Aquarium Tip Tank Podcast 012 | Diatoms and New Tank Syndrome: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Aquarium Tip Tank Podcast 012

My 30 gallon saltwater tank is almost done with the initial nitrogen cycle, but a brown film has started to coat my live sand and live rock. This is a diatom bloom and what many aquarium hobbyists call New Tank Syndrome. In this Aquarium Tip Tank podcast I share some aquarium tips for dealing with a diatom bloom. I also share some information about what diatoms are, where they come from, and why they decide to coat a tropical fish tank.

I wanted to be able to show you some of these diatoms that are growing in my fish tank. I’ve included a few pictures below.

Light Brown Diatoms on Live Rock and on Live Sand

At this point I also have a few small spots on the live rock with some green algae and some light purple coraline algae. Hopefully, you can see both of those in the picture below.

Spots of Green and Purple Coraline Algae growing on Live Rock

I also mentioned in the podcast that I would include the picture that Ryan Howells shared with me. He has a fairly new nano aquarium with a mated pair of clownfish that have laid some eggs! Here is the picture that he sent me of his tank!

Ryan Howells’ Nano Aquarium with a Mated Pair of Clownfish

Ryan’s tank looks like it is working out to be a nice little marine aquarium! He recently contacted me and told me that he was just finishing up the cycling process of his tank. It looks like he’s got a little more than that! There’s a nice colony of coraline algae, and of course, his mated pair of clownfish!

I had stated on many previous podcasts that I would give listeners a shout out if they decided to get in touch with me, let me know about an aquarium breakthrough, and send me a picture of their tank. I’m a man of my word! Keep sending your fish tank breakthroughs and updates.

Have a diatom bloom in your fish tank? Leave comments below!

TJ

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Unpacking the Koralia Evolution 550gph Movement and Circulation Aquarium Pump by Hydor

If you’re a frequent visitor here at Aquarium Tip Tank you probably know that I am in the process of setting up a 30 gallon saltwater aquarium. Actually, you’ve probably already seen pictures of the Koralia Evolution water circulation pump set up in this fish tank. However, I’m not quite sure that I’ve actually showed you the pump itself and explained who it is made by, why it is necessary, and how it works. I figured it is about time to share that information with you!

First, lets talk a little bit about water circulation in an aquarium. Good water circulation is important in a home aquarium for three main reasons. Water circulation provides a means of food delivery, waste removal, and the provision of oxygen.

In order to adequately disperse and deliver the food that is fed in a broadcast manner to the livestock of your aquarium, water must be circulated around the entire fish tank and to all corners of the aquarium. This is especially important when dealing with sessile invertebrates. After all, they don’t really move. Of course, you can dose individual corals with food filled syringes, but corals and their symbiotic zooxanthellae algae also grab the tiny particles of plankton and nutrients that are floating in the water. In order to make sure that the food an nutrient rich water passes close enough to the sessile invertebrates to feed, good water circulation is necessary.

Not only does circulating water deliver food and nutrients to all parts of a fish tank, but it also picks up and removes waste particles that have been left behind. The oceans have waves, currents, and tides that are constantly creating water circulation that removes waste. In an aquarium, water circulation must be created in order to pick those waste particles up and off of the corals, rocks, sand, and decorations. Proper water circulation will then help bring those waste particles to the inlet of the filtration system so that they can be removed from the aquarium water.

Finally, water circulation in a home aquarium helps with oxygenation of the water. Water does not have the ability to hold as much oxygen as air does. The warmer the water gets, the less oxygen it can hold and warm saltwater holds the least amount of oxygen. If water in a fish tank were left stagnant, only the water in the top water column of the tank would be in contact with the air for oxygenation. Good water movement will constantly circulate all of the water to the air/water interface, allowing gas exchange and proper oxygenation for all of the water in the tank.

Okay. Now that we know why proper water circulation is important in a home aquarium its about time I show you some pictures of how I’m moving the water around my 30 gallon reef tank.

The Koralia Evolution 550gph Movement and Circulation Pump Revealed

Koralia Evolution 550gph ready to be opened!

