IOWL's 20g IM Nuvo Fusion 20


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Hey, all,

After several years being friends with someone in the hobby, my wife and I have finally decided to give it a try for ourselves. After doing a sizable amount of research, we finally got our tank started on, 2/23/20. Specs so far:

Tank: Innovative Marine Nuvo Fusion 20

Lighting: AI Prime 16 HD (Thanks, @hyacinth !)

Skimmer: EShopps Nano Skimmer (not yet placed)

ATO: Tunze Osmolator 3155 (not yet placed)

Aquascape: ~9 lbs of dry rock (received in a prior purchase), ~5 lbs CaribSea liferock shapes, ~4.5 lbs CaribSea liferock

Journal entry, 2/23/20

Picked up the tank, rock, and accessories. First thing my wife and I did was start to play around with the rock:

Followed the tried-and-true "take pictures of your aquascape so you don't forget a configuration you liked", then settled on a rough configuration...

That promptly got some minor adjustments when we actually got the rock placed in the tank.

20 lbs of live sand. Getting sand in the tank after the rock was a PITA, and we ended up kicking up a bunch of sand.

Stuff I learned:
  • Sand is a pain, and doing this cleanly in an apartment is really, really difficult.
  • Contrary to my gut feeling, I was advised to turn the filter on and told it would help the sand to settle down.
  • Thermometers have a 'water level' line. Mine was higher than this. Fortunately, someone online pointed it out to me, and I got that corrected quickly.
  • For the other molecular bio geeks impatient at the cycle time: there's actually a paper looking at the makeup of the microbiome (e.g., all the different bacteria) in a large saltwater tank; specifically, the Georgia Aquarium's Ocean Voyager exhibit!
At this point it was getting late, and my wife was not a fan of the 'shrimp in a sock' method proposed at the LFS, so we added ammonia to 2 ppm and the bacterial booster, then called it a night.
You mean heaters not thermometers right? Most are submersible these says and the water level line needs to be submerged not above. What heater is it exactly?
Yeah, heater (not thermometer). Eheim Jager 100W heater. I'd never done a tank before and didn't realize it needed to be submerged so deep, but placed it correctly and it's been running well for the last ~2 months.
Return pump chamber. I have the heater in the left chamber, IM caddy in the right. IIRC, it was too big for anything but the return pump chamber.
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Journal Entry Monday, 2/24

Nothing much exciting happened on Monday, just waited for the sand to settle - which it finally did!

Taken at 7 AM:

Taken at 7 PM:

Journal Entry Tuesday–Thursday, 2/25–2/26/20

Picked up two very important pieces of equipment: an AI Prime 16HD and a test kit (API Master Saltwater)!

Values that were tested 48 hours after starting the tank (2/25):

Ammonia: ~1 ppm
Nitrite: 0 ppm
Nitrate: 0 ppm

And, because it drives me bonkers not being able to plot a time course with multiple data points (thanks, science background!), I've tested once per day since.

Values 72 hours after starting the tank (2/26):

Ammonia: ~1 ppm
Nitrite: 0 ppm
Nitrate: 0 ppm

Values 96 hours after starting the tank (2/27):

Ammonia: ~0.50–1 ppm
Nitrite: ~0.25 ppm
Nitrate: ~10 ppm

Journal Entry Friday, 2/28/20

Performed another round of testing.

Values 5 days after starting the tank (2/28):

Ammonia: 0–0.25 ppm
Nitrite: 2–5 ppm
Nitrate: 20 ppm

The tank is chugging along; given the quickness of the cycle, here's hoping it'll complete and I'll be able to start adding livestock within the next several days!

Journal Entry Sunday, 3/1/20

Performed a final round of cycle testing:

Ammonia: 0 ppm
Nitrite: 0 ppm
Nitrate: 20 ppm

And a time course for how my cycle looked:


And an interesting point that I learned about the colorimetric nitrate tests: the reaction mechanism that's used in a lot of common nitrate tests is inaccurate in the presence of nitrite. This is because the reaction mechanism first converts nitrate to nitrite, then creates a colored product in proportion to the amount of nitrite present.

