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My 55 gallon


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Wow, I have been off work for two days (and bored out of my skull). I have fiddled and farted around with the tank enough and have read just about every thread on this forum. I have posted much in the other areas, but came across this one today...there are a lot of great stories so I thought I would share mine.


As many, I grew up with fish tanks. My mom was a big buff and raised Oscars and Red Devils. One of my earliest memories was the Red Devil jumping out of the tank and flopping all over the floor. It took two kids, a mom and a beach towel to contain that mad, chomping fish, but he eventually was returned to the tank with out harm. She had two Oscars, both the size of dinner plates. We bought gold fish to feed them, and she always let me have one or two to keep as a pet. Of course, in a small bowl, void of any filtration or oxygenation, the would soon meet their demise. Poor fish, if only I knew.


To be honest, I can't remember a time being without some sort of bowl or tank. The majestic flight of fish through the water always brought some sort of forbidden freedom...and I longed to keep that in front of me, if only to dream of their grace and splender. So, from guppies, to betas, to neons, to sicklets and everything in between...fish have been right along side my life, providing that serenity that even my dogs can't give.


My brother Kevin had a 55 gallon tank in one of his offices about 15 or so years ago...boy it was the cream of the crop for our family. Of course, he had it professionally maintained and it was easy and beautiful all of the time. Well, he moved and mom inherited the tank...it was alot of work for her, but she kept it up and running for about 10 years. Heck, it even survived the trip to Oregon. Finally, it got to be too much work. The FW algae was a killer and the tank was green most of the time. She threw in the towel, drained the tank, stuck it in the garage (destin for the dump) and bought a 25 gallon...

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Thanks for sharing that story. I can picture the scene where all of you are chasing that fish around trying to get it back in the tank. LOL!


Keep stories like that coming. It is always good to find a group where I feel "normal" about my love for my tank.


dsoz :)

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I completely understand what you mean.


When I met my wife I had 16 FW tanks. We had only known each other like 2 weeks, and I told her, "If you ever make me choose between fish and you, you will loose." Long story short.... She learned to like my hobby.

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Nice story Kris... yes, it is always nice to find a group where your obsessions are shared by many. I have had tanks since I was in grade school (and just had my 45th b-day Sunday) and have always enjoyed going to shops to just see what's there. It's great when we find partners that can at least accept this behavior and even better when they can take part. My fiancee just emailed me an article she was excited to find which talked about the biology of Sea Apples - yes, we are in fact geeks!

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Okay, I guess I will try this again.


So, one late November evening, we were at my Mom's for dinner. She asked if I wanted that old tank. I went into the garage and took one look at it, and one sniff of it, and thought to myself...why the heck would I want that piece of junk. I told her I would think about it, and left it at that.


A few nights later, I started to think about that old tank. Wow, 55 gallons....Wow, I could start a salt water tank with it. I had always wanted salt, but everyone had discouraged me due to the time and money involved. Again, those little wheels turned....hmmm. I didn't ride horses anymore so that pocket drain was over...plus that free'd up alot of time. So, what the heck.


The next Sunday dinner, we loaded up the stand and the stinky tank (it still had gravel and yuk in the bottom) and the canopy that weighed more then the other two put together. We got it home and into the garage, and there it sat. I pondered many a evening, trying to figure out where I was going to put this monster. All the while, it sat in the garage. Of course I took the time to get rid of the stinky gravel and douse it with some 10% bleach water to rid it of its foulness.


Once the stinch was gone, I started examing the scratches...there were some big ones. I picked up an acrylic sanding kit (my first $40 into the tank), and sanded the junk out of it...it took two days, but finally, it looked pretty good. We moved it into it's home (the computer room) and I filled it with tap water to test everything out! All in all, it didn't look to bad....

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Keep us posted for sure. My motto is, take your time and get it done right. Well, Good luck. You look like you have a pretty soon to be killer salt water system. Are you going for a reef design or more of a fish only tank? If reef, do you plan on keeping mostly soft corals, or hard corals?



Take it easy and take you time on that beauty,


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and more...


A cliff hanger...ah yes. I love to keep an audience on the edge of their seats!!!


Where was I, hmmmmm.


Well, it is now mid January, and here the tank sits...empty in my computer room (aka "The Red Bull Room" named due to its lovely paint job). I kept researching and found one of the forums on the net...the other guys. I found out a lot of information, but mainly was concerned about the filtration. After all of my late night hours on the net, and a severe case of "mouse wrist", I realized that A) I could not go under gravel. Even though this method worked fine on my Fresh tank, I knew now it was no longer ideal for the reef. I also realized B) Canister filters were out as well...something about a "Nitrate factory" kept comming up. The tank came with an ancient fluval, so I hooked it up to the fresh tank...it works great there.


