Blood, sweat, and tears.... Or my first SW 75 gallon build thread!

480Reefer

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Hello fellow reefers and welcome to the circus of my first saltwater tank build or how I turned 80 gallons into 75.
(In retrospect it wasn’t so bad but hey that’s part of the fun is the journey.)

It all started when a friend and coworker upgraded his 80 gallon reef tank that had been running for 10+ years to a beautiful and much larger system.

Being the awesome friend he is and knowing I’d always wanted a sw tank myself but feared the initial investments (funny how in hindsight those investments are small overall) he gave me the complete setup with some extra goodies minus livestock after the breakdown. (Dream come true!)

Flash forward a few months (thanks quarantine) he dropped it all off and there I was, the proud owner of an 80 gallon tank, stand that needed some major tlc, a bunch of random doo hickies, and hang on thing a mings, and all the bells and whistles.

Cue the anxiety and the oh man, this isn’t freshwater realization but that’s ok, I planned for this! You see, I’ve always enjoyed lurking, scanning forums (Reef2Reef heavily), reading posts, articles, heck even going as far as adding fish to shopping carts and day dreaming for years about the future reef tank I hoped to have.

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After more breathing in paper bags and hours of research, I concluded the best place to start was to look at the tank and inspect for any damage during transport.

Good news, no transport damage or at least none that we could discern from a decade of use.

Bad news, the seal is basically gone after the same decade of use and likely won’t hold up long term; certainly not to my scrutiny or anxiety levels.

In for a penny, in for a pound; isn’t that the saying?

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We got this, spend a lot of time researching and watching videos on how to reseal aquariums, correctly, and hours scraping every bit of old silicone from the inside; acetone to get the residue and air dry for a few days while the silicone arrived in the mail.

All throughout my little helper was “helping” me and I couldn’t have done it without her! (Except for the dangerous bits like razors and chemicals; sorry kiddo a few more years.)

Sealant arrives and I plan the job meticulously for the upcoming weekend as a one man job due to my wife working and not having anyone else around during quarantine. (Big mistake.)

I’ll skip the gory details but suffice to say here’s a couple tips from my first time:

1) don’t apply sealant in warm, windy ambient weather

2) don’t try to do a decent sized tank yourself

3) don’t try to keep track of your helper and get distracted by the neighbors despite you insisting you had to focus

4) don’t apply it in the sun

5) don’t use just your bare fingers like you saw someone do in a video so you can “feel” the bead... (I’ve used a ton of caulking in my life and this was way different!)

6) have tons of rags and cleanup tools

7) have more rags and cleanup tools

8) don’t use too much and plan for the tube change if it’s a big project, that stuff dries FAST or at least when hot and in the sun it does...

9) don’t wipe it on your jeans, I’m actually still pulling bits off

10) don’t lean over and drop sweat right onto the still curing silicone

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It’s not pretty but maybe it’ll hold water?

Discuss with original owner and consult various posts, maybe not.... Major blow to the ego and motivation because up to this point, the little setbacks were overcame with research and looking on various sites and posts. (It’s worse than just that sweat drop pictured but I seem to not have anymore on this phone.)

It took all of about three minutes of sulking for me to decide that this wouldn’t be the end, I began to prepare the steps to scrape and clean out all of the new silicone I had worked very hard to place and let everyone who was involved in the build process this far, knowof my failure.

(Side note, this process has forced me to grow as a person with patience, understanding, facing my fears and anxiety, making me step outside of my comfort zone sooo many times, etc but I digress.)

With the clean up planned for the next weekend, I had some time to research stand repairs and after much debating decided that purchasing a new stand was probably best for my anxiety and time is money after all I was finding to be too true.

Searching around and finding out that 80 gallon wasn’t exactly a “standard” size and the weight limits would be pushing some of the prebuilt stands for sinilar; I stumbled upon a setup with a tank, stand, and light (trash leds). All new and for like an extra $50 or so compared to just stands due to sales at the time and stacking curbside pickup savings on top.
Some family discussions and the approval to buy and it was all ours!

