Starting to think about the lighting and filtration for a big tank. - The Planted Tank Forum
 
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post #1 of 15 (permalink) Old 10-03-2015, 02:57 AM Thread Starter
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Starting to think about the lighting and filtration for a big tank.

Hello,
I am new to this forum, but not to aquariums. I just recently shut down my 220 gallon reef tank, and am looking to re-purpose it into a low maintenance, low operating cost freshwater tank. At this point I am not sure which direction I am going to go, but am thinking of a planted tank of some degree.

In the past, I have kept and bred various African ciclids, and before that, I started with some oscars in the early 90's. But a 110 Oceanic was my biggest freshwater.

My current tank is one that I built from scratch using plywood and epoxy. For those of you interested, here is the build thread on my tank. It really was quite the project.
220gal Plywood/steel hybrid. Pull up a chair, this will take a while. - Reef Central Online Community



So.. anyway, I figure I am going to start over with my lights-I was running three 250w metal halides on the reef tank. I do have a nice(although very old) icecap ballast that can drive a couple of VHO T12 bulbs that I may continue to use.

I imagine lighting is very dependent on what plants I want, but like I said - I want low maintenance.

I could use some input to help me make up my mind on which direction to go with the tank. I think I want to avoid a under gravel filter, which is what I have always had in my ciclid tanks. Discus always intrigued me. I really like the planted tank look and do have a CO2 regulator and tank I could use. All I have really ever kept plant wise was java fern with the africans. But as you may know, they where not really compatible as the fish would frequently pull the plans loose.

Filtration wise, I am thinking a canister of some sort. I want to keep the tank quiet, and was able to do that with my reef setup which had a remote sump(and large, power hungry return pump), but that will no longer be in the picture.

Temperature wise, I am hoping to minimize the heating watts I need, so I figure something very compatible with the 68-80f temp range of my house.

Anyway, this is the 1st step in my new journey. And, I will definitely read through many old threads here as time allows. Starting with the Guide to Starting a Freshwater Aquarium (including Planted Tanks)
Thanks for the help.

Last edited by acrosteve; 10-03-2015 at 03:12 AM. Reason: Added a comment
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post #2 of 15 (permalink) Old 10-03-2015, 03:12 AM
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I think you have a good idea. However, planted systems tend to be set up quite a bit different compared to SW reef systems.

That part is easy enough to figure out. However planning what you want our of your system is a bit harder.

I suggest that you first set up a much smaller prototype tank. Something in the 20 to 40 gal range would work well. That way you'll gain the experience and the understanding needed to do your large tank in a really fantastic way. You'll also have a lot less of a problem if you need to tear the tank down. You can't easily tear down a large tank.

Sure I could tell you want I'd do what a tank that size, but that would likely differ from what you wanted out of the system.
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post #3 of 15 (permalink) Old 10-03-2015, 08:11 AM
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Originally Posted by acrosteve View Post

I could use some input to help me make up my mind on which direction to go with the tank. I think I want to avoid a under gravel filter, which is what I have always had in my ciclid tanks. Discus always intrigued me. I really like the planted tank look and do have a CO2 regulator and tank I could use. All I have really ever kept plant wise was java fern with the africans. But as you may know, they where not really compatible as the fish would frequently pull the plans loose.

Filtration wise, I am thinking a canister of some sort. I want to keep the tank quiet, and was able to do that with my reef setup which had a remote sump(and large, power hungry return pump), but that will no longer be in the picture.

Temperature wise, I am hoping to minimize the heating watts I need, so I figure something very compatible with the 68-80f temp range of my house.

Anyway, this is the 1st step in my new journey. And, I will definitely read through many old threads here as time allows. Starting with the Guide to Starting a Freshwater Aquarium (including Planted Tanks)
Thanks for the help.
Hello to you.
You appear to like DIY and dislike UGF but do have UGF experience. You are looking for inputs from old threads. Well I am a DIY man myself and not adverse to looking beyond the box. May I suggest that you go through a couple of old threads of mine it would give you some ideas

https://www.plantedtank.net/forums/8-...ent-light.html

https://www.plantedtank.net/forums/20...ted-tanks.html

If you have a choice, you have a problem, till you elect your choice. No choice, no problem, only consequences, learn to live with them.
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post #4 of 15 (permalink) Old 10-03-2015, 10:26 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks.

