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Results 1 to 10 of 107
  1. #1

    Red face Our 55 Gallon FOWLR Experiment

    0 Not allowed!
    My boyfriend and I were recently lucky enough to trade some computer parts we had laying around to a gentleman who wanted to get rid of a 55 gallon tank and accompanying stand. There's really nothing more awesome than getting lots of expensive stuff in return for crap you had laying around the house and weren't using anyway!

    So, we brought the tank, stand, filters and other paraphernalia home with us, thoroughly cleaned it all up, and filled it up with some freshwater, to check for leaks, make sure it sits level in our rather poorly constructed apartment and to make sure all the filters and pumps that we were given work correctly. We also wanted to check if its feasible to keep it set up in our bedroom -- which is pretty much the last place in the apartment with room for another tank.

    This is an image of the tank, all filled up.

    We decided there was really no better time than the present to get started on a salt water tank. We read all the stickies in this forum, bought a few books, and did a bit of research. We settled on attempting at FOWLR tank. We've decided we're going to take our time and really try to do this right.

  2. #2

    Red face Our 55 Gallon FOWLR Experiment

    0 Not allowed!
    So, we began to do some research. I read all the stickies here. I had bought a few books on marine aquariums a few years ago and just never had the time, money, or energy to put into the hobby, so I never read them. I pulled those books out and we started reading.

    We definitely want to go with the FOWLR tank. I already have a couple of pieces of (dead) live rock that were given to me by a friend who keeps marine aquariums. These are completely dead rocks - they've been out of the water for ages and are currently just kind of hanging out in the fresh water sitting in our 55 gallon tank.

    The more we researched live rock, the more we became interested in the idea of man made live rock substitute. Rather than removing dead coral (which can still serve as habitat and substrate for many reef invertebrates) from the environment, some aquariasts have taken to making their own "live" rock.

    Since we're both marine biologists who are keenly interested in habitat protection and conservation, and we're both generally handy, craftsy people, this idea appealed to us. We looked up several methods and settled on one. I'm going to document our attempt at a FOW(fake)LR tank! If it works out well, I'll make sure to post the rock making on a how-to thread!

  3. #3

    Red face Our 55 Gallon FOWLR Experiment

    0 Not allowed!
    The boyfriend began researching refugiums, and started making noises about building our own. While I'm up for a little crafting and DIY-ness as much as the next guy, we DO live in a small apartment, and we don't really have a "shop" area.

    I remembered several people posting on here about PETCO having their 1/$1 sale, so I nipped the refugium building in the bud, and we went and got one. Happily, our stand is long enough to accommodate a 40 long and the boyfriend was able to get his "handyman" on by restructuring the stand to accommodate the width. Now I have 95 gallons to work with! Yay for stability!

    Today was our first attempt at making fake live rock. We started by driving down to the beach and grabbing 10 gallons of regular beach sand and putting it in a 18" x 36" plastic tub. We dampened the sand with some fresh water.

    Image of 10 gallons of sand in 18" x 36" plastic tub

    Then, we took the 5 gallon bucket to a different section of the beach near some oyster reefs, and filled it up with tons of oyster shells and shell fragments that wash up on that beach. We brought the bucket home and put it in the tub and flushed the whole thing with freshwater for a while.

    Image of 5 gallon bucket full of oyster shells being flushed with freshwater

  4. #4


    0 Not allowed!
    Sounds like the start of a great journal. Researching first will be your key to success

    As a alternative to rock collected from the ocean, have you considered rock from company like in the below link:

    They are a few companies like this one out there, you just have to take the time to find them. They collect dry rock from ancient reef beds that are now inland. They are mined as apposed to harvested. IMO, this might be a better alternative to DIY rock which involves cement and could require up to months of curing time due to the additives in the cement.

    I’m looking forward to reading about your progress as you go.
    If you take your time to do the research FIRST, you can successfully set-up and keep ANY type of aquarium with ease.
    "Not using a quarantine tank is like playing Russian roulette. Nobody wins the game, some people just get to play longer than others." - Anthony Calfo
    Fishless Cycle Cycling with Fish Marine Aquarium Info [URL=""]

  5. #5

    Red face Our 55 Gallon FOWLR Experiment

    0 Not allowed!
    We used one of my (grrr ) kitchen bowls to mix 2 cups cement, 10 cups sand, and slightly more than 2 cups of water. My suggestion would be to start with 2 cups, mix it all up, and only add more if you feel you need it to get that putty-like consistency. After you have it mixed, add your shells. We did NOT do it in that order, but we certainly plan on it next time. We added about 5 cups of shells.

