So I’m thinking of buying a custom aquarium

Are large tanks worth it?


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Kidagirl8

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As the title says I’m thinking of building a custom aquarium but have been advised I shouldn’t get a large one like I want to. Im not sure whether or not I want to listen to that advice but what are your opinions? Im actually pretty new to saltwater but am hoping to be more adept by the time I get it.

This aquarium is going to be in my new house I build after everything calms down so nothing is set in stone yet and it’s probably years away. I like to plan ahead though and knowing beforehand what I am getting will let me do research on their care better.

I was wanting to get a really large one as a peninsula and was thinking of going with custom aquariums to build it. I also want to get a Reefbot Pro and dosing system to go with it. At this point I am mostly researching and trying to figure out what I want and what I am willing to pay for. Disregarding price are there other upgrades that are possible to lessen the maintenance I would have to do?

As for what I want in it I was hoping to have Mandarins, Sapphire Damselfish, Stingrays, and Tiger Tail Seahorses. I also have two clownfish and a goby I have in my current saltwater that I plan to put in it assuming they don’t die before then. I still need to research if all of those can go together.

I was also wanting to put in some coral of varying difficulty but honestly most of the ones I really want are hard to keep. I wanted Kenya tree coral, Red Carnation Coral, Red Finger Gorgonians, and Blueberry Gorgonians. I have other fish/coral I like but those are so far the main ones I really want to have if they can go together.

Are there any similar but less difficult corals I could get and what is the least difficult and smallest ray to keep? Do you have any suggestions on livestock/coral that will be fine with what I am wanting or advise for me?
 

BeltedCoyote

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I’m in a strangely similar situation. Although in my case I’m buying a house. For me, I discovered my partner is totally cool with my skipping right to my dream tank (240g). It’s going to be a longer road with this build because I’m basically starting over, but to me it’s worth it.

how large is the tank you’re wanting to have custom built? And why have you been advised not to go with that option?
 

SMSREEF

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How big are you looking to build?
what length, height, width?

Ive seen some gorgeous custom tanks. I had my 60 cube built custom with starfire glass. It’s certainly not a huge tank like you want to build, but the craftsmanship is amazing. Aquarium King in Fort Lauderdale built it for me. I’ve seen the larger tanks they build and they are pretty amazing.
 
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Kidagirl8

Kidagirl8

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I was thinking about having it be at least 4-6 feet in length, 2 feet in width, and 3-4 feet in height. I might make it bigger or smaller depending on cost and other things such as what house plan I end up going with. I have a couple in mind but haven’t decided firmly on one yet. I am looking more for easy maintenance than it being big if I end up having to choose between the two.
 

SMSREEF

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I was thinking about having it be at least 4-6 feet in length, 2 feet in width, and 3-4 feet in height. I might make it bigger or smaller depending on cost and other things such as what house plan I end up going with. I have a couple in mind but haven’t decided firmly on one yet. I am looking more for easy maintenance than it being big if I end up having to choose between the two.
One thing I did before ending up with a 24” height is actually try to reach to the bottom of a 30” tall tank.
I knew I would need to pick coral up from bottom or flip a snail over or place a new rock. 30” was too tall for me so I went with 24” height.
 

skimjim

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My 180g 72x24x24 tank of 10yrs is leaking.....no way around it, it needs replaced.

Decided on a 220g 72x24x30 from Planet Aquarium. Just the tank and stand is $2,500.

I'm currently working extra hours to buy it in September. My leak is small enough to mange daily with a 5g bucket.

Thank God I have all other equipment in place: return pump, sump, Apex, lights, skimmer.

If I were to buy a 220g cold turkey starting with no equipment.... I would estimate the 220g would cost about $6,000 to $8,000 for all supporting equipment.

Is a larger tank worth it? Define "worth" in your own words knowing its going to be a $6k++ investment


.
 

