My Journey Reefing On A Tight Budget 55 Gallon

How many of you have a complete DIY system at home?

  • I only use factory condition equipment

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Some parts of my setup are DIY

    Votes: 2 66.7%
  • My Entire Setup is DIY

    Votes: 1 33.3%

  • Total voters
    3
  • Poll closed .

Wayne Kruger

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Well, where do I begin?

I'm a student of Architecture in my beautiful 3rd world country Namibia. A geological location that feels pretty much like the butt side of the world in terms of what is available on the other side of the world. Nonetheless we fellow like minded reefers all have what seems to be a law of attraction when it comes to our salty hobby :) . It all starts when you are visually introduced to someone's very own slice of the ocean. I was introduced to the aquarium hobby in general at the age of about 7, when I kept my first guppy.
When I got older I got a job as a pet shop assistant, where I was introduced to a brand new FOWLR tank a small Red Sea ("don't remember the model") Of course this was the very first time I saw something so special, actual live rock and a pair of Ocellaris Clowns that all smelt like the tidal pools that line certain areas of beach where I grew up. This amazed me greatly, but I was still young and didn't have near to the amount of cash flow I needed. I stuck to freshwater tanks for the next 9 years, by which time I was 16 years old. I got rid of my freshwater tank and that was that for the aquarium hobby I had simply lost interest in.

Fast forward a few years and I'm out of school and in to university, when I got my own townhouse and moved in with my girlfriend. Two years in to my degree something sparked in my soul when I walked past a pet shop selling a few tanks and freshwater fish. Needless to say I bought two aquariums, one a 56 liter and the other a second hand 110l.

This is where this tank comes in:

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I only had problems with this second hand tank, the tank was pretty badly looked after and when I think back I pretty much wasted a ton of money on an ugly glass box.
Or did I? More on that later.

I had the tank for about 5 months when I went in to my office to find that my floor had a massive wet spot, I looked around for a few moments and suddenly saw my 110 liter tank slowly loosing its water. The bloody tank had burst on its bottom. This left me with my smaller 56 liter tank I told you about earlier. I kept that for about another year until I got another 110 liter tank as a gift from my girlfriend's dad.
By this time for a reason I still don't know I had been watching reef tank channels on YouTube religiously and started remembering the small Nano Red Sea tank I once looked after as a young man working in my home town pet shop. At the time I was still keeping freshwater fish in my newly gifted 110 liter aquarium, but I had other ideas for it. I knew that it was somehow one day going to become a salt water tank. I laugh at myself now because it happened way quicker than I ever imagined it would.

We had this old piece of a kitchen counter that we used to store our linens and bedding that was not the most attractive thing in the world. I begged my girlfriend if I could please cut this old piece of crap and turn it in to a stand for my 110 liter, I reasoned to her that I would make sure it compliments the gift from her father nicely hahaha. She agreed, I had overcome a milestone and took another step towards having my very own saltwater aquarium. I started to build the new stand with the old and almost rotten wood from our previous linen cupboard.
Remember that piece of crap tank that burst on me? The one in the first picture.... Well I built a sump out of it :D I cut out the broken glass bought two brand new panels of glass and constructed a sump of my own intuitive design strategy.

This brings us here:
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Please keep in mind that the tank here was still freshwater. I was still figuring out how the hell I'm going to get water from the tank to the sump. I Macgyvered a siphon based overflow that you can slightly see on the left top of the picture next to the tank. It was janky as all hell, but it worked surprisingly well. I was now test running the tank with the entire system on fresh water. I then decided I was now going to focus on finishing the stand. I did this all while the system was fully running with two Convict Cichlids.

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I made a lot of mess while I was building my ripoff Red Sea Reefer ;Smuggrin but all in all it was a very therapeutic experience.....

In my eyes the tank was now ready for a conversion to salt water, except for the fact that I had that janky overflow siphon doohickey that I didn't trust. It had one clear flaw, being the fact that if we lost power the siphon would break causing my main display to flood if the return pump switched back on this would cascade in to a fear of anything bad happening to my new tank if I was about to spend all my savings on the planned conversion. I quickly again reasoned with myself again to realize that the only way for me to have a reliable overflow and return system to my sump I had to drill the tank ;Jawdrop I had to get that past my girlfriend too for interest sake. The very next day after the safety first awakening I paid a visit to my local hardware shop Pupkewitz Megabuild ("a prominent hardware chain store where I'm from") I bought a diamond drill bit and all the necessary plumbing, silicone, PVC glue etc. and proceeded to drill the tank with the help of my girlfriend throwing cold water over the areas I was drilling. I successfully managed to drill plumb and paint the background of the tank and the tank was now ready for a water test.

