Garage frag tank

Does anyone have a frag setup in an un-air conditioned garage? I have 2 extra 36’’ dual t5 fixtures…156wtts total. I was thinking about setting up in the garage possibly some time in the future, i have the space out there, but temp in the summer is a concern. And this wouldn’t be plumbed into my dt, so what is a typical free standing frag tank setup like? anyone have a link to info?? i was thinking a 30L to work w/ the lights, and water changes using the water from my dt water changes.but what about skimming. l/r, sand, filtration… … i dunno… just getting the wheels turning, and looking for input.
I’m not trying to go into bizness or anything, just want a tank that i can get my hands in and play with, and grow and frag stuff w/ out affecting our dt…

First off one thing that has crushed countless frag tanks in the past was temperature. Houndsbayman, aka John, had a frag tank in his garage, but it was fairly well insulated I believe. You might ask him to comment on this thread. A chiller will easily cost you $800-900 before you consider that option and will likely cost more than $20 a month to run in electric. Fans can help cool it a couple degrees, but likely not enough and will also cause a very rapid evaporation rate which if not met with a properly installed ATO(AutoTopOFF) will cause rapid enough swings in your water chemistry to make your frag tank fairly ineffective.

I would say step one would be to get a thermometer out there and figure out exactly how hot it gets. 82F not a big deal and we can work with. Anything cooler is fine as you’ll run a heater. Above 86F I would say just give up. There is an in between there which you’ll have to just decide how bad you want it and how much you are willing to spend(time and money) on getting it right. Regardless I would carry out a water changes worth of water from your display tank to fill it up and keep an eye on temperature during a couple hot days.

As far as a frag tank set up I would say there is countless amounts of information out there. I would highly encourage you to go without feeding it. Feeding may slightly increase your growth rates, but in a small system would also likely require you to run skimmer, phosphate remover, and carbon. Without feeding you can go without mechanical filtration. Couple pieces of LR and some mature water from your tank will be enough to run biological filtration which will be enough filtration when you are not adding food. All the equipment you will likely need will be a heater, power head, tank, and the lights, which you already have.

Hope this helps. Feel free to ask more questions.

Regardless I would carry out a water changes worth of water from your display tank to fill it up and keep an eye on temperature during a couple hot days.
im not sure if Jon's suggestion above is what im about to suggest but i think it is. i would recommend before you do anything as far as setting the system up you fill your tank/tote or whatever with some WC water and add a powerhead, fan, thermometer and nothing else. no need for precision top off because there wont be any animals. heck, i would just use tapwater for topoff. once you have your water set up monitor the temp. see what you get. you will know soon enough if what you want to do is possible without too much effort. the pinpoint wireless thermometers will make life a LOT easier since they are wireless.

Has anyone ever been to Dr. Macs greenhouse?

I remember standing there in shorts and a T-shirts sweating buckets - and if I’m not mistaken that was in the spring. It had to be 92 degrees in there.

Mac even said in his presentation that he’s had success growing coral in 90+ degree water. (I’m not even going to revisit the sewage comment that came next).

If you have a tank or a rubbermaid container available go ahead and set it up. Monitor temp while it’s empty and see what it gets to in the middle of the afternoon and choose corals to frag accordingly. Try the more resilient mushrooms and things first and see how they make out.

Monitor and track everything so we have a record of success for this experiment. Let me know if you need mushrooms to start with and I’ll donate a big one for you.

I’ve seen Dr. Mac’s green house. I highly doubt someone prefacing their conversation about a frag tank saying they won’t be doing it for a profit to make money would come close to matching the scale of Dr. Mac’s facility.(ever tried to boil a big pot with 4 gallons of water and then boil water in a frying pan with .04 gallons of water? Hint don’t use the same temperature and timer for both) It would take a lot of heat to effect Mac’s temp in that big of a system. If I remember correctly he also has ~half the water in that system inside, so having the water flowing from outside to inside partially cools it. He also uses a rather expensive geothermal system to cool all the water in his facility, he also uses a 6foot tall skimmer inside.(just a couple more bubbles being injected at room temp, then saltcreep would if he even used a skimmer) I could go into a couple other differences including how many corals he attempts to grow in his green house.(~0 growing he just keeps them alive until sale)
Could go on, but I think the point was made enough. :wink:

My frag trays were in my insulated garage initially. But started to notice mold build up on the ceiling. I did not have a problem with the temps, using a small fan over the sump. I have moved them into a small room attached to the back of my garage and now I am having a temperature issue. going to try turning lights on at night time and see how that effects the temps.
If you want to see pics of the trays, I could take a couple and post them

Pics would be great… thinking about maybe a setup in the bedroom now???
still up in the air, would like to see what the temp does out there first though.

Frag tank doesn’t have to be ugly. If you do a glass tank and don’t feed the tank it will likely stay very clean. Most of my tanks the average hobbyist would call frag tanks because up until last week I never had a rock scape.(large amounts of rock were present in attached dark tanks)

John has a great point there about lighting the tanks at night time. Very good idea if temperature is an issue.

According to this article, Persian Gulf coral reefs survive long summer months of water temperatures above 30 C or more than 86 F. the annual reef temperature ranges from 62 in winter to 97 in summers. per the pics in this study, they have some nice reefs.

the red sea reefs often getto between 86-93 degrees F in summer with healthy reefs.

Dr. Mac stated in his presentation on coral farming in Palau the reef temps get about that high too, or more. His green house may get hot, but i believe he uses some geo thermal cooling to moderate the water temps.

But that is in the open ocean, with lots of flow and good quality water, otherwise. High temps in a small enclosed tank is a lot more stress. when things go wrong, they do it very fast in a small tank of water.

I would think winter cold would be a lot harder to compensate for in a garage.

Why not set up the tank in the kitchen or something. by a window.

Dr. Mac specifically stated he took some random samples and didn’t spend a lot of time on examining the water chemistry. He didn’t bring any special instruments with him and it wasn’t a survey or scientific study of the temps by any means. Just a casual observation. I would guess a good bit that where the acans were found in deeper, bluer waters things were a bit cooler. There also wasn’t many zoanthids at all to be found. Primarily brown “SPS”. If you’re in to keeping a tank where the corals that do best are brown SPS, knock yourself out and try some hot temps. As Ken stated in a closed system things are different then on a natural reef. Discussing random statistics from Eastern Qatar is no way to decide what is best to do in captivity.

I still stick by recommending 78-82F and push 80F for newbies. I often times keep my systems at 82*F, but I also typically keep a lower nutrient systems and do not introduced significantly stressed and diseased specimens which have not been dipped and quarantined. In young unstable systems or systems where many animals are introduced from holding facilities collecting corals and diseases from all over the word bacterial infections and other disease can reek havoc.

I guess the question has to be:

“Have you ever tried it?”

Do we know unequivicably that you can’t keep a frag tank in the garage in summer? Do we know for certain that coral will not grow in 90 degree water in captivity?

I’d hate to think that we are discouraging an idea based on principles we’ve never experienced or tried ourselves.Â

Corals adjust long term to being kept in higher or lower salinities, higher or lower temps. I can tell you if you are used to keeping your tank at 82F 247 for a year and the temp drops to 78F in the course of an hour everything goes into shock and stops growing for a certain amount of time. If you were to find a couple of corals that in your specific frag tank could be slowly acclimated to the temperature of 90F you would likely need to take a week or more to get them to this temperature then it would take another week for them to settle in and start to grow. Now during this time they are likely to take on a an appearance, either growth structure or color, very different then they would at 80F and people may not be happy when things change in their tank. Not only that, but if you took the corals out of your tank, floated them in an LFS for 5 minutes and put them in odds are they would die. They would need to be acclimated VERY slowly once again.

Bottom line, it would be a royal PITA to do and the results would not be worth it. Would take any fun out of it. I have not tried this, but I did used to keep corals at 82-83 and know what happens when they were quickly brought down to 78*F. I also used to keep my tanks at 1.028 and know what would happen when they were brought into LFS at 1.024.(sock then death for most softies I had at that point)

I’ve never tried jumping off a building. Not sure what it would feel like. Doesn’t mean I need to try it to know it’s not a good idea.

Little more to share. Google around for coral green houses in Florida. MANY rich or uneducated people blew a lot of money trying to set up green houses in a tropical climate and could not get their temperatures down even with massive amounts of evaporation using large industrial fans, lots of surface area, chillers… would not work. They often times had nice set ups, but they ended up just being vats of warm water. They couldn’t keep any corals alive in them let alone growing.

There is a chance they were messing up in other ways as well. There is a chance that when they brought in all the experts in the industry to examine the systems all the authors and speakers were wrong and it was something besides the temp that was causing issues. Not likely though.

