75 Gallon first saltwater build

AquaCave

CluelessReefer

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I've been lurking in the forums for a while now, but I figured it's time to get my build thread going (even though my build is almost entirely done now lol.
I started the planning process for my first real tank towards the start of 2021 after my daughter was born and I realized my scuba diving travel might be more limited now, so I decided I need a piece of a reef in my house. I've obsessed over plans/techniques/methods for almost 8 months now and it's almost completely done, so I'll run through most of the process here. I'll try to give a nice overview of the obstacles I hit, the things I'm trying to prioritize, my gear, and how things are currently running.
When I started the planning process, I couldn't decide between buying a used full setup or starting from scratch, but I decided I needed to scratch my DIY itch and do it all myself (besides the stand, although I was tempted). I've learned a whole lot about plumbing along the way, and a lot more about water chemistry than I thought I would need, but it's been a fun process so far (hopefully it stays fun).

I started with a plain old 75 gallon Aqueon from Petco (48x18x21). Leak tested it, then bought a Synergy Shadow overflow and started drilling. I also drilled dual 3/4" returns, and followed all that up with painting the back of the tank black with some enamel paint (pics below).
This was followed by leak testing again, when I found that I had a very slow (1 drip/minute) leak along the threads of the bulkheads that I just couldn't fix, even with multiple different attempts at tightening/loosening. I later discovered that there were 2 probably causes for this: the first was that I had painted too close to the holes in the glass, which left microscopic gaps between the O Ring and the glass due to some texture. The other was that there was a very slight chip in the glass that extended out a hair past the O Ring. All that aside, I fixed it by doing a big no-no and putting silicone along the threads of the bulkhead before screwing the nut on tightly. Not an ideal fix but I tried everything else and it worked fine after that, so a good learning experience for me.

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Around the beginning of June, I decided that I didn't have the tools, skills, or time to build my own stand, so I gave up that dream (it'll happen eventually) and contacted a local guy who specializes in wood aquarium stands. He gave me a great quote but the ETA was a few months out, so everything went on hold and I started accumulating all my necessary gear so when I got the stand I could start it right up. I picked up a Fiji Cube 30 inch sump from BRS, which was damaged, but only aesthetically, and BRS gave me a discount (overall win). I grabbed a couple of Eheim Jager heaters and an inkbird controller, as well as a bubble magus curve elite 7 for all my skimming needs. Picked up a couple of AI Hydra32s in great condition used. When I went to install those, I realized the HMS mounts aren't made for rimmed tanks, so I had some work to do. I bought some 1/4" sheets of clear acrylic from Amazon and cut out some rectangles, then stacked them together to essentially create spacers to make the mounts work with a rimmed tank.

I also built a mixing station in my garage with some brute trash cans and a Jebao DCP-10000 that has been a lifesaver. I hooked up a BRS RODI system and ran the line through my kitchen wall out to the garage so I could always have a stash of good fresh water and saltwater. Took a lot of time to get set up but has been a huge help so far.

I also decided from the beginning that I was going to keep as clean a system as possible (regarding things like ich and other parasites), so I found a local fish rescue that was getting rid of a dual 29G/20L tank setup on a stand that became my invert/coral QT and prophylactic fish treatment tank. I started the 20 Long cycling with a HOB, Eheim Jager heater and a Hydor Koralia powerhead, using Dr. Tim's One and Only and Fritz ammonia. The cycle took quite a while for this one, which was fine because I had some time to spare. Once it was cycled, I got some trochus snails, blue leg hermits, and scarlet reef hermits, as well as a mexican turbo snail to start their 45-76 day QT process. Unfortunately, I don't think I had enough gunk in the tank for them to clean up, so despite my best efforts to supplement their natural food source, the trochus snails just wouldn't eat, and I lost all but one of them. The hermits did great (with the exception of 1 tiny guy who got picked on by the bigger ones), and the turbo did fine too.
I also started accumulating some fun beginner frags along the way. I picked up a cheap hammer and a couple of zoas to start quarantining before putting them in the DT. I used CoralRX dip before putting them in QT and then just watched them for a couple of months.

