Coldwater marine aquarium Blog 2007 July
29 July 2007


This has been by far the most intense week until now. On Sunday half of the live sand was found. And on Monday it was filled with seawater. The tank is now up and running with som algae and animals in it. It took about 650 liters of water to fill it up. Technically all went well. The 200 liters barrel system worked without any problems. The salinity at the location was a bit low. Had to add 3 kilos of salt later to get the salinity from 25 ppt to the wanted 30 ppt.

Technical issues

Overflow cover

This cover was useless since it clogged the overflow drain.

The rest of the week went by mostly to solve technical issues, but also to get some livestock. The hardest technical stuff was related to my overflow system. I thought that was easy. Boy was I wrong. I have never used an overflow system before. I am used to closed loop systems. They automatically adapt to the pump's capacity to move water. Once you have an open end outside the tank everything changes. Now real plumbing, flow rates, restrictions etc come into the picture. The first thing I noticed, as mentioned last time was the incredible noise. I first though the splashing from water flowing over the overflow edge was the main issue. I solved that by filling the whole overflow chamber with gravel. Mistake. Then I realised that the main problem was the intense gurgeling when air was sucked into the drain pipe. The only solution to that was to restrict the outflow in the sump. The end result was a half satisfying setup with a double garden hose valve. I really need a PVC gate valve right now! Of course that doesn't exist in Norway. Anyway the current solution works, but I feel it is fragile. I had to remove the gravel again, what a pain, literally since I always scratch my arm on my DIY overflow comb while reaching into the overflow box! Before filling up with gravel I had to make a mesh cover for the overflow pipe end. That was a flow restriction time bomb since any long particles that could go through the comb would block the mesh. That happened. Luckily I didn't use silicone to fasten the cover so it was easy to remove. The fargile thing about this setup is that objects that restrict the flow will cause the sump to empty and that will crash the return pump and the chiller will run without water flow since it is on the return pump. The chiller survives that, but it is not good for it. Also the filtration stops working and the temp rises. So that is a major issue. Right now there isn't all that much I can do about it. I need the opening to be as large as possible and at the same time restrict waterflow. I feel there should be a solution...


The live sand contained a lot of mud that clouded the water. But it took only 3 hours before the Deltec APF 600 had placed it all neatly in the skimmer cup.

Light fixture is working fine. It tooks some work with a rope and pulley(?) system to get it to hang in such a way that it was easy to lift. I ended up with a 1:2 force exchange. And I really like it. Had to change ropes add various pieces to it underway.

The wave system works as expected. I am not sure wether it is too weak, too strong or just right. It will always be a trade off. I can see some animals not liking it. But the kelp probably has much too little wave action. Had some weird noise issues with it. There was a medium frequency sound from the left side pumps that could be heard into my bedroom. The pumps there are fastened with suction cups to a glass sheet. On the right side the pumps are attached to an acrylic sheet. No sound from them. So I bought a small acrylic sheet fastened it on the glass sheet with suction cups and fastened the pumps on that again. Problem solved.

My chiller is too weak. It's an aqua medic 1500. 375 Watts power uptake. I think it is rated 1/2 HP whatever that means. It certainly doesn't relate exactly to the power uptake of the fan and compressor. When the 316 Watts of T5 lighting is on it has to run continously to keep the temp from rising above the 17.1 C which is the point where it starts. It then chills down to 16 C. The chiller stands beneath a window and when that is open it manages to get the temp down. Otherwise I am not sure. It works fine when the lights are off though. It will suffice, barely, this summer and fall. The winter could give trouble since the tank temperatures are going to be low then. The critical time will be spring since then the temps are both low and there is strong light. Too bad I don't have the opportunity to mount it outside. That would have solved all issues with the chiller. Including the noise.


Tank Monday

Tank just after startup on Monday.

