Look what you made me do

kenbennedy

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I have been reading for months at this point. Now that I am in the home stretch awaiting tank delivery, I cannot really procrastinate any longer and am thus starting my build thread. I had a 30 gallon LPS tank about 15 years ago at this point, and it would be fair to say I did a mediocre job at best. I am trying to re-learn everything the proper way this time around.

What I had planned on was one of the Innovative Marine INT/EXT 150 tanks, but when my wife and I finally decided to move forward with this there were none available. I decided to get a similarly sized custom glass tank from SCA, and have built the stand from t-slotted aluminum extrusion. I suppose this just barely counts as a large system, but here I go. I think my stocking plan will qualify as "light" when the dust settles, and I have been particularly attracted to images of tanks with more negative space. I am not skimping on the rockwork and habitat, I am definitely not going full NSA, but am really trying to leave plenty of open water for free swimming.

I have most of the equipment out, managed to buy a few things used from good folks on the forums:
180 gallon display tank - 48" x 36" x 24" tall
20 gallon long sump, baffles from Exotic Marine
25 gallon refugium, Mr. Aqua 18" cube tank
Modular marine Overflow, bean animal config
Reefbreeders DCA4000 pumps x2
Icecap 4k gyre x 2
Coralvue Hydros 4 controller and 2x wifi power strips
BRS titanium heaters 2 x 300W, + Inkbird controller
Simplicity 240DC skimmer
Reefbreeders Photon v2+ 24" lights x2, front to back
Avast Marine Plank feeder

I'll drop some pics and progress in subsequent posts. I used about 90 lbs of dry rock, and when I wet the tank will probably add about 20 lb of live rock from a yet to be chosen vendor. I'm not a huge fan of text only, so here's the tank sketch I approved. Tank should be here any week now per the latest update.

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kenbennedy

kenbennedy

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Apart from buying things while I wait for the tank, I started with the stand so I would have a place to gather supplies. I'm not the best with wood, and decided to buy t-slot aluminum extrusion from tnutz.com

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Here's the spot in the dining/living room on the ground floor (slab on grade, phew). I think it will finally be a few more inches from the wall to make maintenance easier.

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It turns out this is a little weaker and less stiff than the brand name 8020 material, but since my day job involves math I made myself comfortable with it. I used 2" x 2" extrusion all around, except for supporting the lights. Not sure how obvious it is in later images, but I was particular in the beam end configurations, hoping to minimize places where load is carried in shear across joints and hardware.

Mathematically I dont think the center supports in the middle and the corner braces are required, but I will sure sleep better knowing they are there. I also have six leveling feet total, one under each vertical beam. I have some ABS/teflon pads underneath and am hoping to not put serious dents in the hardwood floor, but we will see in a few years.
 

Karen00

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What fish and corals are you thinking of doing? I'm so envious of people that have room for large tanks (or multiple tanks). I barely have room for my 5g but I still have my freshwater tank so that's one of the reasons for the lack of space. Haha.
 
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kenbennedy

kenbennedy

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Since the t-slot nuts and bolts are not all stainless steel (and I am already stretching my budget), I thought I had the great idea to dunk all the hardware in vaseline as a saltwater barrier. I put the nuts and bolts into an oven tray with a ridiculous scoop of vaseline and melted it. Hoping it works, but it sure did make the assembly interesting...

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I only ordered the black anodized bars for those items that will be used for the light support brackets.

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Building the rectangle was pretty straightforward, It took me a few adjustments to get everything perfectly square and level since there are no pre-drilled hard stops or references or anything. The vendor did drill all the counterbored holes for the fasteners. I only had to take off a few extra sharp edges and burrs, especially on the corner gussets.

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The stand doesn't weigh all that much, but due to its bulk I had to get help from my wife to flip it over to install the leveling feet. The studs I bought from McMaster-Carr are pretty long, so I drilled some 3/8" holes into the bottom rails at the pad locations.
 
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kenbennedy

kenbennedy

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What fish and corals are you thinking of doing? I'm so envious of people that have room for large tanks (or multiple tanks). I barely have room for my 5g but I still have my freshwater tank so that's one of the reasons for the lack of space. Haha.
Since my previous tank was only mildly successful I'm going to start easy with soft corals and LPS after I get the microbiome established.

When I started livestock planning I recalled that what I wanted most when I had my 30 gallon were tangs and mandarins. In hindsight I am glad I did not try at the time. I'm planning to buy pre-quarantined fish since I really don't think I can manage maintenance on more than one tank at a time. My first fish will be tangs, based on advice from some of the BRS series. I am hoping they will help control some of the (perhaps inevitable) nuisance algae. I'll wait a while on mandarins. I will probably fill in the bio load in between with some traditional clowns, anthias, cirrhilabrus wrasse (I wont have a very deep sand bed), firefish, or maybe a royal gramma.
 
