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UNS 120U Build

42556 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.

The only thing that I'm somewhat uncomfortable with is cutting the cord and rewiring. I noticed further into the post that @EmotionalFescue mentioned that it would be possible to use a cable gland large enough to just fit the heater body itself in it without the need to cut into the cord. I'm assuming that's what Oase uses for the heaters in their filters. That is the route that I'd likely take to avoid cutting and splicing the power cord.

I really like this idea because it seems far better built that the Lifeguard Aquatics reactor. The weak point on their reactors have always been the caps, and that still seems to be the case based on the reviews of their heater reactor. With this solution, you get rid of the crappy plastic cap and use hard fitting with the cable gland.
There's any number of ways to do this, but if you don't place the controller's thermometer probe in the heater housing itself you will absolutely have to use a heater with its own thermostat. Otherwise, if you just used a titanium element like I did but didn't place the controller's thermometer in the housing, and you turn off the pump but forget to turn off the heater, there's nothing to stop the element from overheating the very small volume of water in the housing. If you use a traditional heater with its own thermostat, you're really going to have to lean on that as your primary safety backstop to prevent overheating. I personally think it's much more robust to have the controller's thermometer probe at the top of the housing with the housing itself mounted vertically. I have multiple times turned off the pump and forgotten to turn off the heater - it has shut off as expected every time.

For what it's worth, there have been no issues with the thermometer probe in the housing itself. Note though that I encased its wire in silicone-filled pond tubing to get it to seat well in the cable gland. That would insulate it from the effect you're describing.
 

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I did almost the same thing with one of my reef tanks except I used 3/4" copper and soldered it all together. The only thing is I'm trying to stay away from having anything blocking the view on the left side of the tank.

I'm not sure if I saw it on here, or somewhere else but someone used galvanized pipe, mounted it to a piece of wood that they stained, and mounted that onto the studs in the wall. It came out far enough to be centered in the tank and seemed very sturdy. I wish I could remember where I saw it and I have it in my mind's eye but didn't bookmark it.
You may have seen it somewhere else too, but that is what I did for my large tank.

Plant Light Branch Water Lighting
 

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Last night I started to sketch out the light hanger and one thing I couldn't come up with a plan for was hiding the cord for the light.

My plan is to avoid painting or using a window film on the rear glass because my wall is a very pale shade of grey/blue which might actually look good as a background. The one thing that UNS light hanging clamps have going for them is the ability to fish the cord through the hanger and hide it.
I went through this same exercise with my build. I prefer to have the back of the tank clear, and it was going against a pale-colored wall, but I wanted to conceal the lights' power cords and didn't want to run through the wall. I used PVC cord concealer that I painted the same color as the wall. After running the cords through the pipe and using the cord concealer, it's really out of the way, visually. And I'm pretty fussy about such things. Here's a recent pic:

Plant Wood Water Pet supply Branch


You can still see it, obviously, but everything is a compromise, and I prefer this to window film. Also, I'm using spot lights, so I get a bit of a shadow on the side, but with a panel you wouldn't get that effect much, if at all.

Another option is something I did for another tank... I affixed blocks to one end of the stand. The blocks held 3/4" galvanized pipe that went up and over the tank as a light hanger. I used that approach for both a Twinstar and a pair of Kessils. It worked well and kept the tank unobstructed on the one end I really wanted open. Here's a pic (from the day I tore that one down - the tank didn't normally look like this lol):

Building Interior design Floor Plant Flooring
 

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But the second one definitely seems like the way to go. Using the Tee to fish the cords through is a pretty good idea lol. Would you say that the Twinstar's power cord would be long enough to be fished through the second solution?
Yeah, the first time I made one of these mounts with pipe I drilled holes to feed the cables through and it was a nightmare. Tees are so much easier. You might need to get an extension for the twinstar's power cord (I have done this - it's a standard size, so you can get on Amazon for like ten bucks), but maybe not if you have the end of the light with the cord on the same side as the mount. In fact, you could just have a tee on the upright portion about the same height as the panel will hang and run the cord out laterally to that. Rather than going up...
 

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Unless that reactor has a pressure release valve, the 24hr instruction is probably to speed up the process of purging the air that's trapped in there when you first install. I always buy housings with pressure release valves and I always install a ball valve downstream from the reactor so that I can close that ball valve and depress the pressure release to instantly purge all the gas out of the reactor. If you don't have that, you can just wait for the air to dissolve and escape (which is a loud and lengthy process), or you can turn the reactor upside down while the system is running.
 

