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Ajmckay's contest thread - w/Water!

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Sorry I don't have a cool name for this build... But it's my first custom setup. This build will at first be about the stand build, but it will then shift to the progression of the tank.


Goal for this setup: To demonstrate the skills I have gained since setting up my first tank in 2008.

1) I am a fan of simple tanks which make use of general biological phenomena to achieve balance without too much input from myself.

2) Establish and maintain an effective maintenance routine.

3) Focus on the interactions of species. I also want to grow out a select few coral specimens into impressive display pieces.

4) Improve my DIY skills (my first aquarium stand! - I hope it works!)

5) Improve my eye for aesthetics. Create a beautiful, natural reef landscape.

6) Hone my photography skills and be able to show off the tank.


Relatively current pics. I need to take some new ones though.







Aqueon 40b display tank

Aqueon 30b grow out tank/sump/refugium "custom" made from the remnants of a broken 30b and 40b.

Bubble Magus NAC6 skimmer

PFO 250w HQI for the display tank (Hamilton 14K bulb)

Current Nova Extreme for the grow out tank

Quiet one 1200 return pump

2 Hydor Koralia 1's

1 Hydor Koralia 2

Hydor theo 200w heater



1x Amphiprion Ocellaris (Ocellaris Clownfish)

1x Pseudochromis porphyreus (Strawberry Dottyback) - Jumped

1x Dascyllus melanurus (4-stripe Damselfish)

1x Chrysiptera parasema (Yellow tail blue Damselfish)

A few hermits

A few cerith and astrea snails

A few nassarius snails

1x Sea Urchin, either Echinometra Lucunter (rock-boring urchin) or Echinometra mathaei (common urchin - hawaiian). It depends on when I look at it as sometimes there's a tinge of red, and other times there's not.



2x grape coral (Euphyllia cristata)

Various mushrooms

My prized blastomussa wellsi colony, which I got as just a few small polyps on a piece of LR (that was also heavily infested with aptasia!)

1 favia frag

1 small fungia plate

2 kenya trees

1 scolymia - standard green one, but got it for $10 from a local


Pulsing Xenia

Blue Xenia

3 Idaho Grape Montipora Capricornis - Died off when caulerpa went sexual

1 frag Rose millipora

1 colony of tubbs blue zoanthids

1 frag of AOG (armor of God) palys - growing like crazy



Grape Caulerpa (racemosa) Went sexual, so it went bye-bye

Chaetomorpha Linum


I'm still waiting to really do much more with this tank. I'm in a cash bind for the near future, so things will probably move slow unfortunately. It'll be a while before I start stocking the display sump for example. Right now it's inhabitants mostly consist of a ton of bristle worms.



Here is a link to the planning/building of the sump.

Edited by ajmckay

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looks good Aj.

Ill be following along.

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Thanks BC. I'll be uploading some new stand pics when I get home from work (Yes my productivity is through the roof I know!).


3-10-2011 I'm moving the first post info to this one to keep the first post open for the most current stuff:


September Tank shot:


August tank shot:


July tank shot:



Next, here is the design concept:



Finally, here are some pics of the stand in progress:




Equipment (Planned)

Aqueon 40b display tank

Aqueon 30b grow out tank/sump

Bubble Magus NAC6 skimmer

PFO 250w MH for the display tank (Hamilton 14K bulb)

Current Nova Extreme for the grow out tank

Quiet one return pump

A bunch of Hydor Koralia's for flow


Livestock (Planned)

My current livestock (1x A. Ocellaris & 1x Pterapogon kauderni (Banggai Cardinal)

I'm still working on the other inhabitants


Here is a link to the planning/building of the sump.


Update! Here are pics of the stand!







Here's me sitting on top. I wiggled around a bunch to test it's torsional stability. This thing is stiff!! (not in a sexual way... wellll...)



To do list:

1) Add 1/2" ply to the shelves

2) Paint the whole thing with a water sealing paint

3) Skin it in 1/4" oak ply

4) I'm using slate tile as the trim. I still need to cut it and stick it (to the stand).

