My First Saltwater Build.....Waterbox Frag 55.2... This is going to be great

bluerider098

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So I guess I will start with how I ended up starting my first reef tank. It's kinda ironic really.....

I have been in the aquarium hobby for over 20 years. I started a 75 gallon African Cichlid tank way back then and it's become a self sustaining colony and it's still going strong today. (See pics below). The reality was though that the tank had been neglected for the past 10 years or so. Not neglected maintenance wise, just neglected in the fact that I pretty much just cleaned it, fed the fish and never actually looked at it or enjoyed it.

Fast forward to November 2020 and I decided that I wanted to downsize. I was looking around and ended up settling on a Waterbox Marine X 60.2. I had always been intrigued by having a sump and this tank was about 1/2 the size of my current tank so it seemed like a good fit. This was a newly released tank and they were not currently in stock, which was fine because I was in no hurry. This turned out to be a good thing.

So one night while searching YouTube to learn about sumps a video showed up in my recommended that said 300 days no water change.
The title intrigued me so I clicked. I was in awe of what I saw. I had never really considered saltwater because I always thought it would be too hard. This video really opened my eyes to 2 things.

1. Reef tanks were amazingly beautiful and..
2. It was possible on some level to keep a somewhat simple reef tank.

Now don't get me wrong here, I am no dummy, I realize that the approach in the video is probably not the safest route to take, but it made me realize that you could make it as easy or hard as you wanted on some level.

After a few days I could not get it out of my head and I decided to change course and actually make my new tank purchase a Reef Aquarium.

So the endless hours of research started and I pretty much spent every free second watching videos or reading articles and threads.

So 1 last thing for this extremely long post. So you'll notice the build thread is a Frag 55.2, but I thought I bought a Marine X 60.2..... Well after about 12 plus weeks of waiting and still no delivery date on the tank I stumbled upon a thread here on R2R where someone was offered a Frag 55.2 instead of the 60.2 and they were in stock. I didn't even know this tank existed because it was discontinued and could only be found on the clearance page on the Waterbox website. So I called and got the info on the 55.2 and I actually liked the dimensions better as it was wider, deeper, but was shorter. I personally like the look of a shallower tank so I pulled the trigger.

Here I am about 4 months later and 4 months into the build. Still no water in it, but lots of work has been done. In the coming weeks I will update this thread with pictures and get everyone up to speed as to where I am at.

More to come......

Here's a picture of my 20 plus year old African Cichlid Tank.

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bluerider098

bluerider098

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Alright, so here is the current equipment list so far.

- Waterbox Frag 55.2
- AI Hydra 32 light
- Ecotech Vectra S2 return pump
- Ecotech Mp40 Powerhead
- Custom Inkbird ITC 306A (More on this later)
- Cobalt Neotherm 200W heater
- Bubble Magus Curve 5 Protein Skimmer
- Klir Di-4 Felt Roller
- Avast Pressure Switch ATO Controller
- 1/4 Stainless Solonoid valve from autotopoff.com
- 2 Kasa Smart Wifi power strips with energy monitoring

I am planning to try and run without a controller as it's currently out of my budget, but I plan on using the control built into many of the products I ordered. I will just have multiple apps to run things rather than just 1. This may change at some point in the future, but we will see.

As far as stocking plans I am planning a mixed reef with an initial focus on lps softies. I really love the look of a Euphyllia garden and that will be my first goal.

For fish I like most really like some of the designer clowns. Leaning towards a pair of Black Storm or Mocha Storm clowns.

As the reef matures I will add more stuff and I guess I will figure it out as I go.

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bluerider098

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The next thing I started working on was getting stuff for a QT tank. I took advantage of a sale on Waterbox Clear Minis and bought a 10 gallon at 1/2 off.

I plan to use Dr. Reef to QT my fish initially as I don't plan on having many fish, and the protocol for treating fish is a little intimidating. Corals look pretty easy as it's just a waiting game. Dip them initially then let them sit in QT for 76 days, or 6 weeks if you raise the temp to 80.6. Just watch them to look for hitchhikers and let any possible fish diseases die off.

Here is a list of the equipment I bought for my quarantine tank.

- Waterbox Clear Minis 10
- Aquaclear 20
- Eheim Trutemp Heater
- Hydor Koralia Nano Powerhead
- Aqua Knight A029 Light
- Inkbird ITC-306A

I also designed and made a custom Lexan lid but I will cover details on that in a later post.

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bluerider098

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While I was waiting for my tank to arrive I started working on a Saltwater mixing station. I planned on having 2 storage containers, 1 for mixed Saltwater and one with RODI water.

