180G with Display Refugium - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 22 (permalink) Old 03-10-2019, 05:32 PM Thread Starter
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180G with Display Refugium

After a long break from the hobby I'm finally getting back into and setting up the 180g tank I purchased nearly a decade ago. I had planned to set it up pretty quick but then life did its thing. While it was taking up space in various garages, basements, and driveways I've had plenty of time to plan out what I want to do with it. I enjoy building things so the stand/hood, sump, overflows, reactor, background, lights/reflectors and more are all custom DIY jobs. The most unique feature of the tank is the sump. I built the stand with a viewing window at the bottom so 2/3 of the 55g sump is visible. The hidden section contains chambers for mechanical and bio filtration before flowing into the visible refugium portion. As far as stocking goes I'm aiming for a loose biotope based around a SE Asian stream.



Main Display
180G - 24x24x72 - An old oceanic I bought a decade ago for $100.

Sump/Display Refugium
Standard 55g tank
Chamber 1 - 200 micro filter sock > dual density bonded filter pad > 50 micro water polishing
Chamber 2 - ~10 lbs of pumice stone
Chamber 3 - Display refugium / isolation tank. An opening in the stand allows viewing of this chamber. Its planted with low light plants and can be used for isolation (or quarantine if I move the pump to the other chamber). Eventually will be home to a crew of shrimp and a few small fish.

Stand
Custom - A simple box design with top, bottom, and sides made from 3/4" oak plywood with holes cut out for doors. There is a removable panel on one of the sides to allow access to the area behind the sump. I haven't installed the top trim that hides the lower rim of the aquarium and the bare plywood edge yet.

Lighting
T5HO- I had some 2' and 4' shoplight fixtures that I built custom reflectors for and paired up to cover the width of the tank plus one Sunblaster 48" fixture that amazon sent me by mistake providing extra light in the center of the tank. I'm using a basic clip on shoplight for the refugium.

Bulbs:
  • Wavepoint color wave
  • 6700k daylight
  • Wavepoint color wave
  • 2700k
  • Wavepoint color wave

I found a ridiculous deal and bought 12 color wave tubes (6 x 48" and 6 x 24") for just $50 total. I'll probably swap the middle bulb for a purple bulb like the ATI purple plus or wavepoint ultra growth wave eventually but since I have so many color wave tubes its not a priority.

Equipment
CO2Art Dual Stage regulator
5lb CO2 tank
DIY Griggs Reactor
500W Finnex titanium heater with temp controller
Jebao DCP-8000 Return Pump

Automated drip system
To make water changes simpler I ran new water and drain lines into my living room. The emergency overflow pipe on the display tank and the external overflows on the sump connect to the drain line, which runs through the crawlspace into my front garden. I have a needle valve on a 1/4" inch water line providing a steady drip of water into the tank. The flow is slow enough that chlorine evaporates before reaching a dangerous concentration (no chloramine here) and the extra water runs out from the sump overflow.

Water Parameters
Tap water / Degassed tank water:
KH: 2' / 3'
GH: 3' / 4'
PH: 7.8 / 7.6
TDS: 54 / 93

My PH is a little high out of the tap but the water is very soft so should work well with the fish/plants I have in mind.

Hardscape
The background is a DIY job built from styrofoam, drylock, and concrete pigment with various pieces of driftwood attached to give the impression of roots along a stream bank. There is also a cave on the right side and a raised planter to the left.

The substrate in the main display is split between flourite and black diamond blasting sand with sand in the refugium. I used a 2" tall silicone door draft stopper to separate the different substrates. This should help keep them in place and prevent plants from spreading across. Dragon stone and a variety of different types of driftwood make up the rest of the hardscape. There should be plenty of hiding spots for any shy fish.

Flora
I picked up the first plants from my local LFS last week and received a large online order on Friday.

