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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Last week I put my new mini fish room / fish rack on-line called the Fish Nook. I'm located in the Sonoran Desert of Southern Arizona just 30 minutes from the Mexican Border. Sometimes I'm in the state of Sonora, Mexico as well. Hence the name pays tribute.

This build has been in the planning stages for a few years with allot of prep work (tank stripping/drilling , controller hardware/software, etc...) happening over time. I'll document random things from home construction, running utilities, glass drilling, etc.. Done some clever things, done some dumb things, some things I'll change, some things I'll live with. However, the Fish Nook is in operation, so this isn't a build thread showcasing something that doesn't get built. (that has happend to all of us, time and unforeseen occurence can nix allot of plans....been there).

This was my inspiration:



This was how I planned it:



Reality and Humility played a part and it was scaled back (but filtration stayed large for future expansion):



This is where it is right now, version 1.0. Missed the mark on the Aquarium Zen (lfs in Seattle) inspired look, but content with the comprimises and happy with the results:



It's a work in progress, and it will change. However, I'll start taking this thread back in time to share how the build progressed.

Disclaimer: I did a series of threads on Simply Discus detailing facets of the build. However, my setup is geared towards plants, tetras, dwarf cichlids, therefore, allot of what I've done doesn't quite jive with the bare bottom, massive water changes, and large multi-tank syndrome that is so common over there. I like and respect many of the members, enjoyed sharing the trials and tribulations of the build with them, and of course received good advice. But now it's up and running.... and I feel like I will benefit from you folks tremendously as I tackle water change regimens, fertilizing regimens, aquascaping, modifications, etc... things more in line with plant keeping, in lieu of discus keeping.
 

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Discussion Starter #2 (Edited)
It started when I bought 3 20L tanks from Petsmart for $1 a gallon, followed by 4 more a year or so later for $1 a gallon, followed by the last at $1 a gallon.



Did some reading on the InnerWebs.. and I was sure I could de-rim and de-base them all.



Was laborious, but started making progress... and broke my first one with just 6 to 10 inches to go. It was over confidence and I started rushing things down the home stretch. Fortunately, never repeated that mistake again while de-rimming tanks (oh yes, but there would be other mistakes...).



Afterwards, I found success. Sanding of the rim and sharp edges would come next, followed by lots of razor blade scraping and cleaning with vinager to remove excess silicone would follow.



Eventually I found a rhythm... So 7 tanks done.... and undecided what to do with the slightly broken tank....



Would I do that again? Only with brand new tanks. Remember how 3 were purchased long ago? They were bears!! I wouldn't do it for one tank... but I was going after 8... I don't know... It would depend on my financial reality at the time if ever presented with that decision again...
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Reviewed my plans and adopted the 4 display tank and 2 chamber sump layout. I needed 6 tanks. I had 7 unbroken ones in my possession. I was in good shape.

Having gained confidence with glass, I would move on to drilling for bulkheads. Each display tank would have 4 holes.. 1/2" supply, 1/2" drain to sewer, twin 3/4" out to sump.

Got the materials together, even made jigs to take pressure of the glass. plumbers putty and running water to keep things cool and lubricated. An example of the prep work for first 1/2" hole at the top.



Here's an example of success with the twin large holes (1 1/2" I believe) for the 3/4 outflow bulkheads. Look how close to the edge they are!



Got all done with 7... and started to put things away.. when I realized I missed one 7/8" hole at the top for the 1/2 supply bulkhead. Feeling confident I grabbed the hose and drill....



Over confidence got me again... attempted without a jig and broke the end panel...

Down to 6 de-rimmed, de-based, drilled aquariums now.

Here's a finished product:



The sumps were different and rather custom. Remember the sump has 2 chambers, osea it is made up of 2 x 20L aquariums. 1" bulkheads are used to join the tanks, so those holes are big (1-3/4" I believe). They went nice, and I just re-used an already existing jig, just repositioned.



Again... still lots of scraping and cleaning of the tanks required. You see lots of spotting because every tank was filled with water after being de-rimmed and before being drilled for 2 weeks... I wanted to make sure the aquariums had structural integrity with all of the plastic removed. Here is that process.



I set them out on my patio and barracaded them with chairs so my dogs wouldn't disrupt anything. All 7 tanks were done this way (remember, I this was before drilling, so I hadn't broken the 2nd aquarium yet).



Again. I just wanted to be really sure these tanks weren't going to spring leaks once setup inside my homeoffice.

