Project Patriot’s Serenity - Where The Lake Meets The Ocean (365 Gallon Reef Tank)

Karliefish

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Hello everyone. For over two years my wife and I have been waiting to start this thread about our project to build a custom saltwater reef dream tank. Back in 2017, we bought the perfect lake home up in the Blue Ridge mountains of North Carolina and had looked forward to building our custom reef tank as part of our retirement plans. That changed in early 2018 when I was asked to come and assist our country at the Department of Defense. It’s been a real privilege working with the Men and Women in uniform that protect our freedoms. When I asked my wife what we should call our Saltwater Reef tank project, she came-up with the prefect name “Patriot Serenity” and I added ”where the ocean meets the lake”. Ok enough on my career and retirement. First some background on our saltwater reef building experience. My wife and I fell in love with keeping a saltwater reef aquarium when we acquired our first store bought 90- gallon reef tank while living over in London back in 2009. We’ve included a picture of that first tank. We enjoyed that reef tank so much that we ended-up wanting a larger tank - sound familiar?! In 2011, we had a 240 gallon custom reef tank built into our London home - I’ve included a picture and video of that tank as well. We so enjoyed that tank for two years and sadly had to leave it behind when we moved back to the U.S. Since then we have been eagerly waiting to start our dream retirement tank. Our Patriot’s Serenity project has officially kicked-off today with this posting and over the next several weeks I will do my very best to provide frequent updates on our progress. I have the following postings already planned: (1) Tank placement and tank specifications (2) Home construction and preparing for the new tank (3) Tank builder selection (4) The actual start of the tank build and (5) Custom sump build. We’ll then follow-up (where we’ll be looking for lots of help from all of you) on selection of lighting, Protein skimmer, pumps, computer automation, etc. My wife and I are really looking forward to engaging the whole Reef2Reef Community and your wealth of knowledge.

90 Gallon Mixed Reef Aquarium from London in 2009
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240 Mixed Reef Aquarium from London in 2011
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Video of our 240 Mixed Reef Aquarium from London in 2013
 
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Karliefish

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Tank Placement

As I mentioned in my introduction post, our retirement home is located on a lake up in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. We really want to have our new reef tank be the centerpiece of our home and harmonize with the feel of the mountains and the lake. Our home is built on three levels and fortunately the bottom floor has a perfect wall to place a tank and can handle all the weight. The bottom floor has a series of large windows and a sliding glass door looking out onto the lake. When you walk into the lower level you immediately see the wall where the reef tank will be located. It will have BIG WOW factor. The big decision was deciding if the tank should be built into the wall, be Peninsula style or be free-standing in front of the wall. Behind the wall is a small to medium size utility room that will house the sump, salt/fresh RO water tanks (two 100 gallon tanks), Frag tank, computer, etc. My wife and I spent several weeks discussing various options and finally agreed that the biggest WOW factor would be to have the tank built into the wall. Once we made that decision it helped to determine the maximum sized tank we could place in the wall. The tank dimensions will be 96 inches long by 34 inches wide by 26 inches tall. The math says this tank will be approximately 365 gallons empty. We were really hoping for at least a 350 gallon tank, as we are planning on having a tank dominated by a large number of SPS corals with a few nice soft corals and lots of fish (my wife loves the fish!). We need the depth because we plan on designing an aquascape that will probably consist of multiple islands that we want the fish to be able to swim around and through.

So the good news is we got the exact depth we wanted (34 inches deep). Unforutnately with that depth we no longer have adequate space in the utility room and therefore the entire wall will have to be moved forward 34 inches. This will be a big project in itself. I‘m including a picture here of the wall that will have to be moved along with blue tape showing where the tank will be placed in the wall. The blue tape on the floor shows just how far out the wall will be moved.
Tank Placemnet.jpg


You’ll notice that the tank will sit fairly high-up - tank stand will be 38” high. We want the tank to be eye-level for most people. Fortunately, I am fairly tall so I‘ll be able to manage the height when doing tank maintenance. The blue tape on the left side of the tank will be for a hidden door. Behind the door I will have access to the left side of the tank and there will be a closet where I will most likely put the Calcium Reactor and possibly the computer system. The right door In the picture will be completely replaced with a second hidden door leading into the utility room.