Most manufacturers show flow rates and recommended tank sizes for their pumps. As shown below, Hydor provides a chart on the back of their Koralia Evolution Movement and Circulation pumps.

A very general rule of thumb that is used when it comes to flow rates is that water circulation should be at a flow rate equal to ten times the net water volume of the tank for soft corals. For example, I’m putting this pump in a 30 gallon tank. Therefore, the flow rate for water circulation should be at least 300 gallons per hour (gph) if keeping soft corals. For hard corals, a flow rate equal to 30 times the net water volume of the tank can be used. Therefore, for hard corals, the general rule of thumb states that I would need 900 gph of water circulation.

I’m currently only putting one Koralia Evolution 550 gph Movement and Circulation pump into the tank, and that should work for right now. When I decide to put hard corals into the tank I may need to add another pump for a total of 1100 gph from power heads. However, some water circulation is also produced by filter returns and protein skimmers and another power head may not be necessary. That is a decision for future TJ to make.

Flow Rate Chart on back of Koralia Evolution box.

The Koralia Evolution 550gph in its box.

Koralia Evolution 550gph Movement and Circulation Pump out of the box!

Koralia Evolution 550gph Movement and Circulation Pump by Hydor in the Fish Tank!

Shown above is the Koralia Evolution 550gph pump by Hydor mounted to the side of my tank. Currently, the pump is actually closer to the top of the tank. The top of the tank just seemed like a better spot for the power head once the live sand, live rock, and saltwater were all in place. The location near the top of the tank also helps create some waves and turbulence at the air/water interface to help with oxygenation.

How do you circulate the water in your aquarium? Leave comments below.

TJ

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Setting Up TJ’s 30 Gallon Saltwater Aquarium

Yes, it has been about 3 weeks since I’ve actually had this saltwater fish tank set up and cycling. However, I wanted to make sure that I put together a decent video showing all of the steps that I took in order to set up this saltwater aquarium. I went over all of the steps of setting up a home aquarium in Aquarium Tip Tank Podcast 010, and the process of cycling a tank in Aquarium Tip Tank Podcast 011.

Shown below, is the video of how I used all of these steps to go ahead and set up my 30 gallon saltwater aquarium. I had all of my saltwater made, and all of my live rock, live sand, and aquarium equipment set up and ready to go.

I also made a time-lapse video of the water going from cloudy to clear and you can see that in the video below. I admit, it is a video of a blue-ish purple cloudy tank. However, we want to show you everything that we can here at Aquarium Tip Tank so we figured we’d go ahead and take some pictures over the 3 hour period that it took for the water to clear up.

I started taking pictures as soon as all of the live rock, live sand, and saltwater were in the fish tank and all of the equipment was up and running. A picture was taken every 6 seconds for a period of 3 hours. Each picture is a frame in the video and the video was put together at 30 frames per second.

The API Nexx Canister Filtration system was running at this time. It seemed to be working great during this time period. However, shortly after the water was cleared up is when I realized that the filtration system was leaking again. I immediately turned the API Nexx Canister Filter off, took it off my tank and sent another email to RENA. Of course, I will keep everybody updated on what happens with the filter.

Luckily, I don’t really need a filtration system set up in order to cycle the tank. I do have good water flow and water movement because I have a Hydor Koralia Evolution 550 Aquarium Circulation Pump up and running. Therefore, the water will still move well around the tank. Gas exchange will still occur between the top of the water and the air in my house. The fish food and pieces of krill that I add to the tank will still decompose, and ammonia will be formed. Then, the beneficial nitrobactors will take over and the aquarium will go through its cycling process.

A filter is not absolutely necessary for this process. A sump and/or refugium is the best way to filter a marine reef aquarium. However, I don’t have enough room under my fairly small 30 gallon aquarium to put a sump. The good thing is that I do have a whole lot of live rock, and live sand for biological filtration. I will also add a protein skimmer to help with filtration. I will also make sure that the cycling process is complete and that the water conditions are constant and pristine before adding any livestock.

I hope you enjoyed the videos! The tank has been set up for 3 weeks and is going through the nitrogen cycle process. Keep checking back at Aquarium Tip Tank to follow the progress of this tank!

How is your fish tank coming along? Leave comments below!

