The 14 Day Project

Printer-friendly versionSend by email

The 14 day Upgrade to a 280g Starfire Reef tank

My Build thread on Warning: It is long and informative.  The information below is compiled in real-time, which is why it reads in the present tense.  The 14 day project lasted from July 20, 2004 - August 2, 2004.

The planning stages

I decided to upgrade to a huge 280g Starfire tank. I'm buying it used from
a club member, and set a goal to set it up in 14 days. The events are documented below to allow others to see how it would be accomplished.

Here are a few images to set the stage. First, the tank is going where my 55g
is currently located, but it'll go in-wall:

The new tank will face the living room, but the right side will be visible too,
so this corner will be cut out so I can view the tank from the end from the

This is the other side of the garage, as you can see it is nowhere near ready.

And this is a shot of the tank I'm getting:


Currently, the tank is on a 40" welded steel stand, which is too tall. The tank
is 36" tall as far as I know, but I'm going to remeasure it.

Lighting is 3x400w 10,000K MH, and 2x(6' long) actinic VHO. What is that wattage,

Return pump is an Ampmaster 4700, and the tank is drilled in the back - halfway
down- for a closed loop. It has dual overflow boxes in the rear corners.

Two Tunze Stream pumps will move help keep the current random. A Lifereef Protein
Skimmer and Calcium Reactor will handle those needs, and of course I'll be using
RO/DI water as always.

The livestock from my 29g and my 55g will end up in this tank, along with all
the LR I have. I believe I have 200 lbs worth currently.

Inside the garage, I'm going to build two interior walls, and insulate them
from the heat of summer / cold of winter. It'll be my little fish room. I do
have to move the water heater, but will have access to water and a drain. That
allows me to put an RO/DI unit in the same room as the tank. I'll keep my other
RO/DI unit in the utility room as we like to make our own drinking water and
it is handy.

My plan is to add an A/C duct to the ceiling of the fish room, and a vent fan
(similar to those used in a bathroom). I may set up that fan on a thermo-sensor.
Another idea is a window unit to cool the room, and create a plenum that would
vent all the hot air of the window A/C right up into the attic area. I don't
really like that option, because window units are not very energy efficient.

Access will be from the fishroom, but also from the front. Currently, I have
no plans to access the lower section from the front. I need to remeasure the
tank again so I can design the new platform/stand and make sure it is strong

Week One

Day 1 - Tuesday, 7/20/04

Here's what got done this evening.

Moving the outlets will be a breeze, and the other stuff can be relocated relatively

I don't know what will happen with my 29g. In a way, it is its own legacy, and
I thought about using it as a quarantine system, but how many quarantines do
you know of with a skimmer, PC lighting, closed loop w/ SCWD, sump and refugium?

Since I can't do computer rendering, what I'm about to describe will require
your imagination to follow along. Accesss to the tank will be from the living
room side and from the garage of course.

My plan is to create a lighting rack that will be supported on the ends. These
ends will have 3 wheels each, rolling in a track. A stop will be built into
the track.

With the canopy door opened, I will be able to push the lighting forward from
inside the garage, to gain access to the rear of the tank and still see. From
the front of the tank, I'll be able to push the rack away from me and into the

With the wheels evenly spaced, the center wheel would hit the stop either direction,
to prevent the rack from rolling too far outward. Just getting 12" of space
from either end should do nicely.

My plan is to create a mantle of sorts, which will wrap arond the front and
side of the tank. It'll only stick out 6" to 8", and help hide the
front edge of the sand bed. Plus it'll give me a spot to put a drink down, or
rest my elbows during picture taking. Just a handy shelf.

The top canopy door will also be some type of woodwork that wraps around the
front and side, but only the front will open. I'd actually like that door to
lift up and slide in, but I may just lift up and lock it in place instead.

Using the lighting box on wheels method, I'll probably create a box with highly
polished aluminum, so I won't be blinded when opening the door.


Day 2 - Wednesday, 7/21/04

Okay, just got done with the water heater project. Whew!!!

While it was draining, I went and got all new CPVC plumbing fittings, as well
as more wiring for the water heater since its location further away. I'm trying
to avoid any trips up into the attic at this point if possible.

While the water heater was accessible, I went ahead and cleaned out the waste
at the base:

We are supposed to do this yearly. This is the sediment that accumulates over
time, probably by the calcium deposits that form on the heating elements. I
really don't know what causes it precisely, but I do know it builds up in the
base of our heaters, and eventually it can build up so high that the element
fails. Where I used to live, the water quality was so bad that I could fill
up a 5 gallon bucket with what looked like Crushed Coral substrate!

I've lived here for a few years, and this wasn't really that much sediment,
but the water is so much better here.

Next, I cut out the old copper plumbing, and sweated on some new connections
the convert to CPVC. You can see the three stages in this picture. The middle
is the drain line for when the water heater's Temperature & Pressure Relief
Valve blows.

Here is a picture of the new plumbing running along the front of the wall. I
left enough space to slide in the sheetrock later. I'll also put insulation
in the spaces, to dampen any sound.

This is where the plumbing goes to the water heater. I have a plan but I don't
know if it will work. If it doesn't, I'll just cap it off. My idea was that
I'd use the cold water line going to the water heater for an RO/DI unit. The
waste water can go down the tall drainpipe.

However, two things have occured since I made this transition. #1) when I tested
the TPRV on the heater, water did come out the top of the pipe, which I hoped
would not. Solution? Put a cap on it, and thread in a John Guest fitting so
the drainline will push water down the line, but not have the water heater push
water out the top and spray water all over the fish room. #2) I only discovered
this evening that the drain leads to a spot on my patio, so if I did run my
RO/DI unit, waster water would always be flowing across the concrete.

So, I'll have to do some thinking about this. Of course, because my RO/DI unit
is only about 25 feet away from this spot, I could run a piece of tubing through
the attic and into the fish room for easy access.

And finally, this is the junction box where the old 220v and the new 220v lines
connect. The old wiring is stranded aluminum, the new is single-strand copper.
I used some anti-oxidant in the wire nuts.

Next step is to make the cut-out in the wall, and build the stand so I can sheetrock.
I'll use the green sheetrock as it can handle moisture better.

From reading a few comments today I learned that screwing down the platform
is wise. Thanks!

A number of club members have volunteered to help move the new tank into its
location this Sunday, so I can't sit on my hands and do nothing.

My goal at this point is to have as much done as possible so that we can slide
the tank in place and refill it with the water.

I will be strapping the plumbing in place, once the sheetrock
is in. I'll insulate the pipe as well. It was insulated in the wall with a black
foam tubing, and I'll just put on the same for the CPVC. Btw, I did talk with
a plumber about using this for my water heater, and specifically discussed the
hot, the cold, and the drain line. I was assured these will be fine. Hopefully
they will be, because it'll be a real drag having to crawl under the tank one
day, if necessary.

Accidentally, I set off the panic alarm with my keyfob. After
the police showed up and all was well, a funny moment occured while we were
talking about the possibility of a forced entry. He told me that up the street
something had occured, and at first thought this call was about the same location.
Then he asked me if there were any noise complaints. Perplexed, I told him I
didn't have a problem with anyone and that they were all nice and quiet. He
meant were my neighbors annoyed with my remodel!!!! I told him you can't make
that much noise running wiring and gluing plumbing together. He smiled and told
me when I turn on my circuit breaker again, then the fireworks will go off.

I used to be a trim carpenter for a couple of years, and I
asked my friend to come over this Saturday to discuss the canopy and mantle
ideas I have in mind. I'm hoping he'll give me some good feedback.


Day 3 - Thursday, 7/22/04

The 55g is moved out of the way.

