coral farming building aquarium plexiglass
coral farming building aquarium plexiglass
coral farming building aquarium plexiglass

In this lesson you will be learning how to construct a Plexiglass Coral Farming Unit that will use garf's new lights , and Maxi-Jet power heads.

The plans for this unit can be modified in any way that you like to so that the unit will fit in the space available.

The basic plan calls for a wide aquarium that is much longer and wider than it is tall. We found that aquariums for Xenias do not need to be more than about 4 in. deep. When we design a grow out tank we usually make it 4 ft. long because we can use standard of 40 W fluorescent lighting. The tank that we're going to build in this lesson will have the dimensions of 48 in. long by 24 in. wide by 12 in. deep.

We will be constructing this tank out of 3/8 in. clear Plexiglass because 3/8 inch Plexiglass makes a sturdy aquarium. These plans can be made using 1/4 inch Plexiglass if you are careful to supply a sturdy stand that will support the bottom of the tank.

Red Leg Hermit Crabs
coral farming building aquarium plexiglass This system has an oak stand that is made in pieces so it can be assembled by one person with no screws. This stand can be shipped flat and it can be set up in about five minutes.

We have been operating three of these tanks for one year and we have learned several things that will make their operation of these units more trouble-free. When we constructed the first cutting unit we used Maxi-Jet 1200 power heads to pump the water from the bottom tank to the upper to tanks. These power heads were placed at the back of the bottom tank because the plumbing was all behind the stand.

This semester we have set up the new three tank unit in another part of the laboratory and all the power heads will be on the left side of the bottom tank so they will be easily accessible when they need to be serviced. When we set up the first three units we drilled one - one inch hole in the back right hand corner of the top two tanks. We used one 1 1/4 inch clear plastic stand pipe to regulate the water level.

In the new unit we drilled two 1 in. holes in each back corner of the wall of tank, and we drilled 1 1/2 inch hole in the middle of the back wall. We now have 3 overflows on each of the top twp tanks.

When we plumbed the first unit last year we used flexible clear plastic tubing from the power heads to each unit. After about six months we noticed that Algae was growing inside of the pipes causing the back pressure to increase. We also had algae growing inside of the stand pipes. In this unit all pipes that move water are all opaque PVC pipe.

As we learn to produce corals we are making our new tanks shallower because the light is used better, and we can stack several tanks on one stand. Some of our newest cutting tanks are only 4 inches deep. You can use these plans to make make any size aquarium. The trick to planning your cutting list is that you add the two thickness's of plastic together and subtract that from any place you need to.

In this drawing the front and back pieces set on top of the bottom piece so I subtract 1/2 inch from the ends. You can order the Plexiglass precut if you do not have a table saw. I always make the bottom piece the size of the finished tank. The other pieces are glued on top of the bottom piece for extra support.


1. Plexiglass cut to size
2. 4 oz. can of thin acrylic cement
3. a needle squeeze bottle
4. 2 oz. tube of thick filling type acrylic cement
5. electrical tape
6. sand paper

coral farming building aquarium plexiglass

The small needle squeeze bottle will be used to apply the cement by squriting it betwwen the pieces of plastic after they have been taped together.

I like to use electrical tape because I can stretch it to apply even pressure as the cement dries. The tube of thick filling type acrylic cement is used to fill any small spaces left by not having straight cuts. This will not be a problem if you order the plastic precut.
coral farming After the tank is glued together you just run the needle bottle full of cement down each edge that you are gluing. You will see that the space between the two pieces of plastic becomes clear as the cement melts the plastic.

Be very careful that you do not get any glue on the rest of the plastic because it will damage the surface. If you are making a tank with a sump it is better to practice on the sump first. The sump will not be veiwed so any mistakes you make on it can be corrected on the main tank.

It is better if you do not need the thick cement, but I often run a bead of it inside of all seams. This extra cement will fill any leaks that are caused by the uneven edges. If I am making a show tank I do not use this thick cement. The joints will very strong if all of edges are water tight.

This picture shows how we build the light rack for these coral farming units. These Racks are made of clear acrylic Plexiglass. We drill holes for the light bulbs with a Forstner bit. We make the supports for the racks from 2 pieces of one-quarter inch clear plastic. We glue these 2 pieces of plastic into T shaped bars and we slot the side racks to receive the bottom of the T. When we put the Oak stand together we found a very simple way to hinge the light rack. We drilled a 3/4 inch hole in each of the pieces of plastic that we used to hold the Bulbs. By drilling a 1 in. hole in each of the back legs of the tank stand we were able to insert a piece of three quarter inch PVC pipe between the back legs to act as a hinge for the light rack. In the top view of the plastic light rack you can see how we insert it.

During the next semester we will be building two more of these units. As we construct these new units we will make several videos. These plastic light racks work very well because it is important to have the lights as close to the water surface as possible. We will be experimenting with reflectors that will fit over the Bulbs. On this unit that we are using polished aluminum.

