I should have started this thread a while ago. I have been working on this build for about 6 weeks so I'm going to have to post allot here to bring this thread to where I am at.
Back in the last week of September after many months of research and looking I found a deal on a used tank setup i couldn't pass up. I wanted to go with as big a tank as i could fit in my small space available. I originally planned to set up a tank in my office at work but plans to do that fell through so I modified the plan and decided i had a space at home I could put a 150+ gallon tank. After searching for a while I ran across a craigslist post that seemed too good to pass up on a used tank in my area. I decided I wanted to go with either a 180 or a 210 but was not set on either, it would be a matter of which I discovered first.
I found a local craigslist listing where someone local was selling their 180G reef tank. I went to look at the tank and was very happy with what I saw. The owner was looking to sell his 180G tank 72" x 24" x 25" and all his corals and livestock as a complete setup. He wanted $1000 a very fair price for what he was offering. I went and looked at the setup and talked with the owner. I'm a newb so admittedly don't know too much but had been doing research for the previous 8 months waiting for the right deal to come along. All of the fish appeared in good health and the setup was quite nice. There were also a good number of fish I had on my list of fish I'd like to have that were included as well as everything I would need to get going. i agreed I would buy the setup for $1000 and gave the owner a small deposit. A couple weeks later my uncle and I (my uncle having over 20yrs experience in saltwater fish) went to pick everything up and get me started.
So on a Saturday at the end of September we went and picked everything up. Here is the large list of what was included. The tank 180G 72 x 24 x 25 an acrylic sump 40 x 16 x 16. A Reeflow Super Dart pump that was recently new. Hamilton technology 4 bulb light system as well as a some coral lighting. A Red Sea's Berlin skimmer. Various power heads and a few extra pumps for various things. the setup also came with a reverse osmosis water filter system. Also included was ~100lbs of live sand and ~150 lbs of live rock. two heaters and a moonlighting system. There were a few other hardware items included a half bucket of Instant Ocean a couple 44G cans for chores and moving, etc. The list of fish include A Purple Tang, two Blue Regal Tangs, a Foxface a pair of Diamond Gobies, a Tomato Clown and various corals. I want my first tank to be a FOWLR setup so I offered all the corals to my uncle for helping me out. My uncle also has an established tank that all of it's fish were recently removed from. So we formed a plan that he would take the corals and the coral lighting for them and he would take care of my livestock while the move and re-setup was going on. As such on moving day the current owner broke everything down and we prepared the fish and corals for the move.
On our first trip we took all the fish and corals to my uncles tanks and get them acclimated and into their temporary home and then off to my place with misc. hardware. and the 44G cans full of water, live rock and live sand. We moved the cans into my place and set them up with a pump to circulate the water to help keep the rock and sand alive. The second trip we moved the tank and whatever hardware would not fit in the van on the first trip leaving only the previous owners DIY stand. I didn't have a stand so I wanted to take the stand too. The stand was in pretty bad shape and was very rickety after the trip to my place in the van. After the stand sat in my house for a couple days while I was getting ready for what was to come I decided I didn't like the stand and didn't trust it and would build a new one. So off I went to accomplish that. I ran across this thread DIY aquarium stand lots of photos - first ever woodworking project - DIY Aquarium Projects - Aquatic Plant Central
and decided this would be the general way I constructed my new stand. The following weekend I built my stand. I tore down the old stand and kept only the front cabinet surfaces as I figure they will screw into the front surface of my new stand and help with the water noise and keeping things looking a bit nicer. I started shooting video's then too to document a few things. here is a link to my you-tube channel for everyone interested to see my videos. YouTube - 00Warpig00's Channel
Working on various odds and ends during the week after work like cleaning out the tank and replacing the bulkheads. I positioned the stand where I want it and had a couple friends help me put the tank on the new stand. I shimmed the tank and made sure everything was level. I also used some of this time to install my reverse osmosis water filter system. I took a sample of the water from the filter to the LFS and had them test it. The results were acceptable. Starting with decent water. :) The following week I started to fill the tank with fresh water from the RO unit. It took almost three days to fill the tank 2/3rds with fresh RO water. I got the tank filled to that point. i was not sure how much water the rock and sand would displace so this was a good starting point. I mixed my first batch of salt water in the tank. I decided to mix it to a specific gravity of 1.022 to get me started. At this point I didn't have a water test kit but took a sample of saltwater to the LFS and was told everything looked great. I then transferred my live rock into the tank to let it brew in there while I continued working on things. I spent the next week working after work on the sump and setting my live rock up in the tank how I want it. Currently there is 132lbs of live rock in the tank with another ~40-50lbs in my uncle's tank that needs to come back here.
