310 Gallon In Wall/Room Divider, For My Kids

Johnz

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I am about 90% of the way through the my dream build, so I thought it would be a good time to document it all. I have a lot left to do: Calcium Reactor, Algae Scrubber, cabinetry etc. I will try to keep this updated as I go, but for now, here is my first build thread.

Backstory

I've been reef keeping since the 90s. Over the years I've had tanks ranging from my first 20 Gallon Long, to a 35 hex seahorse tank to my 120 Gallon in wall and many tanks in between. My wife has always been supportive of my tanks, but never really got into the hobby. I could put a sea turtle in the tank and she probably wouldn't notice for a couple weeks. When we were planning to build a new home I went back and forth on whether or not to even have an aquarium. I knew it would add a lot of work and expense to an already difficult and expensive process. I had also been very busy and maintenance had slipped on my 120 gallon mixed reef. It was still presentable but I lost a couple of my nicer corals and I was feeling bored with the upkeep.

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Ole Neglected 120 In Wall​

I was strongly leaning towards abandoning the hobby when I added an Aiptaisa Eating Filefish to the tank to take care of the aiptasia I had been neglecting. When my kids came home, 4 and 8 at the time, they walked right over to the tank and starting talking amongst themselves. I asked them what they were discussing and they said they were trying to come up with a name for the new fish. I was surprised they had noticed it that quickly. We talked about the tank and it's inhabitants for while. It turned out they paid more attention to the tank than I realized. I decided right then that the new house was gonna have a reef tank.

That filefish hasn't eaten the first aiptasia in 2 years, but it made me want to build a tank with my kids. They have been greatly involved in the process, especially my son, who is now 6. We build things for the tank together, enjoy feeding time(called the fish party), and do fish tank science(water testing, dosing etc.) They ended up naming the filefish "Flow", cause she just flows around the top of the tank. "Flow", the Aiptasia Eating Filefish who doesn't eat aiptasia is still one of my favorite fish.

Stand and Infrastructure

I decided to build the tank as a room divider. Being able to see the tank from 2 sides is awesome. After going back and forth with my wife and Architect over the best location, we decided that the wall separating the office and the foyer would work best. I had the plumber put a drain under where the tank would be, and I added a shower pan to catch any spills or leaks that would happen under the stand. There are 3 dedicated 20 amp circuits to provide power, and a conduit with four 1/4 lines running to the garage so I could automate water changes and top off from reservoirs in the garage. There is also a small duct in the ceiling above if I ever feel the need to add ventilation.
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Opening For Tank​

The stand was constructed out of untreated lumber. The top stringers were 2 x 8, with the legs made from 2x6 and 2x4. I painted the whole thing with some leftover house paint. I struggled with the height. I wanted it to look like a picture on the wall when you walked into the front door. I ended up making the top of the stand 44" tall. It looks nice but maintenance is hard and it's a little high for the kids. If I had it to do all over I would lower it 4"-6". Maybe after the cabinetry is in it will grow on me but right now I wish it was lower.

The Tank

I wanted the tank to feel like it fit in the space, but also be as large as possible(cause of course). After a few sketches I settled on 7' Long, 30" High and 30" Deep. I knew that going 7' would make lighting a little weird, but going to 8' didn't seem to work and 6' was just too small(cause of course). I also wanted to go at least 36" front to back, but it just didn't fit, so 30" it was. The height was a tough a decision. The room it was going in would have 10' ceilings, and I wanted it to feel large. 24" high just seemed to short. I knew that a 30" high tank was tricky to light, and a pain to work on, but I went with aesthetics over practicality.

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Fresh Outta the Crate​

I knew that I wanted glass. I would never again use acrylic after the great acrylic tank scratching incident of 2008(some kids, a magnetic algae scraper, and a sandbed, use your imagination). I got a few quotes and settled on CustomAquariums.com. The price was right, and my sales guy, Bob Pontow, was responsive. I have no regrets and would use them again. Since this would be a room divider I went with low iron glass on the front and back. I also like their overflows, very low profile and completely protected against fish getting in. Been quiet too.

Getting this thing onto the stand was harder than I imagined. I had tons of suction cups and plenty of people since the home was still under construction. The height I put the stand and the way it was in the wall just made it awkward and difficult. Thankfully I had a tractor with forks on site. It was still hairy and nerve racking sliding it off the pallet and onto the stand though. I was glad when it was over.

