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 Coral System Set-Up 




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A Decade in the Planning... Greetings WWM Crew! <Hello! Ryan Bowen with you today.> First off, a big special thank you to Bob Fenner and Anthony Calfo.  The CMA and BoCP have helped greatly in the formulation of the following plan. <Will be sure to pass along your thanks> Also, I'm still floored by Anthony's suggestion for building a PVC framework to create overhangs.  Seems like that would be common sense, but I'm still dumb-founded that I hadn't ever considered that. <Ahh, yes.  And don't forget that acrylic rod can make you look like a master-aquascaper> Next, some background.  I've been researching and patiently waiting for the 'right time' for, oh, about the last decade.  I'm now at the point where I own my house, have had the spot for the tank chosen since before we moved in, and have accomplished enough of my honey-do list to be able to seriously start this next project.  Few truer words have been spoken than Bob's advise that the planning is not only well worthwhile, but also fun, exciting and at times mind-boggling. <Yes, surely!>   I've done my research (Delbeek&Sprung vol 1 & 2, CMA, BoCP, Moe Jr., Tullock, Knop, Wilkerson, Veron, and every last WWM FAQ on marine set-up [THAT took days]) and now I'd like to run my conceptual tank by you guys to see if there are any glaring omissions. <Certainly> I have already purchased and plumbed a Kent Marine Deionizer (200 gpd  [micron, anion, cation] variety) and have a nice new garbage can cleverly rigged, (involved rubber bungs and concrete screws) to age my synthetic seawater in the garage, which also doubles as a shop. (Bungs to prevent sawdust contamination)  <Great!  That's a step most skip until they have their first algae war.> My next purchase will be a 29 gallon tank for use in quarantining new arrivals. Figure for the Q-tank I'll use the UV sterilizer I already have from a previous tank (might as well use it, no?)<yes! One of the cases in which a UV is most useful>, a hang-on external filter with carbon and sponge that can be transferred between the sump and the q-tank when inhabited, a heater, and some PVC hiding places.  I'm planning on painting all but the front 'window' a nice neutral color. Lighting via standard fluorescents. <Even ambient room lighting is fine when quarantining non-photosynthetic animals.> For the main display, I am planning on a 90 gallon glass tank plumbed to a sump.  I'm assuming that an internal overflow with a standpipe is kind of the 'standard' way of accomplishing this, but am also interested in perhaps having the holes drilled through the back of the tank, still with the internal overflow. <Leaves more available room.> I was thinking that by drilling a series of holes, I could route some water to the sump, and other water into a recalculating loop via a Tunze-type pump and manifold system, perhaps incorporating one or more of the 'Switching Current Water Directors. <Yes, I have a similar setup on my reef.> My thought was that by doing this, I could still achieve lots of 'nearly turbulent' water circulation, but manage the flow through the sump more effectively. I was thinking in the area of 3-400 GPH through the sump and 5-700 GPH through the closed loop. I'd be interested in your thoughts on multiple overflows, i.e. one in each back corner. <I like closed-loop circulation, because flooding isn't an issue.  You can run these drilled or undrilled, it's all about how creative you can be with PVC.  Manifold is great also, because it doesn't detract aesthetically from your display.> The sump, likely fashioned from a 29-gallon tank, would feed a EuroReef CS6-2 skimmer (sized correctly? <Depends on stocking, but yes, that's a nice skimmer.>), and would take the water from there, through a carbon chamber and then back to the display tank. (Dual heaters incorporated somewhere in there too).  Is the prevailing theory still that an ozonizer is still a valuable addition, i.e., in conjunction with the skimmer, with the mandatory carbon downstream? <Yes, it's a great gizmo, but it's also something you can get by without.  Many natural reef displays use no ozone, and are healthy as could be.> Also under the display tank (and the reason for the sump being on the smallish side) I'd like to have a refugium.  I'm not thinking very fancy here, a 'large' ('another 29gal tank perhaps) vessel with PC lights with counter-display photoperiod, some live rock and sand, perhaps some macro algae. <Very good.> Water from the refugium would return via a Tunze pump, as I am under the impression that they have a reputation for creating less plankton sheer [really an issue?] <Yes, it can be a like running pods through a blender with some pumps.  If you can't justify an up-stream refugium, then a plankton friendly pump is your best bet.