I started reading about these sump things...and refugiums and overflows and yada yada yada....wow. I found a great site, Marc's Hidden Treasures and studied his many sump plans. Read up on cutting acrylic, welding acrylic and found places to buy acrylic. By the end of January, I had a 4' x 8' sheet of 3/8" acrylic in my garage (my second investment-$100 for the acrylic and glue). I had to go custom...the size of the tank and stand would not accomodate a pre-made sump...besides, I did not have 250+ dollars to spend on one.


We went to work, and boy was that fun. After 16 years, my poor husband has endured alot of my hair brained ideas, this was a doozy! He cut the pieces for me (some twice because I made a few slight measurement errors), and I carefully sanded all of the edges. Then, the pieces sat as I pondered for days on the exact way I was going to assemble it. Finally, after about a week and 50 billion ideas, we went for it. It took two days total to weld it together...some seams were perfect...the others required a little more TLC. I let it cure for 48 hours and then...I did the water test.


The first test...leak, leak, leak...not big ones mind you, but a few small breaks in the bottom seams. Out went the water, and on when more T16...48 hours later, another water test and wah-lah...it held. I left it full of water for about a week...to ensure that it was strong as can be. It held true!


Wow, this was actually going to work! Not only that, it fit in my stand...bonus!!! And, to continue the flow of this story...here are a few pictures of my sump!


The water test



The final product after a few braces were added and my intake box was added.


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Since I have the day off and nothing much else to do...


Okay, so the sump is built. Of course I made the specifications to fit my mag 7 return and my Octopus NW150. Buying the skimmer is a whole other story...boy that was a lot of research. It was my 3rd investment $164.00 plus shipping. When it got to the house I was in awe...Wow, that thing was a monster...I hoped and prayed that I got the dimensions of the sump right! Out of the box it came and into the sump it went...thank God, it fit. But, would it fit under the stand? This thing was tall...I had measured everything prior to purchase, but sometimes my measurements aren't correct (see previous reply). So, I tested it and again...perfection!!!(clap)


Things were really starting to come together. By now, it was mid March and I had the skimmer, my return pump, my sump and the tank. Now came the overflows...I was really afraid to by a HOB overflow for fear that I would loose siphon and create a catastrophe. I also didn't want a top to bottom overflow taking up space (valuable space in a 55 gallon) in my tank. I research the Calfo style overflow and made my modifications from there. I took my black acrylic (purchased along with the previous material) and designed my boxes...They came out to be 3" in depth, 7" long and 5" tall.


Meanwhile, my hubby used his fabulous workmanship skills and drilled two 1 1/4" holes in the back of the tank...man do I love acrylic. I fitted the holes with 1" bulkheads, added a street "EL" on the inside, then proceeded with the overflow boxes.


Once cut, I welded the joints (this time it was much eaiser to do) and squeezed them through the cut out in the top of the tank. It was quite tricky welding the boxes to the back side of the aquarium...but, it worked out ok. I am still not entirely happy with the design, but they serve the purpose.


The external plumbing came easy to me, once I knew what design to use. I installed external dursos and one side led to the fuge and the other to the skimmer section. I plumbed it all with 1" PVC and fittings and then painted them black to match the tank. I also plumbed the return, this with 3/4" PVC to a locline "Y" in the tank. This as well was painted black to match.


I knocked out the back of the stand and reinforced it with 2 4X6" boards...I covered these in clear laminate to protect it from overspray and salt creep. Once all of that was done...I was ready for a water test....


Here are a few pictures


The painted plumbing



Rough plumb



One overflow and the return


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I look back and think, wow it has been nearly 8 months since this whole idea started. Time has definately flown by.


In short continuation...I worked 12 hours today and am really tired...


I filled the tank with water (tap) and tested all of the hook ups and overflows...things were a little interesting, especially when I turned on the return....I thought for sure the display was going to overflow! Luckily, the design payed off...Everything worked. The only problem encountered...was a small drip from one of the bulk heads...you see, I guess I didn't know my own strength when tightening...and kablam...crack down the seam. I took it back and got another and kablam, crack down the seam. I knew I was careful...what the heck was going on? I opted to not fuss as it was not a pressurized system...it was only a drain. Well, that stupid crack leaked, and it took about 1/4 tube of silicone to patch it up. I am not talking the small tubes either...I am talking the ones you put into the gun. It just so happened that I was remodeling my bath at the time and had plenty on hand...each day I would check it and each day glop some more on. I finally found stasis...and things were good.


