Finally got approval from the wife to have a "fish tank"

Jimmy55002000

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Hello everybody,

I have been researching reef tanks for almost 2 years. It started off with a spark of interest on octos, now I have moved on to the cuttlefish because of it's breeding capabilities. I would like to say thank you to every member of this site who have made my research incredibly easy.

I am not a cheapskate, but I am pretty much too poor to have such an expensive hobby right now, but I always find a way to get what I want and I want a reef tank. I have never encountered something that I couldn't build. I have a stack of drawings on my desk and a stack of crumpled paper in the garbage, all the math has been worked out and I am starting to see the sketches pop off the paper.

Initial construction is planned to begin in a few months.

--the tank design I settled on is a plywood/acrylic, 77 gal, 30 inch high aquarium. I know *scoff*, just wait for pics. but I say a tank should be more about functionality than how much we paid for it... And I will make it look pretty awesome.

--leftover acrylic will be used for my in sump, dual chamber ca reactor.

-- I am planning on using a sump skimmer and live rock for filtration. (I wanted to make my live rock, I want it to be one big piece that goes all the way to the top and fits snug against the back of the aquarium, providing a small cliff with many nooks and crannies). Any thoughts on cement/aragonite live rock and filtration?

All the normal equipment like pumps, powerheads and whatever else will also be mildly custom.

One other thing I would like to bring up, has anybody ran a tank with only one larger main pump, branching off to supply water to all the other components. I will start working on a design for that, but I would feel better buying one $400 pump and relying on only one to run continuously. You couldn't get away with only one pump, but one large one and a couple of cheapos to run other (not so important systems) seems possible.

I would also like a refugium and a tank(s) to breed feeders.

Like I said, this will be a invert tank. I don't care what they eat, but I would like to provide them with a colorful array of foods as cheaply as possible.

I also have some clever Ideas to reduce water/pump sounds to (what I will believe will be) almost 0.

My goal is to complete set of plans and come up with new ideas to create a one-of-a-kind tank that runs more efficiently.

I settled on LED lighting, but has anybody come across a timed dimmer, so the lights don't just flip on and off?



Thanks guys and gals,

Jim
 

Lmecher

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Welcome to Tonmo!
I too am "newish" to octopus keeping but I have appx. 5-6 years of reef keeping under my belt. I understand your desire to keep an octopus or cuttles but they are not for beginers. The best advice I can give you is start out with just keeping a saltwater tank for a while. You should start with something a ittle easier or shall we say less forgiving. Get used to testing your parameters, changing water, controlling your PH. There is a lot to keeping a tank stable without adding the added pressure of keeping delicate ceths alive. Reading, researching, talking to other reefers or keepers is no substitute to hands on experience. You are awefully ambitious, and I am gald to have you here. You will learn a lot from the wonderful folks here. Please do slow down a bit, in this hobby nothing good happens fast.
 

DWhatley

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Linda, you stole MY line!

You might want to rethink how you are planning to design your live rock. You didn't mention if you were going to use the implantd bacteria method but I assume you intend for it to be alive from the beginning but even dead rock will eventually grow bacteria and you will want current and water exposure to as much surface area as possible. If you put it flush to the back you lose the whole back side for bacteria growth and risk building up not only nitrates but pockest of poisonous gas from the rotting material that does get back there.

You also need to think about how high you keep the rock as it should never be out of the water. You will need to ensure that the rock height is below your water change drop level. This will depend on the height of your overflow box/bulkhead if you take the water from the sump and the amount of water you pull of the main tank if you siphon from there. I prefer to stir the sand and siphon directly from the main tank so my low water levels are below my overflow at the end of a water change. Additionally, rock in shallow water, close to the lighting will be a major algae grower.

For an octopus, there would be additional concerns about your rock thoughts but cuttles don't climb and don't den.

I envey your intent to use LED lighting. There are expensive controllers available the will fully emulate not only night and day but a moon cycle as well. So far, I have not seen an affordable version.
 

Jimmy55002000

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Good thing to consider the rock being against the back of the tank, I had thought about water being trapped behind my rock, my plan for that was to attach the rock to the back and making an effort of sealing around the entire thing, even on the floor of the tank. I didn't think about poisons getting trapped back there, but I did want to eliminate stagnant water behind the rock. Being a plywood aquarium, I am trying to maximize visibility of the critters by having a tall rock, that provides many hiding places, but it narrow enough to provide for a larger sand bed. The sealing might be a little unreliable, I might have to rethink that one.

I'm with you Lmecher, I wouldn't buy a bunch of cuttles and plop them into my tank to see if I could do it. I am taking this one step at a time, and I am super excited to start, but I will not be the one who kills all my cephs because I got ahead of myself. Right now, I am in the process of design. I have drawings and Ideas, but before I draw everything out on autocad, I want to foresee any problems that I will encounter and correct them before I start on actual plans and lists of materials. So, when I know how to manage my tank, then I will add the creatures I designed the tank for.

I'm also an oceanography and geology major (with 5 years of that under my belt). I would like to design my system according to the dynamics of marine ecosystems so that they are as closely related as possible.
 

DWhatley

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This is going to be a fun project to watch come into being. I hope you will share each step and discuss why you have chosen one configuration over another.

