Planning a new tank, something a bit different...

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Why am I putting myself through the pain and expense of another salty tank? I’ve kept relatively small low-tech salty tanks before, and presently have a 40L cube with a couple of gobies and shrimps, plus a mix of soft corals. I closed down my 120L tank as I was struggling to keep the conditions good enough for hard corals without the right equipment. Whenever I have visitors they're always much more interested in the salty tank than in the freshwater ones, and I still have the space where the 120L tank was, next to my 2 sofas in the living room. It's an ideal spot for a salty tank.

Recently I went on holiday to the Maldives for 2 weeks. The main purpose of the trip was whale-watching, and we were based on a liveaboard safari boat which cruised round the southern atolls. As a bonus, there was also the opportunity to do some snorkelling. Most days started with a 1-hour snorkel before breakfast, and finished with another 1-hour snorkel before the sun went down. We also had a night snorkel and a couple of mid-day snorkels where the schedule permitted.

We snorkelled on about 20 different reefs on 5 different atolls. They included a variety of reef types – the outer and inner faces of atoll reefs, island house reefs, steep drop-offs, sandy lagoons, shallow surf surge zones. Only one reef was at a resort island and one at a local inhabited island, the rest were out in the wilds far from habitation.

This was my first time snorkelling and the first time I had seen a wild coral reef. One disappointment was that the shallow-water corals had taken a big hit from the 2016 El Nino, but several of the more robust species had survived and there were plentiful signs of new growth of the more fragile types among the rubble. The number and variety of fish was outstanding.

I now feel I have a much better understanding of the conditions on reefs, and I’m full of enthusiasm to try again with a reef tank. This time I’m going to try and do it ‘properly’ with a larger tank, sump, intense lighting etc.

Many of my freshwater tanks are set up as ‘biotopes’ containing just one or two fish species in a tank with décor and conditions chosen to replicate the fishes’ wild habitat. I like this approach and I thought it would be interesting to try something similar in my new salty tank, based on my observations in the Maldives.

I don’t mean just picking fish and coral species from the Maldives, but choosing a zone of a particular type of reef, and re-creating one or more ‘cameos’ that I saw in the wild. At present I’m working through the videos I took while snorkelling (and my memories) to make a short-list of the options for reef zones and cameos. I’ll save that for my next post on this topic.
40L: Tiger pistol shrimp and Wheeler goby trio, peppermint shrimp, zoas, ricordeas, gorgs, tree
Plans for a new 250L Maldivian biotope...

MattHunt

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Reply #1

This sounds like an excellent idea. Following this.

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ajm83

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Reply #2

Following!  *D

Steveanem

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Reply #3

Sounds like you had a whale of a time in the Maldives!  lol Lucky you, a beautiful part of the world. I once went snorkelling in the Dominican Republic, but it wasn't out to sea it was actually in a large fish tank in the visitor centre where I also swam with dolphins.
I would love to go deep see diving also but never got around to it.

Your new project sounds good. I will be following with interest.

Mol_PMB

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Reply #4

So, what sort of reef and what zones and creatures to consider?
The ideal tank location in my living room limits the footprint to 3’ x 2’ (900x600mm). My preferred tank at present is the Evolution Aqua ReefPro 900S, which has a tank footprint of 900x500mm and a depth of 600mm. Including the sump, the total system volume is about 250L (55 UK gallons, 66 US gallons). This is relatively small for a reef tank, and places significant restrictions on what I can represent.
When snorkelling, one of my favourite fish was Naso elegans, a beautiful black, orange and yellow tang. They would roam the reef, usually in pairs. I’ve seen them for sale in my preferred salty fish shops. But they’re a big fish, and having seen how far they roam and how fast they swim, it just doesn’t seem fair to keep them in a domestic tank, even an 8-footer. I also particularly enjoyed watching the various species of Goatfish. In my freshwater tanks I keep and breed several species of Corydoras catfish, and the Goatfish is just like a bigger salty equivalent. But again, they grow too big for my tank size, and they also dig through the sand, disrupting the anoxic bacteria.
So if I’m going to try and re-create a biotope representing a slice of the Maldives, I need to pick something with smaller fish, and those that don’t swim too far or too fast. That points me toward a shallow-water habitat where the small fish tend to dominate, rather than a deep water or drop-off zone. Actually, that’s also good because when snorkelling I spent more time in the shallow areas and enjoyed seeing the smaller fish and corals close up. I experienced several types of shallow-water habitats.
Most exciting were the surge zones on the outer reefs, with waves breaking over the rocks. Water depth is typically between 0.5 and 2 metres. In these areas, thousands of sea urchins carve tunnels into the coral substrate, and some species of fish (e.g. surge damsel Chrysiptera brownriggii, surge wrasse Thalassoma purpureum) are unique to these areas. Blennies poke their heads out of small holes in the rock. Corals grow well but are robust and low-profile in form. Clumps of bright green algae have commensal green crabs living in them. Lighting is bright, the water is clear and the wave action is very strong – a high-energy environment where everything moves in the swell. In some areas, boulders have been rolled back and forth by the waves, wearing grooves/valleys in the rock about 1-2 metres deep. There’s a particular species of ray Himantura granulata that hangs out in these grooves, an ambush hunter waiting for smaller fish to be swept over it by the current.
It would be interesting to try and reproduce this, but technically challenging. The animals in this zone have evolved to cope with the surging currents, so I’d need to replicate those. There are ways of doing this by plumbing in additional tanks, pumps and valves. But I’m not sure it’s ideal to have the sound of a crashing wave every few seconds in my living room, and it would be very difficult to include the extra gubbins in the space available. So I think I’m going to discount this option.
That’s narrowed things down a bit, but still plenty of options out there…
40L: Tiger pistol shrimp and Wheeler goby trio, peppermint shrimp, zoas, ricordeas, gorgs, tree
Plans for a new 250L Maldivian biotope...