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Interesting!

Yes, they have two large cable glands in the lid - presumably for a heater and sterilizer sleeve. I kind of hate having opaque reactor housings, though... it makes it hard to dial in the reactor flow. In any case, I think it's cool that something like this is being offered, even if I wouldn't buy it myself.
 

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Once upon a time, I got a new GLA regulator with a solenoid that wouldn't completely shut off the flow of gas. They pointed me to a youtube video on how to disassemble the solenoid and clean out debris. So, that seems to be their M.O. in these sorts of situations.

For what it's worth, I have found that a bit of o-ring lube works wonders on leaky unions. This stuff, especially, is amazing:

Liquid Font Electric blue Magenta Transparency
 

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With a tank that size, I think you'll end up with either a pH controller or a flow meter. Even if you get it in the zone with a drop checker, the needle valves that come with off the shelf regulators won't hold steady over time. And since you can't count the bubbles, you can't just reset it to a specific rate when it does drift. Then you're back to square one, having to dial it in from scratch. Very frustrating...

Of the two options, I prefer a flow meter with a precision valve, but it can be hard to get your hands on one.
 

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When I'm sitting near the tank every so often you hear a weird air noise like air is getting sucked in somewhere, like through a very tight opening.
Do you have a heater in the Oase? I had a very similar experience with the 850... had air purging, lubed everything up but still heard a periodic sucking sound. It turned out that sucking noise is actually... wait for it... the heater. It took running the Oase heater on a tank running an FX4 to have this lightbulb moment. It's also easier to see what's going on when the heater is in the water (rather than in the Oase housing) because you can see when the element is on and when it shuts off.
 

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You know what, I just heard the click followed by the hiss/sucking sound lol.

I checked the app and it literally just kicked on. That's crazy hahaha.

Out of the few decades of using submersible heaters of all brands, I've never heard them make a noise like this lol.
Yep, I was shocked when I realized it was the heater of all things. It really sounds like something caused by gas. That suspicion is reinforced with the Oase because it often comes alongside a legitimate air sucking issue.
 

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Not sure which type of monstera you added, but as it grows out, be on the lookout for it starving out your submerged plants. I've got 2 Adansonii and 1 Deliciosa plus 2 Pothos growing out of my 5' tank, and I'm having to add absurd amounts of fertilizers per week. So much so that I've moved to mixing macros by the gallon :oops:
 

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Your levels are what you'd expect from typical EI dosing levels, 50% weekly water changes, and no uptake. So, it seems like your tank isn't utilizing most of the fertilizers you're putting in every week. That could be a plant load that is too low, or something out of balance with your lighting and/or CO2, or both.

If plants aren't taking up your fertilizers, they're also probably not effectively taking up free ammonia, which I suspect is probably a bigger driver of your algae woes than are unused ferts.

So, I think reducing your fertilizers alone probably won't get you where you want to be. Increasing uptake would be my #1 goal. If your hardscape won't accommodate the plant mass in the tank you'd need to achieve that, you could consider transitioning to a low-ish light setup.

I haven't been following all the twists and turns here, but it seems like you're working on increasing the plant mass, so that's good. But you could end up chasing your tail with testing and fertilizer changes.
 

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More or less what I have in mind is getting the plant mass up, while also getting the ferts to a level where I'm at the lowish end of EI, basically providing the plants with what they take up in a week, with maybe a 20%-ish buffer.

CO2 has been stable since adding the controller way back in the beginning of the summer or late spring. I've been calibrating the probe monthly and at most it's off .1 - .2 when I recalibrate.

My lights start coming on at 5pm but don't ramp up until 5:30pm and then run until 11pm when they begin ramping down and finally shut off at 11:30pm. So I have 5.5 hours at full blast with an hour where it's ramping.

I think what you're saying regarding the plants not taking up enough nutrients makes a lot of sense, and since my CO2 dosing is definitely at the ideal (40+ppm), I'm wondering if I should add another hour of full blast light to the schedule.

I have about 36 new stems arriving tomorrow or Saturday so after removing a little hardscape in the back (four large rocks behind spider wood), that'll give me some more room to pack the back with stem plants. I'm just wondering if I should add another hour back onto the full sun lighting cycle to help amp up photosynthesis a bit more.
When you say "full blast", do you mean your light's full output, or just the highest you run them at?
 
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