Results 1 to 13 of 13

Thread: Newbie's first 60G acrylic saltwater tank build

  1. #1
    Curious Reefer
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Location
    California, US
    Posts
    11
    Thanks
    0
    Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts

    Newbie's first 60G acrylic saltwater tank build

    Hey everyone - thanks for the welcoming nature of the responses in here so far...

    So full disclosure: I am a complete newbie when it comes to saltwater aquariums, but have kept freshwater tanks for the last years or so (mainly pleco's, cichlids, crayfish etc). So making the transition to saltwater was a little daunting, but I am an avid scuba diver and recently returned from a trip to Bonaire (tiny island in the Caribbean) and wanted to recreate the feeling in my home.

    I did a lot of research first and given my education/training as a microbiologist/geochemist, I decided to go the natural route as much as possible and save money on electrical bills and expensive machines (i.e. skimmers). I was impressed with the Bean Animal overflow system and decided that I was going to build that and I also wanted to use an algae scrubber instead of a skimmer - that was about all I knew for sure.

    Buying the Tank(s)

    So I popped onto the list belonging to craig and found a pretty roughed up 60G acrylic aquarium for sale near me for a reasonable price. I know nothing about acrylic tanks other than they scratch easily but are nice and light. Given a possible move coming up for me at the end of the year, I thought this was the wiser option. Once I got it home, it seemed even more roughed up than I first thought - lots of small scratches leaving the panes very cloudy, but also some pretty significant scratches. I also bought a 15gal glass tank for $10 to use as a sump/refugium.

    IMG_0928.jpg

    Scratch Repair
    First thing was to buy a small power sander (B&D one), some 1000 and 2000 grit sandpaper (could only find this at an auto parts store, not even at HD), some Meguiar's Plastx polish at the auto parts store (it's for buffing headlights), and a headlight buffing kit that attaches to a drill. Then I went to work over the course of two days - starting with the 1000 grit paper and trying to go over every inch of the tank (tough to get the rounded corners) - then switched to the 2000 grit and went at it again. Finally, after about 4 hours of sanding over an afternoon and morning, I started the polishing/buffing. This took about two hours to complete and I then filled it with tap water to check my handiwork - looked pretty darn good to me, so it was time to start plumbing the system

    Drilling and Plumbing the Tank

    Following the Bean Animal overflow design, I drilled three 1.75" holes in the tank, all at the same horizontal level, and installed three 1" bulkheads. Then off to OSH (local CA hardware store) to buy (in case anyone wanting to build this themselves wants a shopping list - I know I could have done with one given the number of times I went back and forward to OSH):

    * 3 x 90 degree pvc street elbows (to thread into the bulkheads)
    * 2 x 90 degree pvc elbows (slip-slip) for the return flow
    * 6 x 45 degree pvc elbows (slip-slip)
    * 3 x 1" T pvc connections (slip slip)
    * 3 x 1" end caps (slip-thread)
    * 1 x 1" pvc end cap (slip-slip; for end of algae screen pipe)
    * 4 x 1" pvc ball valves (slip-slip)
    * 1 x 1" gate valve for fine tuning of return flow
    * 3 x 1" NPT/slip adapter for the screw caps
    * 3 x 3/8" john guest fittings
    * 10ft 1/4" vinyl tube
    * 20ft of 1" PVC pipe
    * 1 x loc-line with diffuser for return flow (1ft long)
    * acrylic sheets to build the overflow box, associated acrylic cements
    * weldon #16 (came in handy for patching the overflow box, see later)

    I then just followed the bean animal design as close as possible but instead of having the main siphon line dump out into the sump and then have to pump the water back up onto the algae scrubber, I simply installed the algae scrubber on the main siphon line. Here is the side-view design drawing:

    Side view of BA to ATS.jpg
    IMG_0930.JPG
    IMG_0931.JPG
    IMG_0932.jpg

    Then I modified the sump by adding in four pieces of acrylic sheeting across the width of the tank, including one baffle at the end for helping to remove air bubbles.

