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Old 09-03-2011, 06:13 PM   #1
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Future reef project

Throughout the years, I've kept many freshwater aquariums, a few saltwater fish only systems, and now maintain a reef system that I've been upgrading and learning with.

I'm in the process of building an addition onto my home, and part of that build will revolve around what I'm calling a reef network. Just like a computer network, you have your hub and/or switch (sump) in one centralized location, feeding multiple computers/network devices (aquariums.)

The sump I'm going to be using is going to be appx 800 gallons, lighted with skylights, and the aquariums are going to each have gravity fed overflow boxes. The sump will be reinforced with a wood frame and will have have a deep sand bed, live rock, and protein skimmer for filtration. It will house pretty much all of the equipment.

The main tank in my living room, I'm really not even sure what I want to keep in the system yet, but it will be appx 180 gallons.

The tank in my dining room will be around 220-300 gallons and will have either a bamboo or horned shark, possibly a stingray, and some larger monos (at least until the shark gets big enough to eat them) and a large columbian catshark. The monos and cat shark have been through freshwater, brackish, and slowly converted over about an eight month period to full saltwater and are outgrowing their current system. The shark tank will have at least 200 pounds of fine sand in it.

To minimize heat and for energy savings, I will be using LED and NO lighting on all tanks that don't have photosynthetic creatures.

I hope to use a single water pump with multiple outlets, ball valve switches, etc to control the flow into various aquariums as well as check valves for fail safes.

Besides the two main large tanks, there will be smaller tanks in possibly all of the other rooms.

I understand the issues of sharing multiple systems, such as if one tank gets sick, all tanks are infected, especially if (like an LFS) fish come and go all of the time without proper quarantining. My answer for this is that I will properly quarantine all livestock and don't plan to keep adding and changing stuff in the system once it is running in harmony.

In total, the system will hold less than 1,500 gallons of water, really a whole lot less when you consider 2,000 pounds of live rock and as much live sand. So, for chilling purposes, I was thinking of using a combination of a 1,000 gallon chiller and build a radiator system to work with the chiller.

I do have a few questions...

1: I understand that the ground isn't a very good insulator, because it can't disperse heat/cold very well, but with a combination of a chiller and a radiator, would burying the sump at least slow down the heating process of the water in the daytime, before it cools off at night? Would it even be a worthwhile option? Just to be clear, the sump will not be outside in the open but rather will have a small storage-building type shed built over it, with skylights for 'daylight' lighting.

2: I've heard people mention that even though setting up multiple aquariums via one sump is a bad idea, if you do it, use a UV filtration system. Is this a viable option at all on such a large scale setup?

3: I like the idea of using a fluidized bed filter in a chain that goes something like this: overflow = fluidized bed filter to convert ammonia to nitrite to nitrate = macro algae/refugium to take nitrates/phosphates = sump/deep sand bed to convert the excess nitrates into nitrogen gas before going back into the system. What are your thoughts on fluidized bed filters used like this in a reef system?

This system is in no way a final design, and it will be awhile before I attempt to implement any ideas into this system.

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Old 09-15-2011, 02:05 PM   #2
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Soon, I will be trying to special order about three more columbian cat sharks, to try to get ones about the same size as mine and at least one mono sabae fish which I hope to introduce to the shark tank build next year. One good thing about monos is that they are suppose to be able to go from freshwater to saltwater with very little acclimation time.

Anyway, I'll need to setup a brackish tank pretty soon as a quarantine tank and then start the conversion process to saltwater when I see they are healthy.

I've been keeping an eye on craigslist, to see what kind of tanks are offered. A lot of the ones I want already are established reef systems with fish and all, but I would prefer something that I can make my own and don't have to worry about livestock that I wouldn't personally use in my own tanks.

