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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
UPDATED 1-4-2016

I converted the filtration over to a sump. I bought some new livestock, and lost a bunch of it to Ich. See latest posts for details :).

Current Picture of tank:


Current Picture of Stand/Bookshelves



The Short:

7 foot wide acrylic 105G tank. Custom stand, hood, etc. DIY CREE LED lighting. Arduino with 4.3" touchscreen and custom written code/GUI controls lights, auto feeders, pumps, filters, auto top off, temperature, etc.

Concrete/foam background with pieces of driftwood integrated into it.

LiveStock:
~10 Denison Barbs
~15 Tiger Barbs
~10 Apollo Sharks
~10 Corries
~15 bloodfin Tetras
1 Pictus Cat
2 Bristlenose Plecos, a loach, some shrimp and snails.

Plants:
Hygrophila Polysperma
Amazon Sword
Microsword
Java Fern
Corkscrew and Jungle Vals
Some other assorted plants


The Long Version....


This has been a BIG project. Way too ambitious. I'm kind of burned out. I bit off more than I could chew, but the project is almost finished.

This will be really long, so I'll separate the different parts of the project:

The Start

I had 11' of wallspace in my living room that I've wanted to put a tank in for awhile. I have a 50 gallon tank in another room which I've put a lot of work into, and so the plan was to take down the 50G, and transfer the lights/pumps to a new bigger tank to save some money on the build, and I have no interest of keeping 2 tanks.

I was looking for 125G tanks, but found this tank on Craigslist, and couldn't pass it up (was cheap, too).

Its an acrylic tank, 84" wide, 17.5" deep, and 16.5" tall inside dimensions, which is 105 gallons. All 1/2" acrylic. It wasn't braced, but it bowed terribly as you might expect, so I added 2 braces which works well.

Picture of the first filling next to a cat. The tank really looks bigger in person, its 7 freaking feet long!





The Background


I wanted to go all out on this, so I went for a complete DIY foam/concrete background. I also went to a local lake and picked out a bunch of good driftwood pieces. The idea is to make it look like a river flowing through a forested area, and to make it look as natural as possible.

Making the background took A REALLY LONG TIME. Like at least 50 hours. I think it turned out well, but it was a big learning experience. I can go through my trials and errors in another thread, but overall I'm happy with how it turned out. I am particularly happy with how I integrated the wood into the background.

I used pink styrofoam and mortar for the background. I did not use a sealer, but perhaps I should have. I let the background sit for a month after I finished the concrete, and then let it soak for a month with at least weekly drainings/refillings before adding fish.

Planning the wood layout.... The center 2 pieces are actually the same piece of wood that I collected, and I cut it in half down the center.


I wanted to make it look like a dirt/silt background in some spots, so I took a mix of regular ol' Petco plant soil and Petco black gravel for aquariums and mixed it liberally with black concrete and applied a few heavy coats on the back of this styrofoam. The styrofoam I shaped really quickly with a heat gun. I am REALLY REALLY happy with how this turned out, and it was really quick and easy to do. The rocky parts took a long time to do.

Foam shaped with heat gun layout out in tank:


With gravel/concrete applied:


Biggest center "rocky outcropping" peice. It has 2 caves built into it.


After a few coats of variously colored concrete:


On the sides of the tank I created hidden places for the filter intakes and outputs to go. It turned out really well:

(2) 2" intakes


(2) 1/2" outputs (another output is flush with surface)



Background is complete!!!!!
Really happy with out how turned out.


A few quick tips/lessons I learned:

Because the tank was braceless, it was MUCH easier to put the background in the tank. I braced the tank after putting the background in. in a "normal" tank it would have been a lot harder to make a large background like this.

I stressed a lot over the texture of the styrofoam while I was carving it, but the texture is really controlled by the concrete. It smooths it all out, and depending on how you brush it it creates the texture, so don't worry so much about what the raw styrofoam looks like.

I also stressed a lot over the coloration of the concrete. I do like how mine turned out, with several layers of different colors so that it has some good variation, but once you submerge it for a few months, the colors are very different than they were when I was making it, so its just really hard to anticipate how it will look in the end.

Filter Setup

I basically re-used a design that I used on my 50g setup. I travel a lot for work, and the tank is designed to go 30+ days without being touched, and it has worked really well so far.

