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The Etoimos 270g FOWLR build

Discussion in 'Tank Builds' started by Etoimos, Feb 19, 2021.

  1. Etoimos

    Etoimos Copepod M.A.S.C Club Member

    Hello MASC,

    I have not been super active on here over the last several years. I've been mainly hanging out over at R2R and on the south CO club forums back when they were around. But with this new build I've been getting back into things here.

    My first saltwater tank was a 60g Cube mixed reef that has been up and running for 3.5 years that I purchased off of Walter White back before he got out of the hobby. I've learned a lot from it, and it is still teaching me things to this day. One of the things it taught me was that I really wanted a bigger tank! Not only for the space inside the tank for more fish options, but for more room in the sump area as well. Having to contain your sump and all the equipment and electronics in a 2'x2' footprint is quite challenging and more than a little difficult to work on and clean. The other thing it taught me was that my family likes the critters in the tank more than the corals. This led me to wanting to do a FOWLR tank since it would allow us to keep any fish that we wanted to. I also wanted to reduce the amount of maintenance the tank would need, so the simplicity of a fish only tank was appealing as well.

    Thus, the current build was born. Back in January I placed an order for a Planet Aquariums MEGA Matrix 270g (84x30x25) glass tank. It is one of their stock sized tanks, but I had them upsize the external overflow from their Tideline 16" to the 20". Not only did this give the tank more surface skimming, but it also increased the drain size from 1" to 1.5". The increase in drain size allows me to easily convert this tank to a reef tank in the future if I decide to go that route again.

    Since the Wife and I are both particular on how our house looks, it was decided early on that I would be building the stand and canopy to best fit in with our interior. It would also save some money on the build, which is always good!

    Researching on how to build a solid stand that would support this size tank, I came across the @RocketEngineer plans and decided to use those.

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    The initial plan was to have all the equipment and electronics under the stand, so I added the two center supports to help frame in a compartment for the Apex on the left side and a space for future expansion on the right if needed. The center supports also gave me a little piece of mind supporting this size tank. The opening is 46" to allow for a decent sized sump to fit in there. The plan is to use pocket screws and glue, eliminating the need for the "screw boards" in his design.

    The Wife graciously agreed to turn our formal dining room into a sitting room so that we would have a dedicated area to enjoy the tank from. To get an idea on how the new tank would fit in the room and what type of new furniture she could get, I mocked it all up in Fusion 360. She looked at several couches and a few chaise lounges, but they were all to large for the room once the tank was in there. In the end she had to settle for getting two of our current chairs reupholstered in the fabric of her choice. Some where along the lines new drapes were added to the list of things needed as well.

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    Mocking it up on the computer also let us play around with color options on the stand easily.

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    In the end, she decided on an all-white stand with just plain trim and a simple style. Something we could have bought instead of me building, but we are still going to save a lot of money on the stand.

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    With the tank ordered and the stand designed, it was time to turn my attention to the equipment I was going to use on this build. Since this was going to be a FOWLR tank, I knew I would not need full blown reef lights, could go with a little less flow, and would not need to dose a lot. I wanted to do a Negative Space Aquascape (NSA) and probably a heavier bioload, so that meant I would need a good skimmer and probably a biopellet reactor. The Wife’s biggest pet peeve about aquariums is algae in the DT. To help combat that as much as possible, I’ll be installing a UV sterilizer and probably an algae turf scrubber as well.

    After making a list of band and models of the equipment that I wanted, I started searching the various sites to see if I could find what I wanted used before buying it new. I had not made up my mind on which skimmer I wanted to go with, so when TheRealChrisBrown listed his Precision Marine Bullet 3 skimmer setup for sale, it really piqued my interest. He has it running on a DC pump (same as I wanted to do) with an Avast Marine Swabbie and attached to an Avast Marine Davy Jones’ Skimmate Superlocker. Both addons would reduce the amount of daily/weekly maintenance that I’d have to do, which fell in line with my desire to reduce maintenance. Buying his skimmer system seemed like a no brainer.

    Such a large skimmer did pose an issue with getting it in the sump below the stand and working on it. With only a couple of inches from the top of the collection cup and the bottom of the stand top, I was not looking forward to having to clean it when the Davy Jones’ Locker was full. Water changes were also going to be more difficult with the sump under the stand then I wanted them to be. I would be back to putting a small submersible pump in the sump and dealing with running a hose outside to drain it and then another hose from the mixing station in the garage to fill it. The wall behind the tank is shared on the other side with our three-car attached garage. Since I was already going to be putting my mixing station in the garage, this got me to thinking about building a “fish closet” in there as well. Knowing that the harder the weekly maintenance is to do, the less likely I will be to do it, I decided that moving the sump and all equipment out there would be the best recipe for success.
     
