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· Wild Man
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487 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Ok here we go! I have already posted elsewhere about my 75g Dinosaur tank and stand that I picked up for 50 bucks on another thread but since I don't know how to rename it or bring the subscribers over to this one I am just making a new one.

I call it a dinosaur tank because it is old as dirt. It is one of those super thick glass tanks with dual overflows and a center return that make new tanks look like sissies.

The point of this build is to start from as close to scratch as possible and set up a super bad a** tank as cheaply as possible. I will attempt to recycle anything that I can manage.

THE GAME PLAN:

1. Build live rock
2. Build the Sump/refugium
3. Build a crazy aqua-scape that will blow minds for generations!
4. Alter the stand to fit my likes
5. Install the refugium
6. Find Pumps, skimmers etc.
7. GET IT RUNNING
8. Lighting Lighting Lighting!!! ALL LED BABY!!!
9. STOCK THAT MOTHER to the Gills!!!

I am as cheap at heart as they come so my budget is about $800 over the course of the next few months. I am a craigslister, and a deal maker. If I have to trade coral (from my existing tank) to get my equipment I will. I will also be using anything and everything I have lying around.
 

· Wild Man
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487 Posts
Discussion Starter · #2 ·
I Live Rock And Roll!

It took me a couple of attempts to get my mixtures right, but I posted some pictures of each attempt.

The 1st attempt I used a mixture of Portland Cement, Aragonite Sand, and Rock Salt in a 1:3:1 mixture. I mixed in some water until it was a bit thicker than cottage cheese and made my molds in buckets with extra aragonite sand.

It turned out just a little bit too dense. I rate it as a 1 beer project. It doesn't take much work. You do have to wait a LONG TIME though. 24 hours is best. Longer is even better.

Here is a closer picture of the 1st attempt.


I am not really satisfied with the way it turned out. Pictures of my later attempt in the next post
 

· Wild Man
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487 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I am posting these all at the same time because I am playing catch up on the thread. I have been working my butt off getting everything together but haven't been posting any of it.

My third attempt at making custom homemade live rock was much more fruitful than the first two attempts. It turned out to be less dense and more open than the others.

This time I used Portland Cement, coarse crushed coral, crushed oyster shells, and rock salt in a 1:3:2:1 ratio.

Here is how it turned out.


A close up.


I made the molds in a rubbermaid tote with the extra coarse crushed coral that I had.
Let it sit for 24 hours.

I guess now would be a good time to mention that if you are making live rock you have to put them in water for a week after they set. Change the water daily to reduce PH and salinity from the salt leaking out as it dissolves.

When I rated this as a "one beer project" I meant one beer every round. Feel free to drink more if necessary!
 

· Wild Man
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487 Posts
Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Sump up the Volume!

Rating this as a two beer project and I recommend waiting until the power tools are put a way for the first one.

I used the 39 gallon sump that came with the tank and stand, and used some Lexon sheets that I had laying around. (I traded 3 heads of teal candy canes, two heads of frog spawn and a small piece of live rock for two full sheets about a year ago.)

I cut the lexon sheets after measuring the lengths and widths of the sheets I would need. I turned the blade backwards on a circular saw to make nice clean cuts.

Then I siliconed the sheets into the tank. there are a ton of measurements online for building sumps. I used two 14 inch tall pieces, one that was 12 inches tall a 7 inch piece and a 5 inch piece.

The last 3 sheets are place at 1 inch from each other to form a bubble trap.



Let it sit for 24 to 48 hours then water test it for a day or two. :thumbup::thumbup::thumbup::thumbup:
 

· Wild Man
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487 Posts
Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Mind on my Money and money on my mind

Now its time to talk dollars and cents.
Live Rock:
Crushed oyster shells- $10 for a 50 lbs bag
Aragonite sand- Free (I had it on hand)
Coarse Crushed Coral- Free (came in the tank that I bought)
Portland Cement- $15 for a50 lbs bag.
Pool Sand- FREE (Have been using stuff I have on hand)

Sump:
29 gal tank- Free (In deal with aquarium)
Lexon sheets- Some Coral a year ago
Silicon- $7

Tank and Stand and 29 gallon sump:
Whole deal: $50

Time altogether I have spent about 6 hours on this project. That includes planning stages, and building live rock and switching the water every day.