First I removed the canopy and all the associated wiring, so that it wouldn't
be top-heavy. Then I drained the sump of all the water I could, plus at least
half the water from the display. This took about 5 minutes, using a pump.

Next, I had a helper put their foot againt the baseboard and pull on the stand
near the base on one end. I stood in front of the tank, and lifted slightly
at the cabinet opening on the same end. We worked it out about 10", then did
the same at the opposite end. By my lifting a little bit, he was able to pull
the stand and tank toward the living room without stressing the stand. It is
now about 2' from the wall. This took about 5 minutes, btw.

Here's the back of the 55g. This should answer all those questions about plumbing

The tank was refilled quickly, by pumping water into a cup so that the force
would not displace the stand or distress the corals further.

Here it is with the canopy back on, and the lights plugged back in. One of the
MH was still warming up, so it looks a bit yellow on the left.

And the wall is ready to mark and cut out now. Moving the tank took about 30
minutes, tops.

I talked with Mitch at InterAmerican (where it was built) about
this tank, and he told me to use the pink foam sheet available at Home Depot.
Plywood top, then foam. When I told him the tank has been directly on the steel
frame since day one, he was shocked.

I sure hope this tank won't let me down, after being set up incorrectly for
8 months.


Day 4 - Friday, 7/23/04

Alright, the hole is cut, and the stand is 95% done.

First I tarped off the area so that the dust wouldn't affect the 55g. This is
cheap 1 mm 9' x 12' drop cloth, and worked great:

Then after drawing the opening on the wall, the first piece was cut out.

Todd, a new club member and a custom home builder by trade came over to help
this evening, and after we got part of the platform done, it was time to eat.
This is where we were at that point:

Then I measured again, and found that after the tank is installed, I'd only
have 10" of space above the tank, and I wanted 12". So Todd recut the sheetrock,
and after he was done, it was capped with a 2x4.

Here's what the stand looks like. The frame is made of 2x6 whitewood, and the
uprights (or cripples) are 2x4 yellow pine.

And here is the upper section.

Tomorrow, I need to finish up the platform, because I ran out of 2x6s and need
two more. I'll reroute the wiring that you see in the way, install the plywood
top and get to sheetrocking.

Now I know a number of you will tell me the stand isn't strong enough, but it
isn't finished. I ran 3 2x6's across the back section, because I really do NOT
want an upright in the center because the sump goes there. However, I may make
an upright that can be inserted for safety measure, and if necessary to remove
it, I could use a small jack to lift the stand slightly to get it back out.

The front of the platform will get two more 2x6's and a piece of 1/2" plywood,
to reach the full 30". Because the tank sticks out of the wall 3", I've decided
to put two uprights under the 2x6's, at each end, and then I will wrap them
with columns when the trimwork is done.

The wiring has been moved. I didn't have time
to reply to some of the comments on Reef Central because I'm up to my eyebrows
in insulation fibers, saw dust, and sheetrock dust!

Here are the latest images. As I stated, the electrical was finished off. I
have two circuits running to this spot, and at this point you'll only see two
outlets. Each outlet is its own circuit, and I plan to get those DJ power centers
that are all the rage in '04! That is why you don't see 20 boxes all over the
place awaiting the equipment cords. I'll probably put them all on one panel,
but after the tank is in. The two outlets are to the right side of the tank,
not the blue boxes at the top.

The insulation is in, the wiring routed, the alarm panel relocated (THANKS BRANDON!!!),
the phone wiring removed.

Also, for those of you worried about the furr-down section, I went ahead and
talked to another framing genius, and he recommended in this application to
put 3" screws in each upright. By securing them to the double-headers, it'll
avoid sagging. While doing so, I noticed one double plate had separated, but
one screw pulled everything up nicely. So I put three more screws just in case!

I finished the platform. You know how we always over do it? I think I did as
well. Because the tank will stick into the room a couple of inches, and because
I had no room to pull it into the garage any further due to the adjacent doorway,
I added another 3.5" of wood across the front. That puts three 2x6's across
the front, plus a sheet of 1/2" plywood as a spacer. And there are three across
the back. The ends are made up of two 2x6's, and there are two cross braces
evenly spaced in the middle section (every 22").

I still need to add a couple of 2x4s as legs on the front, in each corner facing
the living room. Those I will wrap with fluted columns, which will accenting
the mantle that will be in front of the tank. I'll be able to put things down
in front of the tank, like a beer.

I know you can't see the front edge well, but it is pretty darn hot outside
and I use this plastic to trap the a/c in the house.


Here you can see (a little) how far the front of the tank will stick out of
the wall when you walk in. Roughly 2", but the mantle will be about 5" or 6"
out from the front of the tank.



And just for fun, I thought I'd show you my new culture of phytoplankton brewing.
I started these about 4 days ago from the algae disks from Florida Aqua Farms.
I'm looking forward to growing my phtyo in the new fish room!


I've been meaning
to share this little tidbit about the water heater project that was mentioned
earlier in this thread. When copper plumbing is run to a water heater, typically
it is threaded onto galvanized threaded pipe. Due to the differences in metal,
it is required (recommended) to use di-electric unions. This does something
beneficial, although I've never taken the time to find out what. It was good
enough for me to know you needed it and thus I'm familiar with them.

Anyway, when I removed the fittings from
the water heater, the di-electric union that the hot water passes through was
completely solid! You couldn't see through the hole like you could on the coldwater
side. When I pressed on that smooth surface, it wouldn't budge. After unscrewing
the galvanized pipe and holding it up to the sunlight, I could barely make out
a few tiny spots of light through that obstruction. It's hard to believe I was
getting any hot water all this time. Although I have all new fittings now, I
really can't tell the difference. Still, I thought it was interesting and if
some of you plan to rinse out your water heater of the sediment, you might as
well check those pipes on the top as well, to see if all is clear and working.


Day 5 - Saturday, 7/24/04

Okay, did I mention how much I hate sheetrocking?!

Done at 5:45 am.

Of course, I had to get around the plumbing. A special cut indeed.

Metal edges.... need to put one in that upper corner.

I drilled the holes where the overflow boxes will be, but haven't cut them out

Time to go tape and bed.

Three hours later, the final three pictures for this morning. 8:48

All the tape and bedding is done.

Later this afternoon, it'll be bone dry and ready for paint. I'm not going to
worry about sanding it smooth, nor texturing. That is too messy and simply not
needed in this application.

You can see the holes that are cut out for the overflow drains.

Later that day... I just got the paint, so I'm off to get things ready
for tomorrow. I also rented a U-haul truck to make the tank move easier, hopefully.

I just finished painting the walls, platform and support system. Everything
is gloss white.

Once the tank is in place, the edge of the wall on the left
will be visible through the side panel, especially when viewing it from the
kitchen side. So I bought a small can of black exterior gloss paint to cover
the 4.5" x 30.5" area that would be seen. I will probably not clean
the glass on that end, and didn't want a white vertical stripe showing through
the glass.

Or perhaps I'll have the opportunity to take pictures from
that side, assuming I have the room and equipment out of the way. I will cover
the area of the side panel that is in the fish room with black acrylic or cellocast
(black plastic sign material). That way I can remove it when necessary.

Here's a couple of pictures, now that it has been painted.

And the CPVC is now supported finally. I'll probably add more brackets later.
How could I insulate these? They hug the wall and the brackets would be too
small. Is there any need since they won't be exposed to the elements?

Once the tank is in place, I can go ahead and put up the new walls that will
isolate the room from the garage area. More sheetrock, more tape & bedding,
more painting... and I guess more wiring too. Might as well make the wall handy.