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kenbennedy

kenbennedy

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One of the things I have been working while waiting was the aquascaping and dry rock assembly. I bought about 120lb of dry rock to smash up and glue back together. I had bookmarked a few images to use as inspiration for the rocks:

1638219190652.png


As I mentioned I wanted to leave a lot of free swimming space, especially along the diagonal so that my tangs will have at least a 5' stretch. I'm also leaving at least 6" between all the rocks and glass. I put together a PVC frame to help me gage the sizes as I build, and I only built the tallest rocks about 12" - about halfway up the tank depth.

I am pretty happy with the top down layout, and I think I will fill in some of the smaller gaps on the sand with pieces of live rock after the tank is wet. The cardboard (when not folded) is 48" x 36" -
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I'll have to grab a video walkaround to better show the rock shapes.
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And here I have overlaid the rocks on a layout of the tank to better see the negative space, where the lights will go, where the pumps may go, etc.
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In the above image, yellow is the light footprints, blue is gyre outputs, the blue circles are return line location, black box is overflow location. I am still not sure about the gyre placement, I might have to play that by ear when there is water and rock in the tank.
 
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kenbennedy

kenbennedy

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Last one for today (probably) - I cut wood for the top, bottom, front and sides of the stand. I bought some soft close drawer slides that I used to hang the front doors, and used standard 8020 style door hinges for the side doors.



For all the hardware into the doors I used these threaded inserts rather than bare wood screws. I wanted to be able to remove/replace the doors without worrying about the wood letting go of the screws. I know myself, and I would not be able to get things 100% correct the first time and never have to remove the doors :D

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I haven't secured the top shelf yet since I am still laying out equipment beneath, and that is much easier with top down access. I also painted everything with a few coats of white oil based primer similar to kilz.

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Karen00

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Since my previous tank was only mildly successful I'm going to start easy with soft corals and LPS after I get the microbiome established.

When I started livestock planning I recalled that what I wanted most when I had my 30 gallon were tangs and mandarins. In hindsight I am glad I did not try at the time. I'm planning to buy pre-quarantined fish since I really don't think I can manage maintenance on more than one tank at a time. My first fish will be tangs, based on advice from some of the BRS series. I am hoping they will help control some of the (perhaps inevitable) nuisance algae. I'll wait a while on mandarins. I will probably fill in the bio load in between with some traditional clowns, anthias, cirrhilabrus wrasse (I wont have a very deep sand bed), firefish, or maybe a royal gramma.
Nice!! I really want mandarins but that will take a tank upgrade for that to happen. I look forward to seeing your build and I will live vicariously through you. :)
 
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kenbennedy

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Nice!! I really want mandarins but that will take a tank upgrade for that to happen. I look forward to seeing your build and I will live vicariously through you. :)
I will do my best! Hopefully some fat and happy mandarin images are in my future. I plan to seed the tank and refugium with pods, and to dose phyto to help keep the population up.
 
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kenbennedy

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I don't really have an aquascaping plan for the refugium, so that will wind up being subject to my mood and the amount of free time I can muster when things are wet down the road. I wanted as big a refugium as I could get to promote macro algae growth for nutrient export, and for pods to populate so that a large population could sustain mandarins in the future.

I chose the Mr Aqua 25 gallon cube, which is 18" per side.

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This was the first time I had ever ordered a glass tank online for home delivery, and the carriers' track record was not good! The first one arrived with a cracked edge, but BRS did not hesitate to refund it. That got recycled as I am not about to have a water leak in my living room. The second delivery attempt never even showed up! Tracking said something like "item destroyed, sender notified," and again BRS took care of it. Unfortunately they were out of stock by then. I found another vendor, and the third time was the charm. What an ordeal.

Trying to plan ahead I have sketched up my sump layout. "X" circles are drain lines into the sump, and the concentric circles are pumps for return lines and the ATO. I'm really trying to maximize using the space inside the cabinet so I don't have aquarium things piling up in the living room.

I really wanted some redundancy in the refugium drain into the sump, so I pretty arbitrarily placed two bulkheads for drain lines, one slightly above the other.

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I picked up a drill guide and diamond tooth hole sawfrom Amazon, and went to town in the garage. I had never cut holes in glass before and was pretty nervous since it was so hard to get this tank home in one piece. Honestly my backup plan if this went sideways was to buy a trigger sump.

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Success!

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And I dry fit the bulkheads for good measure -

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The holes are neither perfect nor pretty, but with no raised burrs or edges they should seal just fine. That'll do :cool:
 
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kenbennedy

kenbennedy

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Major kudos on your well thought out designs and execution!!
I look forward to following along in your journey! Welcome, and keep up the amazing work!!
That is very kind, thank you! I admitted to my wife that part of this was driven by me needing a project, and I almost enjoy the planning as much as the build and execution.