Now, needed to build something to put them on. I would go through allot of ideas before settling on the last....
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Originally, I wanted to make the entire rack out of Mesquite Wood. However, large continuous pieces were expensive for the uprights. Then I decided I would use Mesquite only for the shelves, and use Black Iron Pipe for the uprights.

This was my inspiration. I built this for my wife and I thought it would be a nice look to continue into my Fish Nook as we have several rustic mesquite furniture pieces throuhout the home:



Of course to support the weight of aquariums it would need to be beefier.. Something like this:



I began to go to plumbing shops to inquire about Black Pipe, Fittings, Floor Flanges, Renting a Threader, etc.... Then I went to several specialty mesquite lumber yards from Tucson to Nogales AZ to obtain 8 pieces with live edges to construct the two stands that I would need. There was no way around it... This stand was starting to add up. As in $1k territory for a fish stand.

My wife and I discussed it. She posed a question. Couldn't you just do a very inexpensive baker's type or utility rack? And then take all of that saved money and spend it on building the fish room (utilities, sheetrock, doors, tile, etc..) and buying stock (flora/fauna) and equipment? I thought... why not? My wife suggested these:



I didn't dismiss the idea right away. Could they work? I'd be looking at building both racks for under $200. Just like I proved out the viability of the derimmed-debased tanks... I'd put these racks to the test...
 

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Discussion Starter #5 (Edited)
I felt just setting cork or styrofoam directly on the wire racks wasnt' sufficient. So I'll augment each shelf with custom fit plywood pieces. The idea was maximize load distribution to minimize the possibility of failure.

Got the tools out and started:



I would cut, shape, router and sand each piece. They'd fit on the shelves like this. Each shelf has passages that will allow plumbing and electrical cables to pass through. Cork mats would be use to absorb imperfections, to make a smooth interface for the glass bottoms:



Before going any further, I wanted to test out the debased/derimmed/drilled tanks on the rack. I didn't have all the cork in my possession yet, so I used 1/2" styrofoam as well as cork for the break-in test.



Now, it was time to install all of the bulkheads and begin filling with water. I started out with 25% and 50% of the capacity... The idea I would test that out for a day.



Then I thought, if they are going to fail, they are going to fail.. .So I went straight to 100%.



I left it like that for a week, purposely working around them, bumping them... draining, refilling, cleaning, etc...

I did the same with the other rack and the 3 other tanks for a week as well. No leaks.

Satisfied these would hold the weight, I decided to finish up the wooden shelves. Used a Black stain.. and then applied 3 coats of an oil modified finish to each of the 8 panels that would augment each shelf:



So now I have the stand built, the display tanks ready, and the sump almost fitted out.



But where would I set up all of this? Where did I build the Fish Nook and what was involved in doing it? Will follow up with that information next week... For now... I'm flying up to Seattle Washington for the Weekend... and Yes... while I am there I will go to Aquarium Zen to purchase more flora/fauna... that too will be a thread for next week.
 

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Discussion Starter #6 (Edited)
We have a modest 1400sq ft town home. No attic, no basement, a carport instead of a garage. We get some hard winter nights because of the altitude, so I couldn't set my tanks up outside on the covered back patio. The Fish Nook would be located somewhere in the home, would have to be nice to blend, and would have to be serviceable without causing excess humidity, smell, water damage.

The ideal location was my small (8' x 11'6") Den / Office / Lab that was converted from the old Arizona Room, located at the very back of my home leading to our covered patio. It also has a 3' x 8' underutilized closet (just a file cabinet and laser jet printer), that actually used to be a seperate outside bodega (which paid dividens.. I'll show that in the construction). That closet would become a Fish Nook.



The question was how to open up that 3' x 8' space. Accessing it and viewing the aquariums through a 30" door was out of the question. Is their adequate electric? (electrical servuce is outside on the front of the home). How do I get water to it? (bathrooms/kitchen are on the other side of the house). There's not enough space for the two racks and my RO Water storage, where would the Water storage go? How much carpentry is involved? Is the wall with the door load bareing? What to do about the ceramic tile floor when I widen the entry? Tackled it all in under 6 weeks... Thread updates will highight the good, bad, and ugly.
 

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Discussion Starter #7 (Edited)
So, we started the demo.
The 30" closet door was removed:



Fortunate in that previous owners replaced all of the doors in the home with nice paneled doors.... Except for the Bodega off of the carport.... So, decided to re-deploy that closet door there... perfect fit... just really minor adjustments for the striker.. No going back now that the door has found a new home. Just need to paint it from interior white to spanish white to match the home's exterior. (Note: this bodega off of the carport will house the R.O. Equipment... but that's coming later in the thread..)



