57 Gallon Tank (Learning from my first planted tank)
Part 1: Decommission and replace old tank with a new planted tank in 8 hours (What you can do in a 3 day weekend)
My Story: Swapping a tank
I live in Washington, DC in a 2nd story 120+ year old brownstone. Apartment living makes it difficult to have multiple tanks. When I decided to swap out my 29 gallon tall with something different and better I realized I would have to do it quickly. I don’t have the space for two tanks and with a roommate having the house covered in aquarium equipment, plants, fish, and critters can cause issues…
So what gonna change:
My current tank is in the living room, sitting next to our fireplace. I wanted to replace the tank with something that would be more visually stimulating. The new tank will be rimless, and will fill out the space where the old one sits. I want the lights to be hovering over it with a fixture. As little equipment as possible will be visible to audience. Filter will have an inline heater and diffuser. The intake and exhaust from filter will use Glass
Important note: This brownstone is ~100+ years old so it can’t weigh as much as a VW bug.
I searched Craigslist and found one - (nearly rimless) Oceanic Illuminata 57 gallon.
The dimensions of the old tank 24x12x24 vs 36x18x21. It fills the space well. I after some time I found the old tank too tall and it was a pain to clean. The new one is a little shorter, but tall enough to frame a nice visual experience.
Old Tank Below:
Part 2: My process
I’ve tried to purchase items outside of retail so I can maximize my student budget.
I found a stand on Craigslist. It's a hardwood stand that sat under a marine tank. Covered with salt-water stains, I cleaned it; added brushed metal handles from the hardware store and applied black paint to polish it up.
The filter was also a used filter – an Eheim 2028 Pro II filter. The specifications are fantastic and a nice upgrade from an HOB filter. I cleaned it up and it worked well – I primed it on the old tank for a few weeks.
Unfortunately, at the 11th hour, when I was attaching the plumbing the double intake cracked and I was left with an unusable filter. The fish had been bucket bound for 7 hours - I had to scramble – I called a few places with no spare parts available I had to get another filter - I rented a zip car and drove to a LFS to purchased a Fluval 406 or a Rena xp4. After making sure the 5/8 hoses work on the filter (I HATE the Fluval vacuum cleaner hoses and the fugly hoses on Renas) – I settled on a Fluval 406. Drove home – swapped the primed biomax and Purigen packets into the Fluval from the Eheim and set it up. Very easy – works very well.
I purchased an Aquaticlife’s 4 bulb fixture because it allows me to have 4x39W lights I can dial up the light to provide 156W for ~2.7W/gallon or dim down to 2 bulbs for ~1.4W/gallon. The unit has a built in timer, which allows me to manage the light banks independently, and it has one power cable, all of these things I love.
I am using prebuilt hangers because I looked into getting conduit and pipe benders/cutters but the project was prohibitive because I’d have to rent/borrow a car, buy the tools and I have little out door space to work.
The rest of the equipment was purchased through the forums, Craigslist and a couple of really helpful retailers – I’ve had fantastic customer service. PM me and I’ll let you know who helped me out.
Tank - (nearly new) Illuminata 57
Stand – Used black hardwood stand
Filter – New Fluval 406 (The used Eheim 2028 needed a part during set up Monday night), 2 packs of Seachem Purigen and Fluval Biomax. Input/output through 5/8” hose, metal clamps, and PowerMen (TM) 17mm glass Lily pipes.
Light – Aquaticlife 36” four lamp T5-HO fixture with moonlight LEDs, 6500K, and 5000K roseate bulbs. The unit will be hung with Universal Fixture Hangers.
Substrate – Up Aquasoil 4x9L (88lbs) I will use some of the old Ecco complete to seed the new Aquasoil and give more depth.
CO2 System - Atomic paintball CO2 regulator V2, 24oz (2lb) paintball tank, Atomic inline diffuser (16/22mm), CAL AQUA "Oracle" drop checker, Atomic bubble counter, brass check valve.
Heating System: Hydor ETH 300 In-Line Heater UL 300W (16mm).
Hoses: 5/8" clear with stainless steel automotive clamps.
• Onion Plant (Crinum thaianum)x2
• Crypt. Balansae x3
• Dwarf Anubas (Nana)
• Amazon Swords (trying to decide if I want to bring them over) x3
• Rotala H’ra (3 stems)
• Tiger Lotus (Nymphaea lotus 'Zenkeri') X3
• Rotalia Indicia X5
• Crypt. Balansae x5
• Dwarf hair grass x5
• Christmas Moss (driftwood)
I’ve had the Eheim priming on the old tank for the last 3 weeks to make sure it gets seasoned with bacteria.
1. Putting the driftwood together
2. Plumbing the heater, CO2 on the Eheim
3. Attach the background
4. Attach the hangers to stand
5. Moving fish
6. Move Tank
7. Set up the substrate
8. Setup the wood and rocks
10. Fill and ready
11. Add the fish
Part 3: Driftwood
I purchased some driftwood on the forums last year. I didn't touch it till last week. Soaked it for a week and gave up and decided to just attach to slate. I boiled it first and then used stainless steel screws and a masonry bit to attach it to the slate.
