• Custom & Planted Shrimp Tank Set-up

    It was many years ago when I had my last tank and by today’s standards many forum member would recoil in horror at first sight of them, thus forgetting the past and having the opportunity to start out again with a blank slate has been a more of a challenge than I expected, a challenge that I have documented to allow the next new enthusiast embarking on the same journey to benefit from a perspective that is still fresh.

    Part I: The end game – what do you want?
    There is an old saying that “no planning is planning for failure”, getting an aquarium isn’t quite that bad, but getting what you want is not an accidental activity, I suggest that it is best to start with the end in mind, by that I mean find a picture of your ideal future state tank set-up in the style you want it. This is easier than it sounds, but my advice is to define your requirements on what you want to keep inside the tank and be as specific as possible. For me that was Plants, Guppies, Neon Tetra & Shrimps and a tank that was like a “window” into another world.

    I wanted that perfect picture that described everything I sought after, but as you would expect there wasn’t one. So I collected pictures of tank set-ups, ones I liked and ones that were good also- but didn’t like, others that were beyond what I could dream about. I narrowed down my search to a theme and kept on collecting. I expect that you will not find the picture that describes what you want, but a couple of them will represent your thoughts. I had a word documents that lots of embeded pictures that was named “great tank pictures”, that was/is the basis of my thinking. ADA Europe is a good starting place: http://www.adaeuro.com/gallery.asp

    Oliver Knott & Takashi Amano pictures began to dominate my “great pictures” file that I was keeping, not just because of the contents of the tanks but also the aesthetically clean mechanics. The approach observed was that equipment that was supporting the tank ecosystem was not hidden but often left in the open, the mechanically clean designs meant that this was not a visual distraction. Have a look at the piping .

    The Japanese total design mentality extends to what is below the tank, both have to be tidy, both have aesthetic design considerations. Have a look at what is below: http://www.pbase.com/plantella/image/35433515

    The reason that this received a lot of focused was partly I was not sure how everything worked together and wanted to know the complete end state of the perfect picture I had chosen for myself. Another consideration is that “form follows function”, thus the correct tools/equipment are required to support the desired future state.

    Those transparent Lillie pipes sent me off on a mission to remove all green piping from my proposed tank. But that is another story. (Pictures used with permission of Oliver Knott.)

    Size & Type of tank
    Well after visiting a few LFS's in search of the tank I wanted, it seemed that I had to take what was available, out on display…. I had that feeling that I must have had an invisible sign flashing "newbie" "newbie" "newbie". Which I was, but I wasn't going to buy the first thing I saw and liked.

    Initially the Rio brochures were enticing, but one should not confuse marketing materials for reality. One of my design principals was a tank which was like a "window" into another world, so I wanted a tall tank, I wanted a braceless tank, I didn't want to see the plumbing, glass, I WANTED IT ALL, AND A BIT MORE AND I WANTED IT NOW! I call this stage "newbie fever" when money doesn't matter and only the best will do, fortuitously I recognized this and found something to that changed me. I found the forums…. ShrimpNow, AquaticQuotient, Petfrd, Arofanitics… I must have read every post there was… I would wake up early and read for a couple of hours before going to work. I should let you know that I attack my Project Management profession in the same manner 140%, so I am not really balanced. So once "newbie fever" had passed, the length of the tank was confirmed at 48 inches. The wall space where it was going to sit could accommodate that, plus it was thought that this was a reasonable size. Height and width were a bit harder to work out, but going back to my "window" philosophy some extra height, was needed, then extra depth to go with the height, then thicker glass to enable it to be braceless. Everything else had to fit into these limitations [tank 48L x 24W x 30H inches], now I thought I had defined scope, I could confirm cost effort & maintenance costs, Wrong. Getting a custom tank, one has to juggle a number of variables all at the same time because they are all interrelated, so the complexity of the situation can feel a bit overwhelming.

    • What kind of glass
    • How thick is the glass
    • Height
    • Guarantee periods
    • Black silicon or white/ translucent silicon. Someone introduced the FUD [Fear Uncertainty & Doubt] about certain kinds of silicon not being strong enough for braceless. Enquire about what kind of silicon is being used, but don't direct your tank maker to use a different brand, if something goes "crack" in the middle of the night then it will always come back to "you told me to use this XXXX brand".
    • Cabinet - dimensions, colour style
    • Plant choice
    • The aquascape
    • Substrate & base Fertiliser choice
    • Equipment considerations -canister/internal filter, CO2, Chiller, MH/PL/FL Lighting, CO2 reactor, diffuser, UV Sterilizer, pH controller, the list can be endless

    At this stage what was confirmed in my own mind was:
    • Guppies
    • Cardinal Tetra rather than Neon Tetra
    • Shrimp [Yamoto, Cherry & Singapore Wood shrimp]
    • Plants [but not which kind]
    • Tank length of 48 inches. Width 24 inches, Height was still being confirmed.

