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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi everybody, wanted to share a tank that I have put together recently that I have been planning for a what feels like a very long time. Up to this point, I’ve had two main tanks: a 20 gallon tank with Coryadoras and Tetras for about 3 years and a 9 gal cherry shrimp only tank for maybe 2 years. I had a plan to create a much larger community Cory focused tank that would also have shrimp in it, so I could combine our two tanks into one larger tank in order to “minimize” maintenance (to the extent that you can when you are increasing the amount of water you’re managing 2x+).

I had the following goals with this tank:

1. A big footprint with sand substrate for the Cory’s. I settled on a 48 x 24” as my ideal (but still reasonable for my space) size.

2. I wanted to design/build my own stand. Not just from wood, I wanted to go all out and build it from extruded T-slot aluminum, like I’ve seen on some higher end marine tanks online. Also, my carpentry skills are non-existent. :)

3. I wanted to keep the tank low maintenance, with mostly epiphytes, and minimal or no stem plants.

I had been planning this tank for what felt like forever and got complicated somewhat by the all the supply chain issues in 2020. The first step that I wanted to complete was to design and build the stand. I spent sometime evaluating different vendors of T-slot extrusions but settled on a company called Vention, mostly because their extrusions have a very nice color blue anodizing and they have a really cool in-browser CAD software that lets you completely build your design, including adding custom panels, which I used to build the upper and lower surfaces of my stand. Here is the link to design where you can see a full parts break down as well as 3D view: https://vention.io/designs/9047

Unfortunately I didn't really take any pictures during the assembly process, but here is the stand after first putting it together:
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You might notice that the top extrusions are thicker in my CAD design… I ended up changing out the top extrusions later because I was worried it wasn’t going to be stiff enough. I was basically copying the pre-built kit at Framing Tech (48x24x36 Aquarium Stand (Kit-form)) Also, I decided that maybe someday in the far future I’ll end up putting a deeper tank on the stand and will need the extra strength. So ultimately I ended up spending even more on the stand than I was originally planning. But now I have some extra extrusions left over for my next project. ;)

For the tank, my plan all along had been to get a UNS 120S (all my other tanks have been smaller UNS) and that’s the dimensions I had built the stand to in reality (1200 x 600 mm). But throughout 2020 / early 2021, UNS apparently had supply issues and these tanks were extremely hard to find. The closest I got was a local distributor telling me I could get one… but built with non-low iron glass. Ya… no thanks. I was convinced that I wanted a rimless so I looked and looked at options such as Waterbox… but they won’t sell the tank I wanted (FRAG 105.4, which is 1200 x 600) without the stand and included sump…

So I kept looking around and finally decided that if I wanted the exact tank size that I needed for my expensive stand that I had already built, I would need to have a custom tank built. I found a local acrylic shop in Anaheim (Advanced Acrylics) and ordered a tank. 47.625 x 24 x 17”… because why not go a little deeper than the UNS 120S tank? It’s made with 0.5” acrylic, bullnose corners, with a lid, as small of a brace as I could get away with. Overall, I’m happy about it and mostly over my paranoia of acrylic vs glass (scared of scratching).

Got the tank home:
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(Banana for scale)

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(Cat for scale)

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Unwrapped and inspected for the first time


Finally, the last main component of this build that I had a solid plan in mind of how I wanted it to go was the lighting. I have been using AI Primes on my previous tanks so I wanted to continue to use those. I had an idea that I wanted 3 pucks for even coverage and just because I thought it would look cool (although it’s ultimately very overkill for my slow growth plants). Like the stand itself, I am using extrusions to mount the lights. The plates on the stand design linked above are in place to hold the arms for the lights. The extrusions for the light mounting arms I ended up getting from 80/20 as the “light weight” extrusions from Vention ended up not working well (turns out due to their dimensions and the profile, they will actually flex quite a lot meaning my lights were vibrating all over the place at the slightest bump). I got thicker extrusions from 80/20 that don't have any flex and a cleaner look because they only have slots on one side while the rest are flat and smooth. The extrusion profile looks like this:

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All AI Prime light mounts use the threaded 10-32 insert at the back of the puck when mounting or hanging them. In order to mount the AI Primes on these extrusions, I combined a 3D print (white plastic) with a 1” long 10-32 set screw I bought online for the puck to interface with the extrusion. The set screw goes into the back of the light and the 3d print has a shape that conforms to the center cavity profile of the black extrusion. I can then insert the light with this DIY insert all the way flush against the extrusion and then hide the cable down the one channel which I have some snap in plastic insert covers to hold them in place and give it an overall clean look. I’m pretty happy with how this part turned out even though the 3 AI Primes are super overkill for my setup.

