180G w/ 105G Sump - Build Journal - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 16 (permalink) Old 11-25-2007, 07:08 PM Thread Starter
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180G w/ 105G Sump - Build Journal

I started this hobby seven years ago with a 90 gallon low-tech planted tank. My wife asked me to move the tank one day and as you know that isn't a trivial task. So I received permission to change the tank to a saltwater tank. When we moved into our current house I upgraded to 180 gallon in wall with a 105 gallon sump (75 + 30 gallon tanks). After 4 years in saltwater I got bored and decided to go back to a freshwater planted tank. That brings me to today. I've noticed that most planted tanks are 125g or less but saw that many were successfully keeping 180g+ planted tanks with sumps.
I found this forum which proved to be the equivalent for planted tanks as reefcentral.com is for reef tanks. I've spent a few weeks reading up on the changes over the past four years and my goal is to take my existing saltwater setup and convert it to a 180g freshwater with a 105g sump. I am trying to reuse most of my equipment from the saltwater tank. Not many build journals exist for large tanks so I thought I'd start one and hope that through my learning experience I could help others. Who knows where I'll end up but I'll enjoy the ride just like I did with my saltwater setup. In another four years I'll likely get bored and try something else out like a discus tank.


The lighting is 4 80W T5 bulbs (3 6500K and 1 10,000K) and four 96W CF bulbs (2 6500K and 2 10,000K). This utilizes the same fixtures over the saltwater setup. I have these installed on a rack so I can push them out of the way in order to clean the tank. This gives me a bit less than 4 WPG. If it proves to be too much than I'll just shut of one of the CF banks - easy to do with my AquaController.

Sump Layout:

The two sump tanks are a vestigial from my saltwater setup. The right tank acted as a refugium and the left tank held filter media and the protein skimmer (it was too tall to fit under the main tank so I had to build this second tank to allow for the skimmer). I've removed the protein skimmer of course and have filled that space with bio balls. This will probably not be necessary as the plants will provide plenty of surface area as well as consume the ammonia and nitrite directly - but I don't see it hurting anything either. I debated with removing the 30g sump but I didn't have any good place to put the filter media without having to rebuild the 75g sump so I left it as is. The 30g won't overflow but it maintains a higher water level than what I desire without additional pump support (see the CO2 section for more explanation).

The 75g served as a refugium in the saltwater setup. It had four 96W CF 10,000K bulbs hanging over and I'm going to reduce that to two 96W CF 6500K bulbs - for now it is staying dark. I plan to try and use this as a propagation tank for plants and Cherry Shrimp. If this works I should be able to sell these plants back to the LFS for store credit and possibly self-sustain my hobby. It also increases the total volume of water for the whole system which is never a bad deal. Two return pumps (a Mag 9.5 and an Iwaki 30RXT) are plumbed to spray bars in the main tank. This provides a total of approximately 1300 GPH of turnover in the tank. The Mag 9.5 has about 8 feet of head pressure and turns over 550 GPH. The Iwaki has about 7 feet of head pressure and turns over about 750 GPH. I'm hoping this turnover is evenly distributed with the spray bars and if it proves to be too much I can tone it down using the ball valves on the outputs.

Pardon the wires - haven't cleaned that up yet.

The 75g contains the 1000 watt heater which is controlled by the AquaController with a backup thermostat to prevent cooking the fish. This size heater was necessary in the reef tank - keeping 300 gallons of water heated to 80 degrees when your home is 68 degrees (winter) takes some power. It was hard to keep the tank under 80 degrees in the summer with all the lighting (two fans blowing across the lights would run continuously). My plan is to keep the freshwater setup at 78 so I may have to either lower the AC (75 degrees) in the home or buy a chiller.
I have followed most of the recommendations listed here to minimize CO2 loss. Sealing the sumps will prove difficult due to the setup. CO2 is relatively cheap so I'll see how it goes.



I'd like to use a Mazzei venturi for CO2 injection but I had an old/worthless protein skimmer from a smaller saltwater tank taking up space. It had a 2" clear PVC pipe inside so I used that and built the Tom Barr reactor with venturi valve and I'll see how this goes first. I was able to build it for about $10 as I already had most of the parts lying around.