Just saw you are in Cherry Hill, I used to live right down the road in Moorestown!
 

Karen00

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I will do my best! Hopefully some fat and happy mandarin images are in my future. I plan to seed the tank and refugium with pods, and to dose phyto to help keep the population up.
I'm so envious! Someone needs to breed a pico mandarin or mother nature needs to create one. Haha. That fish would be the crown jewel of my tank! :)
 
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kenbennedy

kenbennedy

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As I mentioned above, I had painted the shelves and doors with a white oil based paint, hoping to fend off moisture issues. I bought a pre-pasted wallpaper to cover the doors with. There was definitely a learning curve for me, especially with the external corners and trimming to the top and bottom of the door edges. I wish I felt like doing it again just to get the last 10% perfect. Honestly it looks fine at arms' length, but of course I know where all the ugly bits are.

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I also had a chance to lay out my Exotic Marine sump kit in the 20L. It was a little easier than I had feared. This kit has two holders for 4" filter socks, and came with a variety of silencer plates. Let me tell you this setup was SILENT with one of the return pumps running full speed with the silencer plates on. I'm excited about how quiet the whole kit will be when complete. I left only a small ~2" drain area upstream of the filter socks, wanting to max out the skimmer/heater area and return pump area.

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Also complete:
- painted the back of the refugium black
- installed LED lighting inside the cabinet around the top
- installed the refugium light (Kessil H80)
- cut a wire routing hole in the bottom shelf
- dry fit the big items in the cabinet

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I know it is a pretty boring part of the setup, but I wanted to point out the ATO reservoir. I really tried to maximize the volume to price ratio on that. As much as the custom/colored acrylic products are exciting, I really couldn't justify $100+ for a ten gallon water holder. After pretty exhaustive searching, I chose a 50lb/13gallon "Vittles Vault" which usually goes for about $40. I'm hoping I can go for a while without refilling this, but I really don't know how long it will take for the tank to evaporate 10-13 gallons of water. I gave it a quick water fill test for pinhole leaks with no issues. Some online reviewers complain that the lid/seal is not completely air or water tight, but in this application I am not worried about that.
 
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kenbennedy

kenbennedy

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Still waiting patiently for the big box that holds water.

I spent some time iterating on the light fixtures for the two Reefbreeders. I had a tough time making up my mind, but I think what I wound up with is good enough. All the pieces are 1" x 1" t-slot extrusion from tnutz.com. I wound up using 2 pieces clamped together for the vertical beam. With only one piece of extrusion it was not very stiff. It wobbled for what seemed like days every time I touched it. My first iteration also did not have the corner gusset, so the bouncing and twisting was never ending. I wasn't sure about just jumping to 2" x 2" extrusion for the whole thing, but I had most of the material on hand so wanted to try just adding one more piece of 1" x 1" to see how it went. Since I don't plan to touch the lights very frequently, I am going to call this done (probably).

IMG_20211214_145305.jpg


Right now the lights are 18" off the water, and 42" off the sandbed (tank will be 24" tall). I will probably adjust that a little based on PAR and light spill after I fill the tank and take some measurements.

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Well I am going as far as I can while I wait for the display tank. I have the refugium plumbed, and will tinker with the flow rates and drains in the meantime. Tried to keep things organized with the controllers and storage in the sump, but I have a lot of tidying to do. I might wait until after the hard plumbing and return lines are done (after I get the display tank on top).

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I managed to get the Control 0-10V all happy how I like, setting speeds for the return pumps, as well as to the Gyre controller. Still have to get the backup battery sorted out. It doesnt seem to want to put out any power over the 5.5mm DC out ports. I swear I tested this while I was within the return window. The USB ports and AC ports work fine, but the charger couldnt keep up with 1 gyre running slow when I powered it over the AC circuit. I wanted to try running the Gyres on 12V or 24V DC to see if it was any more efficient.

I'll try to grab some eye friendly pics of the live rock I bought in the sump.
 

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Well I am going as far as I can while I wait for the display tank. I have the refugium plumbed, and will tinker with the flow rates and drains in the meantime. Tried to keep things organized with the controllers and storage in the sump, but I have a lot of tidying to do. I might wait until after the hard plumbing and return lines are done (after I get the display tank on top).

1640125925819.png


1640125960027.png


I managed to get the Control 0-10V all happy how I like, setting speeds for the return pumps, as well as to the Gyre controller. Still have to get the backup battery sorted out. It doesnt seem to want to put out any power over the 5.5mm DC out ports. I swear I tested this while I was within the return window. The USB ports and AC ports work fine, but the charger couldnt keep up with 1 gyre running slow when I powered it over the AC circuit. I wanted to try running the Gyres on 12V or 24V DC to see if it was any more efficient.

I'll try to grab some eye friendly pics of the live rock I bought in the sump.
Looks like a fantastic build. Following for sure.
 
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