125 River Bed Angel Tank - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 31 (permalink) Old 09-26-2019, 03:12 PM Thread Starter
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125 River Bed Angel Tank

I've been out of the hobby for over 10 years and decided fish would be a better alternative to another dog for the time being. The last time I had an aquarium was right after college, and I had a low tech 55 gallon saltwater aquarium. I kept some pretty expensive fish in there, and tried to grow out a couple zoanthids to no avail, but it was a learning experience. In the end I think my only survivors were a snowflake eel and radiata lionfish that I gave away when I sold the tank. A few years prior while in college I played around with a planted community discus tank, but looking back I really didn't know what I was getting myself into and the plants and discus I tried to keep, well they died. My rams, loaches, plecos, and corys all did just fine though. Since that time I have discovered forums and pretty much spend all my internet time learning everything there is to know about a particular interest. In addition to fish keeping I also enjoy competitive shooting, archery, kayak fishing, cooking, backpacking, skiing, and tinkering with my truck.

Enough about me, on to the project.

I saw an ad on craigslist for german blue rams that caught my eye and decided to go on this journey again. That immediately had me looking around for a new (used) tank, and since I'm finally in a permanent location with lots of space I thought a 125 gallon would be a good starter. My dream is to convert our current laundry room into a 500+ gallon built-in and move the laundry to an unused closet near our bedroom, but that ain't going to happen any time soon. I've got enough projects around the house as it is. Anyway, I found one close by that came with a stand, Beamswork EA, a couple large Penn Plax canister filters, and some other misc stuff. We agreed on $450 for it all (probably overpaid slightly), but what's done is done. That was about a month ago, and since then I've been refinishing the stand, built a custom hood, drilled the tank (more on that later), frosted the glass, and been collecting free hardscape and other supplies for the build. After some research I realized the Beamswork EA probably wasn't going to do the job in terms of growing much, so I've purchased a DA FSPEC to go with it. I ended up taking the last 18 rams from that craigslist ad, and to keep them temporarily I convinced my wife I also needed a 29 gallon quarantine tank to house them. So, that is what I'm working with at this time.

For filtration, the original plan was to only use the canisters and hang over the side equipment it came with, but I can't leave anything as-is so I decided to drill. The cleanest setup I could think of was a single intake and single outflow with manifolds in the tank stand to connect both filters. Later I decided I wanted to convert the 29 gallon quarantine tank into a sump at some point, so I've drilled another two holes for that loop. Below is my current filtration plan:



I realize having both a sump and canister filtration loop is completely overkill, but the sump will not be operational for quite some time and it's not really possible to drill that after the fact. When the sump loop is up and running, I may delete the canister loop and replace with a transfer pump, but I figure having the option to add/remove chemical media or whatever else in the canister loop could be a nice feature. It also allows either system to fail and still maintain filtration/heating. On the canister loop I have my water change setup and after measuring it last night it's closer to a 42% water change based on total tank volume. After adding all the hardscape I plan on using and having the bulk of the water volume higher up, that figure may be closer to 50% than the stated 30%. Basically for a water change I'll shut down the canister filters and close both intake and outflow valves on the canisters. Then open the ball valve on the intake manifold that drains into a 1" barbed fitting. I can run a 1" hose straight into the kitchen sink and drain 40-50% of the display tank water. For filling, I have a 60 gallon barrel on a wheeled cart that I'm mixing RO and well water directly in to, then heat/age prior to a water change. I'm using RO water for now since my well is slightly hard with plans to slowly acclimate my stock to using only well water. GH and KH straight from the tap are around 7 degrees with the pH at 7.4, but after aeration the pH jumps up to almost 8. In the 29 gallon I have setup with the rams right now I've been experimenting with different ways to lower the pH, but in the end I just decided to buy a RO filter and mix with my well water. I did have some luck with peat lowering the pH, but given I'm planning to keep discus I wanted to be precise. Once I get the big tank setup I'll experiment some more and figure out what works before I order any discus. My end goal is to keep GH and KH around 3 degrees with a pH around 7-7.6, but if I can maintain the pH around 7.4-7.6 with either peat or CO2 then I'm not too concerned with the hardness.

