Winterfell Reef - 100 Gallon Journey - GTA Aquaria Forum - Aquarium Fish & Plants serving the Greater Toronto Area.
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General Marine Discussion All things Salt.

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Old 08-23-2012, 07:32 PM   #1
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Default Winterfell Reef - 100 Gallon Journey

Chapter 1. Planning.

Previous Experience

Ever since I was little I’ve enjoyed aquariums, fish and underwater plants. My first aquarium was a 3 litre glass jar and was a home to 4 female and 1 male guppies. I was fascinated with this small water world and its inhabitants. The jar stood on a windowsill, did not have a heater, I was 7 years old and did not know about proper care, significance of water changes and nitrogen lifecycle. Surprisingly, the aquarium lasted for a few month, until one day I decided to perform a 100% water change with fresh tap water… The fish died and I did not have an explanation. That was 25 years ago and I did not have real access to aquarium keeping books.

For the past 15 years I’ve always had at least one aquarium in my household. I did mostly freshwater, was especially taken by African cichlids (tropheus are so much fun, frontosa is simply majestic). Did a number of planted tanks, that hobby had really progressed in the past 10 years, my last aquarium featured a CO2 system and intense lighting. I even tried a fish-only 10 gallon nano-reef in 2005.

All of this was preparation for the ultimate challenge in aquarium keeping - a saltwater reef system.

I started with a 10 gallon coral reef in 2011, made all newbie mistakes and have quickly realized that I needed better lighting, more water volume, greater fish variety, water stability and much much more.

By the end of 2011 I decided to order a 28 gallon JBJ Advanced Nano Cube system.

This system lasted for 7 months but I’ve discovered a few limitations:

the daylight lights system was quite powerful, but coral colours would not “pop”, a coral that would exhibit rich green and red colours at the store would quickly appear rather drab and monochrome. dusk/dawn lighting was great.
curved glass on the front panel quickly became distracting, made taking pictures much harder and was not easy to clean
I’ve stocked the tank with 5 fish and wanted many more, needless to say that even 5 was too many
putting a dosing pump on such a small system seemed excessive, but I quickly got tired of manual dosing
So while I still have this system and it is thriving, I decided to design and build a new system that will address all of the above mentioned deficiencies.

Future Build Specifications

I did not want to go with an extremely large system, so 150+ gallon aquarium was not an option. An aquarium that is too small was not worth the effort either. The sweet spot would be somewhere between 70 and 100 gallons.

Choosing aquarium length was a no brainer: I want to use Ecotech Radion lights, they cover an area of 24” by 24”, so 48” viewing side seemed like a perfect fit. Not too long and yet I have tons of options for lighting, this is a standard size.

Aquarium depth (front-to-back) was much trickier, a lot of aquariums that I like got as far as 30” deep, every hobbyist I asked recommended that I go with as much room front-to-back as possible. In the end I chose 24”, which should give me more than ample room for some nice aquascaping and great viewing perspective.

For height I am going 20” high, this should make aquarium maintenance fairly straightforward - I will be able to reach the sand without any difficulty.

I’ve made a number of cutouts and experimented with different sizing and locations. At the end I’ve picked the location that worked best and now my future aquarium measures at 48” x 24” x 20”.

I will be going with a rimless look and low-iron glass (starfire) on front and sides. Bottom will be tempered glass with 3 holes, 2 drains 1-1/2” and 1 return of 1”.

Overflow will be internal, 3 sided rectangular black acrylic centered on the back panel.

The cabinet stand will measure 48-1/4” x 22 1/4” x 36” high, custom built, espresso colour, extra door on the left end and a removable post in front. I plan to add an additional door on the right in case I ever decide to move the tank.

The sand depth will be between 1” and 2”, the bottom part of the tank will be hidden behind the stand bevel.

The sump will be 36” x 17” x 16”.


I decided to document this process from the start, hoping that I will have a point of reference that I can always come back to in order to revisit this journey. I hope that this journal will help others to learn from my experience and mistakes and that I will be able to contribute to the wonderful hobby of marine reef keeping.