    But this is what I started off with! At this point in time I had not spent a cent, I sort of knew what I wanted, but just didn't know which part of the outstanding list to resolve first. So in typical fashion I did everything concurrently. I didn't really plan this, but when considering the Rio tank, I put on the wall at home an actual outline of the tank. This really enabled me to visualize and crystallize the dimensions, and this building mock of layouts was a habit that was maintained during the whole process.


    Part II: The Aquascape – Rocks & Wood

    I was on a trip out with family & friends when I found some rocks and probably with embarrassment to those with me, managed to cart home 28.5kg of them.

    Taking over some of the kitchen table and building a mock layout was a defining moment. This turned the theoretical into reality, plus it was free, except for the sore arms & legs for the next couple of days from carrying the rocks home. Hint – if you are ever asked how long you need the kitchen table for? say “not long” or “until the tank arrives”.

    It is my perception that rocks should have some character, indicate motion, be capable of telling a story or want to be touched, anyway once you know what granite looks like, Singapore is covered with granite bits and pieces, just go to your nearest construction site, there are sure to be granite lying around somewhere with a story to tell.

    When one problem couldn’t be solved, time would be spent attempting to get a rock arrangement that was liked, one that each end view gave a different picture. There were a number of influencing reference materials; particularly good were the links below:

    • Learning to Photograph the Landscape http://photoinf.com/
    • Landscape Composition Rules: http://www.wetcanvas.com/Articles2/135/120/
    • Aquascaping 101: l http://www.freshwateraquariumplants...scaping101.html

    You can see the rule of thirds and consideration of the golden ratio applied on the pictures below:

    The Japanese 3 boulder gardening technique called "Sanzon-Iwagumi" [ http://www.silvertei.com/tourguide/c...5-garden-.html ] and bonsai had some contemplation. A very loose interpretation of the Iwagumi approach was taken, so the rocks will not be buried into the substrate, this is an attempt to make them look impressive and powerful. The 4th smaller rock was needed for balance.

    If you haven’t seen the 5th mountain. Look closely at the proposed front profile; can you see the 5th mountain?

    Another practical consideration was the desire to have a landscape that had no hidden areas if one moved around the tank, so one was drawn into the setting. The traditional top down triangular perspective found in "Sanzon-Iwagumi" gardens wasn’t entirely followed. A photogenic tank was mildly important, but it was a secondary consideration.

    Wood was a bit harder, initially I was looking for a large perfect piece, but gave that up and went for several smaller pieces that had plate like limbs that worked together and was capable of getting up into the top third of the tank and could change the character of one end. I almost regretted buying the wood as when I got it home it looked out of place, and took ages of putting one piece on top of another to get a combination that created openings with a triangular mountainous shape, the 5th mountain! The perspective of depth of which I hope will be enhanced by Java Moss.

    One wild thought that didn’t last long when I mentioned it at home was if I allowed the wood to stick out of the top so that the top 1/3 was the airspace above the tank? Have a look at this link: http://www.naturacquario.net/amano/ This Italian site also has great progressive picture sequence of each tank being set-up.

    My one caveat here is that the rules are validation techniques; use them to provide a framework for thinking, not a recipe for creation. Some thought was given to what happens in nine months time when I want to change the design, [re] move 1 rock or add some more wood. The rocks are expected to stay stationary and would change/add a layer of plants to modify the tank character.

    • Follow nature [Japanese style] or a garden [Dutch style], Taiwanese style, or innovate. I wasn’t sure what style I was doing; I was influenced by it all… I was having fun.
    • With heavy rocks in the tank, put something underneath them to protect the glass. My suggestion here is kitchen chopping boards, they are non toxic and easy to find [except when you need them]. I got mine from IKEA, $4 for each set of 2 [1 big, 1 small].

    The Aquascape – Layout and plant selection
    This is where good local LFS expertise’s comes in handy, its hard to choose the exact plants, they often have seen similar combinations and can make good if not better counter suggestions to your benefit. I had used Tropica Aquarium Plants internet site [ ] as a guide and found that to be a good resource. I then applied the height dimensions to confirm the proportional fit.

    You might not be able to see it in the pictures, I was also trying to create 2 different side views, one emphasising a Rock focus point and the other emphasising Wood/Java moss focus point.

