120 Build - From the ground up! - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 21 (permalink) Old 05-13-2019, 10:43 PM Thread Starter
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Lightbulb 120 Build - From the ground up!

I debated whether I should start a tank journal when I do not have a tank yet in the actual journal. Eventually I decided that folks might enjoy seeing progress of a complete build starting from scratch so here it is. If this is inappropriate I will remove it.

So it begins. The Wife has been cajoled (coerced/lovingly persuaded) into allowing a 120 gallon tank. I have had fish off and on since I was a child. Never a larger tank and only recently have I been keeping plants. My current tank and the one The Wife thinks of as the perfect size is a Fluval Spec V.

Meanwhile I also stumbled into the realm of native fish keeping. Specifically north american native fish. I am quite taken with the idea so while my tank will not be a true biotope since its unlikely all animals and plants will be found in the same location, all plants and animals will be native to the continental United States.

The reasoning for going this route is that 1) I think it will be neat, 2) I find it a fun way to really focus how I go about designing the aquascape and choosing stock, and 3) I can catch my own fish, and find my own plants in the wild, which is fun!

Regarding the actual tank, it will be 4 feet by 2 feet by 2 feet. And hopefully I will be making it myself. However, I am conducting an experiment currently with concrete to determine whether I can use concrete for 2 of the 5 walls of the tank. If successful I will be going that route and making my own tank. The Wife has however given the go ahead to purchase a glass rimless tank should the concrete experiment fail. So one way or another I am getting a 120 gallon tank.

Filtration will be a DIY sump that will feature a moving bed with K1 Micro for biological filtration. I am attempting to come up with a good way to silently use K1 Micro for a static bed for mechanical filtration as well the way pond people do. The sticking point is the "silent" part of this. I suppose I should mention a cornerstone of my build is that everything needs to be silent. To that end I will not be using air to move my K1 for the moving bed. Instead I will be using water. My moving bed will be held in a 3 gallon cylinder of some kind (likely a 12 quart food service container) so that the jet of water used to move the bed will spiral around the cylinder. Thus I should need less force to move my "bed". If I can't find a good way to use static k1 for mechanical then I will be using filter socks submerged to do my mechanical filtration.

Lighting will be a DIY COB solution that will be suspended above the tank. Substrate will likely be decomposed granite if I can find a good supplier near me. CO2 will be an experiment as well. I am going to use a 10lb tank with a reactor. I saw a brief video describing a "gas contactor cone" and really liked the idea. I am going to try and make one out of common pvc parts. It obviously won't be a perfect cone but I think it will work well enough for my purposes.

I will also be using a bean animal style overflow system but minus the actual overflow. I just plan to use the pipes for a quiet and reliable sump intake.

So while I am waiting on my concrete experiment to succeed or fail, I have not been idle. I am going to need a stand for this tank. To that end I am making one myself. I watched a LOT of videos on youtube of folks building stands and came up with a few variations for my own needs. I am using pocket holes to put the stand together. I am also using construction braces as well because.. well they are cheap and just seem like a really good idea. All joints are glued as well because glue is good. I just finished up the frame a few minutes ago so here it is:



So next up will be wrapping the frame in plywood. I am going to be adding a few architectural details in the form of some trim. The door will be held in place hopefully with rare earth magnets. The plan is to use enough of them to make it difficult/impossible for a small child to open. I plan to use a simple sliding method for adults to open the access door. Also visible in the picture are some parts for the CO2 reactor. Obviously the 4" pipe needs to be cut down a bit. The top of the stand will be made of concrete because I am having fun with concrete and I think it will look really neat to have a 2" concrete top. I plan to reinforce the concrete with glass fibers. I will likely also dye the concrete a little darker then normal. The stand will be painted white hopefully with a milk(style) paint. Dependent on whether I find a good primer or paint with decent waterproofing.

