Cody's 153 gallon CTC Custom Build with Basement Sump Room

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ReefDreamz

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Welcome to my build thread!

I had a 70 gallon mixed reef while I was in grad school from 2008 to 2011. I started that tank with Tampa Bay Saltwater live rock. I took the tank down and sold all the livestock locally because I was moving often and because the price of the coral I really wanted to keep was out of my price range. I used to dream of an aquarium with all the bells and whistles and a basement sump room. Well fast forward 14 years and I'm now in a place to set up my "dream tank".

The Aquarium
I had the aquarium built by Coast to Coast Custom Aquariums (CTC) in New Jersey. It's 153 gallons based on the external dimensions and 138 gallons actual water volume based on the internal dimensions. The tank is 49.5" x 31" x 23". It's eurobraced and has an external overflow box with three 1.5" drain and two 1" return bulkheads.

The Stand
The stand is an aluminum 80/20 stand built by Framing Tech. I had the stand skinned with removable stained oak panels by Chris McGrody Fine Furniture.

The Sump and Filtration
The sump is a Synergy Reef SK72 (72" x 18" x 18") sump with Dual Gen 3 Clearisea SK5000 Brackets.

Filtration will consist of two Gen 3 Clearisea SK5000 's, a Bubble King Double Cone 180 protein skimmer, a Lifeguard Aquatics Pro Max 40 watt UV sterilizer, and two Dreambox media filters. Rock is Marco Reesaver Rock.

Lighting
Two Kessil A500x and four 24" ReefBrite Bars.

Return Pumps
Dual Abyzz A200 IPUs, one plumbed to each return bulkhead.

Heating
Innovative Marine Helio 1000 Watt PTC Smart Aquarium heater.

Control
Neptune Apex System
Trident
Tunze Osmolator

Supplementation
Avast Marine K2 Kalk stirrer

This is all I have planned for now equipment wise. I still need to decide on flow pumps, QT setup and more.

Livestock
LPS heavy mixed reef with plenty of Duncans, Euphilia, Lobophyllia, Micromussa, Trachyphyllia, Fungia, Favia, Goniopora, Chalice, Blasomussa, Pectinia, and one nice Acanthophyllia. I am planning an upper center section of assorted Acropora species and some Montipora Digitata. I would also like some select Zoanthids and Ricordia on isolated sections of the aquascape. I don't have a final fish list yet but would like to include a Gem Tang, Yellow Tang, Kole Tang, possibly a Magnificent Foxface, a pair of clowns, a Royal Gramma, multiple Helfrichi Firefish, Flame Hawkfish, a Midas Blenny, and three or four Lyretail Anthias. Possibly some Green Chromis as well.
 
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Tidal Gardens
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ReefDreamz

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The build began with the basement sump room. I built a new wall on the side of the stairs and then took down all the existing drywall and replaced it with expanded PVC board. Credit to Ryan's BRS 360 sump room videos for the expanded PVC wall idea.

I had an electrician install three dedicated 20 amp circuits, with receptacles added in the sump room and in the closet next to where the tank will be on the first floor.

I built and painted the saltwater mixing station stand, the sump stand, and the utility sink counter. All countertops are expanded PVC board and all seams are caulked with the exception of the mixing station top, for that I used leftover 0.75" type 1 PVC. I also installed Swisstrax Ribtrax Smooth Pro flooring tiles.

Before
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Progress
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Sump stand
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Mixing station stand
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Utility sink counter
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More Progress
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Reef Chasers Aquaculture
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ReefDreamz

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Aquarium progress.

After almost going with a Waterbox I happened upon ReefBum's 3 Glass Walls YouTube series and following his lead I ordered a tank from Patrick at Coast to Coast Custom Aquariums.

The tank is 49.5" x 31" x 23". It's 153 gallons based on the external dimensions but the actual running volume will be around 138 gallons minus rock displacement. It's low iron glass on the front and sides. It's eurobraced and has an external overflow box with three 1.5" drain and two 1" return bulkheads.

Taking another page out of ReefBum's book I drove from New Hampshire to New Jersey and back to pick up the aquarium instead of having it shipped. It was quite stressful driving 6 hours with this tank in the back of my truck.