Now for some of that stuff they call Live Rock...$5 a pound????? DOH! I need how much???? 75 lbs ??$$$???. Of course I am exagerating the shock...I knew all of this. If you recall, I did have mouse wrist from all of the surfing. My goal...find some cheaper. And so I did....



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Thanks to Reefgeek84 aka Brandon, I found some rock. I got around 50 lbs from him and filled the tank with it. This of course after it sat in a rubbermaid for 2 weeks while I finished the final touches on the tank. Once the rock was in, I added the sand. It took about 40 lbs to give me a SSB of 1" or less. I can't even remember now what exactly I used! Was live according to the packaging.


So, I threw in the sand, and started adding salt water. My hubby and I made about 4 trips to our LFS to get RO water to mix...all of this on a Saturday night-the eve of Easter Sunday. Thank goodness the ART WALK was going on that night and the store stayed open late enough! Once it was all mixed, I added it to the tank through the sump and again stressed over overflowing the display, the sump or both!


The sand storm was outrageous!!! I couldn't see a single thing in the tank. Of course my first though...oh s#@t, I messed this up. Oh well, 75 gallons of water were now ciruculating through the display and the sump, not much I could do now but wait. I turned on the skimmer and set it to wet skim and withing 24 hours....crystal clear! (Boy do I miss that sight).


After the tank had set for a month or so, with me testing the param's every 2-3 days, I was amazed that never a nitrite, nitrate, or ammonia spike occurred! I had gotten a cup full of Live Sand from my LFS and added it in-still no spikes. I started adding inverts....first 3 hermits, then some snails....still nothing. The tank had cycled under my nose, and I never even saw it happen! What a benefit the LR and LS was!


I really started itching to add some fish, but I knew I would be out of town in June...goal, get some fish when I got back. Then, things turned somewhat ugly....


Sand storm




24 hours after water




Full tank shot



The ugliness about 30 days in...


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  • 1 month later...

Vacation Time!


Wow, its been a long time since I posted on this thread...I looked back on the pictures and look over at my tank and man have things changed.


Where I left off....


I was going out of town in June for my daughter's high school graduation so I set a goal to start adding fish when I got home. The inverts that now inhabited the tank were doing just fine...10 or so snails, a few hermits and the feather duster. I knew exactly what I wanted...a clown.


I reasearched (as usual) endlessly and decided to go with a True Percula. Rylie, my youngest daughter had also made this clear that this was the fish she wanted as well. I set plans in motion to get one, and low and behold my LFS store had one in stock. He/she was promptly purchased and brought home as the first fishy! Regardless of all of the huff I would take for it...he/she was named Nemo. While I was at my LFS...I saw another interesting subject. A six line wrasse. Oh it was so graceful in the water! I had to have it! He came home with Nemo, and because of his lovely crossed eyebrows, was respectfully named Grumpy! Grumpy would give me a run for my money...more to come on this later.


So, Grumpy swam through the tank as graceful as could be and Nemo just hung out in one corner by the overflow...fearful of taking any risk in exploring the tank. He did eat, and then went promptly to his corner as if constantly in trouble! I knew I wanted a pair, so I ordered another from my LFS. Merlin (yeah I know...but what can I say) arrived about three weeks later. He was much smaller than Nemo, and took the roll as the male clown...(I now have a female named Nemo!). The two instantly took to each other and began exploring the likes of their surroundings. Grumpy joined in the fun and together the three were like peas in a pod...


more to come.



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A few pictures to set the mood.


As mentioned before, I finally took the dive, no pun intended, and bought some fish. Here are a few pictures of my little ones...


Grumpy and the feather duster



The two clowns



My skimmer kicking some booty



Things were going great! I was still, however, batteling with algae. This, to this day in fact, has proven to be my greatest enemy!


After 30 days or so, the fish were doing great, the sand looked like crap. I did more research and finally deciced to go with a cleaner fish...a goby to be more specific. Enter in Junior...the Two Spot Goby....




I put him in the tank and didn't see him for another 2 to 3 weeks. I always looked...wondering, "Is he alive??? or worse!"


Soon, Junior became less wary of other's presence and now he moves happily around the tank, creating ski slopes and sand storms in his wake! The sand is clean though....

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Very nice. Looks like your system is really starting to come along. You are keeping critters alive!!!

Do you have any snails or hermit crabs yet?

They will do a great job at eliminating the diatom algae on the rocks and glass. Plus they are just awesome to watch and an essential for a reef. Also consider an emerald crab, salley lightfoot crab, cleaner shrimp, blood shrimp, and maybe even some pepperment shrimp. These guys together will really keep that system clean and make for enjoyable additions to the tank.


Thanks for the pictures and keep them coming.



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