    Some of the influencing fauna factors or preferences were:
    • Something red
    • Plants that flowered
    • A fast grower to soak up nutrients
    • Most of the plants had to be non demanding [except for CO2 & High Light]
    • One plant that would almost reach the tank surface
    • A moss that shrimp liked
    • Hair Grass for me was an automatic inclusion.
    • Approximately 5 plants. I was working on the rule 5 +/- 2

    My final choices were:
    1. Dwarf Hair Grass [Eleocharis acicularis]
    2. Blyxa Japonica [has flowers in the Tropica website, but never found a picture of it in flower so wonder if they got it wrong? But I liked the colour contrast it would provide enough to keep it, even with my suspicions that it probably didn’t flower.]
    3. Rotala Wallichii [Red – Fast grower]
    4. Aponogeton Longiplumulosus. [Flowers and is very long, should almost reach the top of the tank]
    5. Java Moss [probably the fastest growing moss, shrimps like it.]

    Clearly I had made the decision that I was going to have a “High-tech” set-up with CO2, high lighting, dosing, maintenance etc versus a ‘Low tech” set-up, with no CO2, less lighting, less dosing etc. I don’t think that you can have it both ways.


    Part III: Planting & Substrate

    I wanted to plant-out relatively heavily, the wooden grid allowed me to work out how many plants was required. This was a cheap shoe rack from IKEA, the gaps in it proved useful in determining how many pots/pieces of hair grass I required to plant. Each ninth of the grid would require about 60 pieces of Hair Grass, assuming that one pot of hair grass would yield about 6 pieces then I needed 10 pots… and about 40 pots to do the tank, than meant just for planting the hair grass, I would have to plant at least 240 times!

    Plus another, 40 for the Japonica, 20 for the Wallichi and 5 times for the Aponogeton. This meant I was not going to stand on a small stool, balancing and straining to reach the substrate. A quick call to the tank maker, explaining the need for a workbench, luckily wood off cuts were used and it didn’t cost me anything.

    Substrate & Base Fertilizer are amazingly expensive stuff, an initial thought was not to have any at all and go for an entire moss bottom, but that idea disappeared quickly. The Substrate [66kg] & Base Fertilizer [24kg bought] in a 3:1 ratio. Lapis sand was chosen as it had the colour and texture that was most suitable for the rocks. My local LFS, Biotope gave me a good hint about how to avoid the rainbow cake layering look, the hint was not to take the base fertilizer to the edge of the tank, rather leave a gap so the final layer of lapis sand covers it all.

    My Aquascaping tool set wasn’t very fancy, using a ring binder to spread the substrate and the back spine of another to compact it. Then progressively added the rocks:

    Other reasons that it was decided to plant heavy initially was that it really doesn’t cost that much more to do so, plus didn’t want to save any dollars here to look at a half planted tank for a few months. Lastly with MH lighting, more plants would create a more chemically/nutrient/bio-life stable environment.

    The cycling process was something that seemed far away, but in advance some Ocean Free enzyme/biozyme was bought to seed the tank, ideally it would have been best to have some filter material from a mature tank, a much more proven approach to accelerate the process. But not knowing anyone with suitable material, I had to do without.

    Wanting to put Java Moss on the wood, arrangements were made with a fellow AquaticQuotient forum member a month before to buy some Java Moss. Well when I looked at the amount he had given me for $20 I was quite shocked; he had given me a large bag of moss in bundles that were sort of rolled up in great condition. I could have covered everything in my entire tank. So there was no problem in using some cotton to literally wrap the wood with Java Moss. I finished this task the day before the arrival of the plants and kept the wood in my large water drum.

    The Plants Arrive
    Sterilisation of the plants was considered by soaking/dipping the plants on arrival in a very mild solution of household bleach to kill anything unwanted. But once this had been thought about for a while and considering that all the plants came from one source, it was decided to thoroughly wash the plants and remove any snails that way. Anyway the household bleach approach wouldn’t kill any snails and probably harm the plants.

    Using a plate resting on the substrate, the initial water was carefully poured onto until the substrate was wet, and with the plants carefully separated and placed into small trays, the only thing left was the task of actual planting which I had allocated the day to doing. The wood went first to confirm the positioning with paper towels to keep the Java Moss moist while planting:

    Progressively adding the plants, Blyxa Japonica around the rocks to establish the boundaries, Hair Grass,
    Aponogeton Longiplumulosus and finally the Rotala Wallichii. The Blyxa Japonica was added first because the Hair Grass order got mixed up and did not want to wait for it to arrive before starting planting

    Blyxa Japonica

    Hair Grass

    Everything added, took about 7 hours elapsed time including lunch and a few coffees & lots of photos

    A good high work bench to stand on and set of tweezers cannot be underestimated, for planting Hair Grass is a laborious task at best. The assumptions about splitting the plants in each pot were largely correct, the Hair Grass, Blyxa Japonica were easily divided into 5-6 plants; it was the Rotala Wallichii, that was the surprise. Rotala Wallichii came in large clumps, but there were no roots! So as it was the last to be planted and as the clumps looked ok, they were planted as is.