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Once home, I hired movers to move the tank into the house. They opted to first move it from my truck into their truck so they could use the ramp to get it into the house.
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I went with this size aquarium for a couple main reasons. One, while I have plenty of space in the basement for the sump room, I don't have a lot of space on my first floor for the aquarium. My other hobby is collecting 1/4 scale statues of comic book characters (picture below) which take up a ton of space. The reef tank will be sharing this room with my statue display cases. Two, this was the largest tank (the most weight) I was comfortable with having on the first floor.

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Aquarium Stand progress

I purchased an 80/20 aluminum frame from Framing Tech. I worked with Anthony who was spectacular to work with. The stand is on heavy duty leveling casters with extendable/retractable rubber feet. This way I can move the stand around while doing the plumbing, then move it into its final location, lower the rubber feet, and level the tank.

The top panel is 0.75" type 1 PVC which was not cheap but is worth it to have peace of mind that when water inevitably gets in-between the tank and stand its not it's not going to rot or weaken. I got the idea for the leveling casters and type 1 PVC top from Than at Tidal Gardens.

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I then had the aluminum frame skinned in removable oak panels by a local cabinet maker, Chris McGrody Fine Furniture. He did a fantastic job and having the panels removable will make plumbing the tank to the sump so much easier.

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We added a layer of 4 lb density closed cell foam on top of the type 1 PVC, also an idea stolen from Than at Tidal Gardens. The top trim piece and the interior is laminated with black formica to prevent any water splashes from damaging the wood.

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Orphek OR3 reef aquarium LED bar
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ReefDreamz

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Plumbing and aquascape progress

I chose to use 1.5" drains and 1.5" returns with the exception of the final 90 degree elbows and return bulkheads which are 1". The reasoning for going with 1.5" return plumbing is to minimize head pressure and maximize flow rate. This was the recommendation of Alex from Abyzz.

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For the rock I went with Marco rock and used the ultra-thin super glue/sand method popularized by Tidal Gardens.

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NowGlazeIT

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Tidal Gardens
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ReefDreamz

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Made some more progress this week. It's funny I was listening to the latest Reef Therapy podcast and Jake was saying how the focus of the hobby has shifted more on to the corals and fish these days rather than the DIY aspect of the hobby because of the readily available pre-made systems from Red Sea, Waterbox and the like but for me it's been alllll DIY so far.

Anyways got the utility sink functioning:

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Got the RO/DI hooked up to the cold water line:

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Worked on some cord management and got the control panel started with the Apex, heater, and skimmer done so far (don't mind the crooked receptacle :beaming-face-with-smiling-eyes:):

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I cut holes in the studs of this wall before I put the PVC board up so I could run the cords through the wall and over to the control panel area. I used these waterproof cord grommets made for boats to keep everything waterproof:

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Now it's time to drill holes through the living room floor....
 
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I have been slowly making progress on the plumbing over the last few weekends. The drains are mostly finished, now onto the returns. A few challenges I have had during the plumbing:

1. Since my drains and returns all come through the floor in a straight line I needed to offset them using 45's after they came through the floor so that the drain lines could be run parallel to each other to the sump.

2. I was overly cautions to try and make sure that the weight of the plumbing did not pull down on the overflow box of the tank or push down on the top of the sump. I think I accomplished this using various mounts. The plumbing is mounted to the back of the stand, the joists in the basement, and the wall behind the sump.

3. I found it difficult to "dry fit" the plumbing since the pipe does not go all the way into the fittings before it is lubricated with glue. This makes it impossible to mock up the plumbing before gluing since nothing fits correctly length wise. I tried my best but ended up mostly measuring and gluing as I went.

I will be plumbing the UV sterilizer into one of the 2 returns next.

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NowGlazeIT

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I have been slowly making progress on the plumbing over the last few weekends. The drains are mostly finished, now onto the returns. A few challenges I have had during the plumbing:

1. Since my drains and returns all come through the floor in a straight line I needed to offset them using 45's after they came through the floor so that the drain lines could be run parallel to each other to the sump.

2. I was overly cautions to try and make sure that the weight of the plumbing did not pull down on the overflow box of the tank or push down on the top of the sump. I think I accomplished this using various mounts. The plumbing is mounted to the back of the stand, the joists in the basement, and the wall behind the sump.

