8 Gal. Nano Cube-Adapting to Planted Tank - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 25 (permalink) Old 09-17-2010, 08:23 PM Thread Starter
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8 Gal. Nano Cube-Adapting to Planted Tank

A few days ago one of the members of our local aquatic plant group had a 8 gallon nano cube tank, complete, except for a non-working light, to trade. I got it for a big batch of needle leaf Java Fern, that I needed to get rid of anyway. The tank is a reef tank, with a big filter compartment at the back, a 24 watt PC light, two cooling fans, and a couple of moonlight LEDs.

The PC light would give reef appropriate very high light, so my choice was to either use window screen to cut down the intensity or replace it. Since I would have had to buy a $20+ new ballast for it if I kept it I opted to replace the light with CFL Screw-in lights.

Here is the tank: (along with one of the bulbs I want to use, and the 2 socket adapter needed)


I stripped out the electronics, the fans, the reflector and it's shield, and the LEDs, leaving just the 120V wire and the bare top to work with.

This is the gutted top plus the 3 hole bracket I made from a piece of aluminum bar, to mount the light sockets. For a reflector I visited my local surplus metals store and found a bargain (as usual), some 12 inch wide, well polished, very thin hard aluminum sheet, for $1.50 a yard. I needed an 8" long piece, but that would have been too embarrassing to ask for, so I bought a yard.

I didn't want to get 100% of the light from the bulbs to the tank, to avoid having too much, so I decided on a simple reflector, with the sides at about 45 degrees to the bottom, two bends, easy to make with a shopmate work bench and a piece of wood. Then I drilled 3 holes (actually punched them out with a center punch) to match the aluminum bracket.

While I was doing this it seemed like a good time to evaluate reflectors for CFL bulbs, so I installed just the lights, no reflector, and measured the PAR at the bottom of the empty tank, getting about 25 micromols.


Next, I installed the reflector and secured the wiring, reinstalled the bulbs and remeasured the PAR, getting about 50 micromols!

50 micromols is right where I wanted it to be, low medium light. Here is how it looks with that light on:


My plan now is to work on the filter so I can use the tank for a high humidity riparium. Since I already had that double light socket, all I have spent so far is about $10 for the bulbs, and $1.50 for the aluminum sheet, of which I have almost all of it left over.

Hoppy

Last edited by Hoppy; 09-24-2010 at 04:13 AM. Reason: Change size of tank, base on measurements
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post #2 of 25 (permalink) Old 09-17-2010, 08:58 PM
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nice. that is going to turn out nicely.

What type of fauna are you shooting for? PDF's?

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post #3 of 25 (permalink) Old 09-17-2010, 09:32 PM
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Great deal BTW. Looking forward to updates!
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post #4 of 25 (permalink) Old 09-17-2010, 11:47 PM
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This looks great.

I just set up a cube for my coworker, she has 18w PC over her 6 gallon cube and it's only planted with low light plants (ferns, anubias, moss).

The bulb is a 50/50 so I'm hoping only 9w of that is actually usable as to keep algae in check.

What are your opinions Hoppy?
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post #5 of 25 (permalink) Old 09-18-2010, 04:52 AM Thread Starter
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PC fixtures are hard to evaluate without looking at them. Some have no reflector to speak of, others have great reflectors. As you can see from my test, the reflector, even if a crude one, can double the light you get. If that cube was made to be a reef tank, you can be sure it has too much light for a planted tank. That is almost always true.

I'm not sure yet if I will have any animal life in the tank. It will start out as just a plants only riparium. Then I will see if my enthusiasm for it looks sustainable enough to go with fish. It's hard to maintain a constant water temperature in only 4 gallons of water, so I suspect it will have nothing more than a betta, if that.

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post #6 of 25 (permalink) Old 09-18-2010, 09:38 PM Thread Starter
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Setting up a filter, using the built-in filtration chamber has been difficult. I wanted to put a tiny powerhead in that chamber, with a siphon tube moving water over the "wall" onto sponges and down to the powerhead to be pumped back out. But, no siphon could keep up with the flow rate. So, now I have the powerhead in the tank, pumping water into one chamber, then through the sponges to the other chamber, using the overflow to return the water to the tank.

Because I want low water, to use this as a riparium, I couldn't use the overflow as it was designed to be used. Basically, I just reversed the flow. Now I need to work on a little vibration isolation for the powerhead. And, I will paint the white tube with Krylon Fusion - it is a CPVC 1/2 inch tube.

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post #7 of 25 (permalink) Old 09-18-2010, 11:39 PM
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Hey Hoppy it looks good!

Perhaps the 24W PC bulb is the same one I had mentioned to you that I had with my prefabricated tank canopy (you had replied that you weren't familiar with 24W PC bulbs).

I upgraded my fixture so that I now have 2 x 24 PC bulbs for my 16G (18" high) with a much better reflector (comparable to your DIY at least). Considering that you may be more familiar with these bulbs now, do you still think that 2x 24 PC bulbs would provide my tank with low to low-medium light if placed a few inches above the tank?