The existing wall will be completely torn down and a new wall will be built with a dramatically different look. The pine paneling will be removed and we are considering having the whole wall finished in bark wood to go along with our goal of having the tank harmonize with the mountains and lake. My wife just ordered four different types of bark samples. If you check-out Bark house.com you can get an idea on what a bark wall might look like. Once we down select to our final two choices we‘ll ask everyone to vote on which one you like best.

My next post will focus on getting the utility room prepared for the tank.
 
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Our First Problem - The Utility Room

As I mentioned in post #2, once the custom tank Is finished being built, it will be placed into a wall and behind the wall is a utility room that will be perfect for accessing all of the equipment (sump, lights, pumps, computer system, etc.). The bad news was there were three very large water heaters in the room that took up approximately 40% of the available floor space. Here is a picture that shows the water heater problem as well as all the junk that we had to get out of the utility room. The amount of free floor space was way to tight and working on the tank was going to be a real pain-in-the-###. We all know how expensive this hobby can be, well our cost went up significantly as we had to rip-out all the water heaters and replace them with Tankless Water heater systems. This freed-up all the floor space since the tankless systems were installed on the walls. They work amazingly well (very energy efficient).

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So the first step was to clear-out the junk.....

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The second step was to remove the water heaters...
By the way...the blue tape on the wall shows where the RO System will be installed. Two 100 gallon RO tanks (for fresh and saltwater) will be placed right in front of the RO System

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The third step was to install the new tankless water heaters

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The last picture shows the wall that has to be torn-down and move-out 34”. After this is done there will be a lot more remove to work on the tank while in the utility room.

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Our next post will discuss how we selected our Custom Tank Builder - TankMeUSA
 
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Selecting Our Custom Tank Builder

I’m sure you can all appreciate, going through the process of selecting the right custom reef tank builder can be a daunting and an agonizing process. There are numerous to pick from and the opinions (testimonials) on Reef2Reef and other reef keeping sites can differ in quite dramatic ways. We found there were two camps/views - those that had positive build experiences and those that wish they could have a redo.

Here were the steps we used in selecting our custom tank builder:

Step 1:

We compiled a list of the most popular custom tank builders in the U.S/Canada. There was a really helpful post on Reef2Reef where someone polled reefers on who they used to build their tank. This was a great starting point as it not only provided us with a comprehensive list of custom tank builders, but also gave us a starting point for the most popular.

Step 2:

We visited the top 15 custom reef tank builder websites and learned everything we could about (1) their build process, (2) distinguishing features of their tank (3) reviewed of all pictures and any videos on their sites and (4) information on warranty, build timeframes, delivery options. By the way, it is amazing how some custom reef builders don’t take the time to develop a high quality web site to show-off their work.

Step 3:
We then did numerous customer testimonial searches on each of the top 15 custom reef tank builders. This helped-us to start narrowing the list quite rapidly and we ended-up down-selecting to six builders. Our finalist were (Not in any ranked order):

