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"Upcycled" 1.5 gallon system


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After failed attempts at the last two contests I'm finally able to partake in this one! I missed out on the last one due to illness and the contest before that I was making an acrylic tank at work and due to the Covid lock down I had to work from home and I accidently left the tank at work and couldn't get it. With that being said, time to get to work!


I currently do not have a marine tank to overhaul, so I do have to start from scratch, but I found an interesting way to fit the theme. My father-in-law works maintenance at a few apartment complexes and he occasionally comes across aquarium items. He left me this old, nasty, and absolutely thrashed Oceanic 20 gallon aquarium. I broke it down, salvaged some of the glass to make a pico system. The display tank is a 8"x8"x6" cube that I bottom drilled for a single 1/2" drain. The sump is a 6"x6"x4" with a single divider. The tank is too small and I do not want to see any cords or heaters. My goal is to use almost exclusively leftover equipment I have laying around the house. I'm using a 7.5 watt preset Aqueon flat heater from one of my old neocaridina shrimp tanks and the return pump is a tiny 80gph aquaneat pump that I bought awhile back for a project with my kids. The return is fed through 1/4" RO tubing. I took advantage of the BRS 15 year discount and got an IM marine nuvo purity pack which will be my mechanical and chemical filtration. I had some scrap foam and silicone for the joints as well as a spare 1/2" bulkhead.


Current to date expenses:

- IM Marine Nuvo Purity Pack - $6 (shipping cost only)

- 25ft of RO tubing $2.60

Total to date expenses - $8.60.


I'm currently working on the aquascape and a method of feeding the 1/4" return line into the display to keep it as minimally intrusive as possible.


Stay tuned!


















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2 minutes ago, Jaren45 said:

Looking awesome! How did you cut the notch in the sump glass, band saw?

No, I work in a countertop production company as a project manager so I have a few tools for cutting quartz and granite so i can do touch up work on-site. I used a grinder fitted up with a diamond blade. Unfortunately, the grinder I have isn't variable speed, so it a bit of a crude cut but dimension-wise it came out fine. I sanded the sharp edges and called it a day. 

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I got quite a bit of work done since my last post. I made a stand out of 3/8" square dowels but due to the dowels not being straight, I had a very hard time building the stand neatly and more importantly level. So I scrapped that stand and made a new, more simple stand out of 3/4" plywood left over from my 60 breeder planted tank stand. It will be covered in a removable 3d printed cover to pretty things up if I ever get around to it. I will leave it as-is for awhile. I'm not a huge fan of rock walls, but with this tank being so small it worked out best, in my opinion, to hide the overflow. The return line is actually ran up through the drain line so I only had to drill one hole. I made a relief channel in the rock wall to accept the 1/4" return line and then drilled a hole for the outlet into the display. I left a little space in the foreground because I have a lot of rubble rock that I may attach some frags to. The tank is currently going through a water test to check the functionality of everything and it's working great. The only thing I currently do not like it the pump. It does its job of pumping water from the sump to the display, but the water flow is very low. I may see if I can find a stronger pump that isn't too much larger than the one I have now, not necessarily for volume, but velocity of flow. I'm going to let it run for about a day just to be sure everything is good to go before I add sand and saltwater. The current plan is to add a few sexy shrimp and a rock flower nem along with a few misc frags, but we'll see.




















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I wasn't a huge fan of how the return line was ran initially. I had a uniseal on hand that was the correct size and drilled the drain to accept the uniseal. I like this much better and the pump doesn't have to pump quite as far. It gained me slightly more flow, but still not what I'm after. I ordered a maxijet 400 which is rated for about double the flow as the pump I have now. I'm just hoping to see a bump in velocity. Plus the maxijet is a way better pump than the cheap pump I'm currently using. I also took the cheap clamp on light off of my neocaridina tank just to see what it looks like with light over it. My buddy is loaning me one of his old AI primes. 





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1 minute ago, debbeach13 said:

Looking better every time you post. The rock wall came out great. Look at all the room in there. LOL

Thanks! Yeah I was hoping to score a flat cut piece from my LFS but they didn't have any so instead I used the flattest shelf rock I could find, and then attached rock from there. 

