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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello all.
This is a tank I'm contemplating purchasing and turning into a discus/semi planted tank. The tank measures 120" long by 24"/18" wide by 42" tall. It is a concave style tank.
Can you all offer me some advice/suggestions on how to tackle this large a tank and really turn it into something to be proud of? I've got 20 years experience with saltwater reef tanks (got burned out a year ago though) and want to create a very nice discus/planted tank to relax in front of.
Any help would be greatly appreciated.
Could you offer me suggestions on proper plants that can grow under low tech conditions and those that grow tall and wide? By low tech, I mean that I'm not sure I want to initiate Co2 right now, nor do I have the diligence for fertilizer dosing unless there is a product that has all the necessary fertilizers in one liquid easy enough to pour into the tank every so often.
I do have 250 watt metal halide lighting (6500K and 10,000K)along with T5 lighting to cover the length of the tank fairly well. So lighting is not an issue.
In terms of filtration, I was planning on turning an old 150 gallon tank into a sump with plenty of wet/dry filtration and some mechanical filtration, along with two Fluval FX5 filters also with bio media, mechanical, and chemical filtration. I'll try to push about 10 X turnover through the tank for sufficient flow.
If anyone has some photos or links to other freshwater tanks of this size and especially height, I would be very grateful for a link to them.
Anyway, here is the tank, a quick rendering of the cabinetry I'll be personally building for it, and a pic with one of the manufacturers employees standing next to it for scale.
Let me know what you think.



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You may want to consider going with a very fertile substrate to reduce the need for stringent fertilizing. For the fertilizing its self, if you're setting up a tank that size, some how I doubt you'd mind paying for a couple paristoltic pumps to auto dose your ferts for you. It'll make a world of difference. Stay away from ADA AS on a tank that size.

In terms of plant species, I'd go back over the newbie list of plants. Ferns, crypts, swords, anubias etc.

Tom Barr/plantbrain has set up tanks in this size range, and he does it well enough to be contracted for it. He also works with discus a pile. I have a feeling he'll probably end up posting here anyhow. If not, get ahold of him over at thebarrreport.com

-Philosophos
 

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Fear the Swamp!
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That's a massive tank!!! The first thing I would suggest is a substrate rich in nutrients that could support plant life with minimal or no water column dosing. I used Ferka Aquabase on my recent tank and absolutely love it. It took about 3 weeks for my plants to root down and find the stuff, but now they are growing great and showing some nice colors too. I only put ferts in the water for the first week just to help get things going. I've done at least 4 water changes so I'm sure the original ferts are long gone by now.
Another option if you have time and space for it is mineralized soil capped with a gravel or sand of your choice. There are threads on the forum that go into more detail about the process.
For plants, I would probably go with Echinodorus sword plants. They are fairly easy plants, low tech and can grow tall and wide. Maybe some Crypts in the middle for some difference in height and texture.
Monsterfishkeepers.com may be another resource for large tanks like this.
 

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Does FERKA Aquabase have actually bioavailable nutrients(as opposed to the BS on EC/fluorite)? What's the analysis look like?

-Philosophos
 

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I did a much larger tank, 42" is too deep for most set ups designs.

This is 48" deep tank I designed and out together:



Regards,
Tom Barr
 

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I would also not use any MH's, just T5's.
You might consider doing aesthetic sand and rocks in the front, then plant the rear and build up the wood and attach plants to it.

T5 light will offer you much better usable light and the ability to reduce and adjust the light to suit.


Regards,
Tom Barr
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
You may want to consider going with a very fertile substrate to reduce the need for stringent fertilizing. For the fertilizing its self, if you're setting up a tank that size, some how I doubt you'd mind paying for a couple paristoltic pumps to auto dose your ferts for you. It'll make a world of difference. Stay away from ADA AS on a tank that size.

In terms of plant species, I'd go back over the newbie list of plants. Ferns, crypts, swords, anubias etc.

