got ethical husbandry?

Michael's 168 build


Supporting Member
Hello Everyone,

My name is Michael and this is my tank journal.

I got into aquariums in approximately 2015 when I let go of my crested gecko breeding setup and decided to move from reptiles to fish. I wanted to incorporate a salt water reef tank into my home for quite a long time, so when my remodel became a reality, I decided to start a 13.5 AIO "trainer" tank at my parents house, but for me to learn on. That tank is still running today but is another story. My general contractor/friend has installed a tank in the bedroom with a one way mirror so that the reef can be seen from both sides, but the bedroom could not be seen from the living area. Unfortunately, I could not do exactly this, but was able to find a place where the tank can act as as a visual pass through in one of the walls in a peninsula style of tank. I studied lots of systems at local stores and decided a custom tank was required to optimize the design of the house, while ensuring a clean and finished look. We decided that given the costs, and that we could fabricate mostly anything on site, that a painted steel stand would best serve the long term goals of the tank.

We measured the space we had and designed the tank that would fit the space.

I did the CAD for the steel stand, leaving ~4" of space for the ghost overflow.


Crystal Dynamics was the tank manufacturer.


We ordered 1/4" thick, 2" square steel tubing oversized to my house, and bribed my EE friend to come over and hook up his welder.



Buy harbor freight if you need it once or twice, buy better if you need it a lot. Yes, I got sunburn/weld burn on my exposed arm. But no other injuries.


We used white appliance paint to coat the steel.


Added nice plywood to the top and base to support the tank and the sump. We also made a dedicated breaker for the aquarium as well as 8 outlets on high gauge wire. I thought that would be enough (and with power strips, it is). Pro tip, make friends with your electrician, and tell him early what you are trying to do.


Now in comes the tank


And apparently, you can only attach 10 files, so here we go onto the next one.
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Tank is in place and ready for cabinetry.


Added shower pan liner to the bottom for waterproofing, because spills happen.


The cabinet doors were extra from the remodel because the cabinet makers made a batch of doors too tall for the kitchen, but they worked great here. I chose to go with a crushed coral bottom and dry reef rock. The sump was made by ocean flex. I had to wait an extra few weeks because I wanted the flow to go from right to left with a front facing sump.


Dec 2018

We completed plumbing using a Vectra L1 pump. I was not going to get dozens of buckets from the LFS, so here we see the middle of a two day fill of RODI. One of the LFS owners tried to sell me on needing 2x ap700's from day 1, which I bought, then returned one unopened because it seemed excessive this early, and expensive.


I seeded the tank with some live rock from the previously mentioned 13.5.


We wanted the bubble tip anemone out of the small tank because it was stinging other coral, so here it is with some mushrooms and zoas.


Dragon Faced Pipe fish and Yellow Tail Blue Damsel

I did not know the horrors of damsels and was told that with a tank my size "things would be fine" by the same guy who tried to sell me 2x ap700's for my tank for day 1. They were wrong on this one too. My damsel was an aggressor and didn't stop until I trapped and donated them back to the LFS. I lost a few fish to what I believe was stress from this guy, because once I returned him, the mysterious deaths stopped.


Here is a view from the front door. I started adding pieces I could get for affordable off of craigslist and some small frags from the LFS.
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Jan 2019

A Vertex Omega 180I open box deal sounded like a great deal, and really it has been a good skimmer over the last couple years. I also quickly found the need for an ATO. I went for a optical sensor one as to not drill into my sump. I also knew the importance of a battery backup early on, so I ordered one, and a second one appeared, so I have 2 now. I also tried to organize the wiring, and didn't do a terrible job here.


Added a pistol shrimp, who is very loud.


March 2019

I knew I didn't want to do water changes on a tank this big, so I upgraded my dosing and ATO setup. I am a big fan of these Bubble Magnus dosing pumps. I set the mL/day, and it doses it in automagically (yes, magic) spread out doses.


I tried some LPS and some sps frags, as well as this tube worm. You can see some red and green blastos that I also got when I got the plate and hammer corals.


Added some fish and inverts.


The mushroom leather came from my parents tank, and the green sinularia came from a local reefer.

Feb 2019


This pistol shrimp and watchman goby combination are extremely active, and fun to watch.


July 2019
You can see the head on of my Two Bar Rabbit Fish and my Yellow Tang, these are two of my oldest fish besides the Watchman goby. Also, the blastos are not looking good (its ok, happy ending ahead)


August 2019

Time to up the game again, adding a drop shelf with polycarbonate and all-thread, to my back yard screwed together dosing container shelf made from Ikea table legs and a scrap 1x4. Note that the dosing container on the right, I moved away from as the alkalinity ate through the plastic.


October 2019

Learning more and adding trace element dosing with boss/sub Bubble Magnus pump configs using Red Sea A/B/C/D trace elements. After running through different bottles at different rates, I learned that these do not dose at exactly the same volume relative to each other. To remedy this, I rotate the tubes between trace element solution monthly and give a thorough RODI rinse between to help prevent precipitation. I also switched to HDPE dosing containers which would not dissolve over time from the alkalinity solution.


