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!!!FRAG SWAP!!! MARCH 16, 2019 Read more... ×
dmits41

Dan's 400g in-wall tank/fish room/home theater build

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After my recent tank crash, I decided that I'm going to start building the fish room. This is part of the plan that got me to agree to buy our current house 2 years ago, and my wife has agreed that I can start tearing it up. Fair warning, this is going to be a long post with lots of pictures. I'm only certain of a little bit of the plan, and would love input and help on how to configure everything. I'm also going to share the progress on my home theater build, since the tank is going to be sitting in-wall in that room as well. Please let me know if the HT stuff strays too far off topic and I'll keep it to just the fish stuff. 

Anyway, 2 years ago we purchased this 5 bedroom split level house where one of the bedrooms is right next to the living room and not needed. Here's the living room on move in day:

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And here is the bedroom:

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The plan was to turn the living room into a home theater with a large in-wall tank and fish room to come later. I can do the home theater stuff with no problem since I've installed them as a career for the past 12 years. It started out pretty ugly in the living room, hiding wires meant having to cut open the whole ceiling due to joist direction, so we spent a few months with speaker wire looking like this:

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Finally, I was able to purchase an 11 channel Dolby Atmos receiver along with speakers # 8-11 and decided to hide some wires. I also decided to get rid of the front sconces and add 6 recessed lights with Philips Hue bulbs. Here's what I had to do to the ceiling.

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I've since closed up the ceiling, painted the walls dark blue, made the doorway smaller, and built a sliding door (which is what killed everything in the nano due to the alcohol based finish). I'm going to scrape off of the ceiling texture, patch up the areas I cut, and redo with a newer texture.

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The reason I shared this is to show that I'm planning on adding roughly an 8' tank in wall on the right side of the room, here. Beside the tank, I will be adding a couple rows of theater seating, a stacked stone looking wall, and a TV that is 20" bigger than the 55" you see here along with some sound treatments later. I do have a 4k TV with 11 channel Atmos sound, which is nice. 

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On to the fish room. I haven't had a tank larger than my 29g since 2012, when I had a 120 that ruptured. I plan on going a bit overboard as far as what to put in the room, but don't have the money to just go buy everything so I'm going to take my time and also do a lot of DIY. I started by ripping out the drywall and found this on the wall that is shared with a bathroom.

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Those are electrical wires just spliced together without grounds and taped to the studs behind the drywall. We also found that the entire downstairs area was running off of a single circuit breaker. I didn't think it would be ideal to run a fish room and a home theater system off of one breaker so we found another one that had nothing more than 3 practically unused outlets and moved the fish room to that. We also re-plumbed the shower area to be the new home for our washer and dryer, getting them out of the garage and giving more space for tools in the workshop. While we were at it, we moved the power outlet on that wall much higher and added an AFCI/GFCI since it's the first one in the room. This wall will house my RO/DI system and a couple storage tanks, maybe also the QT. 

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This is the tank wall from before all of the drywall was out. One thing I had to make sure was that the electrical lines were gone. I feel like I should avoid having power outlets directly below the tank if possible. I am moving the outlet on that wall up high to the closet area on the left side. The idea right now is to have the upper left side as the home for all power bricks, surge protectors, controller parts, etc. We will also have a contractor cut the opening in the wall and add a header. I can do lots of things on my own but since it's a load bearing wall I want to be extra careful. The opening will start just past the double stud on the left and end just before the closet. That will get me a little over 8'. I also plan on replacing the door to the room and having it open into the hallway to make room. The tank will be fully visible from both the living room and fish room, so I've thought of a couple things I'd like to see:

1. the overflow/drilled area will go on the side of the tank by the closet. Right now I honestly don't know if I want the sump beneath the tank or in the closet. I want a large refugium and I've always loved just sitting and watching all of the activity in them. I may want a remote one up a little higher.

2. I can use the bulkhead to hang lights and hide the area behind the tank when in the living room. My idea is to get a large projector screen and mount it backwards right behind the bulkhead. It will be motorized with a trigger that I can hopefully rig to run off of a controller that interfaces with Alexa. When the screen drops it'll be the black side that acts as a background. I have a possibility of obtaining a screen that is 8' long from work that is a useless old demo model for not much money. I've wired the outlet for this in the ceiling just in case. I've also wired 4 power outlets in the area of the bulkhead without any HVAC for LED lights. Not sure on which ones yet. 

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Here's the room as of today. I changed the old '70s light out for recessed lights that will eventually also be Hue lights because I've become addicted to voice controlled colored lights. Above the closet I'm wiring 2 outlets and some HDMI. This is to run 2 monitors. One will be my Apex Fusion readout and the other is the 2nd HDMI output from the surround sound receiver. That model has dual out so I can see what's on the living room screen, it'll be nice to watch a little something in the fish room. Also I plan on adding a bathroom fan to vent moisture outside if the humidity reaches a point that is too high. The nice thing with the room is that it's an outside corner so venting won't be difficult. I will use this to run a fresh air inlet to the skimmer as well. I've found that it really helps the low pH in the nano tank but it'll be way less ugly. There are 2 closet areas, the left is going to hold any power equipment, then maybe a sump, maybe a fuge, who knows. The right will be a rack with smaller tanks so I can do other things. I've always been fascinated by breeding clowns, maybe a small breeding area. I don't know if I want it to have it's own sump or plumb into the one for the DT. In the corner just outside the closet I want a frag tank or two. To the right of that I'll build a desk to house a small PC and anything else I may want to do. 

