2.5L Pico Reef Concept (Lots of 3D Printing)

Polymate3D

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2.5L Pico Reef Concept (Lots of 3D Printing)

Pico Reef Render.jpg


I will be documenting the development, successes and failures of my 2.5L Pico Reef Concept aquarium here with you all. It will be a long process, but I personally enjoy the challenge.

The aquarium will be a 15 x 15 x 15cm cube ( 6x6x6” ) which is 3.3L or 0.85 gallons. The internal measurements however are closer to 14cm and I won’t have the water level all the way to the very top. Therefore:

14 x 14 x 13cm = 2.54L, so 2.5L

Multiple aspects of this build will be custom. These include:

3D Printed Pump
3D Printed Rock scape
3D Printed Stand
3D Printed Lid
3D Printed gravity fed auto top up with 3D printed float valve
DIY Aquarium Heater
Fan Cooling
DIY LED Light Fixture


Heating, Cooling, Lighting and flow are to all be controlled by a micro controller to make the process of running a Pico aquarium as simple as possible. These functions will be:

(1) Heating Aquarium to Temperature target

The controller will run a heating element until a desired temperature is reached. A Thermistor will be used and the circuit will be adjusted to try and achieve as stable temperature reading as possible, to flatten out variances in temperature.

(2) Cooling Aquarium to Temperature target

Same as above. Once an upper temperature threshold is reached, a fan will be powered on to cool the aquarium down

(3) Lighting going on and off based on internal background light levels

I don’t suspect many people would be great at remembering to turn on and off the lights on a Pico reef aquarium. With the aquarium planning to run more hardy coral options, the controller will detect the ambient light levels. Once natural light is detected, it will turn on the lights. When the rooms lights go off at night, it will naturally follow this. An override switch will be available if not desired.

(4) Pump Regulation

The 3D Printed pump will be capable of creating a small standing wave and varying flow rates. The controller will randomly change between these modes and rates to generate a varying flow within the Pico Reef. More will be detailed as the project goes on

Other additions to the micro controller may include a form of telling you about an issue with the aquarium via sound or a light. This however is an additional goal and not one for the initial project

Aim for the 2.5L Pico Reef

The aim is to produce a small desktop reef aquarium which helps maintain multiple aspects by itself. The biggest issue I see are:

Water loss / Salinity Increase
Temperature Swings
Neglect from being forgotten

By making maintenance easy and it regulating things on a week by week basis mostly on its own, it will hopefully become an attractive option to allow such a small aquarium without all the common pitfalls.

The target is for soft corals and maybe 1 or 2 LPS based corals. Fish wise a small Trimma or clown goby may be placed in. I had a yellow goby prior to this and when he was unwell, I used the same size aquarium to help him along and he seemed happiest in there over my 60L nano reef. This is where this idea initially came from. I have the 60L and 35L aquariums however if they are not happy in this environment.

Other inhabitants being considered are Sexy Shrimp and Bumble Bee snails. Maybe a small scarlet crab, but very much open to ideas here and anything purchased has alternative homes ready for them.

As mentioned at the beginning, this is a long project for me. I won’t be rushing and things such as the controller will be run 1st without any live inhabitants to make sure it performs as expected.

PXL_20231110_100001521~2.jpg


There will be more to share as I go along, but this is the basis of the project. There is A LOT still to do, but in future posts I will discuss:

3D printed rock scape experience
3D Printed Pump design and function
Planned Water Change process
LED lighting Plan
DIY Heater design

And likely many more!

I hope by sharing I can get people both excited and question my choices. Any experiences people have had with small aquariums like this; please don’t hesitate to leave a comment. Will leave you with a short video of the pump in action, firing some particles about to help me see what kind of flow is being generated




Comment away! :)

Paul
 

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Lot's of interesting things with this build! What will you be using for biological filtration?
 

livinlifeinBKK

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I'd imagine you plan on rubble for biological filtration but why don't you seal the top to prevent evaporation, and just use a timer for the light? It seems simpler and cheaper.
 
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Lot's of interesting things with this build! What will you be using for biological filtration?
The current plan is to have have one of my 3D printed rock designs to act as a surface for biological filtration. This design used a 3D internal structure to both increase surface area and house little critters. Here is a picture of one of them being printed:

PXL_20230710_111318936.jpg

There are 2 initial test 'rocks' and have had in aquariums now for 4 months now, and through separating them after a while into a container I have found copepods, amphipods and a mini brittle star make there home in it. On top of this, I have had some baby feather duster worms and waving xenia attach to them as well.
PXL_20231023_203756200~2.jpg

Feather duster attached to 3D printed rock
PXL_20230810_144040853~2.jpg

Waving Xenia attached and even growing through the 3D lattice of the 3D printed rock.