Overall, taking a year to plan this big venture is probably the best thing I could do, because I get new ideas all of the time, and I don't have to impulse buy anything.
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Old 09-16-2011, 09:49 AM   #3
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I think sinking the sump will be a good idea,I think the ground below 6" from the surface is where the temp will hold steady.
Most new heating and cooling systems over here in england are going towards ground source,Maybe you could bury pipework instead of the sump.(although this will take a lot of pipework)
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Old 09-16-2011, 11:57 AM   #4
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Central sump is best option. The larger the system the better. You could bury the sump, not sure how much it would help. But I don't think it would hurt. Kind of like geothermal but shallow. I dont think uv sterilizer would hurt either. I know a few people with huge systems and they all have them. But it will need to be huge.
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Old 09-20-2011, 01:30 PM   #5
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Anyone have any comments about using a fluidized bed filtration system, if used properly in the chain of filtration?

What would you all do to maintain a system like this? Would anyone also use a mini sump and/or refugium underneath every main tank? How about using a protein skimmer on every main tank?

How would you use a uv sterilizer in this type of system? For example, would you use a UV filter at each overflow coming out of each display tank or just one large uv sterilizer going from the central sump output to all of the tanks?

I've never used a UV sterilizer but was wondering how slow the flow rate would have to be in order to properly 'sterilize' the water.


In building my addition, I will actually be plumbing the pvc pipes through the walls, with the overflows into the central sump slowly going in a downward angle, to keep the siphon going. I also understand this may not be the best idea, because if a leak occurs, it'll mean having to rip out a wall to fix it. Thankfully, I do have experience building and rebuilding walls, flooring, etc.

Considering this would be a low-pressure system, how many years can one expect the seals to last before any possible leaks? Does saltwater deteriorate the glue any faster than normal city water? It seems that a lot of reefers have leaks when they first put complicated plumbing systems up.

Lots of questions, but I think it's better to know what you're dealing with beforehand and make adjustments to plans accordingly.


With all of this being said, there are some doubts about maintaining the system when I go out of town sometimes, for as long as a month. There will be someone that can do basic stuff, like feeding, but knowing me, I like to make pretty complicated setups. It's like my home theater systems. They have about 300 wires and hundreds of buttons, and no one but myself knows how to use them. So, you could only imagine how many 'things' that would be used to make the system work.

If I absolutely couldn't do a saltwater system, because of the commitment it would take from outside parties when I am away, how would a freshwater system do with a central sump? I'm fascinated by gar fish. In fact, in a small creek in Texas, a couple miles from where I vacation, there are thousands of garfish.

It seems like it doesn't matter the time of day or season. You could almost just scoop them out with your hands. I don't know what type of gar these are, but they are way too large for any aquarium I am considering. Some of the smaller gars may be a nice aquarium addition however, along with aquatic turtles. I've experience with lots of turtles over the years, from painteds, muds/musks, maps, cooters, sliders, and common snappers.

I'm not sure a common snapper would play well with even a gar fish, even though it would be a good choice for a turtle that didn't need a basking area, and some of the smaller mud/musk turtles would probably be food for the gar fish.

At one time, I actually had a large mouth bass in an aquarium, pictured below:
but he attacked, killed, and tried to eat fish that were bigger than him. These fish are actually really cool to watch in an aquarium, because they eat other fish and then spit out the scales. It's just not good with tank mates. They grow so fast that it ends up being too expensive to buy larger fish for them to eat. So, I actually had to buy smaller fish, raise them up larger, and then feed it to him! Well, a combination of that, earthworms, meal worms, frozen shrimp, and going to the lake to catch live minnows, smaller bream, and ghost shrimp.

Any ideas about a freshwater Florida natives system of the same size as the reef system?
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Old 10-11-2011, 03:55 AM   #6
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Any updates on your build? Would love to hear more about the central sump and how it works out!?
my 30g reef with refugium
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Old 10-11-2011, 08:36 AM   #7
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Sorry, no updates so far. It'll probably be next year before I start this project.
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