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Months later and 5 gallons less but success!!

Now you see how my 80 gallons turned into 75 gallons and the cautionary tale I have for folks looking to reseal:

Just be prepared and don’t do a decent sized tank yourself or you might end up buying a new tank and having a future terrarium.

Next post will contain the next steps including aquascaping, leveling, filling, cycling, and ATO setup.

Thanks for hanging with me thus far, I hope you had fun and happy reefing!
 
Fritz

CMMorgan

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@480Reefer ... that was one heck of an entertaining write up. I feel like I was there sniffing chemicals with you. LOL
I truly look forward to the future chapters of your journey!
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480Reefer

480Reefer

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@480Reefer ... that was one heck of an entertaining write up. I feel like I was there sniffing chemicals with you. LOL
I truly look forward to the future chapters of your journey!
So Excited Kermit GIF by MOODMAN
Thank you, it truly was an adventure and some character building moments for sure.
Nevertheless, it was all worth it to see those silly happy fish faces now.

I’ll do my best to keep the suspense up in the next posts, coming soon!
 
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480Reefer

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Let’s start the next post with a question for the readers:

How many of you would put your tank somewhere else now that it’s setup, running, and way more inconvenient to move?

Follow up: how long did you think about placement before filling?

I’ll start, we would definitely put it somewhere else and that’s after we talked and measured for hours before placing.
Maybe it’s just another one of those grass is greener things...

Moving on, so now we have a tank and a stand brand new; worry free assuming it passes the leak test of course.

(When we moved into this house we replaced the old flooring and installed tile throughout. Unfortunately, some of the old laminate was still stuck down and they seemed to have tiled over it or my concrete slab has turned into a 3D topological map of the Rockies because we do not have a level floor.)

Back to the old Google machine and I learn a lot about shims and leveling tanks.

Here we go:
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Decided on the composite shims expecting spills and went to town.

It may have been overkill but I added shims every 1-2” because I want as many contact points as possible.

I spent probably two solid days leveling every single shim perfectly. Then had to redo it again with water in it and finally a third time somewhat to get the pieces sticking out off. I ended up picking up a cheap wood chisel and cut into the grooves as they were just bending without breaking to get the finished look.

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(Don’t mind the preview of the aquascape, I actually took the shims off after the water test and everything so this is after all of that, oops.)

Water test went as expected and we were off and running on laying out the aquascape.

I purposely started from dry rock as I have a fear of hitchhikers and pests I’m working through so I ordered about 50 lbs of dry rock from BRS and started to stack. (15 lbs of shelf rock, 3 Marco foundation rocks, about 25 lbs of bulks dry rock, and a case of Dr Pepper.)

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Couple hours of stacking and we have something going. (I know I need more rock, looking for the perfect few pieces left.)

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Final placement in tank, was going for some nice caves and some shelves for future coral growth:
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Filling:
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Filled and no lights while cycling:
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I think that’ll do it for this update despite my previous comment, I tend to ramble on so next episode will be cycling!

Thanks again for stopping by and I hope you had fun!

Until next time, happy reefing!!
 

CMMorgan

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Did you consider maybe drilling a few holes in that shelf rock for frag plugs in the future? I'd definitely look to add some height in there eventually, too. Otherwise .... off to the races ... woot woot
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480Reefer

480Reefer

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Did you consider maybe drilling a few holes in that shelf rock for frag plugs in the future? I'd definitely look to add some height in there eventually, too. Otherwise .... off to the races ... woot woot
Run Away Here We Go GIF by DisneyJunior
I had considered it and that was part of the initial draw to the shelf rock.

I only used epoxy in one spot so I can still take them out to mess around as needed down the road.

Thanks for tagging along so far!

Edit: Totally agree, I have some live rock curing at the original owners house whenever I get to it and plan to add a few more pieces once we can find the right rocks so more is coming.
 

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