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My BIGGEST mistake in 4.5 years!

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Ryan Thompson View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Ryan Thompson Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: My BIGGEST mistake in 4.5 years!
    Posted: December 17 2010 at 1:07am
So yesterday marked the worst day in my entire reefing experience!

This post will be a little bit longer so here is the short version for some of you:

9 hours one day, 5 the next and the tank still isn't setup all the way!


Okay onto my mistakes and what you can learn from them, I hope.

Let's get a timeline going to make things easier.

2-3 months ago: I decide I want to upgrade my tank. Same size but I want to change some plumbing and other things here and there.

~2 weeks ago - yesterday: I get all plans finalized and start working on the new tank. Drill all my holes (2 in the bottom for drains and 2 on the back for returns). This is where ALL of the problems come from. 

I then paint the back of the tank blue (love it!).

I start all of the plumbing and build the overflow box. I decide I want all hard piping this time. I hate the flexible stuff I used the first time for the return. It was stiff as a rock and taking the pump out was a pain. I put the bulkheads in the back and they work pretty well. The holes were drilled alright but not great so I have to silicone the bulkheads in.

I put the bottom bulkheads in, SON OF A !@#%, drilled the holes way too close to the back wall and the tank trim is in the way. Get out the Dremel and cut parts of the trim off. Bulkhead fits way better now that the nut can screw on properly. One problem, the bulkhead can't sit flush on the glass because it is hitting the silicone that is between the bottom and back glass.

I silicone the bulkheads in and let it cure. Come back to test them and they seem to hold water. Alright things are looking up. I then realize that the bulkheads aren't gonna fit on the stand because a 2x4 will be in the way. Plan, get a jigsaw and cut out what we need. Yeah, great plan Ryan! (sarcasm, more later on that)

I go buy the acrylic for the overflow and build my new box. I also built an overflow lid to keep snails, fish and light out. I silicone it all in and it looks great. I then have to plumb my entire tank when I don't have the stand, sump or pump with me. Yeah, bunches of fun there!

Fast forward to yesterday:

3PM - Get off work and head over to my parents to get the tank and all supplies. Wait for my little brother to get home and take off about 3:45pm.

4PM - Head to Reef Runners to get all boxes and jugs that John loaned out to me. Want to say thanks publicly for that! Great guy and great store.

5-6:30PM - Get to my apartment and start tear down. Things go pretty smoothly for a while. Hit a small snag, no net to catch the fish. Get 2 of them caught and can't find the third. My Dad sifts through the sand for about 10 minutes and finds the Yellow Coris Wrasse (yes, they burrow).

6:30-7:15PM - Try to get the sand out of the tank and rinsed. Lesson, buy new sand and throw old crap away! Not worth the time and effort to clean it all.

7:15-8:15PM - Travel to new location and drop off brother.

Now the fun really starts! Everything I type next takes place somewhere between 8:15PM and 1AM.

Unload truck and get all fish and corals in the warm house. Later found out that water dropped down to about 67F.

Put tank on stand and get ready to cut out slots for bulkheads. Jigsaw won't do the job and we don't have ANY of the tools needed for this job. Call a neighbor and spend the next hour getting the !@#$ thing cut!! Looks like everything will fit and we haven't ruined the integrity of the stand too bad.

Move all equipment inside that was left outside while we had water inside warming to room temp.

Get the tank in place and try to plumb the tank. We didn't cut nearly enough 2x4 out!!! Have to take out another nice chunk out. It is close to 10PM at this time. Corals and fish have been in buckets for about 5 hours already. I am getting extremely ticked off at the tank and myself. I planned so many things so well and blew this one!

We finally get things plumbed and looking good. Start filling the tank with sand, rock and water. Yeah I know, no FW test! DUMBEST IDEA IN THE ENTIRE WORLD!!!! ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS FW TEST YOUR NEW TANK!!!!!!!!!!!!

Get the tank almost 75% filled. Put some water in the overflow box to get water into the sump and to check all plumbing. Major leak from a bulkhead!!! Try tightening it but can't do crap with how we have everything. Spend at least 15-20 minutes screwing around. I got it tightened enough that the leak has slowed a ton. Still leaking but not bad. Drain all water from the overflow box and call it a night.

I am so tired at this point I can't think and I am ready to quit and sell everything! I have never been so upset in this hobby as I was at this point.

It has got to be around 12:15AM by now and we are through. Throw the Vortech's in and get the heater on the tank. I have at least an hour drive ahead of me and just done.

On my way home I decide the tank is going up for sale! I am sick of dealing with it and it doesn't look like it is going to work anyways.

