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Building a 1700 gallon Shark Tank
by Joe Salvatori

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I let everything run for a week or two to see if I'd have any problems. To be honest, I did. 3 of the 1 1/2" bulkheads began to leak, and I had alot of bubbles being returned to the tank from both pumps. I traced the leaking bulkheads back to my installation procedure. I had read many opinions on the best way to install bulkheads. One common suggestion was to apply silicone sealant to the rubber gaskets during installation. So I did. This proved to be a fatal error on my part. In my opinion adding silicone sealant to the gaskets will almost guarantee that they DO leak, not help prevent it.

My opinion is based on the following:

  1. The silicone will make the gaskets slippery during installation. This will cause the gaskets to tend to slip out of place when being compressed between the two surfaces.
  2. If the bulkheads are moved/retightened after the silicone has had a chance to set, then the silicone will "ball up" creating voids between the bulkhead and wall. These voids will eventually leak.

So I drained the tank below the bulkheads, and replaced all of the gaskets. This process was made much worse by the fact that I had to try to save/store over 1000 gallons of saltwater. Lesson Learned.

Line Gas Rectangle Composite material Metal

The bubbles being returned to the tank turned out to be a combination of problems. The open loop pump had a small leak at the inlet, which allowed air to be sucked in when the pump was powered up. I did not find this problem until I shut the pumps down for about an hour to look for leaks. The bubble problem on the closed loop pump turned out to be cavitation. To cure the problem, I simply cut back the flow (about 5 degrees) using the ball valves on the manifold.

After another 3 week test period, I began adding my live rock, live sand, and a few damsels to get my cycle kicked off. During the cycle period, I constructed a 12" wide splash guard from 1/4" acrylic which surrounds the perimeter of the tank. The prevents the waves and occasion splash from a shark from making a mess on the side of the tank. It also helps with evaporation. I also added a heavy duty 3/16" thick plastic net to the top of the tank which is held in place with a series of hooks and cords. The purpose of the net is to prevent the sharks from jumping out of the tank.

For lighting, I simply purchased 4 48" double bulb fluorescent lighting fixtures, with cold start ballast's from Home Depot. I purchased 8 48" aquarium bulbs, 4 actinic and 4 daylight. The lights are suspended over the tank on chains, and on a timer for 6 hours.

Photograph Sharing Leisure Snapshot Baby

I took several measures to control the excess humidity generated by the tank. Green board was used on all non-concrete walls in the tank room. I sealed all of the concrete walls with several coats of concrete sealant. Next I lined the entire room with heavy gauge plastic lining. I added air exchange fans to keep a constant supply of fresh air in the tank room. A large exhaust fan is in the works, which will draw air from above the tank, and vent to the exterior of the house, and I have a large dehumidifier on order.

The rest is history. As of today 03/29/2003, the tank itself has held water without any leaks, signs of stress or warpage for 9 months. The entire system has been trouble free since the initial bulkhead incident 6 months ago.

Photograph Nature Water Font Art

The purpose of this article is to give an overview of what I did, and how I did it. I would like to point out that what has worked for me may not work for you. I in no way make any guarantees or promises on the design/plans listed above. In other words, build this tank at your own risk :) If there is any additional information anyone would like, please feel free to either post your questions/comments here, or contact me directly.

Disclaimer: By building this DIY project you agree not to hold the author or the owners of this Web site responsible for any injury or bodily harm you may cause to yourself or others. Always wear safety glasses when working with tools and keep chemicals and power tools away from children. Read and understand all safety instructions pertaining to equipment prior to use.
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