Any nano reefers here?

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After a 12 year break from reef aquariums to dabble in the finer side of freshwater aquarium keeping, Ive got “the itch”. Seeing as there have been such fantastic advances in LED lighting (and when I bowed out, t5 bulbs were really just starting to take off, fyi), it seems like the route is like. I’ve had MH over something as small as a 20 gallon, but don’t want to muck with that anymore. Buuuuuut, as I’ve missed the entire LED train during its implementation, I have no clue where to start. I spent exactly 3 evenings reading up options, and I’m only more confused than when I started! I’ll likely do an AIO under 40 US gallons without a plan for acropora, or anything else that will have a high PAR requirement. I like Caribbean reefs, so lots of gorgonia, sea fans, and encrusting/donut corals. Anyone have any good starting points to save me from buying a $300 light I’ll want to upgrade by fall?
 

JTK

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Richard, as you've probably researched by now, the cost has come down for LED lighting, but obviously marine/reef is more expensive due to the PAR/PUR needs of corals, etc. I'd visit the marine section of a busy aquarium site or two. Aquariacentral or monsterfishkeepers are good ones. I keep a few freshwater tanks that aren't quite nano, but here's my 55g planted with LED lighting and a 29g with old school T5 fluorescent:
 
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I’d love to make my 10 gallon a small reef tank. I don’t have the time with a baby now so I stick to my 5.5 and 29 gallon planted tanks. I didn’t get back into the fish game until last year. When I went looking at LED, I found you needed to spend some bucks. I went T5HO for the 29. There’s a guy on eBay that sells em. I accidentally purchased the saltwater version and got 2 10k lamps and 2 actinic lamps. I have since swapped the actinic to 6500k. I probably would have to spend Triple to get the same output in LED.
 
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I was addicted to reef for about ten years haha. I went from a 40 breeder to eventually a 90 with all types of SPS and LPS, acans were my favorite, under a t5/led combo light from ATI. I got out about 5 years ago so my knowledge may be a little outdated as well but you definitely want a larger footprint, like the 40 breeder I mentioned or something custom that is wider and more shallow than tall and thin, 55 is no good. The smaller you go the harder it is, since you lose a larger amount of water to evaporation every day under the higher powered lights, youll need to have an auto top off or pay attention to the salinity, as the swings will be more drastic in a 20 gallon as opposed to the 40. As far as I knew, its always best to run drilled tank with a 3 chamber sump below, with cheato and lighting on the off schedule compared to the tank lights, this will act like a natural filter and feed the tank as the pods develop in a predator free environment. Since its night in the tank when the sump lights are active, theres a better chance that the pods that get sucked up through the return pump will make it to the rocks and be able to colonize. Pods are good. Rocks are the filter of the tank. 1-1.5 lb/gallon. Adds up quickly. You can start with porous dry rock (3-5$ per lb) but cycling the tank(getting it ready for fish) will take 4-6 weeks. Live rock will cycle much faster ( 9-15 /lb, could be different with the synthetic rocks that were coming out, cement and other reef safe formulas. Live sand and dry sand are also available, also need about 1 lb per gallon, but different depths gives you different pros/cons. Some run bare bottom and are meticulous about vacuuming it. Water changes at least every other week, but thats depends on your bioload, sometimes its every week, 10-15% of total volume. Again, a 40 breeder with a 15 sump still lets you mix in a 5 gallon and do an easy 10 minute water change with pumps, and every few months a 20% is a good idea. A good rule of thumb is an inch of fish for 3 gallons in reef, since the corals will be adding to it as well. In this imaginary 40, a pair of clowns, a smaller wrasse or goby , and/or mated pair of goby/shrimp, or similar would be about it. I had a possum wrasse who was an awesome little fish, and I eventually got him to pellets from frozen, feeding was alot easier on the bioload once they were all on pellets. Nanocubes are eh, theyll work, but you can always set your own nano up cheaper if you take your time and read up. Alot of them suffer from nanocube syndrome as well, buildup in the sand causes a crash, so do your homework if leaning that way.
 

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JT8, That anubias center-right is stunning! I do like the price, since it seems to be on par with metal halides, with less energy consumption and heat. But, what I’ve also learned, and the part that has me stuck is that not all diodes are the same, wiring methods impact PAR/PUR/lumens output, and that some of the manufacturers produce diodes aren’t any more efficient than a metal halide when comparing watts consumed to output. All the clone versions out of China only makes it worse. I think I’m outside of learning at this point, unless I want to read until spring of next year. I’ve been stalking nano-reef this week. I’ll check out aquariacentral and MFK. Thanks! E150GT, Give it a go! Personally, I’ve always found my smaller tanks easier than the large ones. The lower water volume introduces exaggerated impact of temperature, salinity, pH, and all that. But for me, at least, it made water changes and balancing trace minerals more easy. When you can do a 2 gallon water change every weekend with a quality reef salt blend that mixes to have the correct concentration of all the micro-nutrients, you eliminate a need to dose trace element in-between. Doing the same thing (a 15-20% water change every week) in a system above 55 gallons is a chore, so more people with large capacities use a broad range of tests multiple times a week combined with trace element supplements to keep the concentrations where they need to be. And beyond being a chore, it would also get expensive really fast to buy 44 gallons of ro/di and salt a month!
 

