Jump to content

Urbanek's ADA Trio


Recommended Posts


My name is Brad Urbanek, I've been reef keeping just over 8 years.  Like many, I've went through the progression of going bigger and bigger only now to go smaller, smaller and smaller.  One thing that I learned through my last aquarium, a 250 gallon reef, is that what I love most about the hobby is just having a playground to experiment with.  Having a large aquarium didn't provide me any more satisfaction than I got with my 28g Nano or my 110g Rimless.  I learned that moving with a large aquarium adds an infinite amount of work and stress.  Having to rely on others just to lift the aquarium is something I wanted to avoid moving forward.  As I pondered these lessons, I knew that my next adventure would be with tanks that I could lift and carry on my own. 


My Vision

If you've followed my last build you know that I enjoy woodworking as much as I do reef keeping.  I want to use this build as an opportunity to test new skills and ultimately create a gorgeous display that is free of visible wires and plumbing.  I want the system to be as clean and simple as possible while matching the flow of our new home.  My options for aquarium locations are limited and when I say limited I mean I have one possible location.  In this location, we already has an existing cabinet that matches our kitchen cabinets.  Having this cabinet is both a blessing and a curse.  A blessing in that it's there, it matches and it's one less thing to pay for.  A curse in that getting it ready to support the system while keeping the doors and drawers functional will be a test.


The Plan

My plan is to install 3 smaller aquariums onto a supplemental cabinet directly on top of the existing cabinet.  All three aquariums will  be plumbed to a single sump giving me 3 unique ecosystems while having the benefit of an overall larger water volume.  I anticipate the overall water volume will be about 60 gallons.  The lighting will be concealed in a floating shelf with wires running through a conduit behind the drywall.  I hope you will join me through the build process as I attempt to make my vision and plan a reality. 



Preliminary Sketch of the Project

  • Like 29
Link to comment

I was looking for one of your current tank threads just earlier today and was saddened to find out your newest one was retired. But now here's a brand new build! Can't wait to see it. I must have returned at the right time. All my old favorites are starting new tanks!

  • Like 2
Link to comment

Really excited to see where this takes you!!

I LOVE unique projects like this, especially when done by someone who knows their stuff. 

I always end up learning something. 

  • Like 1
Link to comment

Looks like an awesome design!  What were you thinking on having in each to necessitate them being separate?  NPS tank?  Anemones?  One with more aggressive fish?  Maybe some burrowing fish and shrimp?

  • Like 2
Link to comment

Equipment Selections

What would a build thread be without an equipment list?  With each product I provided a link with product details and in most cases from my place of purchase.  Thanks to all of you have shown interest in the build and decided to subscribe. 


Aquariums:  ADA 60P - Dimension: 60x30x36cm (approx:24"x12"x14")

Overflows and Returns:  Super Nano In-aNd-Out Complete System

Circulation:  EcoTech Marine - VorTech MP10wQDs

Sump:  Trigger Systems - Sapphire Sump 34

Return Pump:  Ecotech Marine - Vectra M1

Skimmer:  Deltec SC1351

Lighting:  Aqua Illumination - Hydra FiftyTwo HD LED

Controller:  Original APEX with 2 EB8s, WMX Controller, pH and Temp Probes (Carried over from previous two systems)

Auto Top Off:  Spectrapure - Ultra-Precise Auto-Top-Off System

Dosing:  Bubble Magus - TM-01 with a TM-02 Companion (Carried over from previous two systems)

Reactors:  Avast Marine - Small Spyglass Reactors (Running off of Vectra M1)

Heaters:  Finnex HPS Series Digital Glass Aquarium Heaters



The obligatory photo of some equipment before I get started


  • Like 12
Link to comment
On 2/21/2017 at 9:44 PM, micoastreefing said:

Yes! Cool conceptual design!  Can't wait to see where this new vision takes you. 


On 2/21/2017 at 10:22 PM, kguske2 said:

Loved your previous tanks. Excited to see this one as well

Many thanks!  Not sure I will top the last build.  Different scale for sure. 


On 2/21/2017 at 10:23 PM, Rehype said:

This is going to be amazing....cant wait to see what you come up with Brad. Have you decided on a theme for each tank? And will lighting be unique to each?

Thanks for the kind words.  Nothing set in stone for the tanks.  I know each one will have 3-4 cherry pieces of SPS, other than that it's open.  A few fish that I have my eye on are Cherub Angel, Possum Wrasse, Yasha/Goby pair.  BTW - Love what you have going with your new project. 


On 2/21/2017 at 10:52 PM, Rain24 said:

I was looking for one of your current tank threads just earlier today and was saddened to find out your newest one was retired. But now here's a brand new build! Can't wait to see it. I must have returned at the right time. All my old favorites are starting new tanks!

Glad the timing worked out for you.  It was hard to let the big tank go but our new house would just not fit that tank. 


On 2/21/2017 at 11:25 PM, jstuver said:

Cannot wait for this to take shape!! Love your previous tanks and I am sure these will be just as amazing!

Thanks!  Hope to do it justice


On 2/22/2017 at 1:08 AM, teenyreef said:

Oh yeah, can't wait! This will be beautiful just like all your builds. 

Many thanks. 


On 2/22/2017 at 4:07 AM, RIP Sebastian said:

Yay! You're back! Can't wait to see how this turns out!

Thanks so much. 


On 2/22/2017 at 4:50 AM, SeaFurn said:

Wow! Very cool! Following along!

Thanks and thanks. 


