View Full Version : sfdan's 400 gallon SPS peninsula

09/23/2017, 08:05 PM
When I made my current tank, a 120 gallon SPS reef, I sort of jumped into it head first, and while I was somewhat thoughtful about how I did things, I made some clear planning mistakes that I'm sort of stuck with and I want to improve upon. Not to say there aren't great aspects of the current tank, but I want to take those and improve upon the bad parts.

So with that goal in mind I'm going to list all the problems I have with the old tank and how I will improve upon them. This exercise is mostly for myself to really think out the tank and try to catch any design problems before it's too late! I'd also love any feedback or suggestions for any section.

First about the size, the tank is replacing the spot where a pool table was, so the new dimensions are designed to roughly fit that space. Bigger is better! So the tank will likely be 96" x 36" wide x 30" deep, which I think is around 400 gallons. It will be acrylic like my current tank, which is working well and I see no reason to change.

Equipment section:

Problem: Accessing the back and side of the current tank is very hard

I put the tank in the corner of a room, which makes accessing the back and one side extremely difficult. When I drop stuff in the back of the tank or there is an aiptasia I need to zap back there, it's very hard to get to.

Planned Solution: New tank will be a peninsula, designed to be viewable on 3 sides and accessible on all 4. The good part about replacing a pool table is there are a few feet all the way around it so you had room to shoot, and now that space will be useful so I can access the tank all the way around. The reason I'm planning on 36" wide is that I believe I can comfortable access any point 18" from the side, and since I have access from all 4 sides every point will be within that distance.


Problem: Sump is too small

This causes many problems. First, I have a 30 gallon glass aquarium as the sump, and the section with the return pump is only about 6 gallons. This means when I do water changes I can only take out about ~4 gallons before the return pump start shooting air. This is annoying.

Additionally, the sump is too cramped and there is no room for addition stuff. Just fitting the skimmer, the heaters, the return pump barely leaves any room for anything else. I think I'll be able to stuff an ATS in there, but that will be it. No room for improvement and very little space to tinker with equipment if necessary.

It also doesn't do a good job of getting rid of micro bubbles. The homemade baffles stink and the flow goes through it so quickly (since it is so small) they don't have time to go away.

Planned Solution: New sump will be big. Previously I spent all my time designing the aquarium and little to no time designing the sump. Not this time. The sump will have some key requirements. The section with the return pump needs to be big enough that I can comfortable remove 10% water volume without the pump sucking air. So this section will probably need to be at least 60 gallons. The baffles need to not suck and be designed thoughtfully so they actually get rid of micro bubbles. There needs to be space for the skimmer, heaters, as well as space around them so I can access them easily. There needs to be room for anything that might create bubbles (ATS for example) to be placed before the baffles. No microbubbles in the tank! Probably also should be room for a 50 gallon refugium. This will require further research but will probably be custom made as well with the tank.


Problem: Not enough T5s

To my eye I really love the color from T5s and mixing and matches bulbs to get the color I want. My current setup is 2 250w MHs with 4 T5s, but my flexibility is a bit limited with only 4 T5s that can only be controlled as sets of 2. I want a full actinic dust/dawn, but at the same time my desired color doesn't require 50% actinic bulbs.

Planned Solution: Instead of buying an off the shelf light I'm going to build myself a canopy so I can create whatever setup I want. At minimum I want 6 T5s going over the width, probably with 3 MHs going down the middle. Will research this further when I get to that point. I also want the canopy to be able to be raised and lowered by switch.


Problem: Microbubbles

My current tank has 2 corner overflows that each just have one hole. Currently I have stockman standpipes in each of them that are suitable quiet, but they create a lot of microbubbles as the water enters the sump and my poor sump design doesn't do a good enough job of getting rid of them.

Planned Solution: Smarter overflow! The peninsula style overflow will be done designed with a beananimal design which should minimize splashing and bubbles, and coupled with a smarter sump design should get rid of microbubbles.


Problem: Return pipes over the tank

I didn't get any holes drilled for the return flow, so I have loc-line pipe that wraps around the side and top of the tank. I actually specifically had designed this for some reason, but in retrospect this is annoying because I had to custom make covers that can account for the pipe, which is annoying and looks odd.

Planned Solution: There will be holes drilled for return pipe so there will be no pipes above the top of the tank. In fact all plumbing should be on the peninsula side of the tank. I actually like the look of plumbing so I think I'll keep it exposed, but once it goes over the tank it creates practical problems that I want to avoid.


Tank design/livestock problems:

Problem: Rocks are too close to the aquarium sides

When I made the rockscape, I was smart not to be rocks right up against the sides, but even still I have rocks that are 3-4" away which makes cleaning the acrylic too difficult. As coralline algae is the bane of my existence and will cover my acrylic in a few weeks if left unchecked, I have to clean it a lot. When the rocks are only 3-4" away, there isn't enough space for me to muscle it off.

