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UNS 120U Build

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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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Discussion Starter · #781 ·
Nice pics, beautiful dog! My tank is the same way, by the second half of the photoperiod it might as well be full of La Croix.

How old is your Apisto?


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Thanks!

The bubbles do drive me kind of crazy but when the tank is full of them I know that the plants are happy.

I’d say the apisto is probably getting close to a year old. I’ve had him since end of June or early July. My LFS had him for at least two months before I bought him. It’s always amusing watching people come by and get surprised when they see him since he’s so different from the other fish.
 

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Discussion Starter · #783 ·
Definitely break out the SLR / macro for the Apisto. They are such beautiful fish. The pic you took is very nice, but with the SLR/macro you will catch more detail. Pearling plants also make great shots with a macro lens. I've gotten some really nice shots with my old Canon 60D and 60mm macro.
I have an old Canon XSI with a Tamron 180mm macro lens and that lens can take some amazing images. I "borrowed" my 50mm Canon EF macro to a "friend" and still haven't gotten it back. That was in 2012 lol. I basically wrote it off but the thing I like better about the 180mm is that you don't need to get as close to the subject as you do with the 50mm. I remember when I first got the 180mm, I was amazed by how many things that were impossible to get close enough to suddenly were fair game (bumblebees, butterflies, dragonflies, etc.).

I'm hoping to get my spare room cleaned out over the next couple weeks. The room became "storage" after I moved here and even though I had a lot of plans for the room, other projects kept taking precedence.

I've really wanted to upgrade to a more semi pro camera for a long time but could never justify spending the cash. My camera is so old that I may need to set up a secret squirrel fund for a new camera.
 

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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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Discussion Starter · #785 ·
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".
I'd have a really hard time giving a good or bad review of the GLA. There are things I like about it, and things I don't.

I like the capacity and the power of the DC pump.

But, considering the price point, could I have gotten the same from a similarly sized Fzone? Fzone was out of stock of that size canister when I ordered so my options were limited. But they're both the same concept, I just wonder how the Fzone looks as far as quality of welds and stuff like that.

The things I don't like about it are:

- When doing full maintenance, as long as you shut off all your valves, it's very heavy so you kind of need to bear hug it so that you're not grabbing onto the inlet or the pump components on the lid. Obviously common sense sort of thing, but it's pretty heavy and awkward.

- 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.

- They really should have included a bleed valve in the lid. So after you get the lid back on and everything reconnected, you flip the shutoff valves and.......absolutely nothing happens. There's no way to purge the air, so the siphon can't flood the canister. I unclipped one of the clips and then listened to the hissing until it sounded like the water was getting close and then I closed it. My biggest concern is that by unclipping it, when I went to snap the clasp back down the o-ring would get pushed off the ledge and I'd be right back to flooding my stand. Thankfully that hasn't happened the two times I've had it open. A bleed valve would have made all kinds of sense. Not sure why they didn't think about that. Unclipping one clasp accomplishes the same thing, but a bleed valve removes the chance of flooding your stand while listening the the frequency of the hiss of air purging out of it.

If someone asked me if I'm happy with it my answer would be "meh". It's powerful, holds a lot of media, but it's very prissy.

Compared to the Oase, it's much more difficult at maintenance time. The Oase is almost idiot proof lol. When you do need to maintain the whole canister, as long as you lube up o-rings everything runs great. I'm just not sure I'd wanted to have a second Oase. The DC pump on the GLA blows away the Oase on gph.

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.
 

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Discussion Starter · #786 ·
I did make a run to the LFS today. My intention was to buy a bunch of Amanos but when I saw the price I decided to pass. They were $5 each which I think it way too high for Amanos. If anyone has a good online source please feel free to shoot them my way.

I did buy 3 mystery snails and 3 zebra nerites. Even though I have pest snails, I figured a few big snails can't hurt and they look cool.

I also picked up a TC of Crypt Parva. I'll probably get those planted today.

Aside from that it was tough to pass up on the fish I wanted lol. But with the issues seeming to be resolved, I'd rather wait a bit longer before adding more waste to the tank.
 

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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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Discussion Starter · #788 ·
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.
The non-captive o-ring was definitely a huge fail. I'm surprised they didn't improve that because I'm sure we're not the only two who suddenly discovered this problem.

I will say this in their defense, they possibly could have mentioned this in the manual, but I tend to not read them anymore lol. If you've had one canister filter, you've had them all :LOL:
 

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I have an old Canon XSI with a Tamron 180mm macro lens and that lens can take some amazing images. I "borrowed" my 50mm Canon EF macro to a "friend" and still haven't gotten it back. That was in 2012 lol. I basically wrote it off but the thing I like better about the 180mm is that you don't need to get as close to the subject as you do with the 50mm. I remember when I first got the 180mm, I was amazed by how many things that were impossible to get close enough to suddenly were fair game (bumblebees, butterflies, dragonflies, etc.).

I'm hoping to get my spare room cleaned out over the next couple weeks. The room became "storage" after I moved here and even though I had a lot of plans for the room, other projects kept taking precedence.

I've really wanted to upgrade to a more semi pro camera for a long time but could never justify spending the cash. My camera is so old that I may need to set up a secret squirrel fund for a new camera.
Yep, never lend anything out, you might as well throw it into a black hole, it's gone LOL.

LIke you said even with an old SLR like that XSI you have and a legit macro lens you can get amazing shots. Yep the Longer FL of the 180mm will get you closer to skittish insects, but with an aquarium probably not as important since the fish are kinda captive within a workable distance with a shorter FL. You can also handhold unless the 180 has IS.

Another big advantage of the SLR is since it has a much higher resolution you could crop pretty aggressively and still get a sharp image. This was just a common frog in my backyard which was already cropped and then I cropped it some more and it's still pretty clear.





Pearling plants make really good macros. This is some Bolbitis heudelotii



Also Bolbitis, I think I used an off camera flash on this one to really push the light.

 

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Discussion Starter · #790 ·
Yep, never lend anything out, you might as well throw it into a black hole, it's gone LOL.

LIke you said even with an old SLR like that XSI you have and a legit macro lens you can get amazing shots. Yep the Longer FL of the 180mm will get you closer to skittish insects, but with an aquarium probably not as important since the fish are kinda captive within a workable distance with a shorter FL. You can also handhold unless the 180 has IS.

Another big advantage of the SLR is since it has a much higher resolution you could crop pretty aggressively and still get a sharp image. This was just a common frog in my backyard which was already cropped and then I cropped it some more and it's still pretty clear.





Pearling plants make really good macros. This is some Bolbitis heudelotii



Also Bolbitis, I think I used an off camera flash on this one to really push the light.

Unfortunately that 180 doesn't have IS. I think my 50mm did (actually now that I think about it, it was an image stabilized 60mm). I actually just saw the person I lent it to like 2 weeks ago and I brought it up again lol. I think it's going to take my going to his house and telling him I'm not leaving until he gives me my lens back hahaha.

I'm sure that XSI still takes great pics....much better than my iPhone can. My plan this week and the 4 days weekend is to get my laundry room and spare bedroom cleaned and organized. That will give me access to the closet the camera bag is in. For whatever reason last week was a full week of herding cats at work so I was burned out. I hired two people, two weeks ago. One started on Monday and the other starts next Monday. The guy who started this Monday was onboarded, trained, and on Wednesday morning he emails me from his personal email to let me know he changed his mind. So I had to scramble to interview a bunch of people this week, along with trying to get an important partnership closed that I've been working on since March. My CEO also had a bunch of ideas last week. Needless to say drinking beers and cleaning up around the house was about as motivated to knock projects out as I was going to get.

The one thing I bought this weekend that I honestly should have just bought months ago was a Flipper Float for cleaning algae. I was holding off on buying it because I have a hammerhead from my reef tank but had no idea where it was after the move. I still have no clue where it's at so after getting tired of cleaning the glass by hand I just ordered the flipper.

The snails I added all seem to be doing well. The one thing I really liked was watching them going across the sand and cleaning it as they went. A couple even went onto some of the large buce and were cleaning the stems and roots of algae. Now if I can just find a decent price on amanos I'd be set. I figured 20 or so would be a good amount. I may call around locally to try to find a better deal than $5 each.
 

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Discussion Starter · #791 ·
Nothing new to update since everything is just settling in nicely.

The Limnophila are starting to grow now. I'd say they're roughly 15-20% larger than when I first added them.

This Friday I'm planning to take advantage of water change day by moving my microsorum trident over to the rear, right of the "path". Stem plants just don't seem to do well there since they're shaded a bit by the branches of the spider wood so I'll be removing any stems from there and moving them elsewhere and then putting the trident there.

I'll probably move some of the Blyxa from the left side to another spot, while moving one of my pink flamingos there to add a bit of color to that area. My crypt spiralis red has grown like crazy so I may add one or two elsewhere in the tank as well. I still have the crypt parva that I bought so I'll be adding that to the tank as well. What I might do is only separate the TC into 2 bunches, plant them and let them grow, and then once they've matured a bit I'll move them into a final place. I'm afraid that my reticulated SAE's will get a bit too rambunctious and tear them out before they've had a chance to root, so keeping them together will prevent that.

I also am waiting for my local club person to confirm when I can pick up the PAR meter. She just got back to me earlier but said she will get back in touch to schedule pickup and drop off. So hopefully that will happen Friday and I can get some PAR readings. I might also clean out my little nano so that I can at least get some PAR readings on that for when I redo the tank. It'll give me a chance to play around with the Fluval app and see what intensity settings I'll need to be at.

I'll get an FTS up tonight though along with a pic of the Limnophila and how much it has grown.
 

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Discussion Starter · #792 ·
Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving!

Today was the first day I didn't have family stop by so two days late, I finally managed to get my water change done.

I did manage to pick up the PAR meter from my local club so I'll be taking PAR readings after work tomorrow. Initially my plan was to do a WC on Friday, pick up the PAR meter and then take readings on Saturday. Because I didn't have time to do a water change, I decided to hold off on taking any PAR measurements. So tomorrow I'll be able to see what's actually going on in the tank.

I moved some plants around before I changed the water. I'll take an FTS tomorrow before I check PAR, but I created a whole lot of room behind my spider wood on the left by moving the microsorum trident to the right of the path in the back. Stem plants don't seem to do well in that spot and since that plant doesn't require high light I figured it would be a great place to move it.

I also moved the Blyxa, at least most of it from in front of the left side spider wood, and in its place I put one of my pink flamingo crypts. I then sprinkled the Blyxa around wherever there was a bare spot.

I also planted the TC of Crypt Parva. I was able to cut it into 3 small bunches and planted them in partly shaded areas. Once they grow a bit I'll separate them a bit better and plant them in other locations.

The Limnophila Hippuridiodes is really starting to fill in nicely. It seems like it's not a crazy fast grower like rotala, but it looks great already.

I'll be back tomorrow with an FTS and PAR measurements.

I technically have the meter for a month, but I said I'd return it on Saturday. If I can find some time this week to break down my nano and set it up, I may try to take some PAR readings but I doubt that will happen since I don't have any plants for it yet. Or a plan for how to plant it really.
 

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Discussion Starter · #793 ·
One thing I forgot to mention in the post last night is I'm starting to regret choosing the dragonstone.

Because of how many holes are in the stone, waste seems to get trapped in them. Out of curiosity I decided to place the tube from my python on one of the holes and the reddish brown crap that came out blew my mind. I typically don't use the gravel tube since I have sand, so I just remove it and use the tubing itself. I went around wherever there was a hole in the dragonstone and kept sucking the same stuff out. It was amazing how much was coming out.

While I love the look of dragonstone, I don't think I'll ever use it again. It seems like it can potentially cause issues over time getting stuffed up with organic matter.

I'll post again later with the results of the PAR measurements. I feel very impatient and want to do it now but I have work to do lol.
 

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I had a similar issue with my dragonstone. I also found it would increase my TDS drastically between WCs. I scrubbed the heck out of it before I initially put it in as well as after and it basically just kept falling apart. I have it in a box somewhere now, it should hold up well for a terrarium, but I probably wouldn't use it in an aquarium again.
 

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Discussion Starter · #795 ·
I had a similar issue with my dragonstone. I also found it would increase my TDS drastically between WCs. I scrubbed the heck out of it before I initially put it in as well as after and it basically just kept falling apart. I have it in a box somewhere now, it should hold up well for a terrarium, but I probably wouldn't use it in an aquarium again.
Structurally it's holding up pretty well, but it seems to be accumulating organic matter. It really is going to make maintenance much more difficult.

Agreed though...I won't be using it again. The thought of the holes getting filled up with organic matter didn't even occur to me when I made the decision. Maybe in a couple years when I get the itch to do a rescape I'll use different rock.
 

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Discussion Starter · #797 ·
Reddish brown? That sounds like clay that didn't harden into stone. Did you rinse it and clean out the openings of loose clay before use?
The rocks were fully cleaned. The reddish brown is broken down organic matter. I see the exact same stuff shoot out of my canister filters when I bring them online after a water change.

When I first rinsed my stone, I used pretty high pressure and blew through all of the holes in the rock to prevent any clay from falling out over time since it wouldn't look great getting mixed in with the PFS.
 

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Discussion Starter · #798 ·
So PAR readings are done:

I'll write them out by tank level (top, middle, bottom) and then left front/center/rear, center front/center/rear, etc.

Top:

Rear left - 35
Rear center - 36
Rear right - 33

Center left - 140
Center center - 250
Center right - 240

Front left - 33
Front center - 33
Front right - 20

Obviously no surprise here. I was measuring an inch or two below the water line, which is roughly 6" from the fixture (total 7-8" below light fixture)

Middle:

Rear left - 85
Rear center - 106
Rear right - 80

Center left - 117
Center center - 125
Center right - 130

Front left - 60
Front center - 92
Front right - 71

These readings were taken about midwater. Not super surprised again. But one thing that interested me is the center readings. They're roughly 100 PAR lower and we're talking like 7-8" below the previous readings

Bottom:

Rear left - 75
Rear center - 63
Rear right - 78

Center left - 90
Center center - 23
Center right - 78

Front left - 74
Front center - 92
Front right - 70

So based on these readings, I'm getting sufficient par it seems.

I think the one thing that's most surprising is how close the midwater measurements are to the bottom measurements. There doesn't seem to be that much of a drop-off.

One thing I can do is lower the fixture even more, but I'd sacrifice some PAR at the very top in the front and back, not that it even matters though. I think the most notable change would be the middle and bottom readings might jump 30-40 PAR in the middle, and 20 or so in the bottom.

The bottom center/center reading is a bit off because the area is shaded by the spiderwood....the thickest branch in the tank.

Should I lower the fixture and take readings again? I can realistically only lower it maybe one more inch because it would start hitting one of my lily pipes.

@Asteroid what are your thoughts on these readings? They surprisingly seem okay from the little I know about what par is good in planted tanks lol.

I think that random chart with PAR readings on the Twinstar 900 SA must have been taken out of the water because they seem like BS readings based on what I just took lol.

FTS coming next post.
 

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Yay, a PAR Meter! Well the most important numbers are obviously the bottom and most would determine overall PAR by the area right under the light. You must've moved the light more toward the front to get the 92. I think overall your at the cusp of med/high. All the plants look good, Is that some gold on the Blyxa. That would help determine lighting.

Does the tank seem better, algae wise? More mass in the back. I would personally get rid of the monte carlo and plant areas of moss on flat rocks in and around the foreground. They won't require much light and you can then move light more toward the back to focus on the stems. High light for the stems will make a difference. If I showed you the difference for example with Mermaid Weed at 60-70 PAR and 120-130 you'd be very surprised.

Also without a planted foreground you could just pick up the moss-covered rocks and suction out some of the sand that gets discolored and drop in fresh sand. It give the tank that "new look" again. As I mentioned deep tanks with hardscapes and light demanding foregrounds are a difficult combo.
 
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