A few months ago I decided it was time to upgrade from my ten year old 10g low-tech planted tank to something I was proud to display in my living room. It's been a painstakingly detailed build with countless forum searches and many trips to the hardware stores and it's now time to start a journal.
As the post title mentions I'm starting with a Mr. Aqua 17.4 gallon rimless tank (60cm equivalent). It came ridiculously packed from Marine Depot (packed 1000 times better than my online lily pipe purchase...they all came broken...but that's another story).
I'm going pressurized CO2, already have the tank and regulator but it's on my 10g now until this tank gets set up. Purchased an Eheim 2217, Finnex Fugeray LED, will be making a DIY CO2 reactor, 12L of ADA AquaSoil Amazonia and ultimately going for an Iwagumi style.
Step 0: Obtain all sorts of packages in the mail
Step 1: Time to build a stand.
I really like the look of the DIY ADA stands people have made so from many owners pictures I made my own plans, sketched everything out in MS Excel and started the build. Here's a quick list of the major parts:
- 3/4" Plywood (one 4x8 sheet)
- Sheet of laminate (they only had a 4x10 in the color I wanted...this allowed me to laminate both the inside and outside)
- Wood glue and screws
- 1" flush laminate bit
- A variety of power tools (table saw, circular saw, jigsaw, dremel, router)
- Wood files and sandpaper
- Hardware for the doors
- Many trips to HomeDepot and Lowes
I took a few pictures along the way to document my first woodworking project since junior high shop class 16 years ago. There were definitely a few bumps in the road but all in all I'm happy with the finished product.
1. Here's the wood already cut to size and the roll of laminate acclimating to the same temperature and humidity in my house.
2. The sides, bottom and back were glued and screwed together. Now it's time to get some laminate on the inside walls.
3. A few more pieces are glued on and lots more laminate installed. The cutouts for the power and filter hoses took a bit of ingenuity over here but I'm really happy how they turned out.
4. The finished product!
It's level too!
5. Here's the tank on top. It's a dead perfect fit, exactly the width and depth of the tank. Note, the Iwagumi formation is still a work in progress, some more Ada AS for height and adjustment of the rocks and I'll be ready to DSM this tank.
I'm not embarrassed to share a few of my learnings for this build:
- Keep the router bearing clean. If it doesn't spin freely it can burn your laminate edges that are already installed.
- Accurately label all cut pieces of laminate. I incorrectly glued the wrong side pieces (those cut for the outside were glued on the inside...oops). This meant I had to get creative with the laminate for the outside-sides. A 4x10 sheet is just barely enough to laminate all the inside and outside of a 30"x24"x12" stand which meant I didn't have any extra pieces to fix this error.
- Account for the additional 1/16" thickness of the laminate on all cuts. I read this previously and said "yep, I did that". Well I didn't on all pieces. I had to cut and glue a small 1/16" strip of plywood on the front outside edge of the top to get everything flush.
- Ensure a perfectly level top. This is especially important for rimless tanks. A little wood filler ensured this was the case for me.
- A straight edged piece of plywood was a godsend to ensure straight cuts of laminate and wood. This was especially important for the inside pieces of laminate that couldn't be cut oversized and just routed off.
- Painters tape can sometimes help to prevent chipping. Sometimes.
- Contact cement requires a warm environment to dry. 45 degrees does not count as warm. Follow the can directions. For me this meant painting the contact cement on in the garage and then carrying the glued pieces upstairs to dry.
- Fill countersunk screws before laminating. Otherwise the router will find that small hole and you'll have a very small divot in your laminate. Lovely.
As this journal progress I'll showcase the rest of the setup. I'm waiting for a new shipment of knock-off lily pipes to replace the broken shipment. In the meantime I've picked up some acrylic to attempt some DIY lily pipes as well. My DIY CO2 reactor was
almost ready to build but I've changed course and want the clear 2" PVC. I know it's not necessary as plain old white PVC will work just as good but I want to see the bubbles! I've already spent more money on this tank than I care to admit so what's another $20 if it makes me happy, right?!
Once I get the rocks to a position I like I'll be planting some glosso for a carpet using the dry start method. Give that a few weeks to grow and hopefully by June I'll have this tank full of water, cardinal tetras, otos, shrimp and my SAE.