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50 Ga. Cube Setup

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    Posted: March 07 2016 at 8:37am
After going nearly a year and a half without a reef tank, I'm finally able to get things going again. A few life obstacles popped up in 2014 and now I will be starting from scratch. I do not have any equipment from my past setups so I will venture forward with only the experience I obtained from some of my previous reef tanks.

Initially I was looking to go with a bigger tank so I started watching the forum to see what was coming available. During this time I started mapping out the house for the likely locations to setup. Unfortunately a large display would have to be placed in our basement entertainment room, and honestly we don't spend a lot of time down there. So, I started looking at smaller setups that I could have on the main level of the house.

I started investigating 29-68 gallon PNP systems. In very short time I realized that the traditional PNP systems that housed the life support on the back of the tank was NOT what I was looking for. I really didn't like the cramped feeling, and since this needed to look  like a piece of furniture in our home, I didn't want any excess equipment exposed. So I wanted a PNP kit that would come with a sump and other quality components.

After reading reviews of various tanks and price checking the available options I decided to go with a 50 Ga. 3/8" Starfire cube (24x24x20) from S.C. Aquariums. If anybody is looking for a similar setup I think they will find that this is a very affordable way to get brand new equipment. Coming in with a total price tag (including shipping) of $649. 

I plan to give an honest review of this system good, bad, and indifferent. Because this system doesn't come with lights like other PNP options I'm not sure it really classifies as "Plug & play". So far I like what I'm seeing and I am really excited to be getting back into the hobby!





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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote LakeCityReefs Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: March 07 2016 at 9:01am
I ordered the setup on Monday and it arrived on Friday. The customer service and fast delivery was a great way to start things off. I had the Pallet delivered to my work so it could be unloaded with a forklift and placed in the back of my truck. It made more sense for me to have it delivered to work so that I wouldn't have to take the day off and wait for a semi truck to pull up to my house.


The total pallet weight was just under 300 lbs


Everything was packaged really well and I couldn't wait to get it in the house and start tinkering with things.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote LakeCityReefs Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: March 07 2016 at 9:44am
I pulled it all out and everything passed inspection. My initial thoughts are that SCA brings the non glass components in wholesale from China and redistributes. The aquariums and sumps are produced in their So. Cal. facility (or so I think).

The setup included:
Tank- 24x24x20 3/8" Starfire w/ center overflow
Stand- 24x24x32 Black MDF
Sump- 4 chambers, 4 filter pads, bio balls, ceramic rings
Plumbing- 2 complete sets of bulkheads with fittings and hose clamps, drain and return hoses. durso drain pipe, dual loc line return
Return Pump- 2500 GPH (resembles a RIO pump)  
Protein Skimmer- Its tagged with the SCA logo and looks similar to many other updated skimmers


I really like the clean look of the tank. I am very happy that the overflow is placed on the center back wall with dual returns. If I had any complaints it would be that the overflow is made up of 3 pieces of black gloss acrylic instead of a single formed overflow.

The stand is really sharp looking and went together really well. I really don't care for particle board when being used around moisture. Solid wood is a much better option however you will never get a solid wood setup with this price tag. The MDF seems to be a more compressed particle than I have seen used on other aquarium furniture. SCA has taken the extra care to make sure all surfaces are finished and does not leave any exposed wood for moisture to penetrate.

I filled the tank and sump with water and let it sit in the garage to make sure there weren't any leaks. Everything checked out so I brought everything into the house to begin the setup.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote LakeCityReefs Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: March 07 2016 at 11:10am
I brought the equipment into the house and connected all of the plumbing. I filled the overflow with a little but of water to make sure i head the bulkheads secure. After making sure all of the connections were ready to go I filled the aquarium with Ocean Direct live sand , filled the tank and sump with RO water and began mixing Instant Ocean salt until I had a level of 1.024.








At this point I needed to wait for my heater and a few more items to deliver from Amazon. I am trying to budget things along the way but at least I've got everything running now and getting broke in.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Marcoss Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: March 07 2016 at 11:44am
This looks awesome! Congrats on getting back into this. Beautiful tank!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote LakeCityReefs Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: March 07 2016 at 12:46pm
Things have slowly been trickling in from the internet bargain shopping I've been doing. While I was waiting for things to arrive I dropped a raw shrimp into the tank to add some ammonia and begin the cycling process. I added 2 lbs of live rubble to my refugium and 10 lbs of live base rock to the display. 

The next thing I added was a 200W Cobalt Heater and raised the temperature to 77*.
I then placed a 2 lb tray of Miracle Mud into the fuge and once the tank is ready I will add some Calurpa to the mud to help with nutrient removal.

I have now added 8 lbs of cured branch rock and 15 lbs of bio infused Life Rock. Total rock in the system is around 35 lbs and although I know this is on the lighter side I don't think I will add more than another 5 lbs. 





