SkiCat's Dream Build: [Saving The] Planet 180 - Epic Aquacultured Mixed Reef

SkiCatTX

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Introduction
It has long been a dream of mine to build a larger tank (like no doubt many of us) since I started keeping marine fish a century ago (approximately). After putting it off for far too long, I have finally decided to go all in on a new dream build! As with many things I set my mind to, I don't do half way, so full custom tank, custom stand, custom sump, and the best equipment. I'm also not in a hurry, so the build will be slow and steady. However, in the end, I hope to build something truly unique, modern and awesome, while still focusing on low maintenance, environmentally sustainable, and sound aquaculture practices. Hopefully by sharing, we'll all learn a few things as well!

A Bit of Background
Until this point, I have maintained various tanks in the 20-40 gallon range with sumps, closed loop canisters, AIO cubes, fish only, anemones, coral, and I even had a sea horse tank back in the day. All the time I was watching and reading (in magazines, like, made out of paper) about all these amazing 100s of gallon tanks people were keeping, but I was never in a position to have one of my own. There was always an excuse; work, travel, family, and of course the expense and complexities of setup, maintenance, constantly dealing with algae and disease, and most of all, potentially killing numerous fish and corals taken off the reef and shipped 1000s of miles…

Then, last fall I discovered Reef2Reef and other online forums and started reading one build thread after another, watching YouTube videos, and learning about modern reefkeeping methods, hardware, water chemistry, and best of all, Aquacultured and Maricultured fish and corals. Wow have things changed since the old days of ultra-low nutrients and brown corals. It was eye-opening and I was loving it! I decided I was going to get back into reefing for real this time.

I started by getting a new WaterBox 10g tank for "Pinky", our Purple Striped Pseudochromis of Death. He was the only fish we had for the previous 5 years, since he immediately killed any other fish we tried to keep in "his" JBJ 28 gallon AIO cube. After a few tries, we just gave up and kept him as the lone fish. Since I now wanted to get some new fish, I figured he had to go. But after some discussion it was decided 'we' couldn't part with him, so he was moved into his own tank. (Pinky has since passed away at the ripe old age of about 6yrs, not bad as I understand it 7 is about average, and since he was wild caught, we actually don’t know how old he really was. You can still find that build thread here.)

Once Pinky was moved out, we got a lawnmower blenny and a couple clownfish, then I got a few new corals at a local frag swap, and a Rainbow BTA from a local shop. I started testing Alk, Phosphates, Nitrates, and other parameters regularly. I fed both the fish and the corals every day a mixture of Mysis shrimp, frozen food, and regularly broadcast and spot feeding the corals with Coral Frenzy and Reef Roids (You can also find the JBJ28 build thread here on R2R if you are interested).

After about 9 months with the new routine, everything is doing amazingly well in both tanks. I have never had such growth and colors in all my years of keeping tanks with the old methods. Plus, a bunch of corals from who knows where, probably ones I got years ago that I long since believed dead and gone, started showing up in the tank. Some Acros that might be Green Slimer and Red Planet have started growing like weeds in the new environment!

Reef Tank Philosophy
On to the new build, here are my basic tenants, and why I think this tank is unique and interesting:

1. Only Captive Bred Tank Raised Fish and Aquacultured Coral and Inverts
There is little reason today to ever take coral from the reef, and in a few years the need for wild caught fish direct to consumers will lessen as well. Another source that is becoming common is Maricultured fish, grown in ocean based captive environment, I'll be following this closely as well as a possible source. Finally, one additional option to consider is rescue fish from another established tank. If someone can assure me the fish have been with them for over a year or so and they are moving or otherwise want to get rid of the fish, I might take them in.​
2. DC Only
All DC controllable pumps and equipment. The only current exception to this will likely be heaters, though I'm looking into that as well. Inline heaters are awesome, but about 10x-20x more expensive.
3. Full Automation and Remote Control
Since I travel a lot, the tank will need to be able to run itself for reasonable periods of time, with little effort from another family member or tank sitter. I will strive to find a balance between high tech and simplicity wherever possible, but the focus will be on reliability and automation.​

