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Old 01/26/2010, 01:11 PM   #1
slief
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My 500 + gallon system. Last 13 years to now. Build, Aquascaping & more. Lots of pics

I have been asked a few times to post a thread on my system. Its been a work in progress and its at the point where I feel its worthy of a thread.

Part 1
I have been long wanting to put up a thread on my system but until recently, it was in a bit of a state of flux being that it was a lightly stocked FOWLR tank. In the last few months I got the wild hair to dive back into it so to speak. One of my ideas was to make it more efficient while improving on the filtration and improving my fish stock.. In the midst of my improvements my friend and aquarium service guy had a system to break down and decided to give me all the live stock from it. That stock included fish as well as some corals. Another friend and aquarium shop owner was in a similar position and as such I acquired more fish and more corals. The end result catapulted me back into reefs and renewed my vigor for the aquarium.
Over the past few months there have been a number of upgrades which I will detail as I continue on my ramble.

First I will start by going back to 1997 when I moved into my new home that was purchased with 3 criteria in mind. First and foremost was an ideal space for my tank. The tank is 4’ wide x 8’ long x 2’ tall. As such, finding a home that would provide a good space for such a monstrosity would be a challenge. I had this tank for a few years prior and it was setup as a mixed reef system at my rental house. Other factors that contributed to my home purchase were space for my entertainment system and a good size 3 car “Man Cave” (garage). After months of looking I found my home.
This was my first home purchase and as such, it was quite an experience. As part of the system move, the tank would be picked up by the company that built it in the first place. It needed some scratches removed and they were local and willing to turn it around in 24 hours. The system was broken down on a Thursday morning.. Escrow was set to close the following day. The live stock was transferred to Uhaul truck packed with kitty pools. Water was moved in trash cans as well as those same kitty pools. The following day around noon. Escrow closed. Within minutes of escrow closing we were in the new house with a all hacking the wall away. The plan was to convert a room that was next to my living room into an office and utilize the tank as part of the divider. It would be build in and walk around on 3 sides. To do this, the wall needed to be hacked, doors removed, bathroom door moved etc..
Here is a photo of the initial work. The wall has been cut out. Door removed to the room and stand going together.

Since the house was new, the backyard was still dirt. I coordinated with the landscapers to arrive at the same time. I wanted my chiller in a place where it wouldn’t be heard or in the way. The best place for it was some 40’ away in the garage. The landscaper’s first order of business was digging an 18” deep ditch around the perimeter of the house which would accommodate a couple 1.5” flex PVC pipes going from the tank to the garage. This would be for the chiller plumbing.
Things progress throughout the day. The landscapers got the ditch dug, I got my flex PVC installed and the carpenter got the supports in place for the tank. You might say, things went like clockwork.. And they did!
Late that afternoon the tank company was done with their job and the tank was brought to the new house.
With the tank support complete, we were ready for the tank to be put in.




Here we have the tank in place.

Now the marathon began. With the tank in place and livestock in kitty pools, the plan was to get the system setup.. Since the system was setup previously at my other house and we were using the existing equipment, my goal of a same day install wasn’t out of reach.
Here is the original wet dry getting ready to go in. Most of the bio balls were replaced by live rock.

Me in the space below the tank working on plumbing:



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Last edited by slief; 01/26/2010 at 02:05 PM.
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Old 01/26/2010, 01:12 PM   #2
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Part 2
Things progressed along nicely. Plumbing went as planned and it was time to get ready to stock things.. By this time it was nearing midnight.
The plan was to make a egg crate grid to keep the live rock off the ground. We also added a PVC manifold that would be fed via one of the circulation pumps. This manifold would circle the overflow under the egg crate support. It would have holes drilled in it to allow the recirculation water to pump out under the live rock in order to keep things from settling under the rocks.


Come 2AM, the tank is done.. In a matter of 14 hours or so, the walls were hacked, stand built, tank delivered and plumbed and set up. Talk about a well orchestrated move.
These pictures don’t do much justice but I don’t really have any good ones of the results.



The lights were setup with a winch to raise and lower them. This was done as the rest of the walls were being finished over the course of the following days.. There were a pair of 400W MH’s as well as six 4’ VHO bulbs.


