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Think twice before you go big

SaltISlife

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Eh i think your situation is well situational. Ive been in fresh water for 20 years now. Started with my 27g hexagon my mom bought me when i was 14. Upgraded to a 44g 55g then 92g then 135 gallons years later.

The 27g hexagon i still have and when i started salt water 3 years ago i resealed the tank after pulling it out of storage and started my reef tank. I ignored everyone who said a sumpless hexagon wouldnt work. After cramming it with rocks and corals and a few fish i realized it was wayyy too small. So i looked for a bigger hexagon and thats after only 3 months. Found a 60g hexagon moved everything over. Added a few more rocks. Tank was beautiful and honestly right now its running with just sand a few ******* damzels but i wouldnt mind setting it back up fully.

Anyway 4 months later i decided to convert my 135 discus tank to salt water.. transferred my discus to my 92g bowfront and moved my 60g to the 135. Got more rocks. And so forth.

And im still adding corals although its crammed big time now. I cant get anymore fish either. Its packed.


I kinda wish i just went straight to the 135g. But i guess going to the smaller tanks was a learning process.. although they only lasted 3 months and 4 months before i upgraded again and again.

Now we might be moving and i gatta fogire out how to move my fish and corals to the new house. Which might be an hour away. So i might have to get a giant tub for my car and a invertor to hook up the air stone and stuff.

Anyway when we move i wanna go bigger. Like 240 gallons or something.

As for costs. The costs are really on you because of the in wall thing and equipment you probably have.

I have my 135 gallon on my 3rd level in my bedroom. And its not even perpendicular to the joists.. its sitting parralell to the joists.. which run about 13 feet. They are both on load bearing beams on the ends though. But i still only have the tank on 2 maybe 3 joists. And its been fine. Floor hasnt sagged its still level. Im not worried about it. Now i wouldnt go bigger like 180-240 lol but yea.

My tank was also 100$ stand was 40$ i resealed it myself my lights are t5 amazon plant fixtures with good reflectors. I spent maybe 160 on the fixtures. And 200$ on bulbs.

I have no sump no skimmer. Just three 40$ emperor 400 hobs and a homemade denitrate reactor using 1$ gallon water bottles and eheim skimmer pump.

In the end ive spent maybe less than 700$ on equipment and tank itself.

Yet you got people who spend 5,000$ on just a tank yo have something rimless.
 
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SaltISlife

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Surprised how many people find water changes such a big obstacle. Don’t get a planted tank then... I was doing Barr method and changed 45G weekly on my 90G. ;)

And cost? Even if I change 30% monthly in my 215G and use Brightwell, that’s ~$350 a year in salt. Sure it all adds up but I have buddies with worse hobbies... ever see what a boat costs? Restoring cars? Pinball?

That or discus.. i was changing 80 gallons weekly in my 135 for discus.

As for restoring cars. I have a 89 Jeep Grand Wagoneer ive restored and repaired and upgraded with lights lift tires and other mods. If you do it yourself its about the same costs as a reef tank if you got 80corals and fish like i have lol
 

zsxking

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I have been on my 42 gallons for 5 years and having fun with it. I never really consider going bigger because I was renting. This year I finally buy a house and got a 180 gallons. I honestly don't think it's easier at all. Now I have the patient and experience to handle the build and the maturing process. But if I were start with this big of a tank, or jump to this size after a year or so, I would probably quit already.
 

SaltISlife

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6ft 150 reef is about my limit. Anything beyond that becomes prohibitively complex, expensive or tedious. For example either manual water changes which become tedious or auto water changes which replaces tedious with complex or expensive with water pipes in the right place and plumbing etc. These are not issues in a tank that only requires a 5-10g water change vs 40g water changes. Same goes for calcium/alkalinity. Manual tedious/expensive (when your dosing 50+ml a day), dosing pumps add expense and are tedious because they have to be monitored for function, calibrated and ideally synchronized/staggered from each other to prevent precipitation. with calcium reactor now I have to add a co2 cylinder and more complexity for automation . In a 30g two 500ml bottles of part A/B, 30 seconds of your life per day and your done.

You just make it complicated. I have 85+ corals in my 135g tank which is 2 inchs shorter than yours. Some colonies bigger than a basketball. I have no sump no skimmer. Just three hobs i clean once a week. Takes like 30 min to shoot a water hose on jet on my 50 micron pads and boom clean.

