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Thark 02-22-2012 01:43 PM

55 Gallon Planted tank - self built stand/canopy

About 2 months ago I decided I wanted a fish tank for some reason. I have a 1000 gallon pond outdoors, and that formed the basis of what I wanted.

I didn't have many requirements, but here's what I started with:

I wanted to have live plants
I wanted to build the stand myself
I liked the goldfish in my pond, and wanted to have the ability to bring some of them indoors
I wanted it in my bedroom to create a waterfall like sound at night

From there I started asking around and doing some research online, which brought me here.

A visit to the LFS got me a quote on a 55 gallon setup. I liked the dimensions of it, and decided to use that for the basis of the stand I wanted to build. The tank was 48x13x18. I had a few boards around that dimension, so I used that to get to work.

I made this stand out of a maple tree that I felled a while back. While I really like it, I'm not sure that I like it as an aquarium stand. First, I think that the top of it is really pretty, and it's a shame that the tank hides it. Second, I'm not sure if I need to have any space on the stand to store/hide things, which this doesn't provide.

I could build a stand more like this one (but bigger, and more stable with doors):

Any thoughts on if I should just build a more traditional type stand?

Bushkill 02-22-2012 02:10 PM

I'm with ya; it would be a shame to cover that spalted maple. From a practical perspective, the "pedestal" base would make a 48" tank pretty untrustworthy. How did you join the top slab to the base? Very well done.

The tough part to keep in mind about aquariums, especially larger tanks that aren't deep (front to back) is that their viewing height makes them really, really top-heavy arrangements. The shape in the second picture would only need a plywood backing in a rabbited recess to give it side to side rigidity. The last thing it would need is some means of fastening it to the wall behind it. I know some will consider it overkill, but that tank will weigh something in the area of 450-500 pounds when full. It wouldn't take much in the way of coaxing to get it to tip forward. But I know we all have our varying degrees of comfort over such things, so that's just my caution.

Thark 02-22-2012 02:11 PM

After getting my stand finished, I went out and bought the aquarium. I had started with a bid from my LFS, but didn't like parts of it. I didn't want to have an undergravel filter, didn't want to have gravel for a substrate, didn't like their hood, etc.

I decided to go with two HOB type powerfilters - Aquaclear 70's. I really didn't know too much but they seemed like they'd give me what I needed. I also wanted to have a waterfall sound from my tank, and the powerfilter seemed the best for that.

Instead of gravel, I tried to read up on different types of substrate. After some looking, I had heard a lot of good things about substrate that I learned I could look for in landscaping places. I got a big bag of Turface, and got some fertilizer tabs to put in it. I put it in about 3 inches.

On the 11th, I filled the tank up.

You can see the start of my canopy on top of it. I'll put up some more pictures on building that when I finish it.

After getting the tank like 3/4 full, I tested out the filters, lights, and heater (I got a 200w submersible one) and checked for any leaks.

I also saw that although the stand was level, and the base was level, the aquarium didn't sit level, so I had to do some work to get that in line. After getting it level I filled the aquarium up the rest of the way and let it run for 4 days.

To help cycle it, I kept the filter bags from the powerfilters in my pond's waterfall filter for a few days. I thought that they might build up a little bit faster that way. I also added a very small amount of food every day.

After letting things run for a while, on the 14th I went out and got some inhabitants to see how it was working out. I got 5 feeder goldfish, and on a whim I also got 10 (13 in the bag) feeder ghost shrimp.

That first night 2 of the ghost shrimp didn't make the transition. The next day I had 2 more shrimp and one fish dead. Over the next few days I lost 1 more shrimp and 3 more of the goldfish. I still have ~8 shrimp and 1 fish. A lot of the goldfish just didn't look very healthy, so I don't think I have too much reason for concern.

