Reef Room project w/ 4 systems (1000g+) - From SCRATCH!

reefnook

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Hi!

I have been thinking about making this thread for some time now. At first, I wanted to cover the evolution as it is developed, but as you can imagine, with my family, job and building this thing, I completely ran out of time. Anyway, I have been taking pics and I would like to report how I went from no room walls, to a fish, or I should say coral/reef, room with a 100g tank + a full 430g system made of a lagoon tank + 2 frag tanks. I also have the stand for a 500g system, but still have not built the system. I think it is a very interesting project which I have been planning a lot, and it deserves an explaining post.

I love this hobby, and I love keeping corals. Chalices are my favorites. When my wife and I started this new home project, I had in mind taking a full room for corals. No more mess in the kitchen or bathrooms due to cleaning the tank stuff, no more water on the house floor, and no more fear that my little daughter spills whatever into the tank. Moreover, I contemplated the idea of making the move to a professional farm to aquaculture my own corals and perform my own imports.

Being able to design everything from scratch was a huge opportunity (think about taking care even of the position of all the electric outlets!), so I took some time thinking about how I should place the systems. It was clear I wanted a big display system for enjoying properly the hobby, and some room for keeping corals and frags. I also wanted at least 2 independent systems, one being the lifesaver of the other. In the plans, the room was about 5 x 4m, and with this information I made some designs.

This was the v-0 design, including a peninsula style 500g system and 3 frag tanks (the 4th tank was the sump). Using "home.by.me" I did this:

v0-0.png


Then I thought that I do not like peninsula tanks and I designed v-1:

v1-0.png


Finally, I decided to go with the frag tanks sump below the first tank, which translates into more room for another frag tank. So I designed v-2: a standard 3 view 500g system + 3 frag tanks system (one of those being a lagoon style display tank) + 100g system + 50g quarantine system. In total, 4 independent systems:

v2.png


It may seem it was easy to arrive to this last design, but it took some time, and in between those 3 pics I had many other designs which I did not like much as this one. Anyway, this, except the 500g, is what I have been building over the last 9 months. The home built started July 2020 and by the end of July 2021 I was able to start the cycle of the 100g system and the quarantine system. I started to built the frag system by mid december 2021 and concluded this past weekend (early march 2022).

The room went into the basement of our new home built. Here I was visualizing the room, which ended up being 5.4m long x 4.6m wide, making a total of 24.8m2:

1.jpeg


I am very proud with the final result, and I hope you guys enjoy this post as much as I do writing it. I will try to be as much detailed as I can, since a project of this size requires some particular features that people does not tend to mention.

Today I will post some more pics showing what it came next.
 
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reefnook

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And here with two walls and one window:

3.jpeg


Was time for installation of emergency drains and sink drain. They are also very useful for water change.

4.jpeg


Then was time for the floor. I checked that the emergency drains were where they were supposed to be (a bit useless this check, since by then we could not change anything). Anyway, it was an exciting moment!

6.jpeg


More pics soon!
 
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reefnook

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Here we got the room:

1.png


Top right: there is a tubing that is connected to an exhaust fan, helping a bit in keeping in check the humidity levels. Working area is at the left corner, just below the window. There is also another tubing on the left side of the room ending on the rooftop of the home, allowing to exchange air by Venturi effect.

Then it was time for electrical and AC installation. This room has its own electrical panel with its own electric meter. I split up the circuits in such a way that if something fails, I will be able to locate it quickly. My guiding principle for the electric outlets was that they had to ideally be far from the ground, and no one had to be located below a tank.

IMG_7688.jpg

IMG_7715.jpg


Now that we still had no doors, we put all the structures inside the room (otherwise they would not fit the door gap). This was a bit of a challenge... Specially for the big one, for which I had to break a bit of wall.

IMG_8086.JPG IMG_8088.JPG IMG_8090.JPG
IMG_8092.JPG


And finally, we just had to arrange the walls, ceiling and floor (under the floor I hid the AC drain and the rejected RODI water line):

z1.JPG
IMG_8599.JPG
z.JPG


Once painted, everything looked much cleaner:

IMG_8778.JPG


Then it came the interesting part: assembling the tanks!
 
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Let us keep going!

