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12 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Greetings to all! New member here! I've been messing with low tech planted tanks for a while and recently decided to grow a more ambitious tank... I've been lurking and learning on this forum and thought it was time to say hello and a big thank you for everything I've learned so far!

by way of intro, I'm a midnight (closet? armchair?) engineer; IT guy by day; guitarbuilder musician, planted tank lover and lotus esprit loving gearhead when I'm off the leash. I'm a reasonably technical fellow, good with my hands and I have a shop. I value DIY ideas. I've got the fundamentals of tank chemistry in hand.

I look forward sharing my project work with you and I hope you will help me execute this tank properly.


I've got dozens of rocks all over my patio, auditioning for the title role in my tank, and in my mind I see a very still high Sierra valley, so I guess we're calling it Iwagumi style..? If you think you hear the wind blowing and want to put on a sweater when you look inside this tank, I'll know I've done my job. Not a great bio-load, water clarity of major importance, very still water, arrangement crucial, a lonely big-sky place. That's what I'm leaning toward.

I would like to have absolutely nothing in the tank except for inflow/outflow.


the tank is an ADA cube garden; I measure it at 17.75" x 17.75 x 35.5 which I took to be a 450x450x900.

I built a 36Hx36Wx18D welded steel square tube stand, clad on all sides by removable mahogany panels, for 360 access. Plenty strong. pointy steel levelers on the feet, bullnose marble on top two shelved underneath. It will sit on a slab.

the tank isn't drilled, neither is the marble. clearance for drilling the marble at the ends of the tank, none on the long faces.

I originally intended the tank to be view on 4 sides; although I'm not sure that's feasible at this point, but I sure would like to have 3 clear sides.

To me, well conceived high function plumbing is beautiful. Anyone else feel that way? So I'm up for a custom installation, no holds barred.

I've purchased absolutely no equipment for the tank yet. Nothing. Happily I've been given carte blanche by my usually much more sensible wife. She feels that she'd like to see it done right the first time (hmm...) .


So its a clean slate. that's me; that's the design brief; that's what I've done so far. no particular dollar envelope.

I'm not a zealot for any particular technology, although I wondering whether my goals aren't best served by a closed system....

regards, hello and thank you for reading!


12 Posts
Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Lordy a raft of questions:

for a 90P 48 gallon tank; 5x turnover = 250gph enough turnover?

funny, I've done a lot of research, but I know the least about inflow/outlfow gear.. asthetically, I'm thinking glass inflow/outflow.. how big a diameter can this stuff be had in? will a single in and outi yield my turnover target? thoughts on where to get it? optimal placement in the tank? I'm hoping to hear that it can all be set up high and low on one side of the tank..

nomenclature: the inflow pipe takes water into the filter (out of the tank) or the other way round?

desparately seeking advice on pumps. too many choices. too much BS advertising and reviews. want quiet but more than willing sound proof the cabinet. Please someone put me out of my misery; I'll probably die of old age trying to get off the dime on this one... If I knew there was a gold standard in my flow range (Iwaki?) I'd buy it and put the issue to rest..

should plumb UV at the outset? overkill?

I'm leaning towards a closed, canister setup, because (somehow) I'm thinking that will be the most quiet setup. Bad assumption? I want this tank to be really really quiet.

lifegard AF-94 mech filter, doesn't seem to get much use in the forum... do I read that wrong? I was intrigued by its form factor and low cost.. how about the rest of their product lineup?

Anyone using flow meters?
Anyone using flow restrictors?
Is the massei injector a thing of the past?
Does a semipermeable membrane CO2 reactor exit in fact? and if so is it on the same aisle as the smoked unicorn filets? If not it looks to me like a rexgrigg reactor is a very elegant way to go... (build it big and it increases water volume and nothing to break down or get clogged..)
I'm also fascinated (although prob. irrelevant for this project) by cyclone aka centrifigal aka swirl filters, along the lines of waterco Multicyclone for pond use.. Anyone diy a swirl filter for little aquaria? anyone consider or succeed in combining a swirl filter and CO2 reactor?
More leanings on plumbing, with all unions, fills and valves details ignored for the moment: inflow (outflow?) out of the tank and direct to a pre-pump dowflow RexGrigg CO2 reactor... I know that putting gear on the low pressure side of the pump could be treacherous, but I'm thinking the flow restriction on such a device is so nominal that it won't cause a problem... this clearly just conjecture on my part. the packaging would be excellent if it works.. Anyone tried it? am I off base here?

