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90 Gallon Cube

Uncle Fish

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Back in March I purchased this Marineland 90 gallon off of the forums. I have a Biocube and had been wanting to upgrade to a larger tank for a while. I never considered a larger cube and instantly fell in love with this tank. I was in the middle of some home improvement stuff I needed to finish before setting this puppy up, which left me lots of time for research. I decided to start with the following setup:

Ecotech Radion XR30W GEN2

Fishy Business 20G High Sump

Mag 18 Return

Reef Octopus NWB150

Two Little Fishies Reactor 150

300w Aqueon Heater

Polario 4ML Powerhead

80 lbs Caribsea Special Grade Reef Sand

20 lbs BRS Pukani Dry Rock

10 lbs BRS Fiji Dry Rock

30 lbs Private Fiji/Pukani Dry Rock

20 lbs Established Live Rock

45 lbs Live Rock from Current Biocube

Perfecto Glass Canopy

I decided to redo the plumping so I needed to remove the old bulkheads. My plan was two 1" drains and 3 3/4" hang on back returns. I considered drilling the back and using locline but I really like the lower profile HOB returns.

This being my first build of this magnitude, I had Shane help me with the drain/bulkhead situation. I started with this cup design.

I really like the way the sump turned out. The skimmer barely fit in that sucker! After reading Bio's build thread, I decided to build my own manifold for the return too. I did 3 3/4" ball valves for the returns, 1 1/2" valve for the reactor, an extra 1/2" return for future needs, and a 1/2" return back into the sump to relieve any potential back pressure on the Mag 18. I may end up running gfo and carbon in separate reactors, to start with they both went into the Two Little Fishies reactor.

At this point I learned exactly how much water 1800 gph really is. The first time I built the manifold, I used threaded nipples between the tees and the ball vales. I was assured they would be able to handle the pressure, and have been assured since that this was a freak accident. So, I fire up the Mag 18 and for about 15 seconds everything is fine, just long enough for me to put my guard down. Then, BANG! Water everywhere.

The last 1/2" nipple failed spectacularly into pieces, unleashing the furry of my Mag 18. Like I said, this is my first build of this magnitude so my response was delayed by my astonishment at what had just happened. It took me another 10 or so seconds to realize that I needed to unplug the Mag to make this stop. Fortunately I had a 12 gallon wet/dry vac sitting there empty for this very reason. I filled it. I began to really appreciate the simplicity of the Biocube.

I took the opportunity to condense the manifold a little so it could be removed without disconnecting the drain it used to wrap around. I also used slip everything. The only threaded anything is the barbs at the business end of the ball valves.

The new one performed beautifully, it was time to focus on my next problem.

I am also very happy with the special grade reef sand. I went back and forth a bit between it and the Fiji Pink. After looking at the Fiji Pink in one of the tanks at RCA, I bought 80 lbs of the reef special grade. If you use this stuff, please take the extra time to rinse it well. I did a quick rinse the first time and paid for it later. I ended up having to pull it all out and rinsing it a second time, also having to dump the 90 gallons of RO I had fouled up. After rinsing it in small batches with a strainer, there was maybe a couple cups of very fine material left in my rinse bucket, it was well worth whatever got wasted.

With the sand issue solved, I started adding water again, things looked much better this time.

http://i.imgur.com/eLosj47.jpg - I Can See Clearly Now

I fired the tank back up and it looked much better but sounded awful. I tried my best to tune the cup drain design with no luck. I ended up switching them out for dorsos.

After adding 1/4" tubing to the top of the dorsos they went almost completely silent.

The BRS dry rock is amazing. I couldn't be happier with it. I even managed to knock a really nice tunnel out of one rocks. There are great videos that gave me a ton of aquascaping ideas available on their site.

http://i.imgur.com/7J3eTVx.jpg - Rock with Tunnel

http://i.imgur.com/FiW4JsW.jpg - Just the BRS Dry Rock

http://i.imgur.com/7opBxSm.jpg - Laying out all the rock before adding it to the tank

http://i.imgur.com/rGfQ4Li.jpg - Kicked up a bit of sand adding the rock. I have added some additional established live rock since this pic, the huge rock up top looks odd, also, bacteria!