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In Place and In One Piece​

Aquascaping

I struggled with this quite a bit. I considered ditching all of the established rock in my old tank and starting over with all dry rock. Mainly to get rid of the Aiptasia I had for over 10 years. My rock was a mix of stuff from the Keys, Fiji and Tongan Branch; most over 15 years old and I decided not to part with it. The diversity on the rock was worth the aggravation of the Aiptasia. I had been dealing with it for this long, I could deal with it in the new tank.

I love the Negative Space stuff I have been seeing on the forums, but I couldn't see how to do it with the established rock. I wanted to use my old rock and another hundred pounds or so of dry rock. I saved this one picture a while back cause I just liked the way it looked. I figured I could make the overhang out of dry rock before filling the tank, and the other island just by piling up my established rock. If any one recognizes that photo please let me know, I would like to give proper credit for it and thank the owner for the inspiration. I am pretty happy with the way it came out, tons of hiding spots, maybe too many(more on that when I talk about livestock).

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Image I Modeled My Aquascape After​


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Old Rock on the Left, Dry Rock on the Right​
Filtration and My First Real Sump

I have always used fish tanks as my sumps, cause they are cheap to pick up on the dollar per gallon sales, and I think there are better places to put the money. I had been keeping an eye out for a 75 gallon to come up for sale but one never did. Then on Black Friday BRS had the Icecap 48XL for a price too good to pass up. Boy, is thing fancy, makes my last 40 breeder sump look like trash. Filter socks(never used them before, kind of a pain the butt tbh), probe holders, thingies to put dosing lines in, etc. Unfortunately I couldn't get it under the stand with the center brace. I had to remove the brace while the tank was empty to get it in there. Hopefully I never have to remove it.

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Oops
I haven't had a chance to do it yet, but I am moving my Icecap AGS-400 turf scrubber from my 120 to this tank. When they first got popular I ignored them, thinking my chaeto fuge was fine. But now, oh how I love this thing. I used to get a hair algae outbreak every year or two, but since I got that thing, I've barely had to clean the glass. I know some people don't like them, but it is probably the single biggest game for me personally in over 20 years of reefing.

For a skimmer I went with a Bubble Magus Curve 9 Elite. Good price/performace ratio and I am happy with it so far.

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Bit messy, but I can't bring myself to clean up.​
Water Flow - Never Enough

I had used gyres in the past and loved how they move water, but they are a pain to clean and they didn't seem to last that long for me and my very lax maintenance routines. I went with 2 MP 60s, mounted on opposite ends, one in front and the other at the back. Water flow is good, but not very turbulent, kind of just flows around the tank. I put the MP 40 from my old tank facing one of the MP 60s and it really makes the flow random and turbulent. Unfortunately when I moved it something happened to the dry side and it makes an annoying noise now. Eventually I will get it fixed and add it back. Until then flow is barely sufficient with 2 MP 60s, turned all the way up, in the arrangement I have. I need to experiment with placement I think.

Return pump is a Sicce Syncra 5.0, with head pressure it is probably just short of 3x tank turnover per hour. I plan on adding a second return for redundancy, and I could probably use more turnover. I have a bunch of old Danner Mag 5s laying around, so I will probably use one of those since I already spent too much money on this project.


Lighting - Should Have Just Gone with Metal Halides

I had an Orphek Atlantik on my 120, so I figured I would use that and add 2 more to light the 7 foot tank. I knew I would probably need more light so I added 4 36" slimline T5 retrofits from Reefbrite. I also am superstitious and believe there is some magical piece of the light spectrum that T5s have that is missing from LEDs. I like the looks, and spread is very even, but I am not getting the par numbers I wanted on the bottom. At the sand I am getting around 150 par with everything turned up. I am not going to change it now, too much money invested, I will just have to put lower light corals at the bottom. For a 30" deep tank I should have just gone with Metal Halides. They are proven to grow corals, have better penetration and are less expensive. I was worried about the heat and energy usage so I went LEDs, but for a tank this big it was a mistake.

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Lotta Lights, Not Enough PAR​

Water Changes, Top Off, Dosing etc. - Not Toting Buckets Through My New House

I hate water changes, and maintenance is hard to keep up with as the years go by. I have 2 Neptune DOS pumps in my garage. I ran a 100' aquabus cable and 4 x 100' 1/4" lines inside a conduit from the fish tank to the garage. There I have a garbage can with kalkwasser, and another with fresh saltwater. Dosing and water changes are automatic and controlled by my good ole Neptune Classic.

