Jim's 75 gal labor of love (on a budget)


Premium Member
Hello all,
It's been a while since I had a "tank", about 10 years. So much has changed in that time. I have done quite a lot of research, and then did some more. I live in an apartment, so a 75 was as big as I could go. My wife said I had a budget, so I had to be creative in putting it together.
My tank is a Marineland standard 75 Gal with matching stand, it is not a reef ready, but it looks good, and was cheap.
I wanted to do a reef, and rock was VERY expensive when I had my last aquarium, which was a 58 show, so I knew that I had to go some other way. I looked into dry rock, which was nice, but still on the expensive side for me. One day, while researching on Youtube, I came across DIY live rock, or "oystercrete", and figured why not give it a shot. I put it together, and 3 weeks later, it had cured, and IMO, it is as good as, if not better than, any rock I've seen in a long time. I went with Carabsea sand, 40 lbs of special grade dry, and 40 lbs of Fiji Pink live. It gave me a 4" DSB. I set my reef before I added the sand, so it is a solid build.
Since I'm on a budget, lights are a huge concern. I'm not ready to go SPS by any means, but I want to do some LPS and a nice Zoa garden with some mushrooms along with a few softies. I went with an Odyssea 4 bulb T5HO with a timer. I changed out the bulbs to Wavepoint bulbs, 2 Super Blue's, and 2 Sun Waves 12000K. This should be good for my set up until I can afford to get some LED's.
I built a sump from a 20 long, 2 sections, 9" deep that gives me approx 17 gal. That gives me enough room for over flow from a power outage, especially since I plan to use the return for surface disturbance. I have a RO Classic 110 INT in one side and a Rio 2100 pushing 692 GPH on the other. There is a Little Fishes 150 for my GFO and a Maxijet 1200 to run it. An Eshopps PF-800 HOB overflow with 1.5" soft plumbing handles the flow to and from the sump.
My pumps were the toughest. I am on a budget, but I wanted to get the best I could for the money I had. After much research, and many questions to many of you, I went with a pair of Jebao RW-4 wavemakers and a pair of Aqueon 700 GPH fans. The RW-4's are just enough for the 75, but I wish I got the RW-8's. The 4's push 1100 GPH apiece, and with the 700's, it gives me 3600 GPH, or roughly 5X per hour.
I added the water today, and added a bottle of Instant Ocean Bio-Spira for cycling. I'll add a second one in a week. I'm so excited!!
I plan to add a clean up crew in a couple of weeks, and I'll do updates as I add my Livestock and Corals.
I wish to thank all that helped and answered all my questions, you know who you are!

Thank You!
It will be a working tank, that's for sure. Everyone will have a job, except two....GOT to have a pair of clowns!
The List-

Lawnmower Blenny
Rusty Angel/ Flame Angel(haven't decided yet)
Powder Blue Tang
Yellow Head Jaw Fish
Carpenter's Flasher Wrasse -Male
Harlequin Serpent Star-2

along with a decent clean up crew.
Corals will be a few LPS, huge zoa/mushroom garden, and a kenya tree for the wife.
Rocks looks really good, like the set up. Both Angels are hit and miss with the corals, if they decide to nip remember they are a pain to remove from the tank. The Powder Blue is Beautiful but an Ich Magnet, definitely quarantine this fish before adding. I quarantine everything but I would not skip quarantining this particular fish. Keep us updated as you stock, welcome back to the hobby!
I got you you the angels, but I can get them out fairly easily by draining the water to about 3", one of the reasons I raised the reef. I completely agree on QT, and now that Petco has their tanks on sale for $1 per gallon, I'll get a couple, one for QT and one for hospital. QT will be a 40 breeder, and hospital a 29.
My tank died last night.....
My wife and I were watching the tank when....CRACK!!!! A HUGE crack all the way across the front glass......Luckily I had some salt water mixing in the 20 gal tub for my water change. I called DNA today and they sent me a replacement tank. It took all day to get it set back up. I lost half my livestock so far....so far.
Kudos to Shawn at DNA for sending my replacement sight unseen...
I will post updates...pics soon of the new reef, yes, of course it got tweeked.....
Aawwee sorry to hear that! I can't imagine having to go through that! Hope you get back to where you were spoon.