Tank looks good though. I'll be following this thread.
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post #8 of 25 (permalink) Old 09-19-2010, 02:11 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by astrosag View Post
Hey Hoppy it looks good!

Perhaps the 24W PC bulb is the same one I had mentioned to you that I had with my prefabricated tank canopy (you had replied that you weren't familiar with 24W PC bulbs).

I upgraded my fixture so that I now have 2 x 24 PC bulbs for my 16G (18" high) with a much better reflector (comparable to your DIY at least). Considering that you may be more familiar with these bulbs now, do you still think that 2x 24 PC bulbs would provide my tank with low to low-medium light if placed a few inches above the tank?

Tank looks good though. I'll be following this thread.
If your reflector is about the same quality as mine, I think 2 of those bulbs will give you high medium to high light. I was surprised by how much more light that reflector gave me.

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post #9 of 25 (permalink) Old 09-20-2010, 12:14 AM Thread Starter
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Finished, but a disappointment. This tank will not work at all well as a riparium, because the back "glass" is plastic, with a slightly rough surface. That keeps suction cups from working well on it. So, any riparium planters would have to be on the sides, or, if on the back, only the magnetic supported ones would work. But, access to the out of tank magnets would be difficult, since they would be in the filter chambers, and hard to reach without using a tool of some kind.

Also, because of it's cube shape, the tank depth is great enough that it is hard to see the above water plants well, since the hood blocks vision from above the tank. It is a much better aquarium than a riparium.

The filter does work well, and the light works well, with the plastic hood getting warm but not hot. I suspect the powerhead will suffice for a heater, but I haven't put a thermometer in it yet to verify that.

Now I'm trying to decide if I want to try an semi-el natural tank with this. It would be a non-CO2, non Excel (probably) tank, with a MTS and Flourite substrate. That way no water changes would be needed, and little fertilizing, if any. Make up water is easy to add by pouring it into the filter chamber. I would have to change the water flow from the filter substantially to stop it from badly eroding the substrate below. I'll decide on this in a few days.

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post #10 of 25 (permalink) Old 09-20-2010, 04:15 AM
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Any tips to reduce the light without gutting the system like you did? The bulb on it is a 50/50 so do you think the actinic won't be usable for the plants thus keeping the algae level down?
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post #11 of 25 (permalink) Old 09-20-2010, 05:10 AM Thread Starter
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The word "actinic" means different things to different bulb makers. If the "actinic" part is just a very dark blue, it will be as effective for plants as any bulb. But, if its spectrum contains a lot of near UV light, it might be very ineffective for plants. The only way to really be sure is to use a PAR meter to see how much usable light their is. Then, of course, only a test with plants can show if the bulb is a good plant bulb.

My guess is that the "actinic" portion of the bulb is really just a dark blue, so both halves of the bulb would count towards the light level.

An easy way to reduce the intensity is to use a layer of fiberglass window insect screen to "filter" the light. My testing showed that reduces the intensity by about 40%.

Hoppy
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post #12 of 25 (permalink) Old 09-22-2010, 11:50 PM Thread Starter
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I now have this tank set up as a non-CO2, low light tank, planted with Crypts, A. reineckii, L. palustris, needleleaf Java Fern, Moss, and some broadleaf chain swords in bad condition. The light looks too bright, but I haven't checked it yet with a PAR meter. I will probably reduce the bulb wattage to 9 watts each. The 15 watt bulbs are really too close to the water surface too. I already know how to do a good algae tank, so I don't need to duplicate that experience.

My substrate is MTS, with hydroton, crushed coral and salt substitute under it, with pool filter sand on top of it. The filter is now working the normal way, water in the overflow grid, through filter sponges, with some filter floss on the exit side, and a small powerhead doing the pumping out of the filter chamber. I really like the appearance of it now, but I'm still not sure if I will keep it set up.

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post #13 of 25 (permalink) Old 09-23-2010, 12:01 AM
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May I ask what the purpose of the crushed coral is? Keeping cichlids are we?

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post #14 of 25 (permalink) Old 09-23-2010, 12:58 AM Thread Starter
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With MTS is is recommended that some dolomite be used under it to keep the pH up in the substrate, as well as to supply some Ca and Mg to the plants. I don't have any dolomite, so I used crushed coral. It shouldn't add much to the water, being buried under 2 inches of substrate. And, hopefully, the hydroton will adsorb Ca ions making them available easily to the plants. The potassium ions should also be adsorbed by the hydroton.

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post #15 of 25 (permalink) Old 09-23-2010, 01:01 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hoppy View Post
With MTS is is recommended that some dolomite be used under it to keep the pH up in the substrate, as well as to supply some Ca and Mg to the plants. I don't have any dolomite, so I used crushed coral. It shouldn't add much to the water, being buried under 2 inches of substrate. And, hopefully, the hydroton will adsorb Ca ions making them available easily to the plants. The potassium ions should also be adsorbed by the hydroton.
And yet again the Great Hoppy has wowed me! Where did you get your PhD in science?

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