Here we have some of the stands in place:

3.jpg


To design all the tank systems I used "Sketchup" architecture software. This software allowed me to design up to the mm, which is crucial in order to place all tank drills and the different PVC components. It was specially important for the 3 tank system, since it involved a few meters of PVC piping:

Sistema esquejes.png


This was a preliminary design, but eventually I redesigned the sump due to practical purposes. You will see it when I post pictures once assembled. I did the same for the other systems:

Lagoon.png
Exposicion 520g.png


The 500g system is the only one that has not been assembled yet, and it will not be for a long time. Having all the dimensions, I just ordered the different glass pieces and they were put all together by myself. I first assembled the 100g system, then the quarantine (which is made of a single tank; no sump) and finally the 3 tank system. Here are the first two tanks once in place (the quarantine tank is temporary sitting in the 500g structure):

1.jpg


There are a few features I would like to mention:
  • All sumps have 3 sections: 1st section is to just have some room (to gain more water volume or, for instance, in case I need to isolate a fish or set up a refugium); then the water flows into a box with filter fleece and falls into the 2nd section, housing the skimmer. The 3rd section is the return section. I tried to follow the "keep it simple" principle.
  • The stands are made of galvanized iron and then they were finished with oven-enamelled matte black paint. Between the tank and stand, I used a waterproof melamine coated wood board and then polyethylene foam as squashing layer.
  • For the PVC I used Sanking/Flowcolour. This was the first time I used these brands and I could not be more pleased. All fittings were perfect, and the material is clearly high-quality. They have some special pieces that turn out to be very useful (as the quick connector bulkhead shown in the attached pic), which I did not see them in any other brand.
IMG_8824.JPG

  • For RODI water system I first used a 7-stage: 3 pre-filters + 1 (75 GPD) membrane + 3 resin canisters, but now that I have the larger system I upgraded to a 8-stage system by adding a second (75 GPD) membrane and a booster pump. This has improved substantially the production rate at 0 TDS, while minimizing the rejection rate.
  • For the 100g system aquascape I used dry Marcorocks. I built it using BRS method (with homemade accelerator: just take some RODI water and add a couple spoons of sodium bicarbonate). I also went bare-bottom on this system. It has been running for 7.5 months now, and I have to say that I love the fact that you can take your time for the aquascape, but this thing has been maturing so slow... I never experienced something like that before. Anyway, I wanted to try it and I had no rush.
z0.JPG
z1.JPG
z3.jpg

IMG_1174.jpg

  • For the quarantine tank I went live rock instead. I called this quarantine, but I set it up to hold my collection while I was building the 3 tank system. Once I move the corals to its new home (the lagoon tank of the 3 tank system), I will move the quarantine tank to its real location and I will reboot it using the same life rock. This system just has the very basics: tunze 9012 skimmer, ATO tunze osmolator 3155 and kamoer F4 doser (in addition to lighting and flow, of course). It has a net volume of 150L, Nature's ocean live sand and 14 kg of Indonesian live rock. The rock was cured by the LFS for 2 months, and I went to pick it up, so it had minimal death of live; actually, all corals were placed in within 3 days after it was set up (in this case I had rush, hence the live rock route). Here a pic (there are a few bad-looking corals, which I used as testers in the 100g system and I almost loosed them):
IMG_1938.JPG


And finally, here is how the room looked at this point:

IMG_1712.jpg


There was still a lot to do... Next posts will be about the 3 tank system.
 
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reefnook

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It's been a while since last post, let us continue :beaming-face-with-smiling-eyes:

Once my coral collection was "safe" in the quarantine system and the 100g was cycling, it was time to assemble the 3-tank system, which is about 530g. This was a bit of a race against time, since I had to have at least one tank assembled and full of saltwater for the live rock, which was about to arrive. I started with the sump, which is precisely the tank that takes more time to build. I designed a 3-section sump: refugium (w/filter fleece) + skimmer + return. I do not plan to use any macroalgae, but the refugium section is needed to get a bigger sump and thus avoiding to overflow the sump when the 3 return pumps (one for each tank) are turned off. Additionally, this adds more watervolume, which is a plus, and provides valuable further empty space that I can use to keep live rock, any fish or set up an additional display tank.

9D6FFB6B-A0A0-4E53-93DE-10676B27D7DC.JPG
IMG_2133 2.jpg


Then I assembled the 1st tank (the display tank that goes just above the sump; for this one I used ultra-clear glass):

597F2221-A239-4E10-994C-3F46470BDF60.JPG
IMG_2179.jpg
IMG_2237.jpg
IMG_2298.jpg


The drain box has two dry sides, perfect for hiding the dry-side of the MP40. I am very happy how those ended up looking:

IMG_2863.JPG


Once assembled, was time for some pipe work. No better choice than Sanking & Flowcolor for this. (The tank below the second structure is the ATO, which is about 35g. Now I can say that it lasts a bit more than a week.)

