Russell’s 180gal build

Russell G

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So I’m finally getting a build thread pulled together for my new tank. This has been a work in process for the past year but I have been taking some pics along the way and I figured I would post this one up to document he trials and tribulations of the build.

First off - some background info.

The tank is a 72x24x24 180gal tank from SCA Aquariums. Steve and his team over there are great to work with and they build great tanks for the price. They are the main reason I’m at this point right now… my wife is a vendor for some furniture they sell and they sent her a little 25gal AIO a while back out of appreciation for her helping them out so much. I have had tanks before but I was in the military and couldn’t afford/keep up with a reef tank so it was always freshwater. Now life has changed a bit so I jumped head first into the reef tanks.

That initial 25gal AIO developed into a 135gal system I took over from someone that couldn’t keep up with it anymore and now to the 180. With that original AIO, I made some mistakes but thankfully it was in a small tank and relatively easy to resolve. I was a little naive in the beginning and honestly didn’t do as much research as I should have but I caught on pretty quick. I made the mistake of too many clowns in one tank, tangs in a small tank, not quarantining, nutrient issues, rushing through the build, jumpers, etc…. each of those a learning experience and it’s made me a better reef keeper overall.

The main reason for the upgrade was to make sure the fish had enough space to swim and be happy. We had a nice long wall in the living room that my wife wanted to have built-in cabinets installed but I managed to talk her into letting me go bigger and take up that space. Little did I know how much extra work it would entail to keep her happy. She still wanted the wall unit but now I had to incorporate the tank into it.

Here’s the humble beginnings:

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This was the starter tank and has now transitioned into my hospital tank.

From there, it became the 135gal but the Durso drain, limited sump space, and odd size made me want to move away from it.

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Russell G

Russell G

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I started planning for this new build about a year ago and started the first major purchases on Black Friday 2020. I’ve been working from home since the pandemic started so I had plenty of time to devote to the project. I honestly thought I would be back at my work locations by now but the company is in no rush to get us back out there.

I travel quite a bit for my job so that was a big consideration when building the tank. I am frequently gone during the week and back home on the weekends. It had to be very low maintenance so my wife could keep up with it while I am away and my weekends weren’t lost to maintaining the tank. Automation was a necessity and everything I’ve been planning has been centered around that.

One of the first things I set up was my water station. When I started with the AIO, I got a cheap RODI unit that could be mounted under the sink. It worked great for that little tank but as soon as I stepped up to the 135, I knew it wouldn’t be enough. Thankfully, the 135 came with a basic RODI system but it was in rough shape so I did some work to it and made it more functional.

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Here was the start - It was a 100gpd system and I added the water saver, an auto flush valve, and a pressure gauge to keep an eye on it better.

For the water storage, I went with a pair of 100gal containers from Ronco Plastics down in Tustin, CA. Their containers fit my specs really well. They were smaller in diameter so they didn’t push too far out from the wall. Specs was a bit of a concern since it was going out in the garage and I still needed to be able to park my Tesla in there to charge. I also wanted to have some storage under the tanks and still be able to add the salt in the top. The containers also needed to have a wide opening so I’m not trying to shovel 25lbs of salt through a tiny opening.

The stand was a custom built pallet rack system I had built for me from a local racking company. They took standard depth rack ends and narrowed them to only 30” deep and shortened them to only 22” tall. That gave me enough room to fit salt buckets and other storage totes under the rack and still give me 12” of clearance to add salt. The top is a metal grate so I won’t have issues with water damage. The grate was too wide so I had to cut the supports down and bend he metal to fit my width. It also needed to get a pretty coat of paint. The original orange and green was terrible looking

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This system will easilly be able to hold the weight of both tanks full plus me standing up on it to add the salt.

The plumbing was all 1.5” pipe and I added a Reeflo Hammerhead as the circulation pump. This thing will push 6k gph and it does a great job of mixing the salt water. The one mistake I made plumbing it was I filed to make sure the pipe on the pump outlet was tight enough before adding the valve for the water outlet. It ended up a little crooked but that’s easily fixed by adding a Union below it.

I didn’t want to have the RODI system kicking on and off every time I pulled water for the ATO in the 135 so I added the Tunze RO Controller inside the clean tank. That was a challenge for sure! That system is designed for a small ATO reservoir - not a huge 100 gal tank. I had to extend all the sensor wires, create a mounting system, and try to make it as waterproof as possible. This is what I ended up coming up with:

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The mount is 1/2” pvc pipe and I took the original Tunze mounts and attached them to it. It gave me some adjustability if I need it and I ran the wires through the inside of the pipe to keep them away from the water as much as possible. I added a bulkhead to the top of the tank that the 1/2” pvc threads into and the wiring comes out the middle of the bulkhead. It took a little soldering but I can now disconnect it and pull the tank for cleaning or service.

