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DavidRod's 210g OUTDOOR Bare-bottom Reef Tank (1 Viewer)

davidrod8

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Been getting a lot of requests lately to copy my build thread from Reef2Reef into here as apparently there are a few crazy reefers out there that are thinking about replicating this experiment of having a tank outdoors. I have to say that this has been the most success I ever had reefing, the largest and by far the easiest to maintain.

Originally posted on Feb 4th, 2020 on Reef2Reef

A little bit of background. Been reefing on and off for the last 15 years. I started out with a 55g back in Florida. It was a good learning experience, unfortunately, I had to take the tank down when I moved back to Texas. A couple of years later I bought a BioCube 29g and had it for a couple of years, but I found it to be unforgiving to mistakes and with little ones I didn't have the budget or time required. Back in 2016 I jumped back in with IM 20 or 30, can't remember. It was a nice tank but I was missing space in the tank. I ended up taking the tank down after a crash and thought the next tank I got would be a big one.

Fast forward to late 2019, we built a very nice (1,000 sq ft+) covered patio in our house with an oversized fireplace. My wife loves the patio and her comment was simply "Why don't you put your fish tank out here?" From that moment on, I couldn't stop thinking about it, so I started to do some research. My biggest concern here on the outskirts of Houston is the huge temperature swings that we get. I knew I would have to get an Apex and several heaters to make it through the winter. I also know that sooner rather than later I'll be needing a chiller (maybe 2) to combat those toasty summers.

So, I started looking at tanks, wasn't sure what I wanted, just that it needed to be big (at least 150) I started looking at custom tanks and premade ones, but I wasn't willing to drop $5k - $7k for an outdoor tank that honestly, I don't even know if it's going to work. Turn into Facebook marketplace and voila! I saw some amazing deals.

After the holidays were over, I decided to pull the trigger on a very nice tank that was still running but needed a lot of TLC. It was in a barbershop and wasn't being properly maintained.

For $750 I got the following equipment:
210 Gallon tank (72 x 24 x 29)
Sump
Simplicity Skimmer
5 Powerheads
2 Return Pumps
3 AI Prime lights
Stand and Canopy
20 Gallon tank (which I turned into a refugium)
2 - 55 Gallon Blue Drums
RO-DI 4 Stage Filter System
2 Phosban Reactors
5 Heaters
a TON of odds and ends... Filter socks, additives, coral and fish foods, test kits, additional pumps.

Livestock:
14 fish (2 Engineer Gobies, 6 Clowns, 3 Blue/Yellow Damsels, 1 Blue Velvet Damsel, 1 Wrasse, 1 Dragonet)
300+ Lbs of live rock

So, on a Saturday morning, I enlisted some help, rented a Uhaul and went to buy the tank. Originally I wanted to keep the water, but even though the tank was running and had fish in it, it hadn't been maintained in quite a while. We took the tank down and discarded the sand. Brought it home, and started putting it back together on Sunday. It was indeed a huge ordeal but totally worth it considering the price I paid.

The first issue was coming up with 200 gallons of saltwater. I did keep a little bit of the old water to keep the rocks submerged but the RODI system can't clean that much water so I ended up buying 60 gallons of water from the LFS along with making my own with the RODI. By Tuesday I finally had the system filled up and pushing water and on Wednesday, after adding some bacteria to help, I put the fish back in there.

In the end, I lost one fish through the move, one of the engineer gobies did not make it, and I figured the second one wasn't going to either since I don't have any sand, but somehow he is still alive and kicking.

Another one of the challenges with buying used is not knowing how old, or how used the components are, so I have slowly replaced things as I needed them. First thing was to change the cartridges in the RO-DI system, as they looked pretty bad. I also went ahead and got new lights. I bought an Odyssea T5 and replaced the bulbs with ATIs.

Since I wasn't sure of how old the return pump and the powerheads are, I bought one of those Loop Systems from Current USA. (72") Not crazy about it, but it's a solution for now. Eventually, I would like to add better lights and pumps, but this will do for now.

As expected, keeping a stable temperature in the tank was challenging at first. I knew that I would have to get an apex sooner rather than later. After the first couple of water changes (25+ gallons) I knew I had to make this a priority as I wanted to get a DOS for AWC. 2 weeks ago I got the Apex, installed it and last week I finished my salt mixing station in the garage (wall behind the tank) It's been awesome do it this way. I will post pictures of the whole set up later, for now I wanted to get the thread going and get the conversation started.