I do 40-60% water changes to replnish the water of strontium and mag and all that good stuff i do it once every 3 weeks. I just did mine tonight as its the end of the month. And it took me 1 hour using 5g buckets.

I dose 25ml of alk daily. And 25ml of calcium once a week with the seachem 2 part. Thats it.

So i litterally spend 30 min once a week cleaning filters, 1 hour once every 3 weeks changing water. And 5 minutes dosing and feeding my fish daily . And i guess 15 min every 2 days cleaning the front glass panel

How is that tedious ?
 

DaddyFish

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Anyway yeah - why are hobbies expensive, right??? :D
Read my signature line... just sayin'

To the OP,
Very sorry to hear of all your troubles with the structural and remodeling. And thanks for presenting a challenge to some of the narrowed thinking. I think your message of "We should appreciate and celebrate the smaller tanks" is getting lost in the BIG vs small banter, and that's unfortunate.
 

Michael Gray

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this thread is cool to read all the experience.... im in the boat.. i only have a 100g now. which has been 14month struggle lol..but i told myself if i can fill this 100g with acros and they grow.. i want a large tank.. which the other half laughs but said its ok if i can show a beautiful display it will be worth.. helps shes into the tank as well... that being said .. in CA water/electricity is expensive as it is.... it might have to wait for retirement and move to a new home .. with idea of having tank in there.. but that being said.. i dabbled in a 8ftx3ft.. then i said man all the lighting and such... then changed to a 7x3.... which im still at.. but maybe thinking shrinking to a 6ftx3ftx24inch... so not sure yet lol.. but dabbling in ideas....
 

K7BMG

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I am conversing with Joe at Glass Cages on a 500g tank and stand.
130L X 36D X 30T.
I currently have a 140g running.
Call me stupid but hey I want a big tank.
I will have a diy sump for it thats around 250g.

I have had small nano tanks, a 10, and a 20.
For me its a pain. Everyday its was something out of whack.
Limited livestock and size thereof.
My clown pair outgrew the 10 in no time and then the 20.
Nanos are nothing more than what you cant have in them, vs what you can.
IMO might as well have a 10-20g freshwater with a Betta then.

So for me the smalest saltwater tank I will ever have is 100g.
Thats what I recomend to everyone.

I am very happy with my 140g but even it has limits to things.
Yes the 500 will as well but what fun it will be to get to its limits.
 

Karen00

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I've been in this hobby and reading about reefkeeping for many years. I repeatedly see threads on "what would you do if you could start over?" A common answer is "I would set up a larger system." I want to push back on that.

There is so much pressure to go big and so many reasons why big tanks make sense. Many people's progressions in the hobby look like mine. I started with 10g freshwater, then 20g, then 38g reef, then 75g reef, and now planning a 240g reef (this is all over more than 25 years, so I'm not talking about impulsive upgrading behavior). Each time I wanted more stability, more aquascaping possibilities, more stocking options, and more to see. So now I'm about 18 months into *planning* a large system (see my build thread) and I'm having some regrets before I've even put any water in the tank. With larger tanks, everything gets more expensive, and I mean really expensive. Larger tank, more rock, more sand, bigger light fixture with more lights, larger wavemakers, bigger sump, bigger return pumps, more salt, more electricity, more water.

But I want to share a cautionary tale about how my dream reef tank, original budget of around $15K, is now going to cost more than a sports car. I am doing a fish room with an in-wall display, so I had to open the walls. The architect said the wall was not load-bearing -- good news! Then two weeks into construction they went "oops, we were wrong, it's holding up two levels of the house." No problem, add $2500 for some new supports added out wide to replace the one we removed for where the display tank sits. Should be fine, but let's have a structural engineer review just in case. That will only cost $500 or so. Then, as we're digging a trench in the slab for a floor drain (an absolute requirement), we got another nasty surprise. The basement slabs in my neighborhood (homes are all about 100 years old) are about 3" to 6" thick instead of 12" to 18". So we need to tear up half the basement slab, excavate, and pour new concrete footings for the tank and for the vertical beams supporting the house. Another $10K. I suppose we might have wanted a thicker slab anyway, but the house would have had at least another 50 years before it was a problem.