The winch for the light system is on the right side of this picture.


Now lets fast forward several years. The tank was in the midst of an algae bloom and I was at wits end. The decision was made to tear everything out of the tank, address some scratches and clean the system out and start over. All live stock was moved to kitty pools in the garage.
The system was broken down and my aquarium service guy brought it some people he knew to polish things out on site. It would go through several steps of wet sanding with graduating levels of sand paper followed by buffing and polishing. The end results were fantastic.
Here is one of the guys inside the tank working on the scratches.




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Last edited by slief; 01/26/2010 at 01:47 PM.
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Old 01/26/2010, 01:13 PM   #3
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Part 3..
Once the scratches were removed it was time to work on the rocks. . Before the system was cluttered with rocks making it difficult to service. I wanted something cleaner and more open. This time around I opted for a different approach.
I purchased all new live rock. About 400-500 pounds worth and my intent was to create a more natural look. I got an idea of gluing the rocks together using pond foam I had found at a local fish store. This stuff is used for waterfalls and such. It was really messy to use but the end results were beyond expectation. I had this planned out really well. The back side of the tank is 4’ x2’. My openings on the top of the tank are 24x24. Since the back of the tank was a big wall and would be difficult to build on, I had 2 acrylic made that were each about 22” wide and 22” tall. I had the made in an “L” shape with a 6 or 8” footer at the base. This would provide support so they would be free standing and could be placed flush with the back wall. The plan was to build the back wall in 2 pieces and put them in the tank one at a time. I don’t have any pictures of this part going together but what I did was lay them on their backs on the floor side by side. Then proceeded to lay my rocks out on the panels and glued them to the panel one at a time using the foam. I was careful not to glue the panels together but was diligent in making the rock formation on the back wall look like one piece even though it was on 2 panels. Once the foam had set, the rear panels were put into place one at a time.
Then it was time to work on the rest of the aquascape. The same method was used. The rocks were hand picked and glued together using the foam. Here I am in the tank working on the rocks. Excess foam was cut away after it dried.



Here you can see a couple rocks going together using the foam.

A finished formation. This consists of several rocks and even today, you would never know it. It looks like one natural formation.

With the formation done, the tank was filled and restocked with new salt water and my corals.






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Old 01/26/2010, 01:13 PM   #4
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Fast forward again to a couple months ago. The corals had died off a couple years prior and I was getting bored with the system and wanted to address some things. It was stocked with fish but that was it. First of which to be addressed was my protein skimmer. I was running a 5’ tall top fathom venture skimmer. It just want doing the job so I started exploring my options and decided to get some new venturis for it and contacted Mezzei injector who were a great help.

Not knowing if their injectors would do the trick, I came across a deal I couldn’t pass on for a new Barr SK5020 Beckett skimmer and acted on it. It arrived and looked great sitting in my office. In the mean time, the new injectors arrived. I installed the injectors and was shocked at the improvement however seeing the new beckett skimmer just sitting there got to me and I decided I was going to use it regardless of how well the old skimmer was working with the new injectors.
New Skimmer installed.


At the same time, I was wanting to make things more efficient as my power bills are astronomical. Originally, the system was built with a Little Giant 4MDQSC running the skimmer top fathom skimmer. The Little Giant was eliminated when I added the new Barr skimmer. I was running an Iwaki MD100-RLT for the chiller. It would draw from the sump and pump to the garage and back to the sump. When I added the Barr, I decided to run the Iwaki 100 to the skimmer and put a t and a valve so that water would go from the Iwaki to the skimmer and to the chiller. It worked out great but the noise of the Iwaki got to me and the fact that there were quieter pumps that were more efficient was intriguing. I decided to swap the Iwaki for a Reeflo Marlin. The results were promising.
Now that I had gone this far, I got to thinking about other ways to improve efficiency. The tank had 3 other pumps. One was a Wave I 1/8HP pump that drew from the sump and returned to the tank. The other 2 were also Wave I 1/8 pumps. These pumps are rated at around 3400GPH. I decided I could eliminate one of those circulation pumps and decided to experiment a bit and replace one of them with some Koralia power heads. I would have gone the Vortech route but couldn’t get them to hold onto my 1” thick acrylic. I didn’t want to see the wires inside the tank from the Koralias so I got a bit creative. I had bulk heads in the back of the tank for where one of the circulation pumps draw and return to. The other circulation pump also draws from the back of the tank but it returns through a set of sea swirls up above so I left that one alone. I cut the threads off of some PVC fittings and removed the magnets from the back of the Koralia mount. I then epoxied the threaded pvc into the spot where the Koralia magnets were.