Around the beginning of August, I also started my fish QT cycling. I used Dr. Tim's for this one as well, and it went a bit faster than the invert QT (3 weeks vs 5 weeks). Once it was cycled I picked up my first fish (Ocellaris clown and a larger Da Vinci clown, as well as a tiny Tomini Tang) to start the QT process using HumbleFish's 30 day Cupramine method with an extra slow ramp-up on the dosing (bottle recommends 48 hours, I took a week to get to full dose). Everybody was happy and eating fine until all of a sudden my Da Vinci clown started acting strange and just flipped over and died one morning while I was watching it. Very sad day, and I still don't know what caused its untimely demise, but I'm inclined to think maybe it wasn't in the best of health and the Cupramine pushed it over the edge. Regardless though, the other 2 were fine and made it through treatment well.

This was the prompt for me to find a slightly less stressful method of treatment that didn't involve too much long term medication, so I switched to HumbleFish's Hybrid TTM using H2O2 and Prazipro. This has seemed to be a much easier process on the fish, and doesn't take nearly as long or require a fully cycled tank, which means I don't have to permanently have 3 tanks in my home office, so my wife is happy about that. (Also excuse the diatoms in the bottom tank. they got out of control fast)

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I finally got my stand around mid September, and started my plumbing. I'm using 1.5" plumbing for the overflow, 2 pipes going from the primary and secondary drains, and 1 from the emergency going to the skimmer chamber. I set up a Sicce Syncra Silent 5.0 running to split 3/4" plumbing for the returns. I debated a manifold off the main return but when I considered my overall flow, it seemed better to have it on a separate pump, so that's a planned expansion.
One major obstacle I ran into with the plumbing was the noise from the overflow. I had a hard time finding the sweet spot between a loud vacuum noise or a waterfall noise. I finally got it balanced out after some consultation with Rick, the owner at Synergy Reef (who was super helpful). All it took was some delicate balancing between the overflow gate valve, the standpipes in the external overflow box, and a week's worth of patience.

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Once that was all done... it was time to do some scaping and get the rock and sand in there. I used CaribSea AragAlive Special grade (I used fiji pink in my invert QT, and while it looked nicer, it blew around way too much), and the purple LifeRock to do the scaping. I ultimately settled on a simple triple stack of rocks that seemed stable and gave some good swim-through spaces and hiding spots for my shy fish. After that, all I had to do was fill it up with water and wait for it to settle then cycle. For my DT, I used Fritz Turbostart, as the Dr. Tim's method seemed to really not speed things up much for me (probably got bad batches from buying online/shipping in summer heat). It cycled pretty quickly, at which point it was time to get the fish in and start perfecting everything (meaning adding a controller board, hooking up the apex that I bought, and getting cabinet doors put on the stand.


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As far as future plans, you may be able to see in the picture that I'm using a plain old 5 gallon glass tank as my ATO reservoir. It works great and only cost $15, so I'm not complaining, but I'd love to get some space back under my stand, so I may switch to a narrower ATO reservoir at some point.
I also need to get another return pump to connect to my manifold, so I can start running my carbon and GFO.
I'd also like to get a refugium set up at some point (depending on how efficient my manifold stuff is).
I was able to pick up 2 used Neptune DOS units and a Trident, so those will run auto water changes and automate dosing 2 part for me, but I'm waiting on some parts, so that's the most immediate next project once all the stuff comes in.
My ultimate plan is for this to be a simple mixed reef with some good fish variety.
I'll put a full gear/current livestock list as a followup to this post, as well as some pics of my current controller board setup and planned next steps there.
Even though I've never posted on R2R before, I've already learned a ton from all of you as I've browsed the threads, and look forward to continuing that process!
 
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RodeoClownfish

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As someone just starting a 75 gallon tank, this is impressive! I wish I would have hard plumbed my tank in hindsight. Unfortunately I couldn't drill my tank because it's tempered glass and would have shattered.