    A few squirts of water conditioner was added, but filling up the tank was a bit of a chore, a concern and relief. 420 effective litres from my little pump at the bottom in the blue barrel was a life saver, but as the tank slowly filled up there was the nagging concern about would it hold together. Carefully looking at the silicon joints to see if bubbles were appearing due to stress. A few appeared at the top so that was ok; it is at time like this that one begins to consider that insurance might be useful.

    When the tank was filled, I turn off the barrel pump and at the same time turn the tap off for the inlet pipe so that water was still in the pipe. Connecting up all the pipe connections was easy, and then opened the inlet pipe tap. As the pipe was already fill of water, a siphoning action started immediately. The force of the bubbles now being expelled out of the filter, chiller and reactor caught me by surprise. The filter was ¾ pre-filled some days before, so it must have been the chiller that had a lot of air in it, when the bubbles subsided a bit, the filter was then turned on.

    The filter started with no problems; however the air stuck in the reactor continued to make a noise for some hours until it was completely expelled. There was no plan to turn on the CO2 for the first couple of days, however the PH Controller was calibrated and set to 6.8.

    The chiller was a flick of switch a small wait and then it started. The chiller made more noise than expected and the heat coming out of it was a bit of a concern. The initial water temperature was 30.2, the chiller taking 3 hours to reduce that to 27.2. Now with a new appreciation not letting the chiller consume expelled air the partition separating the front from the back was positioned. The logo in the middle isn’t a form of sponsorship rather lucky positioning, as the partition is a broken ring binder that was carefully cut to measure and did the job well.


    Part IV: Cabinet design

    Cabinet design, I assumed that it was just a smooth box with some ventilation holes that support the tank, but when you consider the weight of the tank and the contents, then my 4 footer was over 600Kg. The tanks & cabinets I saw were often pitched at the non demanding consumer, concern over the weight was one consideration, plus the chiller had to be hidden, minimisation of visible piping, at the same time have the flexibility in the future to make other changes, such as turning the tank & cabinet to be a room partition if required. This is easier said than done. I also wanted smooth Zen lines and no door knobs. Now this is were reality comes in, at the very end my wife wanted the cabinet to have age, shape & form, and the changes were made!

    Cabinet design and tank maker go hand in hand, I don’t know how many people I talked to, but it seem that I was the only one taking notes, sending emails with MS PowerPoint diagrams in an attempt to describe what I wanted as record of the discussions.

    Hood Design considerations:

    • Must have a 20mm gap along the length so the pipes can slip up behind between the hood & glass. This prevents piping holes being created.
    • Must have a thin profile 4 inches. Although changed this to 6 once I saw how powerful the MH Lights were
    • Two sets of braces, 1 for the hood to rest on the tank, another for the light to sit on.
    • Top bracing had to have a 5 cm x 1.5 gap to allow a two pin plug to slide through
    • Gap between top hood brace and bottom brace had to be able to fit a power board
    • Hood is an accessory that might be removed if I don’t like it in 6 months
    • Hood needs pipe clips on the sides
    • Hood / tank overlap of a maximum 2 inches

    Cabinet Design considerations:

    • Ventilation needs to be adequate for a chiller to sit inside
    • Holes for piping on each end and back.
    • Holes for electricity had to be at the bottom in the same style as piping holes.
    • Some adjustable shelving. Shelving need to ensure enough space for chiller
    • Rounded corners [but this requirement went out when the Zen style was discarded]
    • 360 degree lamination. Means the back looks like the front as much as possible
    • 3 door design, with recessed handles, no door knobs

    Tank design considerations:

    • Had to be braceless
    • Translucent silicon
    • Grade A Asahi Glass
    • Glass has to be the same thickness all the way around and bottom. Some people suggested 12mm glass for the bottom?

    By chance when searching a forum I came across “Tank_Maker”, well I was really surprised when he came and saw me! He took notes! And on the eve of Chinese New Year an email came back with a tank schematic and cabinet schematic! At this point in time I had still not spent a cent. After a couple of exchanges this is roughly what I settled on:

    I was on a budget, so not all my requirements could be met exactly how I wanted them, but maybe next time?