A few hours later, near midnight... This was very
aggravating. I already cleaned up everything, and just needed to put a final
coat of black paint on the edge of the opening that faces the tank wall. So
I wouldn't splatter the platform, I put a section of newspaper there to catch
any drips. When I set down the full quart of black paint on the newspaper, it
fell right through the overflow box opening and dumped 90% of the contents all
over the concrete, the new white paint on two walls, and the door entering the
garage from the kitchen.

For what should have taken 2 minutes tops, I ended up spending
over any hour trying to clean up that black morass. The tint in that stuff is
not to be toyed with, I assure you.

It could have been worse, I suppose. I could have dropped the
can on my carpeting.... I repainted the stained areas, and the floor looks better.


Day 6 - Sunday, 7/25/04: The tank moves in today!

I'm over here, waiting for the tank move to begin.

Final shots:

You can see how I painted the edges of the walls that will be up against the tank. The one on the left is the only one that needed it, as the one on the right will be up against the back of the overflow. Since I don't really want/need algae growing in the overflow, I painted it black as well.


Many hours later, a quick summation...the tank is in place and filled
up as far as I dared (almost to the locline connections on the overflows).


We did so much today, and at times I thought someone was literally going to
be killed by this tank, but it has tons of promise. I took a lot of pictures,
except during the move because it took all 8 of us to carry this beast.


A few club members came over after the tank was in place, and helped with more

More sand was added, but it is only about 2" deep currently.
The fish are still in a trashcan of water (they came with the tank) and I dropped
in some flake food about 20 minutes ago, which they all ate hungrily. I'll probably
have to change the water in there tomorrow!

What else....(5 minutes until the backup)... Evan took the
time to clean the tank inside, and used a cool little gizmo made by "Dawn"
(the dish soap). It is available at Walgreens, and is battery powered. Completely
submersible, it cleaned off the glass including coralline. Best $8 ever spent,
as there was no risk of scratching. The brush at the top of the device rotates,
and the top-most bristles are stiff enough for coralline. Here's a
thread about it

The U-haul truck has to go back in a few hours. (yawn!)

Here is the more detailed recollection of the day's events...Moving
this tank was a huge challenge, and even with all the preparation on my part,
it still was overwhelming. I want to thank all the club members that joined
in this effort - André(Dré), Chris(marine_noob), Chris (phaux), Brian (BrianC.),
Barry (bfonc1), Todd (patteto), Evan (Quiksilver) - you guys are the best!!!!

These guys worked so hard, and never complained once.

When we got to the house where the tank was, it had to be disassembled and the
water drained. We brought a bunch of trash cans and barrels to take the water
to my house, as well as the steel frame, canopy, and wood panels.

Barry focused on disconnection all the plumbing parts, so when it was time to
put it back together late last night, it was quite a jigsaw puzzle.

About 30 or 40 lbs of LR were pulled out by Brian, and kept submerged in one
of the trashcans with tank water. Evan and others drained the tank into container
after container, and barrels of water will filled up on the Uhaul. When the
tank was down to about 4 or 5" of water, I got out a large net and caught all
the fish. There are 5 tangs - a (blonde?) Naso, 2 Hippo Tangs with yellow bellies,
a purple tang, and a Powder Blue Tang. Additionally, I got a female blue Mandarin,
a lawnmower blenny, a clownfish (not sure if it is a true or false percula yet,
as I never looked at it closely), a small Australian (something) that was trapped
in an overflow), two bangai cardinals, and a golden eel. Here's a picture of
the eel from a few weeks ago.

Once all the fish were in a barrel of tank water, we took all the water, fish
and LR to my house. After getting an airstone each trashcan with livestock,
we went back for the tank.

The tank was up on a 40" steel stand, and the 8 of us discussed how we would
pick it up and carry it. One thing you don't think about with a used tank is
how slippery they are to hold onto, due to water and salt creep. Carefully sliding
it forward, everyone was very careful to keep all their fingers safe, we were
able to get it off the stand and onto some 2x4's on the floor.

At this point, I really should have used furniture dollies, but I was afraid
that the massive weight pressing on those dollies would act like pressure points
and break the base of the tank. That is why I decided to use man-power instead.

We picked it up and made our way across the room and to the open front door,
which were double doors so there was a big opening to go out. However,
the trick was getting through a very narrow hallway as you pivoted out the front
doors, and that is when we ran into real trouble. There simply wasn't room for
men to be on the sides of the tank, which put all of the weight on 4 guys, two
on each end. The rest of us scrambled to squeeze in where we could, but muscles
were straining and eyes grew wide with the realization that it was growing heavier
by the second with all 8 people helping. Some of us used our thighs to support
the tank while others attempted to help. I know that I've got a bruise on my
thigh, and Evan proudly showed me his. ("Chicks dig scars!" he says) Chris quickly
crawled under the tank to get to the other end to help support it, but it was
just too much!

At this point, I really worried it was about to be dropped by one or more of
us, and someone would be crushed, or their bone(s) be broken by the weight and
mass of this 72" x 30" x 30" tank.

Quickly we agreed to lower it, which was a real feat of control, considering
how worn out we were - adrenaline was already used up. We were able to set it
down gently across the threshold, where it teeter-tottered and all of us could
remove our fingers safely. whew!!!

We took a break and planned our next move. About 10 minutes later, we summoned
the strength to tackle it again, and pivoted the tank across the threshold of
the doorway so that we all had room to pick it up at once. All we had to do
was pick it up, and carry it forward about 14 feet and slide it into the back
of the U-haul truck. 1, 2, 3! it was lifted up, but it wasn't nearly as heavy
as it was in the corner situation. We moved it onto the truck, setting it on

Then we went back for the glass sump. The sump is 48 x 18 x 18, and built with
1/2" glass. It took four of us to pick it up, and get it into the truck. Btw,
I hate the sump and you can bet I'll make a much nicer one that will do the
job well.

Chris and Barry used their trucks to carry the canopy, woodwork
and steel stand.

When we got back to my house, the first thing we did was all guzzle down some
nice cold RO water. Next, we struggled with that stupid sump again, and got
it under the new platform. (sigh)

Again, we mapped out how we would carry the tank and insert it into position.
We moved more stuff out of the garage to make sure we had plenty of maneuvering
space, and now 9 of us brought it in, as John joined the group with fresh strong

Even though I intentionally left the foam sheet oversized in case it moved,
and even though we put soapy water on the surface so the tank wouild slide,
the sheet moved forward and there was nothing we could do to put it where it
needed to be. So we cut some small pieces to fit in the spaces where there was
none, and then pushed the tank into its final spot.


Again, I want to thank all of you that helped move my dream tank. Evan decided
to stay and volunteered to clean the tank. As noted above, he was able to use
the "Dawn" scrubber, as well as plastic scrapers and sometimes metal ones. Because
the tank was dry, he would spray a spot with tank water with a spray bottle,
then scrub or scrape away the algae. Here is the
thread about the cleaning tool
, along with a link to the product's image.

Meanwhile, John rinsed out three buckets of live sand that came out of a 120g
yesterday. I didn't want to chance phosphates being released into my new system,
so he poured some of the LS into a bucket and ran water through it until it
ran clear. All this rinsed sand was added to the LS that came with the tank,
and stirred up. There is probably 2.5" of sand in the tank now.

At this point, Kaveh came over and started cleaning all the equipment. He cleaned
the Tunze Streams, the LifeReef skimmer, the Durso standpipes and returns, locline,
etc. Working over the sink with various instruments including dental tools,
he proudly produced nice clean parts - ready to use again.

One thing we discovered during the move was that the bulkheads had to be replaced.
While the guys were cleaning, I drove to Brad's house to get new bulkheads,
then to Home Depot to get all new plumbing for the drains, returns, and closed

Evan found all kinds of snails that were transferred into the fish barrel.

