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UNS 120U Build

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One of the very first things I've always wanted to do when I bought a home is getting a big tank. My largest tank so far was a 60 starfire glass reef ready cube. Having lived in apartments most of my adult life, I've always been limited to smaller sized tanks. I bought my first home back in July last year and took down my last reef tank. I had 3 reefs going for about 10 years with only one left up and running until the move last year. My last foray into planted tanks ended in 2012 or so and it was always something I wanted to keep going but couldn't due to lack of space.

I really hemmed and hawed over the decision for this tank. I initially was set on a standard 125 gallon. I began planning the build and created a spreadsheet with all of the equipment and accessories I'd need, and then I saw a 125 in person at Petsmart when I went to get some dog food for my pup. The length was great, but the tank just seemed really long and narrow which limited my options as far as scanning.

I saw the UNS 120U's dimensions and a few YouTube videos to get a sense of what the tank looked like, but I wasn't totally in love with it being only 48" long. I think an ideal tank size is 60X24X24 but there aren't many options out there. I did find one like that from a company SC Aquariums. Pretty nice tank with Starfire glass and an overflow. One of the main reasons I didn't go this route, which would have been less expensive than the UNS tank was that it had an overflow. The overflow opens up the possibility that a year from now I tear down the planted tank and set up another reef tank.

While I loved my reef tanks, they were just obscenely expensive. It was a huge toilet that I flushed money down. You can have a plant melt on you in a planted tank and you can just buy another. But if you buy a $120 acropora colony and it dies on you, that stings a lot more lol.

Anyhow I settled on the UNS. After bring the tank into my basement and waking up this morning to back pain, in hindsight I maybe should have gone with acrylic lol. The back pain will go aways in a couple days though.

This will be a slow build since the tank wasn't inexpensive and the equipment isn't inexpensive either. In the past I'd get inpatient and charge everything on my credit card, but you wind up paying way more for your purchases if you're not paying the balance off right away. So I'll take my time and acquire the equipment a piece at a time until I have everything. The one thing I will do is pick up any hardscape that catches my eye as I stop by all my local shops.

The first project is to build a stand. I'll reserve post #2 for the stand build.

Tank: UNS 120U
Stand: Custom build
Filtration: GLA 15L Infinite Nature Filter. Oase 850 Biomaster Thermo. Stainless lily pipes, one set with build in surface skimmer to be used with the Oase, the second set is without surface skimmer to be used on the GLA
Lighting: Twinstar 1200SP
Heating: Heater included with Oase controlled by Inkbird
UV: Decided against this but it can always be added on later. I'll account for adding one on in the way I plumb the return if I change my mind down the road.
CO2: GLA Pro DS 1 Dual Stage regulator with two 10 lbs tanks along with a NilocG Advanced reactor.
Substrate: Pool filter sand
Hardscape: Two xl pieces of spider wood. About 90 lbs of dragon stone.

I'm 100% open to feedback, ideas, or alterations I should make to my plans.

This week I'll begin acquiring lumber and paints/stains and hardware for the stand.

My plans on stocking are up in the air. There are a whole bunch of different stocking plans I have, but I really need to settle on one. Back in the day I would buy 2 of each fish until I realized it seemed like I was stocking Noah's Ark lol. This tank will have fewer different species and more schools of fish.

I'll get a pic of the tank once the stand is built and it's sitting on it. I'll also do the leak test when I get the tank on the stand. I may as well do that sooner rather than later.

I did want to thank everyone who has provided help thus far. There are so many things I hadn't considered that were a HUGE help so I appreciate it greatly!
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Discussion Starter · #2 · (Edited)
Stand build:

I'm planning on a typical 2X4 construction stand. The plan is roughly the same as this one:

I'll be modifying that design since it's way overbuild and you can accomplish almost the same thing using 2X4's.

I haven't decided on a height yet, but it'll be just high enough for the equipment, but not too high to make getting into the tank to perform maintenance difficult. I need the internal dimensions to be deep enough to fit the FX6 if that's the direction I wind up going in, and high enough to accept either a 5 lbs or 10 lbs bottle. One of the reasons I have 5 lbs even listed is because there's a home brewer store nearby where you can pay for two full bottles at $90 each and then just bring the empty back for an exchange at $25 each. I'd buy two just to have a spare when the one runs out. I'm usually short on time so I wouldn't be able to run to do an exchange right away so having the spare gives me some time to get the tank swapped out.

The general idea of how I'll change the design of that stand is to make two rectangular boxes out of 2X4 slightly smaller than the footprint of the top. The top is solid butcher block from HD and is slightly larger than the tank. So basically the support structure, or the 2X4 rectangle will be the exact size of the tank footprint.

I'll have 6 2X4's that connect the top rectangle to the bottom one and long enough to touch the ground and add support for the top. I've seen some designs where those uprights aren't actually supporting the top, but why even have them if they're not supporting the tank itself in any substantial way?