I then drilled a hole through the mount to run the wire through.

On the back side of the tank, I cut the plumbing where one of the return pumps drew and returned to. The pump I eliminated drew from one bulk head and returned to a pair of them. The cut pvc was the rotated up so that the pipe ended above the water level. I then threaded the Koralia pumps into the bulkheads and routed the wires through the bulkhead and up and out the back side of the tank. ‘
Here you can see the Koralias in place inside the tank.


Here is the back side of the tank where the Koralia wires are routed out of the PVC pipe.

As an experiment, it worked out great and in the future I will likely switch to a controllable power head.
When I originally built the system, I used an original Aqua Controller for Neptune systems. I had it several years and it never failed me. I really only used it to monitor Temp, PH and ORP as well as taking advantage of the web access and controlling incandescent moon lights. As part of my upgrade project a new Apex was added to the mix along with a couple power bars and LED moonlights. It was well worth the effort as I can now control everything from the web and my iphone. Moon lights dim, pumps can be powered on or off, temps as well as other vital data can be monitored. It even tells me my amp draw at any given time and from any give locating.
Also added were a pair of reactors from BRS. One for GFO and one for Carbon. They are fed by the return pump.


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Old 01/26/2010, 01:14 PM   #5
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Here is a shot of the revised plumbing under the tank.


Here you can see my original controller as well as the new Apex. When I am done with my upgrades the original controller will be relocated to the closet and the apex will be flush mounted in its place.

The original fixtures were old white hydro grade reflectors. A little horse trading and I got a pair of used LumenArc III’s to put in their place.


All of this fun stuff has led to the next step… Replacing the old wet dry with a pair of larger sumps. One to house my extra live rock and a more efficient in sump skimmer that will likely replace my Barr skimmer.
Meet the new Skimmer.

It’s a beast. Its the Royal Exlusiv Vertex 300 cone skimmer. AKA Royal Exclusiv Yorki Carrier.

** The dog was not harmed and didn’t seem to mind one bit. I couldn’t think of a better way to show the size of this thing as pictures just don’t do it justice.

The skimmer will reside in the first of 2 sumps. The tank will drain via the overflow through four 7 inch filter socks in the first sump. This sump will be 40” x30” x 18” tall. It will house the new skimmer as well as my live rock from the original bio filter.
I mentioned 2 sumps. The second one will be the fuge at 30” x36” x 18” tall and it will house 4 inches of live sand/mud, live rock as well as macros.
These new sumps are in the drawing phase now and should be completed in a week or so. I plan on updating this thread as I go along. The next phase will be the ripping out of the original sump and the installation of the new sumps and skimmer so stay tuned.

Some of you may have heard of LA Fish Guys videos on Youtube. Well the guy that does them is my service guy. I have known him for many many years. I am a bit lazy so he helps me keep the tank looking nice. Last Thursday he decided to film the service for episodes of LA Fish Guys. There are 3 parts thus far. The first of which is me describing the tank. Here is that link.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=928ahT7x3p4
The second is the glass cleaning:
http://www.youtube.com/user/lafishguy#p/u/1/o6MLAeSraJc
The third is the 100 gallon water change/vacuuming.
http://www.lafishguys.com/80-%20Scotts500-%2003.htm
There will be another episode of the sump change/upgrade which I will also post a link on.


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Last edited by slief; 01/26/2010 at 01:47 PM.
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Old 01/26/2010, 01:27 PM   #6
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14 hours to do all that work? wow. that skimmer is a beast


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Old 01/26/2010, 01:30 PM   #7
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This is an awesome rebuild. I always enjoy seeing how others upgrade their systems. What an awesome tank, I love peninsula style tanks of this caliber.


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Old 01/26/2010, 01:51 PM   #8
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Quote:
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14 hours to do all that work? wow. that skimmer is a beast
Quote:
Originally Posted by danrobberg View Post
14 hours to do all that work? wow. that skimmer is a beast
It was well orchastrated. Between the carpinter, land scapers, Jim the fish guy and the guys that built the aquarium in the first place, it went without a hitch.. The light systems was done the following day if memory serves me.

As for the new skimmer... I thought the same thing when it arrived. It was much bigger than I was expecting even though I knew the dimensions.
Wait til you see the new sumps!


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Old 01/26/2010, 02:07 PM   #9
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Great pogression of a spectacular tank.

Thanks for sharing


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Old 01/26/2010, 02:23 PM   #10
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really nice. try getting some better pics of the reef!


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Old 01/26/2010, 02:51 PM   #11
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Saweet! Makes me want to rebuild my sump! My husband is going tokill me! LOL!


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Old 01/26/2010, 03:00 PM   #12
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Thanks for the compliments guys! I will try work on some better pictures. Between the lighting and the fish movement, my camera is not really up to par and the pictures I have taken look better than worse.

Those videos that I linked to however were shot with a pretty good HD camera. While they have been compressed, they are worth watching. The first video goes into details of the system and there are some good shots of the live stock scattered among the 3 videos. I even got some footage of my Cardinal tumbling babies in its mouth. That footage is located in the second of the 3 videos.

Jim is a bit of a hoot too! As I mentioned, I have known him for more than 15 years. He is the most dedicated fish enthusiast I have ever met. His LA Fish guys videos are pretty darn funny but also very informative. I dont know how he does it all. He just seems to love creating more work for himself but I admire his drive and enthusiasm. He is a true fish nut! Between his service business, tank business, jelliquarium jellyfish business and now LA FishGuys, he is certifiably insane! But a cool guy none the less.


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Old 01/26/2010, 03:07 PM   #13
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Jim's not the only guy that's insane here! Not that there's anything wrong with that.

This is so helpful. No matter how crazy my wife thinks I am, she thinks you're crazier.

Now, off to work on her for that 250 gallon cube!


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Old 01/26/2010, 05:20 PM   #14
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I sub to Jim. He definatly needs to be on Animal planet.


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Old 01/26/2010, 05:58 PM   #15
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Wow! Thanks for documenting this, I'm looking forward to the rest!


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Old 01/26/2010, 07:04 PM   #16
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Ok. I took some more pictures for you guys!

Enjoy!
This was taken last night with the moon lights on.


The rest we taken today when I got home.




















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Old 01/26/2010, 07:05 PM   #17
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This is the back wall I was talking about that I used the acrylic panels to simplify my installation.


Back wall opposite side of tank







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Current Tank Info: 480G display mixed reef, 90G sump, 90G refugium, 60G display refugium. Check out my build thread: http://www.reefcentral.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1783476
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Old 01/26/2010, 07:07 PM   #18
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i think i just seen this tank on youtube?


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Old 01/26/2010, 07:12 PM   #19
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i think i just seen this tank on youtube?
You probably did if you watched an LA Fish Guys episode. There is also link to those videos at the bottom of the 5th post above.


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Old 01/26/2010, 07:13 PM   #20
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i just seen the links u postes. so yes i did see this tank on youtube. the tank looks great.

thats one bada$$ skimmer u got.



Last edited by reef2; 01/26/2010 at 07:23 PM.
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Old 01/26/2010, 07:36 PM   #21
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I love this piece here....

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I'm planning now and will be using foam, egg crate, etc... that "bridge" in the center is just excellent. from that angle it looks like a leg bone! well done


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Old 01/26/2010, 07:46 PM   #22
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I love this piece here....



I'm planning now and will be using foam, egg crate, etc... that "bridge" in the center is just excellent. from that angle it looks like a leg bone! well done
That bridge was added weeks if not months after the scape was done. I searched high and low for that piece as its a 3' span between the back wall and the formation around the center overflow.. It not only had to be large but it also had to be the right shape.

