Rico’s Aquariums New 500g Reef Tank Update

How’s it going everyone, yesterday I visited
Rico’s Aquariums to take a look at how his new tank is doing. Rico is a fellow youtuber who had one of the
nicest tanks I’ve seen. I say HAD because it’s gone! It was a 300-gallon Marineland Deep Dimension
and Rico wanted to upgrade to a tank that was significantly larger. A 300-gallon deep dimension has a footprint
of 6 feet long by 3 feet wide. He ended up going with a custom tank that
has a footprint of 8 feet by 4 feet making it almost double the volume. The new tank moved in late August of last
year and that was a bit of an adventure in its own right. I haven’t been back to his place since then
so it will be interesting to see how it has come along in the past few months. Let’s take a look! Alright guys, here it is. This tank has only been up for a couple of
months now and you can see it is already well underway. There is a lot to cover so let’s go over
each part in turn. The first thing I want to talk about is the
aquascape. There was a time when just about everyone’s
tank had a wall of rock in the back. These days, there is a lot more interest in
unique rock structures that incorporate arches and overhangs that provide more visual interest
to the rock work. This particular aquascape has some interesting
design elements. The first design element are these thin arches
and protrusions that cantilever out from the main rock column. What I like about this type of rock work is
that it allows for a lot more water flow through the aquascape. Often times when the reef structure is too
densely constructed flow can be stifled and you can wind up with dead spots or inaccessible
areas that collect detritus which can lead to nutrient problems down the road. A more “airy” rock structure like this
allows for more water flow as well as access to the substrate if you choose to siphon it. The openness of the rock work also allows
for fish to swim through it and find hiding spots for themselves if they are feeling stressed. Also, for the corals, it provides a structure
that gets more flow around the colony which has some major benefits such as access to
food and faster elimination of waste. Over time however, large colonies will seal
up many of these pathways as the corals grow, but let’s be serious, that is a great problem
to have. One other element to this rock work you may
have noticed is that it is not too high. This is to allow for future growth of corals
upward. Sometimes hobbyists underestimate the growth
potential of some corals and have them almost growing out of the water. It is very tempting to build up rock work
all the way to the water’s surface day 1, but a lower profile rock structure will pay
dividends down the road in about 12 months when the colonies really start to take off. Now that I’ve gone over all these great
benefits, there is a reason why a lot of hobbyists don’t go this route. It is hard to do. For those out there that have attempted to
do fancy aquascape, you know how difficult it is to do arches and have pieces of rock
precariously extending out from the rock work. In order to get these shapes, Rico had to
drill some of the pieces and install solid acrylic rods through to provide strength as
well as a small fortune in epoxy putty to get everything to adhere properly. Moving on to the fish there is an eclectic
mix of them and there is already a LOT of them with more planned in the future. Fish stocking levels are a murky topic in
this hobby and I tend to be super conservative on stocking my own tanks. There are a few tanks 300-gallon tanks in
my system that literally only have 2 fish in them. In larger aquariums there is some more flexibility
in stocking levels, and I am noticing a beneficial effect on corals in tanks that have more fish
rather than fewer. This could be for a number of reasons, but
the two I think are the most important is the job they perform on the reef and just
the fact they help feed the corals just by being around. Let’s talk about the fish in this tank based
on their job class so to speak. First you have herbivores like tangs and fox
faces. I can’t live without these in my systems. I can tell pretty quickly when one of mine
goes missing by the way the algae grows. At that point I really miss their contribution
to the reef community. There is no perfect herbivore unfortunately…
tangs can get large and belligerent, fox faces have a venomous spine to look out for and
can get nibbley on corals they find interesting. This tang is an Acanthurus mimic of some sort
that came from Tidal Gardens for FREE. He was in a 300gallon tank along with a giant
clownfish and they would murder anything I put in there with them. It looks like he’s mellowed out in his old
age and in a larger aquarium. Despite these drawbacks, the job herbivorous
fish perform in the tank outweighs the headaches they cause. Second, there are wrasses. In this tank I see a few types such as melanarus,
cleaner, and fairy wrasses. Wrasses do a great job of controlling a wide
range of pests and diseases on both corals and fish – in the case of the cleaner wrasse. I am not sure the fairy wrasse does as much
pest control as a melanarus, Coris, or leopard wrasse, but any amount of pressure they put
is a net positive. There are tons of different species of fairy
wrasses so if you are into some dazzling specimens, you can get lost going down that rabbit hole. Lastly I should point out that the cleaner