FWIW i would recommend to any new hobbyist that they try to keep their temp as stable as possible. There are a lot of other recommendations i would likely make that i dont follow myself. IMO the reason we do things like this is because of the substantial learning curve for the hobby. The more variables we can eliminate with blanket statements/rules the better the chance of sucess for a new hobbyist.

With that said, i dont have thermometers on my tanks anymore. I test once a week with my Hannah PH/Temp probe. My 265g is fairly stable ranging from 74 - 78 but my 34g upstairs has ranged from 78-89 this last year. The high temps are in the summer with the lights on and i only test at the top of the water because the probe is not submersible but trust me, that water gets warm! No ill effects on any of my corals that i can detect.

Oh yes. a range of 78-82F is best advised. cooler and corals grow slower, and hotter, you get more water quality, disolved oxygen, algae proroblems. staying in the mid range comfort zone not only gives your tank a buffer zone up or down in temp should something go wrong, its also closer to room temp. that means less heating or cooling to keep it close to your range.

over the years ive read many threads from reefers in warm asian cities or the mediteraenian who have had great reef tanks running in the high 80s or low 90s in their un airconditioned homes. but they take very good care of their water quality, and choice of corals. and where probably pretty lucky. butthey were running on the edge. the mid range gives a greater chance of sucesses and is more tolerant.

I havent given up on the garage, i got to get a vessel, used tank or tote and try it out for temp. The garage would be great… a man space… let the water, salt fall where it may/ with no reprocussion or consequences… i plan on doing it and if it doesnt work out, i got the ok to setup a 30L in the bedroom (thanks hun) so nothing but a little time wasted if it doesnt work out there.
Thanks for everyones input.

Does anyone have a setup thats wheelchair accessible?? anything more than 1 step requires two people to pick up my big arse…but i’d love to check out other peoples setups? I know Shawns frag room looks awesome so far…


its also closer to room temp. that means less heating or cooling to keep it close to your range.

thats exactly what i do. installed a 7day programmable thermostat and its the best thing ive ever done. upstairs stays about 4 degrees warmer and coupled with MH lighting and small volume things can get warm. however, by using ambient temperature for regulation and consistent photoperiod the temps become very stable if only over a larger gradient.


I can tell you if you are used to keeping your tank at 82F 247 for a year and the temp drops to 78F in the course of an hour everything goes into shock and stops growing for a certain amount of time.

this is the one downside of stable temps. if your corals become acclimated to a small temp window over a long period of time then a spike/drop in temp is much more likely to have negative effects on your corals.

i remember a similar thread a year or more ago where Chris(chrisandbarb) and Bellamy were big proponents of temp swings. at the time i was less than sure about the idea but ive changed my opinions somewhat. i still wholeheartedly believe that its a big mistake to believe that data collected on wild reefs translate smoothly to marine aquaria. what i mean by that is just because something is true on a reef doesnt mean it would play out the same way in your tank. temperatures being one such thing. as Jon and Ken both have mentioned and ive mentioned previously. temps on the reef are much more dynamic than temps in a tank and keeping a tank at the max temp of a natural reef would likely proove distasterous.

i thing Ken hit it on the head. regulating your tank temp with your house temp is the way to got so long as you leave your thermostat alone. i keep mine the exact same year round now since i installed my programmable thermostat. this method will likely provide a larger std deviation in your temps but you will likely enjoy the same central tendencies and consistency with the added benefit of animals that are more resiliant to changes in temp.

FWIW i still agree with just about everything Jon has said more or less and would recommend a range of 78-80 to any new hobbyist.

anything more than 1 step requires two people to pick up my big arse

you better hire some movers to be on standby before inviting this guy over to your house >LOL< j/k man! it was a pleasure and your welcome over anytime!

I like the window air conditioner idea.

Not only will it lower the ambient temperature of the garage you can rig up a drip tray to catch the condensation and use it as top-off water.

I like the window air conditioner idea.
should work fine if there is a standard-size window in the garage. if not then you have an excuse for another DIY project!!

they also have windowless AC units that only need a 4" exhaust/intake tube ran to outside. might be easier but i think they are a little more pricey. just be sure to get one with a good thermostat although i think digital thermostats are almost standard these days.

you could do a set up a little like Jon does. set the tank on a 2 x 4 platform on two stacks of concrete blocks to the height of your choice and reach. and perhaps for your needs, put the sump to the side for access and to roll under the stand or along side if you like. if you have a very shallow tank, you could reach fairly well.
or something like that . it would take more room, length wise, but both tank and sump could be accessable. Jon is the master of the block pile stand. easy and adaptable.