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Through the looking glass

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I have thought about starting this several times but each time I deemed the process didn't warrant it yet. Now I think it does fore some type of diary purpose. I probably will not do this again nor try to get away with it again. I have had fish rooms for over 30 years but was not totally happy with the results even though there were fleeting moments of inspiration and success. This time I have embarked on a project that I want to do correctly that others can learn with me in it's inception and continuance. I am busy gutting my fish room and selling off my soft corals along with some items that won't have a spot in the new setup. Half of my tanks are down and I am consolidating my fish and hard corals to six tanks for holding purposes until the new tanks are built and ready for livestock ( also one tank is holding my fresh water stuff) They all are being repositioned so as to avoid the foot print of the 3 new tanks. One is a frag tank 6L'x3W'x15H" the second is the main tank 12'Lx4'Wx31"H the third a freshwater tank is 6'Lx2'Wx31"H. Here is the catch I am building them myself hopefully with a little help from my friends.....lots of friends as the base to the 1000gal tank is over 500lbs alone and so my fellow aquarists this is why I feel a little like Alice stepping through her looking glass into the unknown as I step into the world of building large glass tanks hoping all will turn out well.
I will post a pictorial progress as I go along for those inclined to follow and will have some parting shots soon of my tanks that will be turned topsy-turvy in the next week to come.

Aug 2011-This is are recent pic's of my main SPS tank and as you can see coral is growing out the top and front to back, solution bigger tank.

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Aug 2011-A few more pictures of the same 55 gallon.

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Aug 2011-Now the consolidation begins and the re-plumbing and wiring for all necessary bits and bobs of reef aquariums.

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Sept 8th-The Jungle of wiring and plumbing to contend with- Tanks coming out once de-corallined- Empty stands soon to come down.

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Sept 17th-22nd Live rock holding tank in place about 600lbs relocated- last pair of tanks to be relocated which were the hardest due to large coral colonies that had to be fragged to be removed and repositioned- tanks on floor after being soaked and cleaned with vinegar solution overnight to remove coralline algae and floor prepared for cement forms to be placed.

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Sept 22nd-Temporary tanks in place all plumbed together about 250 gallons total complete with sump/refugium, they are tucked in the front corner of the garage with just enough room for the tank stand and the glass to be brought in for the new tanks.
Every thing survived the move and it gave me a chance to move some of the inhabitants around to see how they would get along with one another. The top tanks now have removable metal halides so I can actually open the garage door after 11 years.

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Sept 23rd-Well as you can see here is the concrete form that RonD built with a poly barrier to keep the pad from sticking to the original floor, easy on exit to remove for someone who actually wants to park a car in the garage- very novel idea. The pad is basically to take some weight but more to level the tank, 2" adjustment end to end and about a 1/2" adjustment side to side.
Concrete will be poured on Oct 3rd and then the real work will start with the stands to come and the glass arriving at the Port of Vancouver on Oct 4th.

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Here the glass finally arrives from China in an export container in Victoria at a cross dock facility taken through the warehouse and the seven crates of glass loaded onto a crane truck for transport and off load at my house.
Five of us spent the next 6 hours unpacking and sorting out the different orders of glass which then made their way to their new homes. The crates and their packing materials were consolidated and segregated for reuse, recycling and waste.
I was still waiting for my stands to be built and powder-coated so the 12 foot pcs sat on a dolly for almost a month in my driveway until:

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Stands were finished and delivered on November 2nd, the 12 footer (2x3"square steel tube) is on the dolly in the driveway at 1200 lbs and the freshwater and frag tank stands are on the lawn. Everyone was called to help again and showed up after work to move the big stand onto its permanent pad where 1 inch plywood and a dense sheet foam base was installed.

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Everyone has a big smile on because not only did we place the stand but also the base plate of glass that weighed in at almost 600 lbs, it was a real brain teaser un-crating and shifting the big 22mm thick base plate onto the stand. A big sigh of relief from all concerned and a few slices of pizza while admiring our handy work. From me a big thankyou to Ron, Antoine, Eric and Scott you were the best and a great group to bounce ideas around with so as not to damage the glass, stand and ourselves too much. Now the key word is SILICONE.

