130 gal Ultra High Tech Custom Built Discus Tank - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 72 (permalink) Old 05-19-2017, 09:34 PM Thread Starter
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130 gal Ultra High Tech Custom Built Discus Tank

I started off in the aquarium hobby about 4 years ago now with a betta fish in a vase. After about 6 months he wasn't doing well so I started researching how to better take care of him. Much to my wife's dismay this quickly sent me down a rabbit hole of fish keeping. After upgrading my Betta to a 5 gallon tank, I stumbled upon this site and decided I wanted to try a planted tank. I bought a 36g on craigslist and entered my foray into planted tanks. About 2 years ago my wife heard from a friend from work that one of his friends had a friend that was looking to get rid of his old tank, which leads us where I am today.

Before going into all the details, a brief summary of what I am trying to accomplish. My goal is to build a fully automated high tech discus tank. Dosing, lights, CO2, feeding, temperature and water changes will be fully automated. The only thing I will need to do to maintain this tank is trim the plants, and rinse the filter pads once a month. Everything else will be entirely controlled through my Apex controller.

This tank was a 130g custom built tank that was built in Texas and shipping to the guy here in Pittsburgh. It is a hex shape tank with an overflow on one side. He was upgrading from this $3000 tank to a 220 gallon and didn't have space for this one anymore. He said as long as I was going to use it and could get people to move it that I could have it for Free!!! Here is me with the tank 2 years ago after I first got it. Terribly awkward picture but I can't find any of the pictures I took when I first got it.



It was a saltwater tank and it was not in great condition when I first got it. It had a good 1/4" of salt buildup over the whole tank, and the polyurethane and stain was peeling off the wood over 90% of the tank and stand. I was living on the 18th floor of an apartment building at the time, so filling it was out of the question. I spent the next year striping it, sanding it, cleaning it and re-staining it from top to bottom. The end result was a vastly improved tank and stand.



My next project was the sump. It had a sump, but it was pretty much unusable for a FW tank, and honestly it was a pretty big waste of space.



I ended up removing the "baffles" from that one, getting rid of the wet/dry bucket and redoing the sump completely. After a lot of help from people here I settled on a new design and got some glass cut and built a much more functional sump. If you are interested in reading about the sump design more you can find that thread here:

Sump Design Advice

For the overflow I am using a modified Durso Standpipe that feeds down into a reverse Durso in the sump. It's not as silent as a bean animal style, but it is all I could fit without redrilling the tank which I did not want to do. The overflow pours up onto the progressively finer filters, then into a biomedia (seachem matrix) chamber, with some purigen and then into the equipment section before finally entering the pump return section. I am using a Reefoctopus VarioS-6 controllable DC return pump, which offers amazing flow and is dead quiet. I have 2 250 W Aqueon Pro heaters which will keep the aquarium at a comfortable 82 degrees F for the discus.

Moving on, the light I chose to use is a Reefbreeder Photon-48 with a customized spectrum. This light will probably never go above 50%, but it offers incredible power, a great spectrum and is fully controllable. I dive into pretty great detail on the light in this thread if you are interested in learning more:

LED Options for 48x23x23 tank

Special thanks @jeffkrol for his help with the lighting.

Well that's all I've got time for right now. I will update this soon with some of the set-up and automation details as well as plants and fish when I get there! Hope you enjoy the journey!
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post #2 of 72 (permalink) Old 05-19-2017, 09:56 PM
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sounds like a fun and interesting project... are you going to go with adult discus from the start or going with juvies?
just asking cause it will be much easier if you go with adults if you want to jump right into a planted tank. if you want
to go with juvies i suggest growing them out first in a bare bottom tank just for ease of maint purposes.
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post #3 of 72 (permalink) Old 05-19-2017, 10:08 PM
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Well that looks like quite an ambitious project you have there. Looking forward to seeing how this develops.

And nice work on rejuvenating the stand. Looks like it came out really nice.

Keep the updates coming.
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post #4 of 72 (permalink) Old 05-20-2017, 06:04 PM
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Who that's awesome, I originally wanted to do a high tech planted discus tank in my 180g but after seeing how much work it would be by trying it out in a smaller tank I decided to do a low tech natural set up.

