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UNS 120U Build

42387 Views 820 Replies 33 Participants Last post by  ddiomede
One of the very first things I've always wanted to do when I bought a home is getting a big tank. My largest tank so far was a 60 starfire glass reef ready cube. Having lived in apartments most of my adult life, I've always been limited to smaller sized tanks. I bought my first home back in July last year and took down my last reef tank. I had 3 reefs going for about 10 years with only one left up and running until the move last year. My last foray into planted tanks ended in 2012 or so and it was always something I wanted to keep going but couldn't due to lack of space.

I really hemmed and hawed over the decision for this tank. I initially was set on a standard 125 gallon. I began planning the build and created a spreadsheet with all of the equipment and accessories I'd need, and then I saw a 125 in person at Petsmart when I went to get some dog food for my pup. The length was great, but the tank just seemed really long and narrow which limited my options as far as scanning.

I saw the UNS 120U's dimensions and a few YouTube videos to get a sense of what the tank looked like, but I wasn't totally in love with it being only 48" long. I think an ideal tank size is 60X24X24 but there aren't many options out there. I did find one like that from a company SC Aquariums. Pretty nice tank with Starfire glass and an overflow. One of the main reasons I didn't go this route, which would have been less expensive than the UNS tank was that it had an overflow. The overflow opens up the possibility that a year from now I tear down the planted tank and set up another reef tank.

While I loved my reef tanks, they were just obscenely expensive. It was a huge toilet that I flushed money down. You can have a plant melt on you in a planted tank and you can just buy another. But if you buy a $120 acropora colony and it dies on you, that stings a lot more lol.

Anyhow I settled on the UNS. After bring the tank into my basement and waking up this morning to back pain, in hindsight I maybe should have gone with acrylic lol. The back pain will go aways in a couple days though.

This will be a slow build since the tank wasn't inexpensive and the equipment isn't inexpensive either. In the past I'd get inpatient and charge everything on my credit card, but you wind up paying way more for your purchases if you're not paying the balance off right away. So I'll take my time and acquire the equipment a piece at a time until I have everything. The one thing I will do is pick up any hardscape that catches my eye as I stop by all my local shops.

The first project is to build a stand. I'll reserve post #2 for the stand build.

Tank: UNS 120U
Stand: Custom build
Filtration: GLA 15L Infinite Nature Filter. Oase 850 Biomaster Thermo. Stainless lily pipes, one set with build in surface skimmer to be used with the Oase, the second set is without surface skimmer to be used on the GLA
Lighting: Twinstar 1200SP
Heating: Heater included with Oase controlled by Inkbird
UV: Decided against this but it can always be added on later. I'll account for adding one on in the way I plumb the return if I change my mind down the road.
CO2: GLA Pro DS 1 Dual Stage regulator with two 10 lbs tanks along with a NilocG Advanced reactor.
Substrate: Pool filter sand
Hardscape: Two xl pieces of spider wood. About 90 lbs of dragon stone.

I'm 100% open to feedback, ideas, or alterations I should make to my plans.

This week I'll begin acquiring lumber and paints/stains and hardware for the stand.

My plans on stocking are up in the air. There are a whole bunch of different stocking plans I have, but I really need to settle on one. Back in the day I would buy 2 of each fish until I realized it seemed like I was stocking Noah's Ark lol. This tank will have fewer different species and more schools of fish.

I'll get a pic of the tank once the stand is built and it's sitting on it. I'll also do the leak test when I get the tank on the stand. I may as well do that sooner rather than later.

I did want to thank everyone who has provided help thus far. There are so many things I hadn't considered that were a HUGE help so I appreciate it greatly!
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Thanks, that actually helps a lot and gives me some ideas. it seems like the biggest obstacle to overcome is the heater controller probe being affected by the higher temps of the PVC after absorbing so much heat.

My initial thought is to do something like this:

Filter, CO2 reactor with temp controller probe built in, then heater. My thought is that if you have the temp controller getting readings before the heater, you can avoid any issues with the heater itself manipulating the temp readings. I actually did something similar with my reef tanks. The temp probe from my Apex's always sat where water entered my sumps and the heater was in the last chamber where the return pump was. This limited both the heat given off by the return pump, and the heater when it needed to kick on.
I have a Biomaster Thermo where the heater and pump are on different cords. I use an Inkbird aquarium controller as a safeguard for a runway heater event. It also has high and low temp alarms. I plug both cords into a Kasa smart plug(with an AC splitter) which is controlled by Alexa. I have an Alexa Echo but you can do this with just an Alexa smartphone app.

All that I need to do is say "Alexa, turn off(on) pump" and both the pump and heater turn off(on). I now have an external pump with the Oase so that is the pump which is connected to the smart plug.

