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90 gal Build - first reef tank


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Hi All,

I'm starting my 90 gal build. Its just a pile of parts at the moment. smile.png

I can use your input, suggestions:

90 Gal Tank Specs
  • Tank:
    • 90 gal Aqueon Glass Tank built in drilled overflow
    • Jebao WP-25 Wave Maker
    • Hydor Koralia Evolution 1050/1150 Aquarium Circulation Pump
    • 100 lbs pukani, Fiji, Tonga dry rock
    • 90lbs aragonite sand
  • Lighting:
    • 165W LED Full Spectrum 24” Lights x 2 (55, 3w leds x 2)
    • 6500K CFL Refugium Flood light
  • Sump:
    • 38 gal Sump (custom built glass)
    • Berlin venturi skimmer
    • Refugium with macro algae (cheato)
    • MarinePure 4” Block Bio-Filter Media
    • Poly Filter
    • Jebao/Jecod DCT-6000 DC return pump
    • Eheim 200-watt Jager Heater
    • BRS GFO & Carbon reactor
  • Controller:
    • Digital Aquatics ReefKeeper Lite (Basic) Controller
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Very impressive list for someone about to run their first reef tank! Shows some thought definitely went into it.

My two pieces of advice is to rinse the sand very thoroughly to remove as much of the fines as possible so your tank won't start too cloudy.

Also, rinse the marine pure block very well and let it soak in a bucket of water for a couple of days before adding it to the tank. This will help minimize dust from it going in the tank and also keep your aluminum levels on the lower side as it has been known to leach aluminum. My personal opinion is you don't have anything to worry about with the higher aluminum levels as I'm running 20x natural levels in my tank with no issues. I have 2 of the blocks in my 215-gallon.

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Thanks Bobcat, I'd enjoy seeing your setup sometime. I appreciate your attention to detail and would like to discuss all the changes you made and issues you encountered.

Thanks Farmer - much appreciated! I did a ton of research and still am. This is very addicting! smile.png

Other questions: (sorry for the bullet list, I'm a program manager by profession wink.png )

  • Aluminum levels? I've never heard of that. Do you have a link to a test kit for that? I will rinse and soak as you suggested.
  • I'm thinking of using eggcrate on the bottom to place the live rock to spread the weight and add stabilization to the rock. Comments?
  • Should I "cook" the dry rock, and if so how?
  • How do you clean all the crap out of the tonga plate rock? I love the plates, they should be awesome for aquascaping, but they are not spotless clean lol...

thanks guys/girls!

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I only know my Al levels via Triton tests. You mail them your water and they test a range of parameters for you. I honestly would not concern yourself with Al concentration. It will have no effect and no point in monitoring it.

I would not use the eggcrate. Place the rocks on the glass and then fill in sand around it. That way you won't get any borrowing creatures that could topple your rock structure. The eggcrate actually inhibits the ability for nutrients, oxygen flow, and bugs from moving through the sand consistently.

For the rock, if it were me, I'd hit it with some muriatic acid to dissolve away the outer layer of rock and then start to cycle it in a trash can or tub. I usually add some bacteria in a bottle for a quick cycle. I'd then drip some Lanthanum chloride in a 10 micron sock to remove phosphates from the rock until I start getting a reading of less than 0.03 ppm of phosphate.

For the tonga plate, a good swirl in a bucket and maybe a couple good blast from a powerhead should suffice. Then when in the tank, make sure you aim a good flow across it to keep detritus from settling.

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Hi Ty,

Thanks for the input, no Al test, no eggcrate. My thought on the eggcrate was to only put it where the rock is to set, set the rocks, and then add sand. No chance of burrowers upsetting the rocks. But I hear you on inhibiting the ability for nutrients and oxygen to flow. Yes, one of my powerheads will be set to flow across/thru the rock, thanks. More questions smile.png :

  • Good idea on bleaching, but what do you recommend to neutralize the bleach? (without setting them in the sun for a few weeks wink.png )
  • Any recommendations on bacteria in a bottle?
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I don't personally use bleach so can't comment but chlorine usually breaks down pretty fast in open air if I remember correctly.