>  My goal with the refugium would be to be able to culture 'pods and other food items as well as algae for the occasional 'special treat' for the below listed Tang.  I guess I'd have to split the water feeds from the tank to keep the skimmer at high efficiency and to provide nutrient rich water for the refugium, no? <Plenty of ways to plumb it...That would work, as would a bleeder line from the return.> Just FYI, placing the refugium with a higher water-level than the tank just isn't an option in this house. For lights, I'm figuring two 150w or 175w halides in the 10,000K range supplemented with 2 4-foot actinics, either SO or VHO. <Go VHO or T5 for the punch of color.> I'd also like to incorporate a couple of the blue LEDs for night viewing. <I'm a big fan of this technology.  Perhaps install a red LED as well for night-viewing?> (Not even hoping for true moonlight simulation, as I really would rather not have to incorporate computer controlled anything.) Appropriate timers and fans in the hood. I've elected to purchase a larger room air conditioning unit, as it appears that it would be more cost effective to keep the temperature in the room from rising too high than it would be to keep the water cool within a warm room (not to mention the added comfort for the non-aquatic residents).  I live in northwest Washington (state, not DC) and one wouldn't think that this would be an issue, but with a lot of East-West windows in the house, the few 85 degree plus days can drive the ambient room temperature up to nearly 100 degrees. (Next tank will be in daylight basement...55 degrees year round.)  <Sounds fine, but keep a clip-fan on hand for temperature emergencies.> Okay, sorry, I just had the realization that all of this would be placed in more context if I had first mentioned what it is that I want to keep.  Swimming-fish wise, I'd like to keep a couple of tank-raised clowns (likely Percs or ocellaris), a dwarf flame angel, a white cheeked tang (A. japonicus), some sort of gobies/blennies [perhaps with commensal shrimp] and my 'unicorn', a mandarin. <Acanthurus nigricans is commonly offered in error...note the size of the white face patch for confirmation on species.  I must tell you, however, that 90 gallons may be a bit small for this fish in adulthood.  I have seen them at close to 10 inches.>  It is my impression that by starting with a 90-gallon tank, adding the refugium, and being really really REALLY patient(6 months of live-rock without predators?), I might be able to keep this admittedly delicate fish that, like it has for too-many others, captivated me the first time I saw it. <Mandarins will benefit from the 6 month wait, but not if other plankton predators are eating his keep.  Don't add any other gobies/blennies for optimal results.  Moonlight will help as well, gobies like to hunt during the night when pods are out.  I have also had good luck using frozen Cyclop-eeze through a feeding apparatus.  Use a syringe with airline tubing, and it's possible that you could wean him from the live-only stigma.>   It would be difficult (really really root-canal-like difficult), but if the prevailing opinion at WWM is that a mandarin wouldn't thrive in this system, I'll rearrange my plans. <Best luck is to keep predatory fish at a minimum, and he'll thrive if patience is exerted.> I have also considered a triad of firefish. <Would out-compete your goby for food.> Too much fish-load?  Perhaps a Pseudochromis or dwarf wrasse instead? <Also, would out compete.  How badly do you want him?> Still too many fish? Invert-wise, I'd like to keep mushrooms (in the deeper shadier spots), and photosynthetic soft corals.  I'm hoping to do a 240gal tank in the future with SPS and clams [thus including the flame angel in this tank to keep from worrying about clam nibbling. The soft corals could be a problem for the flame, huh?]. <Flames are totally hit and miss...All I can say is good luck.> Plus the obligatory collection of snails, hermits, perhaps a shrimp or two. <Sounds fair> Okay, I think that about concludes the escape of the vast majority of my conclusions regarding this first reef tank into text.  I'm sure I'm forgetting something. <We're not going anywhere!> The opinion of the WWM staff is important to me, as it seems like you guys have 'figured it out', philosophically.  I'm really interested in what you like about the system, and even more importantly what you'd do differently. <How fun!  It's so exciting to see the wheels turning, planning in action.  You're on the right track, and I'm quite certain that you'll be happy with the results.  Remember, Synchiropus splendidus is a tough keep, but it's a rewarding in many ways.  Best of luck my friend, Ryan> Thanks for your patience, and service to the hobby. Regards,

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