44g Tall Office Tank - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 9 (permalink) Old 05-20-2020, 07:28 PM Thread Starter
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44g Tall Office Tank

I have an old 44g tall (20x18x28) tank that's been sitting in the corner of my home office unused for a couple of years. Although its not an ideal size for a planted tank (its awfully tall), I've decided to clean it up and see what I can do with it. As a little bit of background, I had a 57g (48x18x18) planted tank for years when I lived in the UK, then when I moved to the US I decided to do something different, and went with a 104g (60x20x20) Lake Malawi cichlid tank.

I love the cichlid tank, but I really miss live plants (as you can see, I've tried Java fern and Anubias in the cichlid tank with limited success, the lighting really isn't enough, but the Anubias is surviving, which is good enough), so, the office tank is going to be a pressurized CO2, high light (pretty much essential due to the depth) planted tank.

So far, I've made a start on stripping the tank down. The old light fixtures are off (probably going to trash these, I can't see ever using them again), the glass lid is off and has been cleaned (its not perfect, there is some really stubborn limescale haze on there that doesn't want to come off).

The tank itself isn't pretty at this stage. Its partly drained and I'm going to remove the air pump and diffuser, then clean the glass next (for having been sitting so long, its actually not as bad as I expected). Then, get it completely drained and remove the gravel.

Most of the equipment is sitting ready to go. I need to add a heater (this tank was originally temporary housing for a koi, so was unheated), the CO2 cylinder, diffuser and CO2 probe. I'm also going to paint the back and right side of the tank matt black.

Next update will hopefully be a stripped, cleaned tank, ready to start preparing for its new life!

Hope this wasn't too terribly boring and to have some prettier pictures to show in the coming days and weeks...

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post #2 of 9 (permalink) Old 05-21-2020, 08:33 PM
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Such an interesting aquarium shape, looking forward to seeing how this turns out. Do you have any early ideas for hardscape and plants to fill the height of it?
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post #3 of 9 (permalink) Old 05-21-2020, 11:50 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by EBoneCapone View Post
Do you have any early ideas for hardscape and plants to fill the height of it?
I do have an idea, yes. I'm going to try something a bit different. The rough idea is to keep one or two of the terracotta plant pots , have one roughly in the middle with something like a red Echinodorus (if I can find one, most places I've look are sold out, so I'm open to suggestions there) as a specimen plant growing in the pot. That way I cheat the height a bit by raising the specimen plant a few inches above the substrate. Then the remainder of the planting will be likely Vallisneria at the back and right (Gigantea at the back, one of the standard Vallis at the sides) and shorter plants (maybe Echinoderus Tenellus interspersed with the odd Cryptocoryne for colour) at the front.

The concept is something like a "sunken garden" with the Vallis looking like tall, overgrown grass. I'm not sure how it will come out, but it looks good in my head!

With respect to the state of the build, the tank is now completely drained, stripped down, the gravel removed and the glass cleaned. The glass isn't perfect, but the tank is so tall I just can't reach past 3/4 of the way down with any pressure on a cloth to polish it clean. Its just water marks, so they'll disappear when it is refilled, and its not too bad.

The next step is to paint the back and right side flat black. That will probably take a little while as I'm expecting to need a few coats. I'll also remove the return hose from the filter and start building up the inline equipment (CO2 diffuser, heater and I've decided to add a small UV clarifier as I'm worried the light is going to be bright enough to have green water problems, at least early on, and I'm hopeful it will help stop or at least slow build up of algae on the underside of the lid).

Next update will probably be in a few days when the painting is done...

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post #4 of 9 (permalink) Old 06-08-2020, 07:59 PM Thread Starter
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It has been a couple of weeks of slow progress. I decided to replace the inlet and outlet with glass lily pipes, so I had to wait for them to be delivered. The equipment is now all installed and plumbed in. First up, here's a shot of the empty but plumbed tank (sorry for the reflections):

I chose a "poppy bowl" type inlet, the idea being that they diffuse the flow and prevent strong currents, which is something I want to avoid. I went with an inlet with a floating surface skimmer, I'm not sure how I'll get on with that (I wish it was longer, but I know in such a tall tank, that's asking a lot) but I wanted to give it a try. You can also see the pH probe (oh how I wish they weren't bright yellow) and the substrate, 27l of ADA Aqua Soil Amazonia Ver. 2 (at this stage just emptied into the bottom, that's obviously not the final profile). For this build, I've done my best to have as little equipment in the tank as possible (hence why the pH probe bugs me), but with the narrow footprint of the tank, getting everything out of sight wasn't easy:

Here you can see the canister filter bottom left (an old but reliable Fluval 304) and as you can see, I've replaced all the ribbed Fluval hose with 16mm (5/8") clear hose (I like the flexibility of the Fluval hose, but the ribs trap a lot of muck so restarting the filter is always a mess, and it isn't great with inline accessories). I had to mount it "sideways" to fit everything in the cabinet which required a bit more hose on the inlet side, but its not kinked so no real problem there.

Next inline is an Atomic CO2 diffuser, hidden behind the CO2 cylinder in this shot, followed by a Coralife Turbo Twist 3X UV sterilizer mounted to the back of the cabinet. After that, there is a Hydor 200W inline heater behind the tank and then the lily pipe inlet (I found I needed to heat the hose with my hot air gun to soften it to get it very far onto the lily pipe).