So I'm about to approve that change order to the construction contract, but seriously thought about whether I could sell the custom tank that's been sitting in the garage and downsize to something that won't break my house. Too late, I guess, since we already moved the supports and I've already accumulated all the equipment that goes with this particular tank. Fortunately I can absorb these costs and still pay for my kids' college and our retirement, maybe have a skip a couple of vacations. But the lesson learned (which I hope to share) is that if you are a normal person who has not been lucky to have investments go well and save for 20+ years, then try to make the most of that 20 gallon, or 55 gallon or whatever tank or even a nano, and take it as a challenge on how to create something beautiful in a small box and how to keep it stable. We need to celebrate nanos and "regular" size tanks and reef-keepers who maintain them and not feel or create pressure to upgrade. Yes, we'll always drool over the ocean-sized tanks online with armies of tangs swimming busily and peacefully over an expanse of mature coral reefs, but think twice before you go big.
Oh geez. What a challenge! I know from renovation experience (or should I say renovation hell) on a home as old as yours that the minute you start cracking into floors and walls your new catch phrase becomes "oh oh". I think the only people that are safe are those that had the home built new so they know what the house is all about and know what tank(s) they can support. Good luck with your new build. Once you get past the oh oh's I'm sure it will be awesome!!
 

Karen00

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Yes I feel the plight of SteveG_inDC.

My argument against the point is this.
If you chose a tank size that requires a home renovation to incorporate it well......
I am in 100% agreement with BZOFIQ.

The problems with any home renovation are the same especially if walls are removed to open the floor plan and such.
Bearing walls will need to be reinforced and additional footings will need to be added.
Just like adding a second floor to a single story home, the first floor is almost entirely demolished and rebuilt to hold up the second floor. Been there done that at least 100 times throughout my construction years. It will cost more because the existing structure and or construction method and layout are no longer to current code standards. These homes will not have been built for this in the first place.
There are unforeseen issues every time, and when I say unforeseen I mean literally not seen with the eyes. There are so many underground items such as electrical, plumbing, gas lines, vent lines, even duct work, that can become an issue.
Unless you have a set of drawings there is no way of knowing what walls are or are not load bearing until the drywall is removed and the framing is now able to be seen.

When I am asked about home upgrades that will require interior work on foundations and or supports I tell everyone the same thing. Figure your budget, then add 50-60% to that budget and then build accordingly. If you're building outside of the homes exterior then add 20-25%. Like it or not this is the reality of construction.
My answers are not popular and often not heard as I am an electrical contractor not an engineer or general contractor. That said as unpopular as my words are they have been 90% accurate over the 30+ years I have been in the field.

So big tanks have bigger costs for sure, no doubt, but those costs should have been penciled out prior to the decision to move forward. I am referencing the tank costs only here.
If your overwhelmed by the expense then the proper homework was not done.
I think the OP did do the needed homework and by the proper people needed to address structural requirements. It was the oh oh's that were the problem (like being told by a professional that it's not a load bearing wall only to crack into the wall and find out it is a load bearing wall or cracking the floors only to find out they didn't do 18" slabs one hundred years ago. That's in no way indicitive of the OP not doing the required homework. I think the point is costs like this would never occur if you're simply doing a 10g. Probably not even a 50g.
 

Tastee

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I have 75 Gallon, I cant think of going bigger your right that's a big expense and also takes alot of time and effort to maintain, cheers to anyone who has large tanks and having a beautiful piece of the ocean in their home
You are correct about the extra expense but not so much about the extra effort. I have a 65g RSR 250 and a newer 130g RSR 525XL. They are both configured very much the same, but the initial investment in the big tank is larger - much more $ on tank and some more $ on lights, return, skimmer etc. Maintenance wise however they are about the same. For example by having more sump room and a bigger, better skimmer in the 525 I only have to empty the skimmate once a month. The smaller skimmer in the 250 has to have the cup cleaned weekly. Conversely it takes me longer to clean the glass on the 525 than the 250 as it is larger and also as it is thicker, meaning the wide blade on my Tunze doesn’t work as well on the 525 as the 250. So it tends to work out much the same, less on the larger tank if anything.
 

csb123

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I found with my 300 gallon tank, it took FOREVER to grow corals to the point of looking like a reef. A 4x4x3 inch Acro is quite impactful in a 55 gallon tank. In a 300 it’s looks tiny. With the tiny, expensive frags we get nowadays, to grow said colony, may take years.
 
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SteveG_inDC

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There is such a thing as 'right size'.

I own my dream tank. It's 60" x 30" x 18", about 140 gallons. Low and fat, easy to maintain, no need to work from a ladder, or from my knees... 'sump room' is just a closet, but it's functional. Everything that can be automated... is.