I use muriatic acid (you can get it at any hardware store). Once you've reached the amount you'd like to dissolve, throw baking powder into it to neutralize the acid.

Any type of bacteria in a bottle will mostly work. Dr Tims is one of the best rated ones but I just grab whatever is at a LFS which usually happens to be the Fritz bacteria.

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Thanks, I'll try the muratic acid and get the rock bleached before cycling it.

Today I cut a door into the side of my stand so that I can slide the 38 tall sump into the stand from the side.



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Those pics were a bit too small, trying again. You can see that I re-painted the stand inside and out and cut and installed an access door on the end to enable access to place the 38 tall - 36" sump.



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Full disclosure, I'm not at expert and I run an acrylic tank so I don't worry as much about rocks toppling over and shattering the glass. Sorry if this diverts your thread

I used a plast light diffuser from Lowes in my 140 to provide a more stable base to adhere the rocks too. I intend to do so again in my 280 build that I'm currently working on. I do have some burrowing animals that love to move sand around, particularly the pink spot goby. I think Ty has a point about critters not being able to move through that lower layer as well. However this makes me wonder a few things

1) if this really results in a lack of oxygenation would this result in a deep sand bed type area?

2) How much filtration are you really getting from a shallow sand bed and would the egg crate really inhibit that?

I don't think the egg crate would ruin your build so it if helps you sleep at night to know that the rock isn't sitting on glass then I think that outweighs the small amount of filtration that you'll lose. Again my 2 cents

Looking forward to seeing your build :)

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Hi, Thanks, your input is much appreciated!

I'm no expert either lol. I'm guessing Ty knows a LOT more about reef keeping than I do smile.png.

However, I was planning on using the egg crate to spread the rock load out a little better and to provide a more uneven platform to help "lock" the base rocks in (the gaps in the egg create) to provide a little more stability.

I have some of the same questions:

  • Is there is any data on the impact of using the egg crate versus not using it with a 2 to 3" sand bed?
    • (from above) How much filtration am I really getting from a shallow sand bed and would the egg crate really inhibit that?
    • (from above) Does Egg Crate impact oxygenation in a shallow (2 to 3") sand bed
  • What are the benefits/drawbacks of going with a deep sand bed?.
  • How far do the marine burrowing creatures actually dig into the sand and how this will impact them? (I have a list of "want to have" fish, but not a "have to have" list yet. :-))
  • What is the general consensus on Egg Crate versus No Egg Crate?

I would love to hear more comments on these items prior to actually starting my build. :-)



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I don't personally have any experience with it, and I don't know anyone who uses egg crate on the bottom so not much help :)

DanH has a deep sand bed and he really likes it as far as I know

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Hopefully Dan will chime in here on the deep sand bed topic.

From the last meeting and form some other reading, my understanding is that the deep sand bed allows for anaerobic zones (oxygen free) that allow the process of denitrification to take place.

If I remember correctly it doesn't count as a deep sand bed until it's at least 3-4in deep, but preferably 5-6.

Quick reminder to anyone else and for myself water chemistry basics Ammonia----->Nitrites--------->Nitrates

Classically Nitrates build up in the aquarium and are removed with water changes. However, there are ways around this. Hoping someone with more experience will chime into some additional ways. The one I'm most familiar with is macro algae. For the algae (in my case chaeto) to grow it takes up Nitrates and a small amount of phosphate out of the water. By removing the algae as it grows you're effectively exporting the nutrients out of a closed system. With the deep sand bed, it allows for denitrification to occur. Essentially the Nitrate is broken down into Nitrogen gas. This is where it gets fuzzy for me. I believe the O3 component is utilized by the bacteria for metabolic processes in an anaerobic environment, but it's bee a long time since I had microbiology or organic chemistry.

Additional export methods include reactors, algae turf scrubbers etc.

Purely conjecture on my part

I don't think the shallow sand bed provides very much filtration. I believe that the majority of the process is handled in the live rock. The sand bed generally is aesthetic unless you get it deep enough to fulfill the above noted denitrification. In that regard I doubt the egg crate really does much of anything either way.


Depth for critters vary based on the critter. Real helpful I know

I'm not sure there is a consensus. I did it in mine because I had more than one rock slide in my little 36 gallon bow front and a few local people had come home to shattered tanks when their rock structure collapsed.