    Equipment Purchased for Tank

    * 1 x Eheim 1250 return flow pump (~$90)
    * 1 x Hydor Koralia Evolution 1050/1150 in tank powerhead (~$40)
    * 1 x Orphek PR72 LED light system (~$300)
    * Water testing kits (Red Sea; ~$60)
    * 1 x Refractometer (~$30)

    Filling the Tank

    The time had arrived - I went to the LFS and asked for 65 gallons of seawater. The guy laughed at me and told me to come back later with buckets/pails to put the water in, which I sheepishly did. Once home, I made sure all of the valves were closed on the siphons, and filled the tank up. No leaks. Phew. Then came the scariest moment - opening the siphon lines and turning the return flow pump on. I expected a geyser or a flood, possibly both. Fortunately neither occurred and with a little bit of fine tuning, I could get the flows needed to maintain the DT levels and not flood the sump. I slept fairly restlessly that night, continually waking up thinking I could head water cascading onto the floor in the other room. I got up once and realized the sound was from our cat's drinking water bowl (it's one of those continuous flow things) that needed filling. Phew #2. About an hour later I jumped out of bed mid-dream realizing that I hadn't drilled a hole in the return line to break the siphon in case of a power outage - so I just turned it all off and tried to go back to sleep. Next day I drilled two 1/4" holes in the loc-line of the return flow just below the high water mark in the DT - one extra just in case of snails.

    Plumbing Lessons Learned

    In addition to remembering to drill the siphon break hole(s) in the return line - I also found out later on that my acrylic overflow box that I made was perfectly square and nice, but that the back wall of the DT was bowing outward because of the water pressure - it's only 1/8" thick acrylic (even on the bottom - I will never do that again - lesson learned: get thick acrylic on the bottom, no less than 1/4"), so my overflow box was really just decorative and water was simply gushing up from the DT from underneath and into the siphons. So I needed to order some Weldon #16 (my other acrylic cement was too fluid to do the job) and wait a couple of days for it to arrive. I then took some water out of the DT to below the level of the bottom of the overflow box and literally put an entire tube of weldon 16 over the 1/8" gap between overflow box and back wall - left it overnight. Next day refilled the tank and it held the seal. Phew #3.

    Starting the cycle

    Once I got a couple of lights (CFLs) installed on my algae scrubber screen (one on each side), I went and bought some live sand to put in my refugium and start the cycling process.

    Couple of days later I bought my base rock and put that in the DT (so that the sand would go around it and there wont be any collapses). Next day, I got some dead sand and rinsed it once (but not enough) and threw it into the DT. "Sand storm" is putting it mildly - couldnt see the rocks at all for two days. When it finally cleared, I blasted the residual sand off of the rocks using a turkey baster. The algae scrubber was starting to grow some algae by now and that helped clear the water up. Finally, a couple of days back I added some live rock to the refugium and DT, to complete the aquascaping. I've kept it minimal for now so that I can grow it more if it needs it later on.

    IMAG0176.jpg

    So right now I am in "sitting-on-hands" mode and patiently (ahem) waiting for the cycling to do its thing. I am about ten days in and have only seen a minor ammonia spike, next to no nitrites but my nitrate has climbed to ~35ppm. I suspect that I will not have a significant ammonia spike given the live sand/rock seeding and lack of fish - but I am going to leave the tank for about two or three weeks to let the nitrates come down (thanks to my algae scrubber which now has almost an entire covering on the screen). I expect to see changes in water chemistry soon as the algae grow to bigger population size. I had a brown diatom bloom in the sump too - not surprising until the silicates are all consumed. Seen a couple of snails from the live rock moving around and hope they'll help keep the diatoms under control (or they'll die off naturally soon anyway). Had a couple of Aiptasia on my LR and was able to pull the rocks out and use a syringe full of boiling water to nuke them - they didn't come back.

  2. #2
    Curious Reefer
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Location
    California, US
    Posts
    11
    Thanks
    0
    Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts
    Couple extra pics....
    Algae scrubber on day 7

    IMAG0168.jpg

    IMAG0189.jpg

    Also had to build a new canopy for the DT and added some shelving to it. Still needs to be stained/sealed (black) - that'll be the weekend job.

