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220 Gallon Volcanic Lava Rock Reef Tank Build

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Ratherbeflyen

Ratherbeflyen

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Here are the build pictures.

I'm the second owner of the tank. It started life as an Oceanic peninsula 215. I resealed it and converted it to an external bean animal drain with glass overflow.

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I used tinted glass for the overflow. Partly to control algae, and mostly because I bought a bought a broken window for $10.

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This was my first attempt at building an overflow. So I drilled the holes in the back of the tank to the specs required to slip a ghost overflow as a retrofit if needed.

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The internal baffle is 4" tall and 1.5" thick. Just big enough to clean and not intrude into the tank very much. It's 24" long and provides great surface skimming.

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Then I built the sump. I'm a big proponent of algae scrubbers and large refugiums. The only thing I don't like about them is when the algae ends up in your return pump or display tank. So I made my sump with mechanical filtration after both the refuguim and algae scrubber. (I didn't get around to building the algae scrubber until the tank was up for almost a year.) I also don't really care for filter socks. They are too expensive to throw them away and putting them in the washing machine may shorten my marriage. So I designed the sump to primarily use filter floss, but I installed 2" pvc into the holes so I can attach draw string filter socks if filter floss didn't work for some reason. The sump is a standard 75 gallon tank that I cut the center brace out of and installed my own baffles.

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Here you can see one of the pieces of 2" PVC removed that I can tie a filter sock to and then just slide into the coupler.

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I wasn't sure how I was going to make a glass baffle / bubble trap after this section without making it removable. Otherwise it would be impossible to access and clean. So I just used 4 pieces of 3 in pvc pipe with holes drill at the bottom. The work great and containing bubbles, salt creep, and noise.

I also added a skimmer "shelf" made from glass and siliconed to the side and one of the baffles and a couple small gussets. (I later moved to the bottom instead of the top.)

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The skimmer is a Precision Marine venturi skimmer that runs off the return pump manifold.

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Next was the stand. Previous experience has taught me that space under the tank, and access to that space is pure gold. So I wanted a stand with no center brace and massive doors. So I made it from 1/4" marine grade 6" aluminum C channel. It's covered with a piece of granite and skinned out with oak. I paid someone to make the granite, the rest is all DIY. The stand is one inch bigger than the tank, so 73" x 25" and 42" tall measured at the top of the granite to the floor. The granite top is 3" bigger on both sides and the front.

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I used the space in the legs too. One the right side I made some shelves to store dry goods and my dosing containers.

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On the left side I put a sheet of plywood in the middle to mount my electronics.

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It worked out pretty good to keep the electronics on the less humid side free from any splashes and creep etc.

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The cord management is done on the other side.

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The skin is 4 separate pieces held together by magnets glued into the wood and rests under the lip left from the granite top. I had a little help with this part.

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This is a dry fit of the last panel. You can see the sketchup drawing taped to the glass.

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Of course the plumbing is DIY. It has 1.5" drains that I heated up with a heat gun and bent to the shapes I wanted instead of gluing a bunch of 45's and 90's. It's cheaper and looks a lot cleaner, but it takes some time and puts off some fumes and can catch on fire. If you're going to try it, do it outside.

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The stand moved into place. You may notice the pvc show pan liner. It's screwed into the back panel and folded on the sides to make a waterproof tub. It has saved countless spills and I highly recommend it, or something similar. I'll never have another tank without it.

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The 3d background / rock / aquascape is next. I like having the back wall covered. Partly because I hate scraping/cleaning the back wall, but also because putting everything right on the back wall gives the tank a greater sense of depth. It also provides unmatched empty space for swimming room and tank maintenance.

I started by making a wood box that matched the inside dimensions of my tank, including the overflow. This gave me a place that I could experiment with layout without scratching or breaking the tank.

I used black lava rocks I picked up from a local landscape supply company for $0.17 per pound.

A disclaimer here. I've never seen anyone else use this method of either colored grout or black lava rock reef. I've read a lot of people advising against it on this forum. This is my second tank using this method. My first was a 40 breeder, and I've grown fish and coral in both.

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Once the layout was decided, I used lighting diffuser and black sanded grout to actually build the background. No foam or zip ties, it's just held together like brick or stone mortar. It is made into 5 separate pieces to be able to install in the tank around the center brace. 3 back pieces, 1 side, and the overflow cover.