Planned Solution: All base rockwork will be at least 8" from the aquarium sides. So this means the usable rockspace area in the middle will be 80" x 20", which I think should still be more than enough to have a creative design. And as corals grow out this space will be naturally taken up anyways, but with corals I can just frag them if they get too close to the sides.


Problem: Rocks aren't where the lights are

I'm running out of places to put corals because I designed a rockspace I thought looked cool, but with little thought into where the high PAR zones were and to optimize surface area around these spaces for the most SPS.

Planned Solution: The new rockspace will focus heavily on maximizing the surface area where SPS corals can be placed in high PAR zones, and then I'll get creative about other aspects of the rockwork in the low PAR zones. So basically there will probably be pyramids or large flat sections centered under the MHs.


Problem: Vermetid snails

These guys are annoying and everywhere. I will prevent them from getting into the new one.

Planned Solution: I'll experiment/research and find a dip that kills them without killing my corals and do that with all corals going into the tank. No rock will be re-used. I will also make sure there are potential predators (wrasses) stocked in the tank early on, so hopefully they'll kill any if they manage to get into the tank.


Things that are working great on current tank and will be continued:

- Calcium reactor + Masterflex pump + Electronic Regular
- Apex controller
- MH + T5 (mentioned above)
- Pukani dry rock (phosphates reduced with Lanthanum chloride last time -- this time I'll probably also do bleach + acid baths before the Lanthanum)
- 2-3" sand bed

09/29/2017, 04:49 PM
And the project is rolling....

After some discussion with the wonderful tank builder (Envision Acrylics) who also built my 120, I'm pretty finalized on these dimensions:

96" long x 36" wide x 26" high. The thread title is already wrong as this will be closer to 330 gallons, but still should be more than big enough.

The decision behind limiting the height to 26" is that it allows for only 1 center brace, which is awesome. 30" high would have been great, as bigger is always better, but frankly in my current 120 I don't feel like 24" isn't deep enough and this will get me another couple of inches. Also as it turns out the place it is going only has 7' tall ceiling, so the extra 4" of space will actually be quite helpful so everything wont be so cramped.

So the design is an external overflow box on the far end, with a 2" gap (on the dry side) on the sides to allow for plumbing to run up the side of the tank and not be visible from the other end. Will use the beananimal design.

I plan to run only about 3-5x tank volume through the sump, so the overflow only needs to support about ~1500 gph maximum. It will be complete overkill but all the plumbing here will use 2" PVC, which will easily support that. For schedule 80 bulkheads this means holes of 3.18" diameter, which will easily fit in the overflow.

Pictures (cat for scale):



What the "front" view will be like, return pipes hidden in the 2" gap.


So in terms of my original goals I said I didn't want plumbing coming over the top. What I actually meant is I don't want any plumbing going in the main tank openings. I want the tank cover to be as sleek as possible, with no humps and bumps for plumbing or cords.

So with this design the return plumbing will come in through the bracing and have no obstructions in either of the 2 main openings. The PVC will also be spray painted black so it will hopefully blend into the background a little more.

09/29/2017, 04:59 PM
The tank design being finalized locks in one thing: The lighting system will be 4 fixtures instead of 3 based on the fact there is only 1 brace.

I was pretty set that I was going to go with MH/T5, but given that I need 4 fixtures I'm tempted to switch to LED/T5. I'm very happy with the performance I'm getting out of my MH/T5 setup now, but I think 4 MH fixtures is a lot of heat and bulbs and complication. This is a decision that I don't have to make now so I'm continuing to research, but LED/T5 is a strong contender. Since the tank is only 26" deep I can easily get away with 250w MHs if I were to go that direction, but still the complication factor (wiring, ballasts, bulbs, heat) over LEDs is massive.

Whatever lights I go with they will almost certainly be in a floating canopy that I make so I have maximum flexibility.

10/11/2017, 10:02 PM
Sump design:

I researched a lot of different sump designs and settled on something I think is going to work really well. Stemming from my initial post, the sump needs to:

1) Get rid of microbubbles.
2) Be large enough to easily fit in the main equipment (skimmer, ATS)
3) Have the return section be large enough that I can do 10% water changes

So this is the design:



Since the tank is a peninsula design and the overflow and returns are on the same side, I went with a U-turn sump design where the water will come in on one side, go around the sump and come back out the same side.

It starts in a filter sock section (which will probably be empty most of the time but gives me the option of running socks if I want to). Then it goes into the large and open equipment section. Goes over a couple baffles into a refugium/frag/whatever section, then over a final set of baffles into the final section which is where the return pump goes and serves as the WC reservoir.

The dimensions are 6' x 28" wide x 20" high. It should *just* be able to squeeze into the stand which will have a 29" opening on each end.

