The main hindrance to having
a large saltwater tank in a private home,
is the fact that there is so much
equipment necessary to maintain
it correctly. Way to much equipment
to fit into a "normal" living room,
for instance. One of the best solutions
to the problem is placing the display
tank in a centrally positioned wall
and constructing a space behind
the wall to house the support systems.
As in all things related to a
hobby - the bigger the better. When
we had our house designed, I made
sure the architect understood exactly
what I was looking for. The wall
where the tank was to be placed
was on the "long" end of the living
room. That gave us 18 feet of space
behind the tank. Enough room to
allow the placement of the tank,
an entrance door to the fish room,
and still leave sufficient space
at each end of the tank to hold
equipment such as skimmers, etc.
I decided to make the fish room only
7-1/2 feet deep. I felt sure that
that would be enough room - at the
square foot price of housing these
days, I didn't want to go overboard.
Well, if I'm honest, the 7-1/2 feet
is a little too narrow. All in all,
though, everything worked out pretty
A little about the fish room walls
Here's a pic of the room before
we started finishing it as "the
You can see the contractor tried
to do us a favor and closed in the
hole in the wall for the tank and
textured and painted the walls.
He said it would look nicer until
the aquarium was there. Meant a
little more work to tear it back
out, but it wasn't too bad.
I decided to cover the walls
FRP (I think that stands for
Fiberglass Reinforced Plastic).
I wanted to make the room as "waterproof"
as possible. The FRP comes in 4'
X 8' sheets. They make plastic rivets
to attach it to the walls, but I
decided to use a special water-based
It worked real well. Only problem
was, it took a heck of a lot to
finish the room. I thought this
was going to be enough to do all
In the end, it took 4 times as
much. The installation of the FRP
was very easy. The panels are joined
using a variety of plastic channels:
In any case, the end result turned
out real well. The surface can be
scrubbed clean and, with the addition
of a little silicon along the joining
channels, the walls are close to
I covered the cement floor with
a good grade of sheet vinyl. It
looks decent and will last forever.
I had a floor drain installed in
the middle of the room:
If I had it to do over, I would
place it under the display tank
- near the sump. I think I also
used the wrong kind of drain. It's
a normal shower type drain. Should
have used a more "industrial" drain
where the grate can be easily removed.
And the fun
Here's a pic that was taken just
after the covering of the walls
with the FRP had been completed.
You can see the utility sink I installed
at the left end (looking out toward
the living room) of the room. You'll
see in later pic that the tank will
be to the right - in front of the
At this point the
had already been installed, as had
the salt and fresh
All in all, my plan was for the
fish room to hold:
- the display tank on it's
stand with an 8 foot moveable
light rack above
- a 75 gallon sump below the
- a 50 gallon frag tank and
75 gallon refugium placed one
above the other
- salt and fresh water storage
tanks - 65 gallons each
- a complete RO/DI unit with
booster pump and automated fresh
water tank topoff
- the utility sink
- two large skimmers (Reeflo
250 Pro models)
- a 7 foot long work bench
- an electrical sub-panel
with 2 30 amp circuits
- an exhaust fan system with
- various filters, UV unit,
ozone generator, computerized
- shelving, shelving, shelving
How it looks
One of the first things completed
was the installation of the RO/DI
I installed a shelf above it.
It's a good place to keep filters
and such that aren't being used
at the moment.
The RO/DI panel holds a five
stage RO unit with additional sediment
filter before the pressure booster
pump. It has dual 75 gallon per
day FilmTec membranes and dual DI
filters. Our water comes from from
our own well. It has a total dissolved
salt (TDS) content of about 190ppm.
The RO/DI unit always manages to
get it down to zero TDS.
The water storage and preparation
area is made up of two 65 gallon
Ace Roto-Mold storage tanks:
The tank on the left holds saltwater,
the other is RO/DI water. The tanks
are plumbed in a way that allows
transfer of contents in any direction
- from one tank to another, or externally.
The RO/DI tank is kept filled automatically
by an ATO (automated top-off). The
saltwater tank is mixed for 15 minutes
every three hours by a 1200gal per
hour pressure rated pump.