I plan to run about 500 GPH into the reactor using the Mag 9.5 in the 30g sump. Now that you've noticed the reactor in the 75g sump and the supply pump in the 30g sump you might be wondering why. Well, recall above that the 30g sump doesn't maintain the level I'd like without a bit of help. I found that using this configuration I could keep the level in the 30g where I wanted it. If the 9.5 stops the 30g sump's water level will rise but gravity will eventually cause the drain rate to increase preventing overflows. The reactor's output is pointed toward one of the return pump's intake to chop up any remaining bubbles.
I bought a 10# tank as most people reported getting 2-3 months out of a 5# tank. I figured I'll need to add more CO2 than most since my sump would cause CO2 loss along with the increased water volume. A 10# tank was only another $30 from aquariumplants.com so it made sense to me. I also ordered their CO2 regulator as I've read nothing but good reports. I bought a drop checker on eBay and plan to make my own 4KH solution - seems easy enough. I'll use my AquaController to control the solenoid on the CO2 tank to keep the pH within a target range and to control the times it is activated. The target pH range will have to be adjusted regularly as the tanks KH/pH parameters change but that is easy enough to do with the AquaController's programming language and web interface. The target pH range will always be calibrated against the drop checker.


I will be using EcoComplete for the substrate. I considered using ADA's but the LFS had EcoComplete and it was well praised by many (not to mention I had a sizable store credit from all the livestock I brought the LFS from my saltwater tank). I like the black substrate as it contrasts well with the plants and rocks I've chosen. Some of you have the nice white sand in front - personally - I think you're nuts because keeping them separate is just not worth the trouble IMHO.

I have yet to do research on fertilization so I plan to do what I did on my last planted tank. So I ordered aquariumplants.com's root tabs and water column fertilizers and will adapt as time goes on. I don't plan to keep any hard plants out of the gate so I expect this to serve me well for the time being. My next step is to look at Tom Barr's EI method.


I like rock structures. I had one in my 90g and with a 180 I have a lot more room for creativity. So I went to the local stone quarry and found some nice limestone. LOL. JK - It is some type of rock that doesn't bubble with muriatic acid. Here is a picture of the rocks so far when I filled the tank for a leak test (BTW - the large bulkhead in the center was where the SW closed loop intake was - it was behind live rock and I plan to just hide it with some nice stem plants in the back). The rocks look quite nice with the substrate added. I can just picture some plants hanging off the rocks, moss growing here and there, a few mid-ground plants in front of the rock with some Anubias growing by the glass...

I bought some driftwood off of eBay (http://stores.ebay.com/RockArtSource...QQftidZ2QQtZkm). This guy has some really nice pieces and others on this board have given good reviews. The piece I bought is branchy and will branch out above the rock on the right.


I plan to start the tank using stem plants, swords, and mosses. After that I'm not sure - I still need to research this.


Who knows - haven't got there yet either. But it will include some MTS, Ramshorn, Cherry Shrimp, Ottos, 75 cardinal tetras for sure. I might add some SAE but haven't decided yet. They get quite large (~6"), eat less algae as they grow older, eat fine bladed plants, and get quite aggressive as they age. With the rock structure it can be difficult to extract them without ripping the tank apart. I plan to add some Pearl Gouramis, Bosemani Rainbows, or angels...

That's it for now. If there seems enough interest I'll keep posting. I'd love to hear feedback from those of you that are keeping large tanks yourself. I believe there is much wisdom in the council of many.


Last edited by longah; 08-23-2008 at 06:39 PM.
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post #2 of 16 (permalink) Old 11-25-2007, 07:16 PM
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All I can say is WOW Im going to be watching this one every step of the way....

Whats this green fuzzy stuff thats growing in my tank.
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post #3 of 16 (permalink) Old 12-01-2007, 04:14 AM Thread Starter
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I received the CO2 equipment yesterday and got the equipment hooked up today. I've watched the pH go down .6 points in 4 hours so far running about 4bps. I made my own KH solution but I'm not sure how accurate it is - I'll probably break down and buy a standard just to be safe. The bubble counter still hasn't turned green but after four hours it isn't as blue as when I started.