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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Fatman Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: March 07 2016 at 1:00pm
Beautiful tank.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote LakeCityReefs Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: March 07 2016 at 1:11pm
Originally posted by Fatman Fatman wrote:

Beautiful tank.
Originally posted by Marcoss Marcoss wrote:

This looks awesome! Congrats on getting back into this. Beautiful tank!

Thanks for the words of encouragement. 


I will try to post the most current update tomorrow. I have about half a dozen more items that should arrive this week to finish things off; Lights, ATO, test kits, cleaning supplies.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote LakeCityReefs Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: March 08 2016 at 10:16am
So currently I am waiting for things to be delivered and letting the tank cycle without lights. There is a small hermit cruising around that snuck in on some live rock last week.I feed the tank about 10 small pellets of NLS everyday to keep some ammonia going (the raw shrimp has diminished already).

Another note is that the skimmer took about a week to break in. I was concerned at first because the bubbles looked a little large but now everything is well and it's pulling small amounts of mildly tainted skimmate.


The light in the room is a bit yellow. I know these aren't the best photos to show off its clarity.



Tomorrow my test kits are scheduled to arrive. After 2 weeks of cycling I can't wait to check my levels and see if the live rock is doing its job.I'll keep you all posted.

On Friday my light and mounting kit is scheduled to arrive. Although I feel T5 lights are the best for our corals I went with the AI Prime because of its low cost, built in wifi, and overall simplistic look.

I have gone with the Tunze Osmolator ATO system. Unfortunately it is not scheduled to arrive until March 17th. So for now I top off the old fashion way adding about 1/2" to the 20 Ga. sump daily.

Here is a picture of the basket I am storing my top off jugs in.


I was fortunate that my house already came with an RO water system. The system monitors for the TDS to climb and will signal me to change the filters. This is better than tap water and good enough for me. I chose not to run a direct line to the tank because I didn't like the exposed line running through the house. I'm fine with filling a jug once a week and placing it next to the tank in its hiding place.



I want to start getting some ideas on fish.
Nutrient export will be needing to get addressed soon. I will add a light and some macro to the sump in a few weeks but right now I feel it would just starve. Looking for a small reactor to run some Phosguard and carbon in the sump in the near future as well.

I will get another update after I test some parameters and get the light hooked up. Stay tuned!!

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote LakeCityReefs Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: March 09 2016 at 6:23pm
Ok so today is day 12. I ordered all of my test kits on the same day last week and today only my ammonia kit arrived. I'm happy to finally be able to at least perform 1 test.

I'm getting a reading between 0.1 and 0.2. I guess the live rock and Seachem stability hasn't caught up yet. The raw shrimp and phantom feeding I've been doing must have really done the trick on the water column.

Fortunately my nitrite, nitrate, and phosphate tests are scheduled to arrive tomorrow. I can't wait to see nitrates in my system. It can be really hard to be patient sometimes.

Here's a question
In your opinion do you wait until you see ammonia and nitrite at 0.0 or do you wait to see nitrates in your system before adding livestock?

On a side note, I don't plan to add any macroalgae until I can see nitrates.
Here we go again
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote LakeCityReefs Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: March 11 2016 at 8:03am
Today officially marks the 2 week point in my cycling process. In the past I have setup before and was able to only experience a mini cycle. I guess I just didn't use enough dirty equipment or live rock this go around.

Still using Seachem Stability and phantom feeding the tank NLS pellets daily.
Here are the parameters as of last night 
Ammonia 0.1
Nitrite .02 
Nitrate above 0

I was in Bountiful on an errand yesterday and stopped into a LFS to check out the Black Clowns they have and I just cant wait to pick up a pair.

The Tunze Osmolator showed up earlier than expected and I was  surprised to come home to more equipment and happy to get it setup last night.
Lights are scheduled to arrive today. I will get things setup tonight and snap some pics for the next update.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote LakeCityReefs Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: March 14 2016 at 8:28am
Things are progressing nicely!

Full tank shot showing the lights just after getting them installed.


I really like the control-ability of the Aqua Illumination Prime LED. Built in wifi so once I downloaded the app to my phone everything was simple to get going. These lil lights sure pack a punch for how small they are. Not sure if you guys are interested or not but here's a few shots showing the control interface.








Everything is pretty much setup now. The only additional equipment needed is a small media reactor and a small light for the sump. 

Amonnia has been testing 0.0 for a few days now but the tests are still detecting very low amounts of Nitrite lower than 0.2. I've added a few cheap soft corals (Toadstool leather, Xenia, and some Fire&Ice zoas) everything opened up immediately and is doing fine. Fish are coming soon!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote LakeCityReefs Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: March 16 2016 at 8:55am
Tank has finally cycled! 