Sleep it off and decide that I have to drain the tank, pull all rock out and somehow silicone the snot out of the bulkhead! I will use an entire bottle of silicone if I have to so that thing won't leak!

Okay gonna through today super fast. Drain tank, take off stand, take bulkhead all the way out and go to Home Depot. Buy silicone needed, head home and silicone every bit of bulkhead I can!

Get the bulkhead installed and the nut tightened (not fun times). Put the tank back together and remember I didn't install the plumbing. We have to budge the tank forward 1/8th of an inch to get the plumbing installed.

Finally get it installed and we are finished. Won't know if the bulkhead will leak until the silicone fully cures sometime tomorrow.

Moral of the story and lessons learned:

1) ALWAYS FW TEST YOUR TANK!! Set it up a week in advance and make sure everything fits and works perfectly. I did this the first time but not this one. Trust me, one way works better than the other.

2) Buy a tank pre-drilled and build the stand around that.

3) Plan everything at least 3 times then plan again.

Well thanks if you made it this far. So far the tank isn't up for sale but might be soon! Good thing I kept the old tank. It is leak proof and ready to go.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote kellerexpress Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 17 2010 at 1:38am
Wow, dude that sounds like a nightmare, I hope you get it all worked out without quitting the hobby all together!  How did your corals and fish do with all this moving around?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Nick801 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 17 2010 at 1:40am
ah man =)
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Mark Peterson Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 17 2010 at 3:32am
Hang in there Ryan.
A similar thing happened to me with a tank I just finished re-setting up yesterday. Everything but sand went in a tub with a heater and powerhead while I re-sealed the leaking seam. It all came through okay and now I'm more confident that the tank will hold water for the long term.

You are not alone when it comes to having to take chunks out of the support structure to make a bulkhead fit or later on to be able to get a wrench around the nut.Smile
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote SGH360 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 17 2010 at 7:42am
Having this type of experience make me feel like quitting and stop going. Its this type of mistakes we learn never to do it again. Hope things work out for you.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Corey Price Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 17 2010 at 7:59am
Yes, always test your tank with water first before adding livestock. Tapwater is best, as it doesn't create a saltwater mess should you have an issue. Bulkheads can be a problem for anyone.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Shane H Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 17 2010 at 9:34am
We've all been there.   I had a similar experience at a business.  Had to tear the tank apart (starting at 10 pm) and have everything back and looking great by 5 am.  Because of the timeline, I was stressed and every little thing was setting me off.  At about 3 am, my son suggested we stop and go get a drink and mellow (quite the wisdom for a 13 year old).  After that it went together smoothly and we easily made the deadline.  I had to go back about 10 am because one of the bulkheads was leaking, fortunately another 1/4 turn on the nut fixed things!
 
Hang in there.  You'll have something to smile about when you're kicking back and enjoying your near tank!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Jeffs_little_ocean Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 17 2010 at 10:53am
All I can say is...Ryan, if you quit, can I have your acan colony?? LOL
Life is good....right?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote FlooringGuy Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 17 2010 at 11:21am
Wow.  I think I might hold off a little longer before I build a tank at my house.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Mark Peterson Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 17 2010 at 11:58am
One of the benefits of this group is the advice we can give and receive prior to, during, and after. Unfortunately, most of our advice is of the "after" kind. I for one don't bother reading the build threads, unless a hobbyist asks me to comment, because they are usually, "Hey look what I did. Pat me on the back." kind of threads. By then it's too late. Unhappy

I compliment Ryan for revealing his embarrassing experience. I am learning from it. In the future, I will think twice and post a new topic, similar to what Ryan could have done, "Where to drill holes?" I've actually got a very important question to post. Watch for it soon.Smile
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote arthuriv Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 17 2010 at 12:14pm
I feel your pain!!!
Back in Febuary of this year I purchased a 210 gallon complete setup to include fish and coral from someone up in West Haven took all day to break it down and transport it to my house in Tooele. Once in Tooele it was to late to get anyone to help me get it in the house. Got the fish, coral, sand, and rocks in the house in buckets and bins with heater and pumps for the night.
The next day everyone came over to help move the tank, stand and canopy into the house. While carrying the tank in one of the guys slipped and smack the corner of the tank fracturing multiple panes of glass. So I had fish, corals, sand, rocks all circulating in 30 gallon rubbermaid bins for almost two months while I first tried to find someone to replace the glass who did want both my arms and legs or to find a new tank. John at Reef Runners really hooked me up! He ordered a new 210 gallon tank in for me at his cost. I then had to replumb the stand becuase the new tanks had two overflows where the old one had only one. I did finally get it all setup and running and I love it, hate cleaning it but love having it.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Will Spencer Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 17 2010 at 12:29pm
For some reason it always seems to be the plumbing.  I can easily do a 10 minute plumbing job in 2 days.  This is why I am always reluctant to change my plumbing.  Everyone says drill your tank and stop using the overflow.  "NO WAY!!!"  That would be a 3 week project and include replacing the tank at least once.

