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.
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.
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.
[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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