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Old 08-23-2014, 02:44 AM   #1
Linwood
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My leap of faith (aka 220 Gallon Low Tech)


In the hopes people will help keep me from making too big of a mess (and recognizing I am starting this a bit late in that regard), here goes....

I did a small 45 Gallon and it worked great, lots of trial and error and corrections along the way, but no disasters and stock is healthy, and plants are growing, and it is proving to need little maintenance.

And my wife liked it, so we decided on putting one in the living room, where it would be a centerpiece. Hopefully it's a centerpiece from being attractive and not more like a train wreck...

I tried for a while to get a used tank, but all were scratched badly. Local LFS made me a good offer on ordering a new Perfecto 220G tall, so did that.

Decided I would build a stand. I can build strong; pretty not so much, but figured that could be some trial and error also. Designed it to support from the frame, and not need the skin for stability, so I could put off the finish work until later.

The first task (being as I can over-complicate anything) was to find some software to draw plans. I finally settled on Sketchup Make, it was good and free. So here is the plan.



The goal was to be a tank viewed from three sides, with all the plumbing and ugly stuff coming up on a short side (here on the right) that I would later cover with cabinetry. I still haven't decided on whether to have a canopy, I wanted it tall so most people could be looking into the tank, not onto the top. It was also planned to be at about 36" which is the height of the sofa beside it.

Then I debated (including a thread here) sump or no sump, and long story short decided no sump -- use canisters.

So after a lot of false starts to get the tank (including a road trip to Tampa that didn't pan out), I got the tank on order, which meant I had measurements, and could start the rough carpentry.

So I'm off on one of many trips to Home Depot for lumber. The Sketchup program gave me a cutlist, so I pick out my 2x4's and a couple 2x6's, come home, cut the main members (not the cross braces yet), and ... run out of wood.



Hmmm... computer error? Of course not -- I had it do the cut list based on 10' 2x4's, and bought 8'. First of many mistakes to come. Back to Home Depot.

So construction begins.



I decided to screw everythign together with 2.5" wood screws, and decided to forego glue, as I didn't think connection strength was going to be an issue -- I had taken pains to have everything supported by compression. The strength both sheer and tensile was really about stability not load carry.

I also compromised a bit on stability to allow a lot of space inside. At one end I wanted drawers, and didn't want to make them, so I bought a ready-made, unfinished set at Home Depot. You can see them in the background. They just slide in one end. The other two thirds are to be filter space - I figure there's room for four good sized canisters there, plus space above for plumbing and electrical.

The rough work goes very quickly. The hardest thing is getting the cross braces with just the right length and angle. In fact my next major mistake was on the last brace. It was a bit tight, I drove it in with a hammer, and went to bed.



Before that, it had been square and level. I got up the next morning -- with delivery of the tank coming in a few hours -- and touched the stand and it rocked back and forth.

WHAT?????

Second mistake was misunderstood as being the third mistake. The third mistake was using those metal joint fasterners they use on trusses... I don't know the right name, but they have punched out metal that form little nails and you hammer them in. Know the things?



Well, I had never used them, and won't again. Driving them in is HARD, and so I hammered and hammered and hammered the prior night.

And it's not level today.... hmmm... I just to the conclusion it was the hammering.

Long story short -- not. The problem was one brace was about an 1/8" too long, and pushed one side out of square, putting one set of legs at enough of an angle to throw everything off.

Spent two hours figuring that out, but after fixing the brace once again square and level.

And... tank arrives....



More in next posting... this last shot shows the approximate location (the sofa will come back up to it closer). That's a big piece of driftwood I picked up at the mover's place (he's a used tank seller, actually a used-most-anything-aquarium seller).
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Old 08-23-2014, 02:57 AM   #2
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I decided on two large SunSun filters.

Why? I have a Fluval 306 that I am very irritated at -- two months and the flow is awful. Probably worth another story, but that annoyance meant instead of an FX6, decided on two (or maybe 3) of the 404B's. They are rated at 500+ GPH, seemed more than adequate.



The good news is they came very quickly, were exactly what I expected (plain, simple, relatively cheap materials). But they worked.

Well, almost. I did a 5 gallon bucket test in 1 minute 8 seconds. That's about 278 gph. That's with NO media.





OK, at least I didn't play Fluval prices for less flow than promised. That might still be adequate, or I can add a third and still be under the FX6 price.

Set the filters aside to work on Substrate.

Lots of discussions, found a good cheap supplier of Ecco-Complete, then finally after a lot of reading here decided on Black Diamond sandblasting sand.

Off to Northern Tools and pick up a bag, and ... it's awful. Fine, very fine. Too fine.

A lot of it floats:



Back to reading... Oh... it comes in lots of sizes. Northern has fine, but Tractor Supply has medium (and fine). Road trip -- nearest TSC with enough is in LaBelle, FL, about an hour or so.