I look at these huge tanks, and just wonder what cleaning is like. What, you gotta wear a scuba tank? You go right ahead... I don't want to get my sleeves wet... much less my beard.

FulTank.jpg
I love your tank dimensions and the ledge. Scuba diving for maintenance though... as a diver who can no longer go on dive trips, that actually makes it sound more appealing! :)
 
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SteveG_inDC

SteveG_inDC

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this thread is cool to read all the experience.... im in the boat.. i only have a 100g now. which has been 14month struggle lol..but i told myself if i can fill this 100g with acros and they grow.. i want a large tank.. which the other half laughs but said its ok if i can show a beautiful display it will be worth.. helps shes into the tank as well... that being said .. in CA water/electricity is expensive as it is.... it might have to wait for retirement and move to a new home .. with idea of having tank in there.. but that being said.. i dabbled in a 8ftx3ft.. then i said man all the lighting and such... then changed to a 7x3.... which im still at.. but maybe thinking shrinking to a 6ftx3ftx24inch... so not sure yet lol.. but dabbling in ideas....
I think shallow tanks are under-appreciated. If you have the floor space, then long and wide make a more interesting reef, and easier to light, no need to penetrate 2' of water.
 
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SteveG_inDC

SteveG_inDC

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I found with my 300 gallon tank, it took FOREVER to grow corals to the point of looking like a reef. A 4x4x3 inch Acro is quite impactful in a 55 gallon tank. In a 300 it’s looks tiny. With the tiny, expensive frags we get nowadays, to grow said colony, may take years.
This is a good point. I'm thinking of creating zones and instead of putting tiny frags every 20" like evenly spaced dots on an open field of rock, I may fill in some cheap LPS or softies on one end to give the tank some life while I treat another zone as the SPS growout. I can even position my lights accordingly. Just going to resist using GSP. You can probably get attractive and large kenya trees or toadstool leathers for not too much $$.
 

southerntnreefer

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I can't speak for others but water changes is more about production of water, storage, ease of water change, etc. Changing 10 gallons is ok and a bucket or two - your done. Changing 100 gallons is another story. So I think that is what most "maybe" referring to. At least that is in my reply.

True on boating. Always wanted a sail boat but never did for many reasons. Cars - HPED track here and as my wife always told me. Didn't care about the hobby but needed to be able to walk away should I do something stupid, bad luck, mechanical failure, or others. Both physically and financially. So for the weekends I'd take the car out I'd always have track insurance. Always surprised me those that didn't.

Anyway yeah - why are hobbies expensive, right??? :D
That was my issue with the big tank. It was the cost of RODI production ( the inevitable city water charge on sewer, and the cost of the power for heating and dehumidifying the space. I was setup to easily do large water changes from my sump so that wasnt a deal, and RODI was across the room, so i just rolled over the brutes, but really it came down to cost.
 
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Eagle_Steve

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I can say this, if I did not have well water with 74 tds, and a full remodel before we moved in, I would not have gone as big as I did. My house was built in 3 phases. First one in 1864, second in 1926, and third in 1959. The sad thing is, the first build was crazy strong. My house sits on a flat rock slab, cut rock was used for the supports and the floor joist are 30-36” red oak trees cut into massive joists in the first part. The rest is basic 1920s on construction and overkill in itself.

The original plan was for my 220 to move here and some of my nanos. My macro grow out was to go into a mini barn, as the add on garage was only 2 car at this house. After the remodel, which was a complete gut and rebuild inside, I realized that I had all kinds of bracing and support for a very large tank. So it began, I set a budget and went on. I did plan the tank to the house and not the house to the tank though. The 500 sits on 2 of the massive joists in the family room. The 220 was placed in a room where it had support already and the other tanks set up the same way. The only tank that had to have bracing added was for the 180. After all was said and done, it went where it didn’t need to go. 75 bucks in cinder blocks, some 2x6s, and fighting with bugs under the house, I braced the floor lol.

My electricity is actually cheaper at this house with all those tanks then the other house with less tanks. Well water is used for the fish tanks and showers/toilets. This was some savings as well.

The biggest factor in the electricity being reduced was the remodel. We had spray in foam insulation added, new ac/heat units, and new windows put in. That was a huge investment, but played out for the tanks also.

