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Working on the Reef Tank

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Okay, Kinda got one already. Some of this is the same as my intro, but I will continue to update this as we get it going.

Let me introduce myself and my family. We live in Santa Barbara, CA, and our family includes myself and girlfriend, as well as my 2 children, my son is 9 and my daughter is 3. Although we are renting our home, we rent from family, so we should be okay to make some of the modifications and cabinetry that we are planning, as long as we are able to repair and replace, if we ever decide to move…..
We have been talking about building a Reef Tank for about a year, but were definitely only in the research phase. Still trying to decide on a volume….And then we found a tank setup. A complete setup.
So this is what we have:

Display Tank:
Tank is 120g, 48 X 24 X 24”, Stand is 40” tall with 2 doors on the front, Canopy is 16” tall, and opens up from the front, (Unfortunately, so tall that it hits the ceiling, and will have to be modified).
36” Sump with an ASM G2 skimmer, and QuietOne 6000 return pump, Oceans Motions 4-way, and all plumbing is SpaFlex. (The previous owner had the equipment under the stand)
Neptune Systems Aquacontroller Lite, with DC8
An 8 switch DJ power module and 12 plug Electrical Outlet wiring installed in the stand
2 250w 14K MH with DE Lumen Bright Reflectors and IceCap Ballasts for each.
2 fans in the canopy and screen covering the back of the open canopy (owner had *jumping* wrasses)
We also picked up 2 55g blue mixing barrels, one already set up with a float valve for RO/DI water, and the other plumbed with pump and piping to mix salt water.

Frag Tank:
Acrylic Frag Tank, 24 X 24".
36” Sump with Vertex skimmer (not sure which one), and a QuietOne 3000 return pump
Digital Aquatics Reefkeeper Lite, with the PC4
1 175w 10K MH with SE reflector and IceCap ballast

And this is what we are going to do:
We will be building modular cabinetry in the garage and running the plumbing through the wall. Our display tank will be in the living room, and all of the rest of the equipment will be run in the garage. This will enable us to control the temperature a little more consistently, as well as spread out a lot.
We will have 1 - 48 X 36 X 40” cabinet for the Display Tank sump, with a counter top for working, etc.
We will have 1 - 60 X 36 X 40” cabinet for the Frag Tank, sump and supplies.
We are still deciding on where we will be installing the 10g refugium.
We will be adding SpaFlex plumbing for any extensions, to and from the Display Tank, and through the garage, in order to give us a little flexibility in moving, cleaning or rearranging.
We will be painting the wall in the garage with Kilz, and the cabinetry with Kilz and with a Gloss Enamel to make cleaning a bit easier.

Update on 6/17/10: We are now at least 6 months ahead of the schedule that we had planned for since we bought a complete set up.
And these are the plans for this Summer:
Build the cabinetry in the Garage. Plumb and set up the sumps and tanks, on and in, the cabinetry.
Purchase and Install the RO/DI and start mixing Salt Water to Cycle
Decide on, purchase and install supplemental lighting (T5s and/or LEDs)
Purchase and Install Dry Eco Rock and sand from BRS
Learn more…..

Feel free to comment, suggest or critique...Please and Thank You All!

Update: 6/25/10.
Getting doors on the stand fixed, the hinges are not munted right, and the garage is ready for building, but have not gotten the wood yet. Gonna cut the hole in the wall this weekend....and brace it. Should be fun. To tell the spouse before or after....

Update - 7/6/10:
Update: So we worked on the tank set up this weekend.
1. Ordered the RO/DI...should be here on 7/12 and we will be ready to install it.
2. Installed hinges on the canopy top, so that it can be opened, and stay that way. It is actually too tall, if we try to open it all the way, it hits the ceiling. So we put locking hinges on it, and it will open enough to access, and not have to be propped open with wood or hands. Safer for kids and us that way. We are still going to need to add several new cross pieces in the canopy so that we can eventually add T5s to supplement the MHs. Will be resealing the canopy with Kilz this week.
3. We fixed the doors on the stand, installed magnet latches, and cleaned everything. Lots of leftover salt creep from the previous owner.
4. Finished clearing the garage area where all the equipment will be, and purchased the Kilz.
Next steps will be the hole in the wall, painting with the Kilz, and building the cabinetry. We will also be using the Dry Eco-Rock from BRS, and seeding with a piece of Live Rock, so we are expecting several months of cycling....
Our Goal: Have a Fish by Christmas!!

Update - 7/8/10
We Cut a Hole in the Wall!!! This is fun, but did not really feel real, like we were actually gonna get this tank running someday, until I cut an 8"X8" hole in the wall. Well, we did that last night.
Also, I sanded the canopy to prep for new sealant, and I need to add some new supports, so we can add the supplemental lighting, someday.
I have attached the FTS1 and a picture of the hole in the wall....My girlfriend took the pictures, so at least she is aware that there is now a hole....
We have added the hinges, and they are perfect. They let us get into the tank, but now the lid does not hit the ceiling.
We will be painting with Kilz this week, framing the hole, and repainting the area that I cut, so it should be ready for the plumbing by this weekend. Too bad we do not have the cabinets yet in the garage to hold the sump....That should happen sometime in the next couple of weeks.

