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Michael's 168 build


Flaring up for the camera!


Unfortunately, when large sps colonies move, they often don't make it. It would have been more wise to frag these into small pieces, then let them grow out in their new place.


Dec 2020

These green palythoas got huge! The stripes on them are beautiful too, not bad for a "pest"

I also started gluing zoa frags onto rocks with the intent of growing them out into colonies


Mushrooms are replicating in the crushed coral bottom


This single head hammer grew into 6 or 8 heads before I sold it off for space


On the hunt!


Vietnamese Neon Green Cabbage Leather; it is super bright


Got a Dragon Soul torch for less than $200, call that a win in these euphyllia markets

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Christmas 2020!



Feb 2020

I added a school of 8 Lyretail Anthias to school in the tank
Note that all 8 are female at this time (this will change...twice)


Good mushroom growth in the bottom of the tank


This guy was weird, in this same spot, it was thriving and grew the 3 branching heads, was going to branch again, but then the bottom started rtn'ing, so I sold it off before the whole piece died.


These two are another of my favorite shots, no filters, just my galaxy 8 active under the AP700's
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Alright, let's talk some hardware and sump design. One of my favorite parts of this hobby is how well my professional training as a mechanical engineer translates to solving problems on the reef tank. My continuous optimization which I am never done with is my sump design.

Temperature Control!


I installed a somewhat massive "squirrel cage" style fan on the underside of my sump to blow air and create a swap cooler effect. The motor is about the size of my fist, and without the guard moves thousands of cfm. The guard is made of thin acrylic and is there because I like my fingers and scalp as they are today.

I used to run 2x Eheim heaters, but after watching BRS videos talking about thermostats failing, and knowing how cheaply those parts really are made, I upgraded to brs titanium heaters.

My favorite piece of equipment in my tank might be my Inkbird thermostat. It has one outlet for my fan to cool, and the other outlet for a heater to heat. I use that as my primary, and set the second heater at a much lower temperature set point so I am relying on the Inkbird probe and not the thermostat in a heater. As I write this, I actually don't have anything plugged into my energy bar for monitoring because I had a spill with my Trident unit, caused by a hose being disconnected on the waste stepper motor. I dumped a bunch of waste liquid all over by sump area and set off a leak detection switch (no duh, I spilled it). The new Trident that Neptune sent out has worked like a champ, I just don't want to re-wire anything yet.

I also have the Ecotech backup batteries for my L1 pump. To back that up, I now have 2x hand carried generators (one dual fuel), as well as a solar system with the backup battery. I am not losing power to the tank this fire season!


For almost two years, I have told myself I would replace the C-clamps, and mount my jumbo reactor to the steel. I still have c-clamps. The battery powered, magnetic light switch I really like so I can turn on a light without using my cheato grow light.


I have an "in tank water mixing station" by plumbing my high pressure line from my main pump with this ball valve and non-glues pipe, I can run water back into my sump at high velocity and mix very efficiently. This also is great for kicking detritus up and feeding the tank with the sump. I run a "cheap" amazon waterproof cobb style grow light for growing my macro algae. Right now I hav green ulva, red ogo, and cheato. The first two I use as food for the tangs and rabbitfish. I also added a Kessil A80 in my last chamber to put frags and mushrooms in to get more grow-out space.


Algae growth was a big problem in my skimmer for a long time, until I found a robust flexible material to wrap my skimmer with. Mcmaster-carr for the win.

I am constantly debating space in the sump to be used for live rock vs space for other things. It is kind of a cluttered mess, but I am routinely taking ogo and ulva to feed my algae eaters, and the throwing hair algae and cheato away so the fuge is working. I do still deal with phosphate issues so I change the high capacity gfo and carbon out of my jumbo reactor every month. My current debate is if I should upgrade my skimmer to a fancy DC one, but I get great skim so if it ain't broke...

From my previous posts, you saw that the whole system evolved and grew over time. I didn't need, or want to spend all of the money up front. Nor did I know what I wanted my system to be when I started. There are things I would have done differently from the beginning, but for the most part, I am happy with where things are and where I can improve. This January was my birthday, and I decided this was the right time to treat myself and my tank. I did a bunch of measuring to make sure everything would fit, because boy is it tight. Happy Birthday to me!


Thank you Rob for having (almost) everything in stock for me to pick up on my birthday!

For flow today, I have 2x gyre XF 350's on each side, and my Tunze on the near size, which I angle around as I please. I also added the RFG (random flow generator) nozzles to my outlets, and so far I am happy with them. I kind of want to add a 4th powerhead to the end, but I can wait for a deal on a used one.

