Advice allocating $1k budget for new tank? - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 67 (permalink) Old 06-05-2019, 05:53 AM Thread Starter
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Advice allocating $1k budget for new tank?

I've had a 20gal planted tank for about 5 years, and now that I graduated college I'm looking to upgrade. I'm thinking something in the range of 40-60gal would be about right, and I'm leaning toward the 40 breeder because I like the footprint (36" long x 18" wide x 17" tall).

Whereas my current tank has been a budget, low-tech build (Beamswork light, DIY CO2, HOB filter, etc.), I'd like to have a nicer setup with my new tank. Living with a pair of Kessils on a reef tank has spoiled me, and I'd really like programmable, dimmable lighting for my planted tank. Also, I want to be able to grow carpeting plants in this new tank. (It would be nice if my Downoi would grow together better.)

I'm budgeting $1000 to the hardware costs, although cheaper is always better. Right now I've allocated:
  • Filter: $157
  • Heater: $57
  • Leak detector: $26
  • Substrate: $7
  • DIY auto-doser: ~$50

That adds to ~$300, leaving $700 for the tank itself, stand, lights, and CO2 system (if I don't just continue DIY CO2).

I've been throwing around a few options for lighting, and IMO it pretty much boils down to the Current USA Satellite Plus Pro ($171) and the AI Prime HD Freshwater ($210/ea; probably would need two). (If you have any other dimmable, controllable lights in my budget, I'd love to hear your suggestions.)

I was thinking of snagging a 40 breeder during a PetCo $1/gallon sale for $40, buying their metal stand for $50, and splurging by getting a pair of AI Prime HD Freshwater lights ($220/ea). That brings the total to just over $800, leaving some room to spare.

However, the more I think about it, the more I realize a rimless tank and/or one with low-iron glass would be really nice. Unfortunately, they're way more expensive and significantly cut into the budget for the lights. For example, Glass Cages' 40 breeder (which I guess they call a "50 tall"?) runs $380. If I want to add low-iron glass to the front, that bumps it up to $430. That's over 1000% the cost of the PetCo tank.

Assuming I were to go that route, I'd have $270 left. Say $50 for the aforementioned stand, and the Satellite Pro (or one AI Prime, but I don't think that would be enough) would juuust squeak under my budget.

How would you guys prioritize here? Am I better off with the cheaper light and the better tank? The better lights and the PetCo tank? Or are both overkill, and I should get the cheaper light and the cheaper tank?

My other decisions (filter, heater, even tank size) are open to critique too - tell me how you'd spend my money.
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post #2 of 67 (permalink) Old 06-05-2019, 08:36 AM
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I think it all comes down to your need for fancy light features

Personally i would do the following
Filter: cheaper Sunsun or some variant
Tank: Get the nice rimless
Lights: go for a much cheaper option at the cost of features
CO2: full pressurised setup, DIY isn't an option for good results here

Another option is to get the Petco tank, nice lighting as well as a few bags of Aquasoil or some other good substrate


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post #3 of 67 (permalink) Old 06-05-2019, 11:36 AM
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For me, I'd prioritize the filter, lighting, substrate and if you're set on CO2, a good regulator - no cheaping out on regulators. Even if you're hiding it in a cabinet, it's just not something worth risking.

If you'll absolutely need a heater, consider something for your in-line unit like a temperature controller. If you don't absolutely need a heater, don't get one now - get it later if it ends up being necessary.

Filters. I'm all about saving money where you can but with a tank that size, your budget will need to be adjusted for something quality, however. Even on my cheapest tanks (where I'm not using sponge filters), I've always tried to get reliable filters with decent warranty coverage. Eheim meets my personal requirements. But a 2217 won't be large enough for a 40B. Feel free to read around on the forum but I'm confident you'll find that you'll want a larger filter or multiple filtration units.

Don't cheap out on substrate. Get something good like Aquasoil or one of the others on the market. Just do it. Get that out of the way up front and you won't regret it. I've never once regretted spending the money on good substrate.

Say no to the autodoser until you're absolutely certain what you'll need to dose, how often, that sort of thing. Don't make it an up-front purchase. Honestly, you may not ever want one if your routine ends up being something that isn't too intense. Making it a part of your regular tank maintenance will help you stick to it and feel more connected.

Leak detector - shop around for those. There are even some 'smart' options that are affordable for everyone.

