50 Gallon, Keyhole Cichlids & Friends (DIY) - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 196 (permalink) Old 07-09-2017, 08:33 PM Thread Starter
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50 Gallon, Keyhole Cichlids & Friends (DIY)

Hello!

I've decided its time to start a journal on this forum as the plants have become as important as the fish to me. Last Christmas, I got back into the hobby with a 29g starter set, learned some lessons, and have since upgraded to a 50 gallon long.

My 29g tank had a family of Keyhole cichlids (who I got at < 2" and grew over an inch in five months) along with amazon swords, giant hygro, and a ton of ludwigia broad leaf. I kept putting more plants in to mitigate fish aggression. This worked, but the tank was an overgrown low tech jungle, that eventually got overtaken by algae. I knew I was going to upgrade the tank, so at a certain point I just stopped fighting the algae and gave up. The swords and giant hygro survived and are still doing well, the ludwigia, not so much.. .

I set up this tank a month ago, but two of the cichlids have paired up and decided to breed, in the process terrorizing everyone else. Getting the larger tank had the opposite effect than I was hoping for; instead of mellowing them out it actually made them more territorial. I moved the breeding pair back to the 29, and resolved to get this tank densely planted as quickly as possible so that the other fish would calm down. I know that people usually set up the tank and plants, then add the fish. I kinda had to do it backwards.

This tank and hood combo was $81 on sale. It has same footprint as a 55g, but is two inches shorter, which is good for planted tank.


Bump: I realized it would take a virtual lifetime to build a stand that looks good enough to set up in a living room; so I picked this up from Petsmart ($120). Its quality is dubious, but it looks really nice and has plenty of space for the canister. Stand will support a 75g tank if I later decide to upgrade.

Tank: TopFin 50gallon
Lighting: Modified Aqueon Deluxe hoods w/ 60x 3W epistar LEDs. (Currently 50x 6500K, 10x 4k)
Filtration: SunSun 302b, Aquatop 60 sponge


Last edited by ChrisX; 07-10-2017 at 01:35 PM. Reason: oops
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post #2 of 196 (permalink) Old 07-09-2017, 08:48 PM Thread Starter
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I used an inch of Miracle Grow raised bed organic soil. I couldnt find MGOPM in any of the local stores; this might be the same thing in new packaging. Just dumped it in.

There was very little loose dirt escaped, but tannens built up over the first few days. This was removed using purigen. That stuff works like a charm.








Bump: Here it is filled the first time with stock fluorescent bulbs.


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post #3 of 196 (permalink) Old 07-09-2017, 09:05 PM Thread Starter
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About the lighting: I realize the aquarium world has mostly gone to LED lighting. One of the serious drawbacks I see to LED lighting is that most of the commercial lights are designed to be suspended over a tank. This creates a problem with light spilling out into the room, and if viewing the tank from a seated position, you get an eyeful of direct light. NOT FOR ME!

Rather than build a full hood, I decided to modify the Aqueon Light bars that came with the tank. I like the enclosed flip top design that keeps all the light in the tank. The stock bars come with a 15 Watt fluorescent bulb on each side, not enough for plants.

I started my journey in a thread in the lighting forum, where I researched my options for using inexpensive 3W LEDS. I'm really happy with the design I came up with.
https://www.plantedtank.net/forums/10...tech-55-a.html

This design contains 60x 3W leds, which should make it roughly equivalent to a Green Element EVO Quad. (At half the cost.) I believe this will be considered "high light". I used the inexpensive Drivers and LEDs from [Ebay Link Removed] I have a tendency to over analyze things so late one night I just pulled the trigger and bought these parts and decided to make them work instead of geeking out over all the lighting options.



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post #4 of 196 (permalink) Old 07-10-2017, 01:44 AM Thread Starter
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Just received a huge batch of plants from MarylandGuppy on this forum. (Thank You!) These are beautiful and in great shape. He told me what each one was and how it grows, but I'm going to have to look them up again so I can learn the names and how to care for them. There are too many to remember. After I get an idea of what I have, I can decide which ones go in the back, middle, foreground, etc and then plant them.

With any luck, tomorrow I'll make the leap to high-tech. Today I built a Griggs reactor and the CO2 should arrive tomorrow. I'll probably run the CO2 into an empty tank for a couple days to make sure it won't gas my fish.

I priced out the commercial CO2 reactors and now its clear why everyone builds them. For instance, the MixMax reactor, which I was considering buying, is basically just a small Griggs reactor made out of cheap plastic, with tiny inlet/outlets and a fan gimmick. For a few dollars more, I have a 2' long PVC griggs w/ 3/4" inlets that will never break.
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post #5 of 196 (permalink) Old 07-10-2017, 01:09 PM Thread Starter
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This is what I have to work with. Decisions. . .