The hope is this rock will contain enough surface area to create a large enough biological filtration. In newer designs I will likely increase the density of the structure a bit more, but not too much more.

A crushed coral based floor around 1cm thick is planned to have something more natural and help act as a buffer instead of just the salt water itself.

No mechanical filtration is planned. Just use of a turkey baster and likely a 50% water change each week.

Here is a shot of the original 'rock in the container with the yellow goby who was not well (ich)

PXL_20230710_171220017.jpg
PXL_20230710_171226788~2.jpg


The holes where actually made to hold frag plugs but as you can see, it acted as a cave for the little guy and helped him feel safe.

Thanks for the message and question! :)
 
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I'd imagine you plan on rubble for biological filtration but why don't you seal the top to prevent evaporation, and just use a timer for the light? It seems simpler and cheaper.
I may place some rubble on the floor on top of the gravel, but the initial plan to to use the 3D printed rock and internal internal lattice structure. I tested with the 2 I have in my quarantine aquarium for 6 weeks with a regal damsel and parameters stayed stable throughout his quarantine period.

Yes! Having a sealed lid is indeed the likely plan. I am printing these open lids to try and get the fit right on the top of the container:

PXL_20230719_194522371.jpg

The lid is going to take a lot of work, as the pump needs to be fitted in this area, along with the gravity fed top up, fan cooling and lighting.

Cooling I have to place behind a flexible membrane, so when switched off it seals from the outside to lower evaporation.

A timer is definitely a option light wise, and everything will be running from 5V power supply. I have found a Bluetooth USB timer which you can set to do this. I have similar on my nano and it doesn't account for daylight saving changes, which can become a little annoying.

I am envisioning this being in a room on the side or on a desk, and so the time that people can enjoy it may extend a little further some nights than others, and that's where the light detection idea came from. Moment I want to turn the lights out, it can follow. If running multiple LEDs I may result in a timed night light period in this situation.

Key thing is both options will be available. I will be able to switch if I do not find I like this solution.

My biggest concern is temperature swings due to the volume of water. A sealed lid makes perfect sense for this in the winter months to keep the heat in, and the flexible membrane and fresh RO water top up should help in the heat of the summer months.

If I don't get any more comments, I will make my next post about the pump side of the pico aquarium.

- Paul :)
 

livinlifeinBKK

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I may place some rubble on the floor on top of the gravel, but the initial plan to to use the 3D printed rock and internal internal lattice structure. I tested with the 2 I have in my quarantine aquarium for 6 weeks with a regal damsel and parameters stayed stable throughout his quarantine period.

Yes! Having a sealed lid is indeed the likely plan. I am printing these open lids to try and get the fit right on the top of the container:

PXL_20230719_194522371.jpg

The lid is going to take a lot of work, as the pump needs to be fitted in this area, along with the gravity fed top up, fan cooling and lighting.

Cooling I have to place behind a flexible membrane, so when switched off it seals from the outside to lower evaporation.

A timer is definitely a option light wise, and everything will be running from 5V power supply. I have found a Bluetooth USB timer which you can set to do this. I have similar on my nano and it doesn't account for daylight saving changes, which can become a little annoying.

I am envisioning this being in a room on the side or on a desk, and so the time that people can enjoy it may extend a little further some nights than others, and that's where the light detection idea came from. Moment I want to turn the lights out, it can follow. If running multiple LEDs I may result in a timed night light period in this situation.

Key thing is both options will be available. I will be able to switch if I do not find I like this solution.

My biggest concern is temperature swings due to the volume of water. A sealed lid makes perfect sense for this in the winter months to keep the heat in, and the flexible membrane and fresh RO water top up should help in the heat of the summer months.

If I don't get any more comments, I will make my next post about the pump side of the pico aquarium.

- Paul :)
You know, I've had a tank that size with a Greissenger Goby doing great...no direct feeding necessary...they're pod eaters and it's only a squirt of photo a night to keep the pod population up
 
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Polymate3D

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You know, I've had a tank that size with a Greissenger Goby doing great...no direct feeding necessary...they're pod eaters and it's only a squirt of photo a night to keep the pod population up
This is really good to know. I originally wouldn't of considered any fish in such a small aquarium, but this yellow goby loved his own little space. Much more confident then in the nano reef and would eat better due to less fighting for it.

Thanks for sharing the info!

- Paul
 

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I may place some rubble on the floor on top of the gravel, but the initial plan to to use the 3D printed rock and internal internal lattice structure. I tested with the 2 I have in my quarantine aquarium for 6 weeks with a regal damsel and parameters stayed stable throughout his quarantine period.