We are using the new electronic 3 bulb -40 W ballasts because they put out so much light with inexpensive 40 W bulbs. By drilling 6 pair of holes in each light rack we can adjust the number of Bulbs that we use above the tank.

When this unit is completely full of sps corals each tank will have 6 Bulbs. We will mount two ballasts for each layer on the board that will be mounted on the wall beside this cutting unit.

coral  aquarium plexiglass

coral farming unit
This picture it shows another way that we make plastic light racks. This design consists of 1/4 inch plastic I beams with holes drilled for the light bulbs. This design works very well with six-foot Bulbs because of the added strength. We use the other method because we want to have as little plastic below the Bulbs blocking the light as possible.

During the next 2 semesters here GARF we will be constructing several different coral farming systems so that we can develop a complete system that can be shipped anywhere in the world. We believe that this 3 tank unit that measures 4 ft. by 2 ft. will make the best use of the space in many homes.

Each of these units has 6 - 40 watt bulbs over them. I made a plastic rack to hold the lights. I am just finishing the second pulley system that allows Sally Jo to lift the lights out of the way and lock them open.

CORAL FARMING UNIT #1 I have been building several different types of systems to lift the lights out of the way. I will show some pictures of the ones that work the best. This pulley system works very well, but I need to find a stronger cable to attach to the handles.

I used the nylon line from our weed eater for the first unit. It stretched and broke after several months. I have been looking for some stainless steel cables that is encased in a plastic cover. I have seen this used to hang stereo speakers. The light racks that I am building now are designed to give us as much space as possible for working in the cutting unit.

I have found out while watching Sally Jo work on this unit that it is often necessary to have all three lights up at once. She is often moving corals from one layer to the next. I am working on a method of lifting all three lights with a push button.

When the tank is sealed I add a piece of plastic that is one and one half inches wide around the top. This piece of plastic makes the sides stronger so they do not bow when the tank is filled. You can see this top molding in the pictures of the finished tank.

There are several ways to finish the edges of the tank. Sand paper is the safest way to round the outside edges. I use 200 grit and then finish with a 400 grit wet and dry paper. You can also finish the edges with a blow torch, but I am sure you will want to practice on some scraps first.

Let the tank dry in a warm room for 24 hours before you fill it with fresh water. If there are any leaks you can apply a bead of thick cement to the inside seam.

coral farming building aquarium plexiglass

When we set up this coral firming unit at the foundation we placed it next to one of our oldest systems. This sps system consists of the 6 ft. long 135 gal. reef tank. We built an overflow box for this 135 gal. reef tank from plastic. The cutting unit is set up with a 12 in. by 48 in. Eco-Sand Plenum in the bottom tank. We used a magnetic drive water pump and we are drawing the water through several inches of course aragonite Gravel. The Eco-Sand Plenum will not clog up because of the course black nylon mesh that covers this Plenum.

We used a large magnetic drive pump and the majority of the water flow is directed back into the bottom tank. We chose to use a gravel filter because when we are propagating soft corals there are often small pieces of coral and Xenia polyps that get caught on pump intakes and wasted. We use the 3 quarter inch ball valves to regulate the amount of water that flows through the 2 upper cutting units and the 135 gal. reef tank.

By placing this system next to an established brood stock aquarium we were able to utilize the filtration and stability of the 135 gal. aquarium. After the water levels had been adjusted we were able to start producing corals within 24 hours. We are now planning to install these coral farming units near each of our other large brood stock reef systems.

coral farming building aquarium plexiglass
sps coral mushroom coral At GARF we believe that the best way to design a new system is to actually build it and then work with it for several years. Hopefully by the time you are ready to construct your coral farm we will have been able to work out many of the details.

One of the things that we have been working with is a rotating water return. By using maxi jet 1200 power heads in the corners of each layer we are able to increase the water flow. If we were to attempt to utilize the water flow from the magnetic drive pump to create adequate circulation we would need to use at least three 2 in. drains on each level. By using the maxi jet power heads we can adjust the flow around the inside of the tank and we do not have to worry about drainage.

This picture shows a very simple overflow box that we used to return the water from the 135 gal. reef tank to the sump. We construct these overflow boxes from 1/4 inch Plexiglass. We make the siphon tubes from three quarter inch PVC pipe. We utilize the venturri water return on the Maxi Jet 1200 pumps to draw air through the one-way air valve on top of the return tube.

I hope this new set of drawings give you some great ideas on how to build coral farming units. We are very interested in any pictures you may have of your coral farming systems. Please send us any information that you want to share. Each month one person is awarded seven very rare collector corals from our personal collection. Often this winner has sent us an interesting article or picture. coral farming building aquarium plexiglass

Start of newest farming unit

coral farming building aquarium plexiglass

This project was started not only to supplement my income but also to satisfy my own curiosities. My decision to beginning farming was also the result of my dissatisfaction with the quality of livestock available in my area, and the needless destruction of these animals habitat.

Algae Eating Hermits

In the interest of sharing my experience with other aquarist I have decided to keep a running journal of my cost and progress and send them to you at GARF.

