View Full Version : My 240 Gallon Island Cube

03/16/2017, 03:56 PM
In December, my girlfriend brought up that I had been in the aquarium hobby before we met. She seemed really interested, and I mentioned that we could swing by Your Reef, one of the great Sacramento area LFS. She could see what kind of fish and corals they had and see what was interesting to her. I told her I wasn't at all sure that I really wanted to get back into the hobby because it's expensive and requires a lot of time and I get a bit obsessive about it, but she was pretty excited.

I was pretty reluctant and told her I didn't want to make a decision right away, but I could post and ask what might be available in used tanks and just see what we could get. I posted that I was looking for a 30"x30"x24" cube but that I might be willing to go larger for the right deal. My previous system was a 72"x30"x24" Starphire glass tank that sprawled out into the garage and a 4'x2' frag tank and cost at least $150/month in electricity. It wasn't very efficient, and it had some major problems. Whatever path I chose, I was going to be sure to address those problems, and I wanted something that I was going to be proud of.

I received a message from an old friend who does tank maintenance that he had a customer who had a 4x4x2 center overflow acrylic cube that had just been broken down and replaced with something much larger. The tank had been used as a planted fresh water tank, and even though it had the overflow, it had never been drilled. It also had a sump and a steel stand.

Most people don't discuss money or prices, but it was such a good deal that I'll share that the tank, custom steel stand, large 4' sump and basic cabinet work were $800. He also threw in two nice reactors with pumps. Obviously, I "decided" that it was perfect.

03/16/2017, 03:57 PM
This is my first photo of the tank loaded in my trailer.


And of the sump sitting in the blue tape spot I had marked out in the middle of my living room.


03/16/2017, 04:05 PM
I still had a bunch of dry rock sitting in an empty 100 gallon Truvu tank in the old fish closet in my garage, so I bought a box of salt and started it curing in the garage with a heater and Koralia I had in a box.

I spent a couple of weeks planning and really thinking about what I wanted to accomplish and how I was going to do it. I talked to some people including John at Your Reef and some things started to become really obvious. First, Jebao equipment is remarkably inexpensive for the quality and features. Even if one of the RW-20 pumps died a year, it would still be much less expensive than an MP40, which isn't exactly the pinnacle of reliability.

My previous tank had issues due to a relatively thin layer of crushed coral on the bottom. I didn't want to be limited by the amount of flow I could have in the old tank, and didn't want to go bare bottom. I wound up siphon-vacuuming that coral bed for more hours than I care to think about. It never got clean. I want high-flow and I understand flow in terms of inches/second of water velocity, not in terms of gallons/hour which is a flow rate through a pipe, but not very interesting in a body of water. I also wanted options and since I have a great opportunity with the 4-side-viewable center-overflow tank, I decided to keep all of the powerheads on the center overflow.

I also had a rough time figuring out how I was going to put the tank in the middle of the room and not have and cords running to it. I decided to install outlets in the ceiling above the tank and since the overflow was not already drilled, I was able to drill and install four 1" bulkheads in the overflow. That gets complicated so I'll continue that thought process in the next post.

03/16/2017, 04:09 PM
Bulkheads were complicated because the steel stand was X braced across the middle in both directions. I was concerned that anything I would do would be blocked by the braces. After much measuring and considering and taking into account the wood on top of the stand plus the foam, I decided that it actually wasn't an issue. I could have gone larger than 1" and still had clearance and room for the bulkheads. It was kind of close, though, and definitely had to be done correctly and I knew I only really got one shot at it unless I wanted to try to cut it out and glue in a new piece of acrylic. That sounded like a really bad idea, so I took this drilling job very seriously.

Down into the overflow:


Careful, precise, scary wet drilling.


My silver Bengal assitant.


03/16/2017, 04:13 PM
A very happy and successful end result.


This picture is out of order, but this is when I was first seeing what the tank would look like without the stand in the room.


And skipping ahead a little while, here's RODI water going into the tank for the first time! I had leak tested it and cleaned it with garden hose water.


