After 6 months of plotting and planning, our fish tank has now been installed in it's new home at L2o. The cabinet arrived on Friday from Avenue Metal, who have done a really swell job realizing Todd Haley's design. It's frame easily blends in with our kitchen's aesthetic, minimal and slightly industrial. The mesh door panels allow a glimpse into the tank systems without being totally exposed, adding a nice effect as well as giving tons of air circulation to the chillers and pumps. The skeleton's lightness in look and actual weight belie how sturdy it really is; it has the capacity to hold 5 tons. Another important point on the design for us was simple accessibility. We wanted to make sure that we could easily access and clean the cabinet itself, as well as the surrounding walls and floor.
On Tuesday, the fine folks at Old Town Aquarium arrived with their pieces of the project, the clear acryllic tank being the first piece to be placed. The tank is really not one but two 100 gallon (or 1670 pounds of water*) tank systems, seperated by an air gap so that the two tanks do not fight one another on temperature control.
* In an earlier post, I had casually thrown out the weight of the water to be "a ton". As seen above, the weight of the water in the system is under a ton by about 330#. I'm a chef, not a mathematician; and what are you, my biographer?
From here, Ian and Kevin of Old Town Aquarium began to assemble the two independent filtration and chilling systems for the tank.
The filtration system has 3 primary components:
First, after the water cascades down from the top of the tank (oxygenating the water in the process), it enters a drip tray which disperses the downward flowing water evenly across a polymer box. At the bottom of this box, suspended on another tray, lie several plastic black balls which have a culture of Nitrosomas bacteria growing on them. This culture of beneficial bacteria on the "Bio Balls" feed on organic solid waste in the water, changing the waste into dissolved organic componds.
Initial entry point for the water into the 1st chamber
From here, the water passes under the balls and into a second chamber. In the second chamber lies the protein skimmer, which has an independent submerged pump pushing water through a lava lamp like plactic chamber. Here at the top, the aforementioned dissolved organic compounds are pushed over the top of the structure into a containment tray which can be removed simply for removal of the dissolved compounds. As the water exits this chamber, the water then moves into a long black tube which houses an ultraviolet light, which destroys microscopic parasites and pathogens in the water. It also makes the water very clear as an effect.
Once the water has passed through the filtration systems, it then moves through the chiller, regulated to the desired temperature set on the panels. The whole system has no chemical cleaners or synthetics, very important to us in regard to animals that will become food for people.
The water then returns to the tank via an underwater nozzle. We are currently not cooling the water to the temperature that we will want for the animals, as we are keeping it warm intentionally to encourage biological growth in the water. The idea being that we want the water as close to real oceanic water as possible, to simulate a natural and positive environment for the animals.
On the subject, the next step after the mechanics were in place was to fill the tank with salt water. The water is filtered tap water which is then mixed with a natural Red Sea Salt. As the name implies, this is sea salt dried from the Red Sea in a very similar process to the harvesting of Fleur de Sel. The salt water is corraled into pens, and then is evaporated using simply sunlight. In addition to the calcium chloride, the salt from this ocean also contains various metals and minerals vital to replicating sea water in a synthetic environment such as ours.
I'm thrilled with the result. It's quite beautiful, even without any life in it yet. The light reflecting off the moving water adds a moving shadow onto the ceiling above it, and you can hear the cascading water throughout the kitchen, making me feel more connected with my work, namely seafood. It will be two weeks before we will introduce life to the tank, as the water is too sterile at the moment. It is a very exciting time in the kitchen, and we are all looking forward to plucking shellfish to order and serving it in the best condition possible.