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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
So, backstory first: I got hooked on planted tanks shortly after I got handed a piece of junk hand-me-down 10 gallon setup back in 2002, and ended up working my way up to a high tech 40B that I was pretty happy with. Then I dropped out in 2012 for reasons and sold off most of my aquarium related stuff.

(Here is the last scape shortly before it went *poof*)


Well, a few months ago on a whim I stopped by a new LFS that opened during my hiatus (just to, you know, “check things out”) and man, the fish tank bug bit hard. I’ve spent the past month or so figuring out how exactly I want to get the ball rolling again, and today I went to buy my new tank. Yay!

I went in to buy a rimless Marineland 45 gallon cube…

(I definitely wanted rimless and while the quality isn’t great, with IMO sloppy silicone work and waaaay bigger seams than I wanted, the price was right on)

Buuuuuut I walked out with this…

(Rimless! Low iron! Flawless silicone and seams!)


The LFS had it labeled as an ADA tank but I’m pretty sure they don’t make one in this size (36x18x16 – normal 40B footprint). It’s probably a Mr. Aqua or GLA or something like that, but hey – it’s on the sticker. And it was even a few bucks cheaper than the ML cube! Cha-ching.


FYI, this will be a sloooooooow grow project, as I’m adjusting all my planning on the fly after buying a totally different tank than I originally intended (whoops). If you’re looking for immediate payoff – sorry, this isn’t the right journal to be following.

But! Here’s some of the inspiration for this tank, so you get some sweet pictures anyway…



















And some hardware inspiration and ideas…





(stand finish)


(stand doors)

The overall idea is a South American “biotopey” (see what I did there?) tank, with dicrossus filamentosas, green neons, some cories (Sterbai? Trilineatus?), and a few otos and more curious algae eaters like farlowella/nannoptopoma/hypoptopoma. Most of the plants will be aquatic but growing above the water on some kind of mesh attached to emergent wood (Beavis: "Heh-heh, he said 'emergent wood,'”), which should allow me to use lower light levels (thinking a couple dimmable PAR38 bulbs) and will hopefully maximize nutrient uptake while minimizing algae growth. I’m thinking Metricide as a glutaraldehyde source instead of CO2 also.

I’ll be ready to order some of the hardware and miscellany this week, and should be able to get a start on the stand next weekend so you can expect updates then.

I’d love to field any questions or ideas you’ve got, so fire away – and thanks for checking in. Hope I can make it worth your while!


G
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
First update: Turns out this thing could actually be an ADA tank! I did something totally novel (i.e. not at all) and actually measured the dimensions of the tank, which came out to 35.5x17.5x18. As far as my Google research says this is pretty much spot on with the dimensions of a 90-P so it looks like it's more like 48+ gallons than 40 and more "official" (if that matters to you).

Also, thanks for the feedback, folks. No discus in this thing, but yes - that's the sort of environment I'm hoping to create. Not a "true" biotope because the fish are from different rivers in South America and I'm sure I'll be adding plants from the wrong hemisphere, but "close enough for government work" (as my old man used to always say).

(Changing the thread title now...)
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Yea that looks like an ada 90p to me. Congratulations on an amazing find!
Thanks - and it really was amazing. The manager at the store had no idea how they ended up with the tank in the first place but she said it had been there for almost a year, with them dropping the price every few months with no takers. Still can't believe my luck.

What fish are you thinking to add?
Here's the list I posted before:
dicrossus filamentosas, green neons, some cories (Sterbai? Trilineatus?), and a few otos and more curious algae eaters like farlowella/nannoptopoma/hypoptopoma.
So, all fish from different South American rivers but not truly a biotope list.

Checkerboards (dicrossus) are some of my favorite fish ever, and every time I started making stocking lists I kept coming back to them yet again. Their color/personality/size are just such a great combo for a tank this size. *shrug*

To go with them I wanted a less common tetra and originally planned on keeping ruby tetras (axelrodia riesei) but I'm not sure they're very tight schoolers and they seem to lose their awesome color when kept in the aquarium so started looking elsewhere. I thought about pencilfish as an alternative, but the really cool looking ones are just too expensive for me to justify a big group. I've done cardinals and think they're great in a big school, but I really do want something new and it sounds like green neons are a good option. I think their blue/aqua color will look great against the woody/shadowy backdrop I'm planning and should accent the checkerboards nicely.

