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Old 12/29/2008, 08:47 PM   #1
Jen D
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Here goes nothing! Jen D's 55g Upgrade

After a year and a half of dawdling around with my 55g upgrade, I’ve decided that keeping a build thread might motivate me to keep making progress. So, here goes nothing…


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Old 12/29/2008, 08:49 PM   #2
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First, a little of the back story…

(To skip directly to the build, scroll to the next post.)

My husband and I got a new apartment in July 2006. We had an empty 29g tank that had previously been used for red-bellied piranhas (fresh-water). My brother-in-law used to have a salt-water tank that my husband thought was really cool, so, after the move, he decided to set up our empty aquarium with salt water. He went and talked to the LFS, bought some salt, live rock, and sand, and dumped it all in (with de-chlorinated tap water, of course). And that was the start of our salty experience.

To make the rest of this long story short, we made a ton of mistakes. In trying to correct those mistakes, I found ReefCentral and WetWebMedia and I’ve been reading ever since.

I’ve included some pictures of the 29g below.







After living in the apartment for a year, my husband and I decided to buy a house instead of renewing our lease (It wasn’t the nicest apartment and our neighbor and her teenage daughter fought a lot.). So, the tank came down for the move, and the great 55g upgrade began.


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Old 12/29/2008, 08:53 PM   #3
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Now, for the build…

I chose a 55g mostly because my brother-in-law had offered to give us his old tank. There is also a little nook in our living room that is about the perfect size to hold a 55g tank with a cabinet next to it and a little bit of room to work in the back (You’ll see what I mean.).

I didn’t want any of the equipment to be visible in the room for aesthetic purposes, and, since we don’t intend to stay in this house for more than about 5 years, I didn’t want to do anything to hurt the re-sale value. That precluded drilling any large holes in the floor, which meant that all the equipment had to be contained in or near the stand. So, I decided that the best way to make sure I could fit all the equipment in the stand was to build it myself. I found a thread in the DIY Forum with specs for building a stand and started planning.

Link to the stand thread: DIY Stands Template and Calculator

Here’s what I picture the stand looking like in my head (with doors and trim, of course).
From the left side:

From the right side:


And here’s what it looks like so far:


I have the pieces for the frame of the side cabinet cut, but not screwed together. I need to cut dados in the upright pieces for the shelving and I’m afraid of messing that up, so I have been putting it off. I also need to buy the rest of the wood that I’ll need to finish the canopy, rear door, and skin.


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Old 12/29/2008, 09:11 PM   #4
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The tank itself…

So, my brother-in-law gave us his old 55g aquarium. He’s very generous. Did I mention that the tank had been sitting outside in Iowa weather for the last six years? I cleaned it up and water tested it for three months in the basement. It held water fine, but I looked at the seals and questioned whether or not it would continue to hold water indefinitely. I decided to use the old tank as a QT and bought a new 55g tank with some Christmas money last year.

Brother-in-law’s 55g tank (complete with crushed coral kitty litter):




Questionable seal:


New 55g tank:


Because of the awkwardness of aqua-scaping a 55g, I decided to go with a foam/rock wall. I found a thread describing this about a year ago in the DIY forum. Since then, it has become pretty popular.

Link to Tiggsy’s thread: Foam & Live Rock combo

I plan for the aqua-scape to look something like this:


The column on the right will hide a PVC siphon/overflow that I have yet to build (more on that later). There will also be a ~6” DSB in the tank because I plan to have a jawfish and a fighting conch. To date, I have the rock and foam finished, but I still need to complete the epoxy and sand step. I’ll use my “living” live rock to fill in around the foam and dry rock.

Here’s what I’ve finished so far:


Oh yeah… I painted the back and left side of the tank dark blue using 3 coats of an enamel paint on the outside.

Here’s the paint I used:



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Old 12/29/2008, 09:28 PM   #5
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looking good keep it coming.


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Old 12/29/2008, 09:35 PM   #6
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The rest of the story…

I did most of the stuff discussed above last winter. Recently, I have picked up steam again. I bought a DIY retro-fit T5 kit off of the Used Equipment Forum. I also purchased an RO unit from Drs F&S and a skimmer from Premium Aquatics. I expect to pick up the rest of my equipment using the Christmas gifts from my grandma and in-laws in the near future.

Planned Equipment List:
Pinnacle Series RO Unit 35 gpd (purchased)
Vertex IN100 Skimmer (purchased)
Koralia 2 and/or Koralia 3 (2 of one or 1 of each, haven’t decided yet)
Mag5 or Mag7 (haven’t decided yet)
55g AGA Tank
29g Sump/Refugium with pressure locking baffles
Titanium heaters
4x54W T5s

Planned Livestock List:
Jawfish
Ocellaris clown
Tail-spot blenny
Pajama or Bangaii Cardinalfish
Royal Gramma
If the tank can support all three of the following:
Fighting conch
Tuxedo urchin
Fromia star
I also want a mixture of zoas, mushrooms, LPS, SPS, and maybe a Derasa clam.

I found this old gutter guard stuff at a flea market for a dollar a roll. They had two rolls. I think it will work perfectly for a screen to keep the fish from carpet-surfing. I plan to put it across the back of the canopy.




