Up until now, I've had little tanks. Currently I have a 10g divided tank for a pair of bettas and a 1g bowl for some CBS. Neither of these set ups have a lot of options for plants or aquascaping, so I've taken the plunge and gotten a big girl tank. My end goal is to have a planted tank with a SE Asian river look that I can keep a group of betta imbellis in.
I'm doing this on a budget, so I'm documenting everything so that others can learn from my mistakes.
Step 1. The tank
This proved to be pretty easy, thanks to Craigslist. I found a 40g breeder with a stand for $50. She did warn me that the stand had been outside in the rain one night, so the price was for the tank and the stand was just going along for free. Since $50 was half the price of the tank new and the tank was in good shape, I took the risk and picked it up.
The tank has been scrubbed with hot water and some vinegar and the back has been panted black. So far? $50 spent.
Step 2. The stand
Turns out that the stand wasn't structurally sound enough for the engineering husband (the particle board warped). It got tossed in the dumpster. A quick browse online showed that getting a stand for a 40g breeder was going to be expensive and it was going to require shipping.
I decided to go to Home Depot and check out my DIY options. Lo and behold, we stumbled across a solution. There was a set of shelves called 'medium duty steel shelving' or something like that measuring 36x18. Maximum capacity - 2000 lbs. With a price tag of $60, I scooped one up.
The uprights were in two pieces, so we had the option to not make it into a full size shelf. At half height, it's about the same height as a standard aquarium stand. Even better, the top and bottom shelves were reinforced, so the tank is sitting on a shelf with a steel rail that runs underneath the edge all the way around. I liked this DIY option because I was able to put it together in about fifteen minutes using nothing but a hammer. Since it's at half height, not all of the shelves went in. The bottom, reinforced shelf went in for stability and to keep the future canister filter off the ground. There was enough room to add one more regular shelf for a bit of storage. The extra rails were added for stability and the spare piece of particle board went under the aquarium for greater strength and to improve the tank's fit. The uprights are just barely taller than the shelf with both boards in place, but the tank fits perfectly.
We put spare 2x4s under the legs to protect the carpet.
The steel and particle board look doesn't really go with the living room, so I added a curtain on the front and covered the exposed side with matching material. This should keep the chaos out of sight. Total spent so far - $110.
Step 3: Light
After a lot of deliberation and research, I've decided to go with the low/moderate light tank. My current tanks are both low-tech, low-light set ups. The future betta imbellis will be more comfortable and I won't lose my mind trying to manage everything. I've ordered the Finnex FugeRay 30", as that should be a reasonable amount of light and also has the moonlight which is a nice feature. Hopefully it will be here in about a week. Total spent is now at $193.
Step 4: Substrate
I'm a low fuss kind of girl so I went for the Eco-complete. I've got 60 pounds en route, hopefully enough to also add some to my 10 gallon tank and help those plants out. Poor things are in plain gravel and I don't think they much care for it. That's another $50 in substrate (only the two bags really meant for the 40g count toward my total). Total is now up to $243. Why does anyone think fish are cheap pets?
Step 5: Hardscape
This is the part that I've really been looking forward to. I have a lot of room to play with here. I got a really neat driftwood branch off of Aquabid that should be arriving soon. It cost $51, but I was willing to splurge on this point rather than getting resin nonsense at the pet store that was going to end up costing more for the same size. I'm also going to be using granite to build up some structures. Why granite? Because I spend a lot of time in New Hampshire and it's not called the Granite State for nothing. I just started picking it up instead of kicking it off of the trail and now I've got a nice pile cleaned up and ready to use. Sharp edges will be dulled once I know what's actually going to get used. We're now up to $294.
Step 6: Filter
Sometimes you have to take a risk, and in this case, I took the risk with the filter. The SunSun/E-Bay/Aquatop filter was plenty big enough for my needs and at $54 shipped, I was willing to take the risk on a shorter life span. The reviews lead me to believe I've got a good chance of getting a filter that will do it's job for at least a year. It's my first canister filter, and if my history with cars is any kind of indicator, it's in for a rough trip. There's no point in me dropping $200+ on a filter for me to tinker with and bust while learning. If I manage to break it, no tears shed and I'll upgrade to something fancier. This should also be arriving this week. The total is now $348.
Step 7: Heater
After everything else, this was ridiculously easy. A 150W Dark Blue Professional for $18 off Amazon. Done. The total is $366.
And that's where I stand on the project as of today. Lots of things are arriving this week and massive assembly will be taking place. I'll post updates as I go, particularly of the aquascaping and my first attempt at setting up a canister filter. Thank goodness for the engineering husband. Let's see if an analyst and an engineer can figure that thing out.
Step 8 will be a DIY canopy for the 40g breeder (bettas are jumpers so a secure lid is crucial), step 9 will be plant selection/purchase, step 10 will be planting, step 11 will be the fishless cycle, step 12 will be setting up the support crew (otos and shrimp), and step lucky 13 will be my new betta imbellis. Eventually, one day, I will get those fish.