Since those uprights will be inside the boxes, directly in front of them sandwiched between the top and bottom boxes will be 2X4's to support the box. I'll also include 2X4 supports in this manner on the sides in the corners as well. So basically there will be 8 of these rather than 6.

I'll also add in a few cross members made out of 2X4 to provide support for the base and the top boxes. I have a 4X2 sheet of 1/2" birch that I was going to use for another project in the house, but I decided to do something different. That will sit inside the base of the stand. I'll probably do some less expensive plywood around the outside of everything else, or at least the back and sides since the plan is to paint it all white.

I'm still not sure how to finish the front. I'm not sure what material to use to build the doors, or how to finish the front of it. Do I use plywood, get some square 4 sides wood and make the doors flush similar to the ADA style stands?

The plan is to head out to buy as much of this material as I can this week so that I can spend Saturday building it and hopefully finishing the same day, or into Sunday.

I'll have help lifting the tank up and moving this stand into place. After the experience of bringing the tank down my stairs, I'm not building this stand outside and then bringing it in. I'll be making cuts outside, and then building and painting/staining it inside my laundry room and moving it 15 feet lol.

I actually bought the butcher block countertop yesterday before I picked the tank up so that I had a base that didn't flex when I put the tank in the back of my 4runner. My choices were Birch or Acacia. I went with Acacia since my experience staining birch isn't positive. For whatever reason Birch doesn't seem to want to evenly accept stain. I don't have any experience with Acacia so it was worth a gamble. I'm sure it can't be any worse than Birch is for accepting stain. I'm going to stain and poly the top in a grey finish and the rest of the stand will be white. I considered staining the doors grey too, but all white seems like it would look better.

I'm open to any ideas on how to finish the front of the stand from a build perspective. My skillset in finish carpentry is still very much in the novice category so I welcome any suggestions. I'll take ample pics throughout the process and share them in this thread since they'll probably help someone out.

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Discussion Starter · #4 · (Edited)
I definitely suggest going with a diy inline heater. I wish I did that for mine. The trouble with heaters on the market is that they only use 5/8" openings which will be a flow downgrade for you.

This is one of the reasons I'm considering adding a Biomaster Thermo to the FX6. I've been looking at inline heaters and haven't been impressed with reviews. Depending on which of the Thermo's I'd decide on, that could also allow me to move down to an FX4. Basically the thought I've been mulling over is surface scum isn't fun to deal with and having lily pipes with a surface skimmer going directly into the FX6 would require more frequent filter maintenance on a filter that looks like it can be an ordeal to maintain. I'm still not fully read up on the Oase line, but it seems that it has a pre filter which I'm assuming is the first stage the water enters the filter. If that's the case, it looks really easy to pull the pre filter out once a week to clean it and not need to take the whole filter apart. You also get the heater functionality too. This will cost a lot more than I want, but if I can use it to also drive the CO2 reactor and UV, then it might make sense. What are your thoughts on this?

If you want enough depth to plant in and essentially a flat substrate bottom using only fluval stratum, then you are probably looking at 5 of their 17lb bags. If you want a slope, you will need more.

I haven't decided on an idea for a scape, but it will definitely be built up. I may go the lava rock method to build up the substrate without needing to use too much soil. I think I used an entire 8.8 lbs bag in my nano tank lol.

Regarding rock, rock is really really really expensive. If you want enough of it to make a dramatic hardscape in a tank this big, you are probably looking at 1000 to 2000 dollars for rock alone assuming you went with something like dragonstone. Alternatively you can buy just a little bit and end up with a situation where you have a big tank and a few stones that look super tiny in it by comparison. This is what most people do because they don't want to spend thousands of dollars on hardscape. In my opinion, it tends to not look great.

This has been one of my concerns. I'm hoping that building up the base with lava rock will allow me to use fewer massive pieces of dragon stone. I believe SR Aquaristic is local in that they have a warehouse locally. I may ping them and see if they'd be open to me coming and hand selecting a few pieces. One of my local LFS does have some larger stones, but as you mentioned you're paying LFS prices. I'm hoping that enough lava rock building up a couple "islands" will give me the ability to use fewer large pieces of dragon stone, while making it look like there's more than there is. I really need to draw out some ideas for a scape and go from there. But using the build up method seems like it would make the most sense.

My advice is to look around you for rocks that you like and can be easily obtained for less. So for example. Frequently landscaping supply companies will carry stones that will look really nice in an aquarium and their prices are usually significantly less then what most fish stores (online or local) will charge for dragonstone.

I actually have a landscaping rock place nearby that I can walk through and see what kinds of rocks they have. I went there years ago and did exactly what you mentioned. Who knows, they might even have dragon stone but are calling it something else.

But the best by far is finding rocks on the ground and using those. If you have property that has rocks or know someone that has property with rocks, going out and picking up a wheelbarrow full of rocks will be the best option by an order of magnitude. This is what I do for all of my tanks.

Unfortunately being just outside of Chicago the only natural stone we have is limestone.

