DIY Stand (Planning Stage)

When breaking down my tank for a reboot, I discovered that my stand had pretty sever water damage and needed to be replaced. Originally I just wanted to paint the stand white to match the rest of the room. Since that was no longer an option, I decided to build one myself. I have 6 weeks to get this done, so it is going to be a lot of little bits of work between work and dinner most nights.

The nice thing about starting over is that I can design it the way I want it, not the way it came. I would love to have a “dry” compartment for electronics and a larger sump area that can fit my top off and dosing containers. I did some digging and found a few design elements that I liked and then I jumped into SketchUp to draw it all out.

Here’s what I came up with:

Stand Rendering

The tank is 24×24″ but this stand is 36×33″ (including the shelf on the top). The extra space allows me to create the shelf, a nice thing to have to put things down on while working, and to create the extra space inside that I need for the electronics and equipment.

Stand with Doors Removed

To maximize the interior space and my access to it, I’ve designed the doors to take up the entire face of three sides. The doors will be the skin when installed. They’ll all be held on with magnets so I can get them out of the way while working. That’s another thing about my current stand that bothers me. I have to twist and work around the doors.

Stand without the Doors

Here’s the stand without the doors. You can see on the left side there is a “dry” compartment to hold my electronics. On the right side is where the sump and all of the related components will go. As you can see, looooooots of space.

Rendering of it all together

And finally, here is everything all together. Now…. to the shop!

System Restore

Ever get to that point where you’ve just had it and want to restore things to a better time? I’m there with my reef. Since my crash in October, 2017 things just haven’t been right. Corals whither and die, algae is growing everywhere. Phosphates are out of control. I’ve tried everything, even things I don’t believe in, to try and get things under control. Algae cures in a bottle, chemicals in reactors, etc. Nothing worked. I had it and I finally said enough is enough.

That’s Not the Full Tank Shot You Want

On March 30, the tank came down. I’m going to do a full reboot and start things over again. I’m going to ditch the black sand and replace it with traditional Fiji pink or some other white sand. I’m going to keep the tank and the equipment in it, but the stand is gonna go. My plan is to cook the rock in a bin for 6 weeks and hopefully I’ll be back to clean (and still live) rock.

Breaking it down

Cooking rock doesn’t involve heat or any chemicals. It is just rock kept in salt water with a power head for circulation. I’ll run my skimmer in here to pull the junk out too. The theory is that with no source of nutrients the algae will all die off. I’ll do a water change in here every now and then to bring the phosphates down.

Live Rock Cooking Bin

Until the tank is ready to go the fish are temporarily hanging out in my old 24 NanoCube. I used water from my DT to fill the tank and a few pieces of clean rock from my sump for hiding places and biofiltration.

During the tear down I discovered that my stand had water damage and couldn’t be re-used. I now have 6 weeks to plan and build a new stand. Nothing like making a project a little more complex, eh?

Flood No More!

I have an amazingly supportive and understanding wife. She’s never said no to any of my aquarium projects. That said, I think the last time I flooded the basement making RO water pushed the limits. We have high CO2 in our water, so I need to degas it before running it through the DI stage. That means I need to fill up a bucket and run an air stone in it for 24 hours. It takes me about an hour to fill up this 5g bucket with my booster pump set to 85 PSI. I used to just set a timer on my phone and go down to the basement and shut the production off. That’s worked fine 95% of the time, but I’ve flooded the floor and my workbench at least 5 times. The last time I wound up with about 20 gallons on the floor. Whoops!

My  booster pump has a pressure switch to shut down the pump and a solenoid to shut off the water flow. There’s really no reason I shouldn’t have this set up with a float valve to turn everything off automatically. Bulk Reef Supply makes a kit with everything you need to do this for just $25. (Click Here)

In the kit you get a fixed position float valve, some rigid 1/4″ tube, a check valve and an auto shut off valve. Installation took me all of 5 minutes. Let’s review each part and what they’re for…

The fixed position float valve is very similar to how your toilet works. It is just a simple hollow space that floats when the water reaches it. Once enough water is in the bucket, the valve at the back of it closes. There are some options out there for adjustable position float valves, but don’t buy them! You’re liable to forget to check if it is tight and the valve will never shut off.

The rigid tube is fairly self explanatory. They give you plenty. One section goes between the compression fitting at the back of the valve and the output side of the check valve. The rest goes either to your DI output or your RO output and hooks into the other end of the check valve.

The check valve is important. You don’t want water to flow back into your RO system and you need it to build up the needed pressure to shut the system down when the valve closes. Make sure you have the flow pointed into your bucket.