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Great wrap up on denitrification Bfrench!

Ideal DSBs are at minimum 4" but I believe 6" is ideal. The less you disturb the lower layers, the better it will perform.

The main methods of removing nitrates are macro algae, algae turf scrubbers, carbon dosing (biopellets, vodka, vinegar, etc), sulphur denitators, and regular water changes. I personally employ biopellets combined with a large skimmer. Keep in mind for water changes, nitrate removal is directly proportional to the percent of water removed. If you do a 50% water change, you will have reduced your nitrate level 50% as well. Please don't go out and do 50% water changes. [emoji4]

Shallow sandbeds give you more surface area to perform nitrification, an aerobic process that converts ammonia/nitrite to nitrate. Otherwise, it's there only for aesthetics and a refuge for sand dwelling creatures such as pods and also for certain species of wrasses to sleep in at night.

If you use aragonite sand, it can act as a calcium buffer in the more acidic zones of the sandbed.

The eggcrate is just personal preference whether you feel it'll have any impact in your system. If you go the route of a DSB, it may be a moot point.

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Hi Kim,

Wow, I don't know many ladies who know how to work with tools like that, that was very impressive. smile.png Also your results were awesome.

I have a few questions. If you're going to the July meeting I can ask you then but..:

  • I might have missed this but what size sched 80 pvc did you use?
  • I thought I had a lot of tools...., where did you get that electric wet skill saw?? That is really cool.
  • Also, where did you find that rock that looks like a ceramic bowl? What is that exactly? Some sort of coral? That is a really neat piece.
  • When you put the pipe into the base rock it appeared to just be press fit? Did you user any glue or epoxy?



Hey, thought I'd go ahead and explain some of what Kim and I did for her tank here than your first thread. We used 1" sch 80 PVC but depending on how complex a structure you want to make much smaller 1/2" cpvc or fiberglass rod can be used. (I use 1/2" cpvc most of the time.) The primary reason for using it is the walls are thick enough they can be drilled and tapped for 1/4" NPT or 1/2" NPT threaded PVC pipe. This lets you build PVC "trees" without having to use PVC fittings would require much larger holes and it lets you drill holes with a range of angles. Using fittings you're limited to 90° and 45° angles. I would definitely use eggcrate under the rocks if you're going a couple feet high with your structure or if you doing large or multiple arches with minimal base structure. Sand will shift over time, animals and bugs will move it around and it will dissolve as time goes on. Setting the base rocks on eggcrate will keep them from spreading or shifting over time. Even shallow sand beds will become compacted over time but this hardly means they will become anaerobic with patches of black sand. I've seen these anaerobic patches happen in shallow sand beds and I've seen deep sand beds clean all the way through even under rocks that would have made gas exchange even harder.

The nitrogen cycle for reefs is VERY complicated, it's not a simple loop like is described for fish only or reshwater systems. Corals with zooxanthellae have a heavy need for nitrogen and they will pull the ammonia fish excrete from their gill directly from the water and grab the urea in poop. Additionally calcium and magnesium carbonate crystals form in fishes intestines and is also used by the corals.

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Wow, thanks bfrench, Ty, and Tim!,

This is extremely helpful! I read the thread about dsb, and all of your comments. I think I will keep the eggcrate, use 3" of sand, probably Fiji pink aragonite, I will also use schedule 80 pvc to create an inner structure for the rock so that I can minimize the footprint in the sand, have a couple towers and some arches, keep adequate room between rock and the glass, and to be able to fully utilize the plate rock as well. It should be fun to build.

Will the Fiji pink get blown around or is there another aragonite that you guys would recommend for a reef? I look forward to meeting you all at the July meeting.

Thanks again!!,


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I used the egg crate but only under the area of the rock so that it wasn't sitting directly on the glass.

I've got an extra unopened bag of special grade sand I'll sell you cheap if you want to check it out. That's all I use now.

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I used the Bosch blue granite bits to drill my rock. They were expensive but I use them other places as well. Drill the rock slow so you don't crack it and let it soak in water 24hrs before. It cut like butter for me.

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