High Tech Newt Tank - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 31 (permalink) Old 11-06-2020, 12:34 PM Thread Starter
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High Tech Newt Tank

Hello folks!

I have been wanting to make a newt tank for a long time now. I grew up catching newts in a pond on my parents property so there is a lot of nostalgia in getting them now as an adult and 'doing it right' as it were.

In order to get a new tank though an old tank has to go. The Wife simply will not tolerate MORE tanks in the house ;P Sadly the tank that's getting the axe is my Walstad Fish Bowl. Its been up and running for a year and a half now but its also spent the last 7 or so months with near constant algae growth I haven't been able to shake. Its also in my kitchen and The Wife wants to limit the tanks on the main floor.

Enter my plan, newts need cold water (under 70 degrees ideally) so it makes sense to keep them in the basement. The newt tank will thus go in my basement office space. Step one for this build is the stand.

While I could build this stand from scratch, I've had an idea floating around for improving a petco Brooklyn Metal stand for a while and this was the perfect time to implement it. I purchased the 40 gallon version even though the tank I plan for will be closer to 20 gallons. I figured I rather have a stand that is a little too big then one that is a little too small.

Step one was to build a shelf.

I did this by drilling and taping holes in the bottom part of the stand for 18 gauge metal 2x4 brackets:



The shelf itself is made from 1/2 plywood reinforced with some scrap oak on the bottom.

I then cut panels for the sides from 1/2 birch plywood:



These panels provide no structural support, they are there simply to enclose the cabinet. Each one is held in place by a single screw that was drilled and taped into the metal frame of the stand.

The door is made from a 1/2 plywood with two cabinet handles. I attached magnets to the wooden side panels and magnets to the door panel. This provides just enough force to hold the door in place. It does not do a thing to stop my children from opening the panel but they are not allowed in this space unattended anyway so hopefully it will be fine.



All wooden pieces got a rub down with a tung oil like finish.

Next up I will post how I made the top from poured concrete.
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post #2 of 31 (permalink) Old 11-06-2020, 06:06 PM
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I use to keep newts for the exact same reason, I had good luck keeping them in the basement (was the same temperature all year). What are your plans for substrate? I had smooth gravel and river stones in mine because I had tried to mimic a stream in a 20L. If I find any old pictures I'll definitely share them.
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-20H Saltwater Reef with 2 perc. clownfish (corals coming soon)

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-5 gallon cube cycling with a half-moon betta and male "Triple Red" Apistogramma cacatuoides

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post #3 of 31 (permalink) Old 11-06-2020, 06:55 PM Thread Starter
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I use to keep newts for the exact same reason, I had good luck keeping them in the basement (was the same temperature all year). What are your plans for substrate? I had smooth gravel and river stones in mine because I had tried to mimic a stream in a 20L. If I find any old pictures I'll definitely share them.
Would love to see pictures!

My plan for substrate is aquasoil base with sand on top with a few pieces of gravel mixed in for aesthetics. I don't think I am trying to do a carpet in this tank but I find it useful to add a few handfuls of aquasoil into the bottom of a tank.



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post #4 of 31 (permalink) Old 11-06-2020, 10:47 PM Thread Starter
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Since I am not planning to put a rimmed 40 gallon tank on this stand I needed a top that would be strong enough to support a tank, while also being dead flat.

I have been playing around with poured concrete table tops for a few months now and I felt pretty comfortable making one for this stand.

I made a mold out of 3/4" melamine.



The sides are held on with screws and made 'water tight' with silicone in the seams. I used rapid set mortar mix and added some black concrete tint as well. I think it came out reasonably well:



For sealant I just used paste wax because that was all I had on hand. But I think it will be fine, its not a food surface or anything.