Sent from my SAMSUNG-SM-G900A using Tapatalk
quick update...had to go out of town for 12 days the day after replacing the tank. talk about anxiety.... Got home to a well matured tank, all considering. All parameters were almost perfect. auto feeder did a perfect job, the only fish that survived were a blue devil damsel, and my lawnmower blenny. Both were fat and healthy when I got home. The tank has already gone through the brown algea stage, and is almost through the green algea stage. went out yesterday and picked up 20 hermits to suppliment the clean up crew that survived. While I was out, I couldn't pass up a flame and a pair of very young black perulas. The LFS I was at made me a deal to help restock. I ordered a bag of broken bits from marine pure, which was a steal, I got about a gallon sized bag of pieces the size of a golfball for $45 on Amazon. It went into the sump as soon as it was rinsed... That should put me over the top for bacteria.

Losses so far...
rusty angel
watchman gobi
domino damsel x 2
3 head hammer
4 head hammer
4"x4" favia
4 head candy cane
5 head candy cane
red velvet mushroom
orange richordia mushroom
mini maxi anemone
emerald crab x 2
Harlequin Serpent Brittle Star x 2
at least 10 hermits
at least 15 snails

Believe me...it hurts to list it all.

The new tank is doing better than the original ever did, I'll be back to where I was in no time.
Sorry for your misfortune. Hate seeing the list of your losses. Great choice going with Marine Pure. I use it as well. That stuff is incredible!
Hello DFW!
Here is a long overdue photo update of the new,new tank...
My wife was heartbroken from the loss of much of her favorite corals and fish, and she asked me if we could make it even better than before....of course my answer was ABSOLUTELY!
The tank is finally coming out of the algea stage, and is looking fantastic. just need to aquire some coraline to seed with and it will be almost finished.
here are the promised photos....


New additions...
candy cane
bicolor hammer
fox coral
naso tang
lemonpeel angel
2 blue chromas
falco hawkfish
2 black ocelaris
serpent brittle star

all are happy and fat.
Looking good! I know one thing, I would not buy from Marineland again. Having seen so many tank leaks and failures from them (including my own), it just seems like they are doing something wrong. Good luck this time around and I agree that it seems like mine is going better the second time around.
Nice update and recovery from that disaster a month ago. Just gradually add new things that make you and your wife happy. :)
[attachment=0]Jim's tank.jpg[/attachment]Hello DFW!
It's been a while since my last update, so here goes-
This new tank has found it's groove! All corals are doing fantastic and putting out significant growth. in a short 2 months, my bicolor hammer has 2 new heads, the frogspawn has 3 new heads, and the HUGE colony of candycane has put out an AWSOME 15 heads! All the zoas have gone beserk, I can't keep up with the fragging. One of the zoa additions came with it's own surprise, a 1" hitch hiker clam. The zoas are almost overrunning the clam, and I'm in need of someone to help me get the zoas off of the clam before it smothers. I would do it, but I'm afraid I'll hurt the clam, and I don't want to just kill the zoas to get them off. The zoas are Crown Royal clones, and there are probably 10-12 polyps on the clam. they are yours for fragging them.....
I got 2 frags of monti-one red and one green, both have put out a good 1/4" of growth. My wife insisted on a goniopora, I tried to explain the difficulty of these, but she insisted...It was a 1" frag, and now it's tennis ball sized. last month I got a great deal on a 6" long tentacle anemone, he has settled in and is happy.
I also got tired of the island setup and went with the full reef, I made another batch of rock, and this batch is even better than the first batch. I have FINALLY got coraline starting on the rock...it's going to be beautiful. There is pink, red and purple coraline in there, I would love to find some green.
OK...time to pick you guys brains...since I have the monti, and a chocolate porite that are doing great, I would really like to get some birdsnest, or even some deep water acro. I have a 4 bulb T5 54 HO light, sitting 5" above the water. Do you guys think this is enough light? I can't go too much SPS, there are too many zoas and paly's to have a bunch.