I found the 80 liters of live sand about 45 minutes driver northwest of here. Took two rides one on Sunday and one Monday morning. That was quite a job. The sand was not of the type recommended by Ron Shimek, that is very fine sand. I regret that, but I just couldn't find that type of sand live. Maybe if I could get down to deeper water, but I didn't have time for that. So I had to settle for coarser crushed shell sand with finer material in between. The sand was full of large worms and lots of clams. Among them Cocle and Soft shelled clam Cerastoderma Edule and Mya Arenaria.

Clam burrow

The burrow of a clam.


Worm comming out of the sand.

Live sand anemone

Anemone that followed the live sand.



Food made of shrimps and fish run in a blender. Then brine shrimp and mysis mixed in.

I wanted to get started feeding the live sand quickly. So I made this food mix. The anemones seem to like it very much.

Animals and algae

Filter animals

Mussels (Mytilus edulis) and sea squirts ( Ciona intestinalis). The algae to the left is probably Ulva lactuca.

This is a very exiting time! In the coming weeks I will see if the algae that I have now planted, particularly the kelp, can grow under the conditions in my tank. Also how much nuisance algae that grows. There will be lots of projects to do, finding better specimens, pruning, finding alae eaters, trying out fertilizers and so on. I must admit I am a little nervous. Everything is so pristine and clean. But with the light and nutrient conditions in there, the growth of something is going to explode and I wonder what it's going to look like, lol!

Actinia Equina

My favorite anemone now. A relatively large specimen of Actinia equina. The picture doesn't show its real beauty.


Probably nori, (Porphyra umbilicalis)


Mid week.



cyclopterus lumpus

Even a fish! Here is a 2 cm long cyclopterus lumpus that followed some algae.

16 July 2007

Almost startup

I have now had 2 weeks of vacation, and although I have helped my father builing his new terasse (wood deck?) and been very social with my relatives I have managed to do some tank work too. Practically everything is ready for startup now. Yesterday I tested the system with freshwater and checked that everything was water proof. Most things worked just as hoped. The only thing that took me completely by surprise was the incredible noise from the overflow. People often talk about such problems on aquarium forums, but I didn't think it was even possible that so little water falling such a short distance could be so noisy. There was also a problem with gurgeling due to air movement in the drain pipe. Today I will get some blue filter sponge and wool and try to set up a solution. Shouldn't be too hard.

The 200 liters barrel for transporting seawater from the ocean to the tank. Did a small test of it. Things worked fine. The only thing I needed to add was a means to measure the level over water in the barrel since it filled up so quickly with the powerful bilge pump I use. If it gets too full many liters of salt water could get sprayed all over the car through the air hole before I could shut it off! I drilled 2 holes and set in bulkeheads of different size. One for water out and one for water in. That turned out to be unnecessary, a hose adapter would have worked fine. I couldn't find an air vent that I could fit on top of the barrell. Searched a long time for that. In the end the cap of a soda bottle epoxied in place turned out just fine!

Messy place

Made a real mess in my dad's garage!

Air vent, high tech

Air vent, ghetto style.

Light fixture

Working on the light fixture.

Light fixture

Light fixture finished with 6 54W T5's.


Filling with freshwater for test.


Sump setup with skimmer, chiller and return hoses.


The sump.

Mist on glass

Sweating on glass

Sweating on the glass was not a problem on my earlier tanks. But it could be worse this time. The water was 11.5 C at the time the picture was taken. Humidity was probably quite high in the room. The sweating did not disappear when the temperature in the water rose to 14 C. I went away at 16C. I need to check out room temp, moisture levels etc and find a solution. Perhaps using a dehumidifier. Anyway it won't be a problem now in the summer since the water temp will be 16C or higher.


Freshwater test

This is how the tank looks bare with no life and no sand. Only the rock background. I decided to not use rocks from the sea since I needed time to set up the background. The living organisms on the rock would have died by the time everything was set up. It is probably best to let new organisms settle and grow. These will be organisms that thrive under the conditions in the tank. Let's just hope they are not all slimy thread algae!

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