View Full Version : My experience thus far and a few questions

is null
09/27/2017, 05:31 PM
I apologize but I'm feeling long winded, have some questions but I also wanted to share my experience so far with going Reef tank and looking for the input of people smarter and more experienced than me. My actual central questions are 1) when you have a dozen plus different coral species in your tank how do you know if any aren't healthy and keep track of it all? 2) how do you figure out placement for all of them, is it just trial and error?


Long story: For context I'd been running this 100 gallon FOWLR aggressive tank for just over a decade when I finally made the decision to go reef tank about a year ago. I was only running with 3-4 frags for the first several months just because I was afraid something would go horribly wrong as it seemed like a significant step up in difficulty considering my aggressive fish were all very hardy, so I could be lazy-ish with water parameters.

So I ditch the canister filter and HOB protein skimmer and DIY a sump with the 20g dollar per gallon sale, upgrade to an internal skimmer for the sump, HOB overflow, return pump obviously. Took a bit of learning curve to build the plumbing, mainly around the shitty selection of PVC cement that left me fighting water leaks. And then there was a few weeks dialing in the overflow to be silent and experimenting with different styles for the overflow plumbing and figuring out that I really did need some gate values to regulate the siphon.

I also made a mistake here I think in overlooking the refugium chamber that I built. I followed a template that was a three chamber and I never really did anything with the refugium other than throwing a little live rock in there and banishing some hermit crabs to it.

Anyway, I started with some frags: 2 Zoa colonies, and then got a Duncan, and then a pink Nepthea leather. One of the Zoa colonies just would not grow and didn't want to open up regardless of anything I tried, and ended up getting eaten by an overzealous hermit crab who was removed from the tank for that. None of the others were really growing much.

I narrowed the problem down to my lighting and upgraded to the Reefbreeders Photon 50-V2. Maybe a controversial lighting decision, but I'm happy with it so far. Really no matter what you buy it's a compromise somewhere. Anyway, once I put it on about six weeks ago the first thing I noticed was the green algae started growing all over. I've dealt with algae a million times over the years, nothing new, so it's probably nutrient related. I start upping my attention to detail on maintenance and actually start up my refugium with some chaeto and a light. Algae slows down a bit and I notice my Dunan is exploding too, seems like it's grown more every two weeks since than it has in the six months prior. I moved the pink Nepthea leather down to the floor because I'm considered about the jump in lighting being too much for it, so now it's not fully extending. I think it's related to either flow or light but I'm trying to find the sweet spot for it.

Now I've got a little more confidence and so about two weeks ago I get more frags: a Frogspawn, an Acan, a green Candy Cane, and a pink Star Polyp. They all start out on the sand bed. The Acan looks great, it was two large heads with three tiny ones and now the big heads are noticeably larger and the small ones are getting up there in size. I think the Frogspawn and Candy Cane are looking pretty good too. The pink Star Polyp was very well so I've moved it up a bit on the rocks. I'm actually feeling pretty good about the state of my tank right now.

So, questions:

Coral Placement: How do you figure out where to place all of them? I've got a spreadsheet going with all the corals that I have and the flow and lighting level they prefer, but I get conflicting information. And I don't really know what my PAR levels are so where in my tank would be considered moderate lighting? I feel like this is just going to be a long process of trial and error.

Coral Health: How do you keep track of who is healthy and who is sick and who is thriving? I see posts on here where someone thinks their coral is doing great and someone points of some issue where flesh is receding here or there is discoloration over there and I realize how little I know. It seems like a massive challenge to even know whether all of the corals are actually doing well. How do you guys manage this?

Return flow: How do you manage return flow? For now I've just had a crude set up with the 1" PVC going into the tank at a gentle near horizontal direction creating some cross tank current but I bought some of the blue PVC to redo the return plumbing and I'm trying to decide between loc-line or just some creative use of PVC and reducing the size down and directing the flow that way.

09/27/2017, 06:51 PM
Placement is trial and error. If you read descriptions on big name online vendors (ie liveaquaria) you can get at least a very rough "high, medium, low" idea in terms of flow and lighting, although those terms are obviously very broad.

Health - similar. You just need to get a feel for it over time. Look at as many photos and books and websites as you can. Spend time in LFSs even if you're not buying anything. Go visit other reef keepers and look at their tanks. After a while, you'll get a very good feel for when a specific type of coral is happy, and what a typical growth rate should be. Really, if your parameters are in check, the visual cues are the most important indicator.

Personally, I know I reached a point after several years of reefkeeping where it felt like I had a 5th sense - you start noticing things in terms of overall tank health and coral health. Maybe a color looks a bit off, or tips are getting pale, or the duncan hasn't been expanded a natural amount for a few days. Then you go investigate and find out your GFO is spent and phosphate is climbing, or your ATO has been running more than normal or something else is a bit off. There is a lot of emphasis on testing in this hobby, and rightly so - but, honestly, I feel it is even more important to develop your own senses to help understand what is or is not going well.

09/27/2017, 08:44 PM
It won't be exact but I believe reefbreeders has a par chart for their lights on their website. It can atleast give u a idea. As far as placement, u will learn where your higher & lower flow in the tank is & once u get that dialed in & stable it makes it easier. I find a lot of corals can handle a pretty wide range of light as long as they are properly acclimated but they are more sensitive to flow. Some corals just don't like a bunch of flow. In my case I have a mixed reef with about 15 lps & over 20 sps. So I have a harder time locating corals that don't like a ton of flow.

I don't think the return really matters much. All u should be using it for is to get the water to the dt. The flow in the dt should come from powerheads. If u need all the flow u can get from your return pump then I wouldn't use locline because it will cut down on the flow. If u have plenty of pump then locline is ok if that is what u prefer. I wouldn't go try & get creative on the return though, there really isn't a point & it will only add head pressure

I always have atleast one coral that doesn't look it's best. I can't remember looking at my tank & every coral looking perfect, there is always that one. So don't overthink it or do anything drastic if just one coral doesn't look perfect. If multiple corals aren't looking good then it may be time to do something drastic