I get 300 pounds and decide on dinner. The Log Cabin there in LaBelle has, we discovered, the best Bar-B-Que I've had south of North Carolina, bar none. Well worth the trip just for that. Anyone in the area who likes real BBQ - go there. Cheap. Really, really good.

Anyway...

So what does one do with 300 pounds of sand to wash it?

My wife has a kiddy pool she let's the dog play in (the big kid is far too big and gone). I fill it up with sand, and wash there. Turn it over and over with a shovel, have it sitting on a slope and let the nasty water run off the side.

For hours....

And hours...



Note: Not enough hours, it's still dusty in the tank. But eventually....



I piled it up and let the top of the pile dry and water run off. Periodically I shovel off the water, then later siphon it. The sand drains very fast, the top 50# or so dries very quickly, then just keep piling it up t get more dry sand. (Did it need to be dry? Probably not, but lighter and easier to spread in the dry tank).

While we were travelling for Substrate, stopped off at Bayshore Concrete and picked out some rocks. After looking at all sorts of possibilities, we decide on a "tumbled wall" theme, and picked up some what I think is pink quartzite:



Here is after pressure washing. Yes, it's regular and won't look "natural", but I just didn't see truly nature stuff I liked that would let me have enough caves, crannies, etc.

Now ready to start setting stuff in the tank. More on that next....
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Old 08-23-2014, 04:25 AM   #3
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So, time to start adding to the tank.

First, double check square on stand (move it a tiny amount), level... good.



I decided on a heavy rubber mat under the rock instead of egg crate. No dead space, doesn't float, and I doubled it up so it added a bit over an inch in heigth in the center.

And started adding the sand, a bucket at a time. You can tell it's still damp, the white on the edges is condensation.



Now you may have noticed the next big mistake -- the driftwood didn't get tied to anything. But I didn't find that out for several days.

In goes the water...



It's going to take a while. It's coming straight out of a small RODI system.

It ended up taking about 3.5 days, though probably almost a day it was turned off (cumulatively). It's a 75 GPD system I think, so it seemed to be running right on track.

At this point no lights (well, in the shot there's one I borrowed from the other tank), no plumbing... but as it fills I have plenty to do.

So how to arrange it. Here's my trial balloon for flow:



Two intakes at one end, and two spray bars on the cross supports at 2' and 4', pushing water to the opposite end at the top, hoping to get flow back low in return to the filters.

Not at all sure it will work. But I'm still thinking I might need a third filter.

I am trying hard to avoid a powerhead at the far end to push water back (low), as it will be very visible.

So might as well plumb - PVC is cheap, if it doesn't work out...

So filters in place:



Tied in to PVC to the tank:



Over the top (this will be covered later):



Now... I didn't use the SunSun intake or spraybar, mostly because there wasn't a nice, reliable way to connect it to the PVC, but also because it looked a bit frail and small. So I ran 3/4 PVC (the cheap SDR stuff so it's thinner than schedule 40, more flow) into a pond filter for the intake. For $10 each I got a good course media prefilter on it, and lots and lots of intake area, with a screw connection, plus one spare sponge.

The spray bar is just PVC capped off with holes (1/8th) drilled every 1/2 inch.



Tank isn't full yet but I managed to get the filters to prime and ran them a while to see how it looked. Lots of splash, and noise, so didn't leave it on.



Tank still filling, so I glued up some (but not all) of the pipe, and then painted the part that will show black.

And....



<expletive deleted> driftwood floated up. I've never done this before; the driftwood was sold as "straight out of another freshwater tank, nicely soaked so most of the tannins will be out of it". I never said "will it sink. Maybe it will later.

Wait a while for fill while I start shopping for plants. No real progress there yet.

A bit more to tell to bring it up to current... will get some more pictures tomorrow...

Feel free to let me know if there are more unpleasant surprises you can already tell I'll get!
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Old 08-23-2014, 02:52 PM   #4
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Ok, in the continuing tales....

I tweaked the plumbing angles a bit and got all four lights in place, more or less where I wanted them.



The idea is not to have a canopy. Not sure how that will work, but the low profile and tall tank and stand hopefully will make it visually nice.

Here's the side view:



That's from my eye level (I'm 6'), so there's no light glare unless you are taller. I will likely cover some of the open water with plastic or glass to cut down on evaporation, but with luck I only need a 8" +/- cabinet to cover the plumbing, not the top of the tank. We'll see.

Last night though was tough with the drift wood. It won't sink.

Try #1: Rock and fishing line -- decided I didn't like the look of the rock, didn't even tie it off.

Try #2: Pantyhose filled with gravel as a weight, in the substrate (planned to cover it), tied off with fishing line. Looked like keystone cops, with my wife, trying to tie it off, and just gave up. It's too float-y, too un-even, and every time it shifts a bit (it rubs on 3 sides of the tank) one side popped up.

