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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.

~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.

Hygrophila Polysperma
Amazon Sword
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.


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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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.


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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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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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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Discussion Starter · #29 ·
I wouldn't be surprised if that tank you got is one I saw earlier this year, lol.
The tank was on craigslist for awhile, you probably did see it. It was in pretty rough shape, one side of the tank was scratched to hell, but was perfect for my setup!

Only concerns I'd have for your project is the build of the stand. I am an advocate to overbuilding/designing an aquarium stand.
I have absolutely no worries about the stand. The tank is only 17" tall, and acrylic, so it doesn't weigh as much as you would think. A standard 125G weighs around 220 lbs more than my tank, and most 125G stands I've seen only have 3 upright 2X4 or 4X4 "columns". Using heavy nails and woodglue are overkill strong enough for this application.

Great work! Love the background and driftwood.

I'd vote for a bigger school of tiger barbs.
Well done on a great tank.... +1 on more Tigers.....

Thanks! I do think I agree about the tiger barbs. I had the hood open for a few hours the other day and one tiger barb did a "free willy" and fell to his death, and I put 2 more in for a school of 11. I think I might go to 14 or 15 though. I didn't want a huge school of them when designing the tank, because I wanted to Denison Barbs to be the "showpiece" fish, but I like the tiger barbs enough that I'll probably give them a bigger school.

Wow, pretty awesome background! Looking forward to seeing the progress here!

P.S. I just noticed our forum nicknames are quite similar, haha.
Thanks! Science FTW :icon_smil Although I have a lot of education in Physics, a more apt username for me would probably be "EngineerDude".

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Discussion Starter · #30 ·
No good pictures yet, but tank is making good progress.

The lights (including moon lights) are up and working 100% and all my scheduling features for them are working great. Unforunately I'm having issues with my RTC, so I need to fix that, otherwise the clock gets off by about an hour a day, which is annoying.

I have my autofeeder system mostly working. I fried one of my feeders accidentally, but I was out of town for a week, and when I got back my fish weren't hungry, so the arduino is successfully controlling them on their schedule.

The auto top off system is working great.

I finished the "bookshelves" on the sides, and mounted them, but the only downside is that the stain on them didn't turn out as well as I thought. I stained both sides of the bookshelves in the same day with the same bucket of stain, but one of them I stained in the evening, when it was cooler out (about 50 degrees) and the other I stained during the day about noon (about 80 degrees). The one I did in the evening didn't really soak into the wood, it more put a flat coat of paint on the shelf, presumably because it was too cold. It doesn't look /bad/ but the fact that the bookshelves look different on both sides looks really bad. I tried sanding it without much luck, I'll just live with it for now, and rebuild the shelf when I move next.

I should have a lot of time to work on the tank setup thanksgiving weekend, so hopefully it will be mostly finished by then. I should have the final trim pieces installed, finish staining the stand, and have my filler pieces installed. I have the ultrasonic sensor, temp sensor, fans, and pressure sensor to hook up fully and then all my wiring should be done, and I can close up the bottom of the stand which is a rats nest of wires right now. The end is near which is giving me more motivation to get this done!

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Discussion Starter · #32 · (Edited)

I was only home for 18 hours (including sleeping) this week before I had to leave for work again.

I did buy 6 more tiger barbs, which I think brings the school to 16. They were camera shy when I was filming, but overall they've been very active and school very well. Their increased activity seems to have made the cardinals school tighter also. Not sure if I want more fish or just let these grow to full size. Tank looks a little empty now, but I'm thinking once the fish reach full size, they'll fill in the tank pretty well. I'm not a big fan of heavily stocked tanks, I think medium or lightly stocked looks more natural.

I managed to get some good shots (well, as good as an iPhone can take).

Came home to a pretty bad leak from a bad irrigation fitting... my fault to using an irrigation fitting. One of the top braces came loose.... going to buy some more acrylic and maybe do some Euro bracing or something... still figuring that out. For right now I'm rocking the good ol' C-Clamp bracing.

Current pic:

Whole tank:

A shot of some of the fish:

When I built the tank I added 3 of each 3W 405nm LEDs (hyper violet), 495nm (turquoise), and 685nm (deep red), both to try to "fill in" the gaps that conventional white LEDs have in their color spectrum, and the red and violet should help plant growth. When just this array is on, to the human eye it looks mostly turquoise, since the red and violet are on the edge of the human eye's range, but on camera you can see the reds a lot better, it makes the tank look like a disco club!