Here's the wet area around the
As you can see, it's where I
keep all the cleaning utensils,
etc. Note that there is a dirty
filter sock drying in the sink.
Once it's dry it'll be placed in
the bucket to be washed in bleach
before being re-used.
Here's the electrical sub-panel
It has two 30Amp circuits, one
of which is dedicated to the light
rack (8 X 39W T-5s, 4 X 400W metal
halides, moon lights, fans, etc.).
The contraption, on the right, is
It controls a 240cfm inline exhaust
FR-150) located in the attic.
The fan draws heat and humidity
out of the fish room (the vent is
located in the ceiling) and exhausts
it into the open.
I use an
automated water changing system.
It's located on a shelf, just above
the water storage tanks, to the
right of the back wall:
I got the clamp light (located
on the right) as illumination for
refractometer when I measure
the specific gravity (salinity)
of the tank water. I've found that
the normal, ambient, light causes
errors in the readings I obtain.
Here are the
refugium (75 gallons, 48" W
X 24" D X 16" H) and the
frag tank (50 gallons, 48" W
X 24" D X 12" H). The refugium is
on top of the
The room below the stand provides
plenty of needed space for salt,
supplement chemicals, and the like.
Both tanks have two 1-1/2" drain
pipes. I've used the
Hofer Gurgle Buster design.
I find that it is extremely reliable,
for tanks in this size range, and
is very quiet:
Here are the drain pipes from
the above. Notice the clear plastic
tubes coming out of the caps. These
can be adjusted up and down. The
adjustment varies the amount of
air sucked into the drain pipe.
When correctly adjusted, the drains
are totally silent.
The plumbing from the frag/fuge
tanks to the sump under the display
tank consists of a 2" PVC drain
pipe and a 1-1/2" return pipe. Both
pipes follow the walls from the
left of the display tank to the
frag/fuge stand. Notice the PVC
pipe coming through the wall.
That will be used, later, for a
split unit chiller - where the compressor
unit is outside (the back of the
room is an external wall):
Just a tip. If you need to attach
PVC pipes to walls, etc., get yourself
some of these
self closing pipe
clamps. They're great! You just
press the pipe into the clamp -
it clicks shut - and your done.
Plus, they're rock solid:
There is some of the plumbing
leading to and from the frag/fuge
tanks. All connections have ball
valves so that flow may be shut
off for maintenance, etc.:
Here is the plumbing from another
This is the work table area located
along the back wall of the room.
The table is 7 feet long and,
in addition to providing an often
used work space, holds a laptop,
which is wirelessly connected to
the Neptune Apex Controller. Sorry,
the pic shows the controller status
page from the previous controller
model - the Aqua-Controller III
Mettler P163 scales. I got the
Mettler off eBay very cheaply. -
I wanted it because, although
they are analog not digital, they
are accurate to a 1000th of a gram!
I use them for mixing supplements,
trace elements, calibration fluids,
The shelf above the table contains
some storage drawers, the food mixing
area, and water testing paraphernalia.
The storage drawers are great
- being all plastic, they never
rust, are lightweight, and provide
a lot of storage space for all the
small items needed:
The food mixing area contains
a small electric mixer, a mortar
and pestle, mixing containers, etc.
The water testing area holds
all the test kits I use to ensure
my water is always within the correct
aparameters. Most of my kits are
either from LaMotte or Elos.
The next pic is a view of the
back of the display tank, seen from
the right. You can see the overflow
and return pipes. Notice I integrated
a little shelf for dry foods, etc.
You can just see the sump, below
the display tank:
Here's a view from the other
end. You can see the overflow box
and the AquaController III Pro I
used to have. The looped tubing
hanging on the tank is my "new inhabitant
Just an overview of the left
side of the room. You can partially
supplement dosing station under
the far end of the table:
Here's a better view of the dosing
Reeflo Orca 250 Pro skimmers
are located just to the right of
There has been a new addition to
my skimmers. I have installed an
automated neck cleaner (the
Swabbie) made by Avast Marine
Works. I actually did a full
review of the Swabbie.
This is my info board, where
I keep test results, supplement
formulas, and various knick knacks
my wife has given me:
And finally, the entire fish room
as seen from the entrance doorway: