Fish Room/Rack WIP - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 8 (permalink) Old 03-12-2019, 05:58 AM Thread Starter
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Fish Room/Rack WIP

Over the last few months, we've decided to throw the tank limit out the window. There are so many fish we would love to keep, and after learning how easy it is to have a few tanks in one place in regards to maintenance, we decided to start building a fish tank rack. This journal will be a way to track the progress on the room.

The room itself is a small room in the basement. When we replaced our furnace, we added in a return vent and the whole room stays about 15° warmer than the rest of the basement. In general, with all of the tanks running, the room stays at about 73 on average. Previously the room (which is also an office, its oddly shaped, but the back portion is where the fish tanks are located), housed my 120g FW, and my BF's 120 SW tank. It is still home to the 120g FOWLR tank. The tank takes up a lot of room due to the built in wet-dry in the back, so I figured a compact, organized rack, was the best way to make the most out of the small amount of space. The rack is a 6' Gladiator steel shelving unit with a capacity of 2,000 lbs per shelf. I also added plywood to each shelf as a safety net. I did leave the wire racks on, but only to allow for easy mounting of lights and to allow me to easily zip tie cords and other stuff up and out of the way. The plan is for 20g Highs on top, 10g tanks in the middle, and the bottom shelf - I have no idea. Currently the 40g long is on the shelf, which leaves an awkward amount of space next to it, but maybe I will find something fun to do with that space. It's a 24" space that's left. In addition to the shelf, the old table I was using, currently has a 75g I picked up for an excellent deal. I need to figure out how to reinforce the table, as it's 4'x2'. I did reinforce the top deck early on, but I likely will just go the route of adding two additional legs - one in the middle of each short side, that go all the way to the ground. It should make it sturdy and strong enough for the tank. If anyone has any input on this, please let me know. I want to make sure it's sturdy as can be.

Equipment wise, I have an Alita AL-15 running the show. I just built the central air system this weekend, but I already am finding some faults. While the entire system is very quiet, I would like to cement the PVC together. It seemed as though many people were fine with just dry fitting the PVC, but especially where my blow off valve is, I am losing air on the fittings. I also had bad luck with three of the single lever valves stripping after tapping the holes (these were NOT self-tapping as advertised), so I plan on just running a bead of silicone around the threads of the valves, and calling it good. The system isn't under a ton of pressure, so it should work. Aside from the faults, I am really pleased with how it is running. Really nice to have one very quiet pump running all of the tanks. After talking to club members, it should be capable of running everything I have planned for in the future, with the blow off valve ensuring the pump stays healthy for the time being. Lighting, I have a handful of Sunblaster T5HOs. Currently the top and bottom shelf each have their bulb, I have yet to install the one on the middle shelf. None of these tanks will be high-tech tanks, so the one bulb over each shelf should be enough to keep low-tech plants, while not allowing for too much algae. For now, the 10g just has an old hood I found lying around with a T8 in it. LEDs would be nice, but these T5s are cheap, and I like that since they are so light, I can hang them with wire super easily. I do need to move the one on the top shelf, as it's using the same hooks the table used, but for now, it's functional.

For filtration, the 40g and 10g are both utilizing Swiss Tropicals' cubefilters with the jetlifter, and they are silent. I have another one seeding in my sump for use in the 75g, and I plan on going with these for the rest of the future tanks. The 20g is using a cheap sponge filter I picked up a while back. It does work, but it's noisy, and awkward with how it sticks out in the tank.

Here is the rack, it's a tight room (as you can tell), but between the end of the 75g stand and the front of the rack, there is a very comfortable 2.5'. Very easy to work on the bottom tank. I left a good chunk of room inbetween each shelf, so that I do not have any issues reaching into the tanks or doing maintenance.


40g Grow Out
40g long, with the current batch of fry. They are at 9 weeks old.

It's running with a 5x5" cubefilter with the jetlifter, a jimmy rigged filter, a handful of gravel for extra BB space from cycling the tank, and a 300W Finnex heater. I aim for 50% daily water changes on this tank, but if something comes up where I miss a day, I will do a 75% the following day to compensate. I try to keep this tank spotlessly clean as best as I can.

