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!)
Orphek OR3 reef aquarium LED lighting


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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 percentage of blue versus white lighting do you think makes the best coral growth combo?

  • All Blue

    Votes: 13 2.5%
  • Mostly Blue

    Votes: 324 62.8%
  • Even Balance

    Votes: 129 25.0%
  • Mostly White

    Votes: 41 7.9%
  • All White

    Votes: 1 0.2%
  • Other (please explain)

    Votes: 8 1.6%
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