Now the clock is ticking because I've torn up the home. You can see in the photo that I took down all of the shelves from that 3' x 8' closet as well. They were a bear... as they were screwed, glued, calked, etc...



Inside, let's remove sheetrock in preparation to widen things and route the wiring. Interior lightswitch is in the section that will be removed. So, decided to tackle that right away.



Fastforwarding and the widening from a 30" door to accomodate a 60" folding door is done.



I'm going to spend a bit of time talking about this. The previous owners were artistic architects, and therefore my entire home's interior (sans the closets) has a Venetian Style plaster. It is very nice. I didn't want to disturb it in my Den/Office as I widened things. This is where I was fortunate on two fronts.

1. this closet used to be an outside closet before the Arizona Room (whcih is my den/office space) was fully enclosed and made four seasons. therefore, this 'outside' closet has 1/2" plywood and the 1/4" sheetrock with the ventian style plaster. This meant that I could hammer and cut and not mess up the venetian plaster at all. Just a tiny mess up on some edges that the new door trim would cover up. It also meant cutting spaces for electrical boxes, network jacks, etc... could be done without fear of messing up the plaster as well. I also meant it would be possible to remove the old door header.. and put in a new door header that was wider.. again without messing up the plaster on the office/den side.

2. this is crazy... as I removed the closet sheetrock to expose the 2x4s to begin removing those that framed the old door, I found that the next 2x4's over in the closet were nearly centered on the wall with 62 1/2" between them. Saved money... and installed doublers and started cutting... It's incredible that I could cut nails and 2x4's inplace without messing up that plaster on the other side....

New header went it very nicely...



Of course I cut out beams from the floor and used a grider to grind down the lag bolts.



Built Up and Leveled the space.



Tiled and Grouted. I didn't want to bust up any other part of the floor. I was content to piece it in with a few old pieces that were in the back bodega (been in there for 40 years perhaps). It looks intentional.... as part of the entry and I don't mind it one bit.



So we are good structurely.

And of course you can see some new romex as well for outlets... Well, prior to getting to thise point, there were some revelations about the electric in my home.... courtesy of the converted Arizona Room (den/office). There was the potential to overload things, as the reality did not reflect what the labels in my electrical panel indicated. We would take a HUGE detour to run electric... which spawned other side jobs... Will detail that in the next submission to the thread.
 

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Discussion Starter #8 (Edited)
So, remember I was going to move a light switch from inside the closet to the outside of the closet? Went to my panel and killed the circuit labeled 'Arizona Room'... Remember my Den/Office is a converted Arizona Room... and the Fish Nook, just off of it is a Bodega adjacent to the Arizona Room. To my surprise, I lost power to the Master bedroom, Guest bedroom and hallway. Meanwhile, one circuit in my Den/Office was still powered.

This is what I discovered... that still powered outlet was from the GFCI circuit that supplied the outlets for Master Bath and Common Bath (potentially wet locations), an outlet in the carport (outside, potentially wet location) and Den/Office (Arizona Room... formerly outside, potentially wet location). Well, we will leave that be.

The lighting and additional outlets for the Arizona Room (office/den) were made possible by extending the bedroom circuits. I already had my computers in my den/office... I regularly used a soldering iron, heat gun, etc... Now I would be adding everything to support the fishnook. I decided that I would leave the Den/Office and FishNook ceiling fixtures on the bedroom circuits (very little load.. and I don't want to carve up the venetian plaster ceiling in the den/office). However, the remaining outles in my Den/Office, any new outlets in my Den/Office and the FishNook... would go on a brand new circuit.... the real 'Arizona FishNook' circuit.

My home has no attic, nor basement. The electrical panel was on the polar opposite end of the home..... let's get digging.



you can see this was done before. I decided to buy conduit and run 2 new circuits.. One for my FishNook/Den/Office/Lab and another for the Back Patio and Garden (told you it was a detour).

Pulling wire for nearly 60' and 100' home runs.



Success, and I have new dedicated 20A circuits (Patio Fans & Receptacles and Arizona Den FishNook)



Started adding new quad outlets to my Office Portion. Note the Cat6 network cabling? While running the buried conduit... I installed another to wire the Network Router at the front of my home, to a network switch that I would keep in the FishNook. I have always had bad WiFi on my back patio and office/den.... so this was an opportunity to address that too (told you it was a big detour). Yes, the power and data outlets don't line up.. That's fine, I was utilizing already existing cut-outs to avoid reparing that venetian plaster.