4. White!
Instead of the typical black background covered in algae, I'm going to give white a shot. My plan is to keep it clean just like the front glass, or like a peninsula, we'll see. :) I am also having a custom white overflow made, as well as white anemone covers for pump heads, and possibly even white printed LocLine!​

5. Tank, Stand, and All Equipment Must Look Awesome At All Times
LOL, OK, getting everything INSIDE the tank to follow this rule might be the hardest part of all, but essentially, since it will be located in my home office where I work every day, the tank itself and all the equipment supporting it needs to look good and fit in with the rest of the décor. So, no ugly cables, exposed pipes, etc., at least when the stand is closed and servicing is complete.​

Inhabitants
What am I going to keep in there? We'll start off with what I already have in my tanks, including numerous Euphyllia, Candy Cane, Helio Fungia, a few Acros, as well as some Rainbow BTAs, RFAs, and various mushrooms. Ultimately, I'll add more high-end Acros, Monti's, Sun Coral, and others.

As for fish and inverts, I currently have two designer Clownfish, a Lawnmower Blenny, CB Shrimp, Serpent Star, Conch, and an assortment of snails and crabs. Once the tank is up and cycled, I want to get some tangs, angels, and gobies. My dream fish are schools of Anthias and Chromis, however, since neither deep water fish are generally available commercially propagated, that might have to wait. Maybe I'll seek donations or adopt some…we'll see…
 
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SkiCatTX

SkiCatTX

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Updates:
This section will contain regular FTS and tank updates. This can be helpful for those who just want to catch up quickly, jump to the end without the need to read all the pages in-between, or those reading through the entire thread, but just want to look back and see how things have been progressing over time.

Placeholder:
Here is an image of an inspiration for my design from Aaron's Aquarium. It's not exactly what I'm doing, but the basic colors and aesthetics are there...

IMG_0375.jpeg


TODO:
Current FTS (date):

October 2019
January 2020
Etc.
 
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SkiCatTX

SkiCatTX

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Hardware
I'll continue to add to this section, and try to keep it updated throughout the buildout, and as the tank matures and changes. For now it includes what I already have or have ordered, as well as some future hardware which I haven't decided on yet (marked with ?).

Display
Tank: Planet Custom Rimless/Frameless 180 gallon (60" x 30" x 25"), 3/4" Sapphire Glass, PVC Bottom, tight clear silicone, white background
Stand: Custom AGE Steel Frame with Removable Wood Facing
Overflow: Custom White Exotic Marine Systems 32" Slimline
Lighting: 48" T5 Hybrid (Aquatic Life DX18?) with 4 Radeon XR15 Pros
Circulation: ?x Maxpect Gyre 350, ?x Ecotech MP40 (White PETG 3D Printed Anemone Guards)
Rock: LifeRock Dry?, Real Reef Rock?, Real Reef Rock (BLACKOUT-might be awesome with the white build?)

Filter System
Sump: Custom 36" x 24" LifeReef, Refugium, 2x 7" Socks (only used for cleaning/polishing)
Return Pumps: 2x External Vectra M2
Skimmer: MaxSpect Aeraqua Duo?, LifeReef Venturi?
Chiller: Teco TK-500?, TK-1000?
UV: Pentair Aquatics Smart HO UV 80watt?
Heater: Cobalt Neo?, TK-5/1000?

Controller
Apex 2016
(modules, etc. TBD)
Triton?
ReefBot?
2x DOS pumps (Triton A, B, C+D, ?)

