hum can be heard, along with a gentle water trickle sound... very tolerable.

    --Mike
     
  9. macphoto

    macphoto AC Members

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    1/9/06: Water clearing, but wife deems tank "ugly" :(

    The H.O.T. Magnum filter is doing a fine job at clearing the suspended silt out of the tank. After running for a day (having rinsed off the micron filter a couple of times), I can finally see all the rock, and can just barely see the back of the tank.

    [​IMG]


    Unfortunately, my wife thinks the tank looks like more like a reptile habitat than a saltwater aquarium, primarily due to the barren look of the rocks. See this thread for more info.

    In other news, it looks like I still might have a microbubble issue. The tank is totally saturated with them, and it's contributing to the cloudy appearance of the water (though the water really is still cloudy, as confirmed by turning everything off and letting the bubbles dissipate). I do know that the Magnum filter (which will normally not be running) is producing a substantial amount of bubbles, but a lot are originating from the sump.

    With the skimmer off (and no refugium drain either), a moderate amount of bubbles can be seen in the return section of the sump. I added a "U" (created by a pair of elbows) to the tank's drain into the sump, directing the flow upwards so as to try and force any bubbles to the surface. I think that helped some. But with the skimmer on, I get a lot more bubbles in the sump. I guess my bubble trap is not as effective as hoped. Perhaps I should add a sponge to it (wanted to avoid that, but might not have a choice).

    --Mike
     
  10. macphoto

    macphoto AC Members

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    1/10/06: First live rock added, plus a minor mishap.

    Well, not a whole lot of rock... just two small pieces and one tiny piece (2.5lbs. total). I was at the LFS down the street from my house picking up some filter media to experiment with (in trying to solve my bubble troubles), and I spotted a few pieces in a tank that I liked. It was cheap... only $2.50/lb. I mainly just wanted to get a starter colony of bacteria in there to help my cycle get underway. They're currently in the little refugium, along with a little media bag containing some fish food (didn't have any shrimp on-hand... hopefully decaying fish food will be an acceptable substitute).

    [​IMG]


    Is that white stuff coralline algae growth? I see some red spots too.



    I had a minor problem when getting the refugium water supply flowing again. I changed it a bit, with tees instead of elbows for venting (it still drains into the return section... but the pvc is just friction-fit right now so I can change it to dump into the skimmer section later if needed). Anyway, to supply the refugium, I did a 1x1x1/2 tee, with the 1/2 side going through a ball valve and then dumping into the refugium. To get the little tank filled initially, I opened the ball valve all the way. Well, apparently, my pair of 3/4" drains (with elbows and strainers attached) are not enough to drain the full force of water coming in through the 1/2" tubing. I watched it fill most of the way, then started to walk away to go do something in the garage when I heard a click. The refugium had overflowed and spilled water onto a power strip that was in the stand, and tripped the GFCI. Nice to know that it really works, but I would have preferred to not find out that way.

    Wasn't a big deal... just a little water inside the stand to clean up. And, I will of course be moving the power strips to a better spot, mounted in the stand somewhere with proper drip-loops to prevent that sort of thing from happening again. On the other hand, had the power strip not been where it was, I probably would have not discovered the overflowing refugium until I came back in from the garage.



    I made some significant progress this evening in my war against the bubbles.

    The first thing I did was to reorient the skimmer. The primary reason for doing this was to get the output pipe further away from the bubble trap to give the bubbles from the skimmer more distance in which to rise and pop before passing through the baffles. It was right next to the baffles, now it's behind the skimmer to the left.

    Secondarily, I wanted to reposition the U-shaped attachment that I added at the end of the drain from the tank. Initially, the drain terminated with a pipe extending a few inches below the surface. I added a pair of elbows to direct the flow upwards to hopefully cause more of the bubbles coming from the drain plumbing to pop. But the only way I could position the U was to have it parallel with the back of the sump, going towards the middle, so that its output was closer to the bubble trap. After rotating the skimmer, I was able to position the U along the left wall of the sump, with it terminating near the front left corner.


    [​IMG]


    However, studying the flow coming out of the U, even though it was directed upwards, there were still a lot of bubbles originating from this area. So, next I added a short section of pipe to the end of the U so that the water discharged just an inch or so above the surface.


    [​IMG]


    That helped a lot.

    Now, with everything running (except for the Magnum filter), there are SOME microbubbles in the tank, but it's not nearly as bad as it was before. Before, with the skimmer running it almost looked like my return nozzles were powerheads with the venturi air tubes attached, that's how bad the bubbles flowing out were.

    I'll have to wait and see if any additional corrective action will be needed. There's still some lingering stubborn cloudiness in the tank unrelated to the bubbles, so it's hard to tell how much of a negative effect the remaining bubbles will have on visibility until the water clears up.

    I'm wondering if perhaps there would be some benefit to adding a short angled piece of acrylic across that last baffle where the water dumps into the return section, so that the water could flow down a more gentle slope. Something like this:

    [​IMG]


    I do see some bubbles forming from the water flowing over this last baffle and hitting the water in the return section, but I'm not sure how much of an impact these bubbles are having, since they are fairly large and, for the most part, appear to quickly rise. But I'm also thinking that maybe this sloped baffle attachment would also force the remaining microbubbles from the skimmer section to have more time in close proximity to the surface, which might make more of them pop before reaching the return section.

    --Mike
     
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