135g Reef Cube Planning / Build


Well-known member
It's been a while since I had a reef tank, but I have recently ordered a 135g cube (don't even have it in hands yet hehe), so will be eventually setting it up as a reef.

Looks like it's been about 8 years since last tank

Currently I have a 150g freshwater planted tank with discus fish. But instead of doing my old tick tock of switching it from fresh to salt and back again. I decided to set up both.

Due to budget limitations currently (bought too many toys, so need to pay that all off lol first), this will probably be fairly slow going build, but I can at least plan things out for now and live with it in my head hopefully detecting annoyances and issues before they are implemented, be it convoluted way of water changes or something else, that I can solve before making it.

So far I have created a sketch of the tank's stand and some plans for the sump, due to tank's size I will probably do some sort of custom solution, unless I want to make stand wider than the tank.

Tank itself is from SCA - 135 Gallon Starfire Tank with Center Overflow 36x36x24'' 15mm
My current 150g tank is from there as well, so went with them again.

For custom sump I will need to find a shop to make me one most likely. So far I have bookmarked luna-reef.com, although I do not really know much about them, aside being fairly close to me, so I could come and pick it up in person. If you have any suggestions for other places that can make a nice custom sump, feel free to share :)

I will add some sketches in following posts.
I use 2017 Sketch Up Make for all my projects, if anyone is interested. It's free and can be downloaded to your computer, so I find it best for my needs.

Here is the over all stand / tank setup with 6 foot human analog next to it lol. Wall behind is matching one I have between two windows.


I normally use some nice hardwood plywood for the skin, that I stain, but thinking of using 13/16" walnut boards this time. For finish in tanks I always use polyurethane to water proof it.

Peeling away the walnut skin :) Fairly standard stand setup out of 2x4 and 2x6.


Removing the tank. Black thing on top will likely be something like a yoga mat / Styrofoam tank will be shipped with. Under it will be 3/4" plywood with cutouts for overflow drains/return.

Stand by itself

And with base 3/4" plywood skin. Opening in the back will house intake 200mm fan, that will blow fresh air in and expel any air from the stand in some whole in the doors. On my current one I've added slits one of the door for this. Not sure if this air circulation is truly needed, but my reasoning is reduction of humidity inside the stand, although it may also cause more evaporation.


Didn't do it on walnut doors of the sketch, but here is an example of exhaust slits for the plywood door version. Fairly minimal and can add a nice design element, but also functional.

Doors will be fastened to the stand in some manner, so far I'm thinking of strong magnets to hold them in place with some small wood pieces attached to the door insides to register them with the opening. This way door can be completely removed when needed for an easier access. This is how I currently have 150g stand setup and it works out well.

And finally, this is what I so far have for the sump design. Red thing is approximate skimmer volume (so far pinned as this one Elite 150SSS 6" Super Space Saver Cone Protein Skimmer). Small center back section is where drain will go and probably a support for 7" filter sock, although I'm not sure I would actually use one. From there water flows into the skimmer section, then through an adjustable opening with min 10" height (skimmer will likely be elevated due to this) it will flow if fairly large refugium area and then into the return pump area. Return pump section will also house heaters, auto top off float value, probes, and dosing tubes.


Final note, I will probably have a block of some low PPI poret foam "filtering" opening into the return pump section to prevent any macro algae from going through. And probably should add another opening above water level from refugium into return section in case of clogging or something along those lines.

Aside from that, I will get 7 stage double membrane RO/DI system, that will run in the garage.

I already have a simple one set up there that just does sediment followed by two carbon blocks into a 55g barrel for ATO and AWC of my 150g freshwater tank. I could feed off of that with maybe another carbon block, then into two membranes followed by split and mixed resins or keep it separate completely from freshwater loop.

In either case RO/DO will go into its own 55g barrel. At that point I will need to deliver it from the garage to a high point on second floor where 135g tank will be. For both ATO reasons and water change source of RO/DI water.

For ATO it will just be a 10/20g container positioned somewhere above sump level gravity fed into the sump ending with a float valve.
For water changes I will just bring out some temporary container to mix salt in.

Will obviously need to run a water line from the garage to these two and get a pump capable of pushing water about 10/15 feet. Barrel in the garage is positioned fairly high to the ceiling with bottom being about 6 feet of the ground, but will still have to get past 12 foot first floor ceiling, whatever floor thickness is and then to the height of ATO container, which will probably be another 6 feet of the ground on the second floor.
That’s a lot of good plans! Out of curiousity, have you considered an aluminum stand? Nothing wrong with wood, strictly curious.

As for custom sumps, I can’t think of any off hand but I would almost imagine many custom tank makers could probably make a custom sump?
I wouldn't be opposed to aluminum stand, but know nothing about them. Is this something you can by some sort of parts for and make your own and then skin it with ply/hardwood or what?
I wouldn't be opposed to aluminum stand, but know nothing about them. Is this something you can by some sort of parts for and make your own and then skin it with ply/hardwood or what?
Absolutely. I’ve never made one but have seen several. They’re generally made from 80/20 t-slot aluminum. You then can skin it with your choice of material.

Here’s an example:

Cool, thanks, I'll look into it, although I will probably find wood easier to work with and customize hehe, simply because I have done that many times before.

I may actually use that to make a table in the room upstairs in another area where I would keep top off container and other things.
Cool, thanks, I'll look into it, although I will probably find wood easier to work with and customize hehe, simply because I have done that many times before.