20201227_090112_Richtone(HDR).jpg


Alas it held water and the overflow and return was working perfectly and it was time to visit the only pet shop that sells marine products Classic Aquatics here where I live. I bought 8kgs of Aqua Medic Reef salt a German Brand of reef salt, about 7kgs of dry rock, 9kgs of aragonite substrate and a bottle of unbranded bottled bacteria which the store told me would work perfectly for the cycling of my new reef tank.
I came home, drained the tank of all the tap water and proceeded to fill it with RODI water from my 5 stage water filter. A week after that about 2019.12.22 I went back to the store to buy a Hydrometer, the thermometer and salinity meter all in one for almost next to nothing returned home and immediately started pouring the salt little by little in to my tank using the hydrometer to tell me what the estimated same levels are and my intuition to guesstimate what a 0.025 salinity would look like on the little green needle, I didn't have any fish or coral so there was no worry of course. I let that fully dissolve in to the system for about 3 days, by which time it was now Christmas 2019.12.25. This was where I introduced the substrate, dry rock and live bacteria in to the main display with a large amount of bio balls in the sump. The tank was basically left to its own devices and I was running undisturbed while I was thinking of where to get coral.

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This was the official start of my salt water tank with everything being as sterile as the sun's surface o_O letting it run, trusting the brand-less bottle of bacteria and a very small piece of rock that I managed to hustle out of one of the pet shops display tanks which was running for about 10 years. I figured it would introduce a little more bacteria diversity than what was provided in the bottled bacteria ("you can see the small rock on the top right of the dry rock") All while the tank was running through the juicy cycling phase I was still worried about where the hell I'm going to get corals never mind fish, as our pet shop didn't have any stock and it was unknown when the next shipment would arrive. I started my search for some beginner coral to see if I could at the very least keep something alive and see if this hobby is really for me. After about a week of searching and asking around on Facebook I came across someone that was willing to sell a frag or two to me, but he was on holiday and was only going to return in about two from that time. I patiently waited for his return and paid him a visit to see what corals he had to offer, I remember my jaw dropping down to the floor when I saw his pride and joy display tank, I mean just the most gorgeous thing I've ever laid my eyes upon. I returned home with my very first sliver of coral which where three Rhodactis mushrooms and a bit of macro algae very excited and happy with my self. This in turn also added another little piece of live rock to my system.

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The date was now 2021.01.13 and I had my first piece of coral, the bug had truly bit me on the butt and I wanted more ;Drool!!!!

2021.02.02 I then came across another individual when I was looking for a second hand refractometer, went to his house and purchased a well looked after measuring device that was to replace my hydrometer that was in use up until this point. I left with the refractometer and an Anemone of my own, a very large piece of live rock from Indonesia and a few extra Discosoma mushrooms that he had laying around.
Which brings us to this point (2021.02.15):

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The tank mas now starting to go through its puberty with Diatoms all over the rock and substrate but everything was staying alive and as far as I could tell happy.
I now wanted to work on my aqua scape as what I had previously was a pile of rocks with one oddly large and out op proportion live rock. I had to make a plan.

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The aqua scape in the picture looked very beautiful with the center piece anemone and a young Pink Anemone Clownfish, It was during this time I also had a very bad Cyanobacteria outbreak, all because I manually tried to remove it off of the nice live rock. It felt like the entire population of cyanobacteria from the Indonesian ocean had exploded in my tank. I immediately changed my lighting schedule from 12 hours a day to 10 hours and proceeded with regular 20% water changes every 3 days instead of every 7 days, one more thing I did was raise the temperature from 23 Degrees Celsius to 25 Degrees Celsius by simply removing the brushless fan I had running in the sump compartment. This turned out to be the best thing I did, because now I only have to top up the water with 400ml a day Instead of 700ml three times a day.
Which nicely Segway's our way to today (2021.03.21):
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Today the tank is (approximately) 4 and a half months old and I couldn't be happier about where my progress is. I have had it pretty easy so far, but I realize that I will only harvest the fruits of my labor when the tank turns 3-5 years ;Bookworm I'm looking forward to that journey and sharing it with you the community as I progress through trails and hardships.
Thanks for taking the time to read my tank build and the paths I have taken to get my DIY tank running. I hope I can inspire others out there that think you need a lot of money to see that one can eat an elephant little by little.
Cheers!

Wayne Kruger
 
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reefer7891

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Nice man looks like a good start. I just started up my own budget reef 16 weeks ago. It is a 55 gallon DIY. I like the idea that my setup is 100% unique and that my bio system will be different than any other out there. I’m doing a retro build with equipment from 2010. Def looking forward to your updates.

Follow my Instagram : the_low_tech_reef

I am waiting another month to update my reef2reef blog because I want to do a really good write up.
 
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Wayne Kruger

Wayne Kruger

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Nice man looks like a good start. I just started up my own budget reef 16 weeks ago. It is a 55 gallon DIY. I like the idea that my setup is 100% unique and that my bio system will be different than any other out there. I’m doing a retro build with equipment from 2010. Def looking forward to your updates.

Follow my Instagram : the_low_tech_reef

I am waiting another month to update my reef2reef blog because I want to do a really good write up.
Thank you reefer7891, yes I would say that my bio system is also something different.
There will definitely be updates from my side. Good luck to you :cool:
 

LegalReefer

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This is awesome dude, excited to see what you do with it! Are there any corals or local organisms you can collect on the Namibian coastline? I feel like you could have an amazingly unique biotope here
 
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