Works great and no worries with over-heating or leaks from additional connections. The Inkbird sensor is well hidden behind my "Little Shop of Horrors" swords lurking in the back of the tank.
 

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It's really too bad that Twinstar hasn't made a controllable version of their S lights and have the ability to adjust the legs or hang it based on your preferences without needing to buy a whole different model. I've had a hard time finding bad reviews of the Twinstar lights in general.
I have the Twinstar 1200SA. It is adjustable for both height and width. I use this timer/dimmer with it and it has been working great. See my journal for details.
 

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In a couple weeks I'll place an order for a 44 lbs box of "large" dragon stone and see what I get. Hopefully it'll be enough to scape one side of the tank and then I can just order another similar box unless I find some stone at the LFS nearest to me.
If the stone is smaller than expected you can do the popular aquascaper trick where you take smaller stones and use superglue and either cigarette filters(you can buy them in bulk...who knew) or cotton facial pads to glue them together to form larger structures. It seems to be very effective. If done properly you cannot tell that it is multiple rocks. It is also very sturdy.
 

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I think the biggest challenge I'm going to have until the tank sort of balances itself out is getting enough plant mass in from the beginning, without getting ridiculous on planting.
One way to get plant mass without spending a bundle is to use some Pothos or Anthurium with its roots immersed to work as a "nitrate sponge". Works great as you get your scape figured out and your plants to grow in. Keeps algae at bay...
 

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For the price, I am pretty disappointed in the performance and how quickly it seems to degrade. Granted I haven't maintained the pre filter yet, but because of the skin on the water's surface, I raised the outflow of both the Oase and the GLA canister. The Oase is noticeably less powerful than it was a week or so ago.

I intend on doing that mod at some point. The one thing holding me back is that the tube doesn't seem to be available to purchase for the 850. As soon as it becomes available I'll be buying one in the event I mess up when drilling the additional holes.

The two reasons I went with the Oase are the pre filter so that I could extend canister maintenance with a surface skimmer, and the heater. Even with all the problems I had with the GLA canister initially, if this Oase ever breaks and is outside of warranty, I'll be ordering another GLA canister and likely their new CO2 reactor so that I can take advantage of adding a heater to it.
Drilling the prefilter tube will help. I did that with a 250 and my present 600. The prefilter needs to be cleaned roughly weekly. You probably have an accumulation of biofilm and other products of early tank life. I have a BM 600 with an external DC pump and it is plenty for my 120cm/75g tank.

I cannot remember. Do you have a surface skimmer? I never used the original tubing or pipes with my 600. I used lily pipes with a surface skimmer from the beginning.
 

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Your flow in your filter is outpacing your skimmer ability, this is why its getting sucked down. You can slow down the flow with a ball valve, use finer foam in the filter, or you can modify the skimmer intake tube. This latter is what I did. I used a drill press and drilled a few small holes in the bottom of the steel intake tube cap. Due to the fact its the bottom of the intake tube (the part that unscrews), you can't see it at all when observing the tank. But it solved my initial problem of the tube getting sucked down. After a few months of running my filter got broken in and it was no longer issue regardless. Since if I remember right, your skimmer is on an oase filter with a prefilter, that may or may not happen for you.
This is a good point. I never used the original tubes that came with my Oase 600. I went straight to glass Lily Pipes with an integrated surface skimmer. I also drilled the prefilter tube almost immediately.

I have seen two air issues and believe that are both due to a mismatch between the flow of the pump and the capabilities of the lily pipe with surface skimmer. Lily pipes are pretty much "one size fits all". The same pipe that gets used for a 20 gallon tank with a modest filter can also get used for 75+ gallon tanks with a powerful filter.

The two issues I have seen are air being drawn into the filter from the skimmer or the skimmer top oscillating(bobbing) to the same effect. Up to a point you can try to adjust the bottom of the skimmer to pull in more water so the top part pulls in less. Just watch the water level inside the lily pipe for air getting pulled into the filter. This worked for me until I added a stronger external pump. I then drilled a couple of holes into the end of the plastic adjustable bottom piece so that more water came in through the bottom of the lily pipe.

For the bobbing I had to play with the distance between the intake and the output pipes as well as the amount of water coming into the surface skimmer. Once I got the balance right I had a very quiet filter that pulls in no air. I would say for a tank above 75g(120cm) with a surface skimmer you would need either two inputs to one filter or else two separate filters. After that I would just punt and go to a sump and overflow.
 

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I think one solution would be to add a tee into the line and add a second lily pipe intake, with a ball valve on the side with the skimmer. That would allow me to dial in how quickly water is being drawn into the skimmer without cutting into the flow rate of the canister itself.

