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50G with 30G sump - month 10 update

17413 Views 95 Replies 12 Participants Last post by  crazymittens
I will have more to update tomorrow after I pick up the equipment. A friend of mine has graciously offered the use of his tanks/etc while he is out of the country for work (years), so I will be picking up 2-3 10-gallon tanks and one 30-gallon tank (all glass).

The goals for this tank are as follows:
  1. Learn how to run and enjoy an aquarium
  2. Low maintenance (minimal water changes, fert requirements)
  3. Low-light to save on power costs
  4. Low-tech - remove complication of CO2
  5. Low-cost (relatively, anways)

Water quality
The water, from what I know, is ~pH7 and moderately hard, so what goes in the tank must be able to deal with this - I do not want to deal with changing water chemistry via expensive chemicals.

What's in the tank
Substrate: Mineralized topsoil (AaronT's method) capped with Black Diamond 20/40 blasting grit
Plants: Anubias, Java fern, some type of moss, Rotala, Hygro
Fish: Cherry barb
Inverts: Red cherry shrimp (clean the plants/substrate), Ramshorn snails (clean the glass)

I would like to experiment with sumps/overflows, but will probably keep things simple to start. 30G on its own and a 10G to breed the RCS. One of the spare 10Gs will be an emergency quarantine tank.

  1. Mineralize the topsoil
  2. Lay the mud, then plant everything
  3. 2-3 weeks to cycle
  4. Add the RCS (10-15 to start)
  5. Give it 2-4 weeks for the RCS to get established
  6. Add a school of cherry barbs (~dozen)
  7. Enjoy, maintain, and document progress

More to come, and pictures, of course.
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CO2 isn't really a complication. A DIY system takes about ten minutes to build, and only 2 minutes once ever 2 weeks to refill. It's really really worth the "effort". And it's probably the cheapest tank investment you will make.
Hm, I thought that CO2 encouraged growth, and thus increases maintenance (trimming, etc)?
CO2 does encourage growth, and without it some plants just won't grow at all!! They will die and melt away. You'd have to pick all really easy plants, and expect them to grow really slow without CO2
Yeap, that's pretty much what I was planning. :) This is a first tank, after all, so no point in getting 'hard to keep' plants & animals.

If this tank goes well, I will be looking into turning the 30G into a sump for a 100+ gallon tank, and then I would use a CO2 system (with proper overflow to eliminate off-gassing, of course).

Thanks for the input, though, appreciated!
Well, quick update. I've picked up all the bits and pieces my friend was giving me, and wow...this will take all weekend just to inventory. Pretty much everything you could want to run salt and fresh water tanks.

On the soil front, I've started the rinse process (some pics to follow). Questions to post in the substrate forum.

The blasting grit is a no-go - two different shops, one promising Black Diamond, one promising Black Beauty, both supply something made locally out of nickel slag - pretty sure that is toxic to any living thing out there, nevermind fish. So to avoid wasting more time hunting this stuff down, we're just biting the bullet and ordering some Fluorite Black or something. Anyways, I have a $12 toxic (and 88lb) lesson sitting in my garage: Ask questions, even if you feel you're inconveniencing people!
After a lengthy thread in the Equipment forum, back to posting here.

The budget has taken a beating, but we're still pretty much on-track. Just ordered the diamond hole-saws, bulkheads, loc-line for the returns, and black Flourite gravel.

Also, I picked up a 50G the other day off Kijiji, so now we're doing that as the display, and the 30G is the sump. More info tomorrow.
Sump design has been finalized - initial drainage onto coarse filter media (this will be periodically removed for cleaning), and then flowing onto 2-3 trays (egg-crating) of pot scrubbies. Water then flows under/over a set of baffles and into the pump/heater area for return to the display tank. Hopefully 20 gallons contained in the sump.

Tank overflow design is still coast-to-coast, although I may leave 3" on either end to avoid having the returns punching through. Have to see what glass costs before I make that call.

We ran our driftwood through the dishwasher yesterday, looks nice and clean. My wife will be putting it together into a nice display piece, moss and anubias will be tied to it.

After meeting the some local aquarium enthusiasts ( the other day, they suggested that I speak to the owner of 'Menagerie', an LFS with a good reputation for plants. Will be calling him this week.

I had really hoped to get some Black Diamond blasting grit, but everyone around here uses a local company's stuff that is made from nickel slag. Since nickel slag dust is poisonous to humans, I can only assume it'll kill fish/plants, too. I will post a quick question in the substrate forum to confirm.

Finally, today will be the first full day of sun on the MTS (I unfolded the tarp and spread it out before work), so hopefully its dry and ready for a re-soaking.

Pictures will go up later.
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Here's the link to the Equipment thread, for future reference:

Plumbing documentation/thought process here:

Other aquarium notes here:

The new display tank, 50G, 36x18x18.

The sump, 30G, 36x18x12:

MTS process...

Plexiglas egg-crate ledging & baffles cut.

Driftwood cleansing.
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Did putting the driftwood in the dish washer work? i just got a piece in the mail that i bought on ebay and want to give it a through cleaning and i was thinking the dishwasher. I was also thinking that it might help leach out the tannins. how did it work?
I ran them through without soap, of course, on the 'pot scrubber' setting AND the dry cycle. They turned out fine, I think. No clue how they'll do in water yet - no tank to put them in. I may dump them in the tank for the duration of leak testing - that should bring out any tannins that are left. Prior to the wash they sat in a tank of water for ~1.5 weeks.

