22g LPS build


Who doesn't love a documented build from scratch ^_^
There may be some people reading this who could be in a similar situation or can learn from my success/failures with this journey so I bear it all for the community to grow from. Most certainly I will read all posts and take everything with an understanding that I will get mostly good and some bad advice/comments. I don't mind any input, please feel free to let me know if you spot anything dumb I am about to do. I would rather go into a situation with a warning than without!

With that in mind, a little history/intro:
Due to work/life adjustments I had to leave the hobby a decade ago and have been patiently waiting for career and housing to reach stable cruising altitude.
Well the stars have finally aligned, wife said she wanted a tropical and organic feel in our house. Warning her this hobby isn't cheap she is going in eyes wide open muahahaha. I can begin this re-entry to the hobby with a significant boost to my funding and space allowed. I have an idea to start small with this 22g SPS build in the entrance to the house; then move on to a medium size 150gtank in the living room next summer. Long term I have plans for a 500g lagoon in either the basement lounge or the sunroom off our backyard deck. But that is years from now so don't hold your breath. Like many of you, I have been apart of various reef forums for a large chunk of my life. So here's to many more years of our community!

Why 22g long as first tank?
a) I've been gone a decade...much has changed since then.
Practices I used a decade ago are probably now considered terrible ideas.
I have to relearn much and refine even more, so lets start small.
b) I'm re-building a foundation for the hobby, gear and equipment can be used tank to tank.
c) Screwing up with a 22g wont sting nearly as much as a 150 or 500g
d) House is being remodeled... along with that comes new flooring later this year.
Breaking down a 22g and moving it to another room for a couple days will be pretty easy to accomplish.
150g not so much. 500g is pretty much a permanent structure till the day I die or retire in the Philippines.

Lets get started!

Over the next year this will end up as an LPS focus build with half dozen fish and a few shrimp.
Nothing set in stone and am open to ideas.

Fish ideas thus far: 2 clowns, 1 wrasse, 1 goby, 2 blennies.
Shrimp: 1 cleaner, 1 pistol , 1 fire shrimp.

For cuc a mixed bag of the standard nothing special.
I might get a few ornamental hermits on top of the standard mix.
Might even possibly add something sand sifting one day (starfish/urchin).

Substrate and Aquascape will be Aragonite and Marco rock. Fiji pink was heavily considered because I want a potential sand sifting goby to be happy. But Aragonite I think will be fine for him to sift though should I choose a species that does that. I will be using a Dr Tim's cycling method/product so I am inserting dead rock/sand and will let the biome be based off controlling as much as I can rather than gambling with someone else's live rock. Been there done that, no thanks!

I plan to farm my own Mysis and copepods so Ill set up a station for that at a much later date.

The display area for the 22g build will be at the entryway to the home in the highest traffic area. Pros/Cons I know...that's why I choose to put only 22g here.
I picked up a nice heavy console from Costco that can double as a sump/filtration space if ever needed (more on that later).
It's also is long enough that I can comfortably fit a 10g cube on each end which will be QT tanks while I stock the 22g.


The frame of cardboard will act as a rough reference frame for my aquascape that I will be building this week.
I studied basic principles for the rule of 1/3rds; while I am not an architect or artistic really at all...I did a modified version as you see below:


Rule of 1/6? At any rate, the concept is to have the left side of the display taller and bridge over to the middle and drop sharply to the sand with a lone island/cave on the far right. It wont be a pile of rocks...more hybrid NSA/Shelf look. The larger area on the far right will allow for a greater swimming lane, the areas on the left will allow for more hiding/sleeping space. Overall I wanted the eye to draw in the right and slope upward then choose to focus on far right or far left; choose either open swimming area or heavy coral population with a balance of the two in the middle of the tank. Im really trying to put a functional approach but also allow for artistic as well.

For now, I think I can do just fine with a sump less system and no HOB. I was never in the habit of over feeding to begin with and with basic cleaning principles of disturbing sand part of the sand bed and flushing rock surface with power head a couple times a month when doing water changes, this tank should be able to function with minimalist equipment. With that in mind, would put such equipment on the far left of the tank so it can be disguised behind the taller portion of the aqua scape.

