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Discussion Starter #1
I've been sitting on these tanks for almost a year now so I'm going to do my best to get this project going over Christmas. I'll start with a few pictures to give everyone an idea of what I'm building then back up a bit to the planning stage.

The first step is drilling the tanks, I lined up the holes using a paper template since it doesn't need to be super precise.


I used some sticky-tac to hold a small pool of water around the hole. I've never drilled glass before but it was very easy.


Just remember to put something under the hole to catch the waste disk or will fall and scratch the other side of the tank. I cut a total of nine holes in three tanks.


Next I cut a few cork rectangles to support the tanks. This only takes a few seconds if you trim around the edges of the tank.


Finally I applied backing film to the tanks. Although the process is straightforward I found it incredibly difficult to get a perfect application.


Lay the film on top of a wet surface and then squeegee any bubbles to the edge. I tried to push everything downwards so any trapped dust would be hidden by substrate.


Finally trim the edge (and holes) with a knife.


Black is done the same way.


I use two layers of the black film since it is slightly translucent otherwise. The second layer looks a little bumpy but its fine from the glass side.


And finally a peek at the goal of this project.


I've always wanted a tower of nano aquariums - I like the idea of having multiple small tanks, and the design is very space efficient. On the other hand, individually equipping and maintaining four separate tanks would be rather inconvenient. To work around this I've decided to connect them together. This will provide the convenience and stability of a larger tank and can reduce some costs by sharing CO2, filtration, and heat.

The bookshelf will hold four Mr. Aqua 6g aquariums (24"l x 6.4"d x 9.7"h). The top three tanks will be used for display and contain no equipment other than an overflow and return. The fourth tank will be used as a sump, but only 8" of its total length is required to house equipment; the remaining 16" will be lit and used as a display area. The sump will only hold a few inches of water in use so most growth will be high humidity/emmersed.

There are two major risks with this build. The first and most catastrophic scenario would be failure of the bookshelf. I consider this low probability, but it would be extremely costly which does make me nervous. Although aquariums are typically too heavy for standard furniture, six gallons is small and a full 30" shelf of books has roughly the same weight. This setup will fully load only three of the five shelves, so the bookshelf should actually be supporting less weight than it otherwise would.

The second risk is that the overflow system will be too noisy. My plan is to tee three silent herbie systems into the same drain/emergency lines - I'm pretty sure this will work, but most plumbing guides contain fairly insistent warnings that tees in the return line are discouraged.

I'll try to finish most of the build before new years but some of the parts have had their delivery dates pushed back by Christmas shipping.

And yes, I am aware this is a very complex way of setting up 18g of display space.
 

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whoa this is a badass project

I'm interested to see how you plumb this together

If your intent is for the return line to split three-ways into each tank then this is NOT a good idea IMO. I don't think you would get consistent flow between the three tanks. The flow would take the path of least resistance (lowest tank). You should have it waterfall down from the top tank into the others. Just return water into the top tank ONLY and have that overflow into the next tank, and that overflow into the next tank, and that overflow into the sump. This would create even flow throughout the whole system.

 

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Fun project, looks great.

If you're tying together the siphon drains from each tank into a single line, I think you're going to run into issues. Multiple openings and different levels of pressure are going to make the siphon dynamics very problematic I'd imagine. My concern wouldn't be noise, it would be getting a balanced siphon to work at all.

Are you going to have overflow boxes in place, or will the drains be exposed to the display tanks directly?
 

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Discussion Starter #4
If your intent is for the return line to split three-ways into each tank then this is NOT a good idea IMO. I don't think you would get consistent flow between the three tanks. The flow would take the path of least resistance (lowest tank). You should have it waterfall down from the top tank into the others. Just return water into the top tank ONLY and have that overflow into the next tank, and that overflow into the next tank, and that overflow into the sump. This would create even flow throughout the whole system.
If you're tying together the siphon drains from each tank into a single line, I think you're going to run into issues. Multiple openings and different levels of pressure are going to make the siphon dynamics very problematic I'd imagine. My concern wouldn't be noise, it would be getting a balanced siphon to work at all.
I will be using a three-way split with six valves, one for each drain and return. I agree there is a chance this won't work, at the minimum I expect to spend time adjusting the valves. I had reasons to avoid using the waterfall system but I can't fully remember what they were - I think CO2 gas-off and noise were the main concerns. Many silent overflow systems are not amenable to chaining display tanks because they require multiple return lines and don't like bends. To be honest I probably just thought six valves would be cool.

A Herbie system has a fairly wide margin of error as the emergency line is expected to carry water so I only need to get the valves within 20-30%. A complete siphon in the drain line would eliminate all noise but is not necessary as gravity will carry water either way.

Are you going to have overflow boxes in place, or will the drains be exposed to the display tanks directly?
I will be gluing small overflows into the tanks.
 

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Fun project, looks great.

If you're tying together the siphon drains from each tank into a single line, I think you're going to run into issues. Multiple openings and different levels of pressure are going to make the siphon dynamics very problematic I'd imagine. My concern wouldn't be noise, it would be getting a balanced siphon to work at all.

Are you going to have overflow boxes in place, or will the drains be exposed to the display tanks directly?
They drilled the tanks so there is no siphon needed.

I still think that the waterfall approach is the way to go. I think you will run into issues if you try to make one pump feed all three tanks equal amount of water.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
You've got me rethinking the overflow system but for better or worse all plumbing components have already been purchased. I'll slip in a quick preview of a dry fit so we are all on the same page. The unions will attach to the narrow side of 1/2"x3/4" reducing tees and head to the sump.



In regards to the return flow - I've designed around a Syncra 3.0 @ 714gph (Aprox 550gph at 5ft). The way I'm imagining things I won't need to "balance" flow between tanks so much as crack each blue valve open and hope I don't get sprayed in the face.

