Nate/Alex's (FishBits) 75 tank thread

Discussion in 'Tank Journals' started by naterock101, Mar 2, 2015.

  1. naterock101

    naterock101 Guest

    Hey all,

    Wanted to document our latest tank so thought this would be the perfect medium. I plan on it being a mixed reef and will put in a variety of coral from softies to sps as well as some fish. In terms of documenting the entire process I want to be open about everything im doing. Hope you guys enjoy. I'll try to use pictures.


    Things I want to cover:
    Cost of owning a tank (we're not exactly floating in the money so there will be a lot of DIY and hacks included). This is particularly interesting to us since we've been doing a lot of research into the subject for our investor talks.

    DIY projects -- over time i want to have a completely automated tank :)

    FishBit learnings (we're obviously putting one of these bad boys in here)

    Opening setup costs:
    Bought a 75 gallon off of Craigslist: $150
    80 lbs of bleached rock that I cleaned and am seeding from my own live rock out of another tank: $108
    2 D2120 120 watt leds: $207
    80 lbs of dry sand: $91
    Parts that i needed for tank stand and light stand: $90
    Acrylic for sump that i made: $65 (repurposing Kris' 30 gallon - thanks!)
    2 Jebao wavemakers (wp-25s): $125
    10 lbs of miracle mud: $50
    Bacteria to accelerate the cycle: $15
    return pump (Danner Pondmaster 700): $63.88
    plumbing: $102

    We had a lot of things lying around from use in other tanks and some things donated to us such as our RO, Kris' old 30, and most of the stand materials that we repurposed so its not a complete list for a setup cost but its what we've spent.

    Spend to date: ($959.12) <----holy crap i'm in trouble
    percent on equipment (stand, tanks, chemicals, pumps, etc): 79.22%
    percent on life (sand and rock only so far): 20.78%

    *cost of electricity and water: $0, we work in a coworking space so its being paid for us :)

    Setup process:

    We have it setup on a homemade desk with some some legs that we reinforced with extra bolts, nuts, legs, and braces. Im confident it can hold 1500+ lbs which is roughly twice what it weighs. Originally I had the middle leg in the photo horizontal at the back of the table and I hadn't screwed the legs all the way tight. Halfway through adding the water i felt it slipping and had a mini freak out. Needless to say i reinforced the table with the middle leg, added more bolts and tightened everything. Seems safe now.


    It has a bit of an industrial look that we really enjoyed and we moved that forward with our light stand which I made out of gas piping that you can get at any hardware store. I'm loving the look and its bolted all the way through the table so it shouldn't be going anywhere fast. The lights are held by caribiners rated at 75 lbs each so unless the LED units hooks break they should be safe.


    I'm too afraid to drill a tank so we went with a hang on overflow. I actually regret doing this now as i realize im more afraid of a flood. I will be coming up with some sort of hack solution in the short term to help minimize this. Probably just a float switch to make sure the return pump shuts off if the siphon breaks (keeping the water at a height that doesn't overflow the sump in case the return pump fails. I'll drill a small hole in the return pump to make sure that it doesn't turn into a reverse siphon in case of a failure.

    I repurposed Kris and Rons old 30 gallon bowfront into a sump using silicone (i can still smell the vinegar fumes!) and some acrylic i bought. We have a pretty sweet shop (access to CNC, drill presses, laser cutter and most tools, etc) so cutting it was a breeze.


    The sump has 3 segments. The first will allow for water entering through the overflow (might add a few live rocks down there). I'm not planning on using any filter socks or protein skimmers as of now because I got to meet Bob Smith of ecosystem aquariums at Reefstock and after a long talk with him i decided to experiment with Leng Sy's miracle mud method. I gave myself enough space that if i decide to go with a protein skimmer down the line i should be fine. The second section will hold ~10 lbs of miracle mud and have a light on it producing bacteria - probably will go with Chaeto. The third section will house our return pump. All in all the system will be around ~100 gallons of water.

    Inside the tank:

    I spent a couple hours before adding the sandbed and rock playing around with different formations and then more time than i expected hammer and chiseling some pieces to get more to work with. That was actually more difficult than i anticipated. We even threw a piece off the roof. I ended up with two main areas of rock that make what i call a big bay and a smaller one. I played around with the depth of the two sections and put a small rock in the back in between them to add more depth. Im hoping that it fills out nicely over time and I'm looking forward to seeing how the fish interact with the two sections.

    In terms of the electronics inside of the tank:
    I wanted to put a Gyre pump inside here but the cost made me think twice -- spending our money on getting FishBit to market instead. Our alternative is two Jebao wp-25 wavemakers which seem to be providing a lot of flow combined with the return pump. If it turns out to not be enough or there become spots that don't receive flow we have a bunch of smaller wavemakers we can put in. We also have two heaters in the tank but will eventually move those too the sump.