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Well it is now Jan 15 2012 Christmas is over and it was time to make a move to assemble the main tank into a box. I had to wait until the suction cups arrived so that those who were lifting could do so without the benefit of lifting from the bottom of the pieces of glass as that would have been problematic when releasing your grip to place the sheet of glass on the siliconed seam. Getting together 6 people on a Sunday morning at 9am is not the easiest but Ron, Antoine, Eric, Brian, my brother Erik and myself shook the cobwebs and out and did the deed. Many thanks to all of you who braved life and limb in order to build someone else's dream. As you can see above we started out gabbing on how not kill ourselves while making the lifts and divided up the jobs of who goes where and who mans the silcone gun. The siliconing fell to Ron and he spared no expense running the large beads of glue. quite successfully I might add. A series of silicone dots where laid down the day before at 3" intervals and then shaved the morning of to 2mm in height, they squashed to 1mm just right so as not to have the seam end up glass on glass by the shear weight of the panels. Two guys stayed on top holding the back panel while Brian kept an eye on the 90 degree vertical. We quickly retrieved the end panel and completed a corner fixing the two panes of glass in place, Brian looks very happy with the progress.

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The next end panel went on quickly held in place again by a corner jig of wood and a couple of bar clamp. The front panel was on the floor to start and was a big lift at about 500lbs with the euro-brace already glued on. Once the frount panel was lifted and in place two more corner braces were put in place and all the seams were checked for air bubbles and forced out by pressure. The assembled tank looked awsome and now awaits curing and trim cleanup. The rest of the top euro-bracing will be put in place as soon as I can climb inside and trim out the excess silicone from the seams. New corner beads will be run and the basic tank will be finished.

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Some other views and samples of corner bracing.

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Just a couple of pictures of the quad suction cups we used to lift the glass, they were rated to 340lbs which I was skeptical about but once placed a strong person was not able to pull the assembly off the glass. Well worth the small price paid (about $35US delivered) to make the lifts safe.
Next time around, Frag tank, Sump and Refu
gium assembly and may be a bit of plumbing.

Well it is November 15th 2012 and finally all my top braces cut and installed, it has been a journey especially the unlooked for cure time of the silicone between the 1" laminated plates that form the frount to back braces, each took one month to cure. I put water in the tank yesterday but stopped after about 3/4" was in as it was apparent the tank was slightly out of level. When measuring with a four foot level it appeared to be ok but with water in the 12 foot tank it is out end to end and slightly back to frount. So, on to jacks and shimming or the coast to coast overflow will not operate correctly. I will post some pictures to show the process.

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This is the top of the tank looking from one end in the first shot, you can see the four braces one on each end 6" wide and the two in the middle 12" wide each are doubled. There is also the euro-brace in the frount and the over flow that also doubles as the euro-brace at the back of the tank. The close up with the my glasses for perspective shows how the braces attach to the frount of the tank. These are what took all the time to fit and cure.

July 20, 2015
Well it really is time to get this blog caught up. Nearly two and a half years have gone by in a blink. The plumbing is complete now with frag tank, refugium and quarantine tanks plumbed into the main system. On the return line of the quarantine tank is an Emperor Aquatics 80watt UV sterilizer, with the dwell time set for flow at optimal. The main tank has a metric tonne of medium granulated aragonite 6-7" deep sand bed and foam adhesive connected dead rock work throughout the tank. It is populated mostly with herbivores but I could not resist some Angels and Butterflys. No fish where introduced for 6 months to let the micro fauna get as good a start as possible and the Butterflys were not put in until a year after start up. Salt water used was Instant Ocean and RO water treated with Prime.

Once the tank was filled and water parameters were within tolerance I performed a fishless cycle using pure ammonia, this worked out well and I dosed the tank with microbacter to rapidly increase the diversity of bacteria. Further testing with dosed ammonia saw its depletion within hours and I knew I was on my way.

The first organisms of merit were diatoms, a brown film that covered everything. This lasted about a month and where slowly replaced by algae (where it comes from who knows, atmosphere?)
The species was not apparent at first but it most closely resembled the Cladophora genus. I was not pleased, this species is know for its chemical warfare and low number of predatory species that will actually eat it. This filamentous algae proceeded to cover every rock facing the light, growing about 4-5" in length, at this time no coralline algae was noticeable. I set up a fluidized bed phosphate reactor (Deltec 1020) and a calcium reactor (Deltec PF 1370). The Tunze master skimmer had been in place since start up running only 8hrs per day as no substantial exudate was being captured until the diatoms started to diminish. I also reduced the lighting (6-Plasmalyte 250watt output with blue actinic surround LED's) to 8hrs per day from 12. This started to slow the algae but did not eliminate it. Siphoning off excess algae every week for 18 months is not a fun way to spend time but it does get water changes done. Only after that time did I see that the combination of herbivorous, low phosphate levels and high calcium levels start to kick start purple and green coralline algae in the dark unlit areas of the rock work. In the past 4 months something else happened. The tank looking from end to end (12ft) was slightly hazy. One morning I went into the room and the entire system had gone crystal clear, something had reached a tipping point and the tank has remained clear ever since, hair algae dramatically reducing and coralline increasing.