I addition to the Kalk dosing I have a GEO calcium reactor. I haven't hooked it up yet, still on my to do list. I will post photos when I get it installed.

More to Come Later

I will post my stocking list and plans and the rest of the build as time goes on. Thanks for reading, hope it wasn't too long! 20220708_195718.jpg
 
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Wow, I wish I had thought to tell my wife the new tank was "for the children." That was brilliant! The new home and tank are fantastic, love the scape.

I would recommend that you keep the skimmer drain hose in a place where it will fail inside the system vs into the house.

Very nice!
 
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I got the calcium reactor unboxed and assembled. I went with a CR624 from Geo's Reef and a second 4" x 15" chamber. I've never run a calcium reactor before so this will be a new learning experience for me. I am hoping to get the CO2 tank filled tomorrow and this thing installed this weekend.
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I was determined to make a little progress on the tank this weekend, but unfortunately hit a little snag. During the move my algae scrubber somehow got a crack in the bottom and up the side. Leaked like a sieve. I scrubbed the surface on both sides with acetone to clean and etch the surface and then ran a bead thick superglue on both sides. Seems to have adhered well. Hopefully the repair will hold and I'll have time to install it this week.
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On a brighter note I did at least get the calcium reactor filled up and under the stand. Now I just need to get the co2 tank filled and figure out how to tune this thing. Read some good threads on this forum on how to adjust one so I think I have a good handle on it.

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Getting a bit messy, need to do some cable/tuning management at some point.
 
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Current Stocking List

Yellow Tang x 2
Blue Hippo Tang
White Tail Bristletooth Tang
Purple Tang
Desjardins Sailfin Tang
Foxface
Midas Blenny
Tailspot Blenny
Lawnmower Blenny
Purple Psuedochromis
Bangaii Cardinal - Pair
Marble Wrasse
Coral Beauty
Bartlett's Anthias x 3
Royal Gramma
Court Jester Goby
Mandarin Goby - Biota Pair
Aiptasia Eating Filefish
Blue Green Chromis x 2

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I never see the court Jester Goby and rarely see the Mandarins. The new dry rock mountain I made has tons of hiding spots on the interior, and they never come out. I thought the Goby was dead, but a few days ago we lost power for 6 hours and he popped out to see what was going on.

Everyone gets along great. I have no aggression at all. I think the larger tank and rockwork just gives everyone more room to spread out. I haven't had to stick the mirror to the side of the tank once.

I also feed this tank more than I have my previous tanks. They get fed Spectrum Algae Max twice a day for the tangs. And frozen mysis and calanus 3 to 4 times a day for everyone else. I don't mess with nori, I think the spectrum has everything the tangs need.

The current count is 25 fish, and I want to add a bunch more. My wishlist is:

Powder Blue Tang
Kole Tang
Two Spot Bristletooth Tang
Lots of wrasse. Melanarus, yellow coris, flashers, etc. Maybe a Leopard if I can source a healthy one.
More anthias. I was think 5 bimacs would be pretty.
Pair of swallowtail angels
Pair of pyramid butterflies.
Copperband butterfly to keep the aiptasia in check. Filefish doesn't touch it.
Snowflake clown pair.
A couple of firefish.

I'm going to keep adding fish slowly over time, as long as the nutrient export can keep up. Kind of tired of buying fish that hide all the time, so moving forward the focus will be on fish that swim out in the open.
 
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Pest Management

Since moving my old rock to the new tank I've seen a comeback of some old pests, so I thought I'd write a quick post about what I've seen and how I've dealt with them.


New tank uglies

in setting up the new tank I used half old rock that I've had for decades and new dry rock. I went through some of the common new tank problems. I had a diatom bloom on the new rock, and a bacteria bloom in the water. The diatoms are still around after 3 months, but as the coraline algae grows it is less and less noticeable. I also had a couple of weeks of bacteria bloom in the water column that made the water turn milky. I got impatient and added a cheap aio uv filter from ebay to my sump to help clear it up. Water has now been crystal clear for a while.