I may actually use that to make a table in the room upstairs in another area where I would keep top off container and other things.
Sounds good! Either way I’m sure it’ll look great! I know a lot of people use them to save the weight of wood and the strength. My plan (way, way in the future) is to custom build one so it optimizes storage
Have you see structural guides on these, like how far can I span a beam without needed a support etc?
Have you see structural guides on these, like how far can I span a beam without needed a support etc?
I honestly just browse the various forums and you tube videos. I believe deflection is relative to what product you use, 1515, 1530, etc. With that said, a well known custom tank manufacturer, Tenecor, doesn’t appear to use center supports on their stands until it exceeds 48” in length - Open Frame Magnum™ Aluminum Stands | 36 Inch High
Got some lumber for stand and utility "shelf" along with some barrels


Here is the "shelf" I built. Inside are some 2x6 mostly attached to studs, but one going diagonally is resting on ceiling beams of the 1st floor. That's why it doesn't really line up with second floor too well, but seemed like it would be more sturdy this way hehe. Not crazy amount of room, but to keep 55g barrel that I will probably use for water changes (manual ones, for now AWC seems a bit too complicated to set up here, so I will just do 50g monthly) and 30g ATO barrel that will be fed from 55g barrel in the garage. I got Iwaki MD-55RLT pump to push water from there to second floor. Haven't tested it yet, but seems like it should be able to get water from there to here. Will probably run 1" PVC pipe through the attic to here to fill either ATO or water change barrels. Will also be a manual thing probably, i.e. I will press button to turn pump on in the garage, get as much as I need and turn it off.


Aside from that also received 7 stage 150gpd RODI system will add pics later when I mount it in the garage. I do have another 3 stages available that are currently just doing sediment and two carbon blocks, but will probably keep them separate. Although I could add it all together for total of 9 canisters and 2 membranes, but not sure if this would kill the flow too much by the end lol.

Next is to build the stand from the wood above. I used bit too much plywood for the utility "shelf" so will need to get another sheet there.

Also moving the tank up those stars to the second floor was interesting, but it is here now :)
Been messing around in sketch up this morning. Thinking about changing hardwood skin a bit.

First, will go with canary wood for something a bit lighter.


And then simplified its layout a bit for a slimmer look.

Hopefully won't look too oppressive like a huge block of wood lol.

Little hood on the top will just be there to hide auto feeder and return lines.

I'm thinking of running two return pumps, so will have to run those lines behind the tank and will just use 3 wholes in the overflow as drains of various lengths with one at full siphon, one - trickle, and last emergency dry.

Also added lights in there, so far landed on two Radion XR30, maybe a bit tilted towards the center, although it probably won't be needed. Was also thinking about maybe addition of AI Blades, but I imagine it won't be that helpful and will just make things look more messy.

And two green tubes in the tank are gyres of some sort. Currently have one XF350, so probably that.

For controller, on freshwater I've been using Hydros system and I do like it, so I will likely go with it here as well.
I've bookmarked an array of them, although I will need to go over and see if I actually need all those ports, so hopefully will be able to loose 1 or 2 from this list in the end.
Got 150 lbs of macro rock, this is what it looks like if someone wondering on volume :) This is in 32g brute can.


Along with rock also got some of the additives - for now just BRS calc, soda ash, and mag c/s. A quick note of those 35 lbs buckets, I would suggest to weigh them when you get them, as soda ash bucket was missing about 7 lbs. BRS was quick to send out replacements, so no big issue there.

My total plan for dosing is something like this
CalciumCalcium Chloride
AlkalinitySoda Ash
MagnesiumMagnesium Chloride
MagnesiumMagnesium Sulfate
Sea Water EqTropicMarin Part C
AminoTropicMarin Amino-Organic
CarbonTropicMarin NP Bacto Balance
TracesTropicMarin Trace A
TracesTropicMarin Trace K

Traces will get mixed into Calc and Alk probably. For amino I might go with Acro Power or Coral Amino instead, not sure yet. But to keep things from same source for all including salt (will be using TropicMarin Bio-Actif) for now I put TM for all things.

I am also assuming all of those can be auto dosed :) Which should true, just not 100% sure on aminos and carbon parts.

Aside from buying few things I have also finished up my water filtration setup and just converted one of the 20g tank into saltwater QT. Will need to build a tight hood on that to seal it better.

Top 3 stages are for my freshwater tank's ATO / AWC source, just runs sediment followed by two carbon blocks.
Bottom 7 stage unit is 150 gpd setup feeding 55g barrel on the right. This is used at ATO for the 20g saltwater tank on the left, as well as, source of water for barrels on the second floor near the reef tank. Iwaki pump here is setup to pump water from RO/DI barrel to the second floor controlled by Hydros setup below, so that I can turn it on from upstairs, refill ATO barrel there or 55g barrel for water change and then shut it off. Valve above pump is just in case Hydros decided to turn on the pump for no reason :D


A bit more progress with the utility shelf on the second floor. I ran 1" pipe through the attic to here. I might change plumbing here a bit, but basically I can use it to refill 30g barrel up top that will be used as ATO container or when I need to mix saltwater fill 55g barrel below.

Did a bit more painting here and added the elevated shelf/table for the 30g barrel, since this will be gravity fed ATO, it's good for it to be as elevated as possible. I will probably use one of these valves to control the ATO a bit, but it will be normally open and float valve will let water in. But if a water sensor placed normally above water line will get wet, this will be able to shut off water line in case float valve fails. Would prefer a normally open valve here, but I guess it will just stay energized instead to keep water flowing.

I am getting another 3 drawer thing for here that will sit on the table, light to illuminate things a bit better, and a curtain to close this off as it does not great with all the barrels :) Will pretend it's a window lol


And as a final note for right now, I have updated design of the sump a bit and added some dosing containers. I have sent this off to Luna Reef for manufacturing, there is a bit of a wait, so not quite final design yet, but mostly there aside from everything will have lids as well.