-->from the bottom of the reactor to pump
--> mech filter
--> bio
--> UV
--> heater, DIY w/ heyco hardware.
--> temp, ph, ground probes
--> back to tank

which I think should be pretty standard save for the CO2 reactor ideas. thoughts?

thanks to all for reading!
(Mason City) Jim

1,748 Posts
Hi, great looking stand you built!

Glass Lily pipes can be found in sizes of 10mm, 13mm 17mm and I think even 20mm (?)

a single set on one side would be sufficient, another set on the other side would be great.

For flow, Sicce and Eheim make good pumps, a 2.0 would do the trick. Iwaki makes great pumps, the only canister filter that uses them is the ADA super jet.

Canister Filter choices would be this; good, better, best:
Eheim 2217 or larger
Fluval G3 or G6
ADA Super Jet ES 600 or 1200

12 Posts
Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Hello! well its been a long road... encountered quite a bit of reality shock putting all this plumbing together... my 18 by 36 by 36 cabinet with interior volumne more like 15.5 by 34 by 34 turned out to be really small...

the rundown:
1" intake over the tank down through some sensor ports into a blue line pump. 1" up to a top supported 1" manifold suspending two Big Clear whole house 10" filter housings for mech filter and a modified one for bio, then down through a rexgrigg CO2 reactor made from 2-1/12 clear sched 40 pvc and fittings.. at the bottom is a drain/fill for the whole system (not visible under the bottom plywood. from there across to a 25watt Aqua Ultraviolet twist model with 2" unions(the twisting body was critical to making the setup work. In fact the whole form factor of that unit really saved my bacon). that is unioned to my diy heater section which looks like its going to work really well. then hose up to the outflow section with valve and a couple more sensor/fertilizer ports.

Not shown is a 5lb CO2 bottle which shoe horns into the affair and CO2 reg and plumbing to the reactor.

I wanted the system to be divided into sections of hardplumbing connected by tubing sections:
- inflow manifold section ending at the pump
- a top section with two filters
- a reactor/UV/heater section
- and an outflow manifold section.

the system can be drained filled and primed with a ball valve hidden at the bottom of the reactor. The whole system can be purged in one place at the top of the reactor.

tested it out on the patio. worked very nice big diameter plumbing (1" -> 2-1/2" -> 2" -> 1" ) pretty much minimized the losses. flows 400 gph.

Now I've got some wiring to cook up..


12 Posts
Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Things I learned:
-sched 40 unions and fittings chew up a ton of space. I lacked the space to plumb any bypass valves, but ultimately decided that it just wasn't mandatory for my little system.
-I would sell my soul to have access to the beatiful space saving fittings on that UV unit.
-The only thing better than a 2-1/2 in diam reactor would be a 3" also the darned things should be as long as possible as well I'm sure. In my case very limited height (about 22" overall).
-those water tight wire grip fitting work nicely.
-the blueline pump is very very quiet.

12 Posts
Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Now in place and tested..

tank and stand in their permanent home now.

Created an interesting problem for myself... DIY inline heater using Blueline components appears to work great; but check out this scenario:

The temp sensor is first in line, pre-pump. The DIY inline heater section is last in line just before outflow back to tank. If the pump breaks and water stops moving and the heater decides to come on in still water. I will undoubtedly boil off that water and cause a serious safety problem..

the heater is a 300 watt unit. and in testing if I turn it on in still water, it will make the heater section too hot to comfortably touch in about 2 mins. ouch.

thoughts anyone? I was thinking some sort of current sensing relay..


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