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davidrod8

davidrod8

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Originally posted on Feb 4th, 2020 on Reef2Reef

A few more pictures of my set up. Here is the Saltwater Mixing station. RODI filter pulls water after the water comes out of the water softener. Filtered water goes into the top tank. I manually move the water through the gate valve into the bottom tank as needed where I add the salt. I have a powerhead in there mixing the water. Im using a DOS to pull water out of that bottom barrel and bring it into the aquarium, you can see the lines in the last picture. Behind the water softener, there is a drain where I get rid of the water being pulled out of the tank, RODI waste line as well as the water softener drain line.

I'm currently using a Neptune ATK, but the water is being pulled out of a 5 gallon jug that I have to manually fill every couple of days. I'll be getting another FMM this week and Im planning on installing that into the top tank so that I no longer have to manually deal with the 5 gallon jugs.

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davidrod8

davidrod8

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Originally posted on Feb 4th, 2020 on Reef2Reef

Here are a few more pictures of the patio and the area around the tank. The covered patio is about 1,200 sq ft and we also have an additional 300 sq ft of patio recently added that it is not covered. 2 couches, fireplace, dining room table for 10 and outdoor kitchen. It has its own full-size refrigerator and 70" TV. I practically live out there. After I come home from work all I want to do is hang out there, it is my relaxation area.

Afternoon sun does come down on this side, which is going to provide another challenge. I currently have outdoor rolling blinds that I can bring down as necessary. I also went ahead and planted 12 feet high magnolias to hopefully give me some shade. I guess we'll see how it works out...

For my next project, I'm thinking about building an above ground pond for freshwater turtles and maybe some koi fish, but I want to do it with a plexiglass wall so that we can look into the pond. It would go on the left side of the reef aquarium, out in the open air.

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davidrod8

davidrod8

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Originally posted on Feb 6th, 2020 on Reef2Reef

Desperate times call for desperate measures... As the temperature fell into the 30s last night, the 5 heaters I have (4 eheim jagger 300w + 1 200w) were having a hard time keeping the tank temperature and I saw it drop down to 75. When I saw it kept going down I had to an additional heater as seen in the picture. I was amazed to see how fast this makes an impact on the tank, so I only leave it on for a few minutes....

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davidrod8

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Originally posted on Apr 19th, 2020 on Reef2Reef


Time for an update...

Tank has now been running for almost 4 months and it's looking amazing! I'm sure staying at home the last few weeks has helped a lot as I have been able to work on it and do plenty of maintenance...

Here are a few thoughts...

Maintenance is a breeze with the tank being set up in the patio. I have a hose about 10 feet from the tank and I'm able to clean the collection cup from the skimmer twice a week and dump it on the grass. In terms of equipment I ended up upgrading the sump to a Tideline 36 and I'm very happy with it. I now have 2 7" filter socks which reduces maintenance down to twice a week.

The Apex is definitively a huge help with my set up, especially doing AWC. This has in my opinion been the biggest game changer from my previous tanks as I'm able to maintain awesome water clarity. I was able to get my hands on the trident and this has also cut down on the testing. Honestly things are looking so great that I'm not doing much manual testing nowadays, just little tweaks here and there.

Bare Bottom: This is something I love, it reduces clean up greatly. About once a week I moved a Powerhead down to the bottom of the tank and this stirs everything up. Very convenient.

Temperature: This has probably been the biggest challenge with this tank being outdoors. We haven't had a cold winter here in South East Texas but we still have had a couple of mornings in the 30s. 5 heaters have done a great job at keeping the water between 78-79...

I was able to get my hands on an used chiller and have been running it for about a month. It is rated for 250g so I don't believe it will be enough for those steamy sunny days, but so far it has been able to keep the temp under 81 during a couple afternoons where we were pushing 90s and feel like was almost 100... Im keeping my eyes open for another chiller to help out during the hot summer days.

I have a second DOS to dose Alk and CA but quite honestly my CA levels are pretty easy to maintain at this stage. Tank has been taking more Alk so I have been playing with the DOS and Trident and that regard.

I bought a jebao dosing pump for Reef Energy A, B, No3PO4x and Mag. I was battling hair algae for a while but once I got Mag to the appropriate level (1350+) it has pretty much disappeared. In fact, my nitrates and phosphates were so low that I stopped dosing No3PO4x for now.

I'm doing mostly LPS for now. I do have a Monti which seems to be doing pretty good and I bought an acro that is pretty much dead.

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davidrod8

davidrod8

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Originally posted on May 19th, 2020 on Reef2Reef

Tank has been running great, hard to believe it's been almost 5 months now. Since I have been working from home due to Covid19 for the last couple of months, I have been able to spend more time cleaning the tank, feeding, etc. Also I have had a lot of times to do a few projects around it.