On 2/22/2017 at 6:09 AM, natalia_la_loca said:

Awesome project. The concealed lighting looks especially nice.

Lighting wires and light spill are two of my biggest hates with the hobby.  I hope to solve both. 


On 2/22/2017 at 6:58 AM, DaveFason said:

Glad to see this finally come about. Your design concepts to actual reality are always on point! 

Thanks Dave!  I'm sorry I was not able to make your lights work in the system.  I'm sure that I will regret it but it just was not in the budget. 


On 2/22/2017 at 7:57 AM, flatlandreefer said:

Very cool idea, can't wait to see where it goes! Any idea what will be different in each of the three tanks?

Thanks.  Nothing set in stone for the tanks.  I know each one will have 3-4 cherry pieces of SPS, other than that it's open.  A few fish that I have my eye on are Cherub Angel, Possum Wrasse, Yasha/Goby pair. 


On 2/22/2017 at 8:04 AM, Arce said:

Following, your last tank was amazing, looking forward to seeing what you do with this one.

Thanks so much. 


On 2/22/2017 at 8:21 AM, Scorched said:

Looks like an awesome design!  What were you thinking on having in each to necessitate them being separate?  NPS tank?  Anemones?  One with more aggressive fish?  Maybe some burrowing fish and shrimp?

Definitely not doing NPS but an anemone is on the short list.  I'm doing the separate tanks more on the aggression front.  I want to be able to keep some small inverts like sexy shrimp without them getting chomped. 


18 hours ago, Christopher Marks said:

This is going to be awesome! ?

Thanks!!  Glad you provide a forum like this to share. 

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Militant Jurist

Looks like a great plan! I too enjoy the opportunity to do some woodworking. My new tank is on a metal stand, but I'm working on red oak panels and a hood to conceal it all. What do you plan to do as far as ventilation for the enclosed areas?

  • Like 1
Link to comment

Drilling the Tanks

Right off the bat, we have a first for me, this is the first time ever drilling/cutting holes in a tank.  I have to admit, I was dreading this task but for what I'm not sure.  This was a very simple process.  I purchased the complete drain/return kit from Glass Holes.  The product came complete with instructions and their site has some great videos to reference.  As I've learned over and over again, if you have the right tools for the job, it's typically easy.  The overflow boxes are nice, this product is a single drain line to the sump so it a bit nosier than my silent bean animal drain on the last tank.  For the size of these tanks and my space limitation in the cabinet, running 3 drains to each tank was not possible.  I invited my friend Jeff over to assist.  He was there to pour water as I drilled and provide moral support if I were to crack a tank.  We managed not to!


I could write up a nice tutorial on how to do this but I honestly couldn't do it any better than the video that is already available on the Glass Holes site.  If I had to give one piece of advice, go slow and let the drill bit do the work.  You will have a tendency to want to help the bit along.  If you do this, you will get some splintering as the bit breaks the back side of the glass.  Here are a few photos that I snapped during the process. 



Template in place, ready to drill the first return line hole



Return line drilled



Bulk head installed, template in place for drain line hole



The fruits of our labor, 6 total holes cut, 0 tanks cracked! 

  • Like 13
Link to comment

Supplemental Cabinet Build

With the tanks drilled and painted, it's time to get on with some of the wood working.  Unfortunately, I forgot to snap a few photos while I was painting the tanks.  I simply taped them off and used a high quality spray paint with a primer.  I love the way the paint came out. 


My next project is getting the supplemental cabinet built.  This purpose of this cabinet is twofold.  First and foremost, it will take some of the weight of the tanks off of the base cabinet and secondly, it will serve as the skeleton to which my reclaimed wood will attach to.  After talking with the base cabinet builder, the cabinet was built to withstand 400 pounds spread evenly across the top.  With this in mind, the extra support I'm building in is not needed but the extra piece of mind is worth it for me.  In summary, the plan is to attached some thick pieces of beam to the house studs via large 8" lag bolts.  The supplemental cabinet will then be lagged to the beams thus attaching it to the house itself.  Another way of thinking about this is I could remove the base cabinet and the tanks would be attached to the wall.  Between the base cabinet and the supplemental cabinet attached to the house, I have plenty of structural support to hold the tanks of which will weigh about 380 lbs with water and rock.  Here are a few photos of the build process. 



After a trip to Home Depot and Porter Barn Wood, two of my favorite stores, I'm ready to start building.  If you are looking for some inspiration, have a look at Porter Barn Wood's website.  Amazing work being done by these guys.



Here is the space I will be working with.  The base cabinet was installed by our home builder and was built to hold the full weight of the tanks.  I will be adding support for extra piece of mind. 



Here is a shot after I got the pieces of beam attached to the studs.  These pieces of beam were cut from a large beam that I had from another project I did.  In addition to providing extra support, the pieces were cut to keep perfect spacing between the tank and the wall. 



With the support pieces in place, it's time to start framing out the supplemental cabinet.  Having the right tools for the job is key.  Here you see clamps and T-squares being used to make sure we stay level and square.  Another tip I picked up recently is to cut the rounded edges off of 2x4s.  You can see in this picture how it makes all the difference in keeping your project square. 



Here is what the supplemental cabinet looks like after being built and attached to the support pieces. 



A sneak peak of what the tanks look like after plumbing and painting.  At the point, the upright pieces of lumber are just sitting in place as I start to scope this next part of the project. 

  • Like 14
Link to comment

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Recommended Discussions

  • Create New...