Aquarium - 75 Gallon Saltwater Aquarium

75 Gallon Aquarium Page (The Aquarium Adventure Part 2)

My 75 Gallon build log...

I've picked up an 75 gal tank to replace the 50 "leaker". Found one on craigslist. Got a good deal. So, here we go again...enjoy. The newest posts are at the bottom.

6/19/09 - I enlist George to help me pick up the tank and stand. I'm not even home yet and I'm thinking I may not use the stand. I might owe George 2 dinners. Also got about 75 lbs. of "dead" rock in the deal. This page is in chronological order top to bottom.

6/20/09 - Now that we have some daylight, let's take a good look at we have. It's 95 and it's only noon. Not good. The 'skeeters are hungry too I see. Got to leave the garage door open though or I'll die of heat stroke. Clean the tank a little. My first impression is that the overflow in the tank is a bit tiny. After scraping the old silicone off and putting new fittings in, yup it's too tiny. Too much waterfall will happen, therefore - noise. Wouldn't have any room to create a "gurgle buster".

Hooked up the small pump I use for mixing the saltwater and sure enough, to noisy. And that's only about 250 gallons per hour. I plan on pushing 750 - 1000 an hour through this thing.
I also decide that this stand is not going to work for me. Plans started on the build. I haven't quite figured out how I'm going to do this hood yet.
List made of new parts we'll need.

The ballasts I have on the old tank will only run 2 48" T5s. I would like to run 5 or 6 lamps (I have 4). I plan on adding a couple of white LEDs to help with the shimmer effect (no metal halides) and maybe one more blue.
Starting to think a 20 or 30 gallon fish tank for the sump as well. Time to start figuring out how to do acrylic (new overflow and inflow/filter for sump). At least I'll finally have room for my skimmer!

6/23/09 - After 3 days and nights of planning the stand, I finally went to Lowes to start the wood pile. Props to the Google crew with Sketchup. Great program. Decided to go with 2 x 4 structure supporting a 3/4 sanded plywood skin.

6/26/09 - Started cutting the acrylic for the new overflow. Still having issues deciding on a 45 across the corner or trying to bend it.

6/27/09 - Went to Jeff's to have him route some "teeth" for the top edge of the overflow. All's going well and....Xiang calls and says "you need to come home". ???? "The tank's leaking" $@#%@^^!!!
Gather child and head home. The 50 is leaking at a fair rate. We are leaving town in 3 days and company is coming over for BBQ at 5:30.
Xiang suggests I go get a new tank for temp duty and the 50 is no longer trustworthy (especially since we're leaving town shortly). So I head to LFS and grab the biggest they have handy, which is a 29 gallon. It'll have to do. We wash it out and start transferring water to the new tank and I also start siphoning water from the offending tank into various buckets and totes. As soon as I get enough water into the 29, I start moving the rock. All other rock goes into a tote with water for the time being. I finish setting up the 29 with all of the rock. I then start transferring the fish, coral, snails, crabs and other various fauna. The gramma is just getting over the last leak episode - she's not happy with me again. What a PITA. As company arrives, I'm transferring sand hoping not to start a cycle and kill off the coral. At least I'm finally going to get rid of the cursed crushed coral.
After dinner, I built a quickie canopy to support the 36" lights on top of a 30" tank. 20 minutes and 157,742 mosquito bites later, very crude canopy built and holding lights. I'm beat.
6/28/09 - First task in morning is to transfer some more sand and the rest gets bagged up for use later. Finish emptying 50. Head over to Jeff's for assistance with cutting wood. Timing sure is good here, already planned my cut lengths and bought the wood. We cut and sweat, a lot.
Head home with cut wood and start assembling the stand. Glue, clamp and screw. Forgot to cut doors out. Cut doors. Glue, clamp and screw some more. somewhere around 8pm I finish assembly and sweating my rear off. This thing actually looks pretty good! Only found one error in design and it's so solid, you can probably park an tank on it. Amazing how careful planning makes it easier. See the DIY stand page for more.