    Items that nearly caught me out were internal space, the 8 main pillars that the tank sits on step into internal space by 5.5 inches [2x 2 ¾ inches]. Positioning the chiller sitting in the middle with a foot of clear space in front and back proved to be quite a challenge.

    Where to place the power board required another extra piece of wood so that it could be fully supported in the spot where it is now, and some consideration was given to locating the pH Controller away from the influence of the power cables.

    Tank arrival day
    On the day of arrival, I got a phone call from Tank_Maker saying the haulage people had found a scratch on the tank and he would be visit shortly to confirm! Shock what do I do? I guess I was lucky that he was proactive, however for the unwary just accepting what has been delivered is not wise.

    The tank came with enough fingerprints and bits on the glass that needed to be cleaned, which took me a good hour to do so. The scratch was visible [6 inches long], and if it had been lower down at the substrate level and at the back, I might of lived with it. So I advise all, to thoroughly check for scratches, glass defects, glass chips, silicon bubbles on arrival. If it arrived dirty then clean it and if no defects can be found then accept it. If a defect is found and you cannot live with it, then seek a replacement. So on inspection of the tank and without another word a replacement was ordered and I had time to write this article.

    With the scratched tank sitting in the living room, I was able to ponder the size. It looked huge, somehow my mock ups did not do justice to the size, and when I put the MH Lights on, the intensity of light in the living room exceeded expectations. Actually it was a bit frightening; the tank was a lighthouse in the living room!

    Hint: tanks seem to have a side that is just better than the rest, make sure that becomes the front.
    Mistakes – I initially wanted to be able to look through the tank, but when it was against the wall I could clearly see the room light switches, pipes and other items on the wall, so asked for the second tank to have black oyama paper on the back.

    I was never quite sure what to do about lighting, there are some general rules of thumb on X amount of watts per gallon or surface area, and here is some good reading [ http://www.fitchfamily.com/lighting.html and http://www.thekrib.com/Plants/Tech/Lighting/ ], but my simple rule of thumb is “more lighting = more & faster growth” for everything including algae. Others told me that the greater the depth of the tank the more lighting is required, I have yet to believe this as focused light only becomes more diffuse when it hits particles in the water. Fibre optic cables after all go for kilometres without losing light.

    What I concentrated on was looking for one unit, which had MH and PL, no external ballast and ability to use the lights independently of each other. I quickly settled on Dymax Hi-Lux lights and had to change the PL bulbs on arrival to 6500k as the 10000k was not suitable for a planted set-up. The duration of the proposed lighting period continued to evade being locked down, split phases or one long phase? The split phase would allow me to briefly see the tank in the morning with the MH’s on. A Dennerle lighting brochure mentioned that this also makes life harder for algae as well, with a caveat that “shorter phases less than 4 hours are not noticed by plants”.

    Proposed lighting periods:
    No. of Hours your light is on: FL 6:15 - 10:45 {4.5 hrs} SIESTA 5:30 – 10:00 {4.5} [Total Duration 9hrs]
    MH 6.30 – 10:30 {4.0 hrs} SIESTA 5:45– 9:45{4.0} [Total Duration 8 hrs]


    No. of Hours your light is on: FL 12 noon - 10:00 pm [Total Duration 10 hrs]
    MH 2.30 – 9:30pm [Total Duration 7 hrs]

    The former did seem a more complicated approach and where ever possible I prefer to avoid unnecessary complexity, so I might just go for the one duration period?

    One lucky break was the holes that had been planned to push the plugs through also allowed me to put, my fingers through so I could place and remove the hood by myself. A big issue if you need to be maintenance self-sufficient.

    What caught me out were the power cables, which came out of one end of the light. This connection actually extended the light to beyond 48 inches; this meant that the lights could not sit within the hood. So I recommend that you get your lighting set-up first to confirm the exact measurements. The support legs that came with the light were so heavy duty & chunky that I didn’t want to use them and I couldn’t hang the lights from the ceiling so I had little choice but to ensure the hood supported the lights. The light supports on the actual lighting unit for ceiling suspension came in really handy again in enabling me add and remove the lights by myself.

    Here you can see the power connections and cables go about 7mm beyond 48inches! The second problem is if the lights are suspended from the ceiling and the power cables you would expect, would also go up to the ceiling, if so then the power cables need to be mounted from the top, in the current position they will have to fold back and cover the switches. But this is only a problem if you are not using timers.