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Progress has been slower than I would've liked. I injured myself a few days ago (may have a broken tailbone) so that put a damper on things, but I did get a few things accomplished. It was apparent that I wasn't going to get the flow I wanted by using 1/4" tubing as my return. I redid the return line to use 3/8" RO tubing instead. This required relieving more of the rock wall and making new bends, but I got that done. I ordered a maxijet 400 which is rated for like 110gph. This came with a few problems. The pump was larger in dimensions than I thought once I installed it, plus I think the motor had something wrong with it because it was ridiculously loud so I ended up returning it. It did show me that I had a major flaw in my design. Based on some math, the 1/2" drain with a 3/8" tube ran through the middle should still flow more than what my 3/8" return should be capable of. But if you look at some of my pictures, the way the return line makes a 90* bend at the top of the drain line, it blocks a lot of the drain. To combat this, I drilled some holes below the top of the drain line. Before I made this change, the drain couldn't keep up with a 100gph pump. After drilling the holes I threw in a 350 gph pump to test the system and it will now keep up with 350+ gph which is obviously way too much for my little 1.5ish galling system. I bought a Sicce Micra for a great price and it is rated for 90gph but based on their chart should be around 50-55gph after head loss. The flow is about perfect from what I can tell. I think down the road I may upgrade to the Micra Plus which is about twice the flow of the Micra and the pump is physically the same size. I will also be able to turn that pump down if needed. I also painted the back wall black. My buddy was going to loan me his AI prime, but the whites do not work and I'm not a huge fan of all blue lights. I ordered a new light off of amazon and it should be here soon. I'm officially ready to give the tank its final cleaning, add sand, filtration, heater, and fill with saltwater. I have had rubble rock cycling in my friends tank since the start of the last contest, so I shouldn't have much of a cycle. I'm going to start keeping my eye out for some sexy shrimp, a nice rock flower nem, and some random frags that catch my eye. It won't be long now!







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Just now, debbeach13 said:

I used the pump you got in an Evo 5 I took the back off and it was silent.

The maxijet, or the micra? I've had numerous maxijets over the years and there was clearly something wrong with this one. It flowed fine but I could hear it across the house. 

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4 hours ago, debbeach13 said:

I had the maxijet.

I'm not quite sure what the issue was. It was a brand new pump, but I still disassembled and cleaned. It was ridiculously loud. 

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I'm shooting to have the tank filled on Friday or Saturday. My light will be here Friday. My buddy has been cycling some rubble rock for me for over a year in his sump. I will place that rubble in my sump. Sunday I'm taking an hour drive to go see another friend of mine who is breaking down his 250 gallon reef and he will be getting me some fresh cut frags of some of his choice colonies. A week after that I will probably hit up a few of the local fish stores in search of a rock flower nem and a few sexy shrimp assuming my water parameters look good. I'm hoping to be nearly fully stocked by the end of next weekend besides maybe some more coral.

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So I had a idea, which was great and stupid at the same time. Some of the corals I'm getting are SPS corals and the flow from the return pump just wasn't going to be enough. I took my original aquaneat return pump and integrated it into the rock wall to act as a powerhead. This worked out great (now that it's complete) but it was a massive chore. While making my relief cuts into the back of the rock wall, the entire rock wall decided to crumble. I ended up having to rebuild everything. I don't like the look of the new structure quite as much because it looks a little less "organic", but it will work out in my favor. I was able to incorporate 1/4" locline into the aquaneat pump so I can direct the flow a little bit. Between the return pump and my makeshift powerhead, I'm estimating around 100x turnover in the display tank. I can turn down the return pump if needed.








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Decided to go with one more water test to make sure all of the changes are running smoothly. Put my freshwater shrimp light back on just to get the full effect. The flow in the tank is great, I'm very happy that redoing everything ended up working out. I had some left over black diamond blasting sand from my new planted aquarium. I plan to use this sand in the pico so I added some to the water test to see if the flow would blast this heavy sand around and for the most part it doesn't. 







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I really need to stop tinkering with this tank 🤣. I did a few things tonight. My light showed up today. Supposedly.....this light is capable of sustaining SPS corals in an 8x8 area, which conveniently, is the footprint of my tank, so we'll see. I'm getting some very nice acros on Sunday. This light is great, I love the color, the gooseneck is sturdy, and it doesn't look bulky on my tiny pico. One thing I do hate is the light mount. It's meant to clamp onto the glass and it is very cheap feeling. The set screw is wobbly, but there's no great place to clamp the light to on this tank anyway. I ended up 3d printing a new lower profile mount that is screwed to the back of the stand. I used some leftover black PETG for this. I'm going to make a longer version, which is why I drilled so many holes. This will allow me to raise the light for acclimating corals, or if anything starts to bleach since this light is not dimmable.



I also decided to 3d print a turbulent flow nozzle for my 1/4" locline "powerhead". My previous tests were using just a standard nozzle. The new nozzle helps dissipate the flow instead of slamming into the front glass in a tight stream. Unfortunately, again, the rock wall decided to crumble a little bit during my adjusting. I took everything out and reinforced the wall more than ever so hopefully I won't have any more issues.20221021_231044.thumb.jpg.2df637e04300482a12a28bcd3545bd18.jpg20221021_231145.thumb.jpg.28a9f17bdc3b3b5a1d64bab1e0a2e36b.jpg20221022_002923.thumb.jpg.9722674798b6f0e99ddb5a2d3d758397.jpg



