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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello All,

To give a little background, I live on the island of Tortola, in the British Virgin Islands. I am the Captain of a charter yacht for a living (my tank will be in my house) and subsequently do a lot of diving. As much as I love boats, I have decided that I need a hobby that keeps me at home a little more. After about a year of research (and a lot of convincing for the fiancee), I have decided I'm going to give reefkeeping a try.

Reefkeeping on Tortola is going to present a few challenges. First off, power and water are hot commodities, and temperature is high. Our house is on top of a mountain and naturally aspirated as opposed to air conditioned. Air conditioning would jack our power bills up by about $400/month. I'm obviously going to need a chiller, but I want to put as little heat into the tank as possible, so all pumps will be external and lighting will be LED. Water is fed to our house from a cistern (rain water from the roof). We have running water on island in urban areas, when a cruise ship is in it gets shut off so they can have it all. RO/DI is going to be tough in the house. I have been looking at 1:1 systems to minimise waste water, but that's still a little too much waste. I am intending on a pretty high evaporation rate as it will help dissipate some heat. The upside is that I have what we yachties call a watermaker. It is an RO plant which produces 58 gallons/hour from salt water on board. Given that I usually have 1000 litters (a metric ton) of water in the tanks and it's all RO water, I do have a source which I can put to use but I will have to transport it up the mountain.

There is one upside to where I live as far as reefkeeping goes and it's one I intend to take full advantage of (albeit in an ethical way). Livestock availability is pretty much unlimited and is also free. I don't want this thread to turn into one based on local laws or ethics, so lets just say that I will be minimizing my ecological impact and leave it at that. This also means I have ready access to perfectly balanced and cycled salt water, sand, and rock.

I have lots of ideas as to what I want to keep as livestock. Although it is against the advise of many, I would like to leave that challenge for "phase 2." Phase 1 will be a tank build which is ecofriendly, aesthetically pleasing, well rounded, and as easy as possible (still not easy) to maintain.

I dragged my heels on this project for some time. Partially because the fiancee said no, and partially because I was in the Caribbean, where shipping is both expensive and unreliable (I get Christmas cards in August). I am currently in Maryland with the yacht and just came from one of the owner's houses on Cape Cod. Needless to say I got bored and started looking at craigslist. I ended up picking up a 220 gallon All Glass with dual overflows and an All-Glass stand for $400. I'm not sure that this was a GREAT deal, but I still think it was a good one. One seal has a leak, but, being a yacht captain, working with silicone sealants is somewhat of a specialty of mine. Before I head back down to the islands in October the crew will be loading this into the saloon area under the dining table and it will travel around 1500 miles with us. Yes, I will post pictures.

Now that I have a tank and stand I have been able to start appropriately spec'ing all of my additional equipment. This is where I would like everybody's help and/or opinions. I have tried to list why and how I ended up deciding on each individual item to clarify my decision. None of this stuff has been purchased yet, and there's obviously a considerable amount of money involved, so I'd like to be as thorough as possible in the decision making process before I make my purchases.

Reminding again, priorities (in no particular order) are low power consumption, low heat, reliability, controllability, aesthetics, and to a lesser extent low cost.

Since lighting seems to be one of the keys, I'll start here. I have so far landed on the AquaIlluminations Hydra fixtures. Since my tank has twin braces, I am hoping I can get away with 3 of them, but may need 4. AI shows their PAR ratings covering 24" squares, so in theory this should cover my 72" tank relatively well. I will suspend these above the tank on a rail kit provided by AI. I had initially decided on the Sols, but since Neptune Systems just announced at MACNA that the Apex (I'll get to that in a minute) will be able to control the Hydras and they are the same price, it seems logical to get the Hydras.

Circulation seems to be the other main "key." I'm going to get to my sump setup in a minute, but for now lets talk powerheads. I had initially looked into a closed loop as I really didn't like the cost of controllable powerheads. I had planned on an SCWD with a controllable DC return pump and a whole grid of outputs coming out of my DSB with penductors on them for an alternating gyre-type flow. Then I realized that I really wasn't comfortable drilling my tank (the bottom is almost definitely tempered and and I want it up close to the wall in the back). Then I looked at Tunze powerheads. Given that I had already decided to put an Apex in the system, and they have an almost cult-like following, it seems to make sense to spend the extra money on Vortechs to have the extra controllability. I had initially looked into two MP40s (one at either end) but am now thinking of two MP60s (probably not running 100%) based on some other posts. Obviously if I can get away with the MP40s that's cheeper. I like the Vortechs mainly based on the integration with the Apex and also the motor is outside the tank... less heat...