03/16/2017, 04:19 PM
My return plumbing.


My overflow plumbing set up for Herbie.


Note the empty bulkhead. That's for power-only. My powerhead wires, a power wire to under-tank outlets and a USB cable for the Apex all managed to squeeze through the 1" pipe. I can't say that was great planning, mostly luck and some ingenuity.

This also serves as a rather public embarrassing admission that my cat boxes are in the fireplace. And I use an old RC bucket for cat poo.

Here's a very early photo of testing the Jebao pumps high up in the tank.


03/16/2017, 04:30 PM
My next major design consideration was rock work. I wanted something that would really take advantage of the four-side viewable tank. I looked at every "modern aquascape" photo I could find to get inspiration and then I started working with the rock that I had available. I still had the shelf out of my old setup, and really wanted to incorporate it as a tribute to the "tank that was." I decided that arches were probably my best theme and I wanted to see if I could really incorporate all four powerheads in such a way that they wouldn't be too obvious and would also keep the bottom of the tank as clean as possible.

This is one of the first photos of how that shaped up.


And this is an early attempt at the opposite side.


That didn't really have the line I was going for, and it's been improved a lot, since.

03/16/2017, 04:39 PM
A couple of weeks later, after feeding the empty tank for a couple of days and watching the ammonia and nitrate levels, I determined that the tank was processing waste pretty well. To be perfectly honest, I don't remember what fish were added in what order. I got a pair of large maroon clowns along with a 3-headed green bubble coral. I wasn't planning to get any large LPS, but it came along with them and they "host" it and have for years in the previous tank. I had a couple of fish losses early on, and shortly after did a large fish purchase with all of the fish that I wanted, added them all at the same time, and have had very good success with that. The current inhabitants are:

Power Blue Tang
Chevron Tang (juvy colors)
Red Sea Sailfin Tang
Purple Tang (had been in an aquarium for a long time and had fin damage and is pretty small. it's had a rough life)
Copper Banded Butterfly
5x blue eye lyretail anthias
3x PJ cardinals (girlfriend loves them)
Starry Blenny
Blue Jaw trigger came as a pair but the one with the blue jaw didn't make it
Maroon clown pair
Gold spotted rabbit fish aka piggie.

My rabbit fish seems like it's doubling in size every week. He wasn't very big and now he's the biggest fish in the tank by a lot. It's amazing how much food he can eat.

I've been feeding 3-4 times a day. A *lot* of live black worms, a fair amount of frozen mysis, nori, reef frenzy and a couple of krill every once in a while.

03/16/2017, 04:41 PM
I don't really want to try to list all of the corals that are in the tank, but I'm really happy with the collection. It's heavy on the SPS and zoas and I have a handful of really nice chalices. The local reefer scene is still alive and well and has been great at helping me stock the tank. A bunch of the pieces came in a package from someone who was getting out of the hobby and the pieces were in very bad shape. The process of my tank establishing, those pieces coloring up, and me getting my water parameters in check has been interesting.

One thing that I haven't heard mentioned in any thread I've read in the last three months is lab water testing. AWT testing has been critical for me to be able to get everything straightened out. I'm going to post my progression of results and some of the things I've done to remedy the problems.