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If you keep going around the room you get to the corner with the window then back to the wall adjacent to the bathroom. Here it is before I ripped everything out.

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I want a 4' QT tank somewhere around here and my water storage. The pipes are exposed for the sink on the other side, shown in an earlier pic, so I can use them for RODI. I think I'll replace the ugly old vanity with a laundry sink so I can clean tank items in there. Also, there will not be carpet. I'm coating the floor with Rust Oleum rocksolid like I did in my garage. I hate getting saltwater in the carpet. I plan on adding a taller threshold to the hall carpet to keep any spills out. So here are my early ideas, I'm looking for any help I can get with planning this from people who have been there or see anything I'm missing. 

1. The DT will be approximately 8' long x 30" high and go back to the back of the bulkhead, a little over 36" According to marine depot's calculator, this is 448 gallons. 

2. The closet will house a tank rack for breeding or anything else I'd like to do, and next to that will be a frag area. Do I do a large shared sump with remote fuge or keep both under the DT?

3. I want to automate as much as possible. I love my Apex and won't go back. This includes the topoff from the storage to multiple areas. I also plan on having dosing pumps setup in the closet. 

4. I want to build every single tank, rack and stand. I have a large workshop in the garage:

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Everything you see started out as plywood sheets. I've built many things, just never out of acrylic. Understand that this isn't an all at once build, I'd like to start by building some of the smaller stuff to learn and practice, then finish with the DT after I'm more experienced, and hopefully with the help of people who have more than I do. Ambitious? Yes. Stupid? Probably. It's going to take a while to get the skill and money necessary to build it all, so that's why I'm starting with a frag tank and expanding from there. That's why I'm asking for help. What would you do differently? Are there any ideas that would help? This has been a dream for a long time so I'm willing to put in the time and work to make it all come together. Please let me know if there's anything that may be better and I'll update as progress continues.

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wow this will be really cool Dan!  love the detailed write up...thanks for posting!  Will be following along!  Good thing you took apart the wall and saw those wires before it was further in the build

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7 hours ago, ReefNewby82 said:

wow this will be really cool Dan!  love the detailed write up...thanks for posting!  Will be following along!  Good thing you took apart the wall and saw those wires before it was further in the build

Thanks! We wondered why that outlet on the wet wall was not grounded, and pretty surprised when we found the grounds just cut open and taped to the stud. On the wall where the big tank will go I had already found lines spliced together and just crammed into the drywall. I'm no electrician but I've worked with enough to know that they flip out about that and say that it's a major fire hazard. Having seen 3 of them in that room alone my wife kind of wants to tear out the drywall in the rest of the house.

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That's done to make a floating ground. Labs use them and other places that sparks can make a very bad thing happen. Firework makers use it too. That's why the have grounding plates in the floor or on the wall you touch before interning. But a house, very odd. Some electronics are uber sensitive to electric discharge. 

 Look at the breaker box to see if there is a while wire and copper wire on the ground rail. 

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One word of be careful. If you have a power head shorting and you put your hand in the water on a floating ground. IT will light you up like a glow stick. You'll think Jaws reached up and done bit you. 

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On 8/16/2018 at 1:02 AM, Saveafishreef said:

That's done to make a floating ground. Labs use them and other places that sparks can make a very bad thing happen. Firework makers use it too. That's why the have grounding plates in the floor or on the wall you touch before interning. But a house, very odd. Some electronics are uber sensitive to electric discharge. 

 Look at the breaker box to see if there is a while wire and copper wire on the ground rail. 

I don't think that's what they were doing, there is nothing like that on the breaker box. You can tell corners were cut everywhere in this house, it's like the electrician only had one outlet left and since it was 2 prong they just cut the ground line to save a trip to the store. It doesn't matter now anyway, we ripped out most of the electrical in the room and put it on a breaker that was only running a couple practically unused outlets. Now it is fully grounded, GFCI protected, and doesn't share a breaker with the home theater system.

 

On 8/16/2018 at 1:46 AM, Reefaddict12 said:

Very nice write up. I'm an definitely going to be following this!

Thanks! I haven't been posting any updates recently because all of the work is focused on finishing the laundry area right next to the fish room. It used to be a nasty old shower and the laundry was in the garage. Once that is done I'll start adding insulation, venting for the fan, the skimmer air inlet and then drywall. By this time next month it should look very different.

