Finally showcasing my SPS monster... 1300 gallon display... 2000 gallon system... and many past displays

copps

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Hello Reef2reef! This thread is long overdue here at R2R… hop on for the ride. Many of you may have seen my systems on the “other board” and it’s about time I share here! I’ll post updates to this thread along the way… I’m a long time hard core hobbyist that got my first saltwater tank at age 11 after having a few freshwater tanks… had the house filled with tanks by high school, and yada yada yada… I’m now 43! I know… as Jerry Seinfeld says you can’t yada yada the best part, so I’ll show a bunch of that yada yada in this thread. We all know moving sucks, especially for a reefer, but seven years ago my wife and I built our forever home, and I built my forever reef. My kids are now 12 and 15, and we know how that goes in terms of keeping busy. Many know me as a hardcore SPS guy, with my childhood nickname and username tied to many SPS pieces I’ve owned through the years. You can read many of my reefing philosophies, and about my old systems in two past TOTMs I’ve had on the other board. Over the past fifteen years or so I’ve spoken at clubs and conferences in over twenty states mainly on SPS and angelfish, including four past MACNAs, and have met many of you reading this. Whether we’ve met face to face, or in threads in the past, it’s been such a pleasure… as my wife says I do not do it for the money… it’s all about the passion… so cheers to anyone reading this… because while we come from around the world and may be different in many ways… we all share the same passion… whether you like it or not… you clicked on this thread and are reading this… you my friend, have the passion… : )



To start, this is a system I set up in 2001 just after my wife and I got married in our first one bedroom apartment… a standard 10 gallon that was affectionately known as my “kitchen nano” and was profiled back then on the nano reef board. For those of you with Tony Vargas’ book “The Coral Reef Aquarium” this was the first and smallest reef system profiled in the book. I kept Tridacnid clams and Acropora among many other things, and to this day I still own the Solomon Islands percula clownfish I purchased nearly 20 years ago and a few of the corals. One cool tidbit about this tank was that the display acted as the sump for the refugium above… I can do an entire thread on this system (and did back in the day), but I’ll keep it short to get to bigger things… :)

Front shot…



Top shot…

 
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copps

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That system was supposed to hold me over until we got a house… but it didn’t (big surprise there I know). The little footprint of that apartment quickly turned into this…

A 65 gallon sps/clam/Ricordea display, 20 gallon frag tank, and 54 gallon softie/LPS display of in the corner…



The 65…



My old favorite shot of the 65… showing my favorite angelfish species…



And a few top shots… which always showcase the suntans of the corals the best…







For much more information on this system you can see the TOTM article I wrote back in 2004 that I’m not sure I can link to here… but it can be found with google quite easily… the Tomini tang in this tank made it through two moves and still now resides in my 1300 gallon display, along with a mate I got in 2013.
 
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copps

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Next we built our first house in 2005… and I built my first fish room, with just five 20 amp circuits and about the size of a bathroom. We knew this was our stepping stone house, so I didn’t go too crazy… The display was the 180 gallon that I got while slinging fish in the pet store back in high school… back then I used the same strategy with my parents that I use with my wife today… it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission. :) I’ll never forget… my mother picked me up from work and my new tank was there standing up right… she called it a telephone booth. For a kid in high school, a 75 or 90 gallon was big, but I’ve always had some gene inside me where I wanted to go big, so I got a 6’ x 2’ x 2’ 180 gallon. Back then the 55 gallon we sold so much of because it was a 4’ tank with a reasonable price. I hated it because it was just 13” wide and made for a bad choice for a reef tank. So, I would always try and convince people to jump to an 18” wide 75 gallon, or even better a 90 gallon that was even taller. Now, I don’t like anything skinnier than 3 feet side… even if it’s a tank just 3 feet long!

