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       A Little About The Original Design

The design of the Glass Reef and its support system started even before I began designing the new house that was going to make the realization of the whole thing possible. I guess you could say that I've been designing my "ultimate reef system" for years. I knew I wanted a fairly large tank - around 400 gallons. I wanted enough room to house a full support layout comfortably, with frag tank, refugium, water storage area, etc.  That meant a separate fish room.

System Overview

The Glass Reef consists of the main display tank, a sump, and a separate refugium and a frag tank. The sump is located under the display tank. Water circulation between the sump and the display tank is handled a Reeflo Dart Gold circulation pump. A refugium and frag tank are located along the wall opposite the display tank - here also, the return will be by a Dart Gold. Water for the system is processed through an RO/DI with booster pump. Water storage is in two 65gal ACE Roto-Mold tanks - one for RO/DI top off and one for saltwater mixing. Lighting is a combination of Metal Halide and T5. An adapted form of the Balling Method is used for calcium/alkalinity/magnesium maintenance. I have found this method allows for very precise control of the most important water parameters. Skimming is handled by two Reeflo Orca 250 Pros, each with a custom needle wheel and collection cup. An Apex Controller from Neptune is in charge of controlling the systems hardware. Water is currently being chilled via a Teco 1/3HP chiller, which will soon be exchanged for an 8000BTU split design chiller.

Fish Room

 I ensured that the new house had a room dedicated to the Glass Reef. We placed it at one end of the family room. It turned out to be 18ft X  7-1/2ft       (which turned out to be a little narrow - but we made it work).

I made sure there was:

  • a floor drain
  • running hot and cold water with utility sink
  • ceiling exhaust fan (FanTec) connected to an humidistat to control humidity
  • conduits through the back (outside) wall for power and AC lines to be connected to a split system chiller
  • an electrical subpanel with two 30A circuits

Display Tank



  • all glass - 96' L x 36' W x 25' H
  • front pane Starphire
  • approx. 375 gallons
  • external coast to coast overflow (no teeth) with three 1-½" drain bulkheads (BeanAnimal/Herbie design)
  • 5" Euro bracing
  • 3/16" thick black acrylic covering the inside of the back pane to hide the overflow box

Internal flow: 4X Tunze 6205 streams attached to the Apex controller. The 6205's are a brand new model. I chose to go with the streams instead of a closed loop because I wanted to avoid the "plumbing chaos" that can result when a loop is employed.

The tank was built by in Edmonton, Alberta (Canada). Randy Cameron, the owner, was invaluable in helping me with the design.


      Sump (DIY):


  • cast acrylic, 3/8" - 48' L x 24' W x 16' H
  • 3" Euro bracing - 75 gallons
  • 3 baffle bubble trap and room for two filter socks
  • intake area has two 1" bulkheads for the skimmer feed pumps
  • return section has two 2" bulkheads for the Dart pumps feeding the display and the fuge/frag tanks

       Refugium (DIY):

  • cast acrylic, 3/8 - 48' L x 18' W x 16' H
  • 3" Euro bracing - 50 gallons
  • internal overflow with dual 1-1/2" Hofer Gurgle Buster overflow pipes

       Frag tank (DIY):

  • cast acrylic, 48' L x 18' W x 16' H - 50 gallons
  • 3" Euro bracing - 75 gallons
  • internal overflow with dual 1-1/2" Hofer Gurgle Buster overflow pipes


      Light rack (DIY):


  • frame constructed out of special 1" square aluminum tubing with fiberglass composite connection fittings
  • suspended from the ceiling on stainless steel chain
  • entire rack is moveable, front to back, 36" - this clears sufficient "work room" for tank access
  • 4 Lumen Bright (20") reflectors



  • 4 CoralVue dimmable 400W electronic metal halide ballasts
  • 4 400W ReefLux 12K SE metal halide bulbs
  • eight 36" T5 retro assemblies ( - six ATI Blue + and two FM Fiji Purple
  • 5 lamp set of moon lights (Lunar Simulator module by Neptune Systems)

Filtration, Etc.



  • 2X Reeflo Orca 250 Pro with a Dart Gold pump custom collection cup and needle wheel
  • fed by 2 Eheim 1262 circulation pumps - water is taken from sump's return section
  • 1 skimmer is fed with 200mgh of ozone

       GAC/GFO, etc.:

  • dual canister filter for GAC and GFO
  • 6" dia. DIY fluidized filter for 3 liters of bio-pellets



  • Typhoon III 5 stage 75GPD unit from
  • booster pump (AquaTec 8800) with pressure shutoff switch
  • DIY ATO for the raw RO/DI water reservoir

System Controller

  • Apex Controller from Neptune Systems - with temperature, pH, ORP, and conductivity probes
  • 1 PM2 extension module
  • 1 DC8, 2 EB-8s, and 1 DC4HD
  • 1 digital controller for wireless PC network connectivity
  • iNet interface to allow on-line remote control of system

Calcium/Alk/Magnesium Dosing

Dosing (in this case, following the Balling Method) is handle by 3 peristaltic pumps connected to electronic timers.



Stuart C. says...
Tom, thanks for the response.
Good to hear you are satisfied with the IO.
I do have a few follow up questions on the UV however.

I like the theory of using the UV on the return side but I am wondering how you regulate the amount of water passing through vs bypass? I'm making the assumption that a valve or two is involved but how do you estimate the amount actually running though the UV if this is the case?

Do you feel the UV adds much heat to the system?

Also do you have the UV shut down automatically if your main return pump is not running?

Oh and yes two thumbs up for BRS, I'd hate to consider a large system without them.

Best Regards Wink

GlassReef: Stu, regarding the UV setup. Sorry for the misunderstanding, I shouldn't have used the term manifold - it's acually just a True-Union valve that allows me to, fairly accurately, control the amount of water pumped to the frag/fuge tanks. I originally set it to 600gph using a flow meter (which I can't leave permenantly attached as it contained a couple of brass parts). Now, every 6 months, or so, I check the flow by ensuring that a 5 gallon bucket is filled within 30 and 40 seconds. The Dart pump accepts flow control very well, with no damage.

I'm sure the UV contributes heat to the system, but the amount is so small that I've never noticed a rise in temperature.

The UV unit shares control (via Neptune Apex) with the Dart return pump and the chiller - that is, all three pieces of equipment are plugged in to a shared 12A outlet on a DC8. If there's juice, they are all on - no juice, they're all off.
27th October 2010 10:19am
Stuart C. says...
Wow, sorry about the spelling (typing) in that last post.
Sort of makes me cringe. Unsure
Oh well, it gives me a chance to ask another question. How is the IO working out? I've been using it for myself but have been considering jumping up to something with a higher Ca and Mg content as I feel like I need to add a great deal of both to maintain the apparent needs of my system. I'm wondering if you are satisfied or if you think the added cost of Reef Crystals for example may be worth the reduced dosing.


GlassReef: First - as for your spelling - what can we expect from ourselves at one o'clock in the morning?

On the subject of Instant Ocean salt - I have not noticed any downside to using IO. The change from Tropic Marin Pro has not caused any problems, that I have been able to detect. I attribute the fact that I use both a continual 24 hours a day water change system and an automated supplement system for Alk, Ca, and Mg, that any discrepancies in chemical content, between the two salts, have not caused any fluctuations in my water parameters. As to whether the extra cost of Reef Crystals would be justified - if you've automated the dosing of supplements, I would have to say no. The cost of the supplements needed from places like is minimal.
26th October 2010 12:08am
Stuart C. says...
Tom. You never fail to impress. I have followed your build on RC since the beginning but only recenlty learned of you web site. Well done on all counts!!

Above all else I'd like to thank you for being such a patient teacher. You have been a great help to myself and many others.

Enough flatterly I don't want to make you blush. Tongue

I do want to ask you about the Emperor Aquatics 80W HO UV unit which I recenly re-discovered in your RC thread. I have been less than satisfied with my quarantine setup and seemed to remember that you had used a UV unit so I went searching and found the pic you had posted. At the time I just wanted to see what brand you had chosen. I was surpised to see that your UV was sized such that it could handle your entire system volume and not just the QT. Would you run down the history and method of implementation for the unit and your QT?

Thanks again.

GlassReef: Hi Stu. Thanks for the compliments on the website. They're much appreciated.

To your question on the UV unit I installed in the system: I have always employed a UV dimensioned for my systems, as a whole. My reasoning is that sufficient UV light incorporated strategically within the system can go a long way toward helping to control the spread of pathogens such a bacteria and protozoa.

In my current system, strategically meant attaching the UV unit to a manifold located along the main return line from the frag/fuge tanks to the central sump. This ensures that no water enters the sump from outlying tanks without being treated with UV.

My calculations regarding the required size of the unit to be employed are based on the fact that protozoa are the most difficult pathogens to kill. While bacteria and algae can be destroyed with a little as 30,000 µWs/cm² , 6 times as much (180,000 µWs/cm² ) is required to kill protozoa such as marine Ich (Cryptocaryon irritans). That makes 180,000 µWs/cm² the dose to aim for. The Emperor Aquatics 80W Smart HO model manages that at a water flow rate of 450gals to 600gals per hour. Perfect for my requirements.

As to my QT setup, I have a 40gal glass tank. If I feel it to be necessary, I have an 8 watt UV that I can employ.
25th October 2010 11:42pm
Lee D says...
Tom, the website is coming along wonderfully.
GlassReef: Thanks, Lee. Glad you like it. Hope your project is on track.
7th October 2010 8:55pm

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