But I would have to agree with flukekiller 100% best bet would be adults if your wallet allows it, to add them right away But if u get juveniles then go with a bare bottom tank.

If you want your discus to grow out to the biggest and healthiest as possible any one that has keep them before will tell you that it's almost a must to grow them out in a bare bottom tank. The reason being they need the cleanest water possible and at least big water changes every other day, since they need to be feed 5 times a day(2 times a day minimum) and create a lot of waste. This way you can clean out the tank very easily.

Can't wait to see how it comes out!!! Best of luck

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post #5 of 72 (permalink) Old 05-20-2017, 08:43 PM Thread Starter
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I will indeed be going with adult discus, probably 5" or so. My current stocking plan is:

6 Discus
~20 harlequin rasbora
~20 Silver hatchet fish
~12 Zebra Loaches
~20 amano shrimp

Plants will go in first, followed by the shrimp so they can grow out before I get the other fish. Once they are adults they can hold their own pretty well.

I neglected to put a picture of the sump in last time, so here it is:




Water enters from the left, goes through the sump to the return then goes into the UV filter. The UV filter is a Vecton 600 which is a 25W high dwell time UV sterilizer, which will run at nearly class 2 sterilization levels for my tank. It will run for 12 hours a day and the bulb will be replaced yearly.

From there the water will enter my CO2 reactor, which is a 3"x25" rexx griggs, as seen below:



I custom built my own regulator as well. My old lab was replacing their dual-stage regulators so I snagged one that was in good condition. I followed a bunch of the guides on here to get the parts I needed and build it. Haven't had a chance to test it yet, but I have my 20lb CO2 container now so I should be able to get it filled soon.



I recently moved out of our apartment and bought a house, so i finally can put all the work I've been doing to use and have started actually setting up the tank. It sat in my garage for about a month while we unpacked and renovated the house, but that extra time did give me a chance to leak test it.



Next step was hanging the light... that turned out to be not as simple as I was hoping. Studs are only every 18" which means the light is not quite centered over the tank. In the end that's ok since there will be plenty of light, and its really only off about 2 inches.



Once the light was in position it was time to get the tank in place. The tank is not light... it probably weighs about 300-400 lbs, but thankfully I had a bunch of friends willing to help me move it.



Last thing I needed to do once it was in place was seal the tank. The original tank builder didn't put an inner seal on the aquarium. To keep it looking cleaner he just used high strength silicone between the glass panes. It held water fine like that, and may have been fine for another 10 years, but just to be safe I decided to add the standard inner silicone seal on all the joints. This turned out to be a little trickier then I initially anticipated. The tank was too deep to do it well from a step ladder, so I ended up doing it from inside the tank, which was a little cramped, but I managed to make it work. My wife thought it was hilarious...



Well that's it for now, hope you're enjoying the journey so far!
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post #6 of 72 (permalink) Old 05-20-2017, 08:59 PM
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I'm really looking forward to seeing this progress! This is pretty much my dream project for once I've finished school and settled a bit after starting my career, though the tank I have in mind will be a bit bigger.

Will you be using RO/DI or treated tap water?

I would test your regulator carefully. Low quality needle valves are prone to 'floating', in which they spontaneously change position, changing your flow rate and potentially gassing your livestock with no warning. Sometimes this occurs over days or weeks.

Why run the UV sterilizer so much?

For the amano shrimp I would suggest starting out with more, potentially up to 100.
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post #7 of 72 (permalink) Old 05-20-2017, 11:28 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Axelrodi202 View Post
I'm really looking forward to seeing this progress! This is pretty much my dream project for once I've finished school and settled a bit after starting my career, though the tank I have in mind will be a bit bigger.

Will you be using RO/DI or treated tap water?

I would test your regulator carefully. Low quality needle valves are prone to 'floating', in which they spontaneously change position, changing your flow rate and potentially gassing your livestock with no warning. Sometimes this occurs over days or weeks.

Why run the UV sterilizer so much?

For the amano shrimp I would suggest starting out with more, potentially up to 100.
I'll be doing a 50/50 mix of RODI and tap. Reason being is that my tap water is like liquid rock... KH 16 and GH 16, with an outgassed pH of 8.3. Hopefully a 50/50 mix will get me to something a little more reasonable!

