Meilan's Zeo Reef

2 Jan 2014
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Sandton, Johannesburg

I thought it was finally time for me to start a build thread for a tank that I've been planning, re-planning and then over-engineering over the last year.

Let me start of by apologising in advance for going into too much detail around my DIY efforts. I've done this in the hopes that it may assist anyone wanting to attempt various aspects of the build and provide in-depth guidelines.

So if I bore you, feel free to skip though to the pics :tt2: If you need any more info you welcome to PM me thumbs

So first a little bit about where I started…
I had built a cupboard as part for my espresso bar about 18 months ago. I thought an under counter fish tank would really give the bar some character so I started at looking at options. At the time I really didn't know the difference between marine and fresh water systems and thought of throwing in a Siamese Fighter so got a simple glass tank from my a pet store near me. While looking for “Corals” for the tank I visited Idol Marine and was greeted by this…


after picking up my jaw from the floor, I knew I had to have a marine tank in my home. I started doing extensive research and would like to thank members on this forum for sharing their experiences and knowledge. While I can’t remember all members, I would like to thank @viper357, @dallasg, @Ridwaan and @Ayoob for their informative threads and advice along the way. After a year I probably know less than most guys here have forgotten. I chose to use the last year to sink my teeth into the hobby with my sump-less 60l tank.

And here the tank is a year later:

Before going into the current tank build I would like to send a huge thank you to @bryan, Dwayne (from JA) and Adriaan (@Idol Marine). This build would have never been possible without you guys – your advice, encouragement and interest has been awesome thumbs

The intent…
I decided I wanted to attempt an SPS dominated tank, relying on Zeovit for supplementation. Learning from the maintenance efforts required on my current tank, the new one had to facilitate easier maintenance and automated to a large degree. This was my initial rendered designs:




I wanted to keep an AWC and an ATO reservoir in the cabinet, but this later changed to accommodate a larger sump. I also decided to go with an internal skimmer in favour of an external one and made a few alterations and additions here and there.

The equipment in the final product is as follows:
Lighting: 2 x Radion Ecotech Gen1, supplemented by a Kessil 350 and a 150
Flow: 2 x Vortech MP40 Quite Drives controlled via Reef Link
Skimmer: Bubble Magus Curve 9, with cleaning head and upgraded Sicce PSK 1000 pump
Zeo-Reactor: Vertex 3.0 – DIY automated
Return Pump: Bubble blaster HY7000
Controller: GHL Profilux 3.0 with temp, pH and conductivity probes and power bars
Dosers: Pacific Sun Kore 5 for Zeovit Supplements
GHL for trace elements
ATO and AWC: Via Pacific Sun
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The Cabinetry
I really wanted a high-gloss finish on my cabinet and attempted a DIY effort. This is achievable at home but requires a lot of prep and even more patience. If you have a compressor and are familiar with spray painting you probably can achieve a better finish than I did with the right spray gun. Unfortunately, due to living in a complex and the noise pollution that a compressor brings, I purchased an Earlex 5500 spray gun since it’s turbine driven and slightly louder than a vacuum cleaner. There are several limitations with this product, but it’s not a bad buy for a DIY enthusiast.

The steps below describe the process I followed to achieve a gloss finish:

I started off by wrapping the stand in 16mm MDF and made cut-outs for the doors. I then glued the wood onto the stand using a high strength adhesive. I normally carry out most projects on my patio but my dining area had to double as gluing area for a week.

The joints where cut using a plunge saw. If your saw allows, set the angle to 47 degrees instead of 45. This will account for any shortfalls on the stand and result in a better mitred edge on the outside.



I also used 16mm MDF for the light hangers – using a process called kerfing, which allows you to bend the wood. A quick google search will give you all the info you need.

After the glue dried I filled all imperfections and gaps using wood filler and dry wall filler. I thereafter applied a generous coat of a sealer made up of a 50:50 ratio of wood glue to water. After everything was dry I sanded it with 320 grit sandpaper, followed by 600 grit.

