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Lyle's 3 gallon Pico Build


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#1
lpsouth1978

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So here's the deal, I have been looking at the Picotope for a good while now and have been working on a plan to build one that would support SPS. This, of course has proven to be a difficult undertaking. Here is the plan so far, some of the things listed are already done and well on thier way.

To start, I drilled the bottom glass of the Pico and put in two 1/2 inch bulkheads. These of course will be the drain and return for the pico. The drain will run into a 2-1/2 gallon custom sump/refugium. The refugium has already been completed and I am in the process of plumbing everyhting. I will be using a pump rated at around 350 - 400 gph (this is what I tested the drain with). I had a flase back made for an overflow, from ABS plastic, and am using lickline for the return, which is split in two directions when entering the tank. This should provide plenty of flow for the SPS and will hopefully eliminate the need for an additional powerhead inside the tank.

The truely tricky part is the lighting. It is very dificult to find a metal halide or T5 fixture that will fit well over a Pico. Since CF's also are not capable of supporting SPS, this leaves only LED's. I have not been happy with any of the commercialy available LED fixtures that would fit the Pico, so I will be making my own fixture. The plan is to use 12 Royal Blue 3W cree LED's, 6 White 3W cree LED's, and 2 1W UV LED's. Each color will be attached to its own driver with a dimer switch. This will allow me to customize the intensity and the color of the lighting. All of these will be placed inside a custom light fixture that I will construct from alluminim. The fixture will include at least 2 Fans to help cool the system and keep excess heat from transfering to the tank.

Everything will placed on a custom stand, (or pedestal) that will keep everything well hidden and make an amazing display and conversation piece. I will be completing the plumbing tomorrow and doing the first test run with the tank and refugium completely siliconed and plumbed together. If everthing goes well, I will try to post some pictures of everything that I have done so far. Please feel free to comment or make any suggestions.

#2
.Newman.

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good luck. sounds like a little too much light :P, but im no SPS expert.
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#3
lpsouth1978

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good luck. sounds like a little too much light :P, but im no SPS expert.

I would usually agree, but the idea is to have a fixture that would work on a larger tank later on if desired. The lights are dimmable and I would be able to adjust it to the best option for my corals.

#4
.Newman.

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well when you put it that way, its perfect :)
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#5
sandcruiser

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i'm subscribing, to follow along for the ride. I agree that the lighting is significantly more intense than what I would expect for someone to need, especially if you're going DIY, it seems like you could 1/2 the # of LEDs and add them in later if needed. But I suppose that the only benefit is less cost...

Post pics as you build!

#6
lpsouth1978

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Perhaps I should use fewer lights. I have already ordered the lights, but I suppose I could either return the ones I don't use or sell them on here. At any rate, here a few pics of what I have so far. They are not great pics, but you can see what has been done. The first few are of the pico with the false back in and the bulkheads installed. The other is of the refugium that I built.

IMG_1591.JPG IMG_1592.JPG IMG_1593.JPG IMG_1593.JPG]IMG_1594.JPG IMG_1595.JPG

#7
sandcruiser

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Re: the LEDs: it isn't so much that you *shouldn't* use the lights, as it is that what you have planned sounds like pretty serious overkill. It seems like it can/should work, but buying that many 3w LEDs, then running them at a low % of their output seems like more cost and effort than is warranted.

re: the overflow/sump: that looks GREAT. have you done a wet run yet? I'm curious to see where the water level sits.

one suggestion: if you raise the height of the overflow strainer just a little bit, you could use that area as a 'fuge. I assume you'll have the same in your sump, but since the space is there anyway, may as well use it? I like the way the background bows out. I think it will appear fairly invisible in use.

what are your plans for the sump?

#8
lpsouth1978

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I have done a wet test and the water level in the back is about two inches high. The water in the tank is about 1/4" - 1/3" below the top.