    The complete setup for now looks like:


    We have it set up in our office in Portero Hill (San Francisco). If any of y'all ever want to stop by and see our tank and development on FishBit we are happy to have you around and talk shop :)

    We are interested in interviewing both our users and reef experts in those orange chairs in kind of a between two ferns tanks style (not the constant jokes just the setup). We think it would be great to be able to bring insights from these interviews to the greater community :)

    till next time,


    Attached Files:

    denzil, Nav and Kmooresf like this.
  2. sfsuphysics

    sfsuphysics Supporting Member

    Neato! Looks like it's off to a good start. Never a good idea to keep track of how much you spent on building anything for a tank, it might make you cry later :D
    naterock101 and jonmos75 like this.
  3. Coral reefer

    Coral reefer President

    Nice write up. What exactly is fish bit?
    Alex Uribe likes this.
  4. tr1gger

    tr1gger Keyboard Cowboy

    Cant say I have ever seen a bow front as a sump. Using what ya got! Looking good :)
    Alex Uribe and naterock101 like this.
  5. rygh

    rygh Supporting Member

    Looks good.
    I like the industrial stand as well.
    Problem though : Those chairs are facing the wrong way. ;)

    A bit unsure on the power head placement and direction, but that is always something
    that requires endless fiddling anyway.
    Alex Uribe, naterock101 and jonmos75 like this.
  6. jonmos75

    jonmos75 Supporting Member

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  7. naterock101

    naterock101 Guest

    Haha yeah i'm already at that point but i've always known that i've been lying to myself so this is a good way to find out by how much.
  8. naterock101

    naterock101 Guest

  9. Enderturtle

    Enderturtle Volunteer

    I like the orange chairs!

    Yup I'm sure most people would agree that the other definition for "Reef Tank" is "a box in which money is thrown into."

    Adds up fast but there are ways to distract oneself from dwelling on the cumulative amount of money we put into our saltwater tanks.
    naterock101 and jonmos75 like this.
  10. JAR

    JAR Supporting Member

    i wish i could do that in my office. the pendulum lights would swing and a lot of water would come out every time i hit the brakes:D
    naterock101 and Alex Uribe like this.
  11. denzil

    denzil Webmaster

    Looks like a great setup!

    One of these days I need to make a trip out to the City to chat with you and Alex. Shoot me your email so we can get something on the calendar. :)
    naterock101 and Alex Uribe like this.
  12. naterock101

    naterock101 Guest

    Hey everyone,

    Thought it was past time I got back to logging the tank's progress. Everything's coming along, and it's a constant struggle not to add more stuff!

    Tank Update 1 (April 29, 2015 - day 61)

    Tanks coming along! Heres a picture I took tonight:

    Screen Shot 2015-04-29 at 5.34.26 PM.png

    It's still super sparse but we've completed our cycle, and gotten everything up and running. Under the tank the sump is getting busy, we have a huge trash can full of RO water for top off and water changes and on the right you can see where we are testing a whole gamut of different probes for FishBit. And the chairs are still facing the wrong way :p

    One of the things I wanted to do with this thread was highlight our true costs so here goes...

    Additions to tank (costs):
    Sump float switch: $33.35
    Square wooden dowels and window screen for DIY tank tops: $11.44
    Hermit crabs: Had gotten a credit from returning part of the overflow tubing so these were free but calling it $10 for tracking purposes
    Seaweed: $7.06
    Seaweed clip: $7.16
    Blue Hippo: free (thanks @Jruga!)
    Chaeto: free (thanks @kris/ron!)

    Spend to date: ($1018.14) <----holy crap i'm still in trouble!
    percent on equipment (stand, tanks, chemicals, pumps, etc): 78.75% ($801.77)
    percent on life (sand and rock only so far): 21.25% ($216.37)

    *we have been able to offset some of the costs because we don't pay for electricity, water and have been graciously helped out with donations from you awesome people :)

    Tank infrastructure:
    Because I was worried about flooding, I put the return pump in sump on a float switch. You can see it here on the bottom left. I attached the float switch to a couple of pieces of scrap wood i had lying around to keep it in a place where it turns off before burning out the return pump and on again when the sump fills after a nice period of histerosis so it doesn't turn on/off rapidly.

    Screen Shot 2015-04-29 at 6.46.35 PM.png

    Well obviously since I took some precautions to not flood the place, i ended up...flooding the place :eek:. All human error of course. I had a small pump running some top off water into the tank and meant to turn it off after five minutes but then got distracted and added wayyy to much before realizing. No real damage other than to pride and had I kept the FishBit alpha in rather than taking it out to work on I would have been alerted!