Right now, the remaining goldfish looks like he doesn't even know what to do with himself. After I put plants in he swims around chasing down all of the plants he tears up. I know that Goldfish in a planted aquarium don't get along with the plants too well. I tried to select plants that I had heard would go good with goldfish, and got a selection of about 8 so that if some didn't make it I'd still have enough other ones for good diversity. He's really fattened up and is very active. He spends most of his time on the two ends, and whether those are his favorite spots and hence the plants there suffer, or his favorite plants to harass are on the ends I'm not sure.

But, what I'm really questioning now is what I want to keep in the tank. I knew that goldfish+plants would be difficult, but it was all I really had experience with. As I mentioned I got some ghost shrimp on a whim. I'm really considering making it a shrimp only tank now. Any thoughts or suggestions there would be appreciated.

The little ghost shrimp really seem to like it. I only see 4-5 at a time (I think there are 8 left), and I actually think that's a very good sign that I can see so many. They're very active. I can see them walking the front of the tank a fair bit, or just hanging out looking like they're eating. They also swim up the sides of the tank a fair bit. I've seen 2-3 molts. I have at least 2 females/adults, and 3 males/juveniles. They don't seem scared of the goldfish at all (he's small).

I'll try and get up some pictures of the fish tomorrow. I'll also try and get pictures of my plants and talk about them tomorrow as well. Later this week I hope to finish the canopy and can post pictures of building that. Later this week I'll get a water test kit and can see how the tank is doing and what my water levels might be capable of supporting. Any comments or suggestions would be welcome, as my only experience is from a 10g my mom took care of when I lived at home many years ago, and my pond I've had for 2 years now.

Thark 02-22-2012 02:18 PM

Hey Bushkill, thanks for the comment!

Glad to see someone who knows spalted maple! It's such beautiful wood - I've made so many great things out of it.

I actually share a lot of your concerns about the stand. I'm not worried about it supporting the weight, but stability has me a bit concerned. It sits well and holds the weight fine, but I'm just slightly concerned that a strong bump could rock it, especially at the ends.

I just used dowels to join the top and base. I didn't hollow out the base, so I used that method to allow it to be stable, but didn't glue them so that it can also still be easily separated and moved without being too heavy. I think it worked out well as it's joined together pretty well and won't move, but is also not too hard to take apart.

I don't have any pictures right now, but I'm making a canopy out of Oak plywood. I have a lot more maple and ash boards I milled, but trying to make the canopy out of them didn't seem right. I'm thinking that it might be better to just make a similar looking base. It would be more stable and match a little better. But then I wouldn't know what to do with that Maple stand.

Zefrik 02-22-2012 02:18 PM

That tank is sloping dangerously to the right. That will be a big mess if it spills. Careful.

Thark 02-22-2012 02:48 PM

Hey Zefrik, thanks for the comment!

When I first filled it up it looked awful.

I was a bit surprised because I spent hours planing the base to get it to sit level, and the top is pretty level too, but along the way and on top of carpet it was easy to see that things got out of whack.

I got it leveled out now though. It's maybe about 1/8" lower on the right end. I didn't get it dead level because I wasn't entirely sure if I'd be keeping it or not. Either way, I knew a big slope like that was trouble.

I put some cardboard under the tank both to keep the tank off of the wood and protect it, and also to help level it out. I have a few pieces under the center as well as both ends.

I'll try to get some better pictures up soon so you guys can see that I don't just have a barren, half full, crazy angle tank anymore!

Kathyy 02-22-2012 02:57 PM

The tank doesn't fit on the stand well. All the force of the water's weight is on the edges of the tank and it isn't supported all the way around.

If you want to use that amazing table that is just a bit too narrow what about adding a thick very flat plywood board to the top of the table and bolt that to the wall? Would add stability and depth at the same time.

How are you going to blend the organic shape of the table with the very straight edged canopy? That table calls for something special for sure.

Thark 02-22-2012 08:25 PM

Perhaps the table just isn't destined for life as an aquarium stand. When I sat down to make it I had a totally different idea in mind, but that's what I ended up with. I really didn't have a way to blend the stand and tank together. Originally I was going to make the canopy out of the same maple, but I ended up going a different route there too.