Now I could install sheetrock in the closet since I had all of the wiring redirects accomplished (you can see it in the box midway up the wall.. it's just an access panel for the light as the wiring needed to be extended) and of course the new circuit homerun done... Yeah, my sheetrock cutting skills are going to put my sheetrock taping skills to the tests... Oh well...



I temporarily tied in the Cat5e cables that were installed in the wall to a network switch that was connected to the new uplink that traveled almost 100' to the Router at the front of the house. (that big hole was always there... so I just took advantage of it to get stuff up and out of the way). It will go in the closet (er.. FishNook) soon once I finish it up.



Man, it is so nice to have ample electrical outlets and good network connections in my Office. This was a fantastic detour.

I gave the FishNook two quad outlets at 12" above the Floor (one on each side of the doorway).. and two dual outlets near the ceiling (one on each side of the doorway).. The ceiling outlets will provide power for things I put on two small shelves that I will build on each side of the mini-rack in the Fish Nook. The very back wall of the FishNook is Brick. I elected not to install surface mounted outlets connected by conduit on that back wall. The reality is... Everything in the FishNook will be controlled by my home-made Aquarium Controller (RaspberryPi, Node-Red, Atlas-Scientific sensors, NCD expansion boards.... started a thread on the Node-Red forums). So all cabling has to go back to a central equipment panel anyway.. For now, 12 total plugs in the Fish Nook is absolutely plenty! I can always mount two 4' utility strips across that backwall if ever needed (I already own them).

I'll show more of the electric, but for now, we have to move on to finishing the Fish Nook cosmetically.... and addressing another essential element.... water supply and drainage... topics for the next posts of this thread.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
It was a closet. Though I wanted it to look very nice and function well... In the end ,it's a closet... So, just like I didn't sweat piecing in the tile floor, I certainly didn't worry about perfectly sanded corners and sheetrock seams (though it all looks good enough) or millimeter gaps in any trim work. But i did apply binz primer and I did apply several coats of paint (a desert sand type color).

Was fortunate. Had Binz and Paint left over from the previous owners in the Carport Bodega. It was still good. The Paint matched the paint that is on the only wall in the house that isn't venetian plaster ( a back wall in the guest bedroom). So using that tied in the Fish Nook with an existing element of the house. (errr... it matched). Repaired all of the damage to the sheetrock and brick when I tore out the old shelves (never took a picture of those... sorry). Looks good now..



I did like the presence of shelves, so I built new ones that were fewer, smaller and higher on each side of the bodega. I hate sharp corners, so all of the wood recieved routered edges and were sanded before primer/paint.



Other side.. (see.. I did move the network switch into the Fish Nook)



Started hanging the door... when it fell due to a moment of inattention. Nothing like damaging a door before you even install it... I'll mount it and figure out something later for the minor damage.



I've done allot of constuction on my own home, but it had been over 20 years since I last hung a set of folding doors. It came back.. They look good... and trim work will hide the multitude of sins that are the uneven gaps.



Now, when finished. I finally noticed what the door struck on the way to the floor when it fell.. I thought it glanced my desk. Nope, it glanced the 2nd Chamber of my Sump and broke a pane... I had that 20L on a cart.. and hadn't noticed that the door struck it on it's way down... almost 7' away. bummer.



I continued on with work... and mulled over the idea of just reducing my Sump design down to 1 20 gallon long tank instead of 2.

I'll kill the suspense... I decided to fix it. So, this is a detour from the painting and finishing...

Remember, how I broke a tank removing the Rim/Base? Remember how I broke a tank drilling without a jig? I decided I'd salvage a pane from one of those and just install it in this 3rd broken tank.



I gained confidence working with glass.. Felt good about it.



It took about 1 1/2 hours to remove a pane from one cleanly and install it in another cleanly. Long Time, but it was a learning process. Success!!



In fact, I looked at the remaining 2 broken tanks and thought... I can cannabalize one to fix the other. I did. That one took maybe 15 minutes total.



So, i have a 5th tank. Of course i need to drill the holes again in this new pane. But this means.... Out of the 8 original tanks I bought for the project... 7 are fully functional. The scrapped one? I still saved two 12" x 30" panes of glass from it for lids!

Back to the Fish Nook. Trimmed out the door and completed the network terminations and the electric outlets.



Oh yeah, about that damaged spot on the door... A little Desert Aquarist Society Vinyl Sticker love!