For the next couple of hours, we fought with the bulkheads
to get a good dry seal. I swear I need to invent the perfect wrench for those
wretched things, because they are a reefer's nightmare!

Unfortunately, I didn't have all the right pieces for the plumbing, so the return
pump (Ampmaster 3000) was not hooked up. I'll buy new parts today, so that tonight
I can get everything circulating.

Kaveh and Evan filled the tank up with as much water as possible, without passing
the locline connections. As long as no water goes in the overflows right now,
the garage will stay dry.

The skimmer wasn't working properly, but after a good soaking in hot water and
vinegar, it was disassembled for cleaning. Scott (Scotty's_reef) came over and
helped with that little project. Thanks Scott! A weird thing that I discovered
was that the intake to the pump was really clogged. It turned out there was
a rubber hose washer in the intake of the pump, blocking at least 80% of the
water from getting in. How weird is that? I can't even imagine how or why such
a washer would be in a reef setup, let along get sucked into the intake of a
Mag pump.

Now that everything was clean and ready to use, I set up the skimmer in the
display to help clear the water. Here's what it looks like currently.

It is on a terra cotta pot to elevate it, but it created a great foam tower
immediately, and has been skimming for the past 6 hours. Running a drainline
from the collection cup to a trashcan behind the tank, about 1" of water has
been removed.

Meanwhile, the fish are all fine from what I can see. About 3am, I fed them
some flake food and they all seemed to eat with excitement. I have an airstone
bubbling, a small powerhead and a heater (78F) keeping them happy for now. Hopefully
tonight's plumbing will get done and they'll go back into the tank.

The tank was never cloudy, due to the method we used to add the water to the
tank. I secured a cup to the end of a 1" hose. Kaveh brought trashcan after
trashcan of water to the tank and Evan use a Rio to pump water into the tank.
Here's a picture of some of the 280g of water. The blue barrels hold 55g each.

With a large serving platter on the substrate, the water would pump into the
cup and overflow gently onto the platter. You could see the back of the tank
within the first 30 minutes of filling up the tank.

Here is a picture of the canopy and stand that came with the tank. I'll be using
the stand as a workbench for building sumps. The lighting turned out to be 3x250w,
not 3x400w. And one bulb was shattered before we arrived to pick up the tank.
It looks like the lighting was splashed repeatedly with the return lines, because
the former owner didn't want too much water to siphon out when the return pump
was off. We drilled holes in the return lines to avoid that problem.

Btw, the ballasts are IceCap for the 250w. Does anyone know how to determine
which bulbs will work with it? XM? Ushio? The bulbs I have have only one marking
- "250w MH" Not too helpful.

So now you are up to date, assuming I haven't bored you with the details.


Day 7 - Monday, 7/26/04

I'm going to have to go to work again. This evening the tank
was plumbed and the fish were put back into the display.

The return pump is a Dolphin Ampmaster 4700. Yesterday, I took it apart to clean
it, and found a whelk stuck in the impellar section. I wasn't able to remove
the impellar itself (is that even an option?), so I cleaned what I could reach,
and reassembled it. From the top of the pump, I'm using 1.5" Spa-Flex tubing.
I put a ball valve on the return side to avoid too much flow. Here's a shot
of it running.

By using Spa-Flex, I was able to put things where they'd work best without the
rigidity of PVC. The tubing makes a soft curve that kills into a 1.5" Tee. The
Tee is in the center section of the tank so that both returns get the same amount
of water volume.

From the Tee, I continued with 1.5" plumbing until it reaches right beneath
the return lines in the tank. At that point, I reduced the fittings to 1". Through
an 90° elbow, into a 45° and then straight up in the tank until it reaches the
locline tubing.

The drain lines are tied together, and are 1.5" plumbing that drain into the
sump. The Ampmaster 3000 puts out so much flow that the drain lines actually
did not keep up so the ball valve has been turned slightly to reduce the flow.

I haven't tackled the closed loop yet. The Tunze Streams aren't working, but
I've got a thread in the Tunze Forum going. One Stream pump is soaking overnight
in vinegar water, in case something is impeding the impellars rotation. I can't
figure it out yet.

Due to the nature of this sump, there is absolutely no way to put the skimmer
in there and have it function properly. For now, it is set up behind the tank
and flowing into the sump. I'm trying to dial it in so it will start removing
the particulates in the water.

Once the pump was started up, the tank grew cloudy very quickly. At first, this
was due to microbubbles but after adding all the rest of the water it was still
cloudy. My guess is that this is sediment/detritus from the original sandbed
that was laying on the surface undisturbed after the move. Once the skimmer
kicks in, it should come out nicely. This is one of the rare times that I think
a "sock" would be very useful.

Up until now, you've only seen the tank from various head-on angles. Here's
one from the top. Note the heavy current, using only the two returns. (No Stream
pumps, no closed loop)

I love that there is no center brace. The Eurobracing is 3/4" glass and this
is the same thickness as what was used for the base of the tank. The walls are

If the lights were over the tank you could see the fish better, but for now
I see the Tangs appear and disappear as they come closer to the walls of the

As far as I can tell, all the fish are eating. The tank runs relatively silently
from the front side, but the sound in the garage side is louder. Watching the
water shoot through the sump is simply impressive. For some reason, the water
in the return section is rocking back and forth like the new Tunze WaveBox,
which is really weird.

Tomorrow, the other walls go up so I can trap the heat in the garage area. Luckily,
a cold front blew in on Sunday, but we will hit the mid 90s on Wednesday. Once
the walls are done, I'm going to tackle the lighting.

The back of the tank seems to have some type of black background,
more than just a paint. I'm not going to try removing it at this point. I may
ask Mitch what it is, in case anyone asks me.

I didn't want to clean the tank with muriatic acid because
I didn't want to create a cycle. The LS was left in the tank, as there was only
1", and all the coralline algae was scrubbed and chipped back into the
water. After a few hours, the majority of the water was pumped back into the
tank, and there are no detectable NO3 readings currently. Plus, I had people
like Evan that offered to clean the glass excitedly, while I ran across town
getting plumbing parts. Evan was very proud of how clean the glass was, and
I was proud of him doing so with nary a scratch.

The black acrylic covers are an idea from Weatherson on
I won't have to drill a hole for the durso cap, because mine don't come up that
high. For some reason, InterAmerican put some black eggcrate on edge, glued
on top of the overflows (2 squares high) to act as teeth. I'd like to simple
remove those and let the water flow through smoothly, and put the black acrylic
horizontally on top of the opening with a 1/2" to 3/4" gap perhaps.

I received a question about my feeding technique:
I feed the pureed food every day, between 8:30 to 9:30 pm. The fish know my
schedule. Well, my two existing reefs do, the new guys look hungry all the time
and I have such a soft spot for them in my heart that I'm having a hard time
not feeding them tons. 5 tangs and all the other new fish - I don't know how
much to put in there! With my 2 reef tanks and my son's 29g, I break of a small
piece smaller than a Reese's Butter Cup (and not as thick), and thaw that in
the microwave in some water for 10 seconds. Then I take a fork to break it up
so it thaws quickly. I fork in the larger chunks into all three tanks. Then
I go back to my 2 reef tanks, and pour in the liquid food that the fork didn't
pull out so that all the livestock has a chance to eat the tiny stuff. This
has worked well for me for a long time.