20g High Angel Pair
This tank, everyone is likely familiar with, so here is a picture of tonight's batch of eggs. I fed nothing but live blackworms for the last few days, and it seems to have done the trick with getting my male to do his part instead of starring off in space. My male did a very good job this time . Interesting place to lay, the eggs wrap the whole uptake tube. The female, since being removed from the fry, has spawned every 9 days like clockwork. It's amazing how happy they've been in this tank.

This tank is running with a cheapy sponge filter that I would like to replace with a cubefilter with the jetlifter, a 200W Finnex, and some flourite. It also has two java ferns, a tumble-weed style ball of willow moss, and a bolbitus I didn't plant in my 120g, but found. It's not pretty, but these fish have been very happy and healthy in this set-up. This tank, with just the adults, is getting a 50% water change twice a week. Once the eggs become free swimming, I will go to 20% every day, and gradually increase to 50% daily until they are big enough to go to the 40g. It seemed to have worked with the last batch. I would like to pretty up this tank a bit, but have to work around these angels spawning all the time.

10g Apistogramma Cacatuoides
And the new tank, I've talked about, but have not yet shared. This tank, equipment wise, is using a 3x3 cubefilter with jetlifter, and a 100W heater I had lying around. Using just plain old aquarium gravel, and lava rock as hardscape that I also had lying around. Plants, it has bucephalandra, a melting madagascar lace, some crypts, willow moss, a marsiliea species, anubias nana petite, pygmy chain swords, java ferns, and broad leaf bolbitus. It's inhabitants are 2xApistogramma Cacatuoides, and a handful of Endlers Livebearers as dithers that I picked up at the last club meet. I originally was hoping I ended up with a male and a female apisto, but I am thinking I may have a sleeper male. They are still quite young, so time will tell. The tank has a lot of sight/line blockers, and I haven't noticed any aggression between the two. This tank is getting a 30-40% every 2 days or so right now. I have been feeding mostly live blackworms, and light amounts of flake foods, so despite the heavy stocking, the tank and it's inhabitants are doing very well. I still have some bioballs in the back corner, and a filter pad, from cycling the tank, that need to be removed, but I want to make sure that the sponge filter is fully seeded before I remove them. No ammonia or nitrite readings, so I am not worried. I hope that the plants will take off in this tank sooner or later. It is truely a low tech, no ferts either, so we will see! I would like it to have a jungly look to it, eventually, to help with keeping aggression in the tight space to a minimum.
Full tank shot:

Male:

Female (I suspect this to be a sleeper male):


I plan to update this thread with tank updates for the individual tanks and/or with progress on the room and rack in general.

We still haven't decided what to do with the 75g. I am debating on using it as another grow out, but still not sure. It was too good of a deal to let it go by .

It's amazing how quick it is to do maintenance on these tanks. To do all of my water changes on all three, while still scrubbing the tanks down with my handy dandy magic eraser, takes a total of 30 minutes if I am not spacing out watching all of the fish. It's easy when everything is in one spot.

A few projects I need to do, aside from tweaking the central air system:
1. Tank backgrounds. The one on the 20g is for a 10g and looks awful. It works to provide privacy to the angels, but it just looks tacky. I hesitate to paint the tanks, so I may just go for black window film.
2. Organize storage in the room better for equipment that's nice to have around for quick access. I.e. paper towels, magic erasers, food, etc.
3. I have a little end table I will be setting up for my hatcheries. I need to get a desk lamp for it and organize it neatly to make harvesting/hatching, fast and easy. I likely have a new batch of fry coming down the pipeline that will need food started in T-Minus 8 days, so the clock is ticking.