So now we have a completed room. However, the drainage and water supply need to be accounted for. Several of the photos I've shown were taken out of order.. so there are hints of what I did... That will all be for the next post.
 

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Discussion Starter #10 (Edited)
The Fish Nook has no space for an R.O. Unit and Associated Water Storage for aquarium top-offs and water changes. Furthermore, the kitchen and bathrooms are on the oposite side of the home, so there is no water available here (well not easily).

Up to now, my R.O Unit had been a somewhat portable affair that I moved around on my back patio (which means really ineffective water preparation in the colder months).



I decided I had room in a storage bodega off of the carport (featured it earlier as the recipient of the FishNook's panel old door). I'll need to straighten it up a little.



It's a tight fit, but it's in there, with the R.O. Unit and Controls mounted on the wall.



Pump to relay water to the FishNook is a little buried. It's controlled by the Auto-Top Off and Water Change functions in the Fish Nook.



Note: I do need to add a few level detectors inside of the Water Storage Container so that my Aquarium Controller will know the status ... is there enough water?

Up above is the Raceway that will convey plumbing for the R.O Water supply to the Fish Nook, Waste Water to the Drains in the Fishnook (goes to the garden.. it's not wasted), Cables for Level Sensors (not in existence yet) and Pump Commands (Pump power does go in this line, although I didn't install it before the photo).



So, I have no attic, so where does that RaceWay/ChaseWay go? I was fortunate that between the R.O. Bodega and the Fish Nook, I have two closets and a Guest Room. The Guest Room is the only place where this will be exposed. So it has to look nice. Spray painting the 3" lines a hammer coated copper finish.. Looks like real copper pipe.



Very carefully had to make 6 holes (3 1/2") in several walls to run the Pipe.



End result is not bad. My wife approved and thinks it's looks a bit artsy..



So that is how the R.O. Water Bodega and the Fish Nook are joined...

Drainage was simple.

I installed 1 1/2" pipe about 4" off of the floor behind the stands in the Fish Nook. I put about 5 risers in the 8' section to just let me bring in lines from anywhere.



Exiting the Bodega



After the FishNook, I just have my Back Covered Patio... It has a very large Tool Bodega to hide about 12' of the pipe.. It will only show briefly in a little corner.



After this is goes into the Tool Bodega for 11', then it exists the covered patio to water some citrus trees (mine and a neighbor) on the back batio. I'll watch that the Lemon and Grape Fruit Trees aren't drowning because it will be quite a bit of water during R.O. water prep as my unti isn't super efficient at about 3 to 1, waste to pure water ratio.



So That is the water/waste infrastructrue.

I still need to install a Thermostatic Mixing Valve to supply the R.O Unit... You can see the Hot Water Heater in the Bodega, so the hot/cold sources are there. For the time being it just gets cold water from a hose. Just need to get after that plumbing as I'm introducing pretty cold water to everything!
 

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Discussion Starter #11 (Edited)
so, we are just getting started with the actual 'fishy stuff'.

I plan on automating where it makes sense using my homemade aquarium controller. Functions will be added as I am ready to turn them over without my manual intervention. Something like fertilizer dosing will be one of the last as I need to really tweak that as I observe and learn and as the plants and fish settled in.

Here's a quick staging before anything was hooked up or water added:

You can see that all water enters and exist on the ends. The idea was I built this so that if I ever moved it and placed it somewhere else it would be viewable from two sides, front and back. This arrangement would also give me easy access to valves to isolate tanks or modify the influent and effluent of each tank. very little in the tanks... 25W substreate heating cable and a wave pump (not shown... that will be another topic) and LED lighting above.



You can see that the 2 Sump sections are already joined (this is a static fill test just to test the join and levels). This was a risk... if it didn't work it really had the potential to break both chambers of the sump. There was a little tiny play in the fit between the drilled holes and the bulkhead fittings.. So I allowed them to kind of find their natural seat before tightening everything down. I was very pleased.

I'll describe the Sump. Chamber 1 is fed via 8 3/4" lines through the two 4" 400 micron filter socks.. This is for catching really big stuff so that the filter media doesn't plug. The flter media is Poret Foam. 4 grades, 10ppm, 20pm, 30ppm, 45ppm. Each Grade has two 2" sheets, so that I can rotate clean and dirty for each size for quick culture recovery. I also have Hydor ceramic media....just because I had two bags of it... (new old stock...).

Chamber 2 has the temp controlled auxillary heater (200W), the Mag5 pump, 5 level switches for auto top off and alarming (later will expand the function for water changes), an Eheim 350 surface skimmer (chamber 2 gets a film without it), and Temp, pH, ORP, Conductivity and Dissolved Oxygen sensors.



