Barr Aquatic Systems

Hang On Wall Raceway

This is a way to get strong lighting close to the corals, yet not take up any counter space. My vision was a set of four of these units on the wall, one cascading in to the next, but I ended up starting with two for now.

Getting started:

Get your acrylic put together- This project uses a piece of 1/4" material that is 48.5" wide by 18.5" wide, plus two 5.5x5.5" pieces. It also uses two strips of 3/8" thick cast acrylic that is 1" x48". Draw out the pieces you need to cut on the sheet of acrylic. Rip the sides to 5.6"x48.25", and the base to 6.25"x48.25". The end pieces are rough cut to 5.6"x5.6". You cut them a little over sized on the table saw, so you can trim them to exact size and clean up the edges on the router table.

Using the router table and a fence (or a jointer if you don't have a setup like this) take 0.050" or so off of each side to smooth it out. Set the fence once, and do both sides and he end panels at once, so they are all exactly the same height. Note the yellow fingers on the router table- They keep the material from pulling in to the bit, which is dangerous and leaves divots that need to be trimmed off. Use a 3/4" dia. or larger bit if possible. You need to trim all four sides of the end pieces, and just the top and bottom of the sides. No trimming on the bottom is neccisary. Also at this time make the two pieces for the top frame- Just rip them to 1" wide, and 48.25" long. Install the round-over bit, and round over the edges of the top frame. Much easier now then later. When you are done you should have:
Two each 5.5x5.5"
Two each 5.5"x48.25"
One 6.25"x28.25"
Two each of 3/8" 1"x48.25", rounded over on one long side.

Here is the glue and bottle that we will be using: Weldon #4 and a 2 fluid ounce squeeze bottle with a 20 gauge needle. The pins are standard sewing pins. You could use a smaller pin for 1/4" acrylic, but these work fine too.

Now we are ready for the glue up. Remove the paper from both sides of the ends, and one side of a side panel. Place the side panel on a flat table, and use a pair of angle braces to prop up the end panel, about 1/8" from the end. The goal here is to glue the end panel close to the end, but leave enough hanging out that the flush-trim bit in the router and cut it flush. We will be using the "Pins" method here- Review this thread for more details. Install one pin at each end. If you have a flat enough table, you don't need a shim under each pin. Line everything up, then fill the joint with Weldon #4. Wait about 30-60 seconds, then slide out the pins. The panel will be pretty slippery on the pins, and worse when the pins are pulled. Just get it back in to place, and hold it there for 30 seconds. Check the ends to make sure they are flush (both of them) If not, they will take more work later to get a leak-free tank.

Here is the end panel without the pins.

Here is the joint as it dries- Note the clear seam, and the ooze on both sides of the joint. This is what we are looking for- Good clean, strong joints. Don't touch it for at least two hours, preferably four hours.

Repeat for the other end panel.

Strip the paper off of the one side of the other side panel and lay it out on the table. Carefully flip the panel with the two ends on it over, and set it on this piece. Use a block of wood to hold up the center, or it will sag and cause the joints to not be straight.

Repeat the glue up method- This time you don't need the braces, as the top joint holds the panel in place.

Strip the paper from one side of the top pieces, and get ready to put them on. Since this is such a long joint, you will need shims. See that PINS thread again for details. You can do both pieces at once, if you are quick, but if this is your first tank, do one at a time and wait an hour in between them. Place a 1/2 gallon of water every two feet or so to give it a little weight. Don't go overboard.

And last, glue the bottom on, using the same pins method as before. It is important to glue the bottom on last, so the fumes have a place to escape. Reminder- The fumes are toxic, cancer causing and smell. Use appropriate ventilation and a resperator.

Again, let the tank dry over night. Setup the flush-trim router bit again, and trim all the edges flush. Next put in the 1/8" round-over bit, and round over all the exposed edges.

Next you can flame polish the edges (use MAAP), or buff them out. Remove the remaining paper before doing either.

Next up comes the mounting brackets. I wanted something that looked nice, and was sturdy. I had some 1/2" black acrylic around, so made the supports out of that. This is a 6"x6" triangle, and a 5.5"x2" and a 6"x2" piece. Cut them out with the table saw to the approximate size. Make up enough parts to put at least three brackets on each unit.

Drill two holes in the 6" piece near the top, to allow mounting screws to go though it. Counter-sink the holes.

Using the router, smooth the edges then round them over with the 1/8" radius bit. You can also use a palm sander here, but it is much slower.

Glue them up as above. Using the pins on the small parts is tough, but gives a stronger bond. We don't want these things to fail on us. Let dry overnight.

Make sure all the corners are rounded over, and flame polish as desired.

Since I wanted the mounting screws to blend in, I spray- painted the heads black. I am using a mixture of long deck screws that will go directly in to the stud, and 50# anchor bolts. The end brackets will be in to studs, the center bracket gets a pair of the 50# anchors. Since the whole thing will weigh about 65 pounds, each of the three shelves will only carry 22 pounds.

Locate where you want them, and find the studs in the wall. Mark them, and get out the 4' level.

Make sure you have room for all of them, and that you space them far enough apart so you have room for lights and plumbing. Here I have the lower one set just far enough above my skimmer (SK5200) so there is plenty of room to clean it.

Install the first bracket, then the other end bracket, using the level. Carefully install the middle bracket, so it is just snug up against the center of the level. You can use shims later if needed, but it is better to get it right here.

Here is what they look like on the wall- Sleek, and the fasteners are invisible.

Here are both tanks sitting on their shelves. No plumbing or lights yet.

Next up was the overflows. I wanted to have lots of room for water to flow between units, as I will run a pump from the bottom on to the top one to recirculate water. I will also pull water from the main system and drop it in to the top, and have an overflow to the sump on the bottom unit.

Here I'm cutting slots in to a piece of 1" pipe to make the return to the sump. I cut teeth in to it all the way around, to approximate an overflow box. I did the same thing on the 1.5" pipe at the other end. I did not know how much water flow I would have, so wanted to make something that was easily changeable when the water was in the system. This way if I decided on a higher water flow, I can make a box, or larger tube overflow as needed.

And here is a finished shot, two weeks later. I've moved all of my Ricordia in to it, as well as some frags. I added a mass of algae to the right bottom end, to help stop the bubbles coming from the right side flow. I'll be working on some kind of a bubble trap for that later.

I did lose a few Ricordia- Too much light for them. I've added some shade cloth (screen material) to knock the light down some, and will work on acclimating them. The SPS frags are doing great however.

Things to change next time:

I'll use black material for the back, and maybe the bottom to help with picture taking.
I might go wider and taller- 8" maybe. 6" is fine, but does not leave much room for a cleaning magnet.