270g FOWLR and Fish Room Build (image heavy)

Oberst Hajj

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Hello R2R,

I have been reading a lot of threads here on R2R and gathering a lot of info from some of you on the current build I'm working on. So, I thought it only fair that I start a build thread to share my progress and setbacks so that others might learn from it as well.

My first saltwater tank was a 60g Cube mixed reef that has been up and running for 3.5 years. I've learned a lot from it, and it is still teaching me things to this day. One of the things it taught me was that I really wanted a bigger tank! Not only for the space inside the tank for more fish options, but for more room in the sump area as well. Having to contain your sump and all the equipment and electronics in a 2'x2' footprint is quite challenging and more than a little difficult to work on and clean. The other thing it taught me was that my family likes the critters in the tank more than the corals. This led me to wanting to do a FOWLR tank since it would allow us to keep any fish that we wanted to. I also wanted to reduce the amount of maintenance the tank would need, so the simplicity of a fish only tank was appealing as well.

Thus, the current build was born. Back in January I placed an order for a Planet Aquariums MEGA Matrix 270g (84x30x25) glass tank. It is one of their stock sized tanks, but I had them upsize the external overflow from their Tideline 16" to the 20". Not only did this give the tank more surface skimming, but it also increased the drain size from 1" to 1.5". The increase in drain size allows me to easily convert this tank to a reef tank in the future if I decide to go that route again.

Since the Wife and I are both particular on how our house looks, it was decided early on that I would be building the stand and canopy to best fit in with our interior. It would also save some money on the build, which is always good!

Researching on how to build a solid stand that would support this size tank, I came across the @RocketEngineer plans and decided to use those.

200g Build v14 Stand Framing.png


The initial plan was to have all the equipment and electronics under the stand, so I added the two center supports to help frame in a compartment for the Apex on the left side and a space for future expansion on the right if needed. The center supports also gave me a little piece of mind supporting this size tank. The opening is 46" to allow for a decent sized sump to fit in there. The plan is to use pocket screws and glue, eliminating the need for the "screw boards" in his design.

The Wife graciously agreed to turn our formal dining room into a sitting room so that we would have a dedicated area to enjoy the tank from. To get an idea on how the new tank would fit in the room and what type of new furniture she could get, I mocked it all up in Fusion 360. She looked at several couches and a few chaise lounges, but they were all to large for the room once the tank was in there. In the end she had to settle for getting two of our current chairs reupholstered in the fabric of her choice. Some where along the lines new drapes were added to the list of things needed as well.

200g Build v14 Sitting Room Top.png


Mocking it up on the computer also let us play around with color options on the stand easily.

200g Build v12 Sitting Room 1.png



200g Build v14 Blue Stand.png


In the end, she decided on an all-white stand with just plain trim and a simple style. Something we could have bought instead of me building, but we are still going to save a lot of money on the stand.

200g Build v13 White Tank 1.png


200g Build v13 White Tank 2.png


With the tank ordered and the stand designed, it was time to turn my attention to the equipment I was going to use on this build. Since this was going to be a FOWLR tank, I knew I would not need full blown reef lights, could go with a little less flow, and would not need to dose a lot. I wanted to do a Negative Space Aquascape (NSA) and probably a heavier bioload, so that meant I would need a good skimmer and probably a biopellet reactor. The Wife’s biggest pet peeve about aquariums is algae in the DT. To help combat that as much as possible, I’ll be installing a UV sterilizer and probably an algae turf scrubber as well.

After making a list of band and models of the equipment that I wanted, I started searching the various sites to see if I could find what I wanted used before buying it new. I had not made up my mind on which skimmer I wanted to go with, so when a fellow Colorado reefer listed his Precision Marine Bullet 3 skimmer setup for sale, it really piqued my interest. He has it running on a DC pump (same as I wanted to do) with an Avast Marine Swabbie and attached to an Avast Marine Davy Jones’ Skimmate Superlocker. Both addons would reduce the amount of daily/weekly maintenance that I’d have to do. He also offered it all to me at the rough price point I had budgeted for a new skimmer. Score!

