DIY Moonlighting

•November 13, 2011 • Leave a Comment

I got energetic before another MW3 session and remembered that I had ordered some blue LEDs ages ago to attempt some DIY moonlighting. It’s basically Christmas lights taped down around the upper rim of the tank. Turned out better than I thought it would actually, the photos don’t do it much justice.

DIY moonlighting with blue LEDs

Taped down to the rim


Plumbing Finished and First Light Installed

•November 13, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Been going pretty hard the last few nights on getting this tank going.  The check valves arrived Friday and I got to work on the return plumbing.  I had a last minute change of design and didn’t go with a CO2 reactor out of PVC.  Instead I decided to use a 1300 L/h powerhead hooked up to a 36W UV tube.  The UV/powerhead setup will move water from the return pump chamber in the sump to the first chamber after the drainage chamber.  The CO2 will be bubbled into the inlet of the powerhead.  I modified the impeller based on a design I found by Tom Barr.  Should be similar to a needle wheel impeller, hopefully.

Modified impeller


Here’s a few photos of the finished plumbing setup.  Right now I’m two crimp rings short of being able to fire the tank up.  The water supply from the house system is piped in with pex and there is a termination end with an irrigation manifold for adding drippers.  The drippers aren’t installed yet.  Here’s the tap and drip supply:

Tap water supply

There is also a tap at the top of the tank for directly filling there.

Tank fillup

The return plumbing, UV tube and sump pump plumbing is pictured here.  The sump pump is hooked up to the house drain with a float switch for hopefully automatic water changes.  Also pictured is the Milwaukee CO2 controller.

More plumbing

CO2 controller

I also got the first of 3 T5HO light fixtures installed.  Each fixture has two 80W bulbs installed.  The bulbs are Giesmann 4x Midday and 2x Aquaflora.  Total of 480W might be a bit much so I think I will start with mounting them as far from the tank as possible.  Each light will be run independently on timers with I think only about an hour per day will all 3 fixtures on.  The majority of the time I think I will run only 2 fixtures.  I will try and run something similar to a daylight cycle where only 1 light will be on to start and end a day and two on for a few hours.  All 3 on to simulate high noon.

First light fixture installed

The lights are held on with PVC coated aircraft cable hanging from brass hooks.  I’m going to add some hooks to be able to lower light easily but for now high up is all I need.

Lighting hangers

Tomorrow I’ll finish of the pex water supply and we’ll hopefully be able to have our first test run.  Crossing my fingers there are no leaks.

Building and Installing the Filter

•November 10, 2011 • Leave a Comment

The last few weeks I’ve been installing the drainage plumbing onto the bulkheads. A few design changes were necessary as I installed things to make sure there was room for the return plumbing. The isolation valves for the rightside upper drain bulkhead will be hard to get to so I think I’m going to drill a hole in the valve handles and put a threaded rod and nut through it so I can pull it open or closed from above. Here’s a couple shots of the drainage plumbing installed.

Left side drain

Right side drains

The next step was to turn my old 70G tank into the filter. I’m doing a sump setup underneath the stand. The design is based on a bunch of nice saltwater sumps I’ve seen on the internet. I chose Lexan for the dividers. Glass would’ve been better but Lexan was easier to get and wasn’t overly expensive. It took a little bit to figure out how best to cut it. There are a few chips out of some of the dividers that hopefully will be filled with silicone. You’ll see I didn’t spare any silicone when I installed the dividers. Before I installed each divider I sanded the surface that was going to be siliconed to the glass. Hopefully the extra surface area will make a strong enough bond to stand up to the flows in the sump. Here’s the photos of the transformation of the 70G tank to the sump:

The concept....not exactly what we ended with though

This is the previous life for the filter...what a jungle

Back to basics

Lexan with sanded edges

Installing dividers

Sump finished

Beautiful silicone job!

Return pump mounts

The pump mounts have some rubber grommets siliconed in below the screw heads. There will be 2 more rubber gromets sandwiching each pump mount with stainless washers and nuts to keep everything together and vibrating without hitting the glass.

With everything installed here we are:

Not the cleanest filter

Drainage into the sump

Overall the filter has 5 distinct features. A submerged return pump, a bubble trap before the return pump. 2 sections of bio filtration, sump pump with float switch connected to the house drain and a 15G or so refugium. The sump pump still needs to be installed but the plumbing is all in place.. The refugium will initially be used for keeping isolation from new fish while getting them exposed to tank conditions. After that I’ll use it to grow some plants.