I attribute much of this lengthy succession of algaes to starting with dead rock ( bleached, power-washed and dried out for 6 months ) I did this to eliminate the possibility of any undesirable hitch-hikers establishing in a large system and to make joining together the rock-work into a functionally aquascape much easier. It has worked so far but the consequence of reduced diversity has a price to be paid. Patience is the coin of that payment and if you go this route you will need it in spades.

Adding Aragonite
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1000kg's later
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RO water sand and rockwork
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End View
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Salt Water, Diatoms, Fish, Plazma Lights, Return Manifolds, Canopy Enclosure, etc.
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End View - With RonD's migrants
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I will continue with some of the trials and tribulations up to this point with details on continued up-keep and maintenance this tank set up takes.

March 24. 2016
I have now introduced SPS corals into the tank and after 60 days they are all growing well under the plasma lighting, some of the angels have been pestering them but not damaging them, the corals include various Acropora, Turbinaria, Montipora, Echniopora and Pocillopora. Now I need to tweak the parameters to see if I can get them to grow faster, most of these colonies were small but the
latter two where 6 inches across and are now 8. The larger the colony the more robust the growth seems to be, something about reaching a critical mass for optimal growth.
I am no longer fighting with any hair algae but have a great deal of coverage of a low cropped red algae being kept that way by the tangs and eight large Diadema urchins, more tweaking needed to promote coralline. Since Mg, KH and Ca are all optimum I need to balance nutrient levels with increased water changes as I do tend to feed a lot. The problem with large water changes is that it affects the Mg levels and can upset the balance of the three previous balanced water parameters. I may start to add enough Mg with each water change to offset. My water changes are 100 gallons once weekly against a realistic total (including displacement) of 1400 gallons of system water.

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  1. biggs's Avatar
    Looking forward to seeing your progress and helping of course!!!! This will be such an amazing project!!!!
  2. mitchb's Avatar
    I am excited to see how this turns out. If there is anything that I can attempt to help with just let me know as I am just up the road.
    ps. the tank is working great for a sump and everything is running nice. You should come take a look if you would like.
  3. ijkidd's Avatar
    Thanks guys I will need all the support I can get.
  4. ProReef's Avatar
    We too are going to be watching your blog, and you are right those green and white zoas are georgeous. Cheers Ronnie
  5. ijkidd's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by ProReef
    We too are going to be watching your blog, and you are right those green and white zoas are georgeous. Cheers Ronnie
    I knew you would be pleased.
  6. dive_dry's Avatar
    i am going to be following along closely to as i am building my dream tank and room but on a slow pace
  7. Lngrhaul's Avatar
    your growth is fantastic Ian. If you happen to break a frew frags off while you are moving everything, call me first!!

    If I thought there was any way I could be of help I would offer, but unless you need a cheerleader, I'm probably best on the sidelines.
  8. ijkidd's Avatar
    Bring something to carry away a few on Friday we will find something for sure.
  9. mitchb's Avatar
    Awesome progress, can't wait to see the finished product.
  10. Newtious's Avatar
    hows progress?
  11. ijkidd's Avatar
    How's that for progress. I have some Dow glass cleaner now and ordered the silicone by the case.
  12. dive_dry's Avatar
    great !!! a lot more than i have made
  13. Newtious's Avatar
    sweet !!! exciting progress!!
  14. Newtious's Avatar
  15. TKD's Avatar
    Awesome! One heck of a tank build!
  16. Newtious's Avatar
    after today were due for an update soon!
  17. Newtious's Avatar
    SWEET! you know if your willing to wait the 2 weeks im still willing to climb inside of it and do the seams :)
  18. ijkidd's Avatar
    Thanks for the generous offer but I think I am going to have to get in there and clean up the old silicone so I might as well tape and run the beads.
  19. TKD's Avatar
    If you need a small person to get in tight spots let me know.
  20. Lngrhaul's Avatar

    but it doesn't look so big.........

    lol, it's huge, but just not as big as I imagined.

    nice work boys!
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