Much time has passed since the last update, and quite a lot has changed since then.
About six months ago(?) or so, we decided to revisit our strategy with the tank. It was getting full of algae again, we weren’t doing water changes enough, we didn’t have enough of a cleaning crew (again), the lights we had were dying again (salt creep), etc etc etc. At this same rough timeframe, we were also beginning our thought process around moving to a new home. If the tank was kind of going to hell, it raised questions about whether it would come with us, whether we wanted to plan for that (with space in the new house) or to just leave it behind or get rid of it.
Part of that decision making was to go to our LFS and ask for some consulting. We scheduled them to come out the house, do a tank cleaning/water change for us, take a bunch of pictures, and recommend how to get stuff in shape. That was a several stage process which is largely complete at this point. We replaced all the tank lights with new LED-based lighting, which was honestly the big expense of all of this. The new lights are very cool. 4 suspended “blocks”. They are all linked and controlled via a wireless controller. The brand and model is the AI (Aquaillumination) Hydra 26. Couldn’t be happier with it, honestly.
The one nuance of an LED based system (as opposed to the bulb type lighting) is that you have the ability to tune exactly what frequencies of light your tank is getting. This is still a topic of hot dispute in the various forums. Part of the problem is that the various types of aquatic life all have different (and often very specific) lighting needs. In a previous post, it was mentioned how important lighting was, especially around algae control. Some corals like high light, some low, some like blue light, some red, some green, etc. With such a variety of needs, how do you make sure you’re maximizing your investment to get the kind of life growth you want? Well, a consistent, well-thought-out cycle of lighting and frequency intensities that match real life is probably a good start. Next, placement of the various corals so that they’re getting the desired intensity of light is next (corals on the substrate will receive less light than those high up on your live rock). So in the forums, when you ask what frequency intensities people use, they are of course going to all provide the numbers they use to good effect, but that isn’t enough data! You need to know what they have growing in their tank, where they put, how high up off the water surface the lights are, what their light cycles are, etc! That is an awful lot of data to have to try and glean from the posts, and invariably, you’re getting an almost arbitrary look at someone’s actual setup. So… you do the best you can, average out the numbers to what seems to make sure and looks aesthetically appealing to you, and you call it good. I will post those numbers and include them here when I get home.
Next up was water flow. Yet another really important thing for life in the tank. Anything that can’t swim (so, basically, all corals) is dependent on water flowing over it to get its food. As such, most books on corals will give you “water flow” requirement when talking about the specific coral to give you a sense for how to give it the best odds of surviving in your tank. And with a big tank, managing water flow is hard. You have to get a ton of the “fan” type water movers just to keep things moving around in there sufficiently. That was the next stage of the “upgrade”. We ended up with a Maxspect “Gyre” product and holy crap does it work well. Shockingly well, in fact. Poke at youtube for some of their product demos or hobbyist videos and you’ll see how much flow it actually generates. Very impressive product.
We finally got our RO/DI system hooked up, so we’re no longer doing the 2-3 day dance of having to replace evaporated water. A huge plus. We replaced the refugium light, which was salt encrusted and dying. We added a mess of snails/crabs for cleaning crew, and they’re doing their jobs well. We got rid of the two maroon clowns we had that were beating up and killing any other fish we bought. We since got a yellow tang and a blue tang, and new nice big 6 line wrasse, and they are all healthy and happy. We’ve adjusted out feeding to a reasonable amount and that also cut down on some algae as well (reduced detritus). And finally, a couple days ago I replaced the phosphate filter media, which I think is once again doing its job. I also added charcoal into one of the other filter canisters as well, and we’ll cycle that on/off as water quality/clarity varies. Here is one article with a good section on activated carbon filtration.
Finally, two weeks ago, we added a few more corals in again. I really need to get some better pictures of everything again now that the tank is doing really well and healthy. I’ll try to get to that this weekend.