12 hours is just a starting point, I will hopefully be able to adjust that down depending on what my ORP looks like. It will probably be higher while everyone is settling in then lower it once it is established.

100 amano's sounds awesome. If I can find that many I might just go for it.
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post #8 of 72 (permalink) Old 05-20-2017, 11:46 PM
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If I were you, I might consider remineralizing straight RO water. In the wild, Discus live in very acidic, very soft, very warm water. You should be attempting to recreate that if possible. On that note, I would also be adding peat to your sump for the ph drop, or using Aquasoil / Aquasolum / Fluval Shrimp Stratum as a substrate. You took care of the heat requirements for the discus, but not the other things.

I'm also thinking about your dosing. Have you researched Nitrate toxicity with Discus? I was always under the impression that they should be kept in water with no more than 5ppm Nitrate, but that is not a good environment for plants. I could be wrong here, just thinking out loud.

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post #9 of 72 (permalink) Old 05-21-2017, 12:53 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aja31 View Post
I'll be doing a 50/50 mix of RODI and tap. Reason being is that my tap water is like liquid rock... KH 16 and GH 16, with an outgassed pH of 8.3. Hopefully a 50/50 mix will get me to something a little more reasonable!

12 hours is just a starting point, I will hopefully be able to adjust that down depending on what my ORP looks like. It will probably be higher while everyone is settling in then lower it once it is established.

100 amano's sounds awesome. If I can find that many I might just go for it.
I second the suggestion to use pure RO and remineralize. Not necessarily for the hardness level (fish from certain breeders may be able to adapt) but for the level of control. Tap water is too variable; you never know when your water company is going to pump in super high chlorine levels or something else that will cause grief with your fauna or flora. Also I'm slightly selfish in that I use pure RO/DI myself and would like to see how automation of this would be implemented.

My concern with the regular UV sterilizer use is you may also kill off some good microbes and microorganisms. Microbial processes are a highly underrated contributor to planted tank stability.

For livestock I would recommend Rachel O'Leary (msjinkzd.com). Depending on where in PA you are she may be very close to you. Through her I got 100 amano shrimp for my 120 gallon tank. That high number is great for a new tank when things are still perilous with algae risk, though I eventually had to spread some out to other tanks after some plants were getting nibbled on.

@jellopuddinpop raises an excellent point. I wonder what your experiences with planted tank management so far have been? Popular methods like EI espouse very high CO2 and nutrient levels, not good for livestock in general but especially not for discus. There are other, leaner methods (like those used by ADA) that would probably be better. It is perfectly possible to sustain a tank full of even weedy stem plants with just 5 ppm nitrates measurable in the water column. I believe the general recommendation for discus is below 10 ppm.

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post #10 of 72 (permalink) Old 05-21-2017, 02:12 AM Thread Starter
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My dosing target is ~7.5 ppm nitrates. I'll be experimenting to get it just right long before I get discus. Water is well water and is very stable, so don't have to worry about the random things water companies are always doing to the water. I'll be aging and testing the water monthly to ensure it is consistent though. water parameters were chosen to get close to the parameters the discus breeders around here use. Discus these days are dozens of generations of raised in tap water, what you don't want to do is constantly fiddle with the chemistry as that is what generally causes problems. My 50/50 mix plus CO2 dosing should get the pH to good levels.

I haven't seen any scientific studies or research that UV causes problems with microorganisms. Reefers use much more intense UV and even ozone generators without issues. Beneficial bacteria is generally not free floating, not sure what potential other microorganisms could be free floating though.
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post #11 of 72 (permalink) Old 05-21-2017, 11:48 AM
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Nitrifying bacteria aren't the only important microbes in a tank. I'm not sure if any important microbes are free-floating, but microorganisms like infusoria, ostracods, and copepods definitely are.

Working with remineralized RO/DI water results in rock-steady parameters if done right. My water's usually within no more than several TDS. Well water is more feasible than standard tap, though even then I've heard horror stories of it suddenly changing. Regular testing will be important if you go that route.

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post #12 of 72 (permalink) Old 05-25-2017, 01:21 AM Thread Starter
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Disaster strikes...

well more stupidity than disaster, but the end result was 30 gallons of water onto my carpet...