I moved the sump into the bottom of the stand. I decided to buy a couple of cheap vinyl shower curtain liners and put them in the bottom of the stand in a fashion that would catch any water in the event of a leak. A cheap method to help keep the place dry in event of some water escaping. I had saltwater in the tank for a little over a week at this point and only had my initial water test from the LFS of which I don't have any parameters to share but was told by the LFS that everything looked great as far as pH, ammonia, nitrite and nitrate. I finally picked up my water test kit and tested the water after the rock had been in the tank by itself for a week and a half. The results were as follows. Specific gravity 1.022, pH 8.2, Ammonia 0 ppm, Nitrite 0 ppm and Nitrate 5-10ppm (I cannot tell the difference in colors on the API test kits orange bars on the card they look the same color to me).
I decided it was time to add the live sand to the tank. After adding the live sand the tank was cloudy for 2 days. When all the silt from the sand settled there was an ugly 1/8th inch thick layer of silt on everything. this may have been a mistake, but since the water test before adding the sand revealed some nitrate and the layer of ugly silt on everything I decided I was going to vacuum the silt layer off the sand and pull some of the larger top pieces of rock out of the tank and bathe the silt off in a 5 gallon bucket of saltwater I scooped out of the tank. So I pulled the large top rock pieces out one ant a time and submerged them in the bucket and removed the silt from them and replaced them in the tank. I left the bottom pieces alone as they are providing the foundation to keep all my rock solid and did not want to pull them off the bottom glass surface. I vacuumed the silt layer off removing most of the silt as well as enough water that it just seemed natural to mix up some more saltwater and do a partial water change if you will. I replaced about 45 gallons of water that came out in the silt vacuuming process. pumped in the new saltwater and allowed the pump to circulate things for 24 hours before another water test. The results of this water test have me a little puzzled. They were as follows specific gravity 1.020 (after top off to start overflows) pH 8.2, Ammonia 0.25 ppm, Nitrite 0 ppm, Nitrate 5-10ppm. I guess the puzzling part for me is that there appears to be low levels of ammonia now (after adding the sand) and the same amount of Nitrate as before I changed the 45 gallons of water yet there are no nitrites. I'm not sure whats going on with my water. I have not seen a diatom bloom or anything noticeable about the water other than the dust cloud I made putting the sand in.
I started my main pump and started the water circulating through the entire system. It's been running for about 18 hours now and seems to be running ok. I plan to leave things run a little longer and do another water test today sometime. I will update with the results later. I did a power loss test to see how things settle in the event of a power loss. I made a few adjustments with how deep the return nozzles are set into the tank as when the power was removed the siphon sucked a bit more water back into the sump than I wanted in there.
I hooked up my skimmer and have it running. it seems to be foaming ok but needs to run for a few days and probably be tweaked as it seemed at first to be putting allot of foam and water into the collection cup after running for more than 12 hours the skimmer is producing less foam than at initial start up and the foam doesn't make it all the way over the top edge of the cylinder into the collection cup. There also seems to be a pulsation of the air sucking into the skimmer's open end of the air tube. I'm gonna let it run another day or so and see what develops. then probably tweak it.