Bipolarbear's new kitchen (with 225gal peninsula)

Bipolarbear

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So I've had my tank up and running for 8 months now and I figured it was time to start sharing what it took to get here:

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The entire project actually started more than 10 years ago when a member of our local reef club got a job offer in Hawaii and had to break down and sell their 225 acrylic peninsula system in 2 weeks. At the time I was renting a small apartment and had nowhere to even put the thing but for $800 it was impossible to pass on the deal. I purchased just the tank and the DIY stand which was just 2x4's which I just tossed out knowing I was going to want to do something fancy with the whole project.


At this point I had been running a 75 gallon system since I had been in college and was having some success with SPS but I was constantly running into space issues, not enough room for coral and not enough room for equipment:
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I eventually built a custom stand and cabinet for the 75 to deal with the wiring and equipment issues but it was still far from perfect. I knew that if I ever got the chance to setup the 225 gallon that I would want a full equipment room to house the mess and to isolate the noise.

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Bipolarbear

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As time passed I eventually graduated with a degree in Computer Science and started a career, which opened up the ability for me to buy a house. At the time I was dating what would become my future wife, and part of the deal was that any house we looked at had to have a viable location to put the 225.

We found a house after 6 months of shopping and put an offer in on a short sale. We were the 3rd couple to even look at the place and immediately knew we would be comfortable here. The short sale made for a long process and we didn't even know if we had our offer accepted for another 4 months.

The good news was everything worked out fine in the end and we got our keys on Aug 15 2012. The bad news was that I live in northern California and that September we were still hitting 90 - 100 degree days and the AC unit was not keeping up. We would run it all day and the temp in the house never went below 80 degrees, and our first electric bill for our 1 story house was $800. We knew something had to be done.
 
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Bipolarbear

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We had an energy audit done and all of our windows were original to the house, they were dual pane but all of the gaskets had cracked and blown out. A few windows were so bad that if you leaned on them they would have completely fallen out of the house.

On top of the window issues the previous owner had done a roof replacement in the year before selling the house but the roofers had let all the garbage from the replacement fall into the insulation basically ruining it.

That next spring we got a loan and replaced all the windows in the house, added a new window, removed one where the fish tank was going to eventually go, replaced all of the insulation, replaced the entire HVAC system and installed Solar Tubes....

That's right, this tank is lit by LED's and Solar Tubes:
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Bipolarbear

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The windows and HVAC system was an instant success, we could hold a 72 degree temp all month in the summer and our electric bill was only $200. This was important for more than my pocket book, the 75 gallon tank was running with only fans and evaporative cooling and I was not interested in purchasing a chiller for that tank.

Our plan at this point was to get the loan paid off and then start thinking about upgrading the kitchen and bathrooms, everything was functional but was all original 80's construction.

The 75gal tank was doing well during this time, but a few major life events were about to change my priorities. First I got married in 2014, and then in 2016 our daughter came along. As our family grew my time to commit to the tank dropped, most of the SPS faded away and I lost a few fish. I was disappointed in the condition of the tank but so happy to be able to spend time with my new family.

During this time we had also been discussing moving to a house that had more property and a bit more room but little did we know that there would be more live events that would throw all our plans into turmoil.

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Bipolarbear

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My wife was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2019, and my daughter was diagnosed with autism the year before. At this point the last thing on my mind was the fish tank.

I'm happy to say that we caught the cancer early and after multiple surgeries and hormone treatment there is no sign of cancer any longer but we are always watching.

We noticed my daughter was not talking around age 2 and had some friends who professionally do early intervention in kids that are at risk for autism. We had one dinner with them and they recommended we contact the county to get an assessment done. They determined that she was verbally delayed and likely medium to mild autistic and immediately got her in a program where a counselor would come help us with everything from going shopping to taking her to the park.

Those early intervention programs were amazing for our family. They helped us understand what our daughter needed from us and what to expect from her. They also guided us into the next steps which was pre-school within our local school district.

I can't say enough good things about our local school district, they enrolled her in pre-school at 3 years old while she was still in diapers. The school bus would come pick her up and drop her off at our door every day and we got daily reports on how she was doing. Within 3 months of pre-school she started talking, and now we can't make her stop!

The idea of moving was quickly fading, my wife still sees her oncologist who is walking distance from our house and our school district has a program setup until my daughter turns 21. With this in mind we decided that it was time we made this our forever home. The first thing to be done would be to update our 80's kitchen:
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Bipolarbear

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November 2019 and things are starting to return to whatever "normal" our family can start to feel like. My wife has mostly recovered from her surgeries and my daughter is starting her 2nd year of pre-school and we are getting used to her being gone most of the day.

We decided that we were going to remodel the house and split it into multiple projects. The first project would deal with the kitchen and front of the house, and once that was complete the bathrooms and back of the house would be the second project. We met with a few contractors in our area and settled on using a company who my wife had a connection to as one of the owners actually went to High School with her.

The design included ripping out multiple walls, installing a gas range instead of electric, enclosing a porch area to increase the size of the house and integrating the 225 directly into the kitchen. Things were looking up and the initial quote to complete was 3 months... but then COVID hit.

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Bipolarbear

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The first thing we had to do was decide what to do with the 75 gallon. Moving the tank on average took 10 hours from initial tear down to when I could go to sleep and not worry about flooding the house. The 75 was currently sitting right where the 225 was supposed to go and we had initially considered moving the 75 to the guest room and once the 225 was built transferring the fish and coral to the new system.

The problem became the amount of dust and the fact that this plan would actually require us to move the 75 gallon 2 times, once to get it in the guest room to do the kitchen and again to allow us to replace the flooring in the guest room. Considering that we were only doing this to eventually sell the tank and equipment we finally decided it would just be easier to just sell the entire system now before construction.