After two days of working on the plumbing and fighting off numerous leaks, I finally had the tank up and running, but I wasn't 100% confident it was still leak free. So I stopped the pump, waited a minute to make sure the return siphon broke correctly and then went to bed. Unfortunately I don't have my CO2 line hooked up yet, so I had thrown the tubing up into the tank since it was streaming water out of the CO2 tube. I forgot that I put it up in the tank and when the pump stopped it formed a back siphon into the sump. This caused the sump to overflow and deposit 30 gallons of water onto the floor.

The only saving grace is that the tank is in the basement, which while carpeted, does have a floor drain on the un-carpeted side, so about 20 gallons of that water safely went down the drain. The other 10 gallons was soaked up into the carpet and padding. All of this of course coincided with my in-laws arriving to stay with us for the weekend. The first thing I had them do upon arriving at 9pm was help me move the fully assembled 400 lb tank so that I could dry the area underneath. They were good sports about it, and we got it moved to dryer ground.

After buying the largest dehumidifier I could find as well as 2 box fans, and using every towel I had in the house I had manged to get about 4 gallons of water out of the carpet. I read some previous horror stories of tank mishaps and came across a suggestion of using a rug doctor without the soap to pull up the water. This turned out to be probably the best idea anyone has ever had. I went to home depot and rented a rug doctor and that thing sucked up 6 gallons of water out of carpet in just under an hour. Combined with the dehumidifier and fans the carpet and padding was bone dry by the next morning.

Also if you need to move a 400lb tank+stand+sump with two people who aren't very strong, we ended up managing it by sliding 3/4" PVC under the tank and rolling it along on 3-4 pieces. Worked like a charm. Unfortunately I was pretty distracted by all the chaos and didn't get any pictures of the festivities... So here is a picture of the basement with all the stuff that will eventually end up as part of this tank...






In other news I picked up two 55 gallon water storage drums for $10 each, plumbed them together, stuck a heater and air stone in them and will be using them for aging and mixing my water. I have a double solenoid valve hooked up to my cold water line in the basement, which will turn on for 2-3 minutes a day to refill the storage tanks. The first solenoid is a normally closed valve that only opens when it gets power. If for some reason this valve ever fails open (unlikely but possible) there is an IR water sensor 2" from the top of the barrels that when wet will trigger the second, normally open solenoid, closing it and preventing a flood. I also installed the RODI system and plumbed it into the storage tanks as well. It is set to open up another solenoid 3 times a day and pump in the RODI storage tank of water. Between these two set ups I get a 50/50 mix, bringing my KH and GH to 8, down from 16. All of this is completely automated so the storage tanks are constantly refilled without any input from me. There are 2 IR water sensors on the barrels for safety shutoffs, and the storage tanks sit near the floor drain so any potential flooding will not cause any damage.



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post #13 of 72 (permalink) Old 05-25-2017, 04:13 AM
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Whew sounds like a long night! Good thing you got that sorted and it wasn't a problem with the tank itself.


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post #14 of 72 (permalink) Old 05-30-2017, 01:24 AM Thread Starter
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Well I've got the hardscape in place, and have the tank fully up and running. I have the apex system fully up and running as well. I'm using the Apex to fully control all aspects of my tank. It controls the CO2, the lights, the heaters, the auto top off, the water changes, return pump speed, and return pump flow, UV, dosing etc. I have 5 IR water level sensors that monitor the water levels of the sump and the water storage tanks to make sure they stay at the correct levels. I also plan to use the apex system to flush the detris off the bottom of the tank by ramping the pump up to 100%. It took a while to get all the programming correct, but the tank is running 100% automated now.



It certainly is a mess of wires now, hopefully I can clean it up a bit once I have everything finalized.



Apex control screen, which I can monitor anywhere in the world. I find the most interesting thing the flow rate of the pump. It is rated at 1200 gallon per hour, and runs at ~375 gallons per hour at 40%, and 600 gph at 80%. My drain can only handle about 500 gph, but I can only get it to about 800 gph at 100%. Just goes to show you how much head restriction can slow down a pump.

Filling the tank:



A little cloudy from the settling sand:

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post #15 of 72 (permalink) Old 05-30-2017, 02:07 AM
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I'm excited to see where this is going.
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