There is an interesting story that comes with that bridge. That rock actually came from Catalina Water Company. They are one of the major real ocean water suppliers out here in California.

They had bought a barge full of live rock from Indonesia or something. During the ocean crossing, the generators failed and the rock went belly up before it made it to shore. Jim and I went down to the water company and sifted through dozens water filled bins that were no less than 20'x10' by 3' deep filled with not so happy almost dead rock. Needless to say that finding this piece was like finding the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. I had searched stores, wholesalers including Walt Smith, landscaping rock suppliers. You name I tried it.


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Old 01/26/2010, 07:55 PM   #23
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Wow man that is simply just a stunning rebuild!! I too am really liking the peninsula style, and the pics of when you had all of the corals in was AMAZING!


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Old 01/28/2010, 11:18 AM   #24
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I thought I would add some pics of the new sump layout.

I have been working on the design for a couple weeks and have what I feel will be the final design. There are some factors that contribute to this design.
The underside of my tank is about 43" x 93" x 36" tall. Its a substantial size footprint but my under tank access is limited to about 31" wide after removing the door and casing. Based on that, I came to the conclusion that creating 2 sumps would be the best way of getting a large enough sump volume while still being able to get it under the tank.

The first of the 2 which will be the left side sump will be where the water from my overflow enters the sumps through 4 filter socks. The socks will be arranged in 2 trays which will be easily removable. The tray in the far back will have a piece added to it with a hole that my long tongs will be able to latch into making it easy to remove.

There will be an overflow behind each of the filter sock trays that will act as an air trap to help eliminate some of the air bubbles from the overlfow. There will be a pair of cutouts at the top of of these overflow boxes that will direct water to each of the socks.

The remaining space in this sump will provide space for the Alpha cone skimmer as well as the live rock from my previous sump.

At the forward right corner of this sump there will be another overflow box with an adjustable plate that will allow me to adjust the height of the skimmer sump. From that overflow, there will be a 2" bulkhead that will be plumbed directly to the refugium. There will also be another bulkhead in the skimmer sump that will be plumbed to the tank return pump which will also be plumbed into the fuge. There will be a ball valve between the skimmer sump and the return pump which will allow me to shut down the fuge without shutting down the return pump. This will be helpful during fuge maintenance as I can close the valve to the return pump at the fuge and open the valve at the skimmer sump thus allowing my return pump to draw from the first sump.

The fuge will house a deep sand bed as well as macros. It will be illuminated by a pair of 6500K 65W flourescent bulbs in seperate fixtures. The cover for the fuge will have cutouts so that these lights can sit on top of the cover with the clear lenses set into the cover.

To determine the layout of the first sump, I started with painters tape on the floor and masked off the footprint of the sump. Then placed the skimmer into the taped off footprint and proceeded to tape off the ideas I had for the filter sock layout.

Below is what i came up with. This shows the masked off area with the sock trays masked off and the skimmer placed into position.



Another view


Here is a dimensional layout of the new sump that will house the skimmer and filter socks.


Below is a dimensional layout of the refugium. The refugium will have adjustable plates that will also allow me to adjust water levels. The return overflow will have removable dividers that will act as air traps. By making them removable, I can have another plate made that is shorter or taller should I need to make adjustments.


Here is a layout of the 2 sumps and how they will look plumbed together. The return pump will draw from the overflow at the far top right of this picture. That is also where my chiller pump will draw from. The chiller will return to a bulkhead on the far right lower end of the picture.


I would love to hear your thoughts on the sump layout. I need to make my final decision/changes immediately as they are ready to start assembly. My goal is to get them done by mid next week.


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Last edited by slief; 01/28/2010 at 11:31 AM.
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Old 01/28/2010, 12:45 PM   #25
TomToro
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Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: Milford Michigan
Posts: 232
Nicely done, my friend! Your aquascaping is awesome and so is the presentation. What a first class setup. I'm jealous as heck over here with my puny ones.

By the way, your skimmer looks looks like it's gonna kick some butt.
Excellent!!!

Tom


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