Try #3: Pantyhose filled with gravel in the stump. The good news is it worked. The bad news is it looks awful.



Suggestions welcomed. I HOPE it will eventually sink on its own. It is a used piece, was in another freshwater tank, was reportedly sunk but dried out in the resellers warehouse.

If I end up having to leave it like this -- lots and lots of moss. Will something like Flame Moss grow directly on the nylon? By the way, I dumped a whole bucket of substrate on top of it, and 98% of it just ran off. You can see all that was left.

The RIGHT way would be a plate under the driftwood, glued/screwed on, plate under the substrate. but it's pretty late now for that.

Anyway... going to start cycling today I think, some media movement and ammonia then look for plants.

Corrections, comments, criticism, etc. always welcome. This is now up to date in real time, so any help is more actionable now.
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Old 08-23-2014, 03:38 PM   #5
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Really enjoyed reading all that! I love long posts and seeing all the ins and outs of what your doing (that's sounds creepier than intended)

I like the crumbling wall effect that you've got going on in the left side of the tank... Reminds me of a tomb raider scene or a the lost city of Atlantis

I too am suffering from a floating piece of driftwood although mine is SIGNIFICANTLY smaller (8" long). I've managed to partially bury it in the substrate and then pin it down with another (heavier) piece of driftwood. I'm not sure if this info helps but perhaps you could mix the stones and driftwood together and use them to pin it down? Although that would mess up your aquascaping plans I guess. Failing that, wait until it waterlogs? That does mean having a bag of gravel sat in there for a while though

Good luck!
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Old 08-23-2014, 03:53 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Radiation91 View Post
Failing that, wait until it waterlogs? That does mean having a bag of gravel sat in there for a while though
Thanks.

I wish it would be an answerable question "how long will it take" but I've seen the thousands of times that's been asked and the standard answer "days, weeks, it may never sink".
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Old 08-23-2014, 03:59 PM   #7
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What fish are you planning to keep?

From a aquascaping stand point I don't really like the brick. But you may have a plan for them.
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Old 08-23-2014, 04:08 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by philipraposo1982 View Post
What fish are you planning to keep?

From a aquascaping stand point I don't really like the brick. But you may have a plan for them.
Still working on that, but community tank, definitely a good sized school of Congo Tetras, a cleanup crew of pleco and cat probably. Some other schooling fishes I think.

I wasn't crazy about the rectangular shape of the rock either. I wanted a center mound though, since the tank is going to be viewed from both sides. I wanted fish swimming by to be seen mostly against the rock, not against the living room sofa.

But I also was paranoid about weight. Initially we were going to use Feather Rock, and build a fairly large, somewhat thin center wall. But too many people cautioned against it because of how sharp it was, and might damage some fish. Plus I had no idea how to sculpt it (I know how to cut/drill it, but I don't know how to make it pretty).

All the more natural rock was either ugly in a pile (and didn't leave suitable size holes), or I had to pile very carefully and probably glue (was not keen on that, because I was not certain I could hide the silicon well), and/or were very unstable.

I did see a few very large pieces of rock, but I could not even pick them up on dry land, wasn't about to try to set them in the tank. So I felt the limit of weight to position was in the 40-50 pound range (standing on stool, bending over, reaching down 30" to glass), which isn't a very big rock.

Long, lame excuse, but we took the easy way out. The color is nice -- it's got some pinks. I didn't want anything to compete with plant/fish color, but it's complementary.

But I don't like the "tumbled wall", but it is where we ended up after two days of looking.

Any suggestions how to make what I do have prettier?

Bump: Update:

Moved a bit of media from my existing tank over. I had doubled it up about a week ago, and took the new media, so it's not well infested but hopefully a bit. Also took one piece of old floss and replaced it.

Added about 1L matrix to each filter in one basket. I'll probably add another basket of matrix later in each, but wanted to keep lots of mechanical filter in to try to get the water more clear.

Added about 200 ml of Microbe Lift Special Blend. Not sure how much it helped but LFS strongly recommended it, and it did seem to help clear up my small tank when it was new. Smells like bottled sewage, so it must be good.

25 ml of ammonia (10%). Let the cycle begin.

I'm also struggling with pH. I mixed Alkaline and Acid buffers (from Seachem) in 2:1 ratio. An hour or so later it was 6.4, 24 hours later it was 7.6, and today it is 8.0. There's no limestone anywhere, it's quartzite or something similar, strong pressure washed. Sandblasting sand should be inert. No idea what's happening there.

KH also ended up a bit high, I aimed for 6, I got 9. So something went wrong in the initial dosing somewhere. But I did it very carefully by weight on a gram scale.