The final piece of the puzzle is an automatic shut off valve. This closes the drain line when no water is flowing through the system. If you didn’t use this, even though you aren’t making product water you would still be putting water down the drain. This simple device senses when no product water is moving through and also shuts off the drain line.

Here’s what my completed setup looks like. You can see the output of my RO (which is connected to my TDS meter) running up to the input of the check valve (the white side). Then from the check valve into the compression fitting on the valve. (The tube coming out of the bottom goes to my DI stage after this water is degassed)

Inside the bucket is the float valve. I set it so I can mostly fill this bucket up.

And that’s it! Simple project with hopefully big and dry results.


It was a bit of a roller coaster, but all three of my new fish made it out of QT and into the DT! I was expecting some rough handling by my clownfish of the newcomers, but she’s been surprisingly tame. I expected her to bully the smaller of the two fish (the corris wrasse and the watchman goby), but surprisingly she’s been chasing the firefish off. The fish were moved into the DT 9 days ago and I’m happy to report everyone is behaving themselves.

This picture is pretty terrible (taken with an iPhone 6S), but you can see the firefish and wrasse here. The yellow watchman has set himself up a nice spot in the front of the tank (AWESOME!). I’ll snap some good pictures of them and post later.

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

On 2/23 my three new fish successfully transitioned from the hospital tank into observation! This is only the second time I’ve quarantined fish and only the first time I’ve gotten fish to this stage. The last group of fish had velvet and then uronema and ultimately died when I forgot to turn a pump back on after feeding. These three came through without a hitch. I had a few days when ammonia crept up, but a 10% water change took care of the problem.

The picture above is the observation tank. It is a simple 10 gallon tank with a steel stand from a big box store. I’m using a hang-on-back power filter with a pre-seeded sponge from my DT and a Koralia K2 for flow. I built a heater controller from an Inkbird ITC1000 that I got cheap on Amazon. (I’ll post a link to my DIY on that here after I post it)

Sorry the picture above is a little dark, but this is right after moving the fish over to the observation tank. The yellow watchman goby is there too, but he likes to hide under that piece of PVC on the left. The fish came out to eat thirty minutes after I moved them.  Everything seemed to be going perfectly, until….

I noticed a fuzzy white patch on the firefish’s tail. DANG IT! It looked a lot like the infection my clownfish had not too long ago. Lucky for me I had Kanaplex on hand already and started dosing it right away. This is why we do observation after QT! It isn’t uncommon for fish to come through copper and wind up with a secondary skin infection. Treatment in observation is super easy, but it would have been a pain if they were already in the DT.

It’s a little hard to see, but watch the firefish’s tail in this video and you can see the white spots flash on his tail.

The last thing I found out I did wrong was the prazipro treatment. There’s a calculator that tells you dosage intervals and I didn’t know that. I just followed the plan of dose, waiting 72 hours, dose again, wait 72 hours and do a water change. Apparently I was supposed to dose and then dose again after 6-8, then repeat.

^– That’s what the calculator outputs. I’m going to dose Kanaplex two more times, two days apart. Then I’ll run carbon for 24 hours and redo the prazi treatment.


We’ve Reached Our Destination

It took 20 doses at 0.75mL, but I’m finally at 2.5ppm copper in the quarantine tank. The fish don’t seem stressed at all. Everyone is eating fine and acting normally. I am noticing Ammonia is starting to creep up. That’s expected with the high copper levels. I did a 10% water change today with water already at 2.5ppm copper. I’ll probably do another one tomorrow with the same to try and get the levels down.

The plan is to keep the fish in here at this level for 14 days. On February 23 they will get transferred in to a sterile QT with completely separate equipment and with no copper. This is sort of a hybrid between the Tank Transfer Method and straight copper treatment. If you keep them at therapeutic levels for 14 days and then move them to a clean tank it has the same effect as TTM. The fish have no parasites on them after 14 days and none are able to get to them due to the copper. Transferring them keeps them away from the parasites.

Once they’re in the second QT, I’ll observe them for another week (maybe 2) and then they will join Jaws in the DT.

It’s Copper Time!

Tomorrow is the big day! Starting to run copper.  I’m going to raise it up over the course of 10 days since wrasses are particularly sensitive to copper. People have found that chelated copper, like Copper Power and Copper Safe, tend to be easier on fish. The therapeutic range is also higher which means it is a bit harder to overdose. Lucky for me, it is readily available at most local fish stores. Chelated copper levels can be tested using API’s Copper test kit.  It can not be tested using Seachem’s or Salifert’s.