Here is the CAD for my under tank system. When I started this hobby almost 3 years ago, the Trident was still a rumor, but the idea of complete tank automation appeals to me as an engineer with a controls background. After I got a large portion of my equipment, I wanted to make sure I could still fit everything, so the below happened one day with a tape measure and a beer.



I am still working on the wire layout today, and may expand into my neighboring linen closet for my electronics, but I am doing my best to keep any water under the tank.

And here is the picture of everything in place with my first test fit.



It all fits.

Coming from product development myself, I know that every product can have bugs. This is why I have not yet hooked up the DOS with the Trident and I am still letting my Bubble Magnus dosing pumps control my dosing with my manual testing with Hanna checkers and using the Trident as a secondary gut check.


Yeah, 8 stages!

I am still debugging how to get my pressure switch and my shutoff solenoid to shut off water to everything when my container is full. Latest two iterations: I have the solenoid on the very end, creating a high pressure region for my sensor to turn off the booster pump. This is fine except that the water still runs through my waste water (unnecessary water through coarse filters and carbon blocks). Second iteration, which males more sense to me, has the solenoid and pressure sensor coming out of the carbon block, going into the DI membrane, which shuts the water off completely, but I cannot get the pump to behave correctly, likely because it is more than 40 psi in that line pre DI membrane. I feel like I need 2 solenoids, and the shutoff sensor at the good water end like situation 1 combined with the water stopping operation of the second.

Edit: the auto shut off piece was not working temporarily, something happened and now it works! I will keep my train of thought for the record.
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Not one, but two of my Anthias, decided they did not enjoy being a woman, and it was time to change things up. I see you Anthias, and I got nothing but respect!



This mushroom toadstool leather was from the 13.5 3 years ago, and just got ridiculously large. It was time to trade it away for something else.

Also, I was not happy with the dead coral at the base growing algae at the base of the green slimer on the left, so I cut the coral up and epoxied it into a frag rack. Now I have a mobile SPS colony of green slimer.


It has colored up much more over the last week.


The sps side is starting to take a hold and come back from the dead parts and the algae.



March 2021


The clownfish laid some eggs and are protecting them! The red mass that the bottom clown is booping with its snout are the eggs.


It is not clean, but the pile here works. I think I might need the closet on the other side of the wall for some electronics.
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I had a opportunity to see this tank in person couple days ago. I really like the purpose of both side view even though the tank tuck in the conner. The rock works is nice and had room for additional without disturb the existing structure. Corals and fish look healthy and happy. Thank you Michael for let me inside to show me your tank. Happy Reefing.
I had a opportunity to see this tank in person couple days ago. I really like the purpose of both side view even though the tank tuck in the conner. The rock works is nice and had room for additional without disturb the existing structure. Corals and fish look healthy and happy. Thank you Michael for let me inside to show me your tank. Happy Reefing.
Thank you @nly04 for the compliments and the brainstorming when you came over! I am now looking into that second archway we talked about for more sps growth area. Great ideas!

For feeding of everything in my tank, my assumption is the more diverse healthy foods, the healthier my fish and corals will be. I use an Eheim auto feeder, which dumps pellets into my feeding ring. The ring lives above the random flow generator nozzle of my high pressure inlet, giving me the added benefit of as soon as the pellets sink, they get thrown into the tank in a broad spread. In the pictures, this is to the right, near the corner of the tank. I try to broadcast feel the whole tank, while giving extra food to my favorite corals.

When I worked at work, I would feed once at night, plus sometimes at lunch when I would come home to eat. Now, I can feed a little more often, but I end up at 1-3 times a day, plus the auto feeder.

My (my fish's) favorite foods frozen foods are mysis, rods reef, lrs reef, and the new Hikari brand mixed reef. Basically anything somewhat meaty and able to broadcast feed. I feed my tangs and rabbitfish daily nori and/or reg ogo and green ulva, which I grow in my refugium. Recently, I have added the refrigerated fish eggs as the whole tank really comes alive for those.

For the corals and the filter feeders, I also try to go with a broad diet. I mix Reef Roids, Reef Chili, and Benereef together into the reef chili bottle. I squirt extra on my favorite corals and the sun corals because they are a pure filter feeder. I was having issues with chunks blocking the opening, so I took a drill bit and opened the nozzle to my liking. I started getting refrigerated phytoplankton from Neptune. I also use Red Sea AB+ and Acropower amino acids, nothing exact, but a light pour of each. I also will pour the amino acids on top of my favorite corals, then let everything mix. I try to feed between 8pm and 9pm so the corals have their night time feeding response going.