    Part IV: Power, timers and plugs

    Power-board timers & plugs, the little things that shouldn’t cause any problems! Well I was wrong, timers are readily available, but the size profile tends to be larger than required. Timer size can prevent the power-board from sitting snugly along a beam. Hint, get a power board that has screw holes that are accessible from the front and check that fits snugly into a convenient mounting position.

    If you don’t change some of the plugs, then adapters would be required, each being a point of failure as the weight of the cords will eventually open the connection. [Power Board  Timer  Adapter  Plug].

    Power consumption calculations; I only did this to prove that it wasn’t going to add $100 a month to the utilities bill.

    Chillers in Singapore are unavoidable in the long-term, unless in a permanently air-conditioned environment. When I was looking for one, it was the hottest weather in Singapore for about 15 years so no matter how hard I looked for a second-hand chiller, there were none available. I explored the use of fans, DIY cooling concepts, but always came back that a chiller was needed. Even now I am reluctant to talk about the price, but with intense MH lighting, persistent hot weather the second-hand market was empty, I had no real choice. I unfortunately could not put the chiller on a patio where noise and expelled warm air would not be a problem. All sorts of brands were looked at, some half the price of others, some were less efficient. After 2 months of looking with a few posts on the forums that did produce a few replies, I went and bought one that better last a lifetime.

    Monthly costs were worked out for running the chiller at about $6 assuming it would be on 15 minutes every hour. Hint, as chillers do not have an internal pump, make sure that the filter has sufficient capability to drive the water through and if placed inside a cabinet, make sure that expelled air can not re-enter the chiller.

    An Eheim 2028 it seemed a safe bet, a 1000 litres per hour pump output / 750 litres per hour filter throughput. Plus finding someone selling a second hand one, used less than a month with a pile of used green Eheim piping, came in useful. This green Eheim piping was definitely of a higher quality than the usual transparent piping one finds. I would like to say that I worked out the effective volume of my tank and looked for canister filter that could do up to 1-2 multiples of that, but I learnt this after I bought it. Typical that you find out things that you should have known before hand, afterwards.

    Water Changes
    Maintenance is always a hassle, this time around I wanted to change the tank water with little effort, so I was always looking for containers that were suitable, but often these were very expensive. Fortuitously there was a food outlet closing down near where I work, and I got my self a drum [$3] that held about 88 litres, just enough to do 20% water changes, so stuck that under my desk for the day and just told people who enquired about it that I was installing a beer keg. The addition of a $13 pump that could pump to a 2 metre head height would sit in the bottom of the drum with some piping that could reach the tank; I figured I had water changes solved.

    The correct configuration of pipe connectors goes some way to making the task easier, by ensuring that 3 double tap combinations were bought and placed in the manner so I can use one connection [in my case the male] to connect to either the outlet or the inlet pipe. When I connect to the outlet the filter will pump the water out for me to the sink, so no more siphoning, and when I want to fill the tank I connect the external pump hose to the Lillie input pipe, using the pre filter to soften the flow of water into the tank.

    Remember to have a good point of reference on in the tank to show water level when removing water, and if your refill container is about the same volume then you shouldn’t have to worry about overfilling.

    Dosing / Fertilisation
    I wasn’t too concerned about fertilisation, preferring to use a local supplier, LushGro Aqua and LushGro Micros…again bought off someone getting out of the hobby so came with a pile of other substances, so much so that I looked like I was setting up a drug laboratory. What I liked about LushGro was that a lot of people use it at AquaticQuotient and have a mature perspective with some tools developed to assist in working out the dosing requirements. [ http://www.aquaticquotient.com/forum...hlight=lushgro ] another great tool was Chucks Planted Aquarium Calculator [ http://www.csd.net/~cgadd/aqua/articles.htm ].

    However the article that had the most impact was “The Estimative Index of Dosing, or No Need for Test Kits” by Tom Barr. It seemed logical and having had a garden or two in the past, it simplified what I thought was often being made complicated by many others. [ http://www.barrreport.com/forum/showthread.php?t=1 ]

    I am not scared of algae in fact dare I mention it, I rather admire it. I had so much of it in my tanks in the old days, but when I read about 20 pages of an AQ forum in one go, you get to a point were algae fear will push you into considering getting every test kit available, UV sterilizer…and other algae removal gadgets, such as ultrasound [ http://www.consultimex.com/eng/aquasonic_info.html ].

    I have bought two Tetra test kits KH & Nitrate and will see how that works. What is uncertain at present is the first month of tank set up, how much light? How much dosing? I will just have to see how I go.

