500G Conversion from Reef to Planted (56K?) - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 57 (permalink) Old 02-14-2010, 02:11 AM Thread Starter
Algae Grower
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500G Conversion from Reef to Planted (56K?)

Well, this seems as good a time as any to start a journal as I'm just beginning this and starting to make a little technical progress even if I haven't touched the tank proper yet.

This is the tank I'm working with:

It's an ~500 Gallon tank, currently very poorly done reef. Has a handful of clown fish and damsel fish, one Tomato Clown, one very small white and brown sea cucumber, and a ton of snails. Harscape is all lace rock, Texas holey rock, and dead coral on a white sand bottom that is littered with chunks of dead algae, snail shells and urchin remains.

My plan is to go with a lightly planted african cichlid tank, probably Lake Victoria oe Lake Malawi. Since the tank is as tall as it is wide front to back I'm planning on re-scaping using the same rocks that are currently in place (minus the coral) and crating a multi-tiered cave system with plants accenting in various positions on each tier, and maybe seeing if I can get some HC or some type of moss to grow in little bundles within the crevices in some of the rock so it resembles series of a steep rocky hill/mountain sides with lianas and things trailing down the side draping over some of the cave entrances. Maybe a banana plant here and there.

All that is for the future though. There is still much work to be done. The tank has to be drained and cleaned, the fish returned to the people that currently manage the tank, etc. The part of the project that I'm working on right now is the new canopy and lighting system.

You can see in the first pic I posted above that the aquarium is currently lit with light pods attached to bent metal conduit. The conduit is screwed to the 2x6 cedar board that forms the upper rim. Each pod holds a single-bulb metal-halide fixture. I am building a new canopy that will replace the entire top rim of the aquarium. The new canopy will be cedar to match the current office decor and the rest of the tank trim. The outer board will be 1x12 Cedar. It will sit down over the top ~3" of the tank. Inside the canopy are two light pods, each containing 6 T5HO54 48" bulbs. The fixtures will be centered front to back and spaced evenly horizontally so that there is equal space between each end and the canopy and between the two pods in the center. The pods will be supported by 2 2x4 arms, hinged at one end so the entire pod can be flipped up to change bulbs or work in the tank. Each fixture is surrounded by 1x6 cedar with a sheet of plexi that slides into the cedar frame. The plexi and cedar frame is there mainly to provide an splash guard around the lights.

Now, without further ado here are some pics.

This is the new outer canopy frame. It is 10' long for reference.

One of the new light pod frames:

Light pod with partially assembled fixture test fit:

The whole shebang with the pods and fixtures balanced on saw horses to give an idea of how it all goes together:

Close-up of one side:

I don't have any of the hinging or wiring in place and there will be some outer trim added to the corners of the main hood to cover up the screws. I originally intended to do miter cuts on the corners of the main frame, but the aquarium is 10' and 1/4" long and my 1x12's are 3/4" thick. To make a 45 degree miter cut I'd have needed boards that were 121.75" long and the 1"x12"x10' boards I got were only 120.75 at the absolute longest. I couldn't find 1"x12"x12' available, even as special order, within reasonable driving distance so I used what I had, made overlapped box corners and will make some miter cut 3" wide cedar moulding to cover the ends. Should match the moulding on the rest of the office decor pretty well.

More pics to come as things progress.
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post #2 of 57 (permalink) Old 02-14-2010, 02:15 AM
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This is going to be an absolute beast of a tank! Please keep us updated

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post #3 of 57 (permalink) Old 05-10-2010, 07:37 PM Thread Starter
Algae Grower
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Well, time for a minor update... I finally managed to get some plumbing done this weekend to set up the automatic water changers and drain system. As usual I had major trouble splicing in to the outside water line (main feed to a sprinkler manifold that had been plumbed with Sch. 20 PVC and kept breaking in different places.)

Hopefully work will start progressing on this project soon.
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post #4 of 57 (permalink) Old 05-10-2010, 07:47 PM
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Whoa! That tank is huge! I cant wait to see what the end result is going to be. I am considering getting a 225g and I thought that was big! If it is going to a cichlid tank what species are you going to be using? I think Frontosa would be a great fish, if you had a colony of them...thats just my opinon...