03/16/2017, 04:44 PM
01-30-2017 Ammonia (NH3-4) Good 0 0.000 - 0.050 mg/L
01-30-2017 Nitrite (NO2) Good 0.019 0.000 - 0.100 mg/L
01-30-2017 Phosphate (PO4) High 0.46 0.000 - 0.250 mg/L
01-30-2017 Nitrate (NO3) High 28 0.000 - 25.000 mg/L
01-30-2017 Silica (Sio2-3) High 0.7 0.000 - 0.500 mg/L
01-30-2017 Potassium (K) Good 398 350.000 - 450.000 mg/L
01-30-2017 Ionic Calcium (Ca) Good 188 100.000 - 400.000 mg/L
01-30-2017 Boron (B) NA NA 3.000 - 6.000 mg/L
01-30-2017 Molybdenum (Mo) Good 0.1 0.000 - 0.300 mg/L
01-30-2017 Strontium (Sr) Good 8.3 5.000 - 12.000 mg/L
01-30-2017 Magnesium (Mg) Good 1360 1100.000 - 1400.000 mg/L
01-30-2017 Iodine (I) Good 0.07 0.030 - 0.090 mg/L
01-30-2017 Copper (Cu) Good 0.03 0.000 - 0.100 mg/L
01-30-2017 Alkalinity (meq/L) Good 3.6 2.500 - 5.000 meq/L
01-30-2017 Total Calcium (Ca) High 490 350.000 - 450.000 mg/L
01-30-2017 Iron (Fe) NA NA 0.000 - 0.010 mg/L

02-10-2017 Ammonia (NH3-4) Good 0 0.000 - 0.050 mg/L
02-10-2017 Nitrite (NO2) Good 0.008 0.000 - 0.100 mg/L
02-10-2017 Phosphate (PO4) Good 0.21 0.000 - 0.250 mg/L
02-10-2017 Nitrate (NO3) High 44 0.000 - 25.000 mg/L
02-10-2017 Silica (Sio2-3) High 1.8 0.000 - 0.500 mg/L
02-10-2017 Potassium (K) Good 367 350.000 - 450.000 mg/L
02-10-2017 Ionic Calcium (Ca) Good 186 100.000 - 400.000 mg/L
02-10-2017 Boron (B) NA NA 3.000 - 6.000 mg/L
02-10-2017 Molybdenum (Mo) Good 0.1 0.000 - 0.300 mg/L
02-10-2017 Strontium (Sr) Good 7.8 5.000 - 12.000 mg/L
02-10-2017 Magnesium (Mg) Good 1380 1100.000 - 1400.000 mg/L
02-10-2017 Iodine (I) Good 0.05 0.030 - 0.090 mg/L
02-10-2017 Copper (Cu) Good 0.03 0.000 - 0.100 mg/L
02-10-2017 Alkalinity (meq/L) Good 3.2 2.500 - 5.000 meq/L
02-10-2017 Total Calcium (Ca) High 530 350.000 - 450.000 mg/L
02-10-2017 Iron (Fe) NA NA 0.000 - 0.010 mg/L

02-27-2017 Ammonia (NH3-4) Good 0.01 0.000 - 0.050 mg/L
02-27-2017 Nitrite (NO2) Good 0.006 0.000 - 0.100 mg/L
02-27-2017 Phosphate (PO4) Good 0.08 0.000 - 0.250 mg/L
02-27-2017 Nitrate (NO3) High 27 0.000 - 25.000 mg/L
02-27-2017 Silica (Sio2-3) High 0.8 0.000 - 0.500 mg/L
02-27-2017 Potassium (K) Good 388 350.000 - 450.000 mg/L
02-27-2017 Ionic Calcium (Ca) Good 192 100.000 - 400.000 mg/L
02-27-2017 Boron (B) NA NA 3.000 - 6.000 mg/L
02-27-2017 Molybdenum (Mo) Good 0.2 0.000 - 0.300 mg/L
02-27-2017 Strontium (Sr) Good 7.1 5.000 - 12.000 mg/L
02-27-2017 Magnesium (Mg) Good 1260 1100.000 - 1400.000 mg/L
02-27-2017 Iodine (I) High 0.14 0.030 - 0.090 mg/L
02-27-2017 Copper (Cu) Good 0.04 0.000 - 0.100 mg/L
02-27-2017 Alkalinity (meq/L) Good 3.6 2.500 - 5.000 meq/L
02-27-2017 Total Calcium (Ca) High 530 350.000 - 450.000 mg/L
02-27-2017 Iron (Fe) NA NA 0.000 - 0.010 mg/L