My thoughts on the UG filter are my past experience in vacuuming the gravel bed on top while doing water changes. I have a lot of natural "cave rock" that I have always used in my freshwater aquascaping. In order to get the majority of the substrate clean, I would have to re-arrange that when I would vacuum the substrate. I want to avoid that, and is one of my top goals which will determine the direction of my tank.


As far as a prototype tank... While that sounds like a very reasonable suggestion to a sane person, I am not real receptive to that idea. I do have the 110 still running, but it is basically just a big bucket of water with some rock in it and just two fish. It is upstairs in our bedroom and will be taken down. Those contents will get moved to the big tank.
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post #5 of 15 (permalink) Old 10-03-2015, 10:33 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DaveK View Post

I suggest that you first set up a much smaller prototype tank. Something in the 20 to 40 gal range would work well. That way you'll gain the experience and the understanding needed to do your large tank in a really fantastic way.
This! I did the same thing a few years ago. Read Diana Walsteads book on aquarium ecology. Best base knowledge out there. Get understanding of lighting, CO2 and nutrient relationships. I think this is the key difference from salt reef.

In short, I ended up starting with a 40 gal breeder and found I
1. Used way less light than salt reef (i.e. Under 50-70 PAR. Read up on lighting planted tanks using PAR as a guide. Metal Halides will likely be vast overkill.
2. Used way less flow than salt reef
3. Used more ferts than I expected ( read up on estimative index and PPS-pro techniques)
4. Tested way less after I understood system
5. Loved not mixing salt water!

Good luck
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post #6 of 15 (permalink) Old 10-03-2015, 05:27 PM
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There is nothing "low maintenance" about a planted tank, although you do not actually vacuum the substrate so at least that chore is reduced.

To properly set-up a planted tank of the size you are talking about will require lots of research and planning as well as the expenditure of a considerable amount of cash. Unlike most other forms of aquaria you really should stock heavily immediately so you have enough plant mass to outcompete algae. That means your co2 and nutrient levels need to already be balanced with the amount of light you are giving the tank or your large plant investment goes down the drain, so to speak. Not such a daunting task but until you have some experience with planted tanks you will likely suffer a few setbacks. That is why the suggestion to start with a smaller tank is being made several times. You may decide after caring for a small tank that going bigger is out of the question.

The other thing to think about is tank height. A tank deeper than your arm length requires some creativity in performing maintenance tasks and if the rim is tall you may have to do all your maintenance from a stepladder. This can really be a pain since plants often melt when first transplanted and need frequent trimming and re-planting of the trimmings to create the lush bushy displays we all desire.

Not trying to discourage you, I love the idea. Just trying to impart some knowledge that it is not a simple, low maintenance task to run a planted tank. Once you have the tank balanced out, say 6 months after starting, then it can be as little as 30 minutes a day and probably a couple hours each week for maintenance. And consistency is the key to not having other problems so skipping a few days on your weekly 50% water change is not a good idea. If you are prepared for all that then be sure to post some pics of the process, love seeing the transformation from new to mature.
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post #7 of 15 (permalink) Old 10-03-2015, 05:48 PM
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With a tank that size I would go with a sump. Didn't you run a sump when it was a reef tank? Your going to need at least 1000 gallon and hour running thru that tank. I would do two intakes and two return.

What size is the tank? I would guess it a 6 foot tank but if it was me I would use T5 to light it but LED's are move down in price so that may be option. 250w metal halides would be over kill. You could use the ice caps to power your T5's or T8.

The only way I would do a under gravel filter is reverse flow meaning that water is pump down in the filter instead of pulling water up. It does have some benefits because the plants root get warmed and fertilizer.
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post #8 of 15 (permalink) Old 10-04-2015, 03:57 PM
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I would look into dirted tanks (mineralized topsoil). You dont have to worry about vacuuming the substrate and it gives you some wiggle room when it comes to fertiling. Here's a good link.

http://www.aquaticplantcentral.com/forumapc/library/52554-how-mineralized-soil-substrate-aaron-talbot.html

As far as lighting I would probably go with buildmyled.com fixtures. The leds will cost lest to run compared to halides and they have dimming capability so you can suit your light to your needs.