Phyto is fed every other day. Since you are starting from scratch,
you feed a little bit at first, then in two days, feed again with a little bit
more. You'll keep increasing the amount until you reach your maximum level.
On my 55g I feed 1 cup of phyto every other day. Since your tank is a 135, you'd
probably feed 2.5 to 3 cups every other day. Of course, your population isn't
as dense as my 55g. I would start with 1 cup, then 1.5, then 2, then 2.5. From
then on, 2.5 cups.

It's a good idea that you grow your own, because that much
phyto is costly.

Btw, if you are buying DT's phytoplankton, it is much more
concentrated. 2 tablespoons of DT's is the same as 1 cup of home-grown, ime.

Back to the project... Today the walls went up. I
was hoping to have it sheetrocked in, but the walls took forever to go in, because
nothing in my garage is square or true. It was very frustrating, as the ceiling
has many major issues and we had to make adjustments for just about every board.
It would have been nice to just build two walls on the driveway, bring them
into the garage and secure them, but that wasn't possible. Even the garage floor
is sloped, but I'm pretty sure that is intentional so that those that desire
to wash their garages out once a year can do so.

Then when everything started working out well, the 2x4's were too short. Back
to Home Depot. I was able to take back the extra plumbing fittings I didn't
need, and the credit I obtained equaled the amount the longer 2x4's cost.

Evan and Kaveh spent the evening helping me get the walls in, and put one more
piece of sheetrock on the fish room ceiling. I framed the door opening to fit
a 32" door (opening is 36" x 83" - so any framers out there can confirm that
was correct?), with a header and cripples... pretty much the works. Overkill
I know, but if the ceiling comes down around me, that door frame and corner
will be my salvation.

My son Phillip took all the lights and fans off the old canopy. Scott came over
around that time, and offered to help. He went ahead and rewired the two 6'
actinic VHOs and we put these over the tank so we could see in there. The 55g's
MH has been lighting up the front of the 280g nicely, but it was nice to have
some light shining down from above.

All the fish are doing well, and the fighting conch was rescued from a predicament
he was in and now is submerged in a nice sandy spot. There are still a lot of
microbubbles, and I had to pause and remember the advice I've been giving out
for some time now: "new plumbing takes 2 weeks to slime over and break in."
I'm sure it will be fine. The sand is really moving around with the little bit
of LR that was put in the tank.

For those of you that liked the Golden Eel, I'm pleased to report that it did
eat a piece of deli shrimp that I put in the tank near him. I was told he would
only eat from his feeding tongs, which are broken and ancient history. I took
a small piece of shrimp and thought I'd be able to lower it near the eel with
a piece of rigid airline tubing, but it didn't hold. So I held it in my fingers,
and swished it in the water for a few seconds, waited 10 seconds, and did it
again. My son's tiny eel came out into the open, so I gave the shrimp to it.
I put it right near where its head was, and watched. The little snowflake eel
took the piece in his mouth and pulled it back out of sight to eat in privacy.
Now that I had no food for the big Golden eel, I went to the kitchen to get
another thawed piece (I was feeding the BTAs as well, so it was ready.) When
I came back, the Golden Eel's body was visible, but his head was in the area
that the snowflake had gone. I watched, and the eel went in deeper. Not knowing
who would win that one, I put another piece of shrimp in the same spot I put
the first, and watched closely. The Golden eel backed out and literally smelled
the new piece of food. Then it pulled back and smelled the rock nearby, then
a snail shell, then the food again. After about 90 seconds, it finally determined
that piece of shrimp must be dinner, and he gulped it down. His neck was mishapen
for a few seconds, then it did this thrusting swallow. I was happy to see it
eat anything, because I was told it eats silversides and had not had anything
for a week. Now if it coughed it back up later, I don't know. I'm hoping for
the best.

So here are a few pictures. This is the IceCap ballast we've been discussing.
It is a 250w MH ballast, and I have three of them.

Here's Evan perched on the ladder. You can see the Actinic
VHOs glowing above the tank. They are sitting on the glass euro-bracing, and
can't fall in. The VHOs use an IceCap 430 ballast.

Kaveh loves power tools, and helped cut all the boards for the walls. He enjoyed
using the framing gun too. As you can see, the garage is so full of stuff that
we hardly have room to work. I can't wait for it to be done so I can get things
organized and recover the lost space.

And here I am, not looking at my best. This was a very frustrating job, but
it is ready to sheetrock. For those of you looking too closely at the studs,
remember this is not a load bearing section and that the house has trusses.
I just need to stop the external temperature of the garage from affecting the

The room is roughly 8' x 7', and feels nice and spacious. I probably could have
made it larger to hold all the extra stuff we accumulate taking care of our
tanks, but I'd prefer it be a functional area more than a storage locker. I'll
have things accessible on the walls, and at least one water storage container.

Week Two

Day 8 - Tuesday, 7/27/04 - The Halfway Point

Plans were made and many questions were answered on my part as well as by others.
I had to work and the tank project had to wait.


Day 9 - Wednesday, 7/28/04

Today, the tank is much more clear. The sand is really being
displaced by the current. Seriously, I can't believe Tunze Streams are needed,
nor a closed loop.

When I got up to check in the tank, there were a million microbubbles. I went
into the fish room, and the skimmer had drained about 3g of water into a bucket.
The sump water level was lacking the equivalent, because the return section
is so small!

Wondering if the bubbles were being caused by the lowered water level or because
of the anti-siphon holes, I opened the ball valve 100% on the Ampmaster 4700,
watching the water levels rise in both overflows to match the water level in
the display area. Still tons of bubbles. So I added 5g of RO/DI and reduced
the flow again, and the bubbles are going away.

I took a few pictures of what I can see. Remember, the only lighting I have
over the tank are two URI Super Actinic VHOs (72"), plus what light shines in
from the 55g's 10,000K XMs.

I bet getting some lights over the tank will make a big difference. Here are
a couple of pictures of one or two tangs.

And one of the Fighting Conchs.

I have more LR in my 55g sump that I can move over to the 280g, but they have

As I've mentioned before, I have a LifeReef Skimmer. Never
having one before, I've been trying to understand how it works and what issues
it has. To be frank, it is pretty simple in design, but not working as well
as I'd hoped.

The crud it was accumulating in the riser tube of the collection cup was vile
in nature, but it wasn't filling the cup yet. When I'd close the gate valve
on the output of the skimmer, the water level would rise in the main chamber,
and water would leak out the neck of the skimmer. My fish room floor has gotten
wet a few times in the past couple of days as water dripped off the top of the
skimmer body. Basically, I felt the design needed tweaking.

Late last night, I decided to take the cup off and wash it thoroughly. When
I was finished, I noticed an O-ring around the tube that fits into the skimmer's
main chamber, pressed up against the skimmate cup. I decided to remove the O-ring
and insert it into the neck of the tube the cup inserts into, and then force
that cup into and through the O-ring. Problem solved, now it is water tight
and does not drip any longer!

Leaving the skimmer running with the water level high up in the body last night,
some crisp foam began to finally collect in the cup. Finally I had it set correctly,
right? As noted in my previous post 30 minutes ago, the bucket under the skimmer
collected about 3 gallons of water. Oops. At least it did pull fluid out of
the tank.

Each day, I learn one new thing about some of this equipment I never had before.

I have 10,000K XMs over my 55g right now (175w) and don't really
like the color to be honest. Looking at JB NY's 250w
comparison page
makes me lean toward 14,000 Coralvue bulbs. Thanks for the
suggestion about I've used them in the past with good results.
The XMs came from and they were very fast and the price was
great. {note: they are now out of business as of Sept, 04}

I cannot believe how long it is taking to finish out the room. Part of the problem
is the lack of space in the garage, but with it raining outside, I can't fill
up the driveway with all the sundries of construction, nor my equipment. The
inside of the room is roughed in, wired, and rocked. I bought an insulated steel
door and that worked out nicely. Btw, the opening was too large. 34.5" x 82"
would have been better. In the pictures, you may notice to top of the door doesn't
touch the sheetrock, so I'll have to use some tape and bedding to mask that.

