The 700 gal indoor sunken garden project - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 535 (permalink) Old 09-22-2006, 05:08 AM Thread Starter
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The 700 gal indoor sunken garden project

Some of you in this forum might remember on several topics I've started on building bigger tank, attaching glass to concrete, slow UGF system, etc. They serve as part of simple research.

So here I review the whole thing and throw into a journal : sunken garden project.

Background : House under renovation. We used to have a space inside the house which is basically a huge terrarium cliff. The space measuring around 3 x 3.5 meter and some 5 meter tall and heavily planted with vines such as pothos, phylodendrons, etc. They live from an opening at the top (no roof) measuring 3 x 3 meter so sunlight could penetrate in for several hours. The decor of the thing is already too old and does look so much artificial (made in late 70's), so it is put down with the renovation. Since we love it such so much, the renovated house will feature the same garden at the same spot (which is inside the house right by the living room) but this time with much more realistic decor and a simple aquascape to spice it up.

Green : garden area
Light blue : void
Blue : second floor
Grey : stairs

(it used to look something like this in the past, with the walls textured and planted. If you notice the white strip which shows a man standing compared to the structure).

And so the garden was demolished along with heavy renovation project on the house. As renovation started, the garden was stripped to bare walls.

Going to drawing board, I came to a concept of making a paludarium thing that looks like a piece of nature scene, cut it and intall it in the house. That is of course complete with the cross section on the scenery which includes a cut of the water... and that means installing a plank of glass on one side to view it all.

I looked around for a decent landscaping and architectural contractor and end up with a company which occacionaly deals with great natural projects on hotels, apartements and private houses. As I have no capability of building this without a team and the expert in making highly artistic artificial rock/cliff gardening, DIY this kind of work by myself is almost impossible. High craftsmanship is needed and hundreads of hours will be spent even by a team of 3-4 people.

I made a top view concept of the sunken garden like this :

1. Water section of garden
2. Glass for viewing
3. Floor (lowered)
4. Dry section of garden
5. Filter compartment
6. Floor (raised)

The glass part of the pond will measure around
1. 150 x 60cm
2. 200 x 60cm
and feature 19mm glass, open top style.

From the lower floor to the base of the pond it will be 25cm deep and the raised portion is around 50+cm, thus making the total depth practically exceeding 75cm.

The dry section of the garden, which is raised from the water section, will be integrated with cliffwork to form realistic scene which resembles what you can find in tropical waterfalls/dripping cliffs. Pockets for planting area will serve as starting points for terrestrial plants, climbing, aerial, epifits, mostly medium to low light plants including but not limited to : ferns, bromeliads, pothos, ivys, phylodendrons, orchids and many kinds of forest floor plants.

Last edited by medicineman; 04-06-2008 at 01:53 PM.
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post #2 of 535 (permalink) Old 09-22-2006, 10:14 AM
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This looks like it's going to be an incredible project. I can't wait to see the inprogress posts!
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post #3 of 535 (permalink) Old 09-22-2006, 01:50 PM Thread Starter
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The filter will be built with a backwash system in order to minimize maintenance (its going to be quite big and would be tiresome to take care of when using regular filtration system).

Rough illustration on the filter :

1. Inlet from pond.. overflow so the pond surface will be clean from film and trash.
2. Filter chambers. Some will be accordingly filled with brush, ceramic rings, bio balls, filter mat, sponge and filter floss.
3. Backwash drains (controled by individual valves)
4. Overflow drain, controlling water level at constant height.
5. Return line.

Building this way is not only cheaper (compared to factory built pressurized or canister system) but proved long lasting and very effective as well, even in koi ponds where the dirt and poop is much more than of an aquascape. With a simple turn of drain valve, backwashing is done and the clogged filter will be restored significantly hence reducing the frequency of filter maintenance.
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post #4 of 535 (permalink) Old 09-22-2006, 03:44 PM
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Really detailed. I am loving the whole idea even before things are being built. Great project you have got there,will be looking forward to the entire setup.

-Derrick Li-

I really envy my fishes and plants,they seem to be getting so much more attention than me. Shouldn't i start pampering myself a little more?

