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My 170g cube

I've been a lurker for a long time and I've met a few of you guys by accident and by shuttling frags when I lived in Sacramento and worked in the bay area. I've been in the hobby for 5 years or so. Had several successful tanks, several adventures with less common critter (sea horses, mantis shrimp, raised cuttlefish from eggs and recently had an octopus) and had catastophies. I used to work at one of the reef stores in Sacramento.

Anyhow, I figure it's time to put my tank out there. I'll take some pics later when I'm home but here is the latest video of my tank, from my apex camera perspective.

Tank is a 36x36x30 custom starfire glass tank. Steel stand (that I need to put a true skirt on). I want to build a floating canopy when I finish the skirt and put a couple supplemental t5 bulbs in it but I have project ADD so who knows when I'll get it done.

Equipment from the top down.
Two kessil A360we tuna blue, controlled by the apex.
A pair of mp40wes, no vortech control module for the apex yet so they are just left in one mode most of the time, shut off by apex outlets.
Some unknown acrylic sump, about 40g capacity.
Two 300w heaters, plugged into the apex.
Some reef octopus Skimmer, the body is about 12" diameter. I fabricobbled a reef octopus VarioS 3000 pump to it and that's controlled by one of the apex variable voltage control ports. I just got canisters to make a CO2 scrubber, waiting on media.
I have a biopellet reactor (forgot what kind) current serving as an algae reactor since I thought my nitrates were stable at 5ppm (we will get to that later).
Coral Box 4 channel doing pump with cal, alk, magnesium and bacteria bottles.
Hydro smart level ATO controller. Aqua lifter pump and 10g ATO resivoir.
Fluval return pump (the red one) that I hate. I want to replace it with a VarioS pump when I have more money than commen sense.

About 150# of rock in the display, mostly emarco together in a "lagoon" style with some arches and caves. Another 50 or so lbs of small rocks and rubble in the sump.
No sand.

Fish: a lot more than I should have but I picked up 22 fish from a tank breakdown, kept what I wanted and sold/gave away the rest. You think my tank is crowded, I only took half the guys fish and he had them in a 150.
A huge red sea sailfin tang, blonde Naso tang, two blue tangs, two yellow tangs, purple tang, scopas tang, foxface, black snowflake clown, midnight clown, two oscellaris clowns, two cardinal fish, a cleaner wrasse, yellow Cloris wrasse (currently living in my overflow like a jerk) target mandarin, four chromis and a coral beauty angel that I can't catch to save my life since she developed a taste for sps.

A terrorist of an urchin, 3 emerald crabs, 2 coral banded shrimp, 2 cleaner shrimp, 2 sexy shrimp, a pom pom crab (haven't seen it in weeks), Sally Lightfoot crab and various snails and hermits. Two bubble tip anemone, one rainbow, one green with yellow tips.

Lot of LPS, especially chalice and euphyllia. I'll post pics at some point. A couple softies like green nepthea, utter chaos, a gold Yuma, jawbreaker, superman mushroom. I had a ton of sps prior to the devastating crash and "time of troubles" (again, well get to that later). I've lost a WD Tenuis frag that was almost 2" tall, shades of fall, rose milli, red planet, sunset milli.... I don't want to think about it.

Anyhow, I got most of this system used and it's been running for a little over 6 months. All was well at first. Corals were growing like weeds, good color and polyp extension. I had several wonderful fish including a large blue tang, a powder blue tang, etc, etc.... Bought a sailfin from another reefer and didn't qt it. I later found out that the sailfin was a velvet survivor and within 3 days I lost 12 fish. The only survivor is one of the oscellaris clowns I still have and I was sure he was going to die in the hospital tank.