As you can see, the ceiling is a wavy mess.

The new 32" door, with metal threshold and doorknob.

The outside of the room needs to be finished tonight, because my water heater
is disconnected again to allow me to run the pipes through the sheetrock. Water
is shut off to the house. The rocked section has insulation, the section on
the right is what needs to be done in a few minutes.

The skimmer is pulling out some cool looking foam right now. Think that is all
drywall dust?

The wiring was run in the walls to the various gangboxes, but are not connected
to any circuit. I thought it would be wise to go ahead and get that ready in
case I decide to crawl in the attic and run one more circuit. I say in case,
because it is hot in the summer and I'm not really that motivated, but I do
have reason to get that done. I want to relocate the light that is in the garage
area to the fish room, and run a new light to the center of the garage with
a shoplight.

The current light switch will turn on the light in the fish room, and the new
box outside of the room will have a switch for the area where I work to make
sumps and such.

The sooner I get all this sheetrock stuff done, the more quickly I can reclaim
space in the garage for the rest of the things that need doing.

It looks like I'm not going to have any time to work on the tank tomorrow, so
I lose an entire day unfortunately. I've got a number of jobs to do tomorrow
and that is how it is. Maybe I can get the tape, bedding and painting done at
least. Then Friday I can tackle the lighting of the tank. I thought I would
have started on that by today.

If you read GregT's Sump article #3, he recommends going toothless
on the overflows. His reasoning is that teeth, eggcrate and mesh tend to trap
various foods and algaes which act like bait for the fish. By running smooth
overflows, the fish don't go over the top. At least in theory.

I do agree that snails, and even those daring hermits may be
able to get into the next area, and the downtube, and the skimmer section, then
the refugium and finally the return section... and challenge death face to shell
as the Ampmaster awaits patiently, hour after hour. I have time to think about
it, but eventually I'll just have to go with one method or another.I can make
teeth easily enough, and insert them.

A drain in the fish room would have been a nice feature.. The
kitchen sink is only 4 steps away from the room so I'm not concerned about cleaning
stuff up. However, when things leak, that is a different matter. I do have the
sheetrock off the floor by about 1", but if there was a decent flood it
would still get it wet before it could seep out into the rest of the garage
floor. I'd not even thought about baseboards, let alone silicone.

In the meantime, I had my first flood. Not like you'd think
though. After the sheetrocking was done by the waterheater area, I rejoined
the CPVC with couplings and waited. The cold water side didn't look very well
glued because it wasn't aligned nicely. I had my doubts, but turned on the water.

While installing some outlets in the new gang boxes, suddenly
there was a loud 'whoosh' and water was shooting out of the new wall and pretty
much over the waterheater. Madly dashing for the front of the house, I turned
off the water main.

This time I re-glued it better, and waited 30 minutes before
reattaching the other end to the water heater. When I turned on the water, it
held. I considered standing guard by this fitting for the next 24 hours, but...

So the room is ready for the mudwork, the floor is drying as we speak, and
the adventure continues.


Day 10 - Thursday, 7/29/04

Today, the inside walls of the fish room were painted. I didn't get the second
coat put on yet, but a lot of other stuff took up my time.

Evan and Kaveh have been coming back day after day, working tirelessly without
complaint as we create each new item from imagination. The light rack is done,
and we tested it out.

The rack is made of 3/4" aluminum angle iron, and 3/4" square rod corners &
cross braces. It was assembled by drilling 1/8" holes and using 1/8" (1/4" deep)
pop-rivets. When the rack was done, you could hold it with one hand - nice and
light. The MH reflectors were riveted in place as well.

Then the VHOs were secured to the longer pieces that extend along the bottom
of the rack. However, after they were installed, testing them was a disaster.
They would not come on. After a few failed starts, it was determined that one
end cap was the problem and I replaced it with a spare. Still it would not come
on, trying over and over. Suddenly, smoke came out of the IceCap 430! At this
point, we noticed one of the wires had come loose from another end cap. I got
another IC 430 out of the garage that was repaired last year. It was my backup.
Plugged it in, and still nothing!!!!

Took the IC 430 of my son's 29g, and it lit the bulbs perfectly. So after 1/2
an hour of frustration and 3 ballasts later, the VHOs worked. We carefully set
the rack on top of the tank to see how it fit and how it would shine down over
the water.

Since I only have two 250w MH on hand, we tested those to see how it looked.
I still need to get a third bulb soon.

Here's what it looked like from the front.

I still have to design my sliding bracket system that will allow me to push
the lights out of my way from the front or the back of the tank. I'll probably
build a shelf over the light rack, and the slider tracks will run beneath those.
That way I can put the ballasts on the shelf, and keep them nice and dry.

Next we messed with this stupid sump. If anyone wants this thing, it's going
up for sale. I'll use the money to buy acrylic to make a much better one for
my particular setup. Remember, it takes four guys to carry this one, as it is
built out of 1/2" glass. 48 x 18 x 20 (or 21 I think). Due to the micro bubbles,
we tried to add an extra baffle at the end to stop the massive flow of water
and air that is crashing into the intake of the Ampmaster 3000. After trying
a few tricks and wasting 30 minutes, I decided to not take any chances and left
it as is for now. Still, it was nice to see the tank without micrububbles briefly.

The Calcium Reactor was added to the system because it was handy. I've had it
running for the past few days in the laundry room to test it for leaks, and
this evening Evan noticed it wasn't working. Maybe recirculating the same water
elevated the Ca too high, because the tubing leaving the reactor and going to
the pump has turned cloudy for some reason. Or maybe it got vapor-locked. After
a little fiddling with it, it came back to life and so I decided to put in on
the main tank (Evan couldn't wait another day).


Day 11 - Friday, 7/30/04

3:00 a.m. My tank turned cloudy suddenly, in the past hour.
My sand was blown around because Evan had pointed the returns downward, but
I grabbed my pH Pinpoint Meter and discovered my pH was at 7.33!!!

Immediately, I turned off the CO2 and the Calcium Reactor.
Then I used some baking soda that I'd baked a couple of weeks ago, and used
that to bring my pH back up to 8.0. It was only down for about an hour, and
I hope the fish are okay.

Later that day...I woke up just in time. My first
job was to check the 280g and make sure the fish were swimming right side up.
Current pH is 7.8 (but that could be 7.89 because the pH Controller doesn't
show the number in hundredths). Then as I was heading back toward my room, something
blue caught my eye. My little Hippo Tang was lying on the carpet!

I picked up Tucker, and he was still soft but dry. I quickly
immersed him in the 55g's sump and held him as he started breathing again. He's
down there now, but I don't know if he'll pull through, especially since I don't
know how long he was out of water.

5 minutes later, I checked on him again and he was swimming
too closely to the return pump, so I put him back up in the display. I tried
to put him near his favorite coral, and he's tucked into a spot breathing. He's
acting like he's blind, but that could just be a temporary side effect from
oxygen depravation (hopefully).

While shopping at Home Depot again, for the 9th day in a row
I bought what I think will work out perfectly for the rolling light rack. The
track is used for pocket doors, and is rated for 100 lbs. I think the light
rack weighs about 10 to 15 lbs, as it is all-aluminum and light bulbs-only.
The ballasts will be connected above, either on a shelf or on the wall itself.

I'll build it tomorrow, and then post some pictures if it works
as planned.


Day 12 - Saturday, 7/31/04

Great news! The rolling light rack works perfectly!!! This is sooooo cool!!!

