"no equipment seen" Challenge - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 42 (permalink) Old 09-11-2015, 06:20 PM Thread Starter
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"no equipment seen" Challenge

I often get bored with doing the same things so I try new things at times. Much of it is done just to see if it works. This is one of those places where I chose a project that I knew would have some hangups and do overs as it went along. But then I did have most of the parts and equipment on hand to see what It might make.
This will be an equipment DIY using stuff that I had. The basic idea was to use an old orb tank that I had swapped into at some point. It's a tank that holds something like 18 gallon but not in a very good shape for the fish I normally keep. One thing I've never liked about the tank is the way any heater, filter and light combo just sticks out really bad.

This is the orb when starting and while waiting for the water to clear. The "just thinking" stage.


The water might clear eventually but the light is never going past simply lame! Add a heater that would never fit a round ball and a filter and it gets even worse? So the challenge becomes, what and how to hide things.
And then the look of any substrate running up the side is not one I like much.


So the idea becomes something like this?
A wooden framework to hold the orb with the substrate down out of sight and the other equipment hidden or outside the tank itself.



Over the next few days/weeks, I plan to post more of the project as it developed. At times it got real iffy whether I would actually complete the deal or just chuck it and move on.
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post #2 of 42 (permalink) Old 09-11-2015, 08:27 PM
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Check out this for some ideas

https://www.flickr.com/photos/278046...57623229539365

Yes It's saltwater, but if I remember correctly it runs as a sealed unit, just the occasional yearly water change. I wish I could find the original link... BUT you might have luck hiding the heater in some rock/wood using an airline for water movement, low light plants near a window so no filter/light and just do water changes... stock lightly and you can probably do alright


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post #3 of 42 (permalink) Old 09-11-2015, 09:41 PM Thread Starter
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I found I had such a different set of needs/wants for this project that I probably would not find any to match. I first started with a space which limited me a good deal. I wanted to keep it near another tank to eases water changes so an existing stand was the first point. It had to fit this stand which is also the cover for my drain and other equipment.


We had first used this stand to cover excess tank equipment and as a plant stand for my wife. Now she finds the light is not what she wants so has moved the plant giving me an opportunity for the stand. The stand is a simple box with a sheet throw over to hide things but plenty strong to hold a small tank.
Things around here have a way of evolving into tank use more often than not but one consistent requirement is that it has to look decent when in the formal dining room!
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post #4 of 42 (permalink) Old 09-12-2015, 03:30 PM Thread Starter
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With a general idea of what I wanted and the size being set, I started with building the frame to hold the tank. The round shape was a real nuisance to fit to a round space that was also tapered top to bottom but I did get one cut close enough to work.
For the bottom of the framework, I wanted to have something that could stand up to heat and had cement board scraps on hand. Cement board is often used behind tile for bathroom shower stalls as it will not rot or degrade in water if the grout leaks. But for my use, it is also very fire resistant.


Part of my planning was to use heat from below to avoid the heater in the tank. When dealing with frozen pipes, you quickly learn that light bulbs are a real handy source of heat. But then how much heat for a small 18 gallon was a question that I assumed might be wrong on first guess. This left me needing a small form factor with easy to change bulbs.
The bulb holders were salvaged from some project and just the right small size for this. You can tell in the picture why I wanted fire resistant materials for the frame?
This was a first run at the lights and several things had to be changed but it did point out a potential problem or two. I would not want that kind of heat applied directly to the plastic bottom of the tank! The cracked wood is not what I wanted, either.

Last edited by PlantedRich; 09-12-2015 at 03:32 PM. Reason: typo
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post #5 of 42 (permalink) Old 09-12-2015, 06:44 PM Thread Starter
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After a test "burn" and seeing the hurt it was putting on the wood, I looked around for a way to shield the plastic from the direct heat.
A simple shield made of metal flashing seemed right. I want the heat trapped around the bottom of the tank but not direct to the plastic.


This was glued to the underside of the top so that it hangs between the bulbs and where the tank will be setting.

I added a couple magnetic cabinet latches to hold the front access panel and took it in to make sure it fit the space. I first planned for the tank to rest on the platform bottom but after a few tries, it seemed better to let it rest on a couple strips rather than all the weight on the ring or not having an air space underneath. I think I will get better heating when the air is able to get fully under the tank.

