"OMG What have you gotten into!?!" Or, my first reef tank - 40B


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Nov 19, 2020
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Vancouver, WA
Okay, so this project started back in October with casual discussion with my family - it went something like this:

Me: "I want to start a new tank - how about some fancy goldfish?"​
Family: "Yeah, that sounds fine, just keep it out of the living room."​
Me: "Awesome - but a small tank is boring, how about a big tank?"​
Family: "Not too big! Remember what happened with the 90g back in 2008..."​
Me: "Fine, something between 10g and 90g it is... But goldfish sounds boring - I've never done saltwater... How about a REEF?!?"​
Family: ;Facepalm

I've been keeping freshwater planted tanks of various sizes for years and I've always dreamed of putting a reef tank together. Something that brings home a tiny bit of the experiences we've had swimming and snorkeling in Hawaii.... and since we can't travel and with everything else going on in 2020 - why not now? No one's getting any younger....

So after a few weeks of research and reading, I line up a few tank size options then made my first purchase - and it's immediately the wrong choice: I picked up a used 55 gallon tank and stand off of craigslist, got it home, and realized that the tank geometry is completely wrong for what I had envisioned: In my mind's eye I had something shallower and wider - everything the 55g isn't, being tall and narrow - but closer to a 40 gallon breeder.

My uncertainty was quickly confirmed on R2R. I put the 55g in the basement and picked up a 40b for cheap from Petco's dollar tank sale, got a custom-built cabinet from another aquarist on craigslist that had to move into a fish-hating apartment building, and I was off to the races. After installing the overflow and return plumbing, I put the first water into it on December 4th - here's what it looked like then:

IMG_ - 1.jpeg

Yep, that's a single Caribsea "Life Rock" and some dead shrimp to help with a fishless cycle! :rolleyes: A Jabeo OW-10 is helping to push the water around, and I've got 20 lb of aragonite substrate.

Under the tank is a 20L sump built-up with an eBay baffle kit. The sump has a 200W heater, an Aquamaxx WS-1 skimmer, and an Sicce Syncra 3.5 return pump.

All of this was set up for the next stage of the project: Live rock!

(To be continued...)


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Nov 19, 2020
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Vancouver, WA
Alright here's another, perhaps infrequent update to my build thread. Right now this thread is running about a month behind where the tank actually is, but eventually I'll get caught up - probably around the same time all the kids get through college. :D

So the tank is built out: I've got the glass drilled, the overflow installed, the sump baffled, and plumbing plumbed. But before I bought any of that, before I drilled glass or siliconed seals, I shopped around for live rock because I knew, even from the last time I researched this project back in 2003, that is what I wanted. No dead, dry rock for me, no bland LFS rock for me either - I wanted the real deal, the real McCoy, or at least as close as I could get without destroying a reef or wrecking an atoll. I wanted the rock dripping with live, more color than a cartoon, as many hitchhikers as I could get.

After reading all the reviews and poring over the forums, I zeroed in on "The Package" from Richard and crew at Tampa Bay Saltwater. 50 pounds of responsibly-collected rock and live sand and critters whisked by jet plane to my nearby airport. This was just what I was looking for! So I filled out the order and clicked the "pay" button and waited - but the wait was short! Because, only a few days after I send my request, TBS went on permanent hiatus due to the COVID pandemic. :(

Hit the brakes! I was crushed - so close, yet so far. That turn of events left me spinning. I got so much advice: Some said be patient, but it's tough to wait when I'm staring at a tank full of nothing but saltwater. More time on the forums, more reviews, and that led me to KP Aquatics. Again, fill out a form and click the "pay" button and... wait. It seemed like an eternity, but I was only two weeks Phillipp and crew sent me 50 pounds of the good stuff on the last plane from Ft. Lauderdale. Okay, it wasn't the last plane, but it was the last day they were shipping rock before taking a break for the holidays.

And it was a cornucopia (I don't get to use that word every day) of reef life: It was exactly what I was hoping for. We still find stuff on the rock, and it's been in the tank for over a month. Here's a quick list:
  • Mithrax crabs
  • Sponges of different shapes and colors
  • Tunicates
  • Medusa worms
  • Spaghetti worms
  • Cerith snails
  • Horse conches
  • Brittle stars
  • Fan worms
  • Nudibranchs
  • Bristle worms
  • A bunch of other creatures that I don't know what they are
  • So far, no nasties (aiptasia or fire worms) - knock on wood.
Anyway, I highly recommend the rock from KP. It's been worth it.

Here's what the tank looked like after adding the rock, and some of the sea creatures that we've found:




Do you have any 3D printed reefing gear?

  • Yes (please tell us what in the thread)

    Votes: 145 45.7%
  • No

    Votes: 88 27.8%
  • No but would like to try something

    Votes: 83 26.2%
  • Other (please explain)

    Votes: 1 0.3%

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