3. I found it difficult to "dry fit" the plumbing since the pipe does not go all the way into the fittings before it is lubricated with glue. This makes it impossible to mock up the plumbing before gluing since nothing fits correctly length wise. I tried my best but ended up mostly measuring and gluing as I went.

I will be plumbing the UV sterilized into one of the 2 returns next.

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Man that sump is clean!
 

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Stand progress. The 80/20 aluminum frame came from Framing Tech. I worked with Anthony who was spectacular to work with. The stand is on heavy duty leveling casters with extendable/retractable rubber feet. This way I can move the stand around while doing the plumbing, then move it into its final location, lower the rubber feet, and level the tank. The top piece is type 1 PVC which was not cheap but it's worth it having peace of mind that when water inevitably gets in-between the tank and stand its not wood so it's not going to rot or weaken. I got the idea for the leveling casters and type 1 PVC top from Than at Tidal Gardens.

20211227_124113.jpg


I then had the aluminum frame skinned in removable oak panels by a local cabinet maker, Chris McGrody Fine Furniture. He did a fantastic job and having the panels removable will make plumbing the tank to the sump so much easier.

IMG-1774.jpg


IMG-1777.jpg


We added a layer of 6 lb closed cell foam on top of the type 1 PVC, also an idea stolen from Than at Tidal Gardens. The top trim piece and the interior is laminated with black formica to prevent any water splashes from damaging the wood.

20220418_182544.jpg


20220418_182705.jpg


I'm building a very similar setup to you in terms of tank dimensions and placement. I see your right side is against the wall. Mine is also in a non viewing location. I was going to blackout the back and right sides with vinyl. What was your logic on keeping it clear?
 
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I'm building a very similar setup to you in terms of tank dimensions and placement. I see your right side is against the wall. Mine is also in a non viewing location. I was going to blackout the back and right sides with vinyl. What was your logic on keeping it clear?
I thought about blacking it out but I do have about 10" of visibility on that side. Plus I wanted to keep my options open for the future. That is a closet wall and I may take that closet out someday. Also, if I ever move or want to relocate the tank I can do so.
 
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More plumbing progress

This weekend I got one return line plumbed. This line will also feed a manifold which will be used to run the Dreambox media filters for carbon and GFO when needed. The second return line will be run through the UV sterilizer.

I am really praying that the Abyzz A200's can do the job of pushing water up to the display at a reasonable flow rate. This return line has 4x 90 degree sweep elbows, 6x 45's, and then the last 90 degree fitting at the bulkhead. The overall height from the pump to the return bulkhead is 11.75 feet. Before purchasing the pumps I spoke at length with Alex from Abyzz who estimated that each pump should be capable of ~1300 GPH given my plumbing set-up and head loss. Fingers crossed.

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Manifold to feed reactors. I am thinking about using the Colder quick connect fittings to attach the reactors to the bulkheads.

I will plumb the two return lines to each other with a ball valve in-between to allow each pump to run both return lines if it's ever necessary.

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I am going to plumb the salt side of the mixing station into the emergency drain line to easily transfer new saltwater into the sump. I used a T fitting on the emergency drain with a ball valve to accomplish this.

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I still need to figure out the best way to plumb the pumps to the bulkheads. I can't just use a straight piece of plumbing due to the location of the bulkheads.

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I also added a shelf above the sink.

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I was able to accomplish a lot this past weekend. I think I finished the aquascape, just not sure if there are enough hiding spots for fish. I may still fine tune it. Let me know what you think. The scape is 43" x 25" x 11" and as a reminder my aquarium is 49.5" x31" x23".

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The vast majority of the plumbing is finally done. Getting so close to leak testing now, the anticipation is killing me! I was able to get the final return line plumbed, which goes through the UV sterilizer. I should have plumbed in a bypass around the UV for easy maintenance. Too late now but I think I will make a section of pipe that can replace the UV at the closest unions instead. All that's left now is to connect the return pumps to the sump bulkheads, add a short section of PVC inside the sump on the drain bulkheads, and plumb my mixing station to the sump.

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