Cories are sort of mandatory in a SA tank IMO, and I love the smaller "weirdo" loricarids. Plecos creep me out a bit to be honest so while something like a rubberlip or bristlenose might fit the bill really well they're out - but the nannops/hypops should do perfectly.
 

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So I have a school of A. riesei and they look great. I have them in a school of 10 with another school of 10 N. margaritatus and they look fantastic with nice colors.


In another tank, I have a pair of d. filamentosus with panda cories and they happy together. Also, there are 4 Laetacara sp. in the same tank without problems. Something to consider. Also nannostomus eques are great fish and look fantastic!
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 · (Edited)
OOOh, what interesting choices. I've never seen the dicrossus and nannoptopoma! Both are amazing. Might be hard to find here locally?
Yeah, there's the rub. I've previously ordered through the Wet Spot (Portland, OR) and they've delivered great fish, so I was already anticipating ordering through them again. If you never have, you should check out their stocklist and start drooling... www.wetspottropicalfish.com.

So I have a school of A. riesei and they look great. I have them in a school of 10 with another school of 10 N. margaritatus and they look fantastic with nice colors.

In another tank, I have a pair of d. filamentosus with panda cories and they happy together. Also, there are 4 Laetacara sp. in the same tank without problems. Something to consider. Also nannostomus eques are great fish and look fantastic!
So the a. riesei have held their cool red/orange color? How long have you kept them? A lot if the reports and images I've found online have pointed to that coloration fading over time, so if yours have stayed their original color that might make me come back around.

And do you have your pencilfish in an open-topped tank? I know they're often top-water swimmers and have a rep for carpet surfing, so I'd be a little worried about that... Having said that, both n. eques and marginatus seem reasonably priced and look very cool (I'm a sucker for "natural" looking fish and both fit that description perfectly).

And I found out why this tank was marked down so much - it's got a pretty good 2ish inch scratch near the top of one long side. I never would've noticed it in daylight, but where it's sitting it was backlit by some lamplight which highlighted perfectly when I was moving the tank around last night. I'll just flip that side to the back where it will be blocked by wood and plant growth. But that solves the "seems too good to be true" riddle.

Also: ordering some lightbulbs and window film tonight. Yay, progress! (Though finishing my plans for the stand build makes me realize how much work and time that part will probably take - good news is Spring Break is coming soon and I'll probably be able to dedicate large parts of a couple days to it since I won't be teaching).
 

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Yeah, there's the rub. I've previously ordered through the Wet Spot (Portland, OR) and they've delivered great fish, so I was already anticipating ordering through them again. If you never have, you should check out their stocklist and start drooling... www.wetspottropicalfish.com.
.
Really glad to hear good things about this site. I've been wondering.

They currently have the Dicrossus filamentosus "Checkerboard Cichlid" "Colombia" 1" WILD.
 

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I haven't found them to be particularly jumpy and yes they have held their color and are somewhat boisterous fish (well compared to the nannostomus). I've had them for 6+ months now I think. All the tanks I have are open top. So far I've lost 1 killifish to jumping and the odd amano shrimp (they are idiots). Go with the dicrossus. If you can find them tank raised that would be ideal since wild fish do need their low pH i've found. Give it a try!
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
UPDATE:

So, today I used one of the 3D printers our school is piloting and made ten of these...


Here's where they will go...


And here's what I'll add to them (along with some slices cut from a pool noodle)...


to create some floating "islands" for plants to grow on. With some thin branches of manzanita angling down below them and some bigger pieces shooting up out of the water in front of them, I'm hoping to create the appearance of a river's edge - sort of stark and true to a South American rio biotope (i.e. nearly plantless) below water, but super green and vibrant at the waterline and above.

I made the little white hooks with holes in them so I could use zip ties to attach the mesh, but now I'm thinking I could also stuff a bunch of something like one of the small hydrocotyle species into them and then set it off from the other island/s to create something like this effect...
.

Going to try and head up the river tomorrow to do some rock collecting too, so hopefully I come back with something interesting to post.

Thanks for looking!
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
UPDATE:

Nothing huge, but since things will be slow going on this for a while I figured I'd post every little bit of progress...

Here's what I accomplished today:




I cut the plastic mesh into "islands" for emersed growth plants to grow from. They're about 4 inches deep by 13.5 inches long - that seemed like a decent amount of real estate when I was laying them out outside the tank, but hanging up inside they look a tad small. Also, I'm not sure about the symmetry but I'll consider it for a while to see if I'll end up liking it - I might end up trying a more triangular look that's actually connected to one side rather than just across the back.