The operating depth of water will be 14" and in normal conditions the sump will hold ~120 gallons. With an extra 6" of space it will easily be able to handle another 50 gallons of overflow which is way more than the DT would ever drain in a power outage.

The equipment section will be roughly 43" x 15" which is more than large enough for the skimmer, ATS and some extra space for other equipment.

The return section/WC reservoir will be somewhere around 35 gallons, which means I'll be able to do 30 gallon WCs without running out of room, which will be about 10% of the water volume.

10/13/2017, 11:53 PM
It's always fun doing a build and being able to use what you learned from the last build. I like your approach to your solutions based on the problems you observed from your last build.

11/22/2017, 03:34 PM
Well the tank and sump arrived this week, and my first impression seeing it in the truck was... holy crap this thing is big. Playing around with the design in sketchup is one thing, but seeing the actual tank in the real world is incredible.

The top being so open is amazing, the center brace is barely going to interfere with anything and will be a very useful point of leverage when I'm reaching into the tank.


Beananimal overflow with 3 holes for 1.5" sch80 bulkheads (the original design was 2" but after crunching the numbers there was just no point in having them that big and it would have made the overflow box needlessly bigger).


Coast to coast overflow with two removable grates for easy cleaning.


The sump is also incredibly cool. Seeing this in person after all the various design iterations in Sketchup is even more rewarding than the tank. There is going to be so much real estate in here for all the equipment, and I don't think microbubbles will stand a chance with the long runs and baffles. The filter sock area is also really well done and if/when I want to run socks it will be super convenient.

The only change from the original design was to put the entry bulkheads both on the top of the sump and on the side, so when I'm plumbing it up I can use whichever entry point is more convenient. If I decide to go in through the top I'll just plug the ones on the side, and if I go in through the sides I can just keep the top ones open.


11/22/2017, 03:47 PM
And so now I need to build the stand for this beast. This is the general design, a standard RocketEngineer with 2x8s along the top that will be skinned with 3/4" plywood.


Milled all the wood and dry assembled the top frame yesterday. Milling 10 foot boards is not fun but after a few tries got the long boards straight enough for this purpose. All joinery with 10x50mm dominos, and everything will be reinforced some beefy wood screws.

Everything is made out of construction grade kiln dried douglass fir that has been acclimating to my garage for a few weeks.


Achilles Torben
11/23/2017, 12:22 AM
Fantastic. Congratulations to New setup

Greetings Torben

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11/25/2017, 01:09 PM
I love how big the openings are. My first 300g tank had 4 small opening and was very frustrating. You will definitely be pleased with that.

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11/25/2017, 01:13 PM
Just realized that you are a fellow Bay Area guy. Surprised that you may stick with MH given how much are tier 3 electricity rates are (~$0.35+ for a kWh).... Unless you have solar?

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11/25/2017, 09:25 PM
Looks good. I just upgraded to a 96"x36"x30" acrylic and, yes, tanks this size are beast indeed. What wall thickness is yours? I decided to stick with 30" tall even though it meant two braces.

11/26/2017, 02:13 AM
Just realized that you are a fellow Bay Area guy. Surprised that you may stick with MH given how much are tier 3 electricity rates are (~$0.35+ for a kWh).... Unless you have solar?

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I do have solar but right now I basically just get into Tier 3 with my current power usage, so unfortunately all the power usage on this tank will be at the top tier. I'll probably lower the power consumption of my current tank to offset that a little bit, but really not much I can do about it.

I did ponder my lighting options in this thread (http://www.reefcentral.com/forums/showthread.php?t=2656860) and after doing the math I really don't think LEDs actually saved that much power, if any. I think the biggest advantages I'd get from LEDs would be less heat in the tank, but with SF's climate I normally don't have heat problems anyways. We'll see if that holds true for the new tank but I'm pretty confident with evaporative cooling and the usual weather I'll be fine without a chiller.

Looks good. I just upgraded to a 96"x36"x30" acrylic and, yes, tank this size are beast indeed. What wall thickness is yours? I decided to stick with 30" tall even though it meant two braces.

Everything is 1" except for the ends, which are 3/4". Doing the ends in 3/4" was suggested by the tank builder, James at Envision Acrylics, the idea being that I'm going to put the MP60s on the ends and they'll work better on 3/4", and structurally it wasn't a big deal going between 1" and 3/4" on the ends.

I think 30" is awesome, and as I said in a earlier post had my ceiling been a little bit higher I'd have loved to do 30" with the 3 sections. But given my constraints, knowing that if I lowered the height to 26" I'd also get the 2 giant openings, it all fit together nicely. And just seeing it in person it is amazing how open it is. My 4' 120 gallon has a 6" cross brace (which annoys me all the time), and this tank is double the length and has the same size cross brace! Another little design victory.