    TheRealChrisBrown likes this.
  2. Etoimos

    Etoimos Copepod M.A.S.C Club Member

    Of course, our three-car garage is not laid out optimally for just closing in the 3rd bay to make the fish room, as the two-car portion is what is on the tank side of the garage. The Wife has become a little spoilt when it comes to parking in there as she is the only one that parks on the two-car side and has a lot of room to get in and out of her truck. Not wanting to (okay, not being allowed to!) encroach too much into her space, I had to limit the “fish closet” to 5’ wide. I was limited by the garage door rails to 13’ long. While not overly large, it is bigger than a closet and I should really call it a fish room… which the Wife loves to give me crap about! She doesn't mind really, as she knows I'll maintain the tank better since everything will be much easier to do.

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    As you can see, I still need to move the yard tools out of that spot and clean the floor before we frame in the room. With the fish room location and size determined, I was able to go ahead an plan out what was going in the room and were it was going to go.

    The garage has some shelves and a counter with drawers which was not being used, so I am going to repurpose those into the fish room to give me a place to work and organize the small things.

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    I’m going to build a stand to hold the sump and water mixing tanks. My plan is for the stand to be 21” high. This will put the sump at a comfortable working height and raise the mixing tanks up so that I can get a bucket under the spigots for those times I need to manually draw some water out.

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    The mixing tanks are 100g each and I plan to plumb them and automate them as much as possible with my Apex. I have not decided on which pumps I’ll be using for the mixing station yet. I might reuse some of the pumps I have for the 60g Cube to start with, but I eventually want to have all DC pumps and I might go so far as to use the exact same pump on everything. I know this would-be major overkill on some of the systems, but it would give me several plug and play backup pumps if my return pumps (I plan on running dual return pumps) were to fail.

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    For my sump I’m still undecide on what I want to do. There are a couple of acrylic sumps out there that I really like, but they are quite expensive and would all need a little modification for what I want. I have also thought about building my own acrylic sump. I have a nice wood working shop in my detached garage that includes a table saw and router table. I also have a pair of Epilog lasers that will cut and engrave acrylic. So, I have all the tools needed to build my own sump and I already work with acrylic and have sources for it. The only thing I’m lacking is experience welding acrylic to make watertight seams. Until I make up my mind on what my permanent sump is going to be, I am going to buy TheRealChrisBrown's 75g sump.

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    Without having the tank on hand and not knowing down to the fraction of an inch where the wall studs are between the two rooms, I’ve only been able to rough out how I’d like my plumbing to be. The pipes are going to be red like in these images, but the fittings are all going to be black. Since you can't buy everything in black, I ordered what I could in the typical Sch 40 white and I will use pvc dye to dye them black. The benefit to dying the pvc instead of painting it is that the dye actually penetrates the pvc a little and can not be scratched off like paint. If you scratch it deep enough you will expose the the white where the dye did not penetrate, otherwise it will not rub or wear off. The dye also does not change the thickness of the pvc, so all your fittings still fit like normal.

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    The orange colored unions in these images are Apex flow sensors, so in real life they will be black as well.

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    This image is looking straight down on the tank and into the fish room. The wall between them will be right on the line where the gray garage floor starts.

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    From inside the fish room it should look something like this...

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    I know that some of the wall studs are going to get in the way, so I’ll just have to address that when I open up the dry wall between the two rooms.

    I have also not drawn up the manifold to run the UV and other reactors yet. I might not as I'm going to just have to free plumb that stuff once everything else is in. I'm thinking the UV might go to the left of the sump mounted vertically. I think the other reactors will fit on the wall above the sump and below the long return line. The orange bucket is where the Davy Jones' Locker will go. I might have to extend the sump stand into that area to fit the bigger DIY sump in the future, so I'll have to see where else that can go.

    So far everything to this point as been just planning things out, but I have started to do some actual work on this build. In the next post I’ll share the NSA aquascape I worked on for a couple of weeks.
     
    Angelo likes this.
  3. Colored Sticks

    Colored Sticks Amphipod M.A.S.C Club Member

    You have a ton more to copy and paste into this thread HA!
     
  4. TheRealChrisBrown

    TheRealChrisBrown Marlin Staff Member M.A.S.C Club Member M.A.S.C. B.O.D. B.O.D. Member-at-Large

    Your 3D rendering skills are next level. Nice work on everything, seems like you have really thought through this!
     
  5. SynDen

    SynDen Kraken Staff Member M.A.S.C Club Member M.A.S.C. B.O.D. M.A.S.C President M.A.S.C Webmaster

    Good to see you around again. Loving the new plan, great work. look forward to the build
     
  6. Etoimos

    Etoimos Copepod M.A.S.C Club Member

    I know right!

