Michael's 168 build


Supporting Member
Hello Everyone,

My name is Michael and this is my tank journal.

I got into aquariums in approximately 2015 when I sold my crested geckos and decided to move from reptiles to fish. I wanted to incorporate a salt water reef tank into my home for quite a long time, so when my remodel became a reality, I decided to start a 13.5 AIO "trainer" tank at my parents house, but for me to learn on. That tank is still running today but is another story. My general contractor/friend has installed a tank in the bedroom with a one way mirror so that the reef can be seen from both sides, but the bedroom could not be seen from the living area. Unfortunately, I could not do exactly this, but was able to find a place where the tank can act as as a visual pass through in one of the walls in a peninsula style of tank. I studied lots of systems at local stores and decided a custom tank was required to optimize the design of the house, while ensuring a clean and finished look. We decided that given the costs, and that we could fabricate mostly anything on site, that a painted steel stand would best serve the long term goals of the tank.

We measured the space we had and designed the tank that would fit the space.

I did the CAD for the steel stand, leaving ~4" of space for the ghost overflow.


Crystal Dynamics was the tank manufacturer.


We ordered 1/4" thick, 2" square steel tubing oversized to my house, and bribed my EE friend to come over and hook up his welder.



Buy harbor freight if you need it once or twice, buy better if you need it a lot. Yes, I got sunburn/weld burn on my exposed arm. But no other injuries.


We used white appliance paint to coat the steel.


Added nice plywood to the top and base to support the tank and the sump. We also made a dedicated breaker for the aquarium as well as 8 outlets on high gauge wire. I thought that would be enough (and with power strips, it is). Pro tip, make friends with your electrician, and tell him early what you are trying to do.


Now in comes the tank


And apparently, you can only attach 10 files, so here we go onto the next one.
Last edited:


Supporting Member

Tank is in place and ready for cabinetry.


Added shower pan liner to the bottom for waterproofing, because spills happen.


The cabinet doors were extra from the remodel because the cabinet makers made a batch of doors too tall for the kitchen, but they worked great here. I chose to go with a crushed coral bottom and dry reef rock. The sump was made by ocean flex. I had to wait an extra few weeks because I wanted the flow to go from right to left with a front facing sump.


Dec 2018

We completed plumbing using a Vectra L1 pump. I was not going to get dozens of buckets from the LFS, so here we see the middle of a two day fill of RODI. One of the LFS owners tried to sell me on needing 2x ap700's from day 1, which I bought, then returned one unopened because it seemed excessive this early, and expensive.


I seeded the tank with some live rock from the previously mentioned 13.5.


We wanted the bubble tip anemone out of the small tank because it was stinging other coral, so here it is with some mushrooms and zoas.


Dragon Faced Pipe fish and Yellow Tail Blue Damsel

I did not know the horrors of damsels and was told that with a tank my size "things would be fine" by the same guy who tried to sell me 2x ap700's. They were wrong on this one too. My damsel was an aggressor and didn't stop until I trapped and donated them back to the LFS. I lost a few fish to what I believe was stress from this guy, because once I returned him, the mysterious deaths stopped.


Here is a view from the front door. I started adding pieces I could get for affordable off of craigslist and some small frags from the LFS.
Last edited:


Supporting Member

Jan 2019

A Vertex Omega 180I open box deal sounded like a great deal, and really it has been a good skimmer over the last couple years. I also quickly found the need for an ATO. I went for a optical sensor one as to not drill into my sump. I also knew the importance of a battery backup early on, so I ordered one, and a second one appeared, so I have 2 now. I also tried to organize the wiring, and didn't do a terrible job here.


Added a pistol shrimp, who is very loud.


March 2019

I knew I didn't want to do water changes on a tank this big, so I upgraded my dosing and ATO setup. I am a big fan of these Bubble Magnus dosing pumps. I set the mL/day, and it doses it in automagically (yes, magic) spread out doses.


I tried some LPS and some sps frags, as well as this tube worm. You can see some red and green blastos that I also got when I got the plate and hammer corals.


Added some fish and inverts.


The mushroom leather came from my parents tank, and the green sinularia came from a local reefer.


Supporting Member

Feb 2019


This pistol shrimp and watchman goby combination are extremely active, and fun to watch.


July 2019
You can see the head on of my Two Bar Rabbit Fish and my Yellow Tang, these are two of my oldest fish besides the Watchman goby. Also, the blastos are not looking good (its ok, happy ending ahead)


August 2019

Time to up the game again, adding a drop shelf with polycarbonate and all-thread, to my back yard screwed together dosing container shelf made from Ikea table legs and a scrap 1x4. Note that the dosing container on the right, I moved away from as the alkalinity ate through the plastic.


October 2019

Learning more and adding trace element dosing with boss/sub Bubble Magnus pump configs using Red Sea A/B/C/D trace elements. After running through different bottles at different rates, I learned that these do not dose at exactly the same volume relative to each other. To remedy this, I rotate the tubes between trace element solution monthly and give a thorough RODI rinse between to help prevent precipitation. I also switched to HDPE dosing containers which would not dissolve over time from the alkalinity solution.


And two weeks later, I found some scrap 8020, and some more polycarbonate and made a better than Ikea shelf for my dosing containers. You can take a torch to the edge of polycarbonate and melt it to give it the finished glass look I have here. The rest of the attachment pieces I pieced together to make it fit around my ATO container, so it is supported by the steel frame on 2 sides and by legs on the other 2.


Here are some anemone shrimp thanking me for the hard engineering and fabrication I put in under their home.


October 2019
The Two Bar Rabbit Fish has grown a lot!


Supporting Member
The tank looks great - even better in person! It’s really quite the set up from design to implementation. Excited to watch you evolve it.