It really brings out both the blue and red on the Cardinals. When the other white lights are on, its not very noticeable if these "accent lights" as I call them, are on.

The plants are doing pretty well, but not growing as fast as I expected. I think my mistake was using brand new substrate and not dosing enough fertilizers. I extended the lights to give almost 12 hours of good light per day, and put in twice the fertz I was earlier, with a 50% water change weekly, so hopefully they'll start growing in a little better. I'm still very satisfied with the tank. I never expected it to look like a lush forest, mostly looking for a more natural feel. My last tank was very similar, basically same lighting and substrate, similar plants, and low tech also, and it turned out very green after about a year, so I just need to be patient. I also had thicker mature substrate on the old tank, so I will definitely be adding another 1/2" or so of substrate on this tank. The good news is I have not had hardly any algae.

A pic of my old setup for reference:

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Discussion Starter · #34 ·
Small update. I added 2 bags of aquasoil to cover the substrate. I should have spent more money on better subsrate while setting up the tank, or I should have transfered all my old substrate. Oh well. Live and learn.

Capping the substrate and putting brand new filter elements really helped clear the water up. It also looks like all the tannins from the driftwood have leached out also, so the water is really really clear.

I spent some more money on getting Flourish fertilizers, and started dosing them every week, and it has really made my plants grow, along with the added substrate. I should have been doing this all along, but I'm still learning how to grow plants well. Its still going to be several months before the plants really spread out and grow in.

Unfortunately I lost all my cardinal tetras to an Ich outbreak while I was out of town. I replaced them with a school of Turqoise Rainbowfish, which was really for the better. The Cardinals didn't like the strong water currents, and the rainbowfish LOVE strong currents, and are just more active overall. I like the look of the tank better with the rainbowfish.

The tiger barbs have grown a lot, and the tank finally is starting to look fully stocked.

I made a lot of progress on the Arduino controller. It now monitors and stores temperature data, so I can see how well the heater is regulating the temperature. I added features which calculate the real moon phase and sunrise/sunset times for the lights, along with some other misc. fixes and updates that I had been lazy about.

Still need to finish some of the wood working... Haven't done a whole lot since its been cold and wet. I have to cut my wood outside, since my garage has a disassembled car engine in it. January is pretty slow for work, so hopefully I'll be able to get a lot of work done in the next few weeks.

Updated picture:


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Discussion Starter · #37 ·

I am basically finished! There's still a few things I want to do to it, a few pieces of trim that I'd like to put on, and some more arduino stuff I want to add... but all the big stuff is complete. Very satisfied to have this tank finally be presentable. It makes a very nice centerpiece for my dining room.

The stain didn't really turn out how I expected, but I don't think I applied it correctly. Oh well, it still looks nice.

The arduino is working well. Currently it controls the lights, feeders, and filters. Auto top off is working. Right now I can leave this tank alone for over a month and it will be just fine, which was my original goal.

Here's a cool side by side picture I did with my original sketchup. I made the sketchup drawing on May 20th, 2014. I finished the tank March 1st, 2015. It took a long time and a lot of hard work, but its neat to see my original design jump to life. Only thing I really changed was how the bookshelf connects to the hood at the top. I kept the bookshelf as a separate piece to make the setup more modular.


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Discussion Starter · #40 ·
The stand makes the tank look small to me, but I know it isn't! I think it turned out nice. Definitely cool with all the automation that you have put in place.
Yeah I know what you mean, the pictures are almost underwhelming to what it looks like in person. From left to right the entire setup is 12 feet wide. It takes up the entire wall of one side of my dining room.

Here's a picture from the side, makes the tank look much bigger. The tank/stand also protrudes about 6" past the bookshelves.


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Discussion Starter · #43 ·
Perspective is being restored little by little. The tank looks great already, but I'm sure it will continue to look better as it matures.