Another thing to think on is fertilizer. Are you going to be using an auto doser or dosing manually? What fertilizer system will you be using, pps-pro, EI, something else? Are you going to use an off the shelf product like Nicolg Thrive, etc. This is an easy to fulfill but essential part of the plan.

I'm going to do EI with the Nicolg dry ferts. I've actually ordered a kit from them last week because the Seachem fert method is too complex to maintain over the long term, and far too expensive.

For co2, if at all an option, I'd go with a 10lb tank simply because of cost and refills. Either way, the height of the co2 tank with regulator attached is likely to be your limiting factor for how tall your stand can be. So you may wish to settle on this first, and actually obtain these items before building your stand or get solid measurements from someone who already has them. The cost of refilling your 5 lb tanks seems high since I pay a dollar or 2 less to refill my 10 lb tank, but this will vary by region and frankly there is a lot to say for convenience.

Mainly the reason I mentioned the 5 lbs tanks is ease of getting the tanks swapped out. I have a home brew place about 15 minutes from my house. If I were to buy a couple 10 lbs tanks and just have them refilled, I'd need to drive into the city which is 45 minutes each way on average. The 10's would last a lot longer between refills, and likely be less expensive as you mentioned. I think the other drawback is pressure testing the tanks when they hit the dates they'd need to be retested. With the home brew place, you drop off a tank and they give you a full one. No need to pressure test them since you're just swapping. I'm going to plan the height of my stand based on a 10lbs tank with regulator, and will just know that I have some extra room in the event I go with a 5 lbs. Out of curiosity, what is the internal height of your stand? I can use that as a baseline at the very least.

A word about the stand, be careful not to have a vertical support actually come into contact with the bottom of the tank or the butcherblock that the tank is sitting on. The reason being that wood shrinks and grows with humidity over the course of a year. Not much, mind you, maybe 1mm at most vertically given the likely lengths involved. BUT you do not want a 1mm pressure point on your 120 gallon rimless tank.

See, that's why I love this forum. I wondered why the stands I've seen didn't have those supports touching the top and now it makes complete sense. I'll make sure that they're far enough below the top that they don't interact with the butcher block at all.

This is why any stand design worth spit will have the tank sitting on a rectangle made up of horizontal pieces and not a single vertical support actually touching the tank or the stand top.

Some stand designs have guides that stick up vertically past the supports holding the stand up but not all the way to the stand top. These pieces are there to assist in attaching the stand top, and that is all they do.. well maybe they help a little with wracking, but that's not their stated purpose. This was a design popularized by the King of DIY youtuber. Frankly, I think he just does it because he films himself building stands and it looks a lot smoother and more coordinated to neatly slide a top in place rather then spend a lot of time a lot of time fiddling with glue, clamps, screws, and the like to hold things in place before the stand gets skinned.

It's funny you bring him up because that's who I was referring to on those vertical pieces that touch the floor and not touching the top. But after your explanation it makes sense why you want to avoid that. My plan for mounting the top to the stand is to use those corner brackets that are use to attach countertop to cabinets. I'll also be gluing every joint and the top to the stand with wood glue.

Hopefully this is helpful.

Very helpful, I really do appreciate it! I've never built an aquarium stand before because most of the tanks I've owned had stands available for them. What amazes me is how flimsy manufactured stands are compared to what I'm about to build and what you've built lol.
Replied above but came back to edit and add this drawing. After looking at a few stands for ideas on how to finish it off, this seemed like the easiest solution. The writing is S4S for square four sides. I'm considering making doors that sit in flush and using hardware to allow me to push on the door to get them to come out, along with those soft close hinges. The only way I think I can do this successfully would be to take some of the S4S wood I buy and do a glue up of them to make the doors. So the only plywood I'll use is that sheet of Birch I have laying around for the inside base of the stand, and I'll buy a sheet to cover the back up and use the remainder for the sides.

Handwriting Rectangle Wood Sketch pad Ring binder

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Do you mean you want to use an oase biomaster thermo and a fluval fx?

If planning to use both, you can use standard sized lily pipes and still have pretty decent flow because you would have 2 sets of lily pipes in the tank. Certainly an oase will be strong enough to use a skimmer intake and a co2 reactor and a uv. I would not go for just the oase though as they are frankly not very powerful, you would need another filter if you used the oase.

Just the FX6 by itself would be powerful enough alone so long as you were careful about flow with your inline equipment (ie not narrowing the diameter below the 1" tube diameter the fx6 uses). But 2 filters would allow you to be a lot more carefree about how you use your inline stuff.

Yep, I was thinking both, but maybe downsizing the FX6 to the FX4. I think if I can replace the GPH I'm losing going from the 6 to the 4 with the Oase, then it might be a good compromise and still retain the ability to have a heater outside the tank. Equipment selection is so much easier with a sump, but I'm glad I don't have one because I can predict with a high level of certainty that a year from now this tank would have turned into a reef tank. One of my biggest concerns with filtration without a sump is that if my canister filter goes out, I have no filtration. With a sump I always had a pump on standby in case the one I was running the tank on went out. Having two canisters going puts my mind at ease because at least I'll have one going until I can fix/replace the other. This would just be a pretty significant hit to my budget.

