I’ve been working on a 40B for quite some time now and I think it is at a state where I can start writing things down.


  • Glass Cages 40B rimless, black silicone, starphire front and sides
  • Glass Holes 700gph overflow and two 1/2″ returns
  • Eheim 1260 return flow
  • Vortech MP40wES internal flow
  • Hydor ETH 300W inline heater
  • eshopps PSK-100 skimmer
  • about 25lbs of dry marco rock
  • about 45lbs of super fine dry marco sand
  • two BRS dosers
  • one BRS reactor with MJ900 MJ1200
  • two Peerless PA730-S Articulating Wall Arms

— diy —

  • 3/4″ birch plywood stand
  • 48 Cree XP LED lights
  • Arduino based controller
  • acrylic sump

Seeding organisms:

  • 1 small bottle of bio-spra
  • macro bacter 7
  • 12+ bristle worms
  • 6+ sandbed clams
  • 6+ spagetti worms
  • wondermud
  • Ulva
  • nitrosomonas and nitrobacter
  • 6+ Strombus snails
  • 6+ gastropod snails
  • 12+ tiny black hermits
  • 20+ amphipods
  • 8-9 tiny bristle stars
  • plankton

After few weeks I’ll start moving my CUC, skunk shrimp and 2 clowns from my 10G. After that I’ll slowly start moving my small coral.

Glass Cages

I ordered my tank from glass cages. A lot of people have had good and bad experience with them. I’m sort of in the middle. When I picked up my tank it was standing on one of the sides and after I came home I found a few pretty big scratches on it. Now that’s not a problem for me, because that side is almost against the wall, but if the tank wasn’t in the corner, I would have been pissed.

But, fortunately, I didn’t care for that side so I was fine.

All in all I’m pretty happy with the silicone job. They did use 1/2″ glass which was surprising, but at least I know the tank is … a tank


After I got the tank I didn’t touch it for quite some time. Instead I started working on the stand.

For a while I was considering the popular 2×4 design with ply on the outside, but decided against it and I’m glad because I have plenty of space under the tank now.

The stand is 36″x36″x24″ deep with a 2×4 at 17″ for support of the back wall of the stand. Bottom panel is raised a couple of inches from the ground.
I used Titebond II with pocket screws (don’t have that many clamps).

Here is the barebones stand:

And its new location:

Next I added a on top to hide the bottom of the tank and the foam. Outside is covered with several coats of poly, inside has 3-4 coats of white appliance paint.

Front doors are just plain white boards to match the rest of the apartment cabinetry.

Reef ready

After the stand was ready came time for drilling the glass. Boy did that take a while!

Few days later (yes days) I was ready to paint the back:

And the next challenge was the plumbing. I should have done the returns with flex pvc, but didn’t know about it until I glued all the PVC together.

In any case, after leveling the stand and placing the tank on top, cementing the PVC I was at this:

And you know what that means, it means I was ready for WATER!

… many hours later:

but wait…


I didn’t have a sump yet! So next project: build the sump. I wanted basically fill up that stand with a sump that will have a fuge, big enough return section, space for my skimmer and RO/DI section. Some playing around with SketchUp and I came up with this:

Initial research suggested I use 1/4″ plexi. However I didn’t feel like spending the money for that plexi, plus didn’t have the tools to cut it properly. So I just went to home depot and got their 1/10″ plexi. Yes 1/10″. The cheap, think stuff. The back and left side are supported by the plywood so I figured I only have to make sure the front and right side do now bend under the pressure of the water.

When I put the sump together I tested it to see how much the walls bend, because I know that’s what causes the cemented edges to fail. It was a good amount actually, but not as much as I thought. The top brace, baffles and fuge wall kept things together pretty well, but I wasn’t happy. So what I did to keep things from bowing was to use strips of plexi glued perpendicular to the walls every 2-3 inches around the walls. That pretty much made them rock solid. there is basically no visible bowing that I can tell with the sump filled all the way to the top. I also used pieces for the bottom edges to just enforce the cementing. Oh and at the end I used weld-on 16 on all external edges.