    I had never used CO2 and was a bit worried about this, however before I knew it I found a second hand pH controller and then another second hand purchase ended up with a 3.5lt CO2 Bottle, with a Dennerle Profti 2000 regulator, bubble counter and an External NA Reactor. So I was a happy man until I figured out that I needed a cut off valve to control the CO2 at night, and a Dennerle one was $320! I was a bit annoyed with myself, trying to save money was going to cost money. The pH controller was a luxury that I was going to do without, but the cut off switch was something I needed. I bit the bullet and got an integrated JBL Regulator/ Solenoid/bubble counter at half the price of the Dennerle Cut off valve. Mistake cost $10 and a bit of embarrassment, but a valuable lesson.

    How to “mix”/dissolve the CO2 with the water is about efficiency, small diffusers sit in the tank and gently bubble away to maintain CO2. I was going for a diffuser until I realised that for the size of my tank it probably was not suitable. Reactors are more efficient than diffusers, plus my preference was to avoid potentially visible objects in the tank, so when the opportunity to get a second hand external reactor arose I grabbed it. One thing that I remember when buying it was, the person was using it upside-down, with the water outlet at the top, plus he told he ran the CO2 all the time. This might sound ok, but plants do not need CO2 at night as photosynthesis is not occurring, secondly the CO2 toxicity will kill the creatures of the tank. I planned to plug my CO2’s power into the timer controlling the lights, but with having a pH Controller, it goes into that instead.

    One reason I got the pH controller, which I consider a luxury, was to avoid some testing and to be able to go on holiday for a couple of weeks knowing at least the pH will be ok.


    Part VI: Appendices

    Appreciation to

    • Biotope
    • Tank_Maker

    Tanks Specs

    • Tank Dimensions: 122cm (L) x 61cm (W) x 76cm (H) or in inches 48 x 24 x 30
    • Effective volume of water 420L [10 cm substrate, filled 2.5cm from top of the tank, ~20kg rocks & wood, remembering that because of the glass thickness that 3 cm of the width & height is glass]
    • Glass thickness & type: 15mm Asahi Glass
    • Type of Lighting: MH & FL [Dymax Hi-Lux]
    • Lighting Intensity: 360 Watts [300 MH, 60 FL @ 6500k]
    • No. of Hours your light is on: FL 6:15 - 10:45 {4.5 hrs} SIESTA 5:30 – 10:00 {4.5} [Total Duration 9hrs]
      MH 6.30 – 10:30 {4.0 hrs} SIESTA 5:45– 9:45{4.0} [Total Duration 8 hrs]; Or: No. of Hours your light is on: FL 12 noon - 10:00 PM [Total Duration 10hrs], MH 1.30 – 9:30 [Total Duration 8 hrs]
    • CO2 Injection Rate (bps): tbd
    • Type of CO2 (DIY/Liquid/Tank): Tank with JBL with integrated regulator/solenoid/bubble counter, connected to pH Controller,
    • Method of Injection (e.g. Diffuser/Reactor): NA Reactor with three balls
    • Substrate Used: Lapis Sand [3 x 22 kg] about 3 inches thick
    • How thick is your base fert: Dennerle Deponit-Mix 200 9.6 kg x 2 and Dennerle Deponit-Mix 120 4.8kg x1
    • Liquid Fertilizers Used: LushGro Aqua & LushGro Micro
    • Frequency of fertilization: tbd, probably Mon – Wed – Fri + day of fortnightly water change
    • Tank Temperature: 80F/26.6 C or 81F/27.2C
    • Type of Filter: Eheim 2028 canister
    • Filter media used: Eheim SUBSTRAT PRO & EHFI MENCH
    • Temperature of water. 80F/26.6C using a 1/5 HP chiller
    • How long has your tank been set up: 1 day

    Plant Bio load
    1. Dwarf Hair Grass [Eleocharis acicularis]
    2. Blyxa Japonica
    3. Rotala Wallichii
    4. Aponogeton Longiplumulosus.
    5. Java Moss

    Mock Layout Pictures
    I used MS PowerPoint. Once there is a point of reference in the picture that you know the size of, it is easy to dissect and make proportional additions to the pictures.

    Things that caused extra work
    • Every piece of equipment comes with different plug types
    • If one piece of equipment plugs into another piece of equipment, for certain the plug will be incompatible
    • For certain buying second hand will mean that you end up with extra equipment.
    • People that sell second hand equipment always live a long way away.
    • Trying to figure out if I had missed anything.
    • Removing fingerprints off the glass.