Currently in the tank:
Java Fern
Limnophila - LFS wasn't sure of the species
Crypt Becketii
Crypt Pontiferoli
Rotala Vietnam - There were only a few stems and they weren't looking hot so the LFS threw them in for free. Seeing some new branching so maybe I'll be able to nurse them back to health.
Limnophila Aromatica
Rotala Roundifolia
Rotala H'Ra
Crypt Wendtii 'Red'
Crypt Wendtii 'Brown'
Crypt Hudoroi
Hydrocotle Tripartia
Eriocaulon Vietnam
Buce Lamandau Mini Purple
Buce Kedagang Original
Buce Rainbow Frost
Buce Black Pearl
Buce Brownie Blue
Buce Theii Blue

Other plants I'm considering:
Barclaya Longofila - for the center of the hill on the right side
Willow moss - on the arch driftwood
Flame moss - on the left piece of driftwood in the middle
Christmas moss - attached to some of the background wood
Pogostemon Helferi and/or Crypt Parva for the foreground
Rotala Macranda
Nymphaea Lotus
More Buce
Blyxa Japonica/Auberti
Vals of some type


Fauna
The general stocking setup I'm going for is:
A large school of smaller fish
Two decent sized groups of loaches
A few larger centerpiece fish

Main Display
30+ Black Ruby barbs - Odessa barbs, harlequin rasboras, or even tiger barbs could be alternatives
8-12 Kuhli Loaches
8-12 Zebra Loaches - or some other smallish botine loach
6 Siamese Algae Eaters
3 Pearl or Blue/Gold/Opaline Gouramis - ideally 1 male and 2 females
1 Rainbow shark
Possibly some larger shrimp? Maybe Amanos would be large enough to not get eaten if I grew them out in the refugium first
various Snails

Refugium
Shrimp of some sort
Dwarf gourami
A few cherry barbs or rasboras

The refugium will be stocked last as any fish that can't get along could get dropped down there.

Here are some shots of the tank. The water is a bit cloudy as these were taken after a round of planting.







Next Steps / Questions

I'm working on some small tweaks to the plumbing and organizing the supplies in the cabinet while I wait for the plants to grow in. Eventually I want to add some additional automation and safety systems including a PH controller, leak detectors and a dosing pump for ferts.

Build something to hide the return pump in the sump.

I've heard conflicting reports on black ruby barbs and plants. Has anyone had experience keeping them in a tank with lots of stems? The tank is large and will have a ton of plants so some occasional nibbles aren't a big deal as long as they don't turn into lawn mowers.

Any suggestions for interesting plants/fish that would complement this mix?
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post #2 of 22 (permalink) Old 03-17-2019, 07:26 PM Thread Starter
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So far most everything is growing well. Many of the old leaves on the Rotala Rotundifolia but new growth appears healthy and the H'ra planted next to it is doing great so I'm going to chalk that up to adjusting to a new tank environment.

Added in some additional plants yesterday. Everything from this order arrived looking very healthy:
Limnophila Belem
Limnophila Aromatica
Limnophila 'Wavy green'
Rotala Vietnam
Nymphaea Zenkeri
Blyxa Auberti
Marsilea Hirsuta
Microsorum 'Durin Besar'
Mini Weeping Moss
Flame Moss
Fissidens Fox Moss

I'm really happy with the way the aquascape is turning out. With such a large footprint to work with I've been able to separate the tank into several different areas with their own styles. I'm working on getting the CO2 dialed in at the moment before adding fish in another week or two. With the initial flowrate I was only seeing a peak PH drop of .5, after adjusting it a bit last night the drop was 1.4 right before lights on this morning. I dialed it back slightly hoping to find that perfect middle ground.
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post #3 of 22 (permalink) Old 03-17-2019, 08:05 PM
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Great looking start! Really like the visible refugium. I guess my first comment would be - your probably going to want a bigger co2 tank. I have a 10# tank on my 75g and it lasts about 2-3 months.
Background looks fantastic.
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post #4 of 22 (permalink) Old 03-17-2019, 08:13 PM
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Well you sure have a nice and large canvas to work with there.

Very nice start to a journal, and I am very much looking forward to seeing where this goes.

Keep the updates coming. Subscribed!