    We used Portland Cement, Type I/II - a 90lb bag of it cost us less than $10

    I meant to take a picture of the cement mixture, but my hands were coated with it! oops!

    We decided that we wanted our first pieces to be for the base, and that "table" shaped pieces would be really awesome. We pushed a bunch of the sand away from an approximately 12" x 16" area. We "poured" a flat, nearly rectangular "table top" out of the cement in that cleared area of the tub. We poked a few finger sized holes in the table top, and filled those holes with sand so that there would be pores when the cement dries.

    We then rolled some of the cement mixture into stout "legs" to attach them to the table. After attaching each leg, we packed sand around it so that it would not sag or lose its structure as the cement dried.

    Table top (mostly covered by sand) and three legs mostly surrounded by sand already

    Table top and fourth leg, before it gets packed with sand

    Once the entire table was constructed, we covered the entire thing with sand and we are now letting it sit for at least 24 hours, so it can dry and set. Due to some of our past experiences working with cement, we know that one of the easiest mistakes to make with cement is to not give it ENOUGH water. Cement can set up, even if its submersed in water, so long as its inside of a mold. So, after covering the entire thing with sand, we drenched the sand over it with a lot of freshwater, hoping that the drenching would make up for the fact that we likely used less water than we needed to in order to keep it at that malleable clay consistency to shape the pieces.

  6. #6

    Default Thanks Cliff!

    0 Not allowed!
    Thanks for the information on companies that don't take from the ocean. I hadn't really looked into it. We just stumbled on the DIY stuff, and fell in love with the idea.

    I honestly don't mind the fact that I'll have to take it slow. That will give me plenty of time to save up for all the things we need for the tank. We're both still in college (I'm going for my Ph.D. in Marine Biology), and so we're your typically broke college students.

    Trying the DIY rocks is a way for us feel like we're making slow progress on the tank, without feeling like we have to rush out with every paycheck and break the bank -- considering the kind of poundage of live rock most people have in their tanks and the typical price per pound.

    I'm fully prepared for our first few attempts at the rock to be ugly; I plan to put them in the refugium! And I don't mind taking a while to let all the chemicals leach out of the rock and get the tank set up properly. I've already got a couple of FW tanks that I adore to keep me satisfied until we can stock this new one.

    The good news -- If the DIY rock just turns into epic failure, I'll have enough saved up to just buy the rock by then! lol.

  7. #7

    Default Attempt 1 failed!

    0 Not allowed!
    Okay, so the first "table" rock we tried to build failed a bit. The legs didn't set up well with the table top, so we ended up with several pieces of individual rock.

    Oh well, back to the drawing board. We nixed the instructions we got online and paid closer attention to the instructions on the bag of concrete. This time, we only used 2-3 parts sand for 1 part concrete (instead of 5 parts sand per 1 part concrete). Also, instead of trying to make the table upside-down and pack sand around it, we made a right-side up table-shaped mold in the sand. We poured the concrete into the mold and covered it with sand. We're going to let it sit for a day or two and see if it holds up better.

  8. #8


    0 Not allowed!
    Wow! I thought I was taking it uber slow with 90lbs of quarried rock to the 10lbs of live I used when setting up my 75 Fowlr tank, and waiting 4 months for the tank to cycle. My hats off to ya, keep it up, reading this one with interest...

    Good luck!!

    Life is tough, it's even tougher if you're stupid (John Wayne)
    If you're not angry, you are not paying attention (Ralph Nader)
    9 Tanks (2-29G QT) ranging from 150G to 10G for my 1/2 moon Beta

  9. #9

    Red face Our 55 Gallon FOWLR Experiment

    0 Not allowed!
    Well, our second attempt at making the table failed. I tried mixing in less sand this time, but the legs still did not attach well to the tabletop.

    Its been too busy of a week for me to try again, and so I'm waiting for the weekend to see if I can figure out a better way. I'm beginning to think I'm mixing in too much sand, shells, or both. Possibly, I'm not getting the concrete wet enough before I pour it.

    I'll give it another shot this weekend, and see how it goes.

  10. Default

    0 Not allowed!
    What you need is some stainless steel wire a 16th inch or bigger. Shape it to creat an inner supporting skeleton and you will have better luck. Even if you do get the table to hold for awhile,it will crumble eventually without wire.

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