Since I do not use filter socks, and I want to keep as much food as possible in the tank, I shut off the main pump, and ball valves to my sump, so only my wave makers are mixing the food and water up. If I have the time, I let it simmer for 20 minutes, then turn the whole system back on. This is similar to what happens in a reef from an upwelling when cold, nutrient rich water from the deep is brought onto the reef, then flushed away with the tides.

I try to do this every day, but since it is such a complete feed, I can miss a couple days and nothing is starving.

Naturally, feeding this much I get rising phosphates. My method of phosphare removal is a combination of my refugium and high capacity GFO in my jumbo reactor. I tend to let the phosphates go up as high as .5 before changing the gfo and carbon out. Right now, I am around once a month with the gfo/carbon change over. I have also started carbon dosing, with adding ~15 mL of alcohol to the tank every other day or so (whenever I remember). I started this because my friend gave me his red sea phosphate kit and I figured why not use it. The kit uses methanol, which I will use until it is gone. I recently went to bevmo and got a decent (glass bottle, not Popov) vodka which I will transition over to. I am not a liquor drinker, so I don't know much about the different vodkas other than what Melev's reef said as to not get the really cheap stuff. I have not found a great reason to test for nitrates yet, but I might every so often to see where things are. From what I have learned talking to reefers, phosphates are a much bigger issue than nitrates. Either way, carbon and gfo seem to work well enough.
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April 18th 2021

The montiporas are growing and super colorful, as are the rest of the sps side of the tank.


This birds nest is getting huge! Well over the size of a softball. A fellow reefer came over and identified it as an ORA blue birds nest, but I have heard conflicting reports.


I made a point of using a zip tie to get rid of all of the bubble tip anemones from the sps side of my tank. One of them was extra persistent and I decided to kill it as best as I could and rely on my big carbon reactor to filter out the toxin. Apparently, they really like my tank still and the little pieces I tore off became new anemones. Pictures is the "jail" which I made to keep them from walking once I have gotten them from my rocks.


This space invader chalice is overgrowing things, but great for fragging and sharing!


Picked up a cool clam from Tahiti with the group buy!


May 1st 2021


May 1st 2021
To answer this, I broke my tank down into a matrix, and assigned each 1/3 a number from 1 to 27. Each slice is shown below where 15 is the top middle of my tank. I ran my lights at my brightest time of the day, which is 80% power on both Kessil AP700's. It looks like I get a peak of 520 in the middle of my tank. Shoutout to @Srt4eric for helping me write these down as I rattled them off and gut checking the numbers as I said them to make sure the readings made sense. I learned that the top corners of my tank are outside of the cone that the led's illuminate, but I don't really care as they don't have coral there (yet). My educated guess of where to mount the lights and what intensity to run them at seems to work, so I am not changing anything. It was nice to see some data out of my setup. It tickles the engineer bug in me.

3 12 21
2 11 20
1 10 19

9 6 3
8 5 2
7 4 1

18 15 12
17 14 11
16 13 10

27 24 21
26 23 20
25 22 19

Par Readings (Max 520, Min 50)

1: 72
2: 120
3: 222
4: 115
5: 140
6: 225
7: 115
8: 80
9: 70
10: 190
11: 140
12: 50
13: 200
14: 320
15: 520
16: 160
17: 200
18: 160
19: 120
20: 90
21: 50
22: Rocks
23: Rocks
24: 360
25: 150
26: 120
27: 105
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I just got around to reading your entire tank thread - good work things look nice! I like that the tank cabinets match the kitchen’s behind it.
Thank you! I always appreciate feedback and am looking to improve everything I can. Doing homework up front and getting a little luck with the extra material helps. I was taught it is Luck, Timing, Hard Work, and Skill... and don't eff with the order!
Love the wall build-in. Sorry if you already mentioned, but how many gallons is your tank?
Thank you! No apologies necessary, I love answering questions about my system. My 168 build? My 168 build is about 168 gallons :) plus a big sump, so maybe 230ish total.
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Ha...sorry, just wanted to see what would be an adequate size for a wall build. Yours is perfect, and I hope to build one of my own one day!
No apologies! I love questions, keep them coming! If you have any more questions about what I did, or preparations/design or anything, ask away! I am holding a lot back as to not overwhelm people with information, but I love sharing all the steps that went into it! I was thinking of putting a few more pictures of the construction of the area around the tank if there is interest.
No apologies! I love questions, keep them coming! If you have any more questions about what I did, or preparations/design or anything, ask away! I am holding a lot back as to not overwhelm people with information, but I love sharing all the steps that went into it! I was thinking of putting a few more pictures of the construction of the area around the tank if there is interest.
Why not? I’m considering what to do with my new place...