Update - 7/12/10
We are expecting a box of stuff from BRS today....But yesterday, we went to one of our LFS, about 20 min away, and they were have a "Yard Sale". We picked up a 48" T5 X2 Bulb light for $7 and a 1/3hp Chiller for $50. Among other things, we got some plumbing parts, RO membranes, and DI Resin, Food clips and glass magnet cleaners. We spent just about $145...and figured out later, by looking at the "New Prices" of the items we purchased, that as long as everything is functional...we saved about $1500 on what we purchased yesterday!
We are now ready to start working again this week on the canopy and installing the RO system. (sorry Mark, ours came from BRS) We are going to be installing the T5 set in the canopy, leaving space for some additional LEDs. We will also be doing some more of the painting with Kilz, and spackling and painting the hole in the wall. The next step is still the cabinets in the garage...and that is going to take some wood and a table saw.

Update 7/19/10 -

Okay, it's been a while, so I figured that I should update this build.
We received our 5 stage BRS RO/DI, and getting ready to install it in the garage. Have to run the plumbing off the Cold Water line, and around the wall.
Last week, we got a deal on a T5 X 2 bulb set, for our supplemental, so we added a mount in the canopy, and repainted the entire inside of the canopy with new Kilz. Prepared it by sanding off all of the old salt creep, and repainted. This should help us keep that in decent condition, as long as we keep it clean going forward.
We are going to be working in the garage this week, and see how much we can get done.
Tonight we should finish the canopy, couple of touch ups with the Kilz, and then mounting the fans, ballasts and T5 set. Then tomorrow the canopy should be mounted on the tank....Hopefully finished.
Then we are going to finish the hole in the wall, with caulk adhesive, and drywall mud, Kilz and paint. We are making the paint in the hole match the Living Room wall paint, so that the hole appears to be an extension of the actual wall.
Then, we are planning to spackle fill all the drywall in the garage and paint the entire wall with Kilz. There are several spots where the previous renter actually damaged the drywall, so a little fixing and the Kilz should solve it.
So we are down to:
Building the cabinets....2X4s, plywood and a countertop.
Last minute plumbing parts, after we set the sump on the cabinets. This will include plumbing the Sump, Refugium, Frag Tank and Sump. And then adding in the Fresh and Salt Water barrels.

Woo Hoo....getting there!!

And we have light!!
Update - 7/25/10
So we got the garage painted and the hole in the wall plastered. Still needs the tan paint though.
Got the plumbing run for the RO/DI. Ready to be installed.
And on Friday, we got our Dry Rock from BRS. We set it in the tank...
We received the following:
12 Large pieces. The smallest was the size of a football. Here is one of the medium sized ones, in my girlfriends hands, so there is some perspective on the size of these rocks. This is the mined Dry Rock.
Some of these pieces are Really Heavy.
We were left with less than 1 handfull of chips and debris in the bags. Total shipping weight: 109.9lbs
Totally and completely impressed with BRS rock, shipping and service!!
Actually, yes on the sand..over the weekend, I bout a $4 bag of play sand at the HD in SB. However it was really tan in color. Then last night, we stopped to see Maze in SM. He said that tthere was white sand available at the HD in SM. So we stopped last night there, and picked up what we are going to use.
Keep in mind that we ARE going to set up a fuge, so we needed a little extra sand for that, but estimated about 80 lbs of sand for the DT.
We bought 2 bags of Quikrete sand, will post pictures when I get home tonight, for $5.47 ea, the sand in the brown paper bag at HD. They are each 50lbs ea, and it is the white sand we were looking for.
I also did the vinegar testing last night, and it bubbles, and it glows white under the actinic bulb, as I dropped a handful in the tank just to see.
So, it looks like we got our sand....well on our way.
Actually I agree this sand is really fine...we will have to see how it does in our tank with the powerheads and returns set up the way we can. We have also seen several tanks using this sand, as opposed to the sugary fine sand that some people are commenting on, and I am curious to see which one we purchased.

As I have read on several postings, as well as spoken to several people about the what the sand is made of, my understanding, and please correct me if I am wrong, is that the actual calcium carbonate sands will bubble when mixed with vinegar. My undersstanding is that this is an indication of the contents, and not any type of coating or dip that the sand has undergone before packaging. I also noticed that the bag we purchased specifically stated that it did not contain silicates.

Also just wanted to add that although we are still moving forward, we have hit some snags in creating or building the cabinets in the garage, so it may be about a month before we do much more than finish a few of the little bits that we have laying around.
This might include the actual install of the RO/DI unit, finishing the edging on the satnd, and rewiring the fans, one more time.
We hope to get more info on what to do with the rock, this week, so maybe get that started....We will have to see.
Basically, the last major piece of the building will be the cabinets, and it looks like we are stuck for about a month before we can do those.
However, please do not hesitate to keep commenting and suggesting, Please...all of this helps us to learn more and do things right the first time!!
A Huge Thank You From Us!!
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Updated 07-27-2010 at 01:42 PM by ryancmatchett (Update - July 2010)

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Tank Journals , DIY Projects


  1. PapaMcEuin's Avatar
    well, glad you live in California because temperature control in the garage in Kentucky is non-existant! ;-) Sounds like an interesting project.