03-15-2017 Ammonia (NH3-4) Good 0.01 0.000 - 0.050 mg/L
03-15-2017 Nitrite (NO2) Good 0.012 0.000 - 0.100 mg/L
03-15-2017 Phosphate (PO4) Good 0.06 0.000 - 0.250 mg/L
03-15-2017 Nitrate (NO3) Good 22 0.000 - 25.000 mg/L
03-15-2017 Silica (Sio2-3) Good 0 0.000 - 0.500 mg/L
03-15-2017 Potassium (K) Good 352 350.000 - 450.000 mg/L
03-15-2017 Ionic Calcium (Ca) Good 166 100.000 - 400.000 mg/L
03-15-2017 Boron (B) NA NA 3.000 - 6.000 mg/L
03-15-2017 Molybdenum (Mo) High 0.4 0.000 - 0.300 mg/L
03-15-2017 Strontium (Sr) Good 7.8 5.000 - 12.000 mg/L
03-15-2017 Magnesium (Mg) Good 1300 1100.000 - 1400.000 mg/L
03-15-2017 Iodine (I) High 0.3 0.030 - 0.090 mg/L
03-15-2017 Copper (Cu) Good 0.02 0.000 - 0.100 mg/L
03-15-2017 Alkalinity (meq/L) Good 3.1 2.500 - 5.000 meq/L
03-15-2017 Total Calcium (Ca) High 500 350.000 - 450.000 mg/L
03-15-2017 Iron (Fe) NA NA 0.000 - 0.010 mg/L

03/16/2017, 04:50 PM
The first test told me I had a serious phosphate and silica problem I needed to address. I got RoPhos going in one reactor ASAP after receiving the result. I was misreading the ELOS kit and thought it was much lower than it was. I kind of consider the ELOS kit an on-off test at this point. It's either clear or it's not clear, and if it's not-clear, nobody can tell what the result is. Clear also doesn't mean 0.

Silica meant that I had neglected something very important and had not changed out my RODI filters. Oops. As you can see, Silica is now 0 and that problem is completely resolved.

It took a month and a change of media after the second set of results came in to get the phosphate down to where I want it. I did just change the media again last week and should be able to go to once a month now, I hope.

The "total calcium" number I'm going to ignore since I don't know what to do about it. Suggestions?

I suspect that NOPOX has Molybdenum in it and I'm going to take that as a sign that I'm overdosing it at 20ml kind of every once in a while when I remember.

Iodine is probably from the nori. Probably the uneaten stuff that overflows into the filter socks.

I've certainly never maintained filter socks so well. Once the filter sock gets clogged, my tank makes a waterfall noise. One of my primary design parameters was to keep it quiet.

03/16/2017, 05:00 PM
Next design consideration was my skimmer. So. I'm going to admit that on my previous system I had major skimmer problems. I ran out running without it a lot of the time and it had major issues. It would overflow. It didn't like power-off conditions at all. It was bad.

So I was thinking when I set up this system that I could maybe get away without a skimmer. Once I started to realize that I was going to have a high-end SPS system, I realized I was going to have to find a good skimmer solution. One of the LFSs is moving and was having a "garage sale." I scored this old beast for $20. <3


It took some thought and some engineering and some work to get it working. I found a Jecod DC12000 pump which seemed to be just like the Jebao pump. However, it has a different impeller. So the kit that I bought came with a 3D printed silencer, needle wheel and venturi. I wound up going with just the "silencer" and the venturi since the needle wheel won't install on this pump. It works great. Really great.


Next major design consideration -- I wanted to be able to do easy water changes. My old system had the previously mentioned 100 gallon mixing tank plumbed into the system. I would shut off flow to it, drain it, refill it, mix salt in it, heat it, and then turn flow back on to it. I'm running a sump without any baffles so that I can do the following procedure to do a 50 gallon water change with almost no effort --

Mix salt mix in 100 gallon tank in garage. Wait a day. No heater needed, and I throw the pump that came with the reactors into the tank to provide water movement.