    I did all of this in Fusion 360, which makes it super easy. The fancy plumbing stuff was simple click and import.

    Thanks. We start framing in the fish room tomorrow and hopefully my buddy can help me next weekend hanging the drywall.
     
  7. Etoimos

    Etoimos Copepod M.A.S.C Club Member

    One of the issues I was running into while planning this build was the layout relationship between the new sitting room and where the sump was going to be on the other side of the wall. The garage floor is lower than the interior house floor and I was not exactly sure where the adjacent walls for each were in relationship to each other.

    For me, eyeballing it was not good enough, so I thought about using the laser level and tape measure to try and measure my way from the sitting room into the garage. That was sure to be error prone, so I had to come up with a better solution. In the end it turned out to be a simple thing. Just find the center of the interior tank wall, measure up 40 inches (the height of the stand) and drill a small whole through the wall with a 12" drill bit.

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    Doing this allowed me to know exactly in the garage where the cent of my tank would be on the other side of the wall. It also let me know at what height off the garage floor my stand would be at.
     
  8. Etoimos

    Etoimos Copepod M.A.S.C Club Member

    The electrician also came out Wednesday morning and installed two dedicated 20a circuits for the fish room.

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    Surface mounting them was half the cost of cutting up the drywall and installing them. I thought it prudent to spend the extra several hundred dollars on more important fish stuff ;) I plan on priming and paint the conduit and boxes when I paint the inside of the fish room. You can also see all the wood for framing in the room. The one recessed outlet you can see is the house GFI. It will not be used to run anything in the fish room. Once the walls are up (shown as the blue tape), I'll add a third outlet on the short wall for the mixing station and my exhaust fan.
     
  9. Etoimos

    Etoimos Copepod M.A.S.C Club Member

    I also managed to finish up the rock work last night, so I guess it is time to make a post about it. I knew I was going to use dry Marco rock again for this build as I really want to try my hand at NSA (negative space aqua-scaping). I also want to try and same some money here... I really had paying for rocks. I ended up buying my rock from two different sources to get the best pound per dollar.

    For my foundation rock I bought 150lbs through @premiumaquatics as they had the best price on that type of rock. Shipping from them was really fast and each foundation rock was bubbled wrapped. They had some seriously good packaging going on. These photos are from the first ~50lbs box.

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    (I swear officer. Those are reef rocks, not Columbian Bam-bam!)

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    For the bulk rock that I was going to break up, I order 50lbs boxes from SaltwaterAquarium.com. Here is the selection of rock I got in that first box:

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    To do NSA right, you really need to get a feel for the true size of your tank and what you can do with that space, so I build a mock up of the tank out of 1/2" pvc.

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    And to contain all the rock dust and pebbles, I built a "work tray" out of plywood that I had laying around.

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    With everything setup, it was time to start smashing up rocks and looking for the good bits from this to build the scape that I wanted. One of the by products of breaking the rocks apart is all the small pebbles and find rock powder you get from it. These come in really handy for gluing your rock back together.

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    I actually ended up with 4 different containers, each holding different sized rocks and pebbles that were used to glue the rocks back together. Once the initial batch of these "fines" ran out, I had to make some more. I started using a mortar and pestle:

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    But that proved to be to slow. So out came the BFH and an old steel saw blade for an anvil:

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    Things moved much quicker after that.

    For those that don't no what process of building NSA rock is, it is basically breaking large boulder shaped rocks down into smaller, odder shapes and then gluing them back together in a shape that you like. When you place to rock pieces together there are always going to be some gaps between the two:

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    I took my larger pebbles and filled most of the gap:

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    I then took my next smaller size of pebbles and added those:

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    Finally you cover all of the pebbles with the rock powder and set it all with very thin, think water thin, super glue:

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    I found it easier to apply the smaller pebbles and powder with a plastic spoon:

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  10. Etoimos

    Etoimos Copepod M.A.S.C Club Member

    After a couple of hours I had come up with my first center piece rock and a style that I would carry though all the rock work.

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    Building a rock like this takes quite a bit of time and creative ways to support it while you fill all the gaps. Using other large rocks is a great way to support them at odd angles.

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    Many more hours and a full 16oz bottle of glue later, I had two rock formations done.

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    Roughly 30 hours and 2.5 bottles of glue later I had all of my rock formations made. As I built each one, I would step back and look at the overall appearance and rearrange as needed to keep the feel consistent. Once I had decided on the placement, I let it sit there for a day and would look at it from time to time to see if any finally changes needed to be made. During this final review the Wife came out to the shop and made a few tweaks of her own.

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    It is really hard to see the depth of field in photos when you do NSA, so here is a video that shows that much better.