I applied a generous coat of 2k primer using a 1,5mm nozzle with a 50% overlap while spraying. This was followed by a second coat a few minutes later. It’s best not to let the first coat dry too long as the under-coat should be tacky before applying the second coat. I let everything sit for 24 hours and then filled any outstanding imperfections and re-sanded everything with 600grit.

After wiping everything down with a tack cloth I repeated this process twice over to ensure the cupboard was adequately primed. If done correctly, you should not see any joints.




Base coat, topcoat and clear coat:
I opted for BMW mineral white for its pearlescent effects. Something worth mentioning is that in the automotive industry there is no “white” paint. You need to know exactly what colour you have in mind, ask the sales attendee for a colour chart and then make an informed decision. Both the thinners and hardener that need to be mixed with the paints come in 3 variants, i.e. slow, medium and fast. I got the best results with medium.

If you opt to go for something with a pearl effect it’s more complicated to spray and also more expensive than normal 2K. I only found this out after purchasing mineral white but figured I would give it a try. The challenge with this paint is the you cannot wet-sand between coats to get rid of imperfections. You have to “build” up the layers up until you spray clear. Always go “light” when spraying, rather apply 4 light coats than 2 heavy ones to prevent overspray or runs in the paint.

Here is the cabinet after three coats of basecoat (the white).


And here is everything after spraying 2 coats of topcoat (the pearl) and 3 coats of clear coat.

Wet-sanding and polishing:
After I applied the clear coat I let the cupboard sit for two weeks so that the clear coat was sufficiently dry. I then wet-sanded everything with 800, 1200, 2000 and finally 2500 grit sandpaper. Take your time if attempting this and do not apply too much of pressure, let the sandpaper do the work for you. After sanding with higher grits your wood should start approaching that gloss finish with some swirls left behind.


The last step is to polish the paint to a mirror finish as you would a car. Use a polishing compound with sufficient cutting properties. I used a dual action polisher as it’s safer for an amateur as you are unlikely to burn through the clear coat. You can do this by hand it just requires more elbow grease. I used Auto Finesse Scholl S3 polish with an Auto Finesse Spider pad. Once I was happy with the result I applied a thin layer of wax over the paint for that wet look.


Tools used: Earlex HV5500 – for spraying
Plunge saw
Orbital sander
DA polisher
Sanding block – for the wetsanding
Wood working clamps

Glue, wood and dry wall filler – from Builders Warehouse
Automotive paint, mixing containers, tack cloth and sandpaper – from Auto Paint Centre (the ladies there are very helpful, knowledgeable and patient with a newbee)
Auto Finesse products – AF distributer
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The Tank
Unfortunately this was an absolute nightmare for me. The initial tank builder was a total waste and although this tank was supposed to be delivered in late October I was given countless excuses and the product that was eventually delivered to me in February was just rubbish. I don’t want to derail this thread with any unpleasantness, but I would like to thank @bryan for sorting out the mess.

Wanting to get the tank done without hiccups I contacted Idol. I cannot punt these guys enough – Adriaan, Edwin and Muzi did such an amazing job with this tank I cannot thank you enough. The build quality and their professionalism was second to none. I regret not going to them in the first place, as I was foolish in attempting to save a few pennies. The old saying of “you get what you pay for” always holds true.

Below are some pics of the tank:



Tools used: a phone to call Idol Marine :thumbup:
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The Sump
While waiting for the first tank I was able to procure acrylic going for a song of OLX. I purchased the red acrylic from Maizeys to colour code the baffles and just make the sump more appealing. I had used chloroform to seal the seams and reinforced this with Magma Bond from Maizeys.

I had used my plunge saw to cut the required dimensions and then routered the edges for a smooth bonding surface. A word of caution - I have worked with several woods for my DIY projects but this was the first time using acrylic. This has got to be one of the worst materials in terms on the mess it makes when machining.

Here are some pics of the build:

I moved the bubble trap down to the return to accommodate the Zeo reactor.