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post #5 of 22 (permalink) Old 03-19-2019, 05:45 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Immortal1 View Post
Great looking start! Really like the visible refugium. I guess my first comment would be - your probably going to want a bigger co2 tank. I have a 10# tank on my 75g and it lasts about 2-3 months.
Background looks fantastic.
Thanks! I was worried about the background when I first carved it as my artistic talents are lacking but once all the wood was attached it came out pretty nice. I may be using the same technique to make something to hide the return pump in the coming weeks.

I'll be picking up a 20lb tank this afternoon. I'm hopping the 20 will last me at least a few months with the smaller one being swapped in for a few days at a time when refills are needed. I bought the small one first since I can swap it at the homebrew shop 10 minutes from my house in an emergency but the only place I've found that can refill a larger cylinder outside of my work hours is 90 minutes away.
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post #6 of 22 (permalink) Old 03-20-2019, 12:29 AM Thread Starter
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Came home today and noticed this little guy making his way across the substrate. I guess I have my first inhabitants



Its good timing I suppose as I also noticed the first bits of algae (other than diatoms). A bit of hair algae appeared on some of the higher up wood in the tank. Luckily it was on pieces that are removable so I pulled them, scraped it off, and put them back. I'll need to keep an eye out over the coming week. CO2 and ferts were inconsistent the first few weeks while I was finding the sweet spots and getting into a regular schedule. Hopefully now that things are consistent it won't spread.
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post #7 of 22 (permalink) Old 03-24-2019, 02:59 AM Thread Starter
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Paid a visit to my LFS today. I added some traditional hardy plants in the sump, Hygrophila Cormybosa 'Compact', H. difformis (Wisteria), and some water sprite. The rotala I tried down there didn't work out too well in the lower light but the crypts and java fern have been growing well. I'm leaning towards building a screen of sorts with craft mesh and moss of some type to hide the pump.

Also, picked up the first non-hitchhiker inhabitants!

12 Black Ruby Barbs
6 Siamese Algae Eaters
4 Pearl Gourami (1 male, 3 females I hope)
6 Olive nerites and 3 Zebra Nerites

They had some Red Tailed Sand loaches that I had never seen before. I was pretty tempted to get them but know almost nothing about them. A lot of the info I see online is contradicting. Does anyone have experience with these?

Didn't get any great pics of them tonight as the water was a little cloudy from rearranging some plants beforehand.

Instead here's a picture of some bubbles (CO2?) streaming off one of the crypts this morning.

Link to video
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post #8 of 22 (permalink) Old 03-24-2019, 11:58 AM
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Very nice start, looking forward to following along!



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post #9 of 22 (permalink) Old 03-24-2019, 03:18 PM
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The Red-Tailed Squirrel Loach

Not sure if it is the same species of loach, but seems the genus wants cooler water and lots of flow
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post #10 of 22 (permalink) Old 03-24-2019, 06:05 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
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The Red-Tailed Squirrel Loach

Not sure if it is the same species of loach, but seems the genus wants cooler water and lots of flow
I'm not sure if they were those or Shistura mahnerti. Both look pretty similar. Some sources describe them as territorial while others list them as shoaling species best kept in groups.

In any case I'm not sure either would be an ideal choice for my setup so I'll probably stick with Botia striata if I can find some.
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post #11 of 22 (permalink) Old 03-24-2019, 07:58 PM Thread Starter
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Black ruby barbs. Tough to get a clear photo with them darting all over the place. A few of the males have already started showing some nice red coloration.


The pearl gouramis have claimed the cave on the back right as their hideout. Any sudden movement and they all retreat out of sight. Stand still for a few minutes and they'll venture out again, always together. They should get a bit less skittish over time as they get used to the surroundings.


The SAEs are still very small. Will be interesting to see how quickly they grow with all the open space.


Refugium right after adding new plants. The pump is still an eyesore but once it's hidden things should start looking better. Currently no inhabitants down here but I may move some of the snails down soon.
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post #12 of 22 (permalink) Old 03-27-2019, 04:19 AM
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You guys and your 6x2 foot prints really make me wish I could find a great local deal on one too! 180 or 200+ I'd be totally okay with! LOL Can't wait to see how things go for you!