3 hours of "sculpting" and trying to make it look good while remaining natural...
Part 4: Tank Prep
So I purchased some tinted window film online and had it cut and shipped to me. using soapy water you attach and squeegee it to the glass. Pretty simple stuff - 2 layers got the desired black and it's removable. I have 2 extra layers incase.
I also attached the hangers for the lights. I would have gone the DIY way, but living in an apartment with no car means everything is shipped to me or I rent a car to get to Home Depot. It's just more production than I was willing to invest. The hangers were ~$95 and built for this purpose.
Part 5: Where the rubber meets the road
I had to call a friend to help with this on Monday. The tank is too heavy to move.
He arrived at noon. At 7 I was up, working on the plumbing, staging the equipment, and then dismantling the old tank and putting the fish in a bucket with the filter, some plants and a heater.
We moved the old tank and stand, swept up and moved the new tank and stand into place.
Like it already.
Part 6: Aquascaping
If you have OCD do not do attempt this :)
I layed out a base layer of old ecco complete with as much mulm from the old tank at the base of the new. The old stuff will be high in nitrogenous matter and old bacteria from the tank.
Placed the driftwood on the old stuff.
Poured 2.5 bags of the Up Aqua Soil - Great stuff so far. Sculpted the substrate around the wood.
Started grabbing the plants from my temporary 10 gallon incubator tank that I set up to hold the new plants - 6 Watts/gallon and CO2 injection with ferts.... I needed to make them happy till the transition.
Dwarf hair grass separation is an exercise in pain...
Part 7: Add water and pray...
So I saw this on Oliver Knott's Youtube videos.
You add newspaper and plastic foil (garbage bags) to soften the blow of water. I don't have a pump or a ginormous hose to pump water across the room so buckets and hands for ~57 gallons... It felt like hours :)
Part 8: Where it hit the fan...
Removing all the paper and plastic and wow, it was intact, a few small pieces needed to be replanted but amazeballs!
Grabbed the filter/etc to plumb into the cabinet. I had precut and attached the heater/CO2 diffuser, lily pipes, reactor, etc... Staged it all - I just needed to place them and attach the hoses - Easy, right!
Not so fast.
Eheim inputs cracked and leaked - Thank G*d all right in front of me - If it had happened a few hours later - disaster.
I scrambled to get a spare part, but no luck and I was beyond the "go or no-go" stage, so I rented a Zip car online, hightailed it to a LFS to check out a Fluval 406 or Rena xp4. I chose the Fluval and it seems like a pretty well built, very quiet filter.
Moved all the primed media to the new filter and she started quickly and magic...
Set up the lights (with the help a level and my roommate) and BAM it looks like a tank with water, rocks, pants, and soil... You'd think I won the lottery....
I lost 2 neons and an oto in the bucket - poor guys were stressed :(
I made sure everything was running, adjusted the temp to match the bucket temp.
I quickly bagged up the new fish and placed them in tupperwear, acclimated and added them.
New Tank Below:
Part 9... Does it ever end?? :)
I woke up to a slightly tinted tank. I checked the water conditions and did a 20% water change. fish were hungry buggers, got fed.
Adjusted the CO2 - the diffuser's little bubbles get dissolved before they make it into the tank. 2-3bps and the two drop checkers are green. I will remove one, but I wanted to make sure the CO2 was even.
I also mounted the old filter to add to the bio cleaning and bacteria seeding. lastly at the advice of the LFS I added some Smart Start Complete and went to work and class...
Final thought thus far
Today the water was crisp - Daily water changes after testing conditions.
In a week, I'll remove the extra filter and drop checker.
I am also going to push the timing of the lights and CO2 back so the tank lights up at 12 so it's on when I get home from work/school.
Currently I have:
When the tank stabilizes and the conditions are good, what critters to add??
12 piraña, muhahaha :icon_mrgr
No seriously, probably another 15 neons or a mix of neons and another colorful schooling fish.
I know the Angels are supposed to eat them but thus far, they are too fat to bother...
A few more oto cats to clean...
I don't want to over populate. I actually like sparsely populated tanks - it feels right. The school of neons is probably 90% gonna happen and 2-3 more oto cats as well.
Suggestions, comments, feedback (please be kind :redface:)
Here's a video of it this morning Day 2
P.S. You can see a video of the tank this morning with the CO2 in action here.
Someone wanted to see how the diffuser works and I took a video to demonstrate.
P.S.S. The Tiger lotuses is are on their way as is more dwarf hair grass for the right side of the tank. There's some Christmas moss coming as well for the driftwood. I couldn't stage everything to arrive at the same time.
That is a very nice set-up! I like the rimless look and like you found a great deal on craigslist for one. Good luck, everything looks well on its way. What in-line diffusor are you using?
I'm still waiting for some additional plants that are in transit - The tiger lotus will be a cool centerpiece plant and in 1-2 months things should be green :)
Any opinions on fish?
I love South American cihlids so I'm bias. Red Arc Pencilfish are very striking but a little delicate. The same with Rummy Nose Tetras but they make for a beautiful display.
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