7/5/09 - We're back from NC and everyone's still alive! The ATO (auto top off) I threw together actually worked. I check chemistry and everything actually looks great - ammonia: 0, nitrites:0 and nitrates: 0, ph: 8.2. Feed everyone, the gramma is still scared of me almost a week later. Poor fish.

7/6/09 - Check design of canopy I did while in NC and it looks good. I'll get wood tomorrow. I also finish scraping old silicone from 80 and start sanding the stand getting it ready for stain. I set up the 50 on the patio and slapped some silicone in the suspect corner. I figure I'll use it for cycling the "dead" rock I got with the 80.

7/7/09 - Started filling the 50 on the patio (makes any leak issues easier to deal with), filled it a little more than halfway and threw some salt to start mixing so I can bring the rock to life. After work, I sanded the stand, went to HD and got some silicone, stain, paint for the inside then stopped by the LFS to pick up my order. It was pouring so I didn't get any wood for the canopy. Put the little pump into the ATO bucket, looks like there are some issues with it and will probably have to return it. Not a good start. At least the gramma is starting to eat.

7/8/09 - Put the old rock in the 50 to start "cooking" and painted the interior of the stand. Picked up a 30 gallon used sump right down the street from my office for $30. Also got a 10 gallon tank tossed in to use for whatever. I'm thinking a quarantine tank.

7/9/09 - Did second coat on inside of stand and did first coat of stain. Hooked up one of the new pumps I got to mix water with, these things crank. Got 2 quiet-one 2200s.
7/11/09 - The last 2 days consisted of a second coat on the stand, 5 gallon PWC (partial water change) on the rock tank and another water change on the 29. Everybody seems fairly happy in the 29. The coral is growing pretty good too. Out of curiosity, I ran an ammonia test on the rock tank - 5!. So, I ran a nitrite test too, it's starting to show up too. The cycling has begun!
I then spent of Saturday trying to figure out how I'm going to do the doors and what I'm going to do with the sump. 30" is definitely going to be too big. I'm thinking whack about 6" off and put a new end on it and add a few baffles. I'm going to need room in stand for ATO water and a few other items.
In the meanwhile, I made a short video of the 29. I got everything over 2 different periods, but the light was too different to stitch it all together, so here's 2 and I'll make a new one tomorrow that shows it all.

7/14/09 - Since the last update, I've been sanding and applying polyurethane to the stand. Looks great, but the plywood managed to develop some "tears" in the surface. Weird, but I'm not re-doing it at this time. Good thing it's a dark stain. Flipped it over to put some 'thane on the bottom for wetness protection of sorts. Started on the doors last night, they're cut, the framing is glued too. Has to chisel out the hinge areas. Figuring out the how to hinge was a real pain. Doors aren't my bag.
I'm also now contemplating going with a 800 gph pump instead of 2 580s. Will use much less electric and I'm concerned the flow from the 2 smaller pumps might be too much. The small pump for the ATO has actually been working great. Worth the $30 I spent on that.
I'm leaning towards keeping the sump as is instead of messing with it. I think I'll get it under the stand with the tank, (which I hope to have on it by this time tomorrow) and test it out. As long as I have room for an ATO bucket of some sort and the fish food, I should be ok I suppose.
Next task is to double check the canopy measurements one more time and get the wood for that. I'm want to make sure the lights will fit ok, I ran into issues on the old tank.

7/15/09 - Pretty light duty today. We moved the tank to the stand. Par for the course - apparently the top to the stand is not flat. The tank does not sit level on it. Time to get my hands on a nice belt sander, then re-stain the top again. Scraped the rest of the silicone off the tank.

