So reboot phase 2 was all about the tear down. It wasn’t an easy time. A lot of corals were lost in the holding tanks despite my best efforts. It was definitely a low point. I would say there were two moments where I asked myself, “Why am I doing this?” The first was the loss of corals to a heater, and the second was the mad dash to get the new tank running before my wife gave birth! When you’re dealing with pvc cement fumes at 2am in the morning on a weeknight, your reef keeping questions become existential.
A few days after my last post, the tank and stand arrived. Most folks would express excitement, but for me it was more of a relief. Relief because all of my custom requests came out perfect, and also because I was short on time to get the tank running. The build quality on the DSA tank was excellent. The seams were professional, and the black tint on the back glass was a nice touch. The overflow box was done in acrylic but reinforced with glass. I was worried that the 27” height might be too deep, but I could reach the bottom without my arm in the tank.
The stand and canopy from Aquarium Wood Products came well packaged. The paint job on the outside was outstanding. My only gripe was that the inside of the stand and canopy were not as protected with paint. I’m a pretty messy guy and get water everywhere, and humidity from evaporation was also a concern. So I went ahead and painted the insides with a weatherproof exterior grade paint. This added some delays, but I felt it was a good move longterm. I knew I wanted to start off with metal halides, so I promptly drilled two 4” holes in the canopy for fans as well.
With a 48” sump, I had to be creative with fitting everything under the tank. Gone was my roomy basement sump. I had to keep things simple this time. I also wanted to make the heart(filtration) of this reef attractive, and make it easy to understand to a non-hobbyist who may watch the tank during a vacation.
For starters, I decided to use some colored pvc over regular schedule 80 or 40. Being Dutch, I thought a little orange would be a good flavor for the tank. And orange looked good with gray. The white Tideline sump helped keep things clean, and had three drains positioned directly under the left corner overflow in the tank. I tried to incorporate threaded fittings and unions where needed, to make it easy to disconnect. I’m so glad that I listened to Jorge at Pure Reef about adding a hidden door on the side of the stand! It made plumbing a breeze without having to contort myself under the stand.
Since I was losing the basement sump, I had to come up with a way to transport my saltwater out of the basement and also add a remote top-off setup. The RODI still resides in the basement directly below the tank. For the auto-topoff, I installed a Chem-Tech Pulsafeeder(same thing as a Reef-Filler dosing pump). It works very well at pumping water up 18 feet. For saltwater, I plumbed a mixing station together with the RO/DI consisting of two Rubbermaid Brute Trash cans. I would like more volume down the road, but the Brutes will do for now. Saltwater is mixed with an old Eheim 1262 I had laying around. I then added a Mag 24, which I plumbed with 1” vinyl tubing up to my sump upstairs. The tubing ties into a pvc gate valve to adjust the flow. The pump is wired all the way up to the reef to a switched outlet. Water changes are nice and easy. I siphon out the water with a python gravel vac first, then flick on the switch to pump fresh saltwater out of the basement. It’s not as neatly executed as some examples I have seen online, but it works.
My old tank ran on an ancient Neptune Aquacontroller 3. It still did everything I needed it to, but I found the newer interface on the Apex appealing. After speaking with Terrence at Neptune, I learned I could use my old DC-8 power strips with an Apex Base Unit and Display. This was an affordable way for me to upgrade to the Apex. Since I was modernizing a 10 year old reef, it was logical to modernize the brains operating the whole system.
To keep things neat, I incorporated some cable organizing tracks and mounted the electrical to a panel attached inside the stand. Getting things off the stand bottom creates space and makes things easier to clean. I still have some wiring clean up to do, but I’m content for now. I used a label maker to identify some key plumbing and outlets. This makes it easier to instruct someone over the phone if there’s an issue. Lastly, I added some rev-a-shelf door cubbies to hold food and additives.
Next came the tapwater leak test. As expected, some of the threaded fittings leaked. A little more pipe dope did the trick. It was good to see how sealed the overflow and sump compartments were at filling time. Each section stayed bone dry until water overflowed into that compartment. A testament to the build quality of the tank and sump. The next day, I drained the tapwater and started the boring task of filling it with RO/DI water. The slowness of my 70 gallon per day RO/DI unit added some more delays to an already constrained timeline. The baby’s due date was quickly approaching. At this point, all the painting/plumbing/fixing had kept me up late many nights. I worried I was making myself exhausted before the newborn arrived. I knew sleep would be rare with a baby, so I started to have some doubts about this whole reboot. But there was no turning back.
Overall, I feel the planning and customizations worked out as I had hoped. A single overflow versus two meant more space in the tank and less complicated plumbing. The taller stand made things easier to fit, and the hidden side door made plumbing that corner overflow a breeze. Next up was mixing salt, adding rock, and reintroducing the livestock!