Oh god what have I done?: Kelsey builds a reef tank


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May 18, 2019
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Part I: Adventure Calls

I’ll preface this by telling you what I told my husband: At least I decided against the crocodile skinks.

And in my defense, you WERE out of town and therefore unable to stop me.

Although I’ll admit it was perhaps not the most well-thought-out plan, FREE was altogether too good of a deal to pass up. And consider the fortuitous circumstances: A 30 gallon tank popped up on a Curb Alert in my “general area;” 36” happened to fit my lonely tank stand perfectly; it was a beautiful day; you and our toddler were up North at the cabin—and to cap it all, I was emboldened by the Youtube playlist of “how to de-rim an aquarium” videos that had been autoplaying as I compulsively researched gate valves and comparison-shopped colored PVC pipe.

Here it was: My opportunity to prove to you, my skeptical husband, that I could ABSOLUTELY scavenge together a beautiful, modern, sleek-looking nano reef tank for my home office.

Yes, I realize you explicitly told me not to buy another tank. Yes, I know you’ve just left your job to become a stay-at-home dad to our 13 month old son, and that now the burden of financially providing for our family falls on my shoulders. Yes, I am keenly aware that my company works primarily with startups on a per-contract basis. But you must understand—I was going to spend no money on this ludicrous adventure. This was A Free Tank.

So I messaged the Curb Alerter to find out his address, to see whether I could even feasibly get to what had immediately become—in my mind—my new aquarium. After all, you were hundreds of miles away with the toddler and the truck. And oh, what luck—the tank was curbed a mere two miles away, in a neighborhood I’ve driven through many times. It was destiny.

All that remained was to get there. Simple. Were I one of those totally-got-my-****-together moms who, thirteen months postpartum, had resumed their daily jogs and yerba mates with Gal Pals in yoga pants, that two mile walk would have been a piece of gluten-free cake. I’m confident enough in myself to share that I, however, am testing the tensile strength of my sweatpants as I type this.

Undaunted, I unfolded my son’s stroller and flopped a couple of towels into the seat (I had A Plan). I put on my very best sneakers and my least stained sweatpants. I even put on a sports bra. And off I sauntered down the street, pushing an empty stroller and secure in my knowledge that this was a voyage I was meant to take, that this was a tank I was meant to have, and that you would be charmed by just how quirky and impulsive—and thrifty!—your wife can be.


Three hours later I returned home, delighted with myself and my new tank. This was going to look SO cool as a nano reef. We even have a tank in the basement to use as a sump, and another to cannibalize for baffles and bracing for the display—because seriously, that pale faux wood grain trim has to go.

Horrifying trim aside, it looks pretty good. And when it’s sitting on the stand, I can take off my glasses and imagine the final setup, with suspended lights and beautiful plumbing and a thriving garden of soft corals. It will be just the thing to kickstart productivity during my workday and will make me seem like a Very Interesting Individual during video calls with clients.

This is a good idea, Kelsey. Good job today.
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Peace River

Thrive Master
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Apr 29, 2014
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Central Florida, USA
What a wonderful adventure! Yes, I’m including your family, career, and (soon-to-be) nano reef. The one encouragement that I will offer in the middle of the chaos and whirlwinds of life - figure out how to thrive!
Top Shelf Aquatics


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May 18, 2019
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Part II: A Lesson in Hubris

Dear skeptical husband,

I promise I vacuumed up all the glass. I triple-checked. I probably shouldn’t have attempted this particular DIY in the living room, but I needed room to maneuver your saw.

Thanks for taking our kid to your mom’s place today, by the way. It gave me a chance to relax a little bit and discover that perhaps I am not quite as handy as I had initially imagined. But again, sorry for making this discovery in the living room.

You’d be proud that I at least thought to lay out some old towels before I started the process.

The good news is that three quarters of the tank looks totally rad as a rimless aquarium, just like YouTube promised. And the GREAT news is that now I get to see just how good I am with a tube of silicone. YouTube makes that look fairly simple too; I’m sure I can handle it (see exhibit 1: my expert wielding of your hacksaw while cutting the offending trim).

The bad news is that we will need to invest in a glass cutting tool a full week ahead of schedule, due to a minor incident involving user error and unearned confidence. Don’t worry though, I’m pretty sure we can use a panel from the old 15 gallon in the basement as a replacement for the side I just cracked. Plus I’ve figured out how to efficiently separate the silicone seams so that particular disassembly should be a breeze (hint: the method involves that spool of old aluminum ribbon I’ve been saving for just the right application. I told you it wasn’t hoarding).

I also feel a vague sense of guilt over an internet auction I’m currently winning. Confessing my bid makes me feel a little better, though I make no guarantees that I won’t raise said bid if another buyer gets involved. Fine, they are old LEDs, but I’m sure AI makes replacement components for discontinued models. Plus, hey, what a steal, right?


Remember the towels.

Is it HARD or EASY for you to keep your corals colorful? (check all that apply)

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