I hope you can find some nice rocks for fairly cheap. In the meantime, look at some similar sized tank journals or pictures that you like the look of, and try to estimate how big the rocks are in those tanks and how many you might need. Then look at your local fish store and see what they are charging. My local fish store charges 6 dollars per pound of rock. They typically have about 100 lbs in stock after a big delivery. My 120P tank on the other hand has approximately 400 lbs of stone in it and lately I've been thinking I really should have had some more in it. Also the back half of the tank is lavastone from the hardware store so I wouldn't need to use as much rock. /shrug dramatic hardscapes require a lot of rock. If you have access to some decent wood it tends to be cheaper (volumetrically) then stone so going more heavy on the wood might be a way to get a look you want.

Holy cow, I'd have never guessed your tank had 400 lbs of rock! The scapes that have always drawn my eye are the ones that do feature large pieces of wood with some large stones sticking out around the wood. What I think would look good is having two islands, one bigger than the other with this theme.

I would thus be pretty willing to switch to something other then dragonstone if you see something interesting. Speaking of, carry some vinegar with you if you go to the landscaping supply store. Dribble a small amount on a rock and see if it fizzes with tiny bubbles. Not a perfect test, but if it does, there is a reasonable chance that it will add hardness to your water like seiyru stone.

It's funny you bring up the vinegar. That's actually what I did the last time but completely forgot about it. Thanks for the reminder, I'll make sure to bring that with.

Most cabinet doors are either floating panel doors or fake floating panel doors. The latter is where the 'panel' in the middle is plywood and it is surrounded by real wood that makes a frame. You can route out a groove for the plywood panel to be inside of, or you can make a rabbit and have the plywood be glued into the rabbit like glass is held in place in a picture frame (does that make sense?). Either way will work for your purpose, just depends on your tooling and preferences.

For sure that makes complete sense. I'd attempt that but it would be my first attempt at it. I have a router but have never attempted a rabbit or dado before. I mean it can't hurt to try it and worst case I do something else.

Alternatively you can do away with the hinges and make the front one big panel held on with magnets. This is definitely easier to make by a LOT, but it means when you do service you need to pull this giant panel off and stick to the side somewhere. Plus if you have small kids with access to the tank, it makes it easier for them to get into and impossible for you to childproof. If you want to have a center support like in your drawing, then you could do the same with smaller panels held on by magnets, but will still have the same childproofing issues.

This sounds like the easy button for sure. I think I'll attempt a rabbit and/or dado and if it doesn't look good, this may be option 2. It would be pretty easy to drill out a small hole and glue in some magnets.

My stand is a total of 33" tall from floor to where the tank starts. Inside if measured from underneath a center support for the top it is 26" tall. If not under one of the center supports it is 28.75" tall.
Thanks again, replied above!

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I don't know if it will help you at all, but this is what 180 lbs of Seiryu Stone looks like in a 6' long tank. It was a total of about $600 including shipping.

It's definitely helpful! It's great for getting scale of what you get for a set amount of lbs.

I will definitely need at least that amount for what I'm considering. I'll need to take a look at some of the contest tanks and use them to draw out what I have in mind. I'm definitely not planning a contest scape though lol. Just a scape that I really like and don't mind looking at for a long time.

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Can't wait to see your journey. I was in the same boat a you. I really wanted a 5x2x2 tank and I think Redsea has one, but it was just too much for my budget. I went with a Waterbox 4820. I Actually hard scaped it today. I bought dragonstone from an online vendor. Price wasn't too bad. I think $400 of stone would do it. PM if you need a link.
Thanks, I look forward to checking yours out as well. If you wouldn't mind PMing me that link I'd greatly appreciate it!

It's a shame that more companies don't make tanks with those dimensions. I bet if UNS made a 5X2X2 it would sell like hotcakes. I initially considered their 180U but the cost and difficulty getting into my basement put it out of consideration pretty quickly. If I wind up getting another big tank for my basement, I'm going acrylic just for the ease of getting it down my stairs lol.

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
If you're looking at buying typical hardscaping rock (seiryu, ohko, holy lace, etc), check with your local "mom and pop" aquarium stores. Sometimes they will let you buy in bulk. For example, I bought a 55lb bag of blue seiryu stone for $110 CAD. Not only is the price per pound much cheaper, you also save a ton on shipping costs. Just keep in mind that most hardscaping rock that is sold in stores is broken up into 6-10" pieces.
I intend to go this route as well. I'm fortunate to live 1 mile outside of Chicago so there are numerous small LFS within a half hour drive of me. My goal is to get a hold of someone at SR Aquaristic and see if I can talk them into letting me walk through their warehouse and hand pick a few of the largest pieces that will be more or less the "centerpieces". From there I can fill in what I need from the local shops, and online shops. I likely will do an order of a bulk box online mainly because it's fun getting a box of mystery rocks. One of the reasons I'm going the dragon stone route is the ability to shape the stone with a hammer and chisel.

