50g AIO SPS Grow Out System


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Dec 9, 2018
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Hi everyone,
I have been having some success growing acros in my current display tank, but I have mostly ran out of room for new placement of frags. I also really wanted to have a shallow grow out system that I could view from above. So I started to plan a build for this shallow grow out system! I was immediately drawn to the ZooMed Low Boy tanks because of their shape. I also wanted to see if I could DIY one into an AIO with some baffles for filtration. I purchased the Low Boy in January of 2020, and never got around to starting it up until December 2020 lol. I wanted to have a lot of room for live rock in the back filtration chambers, because I was planning on keeping the display part of the tank full of grow out tiles. Here is the preliminary layout of the tank that I made:

Note: I actually used crushed coral instead of sand in the live rock area.

I ordered 15? 20? pounds of dry reef saver rock from Bulk Reef Supply for the live rock chamber. I also had two large bags of crushed coral lying around my garage. I first rinsed the crushed coral endlessly with a hose until the water was "clear". Except the water never got clear. But I was too tired to rinse it for another hour plus, so I put it in a bucket with some of the reef saver rock, some bacteria, and a powerhead. I put a lot of frozen food to provide nutrients for the bacteria and left it for a few months. (This was in summer 2020).

Also in the summer, I painted the bottom of the tank black with rustoleum oil-based enamel, and cut 3x6in travertine tiles into many 3x3in frag tiles. I cured the frag tiles in RODI water for a month and then saltwater also.

During the summer and fall I cut out the baffles from black acrylic sheet. I cut them with a plastic cutter and snapped them to size. I then cut holes in the baffle between the live rock area and the return chamber for flow using a plastic drill bit. I also cut a hole in the baffle separating the display and the return chamber for a bulk head. In November, I then used GE 100% silicone for plastics to glue the baffles in place in the tank. I let the silicone cure for around a month before filling the tank.

In November/December 2020, I made the stand using 2x4s and deck screws. I then put a piece of plywood on the top for the tank to rest on. I painted the entire stand black with heavy duty cabinet paint so that the saltwater doesn't degrade it. (I would have included pictures, but I don't have any from this step :().

During the middle of December 2020, I filled the tank with freshly mixed saltwater and all of the cured live rock, crushed coral, and frag tiles. I added microbacter-7 to seed the tank with bacteria. I also purchased a export NO3 block from brightwell, and seeded it with microbacter-7.

I wanted to get ahead of all nuisance algae by seeding the tank with coralline from the start. I added a live rock from my display tank's refugium that was covered in coralline. In addition, I purchased a bottle of coralline in a bottle from ARC reef. However, the bottle arrived cold due to holiday shipping delays. I added the bottle anyways because Algae Barn said that it was probably fine, and I put a small ABI tuna blue par38 bulb over it (only thing I had lying around) so that the algae had light. Algae barn was also nice enough to send me another free bottle in case the old one wasn't effective, which I added later.
Here is a picture of the tank in that setup:

Coralline started appearing before I even added the second bottle (likely from the coralline-covered live rock that I added). Once, I added the live rock, a put the reefbreeder's photon 24 V2+ over the tank in a temporary mounting situation to encourage algae growth throughout the tank. I plan on hanging the light from shelving brackets from the wall in the future.
Here is the tank in it's current setup:

The current equipment list is:
2x Reefbreeders RPM wavemakers
Reefbreeders photon 24 V2+
Coral box DC return pump (500gph)
IceCap ATO
Jebao DP-4 dosing pump (might replace in future)
Marineland LED for refugium

Current stocking list:
1 unhappy zoa frag
1 clownfish (temporary)

Planned stocking list:
Some other fish?
Acros and other SPS
Some clams

I might choose to add a sump in the future, or keep it AIO and add a skimmer, we'll see what the future holds! (Hopefully some success, neatness, and good pictures!)
Top Shelf Aquatics


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Jul 6, 2020
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San Antonio
I caught the 50 gal lowboy bug when I saw my LFS had one for sale for $120 back in October. Ultimately, I drilled it for a sump, but I was really tempted to go the AIO route.

If you are going to go SPS heavy, personally I'd think that your refugium area would be better served housing a protein skimmer. You could then grow mangroves in the live rock section for some nutrient export.

What is your most favorite type of shrimp for your reef tank?

  • Peppermint Shrimp

    Votes: 11 3.1%
  • Banded Coral Shrimp

    Votes: 35 9.8%
  • Snapping or Pistol Shrimp

    Votes: 30 8.4%
  • Harlequin Shrimp

    Votes: 32 9.0%
  • Scarlet Skunk Cleaner Shrimp

    Votes: 108 30.3%
  • Blood Red Fire Shrimp

    Votes: 74 20.7%
  • Sexy Anemone Shrimp

    Votes: 27 7.6%
  • Camel Shrimp

    Votes: 1 0.3%
  • Other (please explain)

    Votes: 8 2.2%
  • NO shrimp in my tank

    Votes: 31 8.7%
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