Total: $82 :dance::dance::dance:

Budget $800-82= $718 left.
 

· Wild Man
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487 Posts
Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Skimmer choices.

are you going to have a skimmer in there?
I am planning on it. At the current budget I will be putting a relatively small one in there for now. I will be keeping mostly mushrooms and zoanthids. It will depend on what I find cheap I suppose.

other than the more expensive stuff is there a skimmer you guys recommend?
LOW BUDGET!

Thanks
 

· Registered
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3,451 Posts
The reason I asked is because the sections in the sump looked kinda small to fit a skimmer unless you are planning to put it in the center section.
Could be the angle of the picture though.
 

· Wild Man
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487 Posts
Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Little bitty chamber?

The reason I asked is because the sections in the sump looked kinda small to fit a skimmer unless you are planning to put it in the center section.
Could be the angle of the picture though.
It might be... It is 8 inches from the glass to the acrylic in the 1st chamber.
I guess I don't really know what the foot print on some of the monster skimmers are.

If you were building one out of the 29g tank what would your first chamber measure?
 

· Wild Man
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487 Posts
Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Slow and Steady Wins the Race

Of all the work I have done since I last posted the hardest part has been convincing myself to SLOW DOWN and do things correctly. My friend and I have been trying to plan every step and pick it apart before we ever begin.

Keep in mind the ENTIRE point of this project is to see how cheaply we can do an awesome reef tank. I want to show people that if you do things properly you can set up a reef tank for a marginal difference in price from a freshwater tank.

Some things we have accomplished since my last post...
Tank clean up and stand rehab.
Built the live rock structure from scratch.
Used a PVC frame to accomplish an open but visually heavy aquascape.
Got a skimmer.
It doesn't sound like much but this has been a tremendous amount of work.
TOTALLY WORTH IT!

This is a picture of the stand we started with.

(UGLY and Impractical)
The doors were TOOO SMALL. I couldn't even pull the sump out without taking off the side of the stand.


We tore it all down and installed a 2x6 frame. By replacing the 2x4 frame around the top with 2x6s we will have enough support to go without a center brace. This opens up the stand and gives us plenty of room to work and play. :dance::dance:
 

· Wild Man
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487 Posts
Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Rock Steady! Steady Rockin All Night Long!

It took a while to figure out how we wanted the aquascape to look. We built several different frames from PVC and the one that made the final cut turned out great! (In my opinion anyway) I am very happy with it.

The first pieces we made we laid in the rubbermaid tote mold horizantally. It gave us some nice flat pieces, but gave us solid edges and corners that look a bit too manufactured. We found out that beating on the rock that is attached to the PVC is not a good idea. We broke one of our main pieces doing so.

The next pieces we did veritcally. We placed a bit of crushed coral in the bottom of the tote and began filling in the cement around the pipe. We would add some mix and then add some sand/crushed coral around it to make the shape. This method makes it much more difficult to determine what your rock will look like but gives it a much more random and natural look.

Can you tell which ones were made with the horizontal method and which were made with the vertical method?


We initially set up our rock work outside of the tank to make sure that it was stable enough to put into the tank. It turned out to be ROCK STEADY! So I won't have to worry about having an avalanche in my tank anymore! :blob::blob::blob:
 

· Wild Man
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487 Posts
Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Come Together Right Now Over Me!

With everything coming together so nicely I can't wait to get water in this thing!!! The tank and the stand look great together.
It is hard to believe it is even the same stand we started with. It looks sooo much different! :bigeek::bigeek:



But there was no better feeling than getting the rock work into the tank and putting a light over it. I will admit we have some patching to do because as you move around the tank you can see some of the PVC frame but over all I am VERY VERY happy with the way it turned out.



Once you get right up on the rock work you can see exactly why the PVC frame gave us some advantages that normal live rock structures don't.
The inverted arch in the middle spans about 2.5 ft and doesn't touch the bottom of the tank at all. Also note the way the rocks on the right come together. It gives a visual effect that can't be attained without a little help from the framework.