TJ

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How To Make Saltwater for a Small Marine Aquarium

Yes, this one is pretty simple. However, there are a lot of people that shy away from starting a saltwater aquarium when they realize that they have to somehow make, or acquire, actual saltwater to fill their fish tanks with. In reality, mixing up some saltwater takes less time than running water through an RODI filtration system to get purified water. Some people don’t want to take the time to use an RODI filter, but we recommend an RODI filter to purify all of your water for any type of fish tank that you have, be it freshwater or saltwater.

Once you have your canisters of RODI purified water, it really only takes a few minutes to measure your salt mix, pour it into the purified water, mix, and test for specific gravity and salinity using a hydrometer or refractometer. I use Instant Ocean Reef Crystals Reef Salt and literally just follow the directions on the back of the bag. Below, I’ve included a video about how I mix my saltwater.

In the end, it ends up that it takes almost exactly 2.5 cups of salt mix for me to make a 5 gallon bucket of saltwater. These days, I go ahead and put 2 cups straight into my RODI purified water, mix up the salt, do a quick specific gravity and salinity test, and add another 0.5 cup of Instant Ocean Reef Crystals Reef Salt. Obviously, I’m still starting out on the low end of specific gravity and salinity when I only have 2 cups of reef salt in a 5 gallon bucket of water. Personally,  I just like to test, and make sure that everything is mixing correctly.

So what do you do if you have a larger tank and you need to make more than 5 gallons of saltwater at a time? There are a few options here. One is to have several 5 gallon buckets of water. For example, if you have a 100 gallon home aquarium, you would need 20 gallons of saltwater to perform a 25% water change. You would need to make 4, 5 gallon buckets of saltwater and make sure that the water conditions all matched.

Maybe you have a 20 gallon container for your saltwater. Hopefully it has wheels. Just fill it up with RODI purified water and add 1o cups of Instant Ocean Reef Crystals Reef Salt.  You may want to start with 9 cups, do some specific gravity and salinity tests, and add more salt mix until you get to the correct water conditions. Try this the first couple of times and you may end up finding out that you’re adding that 10th cup of salt mix every time you go to make a 20 gallon container of saltwater.

Whatever way you decide to make your saltwater, and whatever type of salt mix you choose to use, it really isn’t very difficult to mix up some saltwater. Just follow the directions on the salt mix container, and remember to do a few quick checks of your water conditions while your making your saltwater.

Most salt mixes state that the saltwater you make with them can be used immediately. This is true, and some people do this without any detrimental effects to their saltwater tank. However, I like to let my saltwater sit for a little while before placing it into the tank. I like to make sure that all of the salt and all of the beneficial trace elements, and vitamins are properly dissolved in the water. This also allows the saltwater to have some time for gas exchange and oxygenation before pouring it into the tank. If you let your saltwater sit in a container for several days, make sure that you test the water conditions one more time before pouring it into your tank just to make sure that none of those water conditions changed unexpectedly.

How do you make your saltwater? What salt mix do you use? Leave comments below.

TJ

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Aquarium Tip Tank Podcast 011 | Setting Up a Home Aquarium, Part 2 – Cycling A Fish Tank

Aquarium Tip Tank Podcast 011

On the last episode of the Aquarium Tip Tank podcast we talked about all of the steps to setting up a home aquarium up until the nitrogen cycle. Since then, I’ve been setting up my 30 gallon salt water aquarium and have started the cycling process. Are you in the process of setting up a tropical fish tank?

In this episode I discuss the final step necessary for setting up a home aquarium. Yes, its performing the cycling process of your tropical fish tank. I discuss why the cycling process is necessary, what happens during the cycle, and methods for performing a fish tank cycle.

You can go check out the post about how I performed my aquarium system check here. I took a few pictures documenting the rest of my aquarium setup process, and they are included below.

Draining the Fish Tank after a System Check

Ready to make some Saltwater for the Aquarium

Making saltwater for the aquarium was very quick and easy with Instant Ocean Reef Crystals. Instant Ocean claims that the Reef Crystals are specially formulated for use in reef aquariums and contains extra calcium, additional trace elements, vitamins, and a metal detoxifier to ensure the health and growth of reef life. Check back at Aquarium Tip Tank for more about making saltwater for your aquarium. We’re feeling a video in the works.