I guess my point is that going big does not always cost a ton additional. The renovations were already planned and the tanks were not factored in during those. Just a side effect lol. Now I understand that most houses do not have the support mine does, but there are plenty of 200-300 gallon tanks in newer builds with no issues. Some easy diy bracing can go a long way.

I also use the KISS approach to things with tanks also, so that helps a little for what is mentioned above.

Side note about slabs. My dad has a 600 and some gallon tank on a 4” slab in south Florida. That tank has been up for 18 years now. No issues with the slab so far. The slab does have rebar in it, as it was required when the house was built where he is located.
 
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SteveG_inDC

SteveG_inDC

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That would be a nice filter for zillow! I know I would definitely burn some time looking through homes.
The first thing I did with my realtor when we were house-hunting was explain what a fish room is. To her credit she didn't let on that she thought I was crazy.
 
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SteveG_inDC

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Jeez my 560 gallon is set up and fully stocked for well under 10k. And cost me $100 a month in power.
That's great! Share your secrets.

One factor may be that I am not very handy, despite my best intentions to learn, so I end up hiring help for a lot of stuff that reefers with more DIY skills do themselves.
 

mattdg

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I've been in this hobby and reading about reefkeeping for many years. I repeatedly see threads on "what would you do if you could start over?" A common answer is "I would set up a larger system." I want to push back on that.

There is so much pressure to go big and so many reasons why big tanks make sense. Many people's progressions in the hobby look like mine. I started with 10g freshwater, then 20g, then 38g reef, then 75g reef, and now planning a 240g reef (this is all over more than 25 years, so I'm not talking about impulsive upgrading behavior). Each time I wanted more stability, more aquascaping possibilities, more stocking options, and more to see. So now I'm about 18 months into *planning* a large system (see my build thread) and I'm having some regrets before I've even put any water in the tank. With larger tanks, everything gets more expensive, and I mean really expensive. Larger tank, more rock, more sand, bigger light fixture with more lights, larger wavemakers, bigger sump, bigger return pumps, more salt, more electricity, more water.

But I want to share a cautionary tale about how my dream reef tank, original budget of around $15K, is now going to cost more than a sports car. I am doing a fish room with an in-wall display, so I had to open the walls. The architect said the wall was not load-bearing -- good news! Then two weeks into construction they went "oops, we were wrong, it's holding up two levels of the house." No problem, add $2500 for some new supports added out wide to replace the one we removed for where the display tank sits. Should be fine, but let's have a structural engineer review just in case. That will only cost $500 or so. Then, as we're digging a trench in the slab for a floor drain (an absolute requirement), we got another nasty surprise. The basement slabs in my neighborhood (homes are all about 100 years old) are about 3" to 6" thick instead of 12" to 18". So we need to tear up half the basement slab, excavate, and pour new concrete footings for the tank and for the vertical beams supporting the house. Another $10K. I suppose we might have wanted a thicker slab anyway, but the house would have had at least another 50 years before it was a problem.

So I'm about to approve that change order to the construction contract, but seriously thought about whether I could sell the custom tank that's been sitting in the garage and downsize to something that won't break my house. Too late, I guess, since we already moved the supports and I've already accumulated all the equipment that goes with this particular tank. Fortunately I can absorb these costs and still pay for my kids' college and our retirement, maybe have a skip a couple of vacations. But the lesson learned (which I hope to share) is that if you are a normal person who has not been lucky to have investments go well and save for 20+ years, then try to make the most of that 20 gallon, or 55 gallon or whatever tank or even a nano, and take it as a challenge on how to create something beautiful in a small box and how to keep it stable. We need to celebrate nanos and "regular" size tanks and reef-keepers who maintain them and not feel or create pressure to upgrade. Yes, we'll always drool over the ocean-sized tanks online with armies of tangs swimming busily and peacefully over an expanse of mature coral reefs, but think twice before you go big.
This is exactly what I think about when day dreaming about a much larger system. I am running a 120 in a house that is 200 plus years old. The 120 is just light enough to not be a weight issue, on the second floor. Still, I added a whole lot of support underneath, just in case. Going much larger, I'd be in the same boat as you, needing to pour concrete to upgrade. With that said, I may actually do it, with the understanding that a 300 plus tank is going to cost so much more than the tank and equipment itself. Not to mention things like, not being able to reach to the bottom / back to re arrange coral and perform weekly maintenance. I think a great option for folks getting antsy is to upgrade their secondary system such as a frag or quarantine tank. Might just scratch that itch and provide a backup to boot.
 
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