Russo757

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I’m selling a brand new, never used custom TankMe peninsula farm tank

8ft x 4ft x 12” with all the bells and whistles
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TJDSEKULA

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When I rebuilt/upgraded I personally custom built my system. I specifically wanted a tank that could wrap around the corner of the room (L shape) and be a drop off. In my book it was worth building myself to get exactly what I wanted even though the tank is only 155gal (here's a pic). Automation wise I went with an apex and all the modules I need to run 99% automated this includes 2 energy bars, 3dos pumps (one for awc, two for three part), trident, atk, lsm, +. I have a basement fish room where I have 150gals of saltwater on hand to awc and 65gal of rodi with 5gal buckets set for dosing. The most I do manually for the tank is wipe down the acrylic and feed, all the vats get filled monthly along with the trident reagent swap and my pumps and what not get a yearly check up.
Your stock list is a little tough mandarins and seahorses are both pod eaters I could see competition being an issue. Seahorses have very specific requirements, they generally need low flow, lots of pods and nothing that can sting them in the tank. Most also live in cooler than reef conditions, some can be acclimated up but live a shorter lifespan as a result (based on my research) I tried two pairs but neither lasted long in my care :( you want a tall tank with vertical space for them but I believe your 4' would be great here. A sting ray needs alot of long open space, generally not reef safe (cover coral with sand killing it etc) and will decimate your cuc.imo your 2' by 6' foot print is still pretty small for this type of animal once full grown. If you really want all this stock I'd build a system with multiple tanks and an interconnected sump. In my mind you'd have two cylinder tower tanks one with coral and other inhabitants and one for seahorses with some softies and nps. Then, a long shallow ray tank something like a 4'×8' footprint at 10" deep kept down low and open at the top for top down viewing. There are a few places I've seen rays kept and that's about the norm even at our lfs that has two and they skimp on space for most everything so I assume there must be a reason.

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mike550

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Lots of great thoughts here — especially if the tank is too deep then it’s hard to reach the bottom. I am new to reefing and started with a 120G that’s about 48x24x25. I’ve heard that larger volume tanks are more forgiving since there is more water. And I’d say so far so good.

Two things I’ve learned along the way. I want to keep all of my equipment (sump, doser, ATO) inside the stand because of location. My sump is about 36” long so it gets cramped. I wish I had a “dry side” where I could safely install a controller away from salt and moisture. The other thing I’ve learned is keep in mind how you’ll do water changes and where you’ll keep your mixing station and RODI, salt, assorted chemicals, spare parts, etc.

Since you haven’t built the house yet make sure your architect knows that you want an aquarium and where it will be placed. It’s a lot of weight so you’re better off having the location designed for the right load.

Good luck!
 
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JMM744

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Custom Aquariums built my 180 and did a great job. If they did acrylic I would have them build my 8’ tank. Go as big as you can afford realizing it’s gonna take time to get to the point of supporting corals. Also, the bigger the more time to clean glass and the more it costs to run. Don’t get in over your head .
Enjoy figuring it out and putting it together.
 

NashobaTek

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+1 on rethinking the stingray seahorse mandrins. Together I would be concerned with the stingray eating everything else.

Seahorses need very specific water temps, food. Usually they are kept in a species only tank with other fish who won't bully, out eat them.
As far as depth, I have to use a step ladder to reach the bottom of the tank I have, just to shoulder.
 

Michael Rossi

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I was thinking about having it be at least 4-6 feet in length, 2 feet in width, and 3-4 feet in height. I might make it bigger or smaller depending on cost and other things such as what house plan I end up going with. I have a couple in mind but haven’t decided firmly on one yet. I am looking more for easy maintenance than it being big if I end up having to choose between the two.
Personally, I would lean towards the 6 feet length. My 75 gallon is 4 feet and any larger fish would love the extra room to swim. As others stated, don’t go too tall or you won’t be able to properly maintain or get into the tank. The more I’m looking at other people’s large tanks, I really like the depth. Something like 6x4x2 or 7x4x2 feet. Now to hit the lottery so I can actually buy one. Lol
 

Tamberav

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On the other thread about why people leave the hobby...many if the answers was maintance and work. You are asking for low maintance then listing high maintance corals and fish... Even a normal tank has a good amount of maintenance even if you automate what you can. Especially the first few years where the tank is still settling.