The First Bag of Live Sand being added to the Tank

Next, some Live Rock was needed

Saltwater is Necessary for a Marine Aquarium

Now, remember not to freak out if your water turns cloudy when adding the saltwater. Some tiny particles in the live sand are just getting picked up in the water and will take a few hours to clear up. As shown below, my tank had such a milky white cloud that nothing could be seen inside the tank after it was filled with saltwater. It took about 4 to 5 hours to clear up after turning on my canister filter.

I can’t see anything in that cloudy tank!

Then, when I went to check on things I found water on the floor, under the canister filter. As stated in the podcast, Aquarium Tip Tank no longer recommends the API Nexx Aquarium Canister Filter. At this point, we just don’t trust them. Yours might end up working great. Ours ended up leaking.

Thankfully, it was only the canister filter. I was able to stop the filter and get it out of the tank without too much of a mess. Also, it isn’t absolutely necessary to have a filter running during the cycling of a tank. Some even say that they only run their power filter or canister filter while clearing the cloudy water, then they turn the filter off. The theory is that the filter will end up extracting things that you want to keep in your tank during the cycling process. For example, decaying food particles actually help jump start the cycling process by creating an added ammonia source for beneficial  bacteria to feed on. So, you actually want to keep those decaying food particles in the tank and in the water rather than sucked up in your power filter or canister filter. I may end up just adding a protein skimmer and leaving water filtration up to it and the biological filtration in the tank itself. As always, whatever I decide, you’ll know it here first!

Items Mentioned in this Podcast:

My tank is currently cycling, and creating that biological filtration system. How is your tank coming along? Leave comments below.

TJ

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Aquarium Tips of the Day | Be Creative and Functional with Aquascaping

Today’s Aquarium Tip Tank tips will help you enjoy your tank while making sure that it also fits all of the needs of your livestock. Want to make sure that your tropical fish tank looks a little different from all the rest? Want to make sure you enjoy a little personalized style in your aquarium? But what about making sure that you’re providing a cave or some hiding spots for your butterfly fish at night? What about making sure that you’ve got places to secure all of your corals so that they can get the necessary light they need? Well, go ahead and be creative with your aquascaping, but while you’re doing it just keep in mind the needs of your livestock.

We don’t only talk about reef tanks here, that just happens to be what I’m trying to set up. Therefore, you don’t have to use live rock, or any rocks for that matter. You can go out and get fake decorations that suit both the needs of your creativity and the needs of your livestock. Or, maybe you want to arrange, cut, scrape, and sculpt your rockwork into your own fun and useful decorations! My opinion is…go nuts. If people ask you how and why you aquascaped the way you did, its time for a fun lesson!

Share some pictures of your aquascaping! Fire me an email at tj@aquariumtiptank.com if you have too!

TJ

 

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Aquarium Tips of the Day | Test Your Homemade Aquarium Saltwater

Today’s Aquarium Tip Tank tip of the day will keep you from fouling your tropical fish tank water and creating all sorts of health problems. Are you sure you put enough salt mix into your RO/DI purified water? Did you add too much salt mix? Maybe some water has evaporated from your saltwater containers and the salinity is a little off. How’s the alkalinity and pH? Grab some test trips and take a few minutes to test your homemade saltwater before just pouring it into your fish tank!

Get out your hydrometer and do a quick test for specific gravity and salinity. Yes, a refractometer is better, but also much more expensive. You want a quicker, more accurate way to measure pH? You can grab a pH Tester for $15 from Amazon and have one delivered to your house in just a few days! These simple tests take less than 2 minutes, and can easily give you peace of mind about the quality of saltwater that you’re about to add to your home aquarium.

Question? Comments? Leave them below!

TJ

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TJ’s 30 Gallon Saltwater Aquarium System Check

If you’re a regular at Aquarium Tip Tank you probably know that I am setting up a new 30 gallon saltwater tropical fish tank, and that I am sharing this process for all so that everybody can see how its done, get some home aquarium tips, and learn from my mistakes. Once you have all of the necessary aquarium equipment on hand, it is time to start setting up your tropical fish tank. All of the steps for home aquarium setup are listed in Aquarium Tip Tank Podcast 010 | Setting up a Home Aquarium, Part 1.