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"99% of the time, a fish tank with plants will fail. Once you start a dedicated planted tank with fish, then you begin to succeed." - Geniusdudekiran
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post #5 of 57 (permalink) Old 05-10-2010, 07:49 PM
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Good luck with HC and africans in the same tank. Water parameters are near polar opposites for the two. Can't wait to see what you come up with though, that's a nice sized tank!
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post #6 of 57 (permalink) Old 05-10-2010, 07:59 PM
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I would just do an african tank and not mix plants with africans unless its anubias, javafern, or vals. I have a 55 gallon mbuna tank and i only keep vals in it. Other then that really wont grow sinc ethe fish swims by and the plant floats up. Good luck if you want to try it.
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post #7 of 57 (permalink) Old 05-10-2010, 09:15 PM
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corkscrew vals, along with africans look wonderful, of course this is only if you can get the fish not to eat/tear them up.

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"99% of the time, a fish tank with plants will fail. Once you start a dedicated planted tank with fish, then you begin to succeed." - Geniusdudekiran
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post #8 of 57 (permalink) Old 05-10-2010, 09:30 PM
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Not trying to change your mind but... If you really like a planted tank, you might consider non-African. A big tank, densely planted woth some open space can be trurly stunning. Angels tend to school when they have a big space, rainbows will color-up and grow almost as big as Africans in a big tank, huge schools of rasboras or tetras look awsome in a big space... endless possibilities. Africans are very cool but a well-planted big tank can be trurly awsome! Do a picture search on "Amano". :-)
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post #9 of 57 (permalink) Old 05-10-2010, 09:39 PM
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Plant selection will be greatly affected by the water conditions for the africans, but your vision for the tank sounds amazing. It is near impossible to match africans for color variety, but I am not much of a fan of the plan tanks that they are kept in most of the time. A lightly planted tank with africans will be beautiful. I really like the idea of attaching plants to all of the rocks. A few tall grassy plants like vals or what ever you find will work with your water conditions would look great in a tank that size. I think you are going to want to leave a lot of sandy substrate, so most of the plants will probably be best attached to the rocks. I don't know for sure, but I think some mosses would look nice too.
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post #10 of 57 (permalink) Old 05-10-2010, 09:54 PM
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WOW! 500 gallons! This ought to be an awesome tank build. Your vision sounds awesome, but then I had the same thought as Larry but I am sure whatever direction you go with the tank will be nothing short of greatness!

Keep us updated!

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post #11 of 57 (permalink) Old 05-10-2010, 10:54 PM
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Another fellow texan , can't wait to see this one up and running. I'm really curious to see what you can do with 500g.

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post #12 of 57 (permalink) Old 05-12-2010, 02:40 AM
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What an absolute dream... 500 gallons!!! o_o!!!!!

Keep us updated with lots of pics. You can do some great things with that much room!

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post #13 of 57 (permalink) Old 08-20-2010, 05:41 PM Thread Starter
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Well, progress has been rather slow on this aquarium, but I'm finally working on the hard-scape. Below are a couple of pics that show the current state. The Boss ended up not being able to get slate anywhere in the area so I ended up with river stones instead. They're actually working pretty well. I've also changed my mind on the fish again. I'm thinking a school of 100+ cardinal tetras, maybe some GBR's and apistos. The tank is big enough that the GBR's and Apistos should have plenty of territory without too many conflicts.

Here's a shot of the whole tank. I'm getting the hardscape and planting done before I put the new hood on.

And a close-up of the hard-scape I have finished. I'm going to build a structure like this at the other end, and another one in the center of the tank to hide the secondary filter intake.

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post #14 of 57 (permalink) Old 08-20-2010, 05:44 PM
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that looks awesome! 100 cardinal tetras? id put that many in a 100g tank. i hope you add an extra 0 after that

~ Jose

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post #15 of 57 (permalink) Old 08-20-2010, 06:20 PM
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Looks great! You could even hide the filter corners with tall growing stem or blade leaf plants, as an alternative to using tons of round rock as you have now. Awesome project either way!


Terence K.

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