7/17/09 - Got a belt sander from HD and another tube of silicone (just in case). Took the sander to the stand and after bringing in the stand and loading the tank (I think it gained 30lbs each time), we're getting closer. Looks like the left rear corner didn't seat very well and I needed to remove a little more than 1/8".
In the meanwhile the sun coral seems to have stopped opening real well a couple of days ago and I notice some red slimy algae starting to appear on the sand. Took readings and I have nitrates. So, the fish had a light dinner and I'm doing about a 25% water change tomorrow anyway.
Also put the quiet one 2200 into the "rock" tank and I couldn't get it to stand up. This thing's got some umph! Water change on this tank tomorrow too. I'm also going to move the rock that's in the sump on the 29 to this tank to help seed it. Hopefully it'll cycle faster. The ammonia is through the roof, nitrites are present, but I'm not seeing any nitrates yet.

7/20/09 - Found some interesting articles about putting foam under the stand and the tank. This moving the tank and stand and sanding is getting old. It's about a close as I'm ever going to get it. I'll try adding some heavy duty styrofoam underneath to deal with the imperfections. Now I have to re-stain the top.
Tested the rock tank water yesterday, we have major nitrates now, so the cycle is officially started. the 29 still has about 5ppm. The fish are still on a "diet".
Actually witnessed one of the olive snails grab a hermit and take it under the sand. I was wondering where the other 10 or so went over the last 6 months. I'm thinking they may go back to the beach and I'll find something else to stir the sand. Maybe a blennie or a goby.

7/24/09 - Quick update - not much happening during the week. Got the doors to the point that I've mounted them, attached the trim, sanded, stained and have one coat of poly done. The top of the stand has been re-stained and poly'd too.
Nitrates are to about 100ppm on the rock tank and ammonia is down to almost nothing. Nitrites haven't started decreasing yet.
Still having an issue with the red algae in the 29 after 2 water changes 5 days apart.

7/27/09 - The post weekend update. Spent Saturday poly coating the doors and painting the backside. Sunday, it came time for the leak test.
I can now confirm that this tank was not professionally drilled. A normal size bulkhead will not fit in this hole. The only options are a 3/4" bulkhead or PVC. PCV obviously is not a good choice since a good seal cannot be guaranteed (without some sort of permanent solution). A 3/4" bulkhead is simply too small. I'm planning on putting way more flow than that would handle. After watching a few videos, I'm feeling empowered and decide to order a 1 1/2" bulkhead and two 3/4" bulkhead along with the bits to drill with. Wish me luck.
7/31/09 - Ordered diamond coated hole bits on Monday for drilling new holes for proper draining and returns. I spent Friday night cutting acrylic to use for bubble traps in the sump. Of course, after cutting them and actually putting them in the sump to test the fit, I went too small. I used 9" - the sump is 16" deep. That's just too much wasted space. I want to use every gallon possible for this system. So off to Lowes in the morning...

8/1/09 - Happy birthday dad! Started off by running to Lowes and getting PVC for plumbing and 2 sheets of acrylic for making baffles for the sump. Should of got 3, still have to make an overflow for the tank.
Gathered plumbers putty, eye protection, drill, bits and a pitcher of water to drill the holes. Actually was very easy.
Spent most of the afternoon cutting the acrylic by hand. Ended up going 12" deep so I can split the 24" sheet in half. All the guys online are right, best to use a table saw and a router for this job. Of course this probably would been cheaper and easier just buying a sump online that's ready to go. Installed all 3 baffles. Wasn't completely satisfied with the fit due to the "warpage" in the sump walls, so I backed up the weld with silicone just in case.
Brought the tank in and mounted the bulkhead and put together the funky pipe returns (note to self: don't forget anti-siphon holes). Started working on the drainage. The 1 1/2" drain pipe is going to take up some space. Hopefully this will be a very quiet drain system. Haven't quite figured out how I'm splitting the 1 1/2" into two 1" intakes in a non-permanent solution yet.

8/2/09 - Didn't do much today. Took 2 pool supply stores, 2 Home Depots and 1 Lowes to get the $15 in plumbing parts I needed. And of course, I missed 1 lousy piece. Did a mock hookup and looks good. I do have a sneaky suspicion I'll have to upgrade the 1/2" funny pipe I got to 3/4". We'll see how the flow goes first.
Leak tested the sump, looks good. Made new intake piece for the 1 1/2" pipe. Will work much better than trying to split the drain into two 1" intakes. Also started cutting a piece to put on top that will server as a holder for the fans over the sump.

