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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have had this tank behind the couch in my livingroom for a year, and it's time for a complete overhaul...

Here's the tank as of today, all cleaned out:
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A fairly recent pic of its first iteration:
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I learned a lot with this first scape, and am going to approach the new version differently. The biggest issue that I could never seem to overcome was flow. I was always robbing Peter to pay Paul with focused flow, and was always fighting the hardscape which ended up being visually overwhelmed by plants anyway.

I'm getting ahead of myself... first things first is some equipment upgrades.

Here's what the cabinet looked like fairly recently:
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There's a lot going on there, and it's impossible to see in the pic how everything fit together... Basically, there was a big loop coming off the return line from the pump to the bulkhead. On that loop was the reactor and the UV sterilizer (gracefully placed atop the ATO reservoir with some mangled pool noodle). In between where the loop broke off from and reconnected to the return line there was a bypass valve. That bypass allowed a tunable, <100% amount of the overall flow to go through the reactor. It worked well, but was clunky and not easy to work with.

I was using an AC return pump (Eheim Universal) rated at 900GPH for V1. That sounds like a lot, but with the reactor and the winding path through the sump, I was tapped out and needed a bit more.

The two biggest upgrades in V2 are a redesigned reactor and a new, embarrassingly overpowered DC return pump. The reactor is based on the same 20" housing, but this time I'm using hard pipe to bring the bypass to the reactor and the front of the sump.

Cerges reactor:
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In V2, a line of silicone tubing will run directly from the return pump to the reactor. Here's how they'll be arranged in the sump:
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I also mounted the housing on a sheet of acrylic with aquarium silicone. Nothin makes me stabby like a tippy reactor!

Since I've got buckets of power with the new pump, I'm keeping the sterilizer, but it's now on the main line (it was on the loop with the reactor before to protect my overall GPH).

Here's everything in the cabinet:
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Note that I have retired the pool noodle! The sterilizer is now riding on a 'raft' of PVC that spans the sump on the same rails that the ATO reservoir sits on. I've also recently added a flow meter to the CO2 setup. It takes a reading of 85/150mm on the flow meter to maintain a 1.3 pH drop throughout the lighting period. Fantastic. Couldn't live without the thing anymore.

The final equipment upgrade is a DIY spraybar made out of Loc-Line:
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I think this is going to go a long way toward curing my flow woes!

That's it for now. More on substrate and plants next time...
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I like your engine room but why do you have a tank (what looks like a spec v) on top of your sump?
It's the auto top off reservoir. The pump chamber only holds enough water to fill about an inch or so of the display tank. That way, if the drains get blocked, there's no flood. But, to counter evaporation, you need to add water constantly to keep the pump from running dry. The ATO reservoir has a drain line out of the bottom and gravity feeds a float valve in the pump chamber.

I like the safety and simplicity of this system, but if I had a bigger tank with a bigger cabinet I would have a pump-driven ATO setup, or at least a gravity feed system where the reservoir isn't on top of the sump itself. In order to do any serious tinkering in there, I have to siphon out the reservoir and remove it from sump.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I was thinking a larger diameter CO2 reactor was the answer but in your tight space the tall one really works!
I have a canister-filtered tank of the same size with a 10x4.5" housing. The performance seems more or less the same, so I think it's mostly a matter of what fits best in the space. I actually started with a 20x2.5 for the other tank but it was always tipping over when I serviced the canister. It hadn't occurred to me at the time to just afix it to some acrylic.
 

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dude this is epic. you have must have been a reefer with all that gear?
how do you like the 80gal with sump for aquascaping? if you where buying a tank now for your build would you get the same one?
what are you using for filter media?

keep the updates coming!
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
dude this is epic. you have must have been a reefer with all that gear?
how do you like the 80gal with sump for aquascaping? if you where buying a tank now for your build would you get the same one?
what are you using for filter media?

keep the updates coming!
thanks!

nope, never have kept a reef tank, but i really enjoy the mechanical systems aspect of the hobby, so i'm taking it in a reefier direction i guess.

i definitely prefer having a sump vs. a canister, but the overflow box limits the tank layout options somewhat. it's perfect for my livingroom, though, because it's a really clean package (no pipes or tubing hanging off the side) and i can keep it nearly silent. i thought the FX4 canister on my other tank was pretty quiet... turns out if you want quiet quiet, running a good DC pump well below its max capacity is the way to go!

so, for the same location? i would 100% do this tank again.

i use this really dense filter floss in the media cups. that keeps the sump really clean and the tank water crystal clear. after those i've just used bags of beads/rings in the past. this time i want something that's easier to remove, so i'm thinking i might use a dishwasher basket meant for silverware with bio media in it (i saw someone post that idea on here within the past couple days). it will go right in the front of the sump to the right of the cups in what is technically the refugium chamber. all the water is forced through a narrow channel there before spilling over a baffle into the skimmer chamber, which is where i'm keeping the reactor and heaters.
 

