Big Bertha: 180g Build

forestsofkelp

Community Member
View Badges
Joined
Jun 28, 2019
Messages
77
Reaction score
84
Location
Southern California
Well, this build thread started a little late, because things don't go as planned. What a great way to start a build thread.

This tank has been a long time coming, and is my dream tank. I’ve been planning it since I was in college. Although I probably shouldn't have done it, I did. So...without further ado, here is my 180 gallon build, "The Coffin" as it has been named by my family but I call her Big Bertha. I'll try and post every day until I catch up to where I am....

I originally started out with freshwater tanks, but have kept reef tanks for the last 10-12 years. I’ve had a tank in one form or another for the last 15 years. My prior reef tanks were a 20, a 60, briefly a 90, and now a 20 gallon again. Ever since seeing a peaceful Japanese reef tank, its been my goal to bring the tranquility of a planted freshwater tank to a reef tanks. This has been challenging, especially since the Indo ban and the difficulty of hobbyists in keeping/finding large colonies and tanks. The tank I loved the most had large colonies. I am hoping this will be the same. Below are some of my prior tanks, all run very simply, with a skimmer but no sump.

I like big colonies, and tanks that are oversized for the fish. I like the “garden” look, with small fish swimming around. And I looove invertebrates!

Big thanks to my wife, brother, father and my best friend who have helped so much in making this possible, primarily through inspiration but also through listening to me yammer on and on.

Here is a photo of one of my old tanks, my favorite one but not my largest. I can't find a lot of my old ones.

07.08.17-18.09.57*.jpg
 
Last edited:
Maxout
OP
forestsofkelp

forestsofkelp

Community Member
View Badges
Joined
Jun 28, 2019
Messages
77
Reaction score
84
Location
Southern California
The new tank is a Crystal Dynamics 180gallon, 60inches by 30inches by 24inches. I thought about going 48inches, but 60 just felt right. Plus, in for a penny, in for a pound right?

Lights: 3x ATI Straton. I debated between these and the Mitras, but the Mitras are difficult to mount and don’t look as good (one criteria from the wife is that the tank has to look good). Plus, the ATI seemed easier to control. And they are fanless; I am a big fan of silence. I did get ahold of the hanging kit from Germany.

Controller: GHL: I like GHLs auto testing system, and they have a stellar record for reliability.

Sump: Lifereef. Thanks to Jeff for building a killer custom sump, skimmer and ATO tank. I highly reccommend going with him. His stuff has a reputation for being bulletproof (and feels like it), it is all serviceable, and it was similliar in cost as buying mid range premade factory stuff. He is a great guy to work with.

Honestly while setting it up I was little befuddled, but he sent me every piece, the exact right size, and it looks killer. Thanks Jeff!!!

ATO pump is made by Tunze. Here you can also see my leak sensors and catch basin.

Pumps: mag drives and Panta Rhei. I really went back and forth on the Panta Rhei. My goal was minimal pumps in the tanks. I also wanted something dead simple to operate. The ECM42 cost about the same as MP60s. And, I like having “unique” equipment. Buy once, cry once.



I attached some photos of the tank in the garage, and boxes in the house waiting to be unpacked.

I am getting the plumbing/wiring done...but so far, no luck getting the tank in the house :oops:

IMG_7019.jpeg IMG_7062.jpeg IMG_7001.jpeg IMG_7063.jpeg
 
OP
forestsofkelp

forestsofkelp

Community Member
View Badges
Joined
Jun 28, 2019
Messages
77
Reaction score
84
Location
Southern California
Most of the plumbing was fitted today, some of the hard to find stuff is coming via online shipping. GHL system is up and connected to internet.

Without the tank in place, there isn't much else I can do. Once it's in, plumb, light, and program time. Then its just a matter of rock

The stand is missing the doors still, should be coming in next week.
 
Orphek OR3 reef aquarium LED lighting
OP
forestsofkelp

forestsofkelp

Community Member
View Badges
Joined
Jun 28, 2019
Messages
77
Reaction score
84
Location
Southern California
Good luck man! I bet it will come out amazing.
thanks! Progress has been slower than I hoped. I figured I'd post the build since this is hopefully my last one for a while...plus I've always wanted a build thread.