One thing I've realized is that the Epistar 6500K have too blue of a tint, or too low of a CRI to be used as the basis for the lighting without adding other colors.

The right side of the tank utilzed some warm white 3.5K and it looks better than the left, but its still not complete. Unfortunately, the "natural light" 4.5K are too yellow, leaving an apparent gap.

I have some ideas how to address this.
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post #6 of 196 (permalink) Old 07-10-2017, 01:52 PM
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With a layer of soil and C02 those plants are going to explode. Plan on it taking a little longer to cycle though... and I don't have to tell you to place the plants where you want them the first time... uprooting and replanting in soil is horribly messy.
What regulator did you go with?
I'm very excited to see the Keyholes and other stock.
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post #7 of 196 (permalink) Old 07-10-2017, 02:51 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Dude1 View Post
With a layer of soil and C02 those plants are going to explode. Plan on it taking a little longer to cycle though... and I don't have to tell you to place the plants where you want them the first time... uprooting and replanting in soil is horribly messy.
What regulator did you go with?
I'm very excited to see the Keyholes and other stock.
Tank is already cycled. I took the canister and sponge from another tank. Whatever ammonia is leeching from the soil is being converted by the filtration. Parameters look great.

I'm going to start really slow with the CO2, maybe 1bps and see where I am. I went with the cheap ebay regulator.. it actually looks solid. I figured all but the really expensive regulators are made in china, probably the same factories. But.. it could be junk.. will just have to see. I'll post pics later or it and the reactor when I set them up.

My biggest concern right now is getting the color temperature correct. The cheap 6500K leds I used are too blue, and/or possibly the tank glass is casting a shade on everything. I'm sure it will grow plants, but it just doesnt look right.
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post #8 of 196 (permalink) Old 07-10-2017, 05:21 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ChrisX View Post
Tank is already cycled. I took the canister and sponge from another tank. Whatever ammonia is leeching from the soil is being converted by the filtration. Parameters look great.

I'm going to start really slow with the CO2, maybe 1bps and see where I am. I went with the cheap ebay regulator.. it actually looks solid. I figured all but the really expensive regulators are made in china, probably the same factories. But.. it could be junk.. will just have to see. I'll post pics later or it and the reactor when I set them up.

My biggest concern right now is getting the color temperature correct. The cheap 6500K leds I used are too blue, and/or possibly the tank glass is casting a shade on everything. I'm sure it will grow plants, but it just doesnt look right.
As long as you test.... I started up my 75 with a fully cycled AC70 AND an Eheim 2217 and still had enough of a cycle to kill 5 Emperor Tetras, 4 Bolivian Rams, and 3 Furcata Rainbows.
I would really like to go with the GLA GRO regulator I think, but Ive seen nice aquatek ones for half the price. Let me know how yours does please in terms of holding steady BPS and ease of adjustment and everything. Are you going to inject this tank only or also the 29? While I'm doing 2 75's they are on top of one another and everything else is the same so I'm thinking one port is fine.
Id like to see a pic of the Keyholes when you get them set up. Ive heard a lot about them, but never seen them in person... I don't think... unless they go by another name.
Personally I think the 6500K LEDs are too yellow. That is whats in the Beamswork DHL. It wasn't until I added the FSPEC with full RGB LEDS and 10K LEDs that I got the color I wanted. I will tell you that the water will take on a yellowish look on its own... you may want to give it some time. In that case the predominately blue look will give a better white. Just my experience with dirted tanks.
What other than Keyholes? I love the diversity of the tanks on here. I especially love the Rainbows, South and Central American Cichlids, anything a little different.
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post #9 of 196 (permalink) Old 07-10-2017, 05:34 PM Thread Starter
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They've been in the tank about a month. After adding them to the 50, a pair formed and spawned. They have had two batches of eggs that they ate, so I moved them back to the 29 which is now their breeding tank. These videos are of the male and female. Male is about 3.5" total length.

They aren't pretty like rainbows but they have cichlid intelligence and are a good "large" fish that is compatible with small schooling fish.

The keyhole family are the only fish I own. Once the plants and tank are sorted I will start adding some schools.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uYsRBcgxehI


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rq2_bxU3aOs

Doesnt seem possible to embed videos.