RichardS

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Audios, Thanks! The largest reef tank I ever ran was 55g, and the only one I ever used a sump on. I’m not familiar with the Nanocune syndrome, but from your explanation it sounds a lot like old tank syndrome. No fish for me as of now. If I did something to create some waste for zoas or heavy feeding gorgs, I’d do some cardinals or a fumanchu lion. Tall is better for me. The gorgonians and fans will grow up, and being able to clear 24” tall, I’d like to let them get as tall as possible before fragging them down. As I mentioned above, I’m a fan of weekly water changes, and always did at least 40% combined over the course of the month. There weren’t any decent HOB skimmers at the time that weren’t more than $200 a piece. I wasn’t down for all that craziness. I’m not against an ATO system, but as it stands I have to add water daily to a few of my aquariums to maintain a pre-selected water level to make sure they look “right”, and how I want them to. Cost isn’t really a major deciding factor, but avoiding a sump, and being able to hide equipment behind a false wall is in my top 3 needs. With all that said, these LEDs have me twisted. I really like the pros of LES lighting, but there is a learning curve that I missed. I may end up with a pendant or hqi halide application, unless I can find some sort of comparison between brands/construction.
 

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As it stands, I can only find a bunch of “I like company X, because they assemble the fixtures in the US.”, or “I like Y because has both 90 degree and 120 degree lenses.” Either I can’t find it, or no one has sort of grouped them together and given output vs consumption, par readings from different angles and height, and diode output performance. I guess I’ve become used to being able to google anything about motor oil with “bobistheoilguy” tagged on and getting an answer.
 
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Originally Posted By: RichardS
E150GT, Give it a go! Personally, I’ve always found my smaller tanks easier than the large ones. The lower water volume introduces exaggerated impact of temperature, salinity, pH, and all that. But for me, at least, it made water changes and balancing trace minerals more easy. When you can do a 2 gallon water change every weekend with a quality reef salt blend that mixes to have the correct concentration of all the micro-nutrients, you eliminate a need to dose trace element in-between. Doing the same thing (a 15-20% water change every week) in a system above 55 gallons is a chore, so more people with large capacities use a broad range of tests multiple times a week combined with trace element supplements to keep the concentrations where they need to be. And beyond being a chore, it would also get expensive really fast to buy 44 gallons of ro/di and salt a month!
Yeah years ago as a teen living at home i had an eclipse system 6 saltwater tank. Live rock and a single domino damsel. But then I could just borrow all my dad's stuff. Salt and hydrometer etc. I'd have to invest in some supplies. Growing up we always had a reef tank or two. My dad's last tank was doing great until Harvey hit. He had to evacuate and when he got home everything was dead as suspected. The freshwater systems were still thriving without power due to plants.I am sure he lost a few fish but he has so many it was hard to say. Not much is more relaxing than looking at a fish tank. To me at least..
 
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The brand T5HO fixture I got off eBay is Odyssea. Its been good so far, even has a timer and a fan. Mine is a 30" model that uses 4 24w T5HO staggered. My dad has a longer one for his 210 and he had one ballast go out. The bay rep sent him a new one after sending some pictures. I think I paid $70 for the 30" model. Comes with lamps too. I just didn't like the legs. I decided not to use them since I use a versa top and it didn't allow me to open the lid. I just placed the fixture on top of the lid. still can't open the lid but it doesn't look as goofy. The legs are fine on the 210 since its so deep. He doesn't use any glass lids though.
 

JTK

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Richard, thanks! That anubia and pretty much everything else in that tank has gotten much bigger as that pic is fairly old. I got back into aquariums and fish keeping about 5-6yrs ago. Prior to that, I kept tanks as a kid in the late 1970s until mid/late 80s. Info, hardware and livestock for the hobby are just a few keystrokes away now. So much different than it was 30yrs ago. I've had hit/miss luck with Odyssea T5HO fixtures and have had several. The T5HO over my 29g is an Odyssea and I change the lamps every 6-9 months. Like said, ballasts, lamp ends/holders, etc are JUNK on most all of them these days. The PAR from LEDs will also fade over time, but not nearly at the rate of fluorescents. The 48" Current Satellite LED Plus fixture over my 55g w/plants has been going strong 8-9hrs/day for 3yrs now. I would recommend Current Satellite and Finnex LED fixtures to name a few.
 