I already had (3) Magnum 350 filters, and I really like them. They aren't all on at the same time, I only have 1 or 2 on at a time... more on that in another thread, but they provide plenty of flow and filtration, and I think they're easy to maintain.

If I didn't already own the magnum filters I would have made a sump, and perhaps that's what I should have done, but this was a tried/tested setup that was pretty easy for me to re-use.

I wanted a uniform flow river tank, so the intakes are on the left side, and outputs on the right side. It doesn't really create the uniform flow that you would expect, but it still works pretty well. I drilled bulkheads directly in the side of the tank (thank goodness for an acrylic tank!).

All the filters share a common intake/output pvc piping. It works pretty well, the only pain in the butt is if air bubbles get into the system, they're kind of hard to burp out, but once everything is setup and running it works really well, you don't have to prime the pumps!

Here's how it turned out. It would be better if I had more height on top of the filters so that that the plumbing into the PVC wasn't as tight... but it works pretty well.



I have a 18 gallon rubbermaid tub as a reservior for an auto-topoff system, and I can optionally drain the tank into the tub if I want to.

On the intake, I have a piece of 2" pipe that goes the height of the tank. I have a 400W submersible heater in there. My goal was to hide all the equipment of the tank, and I didn't really want to buy an inline heater since I already had this submersible heater. I'm happy with the results.

I have a 0-5 psi pressure sensor installed on the output pipe. An arduino will monitor the pressure to gauge the flow and status of the filters. I don't have this functioning yet, but it will be implemented soon.

Here's a basic sketch of how everything is plumbed up. The intake pvc is 1" and output is 3/4". If I were to do it again, I would probably make the intake 1.5", but keep the output as 3/4" to keep the flow velocity high.



Hood/Lighting

The lighting is mostly taken from my old tank... its a custom made CREE LED setup that I made 3 years ago. It runs off a 24V power supply and iscontrolled by some transistors and an arduino... More on that in another thread, but its a mix of individually controllable warm white, neutral white, and cool white CREE LEDs mounted on heat sinks. I also added some purple, teal, and deep red lights to fill out the color spectrum. Its about 80 total watts worth of LEDs. The tank isn't really heavily planted, and I'm not injecting C02, so its more than enough light.

I made a 14" tall hood, and its sealed well to prevent light from creeping through and prevent some evaporation.

I have 4 auto-feeders that are controlled by my arduino (more on that in another thread...), along with a water temprature sensor, ambient heat/humidity sensor, water level sensor, and 2 fans on the side that I can control. I found with auto-feeders inside a hood, that the food can get moist and stuck together if you don't have fans that come on periodically.



The Stand

I wanted to make the aquarium look "built-in", so I made it to have bookshelves on the side to fill up the entire wall. I have an awkard 6" on either side of the aquarium where the bulkheads/PVC are, that I haven't finished filler pieces for, and I'm not sure if I'll be happy with it, but on paper it seemed like a good idea.

After mulling over several different designs, I decided on doing 3 sets of "frameless" cabinets for the stand. I would not do this again. They are very difficult to get to line up, and I don't own a table saw. I got it to come out pretty well, but it was not fun to build. But on the plus side, when they're open it makes the stand very open and easy to work in/on.

I built the stand taller than most. The bottom of the tank is 48", which puts the top of the hood at about 6'2". The idea was to make the tank at eye level so you don't have to lean over to look at it. It also puts the tank higher than the drain of my kitchen sink which makes water changes MUCH easier! I just stick a hose in the tank at the desired drain level, and siphon it into my kitchen sink, and come back and refill the tank. No buckets.

I first made a sketchup of the design to get all my dimensions correct:


I didn't end up building the top part above the hood, but I might at a later date.

Here's the frame finished(with my old 50g in the background):


I made the middle shelf out of melamine shelving from home depot. Its where the filters will go. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND DOING THIS! Its basically waterproof. If it gets wet you just wipe it off.

Final Touches/Stocking

Here's the most recent shot of the tank. The wood for the left hood piece was warping, so I'm bending it back. You can also see a mess of wires where the Arduino touchscreen is going to be.... right now its the bane of my existence.



I haven't stained the wood yet or securely put the bookshelf pieces on the side, but that part is not hard to complete.


