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Acquired all kinds of new components - Need setup advice!


Nov 27, 2006
So I’m at my apartment in Worcester now for the year and I was slowly starting to accumulate components for a (possible) octopus tank in a few months. I’d bought a 40 gal. Breeder tank and stand on sale at Petco ($165) and an RO/DI unit off of ebay ($139).

Then I ran across an ad on craigslist selling practically everything I was looking for at about a third of the retail value. I met the seller who had to break down her 29 gal. Reef Aquarium for rules in a new apartment and she gave me everything she had for $425. I suddenly went from having a couple of the things I needed, to having MUCH MUCH more than I needed.

That was on Saturday. I’ve been making an inventory of all I have and it’s a little overwhelming, but I’m hopeful. Here’s everything I now have:

Major Components:
Glass tank: 40 gal. Breeder (with cabinet stand)
Glass tank: 29 gal. With plastic lid and light
3-stage RO/DI unit
80 lb Live Rock
20 lb Live Sand
in-sump Protein Skimmer: Turboflotor 1000, rated for 250 gal. tanks
10 gal. Sump
5 gal. Refugium retrofitted with PC lights
Programmable LED units: any color and intensity, much more than I need to light the tank
DIY overflow box

Other Filters:
Canister Filter: Penn Plax Cascade 500, rated for 30 gal. tanks
Activated charcoal
Phos-zorb Phosphate and Silicate adsorber
Ceramic biomedia
Purigen Adsorbant
Kent Marine Posphate Sponge
Penn-Plax Bio Floss

Whisper Power Filter 30: for 30 gal. Tanks
Whisper filter replacement cartridge
Whisper airpump check valve

In-Tank Protein Skimmer

Relevant Accessories:
Half bag of Coralife salt mix
Hydrometer : Coralife Deep Six
Water Test Kit: Saltwater Master, tests pH, Ammonia, Nitrite and Nitrate
Microjet Submersable Pump
2x Powersweep Rotating Powerheads: Wavemaker 214
3x Electrical Timers
Silicone Aquarium Sealant
Plumber’s cement
Various nets, brushes, scrubbers, scrapers
All Manner of Assorted plastic tubes
2x Aquarium thermometers

Water Treatment/Medicinal Products
“Prime” water treatment
“Jungle” pH decreaser
“Proper pH 8.2”
Seachem Reef Dip Coral Treatment
“Combo Vital” live rock supplement
Biozyme: Nitrifying Bacteria and Enzymes

Aquarium glass cleaner: “non-toxic to all aquarium life”
Brine shrimp hatching kit
Penn Plax air regulator valve
Zooplankton fish food
Artemia brine shrimp food
Dried seaweed
Marine Tetra flake food
Wardley Tublifex Worms (fish food)
Hi-Lite underwater LED lights
Air Pump: Hagen Elite 799, battery operated air stone
Turkey baster
Plastic funnel

Can you believe I got all of that (minus the tank and RO/DI) for $425?? Unpacking all of that stuff into my tiny room really stressed me out, but making the list helped me organize all of it. Yesterday I mixed up some salt water in the 29 gal. to house the LR and LS while I try to figure out how to get the sump hooked up in my main tank. I tried to hook up the Canister Filter with it but it refuses to start (possibly because it and the tank are both on the ground?). So right now there is no circulation in the tank, but it is still better, I'd imagine, than just keeping the LR covered with wet newspaper as I was doing before.

My main issue is that I need help getting the sump and main tank set up. My 40 gal. is undrilled. What is the best way to get it hooked up to the sump? Should I use the DIY overflow box and try to get a snug lid cut? Or should I try to have it drilled? After it has holes how is it connected to the sump? What kind of pipes do I need and how are they secured? Which of the pumps should I be using to push water back up into the main tank from the sump?

I have such a huge array of pipes and tubes and pumps and I’m just not sure how they are supposed to fit together. Please advise, guys.

Also, do you think the LR will be ok with no circulation for a while or should I try to set up the whisper filter with it?

Lastly, I clearly need to upgrade to a stronger canister filter. Anyone in the Mass area with an extra Fluval, Cascade or Ehiem lying around? (nudge nudge wink wink)

All advice is welcome at this point. I’m a little overwhelmed now that this is the real deal.

Are you going to set up the 29 as well? If not I would use that as the sump instead of the 10 gallon. You could block off a portion of the 29 as a refugium if you want to, however a refugium is not necessary for an octo tank. Get 20-30 more lbs of sand, live or dead. Forty breeders have a lot of surface area, which means you need more sand to cover the bottom. I wouldn't use all 80 lbs of live rock in the show part of the tank either. Using about 50 lbs of it would work great. You can also house some in the sump and it will give extra filteration. Sounds to me like you need more salt. Don't put "live" anything in a tank unless it is at an SG of 1.020 or higher. You will kill everything off and it will have to recure.