Apex --
Turn off skimmer.
Turn off return pump.
Turn off heaters and the powerhead in the sump.
Remove probes into tupperware full of sump water.

Throw the pump in the sump with the hose run to the sewer drain in the garage. Plug in pump. Sump drains into sewer. Go do something interesting for 15 minutes.

Unplug pump, and take the pump to the garage.
Suction cup it to the side of the mixing tank 1/2 way down.
Remove hose from sewer drain and push into hose on pump. Plug in pump.
Watch carefully as the water level nears the top of the sump and shut water down as this is the only condition where I could spill water in the house. This hasn't happened, yet.

Now, I turn the 2x300W heaters and the sump Koralia on, put the Apex probes back in the sump, and I watch the temperature until it gets to ~77. This is pretty efficient and happens fairly quickly. Maybe an hour?

Put all of the Apex settings back on auto, starting with the return pump and ending with the skimmer.

I am really good about doing 50 gallon water changes every 7-10 days. I suspect this will go to every two weeks eventually.

03/16/2017, 05:03 PM
Skimmer in action --


I chose the locally very popular Ocean Revive LED lights with built in timers for my lighting. This is the tank with the lights off and the cabinets installed. I need to build the fourth side of the cabinet work to match. The doors are great and almost the entire side opens up on each side, barely bigger than the steel stand bars.


03/16/2017, 05:05 PM
When it was filling --


Sump inspection --


03/16/2017, 05:09 PM
This video is from a month ago shot with my Canon XA-10 video camera set to 15K white balance. I will shoot another video. I have added 10 more SPS since this was taken to round out the collection. I'm done adding coral for a long time, if everything will stay stable and grow!

<iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/uCFdKOcqdRY" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

Again, some of these corals came in really bad shape. It will be very exciting to see how they progress over time!

03/16/2017, 05:12 PM
Another interesting detail is that so far my water changes plus kalk top off is maintaining the Cal/Alk/Mag levels. Once that's no longer enough, I have the BRS three part and a Jebao dosing pump ready to go. I'm still topping off manually dumping 2 gallons of water a day into the system. My next major project to tackle is getting the switches working with the Apex and to get the ATO going. I have the pump and the breakout box, I just haven't set it up yet. I'm sure it will be more stable and much better to dose the kalk slower. It's next on the list!

03/16/2017, 05:43 PM
Gotta love the significant other inspired purchases. This looks really good! Your prior experience is highlighted by how the tank looks this good so quickly.

03/16/2017, 06:28 PM
Thanks Brandon! It's amazing to watch the video from a month ago and see how much things have grown since then. A lot of it is encrusting growth for the SPS corals, but some of it is really significant. The Red Planet encrusting base is at least 2x that size.

03/16/2017, 07:36 PM
Looks gorgeous Ron! Awesome build, I'm jealous sir.

03/16/2017, 08:49 PM
Glad to see you put one together, guess I should update mine since it has been so long....

03/16/2017, 10:59 PM
Looking great! I've always like cube tanks!

Sent from my SM-G920V using Tapatalk

03/17/2017, 06:57 AM
love the catfish

03/22/2017, 11:15 PM
I'd really like to remove some of the scratches that came with the tank. Does anyone have experience with the Mighty Magnets and Lifegard Aquatics Acrylic Scratch Removal Kits? I'm trying to determine which is better. Thank you!

03/23/2017, 12:25 AM
There is a thee part acrylic scratch remover that I've used. For the life of me I cannot recall the name but the bottles were blue green and red writing on white. I never really had much hope for the tank I used it on, the before and after results however made me a believer.
However, it was something that really needed to be done before you filled the tank.

03/23/2017, 12:27 AM
Love cube tanks btw.

03/23/2017, 02:39 AM
You're probably thinking of Novus. I am looking for sand papers that can be used with the magnet cleaners. Similar to this I'm just wondering if anyone has experience with multiple products/warnings/advice/etc.


03/23/2017, 11:42 AM
Mighty Magnets replied to my email and said the kit includes 1500-12000 papers. I'd love feedback from someone on what grit paper they started with to get good results. Maybe 600-800-1200?