Aiptasia

I got my first aiptasia around 15 years ago. I wish I had just thrown the rock I first saw it on into the trash. I have tried berghia nudibranch twice. After adding them to the tank they just disappeared. I had a CBB for years that cleared the tank of them, but when it died they came back. I also had an aiptasia eating file fish that did a good job, but when it died after a few years the problem came back again. My current Filefish won't touch them, he is useless. Never had any luck with peppermint shrimp either, despite buying them many times from different sources. Right now I just cover the ones I see with Aiptasia x and they stay controlled. I just consider it part of my maintenance.

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Flat Worms

A long time ago I had a nasty planaria/ flatworm infestation. I added a wrasse of some kind, so long I don't remember which, and it eventually went away. Since moving my tank I've noticed a bunch of white flatworms on the glass. Not enough to bother anything but i found it interesting that I am seeing them again after all these years. Tank has been moved twice since I first saw them years ago, but this is the first time I've added a bunch of new rock. My only wrasse right now is a large marble wrasse. I haven't seen him eat them yet. If they get to annoyance levels I will buy more wrasses. I will probably get more wrasee anyway, but this will give me an excuse.
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Vermetid Snails

So I gotta be honest, I didn't even know these were pests. I've always had spikey things in my overflows, kind of thought they were like barnacles on the bottom of a boat. Something changed in the new tank though. The larger variety has taken off and are annoying my acropora with a slime coat.
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That's a pearlberry colony that refuses to regain it's color after the move and I think it's because of the vermetids. I also have the smaller variety that seems to be more prevalent than ever.
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I ordered 20 bumble bee snails from reefcleaners.org to keep the smaller variety under control. For the bigger ones I am going to get a long stainless steel rod and sharpen it into a chisel point to crush them. I've had them forever I guess, but my move or the increased feeding has caused them to take off. I'll see how it goes moving forward and post updates.

Is the increased biodiversity worth the aggravation from the pests? I think it is. Given enough time I would have probably picked up these common pests anyway, so at least I didn't drive myself crazy quarantining every piece of rock.
 
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A Tale of Two Tangs
(Long Story, read if bored)

So this is a funny story and I thought this would be a good place to share it. I had a yellow Tang for a couple of years. When the Hawaii ban went into effect, I considered selling it because the price got so high, but I always thought they were an iconic reef fish so I decided to keep it. A short time later, it vanished. Though I never saw its corpse, I figured it has gone to the big reef tank in the sky. I've had many fish die and I never saw them, so i didn't think anything of it. I was disappointed because with the harvest ban in place I knew it would be hard to replace.

Fast forward many months and I was deciding the Stocking plan for my new build. I wanted to add any new tangs to the new build before moving my big Purple Tang into the new tank. He had been a bully in my 120 gallon, and I figured my only shot was to add any new tangs before introducing him. So I ordered a Biota Yellow Tang, a white tail Bristletooth and Sailfin Tang. That yellow Tang was small, but introducing it first seemed to work. None of my tangs showed any aggression.

Meanwhile, I had moved all of my fish over except for my Maroon Clown(mean Nemo my kids called it) and my marble wrasse. All the rock had been moved to the new house and new tank. I was meeting someone who was adopting Mean Nemo(a whole other story), and was going to catch the wrasse before draining the tank. Took forever to find where that wrasee buried itself, but I finally had it safe and secure in a 5 gallon bucket. I siphoned the tank empty, and loosened the drain so the overflow area could drain too.

I went and got my neighbor who helped me carry the old tank to the back yard. I went over to his house for around 20 minutes to look at something before coming back and putting my old tank on its side. I started hosing it out to clean it, and when I shot the hose in the corner overflow, all of these giant bristlewormas started to come out. They were the beneficial kind, so I wasn't worried but was amused how many there were.

I kept hosing and then all of a sudden, a big Ole yellow Tang came sliding out of the overflow. I wish I had taken a picture, but I was in shock, and heartbroken. Somehow, that fish had managed to flip itself into the corner overflow at some point. That tank was mounted high and I could only see into the overflow if I got on a ladder, and with all the chaos of the move and new tank I never looked in there. That yellow Tang had been in that overflow for at least a year.

As I sat in disbelief, I saw its gill move ever so slightly. I dropped it into the bucket with wrasse and it just layed on the bottom. Its mouth looked horrible, full of tiny white spikes. I dont know if he was attacking the bristle worms, or if he got the little bristles in his mouth when was laying on the bottom of the empty overflow with them. I felt horrible, and assumed it didn't stand a chance. I did a little research on the bristles in the mouth, and saw they were harmless, and decided the best thing to do was to leave it alone.