2011 and 2012 were the years when I was introduced to the works of George R. R. Martin, namely “The Game of Thrones”, part of the fantasy series “A Song of Ice and Fire”. This elaborate saga featured a castle called Winterfell. The name had caught my attention and I decided to give my new build the same name. I hope to use a similar colour scheme of cold blues and the rocks remind me of castle walls.
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Old 08-23-2012, 08:10 PM   #2
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Tagging along for this one, We wish you the best of luck with this future build. This is a nice size upgrade for yourself, it will be much easier to keep parameters stable with this amount of water volume. Seems like you are doing things right and planning everything out properly. I would suggest having a live rock sump so you don't have to have as much rock up in your display, its nice to have all the extra room for corals and fish to "run" around. looking forward to future posts

Last edited by RoyalAquariums; 08-23-2012 at 08:18 PM..
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Old 08-24-2012, 08:25 PM   #3
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Wonderfull, you are going to have a blast with this build. Tagging along
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Old 08-25-2012, 12:08 AM   #4
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altcharacter has much to be proud of altcharacter has much to be proud of

Whoever did your hardwood floor did an amazing job. Awesome Inlay and a stunning finish.

Oh...and I can't wait to see your tank
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Old 08-25-2012, 01:44 AM   #5
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fesso clown is just really nice

Gonna have a Dwarf Lionfish named Tyrion?
Oh wait that would be Casterly Rock Reef.

Love your artwork on the mock-up tank BTW!
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Old 09-07-2012, 11:40 PM   #6
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Omgomgomgomg. What fish will fulfill the role of Shae? She's ma fave lol.
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Old 09-09-2012, 12:32 PM   #7
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Looks like a good plan... Can wait to see the build
180 Gallon Marine Tank established in 2004, running 3x250w IceCap, 4x54w T5HO, 600-700lbs of rock 300-400lbs of subtrate, 110 gallon refugium, 170 gallon refugium, 80 gallon frag tank, EuroReef RS250 Skimmer, LifeGard Tower Filters, LifeGard 40w UV, LifeGard Carbon Filter, 100gpd AquaSafe RODI, Modded Maxijets, MP40 Vortech, Digital Aquatics ReefKeeper Elite
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Old 10-19-2012, 09:46 PM   #8
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Default The Arrival

Chapter 2. The Arrival.

The day that I have been waiting for so long has home: the tank was shipped and successfully delivered.

It took just over a month from the time I've put in the order and the delivery guy showed up at my doorsteps. Since then I've changed my mind at least 3 times about aquarium's location, that had also affected the overflow placement.

The tank has found its new home:

I must say that I was a bit surprised when I saw the black silicone - for some reason I had those light blue edges in mind that I've seen on some of the tanks. As I was told this is the way 95% of the starfire rimless tanks are being made - clear silicone turns white a few years down the road. I think that I've got used to it already.

You may also notice a plastic band that goes around the tank at the bottom - I was given a wrong base and styrofoam, both are 3/4'' and make the tank stand much higher. I expect to receive a thinner replacement next week.

I certainly like the size of it and think that this in an optimal upgrade from my 28 gallon cube. I have also made sure to have a door on each side for easy access. One problem that I have encountered was to get the sump into the stand through the side door. The opening was 18 1/4'' and the sump, although measuring at 18'' was wider at the base by a good quarter inch. It was an extremely tight fit, I had to take the door off and also to chisel the opening a little.

One thing that I did not expect was how big the sump really is in relation to the cabinet space and how little room there is for all other equipment. I'm sure I will have fun figuring it out.

Next thing on my list is plumbing. I've figured most of it out but need to get a few pieces, for example, it is not that easy to get a 1.5'' gate valve in Canada.

The winter is coming...
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Old 10-19-2012, 09:58 PM   #9
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I am soo jealous that looks amazing! Congrats! Can't wait to see it completely done
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Old 10-19-2012, 10:00 PM   #10
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This is going to be a great build -- subscribed!
  • ZK's 75g Corner-Flo Reef Setup
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