With rock in the tank I added the reactor and started up the skimmer. It started making some nasty tea like skimmate pretty quick.

http://i.imgur.com/u9IGPKg.jpg - Tank and Skimmer

I added an "instant cycle" dose of Smart Start to get things going. After a week I had the water tested and all the parameters checked out. I added the piece of GSP in the pic above and a pair of Saddleback clowns. It was clear the front of the tank needed some more flow. The Polario pumps are very cool. They flow from the front and back but this also makes placing them very awkward. The pump also ended up being louder than I expected it to be, there was a lot of whine that was audible even in the next room. For such a small pump I thought this was unacceptable. My thinking when getting the 4ML was with the Mag 18 return, I wasn't going to need that much extra flow.

Well, yeah. One of the big selling points of the Radion for me was its versatility. It is so variable, the light flows rather than jerking on and off. The cloud cover was also very appealing as I believe it helps to further simulate nature. When reconsidering the flow for the front of the tank I wanted something as versatile as the Radion and the MP10s were an easy choice. With the tank being 30" wide I was confident I would be fine. I had also really bought into the multi direction flow of the Polario, this made using multiple Vortechs in anti-sync mode exactly what I wanted to do. Being able to drop the powerheads into night mode, without an additional controller, was a nice bonus. The tank is never static. The water flow and lighting constantly changing adds an amazing dynamic to the tank, more than I expected.

I also really like how low profile all the equipment in the display is. The only cord in the tank at all goes to the heater in the overflow, the heater was too long to fit in the sump. It is also much more accessible where it is for adjustments. Luckily this cord is not visible at all when looking at the tank.

I ordered another 20 lbs of Fiji/Pukani dry rock with the Vortechs, but asked for smaller baseball sized pieces. I was blown away with what they sent, again. In the next couple of days I hope to add about half of the second batch of dry rock to the 90 gallon. The rest of the second batch and some of what is already in the 90 gallon will go into the Biocube once its livestock is moved over.

More updates soon.

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Looking really good I can see why you fell in love with that tank.

The size and shape are perfect for me. It's a bulldog of a tank.

A fellow 90 cube owner!. Tagging along on this one for sure. Looking great.

Sadly I couldn't use my mp10 on my 90 (glass was too thick sad.png ) had to go with an mp40

I measured that glass a dozen times to make sure it was 3/8. It was hard to tell where the glass ended and the black silicone began, ended up shinning a flashlight down the side of the tank, towards me, to visually set the glass apart. I was thrilled when it was 3/8. One mp40 would have been cool but I really wanted to use two mp10s.

Nice. I was looking at that one a few months back as well. Do have plans for stocking yet?

It will be a mixed reef tank. Right now there is a pair of saddlbeack clowns, a hippo tang, and a yellow tang in the tank. From my biocube I will be moving over an ocellaris clown, firefish goby, orange banded goby and pistol shrimp, cleaner shrimp, gbta, and an eibli angel. The eibli has only been in the biocube three or so weeks. I had never seen such a pretty specimen and had to pick it up. I would like to also add a naso tang, scooter blenny, and maybe a sixline depending on the pod population. Suggestions are welcome.

Great detail in the build, impressed with the quality of components and attention to detail. Bravo, looking forward to progression.

Thank you sir.

looks very nice so far.

I appreciate it.

that polario looks pretty neat

Neat is the perfect way to describe them. Maybe it was the first pump I used that wasn't at a constant speed, but the whining when it pulsed up to 50 or 75% and again at 100% was too much. I moved it to a RO container to stir the water, I can barely hear it in the brute trash can now. I wonder if they just need to be dampened a little when placed against glass? The bi directional flow also made it hard to place in the tank. I thought on the overflow at an angle would have been the best place for it but it wouldn't stay. I ended up using it on the left side, against the front edge of the overflow sort of angled towards the back of the tank and the left glass, till the Vortechs came in. I might try it in the biocube but I am pretty happy with the flow situation in that tank.

