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         A Tour Of The Fish Room


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 well.

A little about the fish room walls

Here's a pic of the room before we started finishing it as "the fish room".

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 with 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 construction adhesive:

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 12 panels:

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 water proof.

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 stuff begins

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 sink.

At this point the RO/DI unit had already been installed, as had the salt and fresh water storage tanks.

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 display tank
  • 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 humidistat
  • a chiller unit
  • various filters, UV unit, ozone generator, computerized controller
  • shelving, shelving, shelving

How it looks now

One of the first things completed was the installation of the RO/DI panel:

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 utility sink:

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 during installation:

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 a humidistat:

It controls a 240cfm inline exhaust fan (FanTech 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 my 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 stand:

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 angle:

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 Pro:

and the 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, etc.:

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 acclimation apparatus":

Just an overview of the left side of the room. You can partially see the supplement dosing station under the far end of the table:

Here's a better view of the dosing station:

The dual Reeflo Orca 250 Pro skimmers are located just to the right of the tank:

UPDATE (10/31/2010): 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 blown 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:



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bill stine says...
"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:"

I love the look of those with the 3 x 1 1/2 reducers, any way to get a parts list? I got a bit confused as I was piecing one together from memory on a trip to home depot last night, more specifically the inner workings hidden inside the reducer. Or did you grind out the stop so the pipe slides all the way thru the reducer?

By the way, I am so jelous! This whole website is very inspirational Cool


20th August 2012 10:46pm
Juan Siekavizza says...
Thanks Tom :)
I love the BeanAnimal's system, it sure works great and there is almost no noise coming out of it.

Keep us updated as your tank is one of the most beautiful Reef system I have seen, not to mention your DIY Skills.

30th May 2011 11:23pm
Juan Siekavizza says...
Tom, as offered here is a quick picture of the fishroom 90% finished, just need a couple of more thing and I'm done, but mainly this is how it looks:


You've inspired me with your tank and setup, thank you for that Grin

GlassReef: Very impressive Juan. You are well on your way to a great setup! I like the way you managed to get all your Apex components situated together. Mine are a little too spread about for my liking. How do you like your BeanAnimal/Herbie overflow?
26th May 2011 2:41pm
Juan Siekavizza says...
Thank you very much Tom, once everything is ready I will post a pic or two Smile
10th March 2011 2:47pm
Juan Siekavizza says...
Tom, your fishroom is really inspirational, I'm just finishing mine which has almost same specs as yours, hope you don't mind copying some (most LOL) of your ideas ConfusedLaugh
GlassReef: Hi Juan. I wouldn't mind, at all. I hope everything goes well in your project. It would be great if you'd post a pic or two when you've finsihed.
3rd March 2011 12:11pm

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