I feel for you Ryan.  I hope everything goes well from here on out.  Thanks for sharing your story.  I hope it helps others in the future.  I think the moral of this story is that no matter how good your plan something can, and probably will, still go wrong.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Luckedout Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 17 2010 at 12:47pm
My projects usually involved 15+ trips to Lowes because i keep screwing up or forgetting all my parts... Once the Lowes checkers know you by name, it's time to start planning better! Hope it works out!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Shane H Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 17 2010 at 2:32pm
While we're on the subject of plumbing  ...
 
Keep in mind that any joint, valve or device may fail at some point in the future.  If you can, think ahead and mentally review the scenario of failure.  Review the "what would happen if" for each joint in your plumbing and plan a redudancy or replacement.
 
I had my return flowing through a SeaSwirl for years.  (These are, IMO, still one of the best water movement devices available.)  The gears eventually failed and I needed to replace the motor.  In and of itself not a big problem, however when I removed the device from my plumbing (at 10 pm - of course) I left a large gap in the system that most importantly, directed the return flow into the tank.  After a fretful hour, I was able to rig up an ugly plumbing gadget that hung over the tank, was secured with wire ties and did a decent job of dispersing the return flow.   It worked great while the SeaSwirl was out for repair.  And I used it again later for another small problem.

The lesson; prepare for these type of issues ahead of time and save yourself some worry and aggrevation.   However,  be forewarned, even the most analytical and veteran reefer (Ryan for instance) will run into problems that they thought were taken care of.  That is when a few deep breaths and a late night 7-11 run may come in handy. --> a box full of spare PVC fitting is also not a bad idea! Big smile
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote vadryn Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 17 2010 at 2:46pm
Originally posted by Will Spencer Will Spencer wrote:

I can easily do a 10 minute plumbing job in 2 days. 
LOL
 
I hear ya on the Lowes trips - I'm just a mile away, but the wasted time really adds up. 
 
And thanks to Ryan for sharing his blushes. Embarrassed  We all make mistakes and hearing from those who really excel in the hobby helps the rest of know that we aren't aiming for perfection.  We are shooting for enjoyment, satisfaction and fulfillment in the hobby.  I really enjoy the "project" part... just wish I was better at it so it wasn't such a big project. OuchBig smile
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Ryan Thompson Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 17 2010 at 11:01pm
Well the leaks are taken care of but new problems arose!

The overflow box holes can't handle the amount of flow and I stupidly did not put a ball valve on the return! Embarrassed

I need a Dremel to cut teeth in the overflow box and I don't have one. I can get one tomorrow but for another night I don't have a protein skimmer on the tank.

Funny thing is that NOTHING is showing signs of stress. I haven't seen my Yellow Coris wrasse but that doesn't worry me. All of the corals have polyps extended look okay. Colors are faded a little but no signs of serious stress going on.

So if anyone around me has a Dremel or a tool that would help me cut teeth into the overflow let me know! I am home tonight and tomorrow night.

I am in Sandy now just off Creek Road and 80th south.

Call or text - 801-915-6958

I am headed out to get a coke after my latest 2 hour fight! Thanks for the help and advice everyone.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote kethomps Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 18 2010 at 12:20am
Glad I'm not the only one who can't complete a project without several trips to HD or Lowes.  Hang in there Ryan.  At least you can look back and have a good chuckleBig smile
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote hydro phoenix Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 18 2010 at 8:27am
I feel your pain, I had a similar but not experience with a new tank back in July. At that point we had 3 deaths because of it. I was horrified and my husband threw his hands in the air and has not wanted a thing to do with the hobby(his fav fish died). Thankfully he is showing gradual interest. Sometimes....we just get mocked in this hobby.  
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Corey Price Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 18 2010 at 8:28am
Sorry to hear about your problems. I tend to have an idea at first, then over-think it and change it to something a bit more goofy, and then realize that the initial thought would have been perfect. Happens all the time. Our work tank should have been set up the way I initially thought, but I wanted to save money. It turns out that I have probably spent more than I've saved, and ended up going back to the initial plan.

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