Such a large skimmer did pose an issue with getting it in the sump below the stand and working on it. With only a couple of inches from the top of the collection up and the bottom of the stand top, I was not looking forward to having to clean it when the Davy Jones’ Locker was full. Water changes were also going to be more difficult with the sump under the stand then I wanted them to be. I would be back to putting a small submersible pump in the sump and dealing with running a hose outside to drain it and then another hose from the mixing station in the garage to fill it. The wall behind the tank is shared on the other side with our three-car attached garage. Since I was already going to be putting my mixing station in the garage, this got me to thinking about building a “fish closet” in there as well. Knowing that the harder the weekly maintenance is to do, the less likely I will be to do it, I decided that moving the sump and all equipment out there would be the best recipe for success.

Of course, our three-car garage is not laid out optimally for just closing in the 3rd bay to make the fish room, as the two-car portion is what is on the tank side of the garage. The Wife has become a little spoilt when it comes to parking in there as she is the only one that parks on the two-car side and has a lot of room to get in and out of her truck. Not wanting to (okay, not being allowed to!) encroach too much into her space, I had to limit the “fish closet” to 5’ wide. I was limited by the garage door rails to 13’ long. While not overly large, it is bigger than a closet and I should really call it a fish room… which the Wife loves to give me crap about! She doesn't mind really, as she knows I'll maintain the tank better since everything will be much easier to do.


200g Build v14 Fish Room Walls.png



20210130_141128.jpg


As you can see, I still need to move the yard tools out of that spot and clean the floor before we frame in the room. With the fish room location and size determined, I was able to go ahead an plan out what was going in the room and were it was going to go.

The garage has some shelves and a counter with drawers which was not being used, so I am going to repurpose those into the fish room to give me a place to work and organize the small things.

200g Build v14 Fish Room Furniture.png



I’m going to build a stand to hold the sump and water mixing tanks. My plan is for the stand to be 21” high. This will put the sump at a comfortable working height and raise the mixing tanks up so that I can get a bucket under the spigots for those times I need to manually draw some water out.

200g Build v14 Fish Room Sump Stand.png


The mixing tanks are 100g each and I plan to plumb them and automate them as much as possible with my Apex. I have not decided on which pumps I’ll be using for the mixing station yet. I might reuse some of the pumps I have for the 60g Cube to start with, but I eventually want to have all DC pumps and I might go so far as to use the exact same pump on everything. I know this would-be major overkill on some of the systems, but it would give me several plug and play backup pumps if my return pumps (I plan on running dual return pumps) were to fail.

200g Build v14 Fish Room Mixing Tanks.png


For my sump I’m still undecide on what I want to do. There are a couple of acrylic sumps out there that I really like, but they are quite expensive. I have also thought about building my own acrylic sump as well. I have a nice wood working shop in my detached garage that includes a table saw and router table. I also have a pair of Epilog lasers that will cut and engrave acrylic. So, I have all the tools needed to build my own sump and I already work with acrylic and have sources for it. The only thing I’m lacking is experience welding acrylic to make watertight seams. Until I make up my mind on what my permanent sump is going to be, I am going to buy a 75g sump off the same guy that is selling me the skimmer.

200g Build v14 Fish Room Equipment.png


Without having the tank on hand and not knowing down to the fraction of an inch where the wall studs are between the two rooms, I’ve only been able to rough out how I’d like my plumbing to be. The pipes are going to be red like in these images, but the fittings are all going to be black. Since you can't buy everything in black, I ordered what I could in the typical Sch 40 white and I will use pvc dye to dye them black. The benefit to dying the pvc instead of painting it is that the dye actually penetrates the pvc a little and can not be scratched off like paint. If you scratch it deep enough you will expose the the white where the dye did not penetrate, otherwise it will not rub or wear off.

200g Build v11 Plumbing.png

The orange colored unions in these images are Apex flow sensors, so in real life they will be black as well.

Stud Interference.png


Plumbing Top.png


This image is looking straight down on the tank and into the fish room. The wall between them will be right on the line where the gray garage floor starts.

From inside the fish room it should look something like this...

200g Build v14 Fish Room Plumbing.png


I know that some of the wall studs are going to get in the way, so I’ll just have to address that when I open up the dry wall between the two rooms.

I have also not drawn up the manifold to run the UV and other reactors yet. I might not as I'm going to just have to free plumb that stuff once everything else is in. I'm thinking the UV might go to the left of the sump mounted vertically. I think the other reactors will fit on the wall above the sump and below the long return line. The orange bucket is where the Davy Jones' Locker will go. I might have to extend the sump stand into that area to fit the bigger DIY sump in the future, so I'll have to see where else that can go.