wrasse is not the best choice for hobbyists with smaller tanks or tanks with thin fish
populations. They perform a great service if one of your
other fish is battling ice or similar parasitic issue, but they need a lot of fish to clean
otherwise they run into nutrition problems. Consider a cleaner shrimp in the tank as an
alternative because they pretty do a similar job but do not have the same food issue because
they eat just about every kind of food offered. There are decorative fish like anthias and
cardinals. Although it is hard to point out any specific
task they perform, just having them in the reef may have a benefit for the corals and
microfauna and let’s not forget that this is an aesthetic hobby that we all presumably
got into to enjoy so having a few fish that are there purely for decoration is providing
value. Not every stocking choice has to be utilitarian
right? As for the corals, this is a mixed reef but
it looks like it is going to be heavily skewed towards SPS with an emphasis on Acropora. Acropora dominate all the prominent real estate
on the rock work sharing the space with the occasional Montipora here and there. The rest of the corals are relegated to small
theme islands. For example, here is a rock featuring zoanthids. There is an Euphyllia corner. There is an Micromussa rock island. And over here there is a rock for the obligatory
bounce mushroom. Rico said there was an OG bounce that detached
and floated away somewhere in this tank which pretty much mirrors my experience with them. I think I have lost 3 or 4 now… in any case,
all these are just tiny starter frags and it will be interesting to see what they do
in terms of growth and color over the next few months. Now that we talked about the animals, let’s
go over the equipment that makes this all possible. The stand is a super beefy aluminum t-slot
build from Framing Tech. The largest sections are 4×4 and the rest
looks like it is 2×4. It is definitely overbuilt for a 500g tank,
but peace of mind goes a long way. The adjustable feet are a nice touch as it
allows for furniture sliders to be put on them one at a time and then removed one at
a time. Obviously this only comes in handy when setting
up the tank, but boy is it helpful for micro adjusting the orientation of the tank to stick
the overflow box through the wall. Speaking of the orientation a moment, this
is what is called a peninsula tank where it is three sides viewable, but two of the three
sides are the long sides. It makes for a nice room-divider look and
can be appreciated from the two long sides. It is a very cool setup but there are a few
challenges this style poses that we can cover. The first challenge is a lack of a real background. Sure one of the short sides is technically
a background, but by having both of the long sides viewable, you can see right through
it to whatever is going on on the other side of the tank which can be visually distracting. Sometimes having a regular background is nice
in that it isolates the viewer’s attention to the tank itself. The second challenge is a technical challenge
in that it makes creating flow more difficult. In most aquariums it is trivial to just put
a powerhead on the side of the aquarium along with a couple of returns from the sump. In a peninsula tank, if you do that, it can
look really unsightly. Nothing ruins a three side viewable tank quite
like big pumps and power cords right in the viewing pane. Rico came up with a pretty good design to
hide the pumps. First off, the return lines are very short
runs from the sump in the back room. The original plan was to have them go all
the way to the far end of the tank and blow back towards the overflow box, but this is
a more simple and elegant design for the returns. Also because it is a shorter run of pipe,
these returns generate more flow in the tank as there is less friction and less head pressure
on the pump not having to pump water up to the ceiling and the entire length of the tank
before the output. Still, it would be nice to have something
blow the water back because otherwise all the pumps would be only on the one side pushing
out. Here you can see the returns and the two MP60’s
are located against that back wall. This second set of pumps solves this and because
of the way they are mounted are minimally invasive visually. They are maxspect gyre pumps and they mount
to the glass with a magnetic back plate like many other pumps. The thing here though is the magnet is mounted
to the eurobrace rather than the side of the aquarium so nothing blocks the sight lines
on the viewing pane. Also because the gyre’s design is basically
a low profile tube it is barely noticeable right at the top of the water while producing
a lot of flow back towards the other end of the aquarium. At that end of the aquarium is the external
overflow box that extends through a cutaway in the wall leading to a utility room. The box design itself is a bean animal overflow
that is supposed to be very quiet. Most of the noise associated with an overflow
box is the slurping sound of air going into the drain and this overflow eliminates that
noise by having the main drain completely submerged using a gate valve for precision
control. The other two drains you see are to maintain
a certain height and a full backup in case the setting of the main gets thrown off either