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The large rock in the right corner was molded in place, but is not part of the background. It comes out separately as it was too heavy otherwise.

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I let it dry for a couple of days, then broke it down and moved into water to cure. This is a very important step. Grout is a cement product and cement is very caustic. It will drop the PH as well as leach out some lime and color dye. I made a 2x4 frame and lined it with some plastic. Then to change the water, I just unscrewed one of the boards and let the water out. I repeated the process many times over 3 months.

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Once it was fully cured, It was installed in the tank. I covered all the front and side glass with foam insulation or lighting diffuser. The pieces are heavy and awkward. It's almost a certainty that you'll bump a corner somewhere and scratch the glass. So it's just easier to cover it. Then it's just several tubes of silicone and some bracing for a day.

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For the return, I made a loop around the center brace and drilled a 1/4" hole every 1/2" to make a spray bar. The outside elbows were fitted with 3/4" lockline.

I later replaced this with black pcv as I couldn't stand the white in an otherwise all black tank. I also went down to one lockline return, as it didn't look natural to me to have all the lockline sticking out.

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The tank got water for the first time on April 21st 2018.

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Ratherbeflyen

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The hood is made out of oak in a shaker style to match the skin on the stand.

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I decided to mount it to the wall so it would float above the tank. This is again mostly for access. Being a 30" tall tank, reaching the bottom is difficult.

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I used a couple of cheap amazon flat panel tv mounts to hold the hood that I modified to allow it to fold or flip up against the wall. It makes working in the tank really easy. I went with a pair of the $25 mounts mostly for the 20" arms. Longer arms give you more room to move the hood around. I built my own led light and its pretty heavy, so the additional weight capacity of a pair rated 88 pounds was appealing.

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To make the hinge / bracket, some of the original tv mount was replaced with a custom bracket.

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The remaining piece of the wall mount is 1 5/8" wide. So I made my mount 1 3/4" inside width to fit around the wall mount. When a couple of washers are added, it fits together well.

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I use 1/4" thick wall aluminum, but only because I had it on hand. You can get aluminum channel that is 2" wide outside dimensions that is 1/8" thick and should be 1 3/4" inside dimensions for pretty cheap. You can also get channel iron for a little less money, but at the expense of weight and rust corrosion.

One thing to consider is the strength of the hood itself. Wood probably isn't strong enough to keep its shape if it is only supported on one side. There is a pair of 1/4" x 3" aluminum flat bars bent at a 90 that actually helps keep my hood in shape. Admittedly my hood is pretty flimsy with all the cuts I made and 1/4" plywood for the shaker door look. My hood is mounted by sandwiching a pair of aluminum brackets together that is also held up with a bracing wire. So there is almost no load at all on the wooden portion. The hope is that will keep it from warping or bending over time.

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I then power coated the parts.

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I built the LED by using the same 6" aluminum C channel, left over from the stand, as a heat sync. It also started with 2 x 80 watt T5 bulbs and the Bulk Reef Supply T5 retrofit kit. I later added 2 more T5's for 4 bulbs total.

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The LED's are cheap Ebay 10 watt cob's or chips on board. There are 8 each of 400nm and 420nm purple / UV. There are 10 each 440nm and 660nm blue. last it has 8 10k whites. For a total of 440 watts of leds.

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A single 500 watt 24v DC power supply is used in combination with a TC 420 LED controller that is programed to ramp up and down the lights each day.

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It's incredibly bright, and I can't stand the disco ball effect LED's can produce in the tank, so I also mounted a lexan lighting diffuser that does a great job of smoothing the light.

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The T5 bulbs are 1 blue plus, 1 coral plus, and 2 actinic.

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I just used a 24v ac/dc power supply (~$45) and TC420 led controller (~$25) for my display, sump, and frag light. I used 10 watt led chips from ebay / China. White 10,000nm, deep blue 460nm, blue 440nm, purple 420nm, UV 390nm, and red 660nm for the sump/fuge. (~$160 for ~80 chips, they vary in price from $0.99 for whites to $4 for UV.)

3 x $25 controllers
2 x $45 power supply's (The sump and frag use the same power supply.)
$160 for leds.
= $325 for LED lighting the entire system.

I also run two T5 retrofit's from BRS @ $160 x 2 + 4 T5 bulbs @ $26 = $424



The auto top off system is very simple. I made an acrylic tank that sits in the web of the stand and holds just under 10 gallons.