8/6/09 - Ordered an acrylic overflow and a 1k GPH pump. Decided that acrylic work is not for me. Found someone to make one for me for probably less than what it would cost me to make. Hopefully it'll be here soon. Been leak testing the tank, looks good so far. Still kind of monkeying with the plumbing. Thinking about adding a diversion valve in case I need to add some flow to a remote deep sand bed or a turf algae screen, or whatever.
As far as the pump is concerned, the 2 pump theory would work, but it really takes up a lot of room in the sump I could use for sand beds or something. Found a 1000GPH pump on sale, won't be here until the end of the month though.
I'm thinking this weekend I may start on the canopy.
The 29 is holding up, but nitrates still appear to be climbing. I'm now doing PWCs every 4 days.
The rock tank nitrates have dropped to 20 without a PWC and nitrites are now down to 0. I've started throwing fish food in there every couple of days to keep the bacteria alive. So, I'm declaring the rock ready to go. now, I just need some sand...
8/8/09 - Spent Saturday going over the canopy plans and ending up re-doing them. Went and got the wood from Lowes late afternoon so I can get to it Sunday morning (due to the wicked lightning and torrential downpour).
First cut - I notice the end on the board is not quite 90 to the plane of the board. Great. Off to HD to get a new saw. Got saw. Cut wood.
After cutting everything, I started assembly - once again, using something like Sketchup to plan it out, makes it SO much easier. Glue, clamp, do it some more. Finally around 6, the 'skeeters were getting a bit too thick and I needed to have the glue set. Went ahead and installed piano hinge so I can figure out how much I'll have to trim the last piece. Looks really good.
Got shipping notice for overflow. Might have water mixing by next weekend.
8/9/09 - Got the glass cutting bits in on Friday and decided it was time to give it a try. I first made a dam out of plumbers putty. Then I fill it with water. I started cutting on an angle so it wouldn't skip around.
Once the bit made a groove, I slowly leveled out the drill and the 2" went right through in about a minute. Very easy.
Next, I started on the 3/4" holes. They were a little tougher, I've have no clue why. The bit certainly degraded after the first hole. The second hole took a bout 5 minutes to cut. But this is 1/2" glass.
8/16/09 - Got the overflow and I have stained & poly'd the canopy. Had to do some "trim" work on the overflow (I want to make sure the flow rate will be high enough). Also got the shipping notice for the new pump.
Picked up sand and some more salt (since it was on sale). Need a little more silicone on the overflow, then the tank is ready for water. Need to work a deal with the LFS for 70 gallons of RO.
8/17/09 - Glued in the plumbing and started filling the tank. Five gallons at a time. Pretty much took the rest of the day.

8/18/09 - Apparently I didn't glue the plumbing very well. Has a few leaks. Another trip to the depot. Glued everything again and retested. Looks ok so far. The flex tubing is dripping, but it's over the sump, no rush to fix it yet. Made a "table" out of egg crate, some PVC and some zip ties for the skimmer. Hooked up the skimmer as well. Found out the GFCI circuit is a little touchy.

8/19/09 - Started up the sump pump and skimmer full time today and added a little vodka at lunch time. By the time I got home, the water has already started to clear. Stopped at HD and got some vinyl hose and clamps for the returns, it's a tad noisy. Cut up some egg crate for under the rock to try to protect the glass. Going to try to transfer some rock in tomorrow.

8/22/09 - Moving day has come. The sand has been "installed", the rock piled and I've wired the lights. The power strips have been attached and the wires have been neatly arranged.
All this and I find out the ATO (auto top off) bucket won't fit. I'm now in search of a large, skinny bucket for my ATO reservoir.

