90 In-wall Tank Revival


New member
So, I'm not exactly new to the hobby but I've effectively been out of it for the last 4 years. Also, I am posting this for advice on where to begin reviving an almost completely dead tank. I've been looking at the tank again the past few weeks and just don't know where to start in fixing this issue my circumstances have created.

I moved into my first home around this time in 2016 and at the time had a very beautifully kept 90 reef. I set the tank up in our finished basement as an in-wall tank where the front is in the finished area and the access is in the storage room behind the finished area (unfinished). Everything was going well (relatively speaking) for about 6 months and then we had a bad tropical storm come through while I was away on work which took the power out for about 5 days. My wife was unable to do emergency lifeline stuff like keeping the water fresh, getting the generator running etc. So I came home to ruin. I had a couple of frogspawn corals left that eventually died off. I lost about 10 species of soft and lps corals. All the fish except a mated pair of clowns and a purple wrass had died.

With a heavy heart I officially declared my tank nuked, but I didn't want to just tear it down. To this day I have kept the system online but due to my career I've had no time at all to work on this. No water changes in probably 2 years, been using Walmart distilled bottled water with decent success (I'm on a well with very hard water and RO/DI carts just wear out so fast) for top off water. Surprisingly all three of those fish have survived this long. All inverts have died, there is algae (green and cyano) everywhere. Fast forward to today and I have more time to dive back in.

I want to revive this system, its time. Here are the current problems I see going forward:

  • Basement gets hot in the summer but I may have solved this with a second hand chiller (still need to verify the functionality)
  • Basement gets pretty cool in the winter. Never goes below 55-60 but my heaters cannot keep up. I keep blowing through 300-400 watt heaters. I keep two running at a time.
  • The access room for the fish tank contains my oil burner, therefore there is always the slight odor of boiler in there.
  • Water seems too hard to use my ro/di system and I'm stuck using the bottled water from Walmart
  • Tank is so filthy right now I'm having a hard time jumping back in
  • A lot of my equipment is very old
  • I have a PS but haven't run it since the storm that took out the tank
  • My salt level is very low (I can update when I get home with a true reading).
  • My temp has been unsteady since the beginning
  • If I remember correctly in the first 6 months I was having pH problems. Maybe this is due to the location of the access in relation to the oil burner. This cannot change at this point, but we may be moving to a propane system that will vent outside the house - we are about 2 years from this.

Now that I have listed some of my blockers (and I'm sure there are some more I haven't thought of). I'd like to see if anyone with more experience has some advice as to how I can start the process of gradually fixing this tank. I'd like to keep this post constructive so I'm stating up front I don't want to just tear it down. I want to try whatever I can to rebuild my beautiful reef.

Current livestock/equipment:
  • 2 mated black ocellaris clownfish
  • 1 purple wrass
  • Maybe one or two hermits left
  • About 150lbs live rock all covered with algea
  • 2-3 in. sand bed
  • Older model 36" maxpect razor led (I know this is too small for the tank but my MH 48" needs repairs
  • 2 (i think) 400w heaters in sump
  • Corralife superskimmer (not hooked up, the biggest model)
  • MAG Drive 12 (I think) running the system
  • Dual overflow
  • Couple of random powerheads

Any help getting started on this journey back to a beautiful tank would be awesome! Thanks so much in advance.


New member
Good evening and welcome back! I'm absolutely no expert but I would say you have to start with water.. because salt is low I wouldn't increase salinity too quickly as this could cause organ damage. The fish have gotten use to the low so easing the back I would think be a good start.. I live in a condo and don't have a way to make my own salt water so I purchase from local fish store, yes this can get expensive but I think it may be a good way to start if available. I would clean all equipment very well and test them out adding heaters coolers as needed but again slowly as they are use to current environment. As for algae I've not seen great results when I've used chemicals in the past so I would suggest snails, crabs and fish that like to eat it... but don't introduce any new love stock until water is stable.. that's all I got and I'm sure there are folks way smarter than I that have good tips. [emoji4]good luck and keep us updated

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk


New member
Hey, thanks for the response!!!

Any advice is always great!...

So, the thought is this, and anyone please chime in with some advice. I want the sump gone because its caused so many overflows from lack of maintenance, etc. Plus I think the overflow will fail at some point and cause huge issues with water. I want to purchase a canister filter. I know this isn't a great method but I was wondering if anyone has any experience with using a good canister like the fluval G6 or something like that and a hang on the back protein skimmer (CSS 125) if I were to always properly maintain the canister filter and keep the media clean, etc. Can I have success this way? I've never tried to run a reef without a sump but I want to try.

I have 2 clowns and a purple wrasse, no corals after the power outage so it's almost like starting over. My thoughts are if I keep the bio load down and maintain the filter and skimmer at least once a week i'd probably have success. Anyone else have any thoughts?

by the way Im looking at this:



and this:

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New member
I've decided I'm going to continue to update this thread as a running log of everything I am doing to restore this tank.

As of last night the sump was taken offline since the mag 9.5 pump impeller froze. As a temporary measure I moved the heaters into the main display and added a couple of extra powerheads.

I've decided to go with a canister filter/hob protein skimmer/hob refuge. So this is what the system will look like when completed

  1. Fluval FX6 for mechanical / chemical filtration (think large reactor for carbon/gfo) Ordered from Amazon should be in tomorrow
  2. HOB Protein skimmer - CSS 220 for now - will upgrade to reef octopus BH2000 if CSS is too much trouble
  3. HOB Aquafuge2 medium size


New member
Pics of setup after cleanup and new filter

Pics of setup after cleanup and new filter

Here are a couple of photos of the current setup after an initial cleanup and changeover to the FX6.
View attachment 405733

Here is the new FX6 in action:

I have to tell you, this filter seems great. It's large and moves a good volume of water. It will be a nitrate factory if not cleaned every week or more, but having everything enclosed in one place is great.
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New member
Couple of photos of PS and Refuge

Couple of photos of PS and Refuge

Couple of photos of PS and Refuge


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Michael Hoaster

Registered Seaweedist
Premium Member
Looks like you're humming along nicely. I run a canister filter too, on my 180g all-in-one. With everything hanging on the back, you may want to consider putting a stick-on background cover on the back of your tank to hide stuff. Painting is another option.

What are your plans for your refugium?


New member
Hey Michael Hoaster! Thanks for the reply.

I have a stick on background (funny it has to be 20 years old) but I just havent gotten around to putting it back on. Painting won't be an option since doing a major cleanup would be close to impossible if I can't see from the back. There should have been more forethought into designing the inwall portion of this since I absolutely cannot access the tank from the front.

For the fuge, getting it running is my main concern. I just got a replacement pump in the mail the other day. Its a CPR Aquafuge 2 medium size. It's not bad. I got a bag of aragonite to put in and some rubble LR and I will fill it with macro from there.