Hopefully this will be enjoyable build for folks. Clearly I am not afraid to experiment and see if something works or fails. If folks have ideas or feedback I am very open to it. I also really like to experiment with new ideas/concepts, so even if folks think something won't work; I may try it anyway just for the fun of it.
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post #2 of 21 (permalink) Old 05-13-2019, 10:55 PM
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Sounds cool. Nice thing about the concrete top is you can get it level or should I say flat so the tank sets true.

Good luck.
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post #3 of 21 (permalink) Old 05-13-2019, 11:01 PM Thread Starter
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Sounds cool. Nice thing about the concrete top is you can get it level or should I say flat so the tank sets true.

Good luck.
Thank you! Yes that is my plan for the top. I will pour the top on a surface that is dead flat so the top will also be dead flat.
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post #4 of 21 (permalink) Old 05-14-2019, 12:50 AM
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Like the natives idea. As a kid I had a 110 gallon and kept a school of emerald shiners (Notropis atherinoides) and some rockbass (Ambloplites rupestris). Got the shiners and the bass in the same minnow trap, and about the same size. Wasn't long before I didn't have any shiners. The bass were awesome. Left for college and my parents disappeared them...
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post #5 of 21 (permalink) Old 05-14-2019, 01:36 AM Thread Starter
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I am a big fan of Dace and my tank will definitely have some. Locally I have caught eastern blacknose Dace. I might go with those. But there should be rosyside Dace near me as well and I like the look of those. It's kinda fun planning stocking based on what I can catch.
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post #6 of 21 (permalink) Old 05-14-2019, 07:18 AM
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Ooooh, this will be cool. I'm looking forward to seeing your progress.

I've never regretted over engineering a system, but often regretted under engineering one.
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post #7 of 21 (permalink) Old 05-29-2019, 10:46 PM Thread Starter
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So I definitively do not get much time to myself with a newborn and a toddler in the house. But I have managed to scrounge a few hours over the past week or so and made some progress with the stand.

I essentially did all of the plywood skinning and installed the sump shelf. I also put together the door. Here is what the stand looks like now:





The stand is obviously going to have a kinda barn/industrial look to it. The door will be held on with magnets. My plan is to use a lot of them and to open the door you need to slide it to the right. Its designed so that to the right there is free space for it to slide but not to the left. Once slid the door will have moved beyond the contact point of the pairing magnets so it should pop off effortlessly at that point. This design is meant to be child proof which has been a concern for me since the start.

Left to do is put on the trim on the top, bottom, and corners. Then I will sand the wood lightly before painting on the primer.

I also got some time to build my reactor that will be going with the stand. It is extremely large but I am planning to run it on a bypass and my pump is a DC pump with a speed controller so I should be able to dial in my flow pretty well.

I made the reactor for an experiment I talked about in another thread (that failed so shall go nameless in this thread!!)

Here is a picture of the reactor in the stand:



The design is based on my rough approximation of a gas contactor cone. The pipe diameter starts off at 1 inch then goes to 1 1/4 then 2" then to 4". The idea is that as the co2 is introduced the water flow will push it down breaking up the larger bubbles into smaller bubbles. As those bubbles rise they will continually be pushed back down until eventually absorbed. Since the top of the reactor is a cone (or as near as I could get using pvc fittings), it should never need to be burped. One good thing that came out of my failed experiment is that the reactor was proved to be completely successful. Initially after startup it was quite noisy with lots of gurgling. But 24 hours later all the free air had been absorbed and the reactor was completely silent. So.. that worked pretty good!
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post #8 of 21 (permalink) Old 05-30-2019, 07:09 PM
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Looks like diy is your thing!

Subscribed and am excited to see how everything turns out. I actually just built and wrapped a stand last week for an Ada 90p and will begin my foray into high tech planted tanks soon.

Also are you making everything yourself to save money or is it because you enjoy diy? Or both?
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post #9 of 21 (permalink) Old 05-30-2019, 07:35 PM
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Looking to be an interesting build and tank. Subscribed!



