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237 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Welcome to my new version of television at our house.
First some background. I grew up with aquariums in my life, as my parents had a 30 gal slate bottomed chrome steel framed glass in-wall tank. Picture 1965 vintage filters, air pump, and heater. The light was a single fluorescent tube with a remote push button switch mounted well above where a kid could reach!
It had some rocks and gravel with a few ugly plastic plants and a variety of community fish. I took over care of it when i could reach the light switch.
I was extremely fortunate to have near my house the most amazing even to this day, local fish store. The front half was for retail display consisting of 100 tanks maybe more. Filled with mostly freshwater but there were even 4 or 5 salt tanks. The best part was in “The Back”, which was a huge greenhouse with huge concrete tanks filled with breeding fish of all types and loaded with live plants. It was off limits to the general public, but the old man that owned it would let me go back and cherry pick what i liked, knowing full well i would be paying with pockets full of coins and carrying my prizes home on my bicycle. Sadly today standing in its place is a fire station.
During my childhood up to college i managed to fill my parents basement with tanks, even a saltwater 30 gal All types of fish, Community, large cichlids of all types and even an 18” Pacu. All were sold off at college time.
My interest in fish started up again 19 yrs ago at Christmas. My wife asked what i wanted for a gift, and i suggested a saltwater tank. That turned into a 75 gal that upgraded to a 220 gal full on reef tank with all the bells and whistles. I kept that for 14 yrs. A lot was learned about plumbing and water chemistry in that time.
In my mind i decided to upgrade to the current tank i have today. It was custom ordered as a reef tank with Starfire glass on 3 sides, the stand to be a steel one custom made by me. Do to a tank crash before the new tank was done i lost over half of my coral and fish, the other half were gifted to friends and LFSs.
After that i didn’t have the heart to start again, and my new wife felt the same. The tank arrived, i built the stand. It sat empty for nearly 2yrs in the living room = not happy spouse.
I was given orders to use it or sell it, so i cut a hole in the living room wall.... a big hole 7’ tall and 7’ wide.
She asked me what kind of tank it was going to be. My reply was, a new big version of the tank i had when i was a little boy with nickels in my pockets and a bicycle to get me there.

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237 Posts
Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Ok, so these were my starting list of wants:
Tank as big as i could fit through the door
Starfire glass
Basement sump
Little or no equipment visible in display
In wall viewable 2 sides
Easy access to display
Super easy, flip switches, turn valves, push buttons maintenance

Seems easy right? Sure no problem....
Here comes the reality check, tank was easy just write the check.
Second , design and build the steel stand. Mig welder, powdercoat, easy, done.
Cut hole in hardwood floor, that was painful!
I looked into pre made sumps, most were too small and the rest were too expensive. So i built my own out of Cell Cast acrylic. It is a 180 gal tank partitioned off to my specs. The reason for acrylic over just buying a glass 180 is i can drill holes anywhere i want, whenever i want ( like during a water change) and its also a better insulator against heat loss. Also more forgiving when you drop something in it.
Ok on to the super easy maintenance part. How you get to that is do a bunch of work early on so you don’t have to repeat more work daily for several decades. Go ahead pick up a full 5 gal bucket and see how long you can hold it 4’ in the
The plumbing aisle is your best friend. I took time to draw out as much as i could on paper for each system before heading to the store..... and yes i have no idea how many trips it took.
The first system was drains, both tank and waste. Tank drains are 1.5” Spa Flex primary with below display mounted gate valve and 1” safety with no valve also in Spa Flex. Spa Flex was used everywhere for running plumbing to keep down noise and to reduce head loss. For waste, i drilled the sump in 3 locations to drain separate chambers, all are run into a floor drain under it.
The supply water comes through a dual membrane RO system with twin sediment and twin carbon blocks and then through the first membrane. The waste water from the first is plumbed into the second membrane which then the combined outputs go into two 55 gal drums and my 110 gal water change water change heating barrel. The twin 55s are plumbed together with a 1”dia pvc pipe in Uniseals.
The 55s are used mainly for top off and as my ready emergency water change. I use a Tunze Osmolator for top off, has worked perfect for years, with easily replaceable dc pumps when needed( cheap).
Water changes, everybody's favorite topic. I put a ton of thought into this one and came up with what works in my head ( Yikes).
I decided heating 110 gals of water 24 hrs a day to 82 deg F for the foreseeable future was kinda dumb not to mention expensive and slow. So i installed a tankless hot water tank just for the aquarium. But not like you might think. Its in a closed loop with a Panworld pressure pump to circulate it from the 110 drum through the heater and back to the drum. The same pump also will put the heated water into the sump as well. No Buckets Yea!!!
All drums have large air stones in them running off a linear piston air pump. It also supplies two large air stones in the sump.
The tanks parameters are monitored by an Apex controller with the display mounted next to the display on the private side.
Heating for the tank is done with four separate heaters two 250 watt and two 300 watt units. They are set at 85 F on the internal thermostats and controlled by the Apex to 80-81F.
Filter socks, love em or hate them, i hate them. Learned that in salt water reefing. Won’t repeat it. I bought a roller filter, it works well but could be better.
About now you are probably wanting some pictures, I'm not able to locate the early construction pictures but if someone would like to see them i will dig them up. I will do my best to put them in order.

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237 Posts
Discussion Starter · #9 ·
This is the return section of the sump which contains the heater array, top off sensor, co2 diffuser, and the PH probe.
this chamber remains full through normal water changes to protect the heaters and the PH probe.
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