On to the sump. I had initially picked out various media reactors, a skimmer, and a few other things separately and was going to build a custom sump from a 75 gallon tank. Then I read EnglishRebel's thread on ReefCentral about his beautiful sump system and got a little envious. From the aesthetics side LifeReef makes some pretty cool looking stuff and it would be really nice to have everything matches as long as it is still effective. I would hope there may be somewhat of a financial incentive for such a bulk-buy as well but have not yet inquired. So here is what I'm looking at: the LF1-300S package which includes circulation and skimmer pumps and an SVS2-24 skimmer. There are holders for all the Apex probes as well as 3 "accessory holders" these can be used for media reactors, or a biopellet reactor. I am trying to decide between two media reactors (for carbon and GFO) and a biopellet reactor, or just three media reactors (I'm sure I'll find a use for the 3rd one). I don't know much about biopellets and/or whether I will want them, but want to leave the door open. Since it's only $30 I'll add the float switch in case I decided to buy an RO/DI system for the house. I also intend on running LifeReef's LCR1 calcium reactor. I intend on running live rock and a DSB in a refugium. LifeReef makes a stock refugium to match their sumps which is 16.5 gallons. I don't know that this will be big enough. It doesn't satisfy the 10% rule. What does everyone think? It looks like EnglishRebel had a custom deeper one done, which I could do to make it 25 gallons or so. For the record, the stuff I was looking at before was mostly made by Reef Octopus.

I have mentioned the Apex a few times here. After looking at the RKE and the Apex in depth and reading a lot of forums, I really like the Apex better. I am computer savvy so coding is not an issue. I am however interested to see what EcoTech and Vertex are coming out with. They have both unveiled prototype controllers at MACNA. For now I'm looking at the Apex Elite with lab grade PH, ORP, Salinity, and temperature probes. I will also have a PM1, PM2, WXM (for the Vortechs), AWM (for the AI hydra (just announced at MACNA)), and the also newly announced automatic feeding system (AFS)... just 'cause. Everything on this system will run through the Apex. One of the conditions that my fiancee had with this system is that she wouldn't have to do anything, and I go away for a week at a time on occasion so I would like to be able to monitor and control as much as possible from afar (yes, I know the day where she will have to do something is close).

For heating and cooling I'm looking at a pair of 300W Eheim heaters and a TBD brand of chiller. I'm thinking 1/4 HP might do the job... opinions?

OK I think this post is probably long enough that only the seriously interested will read it, so if you've come this far thanks for reading and I look forward to your input!
 

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Keen Reefer
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Ok, that was a long read! lol Anyway, I'm not sure exactly what to say, other than I look forward to seeing how this turns out. It sounds as if you know what you are doing and have done the research.

Welcome to TRT!!!!
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Been a little while since I updated here. The tank made the 1500 nautical mile sail to the BVI safely and even survived the truck ride up the mountain to the house. I have since resealed the tank and leak tested it. I have also put a slightly darker stain on the stand and painted the interior white so I can see what's going on. The sump is an ADHI refugium model 60. So far it seems to be a great piece of work. I have started plumbing the drains with sched. 40 (1") and am getting ready to ship a pallet with all the rest of my equipment. I had to ditch the idea of LifeReef as it was just too long to wait and subsequently had to change the plan a little. As soon as I reach a point where the system will let me I'll post some pics.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Update: Chris at Salty Supply has been awesome. He is putting together a quote for me and has been very attentive. I also made contact with BRS as my order was completed geared for them other than the RLSS skimmer but they seemed to want to make little or no effort to help. Their shipping policy creates some problems with getting things here as they don't work with freight forwarders. Salty Supply has not only been a no-hassle solution, but they have endeavoured to help every step of the way. Nothing against BRS, but I really felt like they just didn't care about my business. For an $8K equipment order I would expect better. Needless to say all my expendables, etc as I move forward in the hobby will not be coming from BRS.
 