*Full disclosure....I got enough rock and mortar that I can do a full on Rockwall as a background but haven't committed to it yet. I would leave a lip on one end to allow an HOB to mount and spill over. Thoughts?

If anyone is interested in the current shopping list, let me know...otherwise Ill just post things as I go along :)
About $1400 thus far spent, I didn't go all out cheap but I didn't go ecotech expensive either.

More to come in the following days and weeks, please do enjoy this build and any more I put up in the years to come!
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Who Am I Here?
Premium Member
It’s definitely looking coming along. For LPS are you going for a mix or something along the lines of a “designer” torch garden?


A mix, not just torches.
I plan group any torches to one side...probably the lonely island haha.
I dont want anything plain.

I want vibrant colors and nothing that grows wild and crazy in the tank; so no mushrooms and the sort.
I would give GSP exception if I had it isolated to something or growing up the back wall.
Certainly not on the main rock work.


Aquascape coming along. I have some mortar arriving in a few days and I'll be using it to cover all the seams that have been glued.
I'll shape and texture seams, add crushed rocks/dust where needed to blend it all in. I thought I would need to use mortar for beefing up support, but everything glued in really solid so its more for aesthetics.

For reference while building, the lighting overhead casting the shadows came just slightly behind the formation so any jutting shadows you see will actually be a couple inches shorter one the reef lighting is placed directly over head.


The left side of the scape may look like it has a weak bridge connecting in the back, but in reality it is two structures with a nice seam that offers plenty of support. The two notch together nice and will allow me an ease to break down the tank if/when needed. ED877ABF-B069-4C28-B8D0-586F55AC996D.jpeg

The island structure will let me house some more aggressive corals on their own if I end up wanting some.
There should be plenty options for a potential goby/shrimp pair to have a home to dig out well beneath and out of danger.

I also made 2 smaller caves that I will bury in the sand to provide even more options if needed for any potential in habitant who wants to dig out a cave and not have the whole thing collapse.

Overall I was very frustrated early on; but as it started to take shape I can say I am actually happy with the final concept and look foreword to seeing it fill out. By next weekend I should be ready to start my cycle using Dr. Tim's fishless method/product.


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Who Am I Here?
Premium Member
That’s a very nice scape! I personally wouldn’t worry about the cave structures under the sand but that’s just me


Thanks! I didn't capture all the swim through areas, but I do have many for hidey holes.
Wanted to provide places places to stake out territory and reduce stress/aggression.
I agree those two small caves aren't priority. They are really just secondary thoughts I did with extra glue.
Something to give me options when the main pieces go in. If they work they work, if they don't it was only a 15min Segway.

Its kind of hard to judge scale from the pictures those legs are about 1.5inches, so only the flat portion will be above the sand line....a perfect little accent piece for something small. Zoanthid cap maybe?. I may use the smaller of the two in the display and the larger for the bare bottom QT tank.
Still mulling over stock and filtration methods as I want to try for just an HOB something at the most.
The less equipment and cords the better, there is only so much I can pull off before adding something will be a must.


Who Am I Here?
Premium Member
Not exactly HOB and I generally don’t reccomend them, but maybe look at a canister filter? They just require fairly regular cleaning (like any filter really). Could drill a hole in the back of the stand and have the canister underneath in the stand and have the hoses run out the back?

Not sure where your power supply is, but if In the floor, could drill a hole in the bottom and run a power strip into the stand to hide all your wires? Just a thought.


The stand does come with pre drilled holes and shelves that can be moved around to accommodate ATO and anything else I might add in the future. The electrical is about 10 feet away, but I intend to have an extension cord pined to the underside of the banister base. It will only be visible when you head to the basement and look up.

I looked at a canister filter's and yes they are also on the table, I like the room they provide for adding various media.
Years ago I do remember a degree of poopoo over them (leaks from bad seals if I remember) and instead everyone was on board for sumps.
But any equipment has a degree of failure and for every complaint....there are a thousand who say nothing because they are happy.

There are so many new technologies to look into, its very exciting for me.


Quick question about running an ATO system and a Canister filter.
Can it be done? Does the water level drop in the canister or in the display tank?


Who Am I Here?
Premium Member
Using my freshwater for reference, it drops in the display. So your ATO line would need to go to the display.


