General speccing/pricing a 120g tank - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 22 (permalink) Old 03-08-2018, 09:58 PM Thread Starter
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General speccing/pricing a 120g tank

Hi all,

I just bought my first home! There's a 6' long opening in the living room wall to the office ... perfect for a divider aquarium! It's been years since I've had an aquarium, but a long time ago I had a flourishing 120g reef tank. I specced out a reef tank and was crushed by how much it was going to cost -- around $3k. Too much. I think planted tanks are beautiful, and much cheaper and less costly on a monthly schedule as well.

I made a simple spreadsheet with just a little research to get a general idea of cost. So far, about $1.5k from tank to decorations, which is a bit more than I'd like. Of course I can probably find a lot of this stuff on Craigslist, which I will attempt, but I want to be prepared anyways with what kind of equipment to look for.

The tank will most likely be around 120-150g: 72"x18"x20" or similar. It will be flush against the wall in one room and my father and I will build cabinetry around the protruding side to "blend" it in. This will create space for HOB filters and an accessible canopy for lighting. I'd prefer the simplicity of keeping the hardware in the main tank (I could do a sump later if I hate the HOB and in-tank heaters). I don't have a specific biotope/look in mind yet, but as far as I know these parts are well adaptable. I do know that I'm going for low-tech, and low-maintenance. So a good amount of plants, medium light, and smaller fish -- either a few cichlids, or a school of even smaller fish.

Since I don't really know what I'm doing with freshwater (and it's been years, I've forgotten everything!) I'm hoping you guys can look it over and let me know if I'm overspending/over-equipping or the opposite. Or if there's better or cheaper options for gear.



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(The "NA" is for pumps and protein skimmers, this was next to a spreadsheet for a reef tank. The extra $100 at the end is misc treatment costs)

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post #2 of 22 (permalink) Old 03-08-2018, 10:26 PM
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Keep an eye on craigslist for a tank and go from there which could easily save you a couple hundred right off the bat, even if you have to reseal it. Also depending on how you want to stock it you can do away with the heaters which could save you a little bit of money. Also you don't really need fancy filtration in a planted aquarium, some cheap filter floss for bio media, crushed pumice for biological and a couple of sponges and you should get set which will last you much longer than the pre-prepared stuff. Hydor is probably unnecessary if you're running two filters. Also you could find some driftwood yourself and treat it to save yourself money there.

If you're running heaters then buy some inkbird temperature controllers for them ($20 bucks each but great insurance against frying your tank in a heater malfunction). Also maybe consider purchasing a RODI unit as well, 100 GPD unit might run you $100-200 which you'd need to run all day to fill up the tank but less frequently when doing water changes. I wished I had started with RODI water at the start because it makes life so much easier, especially with my well water (but I have expensive shrimp, coldwater fish are less sensitive). Also test kits should run about $20. Also buy some ferts for your plants which should cost maybe $50 a year. I don't have a large tank so someone else may be more helpful about your light choice.
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post #3 of 22 (permalink) Old 03-08-2018, 10:28 PM
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CO2?

You will need regulator and a tank.
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post #4 of 22 (permalink) Old 03-08-2018, 10:42 PM Thread Starter
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Good call on the temp controllers and tests -- that's a must. I'm on the fence about RODI, I guess I need to read up on it a bit. Maybe that's something I can introduce down the line...

I wanted to find driftwood myself but apparently a lot of the rivers around the Denver area are too contaminated Maybe I can bring some home (legally) from camping trips this summer. A lot of the mountainous areas of CO are very protected but I might be able to find some cool streams to collect decorations from without getting in trouble/causing harm.

I'm going to avoid CO2. I just don't want to deal with it. My thoughts are if there's only moderate light, few fish, and hardy plants CO2 won't be an issue.
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post #5 of 22 (permalink) Old 03-08-2018, 11:35 PM
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Oh man you should never add it all up! I'd rather not know, and especially don't want my wife to find out!!

But that aside, if I were you I would go with canisters. IMO much, much better on a larger tank. And two is better than one. When you clean one, the bio field on the other is undisturbed. And if one ever fails or needs service, the other one is still running. Good strategy in the long run.

And then I would go with in line heaters, less stuff in the tank. And a temp controller is a good investment.

For substrate, consider Black Diamond Blasting sand. Cheap, easy to plant in, and looks great.

IMO you would be better off with two lower powered Koralia's. That single 1500 will create some mayhem wherever it is aimed. With two you have more control, and can create a more directed gentle large volume flow.

In the long run, the cost to set up is just the beginning. And buying good quality stuff is well worth it.

