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jsuereth's 125G Build
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jsuereth
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Joined: 22 Aug 2010
Location: Pittsburgh, PA USA

PostPosted: 2011.02.26(Sat)21:59    Post subject: jsuereth's 125G Build Reply with quote

Hey guys, I thought I'd start a thread for my 125G. This not only helps me collect my thoughts/finalize plans but is hopefully entertaining for others! Any advice appreciated.

Today I finally picked up the 125G tank I had been planning on purchasing. It's currently residing in the room we plan to keep, although I need to tear it back down for a thorough cleaning.

Here's the tank:



For this build, I plan to build my own wet/dry sump for filtration. This is partly to stay under a budget and partly because it sounds like a really fun project.

The sump will start out consisting of some kind of holding tank and a few plastic drawers of this variety: http://www.walmart.com/ip/Sterilite-3-Drawer-Wide-Cart-Blue-Tint/15611643. The plan is to cut the bottom drawer so that it becomes the legs of a stand. Turn the upper drawers into cannister-like trays and use scrubbies as bio-balls. I still need to figure out a drip plate that I can place over some kind of a sponge filter and a location to use carbon (for the first few weeks). I may do more with the sump in the future, but for now it'll most likely consiste of the wet-dry drawer unit and a pump with some automatic shut-off valves to prevent flooding.

The next piece is the overflow. The aquarium was labelled as tempered glass and undrillable. I'm working on trying to make an acrylic HOB overflow unit with a few fail-safe features. In particular, the BeanAnimal three drain silent pipe system. I'm not sure how important this is, since a weir can loose siphon and cause flooding on its own, but I figure learning how to set one of these up would be handy. For those unfamiliar, the idea is to set up three overflow drains from the main aquarium. One operating at full-siphon handling 90% of the flow (adjusted with a valve) and another operating durso style handling 10% of the flow. Since only 10% is in durso mode, it should be easier to prevent vortex and sloshing noises. THe final drain pipe is an emergency that run above the durso pipe. In the event the siphoned pipe is clogged, the durso becomes a siphon and the emergency kicks in for remaining flow (hopefully causing enough noise to catch the issue).

The final piece, and the one I have done the least research on, is a lighting fixture. I'm still fiddling with the canopy. I'm thinking of using no canopy and a hanging light fixture. Primarily because I want control over the height of the light over the aquarium. The goal is a low-tech aquarium, so I want just enough light for healthy plants without requiring CO2 or excell, if possible. Any advice here appreciated!

Sorry there aren't many pics. I hope over the next month to complete the sump build and start cycling the tank. Let me know if you see any issues with the plan!
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Flame Angel
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Joined: 07 Nov 2006
Location: Sydney, Australia

PostPosted: 2011.02.28(Mon)15:26    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well sounds like you have it thought out quite well! Smile

What size sump are you planning on using?

You should have no problem filling the tank up with good-looking, low-light plants. You shouldn't need CO2 either if you have sufficient lighting and use a basic fertiliser.

Have you got any stocking plans yet?

Keep the photos coming! Very Happy
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jsuereth
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Joined: 22 Aug 2010
Location: Pittsburgh, PA USA

PostPosted: 2011.02.28(Mon)19:32    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks! I just picked up a 55G tank ($35!) for the sump. I'll post pictures soon, hopefully with the design of the baffles for a wet/dry area, a heater/sponge filter area (possible refugium for fry). and a return area. I'm hoping the whole project can stay under the price of a new filter Wink
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Flame Angel
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Joined: 07 Nov 2006
Location: Sydney, Australia

PostPosted: 2011.02.28(Mon)23:39    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well you're off to a good start then for sure!

What fish were you thinking of putting in there?
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jsuereth
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Joined: 22 Aug 2010
Location: Pittsburgh, PA USA

PostPosted: 2011.03.01(Tue)20:01    Post subject: Reply with quote

@Flame Angel: I'm always changing my mind slightly, but I think for the first round it'll be three schools: corydoras (20), tetras (25), rasboras (25) and one big ole gourami. The most important of these are the corydoras ("kitty cat fish") for my daughter. I might also get some algae eaters (SAE or oto).

I've debated going for discus, but I think a huge school of fish would be great for now. Once the big gourami and a school or two reach their natural lifespan, if the tank is still in good shape and stable, then I might try some discuss.