Tom Barr/plantbrain has set up tanks in this size range, and he does it well enough to be contracted for it. He also works with discus a pile. I have a feeling he'll probably end up posting here anyhow. If not, get ahold of him over at
-Philosophos
Thank you for the reply Philosophos! To be honest, my initial resources will be tied up in the tank itself, hence the need to keep it simple and low tech for now. I was hoping to utilize equipment left over from my reef aquaria days and upgrade/change as time goes on.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
That's a massive tank!!! The first thing I would suggest is a substrate rich in nutrients that could support plant life with minimal or no water column dosing. I used Ferka Aquabase on my recent tank and absolutely love it. It took about 3 weeks for my plants to root down and find the stuff, but now they are growing great and showing some nice colors too. I only put ferts in the water for the first week just to help get things going. I've done at least 4 water changes so I'm sure the original ferts are long gone by now.
Another option if you have time and space for it is mineralized soil capped with a gravel or sand of your choice. There are threads on the forum that go into more detail about the process.
For plants, I would probably go with Echinodorus sword plants. They are fairly easy plants, low tech and can grow tall and wide. Maybe some Crypts in the middle for some difference in height and texture.
Monsterfishkeeperscom may be another resource for large tanks like this.
Thank you for all the great info. I'll definitely check into the mineralized soil and the Ferka Aquabase.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I did a much larger tank, 42" is too deep for most set ups designs.

This is 48" deep tank I designed and out together:



Regards,
Tom Barr
Hello Tom.
Thank you very much for the reply and suggestions!
A member at simplydiscus forwarded some links to that very tank just last night.
Absolutely stunning in every way! I must also admit that the very tank above is the main motivation and inspiration to what I wanted to emulate with this new tank.
I'm assuming that the tank above is a 'high tech' tank, Co2, lots of fertilizers, etc..?
How did you get the plants to attach to the back wall like that? Did they grow up the back over time?
Thank you again for sharing that wonderful image and for your advice.
It is very much appreciated!
 

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Fresh Fish Freak
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If you're going for low maintenance, I 2nd Toms suggestion of having a limited planted area (along the back, or perhaps symmetrical or assymetrical on one or both sides) with low tech plants.

You can put together a really nice tank with just varieties of Java fern, swordplants (there are some truly gorgeous swords that could be beautiful focal points in a tank your size), Crypts for more color and texture, mosses on driftwood... Sometimes people underestimate how truly beautiful you can make low tech planted tanks. :D

Take a look through the Journals forum. There have been some really nice big tanks. Scolley's Son of Kahuna tank is one you should look at for design ideas for a nice discus tank, though of course his is one of the highest-tech tanks I've ever seen LOL
 

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i think that is a great idea you have there and i have some ideas of my own to kind of reproduce that tank that was posted earlier

you could get the grid material that is used in smaller tanks for moss walls and get some with varying sizes of grid pattern and you could probably nearly replicate that tank to a degree. have some moss in the back somewhere then have some java jerns somewhere else and there is a few different styles of javafern so you could have some fun and place different styles in different parts of the tank. add some anubias the same way in the grid stuff and again there are a bunch of different anubias plants out there so you could do like the java fern and have different ones scattered around the tank. maybe have a couple nice swords somewhere in the tank, some nice low tech stem plants and there are some really nice stem plants so this would be a really good idea. you could have a couple different carpeting plants with a tank this size so that could be a really cool option along with some cryps scattered around to add some color. add some nice driftwood which you could also tie some plants like moss, anubias, java fern, and a few others that i dont know of and im betting you would have a really nice tank with everything you are looking for.

i like your idea for filtration sounds like it will be more than adequate which is a good thing but i have to warn a good turn over is good but make suere there arnt any strong currents in the tank because discus hate currents from what i hear beacause it blows them around
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Perhaps I'll shoot for something like this one. According to the website its listed on, this is a low tech tank.
 

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Perhaps I'll shoot for something like this one. According to the website its listed on, this is a low tech tank.
Yes, I'd focus more on that, but for a concave tank, best to have it aginst a wall vs a room divider.

Honestly, for larger tanks, room dividers are the bets use of the space and viewing, not to mention access and work on the tank.

Unlike reefs, you really need more access and frequent trimming/cleaning, gardening basically...........

Do you honestly want to hang bat style for 2 hours trimming, cleaning/gardening a week?

Not likely, so make the set up designed for easy access, easy to get to for your arm length throughout the aquarium. A sand foreground gives fish and plecos etc a nice place to grub around, it takes no trimming, you just fluff with a long grabber/algae scrub pad etc once every 2 weeks or so.
Plants, best to be able to grab them with the hands.

Plan on a hard plumbed drain and refill, I'd go 2 ports, one on the bottom and then one about 3/5th the way down, say 1.5" PVC, these will serve as the drains. Another refill, say 3/4" coming from a RO reservoir, or if the tap is suitable, a mix of cold and hot lines with a built in temp gauge. You can also add a carbon prefilter for the tap if you want, but you need the tap either way for refill to blend with the RO if you need that, if the tap is KH 5 degrees or less, you are fine though.

The hard plumbing is the only way to go here. You turn a valve to drain it, turn another to refill. I'd plan on a pair of 25 W UV's also.