Reef Savvy
Glass Cages
Coast to Coast
TankMeUSA
Custom Aquariums
Miracles

Step 4:
We learned so much going through steps 1 through 3. It helped us to form some fairly strong views on what was going to be important to us. So we created our priority “must have” list, that included:
(A) Personalized attention we would get throughout our build
(B) Quality of construction - those builders that took the time to explain their build process either during phone calls or had online videos scored higher
(C) Delivery timeframe - anybody that was quoting upwards of a year or more got kicked-off the list
(D) Number of distinguishing features, e.g. floating bottom, overflow system choices, how euro bracing was installed, how corner seams were constructed, etc.
(E) No mass production builder - I know this is perfectly fine for many reefers, but we really wanted a true custom reef builder. Someone focused on quality of build over volume of tanks produced. For example, this knocked-out Custom Aquariums as they boast about being one of the largest tank builders - not for us. It became quite easy to see who were the mass producers of tanks as their sites primary focused on a standard spreadsheet with tank sizes/prices.
(F) White Glove Delivery Service - would they deliver the tank
(G) Responsiveness - this knocked out some builders as they just couldn’t take the time to be courteous and respond to our emails or phone calls. For example, ReefSavvy got eliminated because it took them over 3 months to respond to multiple emails and multiple phone calls. Some reefers have said that is common place for this hobby, but we still believe in customer courteousy.

You’ll notice that price was not on our list as it became almost impossible to do a side-by-side price comparison given all the variation in build process, quality and features.

Our clear pick was TankMeUSA. So how did we arrive at that decision?.....We’ll if you have ever taken the time to visit their website and review their pictures, videos and features, they truly do a terrific job on educating their potential customers. Plus they have a library of videos that give you a really good feel for the quality and variety of tanks they can custom build. Additionally, I couldn’t find any negative reviews on TankMeUSA, besides customers being critical of them taking a long time to build tanks, but that was the case with several of the custom tank builders. But the #1 reason for picking TankMeUSA is Gaston, the builder and owner of TankMeUSA. From the moment we spoke with Gaston we were impressed with his (1) passion for building high quality tanks (2) No BS honest way he spoke with us (3) The unique technology processes he uses in building his tanks (4) willingness to spend significant time with us, answering an endless number of question and (5) his willingness to FaceTime and actually show us his tank build facility and examples of his work. TankMeUSA is definitely not going to be the cheapest option out there, so don’t bother calling them if you are looking for a quick build and at low ball price - not going to happen. Now of course the real proof, that we made the right builder, will be when the tank is delivered (which Gaston is doing himself) and we get a chance to see it.

Gaston has graciously agreed to send me pictures throughout the build process so more post to follow as the tank is being built.
 
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Karliefish

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Tank Build Details

In the last post I explain the process we went through to select TankMeUSA to be our custom tank builder. In this post I‘ll detail the specific details of our tank that Gaston will be building for us

- Tank Dimensions: 96” (L) x 34” (W) x 26” (H)
- Total Water Volume: 367 Gallons
- Glass bottom: 1.25’ Floating bottom with hidden reinforcing braces.
- Glass side panels and back panels: standard 3/4” glass (tank placed in wall - low iron not required)
- Glass front panel: 3/4” Low Iron Glass
- Glass background color: Black
- Double Euro Braces w/ two cross braces
- ABS black board assembled on the bottom glass panel (prevent damage from aquascaping)
- Corner seams structurally reinforced braces. XL Strip of glass triangular shape assembled on each internal vertical corner for structure integrity and guard silicon seams
- Overflow System: Two Hybrid Zero Overflows (awesome feature of TankMeUSA). 18” Oval shape notch cut out on glass with an acrylic removable weir insert. Removable lid (for easy cleaning) and Herbie style bean animal system. Each overflow will have three 1.5” return drains.
- Return holes: 4 one-inch holes drilled on back glass panel on either side of overflow system. Random Flow Generator Nozels will be installed on each return
- Aquarium Stand: Alumiun structure black powder coated. Stand will be 38” high. Using 2”x2” aluminum tubing and sometimes 2”x4". Marine Grade board hidden into aluminum frame and Styrofoam with hidden edges to support the aquarium. Marine Grade board on bottom base to support sump. Inside dimensions clearance for sump 92"L x 28.5"W x 32"H. The stand will have aluminum powder coated adjustable arms (raiser/lower) with top cross bar for lights hanging. Since stand will be supporting a tank placed in a wall, there is no need to have finished skirt panels installed.
- Tank Lid: Custom made frame of clear poly carbonate with mesh to fit right on the euro braces. No jumping fish escaping this tank!