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Keen Reefer
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BRS is pretty price, but they have quality stuff. That's a shame that you din't have the best time with them, they are usually pretty good. I would look around craig's list, ebay, and local reef clubs or forums if you are ever looking for anything further.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
BRS is pretty price, but they have quality stuff. That's a shame that you din't have the best time with them, they are usually pretty good. I would look around craig's list, ebay, and local reef clubs or forums if you are ever looking for anything further.
Unfortunately none of that stuff is much good to me here. There is no craigslist, there are only two other guys with reef tanks, neither of which have sustainable filtration (they rotate their livestock) and most EBay sellers have shipping policies that prevent me from buying from them. I think a lot of it revolves around avoiding credit card fraud and the other side involves difficulty with shipping. The credit card issue I can do nothing about, but the shipping we have sorted. FedEx is reliable, yet expensive. The local mail service is ridiculous (I get Christmas cards in August... no joke). The best method I have found is to use a freight forwarder out of the US and consolidate my shipments to pallets. For whatever reason BRS has a policy of not dealing with freight forwarders (I made it clear I was willing to take responsibility for damage to the shipment and was aware I was voiding warranties). With regards to payment, I just do wire transfers. That way everyone has gets the money up front and knows it's legit. The downside is that leaves me exposed. As long as I shop through reputable retailers I shouldn't have a problem.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Ok, pics as promised... let see if this works:

The yacht I brought the tank down with


Here it is in the saloon before we lashed it in


Leak testing after resealing (it had a leak when I got it... it held fresh water when full for 3 days, so hopefully it'll be ok). I have also re-stained the stand


The screen tops I built today... I think I'm going to have to change the mesh, it's bug screen and I fear it will block too much light. I can't get the stuff with the wider openings on island. A canopy build is in progress so I may not need them at all...


The ADHI Model 60 Refugium is in and plumbed... The lights that came with it may not be LED but seem to be quite bright. There is also a whole bunch of other crap in my stand right now...


More plumbing... just cause...
 

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Shark...fish are friends
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very cool.... I missed this originally but glad to tag along now =) who are you using for freight forwarding? there is a member on here (Mahmoud) who is in Beirut, Lebanon and is always having troubles buying things, would like to buy from the U.S. but no one would ship to Lebanon, so that might help greatly for their situation if the freight forwarding company you are working with would ship to Lebanon...
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
very cool.... I missed this originally but glad to tag along now =) who are you using for freight forwarding? there is a member on here (Mahmoud) who is in Beirut, Lebanon and is always having troubles buying things, would like to buy from the U.S. but no one would ship to Lebanon, so that might help greatly for their situation if the freight forwarding company you are working with would ship to Lebanon...
We have a number of freight forwarders that work well for us. I do everything LCL (less than container load) shipping. Tropical Shipping, Econocaribe, and a few other have worked well. A few others have not worked so well. To my knowledge these are all specific to the caribbean, however. It definitely presents a challenge, and if I was bringing in livestock it would be even more of a challenge due to living organisms, etc... I think the hardest part is going to be rounding up a cleanup crew for this system... that's a lot of little critters!
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
OK... lots accomplished this afternoon:

I have put in the wider screens. These is about a 1/2" mesh (bird netting), not the 1/4" that I wanted, but beggars can't be choosers. I figure with the four sided canopy, they probably won't be all that necessary anyways.



I have also built all four sides of the canopy. They are made out of 1x3 (it's not perfect because I don't have a table saw and the smallest dimension I could get on island was 1x6 which I then ripped using a guide on a circ saw... it's not perfect, but for the tools I had available it's actually not bad... The skin is 1/4" cedar ply. I would have had the whole thing together by now, but the trigger on my circ saw literally caught fire... It's 10 years old at least so I suppose that's good mileage. Time to go tool shopping (my other hobby?!). The front will be joined to a 1/3 depth top section on a piano hinge and most likely with some sort of a support to hold it open. The top will be made from 1x10s (sitting on my porch right now) which will overlay all sides by 1" and then I'll route the edges to make them a little gentler. Once all that is done then it's sanding and prep time before staining to match the stand and painting the inside white. I'll also be adding some passive ventilation grilles leaving me open to add a fan if need be (it's closed on all sides, but I'm also using LEDs).
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Im following along too. I am working on my build. (see signature).

It looks like you are doing a great job. I can only imagine how difficult it is to get stuff there. If you ever need any help getting something PM me. I would be more than happy to help you out.
It's difficult to get things here, but then again, most people don't have this view from their front porch... worth it...

(The wall seen on either side is a straight wall, the panorama is a little weird on the iPhone)
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
The first coat of stain on the canopy. I put it on backwards to I can stain all the way around (in case I ever decide to go peninsula). The front door which will hinge upwards on gas shocks is down low with the second coat of stain. Both will have a total of 4 coats to match the stand and then I'll paint the inside white in order to reflect as much light as possible back into the tank.

 
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