Just about any coral that I have put in there seems to be doing great, many of them look better in my tank than they did at the store. Automatic Water Changes have been a God sent! Along with the bare bottom, maintenance has been a breeze. I pretty much spend a few minutes switching the 2 7" inch socks and empty/cleaning the skimmers cup.

I did add a double reactor for carbon/phosphate, but I'm running into the problem that the water got 2 clean, and I can't seem to keep zoas or wellsos in this tank. My nitrates and phosphates keep reading at 0 so I ended up turning the reactor off for now. I was dosing NO3 PO4-X, but also stopped that as it is no longer needed. Tank barely has any algae and my large cleaning crew keeps eating the Nori I put on the clips as they are not finding much algae.

In terms of dosing, I'm adding Red Sea's Energy A & B and alk about 1-2 per week depending on the number. Aiming for 9 alk at this point. Calcium and Magnesium are holding steady without the need to dose any extra.

I built a pergola right next to the tank to provide additional shade in the afternoons, this has reduced the amount of direct sunlight that the tank might get and cool off the space a little bit.

I also did a small project this weekend where I took the chiller out of the cabinet and put it outside, and moved all of the electronics inside of the cabinet. I added 3 fans in the canopy and this has worked great at keeping the temperature right under 80. Yesterday we hit 93 with a "feels like" of 102. Today is supposed to be even hotter. I'm keeping an eye on this as I might need to get a bigger chiller. The one I currently have Teco 1000 which is rated for 260 gallons but it's fairly small in size when compared to other chillers rated for the same amount of gallons.

I do have an instagram account set up for the tank Login • Instagram where I'm posting a lot of updates more often.

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davidrod8

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Originally posted on May 29th, 2020 on Reef2Reef

I added string lights to the pergola and it looks amazing! Very relaxing to be out there in the evenings.

Tank has been doing amazing, corals are doing great for the most part, just a couple of Gonis that are not opening up as much.

In terms of livestock I haven't added as much lately as the stores are pretty much wiped out and online prices are out of control. Fish wise I added a few more blue chromies, I'm now at 11 although it is hard to see them all at one, most of them are schooling and bring a ton of life to the reef.

As for corals I added a large colony of alveopora, that sits all the way to the right, probably about 10 heads and a NY Knicks torch. I have to say that Euphillya are quickly becoming my favorite coral and have been expanding my collection. I'm not up 7 hammers, 6 torch and 2 octospawn. Gonis used to be my favorite but they are becoming too unstable in this tank.

As for equipment I ordered a 1 HP (Aqua Euro Max Chill) chiller as the one that I currently have is struggling (1/4 HP Teco TK-1000) to keep the temps under 80. I'm also adding a couple of light strips to see if I can get more color out of the corals. There is so much daylight in the tank that the colors don't pop as much, and it isn't until it gets dark outside that you can truly get some nice colors. My friend loaned me a 12" TrueLumen Pro LED Aquarium 453nm Blue and the difference in color is unreal. I ordered 2 48" ones, which are currently on sale at half price. Looking forward to trying those out.

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davidrod8

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Originally posted on Jun 23rd, 2020 on Reef2Reef

Summer in is full swing here in South Texas and temperatures have been soaring! I was not able to get the Aqua Euro Max Chill as the factory has a 6 week backorder so I ended up going with the EcoPlus 1 1/2 HP commercial chiller. I went way above my requirements but I wanted the peace of mind, plus eventually I'm thinking of getting a bigger tank so that's one piece of equipment I won't have to upgrade.

Turns out humidity plays a huge role in the tank temperature. With high humidity, it was much harder for the previous chiller to cool down the tank, sometimes staying on until 2-3am to bring the tank down to 79, while on the days with low humidity it was pretty fast.

With the new chiller, I still see about a 1 degree difference in temp, but the chiller only goes off for a few minutes every hour vs being on for several hours.

In all honesty, the corals seem to do much better at 82 vs 79, they open up so much more than at the lower temperatures. In the back of my mind there is still the thought that should the chiller fail, I have a couple of extra degrees to work with vs being already at the top.

Lights wise, I loved the TrueLumen Pro LED Aquarium 453nm Blue 48" so much that I went ahead and ordered 2 of their 24" so that they go the length of the tank. The difference in color and shimmer is outstanding. One of the issues I do see is that since the tank is outside, there is a ton of daylight so it is hard to get those blues shinning in there until nighttime, which right now is around 9pm.

As far as other issues go, I'm still registering very low (0) Nitrates and Phosphates. Most of my corals are doing amazing, except for my 2 Elegance which have declined considerably. Gonis which once thrived in my tank have either died or are pretty much gone, not sure if it's because of the low numbers in Nitrates/Phosphates.