GARF’s amazing wealth of information has allowed me to enter this project with little fear of failure, I hope to give back a little.

I am located in Lawton, OK. My location serves me well because it is centrally located between four major market places. Oklahoma City, OK; Tulsa, OK; Fort Worth, TX; and Dallas, TX; are all within a three hour radius of Lawton, by car. Lawton is also equipped with a small public airport that flies freight daily to these cities. This market, as well as an above average local market of aquarist, provides the target clientele of the project.

After doing much research and market analysis I decided to build a coral farming unit for the propagation of tank-raised corals for the local market. I have been in the reef aquarium hobby for about three years and continue to have an unquenchable craving for knowledge on maintaining the amazing life of the natural reef.

My intention is to build a three tank, stacked farming unit for the initial propagation of star polyps, Zoanthids, Ricordia, and Xenia. These items though available in my area are often poor specimens not exhibiting the variety or beauty of those available from propagation farms such as GARF. The idea of their regular presence in the local market has been met with great enthusiasm. My local dealer often orders, "amazingly brightly colored star polyps, etc." only to receive them and find them all to be muddy brown in color and declining in health from poor handling. There is also no presence of hardier tank raised corals of any variety in this area. These factors led to my decisions on initial brood stock. The first unit will be upgraded to handle a variety of SPS corals upon full maturation and a second unit built to continue initial species production.

The design for my unit is based largely on the unit built for SallyJo with a few modifications to fit my needs and ideas.

The unit is constructed of a 2x6", 2x4" frame of pressure treated lumber, treated with a waterproofing deck stain. The maximum height at back is 64" to provide a frame for the top set of lights. Tank bases were constructed by framing 2’x4’ sheets of 5/8" plywood with 2x4’s.

Each tank base rest on 2x4" braces placed flush with the bottom, at 36" and at 50" respectively.

The tanks are constructed of _" Plexiglas. The bottom tank measures 48"x24"x12", the other two have the same base dimensions but are only 6" deep to maximize light usage by the organisms. Leaving 12" of workspace, and for the light racks above each tank.

The light racks are mounted on the 2x4" cross supports of the frame. Three four-foot VHO lamps, driven by two IceCap 430 ballast, light the top two tanks. This gives approximately 11watts per gallon in the top two tanks. The bottom tank is lit by two, two bulb NO shop lights using two 10000k and two Magnitinic bulbs yielding approximately 4watts per gallon. It will be used as the sump, and contain a plenium for filtration.

Water is circulated from the bottom tank to both upper tanks by two Maxijet 1000’s, and returned by gravity through 1" bulkheads. This bottom tank will be used to grow coralline algae on agrocrete® plugs, and to propagate lower light organisms, using the gravel bowl method. The top two tanks will be used for the rapid grow out of Zoanthids, Ricordia, and Xenia. Each contains two Maxijet 1000’s for water motion.

Many of the brood colonies for the unit will initially be gathered from my existing system, along the way more strains will be added from different sources, especially GARF. The project is designed to mature over the course of several years while maintaining itself financially and hopefully putting a little extra in my pocket while I learn. Eventually I hope for it to become a fulltime business, allowing me to offer superior products at terrific prices to others like myself.

Thank you, GARF and it's members, for the amazing resource you are providing and for the opportunity to attempt to begin to do what I love for a living.

Zerah Morris
Lawton, OK 73507




(7) 2x4x8 pressure treated lumber           

 (4) 2x6x8 pressure treated lumber          

(3) 2x4’ 5/8" plywood

(2) tubes deck adhesive

(1) caulk gun

(2) gold/zinc wood screw 100/box

(12) 5/16x4" carriage bolts, nuts, etc.

(2) misc. drill bits

sand paper and block

(1) gallon deck stain                       




_" Acrylite

(3) 48"x24"

(2) 48"x12"

(2) 23.5"x12"

(4) 48"x6"

(4) 23.5"x6"

(9) 48"x1"

(1) 21 1/8"x4" (center brace for bottom tank)

(1) clear acrylic cement #4 4oz

(1) thickened clear cement tube

(1) needle squeeze bottle



(2) IceCap 430 ballast systems w/ wiring harness, 6VHO bulbs,

2piece German endcaps, and acrylic mounting plates.

(2) NO 40watt shop lights

(2) NO 10000k bulbs

(2) NO Magnitinic bulbs




(2) 1 inch bulkhead assembly

(1) 8’ _" braided hose

(1) 9’ 1" vinyl tubing

Misc. PVC pipe and fittings



(1) 50# bag crushed coral  

(3) 30# bag aragonite 

(1) 20# bag live sand 



(1) EboJager 250watt heater 

(6) MaxiJet 1000 powerheads 

(1) Bactervital Marine 

(1) Seachem Reef Builder 1Kg 

(1) Seachem Reef Advantage 1Kg 

(3) egg crate panels 

(1) roll fiberglass window screen  


coral farming building aquarium plexiglass

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