Just short of 3 weeks and Ammonia/Nitrite have been reading 0, with Nitrates at 5. 
I will be adding a pair of Black Clownfish tonight after work.

On a side note, I've had 2 occasions where the ATO hasn't kicked in. I've been able to reset it by unplugging it and shaking the small pump. It's been working fine for the last day or so but I want to make sure I work out the bugs before I leave the tank for any extended days. I am going to try and make some adjustments tonight.  I really want the water level stable so that the skimmer runs efficiently.
Let me know if you have had similar experiences with the Tunze Osmolator. 

I added a Korelia powerhead to the back wall to add some extra flow. I am seeing quite a few fine particals (sand?) in the water column and hope they settle to crystal clear water soon. I've been hesitant to rinse the filter floss and pads just yet as I don't want to wash away any beneficial bacteria and cause another cycle.


I will be looking for some macro and adding a small light to the fuge this weekend, maybe even a few snails but I'm not seeing any algae growth (probably because the tank has only had a light on it for a few days.


Here we go again
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote LakeCityReefs Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: March 17 2016 at 5:52pm
Fish are in and doing great!


Going to let these guys settle in for a several weeks before adding 1-2 more. I plan to start adding corals for now as my budget allows. If anybody has frags for a newly reborn reefer I'd love to hear from you, send me a PM.

Diatom bloom has started, hopefully it stays moderate and fades quickly.

Stay tuned for future updates as things progress.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote scfurse77 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: March 17 2016 at 6:19pm
Just curious on what your lighting schedule will be? I have a similar setup with just the one AI prime. 
CADLIGHTS 42 Versa, 20 Gallon Sump, ATI Dimmable 8 Bulb T5 w/SbReef Lights Sbar, Bubble Muggus Skimmer and really mad wife :)
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote LakeCityReefs Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: March 19 2016 at 8:21am
Originally posted by scfurse77 scfurse77 wrote:

Just curious on what your lighting schedule will be? I have a similar setup with just the one AI prime. 


I've posted a screen shot of my lighting a few posts above. Lights start to ramp up about 9 am and are dimmed down to the moonlight cycle at 10 pm. I've added a burst of light for 3 hours in the middle of the day.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote scfurse77 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: March 20 2016 at 11:44pm
Originally posted by LakeCityReefs LakeCityReefs wrote:

Originally posted by scfurse77 scfurse77 wrote:

Just curious on what your lighting schedule will be? I have a similar setup with just the one AI prime. 


I've posted a screen shot of my lighting a few posts above. Lights start to ramp up about 9 am and are dimmed down to the moonlight cycle at 10 pm. I've added a burst of light for 3 hours in the middle of the day.

Thanks, just wasn't sure if that's the schedule you were sticking with once coral was added. 
CADLIGHTS 42 Versa, 20 Gallon Sump, ATI Dimmable 8 Bulb T5 w/SbReef Lights Sbar, Bubble Muggus Skimmer and really mad wife :)
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote LakeCityReefs Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: March 28 2016 at 8:45am
The tank is right around the 1 month mark now. Things are going ok. I have a ton of diatoms right now. My initial CUC was 10 snails, 5 hermits, 1 cleaner shrimp. I added 10 more hermits this week to help remove the diatoms and they are already doing their job pretty well, but they're going to need a few more days to get the diatoms under control. It's kinda funny that they have cleaned clear white paths at the edge of the glass and around rocks but the majority of the center sand bed is still really brown.

Corals are being added slowly and I hope to add another fish in about 1-2 weeks.

Aside from the diatom bloom I have also experienced some issues with corals. A toadstool leather retracted its polyps for about a week and I was worried it wouldn't survive. One evening it shed a layer of its skin and reopened bigger than before. Another coral issue is that currently I have a hammer LPS coral that has only fully extended it's polyps twice in the last week or so. I'm keeping an eye on it and will likely move it on to the sand bed this evening to see if its a lighting issue.

Ill try to get some photos posted soon but I'm sure nobody is interested in seeing my diatoms Ouch
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote LakeCityReefs Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 12 2016 at 2:36pm
Well things have settled in pretty nicely the last few weeks. 
Diatoms have cleared. After having the Calurpa in the refugium recede back to half of what it originally started at, it is now beginning to grow. I recently had to adjust my magnesium with Epsom salt and am currently trying to find the proper dosing schedule. 

Here are some photos to give you an idea of what the tank is starting to look like.


Here we go again
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote scfurse77 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: June 05 2016 at 11:23pm
Just curious? Have you changed your lighting schedule at all? I'm still trying to dial my AI Prime in. 
CADLIGHTS 42 Versa, 20 Gallon Sump, ATI Dimmable 8 Bulb T5 w/SbReef Lights Sbar, Bubble Muggus Skimmer and really mad wife :)
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