So basically...plan for it to be twice as much work and twice as much money as you think and be happy if it isn't.

Many of the fish and corals you want can not be mixed and need species specific tanks or are impossible to keep so you won't really be able to have what you want. Will you still be happy maintaining a tank without those?

The tanks footprint seems tiny for a stingray. They need a large footprint with a large sandbed and possibly eat smaller fish.

Most NPS are similar and need constant specific foods and probably better with laminar flow and so on.

Seahorses are best kept in species tanks without sand beds (or ones kept very clean) or anything that stings and shy fish at cooler temps. They are very prone to bacterial infections and can get stung trying to wrap their tail around stinging corals.

3-4 feet is way too deep and would be a maintenance nightmare for most. Yes you need to be able to get to the sand bed.

4 long feet would limit you on fish.

I would say a big tank is worth it but not worth it if you have unrealistic goals that will disappoint you after you spent all that money.
 
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BeltedCoyote

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On the other thread about why people leave the hobby...many if the answers was maintance and work. You are asking for low maintance then listing high maintance corals and fish... Even a normal tank has a good amount of maintenance even if you automate what you can. Especially the first few years where the tank is still settling.

So basically...plan for it to be twice as much work and twice as much money as you think and be happy if it isn't.

Many of the fish and corals you want can not be mixed and need species specific tanks or are impossible to keep so you won't really be able to have what you want. Will you still be happy maintaining a tank without those?

The tanks footprint seems tiny for a stingray. They need a large footprint with a large sandbed and possibly eat smaller fish.

3-4 feet is way too deep and would be a maintenance nightmare for most. Yes you need to be able to get to the sand bed.

4 long feet would limit you on fish.

I would say a big tank is worth it but not worth it if you have unrealistic goals that will disappoint you after you spent all that money.
Well said. I’ve been warned about not being realistic about going for a 240g tank for my first real reef. I’m sticking with it though because my motivation for going so large is:
a)it’s my dream tank

b) it’s the only tank I plan on having aside from a qt for coral and fish respectively.

c) I want as much space for the fish I’m planning on having because husbandry is important to me

d) I know it’s going to be expensive. I know there’s going to be a lot of work. But this is going to be MY coral reef. I want to do it the right way from the beginning. So I’m taking my time, exploring used options, and am willing to go slow and save up.

that’s just me though. Everyone needs to really give some critical thought to their plans.
 

PatW

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I was thinking about having it be at least 4-6 feet in length, 2 feet in width, and 3-4 feet in height. I might make it bigger or smaller depending on cost and other things such as what house plan I end up going with. I have a couple in mind but haven’t decided firmly on one yet. I am looking more for easy maintenance than it being big if I end up having to choose between the two.
I have a 300 gallon. I would suggest an 8’ length, 4 ‘ width and 2’ depth. My tank is 6’ long. I think a bit more length would help with active fish like tangs and decrease a bit of aggression. Actually, the more length the better as far as fish are concerned. Increased width (often called depth) is great because it really gives one freedom with aquascapes. My tank has a 3” depth (width) and that is really nice. Think about it. You need about 4”-6” gap between your live rock and the glass. A 2’ depth (width) means you only have 12-16 inches to work with. A 3‘ depth gives you 24-28 inches to work with. And 4’ gives you 36-40 inches to work with. See the effect? The height (often called depth) of no more than 2’, My tank has a 27’ depth. I am 6’ tall and reaching the bottom is tough. Yeah, the aspect ratio of a taller tank is pleasing and I get that. But a 24” height is just much more convenient for fooling around with stuff in the tank. I find it hard enough to get at things that are 27” from the surface. Dealing with 36” or 48” down would be a nightmare.
 