If you are really undecided on fish and plants, I would spend some time looking at journals here of large tanks like you are getting. You will see all kinds of different set ups, and might also get some more ideas for your build.

Good luck and looking forward to seeing where this goes.
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post #6 of 22 (permalink) Old 03-09-2018, 01:43 AM
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My biggest tank is a 75 and I will hopefully be moving up after we get new floors (14 year old carpet....yikes...I don't want to see what's under it)

My eye is on a 120 or maybe a 150...and then again I've always wanted a 125 (but back when I had big cichlids). I'm leaning toward 4t wide, same as my 75, but with more depth (24 instead of 18) and more height (which is only for the people). I think it depends on the fish you want and on the type of aquascaping you want...I really like some of the more vertical designs, and I only really want small schooling fish that don't *need* 6 ft. I have two big wood pieces in there now and the 18" is a bit of a bother...pretty restrictive.

Of course, get a 180 and you get all the benefits of depth and fill up your space! (and I'd be outside with the dog)

On my 75 I have always run two canisters and I probably would do the same on a larger tank. I love the idea of a sump but I'm leery of noise (I realize this can be combatted) and it seems like extra cost. I tend to run my tanks understocked and like plants though I'm low-tech, so some of a sump's benefits are nullified. Two canisters has come in very handy though. My old eheim 2226 (still running after 12 years or so!) started leaking due to a seal that I couldn't get right away. My newer sunsun (which I don't like nearly as much as my ehiem) is currently disassembled on the porch. I've always had a few aquaclear HOBs sitting around and they are awesome. You can bring one out for water polishing or (as I am now) take some of the canister media and put it in a bag and throw it in one for emergencies.

Driftwood is tough. One store near me has some decently-priced cool-looking wood--I thought it was malaysian--but it crumbled so quickly that I'm not sure what it really is. I am using manzanita right now but it costs a lot...one store here has it and it isn't cheap, but cheaper than having it shipped and it's fun to go through the pieces. I'm visiting the west coast of FLA this weekend and will be keeping my eye out for actual driftwood, though I'm not sure I'd be brave enough to use it. If I get a big tank I'd really like to have a huge stump-looking piece in the center--but how much that will cost I shudder to think.

I'm using white/offwhite pool filter sand and I like it. I wish it were a bit more yellow but ideally my plants will cover most of it anyway! The nice thing is that it doesn't fly around the tank when you clean, it has large grains that sink quickly. I got it at a pool supply store, 50 lb bag for 10 bucks or so.

I've never had too much luck with plants previously--not even the "easy" ones--but for the last couple years my tank has done pretty well. Anubias in particular is thriving, one plant I've cut into smaller ones twice and they've also grown large. Java fern...for some reason no success, same with java moss. I have two types of crypts and they are...holding serve. I've recently started root tabs to see if that helps. I just picked up a couple swords, and scored 8 shoots of jungle val for $1 at the store (they were due in new ones the next day and wanted to clear these out!) Now, I have no idea if val will work in my tank as it's pretty low light--but my absolute favorite planted tank video (which I can't find right now darn it) has a sandy section with driftwood with the entire back of the tank filled with waving val.
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post #7 of 22 (permalink) Old 03-09-2018, 01:43 AM Thread Starter
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Greggz,

Thanks for the suggestions. I considered canister filters but it seems much more expensive. And currently Iím not a fan of plumbing outside of the aquarium ó I need to better measure and see the space I have to work with below the tank when I build the cabinetry; it may be too shallow. I am on a bit of a budget (at least for now ó Iím ďfeeling itĒ after the down payment on the house lol). However this tank is going to play out over the course of the next 8ish months (other priorities and plaster work for the aquarium is not going to be fun), so I may have a chance to save up a bit.

I do have two Aqua Clear 110 filters in the list, theyíre just HoB. I was thinking the same ó be able to swap them on different schedules to preserve the tankís stability. I figured if I hate the look of hanging filters I could create a sump and keep them down there with the heaters. That would be easy and cheap to do via craigslist + Home Depot. However I think youíre right ó cannisters would technically be a better solution.

Iím not really worried about cost other than the setup. I calculated most of the other monthly upkeep and energy costs and thatís no big deal at all. Iím sure Iíll feel less nervous when Iíve recovered. Iíve always dreamed of having a big aquarium in the wall when I was a kid, so Iím just so excited to finally do it!

Bump: Dang, I just realized Iíll need to go with an Acrylic or borderless tank. Otherwise it would be hard to have the tank come out from the wall and still have the molding around it look nice. Does anyone have experience with this?