Asco1104

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Reply #5

Sounds good, was it the gha issue or something else in 120l tank?
Any thoughts on nutrient control.


Tim

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Reply #6

On the 120L, the skimmer kept failing, with the air line blocking up. I was stripping and cleaning it more regularly than I would like, then it failed while I was away on holiday and I came back to a very sorry-looking tank with the SPS all dying. Also one of the three light units failed and I didn't notice for several weeks - that didn't help the corals either. I was going to have to spend several hundred quid on new equipment and I'd got fed up with it, so I traded in the fish to the LFS and moved a few soft corals to the 40L.
I've since re-used some of the equipment on my freshwater tanks.
40L: Tiger pistol shrimp and Wheeler goby trio, peppermint shrimp, zoas, ricordeas, gorgs, tree
Plans for a new 250L Maldivian biotope...

Mol_PMB

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Reply #7

Oh, nutrient export - not sure yet and happy to take advice. The sump has space for a skimmer and a refugium or a reactor of some sort.

Here's the instructions for the tank I'm looking at:
http://www.evolutionaqua.com/aquariums/assets/eareefpro---instruction-manual.pdf
And for the sump alone; my tank will have the larger version:
http://www.evolutionaqua.com/acatalog/eaProSump%20-%20Manual.pdf

I'm new to sumps so suggestions would be welcome on the optimum setup and equipment!
40L: Tiger pistol shrimp and Wheeler goby trio, peppermint shrimp, zoas, ricordeas, gorgs, tree
Plans for a new 250L Maldivian biotope...

Mol_PMB

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Reply #8

Basically there are three compartments in the sump; two good-size ones and a narrow one for the return pump. The fourth compartment is a separate reservoir for top-up water.
I'm thinking Bubble Magus Curve 5, Phosban reactor, and heaters in one compartment. Bag of carbon too, or another reactor?
Then live rock and macro algae in another.
Not sure which order these should be in.
Maybe have the weir downpipes emptying onto a perforated tray of floss in the first compartment?
Then find somewhere to put my existing Kamoer doser and its reservoirs, feeding into a sump compartment too.

Lots more learning to do! Advice welcome.
40L: Tiger pistol shrimp and Wheeler goby trio, peppermint shrimp, zoas, ricordeas, gorgs, tree
Plans for a new 250L Maldivian biotope...

Asco1104

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Reply #9

I tried carbon dosing and could never get my levels stable, also my skimmer wasn’t performing well for a week or so and I must have had a o2 drop wich cause a mass stripping. So I swapped to a algae reactor and it’s the best thing I did.

First chamber algae bed, second skimmer, reactors and third return pump.


Tim

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Reply #10

Great - many thanks for the advice Tim. Sounds like my plan is coming together :-)
40L: Tiger pistol shrimp and Wheeler goby trio, peppermint shrimp, zoas, ricordeas, gorgs, tree
Plans for a new 250L Maldivian biotope...

Gav

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Reply #11

Hi Paul , if you can , I'd go for a better skimmer , I ran a BM curve 5 for a year , after changing to a deltec i found a substantial difference in the amount and quality of skimmate between the two .

Mol_PMB

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Reply #12

Hi Paul , if you can , I'd go for a better skimmer , I ran a BM curve 5 for a year , after changing to a deltec i found a substantial difference in the amount and quality of skimmate between the two .
Thanks Gav. The BM curve 5 seemed to have good reviews. Which Deltec model did you change to? I'll give it a google. How does it compare in physical size?
40L: Tiger pistol shrimp and Wheeler goby trio, peppermint shrimp, zoas, ricordeas, gorgs, tree
Plans for a new 250L Maldivian biotope...

Mol_PMB

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Reply #13

I was working through more of my videos last night, and came across this group of Clarkii clowns in another different sort of anenome. I think it's a Stichodactyla haddoni.
How do they do in tanks?
40L: Tiger pistol shrimp and Wheeler goby trio, peppermint shrimp, zoas, ricordeas, gorgs, tree
Plans for a new 250L Maldivian biotope...

fr499y

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Reply #14

need spot on water, will eat fish/inverts without question ( clowns seem ok though? ) and they get huge! Bonus is they don't like to wander.

Thanks:


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