03/23/2017, 09:28 PM
Scott is a member of the forums (slief) and the POC for Royal Exclusiv. The episode of LA Fishguys, Scott talks about what he uses and the how-to's. I did find it as very good information.



03/23/2017, 10:35 PM
I watched those yesterday. It looks like he went down under 600 for that video. I'm thinking I'll start with the 1500 that comes in the kit and see if that will take out the scratches I have, which are not very deep, and go from there.

03/24/2017, 02:11 AM
Great tutorial. Thx! You're right, there isn't much else out there that actually shows how to do it. The tip on not doing swirling motions was worth the price of admission. Good job! I am eagerly awaiting the next video in the new series.


03/24/2017, 08:52 AM
Ron, I have the Mighty Magnets scratch remover if you want to give it a try.

03/24/2017, 12:06 PM
That's a great offer, Brandon. I'll PM you!

03/27/2017, 01:58 AM
This is a 360 video so you probably need to open it in YouTube in order to be able to look around. If you can't get the 360 feature to work, then the video is basically broken! You should be able to swipe to turn the camera or move your phone around to change the view.


03/28/2017, 03:58 PM
Wayyy cool!

03/28/2017, 07:31 PM
I'm curious if you mean the thread or the 360 video or both? :)

03/28/2017, 09:57 PM
Love your cube looking good

03/28/2017, 10:28 PM
looks amazing! she a keeper :D
I was wondering why you did not buff it out before setting it up? not that I have ever none it but that's what I would have done.
great score, I gave a way a 240 with 2 month old MH lights. so I hope I have good tank karma and something really amazing comes my way.

keep us posted!

03/28/2017, 10:46 PM
I didn't remove the scratches before setting it up because the scratches are relatively minor. I also didn't realize it was so relatively easy and could be done with such good results. Fortunately, it doesn't seem like it's too late!

A long time ago I had an 8' 240 gallon tank. I tried removing the scratches and I never got the hazing out. From what I can tell, the process and kit seem very doable, now.

04/02/2017, 12:48 AM
I'm so glad to see you back in the hobby Ron. You've always had great taste for corals and the build. Can't wait to see this monster in 1 year.

04/11/2017, 12:40 PM
Thanks Shawn! I am going to start using this as a blog since I'm all caught up to present-time. My girlfriend and I went on vacation for 11 days to Belize and Miracles38 did a fantastic job of looking after the tank for us while we were gone! There are a couple of corals that are unhappy, but no losses and all of the fish are fat and happy.

It's my blog so I'm going to rant for just a second that I find it really amazing how some people are taking apparent joy in collecting very expensive frags on little frag plugs. It's almost like they know they're on little plugs with nowhere to grow because it doesn't seem from the pictures like they're getting encrusting growth.

It's amazing to me how much encrusting growth I'm getting from some of these corals in just a couple of months, and my Cali Tort and my Red Planet are both colonizing. The Red Planet is sending up 6-7 new branches out of the encrusted base! I'll give it a little longer than add some pictures. It was one of the first corals that went into the tank, so I'm excited about the other progress to follow.

The Cali Tort is also developing at least 10 1/4" little branches off of the base, but I suspect those might be smaller eventually. I'm not sure what it's going to end up doing, exactly. There do appear to be some pictures of Google where it's colonized into a really nice, thick group of branches. I would love it if it did that for me, and it has plenty of room to do it.

I also have this coral that I think I bought as a "blue stag" which is showing some great growth. It's on its own little rock, and I'm not positive where its final home is going to be. I suspect it's going to turn out to be a huge stag colony.

12/30/2017, 08:57 AM
love the cube. How is it coming along?

12/30/2017, 10:55 AM
I’ll try to get a new video and some photos up soon. I have had some stability issues which have lead to some SPS problems, but I have growing Zoa colonies and some of the SPS is growing, just not as fast as if I were more focused on the tank.