The one concern I have is with using 2-4 really big showpiece rocks, would the best route to protecting the bottom glass be egg crate or something else? I've never really protected the bottom of my tanks before, but I've also never used massive rocks.

One thing I need to keep reminding myself of is that no matter how much effort I put into developing a scape that I will enjoy for a long time, it'll be covered by plants so there isn't a point in getting overly crazy lol. I spent a bunch of time scaping my nano and you can't even see the rock all that much. But this is part of the fun....learning what works and what doesn't.

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Not much of an update per se, but one thing is going to slow down this build a little bit. I took my crazy Aussie puppy for a consultation/evaluation with my buddy's dog training facility. He said that he can be trained and it won't be overly tough, but he recommended 2-4 weeks of training at his place. I've never owned a working breed before, and honestly wasn't supposed to be getting an Aussie with a high herding drive since the breeder breeds for pet temperament. My little guy has full blown Aussie working drive so training him is fairly outside of my skillset. I'm waiting on pricing and will be getting the "friends and family discount", but this is still going to be a pretty big investment.

The first year I'm actually getting a tax return and it will likely all go into dog training lol. In any case, it will impact the speed in which I'm able to acquire everything. This is what I've been thinking as far as the plan for acquiring equipment and supplies:

1. Build stand - this weekend
2. One or both filters
3. Lighting or CO2
4. Whichever I didn't get in the last step
5. Substrate
6. UV sterlizer
7. Lily pipes, tubing, etc.
8. Finish buying hardscape (wood and rock)

I'll probably scoop up whatever hardscape I run across as I stop by various LFS.

I think what will end up happening is I scratch off each category each month. So this month is getting the stand knocked out. Next month one or both filters, and so on.

The one thing that will accelerate this build is closing a big deal at work, which is what will be the most likely route to getting this tank up and running within the next 3 months. I love credit cards, but I love paying them off as soon as whatever I charged posts. I did some dumb things with credit cards in my youth that basically involved digging myself into a deep hole that I only dug myself out of last year. Since then I use my credit cards instead of cash, pay them off immediately, and then use the points for cash back, etc. 3 years ago this tank would have been up and running by the end of next week lol.

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Discussion Starter · #14 · (Edited)
I didn't have a chance to start building the stand yesterday, but did pick up all the 2X4's, glue, screws, and some other odds and ends.

I need to make one more trip to get some slightly longer screws.

The one thing I didn't do was pick up any of the plywood. Part of the problem is I can't get a full sheet in my truck, and I've had the big boxes cut wood for me before and I'm not going to do that again lol. I came home with pieces that were all slightly different lengths. Once I build this stand I can take some accurate measurements and head over to a hardwood dealer near me and have them make the cuts. The one place by me even does glue ups, projects, etc. so they're at least competent in making accurate cuts.

I haven't decided if I'm going to use 1/2" birch ply all around, or maybe just use some MDF for the back, and then do birch for the sides and front. I'm going to build doors out of what remains of the ply and rabbit it into a frame made of some decent S4S cheaper hardwood, maybe pine. Needless to say, that won't happen until next weekend. It was cold yesterday here, and will be again today (30's).

Regarding filtration, I've put a little thought into this since my next purchases will focus on that.

Initially I was thinking an Oase bombaster thermo (600 or 850). This would mainly be for the integrated heater, and I'd use a surface skimmer on the intake to take advantage of the pre filter being so easy to clean and remove. It's something so easy to do you can do it weekly. If I go with the 850, it's advertised at 400 GPH. Fill it with media, 3' or so of head height, and now we're down to 250 GPH. I figure with displacement caused by rock and wood, I'm looking at 100 actual gallons of water. I've always shot for a turnover rate of about 10X aquarium volume so I'd need to be at 1000 GPH. The thing is until recently, I've always based this calculation on advertised flow rates. If I went with advertised flow rates, I'd need the FX6.

As I continued searching for other options I saw that GLA has an ADA "inspired" design with a flow rate about what I'd need. It's roughly $100 more than I'd want to spend on that second filter, but it's also pretty sexy. I also found "Fzone" also has a line of similarly inspired filters, but the larger model I'd need seems to be out of stock. It's probably stuck in a container ship off the coast of California. I really like the idea of the external DC pump since it gives me the ability to buy a second pump in the event mine dies.

I don't know if GLA sells the DC pump separately, or if they're just using one that's commonly manufactured that I could buy on my own, but after taking a look at flow rates, I might be able to get away with just buying the largest model they sell, which would put me at about the cost of an Oase and the Fluval FX4 or 6. The only thing is I'd need to go back to the drawing board on inline heaters. But this would drastically simplify my equipment. I'd be able to come off the filter with their recommended tubing size 16/22mm, and then hard pipe all of my additional equipment inline.

It seems Hydors are nowhere to be found. The only option is a Chinese brand "DaToo" and based on reviews, has cooked some fish. The one way around cooking my tank is to use a heater controller, which I'd use anyway with the Oase since that can still cook your fish if it fails on.