Any advice, comments, or tips are greatly appreciated!
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post #2 of 8 (permalink) Old 03-12-2019, 11:50 AM
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Nice to see your setup! Really cool to see your angel pair above, and then down below, the growout tank full of little tiny angel triangle shapes. Wish I had a basement fish room- I still feel a bit nervous moving my 45 out of the basement into the living room!
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post #3 of 8 (permalink) Old 03-12-2019, 01:28 PM
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It is looking awesome and I really think you're onto something here!!!! Now for your purposes this may be of not benefit, as it seems these will be display tanks and breeding, but often breeders turn their 10g and 5g side facing. This way there is more use of the stands depth and more space for more tanks. I assume at some point the 10g will house some dry perhaps and therefore may be less of a display tank.
I really love what you have started here. It is my dream to get a fish room going one day and starting out it will be done in a racking system. So this will be great to follow along!
Dont be photo shy!
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post #4 of 8 (permalink) Old 03-12-2019, 03:18 PM
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Looks like you're off to a great start. I'm thinking about doing something like this myself. Subscription added. Can't wait to see your progress.
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post #5 of 8 (permalink) Old 03-12-2019, 04:55 PM Thread Starter
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It was a bit intimidating to take the plunge, but I am also starting off relatively small too. The reduced maintenance time is a huge benefit. It's really easy and quick with the python to just go tank to tank, gravel vac/drain, refill, and on to the next. I just have to be careful with the angel fry as they've decided that playing chicken with the siphon tube is a lot of fun. At first they will go sit in the corner when I start cleaning their tank, and then before I know it, there are a whole bunch staring and biting at the gravel vac portion of the python

Regarding not going end out on the tanks, while it is extremely tempting, for now, I want most of these tanks to be visually pleasant but functional as well. If I start off with say 6 10g on the middle shelf, end out, I feel like I would rush them too much. I am hoping at the big auction in a few weeks, I can get a whole bunch of Java Ferns and Bolbitus, to help get the 40g grow out looking somewhat presentable. I want to avoid substrate in this tank, as with it being pretty much bare bottom, it's very easy to keep clean, but with some java ferns and what not on small stones/driftwood, I can very easily scoot things around to clean. The 20g High could use a few more java ferns as well. The parents were really fond of keeping the wigglers moving between different leaves on the java ferns, and in addition, when I dumped my batch of BBS on the ground during the early days of the current batch of fry, the insuforia and micro critters on the plant leaves kept the fry happy until I had another batch ready.

My end goal, is to have well planted tanks to not only be visually appealing, but to take advantage of the wonderful benefits of having lots of plants in the tanks. I will post pictures as the tanks progress!
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post #6 of 8 (permalink) Old 03-16-2019, 03:18 PM Thread Starter
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Today we are going to be jimmy rigging the wood table to hold the 75g. Hopefully with the addition of two more vertical legs in the middle (it’s 24” deep, not ideal with the tank at 18” deep), the stand will hold the tank well. I have a leg in the center back of the stand that I added to prevent racking, and the top shelf I reinforced with two 2x4 “joists” underneath when I put the 10g and 20g on it.

The baby angels need a bigger tank pretty much NOW. I did a manual count (took a picture and counted away) so I knew how many I have available to sell, and I am at 140 fish. With them all at nickel size and many nearing quarter size, water changes aside, a 40g tank IMO is too small. It’s handling the bioload just fine but I noticed two more today with bent dorsal fins and while it may be genetics, I wonder if it’s from being overcrowded. I plan on leaving the ones I want in the 40g for now to grow out (no sense in setting up a different tank) and moving the rest to the 75g tonight.

I need to figure out heaters as a heater won’t arrive until Monday but these fish really need more space ASAP. If I had 50 it would be one story, but the amount we have is too many. I plan on moving their sponge filter to the 75g as it is a very large/oversized filter, and it’s been handling the bioload like a champ, and then the 40g will get the slightly smaller sponge filter that’s been seeding in my 120’s sump for the last month.

After this batch, the 75g tank will become my grow out tank. The 40g, on the other hand, will become my BFs playground. He really wants to learn about breeding plecos and try his hand at it, and this tank would be great for him to play with. Hoping to get a nice batch of plecos for him at my clubs big auction next weekend.

I will likely still try and get the 75g looking “decent.” It will be left barebottom but I would like to get some java ferns on stones, and will probably toss a stem or two of wysteria in a pot. The wisteria would be more of a practical addition then anything else, due to its great usefulness as a nutrient sponge.
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post #7 of 8 (permalink) Old 03-19-2019, 07:02 PM Thread Starter
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This set up really proved to me last night how nice it is to have 90% of my tanks (my 120g is in our family room upstairs) right next to each other. I timed how long it took to do all my water changes and I am amazed that it took exactly 65 minutes. That included a ~70% on the 75g, 80% on the 40g, 50% on the 20 and 50% on the 10g, along with taking a magic eraser and scrubbing down the walls on all the tanks.