Here is the stand installed in my office:



Next up I need to make the light. Or really I just need to make the light fixture. The light itself will be a smart bulb that connects to my amazon echo. Thanks to a recent software update, the amazon echo can now do sunrise and sunset options for dimmable smart bulbs. This makes smart bulbs the cheapest light solution that are fully programable for colors, schedules, and sunrise/sunset effects.
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post #5 of 31 (permalink) Old 11-07-2020, 05:06 AM
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that top is pretty slick! great diy skills!
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post #6 of 31 (permalink) Old 11-07-2020, 01:11 PM Thread Starter
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that top is pretty slick! great diy skills!
Thank you! This is my third concrete top for a stand. They are a pretty easy way to add style to a build. I'm a big fan of them so far.



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post #7 of 31 (permalink) Old 11-08-2020, 08:35 PM Thread Starter
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Update:

Time to make a light! Or at least, time to make a fixture. I wanted something a little industrial looking, and also I didn't want to spend any money ;P.

So I used a mahogany board I already had left over from another project and milled it to size. After some work on the table saw I was ready for my glue-up:



After this I could begin drilling holes for the cord to run through. I decided pretty quickly I wanted to cover up much of the exposed cord so I made a U channel in another piece of mehagany and used that to cover up the cord on top of the fixture holder.



At this point it was essentially done. A little sanding, soldering on a power cord, and drilling and tapping the stand so it could attach and TA-DA!



The bulb I chose to go into this was an RBG smart bulb. Specifically, this one. It is on the lower end of acceptable as far as brightness is concerned. PPFD values ranged from 15 (in the corners of the would be tank space) to 27 directly under the light at 21".



I should have gone with a BR30 style bulb instead of an A19 but I had hoped it would be slightly stronger. Still its not bad and the app is pretty good. I had planned for this tank to be low to medium light anyway with low amounts of CO2 so this should work out.

Next up I need to buy the tank! I am currently debating a UNS 60U or the Landen equivalent or something else of similar size. Only about half to 3/4 of the tank will be under water so I lean towards getting something taller.
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post #8 of 31 (permalink) Old 11-09-2020, 04:43 AM
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As an 18-year-old college student, I am very jealous of your ability to build and keep such wonderful tanks! I've promised myself that in the future, I will have a house full of tanks! I love newts

15 gallon ADF aquarium
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post #9 of 31 (permalink) Old 11-09-2020, 11:53 AM Thread Starter
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As an 18-year-old college student, I am very jealous of your ability to build and keep such wonderful tanks! I've promised myself that in the future, I will have a house full of tanks! I love newts
Thank you! I'm jealous of you for being in college. I didn't learn to do any woodworking until 4 or 5 years after I graduated. At that point it was all just youtube videos and self teaching through trial and error. I would bet dollars to donuts there is a place on your campus where you can go to use woodworking equipment for free or a very nominal fee, plus people that will teach you how to actually build things. The number of tanks you can keep will be limited of course ;P I had a 10 gallon in college but that was all.



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post #10 of 31 (permalink) Old 11-11-2020, 02:30 AM Thread Starter
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I ended up ordering the UNS 60U aquarium. I thought about going with alternatives, for a little more I could buy the Landen and already have the tank in my possession. But, I'm in no real hurry on this and the UNS tanks are supposed to be back in stock at the end of the month. And right or wrong, I have a perception that the UNS tanks are a little nicer... maybe? At least I like their name stencil more then Landen's.

Meanwhile, there is nothing stopping me from planning for the tank to arrive. To that end I've had my eye out for rocks in need of rescue. Some of these rocks were not tiny.... But in the end I managed to rescue quite a few nice specimens in desperate need of a home.

Tonight I cut out a piece of cardboard in approximately the size of the tanks footprint and laid out some of the rocks on it. After a half hour or so I ended up with this configuration:



I'm positive this is not the final look. I will be playing with these rocks for a while but I wanted to share an update of where things are at. Next up I plan to make an inline mini reactor for co2.
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post #11 of 31 (permalink) Old 11-11-2020, 02:18 PM
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This looks like itís gonna be a really nice tank! I have the same stand and have struggled with what to do to enclose the under area and you just post this and make me feel silly. Lol. Can you take a photo or explain in slightly more detail how the magnets are attached to the wood and the stand? I would greatly appreciate it. I have a sump under mine and would like to make it look more neat in my home. Thanks!