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Update: I finished the laundry room I was building next to the fish room so I can continue on. I grabbed a bunch of things yesterday and was excited to get started with the last of the wiring and beginning insulation, then I looked at the floor and saw dark spots. It's raining and the water is seeping in. It appears to mostly be where the old furring strips were. The builder just drove nails right through the strips and into the cinder block wall. The strips were rotted out at the bottom and all of the nails were rusted out, so I have a feeling they were absorbing the water since it was pretty slow. I patched the holes and cracks with concrete patch and will coat it with Drylok when it cures and it's not raining. I can keep going though, in the next few weeks I'll be able to get insulation in on the half of the wall above ground, add the bathroom fan with humidity sensor, coat the floor, and put up drywall once I'm confident the water issue is solved. Once it looks like a real room again I'll put together a frag system to get me by until I can work on bigger tanks.

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I got a few more things done since the rain dried out. I got the Drylok on the cinder block wall so it went from this:

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To this:

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I also added the air inlet for the skimmer. I found an outdoor electrical box with a removable bottom piece for a cord that works perfectly.

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I used epoxy to add a small piece of screen from an old screen door that will be thrown away to keep bugs out. The box has an insert for round items, so I cut it out to fit a 1" PVC pipe that I'll use as a conduit to run whichever size flexible tube I'll need for a skimmer. 

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Here is the PVC coming down into the room. I'm going to cap it off for now but it's ready to add flex tubing when the tank is up and running.

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Today I'm doing the metallic floor coating, so the room should look very different when it's done.

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Floor was done last weekend and drywall has been going up. It's starting to look like a room again. Drywall dust makes floor look lighter than it is right now though.

 

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Another month's gone by and it feels like I've been working on the drywall forever. I finally finished sanding yesterday and painted the room. I warned my wife that she'll think I'm crazy but I decided to go with black for the walls. It'll act like a black background on any tank in the room and make the coral pop a little more. I got 2 coats of black on the walls and am ready to start on the ceiling texture. After that it's door and closet trim along with baseboard. With that phase 1 will be done and I'll be ready to build the desk for the room and put my nano in there.

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Here's the current state. It'll look much better when I clean the floor.

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wow sir making some good progress here.  Is this going to be the movie room too?  The black walls will be great for movies too if so

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The movie room is a very dark blue. It shares a wall with this room that will be cut out for the big tank. The tank will look in-wall on the movie room side and one of my monitors above those closet openings will be able to mirror what's going on in there.

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One I love your workshop. Neat and your table saw set up. That rocks. 

 I want to thank you for posting the outside air box you made I ran mine outside and was trying to think how to filter the inlet pipe. 

One other thing what is that on your wet/dry vac? What it set up like that? 

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Thanks for the kind words. The wet/dry vac is attached to a dust cyclone that empties into a 5 gallon bucket. They are designed to swirl the air going through so the cyclone effect drops everything down into the bucket before it goes through the vacuum's filter. With this I almost never have to clean out my air filter and emptying it out is a breeze. It's primarily designed for sawdust so something finer like drywall dust still goes to the filter. It even works for water, which is a surprise.

New update: the ceiling is done except for the can light trim rings. I found a plastic vent cover to prevent rust too. I'd share a pic but it looks like photobucket's not working right now.

 

 

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The sound was very live in there so I used some extra insulation and speaker cloth to make 2 sound absorbing panels and hung them from the ceiling. It's not great but it helps.

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I decided to move the nano into the room and put it on the left side of the closet. It's a JBJ rimless 30 gallon tank and it sits on a little plastic membrane, and that membrane peeled off a bit before we were going to pick it up. My brother noticed a drip from the front right corner, and of course the membrane's the only thing that has been keeping a leak at bay for a while now. So instead of rebuilding it tonight I had to empty all of the rock into buckets (with my only 2 corals in one) and move the completely empty tank onto sawhorses to dry out. I'm going to completely clean it out and reseal it, then rebuild it as a barebottom with less rock this time. I've found that the sand has been a pain since it keeps all sorts of detritus and mainly shifts to one side. 

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I built the first two pieces of my desk bottom today. I had already built the top out of MDF over the past couple weeks. I went ahead and took them down to the fish room to see how they fit in there. When complete, everything will be blue except the desktop and have doors/drawers as well. I'm also building a built in board with holes for frag plugs on drawer slides. It'll look like a drawer but one side will have the board and the other will have a bucket for the coral waiting to be fragged.

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We originally had the desk designed to be 4' wide but my brother talked me into going 6. Now I see that I can add a 2nd cabinet on each side and still have plenty of space for my legs. I'm going to build something in that small space to the left, I just don't know what. Maybe more storage, maybe a rack for growing phyto and rotifers.

It's been a good week for that room, too bad my vacation's over and I have to work again tomorrow.

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I moved the RODI over tonight and took advantage of the location of the washer plumbing box on the other side of the wall.

 

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I spent the weekend adding baseboard and closet door trim so it looks like a real room again. I also leak tested the nano after resealing and all is well, so I got everything cleaned up and started over. This means I'll have a tank that isn't just stringing along after a crash for the first time in almost half a year. I removed all of the sand and some of the rock and went with a simple cove aquascape. Since there are no living creatures I decided to rig the RO line over using a bucket lid and a zip tie and I'm just dumping salt in as it fills. I had to throw a pump and heater in the front since the water isn't high enough to go through the back yet.

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Bet you are glad to get a tank rolling again huh.  You make quite a bit of progress in your days off.  Keep up the work you will be done soon!

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