Another thing that really impresses me about your build is your QT process. No lie, I visited a fish store last week and asked about their QT process and whether or not I should QT, and the guy told me that all their fish only systems are treated with copper and prazi which according to him is *technically* a QT system and I should just dump and pray. I didn't like that answer but I know QT'ing my own fish could be a lengthy and involved process.

I'm going to look into the hybrid QT method you mentioned and set up a QT tank myself. Doesn't look too complicated and can be torn down once all the fish are added.

Best of luck and thanks for sharing!
 
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CluelessReefer

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As someone just starting a 75 gallon tank, this is impressive! I wish I would have hard plumbed my tank in hindsight. Unfortunately I couldn't drill my tank because it's tempered glass and would have shattered.

Another thing that really impresses me about your build is your QT process. No lie, I visited a fish store last week and asked about their QT process and whether or not I should QT, and the guy told me that all their fish only systems are treated with copper and prazi which according to him is *technically* a QT system and I should just dump and pray. I didn't like that answer but I know QT'ing my own fish could be a lengthy and involved process.

I'm going to look into the hybrid QT method you mentioned and set up a QT tank myself. Doesn't look too complicated and can be torn down once all the fish are added.

Best of luck and thanks for sharing!
I'd definitely recommend reading up on HumbleFish's Tank transfer method. It takes a lot of new saltwater, but I just picked up 2 10 gallon tanks from petco for cheap and it's much faster/easier. Hybrid method (using Hydrogen Peroxide) treats for velvet, ich, brook and internal parasites
 
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CluelessReefer

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Current Gear/livestock list as promised...
Main DT:
Aqueon 75 gallon rimmed aquarium
Synergy Reef overflow (using 1 1/2" drains)
(2) AI Hydra 32HD
(2) AI Nero 5 (would like to replace with MP40s at some point)
Fiji 30" sump
(2) Eheim Jager 100w heaters
Sicce Syncra Silent 5.0 (using split 3/4" returns)
Bubble Magus Curve Elite 7
Neptune Apex
Neptune ATK
Trident
(2) Neptune DOS (1 dosing B Ionics Alk/Cal, 1 handling auto water changes)

Expansion plans:
Need a pump for my manifold (Carbon and GFO, maybe UV at some point)
Neptune AFS (so I can make this thing self sufficient for an upcoming vacation)

Livestock:
(2) Ocellaris clowns (1 Da Vinci)
Tomini Tang
Flame Angelfish
Valentini Puffer
Purple firefish
CUC:
indeterminate number of Trochus snails (I lost count after 10)
Somewhere between 10-15 hermit crabs (mix of blue leg/scarlet reef)
1 solitary Mexican Turbo snail
 
Click to watch best scape method in 5 easy steps!

RodeoClownfish

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Current Gear/livestock list as promised...
Main DT:
Aqueon 75 gallon rimmed aquarium
Synergy Reef overflow (using 1 1/2" drains)
(2) AI Hydra 32HD
(2) AI Nero 5 (would like to replace with MP40s at some point)
Fiji 30" sump
(2) Eheim Jager 100w heaters
Sicce Syncra Silent 5.0 (using split 3/4" returns)
Bubble Magus Curve Elite 7
Neptune Apex
Neptune ATK
Trident
(2) Neptune DOS (1 dosing B Ionics Alk/Cal, 1 handling auto water changes)

Expansion plans:
Need a pump for my manifold (Carbon and GFO, maybe UV at some point)
Neptune AFS (so I can make this thing self sufficient for an upcoming vacation)

Livestock:
(2) Ocellaris clowns (1 Da Vinci)
Tomini Tang
Flame Angelfish
Valentini Puffer
Purple firefish
CUC:
indeterminate number of Trochus snails (I lost count after 10)
Somewhere between 10-15 hermit crabs (mix of blue leg/scarlet reef)
1 solitary Mexican Turbo snail
@CluelessReefer I have a question about the puffer - are you at all worried that the puffer will attack other fish, and more importantly the invertebrates? I love puffers and would love to have one in my tank but I would eventually like to have inverts and corals, and my understanding is that puffers just aren't compatible with either.
 

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