Water Station (Build Thread Here)
Location: Attic space above office (RODI & Saltwater delivered through wall behind main display)
Capacity: 2x 50 gallon Containers
Circulation: Jebao DCP-10000
RODI: Customized BRS 8-stage 150 GPD - 5/1u, carbon block, carbon block, RO 1, RO 2, Anion, Cation, Mixed
Control: Apex Classic (Remote Location) 4x optical sensors (Saltwater Hi/Lo & Freshwater Hi/Lo), 1x solenoid (RODI intake), 2x physical switches for pump and RODI control, etc.
 
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SkiCatTX

SkiCatTX

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Here are a couple captures of the design model for the sump. I'm still working on the color scheme, but this is close...

Sump Right.png


Sump Left.png


It's 36" x 24" with 2x 7" filter sock holders designed to accommodate a roller insert if needed. The front bypass refugium section is 26" x 9" and the rear center skimmer section is about 14" x 18". It is designed for 3 external return pumps, two for the main display, and one for a future frag tank. The build is scheduled to begin in November, and I will definitely post here and you can follow Jeff on Lifereef's Facebook page as well here.
 
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SkiCatTX

SkiCatTX

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Finished up my plan for the stand, white painted wood, clean and simple. 2 doors on the front, and one on each side, all on lift-off hinges so I can open them simply when I just need to get in quickly, but remove them completely for maintenance. I will also take the side trim all the way to the wall, just to give a few inches extra depth inside, and to allow for the ATO, saltwater in/out for AWC, outside air, etc.

Stand White.png
 
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SkiCatTX

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Wow, this is very well thought out. I definitely want to see how this evolves over time.
Awesome, thanks for checking in! It's the engineer in me, always obsessing about the details...this is at a scale that is new to me, but I'm hopeful and excited to be getting started!
 
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SkiCatTX

SkiCatTX

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Anyone had any experience with the CoralVue Hydros WaveEngine? Seems like a good deal, for about the cost of the controllers for the MP40s and Gyres, this device will control both of them, all of them, and can be somewhat controlled by an Apex (at least setting the overall speed of all the pumps and feed mode with 0-10v).

Seems like a good deal, too new to know about reliability I guess...? I haven't yet seen a good review of someone actually using one, just the ones at various conferences.
 
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https://www.omegasea.net/
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SkiCatTX

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Just heard from Jeff at Lifereef, he's planning to start my sump in the next week or so. He'll probably post pics and videos on his site, and I'll post pics here as I get them of the progress...excited!
 
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Here is the spot where the tank goes. I recently painted the area after installing the in-wall fresh and saltwater sources, two additional 20 amp GFCI circuits, and a fresh air source for the skimmer. There is also an exhaust pipe to draw hot air from the chiller and possibly inside the stand as needed, and a USB cable which goes to the remote APEX gear on the water mixing station.

IMG_0405.jpeg
 
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This is my water mixing station. It is located just above the wall where the tank will be located in an attic space. The two 50 gallon containers, as well as the RODI system, are over a drip pan which is plumbed outside same as our water heaters and AC units. Ideally, this along with several APEX sensors should prevent any leakage from becoming and issue.

There are more details on my pre-build thread here...

IMG_7834.jpeg


IMG_8113.jpeg


More storage, I'm going to move some of my gear up here out of the garage...where I'll likely need more room for QA tanks... :)

IMG_8115.jpeg
 
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I will have just a tight 12" of clearance inside the stand, to the right of the sump, for the pumps. I want to be able to disconnect them easily, which requires some kind of valve. I went ahead and ordered an M2 and a Cepex valve so I could get some measurements, but had no idea just how large a 1 1/4" valve was, especially with the two unions. This isn't going to work. Even downsizing to a 1" intake will be too long.

Vectra M2 Cepex


So, it looks like I have two options; either put the valve on the inside of the sump in the last chamber, or use a smaller valve. Not my first choice, but I think I will go with a gate valve. In practice, I will only need to close and open it once or twice a year with any luck, just to clean the pumps out, and the pump itself has a union, so shouldn't be a big deal. They are a bit tall though...

Gate Valve
 

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