As prototyp3 mentioned, the drain side (in particular the herbie siphon) is where things really get complicated. I'll borrow a diagram of the standard Herbie system.



The idea behind a Herbie overflow is that if no air can enter the drain there will be no noise. By restricting flow on the main drain we ensure it stays below the waterline. The emergency line provides a margin of safety as it would be impossible to perfectly tune a single pipe to always be below water-level.

Note that although the main drain is often referred to as the "siphon" line (as it should contain no air), it does not meet the definition of a true siphon: water is always travelling with gravity and the line is self-starting.

My main concern is that since the main drain is shared, adjusting the valve on one tank will affect flow on the other two tanks as well. If this effect is strong enough it will be extremely difficult if not impossible to achieve a trickle down all three emergency lines.

It seems that I've inadvertently created a science experiment. On the plus side if all goes well we should have an answer within three weeks.
 

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Very interesting project. Excited to see the end result!

One question, what stops the 3 tanks from completely emptying and overfilling the sump in the event of a power outage?
 
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Isn't it normally recommended to keep holes at least one to one and a half hole diameters away from the edges for strength?
Is there a reason you went for this configuration rather than the beananimal one?

I am toying with doing a sump too, as I got a premade one for free, at least you made drilling holes seem easy.

Beautiful stand
 

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Discussion Starter #13
One question, what stops the 3 tanks from completely emptying and overfilling the sump in the event of a power outage?
At the moment the drains are exposed so almost everything would end up on the floor. Once the overflows have been glued into place each tank will dump ~1" of water into the sump upon power loss.

Isn't it normally recommended to keep holes at least one to one and a half hole diameters away from the edges for strength?
I suspect the biggest risk of cracking is during the drilling process, things seem pretty robust once the bulkheads are in. For what its worth, only the upper holes are close to the edge - the bottom holes (where water pressure is higher) have much more space.

Is there a reason you went for this configuration rather than the beananimal one?
I considered the beananimal system but couldn't justify drilling four holes per tank. Even the three-hole herbie is questionable when you consider that the simplest waterfall system can technically get by with one hole and no overflow box.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Here is a quick update, I decided to start with something simple before working on the plumbing.

Lighting four planted tanks gets expensive very fast so I stuck with Finnex Stingrays. The Stingrays are designed to be low-light fixtures, but I'm hoping the Mr. Aqua tanks are narrow and shallow enough achieve at least medium PAR.

I don't like resting lights on top of rimless aquariums so I decided to print some discrete light clips.









We'll be seeing the 3d printer again for similar tasks such as mounting the CO2 reactor, and possibly clipping power adapters and other electronics to the bookshelf frame.

Later on I'll have a week or so of free time while the sump/overflow silicone dries so I plan to revisit the Stingrays. At the minimum I will be installing in-line dimmers and replacing the plastic end caps with something more discrete.

After spending some time examining the circuit board it seems that the various colours are powered by separate traces. I may be able to separate the red, white, and blue LEDs into separate channels as well.
 

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Here is a quick update, I decided to start with something simple before working on the plumbing.

Lighting four planted tanks gets expensive very fast so I stuck with Finnex Stingrays. The Stingrays are designed to be low-light fixtures, but I'm hoping the Mr. Aqua tanks are narrow and shallow enough achieve at least medium PAR.

I don't like resting lights on top of rimless aquariums so I decided to print some discrete light clips.









We'll be seeing the 3d printer again for similar tasks such as mounting the CO2 reactor, and possibly clipping power adapters and other electronics to the bookshelf frame.

Later on I'll have a week or so of free time while the sump/overflow silicone dries so I plan to revisit the Stingrays. At the minimum I will be installing in-line dimmers and replacing the plastic end caps with something more discrete.

After spending some time examining the circuit board it seems that the various colours are powered by separate traces. I may be able to separate the red, white, and blue LEDs into separate channels as well.
Oh how I wish I had such easy access to a 3D Printer!!! This is looking great! I can't wait to see how this turns out!!!
 

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Clips are pretty awesome. Lots of toys at your disposal.

Subscribed. This very inspiring. Planning a tank rack in the up coming months.

What stand is that? Looks really sturdy. Do you have enough clearance to work inside the aquariums? Also don't trap yourself after everything is set. You might need to get behind the rack. Space looks limited.



Looking very clean.
 

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Subscribing to this one...seems like a great way to maximize use of a small room.

Is there a risk of the bottom tank overflowing in the event that its drain becomes blocked, but those above it do not? I'm not too familiar with the workings of an overflow, but that's something which comes to mind.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

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Discussion Starter #18
What stand is that? Looks really sturdy. Do you have enough clearance to work inside the aquariums? Also don't trap yourself after everything is set. You might need to get behind the rack. Space looks limited.
The stand is an old bookshelf - the model has been discontinued. It is pretty sturdy but not intended for aquarium use.

Hanging the lights makes it easier to work in the tanks but it is still pretty tight. Unfortunately there will be no way to get around the back, its just one of the trade-offs for this build. I will be performing the final assembly in-place so everything should be accessible given enough effort.

Is there a risk of the bottom tank overflowing in the event that its drain becomes blocked, but those above it do not? I'm not too familiar with the workings of an overflow, but that's something which comes to mind.
If the main drain gets blocked the emergency drain will carry the water instead; if both drains block you will start pumping water onto the floor. The emergency drain is designed to be very noisy so you will generally be aware when the main drain blocks.
 

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IMO I would weight test before filling with water.
Put some towels on each shelf and add some concrete blocks.
Enough to approximate the finished weight and check rigidity.
200 pounds or so for a total in weight, maybe.
 
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