Parameters are as close to perfect as I can get them-

I do a 20% water change every 2 weeks, I'm in an apartment, so I don't have a rodi unit, but I get RO water from work.
I'm not dosing, and the water changes are keeping up with the cal-alk levels. I also have some limestone in the sump and that is working great.
Whew! I feel like I'm back in school doing a book report...you guys are great, and I look forward to your advice..as always.
Hello DFW!
ok.....it's been a while, like 4 months....WOW!! time flies. The tank is doing great, almost on cruise control, I'm now farming Acan Lords, They are doing great, I Know every tank grows one thing exceptionally well, Acans are what mine grows well. All my corals are doing great, with the exception of a birdsnest frag. I made the mistake of putting it too close to the flow of a fan. Lesson Learned!!
my cleaner shrimp are mating and hatching eggs. It was very cool to see cleaners 1/8th of an inch long!! of course the fish had a feast, they are laying again, one is always gone, even at feeding time. seems they are laying about every other month, this would be batch number 2. Both of the cleaners are molting once a month, sometimes even more often, they are about 4" long now, and THEY run the tank.I find perfect molts, and I think-"aww...we lost one...", then I see it move, and realize it's a molt. I also have a Peppermint in there as well, and contrary to popular belief, they DON'T get along very well. The Peppermint stays in a corner in the back of the reef, and is quite content.
I have a Chocolate Porite that has doubled in size since I got it, and it looks like there might be worms growing in it. This rock was a live rock from Fiji, wouldn't it be cool if the worms are Christmas Tree worms?? I'll keep you guys informed.
Coraline has taken off too, red, purple and pink. News Flash......there's green coraline in there too!! I placed GSP on the overflow, and at the bottom of the overflow, there's green coraline growing. Question....should I let it grow, or scrape it to re-seed??? inquiring minds want to know.....
That's about it for now, I've been very busy with work and new grandchildren, but I'll try to update every month.
Thanks for all you guys do!! I wouldn't have stayed in the hobby if it wasn't for many of you.
Great update Jim! Thats so cool about the cleaners, think i am gonna have to ger one when the time comes. They sound so interesting. Tank is looking beautiful keep up the great work!

Sent from my SM-G935T using Tapatalk
Your tank is looking really nice Jim. Monthly updates would be great.
Long overdue update!!!
It has been 4 months...wow the time flies..... Lots has happened....went through a horrible bout with ICH....lost all my fish, went fallow for 50 days, dropped the salinity to .021, and raised the temp to 81. I went double the incubation period making sure they all died. Tears still come to my eyes when I think about the losses. I had to remove all the rock to catch the fish and move them to the QT, so there is a new 'scape!
Everything (but the fish) made it through with no damage. it could have been MUCH worse...
On a better note...
All the Acans have done really well. There are new babies on all the colonies. Some colonies have trippled the heads since the last update. The cleaner shrimp continue to have babies, and the new fish LOVE it. I added two fire shrimp to the tank, they are friendly, but not interactive with the cleaners or the peppermint. The peppermint has moved over to the fire's side of the tank and they get along. I'm finding the fire shrimp don't molt anywhere near as much as the cleaners do,(the cleaners are molting once a month) maybe every other month.
Maybe the best and strangest update has been about the new fish.
I bought a new Stary Blenny....he's HUGE! I'm talking almost 6" long and 3.5" around...GIGANTIC!! Of course his name is Goliath.
Anyway, a friend of mine shows up at my house with another stary blenny, a young adult, about 3"long, and tells me he's mine, his tank just crashed. I was very nervous about putting him in with Goliath, thinking he wouldn't last long. They have been the best of buds. They swim together all over the tank! I got very lucky. it turned out the smaller one,(Scooter), was female. now I have a bonded pair...Very cool.
I also traded for 2 SRBT approx. 5" open. I got them after I came across a mated pair of snowflake occellaris (Mamma Snow and Pappa Snow). now the snowflakes each have one and they stay in them all day and still sleep together in the corner of the tank each night.
Fish list-
2 Stary Blennies- Goliath and Scooter
2 Snowflake Occelaris- Mamma Snow and Pappa Snow
1 Scopas tang- Chocolate Chip AKA "Chip"
4 Blue/Green Chromis- Eeny, Meeny, Miny, and Moe
I know ...how can you tell them apart...I can't.
Coraline has covered 90% of my rock, and I'm very happy it has done this in less than 5 months. There are 3 colors, purple,pink and green. I'm looking for some red to add to it, but haven't found any yet.
I'm keeping a very nutrient rich tank, I feed Phyto twice a week, and the filter feeders are growing nicely. I'm getting about 2 gal bags of Cheto a month, which I try to pass on to you guys. I do sell it when I need supplies, My wife says it's about time the tank gives back...LOL.
I'll try to do monthly updates, but I can't promise anything. I know I'll make time for the 1 year anniversary Feb 1st...wow...the year has gone by so fast...

On another note- I'm setting up a 29 with a 20 sump. I'm going to try my hand at SPS....
That's it for now...Thanks for all you guys do, and Happy Reefing!