    I also built a set of custom tank covers because when I used the glass covers that came with the tank they trapped quite a large amount of heat. Just used some wooden square dowels and window screen with some corners i cut up out of a really hard foam core that we use for quick CNC prototyping. I was worried they wouldn't have much structural integrity and fall apart but they are impressively stable.

    Screen Shot 2015-04-29 at 7.08.35 PM.png


    We cycled the tank by seeding the dry rock with some live rock from our 30, chaeto from Kris and Ron (thanks!) miracle mud in the sump and also some bacteria in a bottle. Saw the ammonia levels go up then down, nitrates go up and then after they got in order we decided to add some hermit crabs to the system for some life finally!

    Our buddy @Jruga was awesome enough to donate us a Blue hippo tang and the guys named him "DaBaDee" after the song that goes "I'm blue da ba dee da ba di" A bit of a weird fish to start with but i'm keeping a close eye on him. I realize that he will outgrow this tank soon enough and will find a good home for him then or .... upgrade - for his sake of course. He's a bit rough around the edges but so are we :cool:.

    Screen Shot 2015-04-29 at 7.04.34 PM.png

    Over time i'll add the contents of our 30 into this tank. Alex wants to try and see if we can grow GSP on the sand bed and emulate grass but I'm worried about the effort it will take to keep that from taking over the rocks and climbing up.

    FishBit testing:
    We are running this tank on a whole bunch of test boards that we have built out to test different solid state relays and how they handle different loads over time. We milled them on an Othermill and essentially control different aspects using a Spark Core.

    Screen Shot 2015-04-29 at 6.57.06 PM.png

    Because that would't be nearly enough testing we also made some test units to rapidly try out different relays on very high and different current draws and have started a few fires....:D. We've definitely shortened our list of usable components. Each one of the lights adds an additional ~2.08 amps and we can turn on any number between 1-7; I think at one point we got a triach to hit 150 degrees!

    Screen Shot 2015-04-29 at 7.01.28 PM.png

    We're also testing out a gamut of different probes in this tank as we shorten the different options to pick the best ones for FishBit:

    Screen Shot 2015-04-29 at 9.18.06 PM.png

    I'm not including these costs in our tank costs obviously so not having to buy a controller/monitor is another place we are saving on.

    That's it for now, as always if you want to check it out in person we would love to have you over and talk shop in Potrero Hill!

    Oh one more thing
    Building silly accessories:
    We stopped by Radioshack the other day since they were having a blowout sale and even though we don't know what we are going to build we bought some cool and ridiculous looking switches and LED's. Combined with some high torque/low power motors we have lying around we want to build something insanely awesome and silly :D:p:). The only idea we came up with so far is a switch that turns on an LED to signal that the fish have been fed so far today, every morning a fake finger that we can cut out of acrylic on the laser cutter would manually turn the switch off turning the LED off. However if you can come up with anything more awesome please tell us! Crazier and sillier the better :) even if its completely useless :D building bells and whistles around a tank is just plain fun!

    till next time BAR!

    Enderturtle likes this.
  13. Jruga

    Jruga Guest

    SWEET! Love the way it's coming together (and yes, still working on trapping the Blenny, Cardinal and Clowns - it's a bitch taking fish out of an established reef!) Can't wait to see how it grow's out!

    A comment on the "heat trapping cover" - have you tried TAP Plastics on Van Ness? They have some wonderful sheets of plastic mesh (cheap) with 1/8" or 1/16" holes that is transparent - makes an awesome tank cover because it's like the screen over your windows - doesn't block light and won't trap heat! (also the same place I got my carbon fiber rods that I used to glue together my rock shelf work -- someday I'll update my tank thread with pics and how to...).

    The is totally awesome! Same base I'm using to build my differential flow sensor for my chiller system (wish I could find more examples of how to code the hall effect sensors I just received... will have to make do for now).
    Alex Uribe and naterock101 like this.
  14. Enderturtle

    Enderturtle Volunteer

    I think it's interesting the different types of people there are in this hobby. The tinkerers/developers and the plug-n-play people and all those in between.

    This looks promising, look forward to hearing more about your controller.
    naterock101, jonmos75 and Geneva like this.
  15. naterock101

    naterock101 Guest

    @Jruga definitely want to see pics of the carbon rod shelf building! And thanks again for the blue tang and other help. Let us know when you finish the differential flow sensor, if its on a spark we can build it into the fishbit app for you :) and make it a "card" on the main screen on just yours.

    @Enderturtle yeah this hobby has them all, it makes for a fun time and just another way in which everyones take is different.
    Enderturtle and Alex Uribe like this.

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