The first challenge was finding some storage containers. There were plenty online, but the shipping was as much as the containers. I finally settled on 2 20 gallon Ace Roto Mold tanks. With a hint from a post on R2R I first tried to see if I could buy them from Rural King. I was hoping that they could order them in with thier regular shipments and avoid the shipping costs. It ended up that they could not get the tanks, but they did give me the phone number of the manufacturer. I ended up calling them and they gave me the number of a local supplier. The local supplier was able to get me the tanks with their normal shipment and I didn't have to pay shipping.

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Looking forward to seeing the build progress. Looks like you are putting a lot of thought into you build and taking your time which will pay rewards in the long run. This is a great place to get any of your questions answered.
 
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bluerider098

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Looking forward to seeing the build progress. Looks like you are putting a lot of thought into you build and taking your time which will pay rewards in the long run. This is a great place to get any of your questions answered.
Thanks. I have already learned a bunch from R2R and am grateful that others are willing to share their knowledge.
 
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bluerider098

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Next I started working on building the stand for the water storage containers. I didn't have very much room where I wanted to put them. My goal was to be able to store buckets of salt under the stand, and I wanted to be able to fill buckets from the containers of needed. I had a brand new Magdrive 7 pump that I bought for a closed loop on my freshwater tank like 15 years ago and never used, so I decided to use that for my mixing pump.

So after using some masking tape, the containers and the pump I mocked up on the floor the overall size of the stand. Once I had this I went to the computer to design the stand. Here is what I came up with.

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I was fortunate that I had enough scrap pieces of wood lying around that I had everything I needed to build it. Unfortunately I didn't take many photos detailing the progress as I built it.

I pretty much use pocket holes to join everything together and I happened to have some sheets of black plastic that my work was going to throw away that I used to cover the plywood on the top of the shelves. It looks nice and provides some water protection. After I put everything together I ran a 3/8 radius bit around the edges of the shelves to remove the sharp edges and give it a nice look.
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bluerider098

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Once the stand was built it was time for plumbing. I purchased the 4 Stage Value Plus Water Saver 150gpd RO unit from BRS to supply water to the station and I had to figure out how I was going to hook everything up. The Magdrive pump that I planned on using to mix the saltwater is set up for 1/2" plumbing so that is what size I decided to use for everything. I probably spent way more time than I should have on designing the plumbing for this, but for whatever reason I really struggled on how I wanted things plumbed.

I looked at lots of pictures of mixing stations online and the most common theme was to plumb the fresh and salt water containers together with a series of ball valves to direct water between them. I understand the concept here of being able to make RO water in 1 tank and then transfer it to the other tank when your ready to make more saltwater. This design makes sense of your going to use it solely for making saltwater, but in my case I wanted the freshwater container to double as my ATO storage container. With the other designs I believe that a small amount of saltwater would contaminate the freshwater container when the valves were switched. I suppose you could use a check valve to prevent any back flow but I was already limited on space.

So since my containers are relatively small I decided to keep the 2 plumbed separately and if I am in a pinch where I need more than 20 gallons of saltwater, I can use buckets to transfer water from the fresh water to the Saltwater container.

I purchased what supplies I could locally, but most of the fittings/valves I ended up buying online. (On a side note I ended up having to make 3 separate orders because like most plumbing jobs you never get everything you need the first time ) Most places near me didn't have much in 1/2 inch for whatever reason. Similar to the examples that I looked at online, I used true union ball valves everywhere so that I could disconnect the plumbing and clean the barrels of needed. I also ordered 1/4" RO tubing, neat aquatics tubing clips, a 3 way valve from BRS to hook up the RO water to the barrels and float valves from Amazon to automatically shut off the water when the containers are full. The float valves are the exact same ones you can buy from BRS but they were like 6 dollars cheaper on Amazon.

So I think the easiest way to show what the final design looked like is to show a picture of the finished product.

First here is what a typical setup looks like that's plumbed together. I found this picture on Google images. Obviously someone from R2R lol.
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Now here is a picture of my finished product.
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This post is probably already to long and wordy so I will save explanations of everything and some more detailed pictures for my next post.
 
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I plumb my SW and fresh/ATO separately also. Assuming the container on the right is FW/ATO, what is it plumbed into between the two tanks? I can't tell from the picture?
 
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bluerider098

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I plumb my SW and fresh/ATO separately also. Assuming the container on the right is FW/ATO, what is it plumbed into between the two tanks? I can't tell from the picture?
That's the solonoid valve for my ATO. I am using that connected to an Avast ATO controller (via pressure switch) as the primary method to control the topoff. I have a mechanical float valve that will be attached to the supply line as a backup if the solonoid or controller fails.