GH also high, I added Equilibrium to aim for 5, got 8. Now that's possible (though a bit extreme) as I used 220 gallons, but with rocks and sand and driftwood I"m probably more like 180 or so.

But am baffled by the ph going so high. Any ideas?

PS. Here's the actual dosing: Fresh RODI water, 293 grams Equilibrium, 264 Grams Alkaline Buffer, 132 grams Acid buffer. Alkaline and Equilibrium added to filter #1, run for about 30 minutes while I added Acid to filter #2, and it started. Total run time now about 36 hours. No CO2 injection or such, just filtration agitation.
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Old 08-23-2014, 05:23 PM   #9
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Old 08-23-2014, 07:39 PM   #10
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how much flow loss are you getting with the cansiters? that is quite a few 90s.

as far as your rock conundrum, check out this thread:
http://www.plantedtank.net/forums/sh...103&highlight=

Plantbrain is also a seller. If you are interested, I don' think it would hurt to ask if he has any on hand. It would probably solve your weight vs hidey holes vs natural aesthetics concern.
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Old 08-23-2014, 11:13 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pandacory View Post
how much flow loss are you getting with the cansiters? that is quite a few 90s.

as far as your rock conundrum, check out this thread:
http://www.plantedtank.net/forums/sh...103&highlight=

Plantbrain is also a seller. If you are interested, I don' think it would hurt to ask if he has any on hand. It would probably solve your weight vs hidey holes vs natural aesthetics concern.
Thanks for the pointer, will look more carefully later (about to be leave for dinner).

re: Flow loss in 90's -- I tried hard to use an equal number of left and right turns, doesn't that end up the same as straight pipe?

Yes, it is, but short of just a straight nozzle at the end, not sure what else to do. I'm seeing decent water movement most places. I appear to have a dead surface space between the first spray bar and the intakes -- makes sense, it's trapped space. That's where the 3rd filter would go I guess. I'm not sure about low level movement though, whether the water is going down deeply enough before making its way back.

And thanks for the suggestion. I did buy a few plants today from three places, one hobbiest who sells (of course by far the best deal and best looking but he only had one kind), two prepackaged from Petsmart to see how they do, and two from a LFS that looked good. That will keep me occupied for while. I added some ferts to a QT for now to keep them happy overnight, and planting tomorrow.
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Old 08-23-2014, 11:41 PM   #12
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The rock you added could be driving pH up.

Pull it out and dry it.and pour vinager on it and watch to see if it sizzles, if it does than its not suitable for aquariums

Bump: A big school of Congo tetras will look awesome!!
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Old 08-24-2014, 01:00 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by philipraposo1982 View Post
The rock you added could be driving pH up.

Pull it out and dry it.and pour vinager on it and watch to see if it sizzles, if it does than its not suitable for aquariums

Bump: A big school of Congo tetras will look awesome!!
Yeah, I got a few of those in another tank, and I love them -- incredibly fast, makes it hard to feed the little serpae tetras as those things are so much more aggressive at eating. And great colors.

Anyway... I said quartzite, but I think it's quartz. Regardless, just to be sure (since Geology was taken long enough ago I think we are in a different eon) I pulled it out and put Muriatic acid on it - no fizz.

I use Muriatic acid for the test as a lot of limestone-like rocks won't react to vinegar enough to notice.

So it's not the rocks.

I just did another test and it's at 8.3 now, so still rising. I have no clue what's going on. I could just add more acid buffer I guess, but I'd really like to understand.

I've got a very white bacterial bloom going on -- can that change PH?
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Old 08-24-2014, 01:21 AM   #14
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Just to be complete I also took a handful of the sand and test it with Muriatic acid -- no fizz.

I also have rubber in the tank under the rock. To be safe I had a piece of that sitting in a glass of water since before it went into the tank, to make sure I saw no oil film, etc. (and I haven't). I tested that water and it's actually lower than tap water, so it has gone down while sitting with the rubber in it.

All that's left is driftwood, and the Seachem stuff I added, and air (no injected CO2, just surface agitation from the filters). And the bacterial bloom.

Somehow I still blame the driftwood, just not sure how it can be.
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Old 08-24-2014, 02:38 AM   #15
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Man outstanding log! I can't help much with the rising PH. As for the stones I'm not crazy about them like that, but take a few and cover them in Flame moss and cover that with a hair net, then stick some Anubias Nana petit and a couple ferns in there and I think it will look killer.
It doesn't help for now, but perhaps next time just do a 50/50 mix of tap and RO and see where it is. Adding all the buffers and such sounds complicated. I've got two water Chemistry's amongst all of my tanks... Inert sand with driftwood and DIY C02 and a PH of 7 - 7.2 or aragonite sand and cichlid sand and lace rock for a PH OF 8 - 8.2. All water comes from the same tap.
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