As I said at the start, I expected this to have a few do-overs before finished!
One of the big parts of the plan had to be a way to control the heat from the bulbs so I had to work in a small digital controller and a way to get the probe into the water without it hanging over the top and sides of the tank.
Still lots of things before this is finished.
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post #6 of 42 (permalink) Old 09-12-2015, 09:26 PM
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The bulbs are for heat? They burn out so often. It's better to make a heating matt, like a heating blanket.
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post #7 of 42 (permalink) Old 09-12-2015, 09:46 PM
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Better you than me on the round tank/hidden equipment idea.
But I lean heavily on DIY myself and concocted this air driven bio-only filter for my tank(s). No pads/screens it hinder daphnia, fish or shrimp fry. With just a bit of a change
it would be completely equipment free in the viewing aria. Now all you can see is the heater and covering that part/w rocks/fine gravel would fix that also.
Water comes in at bottom left. This is the right end view. That picture is from a week after set up.



This picture gives a better perspective of shape/size. Tank is older in this picture and
has excess light. Also water comes out from the filter where you see the bubbles.



Also just after set up showing the rock/fine gravel wall cover. The only equipment showing is the heater.



One year later/w excess light/clado/Pearlweed at top right.



This is from last month. Only the heater is showing.


The shortest distance between any two points is a straight line...in the opposite direction...
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post #8 of 42 (permalink) Old 09-12-2015, 11:26 PM Thread Starter
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Lots of small problems to be solved but that is part of the attraction in this case. A round tank is more difficult to hide things as it has no flat sides and is viewed nearly 360 degrees. Not much option for hiding behind things.
For the bulb life question, I don't have enough use on it yet to see how long they burn when used longer term. But then it is a challenge project rather than a tank more designed for production. Having done so many bulb changes to replace with led , I have a vast number of bulbs to choose from so the supply is not going to be a problem if the nuisance factor doesn't get too big. I've done some commercial work and might guess I have a couple hundred bulbs.
But then I did make the access panel on the front so that changes can be made. How often? I don't know.
Just planning to roll with the flow as I find out what happens. The biggest problem in making progress has been the hot weather! My garage shop goes out of use until the temperature drops another ten degrees.
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post #9 of 42 (permalink) Old 09-13-2015, 02:15 PM
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Youre idea of using lights for heat is interesting... I have a boot dryer that works on the same principal. BUT it leadsme to another thought... why not light the tank from the bottom? You could put a mirror in the bottom of your box, run some rope lights around the inside and use floating water column plants. Elodea, pearl weed, ricca, frogbit, water lettuce etc, and do away with the substarte completely. Might take a bit of getting used to. You could even do what ever color lighting you wanted, and if its to harsh a piece of opaque plastic could act as a diffuser for a nice even wash of light.

Not sure how well the plants might like this though
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post #10 of 42 (permalink) Old 09-13-2015, 08:14 PM Thread Starter
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The idea of lighting from below is one I had not thought about. Just did not enter my mind but there would have been problems in this case anyway.
This is the bottom section of the orb I had and it is an opaque plastic as well as being the base for the orb to rest on when in place.



The bottom had a setup for adding air to be used with an airstone or filter but I didn't want that so took it apart to see how it might work for other things.

Once removed, I saw a handy use for the airline hole.
Cutting the plastic center "cup" off gave me access to run the probe for the temperature controller into the tank without it showing.



I've found these little cheap probes to be "water resistant" but fail after being in the water for a few months. That leads me to always seal them so that they can read the temperature but stay dry.
In this case I pushed the probe up into the existing airline fitting, inside a small section of airline tubing and sealed it. This lets me extend the probe up near the center of the water column rather than down near the heat source, hoping to get a more accurate reading.


For the filter in/out I just used a couple simple fittings that I could find easily. Outside is a brass NPT to barb fitting, screwed to a small nipple and then inside is the same. For sealing I used a rubber type washer backed with a metal washer both inside the tank and on the outside. Leaks are not something I want to find some day. The threaded adapters are screwed tight enough to compress the rubber and make the seal.
I have never kept any fish who had a problem with metal in the water.
The tubing inside was left long at this point as I had not worked out how much was needed and it was easier to cut off later than add later.

Sealing the airline tubing is a pretty simple thing since it is plastic. I set the end on fire and clamped it with pliers. When it cooled the end was sealed!

Meanwhile I set it up in the garage, filled it and let it set for a few days while I worked out the wood to cover the outside and built the light. The original light was pretty lame when new and a part seemed missing so after looking it over, I decided I would go for a DIY LED rather than spend time on the old.

Last edited by PlantedRich; 09-14-2015 at 10:10 PM. Reason: replace missing photo
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post #11 of 42 (permalink) Old 09-14-2015, 03:45 PM Thread Starter
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As I moved into making the wood cover for the project, it got more complicated than I had thought for just wooden box. Having a specific size limit, I made a mistake in cutting and fitting the circle and some of the cement board parts. I wanted it centered but that left me a problem once the filter was in hand. Not enough room to set the little filter fully on the base!


We have an excuse for things like this. It's not a mistake if you can correct it? So this little mistake took a bit of extra cutting to make it right. Turning the saw and using it more as a router clears enough wood to make the filter fit.



At this point, I could see several more things that had to fit in the small space I had allowed. A way to mount the LED over the tank and that had to be small was one biggie to work out. Part of the plan for that being small involved putting the driver and connections behind the backplate. Also in this space, there had to be room for the timer, controller, filter and I wanted the option of plugging the equipment in rather than hard wired. Space was getting tight and I had not yet fully worked out how to mount the LED.
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post #12 of 42 (permalink) Old 09-14-2015, 10:36 PM Thread Starter
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For the light, I went with a simple purchased LED/ driver combo but it did not include the heat sink so I salvaged one from a junk computer. The LED is a simple 10Watt with matching driver so with the salvage heat sink, I mounted the two items and fit it to a wooden arm to swing over the tank but out of the way when I want to work on things.



The dowel holding the arm runs down through PVC pipe so that it can swing. I cut a channel in the side of the dowel to fit the wire and protect it from rubbing when turning the arm.

This is the backside view once all the parts are in place.
I tucked the driver under the little cover left of the PVC holding the light and you can see the way space was getting tight.



The filter is the little Zoomed 501 which I'm finding I like on several smaller tank. It has a very low flow and that is something I want in this tank as it will never support much load. I used Velcro strap to hold the filter so that it can be lifted away from the frame when cleaning.
I still have several things to clean up and some things still to do but at this point it seems to be coming together well enough.
I had some concern about the light but once it was in place, I'm pretty happy with it.
Things left to do are putting some cover around the base of the tank where it fits through the round opening. I have in mind a small gravel or rounded stone to hide the crack. Then I have not found the right item to cover the inlet/outlet tubing for the filter and the probe. I first thought of wood as it is easy to work but then I am still running some other ideas around. Forming a wood piece to fit the bottom curve of the tank is a nuisance and then it does try to float. I may change up and cut a stone instead for that. Substrate is likely to be a dark brownish Flourite. If it looks too dark, I may lighten it up some with sand.
But at this point, the light is plenty.
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post #13 of 42 (permalink) Old 09-15-2015, 01:18 AM
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Very cool looking build. And some very creative DIY. Will be interesting to see how it finishes out. Still curious where you found an 18 gallon sphere.


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post #14 of 42 (permalink) Old 09-15-2015, 03:22 PM Thread Starter
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I picked it up in swapping somewhere or got it off Craigslist free. Not sure where as it has been round and round several times. I brought it home and it first became a terrarium for house plants!
I think the "official" name is Bio-Orb and they come in 9 and 18 gallons?
Link to similar?
http://www.petco.com/N_24_4294951278...9-855577e7af4f
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post #15 of 42 (permalink) Old 09-15-2015, 03:39 PM
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Was thinking about your problems with filter tubing and remembered watching a guy at the fair making various things out of glass. So, me being me, I wounder if it would be possible to buy / create a small rectangular tube out of glass? If so, said tube could then be heated / crafted into a pair of curved tubes that match the interior of your bowl. How noticeable they would be? I don't know. I do know I like the look of glass lilly pipes but I hear they have to be cleaned often to keep them looking pretty.

Bump: Oh wait, scratch that - just noticed you drilled the bowl and have the tubing coming in the bottom. An even better idea :-)


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