Newbie from Israel is building a piece of the ocean in his living room (120g DT)


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Nov 16, 2020
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I love the sea. 15 years ago, did a skipper license, and once in a while go out sailing with the family. Not as much as I would want to though. Wanted to build a reef tank for a long time. For years it stayed within a realm of dreams.
Half a year ago, I have decided it’s time to do something about it, and begun reading, learning and planning.

I am starting this thread mostly for myself, to keep track of my own progress. Maybe it will help others in some DIY aspects.

This will be a kind of peninsula display tank viewable from 2 sides. 150cm x 50cm x 65cm (~60"x ~20"x ~26")
450 liter (~120g) display. The sump I think will hold about 160 additional liters. So total about 600 liters (160g)

My wish to build this with my own hands as a DIY, is the major part of this project.
I have and am, spending lots of time on the forums, learning and absorbing all I can.
Planning, designing gathering information. Things to do and what not to do.

One thing I realize is this is a very long journey :

Sep 2020 - began actively thinking about it.
Jan 2021 - started to build the metal stand.
Mar 2021 - Start manufacturing: rocks, sump, Chiller, Controller , Led lights
May-Jun 2021 - hope to fill water, dependent on the rock aquascape building
Sep-Oct 2021 - maybe will put a small fish inside, considering the cycling etc.

This hobby/project will require many different fields of expertise and knowledge, with various levels of complexity and depth.
And what I don’t know, I will learn. I know how to work with wood, plastic and a little with metal. I know electronics and I am a programmer.
So, I think I can do much of the equipment myself.
Generally speaking, I wish to BUY as little as possible. I realize obviously that I can’t manufacture glass or acrylic or DC pumps. And I will be buying livestock of course :). But I manage to gather materials for a very low cost, if not for free.

For example. I went to look for businesses that work with acrylic. They often throw away lots of material as byproduct or old "street light signs". So, I gathered a substantial amount of acrylic pieces with various sizes and width that will be enough to build 2 systems like mine. I will see how successful I will be though ... :)

I am keeping track of all my current and future expenses in an excel model
currently I am looking at about 5600$ cost for reasonably well-equipped system. Including some corals and fish.
The same size system ordered from my LFS will cost 10,000$ WITHOUT water inside etc...

Apart from wanting a mixed reef tank, I don’t particularly know what type of livestock I will have. And I know that many people say that this should be my first decision, based on which, everything else will follow and be based on. But I am consciously choosing to delay this to a later decision phase
I don’t intend to invest lots of money in various equipment types. So, my basic thinking is that I need to build a platform that will serve me for anything that I envision myself to have.
Basically, the bellow picture shows what I have planned so far. It’s a work in progress, and its changing based on what I learn along the way.
Screen Shot 2021-03-27 at 10.27.39.png

The stand is from metal (will detail the build later). The sump and many of the parts will be from acrylic. the display tank is 15mm extra-clear glass which I intend to glue myself. I have gathered all the technical dimensions of PVC parts and even pumps and various other general parts. Thus, I have reasonably good trust in the placement of parts inside the cabinet. But all the details will follow...

I am following the bellow general plan.
1 - build the stand
2 - build a wooden mockup for the tank, to use for constructing the rock structures and start making the rock. This will take several months for rock to cure and kure...
3 - meanwhile to order the PVC parts. will take a month or so to get here from china.
4 - build the display tank.
5 - build the sump and reservoirs for auto water replacement and RODI etc... (from acrylic as well)
6 - order the pumps and other stuff
7 - build the lights, controller, Heat Exchanger (chiller-heater)

8 - fill with water and bacteria and cycle. (3-4 month I guesstimate. want to do a "No fish cycle" and dry rock startup)
9 - the journey actually begins...

I will be building :

DIY ROCK aquascape
DIY ATO - auto water top-off system with remote reservoir.
DIY Auto Water change system - also with remotely located salt water tank.
semi DIY Heater and Chiller will be based on an Air condition compressor and next to tank heat exchanger unit.
DIY Auto Dosing system
DIY controller based on Reef-Pi / RoboTank board .
DIY UV lamp - trying to design 2 of these. for low and high flow.
DIY auto fleece roller
DIY Protein skimmer - venturi based
DIY Sump - acrylic . with refugium and DIY algae scrubber
DIY LED lights
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Chapter 1: Building the metal stand.

Screen Shot 2021-03-27 at 10.36.27.png

Originally, I thought of a wooden stand. I have a finite space for the whole build in my living room. 150 by 50cm is the max I can go. And the loss of space inside a wooden cabinet is immoderate. I rather use the space to have bigger Sump and place for other devices under the tank. Every centimetre counts.

I consider that the effect of salt water on wood vs rust of a steel is more or less the same type of risk. This will depend on the treatment of the material I presume. So, I went for a galvanised metal rods. 5cm x 2.5cm with 3.25mm thickness. and some 2.5x2.5 cm in between.

Ordering a stand from a professional would have cost me 400-500$. I bought the materials for 120$. And I already have the stick welding unit. Might be able to extrapolate the cost of electricity from my monthly bill later on.
The cost of paint was 50$

I wanted the access to the sump not be restricted by anything. So, there is no "leg" in the centre. I have compensated the fact with some other structural details. Believe it will be ok.
The most important thought I had was : no weight should be stressing the welding joints. All the weight should be distributed through the metal rods. And the legs are standing directly on the floor.
Screen Shot 2021-03-27 at 10.36.37.png

I chose not to have levelling screws. I have a ceramic levelled floor, and I will be placing the stand on some heavy-duty rubber material which should be able to help with some imperfections.
The major issue I have is with my stick welding skills. I am inexperienced in this. I am sure the end result will hold for years. But it’s not very pretty and it took me some number of retries to weld it well. For sure this is not a professional work. But its mine. :)
this is the BAD one I "scratched" and redone many of them.
Screen Shot 2021-03-27 at 10.36.47.png

After several retries :
Screen Shot 2021-03-27 at 10.36.54.png

Screen Shot 2021-03-27 at 10.37.03.png

Work in progress:
Screen Shot 2021-03-27 at 15.14.14.png
Screen Shot 2021-03-27 at 15.14.36.png
Screen Shot 2021-03-27 at 15.15.04.png

The end result :
Screen Shot 2021-03-27 at 10.37.15.png

the plan is to cover the stand with acrylic white sheets attached with magnets. It will be also practical to be able to open the cover from the living room side "to show off a little ".
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Where ever you go, there you are, so be nice 2 you
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Feb 10, 2019
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Project looking good. Props for the metal stand. I would never try to weld, but I also have trouble with my laces :D

Keep is updates on the rock placement and livestock plans

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