IMG_2388.jpg
IMG_2304.jpg


The main part of the system was done!

IMG_2393.jpg


Just in time... In the picture above I started to fill the sump up, the LR was arriving the day after! I wrote an independent post where I explained my whole experience with the Indonesian live rock (https://www.reef2reef.com/threads/experience-with-indonesian-live-rock.900766/), and what an experience... This is how it looked at this point:

IMG_2531.JPG


Two frag tanks, the WC station and the control panel left to built yet. It got a bit messy now:

IMG_2581.JPG
 
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reefnook

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Amazing! Love all the exposed concrete. Really impressive that you're building all these tanks yourself!

Thanks @blaxsun ;) It is not difficult to build the tanks, but it takes a lot of time for sure! I was about to order all the systems to a local company that builds aquaria, but when I detailed all the dimensions and characteristics that I wanted, I thought that I already did half of the job. I then decided to order just the glass to another company and assemble them myself.
 

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Thanks @blaxsun ;) It is not difficult to build the tanks, but it takes a lot of time for sure! I was about to order all the systems to a local company that builds aquaria, but when I detailed all the dimensions and characteristics that I wanted, I thought that I already did half of the job. I then decided to order just the glass to another company and assemble them myself.
You've done a phenomenal job from a design, layout and organizational standpoint. That plumbing is beyond first-rate!
 
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reefnook

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You've done a phenomenal job from a design, layout and organizational standpoint. That plumbing is beyond first-rate!

I really enjoyed that part! I think it is crucial that systems look clear and organized. Best way to avoid failures and/or identify possible failure points.

No words for the great and good work you have done here bro. Awesome!

Thanks mate. You are welcome to pay a visit whenever you want ;)
 
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For water changes I opted to build a WC station consisting of two glass tanks of 60g each. One is used to store RODI water and the other one to make the saltwater mix. In the past I have used rubbermaid buckets, but they eventually started to "melt" at the bottom, and I was worried about the possible residue contaminating the saltwater mix.

Plan, built, done:

1.JPG
2.JPG
3.jpg


Once the 1st frag tank was assembled, I gave a third inspection to the live rock and I moved it in there. Then I did a full water change to the display tank and sump.

4.JPG
5.JPG


Nothing beats a white sand bed... I used Nature's Ocean white livesand #1. It clears up quite fast, I had great success using it in the past and I like how it looks. Second pic shows the aquascape I did. I love it!

6.JPG
7.jpg


Control panel was also almost completed (just needed to add 1 versa, 1 vectra M2, 1 vortech MP10 and the UV at this point):

8.JPG


I finally added the third tank (second frag tank) and I moved the live rock in there. It will stay there as long as I do not need that space for frags. When this happens I will move the rock into the sump. I could have avoided the third tank, since I do not think I will need that space for some time, but I preferred to settle everything down all together in order to avoid perturbing the system once the 2 tanks have been established. Moreover, another tank means more water volume which equals more stability.

9.JPG
10.JPG
11.JPG


And finally... the moment I planned for years: it was time for adding corals! Oh god, could not believe it. Just for the record, the "biological" timeline went like:
  • 12th January - First tank gets filled up and the live rock arrives. Natural cycling process starts.
  • 22th February - I add the livesand to the display tank. From this point onwards I started adding some comercial bacteria.
  • 7th March - I set up the display tank aquascape.
  • 10th March - I add some testing corals. Turn the lights on at 10% (acclimation mode for 1 month up to 50%). At this point the live rock has been cycling for almost 2 months.
  • 2nd April - At about the 3 month mark I moved all corals into the new system. See pic below. There is no fish at this point so I add nitrate to keep it around 20ppm. Note: I do not recommend going this fast in rather new small systems, specially to those that go the dry rock route. In my system the Alkatronic also helps a lot in having a good tracking of the alkalinity consumption.
12.1.JPG

