View Full Version : Converting to a Reef Tank

05/21/2017, 03:20 PM
I have had 150 setup with FOWLR since 2010. Tank was doing real good until I moved back in March of 2016. When moving I stressed out my fish bad and my sohal broke out in ick. I used cupramine to kill the ick but lost a lot of fish in the process. I was down to a few fish and they were my biggest most aggressive that survived. I couldnt add anymore fish to my tank because whatever I added would get killed by the aggressive tank mates. I also around this time switched careers and neglected my tank. I didn't do a water change for almost 8 months and sold some fish and lost a couple more before just having my blue face as my last inhabitant. I had a power outrage that was out for 2 days and PG&E reimbursed me for my blue face as he died. That's was back in February and my tank sat another month before I decided I wanted to start back up but this time do a reef. I pulled my rock out and did a thorough 75% water change and reaquascaped and added a bottle of bacteria.

My tank is a 150 Euro Braced and after running a month I checked my PH, Ammonia Nitrite and Nitrate levels. All levels were good (Prior to water change I had Small levels of Ammonia and Nitrite). I added my old LED lights that I made years ago (just white and blue leds) and they still worked. Running with a Curent 48" Marine LED as well. I ordered a Maxspect R420R 320Watt 15k that should be here Monday according to tracking. I currently have a Fluval FX5 running ceramics and a 20 gallon sump running an in sump Reef Octopus NW-110 with external pump. My water drains into a filter sock. I picked up a 40 gallon breeder tank and am currently building a better sump which will still have all of the above but also a 16" by 16" refugium (I will also stop using the FX5 when the 40 gallon sump goes in). I have also ordered a Maxspect Gyre XF250 which should be here Friday to replace my 3 Khoralia powerheads. I also plan to line the bottom of my new sump with miracle mud (which if anyone can advise on how deep of a mud bed that would be great as well). I have about 150lb of rock which probably isn't alive anymore since coppering a year ago. I also have a about 4-5" sandbed of a mixture of medium grain Aragonite and fine live sand which also probably isn't alive anymore due to coppering a year ago. I will also be purchasing a second gyre when I get the funds as well as a reactor for GFO. My tank was sold as a 150 but actual volume is around 135. My outside tank measurements are 57 1/4" Tall by 23 1/4" wide by 24" tall. 1/2" thick glass.

April 20 I added some chromis and a small yellow Candy hogfish. A couple of weeks later I added a 3" Lopezi Tang and 3 1/2" White Tail Tang. Friday 5/12/17, I checked my levels again as well as Magnessium, Phosphates, Calcium and Alkalinity. I had a really high Phosphate and a really high Nitrate. A reefer friend told me that my sandbed was most likely causing the phosphate and nitrate spike and that if I wanted to keep a deep sand bed I need critters to move it around. So that night I added a bunch of small hermits about 20, 3 banded trochus snails, 1 sifting star, 2 Halloween Hermits, 10 Nasarius Snails and 2 emerald crabs to help move my large sand bed around. I also added these 2 really cool 1 to 1-3/4 inch gold nugget maroon clowns that I couldn't resist getting.

Friday 5/19/17 I checked my Phosphate and Nitrate again and I'd not seen any change. Yesterday I did an 85 gallon water change with salt water I prepared a day prior. I use RPM salt if that matters. I also siphoned the sand bed really hard when I did this water change (which after reading more I probably shouldn't have). I checked levels this morning and my phosphate was less but still high. My nitrates were between 50-100 ppm range. I know I can't do corals yet because the phosphates and nitrate will cause bleaching. I've been reading a lot and there is a ton of conflicting information out there. I have been a long time lurker on this forum and decided to sign up and join the community.

Some suggestions I've come up with and others have suggested...