The first step in this process is to get all of the equipment in place, running all of your hoses and plugs, and making sure that everything is in the location that you think you are going to want. You can listen to the story of how I cleaned and leak checked my aquarium tank prior to moving it into position on Aquarium Tip Tank Podcast 003, and see how I set up and placed my API Nexx Aquarium Canister Filter here.

I attached my heater in place on the back wall of my tank, attached my thermometer to the side, got my light and light stand set up, and ran all of my plugs to my surge protector. At this point, it was time for me to put some RO/DI water into my empty fish tank and run a 24 hour system check. First, here is a quick little video about how I go about filtering my tap water.

Now that I have some RO/DI purified water, its time to fill up my fish tank and perform my 24 hour system check! I have to admit, not everything worked out exactly as planned. I hope you listened to Aquarium Tip Tank Podcast 010 prior to setting up your tank and you had an empty bucket, some towels, and some extra RO/DI purified water handy.

Yes, you’ve probably guessed by now that I had a leak. Much to my dismay, the leak was coming from the API Nexx Canister Filter. BUT WAIT! Don’t return your filters just yet. I did eventually get it to work, and I think it was just user error. That’s the only thing that can really explain the leak because as I write this, the API Nexx Aquarium Canister Filter is currently working perfectly, and has been for 4 days.

I did try to fix the filtration system on my own – I apologize for not having pictures or video of this, but I was frantically gathering towels, cleaning up water, and turning electrical equipment off and not thinking about grabbing my camera. Initially, the leak was a small stream of water coming from in between the base unit and the canister section. I turned off the filter, dried everything up with a towel, and took the canister section off of the base unit.

On the bottom of the canister section there are 2 male water ports that slide into 2 female water ports on the base unit. The male water ports on the bottom of the canister section both have O-rings around them to seal up the tubing and keep water from leaking. This had to be where water was getting out. I decided to try putting some plumber’s tape around these ports, put the canister section back on the base unit, and try again to see if water stopped leaking. Well, the leak actually got worse.

I turned everything off, cleaned everything up, and at this point I was baffled. This thing could’ve been leaking from anywhere. Having a degree in Mechanical Engineering, it was, of course, time to take the entire system apart for inspection. I grabbed a screwdriver and started taking the API Nexx Aquarium Canister Filter apart.

This is where having some empty buckets ready really came in handy. In order to take the entire system apart, the tubes feeding the base unit and canister filters with water and returning the water to the tank, had to be removed from the base unit. Well, when you turn the handle to take the canister section off of the base unit, you are also closing valves and re-routing water. It was fairly obvious that there was still water sitting in the water tubes that would need to be drained. However, what happens when you disconnect the water tube from the base unit? Water keeps draining out of that tube until the water level in the aquarium is lower than the pump for the filtration system.  I’m glad I had a few empty buckets around.

I disassembled the entire filtration system, but still couldn’t find any other place that water could be leaking from. It wasn’t until after reassembling everything that I thought to myself, “You know, those o-rings on the male ports of the canister section are there for a reason. Maybe I shouldn’t be covering them with plumber’s tape. Maybe the plumber’s tape actually made the tape worse.”

So, I removed the plumber’s tape from the male ports on the bottom of the canister section of the filtration system. I then went about reconnecting the water tubes to the base unit, and very carefully placing the canister section back onto the base unit making sure that everything is lined up properly and that the canister section was pushed snugly onto the base unit. I turn the handle at the top of the canister section to lock everything in place and open up the valves that allow water to flow through the canisters, and turn on the canister filtration system one more time.

Much to my surprise, there are NO MORE LEAKS! The API Nexx Aquarium Canister Filtration system has been working great for 4 days now! The unfortunate part of all this is that I don’t really have an answer for you about why the thing leaked in the first place. My only guess is that maybe I didn’t have the canister section properly aligned on the base unit. Like I said, maybe it was user error?