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thanks!

nope, never have kept a reef tank, but i really enjoy the mechanical systems aspect of the hobby, so i'm taking it in a reefier direction i guess.

i definitely prefer having a sump vs. a canister, but the overflow box limits the tank layout options somewhat. it's perfect for my livingroom, though, because it's a really clean package (no pipes or tubing hanging off the side) and i can keep it nearly silent. i thought the FX4 canister on my other tank was pretty quiet... turns out if you want quiet quiet, running a good DC pump well below its max capacity is the way to go!

so, for the same location? i would 100% do this tank again.

i use this really dense filter floss in the media cups. that keeps the sump really clean and the tank water crystal clear. after those i've just used bags of beads/rings in the past. this time i want something that's easier to remove, so i'm thinking i might use a dishwasher basket meant for silverware with bio media in it (i saw someone post that idea on here within the past couple days). it will go right in the front of the sump to the right of the cups in what is technically the refugium chamber. all the water is forced through a narrow channel there before spilling over a baffle into the skimmer chamber, which is where i'm keeping the reactor and heaters.
yeah I like the idea of a clean looking FW tank but I can see where the over flow box could get in the way. there are ext. over flow tanks or drill your own own.

IDK I have 2 reefs so maybe on my FW i'll try to keep it simple?
keep the updates coming
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Due to an incoming cold snap in northern Colorado, it's going to be a minute before I'll be able to get plants in this thing. In the meantime, I thought I would go through my photos from the past year and post about some aspects of the V1 tank...


The first of these is not about the tank at all, but rather the floor it's sitting on. This tank is located on the main floor of the house, but it is not on a slab - it's above an unfinished basement. That alone necessitates some care with placement, but my situation was doubly bad because the wall we wanted it on is not load-bearing and is parallel to the floor joists.


While the aquarium is not huge, it's well away from the foundation walls and structural beams supporting the floor joists. To prevent sagging over time, (before filling the aquarium) I installed basement jacks beneath the two joists that run directly under the tank:

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On the top and bottom are blocks made out of 4x6s joined with carriage bolts. The block on the bottom is affixed to the slab, and the block on top is held in place with what I've dubbed a "joist clamp". There's a layer of yoga mat between the joists and the 4x6s and there's a double layer of 2x4s fitted into the gap between the joists. Those 2x4s are connected to the top block with carriage bolts.


Since I'm just aiming to prevent sag and not provide primary support, the jacks aren't under a huge load. So compression alone wouldn't prevent them getting jostled, but i didn't want them to get out of place if something ran into them. Since the 2x4 is the same thickness as the bottom lip of the joist, the yoga mat/carriage bolt combo allowed me to grip-lock the top block in place.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Now, a little bit about the lighting...

Back in 2019 when my wife and I were getting into planted tanks, we were planning to have a 60G cube on a different wall in our living room. We got that tank at one of our local shops along with a single Kessil a360x. We honestly didn't do much research - they had them on several nice planted tanks, and we loved the shimmer (opinions vary on this!). In any case, it was definitely powerful enough, and seemed like adequate coverage for a cube that size. It didn't take long for us to return that tank due to some shoddy silicone work, but we still had that Kessil...

Once we moved on from the cube, we settled on a UNS 90U. That tank was woefully, painfully back-ordered, which led us to the Red Sea. V1 was planted in early March of 2020 with that one Kessil. It honestly didn't occur to me at the time to get another one (have you seen how much those things cost?!), and, so, that's how we rolled all the way through October:

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What I learned in this time is that what makes that sweet sweet shimmer - a nearly point-source light - is the same thing that causes all sorts of problems if you only have one light. Shimmer is all about contrast and how that point-source light is hitting the ripples on the surface of the tank. That's great aesthetically, but it sucks from the perspective of taller plants shading out lower ones, or even their own lower leaves. So, after a while, I realized that we'd need something to fill that gap - either a panel, or another Kessil. Since we already had one...

Enter Kessil #2.