Thanks. I did end up finding one person show his ATO on a freshwater system on you tube.
He had a dosing pump trickle directly into the DT. Too risky IMO, your at the mercy of your ability of a consistent climate control.

For a canister filter, I like the OASE Thermo lineup.
The highlight for me is the simple pre-filter canister you can remove for routine cleaning and an insert for a heater.
Pairing it with glass lily pipe inflow/outflow would also make a really clean looking tank.

Setup an RODI station last night and am getting ready to mix later today.
Should be starting to cycle by this weekend.



Just a preview of how it all fit. Still need to do the final texturing on the rock, waiting on my shipment to arrive tomorrow.
I got a few inches al around on the glass at the base, even more room up top except for the back corner...but that shelf can be used for zoanthids or something with little reach.


I got a QT up and running for the Inverts I'm going to buy sometime this week.
I'm going to have them under observation bare bottom before I add to DT for 6 weeks.
Basic clean up crew and a couple ornamental shrimp.


I'll pick up one more QT to put on the right as well for fish so I can have a staggered introduction of livestock over the next few months. Once inverts are at 100% I will start putting frags into QT while fish one at a time QT in the other tank.

I know inverts and corals often QT together, but I wont have a stable enough system anyways so for now ramping up Clean up Crew, decorative shrimp/crabs and first few fish are the focus these coming months. Id still like to have initial corals going in sometime November. Stability and established ecosystem first.


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Got my inverts. Mix of hermits and Astrea snails 5/10.
Nice sizes ranging from tiny to small and a couple medium.
And a single cleaner shrimp who I didn't notice when I made the purchase had 2 broken antenna :(
Its feeding and looks healthy overall, but I am disappointed I let that one slip past me when the clerk bagged it for me.

I gave everyone but the shrimp a thorough brushing with a stiff toothbrush and a rinse after they were drip acclimated a couple hours.
Just in case of any pests or hitchhikers on the shells that I couldn't see.
The bowls all had debris in them but I didn't see anything moving around when I was done scrubbing.


As promised...I am committed to showing my failures....
Dead cleaner Shrimp :(

IDK what happened, found him with some hermits clustering around him last night.
I moved them away and it looked like he was in tact but barely hanging on.
Couple hours later he was in pieces and a few hermits were happy and feasting.
Everyone was plenty fed, in fact there was some leftovers on the floor of the tank from prior feeding a few hours earlier (Rods classic mix).
They all had easy access to food. Water tested perfectly fine.
In fact tested pristine as it was only a few days old.

I called the store and they said it might be just that...the shrimp went from established tank to pristine water with no microbes. Never knew water could be too perfect for the species I put in but whatever. Hermits and snails are all happy and romping about.
I did a 1g water change on the 8g tank when I removed what was left of the shrimp just to be safe.
Everyone else looks great. Water still testing awesome today.

I did final mortar/texturing to the Aquascape today, its setting now.
Will begin cycling DT this weekend.


Who Am I Here?
Premium Member
How long has the quarantine been set up? Did you add any cycling bacteria or start with live rock?


It was fresh, no life or bacteria, no ammonia, nitrate or nitrites.
I have only a bit of carbon and some lifeless ceramic in the system.
It was tropic Marine mix that had been in a mixing tub 24hours before I put it in the QT tank.
77 degrees @35ppt (.026 salinity). Everyone was drip acclimated for about 3 hours and has been happy save for the Shrimp who went south around 36 hours into QT.

Going foreword Ill add some Marine Pure Ceramic Biomedia that I will cycle in the DT before I QT any more livestock.
Might even add some live rock I have leftover from the build.

I know QT can go many different methods, from sand beds to live rock or minimalist pvc pipes with water changes only. I thought I was doing it right with a minimalist approach and water changes every few days.


Finished texturing the aquascape and rinsed it off in RODI water with a powerhead.
I used some small rubble to dimple the mortar as it set for some depth and blending of the seams.
Then I coated with sand to let a bit of surface texture but not to much that it would look obvious.
A few places I used the superglue and dusting method because just mortar and dusting didn't look right.

Its hard to picture fully since there is no coralline, but I believe I nailed it and in a year or two you wont notice any seams without nitpicking.