You can never have enough filtration. Same for flow, much like a reef.
If you have some of those Eco tech MP40's, they would be nice, but only can be used up to 3/4" thick and then more around 5/8" IME is their max, but they would work nice on "lagoon" setting.

The plants in the large tank are attached to the wood lattice, much like a wall of live rock is used as base for a reef. Plants fill in and grow much faster though.

The bow shaped tank will not look good however with a through wall layout unless the home is also designed this way, so the wall panels should also be bowed the same if that through wall look is desired.

I'd pick that if it was up to me.

I'm not sure what high tech or low tech means in general.
Means many things to many people.

I'd suggest CO2, I'd suggest T5's up to about 2.5 w/gal and they can be reduced from there or higher light can be used later etc.

Sell the MH's.

You will get the best growth results using CO2.
Please, do not avoid CO2 because you are scared of it or do not know about it enough. Do not avoid it because some will say you do not need with low light, you actually need LESS light if you use CO2.

Plants need 3 things to growth, light, cO2 and nutrients.
If you provide non limiting CO2/nutrients, then the plant can allocate more resources gathering all the light it can use, so you have much higher light use efficiency.

You also have nice lush growth of all species of plants, get more out of the T5 lighting and at lower depths in the deeper tanks.

With lower light, you also have a much easier time providing and targeting a non limiting CO2 ppm. Less light= less CO2 demand= less nutrient demand= more wiggle room= less algae growth since they are neither nutrient nor CO2 limiting in any planted tank.

Good flexible adjustable light is key to larger tanks.
T5 also give the best coloration of the fish and the best spread of angles to highlight them.

I tried to talk the client out of using the entire bottom planted. He wanted it, so that's what they have. I would not have done it for myself or for management purposes however.

30-32"is the max depth for most planted tanks for ease of care.
If you want more, go more front to back depth, say 30-48", then you get some truly cool looking layouts.

You'll need to do large water changes, mostly to be able to access sections/prune/garden etc without scuba gear and getting your head under water. So 50-60% will be normal water changes, but since it's with tap water, you might consider using the waste water and pipe it to the yard via another valve for irrigation of the landscape.

Even if you did 50% WC's a week, the total amount is no more than the average daily irrigation/landscape usage in Sacramento per day for an average home. Still, it makes the landscape look much better, is more an organic sustainable approach.

Going with that concept, using less light and getting more from the light by using CO2 gas, you maximize the energy use from the lighting, which is about 3-4 x less than many reef folks, so you have much less of an impact on the electric bill.

Also, you will find that you will lose much less $ and do much less testing, and everything will not die if you look at the tank wrong. Reefs are good once you get them up and going. But neglect can be a much larger disaster and the initial cost and the operating cost are much more.

A well done planted tank freaks people out as much as a nice reef.
The key is "well done"

You have to live with this giant bath tub, so make it easy for yourself.
If done correctly, 1-2 hours a week is about what you are looking at.

Those discus in the tank and the Angels both breed in that tank BTW.

Regards,
Tom Barr














Regards,
Tom Barr
 

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Wow, that's a huge tank! This is going to be an interesting one! I love seeing big tanks.

Hahaha and people who come to my house always think my 55 is a big tank...
 

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I'll second some of what Tom said and add a little of my own experience. Go with T5, most definitely. Likewise, a sand substrate in the front is best not only for your easy of maintenance, but also for the discus to pick food off of. My experience with keeping discus in planted tanks showed me that they do far better when allowed to leisurely (daintily?) pick at food off the substrate than having to root around in plants.

Just like a reef tank, a planted tank this large will live and die by the thought and care put into the filtration/circulation system. You would be well served to make a closed loop system for circulation and CO2 distribution. ABSOLUTELY USE CO2. The health of your plants, and through them, the aquatic ecosystem depends on CO2. Other methods of carbon supplementation will either be too expensive or not provide enough carbon in the long run.

You mentioned not wanting to fertilize unless it was adding one or two liquids. It's very easy to mix up fertilizer solutions to dump in a tank. Someone recommended using a peristaltic dosing system. If this were my aquarium I'd use one of those.

From an aquascaping perspective, Crinum, Cryptocoryne, and Nymphaea would be good to use in the wider side portions of the tank. They grow tall and either do well in lower light or grow to the surface (Nymphaea species lilies). Tom's suggestion of a lattice along the back of the tank is good as well. You can make them out of eggcrate light diffusers and shape them to hide the in-tank plumbing.

Keep us in the loop, this looks like an awesome project, in all meanings of the word.

Cheers,
Phil
 
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