I partially filled it up one last time to test the new nozzle. Everything is now exactly how I want it moving forward. The flow is great, the light is better than I was hoping for, and the rockwork is stronger than ever. I rinsed a larger batch of sand. Tomorrow I plan to add the sand to the display tank, my cycled rubble rock to the sump and then finally fill it with saltwater. Sunday I'm picking up some nice acros. I will probably let those adjust and monitor them for a few days. Then I'm going to visit all of my local fish stores next weekend sometime in hopes of finding 3 or so sexy shrimp and maybe a rock flower nem or maxi mini nem. I'm going to need to look into a small, unobtrusive ATO system that won't break the bank. So if anyone has any thoughts on that please let me know. Until then, I will need to be very diligent with manual top offs since neither the display or the sump currently have lids and there is a lot of flow in this little tank. Im expecting evaporation to be brutal.20221022_010554.thumb.jpg.d7ec5a8f00e5d6512917cf6c57a3eb75.jpg20221022_010559.thumb.jpg.2bf6e35ee41ed798b4f01aa59a17790e.jpg.20221022_010614.thumb.jpg.799ec18ad57f667599aaaad47bc38103.jpg20221022_010617.thumb.jpg.f793e1a182e010f0d17f86a976cb2abd.jpg

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The tank is officially up and running! I drove an hour to my friend's house to pick up what I thought would be a couple of free acro frags. Instead he hooked me up with 15 SPS frags! Some of them are duplicates. I was going to bring over some small pieces of rubble rock for him the glue the frags to because I do not want frag plugs in this tank, they will look massive. Unfortunately I forgot to grab them before I left the house. He fresh cut the frags and I glued them to rock once I got home. Most of them are not happy campers lol, hopefully they all make it. I wasn't expecting this many frags, but boy am I happy. This will most likely be full coral stocking except maybe some zoas. Currently they are all down on the sand bed for acclimation. 20221023_183352.thumb.jpg.85d63660a40293b67e60d16f4f755525.jpg20221023_183441.thumb.jpg.c8d826b70aa7313a1f65a57587fc64cf.jpg20221023_183447.thumb.jpg.5595c8721e0de19667fd5f1175433e85.jpg20221023_183455.thumb.jpg.49c330ecbac9373230e8ae357d2f5ea2.jpg20221023_191746.thumb.jpg.f51b2b46b798051f39f8f35643ed025d.jpg


I'm planning on doing 8 ounce water changes every morning. After displacement, this system is right around 1.25 gallons. 8 ounces will be a 5% water change. I "borrowed" two matching cups from the stockpile of kids cups that we have and measured out 4, 6, and 8 ounce lines. This will make things pretty easy. I filled two mason jars, one with fresh saltwater and one with RODI water. Since the tank is upstairs on my bedroom nightstand. I did not want any buckets in my room. I will just refill the mason jars as needed. Also, in the pic below you will notice that I also started skinning the stand. 20221023_205226.thumb.jpg.dde8ecc32d56280959c6034527437f45.jpg


I'm really liking how this tank is coming along. One thing I noticed though, the light gets very hot. That can't be good for the LEDs lifespan. I will probably 3d print a mount to attach a small PC fan to the top of the light. It would have to help at least a little. I also decided to swing into Petsmart on the way home and pick up a small 20 watt heater to replace my 7.5 watt. The 7.5 watt probably would've been okay, but it doesn't heat to a specific temp. It heats the water to a maximum of 6* above ambient room temperature. That would mean my bedroom would have to be 72+ degrees to even heat the tank to 78*. I didn't like the thought of that. 

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10 hours ago, debbeach13 said:

I love this. Helping each other get started is one of the best parts of the reefing community. I hope the frags all do great for you.

Yeah, it was very nice of him to do that for me! He has massive colonies. This is just one of them. He sold this entire colony recently but some of the frags he gave me are originally from this colony. PC Superman Acro. FB_IMG_1666216316278.thumb.jpg.0972b0d2cd0dab7c975ddfc304fb4248.jpg

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  • 2 weeks later...
23 hours ago, kimdawg said:

Your tank is looking good.  You have an addvantage with a nice clean slate to start with.  What are you thinkinf for stocking?


I wouldn’t go quite that far, I’m struggling lol. Evaporation is absolutely killing me and this tank. The tank evaporates about 12-16 ounces while I’m sleeping and my Acro frags absolutely hate it. It doesn’t sound like much but this is only a roughly 1.25 gallon system and I haven’t figured out a great way to add an ATO and I can add lids without massive modifications. The original plan was to add 3 sexy shrimp but I don’t want to with the swings in salinity. I’m going to try to keep the acros somewhat happy while I plan the new tank. A new build is in the works. I love the tank and it turned out almost exactly how I wanted, but I wasn’t expecting quite so much evaporation. 

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  • 2 months later...

If you need a cheap ATO autotopoff.com sells complete ato kits for $55 shipped. They are absolutely amazing. Compact and super simple. 


 I run one on my 9g amd will NEVER buy an optical sensor ato again. 

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