Here's a close-up. I just used a hole-punch in a couple spots and fed zip-ties through them and through the holes in my hangers. Next step will be glueing (siliconing?) pieces of poly foam (think pool noodles) on the front edge so it'll stay afloat, then stems can be stuffed into each hole so their roots grow down into the water. Moss can be tied around off-cuts of mesh and then just laid on top, while bits of HC or monte carlo can be pushed in like the stems. I'm also planning on dropping a cutting of pothos or philodendron in the back on one end and letting it grow in a train across the whole back of the tank, but I understand their roots can be poisonous - not sure if/how that might affect fish or aquarium water. Anyone done something like that before? Issues? Advice?

Thanks for looking!
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
UPDATE:
Got these in the mail today...


The thought of dropping my old crusty DIY acrylic or neon green Eheim pipes into this tank made me cringe, so I ordered these. They made it from Hong Kong to Colorado in nine days, which I have to say was a pleasant surprise - I was prepped to wait three weeks or so.

I know the glass pipes are the sexy way to go but I also know that mine would've been in a thousand pieces within a week with how many times I have banged around my plastic pipes. These also have the upside of hiding the gunk build up and will match the lighting setup I'm planning perfectly.

Still slow going, unfortunately. Might pick up a bit here in the next week or two - keeping fingers crossed that I'll be able to post some lighting and stand updates soon.

Cheers!
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Soooooo, after a long delay that included house projects, insurance claims, and other as yet unresolved issues, I finally got a free day to start on building my tank stand. I grabbed a couple sheets of 4x8 3/4 inch MDF, some screws, and glue and got to work.

I'm no Bob Villa, but I definitely know my way around basic power tools and have done some building and wood projects before... That said, nothing I did is revolutionary but hopefully by documenting it, someone else might feel encouraged/inspired/whatever to do their own DIY.

1. Cutting (no pictures because, you know, spinning blades).

2. Lots of gluing and clamping.


3. More gluing and clamping, with added screwing (hey now) and sanding. Here you can see the cut-outs for cords and filter hoses - grommets will complete the look later.


4. I used this stuff...

to get to this point.

I really like it for this application as it comes in powder form to which you add water to get the consistency you want to work with. For some spots I mixed up standard wood-fill thickness and used a putty knife, but for others I went more watery to paint on with a brush.

5. For added stability I lammed three inch cuts onto each interior corner, approximating the stability of 2x4's. I think it's strong enough without those, but better safe than sorry.

Then I used more Durhams to cover up the joins on the front...


6. Once everything was set and had a couple passes of sanding, I painted on more Durhams on every edge. If you've ever worked with MDF you know it has a tendency to crack, split, peel, etc. at the corners and edges, so this is step one to try to prevent that.


7. And here's step two - watered down wood glue painted on those same edges. I did a couple coats of the stuff.


8. Done with the building - next will be paint... But before that, I cracked open a little champagne to close out the day.


Thanks for looking - let me know what questions or ideas you have. Cheers!
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Started painting...


Next step is slapping a coat of some sort of sealer on top... I've worked with and like polycrylic (water-based version of polyurethane), but I'm also looking into other options too - resins, marine varnish, etc. I'm a little worried that even with several solid coats of paint water will still get through to the MDF, which causes raised areas in the grain that really resist sanding.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
UPDATE:

So, things slowed way down on this build during the fall season, but over the past few weeks I made some actual progress...







I hit the painted areas with 4-8 coats of Varathane - 4 for vertical surfaces, 8+ for horizontal surfaces that will catch more water, which I'm hoping is enough to keep it reasonably water-proof. (Though I suppose I could keep going for more certainty.)

I built the doors from old barn wood salvaged from my wife's urban farm site - I grabbed old scrap 2x4s and ripped them with my tablesaw so they'd be the right thickness, then glued and screwed them into panels. These were then mounted with some soft-close Euro hinges. Still need to get the right pulls for them, but at this point the stand is essentially done.

I've got everything on hand to set-up the overhanging lights but I need the tank in place to determine how high they need to be set, so for now I'm waiting for my yoga mat to arrive so I can use it as a tank pad (this was surprisingly difficult to source locally - everything was too thin and/or not black/gray that I needed) and then I can actually start assembling the tank...
 
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