For the sump, I have set it up with enough room to put a protein skimmer from a biocube in the first compartment along with a small heater. The second chamber will be a small fuge, and will be drilled for an Iceprobe chiller if I find that I need one. The third chamber will house the return pump.

#9
Mr. Microscope

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This is an awesome build! Looks very professional.
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#10
lpsouth1978

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Ok, so based on some recomendations from this site and some other forums, I have cut back on the LED's a little. While I know it is still overkill, I have decided to go with 12 LED's. I have decided on 6 royal blue Cree XR-E @1000mA, 4 Natural White Cree XR-E @1000mA, and 2 3w UV@700mA. I just received the heatsink today from heatsinkusa.com. I also got the power supplies and buckpucks a couple of days ago from LEDsupply.com. All I need now are the LED's. I have 18 of them on order from nanotuners.com, but they are on backorder. I plan on canceling the order with them on Monday and reordering them from LEDsupply. I will update one I have the LED's. This Is the layout I am thinking about. Let me know what you think , or how you might change it and why.

Light_layout.png

#11
sandcruiser

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I like your new approach to the LEDs better.

I suspect that there is a pattern of mounting them that might work better, but I don't have the mental energy right now to figure it out.

Maybe base your pattern on triangles or hexagons instead of squares since you are dealing with 3s more than 4s?

I'd like to see the UVs spread out more, not so much in the center, as I think it might spotlight the way you have it now.

regardless, I think you're on a better track this way.


Ok, so based on some recomendations from this site and some other forums, I have cut back on the LED's a little. While I know it is still overkill, I have decided to go with 12 LED's. I have decided on 6 royal blue Cree XR-E @1000mA, 4 Natural White Cree XR-E @1000mA, and 2 3w UV@700mA. I just received the heatsink today from heatsinkusa.com. I also got the power supplies and buckpucks a couple of days ago from LEDsupply.com. All I need now are the LED's. I have 18 of them on order from nanotuners.com, but they are on backorder. I plan on canceling the order with them on Monday and reordering them from LEDsupply. I will update one I have the LED's. This Is the layout I am thinking about. Let me know what you think , or how you might change it and why.

Light_layout.png



#12
lpsouth1978

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Another change in plans. I have now decided on and have ordered 6 Cree XR-E Royal Blue and 6 Cree XR-E Cool White LED's. After reading many LED threads on RC and several warnings to be careful with the use of UV LED's, I decided to scratch them from the plan. I did however also order 1 each of the Blue, Green, Neutral White, and Warm White and will do some small scale testing with the mix of a number of colors. This will be more for my enjoyment, but we will see. I wanted to order the Red LED also, but it has a max of 700mA and all of my drivers are 1000mA.

#13
lpsouth1978

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I'm sorry that this build is moving rather slow. I do not have a lot of free time to work on the build. That said, here are the latest updates.

As far as the tank is concerned there is really nothing to report. I am at a stand still untill I can get the custom stand built for it. I have been focusing all of my time on the light. Thus far I have received all of the LED's, fans, buckpucks w/pot, and power supplies. After hooking up 12 LED's and seeing the light over the tank, I made another (surely controversial) change to the configuration. I have now drilled and tapped holes for 24 LED's. 12 Cree XRE Royal Blue, and 12 Cree XRE Cool White. I am toying around with the idea of throwing in a couple different colors, but the number of LED's is set.

As well as drilling and tapping the heatsink, I have also mounted the fans to it. To do this I actually cut down a few of the fins on the heatsink and flushmounted the fans to the heatsink. This will help to minimize the profile of the finished light fixture. I will be building the fixture out of aluminum sheets. I have access to a TIG welder and am hoping that the finished product will look like something that I could get commercially. I am hoping that the finished fixture will measure around 2.25 inches thick. You can see a picture of the fans in the heatsink below.

Hopefully, I will be able to work on constructing the stand and the light fixture during the next week or two. Once I have those done it will be time to fill the tank and start it cycling.