New lights have come in and have replaced the saltwater lights. I've kept the 10K lights which make up about 25% of the tank lighting. I'll see how this goes for the time being and possibly change them out later if it causes any problems. They are staying off at the moment of course to prevent algae from growing. My plan is to do a massive water change before I put the plants in.


The rest of the hardscape has arrived as well. I plan to get on additional driftwood to drape over the rocks on the left - if that doesn't look good I'll add it to the right with the others. It's hard to find large driftwood to fill a 180. The spray bars will eventually be hidden by plants and moss that I plan to grow over them. Here is an updated tank shot.


I've definitely settled on the fertilizer routine being the EI method. I'm real impressed by the research done behind this method. I "understand" the science which is good for solving problems that will come up later. I've bought some KNO3 and KH2PO4 and will use Seachem Flourish for trace mix. I was surprised how little one pound was. My dosing regime will be as follows.

+/- 3.0 tsp KN03 3x a week (N)
+/- 1.0 tsp KH2P04 3x a week (P)
+/- 50 ml Trace 3x a week. Flourish.
60-70% weekly water change with Prime

So much for the aquariumplants.com stuff - maybe I can use that on another tank some day.


I've started to identify the initial plants in the tank. Even though I've done a low-tech planted tank before with good success its been a while and I've introduced many new variables such as CO2 and fertilizing. So I figure I should start with a basic makeup of common plants that are fairly easy to keep.

5 - Myriophyllum tuberculatum
5 - Ludwigia repens
5 - Ludwigia glandulosa

10 - Bacopa caroliniana
10 - Vallisneria corkscrew (Val. sp. "Asiatica")
5 - Vallisneria contortion (Val. sp. contortionist)
5 - Green Foxtail (Myriophyllum pinnatum)
5 - Cabomba, Green (Cabomba caroliniana)
10 - Sagittaria
2 - Aponogeton crispus

1 - Crinum thaianum Water Onion
1 - Crinum calamistratum
1 - Kleiner Bär Sword (Echinodorus "kleiner bär")
1 - Madagascar Lace Plant

5 - HEMIANTHUS CALLITRICHOIDES (I'll try Tom's way of propagating a matt in an old 20 gallon I have laying around).
2 - Anubias nana
2 - Anubias coffefolia

Singapore moss.


Still haven't thought about fish. Got to get the plants going first.

That's it for now. Time to place the plant order and see how it goes.

Last edited by longah; 08-23-2008 at 06:37 PM.
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post #4 of 16 (permalink) Old 12-10-2007, 03:49 AM Thread Starter
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Not to my surprise I had a few issues with getting the CO2 to 30ppm. I fiddled with the Tom Barr reactor I had built, covered/sealed the sump (used saran wrap for a quick solution), played with the drains attempting to minimize the bubbling. Just about everything I could find online suggesting how to minimize outgassing in a sump but I could never get the CO2 to 30ppm even with it running full out. So I bought the Mazzei venturi from Aquatico. This works really good and has at least got me to 30ppm however my bubble rate is around 12bps (it's going pretty fast so rather hard to get an accurate count). I think that the total volume of water being around 300 gallons is just too much for a venturi/reactor alone. Reason: both the venturi and the reactor have so much CO2 in them that they are just pushing large bubbles out as opposed to a fine mist. My next plan is to setup both the reactor and venturi by spliting the CO2 line to both units and see if that allows a more efficient bubble rate. If that doesn't work then this rate must be the best I can get. I'd be interested to know what rates the rest of you with large tanks are experiencing. Here is an updated schematic of the tank (sorry, this updated the original post to - oops).

Once I get the CO2 settled I plan to purchase the first order of plants. This should be in the next week or two. The only other change has been the addition of more driftwood to balance the rock structure.

Thanks for reading. Good day!

Last edited by longah; 08-23-2008 at 06:36 PM.
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post #5 of 16 (permalink) Old 12-10-2007, 01:08 PM
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I'd be interested to know what rates the rest of you with large tanks are experiencing.
I would expect fairly high CO2 usage with a system that large. My system is about half your volume and I use about 5-8 bps to maintain 25-30 ppm CO2. I do use a sump, and nothing is particularly well sealed. (I tried cellophane and other techniques during testing, and they were just not worth the effort to me vs. just cranking up the CO2)

I always have a full spare 20 lb. CO2 cylinder ready, and I don't mind burning a little more CO2.

