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Discussion Starter #1
This forum is great, thanks to you all for the inspiration. My wife and I were avid fishkeepers in college. When the last of our pets from that era died (T.A.B., a blind cave fish that lived for 10 years), we packed it in. Now my 7 yr old son wants an aquarium. Please suffer some newb-ish questions.

There's almost no room in the house so it has to be a nano. We have almost no money so it has to be cheap. It is being "maintained" by a seven-year-old so it has to be low maintenance. With the kids and the lack of space and the sharp objects flying around, it has to be acrylic. I'm thinking a low-tech, planted, acrylic nano tank. :)

Here's what I've got so far (link to images):



* A 9-gallon acrylic aquarium for $10 from a local reuse center. (score!) I suspect was used at UNC or Duke to study zebrafish. It seems like a high-quality acrylic, very thick and well-put together. It is an odd dimension,
19" wide x 10" deep x 11" tall. It also has two 1/4"holes drilled near the bottom middle of each end (see pics).

* A stand I made previously to hold stereo equipment. It may not look it, but the three-leg arrangement is quite stable.

* A marineland biowheel HOB, an ebo-jager 100 watt heater, and other various acroutements left over from the old days. I also have some Tetra Initial Sticks, Tetra FloralPride, and Tetra Hilena Crypto that I bought six years ago in hopes of setting up a planted tank.

* 20 lbs of Eco complete bought at the LFS.

* A 13-watt Ott lite fixture and a few spare bulbs.

So far, I put the above together for the modest investment of $36. But there is still a lot left to do. I'm in the first round of drying soil to make a mineralized soil substrate. still have to buff away scratches on the tank and plug the holes in the sides with aquarium silicone sealant. I'm thinking of putting a dwarf puffer and a pair of Otos in the tank, maybe some tiny shrimp. Or I might go with rasboras and a trio of cory cats. We have extremely soft water here in central NC.

Onto the questions:

1) is there any advantage to leaving the holes in the tank sides? Maybe put rigid tubing in the holes, plug the ends, and then seal around the tubes? That way, if I decided to do DIY C02 down the line, there would be "inlets" near the bottom of the tank. I wouldn't choose to do this, but for $10 I can't complain about a professional-grade acrylic tank.

2) is there a shelf life for eco complete? I bought it a couple days ago, but I'm still 2-3 weeks away from having mineralized soil for the substrate. Should I put the eco complete in water during that time?

3) is a 13-watt ott lite placed in the center of the tank, approx 12 inches from the substrate, going to be enough light for a low-tech tank?

4) Is the Tetra fertilizer stuff too old to use? Will I even need it if I'm doing a mineralized soil substrate with eco complete over top?

5) would some sort of additional tank underneath the aquarium with a water pump improve water quality? in other words, increase the number of gallons "vertically" since there is no more room in the tank? If so, is such a think difficult to DIY without making a flood in the house?

Thanks for reading, it has been a pleasure looking at the high-quality threads already here.
 

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hey man that acrylic tank is nice!
glad to see your getting back into this hobby
mmmm i think you could put the ottlite in the center but im not sure if it would be dispersed far enough for the whole tank. i could be wrong
the eco complete should be fine. as for the fertilizers, im sure the mineralized soil and eco complete will be ok for low maintenance, so its not necessary.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
trigun808, thanks. You're saying no ferts at all, not even initial sticks? That would be great. And I will look for a supplemental ott lite fixture.

Phoenix-cry, the top shelf comes right off. I'm fiddling with a way to make a nice-looking light hood. But I might put the tank on the top anyway because even removing it to get to the tank might be a pain.
 

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Looks like you're set. My only concern is your lights. You might need 20-30watts depending on how good the reflectors are. If not, you can supplement a few hours of sunlight.
 

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It looks like that HOB is a very tight fit, can you change cartridges in it?...for a 9 gallon tank an air-driven sponge would work extremely well, and also be easy to maintain, with no additional cost for replacement cartridges.
If I wasn't going to use a sponge, I would be tempted to purchase flanged bulkhead fittings, enlarge the holes to 3/4" and use them for a canister type filter such as an Eheim 2213.
If you don't want to use a canister at this time, you could screw a plug into the bulkhead fittings, and it would be easy to hook up a canister at a later time.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
mistergreen, It would be a relatively easy matter to put a spiral CFL on top, so I might rig that up. Thanks.

ron521, I can take the top shelf off no problem, but I might just put the tank on top regardless. I like what you're saying about the bulkhead fittings and I will look into that. Do you think it's a problem that the exit/entry for the Eheim is so low in the tank?
 

