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215 Plant Tank Build

Discussion in 'Aquascaping' started by MacFanMr, May 19, 2007.

  1. MacFanMr

    MacFanMr Prolific Poster

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    I'm currently in the process of a build of a 215g tank. It's going to be an open top tank with bog/terrestrial plants that I hope will look something like this tank I found: http://www.ratemyfishtank.com/images/thumbimg/400/2869_9.jpg

    I have a pair of Eheim 2026's. The tank was reef ready but I cut out one of the overflows. The other overflow will have two strainers, one going to each filter. One filter will return via one of the holes where the other overflow was, the other hole is going to be capped for now. The return for the second filter will be via the bog planted section in a small creek type area that will run back into the tank.

    I'll post pictures as I get further, but I have a few questions. The main one is lighting. I want to do metal halide for the look, plus the tank is 29" deep so it really needs it. With the bog area, I figure the lighting will have to be suspended 18-24" above the surface of the tank. How can I calculate the wattage needed considering the height of the lamps and the spill onto the bog areas? I was thinking three 250watt (or more) fixtures, but so far that's $1200 or more which is a lot. I found a pair of dual 400watt fixtures for $800 that is more reasonable. Is that enough? The tank is 6 feet long so I worried that two fixtures might not distribute the light well enough. Any thoughts?

    The substrate will have a top layer of graded river stone, fine to coarse (dime sized). Under that I will either do flourite or something cheaper as I figured I would need 100lbs of flourite or more and that really adds up in price too. But everything else is kind of iffy in terms of the information I find so flourite is probably the safest way to go. I'm in Texas and run the AC at 70. I'm planning on Discus but have been told not to run the tank over 78-80 by my plant place. Will I lose anything if I don't do substrate heating? I did it on my 150 gallon tank when it was a soil substrate, but when I moved I didn't put it in with the new flourite/gravel mix and it seems ok a year later.

    Michael
     
  2. MacFanMr

    MacFanMr Prolific Poster

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  3. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    I'd not bother with heating cables.
    Run temp at 82-84F for Discus, they and the plants will be fine, the only ones that might not thrive as well as they could, Lace plants, everything else I know of does well at warmer temps.

    I'd link up the bottom strainer inlet for the ehiem to go to the bog section, that'[s fine. You want one for the over flow and one down low, that way you get good removal of dirt at the surface and lower down.

    Place a Tee on the drain down on the bottom filter inlet.
    Use this as the drain for cleaning the tank.
    Hard plumb it if possible and leave on there permanently. This way all you do is a valve turn to drain the tank.

    Makes water changes very easy.
    Plumb a refill with a pre carbon 9 3/4" filter for the refill line and have a valve right there by the tank hard plumbed and permanent.

    Lighting:

    You can do very cheap if you DIY.
    Search DIY Metal halides.

    I'd say 100$ each for the 250's, 400;s might be too much, also, the higher up, the more over spray you get.

    Another, rather unique concept: use 1 250 or a 400 W light and use a light rail to cycle the light back and forth over the tank's length.
    These run about 100$-150$.

    You can set them up to several feet of travel etc.

    Then you are looking at 300-400$ tops.
    Less electric also.


    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  4. MacFanMr

    MacFanMr Prolific Poster

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    A great help! A few follow up questions:

    Ahh, that's a good idea. There are four drilled holes, two in the remaining overflow, two not. So I had planned to use the two in the overflow to go to the filter, and one of the others for the return and plug the other. I can switch that one to a strainer outlet and use the one in the overflow for the drain you suggested (does this mean you don't vacuum? it is rather tough in a heavily planted tank.) All four will have ball valves.

    I bought a float valve that fits the ice maker style line I have running from my RO unit. I was planning to mount it inside the overflow to hide it. I was going to "T" it into the line running from the RO unit. I have a 55 gallon drum that I hold water in for the other tanks and a 315GPH pump to a garden hose, but since this will be open-top I feel auto-refill is important. I was trying to figure out a way to auto-inject RO Right into this stream. I was actually thinking of injecting it on the outflow from the drum but I don't think that pump would work with the float valve. (As an aside, they had a neat toilet refill valve at the HW store that used water pressure to stop it. I thought it would be cool because I could mount it through a drilled hole and hide it, but decided the pressure in the aquarium was probably much higher than a toilet tank and it seemed to iffy to trust.)

    I'm good with DIY. I haven't looked in depth, but with bulbs close to $100 each and ballasts $200 each it seemed like I was looking at high cost either way. But perhaps those things are cheaper if I go to commercial lighting supply places, I just have to make sure the color temperature is right.

    I will want to build it to limit the light overspray where possible. Just make it rather tall and set the light up inside I guess. I can build pendents or a single unit. I read somewhere of people using galvanized metal buckets to make pendents, but I would like good reflectors. I love the stuff you can get from AH Supply for compact fluorescent, but I want to do metal halide as I've never used it before and heard it looks cool, plus with this tank it really needs it.

    My main concern was deciding on the number of fixtures to cover the 6x2 foot tank plus approximately 1 foot back from the tank to the wall with the bog planted area. I could do four fixtures if the price was reasonable and do lower wattage for the back fixtures as they are much closer to the lights, then higher wattage for the aquarium lights. I could do CF lighting for the bog plants as long as the color temp matched and the lighting quality wasn't noticeably different.

    Then after number of fixtures, there is the question of having the fixtures 18-24" above the tank. In photography I know that if you double the distance from the light, it halves the intensity, but intensity is relative. So if the light has to travel 24" to the water then another 30" through water to the aquarium substrate, what wattage will it take to do that? I'm fine with building the lighting rig onto pulleys so I can adjust the height to control the intensity.

    What's the best value on controllers these days? I have a Neptune Aquacontroller II on my 150g and use steady CO2 on my 35g hex. But I'm going to be setting up new 60g in place of the 35, plus the 215g and 72g which will use compressed CO2. I'm thinking I'll get extra solenoid and needle valves (is there a non-aquaria source for these that doesn't mean ordering direct from China?) and run them all off a large central tank (think welding tank size). It appears that controllers only handle one aquarium per. If I go with X-10 stuff, I can locate the solenoids away from the tanks without a problem, but it all adds up so quickly! It all seems straightfoward, but costs so much. I've been thinking of trying to design a simple controller... I don't really need the complexity of the neptunes... just simple on/off set points for temp, PH and lighting.

    Oh, and CO2 reactors... can I use an ozone reactor that I see in the catalogs? Or convert a fluidized bed filter or phosphorous reactor to a reactor by adding bio balls? Or a venturi injector into the Eheim? I know I can build one with PVC but would like to be able to see the bubbles and accumulated air and clear PVC is hard to find and very expensive. How big a reactor do I need for a 215g?

    Sorry for all the questions.. I do appreciate the help. I'll post pictures to a better location and add commentary as soon as I get a chance.

    Michael
     
  5. MacFanMr

    MacFanMr Prolific Poster

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    Oh, I forgot to ask, what is this lighting rail you mentioned? When I read your reply, I envisioned something with a series of mirrors that would distribute the light over a wider area (though at a loss of intensity). But my roommate envisioned something that would move the fixture itself side to side. The movement of the fixture has some appeal in the context of producing a sun that would rise and set, but it seemed like it would have to be pretty intense to provide reasonable coverage. I'm planning to spend some time with Google today, but in case I don't find anything I wanted to ask.

    Thanks again.

    Michael
     
  6. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    Search, use google.
    Light rails for hydroponics.

    Not sure where you are looking for ballast, I can get 250's HQI's for about 30$ ea and for the bllast, around 60-70$, 100 for electronic ballast.

    Use all 4 drilled holes BTW.