Again, stocking is still up in the air because I haven't decided if I'm going to use the canopy. It needs to be refinished and adapted for an overflow. I always loved the look of an open tank, so I'm still leaving my options open.

Right now I'm focused on filtration. I just picked up this 55 gallon for $35:



It's in great shape and I'm certain I can build a filter that can handle all 125 gallons with it. The stand can fit in under the tank, the only concern is about maintenance of the sump. I don't think I can get it out once the 125G is filled.

Here's my preliminary design for the filtration:



Let's look at the design from left to right. Please let me know if you see any issues or oddities.

The distances on their are to the *middle* of the baffles, in case you were wondering. The basic idea is that the left side of the aquarium is a refugium. I plan to put a big sponge filter in there and some Java moss and the heater. I might add some substrate as well, still not sure. The first baffle is to keep the substrate from blowing around based on the input from the 125G overflow. The sponge filter should circulate water from the return area into the refugium (ideally).

The middle area is the wet dry area. The refugium and intake areas should fill to the top of the wet/dry and water should spill over onto the drip plate and down the bio balls/scrubbers. I'm planning to by a bunch of srubbers/scrubbie pads right now, unless anyone knows of another good cheap wet/dry media.

The wet/dry media will be suspended by egg crate (as the drip tray will be also). The <2" gap to the right of the wet/dry area will house a sponge. My plan is to use Aquaclear sponge media (I have a ton) to fit in that area, so it'll be sized appropriately.

The last baffle controls the water level of wet/dry area. The idea is that only 2" or so of the bio media is covered in water, and I wanted enough space in the return area that I won't have to top off every day. If it becomes an issue, I'll have to look into designing some sort of auto-top-off system. I plan to install an electrical auto-shut-off valve. We'll see how that goes.

Well, that's the plan for the sump. Anyone have any thoughts or suggestions? I wanted to get some opinions before I start getting the baffles cut and sealed in place.

Oh, and finally here's a shot of my new backyard after we had a lot of rain:



I've been explorer the creek a bit and I think I might pick up some driftwood from there and see how it goes.
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Flame Angel
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Joined: 07 Nov 2006
Location: Sydney, Australia

PostPosted: 2011.03.01(Tue)22:06    Post subject: Reply with quote

The schools would definitely look great in there, but I know what you mean about constantly changing your mind, it's so hard to make a final decision on a project like this!

On the maintenance of the 55g sump - that could be a big problem. How much room will there be from the top of the sump to the bottom of the stand/main tank above it? Enough to get your arm in easily enough and fiddle with things?

I like the idea of the refugium! Will the heater in the refugium be the only one for the tank? I think adding another one (two slightly smaller ones is much more ideal than one large one for the whole tank) would make it much more stable and give an added insurance if one fails. Say if you placed another one at the other end of the sump, in the return area where there seems to be a decent amount of free space, would be easy and prevent the need for equipment in the main tank.

The sump design looks pretty good to me! the only thing I might do is add some sort of 'pre-filter', just like a small sponge layer before the bio balls. I know a lot of people just add a layer of thin sponge around the intake tube (in the actual sump) and attach it with a rubber band, and just replace it weekly or fortnightly, even monthly. Just gets rid of the solid wastes and prevents the bio balls building up 'gunk' on them. Obviously not necessary, but some people find it very useful.
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jsuereth
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Joined: 22 Aug 2010
Location: Pittsburgh, PA USA

PostPosted: 2011.03.01(Tue)23:17    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yeah, I think maintenance on the sump will be interesting. From what I can tell, I should be able to get my arm into the sump and fiddle, but I need everything to be easily accessible. I have about 6" between the top of the sump and the top of the inside of the stand. The doors are about 4" short of that, so you have to kind reach around, unfortunately.

Thanks for the advice on the heater. I was thinking about going with two, but the redundancy makes a lot of sense. That's why I wanted a sponge filter and a wet/dry filter in the sump.

As for the pre-filter, I was planning on getting this and covering the drip tray with it. It's just the right size and the price point seems great.

The other option I had thought of was to put a sponge at the top of the intake section and have the overflow drain go through it so that water is pushed up through the sponge and all the dirt stays in that section. Seems like a poor idea for cleaning.