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post #6 of 16 (permalink) Old 12-18-2007, 10:34 PM
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Which model Mazzei did you purchase? Since the Mazzei creates suction on the co2 line, the bubble rate might look higher than it really is. Also, I have read that a Mazzei is perfect for large tanks like yours. But for the injector to efficiently supply co2 to the tank, it needs a pump that provides a lot of pressure. I would think that an appropriately sized Mazzei with an appropriate pump would be enough by itself to get co2 levels up, without the additional use of a reactor. Look for Mazzei posts by plantbrain and mrkookm. They use mazzei's on large tanks and have no problem getting co2 levels in the 30ppm range. I use a Mazzei also, but only for a 29gal tank. I think they work great.

Good luck with your tank!
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post #7 of 16 (permalink) Old 12-19-2007, 05:10 AM
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Good to see that you are making sure Co2 is in order before taking the next step...way to go

Don't be fooled by the constant rate of bubbles you see, it's not as bad as you think. It is and VERY different from the standard measurements used for a reactor/diffuser rate so do not make the mistake and try to compare BPS with such methods of diffusion.

so much CO2 in them that they are just pushing large bubbles out as opposed to a fine mist
Some good reading material here of optimal Mazzei configuration possibilities which should shed some light on how to fix the above problem.

I hope this helps some......

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Last edited by mrkookm; 12-19-2007 at 11:42 AM.
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post #8 of 16 (permalink) Old 12-21-2007, 08:34 AM
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Yeeah, thanks for referencing that thread for Mazzei info. That is the exact reason why I thought it should exist. Many people are starting to try to use these devices, but dont fully know how, or have questions, and not a lot of comprehensive info is available in one place. I hope people keep adding their own experiences, info, and DETAILED setup/usage tips, like you have mrkookm. It is/will be a good place to point to for getting started.

Thanks again.
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post #9 of 16 (permalink) Old 08-23-2008, 06:04 PM Thread Starter
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Well, I fell off the face of the earth for a bit. I've started this back up again. After getting things all settled I sent through a couple of bouts with the LFS to order the plants - I kept waiting and finally gave up and bought some from aquariumplants.com. I've made some significant changes as I've learned things in the past months. Here they are.

4 wpg is way too much. I'd probably have to pump about 10# of CO2 and half a ton of ferts to keep up with the growth that would create. OK - I exaggerate but I found that running 2 wpg was sufficient. Out of my 4 T5 and 4 CF bulbs I'm only running half for 10 hours a day. That is 360 watts for 2 wpg. I am turning on the other 2 T5 for three hours a day. This has been working well.

As suspected this has been the most difficult part of the setup to deal with. I ended up getting rid of the 30 gal sump that I had wanted to use for mechanical/biological filtration. After setting up the tank I determined I wasn't getting enough CO2 in the tank (algae problems). A Fluval 404 I had would be far more efficient in its place. After removing the tank I noticed the color in the drop checker become much more greenish in color without making any changes to the bubble count in the regulator. I'm happy with the move.

Removing the 30 gallon sump made it difficult to use the reactor I had built for CO2 and as I already determined one Mazzei 584 wasn't going to cut it. I decided it didn't make much sense to run another pump to drive the reactor and so I put in another Mazzei 584. This turned out to work great and I can easily get a solid green/yellow color in the drop checker now and the CO2 is evenly distributed across the tank since both outflows from the two pumps are now mixing CO2.

The LFS could never guarantee a good selection and only ordered once a month. As I said - I finally gave up on waiting for them and ordered from aquariumplants.com. I ordered the plants two weeks ago and have had them in the tank since then. Here is what I have.