    Mistakes or near misses and good luck
    • Near miss in considering a Rio tank… not what I wanted
    • Only found the forums after a friend came round to my place and asked what was on the wall [my proposed tank outline] – would have been a huge mistake if I hadn’t found the forums.
    • Mistake - Bought some extra equipment
    • Lucky to be able to put black Oyama paper on the tank the second time around.
    • Lucky Biotope was just around the corner
    • Getting Lights early – probably good luck
    • Assumed positioning the power board in the cabinet would be no problems – near miss
    • Should have determined the hole spacing [eg 1 inch] for the adjustable shelves - Mistake
    • NA reactor sits on top of my chiller by accident rather design, and extra 5mm of space would have made it easier.- Good luck
    • Finding my rocks, something found has a good feel about it – Good Luck
    • Getting a workbench tool to stand on, - good idea
    • For my apartment setting, and the height desired, getting a Zen Style cabinet I think would have been a mistake.
    • Cabinet centre shelves smaller than the other shelves - mistake

    Glass types
    My understanding of glass is relatively limited to my experience in buying a tank, which I have categorized in to 3 broad types:

    Starphire, which is a brand name of very low iron [Fe] content class and comes in 12mm &19mm thickness. There is a supplier here in SG [link below], but, it was easier to deal with the US. I didn’t find anyone locally [Singapore] that would even suggest it. A quick email to [info@aquariumobsessed.com] or two to www.AquariumObsessed.com and in the middle of the night got virtually instant responses…
    o 48L x 24W x 30H 12mm glass with euro bracing $US1150.00
    o 48L x 24W x 30H without braces 19mm glass $US1500 - $US1700
    Putting shipping, insurance, etc on the top of that put a stop to those ideas, dreams are free, but reality is required. So I stuck to Japanese float glass [Asahi] 15 mm for all sides including bottom

    Japanese float glass – Asahi is one brand [there are probably others], comes in many sizes, and different Grades, although I am not familiar with the grade scales. The Japanese glass that I am using is supposed to be a grade 1 and a high uniform quality. Many tank makers use Asahi glass. Grade 1 has no defects. Grade 2 is grade 1 glass with defects eg bubbles. Grade 4 glass is window glass. Asahi Glass can come from Malaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore [although I am not sure if SG manufactures it] plus Japan. Generally all the same quality except that Indonesian Asahi glass might have some more iron in it.

    Chinese glass- which is supposed to have the same grade as the Japanese but quality is unfortunately variable and you might get good or not so good quality for your tank.

    I stand to be corrected on the above. Other considerations with thicker glass, is view distortion plus the weight goes up quite a bit, then you have to think of the cabinet and how many pillar/posts is it sitting on? I was told that my tank weighs about 100 kg by itself. Normal glass [windows] is large topic by itself as the manufactures do all sorts of stuff like tempering, shatter proofing, laminating, coating etc. Singapore Safety Glass Pte Ltd: http://www.singaporesafetyglass.com/ is the Singapore supplier of Starphire. Cost is about $900 to do a 48L x 24W x 30H tank in 12mm Starphire glass. You will need someone to silicon it together.

    Braces are strips of glass that are used to provide added strength & rigidity to the tank, various combinations exist, such as strip of glass that runs all around the perimeter of the tank [Euro Bracing] or pieces of glass that go from one side to the other [Center Bracing]. Considerations are, thickness of glass, how much access do you need to the inside of your tank, will the bracing inhibit lighting, will people see the bracing and if the strips are too wide then pipe holes may need to be made.
    Takashi Amano Tanks
    Ever wondered what are the sizes of Takashi Amano’s tanks at the ADA Nature Aquarium Gallery are? Well I sent an email and they promptly replied:

    • 90x45x60cm
    • 120x45x60cm
    • 180x60x60cm
    • 180x120x60cm
    • 350x70xx70cm

    All the Nature Aquarium Gallery are without braces, except the big one. Ever wondered what thickness is the glass is? Probably 19mm.


    Part VII: Day Zero completed
    I recommend that you have an established budget, but it does not hurt to dream and think beyond the boundaries of what you want, especially if this clarifies your thinking. If you cannot find what you want then don’t worry, take your time, it is out there somewhere and better to save your money. Easier said than done, when you see selling great deals on fish/plants and you haven’t got anything.

    Lastly keep in mind the total solution, where is the chiller going to sit? Are you going to get a chiller? Tank Location in the apartment? What is your tank going to look like at the end? Who else in the family, do you need to keep happy so that you can get what you want?

    Here is my tank less than 1 hour old

    Participate in the forums and share what you have learnt. Anyway this is my 2 cents worth, 2 cents that I decided to put back in to our community.

    Rupert Place
    [Take your budget, double it and accept it]