Sizes differ between manufactures. I had to apply a heat gun to get 1/2" tubing around the 1/2" bulkhead barbs. all of the other components were a better match. 3/4" was much easier as the sizes were closer.



Here are the individual valves shown. Barbs for the Bulkheads were slip fit. I saw minor leaking from 1 or 2 of the 20 during my test on the patio months before... so each is getting a little silicone as a pre-caution.

The Drains are 1/2", set at about 60% of the water height. Obviously, once I'm doing auto water changes, I'll leave those open and it will be the solenoid that empties all tanks together. I'm just doing water changes manually as I work in feeding, fertilizing, etc.... the break in period.

The Feeds are 1/2", set at the top with a fluted end to make a nice shimmer across the top. I need to do some work here. Observations are that I should do common 3/4" from the pump and through the UV and CO2 (which will be parallel to reduce flow through each of those pieces of equipment) and reduce to 1/2" only just before the tank feed valve of each tank. Also installng a more powerful pump.

The Returns to the Sump are dual 3/4"... basically just a precaution against leaves plugging up the gates. Tubing is spec'd for much more outflow than inflow to safeguard against overflows. I sacrificed water height also to give me margin... That's okay... 95% R.O. water certainly doesn't leave any unsightly hard water lines. :)



It's allot, but the use of black just kind-of hides everything.. It's visible, but almost becomes invisible when you just look at the glass, light, water, plants and fish. Well, that's what I tell myself anyway...

Here is a detail of the Sump Chamber 1 IN - side. 3/4" lines enter (4), 2 4"x10" filter socks, poret foam. Purchased a neat little filter sock holder off Ebay that I modified with an old tank rim to fit neatly on the rimless sump. Works good. Lines extend into the water and that keeps things quiet.



I'll continue later with more details of setting up the actual aquriums and some of the in-line equipment in a follow-up post later in the week.
 

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Discussion Starter #12 (Edited)
Some of the techniques used in the display tanks are a bit old school.

We start with arranging the Hydor hydrokable substrate heating cable. 110v 25W. I'll admit, this was not the resulting layout... they ended up being laid lengthwise in the end. This was done for each of the four display tanks. This is new old stock (I located 5 of them about two years ago), so although brand new, it sat on someone's shelf for a few years... there were a few of the suction cups that just refused to stay... stuck down....

I like this photo because it's really the only time you appreciate the beauty of the cork that is below the glass. LOL.



We start with mixing 250grams of laterite w/ 5lbs of 2-3mm quartz gravel. Turns your fingernails a bit orange.



Without making too much of a mess. The laterite mix is placed in the aquarium at a depth to cover and secure the substrate heating cable in place.



Once the laterite Mix was in... We add another 20lbs of 2-3mm quartz gravel to each of the 20L display aquariums. Finished that for all aquariums and put a large white ceramic dinner plate in each aquarium. This was done to prevent the water from disturbing the gravel and gravel/laterite base while filling.



All tanks were then filled with 95% R.O. Water and 5% Tap. This photo was tanken almost immediately, you can see how clear the water is, which is amazing for a new tank with a laterite containing substrate. Big dinner plates work for the filling step!!!!



Going to let this run in for about a week or so before purchasing plants and introducing a few amano shrimp and otocinclus affinis to each display tank. I seeded the Sump with aquavitro seed bacteria. I also will take a few doner plants (bacopa caroliniana) from my little 5 gallon shrimp, otto, plant nursery and even leave a little bit of the algae on it (hey i have a big UV filter... ain't scared...).

For now, trying to see what is needed for heating. We have 25W in each tank.. and 50W in the sump. Probably not enough. But we will see.

Installed the temp, pH, ORP, Conductivity and Dissolved Oxygen probes in the 2nd chamber of the Sump to monitor things with my homemade aquarium controller. I'm using a RaspberryPi 4B w/ Raspbian Buster and Node-RED. Need to permanently mount the controller and i/o boards (not all are shown). I have a thread on the Node-Red forums for the controller build.. I already linked that on the first page of this thread I believe.



Lots more equipment to install (better CO2 reactor, dosers, level sensors, etc..). Cables and hoses to neaten. I'm sure I will be crawling over everything for about 2 months making changes and adjustments. Right away... With the CO2 Reactor, UVFilter, FlowMeter and all 4 tanks on Line... I can see that the Mag5 just can't push enough through the 1/2" tubing. That's going to change, but I had to order more stuff...some back ordered.. so we will live with less flow than I desire for just a bit. Pulled the Flow Meter and picked up some increased flow... how much? who knows... flow meter is gone. LOL.