Here are the pictures of the light rack. First, here it is suspended.

And here it is lit up. As mentioned, one bulb didn't work, so only two are lit
plus the VHOs.

The rack is suspended from a modified pocket door rack. Each
track is bolted to an inverted shelf bracket that is very strong. Once the shelf
brackets were screwed into the studs of the wall, a board was painted and placed
across these to put the ballasts safely up away from the water.

At one end of the light rack, two IceCap cooling fans are mounted to blow fresh
air across the MH bulbs. Six feet away at the end facing the kitchen, you can
feel the warm air. Kaveh mounted them in the rack, and then decided to peek
at you in this image.

These next two pictures show the light rack from the fish room.
First, the rack is pushed toward the front of the tank. You'll see the hanging
tracks extended to the back.

And now they are pulled toward the back of the tank.

This will be easier to grasp. Here is a picture with the lights pushed to the
back of the tank, viewed from the top.

And with the lights pushed the front of the tank.

With the lights out of the way, there is about 10" or 12" of space to reach
in. The VHOs are 4.5" off the water. The MH are 7.5" off the water. Putting
the rack over the center of the tank is relatively simple, but there isn't anything
that actually makes it be in the center, such as a bump or stopper. Not that
it is necessary. This project came out very nicely, and I have to thank Evan
and Kaveh for all their help.

The next step is to add the woodwork to finish this project, add the A/C, and
move in the livestock.


Day 13 - Sunday, 8/01/04

I bought an 8,000BTU A/C window unit at Sams Wholesale Club.
It was $146, and has a dehumidifier built in. I'm about to cut out the hole
in the wall where it will go in the fish room. First I had to work on the electrical

A new 15amp Circuit now runs to the new walls, which will support
various items plugged in, including the new A/C unit. It says on the box it
uses 8 amps! That sounds high, so I'll look at the paperwork more closely.

The light in the ceiling of the fish room now works, and the
new switch to the garage light works as well. What I did was take the wiring
that lead to the garage ceiling and moved the end of that to the center of the
fish room. That way the switch that was by the door would turn on the light
in there, instead of in the garage. (The way it was, the light was left on so
many times since the walls went up because you didn't see it with the new door
closed.) Then from the new circuit, I ran a new switch and wiring that runs
to the original ceiling box of the garage. When you exit the fish room into
the garage, you can flip the switch on to light up the garage.

I'm gonna go cut an A/C hole...

A little while later...The window unit fits the room
nicely, and I have it at 74F currently. If any of you use a window unit, I'd
love to know what setting you've found works well for your tank room. Because
I expected the outer portion of the unit to drip in my garage, I hastily made
a gutter and secured it temporarily, with it angled down on one end so it can
drip into a bucket. However, after several hours, nothing has come out of the
unit. Not a single drop. This unit has a dehumidifier built in. Perhaps it simply
evaporates?! Strange and surprising.

I did not take a picture of it because the hole I had to cut
and frame into the wall wasn't too pretty. Tomorrow I'll put some molding around
the A/C on the inside and outside, then I'll post a couple of pictures.

The garage is nice and toasty, but it is 80F outside and humid.
While I was cleaning up tonight, I noticed (but didn't time it precisely) that
the compressor seems to turn on for about 1.5 to 2 minutes, then cycles off
for maybe 5 to 7 minutes. My guess is that once the canopy is in place and the
air in that room is trapped, it won't cycle on and off as much. Tank temperature
was 82F without the A/C unit, and now it is 81F.

With the wiring run in the attic earlier today, it is so nice
to have a light in the fish room. I found a great looking light at Home Depot,
but it was out of stock. Of course, it was $70 and the one I have right now
is $3.

Here are some details about the Light Rack:

It was created from my imagination, although Weatherson definitely
gets credit for putting the idea of riveted aluminum in my head with his fantastic

I wanted a frame that was only as large as the MH reflectors,
to keep the profile to a minimum. The rack had to fit over the tank, and allow
me to move it in the present space provided. I also wanted the VHOs incorporated,
so nothing was in my way when I had to work in the tank or clean it. I still
may add some flashing on the front and back of the track to reflect light even
further into the tank and also reduce the glare when looking at the top of the

The rack is 69.5" long, 5.75" tall and 16" wide.
The MH section (the majority) of the rack is actually 14" wide. To be able
to mount the VHOs under the rack and not block the MH at all, 16" pieces
were put at each end. You can see this when you look at the pictures from the
end of the tank, one or two pages back.

The construction is made from 1/8"(thick) 3/4" angled
aluminum, sold in 8' lengths. The four corners and the cross braces along the
top are made from 3/4" square tubing. Using tubing made fastening with
aluminum rivets easier. If you need close up pictures, I can add them to the

The VHO's are 2.5" off the top of the tank, so there is
no risk of the rack and those bulbs (which are at the lowest point) running
into anything that might break them. The VHOs are 4.5" off the water. These
are 6' long VHO actinic bulbs mounted in waterproof endcaps. The tank is Eurobraced
with 4" wide strips of glass, so the endcap area is relatively safe from
any water contact.

There are three 250w 10,000K MH bulbs, each in a spider reflector.
The reflectors are riveted on the bottom front and back track. They were 13"
wide, so by making the light rack 14" wide, the reflectors could be secured
right along the inner edge of the frame and not have a lip extending inward
that would impede any of the light shining downward. The MH bulbs are 8"
off the water.

The frame is very light-weight, even with all the bulbs attached.
Carrying it was simple and almost a one person job, but it was easier having
a couple of people there when hanging it from the rolling track mounted above
the tank. I noticed that when the light rack was resting on the tank, the center
of the rack did dip lower. Perhaps 1" angled aluminum would have had more
rigidity. To make sure there were no problems with the rack flexing and putting
pressure on the VHOs, I spaced the two rolling tracks over the light rack 37"
apart. That worked out perfectly, because the weight was evenly distributed
and the rack remains straight.

The rack moves a total of 12" from the back of the tank
to the front of the tank, but sits centered for even lighting. The tracks were
bolted to a pair of shelf brackets. The brackets are screwed into the wall with
3" deck screws (designed for outdoor use and thus waterproof). The brackets
fit nicely on the wall, leaving .5" of sheetrock beneath them. This worked
out well because once the track was mounted, I immediately knew the rollers
would not be able to roll too far forward. The wall acts as a stop. When cutting
the track to length (22.5" each), I left a little extra metal at one end
that I could fold over to act as a stop on the fish room side. This prevents
the light rack from rolling too far into the room.

Two IceCap fans are mounted at one end of the light rack to
blow air across the MH bulbs and get the heat off the water. Since the rack
is not enclosed, it has plenty of venting ability currently.

The rolling track was purchased at Home Depot. It is the track
and rollers designed for a "pocket door", and was rated to hold a
100 lb door if I recall correctly. The rack probably weighs 15 lbs. I bought
a 60" set-up for $13, knowing that I would be able to get both tracks from
the one piece. All the metal was cut on a DeWalt compound miter saw with a metal
cutting blade. A jig saw or hack saw could do the same, but it would take longer.

I hope these details help you as you design your own rack.
If any of you want to create some type of 3-d drawing based on the pictures
you saw, measurements could be incorporated and I can put that up on my site
(linking it into this thread). Otherwise, I can just add some measurements,
overlaying those on some of the pictures.

After observing the current sump, I'm pretty sure I'll be replacing it with
something better. This is a sketch of a sump I've built twice already.

Here it is installed:

I'll probably do something similar under the 280, although the return pump is
on the right and the skimmer would be on the left.