I must also say that RENA/API, the manufacturers of the API Nexx Aquarium Canister Filter, were very quick and fantastic with customer support. I sat down and sent them an email before I took the canister filter apart. The email was sent on a Saturday evening at 6pm through their contact form on their webpage. By the time I woke up on Sunday morning I had a response to my email.

I will continue to keep you updated on the durability of the API Nexx Aquarium Canister Filter. Do I have trouble placing the canister section back on the base unit the next time I change my filter media? Do I spend 30 minutes to an hour chasing small leaks every time I take the canister section off the base? Or, does it work perfectly every other time I go to use it?

For now, here’s a video showing how I filled my tank with RO/DI purified water for my system check and how everything is performing and looking after letting my saltwater tropical fish tank system run for 4 days. Enjoy!

Did you perform a 24 hour Aquarium System Check? How did it go? Leave comments or questions below!

TJ

 

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Aquarium Tips of the Day | Turn off your RO/DI Filter

Today’s Aquarium Tip Tank aquarium tip will keep you from flooding your floor. Do you have a large container or set of containers that you store your RO/DI purified water in for aquarium top-ups or water changes? Ever leave your RO/DI filter running too long, just to come back and notice that water was flowing over the edges of your container and flooding your floor? Make sure you turn off your RO/DI filter before you overflow your purified water containers!

This tip also comes from experience. Yes, I recently let my RO/DI unit run a little too long. Fortunately, I caught it fairly soon after my purified water container was full, and I fill my containers in a bathtub. So, one thing you can do to keep from flooding your floors is fill your containers in a “safe” place over a drain. But if you let your RO/DI filter run to the point of overflowing your purified water container you’re still wasting a lot of purified water and a lot of money.

One thing that might help remind you to turn your RO/DI filter off in time is setting a timer. For example, if you know it takes about an hour to get 5 gallons of RO/DI water, and you need 20 gallons, then set a timer for 4 hours. Most smart phones these days come with a timer application. Maybe you have a watch with a timer on it. If all else fails you can always use the timer on your oven or a simple, cheap cooking timer.

Ever overflow your RO/DI purified water container? Tell us the story below!

TJ

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Aquarium Tip Tank Podcast 010 | Setting Up a Home Aquarium, Part 1

Aquarium Tip Tank Podcast 010

Its time to start setting up your tropical fish tank and here are a few aquarium tips to help you on your way! We’ve discussed all of the pieces of aquarium equipment that are needed to start a home aquarium. I’ve purchased all of the equipment that I need to start setting up my new saltwater aquarium. Have you acquired all of your aquarium equipment? Are you finally ready to start setting up your home aquarium?

In this episode of the Aquarium Tip Tank Podcast I’ve listed and I discuss all of the steps of setting up a home aquarium. I’ll start with getting all of the equipment set up, and attached to the correct places of the aquarium. I’ll get into performing a 24 hour system check, and I’ll end with starting the nitrogen cycle. In part 2, I will discuss the entire nitrogen cycle process for a home aquarium.  Included below are a few pictures of my home aquarium setup process.

White Vineger, Sponge, and Towel For Cleaning the Aquarium

Above are all of the cleaning supplies I used to do a final wipe down of the tank. Below are the two light timers that I’m using. The Ecoray 60DX LED lighting system has one plug for the blue LED lights and one plug for the white LED lights. I’ve used zip ties to label them so that I know which plug is which. The white zip tie is around the plug for the white LED lights and the neon yellow zip tie is around the plug for the blue LED lights. I would’ve used a blue zip tie for the blue LED lights, but the pack of zip ties that I have didn’t have any blue zip ties. You can also see the plug for the heater. It is not plugged in yet because there is no water in the tank for it to heat. You may also notice that the surge protector has several places to plug things in. The thing I like about this surge protector is that the plugs rotate to easily accommodate different sized plugs.

Two Light Timers. One for the Blue Lights and one for the White Lights

Close-up of white LED light timer

Close-up of blue LED light timer

Ecoray 60DX LED Aquarium Light System on DIY Tank Hanger

Starting to Fill the Fish Tank for a System Check

Items Mentioned in this Podcast:

How’s your Tropical Fish Tank setup coming along? Leave comments and/or questions below!

TJ

 

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