Get at least some kind of movement in with the live rock. The air pump would work fine. A filter would be good to help the rock finish curing. Did you put water in the canister filter before you tried to fire it up? If not that could be the problem. I doubt that the reason it isn't working is because they are both on the floor.

I can't help you with the drilling part. My LFS drills everything and sets it all up for like $100, which is a good deal if you have no idea what you are doing. If this is your first time with a sump I would recommend having someone with more experience do it. Once you are ready to set up another tank, you will have a better idea on how to set it all up.

If you have an RO unit, I don't see any reason for you to add any of the chemicals you have.

Hope this helps.
thanks for the pointers! using the 29 gal as the sump instead of the 10 is a great idea. i just measured it and it would fit in my cabinet, though it would leave no space for the canister filter. maybe i can partition it off and have a dry section.

I'm not sure what you mean about needing more salt. the LR and LS is in the tank right now with saltwater at SG 1.027. before that it was covered in newspaper soaked with SW from the tank before the owner broke it down. can you clarify what the problem is? Also, Shouldn't the LR already be cured? she had her tank going for a year with the rock in it before i bought it two days ago.

The previous owner really did give me a lot of things that won't necessarily be used (the brine shrimp hatchery, and in-tank skimmer, etc.) I have read that those water treatment products are mostly placebos for tank keepers, and i am in fact using RO water. but i suppose they're good to have around. Maybe I can resell all the extra stuff. it's almost a setup in itself.

Finally, the literature with the canister filter instructed me to push a button on the top of the unit four times to fill the canister and then plug it in to start it. pushing the button didnt seem to cause any water flow. i will try filling the chamber manually to get it started now. maybe that will work.

edit: tried filling the chamber with water, then pumped it 4 times and plugged it in. this time the impeller started running audibly but gave out after 3 or 4 seconds. no big deal. i'll figure it out.
The canister filter may not be necessary for the setup. It can often build up with nitrates unless you clean it often. However, You can just add carbon in it and run it once a week or when you feel you want a little extra cleaning such as after an inking session. Not sure about the model your using, but if its not lower then the tank, its probably not being fed water for typically the water should gravity feed from the tank and the pump will pump the water back up.

If the rocks have been out of the tank for a while, there can be some dye off, but if not, you should have nothing to worry about.

using the 29 for a sump would be my suggestion also. You will have more water volume and can integrate a refugium or just add live rock down there as well. To get the water from the tank to the sump, you can drill it for a bulkhead and create some sort of overflow. Do some research on google or reef central about drillling tanks. Its not as hard as it seems, but if your not a huge DI person, you may opt to have someone do it or go for a Hang on the back overflow. Search ebay for some options. A separate refugium will require another pump unless you use gravity. Another pump = more heat added to the system, which is what you dont want for a ceph tank.

With the sump, you can get some glass or acrylic cut to make some baffles to divide it into sections. Also, the amount of baffles will also serve as a method to prevent microbubbles generated from the skimmer from entering into the main tank. Again, reef central is a great resource for these projects. If you have questions still, post here for there are many knowledgeable people on tonmo.

keep in mind that everything will need to be octo proof. People often use window screen material to cover opening and holes. Rotating powerheads and wavemakers are nice to give varied flow in the tank which can discourage wastes to settle and pollute the water. If setup properly, the wastes will stay suspended in the water until it hits the overflow-->filter/skimmers. Depending on the powerheads, they may need some extra intake protection such as a mesh covering. The thinner the mesh, the more octo safe, but the quicker they will clog up and require cleaning.

The RoDI unit is probably one the best investments for a ceph system. With float valves or switches, it will save you a great deal of manual maintenance and supply your animal with the purity of h2o it needs.

Anyways, good luck!
yeah, the lack of gravity was my initial thought. Are you saying that additional filtration beyond LR, LS and skimming isn't necessary? I've been reading the "What do you have and how much did it cost?" thread and most people seem to have a power filter additionally.

I'm running all the water through my RODI before i use it. How would valves or switches play into that?

I do have a home-made Hang-on-tank box from the prev. owner, but i'm concerned about the lid fitting snugly. i don't have a rotozip or anything to cut custom shapes from acrylic. I'll hit reef central for the my general overflow questions.
This depends on preference and tank design. Efficient skimming and live rock is often used very effectively. In most reef systems maintaining very specific water parameters and quality, this is all that is used. A ceph system is not too much different. The main difference is that a ceph may be a larger producer of waste. A good skimmer and good flow that brings the waste to the skimmer will handle much of this prior to it breaking down in the tank. The bio filtration such as the purpose of live rock will handle whats left over. If extra filtration is required, you would want more bio filtration. This can also be achieved by adding a wet/dry type system, using bio balls/bio floss. Basically this just adds more surface area to allow colonization and growth of bacteria that convert waste to unharmful chemicals. Exactly as live rock would do.

