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.
180G - 24x24x72 - An old oceanic I bought a decade ago for $100.
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.
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.
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.
- Wavepoint color wave
- 6700k daylight
- Wavepoint color wave
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
I picked up the first plants from my local LFS last week and received a large online order on Friday.
Currently in the tank:
Limnophila - LFS wasn't sure of the species
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.
Crypt Wendtii 'Red'
Crypt Wendtii 'Brown'
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
Vals of some type
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
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
Shrimp of some sort
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?