Also in the cabinet is the CO2 cylinder (the cylinder is empty, I'm getting a full cylinder from Airgas tomorrow) with a Green Leaf Aquariums Pro-DS dual stage regulator with solenoid and bubble counter (there's an Atomic check valve in the CO2 line, just before the diffuser). The USB cable attached to the solenoid is pretty short, far too short to reach the power strip behind the tank, but fortunately I had a spare USB extension cable which works fine (USB extension cables don't work well for data, but are just fine for power). The CO2 controller is a Milwaukee MC122. The various power bricks are attached to the back of the cabinet with 3M Command Velcro strips.

Next up was filling the tank and starting up the filter:

This shot was about 24 hours after filling the tank - the water is a little cloudy as I'd just re-primed the pump to get a bit of trapped air out and the pretty bright lights (three 20" Finnex Planted+ 24/7 CC fixtures) show the glare against the black background. The two plant pots are the start of the hardscaping and have both had their bottoms cut out (I've previously found that if you don't do this, plant pots tend to collect a lot of muck standing up, and create dead spots with now flow on their side. The substrate still needs moving around and more added to the larger pot. I'm not absolutely sure if I'm going to leave the smaller pot or not, I'm on the fence at the moment.

Next up will be initial water tests (per research here and elsewhere, I'm expecting the substrate to give off ammonia, but that's not necessarily a bad way to fishless-cycle the filter) and then get started on planting...

Hopefully the next round of pictures will be more interesting than endless shots of an empty aquarium, but thanks for your patience!


Last edited by PaulH2; 06-08-2020 at 08:00 PM. Reason: Corrected typo
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post #5 of 9 (permalink) Old 06-10-2020, 05:21 PM Thread Starter
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No pictures today, but a quick update and the initial water parameters.

I now have a full CO2 cylinder and the system has been up and running for about 18 hours. I'm still having to dial the working pressure in (I have had to open the regulator slightly a couple of times to maintain 30bar) but I think that's pretty normal. I'm running at ~2 bubbles/second to start with, and that seems to be getting the pH down to my target pretty well without too much undissolved CO2.

The pH is stable at 6.6 (the tap water is 7.2). Ammonia is 1.0 (no surprise with the substrate), nitrite 0.25 (so hopefully a good sign that the filter is starting to work). Nitrate is 0.

GH and KH are both 5į, which gives me a CO2 concentration of 30mg/l, which is about what I am aiming for to start with. GH and KH is a little higher than I might like, and I'm trying to decide whether its high enough to be worth using RO or distilled water mixed with tap water at water changes, or whether to leave it for now.
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post #6 of 9 (permalink) Old 06-10-2020, 07:15 PM
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Wow, the tank dimensions are awesome! I would love to do an amazon biotope in there and see the fish have different levels like pencil fish, cories, maybe some tetras
from your equipment it also seems like you want to have a nice planted tank, I like the idea of the Echinodorus , it'll fill in really bushy if it gets strong lights. Let's see how the 3 finnex run on there.

when are you going to get more plants? It'd be good to get it planted quickly so it doesn't become an algae farm

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post #7 of 9 (permalink) Old 06-10-2020, 08:00 PM
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I love this kind of tank. I have a 37 column (24" tall) that is going to become a shrimp tank once it matures some. Looking good so far.

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post #8 of 9 (permalink) Old 06-10-2020, 09:47 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by monkeyruler90 View Post
when are you going to get more plants? It'd be good to get it planted quickly so it doesn't become an algae farm
The first batch of plants should arrive on Friday, with more arriving next week.

Originally Posted by Bunsen Honeydew View Post
I love this kind of tank. I have a 37 column (24" tall) that is going to become a shrimp tank once it matures some. Looking good so far.
Thanks, I'm looking forward to getting some life in there!
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post #9 of 9 (permalink) Old 06-22-2020, 07:55 PM Thread Starter
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The plants have now arrived and I spent a couple of hours this weekend getting them planted. A word of warning for anyone thinking of using a (very) tall tank like this (28" tall) for a planted aquarium - reaching the bottom is extremely difficult. I'm 5'11 and on a step-stool, I can reach the substrate and a little below (the substrate is 3" to 4" deep on average), but only just, and I can't really see what I'm doing. Personally I prefer to use my hands for planting rather than tools, but in this tank, its not at all easy. I also have to drain at least a couple of gallons out of the tank, otherwise the displacement of having my whole arm in there would be enough to make the tank overflow. Its workable, but from what I'm finding so far, 28" really is on the limit of how deep you'd want to go (without a wetsuit!).

So, enough talk, finally time for some pictures of the initial planting. First off, the view from the front:

And from the side:

I'm reasonably happy with it so far. Obviously it will look a lot better when the plants at the back and right side grow taller (mostly Cryptocoryne retrospiralis and Valisneria "Corkscrew"). The filter is still cycling, ammonia and nitrite are steady, but nitrates rapidly increasing (80+ ppm), so I'm doing water changes every couple of days until that settles down. Now I get to see if everything grows!
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