Off topic: A turbo 4-cylinder? What make? Reminds me of the box my Prosport gauges came in.
The parts are for a turbo C5 Corvette. Its the main reason this aquarium project took so long :hihi:

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Discussion Starter · #45 ·
:( Dang! I was thinking that could have just been one head. I actually started my aquarium project because I couldn't get in the garage to finish my turbo project! Haha. I find fish much more relaxing to sit back and watch.
Automotive work is definitely a lot more frustrating that aquarium stuff.... I like working on cars/boats/motorcycles/engines, but after a few hours I usually have to stop and do something else for awhile and "cool down". I do better working on the corvette, because believe it or not they're very easy to work on, and generally more fun than mundane maintenance or issues with daily commute vehicles.

Kind of sad, but kind of funny, I think one of my tiger barbs ate himself to death? I bought quite a few new fish in the past few days, and have been overfeeding to observe the eating habbits of the new fish (what foods they like, etc.), and I just got my arduino controlled autofeeders working, so in testing them I probably fed too much also.

This guy was my biggest Tiger barb (out of ~15), and he seemed to be at the top of the pecking order, and has always looked very bloated. This morning I woke up to him like this:

After a ~75% waterchange last week, all of my turquoise rainbowfish died. It looked like the incoming water was very very hard? I don't know, none of the other fish were affected.

A fish store near me had 10 "Apollo sharks". I've never heard of them, but they're super cool looking, and extremely active. They look like small barracudas, and have large mouth and streamlined bodies. I also got a pictus cat, and a "dinosaur" bichir. Very happy with the stocking now. Tank looks pretty full, and a lot more active than in the past.

I've noticed quite a bit more algae in the past few weeks, not sure what to make of that. I've been trying to find a true siamese algae eater, but of course they're difficult to find. My BN Plecos don't seem to be doing their job. I think part of the issue is that I've been overfeeding.

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Discussion Starter · #48 · (Edited)
Great setup, well thought out and clean looking. I'm jealous of your extra foot of tank length, time for an 8' long.:hihi:
Thanks! I initially wanted a 180g tank (8'X2'X2'), but there weren't any on craigslist when I was looking for them. I was about to get a standard 125g when this interesting 7' acrylic popped up for cheap. I really love the extra width, it worked perfectly for my situation.

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Discussion Starter · #49 · (Edited)
UPDATE 3-30-2015

I got a bunch more plants this week. Mostly Jungle Vals and microswords. I'd like more variety in the plants... but I'm pretty terrible with plants, so I've always had the best luck sticking with a only a few different plants which grow well.

The fish are doing really well. They're still not as active as I would like, so I'm still working on getting that sorted out.

Updated full tank shot, its finally near its final form. I don't intend of changing much of the setup from here on out.

I really love the Apollo Sharks that I got about a month ago. They're very interesting fish. Extremely fast, extremely active, extremely tight schooling fish, big mouths, and also completely non-aggressive. I bought a school of blood fin tetras that are about 1.25" long. The 5" Apollo Sharks don't even seem to notice them. They haven't touched the Amano Shrimp either, but they'll eat shrimp pellets whole and eat .75" freeze dried shrimp whole. Apparently in the wild they skim the water surface eating insects, and rarely eat fish. They are a great aquarium fish, although pretty rare.

This is the best shot I could get of one, they usually stay in the top 2" of the water.

I've done some work on the Arduino stuff, but mostly just bug fixes and some minor changes in how the lights dim. Still a couple more features I want to add, but nothing major. I'm considering this project done, and moving onto some unfinished projects in my garage that I've been neglecting.

I'll try to update the journal about once a month. Probably get a couple videos of the tank once the fish are grown in a bit more.

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Discussion Starter · #55 ·
Nice Tank! Where did you find the tree roots?

I got them from a lake bed in Kansas last summer. The water level was pretty low and there was a lot of previously submerged wood. I brought a sawzall and a tape measure and got some good pieces.

The middle 2 pieces are actually the same trunk/root piece that's cut in half down the center.


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Discussion Starter · #57 ·
Figured I'd give this a small update.

Everything is going really well with the tank. Haven't done anything special besides monthly water changes/filter cleaning and feeding the fish. The plants are at "equilibrium". They are doing well, but no major new growth. I'm quite happy with the tank, and get lots of positive comments from guests. The tank looks extremely natural, which is what I was going for.

Here's a full tank shot I took today. I couldn't get my cell phone to take a very good picture. One of these days I should invest in a real camera.