So far everything to this point as been just planning things out, but I have started to do some actual work on this build. In the next post I’ll share the NSA aquascape I’ve been working on for the past week. I’m hoping to finish it up this weekend if I don't run out of superglue. I've already used two 16oz bottles from @Glue Masters and I have two more on the way. Who would have thought I'd spend nearly $200 on superglue!
 
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Oberst Hajj

Oberst Hajj

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This is going to be good!

Great start!

Thanks! I did run out of glue, so the rock work did not get finished. UPS says the send batch of glue should be here tomorrow, so hopefully they drop it off early and I can take advantage of a day off from work to wrap on the rocks.
 
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Oberst Hajj

Oberst Hajj

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PS: Your wife DOES know you're dropping $10,000+ on all of this right? ;Cat
Well, she did hand me a check for $6200 to get it started ;) Anything over that will come out of my personal funds. But as it stands right now, I'm only about $5400 into the build and I'm tracking roughly $1700 of stuff still left to buy. Unless I decide to splurge on the sump, I think I'll come in at around $8500 or so.
 
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Oberst Hajj

Oberst Hajj

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nice project! I to am a bif LOWLR guy even tho I dont have one yet I do fancy them.
your CAD or sketkup skills are nice...with I had that too.
Thanks. The CAD stuff was really easy to do using Fusion 360. I had never used it before doing this build. All the stands, tanks and water storage are just simple boxes and cylinders. The parts that look hard are the plumbing parts, but those are even easier. Fusion 360 has the ability to import thousands of parts from the McMaster-Carr website. You simply browse to the part you want inside of Fusion 360 and it imports it. Then it is just a matter of using the Joint function to fit all the plumbing together. It is great for visually laying it all out, but I would not used it (or my skills rather) for measuring my cuts.
 

rwreef

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Thanks. The CAD stuff was really easy to do using Fusion 360. I had never used it before doing this build. All the stands, tanks and water storage are just simple boxes and cylinders. The parts that look hard are the plumbing parts, but those are even easier. Fusion 360 has the ability to import thousands of parts from the McMaster-Carr website. You simply browse to the part you want inside of Fusion 360 and it imports it. Then it is just a matter of using the Joint function to fit all the plumbing together. It is great for visually laying it all out, but I would not used it (or my skills rather) for measuring my cuts.
Agreed, I love the McMaster's car part import option. I also started using Fusion360 for my 270g build.
 
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Oberst Hajj

Oberst Hajj

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Well, the $8500 "budget" might be in jeopardy. I just dropped $420 @Bulk Reef Supply to upgrade my RODI system. The 60g Cube I bought from another reefer years ago came with a SpectaPure 90gpd RODI setup. With the cold (high 50s) and low pressure (between 30 and 40 psi) coming from my well, I was only producing about 1 gallon an hour of RODI water. That was just not going to cut it with the new tank.


I picked up the BRS water saver kit and booster pump kit which should really increase my production rate by a significant amount. With the larger RODI tank, I wanted to automate the system more so that I did not have to be around to refill the reservoir. So, I also order the Apex Leak Detection Kit, two OS-1 Optical Sensors, and the SV-1 Solenoid. The two OS-1s will start and stop the RODI water flowing into the 100g reservoir. The SV-1 will be used to start and stop the flow of well water to the RODI system, thereby extending the life of the RO membranes.

You might be thinking, why did I not just buy the FMM module instead of the LDK? The setup I mentioned above to control the RODI system only takes up two of the ports and the 24v power port on the FMM. That leaves two ports open that I can use for leak detection. By purchasing the LDK, I save $20 over buying the stand alone FMM and two leak detectors separately.

I'm also working out a future upgrade to the RODI system that will automatically transfer the RODI water to the New Salt Water (NSW) reservoir when it is empty and bring it up to temp as well. That way all I must do is physically add the salt let it mix before doing a large water change.
 