Again, thanks for the advice! I really appreciate having someone else look over the build. Most of the aquarium folk I've talked with locally are into saltwater and/or would never dream of making a sump for a FW tank.
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Flame Angel
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Joined: 07 Nov 2006
Location: Sydney, Australia

PostPosted: 2011.03.02(Wed)1:45    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mmm well I guess as long as you can get your arm in there somewhat.

That stuff looks like it would work perfectly as a pre-filter, especially at a decent price!

Your other idea of the sponge would probably work well too, but like you say, it would probably be easier for cleaning and such to get that replacement filter media on top of the bio balls.

Although looking at the design of the sump, a fair amount of the gunk might build up on the base of the 'intake' section. Not sure about this though. If the pre-filter was located directly where the water enters the sump from the tank, it would probably be most effective. However this might be more of a struggle to physically get in there and replace/clean it, and I don't think would make a particularly huge difference. Just a thought.

And you're welcome! Very Happy Seeing as I won't be doing a major project like this of my own anytime soon, this is the next best thing! Laughing its quite exciting!
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jsuereth
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Joined: 22 Aug 2010
Location: Pittsburgh, PA USA

PostPosted: 2011.03.19(Sat)17:29    Post subject: Reply with quote

So, I just finished reading "Ecology of the planted aquarium" by walstad. Read the whole thing in 2 days, it was great.

I now plan to use potting soil for plants, want to dry-start a DHG carpet and am looking into having a few emergent plants. I'm still de-rimming and putting up glass bracing.

For lighting, I plan to get some electrical conduit, bend it and probably paint it. This will be attached to the base of the aquarium. I'll post pics after I have a chance to purchase equipment. I'll probably do four t8 or t12s from home depot unless I find a really good deal on some t5n0s

Next, I'm debating the design of the sump. Based on the ecology book, a few things I didn't know need to be considered.

(1) Decaying organic matter produces CO2. Possibly in higher concentrations than is available in air. As such a wet/dry trickle filter will ruin this. It also means the over-feeding can provide co2 for plants. There seems to be a risk here, as in the silent cycling method. You have to trust that your plants can absorb ammonia/ammonium faster than anerobic processes can produce it to protect the fish.
(2) Allelopathy -> There seems to be enough evidence to support its existence, but the interactions seem crazy. As such, I'm hoping to grow plants the people know will work well. Specifically, I only want 2-5 main species of plants but hopefully enough allelopathic agents to avoid algae.
(3) Plants like lilys that can bridge the substrate->air barrier can draw oxygen into the substrate and promote beneficial bacteria better than fully submerged plants.

In any case, in attempting to preserve CO2 for plants, I think I want to redesign the sump. I want to avoid the trickle filter. I picked up this pond sponge filter rated for 125G:



I also picked up some of the filter material to test it out for mechanical filtration. I'm thinking about turning the sump into two chambers now. One that will house the heater and sponge filter and the other for the "Quiet One" pump I got. I plan to tee the output with valves so I can either have the pump go directly into the aquarium, or out the window for water changes. As such, I think I'd rather have the pump have enough water for 10-20% water change, which is ~25G.

I'm still trying to figure out where to put mechanical filtration in the sump if I don't do wet/dry. The real plan is to have the sponge filter for back-up filtration and rely on the plants/soil to cover most of the rest.

I'd post obligatory picks of all the equipment, but I'm unable to upload any more for some reason.

Now that I'm rethinking things, I'm glad I didn't order the baffles cut. I think for now I'll order baffles that are a bit short width wise and use foam to pressure seal them in place. That way I can continue to change my mind Wink.


In any case, hope you all appreciate my ramblings, let me know if I should make these posts shorter! Also, if anyone has any thoughts on this design, please let me know! I'd rather not have this big a tank crash and burn Wink
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Flame Angel
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Joined: 07 Nov 2006
Location: Sydney, Australia

PostPosted: 2011.06.07(Tue)22:31    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ah sorry, I only just saw this! Only a few months late...sorry!

How is it all going now?

Did you start the DHG carpet? I love them when they work Smile

Yes I'm fairly confident allelopathy affects our aquariums, although I think it is more prominent in reef tanks (corals mostly). What plants did you decide on? I think your idea of sticking to a few main species is a good option.

What have you ended up doing with all the filtration? I know you were tossing up between a lot of options.

Sorry for the (very) delayed response! Hope all is going well, post some more photos up Very Happy
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