The Aquarium Project

PAGE 2 - Ready for Animals

Also see PAGE 1 - Get the original overview
NEW UPDATE: See PAGE 3 - Now with Live Animals
OK, its been a few weeks, and with the holidays, and some weekend time I have finally gotten this thing ready for Marine animals.
A few interesting things have taken place in all of the testing and setup. 

All of the details are not complete yet, but the unfinished items will not affect the operation or stability of the tank.

I have received many requests to explain the wave system better. I am not prepared yet to provide good working diagrams, but at the bottom of the page, I have provided a diagram of the plumbing system which may help.

You can download a full-size, very readable version of the diagram by clicking it or clicking here


As you may note, my photography has improved greatly. This is due to the fact that my old Mustek digital camera crapped out and I was forced to ask for a new one for Christmas (it really broke my heart). My wife bought me a Nikon CP775 which is totally awesome and quite beyond anything I will need for this site - nice choice Dear!.

All of the Plumbing is complete and the system is now filled with salt water.  While operating the system in test mode it began to grow all kinds of algae, so I was obliged to empty it out completely and spray down the rocks with a garden hose. You can still see the green tint that was not present in the previous front view.

The RO filter and 55 gallon drum system made salt water mixing and tank filling a breeze!


Not much has changed in this view. The garden hoses are gone and the electrical outlets for the sump accessories have been installed. Generally, it is just a neatened version of what is seen on page 1.

I am still looking for someone who can custom cut and drill glass panels for the top. This is another of my crazy ideas that seems to work pretty well. The top panels will be blackened for the front 9". This keeps direct light off of the front glass keeping algae growth to a minimum. After 4 weeks of testing, there was heavy growth on the rocks, sides and bottom but the front glass was perfectly clean. I have a magnetic scraper, but every time I tried to use it, there was nothing for it to scrape. This is another great advantage of the 24" width of the tank - I can shade the front of the tank and still have 15" of well lit area in the rear.

There is one other change that is not noticable - I didn't like the tank color using the Actinic/Day bulbs so I changed them to one Coralife 10,000K on top (closest to you) and a URI Actinic on the bottom. Technically, it should be about the same, but I think that this combination has more of a daylight look to it. This might be due to the partial shade of the top panels.


There have been some major improvements here. As you can see, the Protein Skimmer is now on the outside of the sump (I still need to replace it's supply and return hoses). All of the accessories are plugged in to the left of the sump and the garden hoses going to the wave maker have been shortened and connected to PVC pipes. A large fill pipe has been added on the left for the sump refill water. This is to prevent the 55 Gallon drums (below) from syphoning into the sump - if the hoses went from the pumps in the drums directly to the sump, the first time the pump was run and stopped the drum would seek the same level as the sump and overfill it. 
This a little better illustated in the schematic below.

I ran into a little bit of a surprize here. It was my intention to use the lid that came with the Rubbermaid bin. I was going to cut out a couple of strategically placed grooves and pop it on.  NOT!   The pressure from the water in the sump distorted it so that it is about 2" wider than it used to be at the top. I guess it will be an open sump for now.

As it turns out, additional system cooling does not seem to be needed. I am seeing about a 1/2 degree temperature swing day to night.


It is important to note here that everything is NOT mounted crooked on the wall. This room is small and the wide angle lense distorted things a little.

WOW! Did this work out great! One of the advantages of living in a relatively culture-free area, is that it was easy to find a friendly, older man who just happened to have a collection of plastic drums for sale in his front yard. These two blue drums cost $4.00 each. They were originally filled with vinegar so there were no harmful residual chemicals to worry about. I cut the tops out with my handy-dandy reciprocating saw then hosed and scrubbed them out - the stench wasn't too bad. 
I've got black plastic lids on order for them.

Again, in keeping with the automatic theme of the system, both drums were fitted with a high level float switch to prevent over-filling. I drilled holes in the very top for the hoses and electrical cords so the lids will fit nice. In each drum there are two pumps: a RIO 1700 to pump water to the sump, and a RIO 2100 which has a different purpose in each drum.

The drum on the left is fresh water. Any time this drum is low, the Reverse-Osmosis filter turns on and refills it until the float switch is tripped. It takes about 2-1/2 days to fill from completely empty. The RIO1700 pump in this drum will refill the sump every night to make up for evaporation. Because the water in the drums is cool, I am using a smaller pumps and a small supply hoses to fill the sump slowly and reduce shock. The RIO 2100 pumps fresh water to the right drum.

The right drum is the pre-mixed salt water storage drum. When I want to mix a batch of salt water, I flip a switch and the RIO 2500 in the fresh water drum fills this drum until the float switch is tripped. This works well for me because I love to forget to turn things off. After the drum is full, I turn the switch off and turn on the RIO 2500 which is sitting in the center of the drum pointed straight up for mixing - no more stirring! Mixing salt water is as easy as adding salt (I already know that I need about 15 scoops to mix a drum, so I start with that, and measure and tweak until its right). The pump does a great job of mixing, so I can walk away and come back in a few minutes to test and adjust. When finished, I have 50 Gallons of salt water ready to use for water changes (about two months worth).

When it is time for a water change, I use the refill system to top off the sump and give the system a few minutes to mix. Then I turn on the sump drain pump until the low-level float switch stops it, and turn on the RIO 1700 in the salt water drum to refill the sump until the high level switch is tripped. That's it - I don't even have to look at water to do a change! There is no danger of doing it wrong, overfilling, or over-draining anything. The aquarium environment is never disturbed.


As you can see, this is pretty much buttoned up. The only thing left to do at this point is run a dedicated line back to the circuit breaker box. Right now it is plugged into an extension cord which accounts for the birds nest of wires hanging out. This will look much nicer inside and out when complete. The control box contains a 24VAC transformer and 6 relays. This made wiring the float switched easy because I was able to use unprotected thermostat wire and wire-nuts instead of water-tite flexible conduit.

I realized that I probably should have used white switchplates so the labels wouldn't stand out like this.
But, like they say, hind-sight is 20/20



I have received several requests for this. It's a little crude, but its the best I can do right now concidering time constraints For those really interested, you can click on the picture to download a 1024x768 version which is clear and easy to read. Although most of it is clear, I thought a few notes would help:
1) There is no reasoning behind the colors of the hoses - I just wanted to add color.
2) The sewage pump is a standard sink pump used to put a sink below the sewer line (in a basement).
3) I downloaded the picture of the tank from


I will be purchasing the sacrificial Blue Damsel this week along with about 50LBS of uncured live rock. This is what I will use to cycle the system. The purpose of the fish will be to make sure that the wave system will be OK. 
I really think I need to difuse the jets a little - it got worse when I changed to salt water for some reason.
We'll see.

Thanks for visiting.

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