    IMAG0164.jpg

    IMAG0174.jpg

  3. #3
    Grand Master Reefer CarmieJo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    Raleigh, NC
    Posts
    14,980
    Blog Entries
    4
    Thanks
    69
    Thanked 179 Times in 166 Posts
    Mark, it's looking great! Thanks for the shopping list and lessons learned. They are really helpful! For the future here is a good way to avoid sandstorms. Put the sand down, cover it with a garbage bag or similar sheet of plastic, place a plate on top of the plastic, put a bowl on the plate and a cup in the bowl. Pour the water in the cup. It will diffuse over the cup, bowl and plate. Once the tank is about 3/4 of the way full remove the plastic and dishes, add the live rock and top off the rest of the water.
    Carmie


    Only disasters happen fast!





    Carmie's 54 Corner Tank
    Carmie's Cube


    Show people you value their advice! Click the STAR icon at the bottom of the post to add to their reputation.

  4. #4
    Curious Reefer
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Location
    California, US
    Posts
    11
    Thanks
    0
    Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts
    Good advice, thanks. the sandstorm was also because I didnt rinse the sand thoroughly first - gave it a single volume rinse and thought that was enough - clearly not

    Update on the algae screen and chemistry:

    screen is growing like a charm - tons of dark green growth now on day 12:

    IMAG0194.jpg

    Chemistry since adding the LR to the DT: ammonia hasnt spiked (hovering around 0.1/0.2 for a good few days), nitrites also havent spiked (around 0.05/0.1) but nitrates shot up to 35ppm and have stayed there. concurrent increase in phosphate to 0.2. Not worried about any of that though as I am clearly still very early in the cycle and expect to see my spikes starting in a while. Clearly the algae screen, while very happy, is overwhelmed with nitrates/phosphate at the moment while growing and is not able to keep up. once the algae is grown thick/dense and if I still have nitrates/phosphate, then I will worry. for now I will sit and watch barren rock with water moving around it.

  5. #5
    Grand Master Reefer CarmieJo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    Raleigh, NC
    Posts
    14,980
    Blog Entries
    4
    Thanks
    69
    Thanked 179 Times in 166 Posts
    Chemistry sounds pretty good. The algae scrubber should take care of phosphates and nitrates and it could be the reason your ammonia and nitrite is low. You could challenge that by dropping a raw shrimp in the tank for a couple days and seeing what happens. Tie it up in a ladies nylon stocking or mesh bag to make it easy to remove.
    Carmie


    Only disasters happen fast!





    Carmie's 54 Corner Tank
    Carmie's Cube


    Show people you value their advice! Click the STAR icon at the bottom of the post to add to their reputation.

  6. #6
    Curious Reefer
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Location
    California, US
    Posts
    11
    Thanks
    0
    Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts
    it's like you're reading my mind. I dropped a raw shrimp in yesterday going to test chemistry again tonight.

  7. #7
    Grand Master Reefer CarmieJo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    Raleigh, NC
    Posts
    14,980
    Blog Entries
    4
    Thanks
    69
    Thanked 179 Times in 166 Posts
    Any increase in ammonia from the shrimp? What are your parameters now?
    Carmie


    Only disasters happen fast!





    Carmie's 54 Corner Tank
    Carmie's Cube


    Show people you value their advice! Click the STAR icon at the bottom of the post to add to their reputation.

  8. #8
    Curious Reefer
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Location
    California, US
    Posts
    11
    Thanks
    0
    Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts
    So yesterday evening marked the end of the second day of having the shrimp in the tank - it became covered in a translucent film (I had already put it int before your sensible advice of putting it IN something so I could get it back out). Story gets a little complicated - the sg was too high for my liking, up at 1.027, so I actually did a 20% water change yesterday before taking the chemistry (wish I had done it before, but this is what happens when you try and do these things after a long work day). The shrimp fell apart when trying to retrieve it, so I just left it in.