The therapeutic level for Copper Power is 2.5ppm.  Over 10 days, I’m going to raise by 0.25ppm per day.  It takes 0.5 oz (according to the bottle) to reach that level in 10 gallons of water.  On day 1 (tomorrow), I’m going to dose 0.025 oz (~0.75 mL) in the morning and again in the afternoon.  I’ll test after the first dose and in theory, I won’t see much if anything detectable on the test kit.  Repeat for the next 9 days and I should get to 2.5ppm.  I have sand in there for the wrasse, so this might take more than expected to reach therapeutic levels.  It also might get absorbed, so daily testing for 30 days is a must.

Wish me luck!

New Fish (Update #1)

All of my new fish friends have settled into quarantine just fine.  The wrasse still seems content to sleep under some bioballs at night instead of in the nice bowl of sand I made a special trip to the store to buy for him that he just ignores… ARG! The watchman goby spends all day and night between those same bioballs but pokes out and keeps an eye on things during the day. The firefish is always out and about, but sleeps under one of the PVC elbows at night.

The fish are all eating a rotating diet of mysis shrimp, spirulina brine shrimp and live black worms.

They are currently on their second round of Prazipro to prophylacticly treat for flukes or other skin borne parasites. This will continue until 1/29 when I’ll do a water change and drop in some carbon.  Then on 1/30 I’ll start the slow 10 day climb to therapeutic copper levels and then a 30 day treatment there.

If all goes well, the plan is to get them into the DT between March 18 and March 25.

Hannah Phosphorus ULR (ppb) to Phosphate (ppm)

During Black Friday Bulk Reef Supply was offering all of the Hannah checkers for $35, so I grabbed the Calcium, Alkalinity, and Phosphorus Ultra-low Range (ULR) checkers.  I’ll take the time to do a write up on each of them eventually, but for now I wanted to make a quick note about how to make sense of the results from the Phosphate ULR checker.

The reading you get from the checker is parts per billion (ppb) of phosphate, not phosphorus parts per million (ppm).  Conveniently enough for us, there’s an easy way to go from phosphorus (ppb) to phosphate (ppm). ..

Multiply phosphorus (ppb) by 3.066 then divide by 1000 to equal phosphate (ppm).  Hannah also provides this handy look up table.

New Fish Have Arrived

That turned into quite an adventure to get these fish and snails here! After an initial delay from last week due to poor weather in Kentucky, the next delivery date was shipping Monday with delivery Tuesday.  The weather didn’t look great at the time, but I had until 10:30A on Monday to decide if I wanted to delay again.

It turned out the weather showed no precipitation and the daytime high was in the 40’s.  I called anyway just to make sure that was OK because the overnight temps were in the 20’s.  Apparently, they have systems in place to enable them to ship down to -20F.  Holy cow!  Needless to say, they saw no reason to delay due to temperature and they didn’t see any reason that we needed to hold off on the delivery.  “Ship it!”

Tuesday morning rolls around and I wake up to check the UPS tracking data.  Both shipments (one from ORA in FL and one from LA in CA) arrived in Kentucky and were on the plane bound for Philadelphia.  This was at 5:30A and I thought it was odd the plane hadn’t left yet, but whatever… I should have trusted my intuition.  I looked outside and we got a surprise dusting of snow.. It was maybe 1/4″ so I figured it would be fine.  As luck would have it, the plane got delayed in Kentucky.  It eventually left, but didn’t get to Philadelphia until almost 8:00A.  “OK,” I thought, “It just needs to get to West Chester and then onto a truck to get to me, should be fine.” I got an email during this time from UPS saying my package would be delivered, but wouldn’t make the 10:30A window.  Still OK, so long as they get here today…

At 9:40A both packages arrive at the West Chester sorting facility.  12:30P rolls around and they’re still showing that they are sitting there. I reach out to UPS and they say odds are they aren’t going to make it to me today.  Naturally, I said I would drive the 45 minutes to the facility to get the boxes myself.  I drive over there and….

“Sorry, those went out for delivery on the regular truck.  He should be there in about 45 minutes.” ARGGHHHH!!!  I speed home and… nothing.  4:30P rolls around and the driver still isn’t here.  He’s normally here well before then, so I call to make sure I didn’t miss him.  Long story short… he showed up 20 minutes later and apologized for all of the runaround.

I was freaking out that everything was going to be dead.  To my surprise, everything was warm and still alive!  I floated the fish for 20 minutes to temperature acclimate them.  I tested the water, expecting salinity to be 1.023 like Live Aquaria told me.  What did I find…? The bag from ORA was 1.020 and the bags from Live Aquaria were 1.022  I quickly adjusted the QT salinity and in they went.

That’s all for now, but more updates to follow!