Derek's 130gal (525xl)


Supporting Member
Hello - I am new to the hobby, starting a Red Sea 170 in February when a friend from the track convinced me I needed another money-sink of a hobby. As a sidenote - if you race/track motorcycles or are thinking about it, hit me up! I have been riding for many years and this is my other hobby love, always down to discuss.

Anyway, I really fell hard for reefing - I'm sure many of you can relate. All the strange critters and fish, the science and theory, the super cool equipment and technology, and of course the general complexity and challenge associated with success. I also figured it was something I could share with the family (wife and 3yo daughter) and they love it too. It seems there's always some drama between fish to discuss, or some new bad habit one of the crabs developed, or dispute over a cave at bedtime, or...

Current tank shot (8/1/22) that I'll keep updated at the start of this thread. This tank was started June 24th 2022:


I knew within the first week or two I'd be upgrading to a larger tank, but here's a couple shots of the 170:

I ordered a custom ATO from AdvanceAcrylics (highly recommend) to get 10gals squeezed between the tank and the glass on the left. I also drilled out the back of the cabinet on the right to use for extra electronics, as the sump got a little crowded:

I got rid of the worthless red sea ATO and was able to fit a Tunze 9004 skimmer into the return chamber perfectly, allowing me to use the skimmer chamber as a refugium. Also squeezed in an H80 Kessil grow light for the chaeto, a UV, and Hydros control unit. It's a bit of a mess but as noted above, I already knew I'd be upgrading soon.

Started culturing pods and phyto, since I knew the big tank would have a mandarin and wrasses:

I had mixed results with the system from poseidon. It's a good one-stop-shop for the equipment, but I kinda wish I had just bought the parts myself. Either way, it worked in the end because after a couple of months my tank is swarming with pods. So mission accomplished, I suppose!

I broke a rule and added a beautiful Black Widow Anemone to the Reefer170 at about the 2 month mark:

The clowns quickly chose the anemone as their host, much to my delight:

Their bond with each other and the anemone made the transfer to the big tank too!

This tank ran from February 22 to about June 22, when I set up the 525xl, which I'll start documenting in the following posts.

The inhabitants at the time of the transfer (note that most of the fish are named by my daughter...):

  • 2x Ocellaris Clowns - "Flower" and "Goldy"
  • Tomini Tang - "Tommy"
  • Starry Blenny - "Bakey"
  • Cleaner Shrimp - "Baby Logan"
  • Several hermits, snails, and the BW anemone pictured above.

Equipment used with the Reefer170, along with my thoughts for the record:

  • Kessil a360x - Loved it, using the physical controller (not the app - I've noticed these companies seem to make apps that are total garbage, so I now avoid the apps when possible). I am still using this light on the big tank.
  • Kessil H80 - Works great, as expected. It's rusting, however, which was not expected. That's my only issue.
  • Tunze 9004 skimmer - Loved it, Tunze stuff has been absolutely bulletproof. I decided to use Tunze pumps in the big tank.
  • Nero3 wavemakers - Meh...buggy app, buggy operation. They need to be really clean or they get grumpy. Interested? They're for sale! lol
  • Nero5 - Same as above.
  • Reefwave25 - Absolutely horrendous app. Could not get it working correctly, nor could Red Sea customer service. They basically just gave up working with me. The gyre itself is quiet and functions great, as long as you stick with the physical controller. Also have this for sale - lol.
  • Hydros Control4 - Really like this so far - the app has been rocksolid for me. It was very intuitive to set up, and I've added an XP8 into the collective on the big tank. I chose this over the Neptune APEX mostly because the APEX stuff is bulky, ugly plastic that seems poorly made. Plus I liked the fact that the Hydros ecosystem supports 3rd party stuff and just saw a better future. I know a lot of folks love their Apex but I wanted to try something different and I'm glad I did. Still loving this on the big tank, FWIW.
  • AquaUV 25watt - Bought this to clear up an incredibly stubborn cloudy water problem with the intent of moving it to the big tank. It cleared the water in less than 24hrs and I was sold. I run it on a schedule so it's off for a few hours after I dose phyto. I also kept it off during the early weeks of the tank transfer to avoid killing any bacteria floating around in the water column.

I'll cover the equipment for the 525xl in a later post. Closing pic of my kid, Ruby, for good measure:

Last edited:
As noted above, I knew almost immediately I'd be upgrading to a larger tank. I was inheriting a friend's old 525xl, decided to order the matching cabinet from Red Sea (big mistake...) and do all the plumbing myself (not a big mistake). I start aquascaping in the garage with a piece of plywood and a bunch of Marco rock:

I really wanted to go with something minimalistic that made the tank appear long (as opposed to tall) so I left a lot of negative space above the rock. I ended up adding more rock later after the tank was up and running, but tried to stick with this general theme.

Parts piling up in the garage:

I liked my Advanced Acrylics ATO so much that I ordered my sump from John as well. Always prompt shipping and love their products. Again, highly recommend. Decided to go with a Clarisea SK5000 mechanical filtration (I learned that I HATE changing filter socks and fleece), a Nyos 120 skimmer, and a Varios8 return pump using my old Varios2 from the 170 as backup.