As I was moving the rocks from the 29 gallon to this one, apparently the gramma was hiding in one. Guess we got to skip the traumatic move with the next this time around. She's even out and about. Seems to like the bigger space. Still catching brittle starts out of the other (I haven't moved the sand yet).

Spent the last hour playing with the return lines, trying to aim the flow just right and keep all the corals happy. Also gave everyone a treat of frozen mysis shrimp.
8/26/09 - Everyone's still alive. Developed a tiny leak in one of the top corners of the tank, it was a pretty easy fix. Have already had to fish 2 snails out of the overflow. Most of the coral appears to be ok. The zoanthids look like they are taking a few days to acclimate, but are starting to come around. The sun coral is being the most difficult. I've been giving them a dusting of rotifers every day. They come out a little.

8/30/09 - Had a MAJOR diatom bloom since the last post. Went out Saturday and got 10 red leg hermits and 30 small (very) cerith snails. They cleaned up the sand AND the rock in less than 24 hours. Incredible. Also while we were out, picked up some zoanthids. Some blue, red and orange. Already forgot the names. Pics to come soon (check the corals page).
9/4/09 - Decided the tank just doesn't have enough flow. I decided to return to my original plan and run 2 pumps. The 1k GPH pump just wasn't coming close to cutting it. I got a few PVC parts and ran the 1k pump for the longer run and a 500 for the shorter run. After turning it on, that made a small cloud of crap. Definitely made a difference though. Tomorrow, we'll redo the live rock - again.

9/5/09 - Took the "spreaders" off of the loc line and it really helped the flow alot.
Tried to clean up a small drip in one of the new lines with a little silicone. No rock redo today.
But got some Rod's food today, the fish went nuts. The coral also seemed to take a liking to it as well. Probably overfeed, but it was fun. Tomorrow, they get pellets, lightly.
9/9/09 - Redid the rock on Sunday. Actually came out okay. It'll have to do, I'm not redoing it again anytime soon.

The sun coral have returned to life - full blast. They really like the rod's food. Still dealing with diatoms, but not as bad. I'm doing PWCs (partial water change) every 4 or 5 days right now.
9/12/09 - Saturday morning, changed water and had to add another fan to the sump. The water temp has been slowly climbing into the 80s. Parameters are all 0, but still have some diatoms on the sand. Thought I would add some pics of the wiring and my cheap 3 gallon wastebasket top-off reserve tank while I'm add it. Still have to do some tidying up of the wiring and replace a couple of the power strips with the fireproof type ($18 a pop). Going to hit the LFS to check on maybe some alternative lighting. Maybe a 12 or 14k bulb to get the new zoos to "pop" a little more.
I picked up a small door rack from HD to keep little stuff in and handy, had to hacksaw in half to fit (the sump is too tall). I spray painted the cuts with some rustoleum to keep the rust at bay for a while.
9/16/09 - Picked up a set up watermelon zoas from a guy in Largo off of reefcentral's Tampbay reef club forum. It's about 20 polyps with 2 cool looking paly's attached.
I ordered 2 ATI Blue+ bulbs to try to bring out more color in the zoas. From what I've read, actinic bulbs aren't the best in T5s. We'll see. I have a sneaky suspicion I might need 2 more bulbs too.
Chemistry is looking good, the diatom population appears to be shrinking. On the other hand, the pod population is starting to explode. I also saw 2 bristle worms the other night. Time to add the wrasse I think.

9/18/09 - Replaced the UVL super actinics with ATI blue pluses. Looks good so far. Much better fluorescence from the corals.

10/2/09 - Thought I'd throw an update out there. After a couple of weeks of the new ATI bulbs, I've decided - they rock! Still having thoughts of supplementing with LED, but no rush just yet. Thinking of another rock re-arrangement. The tank seems a little to one sided. The old brain needs to go, just doesn't fit in. I had to cut the radioactive dragon eyes off and now they are not happy with me. The duncan wasn't happy wherever I put it. It's getting so big, the tentacles are touching rock. So I glued it to a small rock I had. That should held elevate it until I find a new spot for it.
We've also added 2 fish, got a small 6 line wrasse and a diamond orange spotted goby. The wrasse cleaned out the obvious pods in no time at all. Cute little guy, very pretty under the blue lights. The goby (scooter) is doing a great job of turning the sand over and helping keep the cyano under control (appearance wise at least). Digging some serious holes though. See the fish page for pics.
The newest zoas are growing at a fairly good clip. I'm going to have to glue them to some small rocks before they start spreading too much.