I decided to test the 10g as well in regards to how it’s holding up with its stocking load. It has about 10 endlers livebearers (I failed to read the +fry on the bag before I won the auction for them), and my pair of Apistogramma Cacatouides. Went three days and the nitrate test turned just the slightest hint of orange. Now part of it may be the fact that aside from a small pinch of flake and a little bit of frozen bloodworms, the tank has mainly been getting live blackworms, but I am pleased with how well the tank is handling the bioload. And the color on the apistos is just stunning. The suspected female has the deepest yellow/black coloring and the male follows her like a puppy dog too. The Endlers are also showing incredible coloration. Going to just start doing a biweekly water change at this point. While I could probably get away with less, once I have the python out to do the fry tanks it takes literally two minutes to do a 50% on this tank.

Anyways, if anyone is considering going down the route of a tank rack or fish room, the ease of maintenance is worth it. It’s so quick and easy to do water changes, especially with other equipment within an arms reach, it actually takes less time to do these four tanks than my 120g.
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post #8 of 8 (permalink) Old 04-17-2019, 06:13 AM Thread Starter
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Between class and work, it’s been a very hectic month, and the fish room shenanigans have definitely helped in that aspect.

Since the last post, I have set up another tank - a 20g long. This tank ended up having a leak in the top right corner. Marine land was professional and reimbursed me, without hassle, for the full market price of the tank, but I decided to use the money towards future supplies, and fix that corner myself.

The 20g long was housing another species of Apistogramma that I couldn’t pass up at my LFS - Apistogramma Nijsseni. I set up a 10g I had lying around, tossed their catappa leaves, driftwood, and a piece of PVC coupling in the tank to offer shelter for the female, and relocated them for the time being. I have fixed the 20g long but I am waiting on some stone to arrive, to take advantage of being able to redo the tank. Well, as seems to be the trend in my fish room, the high concentrations of tannins and all of the BBS the fish room has been receiving, appears to have really suited these two. They are currently doing a spawning dance inside the PVC coupling and throughout the tank. I am suspecting I may be getting eggs very soon. They are young, so it may not be successful, but I can only hope! They’ve been finicky eaters, but between the white worm culture, BBS and some black worms when I pick them up, it has been pretty easy to get them enough food.

The Apistogramma Cacatouides have also had their very first spawn. The eggs didn’t make it, but they were pink before she decided to snack on them, so it’s a positive sign in my eyes. I was just thrilled to learn they are a pair!

To add the spawning chaos, my pair of angels decided that it would be a good idea to spawn with their current batch of fry in the tank yesterday. By the time I noticed and I was able to get the 75g back up and running they unfortunately attacked and ate a good chunk of the fry. I was able to save a good chunk of them last night, and noticed 4 more seeking refuge in the bolbitus today. I regret putting them in the 75g as it’s really far too large of a tank for this small batch, but by the time I would’ve set up a 10, I may have lost more. They were hiding in the corner this morning, so I decided to toss a few of the Endlers from the Cacatouides tank in with them, and the change by this evening was immense! They follow the endlers to the front of the tank when the Endlers see me adding BBS. Still unsure what caused the angels to spawn with such young fry. I think it was a combination of them getting black worms this weekend for the first time in a few weeks and the fact it was such a small batch too.

I have to say, the choice to make a fish room/rack has proven to be a great decision. The central air system makes it quick and easy to add a tank, just simply attach an airline to a sponge filter and a valve, and I am in business. It’s also so incredibly fun to be able to work with species I haven’t previously, but have always wanted too, along with exploring different scaping styles. In addition, maintenance on all these tanks has proven to be incredibly easy with everything close together.

My final is next week, so hopefully, I will have time to take lots of update pictures. Still amazes me all of these fish are in full blown spawning mode. Always wonder if I am doing things “right” but seeing all of these fish spawning helps to validate my madness, despite the stumbles along the way. The 120g has also absolutely blossomed too.
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