Never had a tank this large so I can't comment on filtration.

As far as lower maintanence plants that won't require frequent trimming your best bet would be slower growing plants like swords, crypts, ferns and mosses. Throw in a couple of large pieces of driftwood and you'll have a nice looking tank.
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post #9 of 15 (permalink) Old 10-04-2015, 04:20 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by acrosteve View Post
I just recently shut down my 220 gallon reef tank, and am looking to re-purpose it into a low maintenance, low operating cost freshwater tank. At this point I am not sure which direction I am going to go, but am thinking of a planted tank of some degree.

My current tank is one that I built from scratch using plywood and epoxy. For those of you interested, here is the build thread on my tank. It really was quite the project.
220gal Plywood/steel hybrid. Pull up a chair, this will take a while. - Reef Central Online Community

I imagine lighting is very dependent on what plants I want, but like I said - I want low maintenance.

I could use some input to help me make up my mind on which direction to go with the tank. I think I want to avoid a under gravel filter, which is what I have always had in my ciclid tanks. Discus always intrigued me. I really like the planted tank look and do have a CO2 regulator and tank I could use. All I have really ever kept plant wise was java fern with the africans. But as you may know, they where not really compatible as the fish would frequently pull the plans loose.


Low maintenance will justify low/no-tech without CO2.


I checked out your build thread, awesome project.


I recommend deciding on inhabitants first.
Plant compatibility decided next.


You are used to high lighting, beware of an algae farm.


Keep us posted please.


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post #10 of 15 (permalink) Old 10-04-2015, 08:03 PM
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I'm sure Plantbrain ( Tom Barr ) would be glad to offer advice on setting up a large tank since he has quite a bit of experience doing this for clients. Just shoot a pm to him here or on his own website Forums - Aquarium Plants - Barr Report.
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post #11 of 15 (permalink) Old 10-05-2015, 12:18 AM
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Wow, read your whole thread on RC. Love the stepstool, great idea.

What sort of low maintenance do you want? Highly automated with auto water changes and fertilizer or low tech nearly zero water changes and letting plants grow as they will? There are a few journals here of highly automated planted tanks, of course they used RC very heavily as a resource of how to!

I'd stick with a sump to use that amazing overflow you built, just make one that is smaller and less complex. Mine has sponges and all tank equipment in it with zero baffles although I am planning a glass sump with all of 2 baffles to better utilize the sponge I have.
I'd use CO2 if you have the tank and regulator, just build a decent reactor. You don't have to walk the razor's edge of massive light/CO2/fertilizer/growth to help your plants grow better.
I'd get programmable LED lighting so you can program a sunrise to sunset with high light for a short period of time so there is less enormous black box in the room. Normally lights are only on for 6-10 hours in a planted tank, mine are on for 14 and I have been doing that for 10 months now, it works.
I'd design a strong hardscape with wood and rocks and use rosettes and slower growers like swords, crypts, ferns and Anubias rather than running plants like vals or stem plants.


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post #12 of 15 (permalink) Old 10-05-2015, 01:37 PM
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I started going through your build thread and then came back here and read that you want to ditch the sump!? I'd keep a sump, even if it is a smaller one. Sumps are great, in my opinion, in a freshwater setup. It can be much smaller. All you need is something that will hold media. You can dial down the return pump too. 1000(actual)GPH would be enough for a 220 FW planted tank. I'm sure a 55gallon tank (petco sale) would be a fine sump for a tank your size. It would be more than enough to 'get the job done'.

You should probably dial the lighting down A LOT. Metal halide lighting is very intense unless the tank is extremely deep. Surf around here awhile and you'll find a ton of great information. Try looking at the pond/rip/terr subforums too. They are usually larger and may have some great information. I found monster fish keeper to be a good site too, when you are looking for big tank information.


