150G Planted Livestock Tub - RES Turtle and Goldfish - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 8 (permalink) Old 09-21-2020, 12:24 AM Thread Starter
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150G Planted Livestock Tub - RES Turtle and Goldfish

Hi all!

Starting a journal on our new 150G planted livestock container I setup for wintering our goldfish and turtle. A little backstory, this summer we moved into a new house that came with a little pond and stream water feature. This worked out really nice as our turtle was starting to outgrow his aquarium and needed an upgrade. We also added 2 goldfish (one Comet, one Shubunkin) and a bunch of water lettuce and water hyacinth. Everything did really great over the summer. Due to the size of the pond (one of those plastic inserts you place in the ground, only about 150G as well) we didn't want to tackle trying to winter everyone outside. Figured it would be difficult even for the goldfish, and weren't sure if it was even feasible for the turtle. I wasn't interested in buying and setting up a 150G+ aquarium, and had always wanted to do an indoor pond type setup.

The tank is a Rubbermaid Commercial 150G livestock tub. One of the reasons I went with this was because it already had a drain bulkhead installed. In retrospect it probably would have been better going with a completely sealed container, and drill it for any plumbing as needed. This was my first time DIYing anything major with aquaria, so it's really been a learning experience. But overall the tank is sturdy and durable, and very light for it's size (I carried it down the basement stairs by myself pretty easily).

It uses a sump filter, and both the tank and sump are at ground level (well, the sump ended up elevated a few inches). Maybe not the easiest or best way, but like doing an indoor pond I always wanted to do a sump filter. I had to do a lot of testing and tuning to get it working properly. Here is the thread I started in the DIY section that has some additional discussion and my testing results: https://www.plantedtank.net/forums/2...-overflow.html I'm quite happy with how it turned out. The drain side required an automated siphon break to prevent overflow during power loss or any other reason the sump gets too high. I used a motor operated ball valve controlled by float switch and relay. The return side has a venturi for aerating the return flow, and also does double-duty as a siphon break for the return side. I made a DIY venturi muffler like many of the saltwater folks use with their protein skimmers, it was incredibly effective. Filter media is coarse pond filter pad from my local pond store, Hygger ceramic media, and plastic bio-balls. Return pump is a Hygger DC adjustable rated for 800GPH. Currently running at 60% output.


I chose to do the plumbing on the front side of the tank. One main reason was I was paranoid about leakage so I wanted it visible. It also made plumbing everything with the tank and sump in place easier. The downsides are that it doesn't look as nice, and you have to be a little mindful not to kick or otherwise disturb it. If everything goes well with it for this year I will probably flip the whole thing around next year so the sump is on the left and the plumbing is hidden in the back.


The lighting is pretty simple. I built a wooden frame and mounted the bulb holders. The center one is just the socket and reflector from one of those clamp-lamps with the clamp removed. It has a combo heat & UV bulb for turtle to bask under, so needed the ceramic socket to withstand heat. The left and right are LED grow bulbs (24W, 1800lm each). The fixtures are meant for photography lighting, they mounted to the wooden frame easily and I can adjust the angle which is nice. All the lights are wired into a junction box. It's on a timer but I also included a switch to easily turn lights on/off manually, and an extra outlet for a convenient place to hook up my utility pump for water changes.

There is still some work I want to do. Things ended up taking longer than expected (isn't that always the case!?) and next thing I know the weather was saying 35deg this past Sat night so I wanted the critters to come inside. Still need to mess around with the mechanical section of the sump. I only have one layer of coarse filter pad in there right now, I want to add another pad or sponge of slightly finer grade. Or at least another layer of the coarse pad. I also want to add some larger stones in the tub, make some hiding places for the fish and additional area the turtle can hang out. Another thing I'd like to do is put in some type of shelf for growing emersed plants, and add to the plants in general. Also some little clean up things (wire clean up, mounting bracket instead of duct tape securing the return line LOL).

I'll update as I continue working on things. Any questions or comments are always welcome. Thanks for looking!











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post #2 of 8 (permalink) Old 09-22-2020, 02:40 PM Thread Starter
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I came home yesterday to find the sump level very low. I had placed a piece of plastic hardware cloth (1/2" grid) over the drain bulkhead to strain out any bigger stuff from going into the sump (mostly water lettuce and hyacinth roots). It did it's job, but I was surprised how much the flow was effected by a relatively small amount of roots getting onto the hardware cloth. To remedy this I made a prefilter box using the same hardware cloth. There is now much more surface area, so even if a big chunk of root blocks one side, water can still easily flow through the other sides. When I get all my bigger rocks for the tank I'll be hiding it.

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post #3 of 8 (permalink) Old 09-22-2020, 07:14 PM
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Nice job! Glad you got all the details figured out

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post #4 of 8 (permalink) Old 09-22-2020, 08:13 PM
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very interesting build.

In college my old friend also had a similar tub in the middle of the living room, it was carpeted as well and I was always surprised that she didn't have any issues with humidity. It was in FL and she ran the AC all the time so that might have helped.

Looks like a nice start, it'll be good to see everything grow through.

Good idea on keeping the screen before the intake, I may also suggest a filter sock since those are so easy to clean and replace.

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post #5 of 8 (permalink) Old 09-23-2020, 03:03 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you for the comments and encouraging words. There are definitely some things I'd do differently the second time around. For example now I'm wishing I'd suspended the lights instead of the wood frame. But I'm learning a lot, and it gives me stuff to do in the future.