Bump:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Stokely View Post
My biggest tank is a 75 and I will hopefully be moving up after we get new floors (14 year old carpet....yikes...I don't want to see what's under it)........
Another advocate for cannisters! Hmm Iím going to have to think about this. I agree with you ó a huge driftwood piece spanning the length of the tank would be amazing.

The challenge is it will be in the wall, so Iíll need to hide the areas of the tank where the inside of the wall is visible with plants. Or maybe I can slope the substrate so it looks like a ravine or the middle of a stream. (Iíll cover those areas with black or blue so youíre not seeing 2x4ís lol). Then the inside of the walls would be hidden AND you could see through to the other room.
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post #8 of 22 (permalink) Old 03-09-2018, 02:05 AM
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Just watched on YouTube or read on here, can't remember..
But a man got two aqueon 120s, first one leaked second had a crack..
He then switched to a marineland I believe out of frustration


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post #9 of 22 (permalink) Old 03-09-2018, 02:09 AM
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To be fair, I may only be a canister advocate because I haven't used a sump If my tank was in a "man cave" or something I'd be more willing to try it, but the canisters make things instantly neat and tidy (and quiet) for the tank if it's in a living room. I'll say this about cost...I try to stay cheap but sometimes you really do get what you pay for. I can already tell this sunsun filter won't last 12 years like my eheim, which is still going strong. Brand new it was louder than the eheim at 12 years old, and two of the baskets have issues after only a year.

If I had to pick canisters right now for say a 120...I'd lean fluval fx6 and/or eheim 2217. Not something I've really researched just yet but these two seem to be very well-regarded.

As much as I love aquaclears I don't really like them to be all-the-time filters...they have a bit of noise to them and it forces the tank to come out from the wall more than with a canister, especially with the big models. Obviously they don't hold near as much media as a big canister. I do wonder if mine are a bit noisy because they are over a decade old though There is a waterfall noise as you know. And I also found that the rim of my tank is a bit wide for them, but again it's not a huge deal since I don't have one on all the time.
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post #10 of 22 (permalink) Old 03-09-2018, 02:22 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by _hingadingadurgen View Post
Greggz,

Thanks for the suggestions. I considered canister filters but it seems much more expensive.

Dang, I just realized Iíll need to go with an Acrylic or borderless tank. Otherwise it would be hard to have the tank come out from the wall and still have the molding around it look nice. Does anyone have experience with this?
Two things. It might seem like more expensive now, until you realize you should have bought canisters from the start. And saving a few dollars here or there is pennies in the long run of a tank. Do it right the first time.

The thrill of a few dollars saved will wear off pretty quick, and is not much really in the scheme of things.

And you might want to look at a 5 ft. 120G. Might fit your space your better, and not look so squeezed in.
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post #11 of 22 (permalink) Old 03-09-2018, 02:23 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chlorophile View Post
Just watched on YouTube or read on here, can't remember..
But a man got two aqueon 120s, first one leaked second had a crack..
He then switched to a marineland I believe out of frustration
My local store uses mainly Aqueon (they have probably a LOT of tanks, 50-250g salt and fresh) and the owner was pleased. I just checked out marine land and even on their own website they have pretty mixed reviews. Hopefully more people can chime in. A leak terrifies me... all hardwood floors and lots of music gear and electronics in the office (music studio).

Bump:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Greggz View Post
Two things. It might seem like more expensive now, until you realize you should have bought canisters from the start. And saving a few dollars here or there is pennies in the long run of a tank. Do it right the first time.

The thrill of a few dollars saved will wear off pretty quick, and is not much really in the scheme of things.

And you might want to look at a 5 ft. 120G. Might fit your space your better, and not look so squeezed in.
I agree. And lookin at cannisters it really doesnít seem that much more to still have a dual setup. Itís really the idea of plumbing that I donít like as much but I have options.

I havenít considered 5ft, but Iím not sure how that would work. Itís a load bearing wall that already has the 6í cutout (ugly shelves are there now). So Iíd rather not modify it which means Iíll need to find a way to get it looking nice with 6Ē of space on either side. Do you know of anyone that has done that? It seems like a large amount of space but I donít really have much context, so maybe thatís normal.
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post #12 of 22 (permalink) Old 03-09-2018, 09:03 PM
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From a cannister standpoint man, i wouldnt even hardly call it plumbing. it is literally 2 lines from the cannister to the tank. one in one out. and if you properly install quick release valves, then cleaning is a breeze. i would highly recommend cannister over any HOB filters. i think youll find most people here will. especially on a tank that size. i cant imagine running hobs on anything much bigger than 20g.