Will update this thread later with the initial planting and initial introduction of fish. It won't be aquascaped per se initially... just looking to get root growth on the 60 some stem plants that will be introduced to the tanks. (When i want to do a more permanent aquascape in Jan 2021, I will quickly isolate a tank, drain it to 50%, do my worst with the plants, rock and wood.. and then put it back on line. repeat 3 more times.)
 

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Discussion Starter #13 (Edited)
Ok. learned almost immediately that I need to address the CO2 Reactor, UV Filter, Flow Meter placement... and of course a place to neatly land the electrical connections would be nice.

Decided I would like to mount this external equipment on the wall on the right side of the Fish Nook... where the water leaves the sump to return to the aquariums (the pump is submerged in the 2nd chamber of the sump.. so I don't have that to contend with). It's a tight space and I wish I addressed this before putting the racks in and adding water, plants, and fish yeah.. I'm briefly jumping forward in this post just a bit to show what should be the last construction related stuff.

Because of stud location, I needed to prep with 3 1/4"x4' strips to the wall. One of those stips does not meet a stud, so drywall anchor bolts were used.



I still had a spare piece of 2' x 4' 3/4" high quality plywood. I routered the edges, sanded it, and stained it black. There you have it, the FishNook Equipment Panel.



Yeah. Should have mounted it about 6" lower. We'll fix that. Built a lowered shelf to support the somewhat large 25W UV Filter.



This was tough to do. A serious oversight on my part. I didn't give ample thought to managing the panoply of equipment, devices, tubing, and cables that would live outside of the pretty 20 gallon long boxes of water. It's much harder to fit and squeeze things now that the system is fully online. That panel should have been the first thing I installed and populated after the FishNook was trimmed out and painted. Oh well.

Anway, a few more pieces of equipment will go on this panel. Also need to accomodate the compact nutrient dosers. Will be fertilizing manually for a month or two anyway to observe and adjust...so there is time to figure that out. This will do. No doubt there will be updated photos of the equipment panel over time.
 

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Discussion Starter #14 (Edited)
BNC Extension Cables arrived yesterday (3meter - 10feet) for the sensors installed in the SUMP, so I can finally get the aquarium controller off the floor and mounted to the equipment panel.



Created a little mini panel next to the Equipment Panel for the Aquarium Controller. Only got my probes hooked up.



Don't have any control happening from the controller at the moment as I need to finish mounting the supporting hardware (you can see nothing is wired to relay board... I had the CO2 Solenoid and the 200W heater hooked to it before). Won't hurt not to have CO2 for a few days... and I am relying on the Heaters own analog control... seems to be doing okay... with no swings.

waiting on just a few more pieces to get everything put on the equipment panel.
 

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Looks good, Peter! It's John from DAS. Having seen some of your recent pics of the newly planted tanks it is great to see the build process. Seems like a fairly well thought out/planned project. There are always a few things forgotten until you realize it'll be a pain in the ass. You mentioned dwarf cichlids, do you already have some specific species in mind or general ideas? We've got a couple folks in the club who keep or breed Apistos, myself included. I look forward to seeing how this project develops.
 

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Discussion Starter #16 (Edited)
Hey John! First person to comment on the build thread! Thanks for the words of encouragement.

I had limited success breeding Rams, Angels, Discus, Kribensis 16-28 years ago. Having ways been a mediocre fishkeeper and poor aquatic gardner, it was important to give the flora and fauna a fighting chance this time around. Would like to expand it to a 5th display tank next week as everything needed is here. That said, the FishNook was porposely built in a small space to contain 'MTS'. :)

It would be fun to experiment with keeping some Apistograma species, especially if they come from other club hobbyist! At the moment, I'm trying to obtain a few other MikroGeopahus Ramirezi varieties (Dark Knights, Blue Knights, and Powder Blues) from a fellow named Marco du Toit in Praetoria South Africa, but the cost of shipping is high at the moment. My current Gold Rams and Blue Rams spawn every couple of days, but they are very young and just eat the eggs. The FishNook is still in the break-in period (4 weeks), so no effort is being made to encourage any breeding/grow-out. All of the display tanks are community tanks, so breeding is not the focus. However, if something survived, that would be welcome.