I'd be curious to get everyone's thoughts on this. I'm beginning to get to that confused stage if it's not apparent from reading this post lol. These are the options I'm seeing right now:

1. Oase BM Thermo 850 and Fluval FX 4 or FX 6 with a heater controller
2. The 180L GLA canister, inline "DaToo" fish cooker inline heater with a separate heater controller
3. Oase BM Thermo 350, GLA 15L canister, and a heater controller.

There'll be a CO2 reactor plumbed into either of the options. I think I'm going to abandon the UV. I ran multiple reef tanks over the last decade and didn't have UV on any of them and never had any of the problems that they're intended to solve.

I considered forgoing the heater but my basement is 72 degrees right now, and during the summer it gets much colder since the thermostat is upstairs and my upstairs is always warmer which keeps the AC on longer making the basement much colder. Even with the vents shut it gets pretty cold. I'd probably guess high 60's in the summer. I'm sure some fish would be able to stand that, but I'd rather have the tank at a comfortable 78 degrees year round.

Anyhow, I'm going to head out to pick up the odds and ends I need for this stand and start building it by noon. I'll update with some pics I'll take throughout the process.

I'm definitely interested in seeing what everyone thinks about the filtration ideas I have above. Personally I'm sort of leaning towards the GLA oversized canister route, but only if I can buy the DC pump separately to have as a spare. Option 3 does away with the inline heater, but also adds about $100 to the costs. The gain of it would be the Oase pre filter since I'm going to surface skim as part of the intake. If I do option 3, surface skimming will just be on the Oase intake. If I do option 2, I'll need to do extra maintenance on the GLA filter. My guess would be every other week.

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
I'm a big fan of the canister with external DC pump approach, so I think that's a good way to go here.

I made an inline heater with temp controller for my most recent build, and would definitely do that again.

A canister filter is just a container that holds media. The pump can be something made by a third party; as long as it has a flow rate and in/outputs if the appropriate volume and size, respectively, does it matter?

So, along that line of thought, you could go with a cheap ADA-style canister and an expensive DC pump of known quality and durability. That way, purchasing a backup separately from the manufacturer is less important. If it puts your mind at ease, you can buy a cheap DC pump and have it configured, ready to go as a backup.

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I own one of the fzone filters, I'm running it the past few months on my newt tank. The thing is a) built like a tank, b) a little rough with fit and finish, but still looks sexy from say 3 feet away, c) is absolutely silent with the recommended pump.

I'm using the smallest model. The only reason to get a bigger canister is if it comes with a bigger outflow/inflow pipe. Otherwise you can get even the smallest model, and stick the biggest pump they sell on it which I think is rated for something like 5000 liters an hour.

Anyway there was a bit of discussion about these guys a little while ago and I think the conclusion was the fzone and gla models are the same thing except slightly different motor mounts.

The amount of media even the smallest one holds will be adequate for a planted 120 gallon tank.

I made an inline probe holder for my temperature controller when building out my 120p. After the fact, I learned there are much better ways to do it ;P including seals basically designed for the purpose. That's the way to handle the heater issue, plus you need to make sure your heater is installed vertically and is always submersed in water even during a water change. That will keep it from cracking (if it has a glass case that is).
Thanks, appreciate the input! I asked a friend of mine from my reef keeping days about the heater issue and he reminded me about the Lifeguard Aquatics inline reactors. I went to the website and sure enough they have a reactor that you can add a 1/2 to 3/4" diameter heater to and plumb it inline. I'll need to explore the solutions for plumbing the heater controller probe inline as well because my initial inclination was just to put it in the tank, but if I can get it out of the tank, even better.

One of the reasons I may go with the GLA is just because of the sizes they have available. I tend to overstock my tanks a bit, so having enough bio media in the canister, along with room for a sponge/filter floss as a pre filter, some purigen or something for chemical filtration would cover any needs I'd have. From a sizing perspective if I were just doing bio media, the smallest Fzone might be pushing it if it were just all filled with ceramic rings, or something else to use as biological media. Since I'm planning on using this to surface skim as well, I need some additional space for pre filters in the housing to keep that surface scum out of the bio media.

I guess the question is go with the model listed for a 120 tank, or go up a size. Looks to be about a $150 jump in price, but you get 7 more liters of capacity and the pump gives you up to an additional 1500 liters/hr of flow rate.

I will admit that getting the big one is crazy, but it'll give me peace of mind knowing that I have some wiggle room on stocking levels and can use a sufficient amount of chemical filtration media.

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Didn't make a ton of progress on the stand yesterday, but did get all of the 2X4's cut to the correct lengths and glued and screwed the two boxes together.

One of the challenges was finding decently straight lumber. I spent about an hour combing through 2X4's to find 10 that were usable. Even with all that work, they still weren't great.

The top box that the tank will rest on, the top side is perfectly flat. I did the same thing for one side of the bottom box that will rest on the floor.

