Some important steps must not be forgotten on the road to setting up a new marine aquarium. The initial setup of the author’s 125-gallon room-dividing display was not without its setbacks.
In that configuration, we would have a 360-degree view of
the fish and I could access the tank from all four sides for
easier cleaning and maintenance. To provide the maximum
amount of swimming space for the fish and optimal viewing
for ourselves, our plan was to build two peaks of live rock
in the center of the tank with a channel running between
them, while leaving open space around the entire perimeter
of the tank.
Sunlight was one of the anticipated challenges we had to deal
with in our chosen location. Though I generally discourage
people from placing aquariums too close to windows so sunlight
doesn’t cause excessive algal growth or water-temperature
fluctuations, there’s simply no getting around windows in our
home. In fact, in our living room alone (the only room that could
realistically house the tank) there are 16 windows!
I wasn’t overly concerned about temperature fluctuations,
since, courtesy of our northwest Ohio climate, we almost
always have either the furnace or air conditioner running full
blast—but I knew that the excessive growth of algae on the side
of the tank facing the greatest number of windows would likely
be an ongoing problem. So I resigned myself to the necessity of
stocking lightly to minimize dissolved pollutants, performing
frequent and copious water changes, plus scraping, scraping,
and more scraping to keep the glass free of algae. Ah well, a
small price to pay!
The vital step of leveling the tank came next. Since our home
was built in 1922, this proved to be more challenging than I
had anticipated. Our hardwood floors are about as level as the
surface of a pond—after you drop in a cinderblock, that is! I
went through quite a few wooden shims before it was level to my
satisfaction. In fact, I had to shim so much that the bottom of
the stand actually sits 5/8 of an inch off the floor on one side. To
ensure that the ponderous weight of the tank when full would
be distributed over as many points on the floor as possible, I
inserted additional shims at regular intervals along the gaps
between the floor and the stand. All of these shims would
eventually be trimmed flush with the bottom of the stand and
concealed behind wooden molding.
To transport the glass tank, which is way too large for my
minivan to accommodate, I enlisted the aid of my cabinetmaker
brother Mike, who had a much roomier van. We got the tank
(and stand) loaded in the van, then panicked a tiny bit with
every bump in the road as we brought it home. We hefted it into
the house and, as gingerly as possible, placed it on its stand in
our living room where I ultimately planned to set it up.
Melissa and I decided to set up the tank as a room
divider, separating two seating areas in our living room.
Getting in Gear
With the arrival of the holiday season, several months passed
before I made any significant progress on the new system.
However, I did take advantage of the intervening months (and a
few aquarium store gift certificates) to purchase the remaining
items I needed to get the tank up and running. These included
two 200-watt plastic-encased heaters, two 850-gallon-per-hour
powerheads for water movement, and two 36-inch fluorescent
light strips, each containing two T5 tubes—one 10,000K, the
other actinic. I must say that I’m pleasantly surprised by the
amount and quality of light that these fixtures produce in such
a small and streamlined package.
I positioned one heater at each end of the tank for optimum
heat distribution. I know that many hobbyists prefer to hide
heaters down in the sump, but I find that it’s more difficult to
access them for adjustment in the sump (at least as I have it
configured) because the protein skimmer and return pump have
to share the same space. Besides, when positioned discreetly in
the corners of the tank, I really don’t think they detract all that
much from the aesthetics of the setup.
Tropical Fish Hobbyist www.tfhmagazine.com