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post #12 of 31 (permalink) Old 11-11-2020, 04:27 PM Thread Starter
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This looks like itís gonna be a really nice tank! I have the same stand and have struggled with what to do to enclose the under area and you just post this and make me feel silly. Lol. Can you take a photo or explain in slightly more detail how the magnets are attached to the wood and the stand? I would greatly appreciate it. I have a sump under mine and would like to make it look more neat in my home. Thanks!


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Thank you! I have high hopes for this tank. I've been thinking about using one of these stands for years, it wasn't until recently I figured out to put a concrete top on it so I could use smaller tanks.

Here are some pictures I just took of the magnets.

I used wood glue to attach a few small pieces of scrap to the wooden panels I added. I then drilled holes and epoxied in some rare earth magnets:



On the door panel I drilled holes and epoxied in opposing magnets:



When you close the panel in place the magnets on the doors line up with the magnets in the stand:



In order to know where to drill holes on the door I first installed the magnets on the side panels, then put a little ball of painters tape on the magnet. Then I shmooshed the door on. The painters tape stuck to the door panel in the spot I needed to drill to get the magnets to line up. Theres a few different ways to do this including using a dab of paint etc.
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post #13 of 31 (permalink) Old 11-11-2020, 09:38 PM
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Thank you! I have high hopes for this tank. I've been thinking about using one of these stands for years, it wasn't until recently I figured out to put a concrete top on it so I could use smaller tanks.

Here are some pictures I just took of the magnets.

I used wood glue to attach a few small pieces of scrap to the wooden panels I added. I then drilled holes and epoxied in some rare earth magnets:



On the door panel I drilled holes and epoxied in opposing magnets:



When you close the panel in place the magnets on the doors line up with the magnets in the stand:



In order to know where to drill holes on the door I first installed the magnets on the side panels, then put a little ball of painters tape on the magnet. Then I shmooshed the door on. The painters tape stuck to the door panel in the spot I needed to drill to get the magnets to line up. Theres a few different ways to do this including using a dab of paint etc.

This is great! Thanks! I really appreciate it!


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post #14 of 31 (permalink) Old 11-12-2020, 01:25 AM
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Well look who's back from the dendroboards! Very cool stand idea.

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post #15 of 31 (permalink) Old 11-13-2020, 01:04 PM Thread Starter
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Well look who's back from the dendroboards! Very cool stand idea.

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Thanky! Yeah, I'm still over at dendroboard a lot but I got a setback on my big dart frog tank so I'm taking a step back a regrouping on that project. That said, I am having a bit of fun building out this tank in what is essentially a long involved take down of my Walstad Fish Bowl.

In other news a small update.

I went ahead and built what I am hoping will be my inline reactor last night. I was originally going to use a piece of 2" pvc pipe but ended up going even smaller by just using a coupler.

Here are the parts laid out in an exploded form:



The elbow needed to be heavily mutilated errr modified to make it work. I was planning to do this with my dremel but the darn cullet broke so I used an electric drill and a dremel sanding drum.



I also needed to widen inside of the 3/4 x 2 inch bushing to get the elbow to fit the way I wanted but in the end I don't need a pressure tight fitting here. Just good enough will be plenty.



Outside look:



The water will flow down the unmodified bushing and will run into this:



Completed look:



The idea is to create a chamber where the normal flow of water is disrupted and slowed down. Into this chamber I will inject co2 which will hopefully be dissolved in the disrupted water.

Newts don't like acidic water so I won't be injecting a lot of co2. I am thinking around 1 bubble every 3 or 4 seconds. So this reactor doesn't need to do a lot. Will it work?? Not sure, and I won't be till I test it in action. If it does work it will have the advantage of being small and maintenance free as well as cheap to build. If it doesn't work.. well I get to build another one ;P



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