10/21/09 - Woke up this morning to the aquarium being rather noisy, water-wise. Upon closer inspection, the tank overflowed at some point last night. I think the mexican turbo went down the drain. He's really the only one that can block that much water. After cleaning up and refilling the top off bucket that was now empty, I think he's still actually in the pipe. The water is flowing ok, so I went to work with a word of warning to Xiang.
So, I came home, still sounds like he's in there, so I took apart the pipe and still couldn't see him, but the water's still flowing ok. We'll see what happens in the morning.
The sand issues have some under control for the most part, now I'm dealing with some brown hairy algae on the back glass. The snails don't seem to care for it too much. Time to cut back on the amount of food going in the tank and maybe cutting back on some light time.
My POS acrylic/plexiglas fan holder thingy started falling apart, so I replaced it with wood. I've also had it with the corallife digital timer. It's a POS too. I do not recommend them at all. It seems to reset itself at random intervals. I'm going to get another good ole' non-digital $7 timer. They only fail when the power goes out.
I'm also going to get another piece or 2 of live rock from FAOIS. They have much better appearance. After the last redesign of the rock pile, I like the layout, but there is too much "white" rock. Should be the final one ;p.
10/28/09 - I've now replaced the entire PVC section of the drain and have yet to find the snail. Haven't smelt him yet either, so he must be somewhere. We also have new baby snails. They appear to be nerites. I've seen 4 so far.
I ended up getting a reactor, small pump and some GFO - Granular Ferric Oxide. It helps remove the phosphates. I've go to get this algae under control. It's been in since Saturday, I don't have a test kit for phosphates yet, but it looks like the algae may be slowing.
All the coral looks great. The duncan has some new babies. The dragon eye is getting rather large and I'm going to have to figure out where it's going to go rather quickly. The star polyps I fragged are really taking off too. I'm doing everything I can to keep from buying more.
11/13/09 - Left the lights off today. Been doing combat with some various forms of algae. Been dealing with green hair algae, some bryopsis, either diatoms, red algae or cyano bacteria, not sure. Can't really tell if the phosphate reactor is making any difference yet. Swapped out the ROWA granules after 2 weeks though just in case. Also slowed down the flow on the reactor a tad. Also got some chaetomorpha algae and threw it in the overflow for now until I get a light for the sump. The guys at Coral Corral were real nice and gave me a handful for free. So, I just had to buy a frag while I was there :).
Also took the background off of the tank. Wow, really gives the tank depth. I was going to get a piece of black acrylic to put back there, but it looks good except for the wires and plumbing, but not so much you actually notice. Of course, now I have to clean the back glass.
I'm toying with the idea to get an internal pump for more circulation to keep debris from settling. I took some rock out and that seemed to help increase the flow as well.
We have also seem to have a population growth in snails. We've found at least 5 and I think they're the nerite snails. Can't seem to get a good picture, but here's one below.
12/2/09 - Between the chaeto, the mini deep sand bed and a little more careful feeding, there are hints of the algae battle tilting in my direction. I've now moved the chaeto into the sump and added a light for it. I'm getting 0 on the nitrates and very, very low on the phosphate tests. Also, I started dosing some Kent Tech M magnesium to try to get a handle on the bryopsis.
I've now added a filter sock to try to start removing the smaller particles from the water column.
I replaced the rest of the lights out now - I'm running 3 blue pluses and one white actinic (all ATI). Kind of on the white side, but we'll see how it goes for a while. Really makes the coral pop (check the corals page).