The plan today after work is to screw in the six uprights that connect the bottom to the top box, then cut the 1/2" plywood to fit inside the stand for the base, then mount the top box, and insert the 8 pieces between the top and bottom boxes to support the actual weight of the tank.

I'm more than likely being optimistic in what I can get done after work with everything else I have on my plate, but the above is the goal. Realistically, I'll probably get the six uprights glued, drilled, and screwed together and maybe the 2X4' sheet of plywood marked for cutting tomorrow.

I initially planned on adding the plywood for the inside base of the stand after I had it assembled but then realized that it would be difficult to impossible to get into the stand in one piece.

The long 2X4's in the pic are 48" long, and the cross members are all 21".

For anyone looking to build a stand, I used 4X48", and 8X21".

I'll include measurements and amounts for the rest of the build as I get to it.

The one thing I need to see is if I can use 1/2" plywood to wrap the stand, or if that would be too thick and either be flush or stick out further than the top. I don't think it will, but I'll need to double check it.

Quick pic so far. It's coming along, more slowly than I'd like but any time I've built something really fast, it never looks good.

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Discussion Starter · #21 ·
What kind of plywood do you plan on using?

My wife built two very nice baby changing stations (one for us, one for her sister/BIL) using an oak frame (I think) and baltic birch plywood. Really nice stuff. Great veneer with a grain that is fine but takes a stain or wipe-on polyurethane very well. We used 3/8" and it's held up very well.

Did you get the tank yet? I want to see what the big UNS tanks look like.
I'm probably going to do birch since that seems to be the most readily available, but my initial plan was to paint it white. I stained birch plywood once before and for whatever reason it didn't stain well. The knots absorbed stain and made those areas super dark and blotchy. But this was using stain and a poly separate. I think I did like 4 coats with sanding in between coats. I'm doing a stain and poly in one for the top so I'll test it on a small scrap piece of birch and see how it looks. Hopefully I'll have a small piece with a knot in it. It's possible I went overboard the last time I stained birch.

I did get the tank but it's on the floor of my basement on top of some long scrap pieces of wood to make sure it was sitting on a flat even surface. The whole tank is wrapped up and protected right now because of my puppy. Once the stand is built and at least wrapped and painted/stained, I'm going to get a hand from someone moving it, getting the stand in place, making sure it's level, and then putting the tank on it. From there I'll probably do a quick leak test after a few days of letting the tank and stand settle. Attached a pic so that you can at least get an idea of the size. One of the things I still need to do is pull that area rug over another 6-12". Right now it's 28" off the baseboard shoe molding. I figured that would be enough but it would be nice to play in the tank and avoid having to cover the rug every time.

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Discussion Starter · #23 ·
Birch is very prone to blotching when you stain. Instead of the stain / poly mix, just do a coat of pre-stain before doing anything else. Run over it with some fine sandpaper to remove any raised grain, and then stain it. It will turn out much better than stain only.
That's exactly what the result was when I tried staining birch - blotchiness.

I think the easy button here would be to paint the stand white, but just stain/poly the top. I believe the butcher block is Acacia which I have no experience with, but at the same time the majority of it will be underneath the tank so however the stain/poly one coat stuff works, you'll only see the edge of it more or less.

I have some pre-stain laying around somewhere so I'll try that first on a scrap piece and see how it comes out. If I can get it to accept stain without blotching, I'll stain the rest of the stand, but if I can't I may as well get some less expensive sanded plywood and just prime and paint it. Staining would be my preferred route since all of my furniture is the same color as the stain (grey).

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Discussion Starter · #24 · (Edited)
Got a little further than my realistic prediction, short of my goal.

Tomorrow I'll get the top brace on, and get the pieces sandwiched in front of the upright 2X4's, and 4 on the corners to support the full weight of the tank.

I was able to break in my DeWalt barrel grip jigsaw and I don't think I can ever go back to a regular jigsaw.

Anyhow, here's what it's looking like so far. I will hopefully have this done by tomorrow, and then start working on acquiring the skin. I'm going to take my time with the doors because there's no rush. I can get the tank on the stand and mount doors a bit later. It would be amazing if I can complete this by the weekend, have paint and/or stain dry, and move it into place and get the tank on it. It probably won't happen, but we'll see how far I can get. It's a lot more work than I thought it would be lol.

I'll come back and edit the post with the lengths of the uprights. I can't remember exactly. Since the height isn't critical since they're not touching or supporting the countertop, I cut them about 1/2" shorter than flush with the bottom of the countertop. I figured if I needed to level things, I could wiggle it up/down and not need to worry about cutting the uprights.

I may need to pick up a flush trim bit for my router because that plywood is ever so slightly hanging off the front side, and one of the sides. When I say slightly, I mean I could probably get plywood on the front and it won't interfere, but I'll always think about it so I might as well flush it up.

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Discussion Starter · #26 ·
Man, using routers in handheld mode scares me. I've had them hit a knot and kick off going 10,000rpm a few too many times. You are a braver soul than I.