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Discussion Starter · #60 ·
Been almost 2 months since last update. Tank is doing better than ever. I added a new air pump which pumps air into a diffuser and into the output of my filters. It works excellently, the fish "breath" very slowly indicating a lot of 02, and the plants seem to be growing a lot better and look greener, so I'm thinking there's more C02 dissolving in the water also.

I bought some more plants last week and did a major trim, trying to bring some more diversity. Hopefully they continue to thrive.

The automation features are still working great. I left the tank by itself for 22 days with no one touching it, and the fish and plants were doing great.

Full tank shot:

My favorite livestock addition, albino Senegalus Bichir (dinosaur bichir). He's doing great, I was afraid he'd have a hard time eating with so many other fast fish in the tank, but he's nice and plump, and about 6" long. He's eventually going to eat the corries, but I'm OK with that.


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Discussion Starter · #62 · (Edited)
Update 1-4-2016

UPDATE 1-4-2016:

I have done lots of work lately to the tank! First and foremost, I switched the tank over from a closed loop canister filter system to a sump! I was tired of maintaining the canister filters, and after 5 years of nonstop work, the Magnum 350 filters just weren't cutting it anymore. I was also having issues of the water not being oxygenated because of low filter flow.

More on that later!

Livestock Update:

I also put some new livestock in lately. I got 2 bichirs a few months ago, and I bought a school of tiger stripe silver dollars, which are awesome fish! Unfortunately I bought the silver dollars right before a 7 day business trip, and when I came back, half my livestock was dead from an Ich infestation that was brought in from the new silver dollars! I know I should have quarentined them, but I don't have a quarantine tank. Live and learn!

Right now in the tank I currently have:

0 Denison barbs all dead :-(
0 Clown Loaches all dead :-(
2 bristlenose plecos
8 tiger barbs
5 Apollo Sharks
6 corydora catfish probably bichir food in a few months
1 albino sengalus bichir My favorite!
1 delhezi bichir
1 Tiger Stripe Silver Dollar Lone survivor

In a few weeks after the infection is 100% gone and I'm home for at least a week I'm going to restock on Denison barbs, silver dollars, and clown loaches.

The albino bichir is my favorite! I've had him about 6 months, he's a full 8" and pretty thick. Like most bichirs, he was pretty shy when first added to the tank, but he's become quite adventurous now! Very cute and photogenic if you ask me :). The Delhezi bichir is newer, and still pretty shy. He's going to be a beast when he grows a bit more, and will hopefully get a bit more active when he gets bigger.

Delhezi Bichir:

Albino Bichir:


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Discussion Starter · #64 ·
New Sump!

I finally joined the dark side and switched to a sump. I should have designed the setup initially to use a sump, but I was too lazy.

After 5 years of continuous work, my canister filters were pretty worn out. I tried replacing a few parts on them, but it didn't seem to help much. I'm glad I switched to a sump, its really the best option for any serious larger aquarium.

The biggest sump I could fit under my stand was a 20 gallon long. I found one on craigslist that already had baffles installed. I used (4) 4"x9" filter socks. I'm hoping they can last 30 days between replacements, but lately I've been changing them weekly to keep the water pristine.

I also bought a Jabeo DC-8000 sump pump. I'm very happy with it so far, its pretty quiet, features 10 speeds, and slow start. I only use speed 3 out of 10, and its plenty of flow for the tank. Best part is it cost less than $100!

I learned a lot about sumps. When I first installed it, I didn't properly plan my drains. I didn't understand that you want the main drain to have a full siphon. I then redid some of the plumbing. I'm not going to go into all the details, and I had to plumb things in a weird way due to how I built the setup initially. I ended up drilling another hole near the top of the tank, which was not very easy to do with fish in the tank! After my 2nd re-do, everything is working pretty well. With a properly designed overflow I could have more reliable flow and quieter operation, but the setup is working fine for what I had to work with.

The sump was really hard to fit under the tank. I didn't design the tank with a sump in mind, so I had to remove one of the supports (while the tank was 1/2 full of water) to get everything to slide in. I spent about 15 hours straight installing the sump and figuring out all the problems.

I put some K3 media in the sump to create somewhat of a fluidized bed filter. I'm not sure if I'll keep it. My tank has plenty of beneficial bacteria in the tank due to the background and driftwood, and the media bouncing around the sump is noisier than I expected. It does look really cool when its in action though!

sump won't fit:

Moved support so that it will fit:

Installed and running!
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