Drjuice28's 210 AGA build from scratch (lots of pics)


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Well, I began reefing in 2005 with a 24g nanocube. I learned the basics, and had a really great small tank going. (It's on here somewhere, Drjuice's 24G mega-modded nanocube I think) Just like most of you out there, I ran into a full tank with the desire to put a bunch more in! I'd been thinking about an upgrade for some time, but never had the excuse for my wife to let me invest in it.
Then tragedy, or good fortune depending upon how you look at it, struck. My sump cracked, leaking several gallons of water into my sump room before I could stop it. The process of building a new one, stirring the sand bed within, etc, threw my small tank into a crash. The result was pretty tough to handle, lost more than 80% of my coral specimens.
Being my first major setback, I wasn't ready to throw in the towel. Instead, I used it as a springboard to begin tank upgrade discussions. With Christmas 2007 rolling around, all I asked for was a permission slip to start looking for a major upgrade. Somehow, the wife gave in, and the search began.
I knew that I wanted a 2nd hand setup to save some startup cash, and I really wanted to go 24" deep, either 150, 180, or 210. I scoured RC, local forums, craigslist and ebay for almost a month (Just not that much for sale in January!) before I found something that I thought would work. An RC member in Iowa (6-7 hours away) was selling a drained setup with oak stand and full Hamilton Halide setup for a price that I couldn't refuse. Two weeks later, I had a rental airline transport van and was on my way to pick it up.

Here's what I went to get (keep in mind that I planned on refinishing the entire thing!)





Can you believe how dirty the tank itself is?! But what fun is a tank build without some good old elbow grease? That light fixture is a hamilton 3x400 or 250x2 + 400 MH setup (he had both dual ballasts included, along with 2x80W t-5. The stand looked like solid construction, later confirmed, but without the nice trim/molding that I planned on adding myself.


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Our trip to pick it up traversed 4 states, and put a total of 980 miles on the van (all in about 30 hours). Arriving at this guy's shop in Iowa was quite an experience. The first time I laid eyes on this huge setup (keep in mind I'm upping from only 24G!), I walked straight back to the car to warn my wife "Now remember, we measured out the dimensions of this thing in the living room before we left, and it will be just fine" Wow did it look big in person. Luckily, the previous owner had a forklift (what are the chances?) to load it into the back of the van with. I couldn't believe it, but it nearly didn't fit. Only 1/2 an inch to spare side to side, with the canopy laying on top of the rest of it.
The drive home seemed longer than the trip out, and I made sure to call all of my neighbor guys to come help lift this thing out of the truck and into my garage. I had loaned MY forklift out that day I guess.







The tank must have weighed about 500lbs (Too lazy to look up the official weight) But we got it in the garage, and called it a night, exhausted.


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After work calmed down a couple of weeks later, I began my project/obsession. First step was a trip to Lowe's to pick out new molding and trim to dress this baby up a bit. Also picked up extra sandpaper, concrete sealer, stain primer, mahogany stain, and polyurethane. I started by loading 2 thick coats of concrete sealer onto the base of the stand's inside to seal it. That stuff works pretty well, and isn't too difficult to apply. With all micro-gaps filled, the stand should hold more than 15G of water before a leak hits the living room.



After drying, the sanding began. I ripped off all of the molding that I planned on replacing, and put the electric sander to work. It really wasn't all that bad, but it will be a LONG time before I ever strip crown molding again. All those nooks and crannies... gives the shivers thinking about it again.





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After finishing all of the stand sanding, I went to work measuring and cutting the new trim and molding for the base and canopy. Took a little while, but came out really nicely.





After finishing the stand, I stripped all of the hardware out of the canopy and started working on it. Fully sanded and with new molding. You can see in the earlier pics that the previous owner did not raise the trim to cover the wood finish on the border of the tank itself, a detail that I corrected in measuring and placing the new molding. (though you won't be able to tell until its all sitting in the living room!)





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On the next sunny day that we had, I decided that the tank just had to be cleaned. It was disgusting, and I still can't figure out how the previous owner got it into that shape! There was algae all over all glass panes, plugging the mega overflows, coating the durso standpipes... it was crazy. But how does one clean a reef ready 210 that's sitting in a crowded garage by himself? I though about moving it to the grass in the front yard, but it would be WAY too heavy to tip onto its side without help (and I need to keep those neighbors on my good side until the tank goes in the living room!). Instead, I slowly pushed it 3 feet onto the front edge of the driveway, and went to work with it in the upright position. The before and after shots tell the story. I ended up throwing a MJ-1200 in while I worked and sprayed it down to keep the water from accumulating in the base.

It looks and smells SO much better now!




And after 1 hour, dilute vinegar, and a few scrub brushes...



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With all of that out of the way, I started staining the whole thing. I used one of the gel stains from Minwax. It's thicker than standard, and easy to handle on a brush. Despite the fact that it says "with polyurethane all in one step", I still planned (and recommend) on coating separately down the line. You just have to be careful not to lay the stuff on too thick, as is a tendency with a thicker material. On vertical sections, too thick an application was readily evident as it started to clump and layer on itself with gravity. I had to restrip an entire section to get it right the 2nd time! In the end it came out gorgeous. It's much more uniform than it looks like in these sunlight exposed pics. After 2 coats of polyurethane on top, it shines bright!


With 1 coat of stain:





And with 2 coats:


Sorry, I'll get more pics of the whole thing fully coated...