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2/3rds of the lights installed and being tested. Also, stand moved into it's final home underneath the stairs. I have a small townhome and it's the best place for the tank to go.
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All lights installed! There is a little bit of "slack" to them due to my DIY mount so they tilt slightly towards the back of the stand. I may try to improve this in the future.
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I'm way way behind my original self imposed schedule for posting this tank journal. Next post I will cover getting the tank into position, hardscape, and planting. Hopefully up in a few days. :)
 

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What a great start to the build. Love everything about what you've done so far. Tank looks gorgeous!

I'm sure you're aware, but the best way to avoid scratches on acrylic tanks is to use melamine sponges (magic erasers) to clean the glass.
 

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Very cool, looking forward to updates!
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Pretty slick build so far! I don't follow the reefing community so this is the first time I've seen an aluminum extrusion stand. How much did it set you back if you don't mind my asking?
You can view the design and the complete parts list at this link: 48 x 24 x 31.5" Aquarium Stand | Vention

You can see the base stand is about $1200. The black extrusions used on the light arms were about another $150. Also, I initially had the top extrusions on the stand be 45 x 45 mm and then got worried they wouldn't be strong enough so switched to the 45 x 90mm extrusions, so I wasted some money there. So basically a stupid amount of money for what is a glorified table. :)


What a great start to the build. Love everything about what you've done so far. Tank looks gorgeous!

I'm sure you're aware, but the best way to avoid scratches on acrylic tanks is to use melamine sponges (magic erasers) to clean the glass.
I have read that before, and I was always worried that the melamine sponges would flake off tiny particles in the water column as you rub. I bought these from Amazon and just have used them with very light pressure. So far so good... but maybe I should give the magic erasers a try.
 

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So far I haven't had any issues using them to clean the glass of my cichlid tank. I bought a pack of like 50 sponges for less than $10 CAD on Aliexpress. I clean the glass once a month and a sponge usually lasts 3-4 months before bits start to break off, and they aren't small bits. I totally understand the concern though.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
First, here is the original tank set up that I had for quite some time while I was trying to figure out what tank to get. Cory tank on the left (UNS 60U) and shrimp tank on the right (UNS 45U). In the cory tank we had I think 5 or 6 Panda, 5 or 6 Sterbai, some Cardinal Tetras, a few Nerite snails, a few Amano and Cherry Shrimp, and about 1 million Malaysian Trumpet snails. In the shrimp tank, just a ton of Cherry Shrimp (let to breed freely so a lot of wild colorations) and a few rabbit snails. You can see how messy I let the bottom of the stand get. On one hand, I like the look of having no doors on the stand plus it lets you access everything easy... but you also can't hide anything so things can get... busy.

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First just to get it out of the way, I’ll list all the plants we ended up buying (some potted, some tissue culture)… more on that later:

Water:
RO remineralized with Salty Shrimp GH/KH

Substrate:
Pool Filter Sand

Plants (all ordered from BucePlant):
Bucephalandra Theia
Bucephalandra Kedagang Green Long
Bucephalandra “Silver Stein”
Bucephalandra “Red Blade”

Anubias Gabon
Anubias “Short and Sharp”
Anubias Nana Thick Leaf
Anubias Congensis Mini

Java Fern Fishtail
Java Fern Petite
Lagenandra Meeboldii 'Red'
Littorella Uniflora
Homalomena Sp Sekadau
Cryptocoryne Affinis

Other Equipment:
Ehiem 2217 Filter
Eheim Spraybar Kit
Eheim 6664 Prefilter
Hydor ETH 200W Inline Heater

So for the new tank, I wanted to have mostly a couple of large wood centerpieces with rocks supporting the layout and I wanted to have at least a reasonable size “clear beach” area at the front where I would feed so I can see the Cory’s coming out of their hiding spots. Outside of that extremely general idea, I didn’t really have a lot of concrete ideas on what the scape was going to end up looking like.

We took a day trip to a fish store in San Diego and ended up buying a couple of large wood pieces that had an interesting shape. I didn’t actually measure the wood pieces at the store so I was just kind of eyeballing the overall length and praying that I could get it into tank through the top opening. Fortunately, it end up working out OK.

Here's the wood pieces with another cat helper. I especially was excited about the piece on the right because I thought it had a cool shape.
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I had been soaking the pieces of wood in a tub outside to try and help them stay sunk and had test fit them inside of the tank to see what arrangements made sense. And then left them for about a week... as you might imagine, if you leave wet wood inside of plastic box with no air movement for a week you start growing some interesting stuff.... whoops:
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My wife had ordered some seiryu stones online and we also picked up some random pieces from a couple of different fish stores. I unfortunately didn't really take any pictures of the collection of rocks prior to scaping.