The stocking will be:

10 Denison Barbs
10 Tiger Barbs
20 Cardinal Tetras
8 Panda Cories
1 Boita loach for the snails
Some octo cats and amano shrimp
a bushynose pleco or farowella cat if I can find one
Maybe a catfish, like a jaguar or pictus.
I want a bichir and/or ropefish but I'm not sure if they'll be fine with the cardinals and cories.

My current plan is let the Cardinals and Cories to grow for about 6 months and then get the bichir and ropefish, and if they eat the cories or cardinals... than oh well, and I'll buy some bigger fish. Maybe some Congos or Gouramis or something.

Here's a shot I took with some of the stock in it:


The fish are still juveniles, but they don't fill up the tank as much as I was anticipating, so I might add another school or something. Depends on what I can find at my LFS.

Well that's pretty much all the pics for now. The tank is up and running, but I'm having issues with the Arduino setup, and the lights aren't running their proper schedule, so the plants aren't growing in well, and I've only put in about half the fish I intend on putting in.

Thanks for slugging through all the text and stay tuned :icon_smil
 

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Awesome dude...
The stand is hard to see clearly in your picture. I looks like there is no support at the outside edges of the tank. The 2x4 that goes from the bottom to the top looks as if it's inside of the 2x4 which is running along the edge instead of under it. This gives the impression that only screws are holding up this tank at the outside edges. Can you clarify ?
But I love the back wall and how you incorporated the wood into the back.
It might be a useful thing to have a few corkscrew vals somewhere in there in a small clump that would bend even if ever so slightly with the current.
 

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great, now i want a river tank too...
tiger barb is a good choice, they're so active and fun to watch. just keep the numbers thereor nipping will happen.

anyway, how deep is your substrate?
looks pretty thin for those plants
 

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looks like there is no support at the outside edges of the tank. The 2x4 that goes from the bottom to the top looks as if it's inside of the 2x4 which is running along the edge instead of under it. This gives the impression that only screws are holding up this tank at the outside edges.
this is going to be brought up often, and correctly so.

However, since the tank is acrylic and doesn't have a rim I'm not sure if it's as big a deal since the weight should be distributed throughout the entire bottom of the tank.

Though, to be more on point; the reason that this is usually such a concern is that the weight ends up being supported only by the screws. And the sheer rating of the screws ends up being less than the compression rating of the vertical 2x4. However... in this case, with the full bottom being on the plywood some of the weight is going to be distributed to the 2x4's.

I'd think it was fine in this case, but it's still not something a lot of folks would do. You typically want a 2x4 at each corner to appropriately take the weight.

the tank itself is wonderful. you did an excellent job.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Awesome dude...
The stand is hard to see clearly in your picture. I looks like there is no support at the outside edges of the tank. The 2x4 that goes from the bottom to the top looks as if it's inside of the 2x4 which is running along the edge instead of under it. This gives the impression that only screws are holding up this tank at the outside edges. Can you clarify ?
But I love the back wall and how you incorporated the wood into the back.
It might be a useful thing to have a few corkscrew vals somewhere in there in a small clump that would bend even if ever so slightly with the current.

However, since the tank is acrylic and doesn't have a rim I'm not sure if it's as big a deal since the weight should be distributed throughout the entire bottom of the tank.

Though, to be more on point; the reason that this is usually such a concern is that the weight ends up being supported only by the screws. And the sheer rating of the screws ends up being less than the compression rating of the vertical 2x4. However... in this case, with the full bottom being on the plywood some of the weight is going to be distributed to the 2x4's.

I'd think it was fine in this case, but it's still not something a lot of folks would do. You typically want a 2x4 at each corner to appropriately take the weight.

Thanks.

The stand is built a little strangely. None of the upright 2x4s are flush with the front, because you need ~3/4" or so of empty space to make the framless cabinets work. Actually the middle 2 braces are mounted to the bottom of the long 2x4 span, and there are cross braces in those places as well that you can't see.

The corner supports are just screwed, glued, and nailed in from the side like you observed, but they're also flush with the top (the OSB sits on the vertical 2x4 as well as the horizontal 2x4s). The key point is the glue and the nails. I used heavy gauge 3" nails, which have a high sheer strength. Building it this way was the most realistic way to leave the space for the cabinets. In a taller and heavier tank, I don't know that I would have done that, but its perfectly fine for my application. Since the tank is not very deep, its not very heavy per sq. inch; Each vertical 2X4 only holds around 100 lbs, which is not even near the capacity of this type of joint, just ask any construction carpenter or deck builder.