schuby

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My current tank (#2 overall) is 150 gal (1.5 years). My first tank was 90 gal (12 years). 3 years off in between. I made specific choices with my current tank based on my experience with my first tank (new vs old):
  1. Bigger (150 vs 90) with a bigger sump (40 gal vs 10 gal)
    1. More stability due to larger volume of water: less affected by minor events such as fish/snail dying or dosing variations (out-of-calibration or concentrations slightly off)
    2. Also, want this to be my last tank (bought higher quality everything)
  2. Apex Controller vs no controller
    1. I once killed almost all my fish by not remembering to turn my pumps back on (power strip switch) after feeding phyto after lights-out. Such a terrible feeling! Never want to repeat that.
    2. With a controller, I can turn things off (feed-mode 1-4) for different periods of time and then it all turns back on automatically
    3. The visibility from the controller also gives me much greater peace-of-mind. I can know that my return pumps and ATO are working (flow sensor on each return pump and ATO logging)
  3. Auto-top-off vs manual
    1. More stability and less maintenance
  4. Two identical return pumps vs one
    1. Heart of the system supplying aeration from skimmer
    2. More reliable: pumps don't last forever
    3. Independent return plumbing, too (one through chiller)
    4. If pump feeding chiller goes out, I can swap pumps due to use of unions
  5. Auto-water-change vs manual
    1. More stability and less maintenance
    2. When life got in the way, my first tank suffered most from lack of water changes
    3. My current tank is physically ready to run the full Triton method (part of design)
  6. Macro-algae in refugium/sump vs carbon
    1. More natural and effective in directly reducing phosphate and nitrate
    2. Carbon can strip too much and requires more care (higher maintenance)
    3. Unfortunately, discovered that lack of trace amounts of iron leads to dead chaeto (resulting in massive release of phosphate and nitrate)
  7. Hard-plumbing, except for a short span near return pumps to reduce vibration, of both drains and returns with multiple unions vs soft-plumbing with clamps
    1. Bean Animal style drain (3 independent pipes to sump) (first tank had single overflow drain with stand pipe)
    2. Easy to do maintenance on return pumps because of unions
    3. Easy to to maintenance on flow sensors because of unions
    4. Easy to disconnect all plumbing from tank because of unions (if I move and relocate tank)
    5. Algae doesn't grow in plumbing without light (short span of soft-tubing is black/opaque)
  8. Programmable wave-makers vs constant-on/off powerheads
    1. Much better flow for SPS
    2. Lower maintenance
My full intent when setting up my current tank was long-term success with low maintenance. Starting with dry rock has made this a much different experience than my first tank, but it is much better now (after first year). I don't know if my tank is ULM, but it is definitely low maintenance compared to my first tank. My tank, 60" x 24" x 24" from Custom Aquariums, is in my living room and everything is in the stand (behind doors),including the chiller, or in the hood (no light polution). I try to have a more natural, complete mini-ecosystem and use chemicals as a last resort rather than first impulse.

I went full Neptune/Apex. I'm in IT. I know that many things that are supposed to work together don't. Things from the same vendor are highly likely to be fully compatible for a long period of time. These items of mine are from Neptune: Apex controller (with temp, salinity, ORP, & ph probes), ATK (auto-topoff), 2 WAV makers, 2 DOS (1 for Auto Water Change & 1 for Ca/Alk dosing), 1 DDR (Ca and Alk reservoir), 2 Cor-20 return pumps, 2 1" flow-sensors, EB832, & EB8 (I recommend getting more than one EB832 if you need more outlets: EB832 gives you much more visibility and control).

Some people on here like Neptune and others don't. I recommend staying more homogeneous than not. Mixing and matching almost ensures future difficulty.

One thing I would do different on my current tank is that I would've started with some live rock instead of none. I'm considering getting some at this moment.

For your new tank, as mentioned by others already, consider how and where you will do water changes and other regular maintenance: feeding fish and corals, salt-water mixing, RO/DI filtering, servicing pumps & wave-makers, cleaning skimmer cup, dosing supplies, and so on.

Due to my prior experience and planning before buying, my second tank is very low maintenance. It is probably lower maintenance than other tanks that are smaller.

I apologize that this is such a long reply, but I want to you be successful.
 

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