DIY Salt Water Reef Aquarium – Part 3 – “Put some skin in the game”

Now for the next step in the “$10 garage sale aquarium” saga.

We found a 50 gallon tank at a garage sale.  We built a stand.

Now that the stand is framed out, we need to add some aesthetic quality to it.  Normally, we would use a veneered plywood.  However, we chose a cheaper alternative.  Birch plywood runs about $25 a sheet at Home Depot.  We found a very nice 5mm underlayment board for $10.  It has a very nice color and would be strong enough to add a little strength to the frame.

We cut pieces for the front and sides of the frame.  We decided not to cover the back so we could get the sump in and out.

We cut two holes in the front board.  We plan to come back and add some doors – although we do not have a specific plan for those yet.  We will let you know when we figure it out.

To add a little class, we used a scallop trim on the top and bottom and a corner piece on each side.

We finished it all off with a nice stain – Gunstock by Minwax.

This step was pretty simple.  I do think we made a mistake using the cheaper board.  It looks OK and works in the end, but the board was cheaply made and hard to work with.  I wish we would have spent the extra $15 to get the quality board.

We moved the stand into the house and put the tank on it.  No water in it yet, but we are making progress.

Total cost for this step – about $25.

What Next?

Next step is to build a wet/dry sump.  We plan to use a 20 gallon aquarium and some Lexan sheets.  We found some good examples on line.

We went to a local store to check out their tank selection.  The sales clerk tried to warn us off doing this build ourselves.  He had horror stories about overflowing sumps, power failures, etc.  ”I’ve been doing this for years, trust me, you do not want to try this yourself”.

Really.  Why? Because you don’t think you could do it?  Because you sell fish supplies?  Because… How could some kid possibly get this right?

What if the power goes out?  What if the sump leaks?  What if we lose the siphon?  What if, What if, What if…

…What if we succeed?

This clerk has obviously never met my son.  All of the failure points have been documented and discussed.  There is a sheet of paper on my counter right now with a diagram that calculates water volumes in multiple chambers, flow rates and pump placement.

Each scenario has been addressed along with a plan to test our build at each step prior to putting the tank into actual use.  I am sure we will run into some snags, but we will get them worked out.

Why do adults look at kids and assume they are dumb?  I am glad that my son has not learned how to doubt himself.

Be a Producer, Not a Consumer

What we are doing is a little complicated, but that is what makes it fun.  Sure, this would be done faster if we bought everything, but doing it fast is not what this project is about.  We are having a great time.  My son has decided to try something a little outside his comfort zone.  I think this world can benefit from some kids who try something hard instead of playing video games all day.  Our society needs more producers and fewer consumers.


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One Response to DIY Salt Water Reef Aquarium – Part 3 – “Put some skin in the game”

  1. Pack Rat says:

    Maybe you could get a UPS for pretty cheap to make sure it doesn’t lose power.

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