JumboShrimp

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I’m telling you, my friend, if you’re going to use the higher-quality schedule 80 plumbing fittings for your mixing station and your tank, get ready to watch the money-meter climb! Lol! Granted, I am doing two (2) tanks at once— so I have to double up on everything— but you can drop $1,500 on plumbing and ask “How??” if you’re not careful. Add in your RODI unit itself and water tanks (shipping on the tanks can equal the price OF the tanks!), skimmer, UV... you will be using that $8,500 budget you set aside. Wishing you the very best, here, on your dream tank!
 
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Oberst Hajj

Oberst Hajj

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I’m telling you, my friend, if you’re going to use the higher-quality schedule 80 plumbing fittings for your mixing station and your tank, get ready to watch the money-meter climb! Lol! Granted, I am doing two (2) tanks at once— so I have to double up on everything— but you can drop $1,500 on plumbing and ask “How??” if you’re not careful. Add in your RODI unit itself and water tanks (shipping on the tanks can equal the price OF the tanks!), skimmer, UV... you will be using that $8,500 budget you set aside. Wishing you the very best, here, on your dream tank!
My gate valves are Sch 80, but all of my other fittings are Sch 40 for this build. I used all Sch 80 stuff when I replumbed the 60g cube, but for things like elbows and and simple open/closed ball valves, I do not see the need for the Sch 80 stuff. I'll be dying all my fittings back, so they will still look nice.

Shipping on the RODI tanks does suck. When I bought my two 25g reservoirs for the 60g cube, I was able to get Big R to special order them for me with no additional shipping costs. This time when I asked them to order two 105g reservoirs, they wanted to pass the shipping on to me. Due to this and a 10 week shipping delay, I ended up ordering a pair of 100g that were on sale. The price came out about the same, but these will be here sometime this week or next. It still hurt paying $240 is shipping o_O
 
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Oberst Hajj

Oberst Hajj

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One of the issues I was running into while planning this build was the layout relationship between the new sitting room and where the sump was going to be on the other side of the wall. The garage floor is lower than the interior house floor and I was not exactly sure where the adjacent walls for each were in relationship to each other.

For me, eyeballing it was not good enough, so I thought about using the laser level and tape measure to try and measure my way from the sitting room into the garage. That was sure to be error prone, so I had to come up with a better solution. In the end it turned out to be a simple thing. Just find the center of the interior tank wall, measure up 40 inches (the height of the stand) and drill a small whole through the wall with a 12" drill bit.

200gBuild-1.jpg


Doing this allowed me to know exactly in the garage where the cent of my tank would be on the other side of the wall. It also let me know at what height off the garage floor my stand would be at.
 

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I’m telling you, my friend, if you’re going to use the higher-quality schedule 80 plumbing fittings for your mixing station and your tank, get ready to watch the money-meter climb! Lol! Granted, I am doing two (2) tanks at once— so I have to double up on everything— but you can drop $1,500 on plumbing and ask “How??” if you’re not careful. Add in your RODI unit itself and water tanks (shipping on the tanks can equal the price OF the tanks!), skimmer, UV... you will be using that $8,500 budget you set aside. Wishing you the very best, here, on your dream tank!
Great project! Are you planning any check valves in your return lines to prevent back-siphoning when return pumps switch off?

 
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Oberst Hajj

Oberst Hajj

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The electrician also came out this morning and installed two dedicated 20a circuits for the fish room.

200gBuild-Electric-1.jpg


Surface mounting them was half the cost of cutting up the drywall and installing them. I thought it prudent to spend the extra several hundred dollars on more important fish stuff ;) I plan on priming and paint the conduit and boxes when I paint the inside of the fish room. You can also see all the wood for framing in the room. The one recessed outlet you can see is the house GFI. It will not be used to run anything in the fish room. Once the walls are up (shown as the blue tape), I'll add a third outlet on the short wall for the mixing station and my exhaust fan.
 
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Oberst Hajj

Oberst Hajj

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Great project! Are you planning any check valves in your return lines to prevent back-siphoning when return pumps switch off?

No, no check valves for me... at least I don't want them. I had one in my 60g and I hated it. My plan is to account for the back-siphoning with sump capacity and siphon breaks on the return lines inside the DT. I'm doing this on the 60g now and like it much better. Doing it this way also allows more water into the sump for removing more water during water changes without having to touch the DT.
 