We are now waiting for the glass to be delivered to TankMeUSA and Gaston has promised pictures!
 
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Karliefish

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LET THE SHOW BEGIN!

We are so excited, our glass was delivered this week to TankMeUSA. Here are some pics...
The last picture sums-up the title of this post! The build project has officially started. We are hoping to have the tank finished and delivered before Thanksgiving.

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Bottom Glass Panel Completed

Here are a couple of pics that shows the completed bottom glass panel with the ABS board attached. Really happy I added the board to protect the bottom, plus I really like the look.

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Karliefish

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This is awesome! I just ordered a 375 from glasscages. Your thread i am sure will keep me entertained till mine gets here!
Let me know when you have pics - would enjoy seeing similarities/differences. What are your tank dimensions?
 
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Karliefish

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Tank Glass Panels are Completed and Overflow/Return Holes Ready to Drill

I just got these pictures and videos from Gaston this week. All glass panel edges have been polished. You can see in the videos just how perfectly aligned the panels are. The quality of the finished polished glass is fantastic. Also in one of the video’s, Gaston explains the smaller panel, laying on table in front of tank, that will go on the back side of the tank and connect the two Hybrid Zero Overflow Boxes in-place along with all the plumbing. Finally, he has used a black marker to draw directly onto the glass where the four 1” return holes will be drilled along with the placement for the two Hybrid Overflow Boxes. In one of the pictures you’ll see where the euro cross braces will be placed. Gaston told me that next week he’ll start cutting and drilling the glass.


Picture where Hybrid Overflow Boxes will be cut into glass and where four 1” return holes will be drilled
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Picture of Cross Euro Brace Placement
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Video where Gaston explains the panel glass sitting in front of the tank


Video where Gaston shows the perfect alignment of the finished polished glass panels (before siliconing) as well as where the Hybrid Overflow boxes and four 1” return holes will be cut/drilled.
 
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Karliefish

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Back 8‘ Glass Panel on 365 Gallon Reef Aquarium Finished

Hi everyone, I got this video today from Gaston (TankMeUSA) which shows the back 8’ glass panel for the two Hybrid Overflow cutout sections as well as the six 1” return holes. The video starts with the first 1” return hole, followed by the first of two Hybrid Overflow sections, followed by two more 1” return holes then followed by the second Hybrid Overflow cut-out section and finally the last 1” return hole. Gaston spent considerable time polishing everything to give it a incredibly clean and professional look. NICE!

 
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Karliefish

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Tear Down These Walls!

Big last weekend at our home as it was time to tear down the old walls where the new 365 tank will be installed and expand the aquarium utility room. Back on post #2 we included a picture that shows the original walls and where we plan on having the tank installed into the wall (blue tape area). Because this tank is going to be 34” wide we need to tear down the original wall and move the wall out to accommodate the width of the new tank. Plus, we need to do this to give us enough room in the utility room (behind tank) to work. We are also ditching our wine cellar (the sacrifices we make for our fish hobby!) and take over that area for additional utility room space.

The work was done over two days and we had our Nest Camera film the entire construction. There are two videos:
(1) Day 1 is a series of individual photos blended into a 2:47 video
(2) Day 2 was created using high speed editing showing the entire construction day compressed into a 2:00 video

Hope you enjoy watching our beautiful walls getting ripped out!

Day 1 Construction

Day 2 Construction

 
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Karliefish

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Thanks for sharing. Nice to have that documented. I’m tired just watching them. Are you going to make a new video for each day? That’s seems like a lot of work too!
LOL...they were a lot of work to make but glad to have the project documented. I‘ll probably do one more construction video when the wall builders install the new bark wall panels after the tank is put in-place - approximately November. The bark wall panels are going to be REALLY unique.
 

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