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The reservoir, being higher than the sump, uses gravity to flow water to a float valve in the sump. There is a needle valve inline that has the flow restricted to a slow drip in case the float valve fails. (It never has.) By design the sump has the space to hold all the fresh water from the tank, even with the return pump off. However, slowing the water flow would give the live stock more time to adjust to the small change in salinity from the addition of the fresh water.

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To refill the top off reservoir, I run a 25' water line directly my RODI filter mounted in the laundry room. I also installed a float valve in the reservoir so I can turn the water on and ignore it for 30 minutes and it never overflows.

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I built an acrylic quarantine tank that fits perfectly next to the sump. Keeping all everything fish related in the stand was a marriage requirement and I quarantine/treat all new fish.

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Ratherbeflyen

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My only filtration for this tank is algae with an algae scrubber, some cheato in the refugium, a skimmer, filter floss, and a little carbon in a media bag. I feed 20 fish ~5 cubes of frozen food every day. With an API test kit, I've never had a detectable level of nitrate or phosphate. I'm completely sold on algae for natural filtration. I'll never set up another tank without some kind of algae filtration.

In an attempt to save energy, and space both in my sump and power bar, I decided to build an algae scrubber using the water return from my Precision Marine skimmer. The first step was to test the removal if the gate valve on the outflow portion of the skimmer. All the gate valve does is restrict flow raising or lowing the volume of water in the skimmer chamber. Replacing the gate valve with an adjustable repair coupling and some longer pcv pipe has the same effect of raising or lowering the water height in the skimmer by raising or lowering the height of the outflow/drain pipe making for easy tuning.

A couple notes on replacing the gate valve with a taller drain pipe.

1. If the water flows "down" too far while still in the pipe, it will create a siphon that intermittently drains the entire skimmer before it sucks air, breaks the siphon and refills. It either needs to be a short run (I only have a 90 degree elbow) or have a vent to draw air and prevent a siphon.

2. Tuning of the skimmer is way easier without the gate valve. I was constantly adjusting the gave valve, and have only made a couple of small adjustments to the pvc drain in the last 6 months.

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A successful test of the drain modification working, I built an acrylic box out of a combination of black and clear 6mm acrylic sized to the space available on my sump. I then added 2, 10 watt led chips on each side for a total of 40 watts.



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The algae scrubber box sits on the top frame of a 75 gallon tank I repurposed as a sump. I built the sump to have the refugium section first, mechanical second, rubble and skimmer 3rd and return chamber 4th.

The water flows out of the skimmer through the algae scrubber and onto some filter floss. Previous algae scrubbers I've made were after the mechanical filter and algae would always break off the scrubber and end up in the pump or display tank. Especially after cleaning the screen. Being installed before the mechanical filter solved that problem.



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I clean one side of the screen every 7-10 days.

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Ratherbeflyen

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For water chemistry, I dose Bulk Reef Supply calcium and alkalinity. I was using BRS magnesium, but switched to tropic marin magnesium because they add trace elements to it. All of that is controlled by a cheap jeabo dosing pump that I have mounted upside down to the top of the stand.

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The dosing containers are just plastic food storage containers with a bulkheads for 1/8 water line. I know that you can mix up large quantities of dosing supplement and reduce your risk of running out. However, all dosing pumps can and will eventually fail, and if it fails on, dumping 1+ gallons of alkalinity into my system would almost certainly crash the tank. So I use the smaller containers that holds 48oz and is set to dose 200ml per day. That gives me 7 days of time between refills. I'm confident the tank would survive a 7 day dose of elements if the pump failed on. The other added bennefit is I always test the water before I refill my containers. So it forces me to test my water every week.

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The other thing I do different than most people is I don't adjust the volume of water dosed. I instead adjust the concentration of the mix. On the sides of the containers there is a piece of tape where I write down the date, and how many tablespoons of dry mix I add. I find this a lot easier to make adjustments than going into the dosing pump controller and changing the program all the time. I also have 2 of the containers dedicated to alkalinity on separate pumps. Since alkalinity will drop the fastest if a pump fails, having it split between two pumps increases the chance the tank will get at least some dosing. Reducing the concentration also reduces the precipitation when added to the sump. I would do the same thing with calcium, but I don't have a 5 channel dosing pump.
 