I still need to mount the power supplies for the Vortechs and Radion. I am thinking of mounting the Radion power supply vertically on the wall just outside the stand. I feel like I should keep it away from the moisture inside the stand, is that ridiculous? The Vortech supplies are sealed so I have no problem mounting them inside the stand. Will post pics of some of the power and cable management soon.

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How's the flow with the 2 MP10's?

The flow is great. I have them in the front half of the tank offset from each other a little, the rock on the right side is a little higher than the left, and the Mag 18 does a great job with the back half. I have them set on random, switches between Lagoon and Reef-Crest modes, at about 40-45%. At midnight they change to "night mode", which is just constant mode at half your normal speed setting.

I want that tank and stand but cant find one. Looking good.

Thanks. Keep looking, this tank/stand combo is really nice. I can reach everything in the tank without anything to stand on and I can see everything in the tank too. Good luck finding one. I would have driven to San Antonio/Houston/Dallas for this tank no question.

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I should also add that the reef special grade sand hardly ever moves. The Polario scooped it out in a couple places, but I have turned the Vortechs up full speed where they are mounted and had no problem with sand blowing around. The Vortechs are silent too.

I'm really impressed with the anti-sync mode on the Vortechs. Combined with the random mode, the GSP never stays in place.

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I should also add that the reef special grade sand hardly ever moves. The Polario scooped it out in a couple places, but I have turned the Vortechs up full speed where they are mounted and had no problem with sand blowing around. The Vortechs are silent too.

Not for long... (silent vortechs). The bearings fail over time and you get a pretty good grindy noise. Never fear, they are replaceable.

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Funny, my blue box vortech is still dead quiet after about 4 - 5 years of use. Both my ecosmart vortechs started making noise about a day after unboxing. I have no doubt that they reduced their quality to save on cost after their first models started to gain popularity. The outside shape is very different on the older models.

Bearing replacement isn't hard, but it's time consuming and it doesn't always work. I wouldn't do it until they are rattling pretty good. Depending on how you run your pumps, you may never need to do it. NTM and other off-on modes are going to wear the internal parts significantly more than constant speed modes.

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Don't get me wrong, mine is still what I describe as quiet, just not silent. If the reef crest gets up over about 50% or so it's no longer "quiet". I wonder if by increasing the quality of the bearing if there was any way to get better mileage/quieter use.

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I haven't had a chance to finish up the cabling yet, got busy over the weekend with work. I am a broadcast engineer and all I can say is Go Spurs Go!

I was looking at the tank last night and noticed I was getting a huge glare from the Radion. So, I cut off the flaps of a cardboard box and used it to mock up a shade for the Radion. I think it came out very nice.

Far Shot


Close Up


I poked around the internet a bit to see if I could get an idea of what to build this thing out of permanently but came up with nothing. Any ideas? It is just cardboard taped together and spray painted black now. I cut a channel in the side for the power cord to go through and slipped it over the fixture.

I am also a little concerned about heat. I was thinking of cutting some vents into the sides of the shade. I have let it run about an hour and the fan is still blowing cool air. I can't tell a temperature difference with the shade on or off. Anyone care to weigh in on if this will be an issue or not?

I have also added a clean up crew (used the live aquaria box flaps to make the shade) and a Naso Tang. More on those later and the cabling.

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I have looked around locally for ABS and the minimum I am able to purchase is a 4' x 8' sheet, way more than I need. I will try and order some online this week. I am really happy with the cardboard right now anyway.


I decided to upgrade the returns I was using. I originally set the tank up with the 3 of 1/2" to 3/4" returns on the left. I moved to 3 of the 3/4" to 1" returns on the right. I ran the vinyl tubing all as far up the flange of the 1" section as far as I could. I feel much more confident in the connection and they still have a low profile. I also felt comfortable sending more of the Mag 18 flow to the tank through these suckers.


