Kessil

Squist's RSR 250

Squist

Supporting Member
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This system seems to be the result of traveling 25 years into the future. I dabbled in reef keeping in the 1990’s to 2002 with two separate systems a few years apart. After moving cross country, starting a new phase of life, I left the hobby for more than 20 years. Winter 2018, I googled "reef keeping" (blown away!) and shortly after built a system. Like a lot of hobbies and technology, there's been a lot of advancement in 10 or 20 years. No exception here.

I decided to go turn-key, eliminating the challenges and work of a one-off built-out system. I went with a Red Sea Reefer 250 for its out-of-box simplicity. Adding Neptune Apex provides fully automated water changes; evaporation control through an auto top-off system; supplement dosing; synchronized water movement; lighting beyond anything imaginable 15 years ago; and it feeds itself. It is as self-supporting as I could make it—features I could not even dream of 25 years ago; automation is going to save me from stepping again on many of those rakes of the past.


The System
Red Sea Reefer 250; Ecotech Radion XR-30 Pro G4; Red Sea Skimmer RSK-300; Ecotech Vectra S2 return pump; Ecotech Vortech MP-10 x2; Neptune Apex 2016 with two DOS (one for auto water changes, one for Part-A and Part-B supplements), ATK water sensor kit for auto top-off system (kalkwasser at 1/2 tsp/gal concentration), WXM module for controlling the Ecotech Radion lighting and Vortech MP-10s; 75 gal RODI filter with an Avast Marine Works Barrel Tender for water production; 40 lbs of STAX porous oolithic limestone dry rock, ~45 MarinePure Biocubes, and 40 lbs CaribSea Arag-Alive sand; Instant Ocean Reef Crystals (currently) for the salt water mix.


Set-Up
I began cycling rock in April 2019 prior to receiving the tank and related gear in June [1.]. I had the rock in the blue vats in the pics to the right and cycled using Dr Tims fishless cycling method for two months. Using an old Eheim canister filter that I filled with Biocubes, the canister filter along with an airstone and heater dropped into the vat got things biologically cooking. The vats later became the RODI/kalk reservoir (the top two in the pic) and saltwater vat (the bottom one); water changes are driven by Neptune DOS and Neptune ATK (the auto top-off).

Aquascape is negative space. Working towards a column of zoanthids holding a tabletop layer, a crown, of SPS. Used STAX for its uniformity. They're all the same exact height, making planning, stacking, and gluing a breeze. Before the STAX rock ever touched water, using a big bottle of super glue, we joined individual rocks into large plates and then glued together a base pillar. These big pieces then went into the vats to cycle.

continued...

[1.] This approach took longer than what I expected. Now that I'm finally coming out of the uglies (month 10-11), I'm okay with "low and slow". A couple months ago though it was really a downer. (Feb 2020.)
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Squist

Supporting Member
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After the initial cycle was complete I zip-tied the column to a 2'x1' sheet of 1/2" acrylic. The column is super-stable. In the pic below, the top two layers of rock are simply resting in place. They can be removed and repositioned.

The rock formation to the right of the pillar is stacked. No glue. Being able to change this up is nice. In the pic below the right side is a bit of a mess. But so is the tank, just 4 months along and working through some uglies.

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Parameters (as of 10/26)
Salinity 35 ppt
pH 8.15 (avg)
Temp 78 deg.
Alk 10
Ca 470
Mg 1400
NO3 10 (was 20 the week before*)
PO4 0.05, I am guessing. I'm using a Salifert kit that I have no confidence in my accuracy gauging the result.

(*I've been overfeeding for the last month or so trying to get a measure of phosphate; see: 'I've got zero PO4 blues'. Then cyanobacteria bloomed. Again. Visible on the sand in the photos above. I've cut back on the amount of food, feeling like I'm rushing a little.)

Lighting
WWC A-B at 30% intensity

Inhabitants (as of 10/26)
Fish and Inverts
2 percula clowns, 5 chromis, 3 hermit crabs, a couple nassarius, a few turbo snails, an emerald crab.

Coral
frogspawn coral, elegance coral, assorted frags including: tropic thunder monti, orange red yuma, gold streak cloves, neon green cloves, blue speckled mushroom, jack-o-lantern leptoseris, tyree mystic sunset monti, tyree rainbow stylophora, yellow potato chip, xenia, duncan, and lepastri.


Thanks for checking out our tank.
 

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JVU

BOD
Staff member
Very nice! Great equipment, great plan, great start. Looking forward to following along.
 

ashburn2k

Supporting Member
what's that board made of for your mix station? if it's MDF, i'd replace it with solid plywood just to be safe since that's going to get wet more often than you'd wish.
 