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Old 12/29/2008, 09:42 PM   #7
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I welcome any comments or questions. I've tried to compile all the information I've read over the last couple of years into what I think will work well for me.

I'm not exactly sure how to go about skinning the stand. I've seen people use both plywood and what looked like 1xs or something. I think I'm going to use plywood, but I don't have a tablesaw to make sure the cuts are staight.


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Old 12/30/2008, 01:26 AM   #8
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is that an aptasia in the middle picture of your first post???? if it is I would kill it.


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Old 12/30/2008, 05:43 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally posted by johnny313
is that an aptasia in the middle picture of your first post???? if it is I would kill it.
it isnt...


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Old 12/30/2008, 12:50 PM   #10
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No, it was a green paly/zoa hitch-hiker. It grew out of the rock and eventually multiplied into three or four polyps. When I moved I put everything into 2-10g tanks in the basement. I had some problems with temperature and lighting on these tanks and it eventually declined to the point where I pulled the rock it was on out of the tank and let it dry out.


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Old 12/30/2008, 05:37 PM   #11
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I like your cabinet you have designed. I hope it comes out how you like. Im not the best woodworker so i dont have any suggestions but i did subscribe as I have a 55 I hope to set up in the spring or maybe bigger. Who knows! Good luck!


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Old 12/30/2008, 06:04 PM   #12
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Looks like you are off to a good start. I really like the way you have it planned into the cabinet.


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Old 12/30/2008, 07:04 PM   #13
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Jen,

If you don't knoww anyone with access to a tablesaw you can usually get someone in a cabinet shop to cut it for you at a reasonable fee. You'll need accurate measurements though. A good quality hardwood vaneer plywood would look great. If you are concerned about cutting the dados go to someplace like Rockler Hardware. They sell an inexpensive jig that will allow you to drill holes for shelf pegs. It is fairly fool proof. That will allow for adjustable shelving.

Everything looks good.


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Old 12/30/2008, 09:05 PM   #14
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Thanks for the comments, everyone.

I like the idea of using adjustable shelves, but I'm worried about weight breaking the pegs. I plan to have a 10g on each of the middle two shelves. One for water change water and one for either a QT or top-off (haven't decided yet). I wonder if they make stainless steel pins...


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Old 12/30/2008, 09:46 PM   #15
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My new skimmer!

I set up my new skimmer in my live rock tank this evening to test it out. It's the Vertex IN100 that I bought from Premium Aquatics. It's my first skimmer, not counting the Skilter that my brother-in-law gave me.

Here's some pictures:


Partially assembled:


Running in the 10g:
HOLY SCUM-BUSTING BATMAN! Probably says more about my live rock tank than anything else...


And my supervisor:
(she's supposed to come get me if something goes haywire)


The collection cup has some hazing, but PA is sending me a new one ASAP. Great customer service from them!

So far, it's been running for about 2 hours, and I'm happy with it.


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Old 12/30/2008, 10:17 PM   #16
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Looking cool! Keep th eupdates coming.


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Old 12/10/2012, 11:03 PM   #17
Jen D
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Just realized exactly how long it's been since I started this project... Wow!

Life's been crazy the last four years, but I'm picking up momentum again and the tank should be have cycling by Christmas.

Stay tuned for the pictures from last four years...


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Old 12/10/2012, 11:41 PM   #18
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The stand got buried under a bunch of junk in the garage until about six months ago.
Here's the stand progression:







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Old 12/10/2012, 11:45 PM   #19
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Talk about dedication! Keep at it.


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Old 12/10/2012, 11:46 PM   #20
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And more recently...




I tried to build the doors myself, but they ended up all warped. I ended up ordering them from http://www.barkerdoors.com


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Old 12/10/2012, 11:49 PM   #21
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Those are my doors not the new ones! :-)


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Old 12/10/2012, 11:56 PM   #22
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Test fitting the tank



And painted and in place



Just realized I don't have any front view pictures with the doors closed.


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Old 12/11/2012, 12:01 AM   #23
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Lighting's horrible, but here's a front view as it is now.




Last edited by Jen D; 12/11/2012 at 12:10 AM.
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Old 12/12/2012, 09:47 PM   #24
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I originally made a foam rock wall out of Great Stuff foam. I never got around to putting on epoxy and sand. Eventually, out of curiosity, I put one of the pieces into my 29 gallon with some live rock. If anyone's curious, here's what the piece looked like after I took it out a couple weeks ago. This would have been after about 2 years or so under a regular fluorescent 50:50 bulb. The top section of foam was exposed to air probably about 1/2 the time and I did very few water changes. You can see discoloration in the section that was directly under the light and exposed to air, less or no discoloration in the sections that were further from the light or under water.



There was a lot of film algae that I attribute to general lack of care, not the foam.


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Old 12/12/2012, 09:58 PM   #25
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After seeing that, you can see why I decided to redo my rock wall. I used the Touch and Foam Landscape foam and the salt crystal treatment described in the Foam Wall Projects thread.



Last edited by Jen D; 12/12/2012 at 10:12 PM. Reason: removed link
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