100 gal planted tank journal
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post #5 of 535 (permalink) Old 09-22-2006, 05:03 PM
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This looks to be a fantastic project. I really like the concept of taking the aquarium out of the regular glass box format, and integreating it into the structure of your house.

Best of luck to you.
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post #6 of 535 (permalink) Old 09-22-2006, 05:05 PM
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This will be one to watch. I am always interested in alternatives....especially where architecture is concerned. Nice plan, MM

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post #7 of 535 (permalink) Old 09-22-2006, 05:34 PM
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I love these big DIY projects. Medicineman, I'm sure this is going to look so fantastic and I'm really looking forward to seeing what it is like when you get everything up and running!

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post #8 of 535 (permalink) Old 09-23-2006, 05:38 AM
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Go big or go home right MM? Two 260 gallons are enough for you? J/K, this looks like a great idea, will follow this journal!
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post #9 of 535 (permalink) Old 09-23-2006, 06:53 AM Thread Starter
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The filter is projected to be around 150 gallon in volume which is not overkill at all and in certain conditions (such as koi keeping) some may even be considered under capacity. But still that is a staggering 20% volume of the pond and I'm pretty sure for a planted setup such portion is more than enough. Such allows me to re-setup the pond for koi keeping or fancy goldfish or other form of non-aquascaping aquaria should sometime in the future under circumstances when I'm unable to take care of plants anymore. when building something of a bigger scale and it is integrated to your house, future things must be taken into account, unlike a stand alone tank which easily tucked away into the closet or disassembled to blocks of glass.

I plan to mimic nature more by adding an all time fresh water flow to the pond. Not at a large scale like of natural streams/rivers, but more like 15-20% WC each day that runs constantly - copying to smaller limit how fresh water supply huge ponds and how the pond empties by overflowing into another stream. Sure this might sound like an act of wasting water so I will make sure to add a water regulator to make sure the fresh water supply is constant and as necessary, such as calibrating to 250-500mL per minute. The benefits of adopting such system will also be carefully monitored and taken into consideration on whether to continue or discontinue.

Obvious drawbacks are :
- Limitation to using well water (tap water would be expensive)
- Wasting of water collumn fertilization because water is constantly changed
- Wasting of water
- Electrical bill for water pump
- More difficulty in maintaining lower temperature
- Water source dependent - bad water source equal to less satisfactionary result
Expected benefits :
- Good plant growth
- Fresh well water is rich in minerals and CO2 - less fert is needed
- Less pollution from bio load and fert/chemical residues
- Less algae from less accumulation of nitrates and phosphates
- No need of painful weekly WC
- Able to support considerable bio load without crashing or excessive filtration

There are several hundreads of gallon of water by the towers to supply the house water need (not only aquaria). So well pumps (2 wells) will be going on and off on a regular but not continous basis to help prolong longevity. These towers will also make pressure on the water regulator more constant.

If you observe point #4 on the filter compartment (overflow drain) is there to take care of excess water from the constant inflow of fresh water. It does it automatically and keeps water level constant too.
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post #10 of 535 (permalink) Old 09-23-2006, 01:32 PM
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All I can say is holy crap, that is going to be huge. I hope you have diving gear. Well looks like an awsome idea. any recent pics you can add?

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post #11 of 535 (permalink) Old 09-23-2006, 01:56 PM
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what fish and plants will you put in it?
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post #12 of 535 (permalink) Old 09-23-2006, 02:00 PM
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Thumbs up

Another great project!
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post #13 of 535 (permalink) Old 09-23-2006, 02:28 PM Thread Starter
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@everybody who loves to see it even bigger and deeper,
Regretably I'm not too interested in making the pond any deeper than 70-75 cm due to many reasons and I've had think it over and over. The deeper you make (just say more than 1,25 m), the more serious the equipment must be and that will translate to high end tech with high running cost. You will need very serious pumping power (something like 2/3 hp pump), extra powerful metal halides (probably 2-3 of those 1000W ones), freakin huge chiller (probably 2-3hp AC machine) and all kind of very serious power machines. Maintenance will also be a PITA not to mention the monthly power bill. Another factor is building cost. Keep in mind that this is a project done along with the whole house.. think of fund availability should I make something of monstorous (something like tom barr's creation scale) proportion. Much more serious bracings and concrete blocks will be needed and not to mention those special built glass planks which may cost you a leg.