When the plants all arrived, we had set the tissue culture tubs on the lid of our current tanks so they would get some light and I put all the potted and loose plants inside the 20 gal tank. This ending up being a mistake. A couple of days after floating the plants in the tank I noticed that I had a couple of cherry shrimp deaths as well as the amanos acting really weird, jetting all over the tank and in general acting very strange. I came to the conclusion that some of the potted plants must have been treated with some sort of copper based pesticide and I had made a big mistake by not depotting them / rinsing them.

Did some copper tests (water from the 20 gal on the left, water from the shrimp tank as a control on the left). It seemed like there was some indication of copper but the color wasn't very strong. Hard to tell.
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Unfortunately, ended up losing all of the cherry shrimp in the 20 gal as well as most of the Amanos (I think one survived). Hard lesson learned... always depot potted plants and rinse thoroughly!! Bleh :(

Relevant quote from BucePlant FAQ that I wish I had known about before hand:
ARE OUR PLANTS SAFE FOR INVERTEBRATES?
Caution: In order to comply with USDA requirements regarding agricultural pests, some of our partner farms may use pesticides on potted/bunch plants that can also harm shrimp or other invertebrates. Extra rinsing or several days of soaking may be necessary before it is safe to add the new plants to your shrimp tank.


Anyways, the day of setting up the new tank had arrived! Here was our setup. 20 gal nearby to pull plants from and eventually fish. At the time of this picture we had the wood and some of the rocks in the tank for test fitting.
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First step was the sand. Here is 100lbs of thoroughly pre-washed pool filter sand in the tank. It's relatively flat with a slight slope on the left side of the tank. To wash the sand, a cool pro tip that we used was to use a paint mixer attached to an electric drill. Put about a quarter of the 50 lb bag into a 5 gal bucket, add water from a hose and mix the sand and water till the water is very cloudy, dump, and repeat with fresh water until the water is running relatively clear. When that batch of sand is done, pour it into a "clean" bucket and start another batch. It probably took us about an hour or so to wash the two 50 lb bags (we had done this advance and just had the washed sand sitting around in buckets waiting for set up day).
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Here was the intial take on the hardscape. We have the two pieces of wood set up in the tank with the rocks mostly acting as "supports" under the curved pieces of wood to create little bridges. Sorry for the "blurry" pictures here... as mentioned I was constantly paranoid of scratches so I left the outside of the tank wrapped with plastic wrap during scaping. The wood with the Christmas moss and the buce in front (hard to see) are pieces getting transferred over from the 20 gal. I'm glad I did it, becuase I felt like they helped to tie the scape together and fill in some visual gaps.

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Once we had the hardscape how we liked it, we moved onto planting. Since almost everything was epiphytes, it just involved supergluing them into cool spots that seemed appealing.

Plants on the left (java fern on far left and back, lots of buce, lots of anubias)
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Plants on the right (lots of buce, existing wood with Christmas moss)
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Final-ish front view prior to starting to flood:
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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Starting to flood. Also to note: planted crypts to the left near base of rock and Littorella Uniflora in the foreground on left and right sides. Very little familiarity with this plant, we just bought it because it looked cool and we wanted some shorter "grass" looking plant to fill up some empty space with a little more plants. Also I think I had placed a few shrimps in as a test because I was paranoid about residual pesticide... you can see one little guy to the left here.
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All the way filled, looking a bit cloudy, but OK. This was the most water I've ever dealt with in an aquarium.
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After a few hours, got the filter setup and jammed a big heater I had lying around to try and raise the temperature to something approaching acceptable for the fish to be moved over. In this picture it looks like I have at least one panda cory, a few tetras looking very pale from the tank move, and at least one oto.
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I had gotten mixed up in our time line of buying fish and remembered now that we actually gone and bought 10 Venezuelan corys the previous week prior to the tank setup, so a the time of this picture I believe we had the following moved over:

~5 Panda cory
6 Sterbai cory
10 Venezuelan cory
~7 Cardinal tetra

This might have been the first time I fed food to the new tank
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This is 2 days after setup. I remember feeling pretty happy with how this full tank shot came out. The noon time natural light also helps. :)
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That's beautiful! My wife's expressed interest in having a fancy goldfish tank of her own (as long as it's planted somehow!). To avoid it being too technical and/or attention-seeking, our best option is going epiphyte heavy. I really like how you've done the hardscape; a nice planted middle section with open front and back to give the fish room to swim around the planted section should work well. Thank you for the inspiration!
 
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