NGL the amount of anxiety with these big tanks is huge. I don't regret it, but a smaller one would definitely have been easier in every way.
 

zukihara

Well-Known Member
View Badges
Joined
Nov 18, 2020
Messages
854
Reaction score
2,256
Location
Nashville
I'm sorry, but I have to ask. Why not put it where those books are instead of behind your couch?
 
OP
forestsofkelp

forestsofkelp

Community Member
View Badges
Joined
Jun 28, 2019
Messages
77
Reaction score
84
Location
Southern California
well, the way it is right now you actually face the tank and the current book location when you sit on the couch. The downstairs is in the middle of a shuffle. All those books are going to go on a bookshelf-to-be above the couch; their current location is where a TV will go. Theres also stairs there and the tank would block the stairs.

So eventually you'd walk downstairs, see the tank end on, and then sit on the couch and see the tank front view.
 
OP
forestsofkelp

forestsofkelp

Community Member
View Badges
Joined
Jun 28, 2019
Messages
77
Reaction score
84
Location
Southern California
Still waiting on help moving the tank. It's too heavy to move down a narrow passage/stairs with normal people; I need people that move heavy stuff for a living. Piano movers don't do tanks, but I have a few leads and gun safe company that might help.

Word of warning: Do not buy a large tank unless you have a really good plan for moving it in the house.

The rest of the plumbing should be here next week. Then I can finally leak test it.

I am probably going to go with maricultured rock. The LR from the store has not been a great experience for me that past few years. Not sure if its the rock or if I have gotten sloppy, but my old tanks with LR from the ocean did really well with minimal pests/testing.

I am just going to keep updating this as I go along, like a true build thread should.
 
Maxout
OP
forestsofkelp

forestsofkelp

Community Member
View Badges
Joined
Jun 28, 2019
Messages
77
Reaction score
84
Location
Southern California
Phew! After a few home depot runs, got the lights up. Hoping to finish all the final plumbing and wiring this week, and get it wet next week!

Progress is a lot slower than I thought, but a lot of this stuff is new to me (advanced plumbing, hard to find PVC fixtures, ceiling/wall mounting). My tanks used to be simple and clean, so I am trying to make this one clean as can be..which is a challenge with all the plumbing and wiring.

I thought I would have "tons" of room under the tank, but even with a large sump, its still tight for heaters, pumps tubing, and electronics.
 

Attachments

  • IMG_7124.jpeg
    IMG_7124.jpeg
    148.6 KB · Views: 59
  • IMG_7126.jpeg
    IMG_7126.jpeg
    162.2 KB · Views: 47
OP
forestsofkelp

forestsofkelp

Community Member
View Badges
Joined
Jun 28, 2019
Messages
77
Reaction score
84
Location
Southern California
Finally got the lights up. Lot of "under the hood" work I'll post soon, but its pretty boring. Cable management, getting the profilux set up, getting the Straton on the network, dry fitting PVC...

I have two issues, if anyone has any ideas.

The modular marine overflow, although it comes with 1.5" drains, does not actually fit 1.5" drains unless you cut the threads in the overflow really short...which I don't think I am prepared to do. Could I just cut the threads on the bulkhead with a PVC pipe cutter? Im worried about weakening/bending the bulkhead.

It looks like I am going to use a 1" bean animal, and the rest of the drain system is 1.5". That should be able to drain...return is a mag drive 12 @ ~2000 gph going through 2x 1" returns/

It is nearly impossible to find PVC tubing in 1" and 1.5" ID. The 1.5" especially. Its either PEX tubing in 100' sets @$150-300+ or braided PVC 2 feet long. Unfortunately I only need, say, 5 feet. I may need to extend the PVC piping under the tank so I can use the 2" long pieces.

I was hoping to get it filled next week, but plumbing calls...
 

Attachments

  • IMG_7130.jpeg
    IMG_7130.jpeg
    150.9 KB · Views: 42
  • IMG_7132.jpeg
    IMG_7132.jpeg
    154.3 KB · Views: 45
OP
forestsofkelp

forestsofkelp

Community Member
View Badges
Joined
Jun 28, 2019
Messages
77
Reaction score
84
Location
Southern California
The doors were delivered. They make a big difference. Next is the drains, plumbing and finishing up the wiring.
As best I can determine, the modular marine does not accept elbows in the box...so I think I am stuck going standpipes only. Pretty annoying.