    Measure chemistry last night anyway, about 4 hours after the water change:

    * Ammonia = 0
    * Nitrites = 0
    * Nitrates = 10
    * pH = 8.0
    * Ca = 500+
    * dKh = 7.5
    * Phosphate = 0.18

    So it isnt clear whether the reduction in nitrate (from ~35ppm) is related to the cycling, or my water change. Regardless, even with the water change, if there was going to be an ammonia spike, I would have expected to at least register something on that, but nothing. My suspicion is that I am far enough along to add a clean-up crew, but I will retest three more nights before doing so. Thoughts?

    Forgive the dorky edit, but here is a plot showing my n-species profiles. minor ammonia spike, followed by a minor nitrite spike and then a larger nitrate spike. the second ammonia spike coincided with the shrimp addition. again, i suspect that I am cycled, but will wait a few more days. ncycle.jpg

  9. #9
    Curious Reefer
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Location
    California, US
    Posts
    11
    Thanks
    0
    Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts
    Quick update on this evening's chemistry: ammonia and nitrites sitting nicely at below detect. Nitrates climbed back a little to 20ppm. My thought is to do a large water change tomorrow to bring the nitrates down and then stock a clean-up crew on the weekend?

  10. #10
    Grand Master Reefer CarmieJo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    Raleigh, NC
    Posts
    14,980
    Blog Entries
    4
    Thanks
    69
    Thanked 179 Times in 166 Posts
    I agree, you have probably cycled. Nitrates of 20 won't hurt hardy corals inverts. I'm actually a fan of adding some hardy corals first but wouldn't argue against inverts. However, in my opinion you should not go out and buy a "60 gallon clean up crew." You don't need all those critters at this point. I'd pick up a few snails, hermits, emerald crabs, etc. Your calcium is pretty high, are you dosing Ca or is it all from your salt mix?
    Carmie


    Only disasters happen fast!





    Carmie's 54 Corner Tank
    Carmie's Cube


    Show people you value their advice! Click the STAR icon at the bottom of the post to add to their reputation.

  11. #11
    Curious Reefer
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Location
    California, US
    Posts
    11
    Thanks
    0
    Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts
    Yeah the calcium has me a little puzzled - I use actual ocean water from out here (live in LA and there is a company that pumps it from deep off of the coast, away from pollution), so no additional source from that. The only potential sources in my tank are LR and LS, because I am not dosing.

    Thanks for the advice on the cleanup crew and I agree that starting slow is better - that was my intention - a single coral banded shrimp, couple of blue legged hermits and a few snails. The goal is to make my reef Caribbean species only - corals, inverts, fish, the lot - which brings some challenges (availability etc) but I think is a fun way to populate a tank and likely brings some benefits from undocumented symbiotic advantages.

    Thanks again for your feedback on this thread, it is greatly appreciated.

  12. #12
    Expert Reefer Stevej72's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Location
    Connecticut
    Posts
    415
    Thanks
    1
    Thanked 1 Time in 1 Post
    How long is the ocean water in storage between harvest and use?
    Some friends of mine in the hobby have had problems with high nitrates in natural sea water that was stored too long, one resulting in the total loss of his 90 gallon reef. Not that it will happen with yours just something to watch for.

  13. #13
    Curious Reefer
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Location
    California, US
    Posts
    11
    Thanks
    0
    Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts
    good question, and I honestly dont know the answer. Good to be aware of and will probably motivate me to test my source water (which I am yet to do). Thanks for the advice.

Thread Information

Users Browsing this Thread

There are currently 1 users browsing this thread. (0 members and 1 guests)

Similar Threads

  1. Replies: 0
    Last Post: 11-09-2012, 07:39 PM
  2. Fixing an Acrylic Tank
    By Bradman0822 in forum General Marine Discussions
    Replies: 3
    Last Post: 08-11-2009, 07:52 PM
  3. Wanted-Acrylic Tank
    By Dragonwolf in forum Want to Buy
    Replies: 0
    Last Post: 11-16-2008, 08:53 AM
  4. Acrylic Seahorse Tank
    By JustDavidP in forum Member Tank Projects
    Replies: 8
    Last Post: 03-07-2007, 07:51 AM
  5. Cheapest acrylic tank?
    By Timanator in forum Marine Tank Problems
    Replies: 3
    Last Post: 12-21-2006, 09:30 PM

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •