Moving Locationsby Ronnie Lender
We were presented the option to stay at our old location and pay extra in rent, break down and sell our system completely and call our time in the reefing business to an end, or move it all and keep on swimming. We kept on swimming :)
Moving takes a plan! We found a location, and began to build our new shop. We designated coral tubs, and a filtration system in our new space layout and began the framing of the stands. We made the switch from using 50 gallon low boys to 70 gallon and 150 gallon tubs, when we realized the depth the tubs gave us over the low boy dimensions. This extra depth has helped us tremendously when developing a flow pattern, and lighting intensities throughout the space of the tub for corals appropriately based off their needs.
With stands built and tubs in place, the plumbing stage begins. Plumbing a reef tank never takes just one trip to the hardware store. With that being said, no plumbing blueprint ever goes exactly to plan either. Buying extra parts and pieces to complete the puzzle helped save on endless trips to the hardware store and it was easy to return what we didn't need, much easier than it was to make the countless trips back and forth. No fancy plumbing tricks used, just kept it simple implementing 45 elbows in place of 90’s, true valves off every return pump, and plenty of unions for easy disassemble if the time ever called for it. When plumbing the tubs, the bulkheads were a little bit trickier. We kept them hand tight, and once the tubs were wet tested, we tightened the bulkheads down until the leaks stopped. Tightening the bulkheads before, would have likely cracked the tub.
Let there be light! But first, there has to be light mounts. With the corals being the high focus of this shop, we knew if customers were spending more time looking up, rather than looking in the tanks, we would be doing something wrong! Lighting mounts weren't a huge obligation for us to fancy, although we would have really like the aluminum t slot design, the bent conduit piping worked just fine. A little spray paint to hide the ugly metallic look, and the conduit piping was easy to assemble and plenty strong. We use Kessil LED/T5 hybrid lighting primarily over our tubs, and our Lagoon tank operates under Orphek V4 Panels with supplemental Orphek LED bars. We couldn't be more happy about our growth and coloration.
The Long Haul! Over a three day weekend, a team of three broke down five systems and transported over roughly 1,500 gallons of water. We used wheel dollies to haul in the bigger 300 gallon frag tanks and plenty of wagons for transporting everything heavy, trying to implant a smarter working atmosphere rather than a harder working one. Transferring water, we used a 300 gallon water tank for trips back and forth and individually packaged each coral as if prepped for shipping. Our focus was to transfer water and get our temperature back to stable, and give each coral a dip before setting them into a brand new system. Coral placement wasn't a huge focus, as it was more important to get them in the flow and light once again and we could later reorganize. Looking back, a team of three was very short staffed.
Using our old water, sand, and live rock from our previous build helped tremendously with the new system’s cycle. We essentially looked at it as, a really big water change. We knew going into this build that it was going to be bigger and better than ever before. We ordered 100 lbs of 5 year, ocean cured live rock. Our rock flew in from FL and we cured and treated the rock for unwanted nuisance pest and bacteria. Treatment took place over a 9 week period, where we first inspected each rock for obvious hitchhikers and rid of them. Following, it sat in a tub of water without any fish over a course of the next 9 weeks to kill off any ich and bacteria. Keeping in mind that live rock also needs to feed, we fed phytofeast and rodifeast to keep nutrients stable. This rock was covered in over 9 different sponges and half a dozen macro algeas! We had no idea how much this rock could eat! Our first few weeks of adding the LR into the sump, depleted our systems nutrients and bottomed out our tanks more times than we like to admit. Having to feed twice as often and start dosing nitrate and phosphate to keep numbers above zero, really put into perspective how full of life, this ocean cured rock was. Perhaps, 50lbs would have worked out better.
Sand or no sand? Isn't that the question? For our LPS/Softie coral system we utilize sand in the 250 Lagoon tank. All the tubs and this lagoon, are plumbed into the same sump filtration unit. We believe there are several benefiting factors to having sand in a LPS dominate reef tank. Sand provides surface area for bacteria to grow on, a place for detritus to settle under and get vacuumed out, and a natural environment for fish to live amongst in.
The end result of the move? Coral death, of course. Did you really think everything was going to live? Overall, we assume a total of a 10-15% coral loss from the move. Most reefers would say thats average or isn't too bad, considering all things.
Could we have obtained a lower casualty rate? We think if instead of dipping the corals before putting them in the system, we just focused on moving them and acclimating, then returning back in a few weeks to dip them after the system stabled out more; we may have had better results. The idea was to start with a clean slate. Our biggest loss came from a beautiful 5 headed Drama Queen Holy Grail Torch colony that we had been cooking for over 6 months, and a bubble bladto. Subjectively, the nicest corals we had, RIP.
The next several weeks of reaching stability consisted of a rollercoaster in numbers. Nutrients and alkalinity were the hardest to maintain during this time as corals are still settling in. After a few weeks, we ran a Chemi-clean treatment to prevent bacterial infections on stressing corals spread. As corals began to adapt, we increased our feeding routine and upped our alkalinity as needed along the way. Stability really settled in after the second full month.
Please continue to follow our progression as we continue to provide you with the healthiest, most colorful corals possible for your reef.