 

· Wild Man
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487 Posts
Discussion Starter · #16 ·
It's all about the Benjamins Baby!

So time to break down what I have spent and my time invested.
Skimmer: Picked up a Berlin Skimmer with a MAG 5 pump for $50
Rock work:
Money:
The price of the materials have been accounted for earlier in the thread. The only extra cost I incurred was the cost of the PVC.
I spent about $25 on PVC elbows, joints, and pipe. I bought extra. We had about 3ft of pipe left over and a few 45 degree joints and some 90 degree elbows left over. I am sure we will use them elsewhere.

Time: This rock work took about 6 days from start to finish. We only had one rubbermaid tote to work in and only enough supplies to make one tote-full at any given time. Learning how to work with the cement is a time consuming element of this project. I RECOMMEND A GOOD THICK SET OF GLOVES. The PH content of the cement starts to eat away at your hands if you don't wear gloves. Be safe

BEER RATING: The project was a good 12 pack worth of work. The time spent mixing and building the rock as well as the beers needed for the planning process bump up the rating a bit. VERY TIME CONSUMING but TOTALLY WORTH THE WAIT!!!

Stand Rehab:
MONEY: The stand we reused every bit of wood from the original that we could. We ended up paying about $15 for extra wood and paint, as well as some wood putty and extra screws. We are expecting about another $20 bucks in supplies to build the door, but that is project for another day.

Time: This project was KILLER on time. It took HOURS AND HOURS to get the stand apart, cut properly, squared up and rebuilt. :angry::angry::angry::angry::angry::angry::angry::angry::angry::angry:
Lots of angry words and threats to burn it to the ground flew around but it turned out great didn't it?
The biggest issue was that the guy who built the original stand built it like a Brick #*%^ House.

Beer Rating: AT LEAST A 12 PACK!!! it took days to finish this project and get it right. I am glad we did it, but I will not be doing another project like this one. (again I don't encourage you to drink and use power tools) :beer::beer::beer:

Budget remaining: $718-$90=$628
 

· Wild Man
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487 Posts
Discussion Starter · #17 ·
If I Could Turn Back Time!!

Looking back on this project I would have done a couple of things differently.

I WOULD HAVE BUILT THE STAND FROM SCRATCH!!!!!:mad: Building it would have been much easier than tearing it all down and working with the problems that were built into the stand the first time. We redid this stand THIS time because the whole point of the project is to keep cost low. I don't think there would have been much more than $75 invested in the whole project if we had started from scratch. Paint and screws were the two most expensive parts of redoing the stand.

Also we ran into some trouble with the rock work. DON't BEAT ON YOUR ROCKS that are attached to the PVC!!! We broke a huge piece out of our rock work. It was a pain to go back and do it again. Adding extra rocks to hide imperfections is much easier.

PLAN on your overall PVC from work to be about 3 inches larger all the way around than it is now. If you give yourself 3 extra inches on every side you will not have a problem fitting the rock work into your tank. It is MUCH easier to extend the frame and add rocks than it is to shorten it after all the cement has settled.
 

· Wild Man
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487 Posts
Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Feed Back Time!!!

As always I am looking for feed back!!! I need constructive criticism to make my tank the best it can be. We are going to paint the back black. Also the substrate you see is just settle off from the rock work. We will be using a very thin layer of fine crushed coral for the substrate.

IF YOU SEE ANY MAJOR DESIGN FLAWS PLEASE POINT THEM OUT!!!

ANYONE WHO HAS DONE A PROJECT LIKE THIS BEFORE PLEASE GIVE ME POINTERS!!!! I WOULD LIKE TO KNOW ABOUT POSSIBLE PROBLEMS BEFORE I MAKE MISTAKES!!!

Overall I am very excited about how this tank is coming together. :blob::blob::blob::blob:
 

· Wild Man
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487 Posts
Discussion Starter · #19 ·
The PH on my Home made LR is still too high!!! 8.8 It has been 6 months!!! Please help!!!
Things we have done:
daily water changes for 2 months
weekly water changes for 3 months
soaked the rock in white vinegar for a week
now we have the system up and running but we can't get the PH to stay down!!!

I REALLY NEED HELP ON THIS ONE PLEASE!
 
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