Finally found 1.5 in ID vinyl tubing. What a PITA. They had it one local Lowes at $5 a foot..everywhere else was 100 ft rolls at $300-600 a roll, if they had it all.
 

Attachments

  • IMG_7145.jpeg
    IMG_7145.jpeg
    163.1 KB · Views: 45
Top Shelf Aquatics
OP
forestsofkelp

forestsofkelp

Community Member
View Badges
Joined
Jun 28, 2019
Messages
77
Reaction score
84
Location
Southern California
Progress has slowly ground to a halt while I await plumbing supplies. Most of the local stores dont have what I need and shipping is about a week out.

It's been slow going; I didn't realize this but these big projects really require a dedicated day for any semblance of progress, and plumbing is a new skill for me. I have most of the wiring and and cables as neat as I can get (I think).
Some of the plumbing I am not happy with; I was hoping to have protected electronics, but with such large volumes requiring large tubing, the cabinet space is tight. Power and water are closer than I would want. I am concerned something will happen at some point in the next couple years.

I have a new found respect for people with organized cabinets; my plumbing and wiring isn't as neat as I'd like and I think I've done my best. Part of that is because I went with a sump designed for a 2 separate drains when I only have one, and the other part is underestimating how space all the cables etc would take, and another is having such a large tank that it needs so much.

There is one tubing running into the refugium that appears concerning on photos, but its going to be a very pressure tube, and its clamped, so I think it will be ok.

I'm hoping once its up, it'll be fine. Also, once the lighting cables are organized I think it will look much more clean. Just a few stray wires make it look really messy.

This one week build has become 2-3 months. I guess I have time to order my water sensors....as soon as my credit card recovers.

1.jpeg 2.jpeg
 
OP
forestsofkelp

forestsofkelp

Community Member
View Badges
Joined
Jun 28, 2019
Messages
77
Reaction score
84
Location
Southern California
I finally got the plumbing supplies. Unfortunately, the plumbing and the elecontrics did not look like it would go well together. So I had to wait for boxes for the power strips. I finished the electronics on Friday, the plumbing (with supports) on Sat, and it got wet Sunday. No leaks...time to drain and fill with RO/DI (and get a few GHL connections/probes set up!

I still need to clean the wiring up a bit and my case for the controllers was damaged and is being rebuilt....hopefully I can get rock in it by the end of the month/early next month.
 

Attachments

  • IMG_7206.jpeg
    IMG_7206.jpeg
    146.8 KB · Views: 39
  • IMG_7207.jpeg
    IMG_7207.jpeg
    130.9 KB · Views: 38
  • IMG_7208.jpeg
    IMG_7208.jpeg
    163.8 KB · Views: 38
  • IMG_7230.jpeg
    IMG_7230.jpeg
    179.2 KB · Views: 35
  • IMG_7231.jpeg
    IMG_7231.jpeg
    183.5 KB · Views: 38
  • IMG_7232.jpeg
    IMG_7232.jpeg
    134 KB · Views: 40

Dj City

2500 Club Member
View Badges
Joined
Mar 16, 2017
Messages
3,018
Reaction score
3,245
Great build.

I have the same size tank. 5ft long x 2ft width x 30inches deep. LOVE the depth of this size reef!

You have done real good work so far. I will be following your progress.
 
OP
forestsofkelp

forestsofkelp

Community Member
View Badges
Joined
Jun 28, 2019
Messages
77
Reaction score
84
Location
Southern California
Great build.

I have the same size tank. 5ft long x 2ft width x 30inches deep. LOVE the depth of this size reef!

You have done real good work so far. I will be following your progress.
Thanks. Its been a lot more work than I thought! Its taking me days to fill it. I have learned a lot.
 
BRS

Do you own a fish trap and acclimation box or just one or the other?

  • I own both a fish trap and acclimation box

    Votes: 42 17.6%
  • Just a fish trap

    Votes: 26 10.9%
  • Just an acclimation box

    Votes: 59 24.8%
  • Neither

    Votes: 106 44.5%
  • Other (please explain)

    Votes: 5 2.1%
Underwater Creations, Inc.
Top