Only way I use a router now is mounted through a workbench.
I'm not highly experienced with routers, but I know exactly what you're talking about. Usually when I've had that problem it's because of trying to take off more than I should in one pass. I think skinning that front edge should be pretty straightforward. I'll need to take a closer look at it tonight when I finish it up, but if it's hanging over minimally, I may just hit it with the orbital.

I bought 3 new tools a few months ago that haven't had any use: DeWalt orbital, barrel grip jigsaw, and palm router, all batter operated. So far I've used one and have been dying to use the other two lol.

Once I get the stand finished tonight I'm going to throw the butcher block on top to get a sense of how much room I'll have as far as overhang. I'll likely wrap this with 1/4" birch and give staining it a shot. Worst case it doesn't look great and I'll need to prime and paint it. I have the pre stain conditioner, stain, and poly so I have everything I need. The question will be whether or not it turns out looking good. I'm glad I bought the butcher block when I did because the prices went up $20.

ETA: was thinking about the doors and my plan is to have openings the exact width and height between all the 2X4's. So these will be really big doors. I may need to edge band the opening though which I'm not a fan of, but since I'm going the plywood route, it's the only option. I could leave it bare with just stain because you won't see the edge unless the doors are open, but if I'm going to finish it I might as well finish it completely. Even though this has been and will be a lot of work, I figure I'm saving at least $500-700 and getting a far more sturdy stand. When I think back to all the stands I've owned over the years, I can't believe they actually held the weight of full aquariums lol. They literally use the worst possible materials for building stands.

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Discussion Starter · #29 ·
I've had this exact same thought. My 6' 125G tank is now on a custom stand to make it an in-wall tank, but the stand that it originally came with was incredibly cheap. I couldn't believe that it was made to hold up 1000+ lbs of water and "stuff". Most of it was held together with STAPLES!!
It blows my mind how "professionally manufactured" stands are made. It's like they're made to just hold the weight of a filled tank, and a small margin of error as a cushion. Even worse is they're particle board, which is horrible when it gets wet.

I believe that's how UNS makes their stands too and the price of the stand for this tank was like 70% of the cost of the tank. I'm actually glad that they weren't in stock because my laziness would have gotten the better of me and while I'd have a really nice, sleek stand, I'd always be concerned about it.

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Discussion Starter · #31 ·
Yeah. My wife learned how to build furniture at an early age; she started when she was 7. All of the furniture in our bedroom (queen sized bed made from walnut + jatoba, walnut dresser, walnut chest of drawers) and a couple of other pieces around the house was made by her. She nicked off the tip of one of her fingers a couple years back using a router in handheld mode; it grew back but it wasn't pretty for a while. Family policy (me, wife, and her dad) is now table-mounted only. A razer blade spinning at 10,000rpm isn't something we want moving laterally.
Ouch. If you'd have seen the compound miter saw I used to do the trim in my basement you'd have cringed. It was missing the guard lol. I bought a 12" non sliding dual bevel miter saw and couldn't be happier with it and wished I'd have bought it instead of using my dad's saw.

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Discussion Starter · #33 ·
Re: stands. This is exactly the reason I made my own, too. The idea of supporting ~1,000lbs of tank, water, substrate, etc. with PARTICLE BOARD was simply unacceptable to my wife, particularly with the possibility of even small spills during water changes causing swelling and decomposition of particle board over time.
My last reef tank that I took down when I moved last year was a 60 gallon rimless cube with starfire glass. For what it was, it was heavy.

When the movers lifted the tank off the stand I went to move the stand away from the wall and it fell apart lol. All the humidity inside the stand with the sump running and splashing and whatnot waterlogged the stand to the point where the particle board drew in all the excess moisture. I still don't understand how it was holding the tank up at that point. I obviously tossed it but kept the tank. If I ever set that tank up again I'll do what I'm doing now, but incorporate some computer fans to draw moisture out of the stand.

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Discussion Starter · #34 ·
Another thing I didn't see you mention, but you may want to plan for a mat underneath the rimless tank. They need full support from corner to corner, and any imperfections in the wood will create stress points. I've even heard of tanks cracking and leaking because there was a single grain of sand beneath it.
UNS actually provides one with all their tanks. I lucked out and it wasn't damaged. I'm actually surprised it wasn't because the idiots who pack the tanks put it inside the bottom piece of cardboard, under the tank itself. I honestly don't know why they think it makes sense to do that.

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Discussion Starter · #36 ·
Do they provide a listed weight for the tank?
Believe it or not, I still can't find that weight listed anywhere. My cousin was the person who helped me pick it up and bring it into my basement and he kept asking me for the exact weight. The owner of the LFS that ordered it for me couldn't find it either. I'm not sure why they don't list the weights. Everyone else does for aquariums.

If you made me guess, 150-170 lbs. It was heavy enough to be difficult to move, but seemed lighter than I thought it would be just lifting and holding it. The weight became an issue trying to squeeze it through the door, and around the bend at the bottom of the stairs. Otherwise just lifting, holding, and walking with it wasn't bad with those glass suction cups.
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