Here's a pic of the canister manifolds:



Since I'm stuck with cansiter filtration only right now, I decided to invest in an inline heater of which there are only a few options. I bought the Hydor 300w despite the mixed reviews and I'm hoping for the best until the sump is setup. I do plan on using a temperature controller as a fail safe for the Hydor, and eventually to synchronize with the sump heater. I'm still undecided on CO2, but if I do I'm going to run an inline diffuser on the sump loop. I think adding CO2 will get me off of RO water and help the plants, so it would be a win/win. Finishing up talking about filtration I think my sump setup is pretty standard stuff. In the diagram I have the first chamber for a filter sock and heater leading through a couple bulkheads with mechanical filtration, the second chamber will be submerged bio media however I might change that to a planted refugium, the third chamber will be wet/dry bio and I might move the submerged bio media below that, with the final chamber the return pump.

Tank stand and canopy painted and ready:



This is a planted tank forum I guess I'll talk about my plants. In terms of the type of scape I'm shooting for I guess it would be a nature style. I scavenged a huge hardwood stump that is going to be the primary focal point. On that stump I'm going to drill numerous pockets for anubias and probably have some mosses draped about. I've also been picking up tons of large and small rock from a small creek that I plan on creating a sort of river bed scene with. The larger rocks will fill one side of the aquarium creating some height, then I'll use the smaller rocks for the river bed. On the high portions I'm considering hairgrass or something low level, then on the lower levels I want a few swords or ludwigia. This will not be a densely planted tank as I want to keep the maintenance easy to maintain high water quality conditions for the discus. The discus are #1 priority over the plants and other livestock. In addition to 6-8 discus, I plan to keep the german ram crew I've already got in the sump tank, L144 blue eyed long finned plecos, large shoal of cardinals or rasboras, kuhli loaches or come kind of cory, and maybe a few dwarf agassizii flame red cichlids. I've been going back and forth between discus and platinum angelfish, but in the end I just want discus despite their reputation and additional care requirements. The discus supplier I'm likely going with is Discus Madness in NJ, and I'm thinking of 1/2 blue diamonds or cobalts, and 1/2 red pigeons or marlboro reds. I definitely don't want the rainbow discus tank.

Here is a pic of the stump in-place:



All the holes are drilled at this point and I'm waiting on some parts to complete the sump overflow and sump return nozzle. Frosted window treatment on the back is done, huge pain in the ass. Getting real close to moving into it's final resting place! Tonight I'm going to mount the lights into the canopy and maybe start working on the sump baffles. Given the size of the sump tank I have to have it in-place prior to setting the tank, so it might take me a few more weeks to actually kick on the pumps.

Last edited by silasvirus82; 10-07-2019 at 08:14 PM. Reason: Update
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post #2 of 31 (permalink) Old 09-26-2019, 03:17 PM
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Impressive. I'm following along with this for sure!

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post #3 of 31 (permalink) Old 09-26-2019, 04:27 PM Thread Starter
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Impressive. I'm following along with this for sure!
Good, I've been reading through your journal and I can see you would be a valuable resource regarding my plants if problems arise. How has that Hydor treated you?
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post #4 of 31 (permalink) Old 09-26-2019, 06:44 PM
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Good, I've been reading through your journal and I can see you would be a valuable resource regarding my plants if problems arise. How has that Hydor treated you?
4 years running strong, never had an issue.

That tank you are referring to of mine, is no longer anything like it once was in the journal currently
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post #5 of 31 (permalink) Old 09-26-2019, 08:29 PM
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Welcome! Canít wait to see it all come together!


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post #6 of 31 (permalink) Old 10-08-2019, 01:39 PM Thread Starter
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Finally about to start scaping. The canisters are ready to start and I'm hoping to have the parts in for the sump in a week or two, but that won't be necessary to start the cycle. After way too much deliberation I've decided against discus and have ordered a dozen angelfish. Maybe I'll regret that, but with young kids and a busy life in general, I thought the timing wasn't best for discus. I've got lots of years ahead of me to try different things.

