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CSQ Variable-PAR Frag Rack


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  1. #1
    CalmSeasQuest - Reefkeeper
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    Default CSQ Variable-PAR Frag Rack

    I converted my tanks over to LEDs about ~3 years ago. Since that time, I've faced a challenge maintaining both light loving SPS and lower light LPS and softies within a single, shallow Frag tank. Normally, in a deeper tank, lower light corals are placed toward the bottom of the tank and the top, higher PAR areas are used for SPS. In a shallow Frag tank, this option is not available. This is compounded by the fact LEDs are very good are producing and delivering very large amounts of PAR to depth.

    Some PAR variability is possible by placing lower light corals along the perimeter of the tank, but depending on the size and type of lighting used, this may still not provide enough range. You can vary the height of the fixture above the tank, or lessen the PAR output through dimming or in the case of T5s, turning off certain tubes, but this lowers the PAR at the top of the tank as well. I came up with a very simply, DIY solution.

    First let me apologize for the poor quality photos. I had left my DSLR at my office and had to use my cell. Although I really like the Galaxy Nexus, the camera leaves much to be desired. This is a shot of my tanks prior to the new racks. The DT is a 24"X20"X20" Cadlights and the FT is a 24"X20"X8" Advanced Acrylic sharing a common sump. The DT is lit by AI LEDs. The FT uses a MaxSpect G-2 160.

    2012 05 07095013 - CSQ Variable-PAR Frag Rack

    I've been using Blue Glow frag racks which are very well designed and built, but don't offer the ability to vary PAR as much as I wanted. To complicate matters, my Frag tank holds about 240 individual Fags (I had to add 3 magnetic Frag racks to hold everything) so the racking system had to be very space-efficient.
    DSC 2948 1 - CSQ Variable-PAR Frag Rack

    I removed the existing Blue Glow and magnetic racks and installed 1/4" square acrylic rails along both sides of the tank using Cyanocrylate. The rails were placed at 1 1/2" and 4 1/2" above the bottom of the tank.
    DSC 2952 1 - CSQ Variable-PAR Frag Rack

    2012 05 23111638 - CSQ Variable-PAR Frag Rack

    2012 05 23111728 - CSQ Variable-PAR Frag Rack

    I then cut black egg-crate so that it would rest on the rails...
    2012 05 23114708 - CSQ Variable-PAR Frag Rack

    I divided the bottom section into 3 pieces, each 6" in depth for ease of removal and cleaning. The top "shelf" was fashioned from a single 6" egg-crate section allowing room for it to slide back and for to adjust the PAR/shading for the lower light corals placed below the top shelf. The ability to move the shelf also provides easy access to Frags on the lower level. Further PAR fine tuning is done by varying the number, size and placement of Frag (or empty Frag plugs if desired) in the top shelf.

    I fashioned small pylons to support the bottom shelves as they bow under the weight of many Frag plugs and corals...
    2012 05 23114812 - CSQ Variable-PAR Frag Rack

    The top shelf bows slightly, but not enough to warrant additional supports as they contain far fewer corals and smaller plugs to allow light to reach the corals on the lower level.
    DSC 2964 - CSQ Variable-PAR Frag Rack

    2012 05 23111744 - CSQ Variable-PAR Frag Rack

    This has only been in place for a day, but I'm already seeing benefits,
    • I now have the ability to create a custom light environment for each type of coral. Lower light corals such as Zoanthids already appear larger and more colorful.
    • The egg-crate allows for more flow and fewer areas for detritus to collect
    • Because the entire system is modular, it's easy to remove any section for cleaning, or alteration.
    • I'm now able to use differing size frag plugs/disks tailoring the size of the attachment area and amount of shade desired.
    • Higher coral density and better flow. I'm able to fit more Frags into the same space and whereas before most of the open area was below the rack, now the open area is above the racks which provides for much improved flow over the frags.

    Here's a quick video showing the travel of the top shelf...
    [ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PXKo3EJWdZk&hd=1]CSQ DIY PAR Variable Frag Rack - YouTube[/ame]

    Ultimately time will tell, but thus far I'm very excited about the results.
    Last edited by CalmSeasQuest; 05-23-2012 at 12:58 PM.
    The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man. - George Bernard Shaw
    Likes Sir Patrick, MizTanks liked this post

  2. #2
    MizTanks - Reefkeeper
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    That is just to freaking sweet! I'm beginning to wonder if your mind rest even in sleep Subscribed!
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  3. #3
    larryandlaura - Reefkeeper
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    Sweet frag racks! Dibs if you sell the blue glow!
    Hi my name is Larry and I'm a coral addict!

  4. #4
    CalmSeasQuest - Reefkeeper
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    Quote Originally Posted by MizTanks View Post
    That is just to freaking sweet! I'm beginning to wonder if your mind rest even in sleep Subscribed!
    Sleep??? HAH
    Quote Originally Posted by larryandlaura View Post
    Sweet frag racks! Dibs if you sell the blue glow!
    I've got what used to be my Library now largely serving as storage space for everything from upgraded skimmers, lights, tanks, stands and virtually every type of reef-keeping equipment. I'll have to have a big sale at some point.

    For such a simple and easy to do idea, I'm elated it's working so well.

    I really like the additional control and modularity this provides. Now I have the ability to more closely match the ideal environment of each coral type i.e. many Acros residing top-center basking in high PAR and flow while providing partial shade for the lower-light loving Zoanthid and Palythoa directly below. Before this, I was able to fully accommodate only one those, so both ended up having to compromise.

    I've ordered heavier, 1/2" black egg-crate to eliminate (or at least minimize) the bowing in the top shelf which will also be slightly increased in size. I believe the additional thickness will also provide more stability for taller SPS Frags in the higher flow areas.
    The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man. - George Bernard Shaw
    Likes MizTanks liked this post

  5. #5
    larryandlaura - Reefkeeper
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    You going to make more? I'm contemplating this now!
    Hi my name is Larry and I'm a coral addict!

  6. #6
    CalmSeasQuest - Reefkeeper
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    Quote Originally Posted by larryandlaura View Post
    You going to make more? I'm contemplating this now!
    I'll continue "Tinkering" with it until I get it right

    A few photos that demonstrate why I'm so pleased with the results...

    DSC 3024 - CSQ Variable-PAR Frag Rack

    DSC 3027 - CSQ Variable-PAR Frag Rack

    DSC 3035 - CSQ Variable-PAR Frag Rack

    DSC 3029 - CSQ Variable-PAR Frag Rack

    DSC 3033 - CSQ Variable-PAR Frag Rack


    These SPS, Zoas and Palys are occupying virtually the same horizontal space within the Frag tank...

    DSC 3038 - CSQ Variable-PAR Frag Rack

    DSC 3040 - CSQ Variable-PAR Frag Rack

    DSC 3054 - CSQ Variable-PAR Frag Rack

    DSC 3050 - CSQ Variable-PAR Frag Rack

    DSC 3041 - CSQ Variable-PAR Frag Rack

    DSC 3048 - CSQ Variable-PAR Frag Rack
    The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man. - George Bernard Shaw
    Likes MizTanks liked this post

  7. #7
    MizTanks - Reefkeeper
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    I had no idea of the collection you have. Very impressive I'll definitely keep on you about updating their progress. This is going to be quit the treat.
    There's nothing like being a Reefer! www.upmmas.com

  8. #8
    CalmSeasQuest - Reefkeeper
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    Quote Originally Posted by chort55 View Post
    Couldn't you have essentially just lowered the percentages the LEDs run at, and acclimated the lower light corals to the higher light better? I know zoa's can grow and thrive under high light conditions if properly acclimated.... and I have seen chalices doing great directly under a Solaris I5 too, so I would assume acans could also be acclimated to high light, might take time but yeah.

    I do like that you can cram a crap ton in there tho this way. However, I wonder about the egg crate leaching phosphates over time as I have heard atleast the white does.... I know mine grows algae like crazy.
    Sure, you could (and I did) do many of those things, all of which end up compromising the conditions for one, or multiple species. The MaxSpect LEDs over the Frag tank are a first generation that aren't dimmable. I've found that Acans do best under very low LED lighting. Too much and they don't fully open and colors quickly fade. The goal of this was to try and create micro-environments tailored for each coral type (at least as it pertains to light and flow.) Not a small task when you've got a ton of animals coexisting in a very small space.

    There are numerous downsides to this;

    For many reasons, egg-crate is not an ideal material. It's shape can collect nutrients and provide an environment for algae growth and it's not strong enough to be used unsupported over longer spans. Acrylic would be a better choice of material. As for the phosphate leaching - I've never seen any conclusive evidence to explain how styrene can leach phosphate. I think it's more likely caused by the areas within egg-crate that nutrients can settle and foster algae growth (which is a concern.) I made the racks in small segments so they can be easily removed and cleaned (if needed.) This system runs with phosphates around ~0.015 ppm (Hanna ULR) - I'll know if any rogue phosphates try and sneak in

    Many won't want to semi-permanently attach rails to the sides of their tanks. Another options would be creating a free-standing rack that holds the shelf segments.

    There's no comparison between my crude DIY attempt and commercial grade racks such as the Blue Glow racks that Andy creates. They are very high quality (that's why I own a set ), are without a doubt the tried and true choice and are likely a far better option than this.

    I'm just curious to see how this works out over time.
    The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man. - George Bernard Shaw

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