The next part of the project is the plumbing for the return system. I have some check valves on order that I need to get that finished. There will be 3 of them for redundancy since check valves aren’t as reliable as an above water siphon break. I decided to give up on doing a siphon break and spend some extra money on heavy duty check valves. The return system will include a 3″ PVC CO2 reactor with injection via pressurized CO2 and regulator.

Here’s how everything looks together right now:

Nov 9 Tank Update

Drain System Plumbing

•October 12, 2011 • Leave a Comment

It’s time to finally move the design from paper to actual parts. The drain system is setup so that the water level in the tank is determined by the horizontal pipe at the top. The two capped ends will be used to vent any air by attaching some hosing. Ball valves provide full isolation for each drain. They also provide the capability for a quick 1/3 water change. The lowest drain in the tank will be used mainly for draining almost the whole tank if it’s needed. Total output at maximum drainage will be two full 1.5″ ABS pipes. The ball valves can potentially provide some more sophisticated flows but I don’t think I will use it that way very often, if ever.

Drain plumbing

A weakness of this system is all the threaded parts. The ball valve fittings to 1.5″ straight pipe is threaded and the connection to the drain bulkheads to the tanks is threaded. Any recommendations for good teflon tape for ABS piping? The taping job will probably determine if I have any leaks when it starts up.

Anyone see any fatal flaws in this setup?

It will drain from the two down going 1.5″ pipes into a 70G sump filter. At the end of the drain lines will be a DIY “muffler” installed inside the sump to try and minimize the noise of the whole system.

Finally Moved Inside

•October 12, 2011 • Leave a Comment

I’m looking at the dates on these posts and it seems like I get the itch to work on this project about this time every year.  What turned out to be the most difficult aspect of the entire project was completely overlooked by me when I designed this tank.  Moving it to my basement was an absolute nightmare. Professional movers turned down the job but in the end my two brother-in-laws, my dad and myself moved it from my garage to my basement.

Making the Plan

Not the most comfortable moment

Don't let go

Almost there

Almost two years from delivery it finally makes it into my house.

Front view

Better lighting

I can finally get started on all the setup.  The plumbing will be the first job.  The filter the second.  That will be the moment of truth on filling this thing with water and getting the pumps going.  I’ll be posting the drainage plumbing design shortly.

250G Tank: Stand Build and Manzanita Arrangement

•October 8, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Finally the first update in nearly a year.  This project has been on hold until I finished the basement that the tank was going to be installed in.  I found out very quickly that having your first child will put a little damper on the projects you had going before.  Nearly 1 year after the tank arrived it has been uncrated and is almost ready to be put on the stand.  I’m thinking I will have to have professional movers do this job.

I’ve got the structural part of my stand built.  It is 2×6 and 2×4 construction.  3/4″ plywood on top.  My wife is paranoid it isn’t strong enough for a 250G but I think it’s plenty safe.

Here’s the stand going together:

The top frame that the plywood will be screwed to:


Top of stand


The top construction has 3 screws per joint and is entirely 2×6 framing spruce.   The joints are also glued to help straighten out a bit of the warp in the boards.
The whole thing clamped together ready to be screwed.


Stand Clamped Together


The base is all 2×4 and the legs are a combination of 2×4 and 2×6.  The lateral supports on the bottom are turned on the side so the filter will not sit up too high.  I plan on adding insulation between the supports to insulate the cabinet from the basement floor.  Then there will be a sheet of plywood on the bottom.  Also, the top will be a 3/4″ sheet of plywood with foam/insulation to ensure no pressure points.

I also realized that if I tried to put the tank on the stand and then put the manzanita wood as a whole in it wouldn’t fit and there is no way I was assembling it by hanging into the tank so I have started putting together my stump that will go in and I will install it in the tank before I put the tank on the stand.  I’m building it on the stand so I can get it sized correctly.

Looking for some feedback on the arrangement.  I have lots more good branches that will beef up the right side a bit more so it isn’t complete yet.

Straight on:


Start of manzanita arrangement




Start of manzanita arrangement


Finally An Update

•October 5, 2010 • Leave a Comment

My 250gal project has just been resumed! Finally!  It’s been nearly a year since my last post here but stay tuned…there are some things to come!  Hopefully this has been worth waiting for.

Quick update: my tank is finally uncrated and my stand is about 1/2 built.  I’ll be posting the info on my DIY stand and a few of the background items I took care off in the very near future.

Stay tuned….