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A few finishing touches.

I made lids out of 1.5" strips of 6mm acrylic glued together.

I originally made these with a 1" frame, but they were too flimsy and eventually broke in the corners. The 1.5" strips are way stronger and have been problem free.

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I then made a fence jig for my router to cut an 1/8" slot.

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I then used mosquito netting I got at a local fabric store for $1 and window screen spline to hold them together.

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Installed on the tank.

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Because I made my overflow out of glass, I couldn't cut any teeth into the weir. I figured it was only a matter of time before some livestock ended up in the overflow. So I used the same method to make a screen for the overflow. The only difference was using black for the top to block light/algae and 1/4" mesh instead of mosquito netting.

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I also added a lid for the external portion of the overflow to block light for algae. It also quiets the noise and contains any splashes.

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It's barely visible when viewing the front of the tank.

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Ratherbeflyen

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I made my own battery backup. It uses a 110v power relay to automatically switch between wall power and the battery backup. I used a couple of 7 amp hour batteries sealed lead acid batteries. My icecap 3k gyre pump comes with a 24v DC power supply, so I was going to run two 12v batteries in series, but it turns out the pump runs just fine on 12 volts. So I run the batteries in parallel (+ to + and - to -) to keep 12v and just add amp hours. I then added a 12v battery maintainer to keep the batteries fully charged.

I made a video how I put I put it together with links to the items used in the description.

 
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Reesj

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Great DIY stuff. I personally would use 3W bulbs rather than 10W bulbs for reef setup though. It will produce a lot less heat and you can get the same lumen output using far less wattage. Also that disco ball effect will be a lot less with 1-3W bulbs.

Also why not go with a few dry or reef rock?
 
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I can't stand the look of disco ball effect, so I have a lighting diffuser mounted ~3" in front of the LED's that eliminates it all.

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There may be an efficiency gain for using more smaller LED's, above my level of knowledge. However, the entire light is 440 watts maximum. I don't think it's set to ever use more than 350 total watts and it's only set to that maximum for 5 hours a day. The rest of the time it's fading on or off. It's worth it to me to not have to have all the extra wiring and soldering, plus the extra led controller(s) that having ~150 3W LED's would require.

What would be the advantage of reef rock?
 
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As my tank has continued to grow and mature. I'm getting to the point where I'm going to need to start trimming back some corals. Also my fish seem to break off some of my sps corals. I really do not like frag racks in the display and trying to sell or give away one broken coral at a time is not really practical from a time perspective. So I find I'm in need of a frag tank. However, I don't have the space for a separate tank, so I'm going to utilize part of my sump.

Originally the first chamber of the sump was the cheato fuge. I did this mostly because I wanted the mechanical filter to capture any stray or broken algae bits. I could use the second chamber as a frag tank, but because of the location of the skimmer, it would be hard to light from the top. The skimmer is already growing hair and coraline algae from indirect light. I'm sure that would get worse if I added a coral grow light right next to it. There is also a space problem as the skimmer only has ~1" of space at the top/bottom of the stand. My solution is going to be to move the cheato and fuge to the second chamber. Make 3-4 underwater red led strips, and light the fuge from the bottom. Hopefully, the cheato will capture the light and reduce or eliminate algae growing in my skimmer. It will also give me a much larger section for a frag tank.

Here is the old setup.

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Here is the underwater lights moved to the second chamber.

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I built another LED using the same process, 10 watt chips, and tc420 led controller as the main display lights.

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Here is the frag tank/sump finished. Just a couple pieces of lighting diffuser zip tied to 3" PVC. This should also make a good acclimation section for new fish arrivals after QT.

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BeltedCoyote

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Awesome awesome stuff man! Your DIY skill is insane. Following because I’m rethinking my build and will be going with a tank with a very similar footprint to yours, and as such I want to try and DIY as much as I can. Keep up the amazing work!
 
OP
Ratherbeflyen

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Awesome awesome stuff man! Your DIY skill is insane. Following because I’m rethinking my build and will be going with a tank with a very similar footprint to yours, and as such I want to try and DIY as much as I can. Keep up the amazing work!
Thanks for the kind words. Let me know if I can be of any help with your tank. I'm happy to answer any questions or give more detail explanations on anything I have.
 

How many corals do you have in your reef tank?

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