i will add if you are worried about leaking with a cannister... i don't think thats a real concern at all. they are kind of a zero sum deal as far as water pressure goes, only way it leaks if you just do a poor job hooking up hoses, in which case you will find out as soon as you turn it on and you can fix it.
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post #13 of 22 (permalink) Old 03-09-2018, 11:14 PM
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sounds like a fun project. I have a reef and in the process of setting up a 40br planted tank...

you have lots of options in tank size, filter options lighting heck you name it. IMHO I would kinda chill out a bit and really really think about what you want reef or planted size etc. join some local clubs ppl are always selling or giving tanks you can find some crazy deals...I once gave away a 240 gal tank with new reef lighting as I moved and had to have it gone.

also in your budget I did not see stand. but looks like you are going the DIY one? that will still cost around 100 or so, still a hell of alot cheaper than buying new tho.

for sizing a like longer than higher. the 6' 125 IMHO are better the the 5' 150 but it all comes down to taste.

if you are looking for a nice rimless low iron tank check out SCA aquariums:
Tanks

they are coming out with a new 150 gal. I believe the price is around $800 =really great price ( look on FB) I have there 90 gal. 12mm and I can say there are very nice tanks.( was the largest water volume is the smallest foot print I could fit.) the overflow box is a PITA but could be made with out or and the very least removed. just an idea

as much as I enjoy the sound of HOB filters I also would go with a canister or sump plumbing is really not that big of a deal + it gives you room for heaters, plant nursery ,fish time out zone, etc. ( depending on how you make it )
another option is make a DIY bucket filter like joey, king of DIY on youtube. if I was setting up a bigger tank I would go sump or bucket filter...

for substrate find a tractor supply store and grab a few bags of black diamond blasting (BDBS) sand 50# under $10 I found one 45 min, away and got 2 bags for my 40br in the works. you can cap dirt or go all sand and use roots tabs for the plants same some $$ there it looks great and lots of ppl use it.

if you get up to boulder or the higher mountain area I am sure you could find some driftwood. take the wife on a romantic picnic and oh look some driftwood and cool rocks might as well take a bunch home

just some random ideas and thoughts, be sure to do a build thread!
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post #14 of 22 (permalink) Old 03-10-2018, 12:57 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the replies! I agree, Iím just getting some preliminary data around it. Iím so excited to do it Iím already researching even though itís months away lol. My first choice is always going to be a reef tank. Itís what I know how to do and love, I just know itís going to be so much money. And Iím really coming around to the idea of a planted tank. A huge piece of driftwood covered in moss and some big plants on the side would make for a truly incredible room divider. Regardless, itís going to be a rather difficult DIY project with a few more variables that need to be assessed. About the cannisters ó Iíve only ever owned tanks with built in sumps/Refugiums so Iíve never really ďplumbedĒ outside of a tank. I guess itís just another variable but I didnít realize they have easy quick releases ó that makes me feel much better about it. Given the recommendations for cannisters I will absolutely go with that. Thanks for the advice.

Iím sort of combating two ideas here that are roughly the same price:
Large 120-180g freshwater tank in the wall
Smaller AIO 30-80g reef tank that will look great on its own stand in another location
I thought about going halfway and doing something smaller in the wall but I just canít imagine it looking good. Iíll try to get some pics up this weekend.

Or... both lol. One day.

My dream would be to make the big tank a reef tank but itís just not practical and I donít know if Iím up for that level of upkeep. Sure itíll be much more stable which is wonderful for housing anemones and other delicate species but the lighting and energy costs would be very high, as well as the monthly water cost compared to freshwater. Although, again, Iíve never had freshwater tank above like 20g so I donít have the experience firsthand.

Really appreciate the replies, itís very helpful!
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post #15 of 22 (permalink) Old 03-10-2018, 02:52 PM
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I feel you brother, its a hard choice for sure. damn coast of SW...your right reef lighting is $$$ then there is salt, equipment hell even the fish are 10 to20X the price. but do you have options...have a bigger room diver FW planted then a smaller reef or even a pico. have you been on nanoReefs yet? if not, stop by and say hello check out the pico tanks around a gallon or 2 some even smaller so there are fun and cheapish ways to do a reef.

I am still working on my FW planted tank so I cant comment on pricing yet but its not as cheap as I thought it was going to be tho...lol but that said hell of a lot cheaper than SW I just ordered 2- 36" LEDs lights for just a bit over $100 in SW that would get you an old T5 setup with out bulbs and rust...haha but like I said there are alwyas deals to be had tons of ppl willing to sale there whole setup FW and reef. its just a matter of knowing what you want and your budget and not getting something other than that...I know that can be hard eh?

oh there also a DIY plywood tank if you have the space and time (or balls) you could try that. I dream of having an 20' in wall reef someday.

keep us posted on what you end up with
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