    I'm pretty happy with how it turned out and the Wife likes it, which is always a good thing. I tried to imagine the fish swimming through it as I built it and I also tried to build in as many hiding spots for them as I could. One of the great things about NSA is that you can build those hiding spots into the rock work where you can always see the fish. I'm sure one or two of them will find some places out of sight, but hopefully I've been able to reduce that possibility as much I can.
     
  11. Etoimos

    Etoimos Copepod M.A.S.C Club Member

    The RODI goodies I ordered from BRS came in today:

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    Once the larger reservoirs show up I'll get to installing all of this and moving my current RODI to the new location... provided I get some heat into the fish room so things don't freeze!

    And since I've not posted any other pics the other equipment I have already received, here they are.

    Floor jacks to re-enforce the floor under the tank.

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    2x 300w titanium heaters (I'm wondering if these are going to be big enough for the tank) and some cheap Amazon power heads/pumps for various flow needs in the sump.

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    I'm going to give the Jebao return pumps a try. A local reefing buddy of mine runs dual 18000 pumps on his 360g tank and has liked them so far. My initial plan was to run dual COR 20 pumps, but I needed to lower the start up costs on this build some and this change saved me a ton of cash. I will still probably swap these out for the CORs later on and regulate these guys to backup duties.

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    For flow inside the tank, I'm going with an IceCap 3k and a 4k controlled by the Apex. This should be enough flow for a FOWLR tank.

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    Since the Wife hates algae in the tank, a large-ish UV sterilizer is going on the tank as part of the algae management system. It is a 55w light with 3" tubing for increased contact time.

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    Some Apex flow sensors and a FMM to help monitor and dial things in.

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    And finally the exhaust fan to help control temps and humidity. It has a controller that will turn it on and off based on temp and/or humidity. The flaps close when the fan is not on.

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    SkyShark and TheRealChrisBrown like this.
  12. Craigar

    Craigar Kraken M.A.S.C Club Member

    Very impressive thought out build let us know if you need any help
     
  13. SkyShark

    SkyShark Tuna M.A.S.C Club Member

    Really awesome build! I feel like I learned a whole bunch of new things just reading through it!
    Is filling in the cracks for aesthetics or structural?
    Are those return pumps going to be redundant? I would worry about one dying while I wasn’t around (jaebo quality has always been lacking in my experience)
     
  14. Etoimos

    Etoimos Copepod M.A.S.C Club Member

    Thank you. I live in Peyton, which is kind remote for most of the members on here. So far things are going pretty well, but I'll reach out if disaster strikes and I really need some help.
     
  15. Etoimos

    Etoimos Copepod M.A.S.C Club Member

    Thanks. Filling in the cracks is mainly for structural support, but it does make them look better as they look more natural. Both pumps will be running at the same time. One will feed each side of the tank. I am also thinking about using the same pump on my mixing station. That would give me a total of three of the same pumps on hand in case of a failure. I'll also have flow sensors on them, so if one should fail I'll get notified about it. Some day I do plan on replacing them with COR 20 pumps, that is just not in the budget at this point in the build.
     
    SkyShark likes this.
  16. Etoimos

    Etoimos Copepod M.A.S.C Club Member

    Today my father-in-law and I knocked out the framing for the fish room.

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    I forgot to take a pic of the finished framing before moving the Wife's truck back in. Maybe if the weather is nice tomorrow I'll back it out again for that shot.

    Hopefully one of my buddies is going to give me a hand next weekend hanging the drywall.
     
  17. Dr.DiSilicate

    Dr.DiSilicate Kraken Staff Member M.A.S.C Club Member M.A.S.C. B.O.D. B.O.D. Member-at-Large

    Not sure how I missed this, great build! Looking forward to seeing the fish room take shape.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
  18. Etoimos

    Etoimos Copepod M.A.S.C Club Member

    I only started this thread on Friday, so you did not really miss it ;) It is going to be slow in here until I can get the drywall up. Once that happens I can really get to moving on things... until I have to wait on the tank to arrive.
     
    Dr.DiSilicate likes this.
  19. TheRealChrisBrown

    TheRealChrisBrown Marlin Staff Member M.A.S.C Club Member M.A.S.C. B.O.D. B.O.D. Member-at-Large

    Do you have the free version for hobbyist and non-commercial? Or one of the pay plans?
     
  20. Etoimos

    Etoimos Copepod M.A.S.C Club Member

    I'm using the free hobbyist version. They say it is just a 1 year subscription, but I've seen on forums that you can just up it again for more time. If you want to get started using that program, then a guy name Lars Christensen has some really good video on how to do almost everything.
     
    TheRealChrisBrown likes this.

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