Yes! Having a sealed lid is indeed the likely plan. I am printing these open lids to try and get the fit right on the top of the container:

PXL_20230719_194522371.jpg

The lid is going to take a lot of work, as the pump needs to be fitted in this area, along with the gravity fed top up, fan cooling and lighting.

Cooling I have to place behind a flexible membrane, so when switched off it seals from the outside to lower evaporation.

A timer is definitely a option light wise, and everything will be running from 5V power supply. I have found a Bluetooth USB timer which you can set to do this. I have similar on my nano and it doesn't account for daylight saving changes, which can become a little annoying.

I am envisioning this being in a room on the side or on a desk, and so the time that people can enjoy it may extend a little further some nights than others, and that's where the light detection idea came from. Moment I want to turn the lights out, it can follow. If running multiple LEDs I may result in a timed night light period in this situation.

Key thing is both options will be available. I will be able to switch if I do not find I like this solution.

My biggest concern is temperature swings due to the volume of water. A sealed lid makes perfect sense for this in the winter months to keep the heat in, and the flexible membrane and fresh RO water top up should help in the heat of the summer months.

If I don't get any more comments, I will make my next post about the pump side of the pico aquarium.

- Paul :)
What are you making the actual tank out of, glass or acrylic?

What micro controller do you plan to use?

What lighting?
 
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Polymate3D

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What are you making the actual tank out of, glass or acrylic?

What micro controller do you plan to use?

What lighting?
The tank is a container I can get here which is acrylic. It varies between 4mm to 6mm thick, so shouldn't lose heat as quickly as glass. Will have to be careful cleaning however. The container seen so far is nearly 10 years old, and a new one will be used for the final.

Micro controller wise I will be going with Arduino as it is what I know. Maybe after the setup is done and works I will venture into something like a Raspberry Pi Pico and get it online as well, but I already have enough on my plate haha. If it works well I will probably want to expand this aspect to go onto my nano but this project just needs it to work, and so I will use what I know.

Lighting is fairly open. I currently have a 20K 1W LED which is generating anywhere from 220 PAR at the top to 80 PAR at the bottom, but the light looks possibly too white for my liking. Controller wise I have 5 control pins dedicated to just lighting so we can add possibly some other wavelengths manually like 445nm (Blue) and 395nm (UV). I have some drab paly corals which will be used to test the light to begin with. Initially I will try just the 1W LED, but I expect to need to add more to it. The 20K LED is what is seen in the 1st post.

I find is crazy seeing Pico reefs with expensive lights like the Kessil A80. If your investing that much money into it, why not go bigger? Testing PAR levels on more simple LEDs was super important to me, and the 20K LED spectrum does a decent job, but may have too much in the yellow / green spectrum, along with the blue spike possibly not hitting a wide enough band of blue light, so we will give it a go and see.

It is a concept and a project at this stage, but I hope it will make Pico reefing easier in the long run. Thanks for all the questions! Very much appreciate it.

- Paul :)
 

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This is really good to know. I originally wouldn't of considered any fish in such a small aquarium, but this yellow goby loved his own little space. Much more confident then in the nano reef and would eat better due to less fighting for it.

Thanks for sharing the info!

- Paul
That's what R2R is for! If you can get your hands on a Greissenger Goby at a reasonable price...where I am they're not pricey really...they're amazing little fish! They do hide a lot so design the tank properly so you'll see him more often but they literally put on a little show when you see them flicking their fins which is really something! They don't eat anywhere near as much as dragonets and I assure you he NEVER was hungry. What eventually happened is I moved him to another tank and an ammonia spike killed him while I was asleep because another fish died in a 5 gallon.
 
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That's what R2R is for! If you can get your hands on a Greissenger Goby at a reasonable price...where I am they're not pricey really...they're amazing little fish! They do hide a lot so design the tank properly so you'll see him more often but they literally put on a little show when you see them flicking their fins which is really something! They don't eat anywhere near as much as dragonets and I assure you he NEVER was hungry. What eventually happened is I moved him to another tank and an ammonia spike killed him while I was asleep because another fish died in a 5 gallon.
I have never seen one here funny enough, but I have been going to a local store for about 20 years and there pretty good and getting something different to the normal if they can. I will probably stick to a easy and cost effective goby I can get for this aquarium, but my nano however...

- Paul
 

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Very interesting concept reef. Have you had any issue so far with the plastics.. leaching, coralline adhesion, detritus buildup, getting blown around by the power heads since it is light weight? If everything works out, I can imagine an affordable all in one nano kit.
 

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this looks really cool following along!
 

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I have never seen one here funny enough, but I have been going to a local store for about 20 years and there pretty good and getting something different to the normal if they can. I will probably stick to a easy and cost effective goby I can get for this aquarium, but my nano however...