The other issue that popped up tonight is that my reactor is extremely difficult to tune to prevent bubbles from escaping. If the valve is fully closed, as the CO2 bubbles get smaller and smaller, the force blows them through the bottom and into the tank. As I turn the valve to let more water through the bypass, it's also blowing bubbles out. There doesn't seem to be a sweet spot that I've found. I can turn down the DC pump on the GLA canister, but one of the reasons I went in the direction of the GLA was because of the flow rate. I can probably do something similar here as well....add another lily pipe for the outflow. I'd tee off the return before the reactor, add a shutoff valve and then tune it to get the right amount of flow through the reactor. As it stands now, I'm basically wasting CO2 because the bypass valve is pointless if I have the full force of the DC pump going.

Both of these solutions will require me to break out the PVC and start plumbing everything. I'm not opposed to hard piping this, but it seems like I'm forced to at this point to solve these problems. It's possible that I'm needle valve is injecting way too much CO2. The first thing I'm going to try is cutting back on the CO2, but increasing the length of time prior to the lights coming on that CO2 injection begins. I think the whole point of the reactor is to get a 100% dissolve rate, and that's just not happening. The fact that bubbles are blowing out of the bypass when I open the valve up bit by bit confirms that I really need to lower the amount of CO2 I'm adding.

I'll do the following this week:

  • turn down the needle valve a bit
  • start injecting CO2 an hour earlier and monitor how long it takes to reach the target PH and then adjust further from there
  • drill out the holes on the intake strainer of the lily pipe to see if that helps

The one thing I want to avoid at all costs is cutting into the amount of flow I have in the tank.

Aside from these issues everything else seems to be doing great lol.

A sump will likely never happen on this tank. I'd like for this tank to remain a planted tank for the foreseeable future. Adding a sump just opens a door that I don't want opened (turning this into a reef tank).

I'm no longer limited by lack of space so I can set up another tank as a reef. But I've gone down this road before where tanks begin turning into reef tanks. Without a drilled tank, I won't even bother converting it to salt. I know how I am so I've thought a lot of this through already hahaha.
Is your problem that you are getting an accumulation of air in the cannister requiring frequent burping to avoid noise and/or also releasing bubbles into the reactor? Or do you think that the GLA reactor is not tuned(designed) correctly for your system and is accumulating CO2 and releasing big bubbles? Or possibly both?

I would try to narrow down the issues. If the cannister is gurgling then you probably are pulling in air. If not then your cannister and intake/skimmer are probably OK. Check your surface skimmer. In the top intake you should see the air/water interface. If that interface is too low you will see bubbles forming and being pulled into the filter. If that is the case then you either have too much overall flow into the intake or need to adjust it so more of the flow comes into the lower tube.

If you are getting CO2 build up in your GLA reactor then personally I would suspect the reactor design. I recently purchased one of their new stainless units which looks to have the same design as their clear plastic ones. I was shocked when I saw the design. I had assumed it was a Cerges but it is not. The CO2 is injected into the top of the vessel, not into the inflow like a Cerges. The internal in/out pipes are close to each other and way down toward the bottom. This is a pretty good setup for CO2 trapping at the top with large bubbles and noise.

I tried to return mine but had missed the deadline. When I asked about the design I got back a very long and cheerily defensive email trying to explain that their design was great. I am going to install it since I now own it but am pretty skeptical that it will be both quiet and efficient. If I had thought about it, I almost never see folks here using one. I have been using an inline diffusor for a couple of years. They actually work great, giving me a 1.0 pH drop with minimal CO2 flow. Their only downside is that they do produce fine bubbles, nothing like an in-tank device but more than a well tuned Cerges or Griggs.

Let us know how it goes.
 

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The CO2 reactor is a Griggs style from NilocG. It's connected inline with the GLA canister that doesn't have a surface skimmer. It's basically: intake - GLA canister - return line - CO2 reactor - outflow pipe in tank.

The only thing the Oase is connected to is the lily pipe so it's a more traditional setup. The air cavitation is definitely from the surface skimmer. The flow is way too strong so there's no build up or water level to speak of inside the surface skimmer tube. It's just pulling too much water through. I think the reactor releasing fine bubbles is exacerbating the issue because it's also drawing those bubbles in because many don't dissipate inside the tank quick enough to avoid being sucked into either the strainer part of the lily pipe, or the surface skimmer.