Good call on getting the 20lb tank, as I've got one on my 125g with a sump and about 3 months is all I can get with one.

300g 8' acrylic aquarium acquired, in process to build/setup/plan setup

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Last edited by chayos00; 04-04-2019 at 04:25 PM. Reason: Not 7x2....
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post #13 of 22 (permalink) Old 03-27-2019, 10:56 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
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You guys and your 7x2 foot prints really make me wish I could find a great local deal on one too! 180 or 200+ I'd be totally okay with! LOL Can't wait to see how things go for you!

Good call on getting the 20lb tank, as I've got one on my 125g with a sump and about 3 months is all I can get with one.

It had been my goal to have a really huge tank ever since I was a kid so I knew I couldn't pass when I saw the deal on this tank, even though I knew it would be years before I would be able to set it up. Didn't expect it to take a decade but I certainly don't regret it now.
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post #14 of 22 (permalink) Old 03-28-2019, 12:40 AM Thread Starter
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Came home today and found one of the gouramis in the right side overflow. I had just picked up some window screen to cover a slot that was cut in the overflow above the water line for an old return pipe. While I was fishing her out one of the barbs decided it looked like fun and jumped in as well. An hour later both were back in the display no worse for wear and there is now a screen extended 2" above the tops of both overflows. Always an adventure...

The above incident notwithstanding I've been pleasantly surprised by how smoothly the tank has been running. A few plants experienced some die back when first introduced but everything has been growing smoothly as they get established. Now that there is a bit of a cleanup crew I'm seeing less algae and diatoms every time I look at the tank.


Here you can see the main centerpiece. I separated the biggest eriocaulan vietnam into 4 smaller pieces to get it to root in the substrate better. It should form a nice bush around the base once it grows in. Old reliable java fern is attached at the base of the wood while the 'Durin besar' variant is higher up. This one has narrower leaves that are supposed to get some yellow/orange at the tips, though I haven't seen any yet. Mini willow moss (java spring) is attached to the arch. I've heard its pretty slow growing so I may look to add some more.

Various Buces and Fissidens fox cover the driftwood above and to the right while the left piece is home to Flame moss. In the background you can see Rotala Vietnam on both sides of the path and various Limnophila on the left.

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post #15 of 22 (permalink) Old 03-29-2019, 03:53 PM Thread Starter
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While I wait for the plants to grow I thought I would go back and share some detail on the DIY projects that went into this. Building things has been a favorite hobby of mine ever since my dad helped me build my first piece of furniture when I was in the 4th grade, a stand for the 55G tank 'santa' had gifted me. Now most of the furniture in my house is custom designs. Especially when it comes to my aquarium I like building components versus buying as that allows me to build to my ideal requirements instead of settling for something that meets most of them.

For the stand I stuck with the K.I.S.S. philosophy and went with the simplest design possible, a basic plywood box some holes cut in it and a bit of trim for looks.


I use the free version of Sketch Up to the original designs for all my furniture builds. Here you can see the exploded view of the primary structure. If it looks simple, that's because it is. The top, bottom, and sides are all single sheets of 3/4" oak plywood with various holes cut out for doors and plumbing.


Here is the completed stand before adding the trim and staining. I added a cutout on the right side for inserting/accessing the sump. A slide out panel covers this rather than a regular door. All the panels are attached to one another using biscuit joints and wood glue. The only screws are for the metal corner braces at each inside corner and the door hinges. I built this part 5 years ago so don't have many pictures of the construction unfortunately.



After the initial staining and painting. The top, bottom, and entire inside of the stand were painted with 2 coats of waterproof primer with an additional polyurethane coating for the bottom and sides of the interior. The white gives it a clean look and makes it much easier to spot in addition to providing protection from water. The outside is stained with 2 coats of black cherry topped with a coat of poly.



The doors are made from oak 1x3" with 1/4" oak plywood inserts and are installed using euro style hinges. Oak trim boards around the edges gives a finished look.



My living room is fairly small (old house) and the tank dominates the room now. Additional trim will run along the top edge of the stand, hiding the bottom rim of the aquarium, but I've been lazy and haven't installed it yet.

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