An hour later it was upright! I had more work to do, but decided to rush it home where I could get it acclimated to the new tank. I figured being stuck in a bucket wasn't the healthiest thing for it. I had no quarantine or hospital tank set up, and it seemed to be recovering, so into the new tank it went.

Anyway, that is how I ended up with 2 yellow tangs. The poor guy who came from my overflow recovered quickly, started eating after 3 days, and is doing great. His color seems washed out compared to the Biota. I'm not sure if it will brighten back up, but regardless, it looks pretty to me.

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Johnz

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Crazy story. Gotta love the little troopers like that one!
Yeah, he's a trooper. I gotta wonder if he is mentally scarred though. He basically spent a year in solitary confinement, in a tiny black corner overflow full of bristle worms. I joke about it now, but I do feel horrible about it. If the tang police ever find me, I am getting tasered for sure.
 
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Nights like tonight make me question why I participate in this aggravating hobby.

I finally got a CO2 tank filled (there's a shortage apparently, what the heck) so I figured I would finish setting up the calcium reactor. I plugged a second ph probe into my vintage 2008 Apex Classic, and after I finally remembered how to connect to the Classic Dashboard I enabled PH probe 2 and tried to set it up. During calibration the values didn't change. I swapped the 2 ph probe inputs, then neither one would read. Fiddled with things, no change. Swapped them back, nothing. Plugged in just the original probe to the first port, got a reading. Tried just the new probe in the first port, nothing. Put things back how they were when I started and now at least the original probe is back working.

I must have both a bad probe and a bad port. What are the odds of that? I will try again over weekend before contacting BRS for a new probe, in case I am doing something stupid. Pretty well aggravated at this point. If it is a bad port on the controller I'll either have to get a separate ph module, a new computer, or a different ph controller all together. None of which I want to do right now. Sometimes this hobby feels like I am just setting money on fire.

Old ass computer





Then, while I was on the side of the tank monkeying with the Apex, I notice that one of the 2 x 4s that make up the leg to the stand has a crack going right down the middle, and the joint looks like it moved.

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It's almost as if the stand racked to the left a little, or the right side dropped a tiny bit. The other joints look ok, maybe a tiny bit of movement. Each leg is made of a 2 x 6 in the front, a 2 x 4 on the side and 2x4 on the inside. then there are plywood triangles on the inside to keep everything square. Everything seems level, maybe off a tiny bit from where it was when I built the stand. Tank has been filled for 6 months. I expected some settling and movement as wood expands and contracts with humidity, but this is a little concerning.

This weekend I think I will run a piece of plywood on each side from the ground to the top 2 x 8 and glue/screw it to the existing legs. I'll also tie it to the wall it is sitting inside, which I had planned on doing anyway but never got around to it. At that point it won't be able to settle or twist, no matter how heavy it is. It's probably fine the way it is, but the consequences of it failing are unimaginable to me right now. Though if it did break I wouldn't have to worry about the PH probe any longer, always a bright side.

My to do list doesn't seem to be getting smaller. Still need to:
1. Get calcium reactor set up.
2. Install algae turf scrubber.
3. Build cabinetry to enclose the whole mess.
4. Setup leak detectors.
5. And now I also have to reinforce the stand.

On a brighter note the livestock is doing great, coraline algae is coming in thick on the new rocks, can't wait to fill the whole thing up with SPS frags.
 
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Johnz

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R we sure this is for the kids? Lol!
I have to come back here and read this great thread but lookin great! For the kids!!!! Ok. Lunch time is over. Back to work I go.
D
Hehe, it really was! Or they were the excuse I needed at least. :)
 
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I spent some more time working on the ph probe issue. I definitely got a bad ph probe, AND the PH/ORP input on my apex classic doesn't work. I swapped the probes and inputs around 10 times to be sure.

Bulk Reef Supply answered my email quickly, and already shipped me a replacement. They're even sending me more calibration fluid without me asking, very thoughtful. They really are a top notch company.

I will have to order a PM1 for the apex which sucks, but short of buying a new controller there isn't much option. I thought about running the calcium reactor without a ph probe to monitor the tank, but that just seems like I'm asking for trouble. Long weekend coming up, I'm hoping i can make a little progress on finishing the build.
 
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