Got the idea here:

* Find some in a fast-moving stream
* If not from stream, soak in outdoor pond for a few months to remove tannins and waterlog the wood
* Always use dead wood
* Hardwoods only, nothing you can dent with a fingernail
* No pine/red cedar - toxic
i think my piece of wood is going to take a bath in the dish washer tonight
MTS dried out, so re-soaked it and spread it around. Probably keep this up all week and it should be ready for the weekend.

Picked up the egg-crate, silicon, and some of the pipe fittings tonight. I managed to find the unions, but no 'sanitary-tees' in 1" - guessing that's not a standard so not available. This was after three different hardware stores - Lowe's, Home Depot, and Home Hardware (Lowe's had the best selection by far).

I think I'm going to have to up the size to 1.5" as I saw a lot of options for that. There is a Rona near my train station, so will drop by tomorrow after work in a last-ditch attempt. If nothing else, at least I now have a better drainage system (even if it's bottle-necked by the 1" bulkheads).

If I can find 1" 'wye-tee' fittings, then no need to get 1.5". If not...

Pipe shopping list:
  1. 3x 90-degree elbow (1" end fits into bulkhead, 1.25" intake)
  2. 3x 1.5"->1" slip bushing (adapter to go from bulkhead 1" to drain 1.5")
  3. 3x 1.5" sanitary tee (wye-tee eliminates waterfall effect)
  4. 1x 12-18" of 1" PVC (bulkhead inside spacer)
  5. 1x 10' of 1.5" PVC (drains)
  6. 3x 1.5" adapter - slip to male threaded
  7. 3x 1.5" threaded cap
  8. 1x 1.5" true-union ball valve (dual union)
  9. 2x 3/4" 'ball-style' check-valve (returns, non-spring)
  10. 1x 10' of 3/4" PVC (returns)
  11. 2x 3/4" threaded to slip adapter (pump connections)
  12. 4x 3/4" 45-degree elbow (return out of sump)
  13. 2x 3/4" 90-degree elbow (return enters tank)
  14. 1/4" tube x 3/8" NPT fitting
  15. PVC glue/cleaner

Great plumbing intro from FishGuyTV:

And another good plumbing/sump video:
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The MTS is coming along nicely...I think...the amount of dirt seems to be shrinking, seems kinda odd.

Ordered my plumbing bits from, shipping was a bit much, but its saved me the time/hassle/driving of going to random stores looking/begging for parts.

On top of the stuff mentioned before (thanks to great prices), I got unions for the drains, two ball valves for the drains, ball valves for the returns, and ball check valves for the returns as well. The 'ball style' check valves were definitely not available locally. Also managed to snag some nice red 1/4" tubing and the 'street' 90-degree pieces that were also not available locally.

I do understand that BeanAnimal's page uses 1" bulkheads because that's all he had available, but I'd already ordered the 1" bulkheads when I discovered that 1" PVC has no local supply. Anyway, handy that I can just make a direct shopping list from his page now.

That site also has 'freebies' for different order values. I spent more than $50, so got 520' of 1" teflon tape for free. Cool.

Back to Lowe's tonight to return the pipe fittings and pick up the PVC glue/cleaner.
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Returns made to Lowe's, and the stuff from Pets and Ponds got here already!

Bulkheads, gravel, and loc-line pieces. The loc-line, handily enough, fit my two pumps' outlets, so they are now pushing water around in the 50G so I can get a feel for how much power I'm dealing with. Thus far, quite turbulent in there...the losses from pushing up the return piping should give me just what I need.

Apologies for the poor pictures - BlackBerry was all I had.

Kill-a-watt measuring 91-92 watts with both pumps in operation.

Side-by-side comparison of the 50G and 30G tanks.

The pump with attached loc-line.

Blurry picture of the surface movement.
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Cleaned the 30G and 20G today with vinegar and water. Taped the tank for baffle attachment. Learned a few things.

1. Just because the bottle says 'Silicone I' doesn't mean it's clear. Protip: When it's labelled 'white', it is indeed white.
2. Mask off the baffle, too.
3. Wear a breather - fumes are nasty.
4. Dry-fit everything first. Obvious, but easy to overlook.
5. Use a little bit of silicon to start, then add extra once things are in place.

So instead of a 1.5" lower opening, I now have a 3/4" lower opening because I assumed I had dry-fit it already. I probably had, but then that was before the measurements were finalized.

I also got silicon all over the baffle panel itself. All that aside, it should turn out functional - and that's all that matters for this first try. In an hour or two I'll do the secondary baffle panel.
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Added in the second baffle, learned another lesson: Don't mask somewhere that won't be accessible after gluing. Protip.

Second baffle tank masking:

Second baffle masked:

View of the baffle from the outside:

Second baffle in place:

Had a family outing to the local shops, came home with...

22 packs of scrubbies (132 total):

Cut the trays:

And glued the tray rests/ledges:

Tomorrow I'll remove all the masking, place the scrubbies and trays, and start work on the sump stand. Will also drain the 50G and give it a good cleaning/rinsing, and start work on the drill press stand so I'm not drilling these holes by hand.
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What I learned:
1. I might need more pot scrubbies.
2. I definitely need to add center supports and then cut the eggcrate trays into halves - impossible to fit inside the tank.
Edit: 3. Change order so that pattern is symmetrical.
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Had some more thoughts on the train in this morning.

* The warnings about silicone/glass/acrylic bonding don't seem to apply - the stuff I'm using seems very sturdy. Maybe due to using 3/8 plexi?
* Call glass shops for quotes on covers - 36x12 and 36x18
* Rain is preventing MTS drying and no room in the garage! Clean/re-organize the garage.
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