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Oberst Hajj

Oberst Hajj

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I also managed to finish up the rock work last night, so I guess it is time to make a post about it. I knew I was going to use dry Marco rock again for this build as I really want to try my hand at NSA (negative space aqua-scaping). I also want to try and same some money here... I really had paying for rocks. I ended up buying my rock from two different sources to get the best pound per dollar.

For my foundation rock I bought 150lbs through @premiumaquatics as they had the best price on that type of rock. Shipping from them was really fast and each foundation rock was bubbled wrapped. They had some seriously good packaging going on. These photos are from the first ~50lbs box.

200gBuild-Rocks-6.jpg

(I swear officer. Those are reef rocks, not Columbian Bam-bam!)

200gBuild-Rocks-7.jpg


200gBuild-Rocks-13.jpg


200gBuild-Rocks-17.jpg


For the bulk rock that I was going to break up, I order 50lbs boxes from SaltwaterAquarium.com. Here is the selection of rock I got in that first box:

200gBuild-Rocks-25.jpg


200gBuild-Rocks-28.jpg


200gBuild-Rocks-40.jpg


To do NSA right, you really need to get a feel for the true size of your tank and what you can do with that space, so I build a mock up of the tank out of 1/2" pvc.

200gBuild-Rocks-48.jpg


And to contain all the rock dust and pebbles, I built a "work tray" out of plywood that I had laying around.

200gBuild-Rocks-50.jpg


With everything setup, it was time to start smashing up rocks and looking for the good bits from this to build the scape that I wanted. One of the by products of breaking the rocks apart is all the small pebbles and find rock powder you get from it. These come in really handy for gluing your rock back together.

200gBuild-Rocks-59.jpg


I actually ended up with 4 different containers, each holding different sized rocks and pebbles that were used to glue the rocks back together. Once the initial batch of these "fines" ran out, I had to make some more. I started using a mortar and pestle:

200gBuild-Rocks-58.jpg


200gBuild-Rocks-56.jpg


200gBuild-Rocks-57.jpg


But that proved to be to slow. So out came the BFH and an old steel saw blade for an anvil:

200gBuild-Rocks-80.jpg


Things moved much quicker after that.

For those that don't no what process of building NSA rock is, it is basically breaking large boulder shaped rocks down into smaller, odder shapes and then gluing them back together in a shape that you like. When you place to rock pieces together there are always going to be some gaps between the two:

200gBuild-Rocks-75.jpg


I took my larger pebbles and filled most of the gap:

200gBuild-Rocks-76.jpg


I then took my next smaller size of pebbles and added those:

200gBuild-Rocks-77.jpg


Finally you cover all of the pebbles with the rock powder and set it all with very thin, think water thin, super glue:

200gBuild-Rocks-78.jpg

200gBuild-Rocks-79.jpg


I found it easier to apply the smaller pebbles and powder with a plastic spoon:

200gBuild-Rocks-66.jpg
 
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Oberst Hajj

Oberst Hajj

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After a couple of hours I had come up with my first center piece rock and a style that I would carry though all the rock work.

200gBuild-Rocks-65.jpg


Building a rock like this takes quite a bit of time and creative ways to support it while you fill all the gaps. Using other large rocks is a great way to support them at odd angles.

200gBuild-Rocks-68.jpg


Many more hours and a full 16oz bottle of glue later, I had two rock formations done.

200gBuild-Rocks-73.jpg


Roughly 30 hours and 2.5 bottles of glue later I had all of my rock formations made. As I built each one, I would step back and look at the overall appearance and rearrange as needed to keep the feel consistent. Once I had decided on the placement, I let it sit there for a day and would look at it from time to time to see if any finally changes needed to be made. During this final review the Wife came out to the shop and made a few tweaks of her own.

200gBuild-Rocks-81.jpg


200gBuild-Rocks-82.jpg


200gBuild-Rocks-83.jpg


200gBuild-Rocks-84.jpg


200gBuild-Rocks-85.jpg


It is really hard to see the depth of field in photos when you do NSA, so here is a video that shows that much better:



I'm pretty happy with how it turned out and the Wife likes it, which is always a good thing. I tried to imagine the fish swimming through it as I built it and I also tried to build in as many hiding spots for them as I could. One of the great things about NSA is that you can build those hiding spots into the rock work where you can always see the fish. I'm sure one or two of them will find some places out of sight, but hopefully I've been able to reduce that possibility as much I can.
 
Zoanthids

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