by long term growth inside the piping or a blockage of some sort like a snail. These drain lines from the overflow box make
their way down into a couple filter socks into very basic sump. This sump is interesting in that it is really
two sumps that are tied together using bulkheads. This is the first time I’ve ever seen this,
but in theory it should work as long as both sides have that rubber gasket to seal it. By installing the sump in two halves, it makes
getting it into the back room that much easier. This sump is 8’ x 3’ x 16” tall so you
can imagine how difficult it would be to maneuver something that size down a stairwell and into
a tight corner. It is much easier in two halves. The filtration on this system is very old
school. Aside from the filter socks that we talked
about, there is a pump that feeds a large protein skimmer. This is a reef octopus 8000 which for its
size is a bargain. I use one at the tidal gardens greenhouse
and it is probably my favorite one. In the future this one is going to get an
automatic neck cleaning wiper blade, which should cut down a bit on the maintenance and
also improve performance as it is cleaner longer. The big calcium reactor next to it is the
largest unit GEO makes. This is a 12” model which is rated for systems
over a thousand gallons. Calcium reactors can be a bit intimidating
for hobbyists that have never used one, but in practice they are actually super simple
and I personally recommend anyone with a large tank to consider one. If you want to know more about how these devices
function, I’ll put a link to my video talking in depth about them. There are a couple of accessories on this
particular calcium reactor that make it stand out. The first thing is the extra reactor chamber. The pH of water inside a calcium reactor hovers
between 6.6 to 6.8 in order to dissolve the calcium carbonate media which then gets dripped
back slowly into the aquarium. In a basement setup like this where gas exchange
is an issue the overall pH of the system can drift lower than the recommended 8.3. Obviously better air exchange would help,
but every little bit helps, and in this case the second reactor chamber serves to soak
up the last bits of CO2 in the effluent and raise the pH of the water returning to the
tank. It is a minor benefit, but if you have a tank
already struggling with low pH, even small benefits add up and take the edge off. The other accessory that is uncommon is the
use of a peristallic pump to deliver water to the reactor. A typical calcium reactor uses a small powerhead
like a maxi jet can controls the flow rate by a valve on the effluent line. Over time, that valve or that pump can get
gummed up and the flow rate through the reactor changes so the hobbyist has to make sure to
service those two items to make sure the reactor operates consistently. By using a peristaltic pump, this reactor
gets delivered a consistent flow rate and there is no valve on the effluent end. It just remains wide open and the flow rate
is dictated entirely by the speed of the peristaltic pump. I have personally never used a pump like this,
but it is interesting. The criticisms are that eventually the hoses
and heads have to be replaced and the initial cost of the unit is much higher than a small
powerhead, but I can see the appeal for those looking to dial in a specific flow rate and
have less risk of it deviating from that flow rate over time. The last thing I will cover about the equipment
in this tank is the lighting. Over the tank are Ecotech Radion Pro LED’s. There are six XR30 units with two light pucks
a piece and two XR15 units with a single puck. I don’t have to tell you anything about
these lights. They are very highly regarded in the industry
and everyone I have spoken to really likes their performance. These fixtures right now are set to 45% power
using a preset that mimics an ATI aqua blue special bulb which is a daylight colored T5
fluorescent. At 45% power the PAR levels are 250 at the
surface and 100 at the bottom. LED’s are a point light so you will get
some visible glitter lines. Ecotech did a good job in blending the light
so you don’t see the colors separating out into a disco-ball effect. Also, the optics of the LED’s in this fixture
help to eliminate the spotlight effect created by harsh shadows. What also helps eliminate the spotlight effect
is that Rico installed the lighting very high off the water allowing the light to spread
before hitting the surface. They are a good 24” off the water which
also is good for keeping them clean. If you have water splashing 2 feet off the
top of the tank, you have other problems entirely. While I have seen these lights before, this
is the first time filming a tank with them. I was really curious to see how well the picture
comes out because in the past I was never happy with how LED looked on camera. These units look pretty good I must admit. There have been a lot of improvements over
the years and I hope that trend continues into the future. It will be cool to see what this tank looks
like in the next 6 to 12 months as stuff fills in and colors up under these lights. That pretty much does it for this visit to
Rico’s Aquariums. If you like these sorts of videos, don’t
forget to like comment, subscribe, do the bell thing, all that stuff. So anyways, good luck with your aquariums
and I hope to see you all next time. Happy Reefing.

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