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Hey Dragon Star,

nice to see your son and you getting back into this. I had one of those Ott Lites over a 10gallon and it wasn't anywhere near enough, definately get 2 of those up there. I just tore down my 10g to convert it to saltwater, and consolodated all my freshwater stuff into my 30g. I have 2 ott lights and 2 "daylight" CF bulbs in a fixture I wired up with parts from lowes and an old hood.

Don't forget to get cleaning tools (magent scrubber/ flat scrapper) that are specific to acrylic so you don't put more scratches in.

Also, definitely get some little shrimp, they do a great job of cleaning out the tank. My 30 gallon has always had a black bearded algae problem, but since I consolidated tanks, the cherry shrimp have really taken it down.

Good luck
 

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In a 9gl tank, your fish options are going to be pretty limited. Since rasboras and the sort are schoolers/shoalers, you could have around 10 or so. Also, for plant choices, I would stick to Anubias, Crypts, and Microsoreum. These are all low-light/low-tech plants.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
In a 9gl tank, your fish options are going to be pretty limited. Since rasboras and the sort are schoolers/shoalers, you could have around 10 or so. Also, for plant choices, I would stick to Anubias, Crypts, and Microsoreum. These are all low-light/low-tech plants.
You are right about that. My plan is to have either seven microrasboras and some shrimp or a dwarf puffer, shrimp, and possibly a pair of otos. I don't have any experience with dwarf puffers, but from what I've read they can live in, and possibly even prefer, a small, private space. My concern is otos in a nine gal which seems too small.

I'm putting as large a cannister filter as I can underneath. I think I'll have a five gallon. This should help further reduce changes to water chemistry.

My LFS stocks white cloud mountain minnows, which some say are good nano residents. They look like they nare built for speed to me, so I would tend to think they wouldn't be good in a small tank.

Thanks for the plant recs.

Also, I have two CFL/shoplight fixtures which should be plenty of light.
 

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Whiteclouds are definitely schoolers that are quite active, and I would not suggest putting them in a 9gl tank. Remember, 9gl's is the empty volume of water too. The addition of substrate, rocks, plants, etc all reduce open swimming area.

As for the ottos, you can keep them no problem in a 9gl. They aren't active at all, and are rather quite inconspicuous. They will just sit or perch on the glass or a leaf/wood.

A good mix for your tank would be 3 ottos, some dwarf rasboras (boraras sp.) and/or some dwarf shrimp.

Not sure of the dwarf puffer in with shrimp (I have no experience in this).
 

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An FYI about the dwarf puffers. They can be pretty picky eaters and in my experience need frozen or live foods. If your tank is going to be "maintained" by a 7 year old I assume he/she will be feeding the fish, so you may want to get something that will be more likely to accept flake or pellet food.
 

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+1 about dwarf puffers. picky eaters, you'd have to have a small tank to raise snails in to keep him happy, or constantly go to the store for fresh food.

Why not a Betta? I had a Betta with some shrimp and some tiny "least killifish" in my 5 gallon for a while at my office. Bettas can be very personable and watch you while you watch them.
 

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+ 1 on Betta suggestion. They're so colorful and look great against the green of plants. Plus, kids love them because you can "train" them to eat from a chopstick or your finger.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Do labyrinth fish need still water? I'm going to have a cannister filter going in this tank.

I'm not set on a dwarf puffer at all. But to clarify, I will be the one truly maintaining the tank... I wouldn't leave that responsibility in the hands of a 7 yr old. The joke there was that "maintain" means "bump into on a regular basis." I will use this as an opportunity to teach him about maintaining the tank though.

I did get the plumbing today so I can put some bulkhead fittings in there. My mineralized soil is a week or two from being ready, then I might emerse some carpeting plants. Or just plant the thing all at once, who knows. :)
 

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I'm not sure about all labyrinth fish, but Betas for one are not a fan of current.
 

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Labyrinths like gouramis won't mind the current but most bettas get stressed by too much current. However the shorter-finned plakats are generally better swimmers but I don't know if they could handle a cannister filter
 

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Discussion Starter #20
I have some more pics and progress. There were two unsightly holes with lots of glue around them. So I bought 3/4" bulkhead fittings to put in. Tonight I drilled the holes with a cheap 1.5" hole bit from Harbor Freight tools (got a set of 13 hole bits for $3.99 cause they were on clearance). I used water to lubricate, went slow, set the tank end up on a board, pressed my foot on the tank and drilled in from the inside out. The holes were really clean so I'm happy with the result.



Here's the MTS I'm working on (closeup below)



Below is the tank with bulkhead fittings and the "stuff" I've bought/made to go with the tank in the background (DIY filter, shoplights, 14W CFL daylite bulbs.)



Closeups of the bulkhead fittings:




 
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