Friday, September 05, 2008

Controllers and sump plans for the 54 gallon tank

Let me start off by saying that I am a little bummed I was not able to attend this years MACNA in Atlanta. I have made it to the last three (Washington DC, Houston and Pittsburgh) and was planning on attending this one also, but the timing was horrible. Between back to school for my son and work I just didn't have the time. I am also a huge Atlanta Braves fan and was going to take in a game or two while down there. Well I guess there is always next year in New Jersey (driving distance for me from CT).

With that out of the way let's talk about the tank again. I am very excited to announce I did receive my Vortech pumps back from EcoTech Marine with their new wave controllers and I can't wait to get the tank going so I can try these out!!! But I must be patient (not one of my stronger suits especially in this hobby). Once again big props go out to the crew at EcoTech for the excellent customer service and quick turn around of the updated product to me.

Con
trollers/monitors: Controllers can be used for a number of different features (such as lighting, water movement (i.e. controlling pumps), pH, temperature, etc...) and there are numerous different controllers and monitors available. You can find "all-in-one" type controllers that control or monitor multiple items or ones that control or monitor just single items. In the past I have always used timers to turn on/off my lights, a pH monitor to check my pH levels, some type of wavemaker to turn on/off powerheads for wave action in the tank and let the heaters built in thermostat control the heating.

But I was tired of having all these different devices taking up so many different plugs that I just wanted to simplify my tank. I wanted an "all-in-one" controller/monitor but I didn't need anything too elaborate. I had heard very good things about the Neptune Systems AquaControllers so I did a little research on them. They have a few different models to choose from, but again not needing anything overly fancy I went with the AquaController Jr. (ACjr.) along with the Direct Connect 8 (DC8). The only other item I needed to purchase with this was the pH probe. I was a little worried that I would have problems programming in the commands to control everything, but I actually found it was very simple.

The ACjr. is able to control all my lights (well now it will just be controlling the metal halides since I no longer have actinic supplements), monitor my pH (can be set up to control it, but I hopefully won't have any pH issues) and monitor and control my heaters and cooling (just in case it matters I am using two 100 watt Hydor Theo Heaters on the tank). Before I upgraded the Vortech to the wireless wave drivers it also controlled them (alternating on/off), but now it won't have to control them. I really do love having all the plugs going into a single controlled power strip (DC8) instead of into multiple timers or other items.

One last note on the ACjr., I have for the past 5-6 years been using moonlights over my tanks. I think it adds another dimension to the tanks over all appearance and my attempts at mimicking nature. Neptune Systems put out a
controllable moonlight system that the ACjr. can control for moon phases and intensity. I have put this item on my wishlist and hopefully will be able to incorporate it into my system. It probably isn't necessary, but it looks like a fun toy to add to my tank.

I am also considering investing in an
American Marine Nitrate Monitor. I have to be honest, I don't like running tests on my fish tank. It really isn't that hard to do and only takes 15-30 minutes depending on which tests I am running, but if there is a quality monitor that will give me reading without me doing anything I am game for that. So this item has been added to my wishlist also (Christmas is just around the corner right, LOL). I have used one of their pH monitors in the past and actually it lasted well over 10 years and is currently with a new users still going strong (probes were changed about every 12-18 months as recommended).

The Sump: There isn't a lot of space under a 54 gallon corner tank and basically only something around the size of a standard 10 gallon tank will fit (footprint of 20x10). I started out by making one out of a 10 gallon tank, but it didn't turn out as well as planned (baffles didn't work right and it was a little short). So I sent an email to AquaC (the skimmer manufacturer) because I knew they did custom acrylic work. I let them know what I wanted (a sump similar to the Berlin Sumps but it needed to have the 20x10 footprint). Jason let me know this was possible and he made a sump for me. It fits perfectly in the stand and has worked very well. Note the blue tape, that is my running water level indicator so I know if my auto top-off isn't working or is out of water.

When the tank was last set up I ran an AquaC Urchin skimmer in the sump along with a filter sock for filtration. This worked out very well and initially my plan was to do this again. While I know filter socks have their pro's and con's, I tend to be lazy and I wasn't changing or rinsing them as often as I should have. I don't want to run into this problem again, so I am 99% sure I will be skipping the filter socks this time. But what about the skimmer? I have always run a skimmer on my tanks and the Urchin has been a great skimmer for me on this tank.

I came across this thread on the Marine Depot Forums. It brought up the use of an Algae Turf Scrubbers (Filter). This is not new technology, just one that really hasn't made huge splashes in the reef hobby. I don't have room to set a refugium on this tank like I have with other tanks I have set up, so this might be a good option to try in my sump. It won't take up a lot of space and if I still want to use my skimmer I think I will have the space to do so.

With that I think I have basically gone over the tank from top to bottom for most of the hardware I currently have (or want) including lighting, tank, sump, heater, controller and water movement. I still need to talk about my auto top off system and some of my thoughts of possible tank inhabitants.