I had the sump sit in the bathroom full and at operating levels without support from any side and all was good. Wish me luck that it doesn’t fail in the next few years.

Reason I did it this way: $80

Perfect fit under the tank:

Sand Storm

After I finished testing the sump I filled it up with water and tested the plumbing. Of course it wasn’t perfect. I had 2 tiny leaks. Tried a few tricks to seal the holes but that didn’t work, so I went to HD yet one more time to buy new elbows and fittings, but instead got a fix-it stick from the plumbing department. That thing did the job. I basically covered the entire fitting with that thing and everything was fixed.

With the plumbing fixed, sump under the tank and water in the system it was time for sand and rocks.

Do you like my rock work?

That thing took 3 days to clean up enough so I could see my rocks again. So I took the BRS reactor, stuffed the media cartridge with “snow” (filter floss from arts store) and turned on the MJ900. Next morning water was crystal.


Meanwhile I had some time to take an American DJ power strip apart so that I can connect the outlets to a relays that I’ll control later.

Basically take the two screws from each side:

Take out the short black wires (N on the connectors):

Change the short wires with long ones (18AWG):

Make a hole and take out your leads:

The relay boards will be connected to the controller via 10p ribbon cable.


So the tank was ready for some lights.
48 individual heatsinks from Mouser (Wakefield 658-35AB)
24 Cree XP-G white LEDs
24 Cree XP-E Royal Blue LEDs
2 strips of u channel aluminum for framing
2 24v 6.5A power supplies
4 CAT 4101 driver boards from

And we start with mounting one led per heatsink:

I put a small amount of part A of the thermal adhesive on the heatsink, add same amount of part B, mix. Use whatever is on the mixing spoon for one heatsink, take most of what is on the mixing heatsink and use it for a second heatsink. that way you have 3 heatsinks from one mixing and you don’t waste any material.

All mounted:

Next I drilled some holes in the aluminum to mount the heatsinks using #4-40 machine screws

Don’t press too hard with your drilll:

After drilling 96 holes, and tapping 48 heatsink I started mounting:

A few more holes and a lot of screws later and I had the two frames:

TIme to take out the soldering station and get to work:

After I soldered the circuits (each frame has 12 white and 12 blue in 6pc strings, so total of 4 strings per fixture or 8 strings of LEDs total) I mounted the lenses. Outside LEDs got 25 degrees and inside got 40. I will see how that works and will adjust as needed.

A few strips of ply and some pocket screws later and I had my fixtures done. I used two articulating arms for TV to mount them on the wall.

After I ran the wires I

I got myself PAR sensor to measure how good my lights are for photosynthesis and here is how things look:

I’m fairly happy with the numbers. That should be enough to keep SPS and most LPS coral.

I also measured how much electricity the various components of my tank use:
White LEDs: 74W/h
Blue LEDs: 63W/h
Eheim 1260+MJ900: 56W/h (Return + carbon reactor)
Arduino: 3W/h
MP40wES: 10W/h

Всичко: 203W/h

That’s pretty good, if you ask me. With the lights on for about 8 hrs and the rest for 24, the monthly sum comes to about 82kW, which is about $17 bucks. That will probably go up a bit in the winter, but I doubt it will be by much.

The LEDs heat up to about 120F without active cooling with room temperature at about 78F, which is acceptable. I’m guessing that will go down about 15F in the winter, which can only be good 🙂

I also found out that our AC is rotating only the air in the apartment. In the summer months, when it was pretty hot outside, we didn’t open the windows for days which caused the oxygen in the apartment to drop so much that the PH of the tank water went down to 7.3. Since then I always crack the windows open for a few hours, at least, and the PH is now above 8.

Meanwhile, I got 2 pompom crabs, 3 bluegreen chromis, 1 cardinal, a hole bunch of snails and another skunk shrimp. I also got a few new coral frags, because the tank was looking too empty 🙂

(more photos in the gallery)

I still have to setup the dosers and to work on the controller. We finally found out the problem with the ethernet port and new boards are on their way. A big chunk of the firmware is written (here), but there is still more to be done. I hope to have a fully working controller within a month.

That’s it for now.