1- Remove the sand bed down to 1 to 1-1/2" (I really do not want to do this because I love the look of my deep sand bed)

2- add about 50lbs of more live rock to help bring sand and rock back to life to introduce microfauna back into the tank and allow it to reproduce. Also told I should add copepods, isopods and reef bugs. (I'm down for this if it will help)

3- start removing as much of the aragonite and replace with fine live sand (really don't want to do this either as this will get messy and also my new gyre will end up causing a sand storm with fine sand)

4- dosing vinegar and adding nitrogen sponge to my filter sock (don't want to do this because I'm scared of crashing my tank)

If anyone has any other ideas to get me reef ready I would love to hear. My sump/refugium should be ready within the next week to week and a half as I'm making my panels and drain box out of Corian and things take time to dry. When the sump goes in I will also be adding a GFO reactor and will be running High capacity GFO from BRS. I also used a ULR Hannah Instruments test kit to test my phosphate which only goes up to 200ppb so im unsure of how much phosphate I have.

Sorry for the long lost I just wanted to give as much information as possible. If I'm missing anything let me know. Thanks in advance.

05/21/2017, 03:26 PM
Here is a picture of my tank and a close up picture of my sand.

05/21/2017, 03:36 PM
I'm more concerned by the "coppering" you mentioned; copper from cupramine can be absorbed by sand and rock. How are your inverts doing that you added and have you tested for copper in your tank? You definitely want to sort that out before adding coral. If you have any doubts, running cuprisorb for a while might be a smart idea.

In terms of getting nitrates and phosphates down - I've battled heavy nitrates before. What's worked for me are:

1. LARGE weekly water changes (50%), not so much to swap out the water volume (the nitrates will just come back if you don't fix the underlying problem), but to allow time to really siphon the built-up detritus from the system. Blast your rock with your powerheads - you want to get as much gunk out of them as you can. Siphon your sand, one section at a time, but do it thoroughly.

2. Running GFO

3. Carbon dosing; if you're scared of this, there are commercial products like NoPoX that make it incredibly easy and a no-brainer.

All three at once brought nitrates and phosphates down but it took a couple months; once they were down, regular water changes and heavy skimming keep them down (I prefer heavy import/heavy export over running a ULNS).

The other things you mentioned: I like deep sand beds and think you can keep it; but if you keep it, you have to maintain it. That means regular cleaning/siphoning AND keeping it turned - either via critter or by hand once a week or so. If you already have 150 pounds of rock, I don't think you need more unless you WANT more.

05/21/2017, 04:11 PM
Thanks rilelen for the quick response. Inverts are fine. I ran cuprisorb a month after after my ick was gone. Copper levels are zero.

I like the ideas I am going to implement all of them. As for cleaning the sand bed... I should be deep siphoning? Or no? Do u think I have enough critters to move my sand around? I'm just afraid that messing with the sand bed only releases more nitrates from reading a lot about deep sand beds.

Also not seeing my pictures I posted anymore? Here is a pic of my tank and the sand in my tank.

05/21/2017, 04:12 PM
lol never mind its showing now

05/21/2017, 04:18 PM
Also I wouldn't mind more live rock. Would adding the reef bugs, isopods and copepods be a good thing to do as well?

05/21/2017, 06:47 PM
Also I wouldn't mind more live rock. Would adding the reef bugs, isopods and copepods be a good thing to do as well?

It wouldn't hurt, especially if you want to build a population for a mandarin dragonet or wrasses.

You can add some a fighting conch, and some sand-dwelling snails to keep the sand bed sifted. Some wrasses also sleep in the sand, but they will sleep in the same spot.

05/21/2017, 06:52 PM
Thanks Mushu... based on what I said my inverts are, do u think I have enough snails? If not, how many should I add?

05/21/2017, 07:13 PM
Probably not enough snails. How many more to add gets tricky just because each system is so different. I would probably add another batch of snails. Maybe add some Astrea snails as well and another 10 nassarius snails. Add snails every few months until you feel like they are keeping up with the cleaning.

I worry about the sand-sifting star. I have heard that they eat all your good microfauna from the sand bed and then they starve to death.

05/21/2017, 07:26 PM
How do you add more microfauna? Is the product reef bugs a good source or that? Plus I do only have 1 sifter.

05/21/2017, 07:39 PM
I added sand conchs to my tank to get my sand stirred naturally, and they clean it at the same time.

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05/21/2017, 08:02 PM
Fighting conch safe to put with my high nitrates? Or that's a suggestion for once I get my nitrates under control?