The line on the left with the ball valve is going to be for my auto water change
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I will share a few more details about my mixing station in hopes maybe it will make someone's life a little easier if they want to build thier own. Here are a few more pictures.

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The first picture shows the 3 way valve for directing the RO between the 2 different tanks. Each tank has its own float valve to automatically shut the water off when the track is full. The white valve right below the RO canister is the flush valve for the RO membrane on the RO unit. I just relocated it to the spot shown so it's easier to access.

The second picture just shows the smart power strip, ATO controller, and both the fresh water line for the ATO and the salt water line I plan to use for doing auto water changes. I put both the pump and ATO on a smart power strip so that I could turn the circulation pump on and off without plugging and unplugging it, and I could also put it on a timer when moving the saltwater. It also asked me to schedule the ATO to be disabled when doing the auto water changes with dosing pumps. I bought the smart power strip from Amazon (Gosound) and am using the Smart Life app to control it. For organizing the lines and cords I have been using the Neat Aquatics RO tubing clips. They work really well and I used them to organize all of the tubes going to my tank. I will show more on that another time.

The third picture is just showing the no drip quick disconnect that I will use for filling the tank after manual water changes. By closing off the ball valve at the top of the tank and opening this one I can use the mixing pump to pump the water to my tank. This way you don't have to haul buckets.

The last picture is just the hose and filling valve that I made to hang on the side of the tank or sump. I got the idea for this from a Fish of Hex video on YouTube. I thought it was a great idea so I copied it.

I guess one last thing to mention that I forgot to share in an earlier post was that I used the Oatey Fusion single step pvc glue to glue all Of my plumbing together. It doesn't require primer and allows for a little more time to move the fittings around after gluing compared to the normal primer and glue. I really liked this because it was cleaner looking without the normal purple primer and it didn't instantly set like the normal glue does. Just make sure to read the directions because you actually apply the glue 2x before putting it together.

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Nice job on the mixing station. One thing to consider is a valve to shut off the RO water going to your SW storage tank. I often need to make top-off water and I don't want water going into a SW tank and lowering my salinity.
 
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Around the time I was finishing my mixing station I got a text from FedEx to schedule a delivery of my tank. Fast forward a few days and Fedex notified me about 30 minutes before arrival and they showed up right on time. The tank was delivered undamaged and the FedEx driver even used his pallet jack to push it up my driveway into my garage.

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It was packaged very well and had no external damage. Here are a few pics of how it was packaged.
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I was pretty excited to get something accomplished so I went straight to putting the stand together.

The box and packaging for the stand were undamaged, but as I got everything out and started examining the pieces there were some panels that had damage. Since the packaging was not damaged it means that the pieces were put in the box damaged. Here are some pictures.

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I decided that it wasn't major damage and that I could fix it. The edge where the paint was delaminating I used wood glue and tape to hold it down while the glue dried. I used a sharpie to cover up the other damage. Luckily the edge where the paint peeled up was going to be under the tank so it would be held down and not visible.

I ran into a few other issues as well. The threaded inserts for the leveling feet had been painted over making it impossible to thread the feet in. I had to use a dental pick to pick the paint out of the threads. The other issue was that the holes for the threaded inserts were too deep in the wood, so when trying to level the stand it would just push the threaded insert further and further into the stand. It took me awhile to figure out why my adjustments to the feet wasn't doing anything. I ended up using washers to take the load off the inserts and transfer it to the stand. 2020 hindsight I probably would have just pulled them out and filled the hole with superglue and put the inserts back in. I would probably still have still used the washers as backup.

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Other than those issues the stand went together easily. Think of Ikea furniture. There are metal pins and dowels to align the panels and locks that you turn to hold the pieces together.

It was a little challenging trying to level the stand due to the number of feet and the fact that you cannot access the ones in the middle of the stand without flipping the stand over. So what I ended up doing was moving all of the feet except the outside 4 corners up all the way and just used the 4 corners to level the stand. Then I checked my floor to see how level it was in between the feet. I was fortunate that there were no dips or bumps so I basically just flipped the stand over and just used the level as a straight edge across the feet and adjusted all of the others to match. After doing this the stand was level and sturdy. The door went on easily and has adjustable hinges so nothing really to note there.

Now my stand was pretty small, but I am not sure how someone could adjust the feet on a much larger stand and ensure that they were all touching the floor evenly. I recommend to Waterbox that they design the stand so that the bottom of the stand goes in last giving you access to all of the leveling feet. That way you could adjust all of them perfectly to the floor, and the put the bottom in when done. I am also not sure how someone would do this on carpet, I think you would have to put a board down under the stand or something to give you a flat surface.

