I started this aquarium downsizing and automation project a couple months ago, and it’s going to take at least another four to five months to complete–maybe longer. Even if all the equipment is ready, there’s no hurrying the life behind the glass–you never want to rush the beginning of a new habitat. You have to let it come to life first, let it settle down, find its balance–and that can take anywhere from a couple months to a year. This may actually be the most difficult part of this hobby–the waiting, the patience required to just let things calm down on their own. You provide the stability, the nutrients for coral growth and the spread of that beautiful red and purple coralline algae (Lithothamnion sp. and the like). But you can’t rush the process and be successful. You can buy all the frags you want, but it’s going to be hell without a mature system.
Okay, back to what I’m working on: You might laugh at the idea of downsizing a 30g/113l tank, which is on the small side in this hobby. (I consider it a “Nano reef” aquarium, as would many of my fellow aquarists). I have had 40, 60, 160, 200 gallon reef systems in the past, but for the foreseeable future I’m going to stick to a nano-sized system, anywhere from 12 – 18 gallons of total water volume, and I’m starting with the foundation, building out a better, higher-tech moveable base for the aquarium, lighting, dosing system, electronics (battery backup), and the automation infrastructure (timers, temperature control, pH, ORP, monitoring). I have all of this running smoothly right now on the 30g, and transitioning it at some point will be a fairly big task. But back to basics: this weekend I have completed most of what I wanted for the base, the tank stand, with the lighting structure. (I run four Kessil LEDs, an A160EW Tuna Blue (all-day blue, color: 20,000K), A160WE Tuna Sun (Daylight, color: 9,000k), A150W Tuna Blue (Mid-day intensity, color: 15,000K), and an H150 Red (2 hours per day at dusk and dawn, wavelength: 620 – 710nm). I know, a lot for light for a smallish aquarium, but they’re not all on at the same time, and they’re on for varying lengths of time.