Jump to content

440g Custom Starphire Metal-framed Reef Dropoff Tank


Recommended Posts

Yup, folks, this is gonna be a big 'un.

Okay, guys and gals... So, now that my days of deploying to wonderful vacation spots like Iraq, Afghanistan, Korea, or other godforsaken third-world countries are behind me, I can now start to plan and design and build in earnest, especially since my wonderful fiancée has given me the green light to start building a custom dream tank. Well, pseudo-dream tank, that is. My TRUE dream tank would require scuba gear to clean and service. LOL

I recently posted about the custom DIY plywood/Starphire reef tank that my better half agreed to let me build, inspired by this tank here:


That inspiration lead to this design here, which I planned to construct out of plywood and Starphire glass:


Well, anyway, earlier today I was laying out the size of the tank in what will eventually be the fish room, and Wendy (my better half) says, "You know, it just seems like it's missing something. Have you thought about making it longer, or L-shaped?". Yes, folks, I've got the Holy Grail of "fish wives", one who not only puts up with me wanting to go bigger with my tank, but one who actively suggests it!!

So, after playing around with a few different redesigns, I've kind of rejected the L-shaped tank for the way it fit in the room, and decided to instead widen and lengthen the tank, so that now we're looking at the following design:




The theme/idea is still a reef drop off, but widened to 48 inches in width, dropped an inch to 35" in height (at the deep portion) to fit through the front door, and lengthened to 84" of tank swimming space. The deeper portion of the drop off is 48"w X 35"h X 36"l, and the shallow portion is 48"w X 17"h X 48"l, for a total volume of about 440 gallons in the main tank. I'm looking to use the large amount of real estate below the tank for a large sump, refugium, frag tank, and a couple of quarantine tanks.

Right now, I'm looking at having the stand and structural portions of the tank made out of 2" squared steel, with 1.5" steel L-angle iron for the portions that the glass will butt up against, sealed with silicone against the steel and sealed on the inside of the glass, as well. I'm looking to use 3/4" low iron glass for all viewable panes, and 3/4" regular glass for all non-viewing portions of the tank. The steel will all be powder coated gloss black, and I'm looking to have a custom stand cover made in a gloss piano black-type finish. I've even thought of going with a metallic black automotive finish for the stand/canopy. I saw one guy here on RC that had his tank done with an automotive white finish and it was BEAUTIFUL.

Suffice to say, Wendy will have final say on 99% of all this, since (as they say) "If mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy", but so far it sounds like she's pretty happy about the whole thing, and so am I!

Right now for flow I'm planning on using 2x MP60s on the upper portion, and 2x MP40s on the lower portion. I haven't decided on a return pump(s) or a skimmer, so if anyone has any suggestions on ones for a tank of this size, let me know. I've honestly never thought I'd be getting/building/having built a tank this size, so haven't done too much research for equipment for one of this size.

Lighting will be LEDs, a full custom build, designed to mimic sunrise/sunset and the travels of the sun across the sky, casting shadows along the long axis of the tank. I had a decent beginning of a design, but now that Wendy gave me the thumbs up for a larger tank, I've got to go back to the drawing board. I'll post design sketches for the lighting here shortly.

So, with all that being said, anyone have any thoughts, ideas, comments, or suggestions on what I've posted so far? See anything I've missed, or any ways to improve the design so far? Anything I've gotten wrong? Any issues with using a steel frame like I've designed it?

Thanks in advance for all your comments and suggestions, and wish me luck as we begin the (OMG unbelievably long) build and design process. I just want to hurry up and get it built and wet, dammit! LOL

What do you guys think of the Royal-Exclusiv Alpha 300 Cone or the Super Reef Octopus XP 8000 Internal Cone for a tank of this size, considering a pretty heavy bioload, large amounts of SPS, and multiple anemones? Any other suggestions, skimmer-wise?

Here's the tank frame and stand, and the cutout to allow a taller skimmer:




No, the stand and frame won't be red, they'll be gloss powdercoated black.

Anyone know of a good custom tankbuilder in the DFW/Austin/Central Texas area who could help with the construction phase once the frame and stand are all welded together? Speaking of which, anyone know a good welder?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Very cool tank design!

I also have a 440 gallon, you might check out my build thread (440 gallon water-cooled lighting) for some sizing ideas and some of the hurdles we had. My wife is cool with the tank too and that helped a lot. Congrats on that.

The biggest piece of advice I could give you is a general idea of what its going to cost you time and money because I was shocked after it was over looking back. I worked about 400 hrs on just the build over three months and still have to spend at least 6-8 hrs a week just with upkeep. I'm not trying to discourage you at all, but had I known what I was getting in to before starting I probably would have gone a bit smaller. But do I regret it now that the build is over....no way! I would rather not post what I spent but if you are curious at all send me a pm. You are welcome to come out and see my tank if you want.

The vortechs alone will not be enough IME, I had 5 vortech mp40's and still had to add 2 tunze waveboxes to get the water moving (was able to reduce to 3 vortechs). Also you will need more room than what you have underneath the tank. I used a closet and all of the underneath of my tank and I BARELY had room for everything.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks, everyone. Yeah, Hydro Innovations, I just read your build thread before I posted the start of this thread. Good looking setup, man. Trust me when I say I'm going into this well aware of the time and money implications of a tank of this size. My time off (what little it was) over my last deployment was mostly spent surfing and reading everything I could get my hands on, and I've actually got a spreadsheet with each and every cost, down to the bulkheads and PVC, plus a huge amount of "wiggle room" for changes in costs due to inflation, fuel costs, etc. I'm not worried about the Starphire, I had a Starphire tank before and absolutely loved it. Like all glass it will scratch if you're not careful, but it's a helluva lot harder to mess up than acrylic, IMHO.

I'd love to come out and see your setup, man. What's your schedule like?

As far as flow, I've been really impressed with what I've seen of the MP60s, but if need be I'll supplement them. I'm just not a fan of the back-and-forth movement of the waveboxes, I mean, they do a GREAT job of creating water movement, but I don't really care for the movement they give (if that makes sense). Also, I'm not too worried about having room under the tank for what I want under there; I know I'll have room for a good sized sump, refugium, small frag growout tank, a couple of QT tanks, and some dosers, plus room for my controller, with room to spare. I'm not concerned about a chiller or heat exchanger, with LEDs I shouldn't be putting nearly as much heat into the tank as with MH. My saltwater making station and RODI unit will be out in the garage, with a hose from there into the house for delivery of the new water (much easier than hefting 5 gallon jugs or trashcans on wheels).

All in all, I think it should all work out pretty nicely.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've honestly never thought I'd be getting/building/having built a tank this size, so haven't done too much research for equipment for one of this size.

You have done lots of homework is sounds like. I read this above and just wanted to make sure you knew what you were getting in to! My tank is at my office and I'm there m-f 10-5, just let me know when. If you aren't looking for a wave then your the vortechs you mentioned would probably be fine.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Speaking of which, anyone know a good welder?

I do know a good welder actually. My neighbor has his own machine shop and he is reasonably priced, with dimensional drawings he should be able to give you a quote. If you make your way out here I'll introduce you guys. He worked in civilian security in iraq for a few years so you guys already have something in common :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

sick idea for the tank man! reminds me of the georgia aquarium pacific barrier reef set up.. you have no idea how bad i wanted to hop in that display with some scuba gear when i was on the behind the scenes tour! haha and lucky your finance is supportive of the hobby cause my girlfriend just called me obesessed last night thumbsdown.gif but good luck and cant wait to watch your thread!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

LOL Roll Tide Reef, she's supportive, but hey, she still calls me obsessed, too, so it's kind of a wash. LOL At least she's supportive of my obsession! LOL Yeah, I know what you mean about that setup at the Georgia Aquarium, that place is just sick!

Thanks for the all compliments, guys. I think it's gonna be pretty awesome. Olaggie, nope, it's not Troylee's tank, his was only viewable from one side; that tank is an aquarist from the Netherlands. Both of those tanks (as well as the one from Bello on RC) are all pretty awesome.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks, Aaarrrggg!

So a bit more info: The rock structure will be live rock with a PVC substructure, covered in pond foam and formed Polygem Zoopoxy #307 LITE and custom latex press molds to give the appearance of actual live rock. I'm going to have the pieces cut on a CNC waterjet to ensure accuracy of ±.003" and perfectly leveled cuts on each axis.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...