Added strainers to the overflows. Glad I did too, a couple days later I found a Peppermint and a Nassarius back here.

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I got most of the cabling done too. I need to clean up the back of the tank but the inside of the stand is looking good.


I have one of these mounted in the stand and one on the back of the stand. They are really nice, tight plugs, spaced nicely and they even have right angle plugs which makes the outlet side look nice.


I found these guys at Altex years ago and have used 100s of them since. They are less than a buck each and are easy to unsnap, add or remove a cable, and close it back up. at almost 2" they offer plenty of capacity too. I used square tabs and zip ties to attach the led power cords which is the dotted cable in the picture.


Right Side of Tank

For the Vortechs, I used the tabs and zip ties above the dry sides as recommended, but I didn't want a bunch of tabs down the side of my tank. I zip tied zip ties to the power cables of the Vortechs, trimmed them, and shoved them between the trim and the glass of the tank. It is a real clean look but I am a little worried about the additional pressure this might put on these points along the glass. My thinking is if there was that much pressure against the trim, the zip tie wouldn't have slipped between the two.


Left Side of Tank

The left side didn't come out as well, the Vortech power cords was more kinked. As it relaxes I will tighten it some which will clean it up a bit.


The Vortech controllers and power supplies are mounted horizontally on the left side of the stand just below the overflow section. This location offers easy access to everything and made programming them easy. You can also see the rats nest of wires I need to deal with behind the tank. I know how I want to deal with it, I just need to implement it.

The clean up crew went in about a week ago. I started with a build your own package from Live Aquaria and was real happy with what they sent. From them I got:

36 Dwarf Blue Leg Hermits (Very Small)

15 Dwarf Red Leg Hermits

10 Small Nassarius
10 Small Astraea
2 Mexican Turbos

2 Chestnut Turbos
1 Banded Coral Shrimp

2 Brittle Sea Stars

4 Peppermint Shrimp

I also added 5 of the big nassarius from Fishy Business and 20 of the regular red/blue leg hermits from RCA. I basically tripled the crew I had in my Biocube. I added the sea stars though and have not been disappointed.

Livestock now sits at:

Clean up crew

Hawaiian Tang

Hippo Tang

Naso Tang

Pair of Saddleback Clowns

Yellow Watchman and Pistol


Radioactive Dragon Eye Zoas

Tri Color Valida Frag

Blue and Pink Acro Frag

Cali Tort Frag

Unkown Brown, Green, Purple Fuzzy SPS

From the Biocube I still need to move over:

Ocellaris Clown

Eibli Angel


Orange Banded Goby and Pistol ( I am not sure I can catch these, they may get to stay)

Some of the clean up crew

Miami Orchid Small Colony

Green Birds Nest Small Colony

Kenya Tree

Devils Hand Leather

Hammer Coral

Two Brains


Various Shrooms

To this all I want to add now is maybe 3 or 4 more firefish to see if I can get them to school. A small group would be cool. I also want to find a real nice piece of blue sps that will become the centerpiece of the tank. I am on the hunt for one.

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The bad news is my Biocube now looks like this:


The good news is my 90 gallon now looks like this:


I managed to get all the rock and livestock moved over today that I wanted to. Once the rock was out of the Biocube, catching the rest of the fish was very easy. I even manged to catch my orange banded goby and pistol shrimp. I was real happy about that.

The yellow watchman hit the floor sometime overnight. I left the back plastic piece off my canopy, which allows me to leave a little gap in the front and back, there is much less condensation that forms on the inside of the canopy this way. This is like a 1/2" gap and he had to have hit it just right.

The silver lining with the Biocube is I had a bunch of dry rock leftover that I have had cooking in a 10 gallon for some weeks now. I am not sure if I will put it all in or make the Biocube a frag tank or what. Maybe a predator tank? It is like getting to do two new tanks at the same time though. I am loving that.

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