EDIT:

I'm leaving my original post, but I read ALL 32 pages of your thread. I see your stand, which wouldn't really work for a 55 gallon sump. I'm still an advocate of trying to make a sump work with your setup. I think 200 gallons of display tank would just be a lot of canisters and a waste of your current over flow setup. You can also dial back that pump considerably because you won't have 18' of head height anymore. You are obviously a man who can engineer things, based on that build thread. My suggestions:

1. Figure out the filtration first. Do you think you can make a below tank sump work? It would be very advantageous. Freshwater sumps are much more simple too. You really only need a place for media and to hide your equipment. I know you had a HUGE sump in your last setup, but you won't need anything that large. A good, solid, mechanical filtration setup is the best thing for a planted tank. You'll find that plants make for great nitrate soaks themselves, so none of that complication. I believe most reefers suggest a 1:4 sump:display ratio as a minimum for a sump. If you do plan on going with a canister, I have zero experience with something this size. You'll most likely want a couple.

2. Lighting depends on your goals and plants. You said low maintenance and low cost, I suggest low lighting and low tech. This is nothing but water changes as far as maintenance and you want to aim for 30~ PAR at the substrate. Your tank is about 30" tall, right? You'll want a decent depth substrate for roots and such, so call it 30" to the substrate after you hang the lights. This isn't overly difficult. My setup is about 30" from the light to the substrate and it is only 13w spiral CFL bulbs in 10" dome shop reflectors. I have 3 of them over a 75 gallon tank (4' long, 18" wide) and it supplies just a hair too much light for true 'low tech'. I've had some algae issues because it is just a little too much lighting. So, in conclusion, you don't need much to light these. LEDs are popular, but something as simple as half a dozen shop lights WILL work.

3. Temperature is pretty easy with a body of water this size. Mid 70's is really ideal for most species that are popular in the hobby.

4. Dive in. A lot of your setup can be dialed in. Depth from light to substrate is important when choosing bulbs for your fixture. I know you can pick up a cheap lumens light meter and rough gauge the PAR at given heights (through a conversion formula). You may also be able to find a local hobby club where you can 'borrow' a PAR meter. These numbers will help when figuring out your lighting.

I do suggest asking as many questions as you would like and ask if "this makes sense" as you go along. Your tank is larger than most on this site and your depth is pretty unique, but it isn't unheard of.


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Last edited by Freemananana; 10-05-2015 at 07:30 PM. Reason: read his life story
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post #13 of 15 (permalink) Old 10-06-2015, 02:36 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the compliments and info. Also, thanks to those that have taken the time to read my build thread.
I still have much reading to do and things to consider. Also, the wife needs convinced, as she says the whole things needs to leave.

Sump wise, I originally had the sump remotely located in my basement in order to keep the display tank nearly silent and house the supporting equipment. I plan on removing it to eliminate a large energy using pump, and to free up some space. Just the sump was about 70 gallons, but I have a small room in the basement dedicated to the support equipment.

With the new layout, I "could" build a new sump. With the space I have available next to the tank, I could build something that would use all of the available space for maximum efficiency. However, it could not be any bigger than 24x24 - 30" tall. Glasscages shows an 80gal cube for about $440. I could build one for less.

I would also be introducing some additional noise into the room. How much i don't know. I am pretty sure I can get the overflow noise down very low, but would still be left with pump noise and any water trickling through the media. How that would compare to a couple of canisters is unknown to me. But it would likely be much easier to work on also.

Also in favor of the sump would be the ability to eliminate the substantial cost of a couple of Fluval Fx6 type canisters. I have a Mag 7 and Mag 5 pumps that I could use, but they may be a little small. Additionally, I could probably get a much better filter for less $$$ building my own.

Sounds like I am tanking myself into a sump.

UG filter wise... I was just thinking with the square footage I have on the bottom of my tank, it would require lots of flow to be effective, and also the accompanying down tubes which I do not like. It seems like over time, the UG filter becomes clogged everywhere except right around the tubes. So eliminating it seems to be the way to simplify things. Mineralized soil looks promising.


