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Discussion Starter #1
So I am looking to set up a new tank. I want a heavily planted blackwater swamp of sorts. With several schools of south asian little fish.
Not strict biotope think more dark romantic blackwater swamp garden. Lol I don't know if that's a thing but I'd like the plants to grow out of the tank so no covers. I'll gladly replace evaporation for the glorious warm humid bright growing space above the tank. I will be using ho t5 unless a need arises to do something different but I'm fairly comfortable with lighting options. No worries there.

I have currently an old Rena fillstar xp2 canister, I also have a hang on the back power filter rated for 200 gph. I know no one uses the Rena filters anymore but as it still works and I hate to replace it unless It stops working. I have a selection of bubble wands and stones And all the plumbing pieces that came with the Rena to do any number of set ups including the tray for an under gravel filter.
But I don't want to go that route. I want to use a "dirty" sand bottom with peat and leaves. I am open to other "soft and dirty" substrate ideas.

Originally I thought I would set up some kind of a drip system with a shelf of gravel to serve as additional bio filter space and double up as a shelf to water houseplants on occasionally. Hopefully this might motivate more frequent water changes. IE water that goes into a house plant is water I'm not carrying around in buckets. However it doesn't look like people use drip anymore so I am wondering how you would set these filtering apparatus up in a modern planted aquarium.

I would also love to hear how people are layering their canister filters. I have ceramic rings and gravel in mine from the last time it was used about five years ago but feel like I could probably play with this set up to make it work better. I know about foam and plastic scrubbies but is anyone using gravel, activated charcoal, peat, sand or other more natural options to increase the filter efficiency. I would like to keep plastic out of the system if possible.

Here's the catch. I have not bought a new tank yet and am open to suggestions on both size and shape. I'd like to go bigish but not break the bank on a tank. What do you suggest with the above information. How big can one reasonably go. I think my combined filtration works out to be somewhere around 350 gallons per hour maybe slightly less depending on filter media. What size and shape heavily planted tank are you filtering at 350 gallons per hour and how heavily are you able to stock it without the system collapsing.
 

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While its not for house plant watering it does avoid bucket carrying, my filter outlet feeds into one end of a planter trough above the tank that drains to the tank near the far end through some 1 1/2 inch plumbing waste pipe and fittings with its outlet into the tank bellow the surface to minimize noise, there is stainless sink plughole 'bits catcher' over the outlet too that cuts noise at the top end of the drain
The trough also has a garden hose outlet fitted above its usual water line.
A hose runs from that through a hole in the adjacent door frame out to the garden so to remove water i just have to cap the drain to the tank and let the filter run on and pump out however much water i want to change (I used a bucket to measure the outflow the first time and sharpie marked the level on the end of the tank at 5% and 10% which helps too)
 

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General advice is to have enough flow in a tank to turn over the water 4-8 times per hour. Since canister filters all lie about their actual in use output I aim for the 8 times per hour with knowledge that it will be much less, probably around 5 to maybe 6 times per hour once its setup and running.

Anyway 350/8 = approximately 40 gallons. So I would go with no more then a 40 gallon breeder. You can pick them up for around 50 dollars on a petco dollar per gallon sale.

I would attach the canister filter to a couple of lily pipes (my preference is stainless steel because they are easier to keep looking nice) and run the hang on back where it would fit and go with it.

I run nothing but sponge in my canister filters (occasionally a bag or 2 of ceramic rings that are being stored for the single purpose of seeding new tanks). The reason for this is that sponge is easy to clean. Ceramic rings are not really meant for mechanical filtration, and carbon, peat, these are things that are straight up disposable.

There is a general dislike of plastic in the society right now but its also essentially unavoidable in the aquarium hobby. I strongly suggest just getting over it :p

Your canister filter for instance is made of plastic. The tubing you plan to use will be made of plastic. The pipes in your house might be made of plastic and the flexible ones that attach to your sinks are definitely made of plastic. etc etc etc etc. Anyway my point being that to the extent you are worried about plastic leeching anything, 1) this is typically something worried about at higher temperatures then anything we keep in our tanks, and 2) fretting over plastic sponge while accepting the rest of the plastic in your system is definitely akin to closing the barn doors after the cows have already gotten out.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
So you are right. Very right thank you. I had to embrace plastic. plans changed and morphed... I ended going a route much closer to aquaculture and everything is plastic.

I realized what I wanted was living fertilizer and excess produce of aquatic species to feed to ducks.

My beautiful vision of a lovely underwater world will have to wait

I ended up plumbing a 45 gallon rain barrel to an ibc tote. The barrel has sand and peat substrate, a big branch and lots of willow some already rooted and some just starting to root. It also has an air stone. The ibc tote was seeded with lemma minor and salvinia in the hopes that my ducks will learn to love it or at least except it and I can reduce their feed costs.

I used the Rena and the water moves from the barrel to the tote through the Rena. I actually didn't change the media in the filter. It has two sponges and a bunch of donuts. I removed the old charcoal. Flow through the system is slow... 2 gallons a minute. 120 gallons an hour for a system holding around 100 gallons.
This said ph out of the tap. (Untreated spring water) reads 7.6 or there about. Ph in the tanks read 7.8. water temperature is cold. This monstrosity is in my basement 60-62 degree water. I have not tested gh or kh.
I added 6 assorted danios to the barrel all ammonia nitrite and nitrate stayed at 0. I over fed the danios. Levels still stayed at zero. I felt like I couldn't possible be growing a bacterial community at those levels so I got frustrated and added 25-30 feeder guppies and ramshorn snails to the ibc yesterday. Levels were 2.0 for ammonia this morning and I removed 50 gallons to water plants and replaced with spring water. So now my follow up question. What problems am I likely to encounter with such low flow? And why did my levels refuse to spike when I added danios, just not enough fish for so much water?
 
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