I believe with my reactor I'm just injecting far too many bps. Hypothetically, if I'm getting a 100% dissolve rate with a reactor, shouldn't that reduce the amount of CO2 I'm needing to inject? I may have gotten a bit too cavalier with how much CO2 I was injecting because the bubbles were getting drawn through the bypass when I'd open it up to tune the reactor. I've lowered the number of bubbles per second, which is pretty comical because you can't count them lol. It's mainly seeing that the stream of bubbles is slower than it was. One of the reasons I turned it up so high is because I figured that since I'm controlling this with a PH controller, I might as well hit my 1 point drop quicker. After the controller shut off the CO2, I continued to monitor it to make sure that the excess gas wasn't causing a further drop in PH, which it wasn't so I thought all was well, until I began seeing CO2 bubbles being shot out of the outflow pipe. I didn't have this issue before going crazy with the amount of CO2 I was injecting.

I'm going to try to tune the BPS to something reasonable and then adjust the time it turns on for the day in order to hit the 1 point drop before the lights come on. Currently it takes one hour to hit that drop, so if I need to add another half hour I will. What's nuts is I bought the biggest reactor they had which wouldn't have fit inside the stand had I made the stand even an inch lower.

For the Oase, I'm just going to drill the existing strainer holes larger in diameter, and drill more in areas where there aren't any. Hopefully that increases the amount of water being pulled in through there and reduces the pressure from the surface skimmer.
Oops. Sorry. I misunderstood your setup. I tried the Nilcog Griggs for a short time. I used it with my Oase. Once I had the bypass dialed in it was OK but every time I opened the prefilter(weekly) to clean it the air purging from the filter being opened would get caught in the Griggs and it would take a day to get it to dissipate and be quiet.

Regarding the Oase. Drilling holes in the prefilter will increase the flow through the filter a bit and most likely increase issues with air entrainment from your skimmer.

BTW. My tank is a 120cm also(~72g). I am running one Oase 600 with an 800gph (probably gives me 400) and I have pretty of flow with good growth in my tank. I think that if you used an inline diffusor on your GLA and just played with adjusting the flow through your Oase you will be in great shape. You have plenty of flow for a 75g.

By the way. I do have mostly easy plants but I probably am not using more than 3bpm to get a 1.0 pH drop each day using my inline diffusor similar to the one that @Asteroid mentioned above.

Best,
Paul
 

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I have a feeling that I've miscalculated how much actual water volume I have after the displacement of all the lava rock, sand, dragon stone, and two massive pieces of wood. The tank is officially 115 gallon, but with the water level an inch from the top, 225 lbs of sand, probably 30 lbs of lava rock, 80 lbs of dragon stone, and two pieces of wood I wouldn't be surprised if I only have 95ish gallons of actual water in the tank.
I have a 120P/75g tank and I use ~65gal to estimate the water volume. I consider my filter volume.
 

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I also add some Seachem Flourish to hopefully prevent scum/mold/etc. from growing
I thought that Flourish was just fertilizer. How will it prevent mold etc?

I am interested because my autodoser container gets mold and biofilm before it is even half empty.
 

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I think he means to say Flourish Excel :)
Flourish Seachem Excel ;)

Pretty sure you are right. Yesterday I refilled my reservoir and added some Excel. Hopefully it will help.
The growth in the reservoir is ugly but my guess is that it is probably not harmful...
 

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Took a couple fish pics that were cool. I really need to organize my spare room so that I can get to my DSLR and macro lens.
Tip. If you turn off your pump and CO2 for a minute or so before taking your photos you can get rid of most of those white spots.
 

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I am jealous about the pearling. My plants are health and grow all too fast but I have never had pearling.

BTW. How has your GLA filter worked out? Earlier in the year I bought their CO2 reactor which also has a port for a heater. It looked like a nice solution. The first time I let it fill, water game gushing out past the red rubber seal. It made quite a mess and I decided that I could not trust it. Luckily they took it back after a bit of "conversation".
 

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- Unlike literally every canister filter I've owned over almost 4 decades, you can't lube the o-ring. I lubed mine, put the lid back on carefully, then flipped the shutoff valves and then proceeded to flood my stand. I remove the lid, and probably flooded my stand 2 more times. Thankfully I sealed the inside of the stand extremely well knowing that I'd flood it at some point lol. The only way I could get it to seal properly was drying and wiping the whole o-ring off, then the ledge it sits in. What was happening was as I closed the clamps, the o-ring was just slippery enough to get pushed off the ledge. I played with it for a good hour before attempting to wipe the lube off and dry that whole ledge.

...Sorry to hear the GLA reactor didn't work out. I remember when you mentioned you were ordering it and I was hoping it would have worked out because I really liked the idea behind it.
OMG. You nailed it on the head. I did lube the "O" ring because I have done that with my Oase. That probably caused it to slip out of position. The Oase is well engineered and the o-ring is captive and cannot really move.
 
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