I did reach out to Waterbox about my issues and they were very quick to respond and compensated me without question for the damaged parts. Definitely first class customer service.

Here is a picture of the assembled stand and tank.

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As you notice from the picture the tank is in my basement. What you can't see is that's this room is also my office. So I will be able to enjoy my tank almost all day once complete.
 
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bluerider098

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Once the stand was built and the track was sitting on it, I started experimenting with different aquascapes. I wanted to get a head start here so that I had lots of time to decide if I liked the designs I came up with.

I did some research before buying rock and settled followed the manufacturers recommendation of 1 to 2 lb per gallon of rock. I ended up purchasing Caribsea Life Rock, mostly because I liked the purple color and the fact that it was man made. (I want to contribute as little as possible to the destruction of coal reefs). Since I wanted an assortment of rocks I ended up ordering 20lb of standard Life Rock, 20lb of Life Rock shapes, and 20lb of Life Rock Nano Arches. On my first attempt of a rockscape I quickly realized that this was way too much rock.

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At first I thought I liked it, but after looking at it for a few days I decided it was too much rock. So I went back to the drawing board and experimented with a few more designs. I ended up deciding that I could get away without the nano arches, so I boxed them up and returned them. I bought them from Marine Depot and they took them back no problem, I just had to pay the return shipping.

So after changing the rocks around a few more times. I settled in on something I liked.

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I sat on this for another week or 2 and then stumbled upon a thread on R2R that was for having your rockscape analyzed. So I submitted some pictures and a very helpful member by the name of streetlamp suggested moving the rock in the front center over to the structure on the left. What a great suggestion this turned out to be. I followed the suggestion and really liked how it looked. I decided to stick with this final setup.

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I liked this setup because it has lots of different levels for different light needs and a few shaded areas for lower light stuff. Honestly the pictures don't do it justice. It looks much better in person.

Once I settled on this setup I took the rocks that were going to be sitting directly on the glass and sanded the bottoms. I just used some 50 grit sandpaper taped to a board and dragged the rocks across it. I am not looking to make a completely flat bottom here, just to any remove sharp points and to make the rock stable. The picture below is an example of a rock that I sanded. The white areas are where material was removed.

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You could do this same thing outside on the sidewalk, but it leaves permanent scratches on the sidewalk. Therefore I opted to go the sandpaper route.

Once I get everything else in the build done and I am nearing the point of adding water, I will remove the cardboard from the tank and then put the rocks directly on the glass and glue them together.
 
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bluerider098

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Got word today that the controller cabinet that I built is ready for me to pick up from paint. I will pick it up tomorrow and and take some finished pictures so that I can do a post on the design and construction. Here is a preview.

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bluerider098

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I am still working on my control board, but will post when complete.

In the meantime I will shift gears a little and talk about my quarantine tank.

My long term plan is for this tank to be a miniature peninsula tank in my son's room. He is not old enough now so I am going to use it for a coral quarantine for awhile. I covered the equipment that I purchased for it in an earlier post.

The first thing that I had to figure out where I was going to put it. I didn't want a stand as eventually it will go on a dresser or desk. So after some thinking I settled on putting it on the file cabinet in my office. It's a steel file cabinet so it's plenty strong to hold the weight, but the top is just thin sheet metal and probably not quite up to the task.

So I decided to strengthen it with a 3/4" piece of MDF topped with my signature black plastic.

I cut a piece to match the top of the cabinet exactly, added the plastic to the top, used a 3/8" radius bit to router the edges and recessed some screws into it too attach it to the cabinet. Probably not the nicest thing ever, but it matches the theme of the water change stand.

The plastic on the top has scratches in it, but they were scrap pieces from my work so I can't complain. It adds a small amount of water protection to the wood and gives it a nicer finished look IMO.

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Next up was the light. The Aqua Knight A029 Light that I purchased had decent reviews online. I asked around on the forums and the general consensus was that it was a good light for the price. I searched around on YouTube for reviews and I stumbled on a video of a 10 gallon nano build using this light by the Inappropriate Reefer.


This was good 2 fold because he was successful using this light, and I really liked his style of videos. I am still to this day, 3 months later, trying to catch up on all of his past videos. If you've got time check his channel out.

Anyways when I test fit the light on the tank it was hanging off center quite a bit, even at the maximum adjustment.

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So I ended up using a hacksaw and cutting the bracket shorter to get it centered better over the tank. I unfortunately didn't take any pictures of before and after, but basically both pieces in the picture below were the same length originally. I cut the 1 piece down allowing it to adjust further back.

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And here's the finished result.

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