Lighting. I'm partial to Current. But I'm also a big fan of high-quality LEDs that you just stick on a manual timer or smart plug. All the bells and whistles aren't always necessary - even if you're trying to automate as much as possible. I have a couple Current fixtures that have remote controls - but I didn't opt for timers or other connectivity options. In order to 'smarten' them up, I've used button pressers like the ones from SwitchBot in order to turn my lighting sequence on and off every day. You can still customize everything from intensity to color and effect.

The tank itself. I love rimless and high-clarity tanks. They're primarily what I have. I also know them to be, based on extensive experience, an extreme waste of money on occasion. Not always - but sometimes. Especially when it comes to larger tanks. Since you're open to tanks with rims, I recommend considering Deep Blue Professional. Their glass clarity is a bit better than other manufacturers and the black silicone they use ends up looking way better than clear/translucent used by other standard tank manufacturers. It just sort of disappears when you're looking at the tank. In part because their silicone work is always clean and some of the cheaper options are just an absolute mess.
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post #4 of 67 (permalink) Old 06-05-2019, 02:22 PM
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Welcome to TPT.

Low iron rimless tanks in the 90P class (~ 36x18x18) are ~ $500 new.

For such tank you will need x2 Current/Fluval/AI Prime lights: ~$400+
A decent co2 setup ~$250+
A 200-300w heater $30-70
Heater controller $30
Cannister filter ~350 gph ~$175
Substrate $20 - $150
Stand? Petco's metal stands suck (I have 2 and they wobble)
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post #5 of 67 (permalink) Old 06-05-2019, 03:22 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by somewhatshocked View Post
The tank itself. I love rimless and high-clarity tanks. They're primarily what I have. I also know them to be, based on extensive experience, an extreme waste of money on occasion. Not always - but sometimes. Especially when it comes to larger tanks. Since you're open to tanks with rims, I recommend considering Deep Blue Professional. Their glass clarity is a bit better than other manufacturers and the black silicone they use ends up looking way better than clear/translucent used by other standard tank manufacturers. It just sort of disappears when you're looking at the tank. In part because their silicone work is always clean and some of the cheaper options are just an absolute mess.
I like deep blue but



also
https://www.bbb.org/us/ca/city-of-in...so-1216-262659

Last edited by Wobblebonk; 06-05-2019 at 03:33 PM. Reason: .
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post #6 of 67 (permalink) Old 06-05-2019, 03:41 PM
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Yep, that sucks. But there are a ton of them at retailers in my area and in the other markets I frequent (DC area and LA). So definitely worth checking out.

From what I can tell, their tank manufacturer/OEM is releasing with others soon. No clue what those brands are or will be called, though.

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Originally Posted by Wobblebonk View Post


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post #7 of 67 (permalink) Old 06-05-2019, 03:48 PM
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Substrate $7? Depending on what you are using- I would assume that will increase as im sure you will want hardscape stones and manzanita (or likewise). And your ferts the first year need to be accounted for if you dont already have them.

For my tanks- lets say a 10 gal. It cost me upwards to 450.00
(10 gallon tank, canister filter, CO2 unit with regulator, etc, substrate, plants, hardscape, lighting (chiros) and wonderful lily pipes that broke on first water change *angry face. Ferts I had on hand from my other 6 tanks.... but it was an expensive little tank)

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Last edited by livebearerlove; 06-05-2019 at 05:12 PM. Reason: Im being good.... and not adding a seperate post ;)
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post #8 of 67 (permalink) Old 06-05-2019, 03:51 PM
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Cheap, dimmable, controllable lighting? You can go pretty cheap here, unless you want to be able to control the color temperature of the lights.

Two Beamswork DA FSpecs (or other budget LED strip) both hooked up to a TC420 controller (or each hooked up to their own S2-Pro controller, which are less flexible than the TC420 but the wiring is easier) is what I'd do. If you want to go with a single light fixture for a cleaner look (not a bad idea if you go for a fancy rimless tank), look into a Chihiros LED or other higher-par strip, and attach a controller to it. Make sure you research that the controller you choose is compatible with the fixture you choose. I have tested the TC420 and the S2-Pro with both a beamswork da-fspec and a nicrew tricolor and they work great.

I'm a fan of separating the LED control aspect from the light fixture. That way you can replace either component separately.

For a 40 gallon tank, pressurized CO2 will end up being easier and cleaner looking, because you can do an inline atomizer/diffuser, and it is convenient to be able to easily change the CO2 rate to meet your needs. But I still do DIY CO2 on a 20 gal, and for a 40 you could do two 2-liter bottles, refill one each week staggered.

