The Wife Built the system - really
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Old 03-04-2015, 05:22 AM   #1
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The Wife Built the system - really

23 April 2007

So the wife bought herself a tank 55 gallons 2 years ago (2005) 48L 15W and 17H. The height is from the top of the substrate to the lights. She told me no worries she would take care of everything. Everything means she will feed the fish and I will do everything else. .
Location of the system is 15 minutes from LAX

What she bought - the tank, stand, filter, cheapie lamps

Filter Fluval 400 series (2 clamps not the newer 4 clamp)
Started out with a 2 bulb lamp system - all plants died. Added T5 compact florescent , it helped but not enough - so I was told. Latest rendition, 4 VHO's

What I had to build - the back drop, substrate, fish, plants, canopy/hood and light box, added floor support piers and in the attic a heavy duty system to float the light box as it weighs close to 30 lbs.

Right Side with Corkscrew val. This is 2nd growth and is flowering.

A friend of ours was re-doing their home. We were visiting them in San Diego one day and he asked for help in loading up his truck for a dump run. After most of the truck was filled he came out with a sledge hammer and was about to pound a large slab of "spare: granite countertop. I told him to wait and we had the wife come out. She said "I have found my tank backdrop". Our walls are plaster (over 50 years old) and are not quite flat. The bottom stile is screwed into the studs of the wall. Then I added a framing board to keep it from falling. The unpainted wood is two fold - one is to keep toddler fingers away from an electrical power strip, and to keep the heat register from blowing hot air under the cabinet.

The top has a similar treatment. I could have cleaned up the edges but we have an eclectic home and the wife said leave the holes. In this pic you can probably see part of the electric ballast by Icecap for the VHO's. My electric usage went down a wee bit when I got rid of the old style ballast system - why do they still sell these archaic systems?

After mounting the backdrop and getting the tank set up I decided that I did not like the idea of just plunking down the light box (a plastic contraption for the 2 florescent bulbs) on top of the acrylic top. Time for routing nailing and screwing. Since I have been scuba dining (instructor) for over 15 years the wife said lets do a cave system. The canopy is painted as though it is the surface of the cave system. Think Wakulla Springs in Florida. Use your imagination. This was kind of cobbled together. It uses a full length piano hinge (brass) and opened up in 2 places. Almost useless now with the new light box but was ok for a 4 pound light system.

back side

front side

The lightbox uses 4 VHO's powered by the Ice-Cap and uses a dimpled reflector from Hamilton (Hamilton is just down the road in Gardena). The icecap comes with a wire harness that has bare leads. In the diving biz (technical diving) I noticed that there had been a move away from bananna plugs and now they use quick connects that are square shaped. A call to Allied Electric got me a few of these buggers and some heat shrink as I didn't want to see all the coloured wire out the backside of the unit. The box is uses Baltic Birch plywood, this stuff is worlds apart from the Big Box places you buy wood from. Ganahl, a local South California, lumber/hardware store is where I go for cabinet wood. This stuff has almost zero voids and is very tight. I ruined a low grade router bit on this wood, good wood calls for good bits. Also in Gardena is a plastic shop Van Ness & Rosecrans that cut me the lens for the lights. Since VHO's pump out the heat it is quite desirable to cool the lamps down. Doubly so since I enclosed them. If they aren't enclosed and your tank does not have lids on it you will evaporate a bit of water.

The steel hardware is from Lee Valley, the four attach points are really for building screen doors. I bought an extra one and tested it up to 100 pounds of weight (static load, I am a registered Mechanical Engineer and we like to break things) It didn't break so I figured it would work.

Since the light box is a tad on the heavy side I knew I couldn't leave it on the tank - actually I didn't want to risk it. It floats about 1/8 of an inch above the canopy. Of course where I needed to screw in the bolts was not near the ceiling frames. A trip to the attic and some extra bracing and a 4X4 post pre-drilled gives a solid holder for the lights.

So the stainless steel clips are to hold the light box up and out of the way for water changes. The wife has about 25 tetras in there and as you see a few plants. The left side gets picked up higher than the right to accommodate dumping in 5 gallon of water at a time. The light box is also lifted when I do the weekly floor cleaning and water change (gee just like I used to do the The Aquarium of The Pacific in Long Beach)

Finally our neighbour behind us has a high pressure sodium lamp that is on all night. You can almost read a book with this light. Of course we have a 12 foot floor to almost ceiling sliding door. For the night time I add this very rare Nauga Hide.


next up, what happens when you don't change the bulbs for 4 or more years. New lighting system

aka joe engineer
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Old Yesterday, 05:22 AM   #2
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I think I may have violated one of the posting rules on part two of this thread. Please drop me a line & I will clean up the proposed post.

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Old Yesterday, 06:00 AM   #3
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I like how you handled the background. Interesting re-use of the countertop material. Nice wood working to hold it in place.
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