  • 11th April - The ugly phase kicks in. Algae and some dinos show up. I specially did not expect dinos due to live rock, but I guess these appeared just as part of the ugly phase since they cleared up quite fast (in about 1.5 weeks). My plan of attack for dinos was mostly natural:
    1. I added live pods, live phytoplankton and marine diatoms,
    2. I started using the 80W UV,
    3. I turned off white, green and red channels of my lighting schedule
    4. and I started dosing phosphate. I was struggling to keep them above 0.02 (I guess that, so far, phosphate was consumed quite fast by the algae and all the live rock biomass), which was maybe related to the appearance of dinos. They actually appeared in a 3-day period where the PO4 hit 0.01-0.00-0.01.
  • 21th April - There are practically no dinos and the algae is (slowly) starting to fade out. The system is roughly 3.5 months old and in terms of fish it houses 3 tangs: one gemmatum, one flavescens and one nigricans.
12.2.JPG


To complete this project there are essentially two things left: buying a couple of XR30 for the frag tank and, my favorite, keep increasing my coral collection!

Cracking Up Lol GIF by HULU


I will keep posting how the system evolves :)
 
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For water changes I opted to build a WC station consisting of two glass tanks of 60g each. One is used to store RODI water and the other one to make the saltwater mix. In the past I have used rubbermaid buckets, but they eventually started to "melt" at the bottom, and I was worried about the possible residue contaminating the saltwater mix.

Plan, built, done:

1.JPG
2.JPG
3.jpg


Once the 1st frag tank was assembled, I gave a third inspection to the live rock and I moved it in there. Then I did a full water change to the display tank and sump.

4.JPG
5.JPG


Nothing beats a white sand bed... I used Nature's Ocean white livesand #1. It clears up quite fast, I had great success using it in the past and I like how it looks. Second pic shows the aquascape I did. I love it!

6.JPG
7.jpg


Control panel was also almost completed (just needed to add 1 versa, 1 vectra M2, 1 vortech MP10 and the UV at this point):

8.JPG


I finally added the third tank (second frag tank) and I moved the live rock in there. It will stay there as long as I do not need that space for frags. When this happens, I will move the rock into the sump. I could have avoided the third tank, since I do not think I will need that space for some time, but I preferred to settle everything down all together in order to avoid perturbing the system once the 2 tanks have been established. Moreover, another tank means more watervolume which equals more stability.

9.JPG
10.JPG
11.JPG


And finally... the moment I planned for years: it was time for adding corals! Oh god, could not believe it. Just for the record, the "biological" timeline went like:
  • 12th January - First tank gets filled up and the live rock arrives. Natural cycling process starts.
  • 22th February - I add the livesand to the display tank. From this point onwards I started adding some comercial bacteria.
  • 7th March - I set up the display tank aquascape.
  • 10th March - I add some testing corals. Turn the lights on at 10% (acclimation mode for 1 month up to 50%). At this point the live rock has been cycling for almost 2 months.
  • 2nd April - At about the 3 month mark I just moved all corals into the new system. See pic below. There is no fish at this point so I add nitrate to keep it around 20ppm. Note: I do not recommend going this fast in rather new small systems, specially to those that go the dry rock route. In my system the Alkatronic also helps a lot in having a good track of alkalinity consumption.
12.1.JPG

  • 11th April - The ugly phase kicks in. Algae and some dinos show up. I specially did not expect dinos due to live rock, but I guess these appeared just as part of the ugly phase since they cleared up quite fast (in about 1.5 weeks). My plan of attack for dinos was mostly natural:
    1. I added live pods, live phytoplankton and marine diatoms,
    2. I started using the 80W UV,
    3. I turned off white, green and red channels of my lighting schedule,
    4. and I started dosing phosphate. I was struggling to keep them above 0.02 (I guess that, so far, phosphate was consumed quite fast by the algae and all the live rock biomass), which was maybe related to the appearance of dinos.
  • 21th April - there are practically no dinos and algae is starting to fade out. The system is roughly 3.5 months old and in terms of fish it houses 3 tangs: one gemmatum, one flavescens and one nigricans.
12.2.JPG


To complete this project there are essentially two things left: buying a couple of XR30 for the frag tank and, my favorite, keep increasing my coral collection!

Cracking Up Lol GIF by HULU


I will keep posting how the system evolves :)
Love it! such a clean and tidy room!
277184269_521297319518029_2280395293568720307.jpg
 
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reefnook

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very nice setup. I was thinking, with that room, why did you build other parts to the house? they are mostly optional, I dont think I would ever get out of there :face-with-rolling-eyes:

Thanks @alain Bouchard. I rarely get out of this room, just to go to work lol. The other parts of the house are essentially there because I have a wife and a daughter :rolling-on-the-floor-laughing:
 
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