And two weeks later, I found some scrap 8020, and some more polycarbonate and made a better than Ikea shelf for my dosing containers. You can take a torch to the edge of polycarbonate and melt it to give it the finished glass look I have here. The rest of the attachment pieces I pieced together to make it fit around my ATO container, so it is supported by the steel frame on 2 sides and by legs on the other 2.


Here are some anemone shrimp thanking me for the hard engineering and fabrication I put in under their home.


October 2019
The Two Bar Rabbit Fish has grown a lot!

Overall shot October 2019

Getting very good coralline growth


The rabbitfish changes colors and will get splotchy at times.


The purple firefish are some of my favorites.


Small space invader chalice, orange acan, and two zoa frags next to a neon leather toadstool and birdsnest
November 2019


I enjoy watching the watchman and its paired pistol shrimp (I just heard them now)


We all know this excitement


December 2019
Adding a few more anemones and a gorgonian


Mid December 2019
Getting some growth on the space invader chalice


The sexy anemone shrimp and the porcelain crab hanging out on the carpet anemone together


December 2019

Fire shrimp can be cleaners too!


Blue maxima clam


Jan 2020

Natural light in January 2020

Glued down the space invader chalice


When you start with one Kenyan tree, you get more


If you give an anemone some are gonna get another anemone


March 2020

Eventually, I did cave and got a 2nd AP700. I have added a small Tunze powerhead too.


I cut the mounting arms short, and screwed them to a piece of wood, which got covered in black tape for aesthetics. I also installed a painted L bracket for my auto feeder. I do have a magnetic feeding ring to keep the food from going into the overflow right away.


March 2020
Things are looking colorful and the fish are growing. I am feeling good enough to try some sps frags again.


April 2020

Got a school of cardinal fish

The mini carpet anemones are fun, but they walk around


April 2020
The mushroom leather is growing, and I couldn't stop at just one frag rack


April 2020
The cardinals like to school together and the carpet anemone is growing




May 2020
The 3 sides of the tank


Learned a neat trick using zip ties as cable orginizers


More chaeto growth!!!


Funny story, one of the temporary helpers at Clearwater accidentally bagged a jawbreaker mushroom in with my cheap frags. I got a call the next day and passed the honesty test, telling Joel that I had his mushroom and I would bring it back. I ended up buying a different one with a little more red in it.

Big fish is getting bigger


May 2020

I bought a frag of green and blue hammer coral at the farmers market in Feb 2020. When I went to break it from the plug, it exploded in my tank. I was able to recover some of the flesh and this is what grew back.


May 2020

The Hollywood Stunner Chalice was getting too big for my mom's 13.5, so I took it into my tank. Boy did this thing eat alkalinity and calcium!


May 2020


Whatcha looking at!


Blennies are weird, and awesome


June 2020

I started getting some red cyano bacteria. I was taught about chemiclean, then I modified and I believe improved on the method. Today, I will use ~1/3 - 1/4 the recommended dose for my tank. I turn off the carbon and gfo reactor. Then I hook a tube to my skimmer and let if overflow, drain it into a bucket, then replace with salt water. My theory is that the Chemiclean is bonding to organics in the water, causing the surface tension to rise dramatically of those new, larger molecules in water. We want to get all of these bonded molecules out, so we let the skimmer pull them out the top and into a bucket. I tend to now pull 15-30 gallons out with my skimmer depending on how heavy handed I am with the Chemiclean. I would love to hear other people's thoughts on this method.


Since this picture, I have gotten a larger silicone drain hose to let the skimmer empty as fast as it can fill.


June 2020
I was getting too much salt creep (and maybe some actual leaks) from my bulkheads, so I added an o-ring to both sides, and a bunch of food grade silicone. Not gonna leak anymore! Also we installed some uni-strut and pipe holders so the three main drain lines are how fixed in place and bolted to the wall.
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July 2020
Who says I can't have any more frags

Also the space invader chalice is growing in the back.


July 2020
This Hollywood Stunner Chalice was getting outrageously large

My friend from work was moving into a house, so he broke down his mature 75 gallon tank. This was a great opportunity for me to get a bunch of SPS at one time, into my year and a half mature tank. He wanted to break down everything, so I got most of his fish, and all of the coral, anemones, and rocks. Here is my best attempt at getting everything into my tank to try to save what I could.







September 2020
Three Baby Cardinal Fish showed up in the sump!!!



Anemones often move and sometimes sting things I like, so when I can, I put them in jail until I can sell/trade them off.


Nov 2020
The cool orange and blue zoas from earlier multiplied! The vamps are doing well too.


Making frags!


Nov 2020
Getting some stability in the sps, and the blue stylophora/poccilopora? (birdsnest?) is growing


Nov 2020
Space Invader is growing and the anemones are huge!


End Shot Nov 2020


Full Frontal
Nov 2020


Tank Rear Nov 2020


No filters, one of my favorite shots