Last edited by ChrisX; 07-10-2017 at 05:50 PM. Reason: more info
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post #10 of 196 (permalink) Old 07-10-2017, 11:09 PM Thread Starter
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CO2

I took a chance on buying the least expensive CO2 regulator w/ solenoid from ebay ($35). Chinese factories are contracted to build these, and these cheap unbranded ones are likely functionally identical to some of the cheaper branded ones that sell in stores.

The risk in buying this is that it is DIN477 and uses EU/UK voltage. I had to order a DIN477 -> paintball adapter from CO2ART ($15). No one on this side of the pond sells one that mates to DIN477. I was planning to use paintball tank, so I would have had to buy an adapter anyway; this was not an additional expense. Free shipping from UK took ten days. I added a Drop Checker ($15) and silicone tubing ($4) to my order to qualify for the free shipping. The adapter itself is well made with an adjustable brass plunger to activate the paintball tank.

Getting it to use EU power was also a risk, but its a low wattage device and the $7 adapter from amazon is doing the trick. The solenoid opens with a satisfying click on power. Gets only slightly warm over extended period.

Construction looks very solid, and while I do not hear any leaks, time will tell. Fittings are brass into steel housing. The needle valve offers good resistance and seems to have fine granularity. It was no chore to dial in 1 bps per my watch. It also comes with a glass (?) bubble counter. This does not have a check valve which leads me to wonder if it was upended, could water from the counter enter the regulator?

The gauges each read different pressure. I presume one of them is the working pressure and the other is the tank pressure. The tank pressure gauge looks low to me; I have no idea what pressure a paintball tank should read.

New paintball tank from Amazon ($23) was filled at Dick's for $5. Every fifth fill is free. They fill by weight and add 23.5 oz to the 24oz tank.

I am currently testing the flow rate to see if it remains the same over an extended period. I dialed in 1 bps and periodically check to see if it is still 1 bps. Also will be testing to see that the rate remains constant after solenoid activation.

So far, everything is working properly, almost too well. I am cautiously optimistic. With DIY Griggs reactor ($25), EVERYTHING, including the regulator, tank, fill, drop checker, silicone line, paintball adapter, power adapter, etc came to about $125.
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post #11 of 196 (permalink) Old 07-11-2017, 12:02 AM
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I used paintball containers for a while. Had 4 24 ounce ones. I went through one every 2 weeks I think. Leaks all the time... and then half the time Sports Authority's CO2 thing was down... I had to readjust the valve every 3 days or so. Can't do that again I got 2 20lb tanks from my Pops who had them for the outside bar for the beers they kept on tap. I think it's $16 to fill them?? I would guess a 20lb tank would last in excess of a year and I have a second filled. That's why I'm thinking of spending the cash to get a good unit and set it up once and be done for a year or more.
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post #12 of 196 (permalink) Old 07-11-2017, 12:47 AM Thread Starter
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I didn't have a free 20# tank so I got this. Good luck with your system.
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post #13 of 196 (permalink) Old 07-11-2017, 01:22 AM
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A good alternative small ciclid that isn't as territorial as the Keyhole Acaras, are the Nannacara Anamola or Golden Eye Dwarf ciclid. The male I had is in my siggy picture. The males can be incredibly pretty and there are now, newer varieties now that have a blue iridescence.



Mine was the plain old turquoise green, but still a neat fish with lots of personality. The females tend to stay somewhat drab though.

They stay small, the females only get about 1.8" and the males at best 3" They also are a little mellower when spawning and raising a brood but the females can become little tyrants, depending on if they can easily bully some of the smaller dither fish. They aren't fussy about fresh and live food like some Apisto's are.

Starting small, keeping it simple..(?)
250 gallon stock tank, "pond"
20 gallon H CBS Shrimp tank

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post #14 of 196 (permalink) Old 07-11-2017, 12:00 PM Thread Starter
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Those are nice, I've never seen them before. I chose keyholes because they have an attractive (tall) body shape and they are probably the largest cichlid you can keep in a planted aquarium with small schooling fish. The other choices were festivum and bandit cichlids, but they are more agressive and/or dig. Angels are wonderful but more agressive in groups and can eat small fish. Rams are also a good choice, but they are too small for what I wanted.

Keyholes are actually quite peaceful, but the breeding pair did get aggressive.
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post #15 of 196 (permalink) Old 07-11-2017, 05:07 PM Thread Starter
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2' x 2" Griggs reactor. I used flat top and bottom pieces with elbows so I could adjust direction to help fit under cabinet. I have seen other designs with curved top an bottom PVC. I don't think these help with flow rate, the loss in flow is more likely related to the force required to overcome the additional level change. However, curved top would help against CO2 pooling at the top. Also, I chose to put the inlet nearer the top, but Ive seen other designs with it in the middle.
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