Yes I do have some corkscrew vals and regular giant vals in the tank, but due to my laziness with the lights, they haven't grown in well. In a month or 2 I'll have more plant fill and it will make the tank look a lot better and bend slightly with the flow :icon_smil


great, now i want a river tank too...
tiger barb is a good choice, they're so active and fun to watch. just keep the numbers thereor nipping will happen.

anyway, how deep is your substrate?
looks pretty thin for those plants
Good question, the substrate isn't as deep as I initially wanted. Because the tank isn't too deep on its own, I didn't like the look of deeper substrate. Its deeper than it looks in the pictures, as it slopes rearward, and all the plants that need deep roots are near the back with probably 1.5" of substrate. I have lots more soil left over from my 50g, I might add some more.

You're so right about the Tiger Barbs! They were kind of an impulse buy since they were $1 each. I had thought about them, but didn't really want them since they're so common, but they're definitely my favorite to watch. Its a shame that people stick them in 10 gallon tanks by themselves so often, they really need some open water and a group of at least 7. They school really tightly all the time, and explore everywhere and play in the current. They're terrific fish, and very hardy and cheap!
 

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You forgot your 'y' in the thread title. :)

I'm right there with you! These big tanks are a lot more work than expected. I started my 150G back at the end of March and even though I abandoned the foam background, its just now about ready to move inside.

Your tank is looking great. Excellent job on the background.

Bump:
(the OSB sits on the vertical 2x4 as well as the horizontal 2x4s).
OSB? Eek! That stuff does NOT hold up to water well. Hope you put a heavy sealer on it!
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Why not use a sump? It's much simpler than using a closed-loop to have ATO/WC's?
Yeah I kind of regret not going for the sump... but I already had the filters, and I've never used a sump before... so I just re-used my filters. Also, the tank is only 100 gallons, its really not that big. If it was 180+ gallons or something I definitely would have gone sump.

water changes and ATO is easy with the setup I built, and I don't have to worry about overflows and such, which would have just been one more headache for me.
 

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Yeah I kind of regret not going for the sump... but I already had the filters, and I've never used a sump before... so I just re-used my filters. Also, the tank is only 100 gallons, its really not that big. If it was 180+ gallons or something I definitely would have gone sump.

water changes and ATO is easy with the setup I built, and I don't have to worry about overflows and such, which would have just been one more headache for me.
You can use sumps on any size aquarium. Plenty of reef people use sumps on 10-30 gallon aquariums. After I tried a sump on my 80G; I'll never go back to using a canister. A sump is much more convenient and easier to maintain than a canister.
 

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What a great job on the back ! Far too often foam and concrete backgrounds just don't work , but your's does , with the your combination of tree trunks and the muted colors of the concrete . With a bit more planting and some 'breaking in' it'll only get better .
 

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Yeah I kind of regret not going for the sump... but I already had the filters, and I've never used a sump before... so I just re-used my filters. Also, the tank is only 100 gallons, its really not that big. If it was 180+ gallons or something I definitely would have gone sump.

water changes and ATO is easy with the setup I built, and I don't have to worry about overflows and such, which would have just been one more headache for me.
I've a 125 with a 40g sump on it. The benefits of a sump on a "smaller" tank is many, not least of which is the added water volume. You certainly don't need a sump, but since you've 3 canisters filters I think it would've been a lot simpler.
 

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You nailed the background, it would be perfect for some actual lake fish. Bluegill or large mouth bass. That would be sick!
 

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That is a great river hardscape! I'll be following this journal for sure.

I have an unused 8' wall in my basement that's been begging for something like this. :)
I don't know where you would find the time, but I sure would like to see what you could do with that much real estate.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
You nailed the background, it would be perfect for some actual lake fish. Bluegill or large mouth bass. That would be sick!
That would be cool. I guess I'm aiming for more of an Amazon biotope. Some hillstream loaches would be cool, but I'm not sure that they would do that well in my tank.
 

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Nice job! Between all the ideas that everybody has floating around this forum I am never going to finish tinkering on my setup. Lol.
 
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