I have no dwarf plecos and could use a few more corydoras species for the Fishnook. Hoping to find hobbyist in the Tucson AZ area that breeds those as well. At one of the meetings in October, Yoga mentioned putting together a list of local breeders. That would be excellent! Would be interested too if you and others will fill the void left by ANA closing as we no longer have that excellent source of flora/fauna.

I looked at some of your threads; good two hours of quality reading. My goodness, your aquariums are just teaming with life!!
 

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Have you given a thought to raising Goldeneye Dwarf Ciclids?


They're not often available but are a bit hardier and way easier to breed than Apistos. I found the females to be less psychopathic than my Borellii females. Had a pair that regularly spawned in a heavily planted 29 gallon with a lot of tetras and a Clown Pleco.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Have you given a thought to raising Goldeneye Dwarf Ciclids?
I have not. Mikrogeophagus Ramirezi and Apistogramma sp were on my short list. However, I might try a couple of groups of Mikrogeophagus Altispinosus (Bolivian Ram). They are a bit under appreciated as they aren't as colorful, nor with as many varieties, as their tip of the continent cousins.
 

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Discussion Starter #19 (Edited)
Last night I worked on mounting a few outlets to the equipment panel to be controlled by my homemade aquarium controller (via i2c relay expansion board). Was happy to find the hardware in black, very cheap, at the same cost as white/ivory. Again, just helps all of it to stay hidden.



Did 4 outlets initially... Sump Pump, Sump Heater, CO2 Solenoid Valve, UV Filter. Pump and Solenoid Valves required .56uF capacitors to be added for induction supression, so that was easy to accomodate in the Metal Outlet Boxes. I'll do the same with the other 4 outlets, as I will have a 2nd Pump (R.O. Water bodega supply) and a Drain valve. Not worried about induction from the UV Filter, Wave Pumps, LED lights as they aren't changing states allot, so not every outlet is wired that way. The way I'm laying it out is that each Box has 1 controlled outlet that has induction suppression (top), and 1 controlled outlet that does not (bottom). Need to start labeling things.

Nice to have the Controller managing temp again. I have programmed a hysterisis of .25 degC, and it just maintains temp perfectly between 26.75 and 27.25 degC. Hysterisis saves on Relay duty. It is winter and my home is cooler, so I have all of the substrate heating cables on full-time. They are just 25W a piece. The Sump heater is 200W and that is controlled by the aquarium controller. In the summer, I will unhook the 200W heater completely.. and plug the power strip with all of the heater cables (100-150W) into the relay controller outlet... which will make the substrate heating cables responsible for temp control. I just decided, as I add tanks to the system (will be 6), that I don't want 350W of heating going through the relays. Splitting it between controlled and controlled heat in the winter is a sound strategy.

Presently have UVFilter and CO2 offline. The Mag5 pump is dying... (lots of rattle)... New pump is due today.... so I unhooked devices and took out a few 90deg turns and it improved the flow enough to be sufficient. We will hook everything back up over the long holiday weekend.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Good progress today. New pump arrived ActiveAqua AAPW1000. Sized all lines from pump for 3/4"... right up to the 1/2" ball valve for each display tank. Flow is incredible. Installed parallel paths for UVFilter, CO2 Reactor and Flow Meter. That means the flow meter isn't measuring total flow, but at least I can see realitve changes and if water is in fact moving. Gives a little more dwell time for CO2 and UV treatment by splitting the flow. Fish seem to be have perked up with the additional flow (probably increased oxygen too).

Removed the 2 sheets of 2" 45ppi poret foam from 1st Sump Chamber. Swiss Tropicals warned me that it probably wouldn't permit the flow I was after in the Sump.. they were right... I found Chamber2 was pulling hard...while Chamber1 was backing up. Unfortunately, I have my emergency spillway installed on Chamber2 (should put 1 on Chamber1 as well), so I can't handle too much out of balance with those two chambers. It's good now... I still have 6 sheets of 2" poret arranged as 2 x 10ppi, 2 x 20ppi, and 2 x 30ppi.

Of course, to hookup the final four outlets to control more stuff required a trip to True Value becuase I was out of cable clamps. My dog Coqueta accompanied me, and you can see her thinking, "You are buying more electrical and plumbing supplies?!":



Epuipment panel is starting to get more populated. Added simple on/off control for the LED lighting... follows sunrise/sunset for my area. Found a nice scheduler for NodeRED that allowed me to put in my coordinates and it outputs based on that.... and I capture that output and pass it to the relay board. More to do, but it's starting to look like stuff is going on... Plenty of room to terminate the level switches and to add the dosing pumps and solution receptacles.

 
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