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post #10 of 21 (permalink) Old 05-31-2019, 04:19 AM Thread Starter
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Thank you guys!

To answer the question, I do really enjoy making things myself. I get a lot of joy being able to point at something real and saying "see that thing over yonder? I made that."

It's also to save money as well. Usually though the money I am saving is only a savings in context. For example, the reactor probably has $60 in pvc parts in it. I can buy a reactor off the shelf for 40$ or less. But my reactor can handle a lot of water, accepts a 1" hose, runs silent and in theory never needs to be burped.. The 40$ reactor can't do that. In order to get a reactor that can I would need to order something custom. I have no idea what that would cost but probably more than 60$.

This means that what I make is nicer than the cheapest stuff you can buy while also being more expensive, but less expensive than something of equal quality level. Hopefully that makes sense.

Meanwhile I should mention my concrete experiment totally failed. Soooo .. yea not going to make my own tank. Instead I will be buying a 120 gallon rimless tank. Not how I wanted it to turn out but there are worse fates 😉

Right now I am considering an aquarium by glasscages.com. Essentially for 2 reasons. 1) fairly cheap. And 2) they use 3/4 glass for 120 gallon rimless tanks which surprisingly few places seem to use. This is a selling point for me after hearing about other folks with 1/2 tanks getting leaks after 5-7 years. I am definitely open to suggestions though for tanks manufacturers.

No matter what tank I use I will need to drill it for 4 bulkheads. That is so I can use the bean animal overflow system. Not too worried about this. It's all part of the adventure.
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post #11 of 21 (permalink) Old 05-31-2019, 11:04 AM
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This means that what I make is nicer than the cheapest stuff you can buy while also being more expensive, but less expensive than something of equal quality level. Hopefully that makes sense.
If there's one thing I've learned in this hobby, it's to buy and/or make the very best from the start. It'll save you lots of money and heartache in the future.

I've never regretted over engineering a system, but often regretted under engineering one.
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post #12 of 21 (permalink) Old 05-31-2019, 03:29 PM
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OP said "Initially after startup it was quite noisy with lots of gurgling. But 24 hours later all the free air had been absorbed and the reactor was completely silent. So.. that worked pretty good!"

That's going to happen everytime you turn your return pump off then on. You need to install a high quality flap type one way valve on your return pump to prevent air from getting in your reactor.
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post #13 of 21 (permalink) Old 05-31-2019, 11:10 PM Thread Starter
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I am not planning to ever turn off the pump. Only one pump will be in the aquarium sump which will drive the filtration and the reactor. The reactor will have water running through it constantly and only during set periods will it have co2. So after initial startup it will never have air in it again.
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post #14 of 21 (permalink) Old 06-01-2019, 01:52 AM
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I am not planning to ever turn off the pump. Only one pump will be in the aquarium sump which will drive the filtration and the reactor. The reactor will have water running through it constantly and only during set periods will it have co2. So after initial startup it will never have air in it again.
Have you tried unplugging the pump to see what would happen in the event of a power outage?

I've never regretted over engineering a system, but often regretted under engineering one.
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post #15 of 21 (permalink) Old 06-01-2019, 05:52 AM Thread Starter
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Sure, but my test involved a bucket instead of an aquarium. Both ends of the reactor were under water and the reactor is sealed so when I pulled the plug nothing happened. There was no place for air to enter the system.

An aquarium will be more complicated but it will also have water above the reactor. I am debating any need for a check valve if my intake is the same height as the return, in the very rare occurrence of a power outage I will have water draining to the sump from both sides but that is all it would mean. The same amount of water will drain with or without a check valve. When the system starts back up if any air does get into the reactor it will just gurgle a bit before it's done purging that air, less than 24 hours I know from this experiment. Not bad when you consider that in my area I haven't seen a power outage in the last 8 months I have been living here. So probably a pretty rare event.
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