Ever since I bought a 92 Corner Bowfront tank and started maintaining the tank owned by the guy I bought it from, I've been itching to set up my first saltwater tank. So far, I've just been maintaining for others:
Tank Journal – 125 Reef
Tank Journal - 135 FOWLR
Tank Journal - 225 SW FOWLR, Possible future reef
Tank Journal - 225 Cichlid Habitat
...trying different filtration methods...
Algae Turf Scrubber (ATS) DIY build
I lost a razor blade in my tank
...you get the idea. Priority right now is to take my Professional Engineering Licensure Examination on April 8th, which in case you don't know that is an 8 hour exam that requires about 300 hours of study for most people, and about 65% pass it on the first try. This is job related, if I pass then I can stamp & sign plans & spec for construction projects, studies, reports, etc related to the commercial construction industry (I work at a Mechanical/Electrical/Plumbing consulting firm). If I don't pass, I have to take the test again in October. I have made a pledge that I will take on no big projects until I pass this test. This project (in addition to advancing my career) is my motivation. Plus, who really wants to take an 8 hour exam twice?
However, timing is never perfect...
Last month, a new LFS
was started up by a couple guys in the local Reef Society, and they kicked it off with a big tank sale. This inspired my local LFS
/ Club Sponsor to do that same.
Today, I paid $355 for an All-Glass / Aqueon 120G tank, 24 x 24 x 48, black trim, undrilled (I'll get into why). The tank will be delivered on Wednesday.
Next, theFishGuy65 on RC is putting together an LED
group buy. I decided that since I'm a EE and a good % of what I do is lighting design, I might as well put all that to work and DIY my own fixture. So sometime in the next 2 weeks, I'll be dropping some $$ for that project.
Then, I get to sit there and look at it...and suffer while I study...
So this is my project outline:
1) Overflow & Return
The tank will be drilled for external beananimal style 3-pipe tuned full siphon system. It will have an internal black acrylic coast-to-coast overflow box, an external clear acrylic box for the 3-pipe system, and 4 bulkheads joining the 2 sections together, based on a design I saw on RC (and got a bunch of detailed pics from the builder of that one). This may be done on one side of the tank, as my original evil scheme was to knock a hole in the wall (actually, this was jokingly suggested by my wife, but I took it QUITE seriously). After thinking about it, I would like to have the tank against the wall for space reasons and frame around the sides of the tank. The returns would come up the other side, and a series of pipes and jets would distribute from there. Perhaps 4 jets.
Likely a 40 Breeder, maybe a 75. Don't know on this one.
ATS. Possibly LED
, but likely T5HO.
4) Other circulation
I have been considering installing a closed-loop system. However, I am also toying around with wanting a wavemaker system also, so I'm leaving this one on the fence. I'm leaning toward power heads because it allows more flexibility.
5) Lighting system
Ahh, yes. I will be making my own fixture.
5a) Lights: The base design as of right now consists of 96 Cree LEDs. 60 XP-E Royal Blue and 36 XP-G Cool White
5b) Driver Board: 3 DIY Driver Boards. Each board is capable of driving 48 LEDs (8 strings of 6). The reason for 3 boards is because you can't mix RBs and CWs on a board. The boards are essentially dual-boards - each side of the board is powered by an independent power supply connection point, so you can run the whole board on 1 PS or 2 PSs. I'm going to have one board for only CWs, 18 on each side running on 1 PS, then the 2 other boards will have the RBs, which will require 2 PSs total, however I end up configuring it. I will have expansion capability to a total of 144 LEDs.
5c) Lighting Control: The DIY boards have PWM dimming inputs, and I will be purchasing an Arduino board to perform lighting control. Each board is configured so that there is quite a bit of flexibility. Each side (4 strings of 6) can be configured for 2 dimming channels of 2 strings each, or split into 1 and 3 strings, or 1/1/2. So with 3 boards, I could have up to 18 dimming channels. Bwahahaha! My vision is to run my tank lights to music like that guy that did his Christmas lights on his house to "Wizards of Winter" or whatever that was.
5d) Heat Sink: I will also likely attempt to make my own heat sink out of angle or C channel aluminum. But we'll see about that.
6) Stand & Canopy
I will be building my own stand out of 4x4 corner posts and 2x6 framing. I would, if at all possible, like to make a skin to cover it all up that would match the wainscoting in my office/study. As for the canopy, it will likely go to the ceiling and match up with the crown molding. My goal is to have everything blended together so it looks like it was original to the house, without cutting things all apart. At least for now. Insert evil laugh here.
My latest obsession (as of Thursday) is the Arduino based controller. This little thing totally intrigues me. I will be getting my hands on a Reef Angel Controller eventually, and rigging this in to the system to control the ATS Lighting cycle, heating, cooling fans, pH and temp monitoring, dosers, etc. There is also a wireless module so I can rig up one of those cool footers that says what's going on in your tank. I will have to figure out if you can wire 2 Arduino controllers to talk to each other, since the RA only has something like 4 or 6 PWM dimming channels. Or I might just scale back my evil 18 channel dimming project. Or NOT.
Once I get all of this together, I plan to follow Randy Holmes-Farley's advice. I will probably try to find members of The Greater Iowa Reef Society
and buy up about 250 pounds of LR
and probably some substrate also. Then I will set everything up and play with it for a couple of months, decide on the best arrangement, let the tank cycle up and settle in, and let the ATS screen get established. Then once a couple of months have passed, I'll get a clean-up crew and let them get a foothold.
This one will probably not be up to me, at least not completely. I think I'm going to let HER pick the corals. I remember one comment she made after going to a Frag Fest was "can we have a tank with just corals?". Of course, she'll want fish too once she sees how much cooler they are than FW
fish. I'm thinking I'll want LPS
, with a few softies, but this is by no means set in stone. I'll be getting a few books on the subject and do some dreamscaping before settling in on anything. However, I would like to do some really exotic corals. And there must be at least one Giant Clam. Those are soooooo cool.
No idea yet. But I do have a wholesale connection so I can get whatever I want really. And I've got plenty of time to plan that out, so there's no rush. Plus, I really do plan on not introducing any fish into the tank for at least the first 6 months. I really need to also figure out what I'm going to do for a Quarantine tank, since I don't think it would be wise to add any fish to this system until they've been isolated for a good long time.
It would be REALLY nice if I was ready for corals by the time MACNA comes around, because there will be a TON of awesome corals available there. In case you didn't know, MACNA 2011 MACNA 2011 > Home
is in Des Moines September 9-11. I live in West Des Moines, so I'll be working the event. Remember to mark your calendars, and remember that general admission for kids under 18 is FREE for the first time ever. There will likely be tours of the Des Moines Central Campus Marine Biology Department's aquarium room - 16,000 gallons of saltwater! There wil also be free admission to the Blank Park Zoo with admission to MACNA - they have several marine systems also.