Now when the tank is empty, it will automatically fill back up and shut off when it hits the top float. There’s a float valve in there too as a back up.

The salt tank has a bulkhead on the top as well for the recirculation and on the inside, I have the plumbing that extends all the way to the bottom to create a vortex and better mix the salt. I may have overthought that part… I probably could have just gone straight down and been fine. That pipe did give me a good way to route the 1/4” line for the auto water change and keep it down at the bottom of the tank.

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The power strip was a Kasa smart strip so I can remotely control the pump if I’m doing water changes or filling the ATO reservoir.

Here’s the final product:

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Russell G

Russell G

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For the tank itself I was fortunate enough to have the SCA it’s local and they hand delivered the tank to my house. Because I’m in SoCal, I opted for a eurobraced tank. Earthquakes are a reality here and I not only wanted the additional support but also some splash protection for when things get shaking. It also makes the screen top lids so much easier to manage. We wanted the tank relatively close to the wall too so we went with an internal overflow. In hindsight - the spacing from the wall was probably not very different than an external overflow and an external would have been much easier to deal with.

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The wall it’s going up against is 13’ long, but as I said earlier - the wife wanted a wall unit so a 6’ tank was the best choice. It looks dwarfed here though.

Before I had the tank delivered, I had an electrician come in and install a pair of 20A circuits to run the tank. Thankfully, when I had my Tesla charger installed, the electrician punched through the garage wall into the main panel and brought in a sub panel I got he garage. He set it up as a 100A sub but the car only needs a 50A breaker. This left me with 50A of usable space in the sub panel. The electrician ran some conduit along the ceiling of the garage to the wall where the tank would back up to, drop a GFI outlet in the garage for things like a chiller, and ran the two 20A circuits through the wall and into the house. You can see the two outlets in the tank pic and here’s the rest of the electrical

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At the same time he also moved a light switch and added an outlet for the mixing station and it only cost around $700… not too terrible at all if you ask me.
 
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Russell G

Russell G

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Onto the filtration and other equipment!

I absolutely love the stuff Steve over at Bashsea is putting out! When I saw it for the first time, I fell in love with it and knew that’s what I wanted to use. I did some calculations and decided on the 36-18-16 Biofuge sump. I liked that there was a lot of open space and the rimless design made it a lot easier to add a rollermat. The drain lines along the back also made the plumbing a lot shorter and easier.

I stuck with the Bashsea line for the skimmer, media reactor, ATO reservoir, and skimmate reservoir as well. I ordered everything before I got the tank and stand in and that bit me a little bit.

Initially, I ordered the 6-30 Twisted Skimmer. I hated having to deal with the skimmer in the sump so the external mounting option for the twisted skimmer fit the bill perfectly. The risk of overflow is eliminated by the skimmer design and it shuts itself down when the skimmate reservoir is full. Unfortunately, when the tank and stand came in, the interior dimensions of the stand were not what I expected. It was way shorter than I expected and there was no way a 30” tall skimmer was ever going to fit inside. My only options were to send the stand back or get the shorter 6-24 skimmer. My wife really liked the lower stand and the height fits the room pretty well so the skimmer went back and the 6-24 was ordered.

To run the skimmer externally, I had to make sure the drain cleared the edge of the sump. The drain has to stay at that height so the skimmer had to get raised up a bit.

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This was the test fitting and after I knew the proper height, I had @Bronx_Discuss build me a stand out of acrylic to make it fit in right.

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The height is really tight but I have just enough to loosen the thumb screws and remove the collection cup.

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The factory drain direction was out through the gap in the pic so I worked with it. I wrapped the plumbing around the front, across the stand to the first chamber of the sump, and dumped it in there. The pump that runs the skimmer is in that same chamber so the feel line runs along the drain. The pump can push around 1k gph so it’s plenty to run this skimmer.

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The drains for the tank are nice and clean and I built a manifold for the return side to run the media reactor and any other reactors I may need.

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I installed a Bubble Magus large rollermat into the sump and a Vortec L2 and that was about it. The hardest part of the rollermat install was getting the drain from the sump bulkhead to the inlet of the rollermat unit but it worked out ok.
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Russell G

Russell G

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Really nice job on the plumbing
Thanks! It’s easy to throw together some plumbing that will work but it’s so much harder to actually make it look nice. I’ve done quite a bit of work with PVC in the past and I still spent hours on getting everything just right. It’s so stressful when you are finally gluing everything up and attaching it to things that are not easy to fix. The worst was the skimmer drain… i was so worried about that connection.
 

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