Lighting wise, I definitely have zero plans on using halides - sorry for the confusion. I am way behind the curve on current aquarium LED's but I do know that you have to spend lost of $$$ on LED fixtures to come remotely close to replacing 400W metal halides or the the T5 florescent commercial fixtures that I am familiar with. With my canopy, I don't need to spend extra $ just to get a tiny slick looking fixture. Regular florescent fixtures might be hard to beat for my application. What about color shift and bulb life?
I definitely don't want to start an algae farm either.


Now the biggie I had hoped to drastically reduce - water changes. Just speaking for freshwater here... In the past, this has ALWAYS involved a small ladder, many buckets, lots of rock moving and re-aquascaping, and many trips to the toilet, bathtub or other water source, pre-treating the water 5 gallons at a time. I do have the means to keep a 55 gallon drum and pump in my old sump location for preparing the water changes, and if I eliminate the substrate vacuuming, the accompanying re-aquascaping would also be eliminated. So, then I would just be draining water. Definitely an improvement.

However, my ignorance on the subject had allowed me to think that the bio mass of the plants would mostly eliminate the need for water changes. Cycle of life type thing. I feed the fish, they poop, which feeds the plants, which use the nutrients from the water column, thus cleaning it. What about suctioning general debris accumulation from the tank bottom?

I am still thinking of designing my tank sort of backwards. Low maintenance hardware 1st, low maintenance plants next, and then work with whatever fish would be compatible.
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post #14 of 15 (permalink) Old 10-06-2015, 09:02 AM
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A wet dry isn't necessary for fresh water but you would still have pump noise and those who try can quiet that down by insulating the stand and isolating the pump. Water movement is important for a planted tank, I have a Laguna 1500 and Rio2500 for something like 2000gph in my 180 gallon tank which I am sure is more like 1000gph after losses and love the results.

As for the sump's size, it is needed to hold equipment and cover evaporation between water changes so that 60 gallon cube would be fine so long as you can figure out how to get the gear in there.

I use a hose to drain and fill the tank, would not have a huge tank otherwise. It takes a couple hours to drain and refill but no heavy work at all. California is in a bad drought and that water is keeping an 8x20' garden alive. Any siphoning of the bottom happens for a few minutes at the start of the water change and debris tends to collect in certain areas because of the circular water movement in the tank. You could use your 55 gallon can to treat water then pump it into the tank if you like but I have been dumping dechlor in the tank at the beginning of the refill for over a decade without it bothering the fish. I only move hardscape by accident and do deep vacuuming if the substrate is in trouble which has happened once, some sort of growth was making the bits stick together but that hasn't happened since. When I break down the tank to do major rescaping it is amazing how little mulm is in the the substrate.

T5HO would work fine for your tank if you aren't interested in LED. If you had pairs of bulbs on separate ballasts and timers you could still do some nice low light/high light effects. See the lighting forum's sticky thread on about how many bulbs you might need for your tall and wide tank. I suspect 6 pairs of 3' bulbs would be perfect, 8 if you want the tank good and bright for a brief noon.


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post #15 of 15 (permalink) Old 10-06-2015, 12:13 PM
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Ignorance? I don't know. Planted tanks can go with less frequent/smaller water changes if you stock correctly. If you go with a large plant mass and a solid filtration set up, you can get away with smaller water changes. This would have to be coupled with light stocking for your tank size. I'm sure this is all making sense and you probably came to the same conclusion yourself. The circle of life statement is fairly true.

You have a good plan, hardware, plants, fish. The low tech forum would be a great place to read up. The tube lighting is out of my league, but not unfamiliar on the forum. I have a huge hood myself, so I never really cared for LED lighting (post my original tank). Plants are pretty easy, in my opinion. Amazon swords thrive in low tech and are EASY plants to care for. Dwarf sag is a great ground cover plants that is easy in low tech. Anubias is a little difficult, in my opinion, due to it's extremely slow growth. I have algae issues with mine. However, crypts, another slow plants, thrive in my system. Those are some popular low tech plants, along with mosses and java ferns.

On the note of sump pumps. Mine is dead quiet compared to the trickle of my overflow. I also ALWAYS have the TV running in the living room. I either use it for music or my daughter watches movies. If your house has regular noise, the sump pump won't likely be an issue.


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