Squist

Supporting Member
what's that board made of for your mix station? if it's MDF, i'd replace it with solid plywood just to be safe since that's going to get wet more often than you'd wish.
Good point. It is. It's the board that comes with the racks. I have them double-stacked but, you're right, they get wet from time to time.
 

ashburn2k

Supporting Member
the reason i asked is because i had a board that got soaked and they cracked, became brittle (they are easier asorbing water since there's no waterproof paint like those fishtank stand has). luckily i didn't use the shelf for anything heavy.
 

Rostato

Supporting Member
Nicely done. If your going for SPS on the left side, you’ll wish you gave yourself a lot more room for things to grow
 

rygh

Webmaster
Staff member
So I really like the rock structures in general, but a quick thought:
Super glue some pieces of live rock rubble in the joints, to break up the horizontal straight lines a bit.
No fundamental change, just a few bits and pieces to tweak the visuals, and make it look a bit more natural.
 

Squist

Supporting Member
So I really like the rock structures in general, but a quick thought:
Super glue some pieces of live rock rubble in the joints, to break up the horizontal straight lines a bit.
No fundamental change, just a few bits and pieces to tweak the visuals, and make it look a bit more natural.
Thanks for your suggestion. I have a bunch of rubble in a filter cup sitting in my sump ready for this. The longer I’ve kept the tank, and looked at it, became concerned about other things, etc., the less the “lines” have bothered me. Know what I mean?

Thanks for a fresh perspective!
 

Squist

Supporting Member
UPDATE: Nervously watching from far far away.

Last Sunday we left for a two week vacation. This is a big test for the system. For the planning, double and triple-checking. On and on...

Neptune Apex is telling me all’s well: salinity is stable (my primary fixation because this tells me everything about the function of the water station and evaporation control; the RODI vat provides me a 30 day supply), ORP, pH, and temp are all within normal ranges. Collectively these readings are helping me keep calm but a long ways to go before we are back home.

Looking forward to posting an update.
 

Squist

Supporting Member
Super happy to have returned from the other side of the world yesterday. I was in China for the last two weeks, and returned to my new tank in relatively good shape! I owe it to my Apex and DOS-driven water changes; DOS Parts A-B supplementation; ATK-driven top-off; and Eheim fish feeder (courtesy of @Austin Wessel -- thanks again!) dosing 2x a day small pellet food dusted with ReefRoids. Neptune food, too big for my clownfish, inspired me to use a similar approach with New Life Spectrum for Small Fish and ReefRoids (7:1 ratio). Although I was on the other side of China's Great Digital Wall (they're crazy serious about shutting down access to the West; I was nearly blacked-out compared to our standards here) I was able to watch Apex to see that things were working as expected.

After two weeks while away the uglies took hold as expected at this point. What is really great to see after not looking at the tank over this time is SPS growth. True to the old saying: "a watched kettle never boils" after being away I can now see some really good signs! This tells me that parameters, supplements, and nutrients are coming together. Most noticeable is growth of my Tropic Thunder Monti frag (from @tankguy). Originally glued to a piece of rock on 9/5/2019, the monti has grown over the glue bond and onto its rock by a few mm. This makes me very very happy. Especially when the tank is so ugly when diatoms and such take hold so quickly. Ugly phase is getting old.

Current parameters after being away two weeks with auto water changes (3 liters a day), 15 ml Part-A and -B supplement, and auto-feeding to support 7 fish and inverts (all of which survived):

Salinity: 35 ppt
Temp: 78
Alk: 7
Ca: 490
Mg: 1550
NO3: 3-4-ish
PO4: 0.03-ish (I need a digital meter; it's nearly undetectable but I've convinced myself I see a faint shade of blue in my Salifert test result.)
pH: 8.1 (8.0 to 8.15)


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The salinity swings initially (to the left of the chart) I've attributed to my poorly mixing the salt in my vat. I was packing to leave when I mixed 14 gal of saltwater the night before leaving. Watching this from away did freak me out a little not knowing what was happening. Then it settled down as the salt dissolved and mixed more completely.

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Any suggestions for improving things -- reducing ugly phase especially -- I am all ears.
 

Squist

Supporting Member
@Rostato: what volume of water change do you suggest? I see we're both running RSR250 systems. Here's what I'm currently doing and planning to do going forward to address the diatoms:

In past and currently: 3 liters/day auto-change = 21 liters/week (8.5% of 255 liter system) = 90 liters/month (35% tank volume per month)
Going forward:
21 liters/week auto-change PLUS 15 liters/week vacuuming sand = 145 liters/month (55% tank volume per month)

With the intent of adopting as much lazy reefer method as possible, and striving for the quickest improvement, I'd like to do as little as possible while making the quickest possible change.

Also, I've been using Vibrant. I haven't started GFO, ChemiPure, or anything yet.. Open to it if useful.
 
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