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With some of the major grunt work out of the way, I started to think about some of the electrical work that needed to be done. The previous light foxture was poorly designed, in my opinion. With end caps/mounts placed so close to 250 and 400W MH's, significant heat damage was evident. A lot of the original wiring was toast too, wanted to replace it to be on the safe side.

After a lot of research, I decided that I wanted to fabricate (sounds better than 'make') my own lumenarc-style reflectors. I laid out some templates on poster board to get the sizing right. I wanted to go with a larger one on my 4ooW center buld and mini's on my 250's on the sides. there's a few places to get mirror-finish alluminum to build these out of, I ended up going with one of the skylight companies, Velux. A 4' section of 14" diameter tubing was $60 something at my doorstep, just enough for the 3 reflectors I wanted to make.

Here's the piece layout. It was like a puzzle to fit it all together without wasting material or coming up short!



After tracing all of the pieces, I cut each one out with a pair of heavy tin snips. I had considered using the dremel cutting tool, but this was much easier, I promise. I picked up a pair of welding crimpers at Lowe's to bend each fold:






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the next step was to take all of the pieces to the garage and start fitting them together. The key, as most threads of this sort will tell you, is to attach each piece to the top octagon, and work your way equally down each side. Attaching the pieces requires a 3/16" bit and matching rivots. You can get a cheap handheld rivotter at Lowes for like ten bucks. It took quite a while, fit, drill, rivot, repeat. but once they were all together, they looked awesome.





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I took one of the sockets without a MH bulb and traced it onto the side of the completed reflector (would have been easier before putting it all together!). I cut small brackets out of the remaining reflective alluminum to attach to the mogul and to the reflector's top surface. I'll get some pics of it.

The refelctor patterns are available from a couple of guys on RC. I've got them saved to a hotmail account if anyone wants them. They aren't to scale, so you have to either go to Kinkos and upsize them, or measure out your own using the dimensions provided.


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Here's a better comparison of the stand refinished, ext to its original color and trim. Pretty drastic change!




I did all of my rewiring in one afternoon, and got so into it that I forgot to take pics along the way. Essentially, I took every screw and bolt off of the old Hamilton unit and laid everything out on the ground. I found that the wiring to the MH moguls was pretty fried. So crispy that you could break the plastic coating just by flexing it 90 degrees! I cut it all out, and rewired straight from the quick disconnect cables that were in fine shape. I measured out the middle of the canopy and the 1/4 and 3/4 points to begin mounting the lumenarcs. I decided to keep the metal platform that the old light system was built from to space out the lights from the inner surface of the canopy. After bolting the moguls to the lumenarcs, and the pair to the plate, I wired each individually back to the ballast.
Next, I broke out my new delivery from reefgeek: a T-5 retrofit 3x80W icecap 660 setup. The instructions were a breeze on wiring, but I needed to figure out where to mount them with the new reflectors in place. I wasnted to build a bracket or hanging device to hold them just below the largest of the reflectors, but a few inches up from the water's surface too. Once again, a trip to Lowe's. I got some 3/4" 90 degree aluminum strips and fabricated brackets from the inner canopy to hang 13" down. Just far enough to clear the lumenarcs. then I mounted the endcaps and standoffs to the brackets, put the bulbs in to space them out correctly, and mounted it to the canopy. The icecap ballast and mount are tucked up behind the middle reflector. There's a lot of wiring, but it really wasn't that difficult to work out.

Here's a full shot of the canopy turned upside down:

Experience these new reflectors in their full reflective glory!

A shot of the MH mogul mounted, bracket holding it to the top of the reflector, and takeoff wiring:

Here's the best pic I have of the aluminum bracket that I put in:

And the IC ballast tucked in up there:

Another close up:


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Everything looks great so far! I have one question what size sump are you using and will it fit thru the door openings? They look small from the pics but i could be wrong.


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Ive got a 75 G AGA that I'm going to section off into a sump with acrylic panels. Still working out the exact layout that I want to use, and whether I want to drill it or not for return. I have an equipment wishlist that includes a reeflo 200 skimmer, so I'll really just need a delivery section, refugium, and reactor/return sections. I'll keep working on it.

Nope, must be an optical illusion. Standard doors and frames.. :)


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Well, I've made some progress. Had to pull all of the neighbor guys over, and we managed to move the tank into the living room (same guys in the pics above). Wow, it looks bigger inside! I don't think that I ever would have been able to convince the wife to let me buy it!

Anyways, the list of to-do's is as follows:

1. Need to figure my sump layout for the 75G AGA that I've got, cut baffles and silicone them into place. I'll probably drill it for a 1.5" bulkhead to the return pump too.

2. I ordered 200# of Marcorocks 3 weeks ago, supposed to be shipped this week. Will start working on dry aquascaping layouts

3. Plumbing! My durso's (came with my setup) have barbed ends on their bulkheads. One fits 3/4" tubing, and the other fits 1 1/4" tubing. I'm planning on adapting that up to 1.5" drain pvc back to the sump, and return through 1" pvc. More details to come.

4. Need to order a bunch of salt (IO) and aragonite base (planning a 2" sand bed)

Hmmm...that's enough for now. I hope nobody keeps close tabs on exactly how long all of those things take!

I'll get some fresh 'in-house' pics, and some of the lights all in action..


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How's that sump coming. I have a 75 I want to convert into sump also and will be watching what you do with yours.