This shot shows the display I had… along with the tanks I had in the fish room…



A better shot of the 180 after it had filled in…

 
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copps

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The fish room had a six foot frag/ off display tank, the sump, and two smaller displays… the first was a mixed reef 60 gallon…



I had a 70 gallon subtropical tank above… with a closed loop chiller that trickle fed from the main system…

[/QUOTE]
 
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copps

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So it’s time to move onto my SPS monster… I wanted to do this thread as close to chronologically as possible, but it’s like drinking from a firehose. I apologize in advance. There is just too much to discuss… so I will probably bounce around… After being in our first house for a few years, we began planning our forever home, and of course, I started putting my plans for my forever reef into action. I knew I wanted a big tank… and a WIDE tank… I was inspired by so many systems through the years… many of them at public aquariums like friend Joe Yaiullo’s Long Island Aquarium, and some from homes, like Steve Weast’s tank found at oregonreef back in the day. I always loved the “side view” of some tanks… whether it was my 10 gallon, 180 gallon, or some of these larger tanks. I also loved the expansive front view of systems that were wide, that made it feel like you were looking not at a tank, but at a piece of reef. As my plans came together I knew I wanted a tank in the eight to ten foot range… and again WIDE… which turned into the six foot wide range. The size crept up and up as I looked at the gallons, and I’ve always been a glass guy. Acrylic is just a pain to deal with the way I grow coralline. With the size of my tank, I knew to be made of glass it would have to be built on site. With all of the public aquariums I had visited and public aquarists I had befriended through the years, I pretty much knew I would be going with a fiberglass tank, with glass insert viewing windows. After mulling it over with public aquarium friends like Matt Wandell and Joe Yaiullo, and realizing I wanted 30” high viewing windows, the tank was to be 42” deep. I got quotes from two prominent fiberglass aquarium manufacturers… Waterdog in California, and Fiberglass Specialties in Massachusetts. Both had similar pricing, but I went with Fiberglass Specialties in Mass as they were closer to me, and had done many tanks for Joe Yaiullo up in Long Island. The tank was a fully custom build… they made a mold just for this tank, as I was very specific with what I wanted. Final dimensions ended up being 8.5’ x 6’ x 42” high… over 1300 gallons and two sides viewable… with an external overflow with four 2” drains… I cannot explain the amount of planning that went into this build! This was one of the photos I got during fabrication before the glass was put in…

 
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copps

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One of the things I’ve always appreciated about public aquariums is how relaxing they are… you are able to enjoy aquariums without seeing or hearing pumps or plumbing. At the same time, you are able to go behind the scenes and not worry about getting water on the floor, and do all of the things us reefers do unencumbered. So, with that said I went about drawing up plans for my fish room. We built the house from scratch, and so it was tough to visualize things when our home site was just a pile of dirt. Here are the plans I drew up for the fish room, outlined in blue… I included a fish quarantine area, storage, a coral QT, a couple of sinks, a couple of sumps, a couple of frag tanks, and a couple of displays.

While I’m an SPS guy, I’ve always also loved anemones… namely magnifica and gigantea anemones. As we know keeping certain anemones with SPS could eventually cause problems, but I knew that magnifica anemones would stay in one place if isolated on an island. In each of my homes I’ve always kept mixed reefs also, and so I decided to have a second display in addition to the 1300 that was a mixed reef that would display gigantea anemones. As the years have gone on I’ve realized that gigantea do not eat nearly the fish that haddoni do, so I now have two gigantea in the 1300 also. This second display was to be just five feet long, but I made it three feet wide… also with an external overflow. So… here were the plans I drew up for the fish room…

 
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copps

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I had the display delivered to our old house… the kids got home when I had already been in the tank fiddling with rock… you could see my son’s jaw was still dropped… (he’s now 15, taller than me, and works out six days a week… but I have old man strength and can still take him!) :)



I planned so many things… and fortunately our move to the new house was only three miles. The tank itself without the glass inserts weighed just 500 pounds. With the two giant Starphire glass inserts in the tank the weight went up to about 1300 pounds. I therefore looked into a rigging company to move the tank three miles and hoist it into our new home. We live in Loudoun County in Northern Virginia, just outside Washington DC. There are over 3000 counties in the US, and if you rank them by median income you will see that the county I live in is at the top of the list. This makes for VERY expensive services. While I planned many of the expenses, I nearly fell over when I got a quote from the rigging company of over $7000 to move my tank just three miles and put it into my new house. So, with that said… I looked into moving companies, and fortunately found one that was willing to deal with my insanity.

It took six movers… the easy part was moving it out of the garage of the old house, into the truck, and around to the back of the new house…

 
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Getting down the double area wide walk up basement with French doors I had put in, purely for resale value I told the wife ;), was the tough part. This guy’s face said it all…



And into the house…



Up onto the stand…



And in place…

[/QUOTE]
 
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copps

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So when I originally went through the movers in my area, I skipped over the company “Mover Dudes”. I did not want any “dude” touching my baby! After talking to many moving companies I got one of two answers… all short… it was either “yes we could do it”, with no follow up questions… or “Heck no we’re not touching that!”. I ended up calling Mover Dudes and spoke to the owner (the guy holding my daughter below), and he was fantastic… asking questions and asking to come take a look at it. Thanks Mover Dudes!



Down the hall is the 240 gallon… here’s a split screen showing when we put it in and after we finished the rock wall. My wife and I love natural things… like natural stone, but at the same time love contemporary styling. So, I chose this stacked rock to build around the tanks… notice in the 240 gallon the viewing window is smaller… only three feet wide. This allowed me to hide the return, and the two Vortech MP40s that provide flow… you see no plumbing… just like a public aquarium…



Here’s the 1300 coming along…

 
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After getting 500 pounds of Marco rocks, and working with Marc on large pieces, I ordered 500 pounds more… and ended up using about a thousand pounds of dry rock, with the largest piece weighing about 75 pounds. With so much rock I got concerned about the buildup of detritus long term in the tank… I keep a lot of fish and a high bioload, so to keep my SPS colorful and healthy I keep detritus out at all costs. I did a talk at MACNA in South Florida a few years back titled “SPS Success”. If I could tell people one sentence to have success with SPS long term it would be “Just say NO to detritus”. There was no way I’d be able to do that if I had multiple 50 plus pound rocks sitting on crushed coral. I dive quite a bit and there was no way I was going to do a bare bottomed tank… every awesome reef scene I’ve seen in the wild is highlighted by a beautiful crushed coral bottom. So I came up with a way to do this by using acrylic sheets on the bottom of the displays. I glued ½” acrylic rod to these upright where I knew I’d be putting the base rocks. On the bottom of these rocks I drilled half inch holes so that the rock can sit in place. I drew up where I wanted the rocks for the displays… here’s a few shots from the 240 gallon, where I used black sand…



And then here is the acrylic base with acrylic rods. Around the rods I mixed the black sand with two part epoxy into a concrete like mixture built into mounds… when this hardened it would not allow detritus to penetrate, and also elevated the rock so that detritus would settle into an area where I could have access to it…

 
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Here’s the same thing in the 1300… the crushed coral you see there is completely hardened. The large rocks I interconnected also with ½” rod, but instead used fiberglass rod as it was stronger and I wasn’t concerned with it bonding to acrylic as I was with the rod going at the base of the rock… this allowed me to create a more natural aquascape that didn’t look like a pile of rocks…



And after I placed the rock I filled the reachable areas in with crushed coral…

 
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Some very early shots of the fish room coming together… I had a separate 100 Amp subpanel put in next to the two 200 Amp panels that feed the house. I had seventeen dedicated 20 Amp circuits snaking throughout for my aquariums… in the foreground is my mixed reef tank and towards the back are my two 6’ x 2’ x 13” frag/ off display tanks…



Local reefing buddies always helps… here they are standing where the 1300 gallon was to go…

 
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For equipment I reached out to two of my local buddies that I’ve been friends with for years… Dan Lichens and Justin Casp… I’ve known them for years… long before they were in the business… you guys may know them as the owners of a company called Avast Marine. I gave them the small task of building me the largest skimmer and largest calcium reactor they’d ever built…

The reactor holds about 75 pounds of media…



The skimmer my daughter could fit in at the time… four feet tall and 16” in black smoked acrylic highlighted in white… I’m not really a dry goods guy… I’m a livestock guy… but this got me excited…



I am a huge proponent of UV… when properly used it can hold at bay many parasitic fish diseases, and on larger systems when you’re looking through over eight feet of water if will allow for clearer water by combating bacteria in the water… I used an Emperor Aquatics 300 watt commercial UV unit that’s the size of a bazooka…

 
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My friend Adam helped me put in an epoxy coated floor in the fish room, and I chose exactly the color flecks I wanted…



With blue lights in the fish room one of the fleck colors glows under the actinic lights… boom… fish nerd bling… :)



The fish quarantine area we built… to the left is a 105 pint per day dehumidifier and a washing machine solely to clean my filter socks. I also had a sink installed to drain each of the QTs into. I refill them with a dedicated water makeup tank that is fed from RO tubing I plumbed throughout the basement fed from my RO/DI unit…

 
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To refill after do a water change all I need to do is hook on the extension I made, turn a few ball valves, and I’m done. No carrying buckets in this house… even for my QT tanks… this area now has a number of these 40 gallons converted to freshwater growout of discus… :D



The rest of the fish room came together with two redundant three horsepower heat pumps to heat or cool the system. My entire water volume for the system was calculated after adding the salt… I was one fifty gallon bag short of adding ten boxes of Reef Crystals… for a grand total of 1950 gallons… which includes the 1300 gallon SPS display, 240 gallon mixed reef, two frag tank, refugium, and dual sumps. :) Also shown is a variable speed exhaust fan and a dedicated 1 ½ ton Minisplit air conditioner and heater just for the fish room…

 
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One of the issues I needed to overcome was connecting my mixed reef to the 1300 gallon, and as my display went from the originally planned 800 gallon to over 1300 gallons I also needed an appropriately sized sump. There was no way I was going with an acrylic sump with so many seams that could burst, so I went with two 150 gallon molded polyethylene sumps from Aquatic Ecosystems that measure 65” x 29” x 20”. By connecting the two of these across the room from each other with a 2” PVC backbone this allowed them to act as one sump. I found this neat little ramp to allow me to walk over it…



I had the 1300 gallon built with just one hole drilled in it, circled below in purple. With my return pumps shut off, I open the ball valve and it drains exactly 200 gallons of water from the system for a water change. The redundant return pumps go through the heat pumps and return through two 1 ½” Sea-Swirls, circled below in blue. Most of the flow comes from six Vortech MP60s circled in red and green. Three turn on at a time for ten minutes, creating a gyre in the tank one way, and the ones of the other color turn on for ten minutes and create a gyre the other way… boom… enough flow for SPS in a 1300 gallon in under 200 watts at a time… thank you Ecotech Marine… another great company…

 
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A shot from the corner of my fish room… I put my six foot refugium underneath my slick looking work table where I test water from and do different things…



Our home was built with three finished levels… many basement levels are built with low ceilings, but I had ours built with nine foot ceilings. The tank sits 36” off the ground, and so I built the Fibergrate deck around the tank that high. That left me six feet of height to walk around the tank, plenty for my short Sicilian frame… :)

 
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I wanted full access to work around the tanks… important on systems this large, but at the same time wanted to keep carpet surfers from jumping out of the tank… I found these blinds at Lowe’s that allow air through, but keep most of the bright light, and the fish, in the tank…



With the blinds up I get access to the tank…



I’m a metal halide guy, and I hated in the past fighting with the lighting over the tank while getting a suntan. So, I made frames out of aluminum “80/20” and put them on a Unistrut track that I could slide out of the way easily…



Lights on…



And lights slid out of the way…

 

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