Building the cabinet. I was thrilled the new tank would be on tile flooring (dining room) instead of the carpet in the living room where the Reefer170 was located:

The electronics side lined up with a freshly installed GFCI outlet:

I can't tell you how much this process has made me despise Red Sea - and I will likely upgrade tanks again at some point to something from another company - partly out of principled spite alone. Aside from the terrible experience with the Reefwave app and their CS team noted in the first post, I encountered more issues with the cabinet.

When you order the cabinet standalone, it does *not come with the hardware needed to assemble it*. That's right - none of the cams, screws, hinges, or feet. Nobody told me this when I ordered the cabinet, of course. I only discovered this when I unboxed it to assemble. Also - this hardware set (made largely of super cheap IKEA style assembly bits) is another $250 - which is absolutely insane. Literally 3 baggies of pot metal screws and some plastic dowels. ALSO - this $250 hardware kit *still does not include the feet*! Wtf, red sea? Anyway I ordered some adjustable feet on amazon and epoxied some m10 nuts onto them so they are essentially a better version of the red sea feet anyway (that kit costs another $250, btw... so $500 total in utterly cheap hardware on top of the $1000 price of the cabinet itself). Unbelievable...!

Anyway, cabinet assembled and tank placed - won't be moved again:

I decided to go with a Spears gate valve for the drain, and some ball valves for reactors in-line with the return. I wish I had taken more pics of the plumbing process, but I really enjoyed this part of the build. I ended up going with a flexible 1" line plumbed to the Clarisea on the back side, unlike this pic. You can see my test fitting the reactors as well (one large for carbon, one small for GFO):


I ended up swapping the gate valves on the reactors to ball valves for faster on/off. You really don't need the minute adjustment the gate valves provide for this application, and in retrospect I'm glad I made this change to the design. Here's a shot of the reactors installed with the new valves. You can also see the L-bracket I screwed to the wall for the attachment of my H80, since the angle on the arm is a little funky to adjust:

Overall shot of the sump-in-progress (with the UV mounted to the ceiling):

Finally, filling the tank with water:

You can see the 48" Aqualife Hybrid LED/T5 light I chose. I wanted a hybrid system based on a lot of my research. This also allowed me to reuse the a360x from my old tank (though I added 2 more). So 3x a360x total and 4x T5 bulbs. Figured this would give me the "bath" of light from the T5s and the flexibility of LED. Pretty happy with the choice so far.

Also got a new mantis shrimp tattoo to commemorate my new hobby:
Here's the last shot of the tank on June 23rd before the transfer - filled with water, light hung:

I performed the transfer in just a couple of hours on June 24th, the tank's official birthday. It was pretty hectic so I didn't get many pics, but everyone survived the move. I used the PVC+Sponge method to get the Anemone off the rock that I transferred from the old tank:

Here's Tommy, who turned out to be an asshole, and was rehomed to @Rcruz392 where I think he's behaving himself:

Visited @H2OPlayar and picked up this nice Goni, a tort, and some cool Zoas (the GMKs are currently deciding if they want to melt or not) thanks, Michael! Hope to visit again soon :




Bakey, my fat blenny, enjoying the new digs:
I've of course been adding some more fish as well.

Here's the current fish list:

From the original tank:
  • Flower and Goldy, the Ocellaris Clowns
  • Bakey, the Starry Blenny
  • Baby Logan, the Cleaner Shrimp
Added Since:
  • Neo, the Dusky Wrasse
  • Bluefish, the Leopard Wrasse
  • Dora, the Flame Angel
  • Doug's ladies, a pair of Bimac Anthias (Doug, the male, was given to another Reefer because he also was an asshole)
  • Stubby, a Sunburst Anthia
  • Butterfly, a Mandarin Dragonet
  • Tupac, the blood Shrimp
  • Nameless Banggai Cardinals 3x
  • Mochi, an Azure Damsel
I feed pretty heavily, all day long. I mix a bunch of different cubes soaked in garlic and Selcon and the fish all go nuts for it. The Mandarin is close to eating it as well, though she has plenty of pods. I have so many they have started obscuring my view on the glass.

My favorite fish, hands down, is the Blenny. He has so much personality, is a shameless pig, and gets along with everyone. Even the clowns let him chill out in their Anemone, where he'd seek refuge when Tommy was bullying him. They chase everyone else away. Bakey really is everyone's homeboy. I also really love the wrasses - they are fun to watch and seem to have developed a friendship. I'll probably pull a couple of the Cardinals out for a friend who wants them - they have no personality and I regret adding all three.


One of Doug's ladies and Stubby:

Dora, who's kind of the boss of the tank right now. She shares a cave with Tupac the shrimp and gets private, intimate cleanings:

Butterfly, fattening up nicely:

Finally, here's some close up shots of either side of my tank as of today.