Wet testing:


The final product:




I found it best to use a 21 gauge needle when applying the chloroform and then used a 17 gauge needle for the Magma Bond.

Tools used: Festool TS55 plunge saw
Wood working clamps

17 and 21 gauge needles –from Dischem (buy the sanitised ones as the black rubber plunger is easier to control than the green ones)
Magma Bond – from Maizeys
Chloroform – from Protea chemicals (was sure to take my fiancé along so no one would look at me funny :m85:)
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The Installation
I’m a little OCD so I attempted to have the sump and electronics area as neat as possible. I was also worried about heat in the sump area so installed an extractor fan that’s controlled by the GHL to run at several intervals in the day.

GHL Controller
I really struggled to get the latest firmware onto my controller which supported the Android app. The guys from Aquarium Depot also tried but failed to update the firmware coz the unit can be finicky or may just be my unit. It was only when I purchased a RS232 adapter and tired over the serial port was I successful. Another bit of technology you may want to leverage is a wireless bridge, so that you are able to connect to your controller wirelessly. Unfortunately despite several attempts using an old modem to handshake with my existing one. In the end I found a nifty Netgear device with model number WNCE 3001 which is plug and play. This made my life a whole lot easier as I can connect remotely to the controller from my PC or phone. The other thing I struggled to find was Schuko plugs for the GHL power bar, but eventually found some at RS Components

Pacific Sun Doser
I bought this unit too dose the small dosages of Zeovit products. The one thing I struggled to find was tubing for precise dosing. Just for info, there is a company in Wadeville (Carlin Medical) that stocks medical silicone tubing with an ID of 3mm for precise flow. I ended up ordering the AWC DC pumps that go along with this doser for AWC. The advantage is that the unit does 170 odd small water changes in the week and the changed water volume is predicated on the inputted water change volume in the software. While this sounds great in theory, should one of the pumps fail I’ll be screwed as it will swing my salinity so still need to look at alternative solutions. Nevertheless I plumbed the AWC with RO 3/8inch tubing and used elbows and joints to prevent kinking. I also picked up a PS drop doser, which is basically overpriced Perspex tubes that reside with the tubing slightly above the water to prevent blockage in the lines.

Tools used: Soldiering iron
Heat gun

Heat Shrink, cable ties and cable tie Velcro holders – from HellermanTyton
PVC conduit and elbows – from Cable Strut
RS232 adapter, schuko plugs – from RS components
RO tubing and elbows – Puritech




Test fitting the Radion Hangers:

Auto Zeovit Reactor
I used a Vertex RX-Z 3.0 and automated the reactor as prescribed in the thread posted by @mike.braun.

I used a motor with more torque and altered the code a little so the shaft motion better agitates the media. Thanks to @SeanH for machining the components for me thumbs I can only dream of having a workshop set-up like yours mate

Tools used: Soldiering iron
Heat gun

Arduino components and consumables – from Communica
Motor – from Micro Robotics

Bubble Magus Curve 9
I had bought my skimmer second hand so it may have been the age, but I found it to be a little loud for my liking so I replaced the pump with a Sicce PSK 1000. Cost almost the price of the skimmer but it’s substantially quieter and running really well.
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Chloroform – from Protea chemicals (was sure to take my fiancé along so no one would look at me funny :m85:)

that there is gold
The Final Product
Dwayne from JA helped me out with building one awesome aquascape. I added a few pieces of live rock as the tank was cycled according to the 14 day initial Zeovit cycle.






The tank has been running for just over a month so this is the current state. I will try and update the thread as there are developments.


Thanks for viewing :thumbup:
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@AeroEng hey bud looks awesome. You are welcome and glad it worked out :) should be ordering my new parts that were stolen so should be up and running again soon
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A Stunning Setup. Please can you post a full pic of your electrical setup, as I am currently doing my build as well.
Finally...a thread... was awesome seeing this develop over the last couple of months..

Looks beter than i ever thought it would...
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