I added a Gyre 4k last week and the flow in the tank has increased tremendously. Since I don't have sand, this has helped clean out a lot of the debris at the bottom.

As you can see on the picture, I also added an outdoor sink which has helped a lot when cleaning socks/skimmer, etc

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davidrod8

davidrod8

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Cool setup. I wonder if all the heat has an effect on how long the lights would last?

That's a good question, I honestly don't know. Since this has been an experiment, I didn't want to go too crazy equipment-wise at first, so I didn't spend much there. Since the water is staying under 80 degrees at all times, I can't imagine that it gets that hot in the canopy, there is a huge whole in the back and I have fans in there.

My concern has been more with the Apex under the tank, I have a couple of fans blowing moisture away from the electronics, so hopefully that will help out.
 
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davidrod8

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Tank has been pretty stable over the last few weeks. The only change has been my nitrates/phosphate which I didn't test for a few weeks and now come to find out they are pretty high. I was taken aback by this as I hadn't seen any major changes in the corals. I mean, I did lose the elegance corals but the rest is doing amazing.

As for changes during the last 5 weeks, well, there's been quite a few of them...

1.- Good friend of mine had to take down his tank for personal reasons. I ended up buying up all of the livestock in tank, so during the 4th of July weekend, I added over 30 new corals to my tank. Corals were mostly LPS (Gonis, Torches, frogspwans, Cancy Cane, a few acans, dendros, brain and a couple of rocks with a ton of zoas. It also came with 3 fish, black Storm Clown, Scissor Tail Bi Color Blenny and a Leopard Wrasse. I had some concerns with the Wrasse since I have a BB, but it has being doing great.

2.- I have been looking at upgrading my lights for a while, but I have to say the prospect of spending over $3k in Radions just makes me sick. They are nice lights, had them on a previous tank, I just feel like they are overpriced. I visited a fellow reefer and saw that they were using a Chinese Black Box. I was quite impressed with the light. Ordered one to see how it would lit up my tank, OMG! The difference was def noticeable. Went ahead and ordered 2 more and switched them. I have them hanging towards the middle/front of the tank and I also left in there the t5s that I have. I also screwed the blue strip lights to the top of the aquarium and now even with all of the daylight that I get on the tank I still get to see some of the nice colors. At night it's insane!

3.- Roller Filters: Coral Vue has a liquidation page in their website where they sell open box items. I noticed that they had Klir 7" filters in there before, but wasn't too sure. One of the local reefers put a note in the local club's website about his experience so I decided to give it a try. I was tired of dealing with Filter Socks and had switched over to media baskets with Filter floss. Results were ok, but I was going thru the filter floss very fast. While this was easier than the socks, I was having to change it more often. I installed 2 of the 7" Klir Filters about a week ago and so far they seem to be doing the work. it has definitely been a lot less work on my side. I will update on my next post about my experience.

4. - Reef Moonshiners. I have been looking at a few methods to take my tank to the next level in terms of coloring and growth. I have to say after reading up on Moonshiners I felt like this was something that made sense to me so I decided to jump in. Still waiting on the results of my first ICP test but I already started dosing the "daily" elements. Will provide an update on this method next month.

As for future projects I'm adding an UV Sterilizer, ended up going with the Aqua UV 57W.

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Very cool. I have a similar outdoor area and would probably want a 500g as my 750xxl is filling up too fast and looking small after 3 years.

cool project.
 
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davidrod8

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i think @blfuller123 fuller was running Reef Moonshiner Method. Haven't heard anything in a while though.

Andre, the guy running the whole thing, lives right here in Houston so it was very convenient for me to just pick up the stuff from his house. There's a support group on Facebook and I have been following a lot of the local reefers through their journey, I'm hoping that I have some success as well.
 
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davidrod8

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Very cool. I have a similar outdoor area and would probably want a 500g as my 750xxl is filling up too fast and looking small after 3 years.

cool project.

It has been very nice, a lot easier maintenance wise that I originally expected. Once my corals start growing and space is an issue I will be looking into upgrading as well, I already have it sized up and everything although I couldn't get up into the 500g range as I'm limited in the length of the tank to 7 feet. I would like to go deeper to 3 ft, but not taller than what I already have... Definitively get a tank with external overflows, metal stand and a canopy that goes all the way to roof, I think it would look much cleaner that way and will help keep the bugs out.

Also, I would need to paint the canopy/stand with a water proof stain as what I have right now is not doing so well being outside and all. It doesn't get rained on, but as we all know, the humidity here can be brutal and I can already see the paint peeling off
 

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hey bud.. how did you fare? I was thinking about this tank being outside and all. Hope it was all good.
 

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I’m curious too. I assume it’s more challenging than an inside tank under this circumstance.
 

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