2010_09_18_20_37_40_872.jpg

#14
PakRX8

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That is awesome!
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#15
sandcruiser

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very clean looking heatsink
makes my booty-fab project look downright.... booty fab.

#16
.Newman.

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thats a ton of light. better concentrate on SPS now :)
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#17
sandcruiser

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one idea: have you considered blocking part or all of the ends of the heatsink where the fans are located?

that would force the fans to draw more from the center, where the heatsink is hotter.

I don't know if it makes a difference or not, but to my eye it looks like the fans would mostly pull air across the outside edge, right by the fans, which is already a fairly cool spot.

#18
lpsouth1978

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one idea: have you considered blocking part or all of the ends of the heatsink where the fans are located?

that would force the fans to draw more from the center, where the heatsink is hotter.

I don't know if it makes a difference or not, but to my eye it looks like the fans would mostly pull air across the outside edge, right by the fans, which is already a fairly cool spot.


I tested the airflow and the fans are actually meant to draw cool air from outside the fixture and blow it accross the heatsink. In practice this seemed quite effective. The whole heatsink assembly will be surrounded by a custom aluminum fixture which will basically leave only one path for the air from each fan to travel. The heatsink actually did not heat up at all with 12 of the LED's mounted on it. I expect there to be a little more heat produced once all of the LED's are mounted, but the fans are really only there for insurance.

Newman, the plan is to have an SPS tank. I really am not planning on having anything else in there.

#19
lpsouth1978

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Totally unrelated to the previous posts, but I have almost completed another pico build. This one was much less involved. For this build I simply the spare filter from my other build, no drilling for this one. The only real mod was to the light.

I gutted the stock fixture, cut some more slots in the top for air flow, and installed 2 40mm fans in it. I then installed a 1000mA buckpuck and pot. for the lighting I used 3 Cree XP-G Cool White LED's and 2 XP-E royal blues. These were mounted on a 1/4" thick peice of aluminum that I cut to the right dimensions. I drilled and countersunk holes for the mounting screws and use the mounting postion from the original plastic guard. I wired everything up, including rewiring the on/off switch to work with my power supply, and put both the fans and LED's on the dimmer.

Everything works very well and is quite bright . I now see why everyone keeps telling me that 24 LED's is overkill. I still plan on using all 24 LED's in my original build, but I may end up using it over my Solana instead. I figure the more LED's I have the more options I have.

Here are some pics of the new build completed.

pico_1.jpg pico_2.jpg pico_3.jpg _3.jpg]pico_4.jpg pico_5.jpg
pico_6.jpg

#20
.Newman.

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nice coral skeletons there.
5 LEDS is much more realistic lol.
so what will you keep now?
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#21
Mr. Microscope

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Nice mod on the stock light! Tank is looking good!
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#22
lpsouth1978

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nice coral skeletons there.
5 LEDS is much more realistic lol.
so what will you keep now?


I'm not sure yet. I might try one SPS and see how it does. I am really thinking about mostly softies, polyps, and mushrooms, maybe a coule small LPS. This pico is set up in my office at work and I am concerned that I may struggle with SPS there since there are times that I will have to rely on others to maintain it for me.

Also, one of the skeletons is not completely dead yet. I noticed it extending its polyps into the light today. Don't know that it will make a comeback, but heres to hoping.

#23
.Newman.

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which one is it? pic of polyps also if possible? have you ID'd it yet? maybe you have to feed it (if its non-photosynthetic)
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#24
lpsouth1978

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which one is it? pic of polyps also if possible? have you ID'd it yet? maybe you have to feed it (if its non-photosynthetic)


It's the one in the first close up shot with all of the smaller tubes. I did't have a camera with me today and I have not id'd it yet. I will try to get some good pictures tomorrow.

#25
.Newman.

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maybe its something like dendro or sun coral species (some kinds arent brightly colored but are clear) try feeding them!
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