In thinking about the entire design and space available, I'm planning on making
the landing I have the current sump on a little wider - by maybe 8" to 10" wider.
By doing so, I can put the skimmer in the sump but have the riser tube and collection
cup out in the open (in front of the back of the tank). Putting a refugium in
front allows me to control the flow of water draining into that compartment.
Plus if I make a wider sump, it can hold more volume. When the return pump turns
off (due to power or pump failure), I'll know the sump can hold the water.

Plus this gives me the perfect set up to put a permanent plank across the back
of the tank at platform-level. When I stand on that, I'll be able to easily
reach into the tank. I got this idea from the 800g thread in the Big Tanks Forum.

This is a future project, but something I've been thinking about.


Day 14 - Monday, 8/02/04

The livestock will move over today, and then the 55g can finally
be moved out of the way. At that point, a shot from the front would be possible.
Today is Day 14.

The current sump is 48 x 18 x 20 or 21 tall. It has a large
skimmer section that I can't use, because the baffles are 15" tall. The
next section is the refugium and water is shooting through it so fast. Finally,
there is a tiny 10g return. On a 280, that is like a drop in the bucket. It
must be replaced with something better.

The livestock has been moved. That took about 4 or 5 hours
this evening.

Kaveh worked on one rock after another trying to remove as many mushrooms as
possible. Many were growing on the larger pieces of LR that I needed to start
the aquascaping with. He removed hundreds. I went ahead and dumped all of those
in my 29g that is virtually empty now, so they can heal up and be raffled off
at the next meeting. There are three ocellaris (false percula) clownfish, and
a bunch of micro-featherdusters.

Here are a few pictures, but keep in mind that the water is cloudy with all
this activity. First most of the LR and various corals were moved from the 55g.
The SPS were put in the sump of the 55g to keep them safe.

Here's the sump area with two 19w floodlights over the combined cheatomorpha,
baby brittle stars, cops, and a Crown Conch. I recoved him from the refugium
under my 29g, and had to unearth the LS to find him. My two mangroves are visible.

I had to shoot this picture from up on a chair, so the top of the 55g would
not obscure the view.

The right side is rather barren, with a very unhealthy goniopora. I bought it
from a reefer that had great success with it for 9 months. I put it in my tank,
which was almost the same conditions, and it shut down within 45 days. Maybe
it'll like this set up better?

The middle of the tank.

The right side.

Many of the corals are closed up, but some opened up quickly.
I really didn't bother with acclimation of anything. Things just got moved,
including fish. The sun coral opened up immediately, as did some zoos. A few
SPS slimed, and some LPS were shriveled up. Over the next few days, I'm sure
I'll have to rearrange some livestock as it opens up.

This is a fungia, a plate coral. It was given to me when it was about the size
of a dime. It is now about the diameter of a tennis ball. It is glued to a piece
of LR, so it is elevated off the sand. Small toadstool leather in the background.

The sun coral. Needs to be fed actually.

My 2 yr old Maxima clam in his new home.

Montipora foliosa, with room to grow.

Here is a picture from the end of the tank. It is cloudy, but you can see my BTAs right behind the Bengai Cardinal.

And with the flash. Btw, that is Tucker swimming at the top:

Evan helped me place the rockwork, because it is very difficult for a number
of reasons.

#1) The 55g is still in the way inhibiting easy front access.
#2) The 280g is 6' long and 30" deep. Tough to each more than a third of
the tank at a time.
#3) Some LR has corals growing on them, so I didn't have an empty slate to work

I'm getting some micrubbles in the tank today, but my plumbing
is only 8 days old, and the return section of this sump is pathetic. I'm going
to build a series of horitozontal baffles that will help impede the bubbles
from the cascading water.


Update: 8/04/04

Current temperature 77.8, pH 7.8 - lights come on in the next hour.

The a/c - dehumidifier has no problem keeping the tank cool.
Yesterday the high was 82.3 F. I'm going to have to put the IceCap fans on a
timer as well, to avoid cooling the tank too much at night. Or bump up the A/C
unit to a slightly higher tempearture in the fish room.

This is the list of fish in the tank, in case you are still reading.

1 Percula (6 yr old female)
3 Ocellaris (under 1 yr old Tank Raised)
2 Blue Mandarins
2 Green Target Mandarins
1 Six Line Wrasse
1 Threadfin Anthias
1 Flame Angel
1 Coral Beauty
2 Blue Damsels
1 Naso (large juvenile) Tang
1 Purple Tang (large)
1 Powder Blue Tang (large)
2 Blue Hippo Tangs with yellow bellies (large)
1 Blue Hippo Juvenile
1 Lawnmower Blenny
1 Longnosed Hawkfish
1 Pseudochromis elongatus (tiny, thin and 1.5" long)
2 Bengaii Cardinals
1 Royal Gramma
1 Yellow Clown Goby

Plus a couple of serpent stars, fighting conchs, an abundance of hard and soft
corals , 2 maxima clams and a featherduster.



Here is a full tank shot. Because the 55g is still in the way, I have to stand on a chair to show the bottom area of the tank. You can see the 55g in the foreground.


Please remember the canopy woodwork is not in place, so I'm
getting a lot of light bleeding into the camera lens. Add to that the "new tank
plumbing" of microbubbles, and the fact that I had to top off a few minutes
before these pictures were taken.

The left side of the tank:

The middle:

The right side:

No room for a tripod... so these images are a tad blurry.

My two year old Maxima

and the baby Maxima

Pocillopora (fuzzy)

Peak of the rockwork

Reef Shot

BTAs (third one is barely peeking out of a hole beneath the others

This Milleopora grew onto the rock behind it, so it is attached in that way.
I need to support it with some rock soon,but for now it is "hangin' out".

Tricolor Acropora - this guy has fallen about 5 times so far, and I'm having
a hard time finding a spot where it will stay. My guess is that the Tangs swim
by so quickly it throws it off its perch.

Zoanthid patch

Some SPS

Frilly mushrooms, ricordia, and a plate coral to the left

I just finished making a new batch of fish food. Unfortunately,
Super Walmart no longer sells the frozen seafood bag that I used for the base
of my mixture, so I went to Central Market (that store is amazing, but may only
be Texas-based). I was about to buy their 1 lb/9.99 seafood delight, which lets
me put in what I like in that 1 lb. I chose shrimp, scallops, squid casing,
and squid tentacles. They were telling each other that my fish eat very well.
Normally I add a bunch of the cubes of food from the LFS, but I didn't have
the time to drive across town today to get $20 to $30 worth of stuff.

After processing this fresh seafood, I added:
3 tsp Formula One Pellet
3 tsp Formula Two Pellet
2 sheets of Nori, sliced in ribbons
1 tsp Spirulina Powder
1 tbsp Garlic oil (from a container of minced garlic)
some left over frozen krill
a decent chunk of frozen Cyclop-Eeze
1 (capsule's worth) of Beta Glucan (Weatherson's suggestion)
3 squirts of Roti Rich
1/2 cup phytoplankton

All of this was run through a food processor. It came out into a pinkish paste,
which was scooped into for sandwich sized ziplock bags. Pressing those flat
to create a thin sheet, they were frozen.

Since the recipe was different from what I usually use (Home-made fish food), I rinsed off the processor
bowl and blade (carefully) in the tank, and the fish went nuts. That's a good

So as you can see (if you read all the way down to this point), the tank was up and running by Day 14. At the start, it didn't seem like it was going to be that big of a deal, but when we were immersed the goal became a personal challenge. I want to thank Evan for all of his help, because he really stepped up to help make the goal a reality.

Would you like to read the build thread on The documentation continues on page 24 (of 580 - as of 5/2008). The tank was constantly documented for about five and a half years, and became one of the longest build threads on their site.