Project: Planted Tank - Original Entry 20061129

Preface: I started planning this project a month and a half ago and actually put it into motion a couple of weeks ago. I am early enough into the project that I feel it still merits an online journal. Hopefully I will have the journal up to date in the next week so that all entries are real time and not transcriptions of hand scribed notes and scattered thoughts.

Project: Planted Tank – Entry 20061129

Objective: An efficient large scale planted tank allowing long term concentration on the fluidity of the flora and fauna while still having the flexibility to expand and explore new hardware options.

Implementation: Off the shelf systems, performance and aesthetics carry weight over cost effective DIY function. Nothing, wrong with DIY, I actually enjoy this aspect of the hobby, sometimes down right revel in it, but this is a center piece of the living room and I would prefer spending time armpit deep in the tank. I will reserve personal DIY brainstorms to the friendly confines of my home office, where the audience is more forgiving. That said I plan on peppering the project with tried and true DIY techniques assimilated over the years when the situation dictates.

Tank – I really wanted a 210 gallon footprint (72x24x28) Oceanic tank that I worked on at the LFS. After some poking around and asking questions from 4 long time LFS owners in the Houston area I came to the conclusion, based upon recent experiences, that Large All-Glass aquariums (+120 Gallon), have a much lower failure rate off the floor then Oceanic. On two visits I was shown large Oceanic tanks prepped to go back to the distributor due to seam failures. The gist I came away with is after Oceanic was bought out by All-Glass and the plant shut down in Dallas excess suspect inventory is seeping into the local market. If it was one LFS that told me this, I would raise an eyebrow as I have always had excellent results with Oceanic tanks.

After hearing the same dialogue repeated the only decision left is drilled dual overflow or standard aquarium. The drilled tank is intriguing, I can pipe the internal connections with black PVC intake and output, and pipe down externally to a large Eheim classic canister or pond filter. Plus if I ever want to try saltwater I’ll have a ready made tank. After thinking it over for a few days, I decided on the standard aquarium. While I liked the fact that the black PVC filter piping would blend in nicely with a black background, I want to keep the initial DIY to a minimum and have reservations with fixed hardware in the tank. I could always cap the holes and remove the overflows – more work and who am I kidding - if I ever get around to doing saltwater it will be a decade before I would attempt it on this scale.

Decide to go with the 215 (72x24x29) All-Glass standard tank from a local shop (Fish Land).

Stand and Canopy - An initial application – I actually thought about DIY – after reflecting the amount of effort involved and tools I don’t have at this time, I forfeited this option and looked into buying off the floor stands or custom built. Oceanic off the floor stand and canopy which fit the tank footprint and desired look cost more, then the tank itself. I decided to have the LFS build the stand for me. Andy at Fish Land has been building his own stands for years so I have no doubts about structurally integrity. I’m more concerned with the look of the carpentry. Andy’s stands range from bare bone frames to rustic skinned stands. After explaining to Andy that I wanted an upgrade over his standard, he assures me he can build a stand to my liking at a reasonable price. Having dealt with Andy for several years and knowing how much business I have sent his way, I am confident he will deliver.

Wooden stand and canopy built by Fish Land.

Filtration - Not much to think about here. I’m an Eheim homer. The only decision was which model/flow rate. After reviewing specs, reading user comments on various Ehiem filters I decided to go with the Eheim Professional III. The flow rate (with media) 440 gallons per hour is acceptable for a moderately stocked planted tank that is maintained on a weekly basis. I like the fact that it has dual intakes this should improve the overall circulation of the tank. This feeling will be hard to measure in finite terms but I’m sure I will be able to see the effects of this application based on previous experiences.

Eheim Pro III w/o Media, Fish Land.

Lighting - One hardware application I have always used off the shelf products. Do I have the ability to mount a reflective shield, wire and install ballasts and end caps, yes I do. Do I have the patience and confidence in my skill sets to manufacture this aspect of the project in a presentable manner to my discriminating mind’s eye, no! I will fall back on my tried and true CoraLife light strips. The first thought that comes to mind is the 72” Metal Halide/PC fixture. I ran the 48” version on a 75 gallon planted tank. Amazing solution when the lights are properly elevated and fine tuned with timers. After a bit of thought, I realize this wasn’t the best approach. The halides run very hot, there is no way I can safely stuff them under the canopy. I could ditch the canopy and mount the fixture on legs. Been there done that on the 75. The heat produced in the summer pushes water into the upper 90+ range. The new house has very high ceilings so I can’t use that mounting product, time for of a different approach. I decide to go with two 72” Lunar Aqualight fixtures. If this isn’t enough light, I do have concerns since it is 29” deep, I can add two 36” single linear strips at a later date. Andy could order these strips for me but he doesn’t have the inventory to swap out a few of the actinic blue fixtures. This is a job for Danny at City Pets.

2 CoraLife Aqualight fixtures, City Pets.

CO-2 - With the Eheim Pro 3 I can run two separate inline CO2 reactors, without disrupting the tubing. I’ve been curious for a few years about the effectiveness of DIY CO2 reactors versus off the shelf brands, which I will test once the tank is up and running. This redundancy will be used in conjunction with dual CO2 tanks. Not sure at this point if I am going to need both tanks online at the same time but the wielding shop I get my refills from is only open Monday through Friday and is quite a distance from the house. With my work schedule it usually takes me a few weeks to get a refill so a second tank will be a nice luxury. For regulators I will use JBJ’s all in one solution (regulator/needle valve, solenoid, and bubble counter). Reactors will consist of tried and true DIY PVC reactor and an AquaMedic 1000. I have always wanted to employ an electronic PH Monitor on a planted tank; I think I’ll give one a whirl.

2 20lb Steel CO2 Cans, Williams’ Alloy and Welding Supply.
1 American Marine Pinpoint PH Controller, Online Vendor.
2 JBJ Regulators, City Pets.
1 Aqua Medic 1000, City Pets.
1 DIY Reactor.

Substrate - I am leaning towards a tried and true favorite SeaChem Red fluorite. I like the results I have had in the past with the product and I like the look. During my queries I discovered the City Pets is now selling the ADA product line so I need to do some more homework as this might be an option. That’s a bit down the road for now so I’ll leave the substrate open for now.

Fauna – I’m leaning towards Altum Angels, a nice school of Tetras (to be determined), a couple of colonies of Apistos (to be determined), and mop up / clean up crew as needed.

Auqascape – thought process under construction.

Lots of work ahead, I am looking forward to starting this project.