    One drain for the over flow, one in the deep section of the tank, and have the returns the same configuration.

    You do not need to vacuum much, and some fluffing on dirty areas, and large water change take care of that. Add a Lifeguard style strainer on the intake on the bottom.

    I know several places make a low profile electronic float switch, spectrapure, they run 50$ or so. These can drive a powerhead or whatever device you want from a reservior. Might be 10X easier to hide etc.

    Do not use RO right.

    Use something like GH booster, see Aquarium fertilizer.com.
    If you want to add KH, use baking soda.
    Much cheaper than RO right or any commercially avail product.

    Better for plants and focuses on your needs and can be tailored a number of ways.

    Neptune controllers are about the best for the $.

    But I do not suggest them....nor any controller, they do not control anything other than pH, they do not control KH............

    Changes in KH have caused many fish deaths.

    Changes in the needle valves from messing up?
    Far far fewer.

    Get a good CO2 reg, good needle valve, set it, and then use a solenoid to turn the gas off at night, fish do not need to be exposed to chronic high CO2, especially when the lights are out and the O2 is lowest.

    The rate of CO2 being added is constant.
    You are not dependent on dosing of CO2 directly this way by measuring pH/KH.
    You should be able to run multiple tanks with the unit though.

    You can also just set the cut off for CO2 gas with the unit using a low pH set point, this prevents overdosing, but not under dosing.

    I'll post more later.

    Tom
     
  7. MacFanMr

    MacFanMr Prolific Poster

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    I started a Flickr photo set of the build so it's easier to view pictures. The last couple in this set show the way I setup the plumbing for the tank.

    I Googled for metal halide lighting quite a bit today and found this which is a better price than what I saw before, but not as cheap as that. I've searched more generically and I think I'm finding what you're referring to.

    Won't having a return in the overflow box cause the filtered water to recycle back into the intake without going back into the tank? Remember, I'm planning to do an external bog section like this and was going to do a stream through it using the second filter return. That stream would run back into the aquarium so there would be a surface return and then there would be a bottom return as well. Additional current could be provided by power heads if necessary.

    Not sure what needle valve you're referring to here.

    This sounds much simpler than running a bunch of controllers.

    I assume this is if I have a controller. I should be able to avoid overdosing by turning it off at night and running a slow bubble rate right?

    Thanks. I really appreciate your input on this. Don't worry about replying immediately. I only get to work on this in the evenings and weekends so it's progressing slowly anyway.

    Michael
     
  8. MacFanMr

    MacFanMr Prolific Poster

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    Below is a drawing I did of my rough plan for my aquarium. I'm trying to create something like this, only without the close-up lighting. The bog area is behind the tank extending approx 15" to the wall. Water will be pumped in there and will flow back into the tank. A second filter will return directly to the tank.

    The big question that remains is about the lighting I should get. I'm doing metal halide. The fixture I drew in is this one but it's just one I've been looking at, not one I have purchased yet. At the moment, I'm thinking of getting two 400 watt fixtures. I should be able to get away with dual 250 watt fixtures, but since the fixtures will be so high above the tank I think it will be necessary to start with more light. Plus there will need to be light for the bog area as well. I do worry that the bog area might see too much light relative to the aquarium so it may take some careful masking/positioning. I will also want to mask it off so people looking at the tank won't be blinded.

    Any thoughts on this question would be much appreciated. Also, if you see any flaws with the plan for the bog area, please let me know. I decided it was necessary to have a tray that sets in below the waterline and filled with substrate to plant in, so that's my current plan. Thanks.

    [​IMG]
     
  9. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    You will need significant movement through inside the tank to mix the CO2 etc.
    Just keep that in mind.

    Since you have a pulley set up for the MH light, may as well rig up a pulley pull the light horizontally back and forth to get more light spread. You might just use the timer rail etc without the rail it self, just a whine up type that moved it back and forth every few minutes.

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
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