Keep in mind that your critters will need to feel concealed at times (particularly when first introduce) so not being able to see them all the time will enhance the possibility that you will see them more of the time because they will feel safe. If you like the look of coraline algae (I hate it on my glass but it does add color to a tank if you have the equivalent of actinic lighting), you may want to look for a single piece of LR that is heavily coated. It will spread to the artificial to give some of the color you are looking for.

Before you build your rock structure and when you are ready to do a leak check on the tank, fill it with water to your overflow and take out 5 gallons (10 if you are planning on large water changes spread further apart) and mark the water line. You should keep your highest part about 2" below that mark.

You might sneak a peak as some used tanks before going through the effort and expense of a plywood/fiberglass/acrylic. You are likely to find something right now for the same or less money unless you are planning on shaping it unusually. You will have plenty to build with the rest of your plans and the dollar for energy spent on the container might be more enjoyably spent in the rest of the project. The only warning is that you would want a tank that has housed a reef system or someone who knows what medications were used in a FOWLR. Tanks used for FW are very risky because any use of copper may have left traces in the silicon. It is known to leach for years but we have no way to quantify the effects of residual and copper is a major poison to cephs.
 

monty

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:welcome: It sounds like you're doing well with the planning!
 

Jimmy55002000

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Well, I'm afraid that my initial construction date got pushed back... My little lady swiftly retracted her approval tonight. I hate it when she leaves me with the tough decisions. Reef tank or the woman...... Hmmmmm, choices, choices. I think this might be pretty tough.

Not to worry, though. This will happen. I will definitely bring this dream tank into reality with due time. I will post pictures and diagrams. When this finally happens, I will be sure to provide everybody on this site with all the gritty details. Thats half of the fun, isn't it? Constructive criticism?

I have one more question for the time being; I keep hearing about these "self-sustaining" reef tanks. I've been looking into it but I'm not sure what factors determine a reefs sustainability. I plan on going overboard with filtration, is this the key? Or is it what is inside the tank? Is this possible on a smaller (75-100 gal) tanks?

It would be nice to be able to leave the tank for a week without worrying sick about my animals. I might be getting ahead of myself with these questions considering I don't have any hardware, but knowledge is going to be what makes or breaks a good DIY project.

Thanks for the help.
 

Jimmy55002000

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So looking back my original thoughts about how to procure equipment, I realize now that I was going to overkill this project. I didn't realize what kind of resources were at my fingertips! No need to build a tank when my sister had a nice acrylic 55 sitting idle in her garage. I tried to pay, but free is also a good price. I got the Pro Clear 150 skimmer for a steal online (which I haven't heard one bad thing about), aragonite sand, Gen-x 1500 return pump, 2x96w compact florescent lighting, API master test kit, RO/DI filter, and first batch of 50 pound aragocrete rock curing in the basement in a cooler. No LFS within a hundred miles.
For the rock I used portland cement/crushed oyster shells at a ratio of 1;5 and then I used 1;4. The 1;5 looks much better (but both are good). I let the cement cure in a cooler outside for 8 days, then I shook them up in the cooler to let them break up and flake and then submerged them in clean tap water. They are very strong and porous. I think curing the rock is going to be much quicker because I let them sit in hot water for 24 hours, drain then refill with hot water (the cooler keeps the water hot all day). I started off with an air pump in cold water and moved to hot stagnant water. PH and TDS meter spiked immediately and continued to be much higher in the hot water (I test when the water temps of the hot water and cold water would have been at the same temperature). This morning I saw the first significant drop in TDS.
I was going to convert the wet/dry filter into a sump, but it’s going to be too small for what I want, so I’m going to take the much larger cooler that the rock is curing in and throw that under the stand which will keep the tank temperature stable. I’m very exited about that Idea. All I can think about it mounting the sump lights in the lid of the cooler. I also want to find a plastic gas tank for a boat that I can suspend over the sump for an auto top off system.

There it is, moving into the living room… Any ideas or suggestions?

Jim
 

DWhatley

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LOL, I use a plastic boat tank (new with our boat that we made electric so I KNOW no gas has ever been in it) tank for my saltwater holding tank. Ultimately we cut an 8" circle in the top and screwed (nylon screw) on a piece of 10" x 1" x 1" handle and drop through stopper. The need to be cleaned on occasion and without the access it was impractical. Mine only holds about 20 gallons and I wish it were larger but it is a holding tank and not a top off.

The cooler idea for a sump is interesting and it would be nice if you can report on how well it help with maintaining temperature since the top would be open. I am not sure how to quantitatively measure this but recording how often your heater comes on during cold days would give a baseline for others to compare against a glass or acrylic sump.
 

Jimmy55002000

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I hate to even mention it, but I'm only $350 deep... Amazing what results you can get if you mix patience with shopping around. :)

Should be all finished by today, so within a month I will post again and let you know how the cooler is working.

While in Bi-mart I had another cooler idea. Looking at the refrigerated coolers… It looks like it would be very possible if not easy to mount the cooling unit from that into a normal cooler lid where it would stay reasonably dry. Of course, you would need a lid on the cooler sump, but that’s what I plan on accomplishing today. Not sure if It will work, but I have some ideas. I imagine it would be more efficient that a DIY refrigerator chiller, and at $80 for a nice one, much cheaper than a off the shelf chiller. Just thought I would pass my food for thought on to somebody else who might be thinking of DIY chillers.

I might be jumping the gun just a bit, but it seems like a project I will probably invest in this spring. Its either that or move the tank into the basement.
 

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