Leviathan Lagoon- DIY Automation, Custom Laser-Etched Canopy, & More In My New & Improved Tank!

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Leviathan
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I’ve actually been writing & re-writing this build thread since August. Every time I’m about to post it, I make another major change/addition & put it off by another month. But I finally decided to set it in stone & post!

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My thread index has the coolest/most unique sections in bold, if you just want to skip to the good parts!

Thread Index

Overview & Parameters (Bottom of this post)
History
Aquascaping & Water Flow
Automation
Lighting
3D Prints
Canopy
Livestock & Cleanup Crew
Corals
Current Projects
Future Projects

Overview

75 Gallon Display, 15 gallon sump.

Kessil AP9X

Helios HO T5 Fixtures x2

Coralife 65 Protein Skimmer

RedSea ReefWave 45 Gyre

Feed once daily with my custom food cubes

10 Gallon water change weekly

Parameters

1.025 SG
79 °F
7.9 dKH
443 Ca
1335 Mg
0 Ammonia
0 Nitrite
1 Nitrate
8 pH
 
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Aquarium Specialty - dry goods & marine livestock
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Leviathan
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History

My first fish tank was a used 20 Gallon Craigslist special. When I moved into my dorm at college, I wanted something different than the standard posters taped to the walls that most people had to bring some color to the room. I had some of the most basic PetSmart stock around- Neon & Columbian Tetras.

When I moved out of the dorms, I upgraded to a 29 gallon & added a pair of Kuhli Loaches. I had this tank for 3 years until I graduated. I loved my tanks, but the limits of freshwater were frustrating. I went to school for Chemical Engineering & throwing dechlorinator in a bucket just wasn’t fulfilling my need to tinker with chemistry.

Shortly before graduating, I found a Craigslist post for a 55 gallon saltwater tank. It was from a landlord whose tenant had moved out with no warning & left all their stuff behind, including the tank. Sadly, the tank was drained during the apartment cleanup, so everything inside had died :( But for $200, it came with the tank, the stand, a return pump, heater, sump, UV sterilizer, a power head, & some T5 fixtures. Hard to go wrong with that price! I kept it in the garage of the house my roommate & I were renting until graduating, then moved it into my first apartment post-college. It was actually the 4th thing I unpacked & set up after my computer, desk, & chair.

Tank Setup.jpg


I cycled by dosing ammonia (from ACE hardware, important to get some without surfactants!), religiously monitored my parameters (I lived literally 2 minutes from a LFS at the time, so it was easy), & once everything looked good, I added my first 2 saltwater fish!

Throughout the next few years, I swapped some of the older equipment out, added in more power heads, & switched to Mars Aqua LEDs.

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After 3 years of successfully keeping that tank, when I moved last year, I upgraded to a 75 gallon tank & improved multiple aspects after learning from my multiple mistakes with the first.
 
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Aquascaping

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I wanted 2 clearly distinct areas in the tank in case I wound up with a coral that started to take over. I’ve got a nice GSP island in the center of my 2 towers that I’ve done well to keep isolated from them both. My main goal with this tank was to provide a range of growing conditions ranging from dark, isolated nooks for low flow & light, all the way up to bright points that received tons of flow.

Water Flow

I’ve got 2 return outlets both equipped with a random flow generator nozzle. I don’t really feel like the nozzle does a great job at “randomizing” the flow, but I figure it’s slightly better than just a wide open outlet. I have one outlet directing flow between my rock towers to prevent a dead zone, then another one directed at my gyre to create some turbulence that spreads throughout the tank.

My overflow design fixed an issue I had with my previous tank. On the 55 gallon, I had the mouth of my pipe that took water to the sump too low in the display & it would drain 10 gallons out of the display whenever I shut off the return pump.

I designed & 3D printed this box to perfectly fit over 1” PVC. I also designed & printed a cap for it after one of my fish wound up in the box & got sucked down into the sump!

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My whole setup is pretty similar to a Bean Animal style of overflow with an easily tunable gate valve attached to my overflow, allowing water to fall roughly 2” in the box, then silently be siphoned away. The farthest pipe returns flow to the tank & the middle one is the dry emergency drain in case my overflow box gets clogged with something.

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Mounted vertically on the back, I have ReefWave 45 from RedSea. After 2 solid days of troubleshooting & an exchange for a new unit, I finally got this working. Once running, it’s a very nice piece of hardware. But the software (ReefBeat) is unacceptably bad when setting it up. The flow it provides compared to the Koralia powerheads I used to have in there is great; the evenly spread flow is a nice change compared to the intense hot-spots the powerheads had. I can’t in good conscience recommend the product to anyone due to the apparently common issues with the software & control boxes. But once it works, it really works!
 
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Automation

Reef-Pi
For anyone who’s somehow never heard of Reef-Pi, you need to check it out. Ranjib has one of the most active posts on this entire forum over in the DIY topic about it. Actually, scratch that, Reef-Pi has its own forum section now that it’s so popular!

As a quick summary, it’s essentially a free, open-source software that allows you to automate your tank for a tiny fraction of what you’d pay for something like an Apex. For example, my entire setup (equipment control, pH monitoring, temperature, dosing, ATO, lighting dimming, & more) costs roughly the same as the dosing add-on for the Apex. That’s right… Just the dosing add-on, no other feature or component.

Between the massive cost savings compared to an off-the-shelf automation setup, the time savings of not dealing with manual top-offs & such, & the peace of mind knowing everything is stable & can alert me on the off chance something happens, Reef-Pi is by far the #1 killer feature of my aquarium & I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Leviathan
E92jFF58A5jyJt4Nzzqpoqf91JlCOo3uc0mAjqRUOInmSK9MKVCEjGduM3ksgQpB0tSMMlzS2H6FZNXVW5lx6OIZYo6ThID394ntKGHwGUfOtMn1R7A4XEnMbf3mDZ4MtmvaEYbW

The single downside to Reef-Pi is the initial complexity getting it running. Soldering tons of resistors, transistors, drivers, etc. Then troubleshooting every single connection when you plug it in & find out it’s not working… I decided I was done doing that & made Leviathan. It’s my custom board for Reef-Pi that made building my latest setup a breeze.

Previous Reef-Pi builds of mine quickly became very hard to troubleshoot as tons of wires & sensors were added. I decided to design an organized ready-to-use board that took a majority of the work out of getting a Reef-Pi setup running.

When I set up this new tank, all I had to do was plug in my Raspberry Pi, attach the sensors & relays I planned to use to Leviathan, & turn it on. I look back on my first few setups before having an organized board like this & cringe, thinking how lucky I am I didn’t fry everything in my tank!
 
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Lighting

Kessil AP9X
2 Helios T5 Fixtures
3 ATI Blue+ bulbs
1 ATI True Actinic bulbs
DIY Hybrid Bracket

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My heavy lifters are the 4 T5 bulbs I have blanketing my tank. The Kessil has enough white in it I felt like I only needed blue & actinic bulbs- the corals have seemed happy with it! I'll go more into detail on the canopy holding the lights in another post.

The bracket holding everything together is just something I pieced together using angled aluminum from Lowe's. It slides in & out of the canopy if I ever need it out for something. It sits on wood blocks I cut to precisely fit in the canopy that I used to dial in the height I wanted for the PAR. I've got various other pieces I cut ranging from 1/16" to 4" that I can use to adjust in the future if I decide to, so I don't need an entirely new block.

I'm lucky enough to have a local reef club (shout-out to ETRC) with a PAR meter. While things have been a bit dead lately due to COVID, we used to have frequent meetings, a coral library, frag swaps, & more. It's definitely made my journey into saltwater much easier & more enjoyable.

The par readings are from a few months ago, but I haven't made any lighting changes since then. I have moved some corals around though to spots they were happier in.

Left half of tank:
Left Half PAR.JPG


Right half of tank:
Right Half PAR.JPG
 
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3D Prints

I’m adding this section to my build thread for things I’ve designed that are currently being used in my tank. That way if you like something you see, you can just print it out! This section will be a "living document" as I add new things & modify existing ones.

I'll add links & pictures as I get things uploaded to Thingiverse.

Overflow box
Coral Frag holder
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Temperature Probe Holder
Float switch holder
Leviathan Enclosure
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BRS RODI Replacement Wrench
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Leviathan
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Canopy

My biggest improvement from my previous tank was the canopy I built for this one. Those PVC arms were… less than stable. Fortunately, they never collapsed, but they looked like garbage & didn’t do anything but hold up the LED fixtures. They provided little flexibility (well, in design- plenty of flexibility in the “Oh no, that looks like it’s going to collapse department!) to add any other lighting options & didn’t hide any of the cords.

I wanted it to be mostly enclosed, but have an open back for ventilation. Once I got my new tank, I modeled it in SolidWorks, then got to work creating a canopy that would fit it like a glove.

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Once I was happy with the design, the real work began! Knoxville has an awesome Maker Space that had all the tools I needed to make my model a reality.

To start, I needed the base that would actually sit on the aquarium rim.
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Adding the sides- look at the size of that clamp!
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It’s finished with 2 different coatings. The front & insides are coated in flex seal. White on the inside to reflect light, black on the outside to match the stand. It may not be a traditional wood finish & it may be expensive, but this stuff is super easy to clean & will never need to be re-finished.

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The outer edges completely unexposed to water are finished with the marine grade polyurethane you'll see in the next pictures.

I gave it doors that could easily open for access to the tank, as well as a “piano top”. Both of these design choices were actually pretty challenging (to me at least). I didn't want any metal hinges, so I went searching for other choices. My first attempt was a 48" long oleophobic hinge that did not work well. Adhesives would not stick to it well & screwing it down just led to... this.

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I wound up finding plastic hinges at McMaster-Carr & they worked great! I used 3 for the lid & 2 for each of the doors.

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For the front doors, I embedded multiple neodynium magnets in them & aligned them to hold shut. It's not a satisfying 'snap' like I wanted, due to the lack of strength through the flex seal coating. But it works to keep them shut!

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To make it fancy, I used the laser cutter to engrave a custom design on it for display. The main design is one I put together of a beta fish wrapped around Knoxville’s Sunsphere.

Work in progress
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Main design
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Knoxville's Sunsphere, for those of you who haven't seen our city's remnants of the World's Fair
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Finished product!
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Leviathan
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Livestock

2 Frostbite subzero clowns from sustainable aquatics
6 Line Wrasse
Yellow watchman goby
Tiger pistol shrimp
2 Pajama cardinalfish
1 Lawnmower Blenny

I’ve always been one to understock my tank & make up for the nutrients with extra feeding. My current food solution is a daily frozen RODI cube containing a mix of mysis shrimp, reef roids, & Reef Energy AB+.

The Frostbite clowns are the crowd pleaser in the tank. Kids are always confused as to "Why is Nemo white?"

My goby & pistol shrimp have been with me for about 5 years now, constantly tunneling away & popping their heads out every now & then for a bite to eat.

The lawnmower blenny is finally showing its personality after being in the tank for a few months now! He was jumpy at first, but now he'll hop around to spots of algae all over- I see little "kisses" on the glass from him all the time.

The 6 line wrasse is my newest addition & it's been slowly getting less skittish & more adventurous thankfully!

Clean Up Crew

All approximate. There’s no way I’m pulling them out individually to count, lol.
25 dwarf cerith snails
10 nassarius vibex snails
10 florida cerith snails
5 trochus snails
2 butterscotch snails
5 scarlet hermit crabs
2 Fighting Conches

Not much to say here, other than I probably need to re-up my crew some point in the near future!

If I had to do it over again, I’m not sure I would’ve added the crabs. They’re little jerks that eat my snails. But they are really neat looking & do a good job picking at detritus. My favorite CUC members by far are my fighting conchs… conches? Chonci? However you say it, they’re an awesome combo of everything I like: They look cool, they do a great job cleaning, & they’re hardy.
 
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Corals

I know my tank isn't as impressive as many I see here. But I've only had this tank set up for about 7 months now & I start from tiny frags. You can see some of my progress shots from a few of the frags in this post, as well as the size frags I typically start with in my 3D prints post in the frag rack.

Scrambled Eggs Zoas
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Sunny D Zoas
Green torch/hammer coral? Honestly not sure.
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Green Star Polyps
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Kryptonite Candy Cane
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Hollywood stunner
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War coral
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@BlueDevil was kind enough to sell me multiple scrambled Eggs & Sunny D frags when I set this tank up. The Sunny Ds have absolutely thrived, each frag has probably doubled the amount of polyps & is well-adhered to the rockwork now. The Sunny Ds have… survived, lol. If anyone has tips for placement on those, I’d appreciate it. I’ve tried multiple placements & the only one they’ve seemed even remotely happy with is high light & low flow.

I also got the GSP from BlueDevil as well. I made sure to isolate it & trim back any creepers that start trying to make runs for my rock towers.

The candy cane, torch, & war coral have been with me since tank #1. I don’t have any progress shots of the war coral unfortunately, but here’s a comparison of where the other 2 started.

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Coral Feeding Regiment
-Every other day, I feed ¼ tsp of Reef Roids & 15 mL of Reef Energy AB+ mixed into about a half cup of tank water. I use a long pipette/turkey baster combo to directly feed. I run my feeding macro in Reef Pi to shut off all water movement for 15 minutes during this process, to make sure they get their yummy nutrients!

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Also, in order to keep my “chemistry shelf” from being cluttered with wet pipettes & powders, I designed & printed a little bracket to clip on the edge to hold my tools I use for feeding & scooping the Reef Roids & kalk.

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Current Projects

Dosing

I’ve been lazy getting my dosing setup back running in this new tank. I’ve been taking measurements to see how certain additions affect the parameters over the past couple of months & will be restarting my auto-dosing regimen soon.


Auto water-change setup.

I had a great auto water-change system on my old tank, but I just haven’t taken the time to set it up on my new one yet.

I’ve already got a 30 gallon reservoir of RODI water plumbed to my sump & I plan on setting a station up in the corner of my laundry room (behind the tank wall) with a saltwater container as well. Then, it’ll just be as simple as setting up a macro in Reef-Pi to drain to a certain level & then refill using the fresh saltwater.
 
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Future Projects

Vermetid Snail elimination- I’ve had tons of these little guys sneak up on me. They haven’t caused any noticeable issues yet, but there are way too many negative things I’ve read for me to feel comfortable with them.

Getting a pod/phyto culture setup running- I really want a Mandarin Dragonette, but I don’t have the pod population to keep it fed. I plan on getting a pod producing setup running in the next few months.

Algae scrubber- This one’s a maybe. I haven’t done a ton of research on them yet to know if it would be worth the trouble. But keeping it on my list just in case!
 
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Reef Chasers Aquaculture

Do you have a build thread or tank journal here on R2R?

  • YES and I keep it updated

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  • YES but I don't keep it updated

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  • NO but I want to create one

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  • NO not interested in starting a build thread or journal

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