1 of : Anacharis (Egeria densa)
1 of : Aponogeton crispus
1 of : Aponogeton Madagascar Lace (Aponogeton madagascariensis)
1 of : Bacopa (Bacopa carolina)
1 of : Cabomba Green (Cabomba carolina)
1 of : Coffeefolia (Anubias barteri v. ‘Coffeefolia’)
1 of : Crinum Calimistratum
1 of : Crinum, "Onion Plant" (Crinum thaianum)(large)
5 of : Dwarf Baby Tears (Hemianthus callitrichoides)(potted)
1 of : Ludwigia, Broad Leaf (Ludwigia repens)
1 of : Myrio, Green (Myrio pinnatum)
1 of : Myriophyllum tuberculatum
1 of : Nana (Anubias barteri v. ‘Nana’)
1 of : Rotala Magenta (Rotala macrandra v. 'narrow leaf')
1 of : Sag, Dwarf Subulata (Sagittaria subulata)(10 plants per order)
1 of : Sword, Klenier Bar (Echinodorus 'Klenier Bar')
1 of : Vals, Contortion (Vallisneria asiatica) 10 Plants per order
1 of : Vals, Corkscrew (Vallisneria americana) (10 plants per order)

They shipped some other plant that I can't find out about. I've included a picture here (the big green centerpiece with spiral leaves). If anyone knows what it is please let me know. It is a beautiful plant and has flowered in the two weeks I've had it.

I added more driftwood. It has a nice dusty green algae growing on it. Appears harmless at the moment and adds a wonderful constrast to the driftwood. Here is a full tank shot with the plants...

Fert Routine:
I'm still using the EI method for fertilizing the tank. The shot above is two weeks old for the tank. I've had some problems with algae starting off and suspect that it was related to running 3wpg and not enough CO2. I've added the second Mazzei 584 and dropped the lights back to what was stated above. I'm waiting to see how the tank reacts to this for now.

The algae I'm seeing is Spirogyra, Staghorn, Thread, and Fuzz (see http://www.aquariumalgae.blogspot.com/). It isn't that bad - I'm able to take five minutes a day and get in to remove what grows in. I'd just prefer to see none.

I was confused on the dosing schedule that I posted earlier. I'm now dosing the following 3x a week.

1 1/3 tsp KNO3
1/4 tsp of KH2PO4
10 ml of Seachem Flourish on alternating days.

My previous dosing was putting way too much in the tank. My primary error was the recommended amounts were per week - not per dose as I had thought.

I've held off stocking the tank with fish except 4 SAE and 10 Ottos. I'm hoping to get some Amano shrimp within the next few weeks. I want to wait on more fish until I get the hang of growing the plants without the algae.

I am working on a new schematic of the tank - but it hasn't changed dramatically from what I've posted earlier. I'd like a more polished look in the end. I'll post again in a few weeks when the plants have had more time to grow in. In the meantime I'm going to work on my photography skills.

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post #10 of 16 (permalink) Old 08-23-2008, 06:07 PM
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post #11 of 16 (permalink) Old 08-23-2008, 06:40 PM Thread Starter
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Updated with photobucket pictures.
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post #12 of 16 (permalink) Old 08-23-2008, 07:00 PM
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Love the hardscape & that curly plant! What's the orange plant on the left near the rocks?
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post #13 of 16 (permalink) Old 08-23-2008, 07:08 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by waterfaller1 View Post
Love the hardscape & that curly plant! What's the orange plant on the left near the rocks?
I love the curly plant as well - just don't know what it is. . It's leaves are very fragile. The fish poop on it and I would shake the leaves to clean them and found they would tear. I've switched to a turkey baster.

The "orange" plant on the left is an Klenier Bar sword (http://www.aquariumplants.com/Produc...ductCode=sw869). It is more of a crimson red than orange. As the leaves age they turn greener.

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post #14 of 16 (permalink) Old 08-23-2008, 07:11 PM
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Thanks, no not the far left. The one next to the tall tape-like plant, a stem plant. It's all orange in the full tank shot. I think the curly one might be a type of aponogeton.
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post #15 of 16 (permalink) Old 08-23-2008, 07:19 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by waterfaller1 View Post
Thanks, no not the far left. The one next to the tall tape-like plant, a stem plant. It's all orange in the full tank shot. I think the curly one might be a type of aponogeton.

Myriophyllum tuberculatum
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