I'm sure adding some plywood to the top would improve things, but for me it would also kill the beauty of the table. The more I talk about it and more comments I get, the more it seems as if just building a new stand might be a better option.

I haven't looked around much. Would anyone have any advice on what to put in a stand? Any comments on what is helpful or what to include? What features do you like in yours, or wish yours had?

I'll search around and see if I see anyone else making stands or cabinets and what they recommend.

Kathyy 02-22-2012 09:53 PM

There is an amazing thread in the DIY forum on stands, have a look see. You will definitely get some inspiration from them, some amazing craftsmen on this board!

I just got actual doors on my stand last May. Still happy about that. Drawers would be nice too. Some people even build in a 'bread board' or pull up table for a work space on the stand. My new to me stand is 6" taller than the previous one which works out much better for us, do consider its height carefully.

Hawkian 02-22-2012 10:21 PM

I work wood and I totally understand what you mean by the beauty of the stand. That thing looks amazing! Unfortunately, not as an aquarium stand: a tank is bloody heavy and if your stand doesn't give out first, your tank will because the pressure points are not distributed properly. Sorry man! I feel for you...

Thark 02-23-2012 02:12 PM

I'm new to all this and sure I'm making plenty of mistakes, so feel free to point them out or offer suggestions.

I didn't even realize there were DIY forums here - so I'll have to go check that out.

Kathyy what height is your stand? I think the current one I'm using is 31", and it seems fine. I don't think I'd mind another 2-3" though.

Hawkian I had figured that if I support the base on the table top well enough that it would be distributed fine. I take it I'm wrong there? How concerned do I need to be about this? Can I use it for another month while I build something else, or is it so serious I need to get it off of there quickly?

Thark 02-23-2012 04:06 PM

I got a water test kit, and I'm trying to figure out what this means my water is good for and if I need to change it. The tank has been running a little less than 3 weeks now.

I tested
pH 6.8-7
Ammonia 0-.25
Nitrites 0
Nitrates 5-10

From my water company report I got
pH 7.5
Hardness 80-130

So if I'm looking at this right, it means that my tank has mostly completed cycling? It's been running for a little less than 3 weeks, and had a small goldfish in it for about 2 weeks. The Hardness means that my water is around 4-8GH and a little on the soft side? My tested pH being just below what the tap water tests means that something may be slightly changing it and I should keep an eye on it, or do water changes if it swings too much?

Thark 02-24-2012 06:23 PM

This is the left side of my tank. Limnophilia Hippuroides in the back left, Rotala Indica in the front left, Anacharis in the back right, and Java Ferns in the front right.

Here is the center. Anacharis in the back left, Java Ferns across the front, and Dwarf Crinum across the back.

This is the right side. Dwarf Crinum in the back left, Hornwort in the back center, and a Tiger Lotus bulb in the back right. Java Fern across the front left, Nesaea Golden in the front center, and Dwarf Hairgrass on the front right.

Here's 4 pictures of the ghost shrimp. You know... they're so colorful how could I not take pictures of them? (Actually they're the only thing I could photograph well)

Thark 02-24-2012 07:09 PM

I feel like I did a pretty poor job planting things. It's not like dirt. I think I want to get some tongs or something to help tuck those roots down in the substrate.

With some of them (the java fern and hairgrass) I just cut them up and placed them down. The fern doesn't look bad, but I think the grass looks awful. Is there a better way to do it?

I'll look to get some driftwood in the aquarium probably this weekend, so things will probably be moved around - any ideas would be appreciated.

shortsboy 02-24-2012 07:34 PM

It sounds like your cycle is indeed done. It's a pity that stand didn't work out, although I'd guess it'll be ok for a bit till a final solution gets worked out. In the interim, if you lower the water level in the tank it'll ease the stress and lower the risk of catastrophe.

In terms of planting, here is a video on the basics of planting. It's from Tropica, who are a big name in the European aquarium plant world.

GL on all of this!

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