View Full Version : sfdan's 400 gallon SPS peninsula

09/23/2017, 07:05 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, 03:49 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, 03:59 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, 09:02 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, 10:53 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.