Here is where I'm at, the tank just needs one final cleaning.



I've got a lots of rock to put in yet, but before I do I'm going to start the canister system up and make sure everything is in order before the remaining hardscapes and substrate go in. I'm thinking of building a two level cliff on the right hand side and one smaller hill on the left. I drilled several holes in the driftwood for anubias nana petite and plan to cover portions of that in java moss. My remaining plants will all be slower growing hardy species such as swords, but I'm looking for one pop of color somewhere. Suggestions?
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post #7 of 31 (permalink) Old 10-08-2019, 03:29 PM
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Nice, looks like you're having fun with the set up process

Have a look at Tiger Lotus (Nypmhaea Zenkeri) for a lovely pop of red in low tech.
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post #8 of 31 (permalink) Old 10-08-2019, 04:36 PM Thread Starter
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Nice, looks like you're having fun with the set up process

Have a look at Tiger Lotus (Nypmhaea Zenkeri) for a lovely pop of red in low tech.
Awesome suggestion and one I'll act on, thank you!
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post #9 of 31 (permalink) Old 10-14-2019, 01:45 AM Thread Starter
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125 River Bed Angel Tank

Hard scape is done, at least while I ponder it for a couple days. The three tier hill on the right has a cave deep inside with access near the back. I do t know if that was a good idea or not, but I can seal it off if need be. Thought it would be a great place for plecos to camp out. Planing to plant grasses on the second and third tier. Anubias on the driftwood, swords in the back, and a couple tiger lotus. Any recommendations for easy maintenance grass or something similar for the hills? I’m not sure I like the pile of rocks on the left, but it’s full of caves and places for fish to hide which is more important than aesthetics for me. If I rearrange anything it will be that. Getting exciting!

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Last edited by silasvirus82; 10-17-2019 at 01:10 PM. Reason: Pic Update
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post #10 of 31 (permalink) Old 10-14-2019, 04:37 AM
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How did you do that hill buildup on right?
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post #11 of 31 (permalink) Old 10-14-2019, 05:13 AM
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Have a look at Tiger Lotus (Nypmhaea Zenkeri) for a lovely pop of red in low tech.
Ditto the tiger lotus. Though you need to keep an eye on it since they love to shoot leaves up to the surface. Mine sent up a half dozen leaves to the surface while I was a way for a week, and I've had to keep hacking off new ones every few days ever since. Maybe others with more experience can say if this will be a constant battle, or if kept from reaching the surface they'll eventually give up & stay submerged.

I've got a Purple Aflame sword in my low tech that has good color. There are several reddish crypts, and Hygrophila Sunset is an easy stem plant that stays reliably pink with white veins in my tank. Not a deep red, but it's still a nice contrast.
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Last edited by Desert Pupfish; 11-04-2019 at 02:38 PM. Reason: spelling
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post #12 of 31 (permalink) Old 10-14-2019, 07:16 AM Thread Starter
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How did you do that hill buildup on right?


Huge rock on the bottom, then coarse gravel fill, slightly smaller rock, coarse gravel fill, then all flat areas topped out with peat/caribsea/bdbm. The bottom rock is only an inch or two away from the front glass, so there is more depth there than the pic shows. Also some rocks buried in the slopped areas to stabilize things.


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post #13 of 31 (permalink) Old 10-14-2019, 01:13 PM
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Hard scape is done, at least while I ponder it for a couple days. The three tier hill on the right has a cave deep inside with access near the back. I do t know if that was a good idea or not, but I can seal it off if need be. Thought it would be a great place for plecos to camp out. Planing to plant grasses on the second and third tier. Anubias on the driftwood, swords in the back, and a couple tiger lotus. Any recommendations for easy maintenance grass or something similar for the hills? Iím not sure I like the pile of rocks on the left, but itís full of caves and places for fish to hide which is more important than aesthetics for me. If I rearrange anything it will be that. Getting exciting!




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I really like your hill! Well done!

