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Know what you are buying

I’ve noticed a strange paradigm with acrylic tanks and sumps.  Consumers seem to be wary of buying glass aquariums checking every seam and seal, but when it comes to acrylic tanks they assume all is good because it is acrylic so it’s stronger than glass right?

In my eyes a acrylic tank is far more risky than a glass tank.  It’s not that acrylic tanks are weaker, but there are far more individuals attempting to build acrylic tanks on their own that have no business doing so.  To further magnify the issue the average consumer is not able to identify a poorly built acrylic tank.  We have a plethora of leaky tanks and sumps that come through where the customer purchased via some forum that are obviously built wrong, but we are fabricators and we work with this on a daily basis.  What jumps out to us usually doesn’t to an average consumer.  Study up on what to look for in acrylic tanks before you buy one.

Another paradigm I often hear is, “acrylic tanks are easier to fix than glass”.  Hardly the truth.  Due to the nature in which we use the tanks, exposing them to salt, dirt, and chemicals, acrylic tanks are often hard to repair.  Scratches may be easier to polish out, but major repairs like seam breaks are quite expensive if repairable at all.

So the next time you are thinking about purchasing a acrylic tank, educate yourself about the tank first.  Who was the builder, is it used, and if possible have a trusted fabricator look at it first.  Don’t get into the notion that fixes are easy and cheap.  Saving a few dollars on a cheap tank, whether glass or acrylic, never seems like a good idea standing in a flooded living room.

Flame Polishing - The Bad and the Ugly

Flame polishing is the technique of using a heat source, generally an open flame, to melt and thereby polish the edge of a piece of plastic.  For reefing, this is usually most applicable to sumps.   If done correctly the finished result resembles an edge that is as clear as the original acrylic.

Why is this a problem? 

Since you are melting the acrylic the stress on the material is substantial and permanent.  Often one will find that the acrylic will craze, i.e. micro fracture, after time and use.  The stress from flame polishing a welded seam generally reduces the seam strength by 50%.  One of the frequent causes of split seams we see in the shop are from sumps or tanks that have been flame polished.  To make things worse none of these are repairable.

So why if flame polishing is bad are builders and manufacturers doing it? 

Simple answer is cost.  The time to flame polish a sump or tank can be counted in seconds.  The time to properly polish a sump via the proper mechanical means is measured in minutes or hours.  If a builder gets behind on a custom sump build or the manufacturer is running behind production timelines the time savings can be significant.

Our custom sumps are never flame polished.  With all the time and care spent building our products it would be a waste to rush to finish and ruin our products by flame polishing.  So we polish all our sumps and tanks by hand.  Like all things in this hobby good things come with time and patience.

Dipping is critical. Make it simple

FLFragSwap was again a great show and we filled our Personal Frag Transport with plenty of coral.  I thought I would share a quick trick that we use to safely and quickly dip all our coral.

The Personal Transports are 500 ml in total volume and also have volume lines embossed on the side of the container for partial fills. All we had to do was some quick math to determine how much dip to use.  Personally, I use ME Wash Off, so 7 drop are I need.  Since the transport locks the frags in place I can swish around vigorously to knock off pests an not risk damaging coral.  Let it sit for 15 min and we can remove all the frags simultaneously using the center post and rinse.

Using the post to remove the coral is key here.  Dips are nasty stuff and have all sorts of health precautions on the label.  You don't want to touch this stuff even in diluted form if possible.  This really goes for all dips since many of the commercially available dips don't even fully list all the ingredients.

The center post on the Personal Transport can be removed so that the rack can be placed into the tank and the post does not block any light.  

Pests can destroy your tank so make sure to dip all your coral whether they came from a show, friends, or LFS.