5) Cut some really thin thin strips (3/16" x 3/16") on the table saw to cover the edges of the oak ply

6) Polyurethane the crap out of it

7) Attach some doors and make panels to cover the skimmer/return pump area

8) Drill the 40b, and silicone in the dividers into the 30b

9) Set up the plumbing and make, then attach the overflow

10) Fill with WAHTAH!

Edited by ajmckay

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Wow, your stand is going to look very nice :D Hubby and I just built one for my new 40B last month - we're thrilled with how it turned out but yours has us beat hands down for workmanship...Tagging along to see it finished.

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Thanks for the comments. Sorry I only have stand pictures up so far! It's tough to find the time necessary to finish it... I'm working on the last big issue of how to level the tank. Unfortunately the floorboards have a "bump" in them right along the wall where I want to put the tank and there's a 1/2" drop 20" out from the wall! I'll either end up fabricating some specially made shims, or I'll install some adjusting screw feet.


It should be done pretty soon though and things should start to come together nicely.

Edited by ajmckay

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Gotta love old houses. I have this issue on my contest tank right now. It wasn't bad until I put weight in the tank. Then the floor well it adjusted so to speak.. I got to figure out how to relevel everything now without totally dismantling my setup. Hope you have better luck than me. I think I am just going to have to jack the stand up and shim it.

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hey AJ stand looks bombproof. nice job.


your going to love this.


Edited by bitts

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Hey Bitts, I think the link is broken...

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The link takes you to google sketchup, but I can't see the model or anything...

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sorry you have to down load the program then search for me its under bitts i'll throw the link up in a sec.




once you download the program if you haven't you can then download the model.

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Hows it coming along??

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Well... The stand is going pretty good. I didn't get much work done on it this week though because I took the time converting our ancient fuse box to a modern circuit breaker panel.... Looks muuuuuch better now and I added a new circuit for the aquarium so I won't have to daisy chain a bunch of extension cords...


I went from This 102_0349.jpg


To This 102_0350.jpg


Okay, so time for some updated stand pics... Here's the stand (upside down) being painted. I'm painting it and caulking the seams to reduce the possibility of the wood being damaged by moisture.


Here is what the "skin" will look like... Pretty slick!



Now I've also been doing some work on my sump. I have been designing it and yesterday I bought some RTV108 so I'll start siliconing it together tomorrow probably. The design I think I've come up with, with the help of some N-R geniuses (Bitts esp.), should work fairly well. More on the design portion of the sump at this link:



Now for the pictures of the sump design! I think the sketch up model is accurate except for the middle baffle, which should be raised up an inch or so but I haven't figured out how to do that yet. The sketch-up model is down-loadable by clicking on the link above.







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Thanks bitts. I really appreciate your input on all this.

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Wow :o !!!I haven't seen one of those fuse panels in a long time..

What type of paint did you use for the sump area?

I was thinking of perhaps using a mildew resistant primer and or paint.I have seen it done by others as well.I don't know if its really necessary.

Everything looks very nice.

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Looks like kills, but could be wrong. Sealing the seems is a great touch.

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Thanks for the comments B.C. The fusebox was in good condition as far as fuseboxes go, but as you stated they're ancient! It worked fine, but I only had 12 circuits so the previous owner doubled up on some :o and other bad stuff... So now I have like 24 circuits I think which works much better...


I used a killz 2 latex primer on the whole thing, and I'm just using some left over trim paint (latex base, Interior, gloss) but any color would do... Actually you don't need glossy either, but that's just what I had. As for using a specific mildew-inhibiting paint, I would try to avoid that... Many exterior paints have those built in, but if you paint an enclosed area the fumes can build up pretty bad... So I would just use an interior paint.


Dude... Bitts you rock. I'll see if I can find some tutorials on how to work with circles, and how to move my middle baffle up...

Edited by ajmckay

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Click on move (little box with arrow pointing up) select the face to push/pull relese the mouse wher you want it or type in the needed amount.

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posted stuff in the biuld thread.

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Yeah really good stuff too... Thanks a ton. I realize I'm being somewhat stubborn with this and in some senses re-inventing the wheel, but I suppose I just need to go through the process as this is my first real "from the ground up" build. My current tank was just a swap from FW... and a simple one at that.


My goal is to hopefully match the mental image that's in my head right now... whether that actually happens is one thing, but if it does it should be pretty cool.

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