Regarding grass, look into dwarf sagittaria. Low tech friendly, doesn't need a ton of light. Its a heavy root feeder so root tabs or good water column dosing is a must.
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post #14 of 31 (permalink) Old 11-04-2019, 01:40 PM Thread Starter
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Finally got around to finishing up my filtration and water change system. The canister side of things is pretty straight forward, both are fed from a mutual manifold and return to a mutual manifold. Each manifold has a valve for filling or draining the tank. The drain bulkhead in the display tank is set for a 45% water change, so I can connect a garden hose to the 1" drain hose seen the in picture and be done in a few minutes. Filling is equally simple, thread a garden hose to the return manifold and fill back up. No buckets, no mess. In the last picture is my water change/quarantine cart.



For the sump the only remaining thing to do is add substrate in the refugium and setup the backup heater. I intend to by an Inkbird controller that will control both the in-line canister heater and sump heater. Haven't decided if I'm going to plant the refugium or just keep it as a spare tank when needed. I thought about raising shrimp or something in it, but what's the point if I have to open the cabinet to enjoy them. The sump is a Triton kit from eBay and has 6 chambers. The first chamber is on the far back right corner where the inflow comes in. That is where the backup heater is going as well. That overflows into two 4" filter socks and I'm surprised how quiet it all is. From there I'm going through a heavy mass of aerated lava rock. Then into the refugium which will eventually have a peat moss/bdbm substrate. The last two chambers are the bubble trap with a couple polishing pads and the return pump. I added a check valve on the return pump so with a loss of power the sump only takes on a few gallons of extra water.





The last thing I mostly finished this weekend is my water change/29 gallon quarantine cart. The cart is made from standard treated lumber. I bought the casters online since they were significantly cheaper than any local source. The barrel is a 45 gallon food grade olive barrel I found for $20. I also got a larger 56 gallon pickle barrel for the drain water I plan to set outside and use to water plants/garden. Inside the barrel is a float valve connected to the inlet fitting that controls my RO water filter. Since my well water is a little hard, I'm mixing tap/RO water at about 60/40. The only other things to setup are dropping down a submersible pump into the barrel and adding a power strip to my cart. I'll also have a heater and aeration in the barrel so the water will be aged and warm, ready to pump into the tank for a water change. The reason this whole thing is mobile is that I don't have a great place to keep all this near the tank, so this allows me to store the whole thing elsewhere and just roll it into place when needed.



EDIT: I actually had the sump completed two weeks ago, but I did not do my research on silicone. Damn near killed all my fish, but thankfully I noticed the signs of stress early on and got everyone out quickly. Right now I'm stocked with 24 angelfish, 10 german blue rams, 4 L144 plecos, a betta, and a couple frogs. Everybody was struggling when disaster struck, but thankfully after a week back in the tank I can safely say the only permanent damage was 4 rams. Everyone else has fully recovered now and seems to be back to normal. The rams were the last to recover, and oddly only the males died. I now have a sorority of six rams. The warnings are true about mold inhibitor silicones, stay away! I had to completely disassemble my sump and rebuild it to resolve the issue, plus a 100% water change, subsequent daily 50% water changes, and clean out both canister filters.

Now that that's over, I can go back to focusing on getting this thing planted! So far I have three bulbs of nymphaea rubra in, two anubias nana petities on the driftwood, and started a carpet of staurogyne repens. The tiger lotus is just starting to pop up and repens are new, so I'll wait a month or so before showing a progress pic.
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Last edited by silasvirus82; 11-04-2019 at 02:37 PM. Reason: Added Info
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post #15 of 31 (permalink) Old 11-04-2019, 10:52 PM
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Nice. I'm about 1/2 finished with my 75 gal planted. I'm also planning to keep angels so I'm following. I also got a Hydor in-line heater. Due to the mixed reviews I invested in a finnex max-300 heater controller. I figure that it's cheap insurance against cooking my fish and I bought 2 hydors, one for a future project, so if it dies before I do the second project I can just swap it out. I'm also thinking of a tiger lotus. They do spread quickly and want to send pads to the surface, so you have ti keep trimming them to keep them in check. Let us know how the lotus is doing for you.

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