In the absence of nitrite, this gives an accurate reading. However, if there's nitrite, you get screwy results (which is why my nitrate levels peaked the same day my ammonia zeroed out/nitrites peaked, but nitrates did not go up with further conversion of nitrite to nitrate).
Around early March I stopped keeping detailed daily chemistry notes, but—following a water change—the tank was ready for our first livestock!

Despite being in sync on most things, my wife and I have very different opinions on fish and I've given up trying to predict what she will versus won't like. We'd initially planned on getting a royal dottyback but, after learning how aggressive they can be, opted for something less aggressive. So we spent about an hour meandering around Neptune Aquatics trying to figure out what we were interested in, and settled on a zebra barred goby.

2020-03-13 (6).jpg

One drip acclimation later, our tank had its first non-microbial resident (along with the first dusting of diatoms). We named him Tobias, because my wife suggested the name and I liked the fact he is "Toby the Goby".


He spent a day or so hanging out in the open before he started digging. A couple days later, he'd made a little burrow underneath the rock on the right side of the tank and now spends most of his time there unless he spies food.


At least he's cute.
Life kinda got in the way, so I stopped taking quite as many pictures/detailed notes of the tank setup. Condensing most of March (weeks 2-6 for the tank) into a few images:

Diatoms started kicking in:


We added our second fish, a firefish named Mackinfyre, along with a red skunk cleaner shrimp (Nigel) and some cerith snails/hermit crabs. Also our first corals (all of this was spread out over 3 weeks or so):




I was dumb, overfed, and did not add a large enough CUC because I'd assumed my GHA/cyano outbreak was the new tank uglies. It was not.


It was quite a bit worse than this for a while (though I didn't take any pictures). What I believe was an algae/cyano mix ended up covering ~60% of the back of my tank and gave me a nice lawn on top of the rock. I believe part of it was due to the overfeeding I'd done at the start, mixed with adding reef roids for the goniopora and an insufficient cleanup crew. A combination of manual removal, beefing up my CUC, and adding a couple turbo snails has made the tank look a LOT nicer, and I think it's finally starting to edge out of the 'ugly' phase.

Photos of the tank today (5/9/20):


Got my first favia from Bob yesterday. Not only was it the first coral that's made my wife stop and say, "Wow...", but it gave me my favorite tank shot so far.

The goby was jealous of all the attention it was getting.
Well, lesson learned about relying on water from LFS.

Started testing alk since I was concerned that with quite a few LPS in the tank* I was pulling enough out to make a dent.

Tested tank prior to 5g water change: 7.4 dkh

Tested tank after water change: 7.2 dkh

Tested remaining LFS water (listed as 10-11 dkh): 6.8 dkh


So I've started mixing my own saltwater, and testing new water for alkalinity prior to any water changes. I've begun slowly bringing it up by 0.5 dkh per water change (~2-3 gallons), and am doing water changes every 48 hours until it reaches 9 dkh.

I've also discovered my suspicions were right and my tank is using up about 0.075 - 0.1 dkh/day, so I'll have to keep a close eye on that in case one of my lps goes through a growth spurt.

Full battery of tests tonight for my records:

Ammonia: 0 ppm
Nitrite: 0 ppm
Nitrate: 5-10 ppm
Phosphate: 0 ppm
Alk: 7.7 dkh
Salinity: 1.025

*Four heads purple hammer, four heads green hammer, one head purple frogspawn, two heads green frogspawn, favia, goniopora, single acan polyp, three heads torch with one head splitting, and a partridge in a pear tree
Making my own water improved my tank, it’s nice to control the controllable inputs. With your alk demand you could check out the tropic Marin all for reef. I’ve been using it and have liked the stability I’m getting. I am only using 1ml/day of it for my 43 gal system which was also dropping roughly .1dkh per day.