I would de-prioritize the auto-doser.
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post #9 of 67 (permalink) Old 06-05-2019, 04:26 PM
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You can save money on lighting by going with a 36" T5 light fixture. A two bulb unit is cheap and the par, spectrum, light quality,and clarity is still superior to LEDs imo. If you have been on this site you know that most LED fixtures lack the red spectrum.

You could also go with a four bulb unit for a higher light tank and the best tank coverage possible. With two plugs controlling a pair of bulbs each you can still achieve a dawn dusk affect. Just look for a Hydroponic fixture; fixtures marketed for aquariums are more expensive.
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post #10 of 67 (permalink) Old 06-05-2019, 04:49 PM
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All of the fixtures OP mentioned have all the lighting necessary for a planted tank. And they're wildly efficient compared to CF T5 bulbs. It's merely a misconception, at this point, that CF is in any way superior.

They haven't been superior to LEDs in years. And most LED fixtures geared toward planted tanks contain proper reds and have for years. The last Current fixture I bought was in 2012 and it had proper reds way back then. So did Finnex and all the other rebranders. Even the cheap Beamswork rigs from fleabay had everything necessary... years ago.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mboley View Post
You can save money on lighting by going with a 36" T5 light fixture. A two bulb unit is cheap and the par, spectrum, light quality,and clarity is still superior to LEDs imo. If you have been on this site you know that most LED fixtures lack the red spectrum.


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post #11 of 67 (permalink) Old 06-05-2019, 04:58 PM
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fluorescent lights have two important disadvantages. They have higher operating costs than LEDs (combination of less efficient use of electricity and bulb replacement), and most importantly, aren't dimmable. With LEDs you can get fantastic controllability that really helps with viewing and algae control.
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post #12 of 67 (permalink) Old 06-05-2019, 05:28 PM
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If I were you I'd do:

Red Sea Reefer 250
ADA Aquasoil
Used reg from TPT
Fluval 3.0
Eheim Jäger heater in sump
Inkbird Temp controller

After digging in the reef world, I've realized the freshwater tanks are crap. Even the high clarity tanks, none have an overflow, so you end up getting a big filter and paying 150-200 for glass lily pipes and clear tubing that you have to clean constantly. You have to buy the inline heater to hide it from the tank, if you have a sump, just buy a normal heater and throw it in the sump. Plus you can more easily run an ATO. Look at what Tom Barr runs. He has a custom star fire tank with an overflow. I believe he's using the Mame.

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post #13 of 67 (permalink) Old 06-05-2019, 05:59 PM
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Have you two LED advocates seen the tanks by Burr740 and others on this site that use T5s? Those tanks look the way they do in great part due to T5's. Have you compared Par readings to T5's? Have you read Dennis Wongs site? Have you owned both and compared? If you have then you know many of your claims are contradicted.
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post #14 of 67 (permalink) Old 06-05-2019, 06:02 PM
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I have set up a 40B for cheap before. Bought one during the dollar per gallon sale and I ordered a stand when it was on sale and I used a gift card purchased through gift card resellers to get an additional 25% off. Since you are used to the reef world. I would keep an eye out and try to find an ELOS 70 for sale used on a forum. I had an elos tank before and I just took out the overflow and siliconed a piece of glass to cover the the drilled holes.
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post #15 of 67 (permalink) Old 06-05-2019, 06:14 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jayo View Post
fluorescent lights have two important disadvantages. They have higher operating costs than LEDs (combination of less efficient use of electricity and bulb replacement), and most importantly, aren't dimmable. With LEDs you can get fantastic controllability that really helps with viewing and algae control.
The operating cost difference is worth it in my opinion. Besides electricity, if I have to replace four $25 bulbs once per year that's $8.50 per month.

Regarding controllability, I can change bulb colors anytime, giving me superior controllability versus LEDs. No I can't dim, but I can put two pairs of bulbs on different circuits and get better dawn dusk affects. My dawn looks different that my dusk, and both look different than full intensity mid day, and they all look great and bring out the red colors in plants. That's controllability. I don't miss the ramp down to zero light, it's minor and makes no difference to the plants.

Finally, I have yet to see a LED fixture than gives full intense light coverage to an entire tank
the way a properly sized T5 fixture can without irritating spill over light.
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