A canister can be used for multiple functions since they are many options of what it can hold. It can be used to add more bio filtration as I described, but since this is a closed unit, it will be less effective because the bacteria thrive in oxygen rich environments where the water "trickles" through. Also, this unit will quickly build up in waste causing problems such as nitrate buildup. The waste would have been removed if it was pumped into the skimmer instead of the canister. It can also hold sponges, but so can your sump. And you can just reach in the sump to grab the sponge to clean, while cleaning the one in the canister is a headache.

The LS will only perform a certain amount of filtration. If its a deep bed, it will create anaerobic zones that will culture bacteria that will remove nitrates. This type of bed should not be disturbed. However, experiences have shown that deep sand beds have a capacity. That is after a certain amount of time, the live sand will be beyond its point of saturation of waste where it will start polluting the tank instead of helping it. if your not doing a deep sand bed, then its a good idea to clean it and stir it once in a while to remove detritus. I Personally I use a 1-3 inch bed, mostly because the cephs will enjoy this more. I stir the sand up every now and then which allows built up detritus to eventually hit my skimmer or wet/dry.

In my opinion.. The only additional filtration other then throwing media sponges in the sump would be a wet dry system if you do not feel like you have enough live rock to meet the bio demand of the ceph or cephs you plan to keep. Since you have canister, I would use it as an occasional item for carbon. Maybe a timer for an hour a day? This would also reduce heat, reduce cleaning needs of it, daily water polishing, and reduce electricity.
I'll echo most of what's been said. The 29 will make a great sump. Canister filter probably won't do you much good, plus they're a pain to clean. A wet/dry is a good option if you expect to be keeping a bigger octopus like a bimac; not necessary for a smaller one. The turboflotor is a good skimmer, remember to keep the neck clean. I don't think any of us recommend a deep sand bed for a ceph tank, or really any tank that isn't in a permanent dwelling.

Just as you thought, most of the additives are useless. When you have a problem, adding unknown chemicals usually doesn't help too much :smile:
I won't add to the recommendations but I have to ask, are you saying that you got the new type of LED lighting that will range from moon light to Halide equivalent in the package? If it is what you suggest (and what I am thinking of), you can have acquired your set up for free if you want to sell it.:mrgreen: (< envy)
Dwhatley: ah the lights did not come with the package, and they are way too cool for me to sell. I inheritated them from a compsci friend of mine.

It’s one of those programmable LED systems used for creating color effects on walls in bars and clubs and whatnot. It consists of a power supply and 27 connectable 12” strips of alternating red, green and blue LEDs. Each strip has 45 individual LEDs and a controller to change the color effect (cycle, alternation, strobe, fixed) the color, and intensity. Since it has RG and B, you can set it any given color and value combination.

The box does say they are “full spectrum” but I don’t know the Kelvin rating or the lumen output so I can’t say if it replicates MH lighting, though I am reasonably sure that with 1200 LEDs I could come close. This is not a concern on an octo tank anyway, right?

I haven’t been able to devise I way to use them for both white day light and red night light. I can set each strip individually, but there’s only one power source, so they all have to be on one timer. Yeah, still trying to think of a solution for that one…
The lights are still cool and should be fun to experiment with but I am no longer insanely jealous.:heee:

...and no, octopuses would be happy with ambient light so MH are not desireable but they are for the new tank we want to build ...
Ive always thought solaris system would be nice for a ceph tank, but those prices are crazy! Theres tests that compare them to MHs and they dont really measure up. I wouldnt trust it for a reef system, but it would be good for cephs, since you can adjust intensity and spectrum. I just love the lunar cycles and effects like cloud cover etc available.

There are however cheaper alternatives. Although this has been available in non-aquarium worlds for a while now, but dimmable T5 ballasts and controllers are entering the scene. So far its only available for 54 watt bulbs. Im using 39 watters, so im not reaching into my pocket books...yet. Oh and did i mention that its much cheaper??!?

Sour Grapes! No comparison! I can't afford the Solaris either but it is definitely my dream lighting concept the newer version is supposed to be brighter but I could live with the older one for what I want). Fully programmable with the most wonderful settings and no separate timer. If I ever take the plung into trying to raise critters on a serious level, I fully believe something like this would stimulate the breeding cycle, especially if set up with the moon and changes in the current to match. Just dreaming (too broke to retire from a real job) but what a system this would help create.:coffee:

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