I knew what I wanted to do was a bit beyond my capacity, so I found a local guy who worked with Acrylic and had some shelves built to spec and holes drilled so many inches apart. Below you can see one set of shelves, two in all. They are cut in a fashion to fit inside the oblong shaped Tuff Stuff grow tanks I am now working with.
Along the underside three supports strips were glued to keep the shelves from bending and bowing from weight or water pressure. Holes were drilled about every two inches apart for the plugs to sit inside. I have different hole configurations for different families. These were deigned for Small Polyp Stony Coral, the shelves for Zoanthus are about one inch apart being that the different species are more
tolerable to each other. Next I planned out how high I want the shelf to sit in the tank and began to cut some PVC pipe to assemble into a small box shape to support the weight of the shelf and keep it off of the Deep Sand Bed.
The PVC pipe is very inexpensive and proves to be the most logical way to go. I have considered Egg Crates, but from my past experience in supporting other shelves it proved to be an algae trap as well. After connecting the cut pieces to resemble the top of a box, I inserted the structure into the tank to make sure everything lined up well. When adhering the separate pieces, make sure you allow for one end to be removed under water to purge the air bubbles from the PVC pipe, otherwise potion will be buoyant and have a tendency to float. Not gluing in the legs is not an option, unless you can turn the structure upside down under water in your tank.
So in my case I left the right end and did not adhere it so that it could be removed under water. Once the structure was in the tank I moved the live rock that was covering the Deep Sand Bed. I piled up the rock around each leg, assembling a small underwater atoll. The formation kept the structure more sturdy and gave ample room for sand and fish to swim around underneath the shelving. I think this is the best solution for a home coral farmer, but certainly not feasible on a commercial scale.
The process is much more time consuming and costly than just throwing in egg crates and growing on fragmented rubble, but it has its rewards. The only problems I have now that I would like to overcome is the support system for the underside of the shelves themselves, and a method of attaching the shelf to the PVC structure that could be removed and reattached with ease.