RE: Humidity. That was something I was a little concerned with too. But so far the evaporation seems quite low. Maybe it's because the tank isn't heated? Temp is at 66-68F. We'll see what happens this winter when the humidity in the house drops, probably have more evaporation.

RE: Filter sock. That is a great idea, and I think I will do that. I already had to rinse the pond filter pad once. The plants shed a lot of roots and algae from being moved. I agree, changing out a filter sock would be much easier and cleaner.

Do they make coarser filter socks? I looked at one of my LFS the other day, and they were all 100 micron I believe. It looked very fine. I'd love to be able to run a coarse filter sock to catch the big stuff, then go to a slightly finer pad/sponge in the mechanical section.
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post #6 of 8 (permalink) Old 09-26-2020, 10:56 PM Thread Starter
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Added a few more water hyacinth from the outdoor pond. These ones were located right where the pump discharges into the little stream. The hyacinth (and some water lettuce) grown in this section were the only filtration we had, save for a mesh bag around the pump to keep out any big leaves or roots. They did a great job filtering the water and the plants seemed to love the constant flow of nutrient rich water. It's crazy how differently the same plant grew under different conditions. The hyacinths floating in the pond were very compact and had round bulbous nodes to help it float, while the ones growing in the stream section (1-3" of water) really stretched out tall.

I also tweaked the sump. There is now some 2" thick 20ppi foam after the pond filter pad in the mechanical section. I still want to add with a filter sock, but the coarsest I could find online is 400 micron and that still seems too fine. I just want a coarse mesh that I can easily remove and rinse out. I'd rather do that than pull the pond filter pad every couple days. So I'm going to find the right mesh and make my own filter sock.

The other change is a better "cage" for the bio balls. The previous setup the water could take an easy path, flow underneath them into the return section. Now they are more of a wall that goes all the way to the bottom of the sump, so the water has to flow through them to get to the return.



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post #7 of 8 (permalink) Old 09-29-2020, 11:24 PM Thread Starter
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Here is a little more in-depth info on the automated siphon break.

It's always a good idea to put a fuse in electrical projects like this, especially if it's powered directly with 120VAC like mine is. Sure it may be protected by a GFCI and/or the breaker in your home's electrical panel, but if something fails/shorts I'd rather have a little 2A fuse blow than trip a 15+A breaker (that's potentially powering other "life support" devices like heater, air pump, etc.) The valve is normally open (de-energized state) and when power is applied it goes closed. The primary control is the float switch. When the water level is normal the float switch is closed and valve closes allowing a siphon to form. If the water level goes high the float switch opens and valve opens breaking the siphon. I also added a toggle switch in series that allows me to manually open the valve even when the water level is normal. If power is lost the valve will go open as well. Normal operation the float switch isn't even in the water, it's only really needed if the pump shuts off or power goes out.

This basic circuit is very flexible. For example, instead of a float switch you could use a pressure switch, temperature switch, or photocell. Instead of a motor operated valve you could control a heater or pump. One thing that comes to mind is a heater protection device, to kill power to the heater if the internal thermostat fails and causes the heater to stay on all the time. The motor operated valve is relatively low power, but by using a relay (instead of switching power directly through the float) the system is capable of controlling higher power devices (relay is rated for 10A at 120VAC, would just need to put in a higher amp fuse). I put plugs on both the float switch and valve, so if I need to replace anything or want to re-purpose the system it's very easy. One thing I may look at changing is the plugs, switch to some watertight ones.

Filter sock update. I changed my mind and decided to try out the filter socks available for purchase after all. Got some 400 micron mesh socks. I'm very happy with how they are working. Easier to pull and clean than the pond filter pad, doesn't make a big mess in the first chamber. I guess I overlooked the fact that even though they are very fine, they are also very thin so still allow excellent flow even when they've captured quite a bit of detritus and plant roots. I even ordered some 300 and 200 micron mesh socks to try, as some of the fine tiny root segments of the water hyacinth can still get through the 400.





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post #8 of 8 (permalink) Old 10-14-2020, 11:11 PM Thread Starter
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Time for an update.

I liked the bigger/taller emersed hyacinths from the outdoor pond so much that I ended up replacing all the small floating hyacinths and most of the water lettuce with them. I like the look a lot better. There is much better viewing into the water now, but it's still enough of a "jungle" to keep everyone feeling secure. As a bonus the ratio of plant to root is much greater. I was having to clean out the pre-filter and filter sock every few days, and now it can go a week or more. Been using the 200 micron filter sock and it's working great. Gets just about everything, and the rest gets caught in the 20ppi sponge. Had to clean the sponge for the first time today, so that was about 3 weeks since putting it in. But a lot of that time was without a filter sock, and also with a lot more of the hyacinth roots. I suspect it will go for much longer now.

I'm trying to get some (or at least one) submerged plants going. I germinated some water lotus seeds and put them in a net basket. They lasted about an hour before they were all clipped clean off LOL! Not sure if it was turtle or goldfish, but I suspect goldfish. I figured it might happen, but worth a try.

Any recommendations for a hardy plant that can handle cool water and stand up to getting munched on?

Overall everyone seems quite happy in their indoor winter home. As you can see Winnie the turtle is not at all camera shy, always hoping for a snack when anyone is near!



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