Right side:

Left side:

I'm seeing some growth on a lot of the SPS already, just about 5 weeks in. The acropora are especially slow but have started encrusting. The stylo and birdsnest are really taking off, along with most of the LPS. Funnily, I am struggling with most of the Zoas. They look good, but don't want to grow. The GMKs are really the only clearly unhappy thing in the tank as well...we'll see how they do.

I'll share my current equipment set up in a future post, thanks for reading!
Thanks for the update
Let us know how the new style update red sea gate valve
I also owed Red Sea reefer 170
I went with a Spears gate valve on the 525 since I was doing all custom plumbing anyway. I can't speak to the new Red Sea ones...but the Spears has been flawless, it's easy to dial in and allows for very minute adjustments. Big improvement over the Red Sea valve (not sure which version) that was on my 170.
Great thread bro! The tank looks great already can’t wait to see this grow out, keep asking questions the help is here. Also Tommy is the new tank boss lol
Great build thread. I'm also using Hydros. How do you like the XP8? I am currently using 2 Wifi strip. One major downside is if there is a power outage, someone will need to press the button on the Wifi strip to turn it back on even when when power comes back. Not sure this is the normal behavior but this is what i observed in my setup.

Do you know if XP8 have the same behavior? Have you tried simulate a power outage and see how the system behave?
Great build thread. I'm also using Hydros. How do you like the XP8? I am currently using 2 Wifi strip. One major downside is if there is a power outage, someone will need to press the button on the Wifi strip to turn it back on even when when power comes back. Not sure this is the normal behavior but this is what i observed in my setup.

Do you know if XP8 have the same behavior? Have you tried simulate a power outage and see how the system behave?
The XP8 is excellent. I also had some reliability concerns with my Wifi strip, which has now been relegated to powering less critical devices. I've hard-wired the XP8 to the Control4 with the data bus cable and turned the system into a "collective" so they operate as one and it's been rock solid. It also has 8 outlets instead of just 4 with the wifi strip. I don't recall having to press the button after power outages on my Wifi strip, but I do remember some funky behavior and the occasional disconnect from the wifi, which was unsettling but had no real impact.

The other nice bonus with the XP8 is that it completely powers the collective - meaning it supplies power to the Control4 via the bus cable so you can unplug the Control4 entirely, saving yourself a valuable outlet spot for something else and less wire clutter. You need a couple terminators and a data/power bus cable to set this up, but it works great once you do so.

I did accidentally cut power at one point any don't recall any issues. I'll do it again tonight and let you know..
Thanks. XP8 is in my shopping list. I have the X2 Should have bought the control x4 to start with. Now I wish I have more sense port.

Maybe I should also get the XS for 4 additional sense port.

I cut the power this morning and the whole system fired right back up with no issues or delays or weirdness. Everything in the correct status/schedule etc. Here's some shots of my config:

That’s amazing. Wonder why mine behave differently. Maybe because I use one of the wifi strip outlet to power the main control. I don’t have sufficient outlet on the wall. XP8 definitely will solve my problem

Thanks for checking
That’s amazing. Wonder why mine behave differently. Maybe because I use one of the wifi strip outlet to power the main control. I don’t have sufficient outlet on the wall. XP8 definitely will solve my problem

Thanks for checking
Yeah I could see how powering the main unit off of the wifi strip could cause some weirdness. I bought a couple of these guys on Amazon to power the controllers and anything else that doesn't need a smart outlet:

How did you log the nitrate and phosphate ?

I have a Mastertronic that feeds the results to the Hydros. I'll share my thoughts on that when I get to my equipment post!

Really like your aquascape, reminds me of a iwagumi style.
Thank you! :) I like having a lot of exposed sandbed, reminds me of a real ocean I guess. Some tanks just look too "full" once they're jammed with rocks and the corals start growing in, so I tried to leave a lot of room. Freshwater tanks always have such great scapes, and those iwagumi ones were definitely a huge inspiration.
Been a while since I have updated - busy couple of months with work. Tank is doing great, though I dealt with what I believe was a brooklynella outbreak that wiped out half of my fish, sadly. The disease, whatever it was, came in with a whitetail bristletooth purchased from AC. I have since only bought fish from Kenny, every single one (except one killed by the brook) has survived and is doing well. Thanks, Kenny! @under_water_ninja

Here's a tankshot as of mid October, now 4 months old:

Some additional pics, right side:


Left side:


Some zoas I got from @H2OPlayar , started as a 3-polyp frag:


My goni garden:


View down the long way:


Overall, very happy with the progress of this tank after just 4 months or so. Other than the nasty disease outbreak, I dealt with a period of STN on my SPS. I am virtually positive that this was now related to too much light. I have since both shortened the photoperiod on my T5s to 6 hours, and reduced the max intensity of the Kessils to 30%, and things are really coloring up and taking off now!

Nutrients are very low (~1ppm Nitrate, ~0.04 phosphate), but have naturally settled in here so I'm going to leave them. I really want to minimize what I'm dosing and just feed a lot. I am feeding frozen 3x per day and have TDO on autofeeder another 3x per day.

Last edited: