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UNS 120U Build

42612 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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Discussion Starter · #801 ·
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.
I think to have high light, adding a second Twinstar might make the most sense. I think the thing that throws me is that I remember reading recently that Tom Barr visited ADA at some point and took a PAR meter with him and found that at substrate level, almost every tank was 30-50 PAR. I was honestly shocked by reading that.

I could move the light rearward a hair and take readings on the bottom again and see what I get. I could probably also lower the light a bit more since moving the light rearwards also gets it out of the way of the lily pipe that's currently blocking the light from being lowered any more than 1" or so. Moving the light towards the back and lowering it would really kill PAR in the front half of the tank though.

Regarding the Blyxa, there's a nice closeup of it in the pic of my Apisto. You can definitely see some reds peaking out in each of the leaves.

Now for the algae....that long filamentous algae hasn't really gone away and is still there. It seems to still predominately be on the willow moss.

I can't say that I don't like your idea with the moss attached to flat rocks and laid down in the front of the tank. Without adding a second fixture, that seems like the only reasonable option unless I do something else, but my options are pretty limited without a second fixture.

I guess the question is what do I do lol. Do I wait a couple months and scoop up a second fixture, or do I remove the MC and pick up a few TC's of flame moss and tie/glue them to flat rocks and let them carpet? The latter option is definitely a lot less expensive lol. A fringe benefit is I'd be able to repurpose the MC for my nano by gluing it to the branches of the bonsai tree I'm planning to use in that tank. The only challenge is I'm considering doing away with CO2 on that tank and going low tech. The complication of getting paintball tanks refilled just isn't worth the hassle any longer since I can't fill them at the same place I fill my CO2 tanks since they went out of business. There's only one place that will refill them and that's a paintball supply shop that for some strange reason doesn't have weekend hours.

One of the things I'm considering doing is moving all of the Rotala over to the right side where the Limnophila is, and moving the Limnophila over to the left side. In front of the Limno I'd take some of the crypt spiralis tiger to give a bit of a contrasting color to the greens that would be in the lower portions of the stems since the tops will turn red as they get closer to the surface. One of the main reasons aside from color contrasts that I want to move them is the Limnophila are a much sturdier stem and won't get blown around by the outflow from my lily pipes. The Rotala are definitely getting knocked around especially since they're still in recovery from whatever the issue was that impacted them so I'm not able to trim and get them to form a dense bush quite yet.

In the meantime, tonight after work I'll move the light back towards the rear again and take some readings to see where I'm at both in the back and the front. As long as the front stays around 50-60 par with the back much higher than it currently is, that should do the trick.

I'm also going to remove the willow moss. That seems to be where the long thread algae originates so I'm just going to pull it all and toss it. The moss itself also doesn't look very healthy, but getting blasted by 250 par would be the likely cause :LOL:

If there aren't any other options than moss for a carpeting plant in the front, then that's what I'll need to go with.

So far though I'm pretty happy with the way things are progressing. I think there's a good plan here and some decisions I'll need to make but overall the outcome I think could be good.

The one decision I'm really happy about is moving one of my pink flamingos. It looks so much better where it's currently at and added a nice color contrast to that area.
 

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Discussion Starter · #802 ·
So quick update.

I pushed the fixture rearwards exactly 1" and took more bottom of the tank readings.

Previous readings for the 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

Moving the fixture rearwards one inch:

Rear left - 95
Rear center - 90
Rear right - 92

Center left - 90
Center center - 25
Center right - 97

Front left - 72
Front center - 85
Front right - 61

The rear numbers are what I was hoping that the movement of the fixture further back would make a pretty big jump and they did. On average there is a 20 par increase bringing everything closer to 100 par.

The center measurements really didn't change. The only one that did was center right, but I could have screwed that one up yesterday.

The front of tank measurements are what really surprised me. A drop of 10 at most. The front left and right aren't a huge surprise since the readings were literally taken from those corners, where light is hard to reach but the center didn't drop a whole lot.

I think the only thing that will raise par even more in the back and center is lowering the fixture another inch. The side effect would be that the front readings would all plummet. I think I'll leave things where they are because these readings seem about as perfect as I'll get them without adding another fixture, which I'm not opposed to, but I also don't want to drop another $400 just to chase par.

I do believe that whoever tested the Twinstar 900 SA did so without water in the tank because there's no way that fixture is that much more powerful than mine and their results were questionable at best lol.

For the heck of it I played around with the meter in my nano tank. If the fixture was set on 30% on all channel except blue (stayed at 7%), the par was about 40. At 50% par went up to 55-60. At 100% par went up to a hair over 100. These readings were taken about in the middle of the tank and didn't really change much regardless of how far down you went, which in that tank I have a whopping 8 or so inches of water above the substrate lol. If I end up going low tech with that tank, I'll just drop the channels to 40-50% and that should be low enough to not have to worry.

I'm glad that my local club has a par meter to borrow. While I'd love to buy one, I'll more than likely not have a need for it again unless I get different lights or something. I will likely borrow it again if I set up a reef tank again. I definitely have no need to buy one though.

My kitchen lights are 40 par in case anyone was wondering :LOL:
 

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What your going through with your lights is the reason it's hard to grow high-light plants in all areas of the tank. To be honest carpets in deep tanks are a pain. Trimming and/or the eventual lifting of it is a lot of work. When i mentioned a moss foreground, I didn't mean a full carpet just scattered around the rocks and keep sand along the front. It will fill it out and look lusher, plus it doesn't require alot of work. When the moss gets too thick you can just lift out the rock it's on, trim and put back down.

The big ADA tanks used MH lighting back then, I don't know if people were going for so much color, I doubt you would get much at 30-50 PAR if that's the intensity. ADA would recommend two 250watt MH lights for their 120cm (4 footer) tanks hung 30cm from the water surface over a tank I think was 20" deep.

I was gonna ask you about your kitchen lights lol. All I know is mine don't grow any plants well and I end up using special lighting for them.
 

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Discussion Starter · #804 ·
What your going through with your lights is the reason it's hard to grow high-light plants in all areas of the tank. To be honest carpets in deep tanks are a pain. Trimming and/or the eventual lifting of it is a lot of work. When i mentioned a moss foreground, I didn't mean a full carpet just scattered around the rocks and keep sand along the front. It will fill it out and look lusher, plus it doesn't require alot of work. When the moss gets too thick you can just lift out the rock it's on, trim and put back down.

The big ADA tanks used MH lighting back then, I don't know if people were going for so much color, I doubt you would get much at 30-50 PAR if that's the intensity. ADA would recommend two 250watt MH lights for their 120cm (4 footer) tanks hung 30cm from the water surface over a tank I think was 20" deep.

I was gonna ask you about your kitchen lights lol. All I know is mine don't grow any plants well and I end up using special lighting for them.
Makes sense for sure. I was watching a Green Aqua video a week or so ago and they set up a "Desert Scape" tank where they created cactus using moss, but attached it to flat rock so that when it came time to trim they could just remove the whole thing to trim outside of the tank.

The one thing I was researching was Eleocharis Acicularis Mini since that doesn't need high lighting to spread. I read that it could fully carpet as low as 50 par. I don't think it would be a horrible choice to use DHG so long as it doesn't grow too tall. What are your thoughts on going in that direction?

The kitchen lights definitely surprised me lol. I rarely even turn them on unless I'm doing a zoom for work, or just need them on because it's dark. There are three 2X2 fixtures in the drop ceiling down here in the kitchenette in my basement so with the cost of electricity continuing to rise, I tend to keep them off since they likely draw a fair amount of power when on. Honestly though I thought 20 par at most lol. I took the reading about a foot under them so it's probably higher than 40 par if I were to have gone much closer to the fixture.

There was one thing that I recall from a George Farmer video on a tank that's about the same size, with my same exact light.....he actually ran a second LED light directly over his stem plants for additional lighting. I was thinking maybe that would make sense, and I wouldn't need to drop another $400 since it seemed he was using a less expensive second fixture.
 

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I wouldn't use the DHG. Even though short, I don't think it would look right with those rocks but of course its a personal choice. I think it will take a long time to carpet at those light levels. Putting another light on top is also an aesthetic thing if you care about that. I honestly would just put some low growing moss in between the rock areas, but that's me.

This is an old 4 footer of mine. You could see the moss covered rocks around the foreground to fill it in with the sand front.

 

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Discussion Starter · #806 ·
I wouldn't use the DHG. Even though short, I don't think it would look right with those rocks but of course its a personal choice. I think it will take a long time to carpet at those light levels. Putting another light on top is also an aesthetic thing if you care about that. I honestly would just put some low growing moss in between the rock areas, but that's me.

This is an old 4 footer of mine. You could see the moss covered rocks around the foreground to fill it in with the sand front.

That looks great!

The plants around the bases of the rocks is something I've been wanting to pivot to if the carpet didn't work out, but I was looking more at small plants like crypt parva versus a moss. Are there any other crypt parva-like plants that I could use that stay on the smaller side? This is one area of aquatic plants that I'm fairly ignorant of lol.

But one quick update....did the WC last night and I'm no longer seeing that long thread algae! I'll look again today but it seems to have disappeared.
 

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That looks great!

The plants around the bases of the rocks is something I've been wanting to pivot to if the carpet didn't work out, but I was looking more at small plants like crypt parva versus a moss. Are there any other crypt parva-like plants that I could use that stay on the smaller side? This is one area of aquatic plants that I'm fairly ignorant of lol.

But one quick update....did the WC last night and I'm no longer seeing that long thread algae! I'll look again today but it seems to have disappeared.
Another possibility is Echinodorus tenellus Micro. Might be know by other names as well, but this is a good foreground, stays small and doesn't require intense light. Also can develop some color as well. Some in my old tank.



As I mentioned, don't hesitate to do even bigger water changes if it helps with algae control.
 

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Discussion Starter · #808 · (Edited)
I spoke too soon...the algae is still there. There's less of it, but it's there nonetheless.

Last night I took the GLA canister filter offline and gave it the full maintenance treatment. I have 8 fairly large media bags in there filled with pumice (that's all it'll hold), rinsed them off, cleaned the inside of the canister, the metal grates they include with the canister, along with the pump itself. Got it back online and it's running like a champ.

The next time I maintain this will be in 3 months because it wasn't quite as dirty as I thought it would be. I last maintained it about two months ago so I'll wait until the beginning of March to clean it out again. The Oase is due for full maintenance in 3 or so weeks so that one has be running a little over two months since the last. Depending on how dirty that is, I may push it out to 4 months, or if too dirty, two months. With cleaning the pre filter every week, I assume it won't be very dirty but we'll see.

The plants are doing great though. Rotala for the most part seems to have recovered and are beginning to look fantastic. I'll run some water tests on Friday next week to see where PO4, NO3, and K are at and determine if I need to adjust my dosing since stuff is beginning to grow again.

I think if I remove the moss I may get rid of the algae problem. It started there, continues to infest it, and with the moss getting blasted by a ridiculous amount of par, the high light is likely contributing to the problem by impacting the moss. The moss is starting to look a bit better, but if I get rid of it and the algae problem goes away, it'll answer the question really quickly. I think the moss just hasn't been growing well enough to fight off algae.

ETA: Since I had the GLA canister out of the stand, I moved the CO2 tank and I wouldn't be surprised if I need to swap it out at some point this month because it was very light. It's currently on month 6 which is amazing. If by some miracle it can make it to the first week of July that will be a full 6 months on a 10lbs tank.

My dosing is currently at 3/4 teaspoon of KNO3, 1/4 tsp of CSM+B, 3/4 tsp of K2SO4, and roughly 1/16th tsp of KH2PO4. What I'd like to keep my nutrient levels at is 20-30ppm of NO3, 5-6ppm of PO4, and 30-35ppm of K. I'll see what the result of Friday's tests are before the water change since that's the day I measure out ferts for the week.
 

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Discussion Starter · #809 ·
Another possibility is Echinodorus tenellus Micro. Might be know by other names as well, but this is a good foreground, stays small and doesn't require intense light. Also can develop some color as well. Some in my old tank.



As I mentioned, don't hesitate to do even bigger water changes if it helps with algae control.
That's a nice little grassy plant. I'll put that one on my list. I realized that I have no anubias in the tank. I may need to mix some anubias into the mix as well.

I think the only way I can go bigger with water changes is if I add a second water change day. I'm already at the point where the highest levels of the substrate in my tank are exposed to the air during my current water changes which are probably in the 80% range. I think once the moss is removed the algae issue will disappear.
 

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If you already going that big on water changes you should be good, no need to add more at this point. Once the plant mass increases you should find a good balance.

If you do buy the Echinodorus tenellus Micro make sure you don't get the sometimes confused Micro Sword (Lilaeopsis brasiliensis)
 

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Discussion Starter · #811 ·
If you already going that big on water changes you should be good, no need to add more at this point. Once the plant mass increases you should find a good balance.

If you do buy the Echinodorus tenellus Micro make sure you don't get the sometimes confused Micro Sword (Lilaeopsis brasiliensis)
I've seem some of the listings have both names in the description on a few of the plant seller websites lol.

When I get some, I'll probably message them to make sure I'm getting the right one.

Is the Lilaeopsis the "pest" version?
 

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Discussion Starter · #813 ·
Quick update:

CO2 tank is somehow still running. When I lifted it last week it seemed almost empty, but it's still running.

Plants are doing well. I think the moss is suffering being so close to the light and getting blasted with way more par than it needs. I'll be removing it tomorrow after work when I do the weekly water change.

The Limnophila are growing nicely. They seem to be a fairly slow grower, which is good since that means less trimming.

The Rotala are growing, but much more slowly than they were prior to the stunting issue I had a couple months back. They've mostly recovered and look normal, but just aren't growing as fast as they did.

The one notable thing that I did notice this week was the reemergence of GSA on my glass. It isn't getting on any plants, but this tells me that my PO4 levels aren't high enough. Tomorrow after I wake up I'll take a water sample to see what my levels are at after a week's worth of dosing and then adjust the ferts accordingly. The last time I tested PO4, it wasn't low by any means, but maybe my tank just requires a higher level? It'll be interesting to see what the test results are tomorrow.

Hair algae is still there on the moss though which is why I'm just going to remove it entirely.

The Pogotstemon Helferi Downoi just doesn't seem to be growing at all. The new growth is very small and I can't really say for certain if I've seen it grow over the last month. I may need to remove it at some point and get a new tissue culture of it. It grew like crazy until that stunting issue happened.

The one thing I'm going to do some research on now is finding a freshwater iron test kit. I mainly just want to see what my iron levels are and whether or not I should tweak my micro dosing.
 

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Tank's almost empty, better fear the mythical EOTD boggie man? Oh do you have a dual gauge?

The thing with moss is that many people use it high up on branches, rocks, etc in their scapes so it does receive alot of PAR. Can't be helped if it's mixed with high light plants. I think the stem mass will correct this but you shouldn't get algae on moss even with high light. One could literally drop an algae invested branch into a tank and if the tank is balanced well the algae just dies out (I've actually done this) since algae will grow under the right conditions it doesn't need to be introduced.

Did you ever get the Pogo Erectus? That is a good indicator of light, nutrients, etc?
 

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Discussion Starter · #815 ·
Tank's almost empty, better fear the mythical EOTD boggie man? Oh do you have a dual gauge?

The thing with moss is that many people use it high up on branches, rocks, etc in their scapes so it does receive alot of PAR. Can't be helped if it's mixed with high light plants. I think the stem mass will correct this but you shouldn't get algae on moss even with high light. One could literally drop an algae invested branch into a tank and if the tank is balanced well the algae just dies out (I've actually done this) since algae will grow under the right conditions it doesn't need to be introduced.

Did you ever get the Pogo Erectus? That is a good indicator of light, nutrients, etc?
Yep, it's a dual stage so I'm not worried. The needle still has yet to move though, at least it hadn't last night. I mean it's gotta move soon because that tank felt empty lol. I keep checking the bubble counter and sure enough, CO2 lol.

I'll be interested in seeing what my Fe levels are tonight once the test kit arrives.

I have been seeing another sign that may be a contributing factor, or not. Pest snails....brown or tan shells, right? In my tank their shells are almost white. So something is going on with magnesium or calcium, or something is affecting the two in some way. KH and GH haven't changed, and the only thing that I can see it being is CO2 levels maybe being too high? Just something interesting I observed, or another "clue".

I did, but I think my SAE's like the taste because of the 6 stems I bought, only two made it to where I could replant them somewhere else. They haven't started regrowing though but were in pretty rough shape because I initially had them in a spot where the limbs of the spider wood were casting a shadow. They're in a high light spot now so I'm assuming they'll need to settle in before starting to grow. I think the fact that they were shaded weakened them enough where my SAE's thought they were tasty. The two remaining stems seem healthy enough to grow. If they don't make it I'll probably grab some more.

The Ludwigia Arcuata is growing like crazy. I picked that up as a tissue culture and it literally didn't grow at all. Once I moved the Rotala to the other side of the tank they suddenly had light and took off.

I'm still planning on moving stems around again, but I'd like to wait a while for them all to start growing really well, toss some of the bases of the older stems, and then replant and root the new growth. Once I trim a couple times I'll move stuff.
 

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Discussion Starter · #818 ·
Alright, FTS that I forgot to upload last night.

I also ran some tests and the results were as expected:

NO3: 25ppm
PO4: 6-7ppm
K: 35ppm
Fe: 0.5 mg/l

No real surprises other than finally knowing what my iron levels are.

Plant Plant community Botany Wood Branch


Next step is tossing the moss, trimming the longer stems and replanting them, and replanting any of the plants that were uprooted. I'm also going to hack down the H. Pin that is next to the moss.
 

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Discussion Starter · #819 ·
Quick update:

Before the water change, I went ahead and got rid of the remaining moss and trimmed the H Pin next to the moss pretty aggressively. Hopefully with what appears to be the source of the long string algae gone, that issue will fade away.

I trimmed the longer stems and replanted the tops. Eventually I'll start getting rid of the older growth once I've been able to trim and replant enough healthy growth.

I may try to source some more crypt parva and some smaller anubias to tuck into various spots.

I'll try to get an updated FTS this evening since the removal of moss really seems to have changed the look a bit.

CO2 tank is somehow still running. We're basically at 6 months on a 10lbs tank which is amazing. I wouldn't at all be surprised if I have to replace it by this weekend though, but then again I thought I'd have swapped the tank out months ago. The needle still hasn't budged, so I'm going to wager a guess that it needs to be replaced by Saturday. When I maintained my GLA filter a week or so ago I actually was able to lift the regulator and tank with one arm, while bent over inside my stand. I can't do that with a full tank.

The Rotala orange juice and blood red on the left side have really started to color up after the water change and put on noticeable growth in just a couple days. Could my issues have resolved themselves? I guess we'll see over the coming weeks.
 
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