- Paul
I just noticed it's 2.5 L, not Gallons...yeah, save the Greissenger Goby for the nano...I know a guy on here in the UK who has one and could likely tell you where to find one. Lmk if you want me to tag him.
 
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Very interesting concept reef. Have you had any issue so far with the plastics.. leaching, coralline adhesion, detritus buildup, getting blown around by the power heads since it is light weight? If everything works out, I can imagine an affordable all in one nano kit.
I haven't had any issues with plastics yet. I printed in PETG due to believing this is fairly safe, especially compared to PLA. It also has a slightly higher density then PLA & ABS. I also printed with a all metal hot end and a stainless steel nozzle for these prints. Prints were submerged in RO water for 24 hours prior to use.

Weight of the print is a bit of a issue. A big crab can just move them and air trapped can be a issue, but adding some extra bottom layers seems to help. With the crushed coral floor planned, I'm debating making it a container at the base to use the crush coral as a weight.

Coralline adhesion is a really good question. My current nano aquarium is only 8 months old and is just not starting to get some coralline on the glass and some rockwork, so I may have to place a 3D printed 'rock' and see what happens. I suspect it is similar to acrylic and so should be okay, but it is a unknown at this stage!

As for kit, quite possibly. I have a friend who would like some corals and maybe a crab. No interest in fish and has a small bedroom, so he is already rather interested if I can get the other annoyances of Pico's resolved or at least improved. Thanks for the questions and following along. It will be a slow process, but I have some parts to start working the pump now to work with the micro controller.
 
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this looks really cool following along!
Thanks for doing so. There is lots still to do / resolve, so I suspect I will be doing this for the next 6 months just to get it up and running, but I like complete control and so will keep going. I will post about the pump design soon

- Paul :)
 
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I just noticed it's 2.5 L, not Gallons...yeah, save the Greissenger Goby for the nano...I know a guy on here in the UK who has one and could likely tell you where to find one. Lmk if you want me to tag him.
Ah right. Good to know and will definitely be considering for my nano. Yeah this is a super baby little aquarium. Small thing on your work desk or side table size, so I want it to not be a burden

- Paul
 
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I am really intrigued, keep the posts coming. I’ve never been anything like this build.
Thanks for your support. I have put in about 2 months of work so far just getting the initial ideas down and testing some pump ideas which is the next post coming up shortly.

- Paul
 
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2.5L Pico Pump Design

PXL_20231109_230040126.jpg
PXL_20231109_230032447.jpg


Looks a bit different to a standard pump right!? This is because it uses one of my 3D printed loudspeaker drivers to power it called Elemental 4 V2. This 4cm driver is then fitted to this pipette style device. See a cut through of the render here:

Pump Cut through.jpg


There is a motor which is screwed into the top of this which is also designed by myself. The voice coil is then connected to a amplifier which then allows me to change the strength and the frequency of the cones movement. As the cone moves up and down, water is sucked in and then shot out at a high velocity, stopping the same water from going back and forth.

By varying the frequency I can achieve different results. On one side I can generate a small standing wave to help keep things suspended in the water column which can be seen in this video:




So in this mode it effectively acts like a Pico Tunze wavebox.

However by changing the frequency I can then change it to produce a decent flow as well.




Due to the speaker driver design, the pump is silent. Something I felt was critical for someone observing such a small tank. No Hum!

Another key thing is the motor and voice coil where the heat is being generated is external to the little 2.5L aquarium, so the heat being generated is not being fed into the water directly like a normal pump.

By being controlled later by the micro controller instead of a amplifier, we should be able to randomise this or set a cycle between different modes to help with dead spots.

The final potential thing this design may be able to do is due to the loudspeaker. We could potentially create audible sounds to make the owner aware of something some as temperature or light issues.

So I hope you wasn't expecting something normal...I kind of think of everything from a blank slate and go from there. For anyone interested in what the 3D printed speaker driver sounds like, here is a link to it over on Twitter / X. That is a ongoing project as well since 2016! I don't give up easily!

Elemental 4 V2 Playing Music

As before, any questions, feel free to ask anything you like. This pump design took 6 different designs and about 6 weeks to get to this stage as a reference of the pace here.

Thanks for reading

- Paul :D
 

Time for a Tank Tour! What is your favorite thing to look at in your tank?

  • I have this one fish that I can't get enough of!

    Votes: 23 12.9%
  • I'm captivated by this one coral in my tank.

    Votes: 19 10.7%
  • I have an invert that is so much fun to watch.

    Votes: 17 9.6%
  • I actually have several favorites!

    Votes: 65 36.5%
  • My favorite thing to watch is actually a bit unconventional...

    Votes: 11 6.2%
  • I don't have a favorite thing! I just watch everything!

    Votes: 76 42.7%
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