For something that is built permanently right inside a living room, it will run for as long as the house stand which might be decades before the next renovation (that is except in the future minor modifications are made on the garden) unlike of a huge glass tank. Think of if more like an inwall tank with 1 side of glass, which is a permanent feature and requires someone who is willing to spend time or fund (to hire caretaker) to maintain it. So making it easy to maintain and low running cost is the key, more like your lawn garden which last indefinately.

1. House walls (painted)
2. Garden walls (textured, built on and planted)
3. Opening with clear polycarbonate roofing

One of the helping factor is free, quality sunlight. The space used to be a terrarium garden as I have already told you so. There is a huge opening by the top and if I'm right it measures around 2,5 x 2,75 meter. To keep things more humid and prevent pollution (rain water, dust) from coming in, this time I will add clear glass-like polycarbonate roofing (japan's SunLoid) which is usually used in greenhouses.

If we see this picture above which is taken at around 3pm, it is very clear that sunlight penetrate and falls to the lower part without any problem. The garden/pond area is directly hit by strong sunlight for several hours, that is around 11am to 2pm. The opening slightly face west and the garden recieve more light from late morning to early evening.

The fact that plants like pothos and creeping phylodendrons used to live very thickly from top to bottom is a proof that I have enough natural light for the pond but probably just by medium level when it reach the bottom. So the plan is to supplement using metal halide lamp, either a single 1000W fixture or twin 400W and hang it at certain height so it lights up the undergrowth/pond. Just 2-3 hours a day would be more than enough and it does not hurt bad on the bill (less than 2-3 hours worth of air conditioning for my bedroom). Even with careful plant management I can totally eliminate the need of MH, but it hurts on the beauty aspect (no viewing light and no cool ripples).

*just to let know that this is not a mere plan. This is a project in construction. Comments are valuable and inputs are highly welcome as consideration and vital addition.

Last edited by medicineman; 09-23-2006 at 04:31 PM.
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post #14 of 535 (permalink) Old 09-24-2006, 02:21 AM Thread Starter
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Here you go, real progress pics taken several days ago

Second floor shot (taken freehand at 430 pm to illustrate light availability)

The cliff section is far from done but has taken a good shape to give an idea of the rough layout. First the team measure the working ground and dug as neccesary. Bottom plumbing was installed before they poured in concrete for fondation. Thick steel wires were shaped and laid as base shape forming skeleton along with guideline/basic brick works. Work progress from bottom up with earth/sand fillings by the empty inside.

Spots where water will drip from are reinforced for extra strength and water resistance (the grayish unfinished spots) and the outer skin is carved on (a process that reuires uncommon artistic hand). As you can notice there are several (I think 5 of them) whitish pipe appearing out of the cliff part. Those are spots where water will gush out and drip down to the pond. The debit of water of each outlet will be controlled remotely by valves to achieve maximum effect. The sticking pipe pole by the center is just there to cover pond drain from getting covered by debris (there is a draining hole at the bottom of the pond).

If you can see the woven steel which is surrounding the bottom and sides of the pond which will be sealed with 19mm glass.

(I'm verry sorry for no step by step pics for those of you who would like to see because I'm busy and the team works so fast that what you see here is done in only 5 days).

Here is a pic showing detail on how the realistic and natural texture of the cliff

It is porous just like those of real volcanic cliffs. Pockets are there for non water plants to fill in.
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post #15 of 535 (permalink) Old 09-24-2006, 03:38 AM
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Looking really good and natural so far.I believe the wall isn't completed yet? Because the pipe is rather visible as of now.

-Derrick Li-

I really envy my fishes and plants,they seem to be getting so much more attention than me. Shouldn't i start pampering myself a little more?

100 gal planted tank journal
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