Okay, so this tank - in my opinion - is very svelte. a nice, clean, black aesthetic that worked really well in our room with our other decor. I wanted a second light, but also didn't want to disrupt that vibe. I had already mounted the first light with a jury-rigged tank mount arm that was screwed into a stud in the wall. The tank was positioned in order to straddle that stud, in fact. That presented a problem for mounting a second light. The right positioning would mean either using two arms like the first mounted to a backing board that hit the studs, or something else...

Instead of the backing board, I decided to make a new mount out of wood and 3/4" black steel pipe. 3/4" was a big enough diameter that I could run all the cables (power and the k-link cable that connected the two lights) through it. The pipe would rest in a wood-block piece mounted to the same central stud, and would T out over the tank to support the two lights in an ideal spread.

Relying on distant memories of middle school wood shop, I started by making the mounting blocks out of glued sections of 2x2 oak hobby board:
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Those were then glued and screwed to an oak backing board that would affix to the wall vertically:
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To keep things really clean, I had the bright idea to drill holes into the pipe for the cords to pass through. Making those holes was kind of a nightmare, and my angle grinder ended up being more useful than the drill press. But, in the end it came together, and it is nice having the cords concealed like this.
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The next time I did something similar for another tank, I ended up using T fittings to run the cables:
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Okay, so I was happy with how the two lights turned out aesthetically, but did it make a difference for the plants? YES! A thousand times yes! In the period from October 2020 through February 2021, the V1 tank improved immensely. Figuring out the lighting also preceded great strides in CO2 management (pH monitor! flow meter!). So, in the end, I felt like I ended V1 in a good place. I had squeezed all the success out of it that I thought I could given some inherent limitations resulting from very early decisions that couldn't be rectified without a complete overhaul.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
that looks great! I'm curious, why was the angle grinder better than the drill press? That's surprising.
The bit diameter was way too large relative to the pipe diameter. Once I dug in a little it was more like rapid chisel slapping than drilling. Lol. My god the racket!

With the angle grinder I was able to grind out a chunk layer by layer. The curvature of the pipe made it a mostly round hole.

3/4 steel pipe is damn thick!
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
So the new reactor is kinda noisy in a way it was not in V1, and I think it has everything to do with how the co2 is entering the water. In V1 it was like this:
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In this arrangement bubbles got instantly and individually swept into the water whereas in the V2 reactor, with the horizontal barb, I think the co2 is building up a bit before being swept into the water. That's resulting in a 'glug glug' sound. To combat this, I put a bit of tubing on the inner side of the barb.
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Problem solved! No more glug sound, just the normal reactor sounds.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 · (Edited)
It was a busy weekend... I wanted to do gravel capped blasting sand with root tabs for this tank, but once i had it all in the tank... I didn't like it.

Eventually we decided to go with flourite. This is really full circle for us because that original 60g cube was going to have flourite. We got as far as putting it in and then scooping right back out when we realized we'd need to return that tank. Most of this flourite is actually salvage from 2019 (I knew it would get used eventually!).

This tank was not supposed to have hardscape. The goal was ideal flow and a 100% focus on plant health... Well then I went to my LFS to grab another bag of flourite and they had this piece of wood just sitting there... I COULDNT HELP MYSELF.

I modified the spraybar to ensure no dead spots, and there are some pass through areas beneath the wood (it makes these cool natural caves), so I think flow won't be a problem.

I have to say, having a bit of hardscape in there makes it much easier for me to visualize plant placement. I'd make a pretty crappy dutch scaper!

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The wood is secured to two pieces of slate under the substrate.
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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
This project has sat for a bit until the temperatures got into the right range for shipping plants. And now, after paying absolutely eye-popping shipping costs, the plants will be arriving tomorrow.

As for the plants... we're trying new things! Up until now we've pretty much kept high light, stem-focused tanks. For this version of this tank we're going with something completely different. Vals. Crypts. Swords. These are really traditional aquarium plants that we've somehow just never kept (well, we've had crypts, but not vals or swords).

Kinda hard to imagine looking at the tank now (it currently screams desert wasteland), but we're going for a jungle vibe. With the spraybar, we're hoping that vals planted around the overflow box will grow up and drape over the top of the water out toward the glass. Strongish light can then shine through said drape-y vals, producing a beautiful, dappled light spectacle of lower light plants beneath. Or, anyway, that's the idea.

The plan is to lean on the root capsules (we're going to be using the new GLA capsules) for a while until we get through initial melting and algae bomb phase. Once we're through that, I'll figure out what level of column dosing is appropriate. We'll wait until then to add epiphytes.

Anyone have tips on the balance between root tabs and column dosing with these types of plants. Does my plan sound reasonable?

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