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  Reef Tank Case Study
 
     

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Initial Aquarium Setup

After assembling all of the equipment, I first filled the tank with tap water using a garden hose. This was to test that all of the fittings really were water tight. I left it this way overnight, and found that there was a slow drip from one or two of the plumbing connections. I drained the tank by syphoning the water through a garden host into the backyard, and then applied aquarium sealant to the leaky connections.

I then filled the tank with reverse osmosis filtered water, which took several days (my R/O filter generates about a gallon an hour). Once the tank was full, I added salt. I use Tropic Marin salt, and know that it takes a rounded half-cup per gallon of water. A 70 gallon tank takes about half of a 150 gallon bag of salt; that's a lot of salt. This was cloudy when first mixed, but cleared quickly. I left the tank a little low, to allow room for adding the rock.

Meanwhile, I ordered live rock from Florida. I recieved rock from two different suppliers, one case of high quality "deep water reef" rock and two cases of cheaper "plant" rock. I picked up the rock from the airport, and rinsed each piece of rock in a 5 gallon bucket of salt water before putting it into the tank. I had ordered several dozen astrea snails with the rock, but it turns out that they didn't have many available the day my rock was shipped, so I only received one dozen snails.

The rock was in pretty good shape, and there was very little die-off. Within a week there was no measurable ammonia or nitrite (yes, a tank setup this way takes almost no time to cycle). During this time, I left all lights off, to discourage algae growth. After two weeks, I started putting the lights on for an hour a day. For the next couple of months, each week I encreased the lighting by an hour until I reached 9 hours of full metal halide lighting a day. The actinic lights come on 2 hours before and go off two hours after the MH lights, for a total of 13 hours a day.

After about one month, I added my first algae eating fish, a sailfin tang, Zebrasoma desjardinii. A couple months later, I added a second algae eating fish, an algae blennie, Salarias fasciatus. After the tank had been up two months, I added my first corals, and considered the tank fully operational.

     
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