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Originally Posted By: Rand
Nano-Reefer sounds like a micro-joint smile not that I partake.
Sorry, I could not help it.
 
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Looks like the hobby is still alive and well. I did salt for a long time, eventually winding up with a 150, full Albert Thiel trickle system with oxygen reactor, de-nitrator, skimmer,and all the monitoring systems available at the time. Wavemakers were handmade 10 gallons above the tank one left, one right, that alternately filled and siphoned automatically. MH and actinics on timers, RO filters for making salt water and top offs. I had a boatload of money in it. Easily more than 20 thousand over a couple years. They all crash at some point. Reproducing nature in a big box was hard, a small box, (IMO) would be harder, but the cost should be bearable. I eventually switched to Discus, almost as hard to get the water acid enough for those guys, but at least the offspring and babies helped support the hobby. Still looks like fun. Go for it!
 
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I have 6 SW aquariums. 2 reefs 120 & 50, 3 fish only 120 and 2- 20 gallons, and 1 45 G seahorse tank. If you are going to go to a mini reef just stick with JBJ. They have plenty of lighting for you. Don't over feed and stay away from dry foods, use only frozen. LRS is a good place to start.
 

RichardS

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E150GT, I did see those light boxes, and while the t5 would give me the desired color and necessary output, i’m still pretty set on LEDs. Personally, I don’t like an aquarium much past a temp of 10,000-14,000k. Except when I’m stoned, at that point, may as well make everything glow. With that in mind, I like the ability to adjust the red/blue balance with my changing mood. Hurricanes are frustrating, and you reach a point where having emergency back-up becomes cheaper than replacing $10,000 - $15,000 in livestock. When I was a teenager, we went almost a month or so without power when we became the only home in the area that couldn’t be easily restored. We needed a new pole, and a new pole for one house is bottom-of-the-list type of repairs. JTK, I’ve never seen one allowed to just grow up without being affixed to anything. I always glue mine down. I’ll give those lights a look see. I did see the output fades with age, but I also assume that is also related to manufacturer quality. Or I’m wrong, and an LED is an LED. Either way, with replacing a failing LED means a whole new hood, I want to get my monies worth. Bean, Most of that stuff is even before my time! Discus were what drew me out of the reef hobby. We had a great breeder by my apartment in Long Beach, so I had my pick of the “not quite perfect” that were off to be killed. I think, more and more, that hobbiests are realizing simple is better. I also feel that tanks age poorly because you lose biodiversity with time. Stronger bacteria survive based on your conditions, take over, and then it’s just a countdown to the end. Because I’m nosy, what to you supplement to get the parameters correct? I’ve alwys used either distilled or ro/di plus equilibrium to being its kH, gH, pH, etc for my cardinals. LAGA, I’ll give the JBJs a snoop, thanks! Biocube has a lot of accessories and mods available, which was on my “would like to have” list. Never a big fan of skimmers, but I’d like the absolute to add one later without using a HOB model. LRS is a forum?
 

JTK

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Originally Posted By: RichardS
JTK, I’ve never seen one allowed to just grow up without being affixed to anything. I always glue mine down. I’ll give those lights a look see. I did see the output fades with age, but I also assume that is also related to manufacturer quality. Or I’m wrong, and an LED is an LED. Either way, with replacing a failing LED means a whole new hood, I want to get my monies worth.
It's hard to tell from the pic, but that big anubia affixed itself years ago to a large plastic cave type decoration. That plant was one of those pathetic plastic tube/bagged plants from Petsmart/Petco. I got it back in 2012-13. Regardless of component quality, PAR/PUR will still fade over time, even with LED, but as you say, higher quality stuff *SHOULD* last longer. On a side note, I was awoken today by my wife freaking out that one of my tanks was leaking all over the floor. One of my 55g tanks. The bottom seal let loose somewhere and drained about 20g of water onto the first floor and into the basement. Ugh.. whadda mess. The fish from that tank are living in plastic storage totes for the moment..
 
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RichardS

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Well, a leak is the perfect time for fancy new aquariums! I’ve seen some rather tempting “plant on object” sort of decorations recently, but I avoid them because they aren’t nice enough to risk snails or slime algae. Don’t beat yourself up over fake caves. I use fake wood in aquariums where I don’t have plecos, and no need for real wood. To much success, I think. It’s all in how you dress it up.
 

JTK

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Originally Posted By: RichardS
Well, a leak is the perfect time for fancy new aquariums!
Apparently you've never had a relatively bad leaker before? Something about ~25gal of fish water awash through your house really takes a toll on your love for the hobby. I hear you on plastic caves. It's pretty tough to get a real one in there. LOL!
 

RichardS

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You are right about that, I’ve never had a leak that didn’t happen on a concrete floor. Though at one of my first jobs, I incorrectly programmed an auto water change program, and ran around 100 gallons of water onto the shop floor.
 
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