Went on vacation and my tank babysitter was captain of the fail boat. I came home to fields of hair algae and green turf algae. There were balls of it rolling around the tank that had come loose from the bottom glass it was growing on. For weeks I would manually remove it, a pound at a time. Corals were suffering at this point, no fish in the tank to help control it. Biopellets and gfo online to try to starve the algae out and it wasn't stopping. A friend had success using Vibrant aquarium cleaner at high dose so I gave it a go. It worked, that's for sure. Within a few weeks all of the algae was dead. All my corals were extremely pissed off too. Everything was bleached, no sps polyps to be seen anywhere. LPS was shrunk and the soft corals looked bad to. Then, the straw that broke the camels back, heater got stuck on. For the first time in many years, I was using a heater without any kind of external control, like an idiot. Tank went from being +/-1° from 78° to 85°. Lost half the corals overnight. I figured, hey if the heater is always on its fine. I hooked it up to an stc-1000 controller and figured it was good. Two days later the heater stopped heating. Tank dropped to 72°.

I seriously considered selling everything at that point. I had one fish and lost 90% of my coral, clams, anemones... But I kept going.

Got things back in line, got some frags from a swap, from friends and from trading 3d printed stuff for coral. Tanks is doing really well. Big bundle of fish in the tank. Everything is going good. Did some 3d printing work in trade for an apex junior, quickly found out I needed something bigger. Picked up a used apex classic for $220 and sold the Jr for $180. Score right!? No.

Put my wife's favorite fish in, the coral beauty, despite knowing better and things slowly get worse.... And worse.... And worse... It can't just be one fish....now we are caught up to last week.

Then my apex takes a shit. Do my nightly wander around the house (my daughter has epilepsy so I wake up at the slightest noise to check on her) and my kessils are flashing on and off at full power, color control swinging from full to off. Return is off, heaters are off. It lost all of its programming. Spend a few minutes manually turning things on and some basic programming for the heaters.

Next morning I find that if I try to upload anything more complex than heater controls, the apex crashes and reboots. Put in a ticket with Neptune and get a call from them about 20 min later (I was impressed). The tech checks everything out, looks like a hardware failure. So now I have to get it repaired for $150, replaced for $200 or buy the 2016 version (not that interested). Frick.

Sent a sample to ATI for their ICP OEP testing. Very enlightening results. Turns out my refractometer is garbage, my calibration fluid is garbage, my nitrate kits (red sea, seachem and api) are garbage and my phosphate kit (seachem) are slightly garbage.

My tests showed salinity at 1.025, nitrates at 7.5 and phosphates at 0.1

ATI has my salinity around 1.020! Nitrates are 30 and phosphates at 0.5.

And that's where I sit today. I've been raising the salinity with water changes (that I haven't done for months just out of curiosity) since Monday. I think I'm around 1.024 now.
Now I just need to stop buying coral and save the money from 3d printing to fix my apex. Designed some new stuff and went back to printing for commission so fingers crossed.


Supporting Member
What camera do you use? Is it compatible with the apex where it doesnt need to take up an outlet?

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Nice cube, lots of potential!!
Hope you get things straightened out and do well.
Sounds like a big mess. Sympathies!!

I am hoping you purchased new test equipment and calibration and retested yourself?
Because ATI results could be messed up instead. Unlikely, but far from impossible.
It helps to test refractometer with 1.026 fluid and distilled water. If they do not line up as expected, be suspicious.

That is a lot of fish. Can be done. But I hope you have a good nutrient export plan.
And, if something goes wrong in filtration, bad things will happen fast.
I have a friend in the ICP machine industry and unless there was a colossal fubar by someone in their lab, it's hard to get that wrong.

Nitrate test kits are notorious for being inaccurate. They are precise and able to repeatedly get the same results but they may not be the right number.

I have to harvest my algae reactor about every 10 days but not much else. The monster Skimmer is probably rated for 250g heavy load. It's a beast.

My biggest problem right now is apex unreliability and low ph. It starts around 7.7 before the lights come on to 7.9 right now. The CO2 scrubber will help.
Beautiful tank! I’m super surprised that you have minimal aggression with all of those herbivores! Good job, you must be doing something right!