The final pictures of that system:
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March of 2020 was supposed to be our month to break ground on the construction project, but COVID was becoming scary and I was working from home full time. The project needed engineered designs to determine if any additional support would be needed due to the changing walls.

What was supposed to be a 1 week process to get the designs done turned into 3 months. This would be a common theme with our project, if you ever have to do a major remodel during a pandemic I don't recommend it.

It would be June before any work began, and little did we know but we wouldn't have a working kitchen again till after Christmas that year...
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Bipolarbear

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By August the crew had ripped out all the walls, the existing kitchen, poured concrete to level the extension and started doing drywall. We had a hotplate and a microwave in the garage for our makeshift kitchen and it became a miserable experience trying to make any decent meal out there when the days were hitting 100 degrees. Needless to say we were eating out a lot during this time.


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Bipolarbear

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We got the tank inside the house for the first time in August as well, I still needed to do a full sand and polish as it had been sitting in my garage for 8 years collecting dust and having stuff stacked on top and inside of it. I also managed to pickup a massive sump for only $600 from a local reefer.

By September we entered another period of waiting as the cabinetry shop that we had ordered the cabinets from had major slow downs due to COVID as well. The interior of the house was ready but no more work could be done till those arrived.

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Bipolarbear

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By the end of September I was able to get the tank sanded and polished, we also installed the luxury vinyl plank flooring ourselves to save some money. October would come and go without any work on the kitchen as we were still waiting on the cabinets. We wouldn't see cabinets in the house until the week before Thanksgiving.

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Bipolarbear

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Cabinets arrived November 19th! The project quickly went from 0 work to 100 as the crew started installing everything. We watched as the kitchen that had been empty since June started looking real.

Things started getting really exciting when we put the tank into its final location. The tank is designed to be a permanent part of the cabinetry, so we either live here forever or the next owner gets a full reef tank as part of their home.
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Bipolarbear

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The tank was designed so that as you walk in the door it's the first thing guests see, but also it allows you to see right through it to the kitchen. Our living room sits on one side with a reinforced desk on the other so I can actually stand on the counter to work inside the tank.

The dimensions of the tank are 36x24x60 so I can actually stand on the counter and reach the sand without my shirt getting wet.

After Thanksgiving we had the granite installed and I started working on the rock work for the tank.
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Bipolarbear

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I decided to go with completely dry rock so that I could build a series of rock islands to put coral on. It was important that the rock not look like a pile of rubble or be so tall that the coral didn't have room to grow. I wanted to be able to see caves and have different views from all 3 sides.

Using super glue and baking soda allowed me to quickly glue up rock where I thought it should go and then reinforce everything after with E-Marco mortar.

This ended up being so much better than using zip ties and trying to drill like I had done in the past, although it was pretty messy and I think I owe my wife a new porch table.
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Bipolarbear

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Christmas came and went and at that point the kitchen remodel was officially done. What should have been 3 months turned into 8.

The good news is that I was beginning to see what the tank might look like with the natural light coming through the solar tubes. After having them installed with a humidity sensing fan for 8 years it was nice to finally put them to use.

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Bipolarbear

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At this point I had the tank in and the rock situated but nothing else. My plan was to run all the plumbing through the wall to a shed outside the house where I would have all my equipment and be able to isolate the noise and mess away from our living area.

I had considered buying a shed kit but nothing I was looking at fit the size and cost that I was looking for. Ultimately I purchased lumber and built the shed on my own which turned out great. I don't have any pictures of the construction but it's a simple box with a sloped lid so you can use your imagination.

The choice to go this route ended up being really lucky as the next few months saw the price of lumber skyrocket, in December my 10x8 shed cost around $1K, but if I had waited I think the cost would have doubled or even tripled.

Once the shed was complete I was finally able to start plumbing which required me to cut through the wall and then run the piping to the shed.

Water hit the tank for the first time on Jan 21st 2021.

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Bipolarbear

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I ended up building a double stacked sump system. The water from the tank enters the upper sump first which houses the skimmer while the lower sump contains filter socks to eliminate any debris and micro-bubbles along with a couple of Brightwell and Marine Pure bricks.

The result has been better than I expected, I currently have 15 fish and feed 4x a day and I still have to dose NeoNitro daily to get a reading above 0. Phosphate has been coming in at .02 without dosing so I usually just test weekly to keep an eye on it.

I knew I needed to supplement the solar tubes with some sort of actinic lighting and I finally decided to go with the Orphek OR3 Blue Plus LED bars. I didn't need the ability to adjust the spectrum or anything fancy really I just wanted the par and a cost that made sense and these worked out perfectly. I also have tons of room over the tank in case I wanted to add additional LED bars or any other LED system really.
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I started cycling the tank with Microbacter Dry Rock kit which took much longer than advertised. I was fine with it though it gave me time to continue to build out additional projects in the fish room and get additional equipment setup and ready for summer.

The first fish went in the tank on March 7th 2021 a pair of locally bred clownfish, and a starter frag just to see if things were stable enough for coral.

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About a month later the starter frag was still going strong so I decided to go all in with a live sale from @FraghouseCorals. Got the following:

Reef Pets Radiant Horizon
FHC Equilibrium
ARC Green Table
Tyree Blue Tip Stag
Uchins Shimmer and Shine
Reef Pets Purple Monster
Reef Pets Tidal Wave Stag
Reef Pets Blue Tip Green Slimer
Reef Raft Pink Floyd
Jason Fox the Unknown
FHC Starry Night
FHC Nuclear Waste
DR Bali Tri Color
FHC Blukatchu
FHC Green table
Tyree Pinky the Bear

Everything arrived in great shape and within a day I had initial placement done for this batch of coral. Now the true test of the solar tubes was to see what kind of growth I could get out of the SPS.

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