Over the past 10 years our household has had an aquarium around the house for the kids, 10 gallons, with guppy’s and plastic plants. Last November, 2017, the last of the kids went off to college and I had more available time. I decided to get a larger aquarium; I looked on Craigslist and a 55-gallon tank showed up that looked promising. I went to see it, it looked good, and it came complete with everything. It even had a canopy and a Coralife two lamp T8 light fixture and an underground filter! I thought I hit the jackpot. To be honest, I was quite a bit out of touch with current aquarium keeping practices and didn’t know it at the time.
I thought my only purchases afterward would be some fish and plastic plants, I really didn’t think I needed any more than that. For less than $50.00 more I would have a complete tank, just feed the fish and clean out the filter every couple of months. Very easy! And then I found this site, a tropical fish store in San Francisco called Aqua Forest Aquarium and a LFS in San Jose called Neptune’s Aquatic’s. Beautiful aquariums, aquariums with landscapes that I didn’t even know were possible. And with that my journey started, my money dwindled and my free time disappeared!
I didn’t start a journal, nor did I even think about starting one. My thinking was who would want to read a journal that said, “I went to the LFS, picked up some plants whose name I can’t pronounce or remember, I went home and put them in the tank and hoped they survived!” To be honest, looking back, I knew little about planted aquariums. I knew the Amonnia-nitrite-nitrate process, but that was about it. I didn’t know what a macro or micro was, nor did I know what an LFS was, or what PAR meant, other than I never got close to it on a golf course. The past year has been fun, a lot of research, learning from others, and experimenting. I’ve learned a lot over the past year and everything has been going well.
In the following weeks I’ll hoping to post detailed descriptions of what I’ve done, why I did it, and what I learned.
Please feel free to post comments, suggestions, and questions in this journal. I’d much prefer it to be an open communication journal with others as opposed to me just posting about the tank.
For filtering the tank has two canister filters and a sump. The sump’s mechanical filtering is done via polyester filter media that can filter down to 1 micron. Tank water flows out of the tank via a Lifereef siphon overflow box down to the sump into a custom filter pad holder, filters down through the pads, and exits out the bottom. Filter pads are arranged from top to bottom as follows:
Felt(Estimated at 200 micron)
As noted, there’s a repeat of the felt/100 micron pads. The reason I do this is these pads catch a lot of the detritus and I try to remove the detritus out of the water column quickly so it doesn’t have a chance to break down. Water changes and all pad replacements are all performed on Saturday. Monday night, two days later, the top set of felt/100 micron pads are removed. Wednesday night, the 2nd set is removed, and Friday morning, the last set is removed. Removing pads takes seconds, reach down into the pad holder, remove two pads and discard. Initially I only installed only one of each type of each pad and would replace the top felt pad every two days per the same schedule but removing a pad and installing a new pad, getting it lined up, was not as quick as I liked, so I went with installing all pads on Saturday and removing two pads every two days throughout the week which is much easier.
I purchase pads, except the felt, at Duda Energy’s online site
. I cut multiple pads at home via on a with a rotary cutter on a rotary cutting pad and organize batches them in the sequence above such that when I replace on Saturday I replace the entire set of pads.
Felt is standard sewing felt purchased at a local sewing fabric store such as Michaels or Hobby Lobby. I use the 100% polyester type that has not have any non-flammable chemicals added.
I designed the filter pad holder such that as the filter pads become clogged, the water level rises in the pad holder which increases the water pressure across the pads. The water pressure difference at maximum height is only 0.433 psi, but even though it seems low, it’s enough to help with maintaining water flow through the clogged pads.
Is filtering required down to 1 micron? That I can’t really say, but I’ve found one of advantages are that my water is always crystal clear. And I can tell the 25/10/5/1 micron pads are picking detritus up because towards the end of the week if I remove the felt and 100 micron pads, the water level difference between the water in the pad holder and sump is a few inches, whereas at the start of the week it there would be little to no difference. I have a high fish load in my tank, I feed my fish twice a day, and yet I have very little algae in the tank.
Initially I set up the sump using filter socks. I found out quickly that they’re expensive, difficult to clean, noisy, and I couldn’t find any down to the micron levels I wanted. Because of this I developed the current method of filtering.
I like using sumps. They keep the tank water level constant, and reduced water levels due to evaporation occur in the sump. It’s easy to hide items in the sumps such as filter pads, heaters and pump, plus they allow quick access to filter pads and other media such as activated carbon or Purigen.
In addition to the sump, I also have two canister filters, an Eheim Pro 3-350 and Eheim 4+ 600. Each is set up with the filter pads in the bottom tray, coarse blue on the bottom, medium/fine filter pad above that, and then felt on top, with the upper trays filled with biological media. There are no filter pads above the biological media. The pads, especially the felt pads, pick up all detritus, as such the biological media stays very clean and rarely gets cleaned, maybe every 45-days with a quick rinse. The filter pads get replaced every two weeks.
CO2 VARIABLE VELOCITY REACTOR
When I started to use CO2 I built a Griggs reactor. My aquarium is in my daughter’s room which has been turned into an office. She’s off to college, but comes homes occasionally, so the reactor needed to be as quiet as possible. The problem with my initial Griggs reactor (3” diameter, 24” long) was that as bubbles entered the chamber, they would rise to the top and combine and become larger bubbles and eventually there would be a large portion of air in the reactor. Because of the air, gurgling was occurring making more noise. What I needed was a way of keeping bubbles suspended in the water column, so they wouldn’t combine as easily as when they were all at the top. But because bubbles can combine, the chamber ends up having different size bubbles, and different size bubbles rise as different speeds. What I needed was a chamber with different flow velocities, with higher flow velocities at the top to keep the larger bubbles in suspension and slower velocities at the bottom to keep the very fine bubbles suspended without passing through into the aquarium. And since flow is constant the way to change the velocity is to change the diameters of the pipe such that when water goes from a smaller size pipe to a larger size pipe, the water flow must slow down because there’s a larger area for it to flow through. I call it a variable velocity reactor because that’s the basics of how it works. I also found that having a valve at the outlet of the reactor helps in fine tuning the flow in the reactor. Depending on the gate valve position, I can raise or lower bubbles into different sections of the reactor. I can also adjust the output of the reactor such that fine bubbles can reach the tank or no bubbles at all reach the tank. I used clear PVC pipe, so I could observe the bubbles.
For bubbles I use a GLA inline diffuser. As the bubbles enter the reactor most remain small and will head down reactor until the bubble rate of rise equals the water flow velocity, at which point the bubbles don’t move. They’ll get smaller as the water absorbs the CO2, and when they get smaller they’ll head downward until they hit the next larger pipe size, at which point they’ll stall, and the absorption/downward process repeats itself. Eventually they’ll dissipate into the water column.
In the event bubbles combine, they’ll rise up the reactor through different sections until they reach a point that the flow rate stalls their upward movement, and the absorption/downward process starts.
At first, I tried the reactor without the inline diffuser and injected CO2 directly into the reactor at the valve location. It worked for a few hours, but eventually a large air bubble would form and then it would start making noise. Using the inline diffuser makes smaller bubbles which have a greater surface area/mass ratio, and this increases the absorption process.
Well, enough for this first thread, other posts will follow over the next couple of weeks!
The following items have been added since my original post. These are items that would probably be helpful to others who are just starting and are now just reading the first post.