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EvilChief

The tripple deck 6ft tank (from hell)

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Ladies and gents,

After much deliberation with myself I have come to the point that (I think) I know where I would like to head with my fish tanks.

Long story (If you don't like reading mindless stories skip to the short story part below): My lovely wife convinced me to get back into my fish keeping hobby after 20 years of absence. This biggest thing that I did remember from 20 years ago is that bigger is always better. Well I started with a 180l tank thinking that is big, how silly of me! One of the the requirements was, that the fishtank is easy to maintain, so when I am away for work (which unfortunately happens quite frequently for long periods of time) she won't have a terrible lot to look after. Well  I am doing my best to keep as easy as possible for her. Third we couldn't quite decide or agree what type of tank we wanted to go with: I wanted a planted tank and she wanted a Chichlid tank (pretty fish :)). Well as many of you may know I had quite my starting issues getting my planted tank up and running, but since then it has (touch wood) been fantastic. Actually beyond fantastic, it is growing faster than I ever expected. Now, since the bug has really bitten, I would like to move to an even bigger tank(s) to simplify matters. A couple of objectives: 1. make maintenance easier and less frequent (my big 1000l tank in Europe I used to change water only every 4 to 6 weeks) 2. make water quality a lot more stable and less influenced by water changes (water quality in Brisbane is crap at best of time) 3. increase thermal stability (a problem I never really faced in Europe) 4. move the tank(s) outside to the back patio (Wife doesn't like the water noise inside and to make water changes etc a lot easier and less messy and we really don't have the space inside to accommodate some nice big tanks) 5. have a Chichlid and planted tank (pretty fish and pretty plants). 

Short story (for those who skipped the above, if you still don't like reading, quit while you are ahead): I have been running an experimental 60l tank on my back patio for the past month where I am proposing to setup my big tanks to evaluate several factors: 1. sun light / influence on the tank (algae growth, impact on the fish, impact on plants etc), 2. thermal stability (ambient temperature influence on water temperature with different types of hoods), 3. wild life (impact of bugs, cats and other non aquatic animals). Overall the results are encouraging, there is no direct sunlight just natural light during the day and has caused no algae growth whatsoever in my tank so far, thermal stability has not been great in the 60l tank, but with some rudimentary cooling mechanism I have been able to stabilize the water temperature and I have found methods of keeping bugs and other uninvited guests out of my aquarium.

The setup: I am proposing to have a 3x tier 6ft tank setup in front of my office window on a custom steel stand enclosed by wooden paneling. The custom steel rack will provide the strength and stability, where the wooden paneling will not only help keep bugs etc out of tanks, but hide all plumbing and other auxiliary equipment. I would like to go with 2ft deep tanks, but only 1.5ft tall ones to keep the overall height of this monstrosity manageable. Allowing for 1ft between each tank, the overall height of the complete setup will still be around 2.2m. The bottom tank I want to convert into a sump set up (see question below), the middle tank my planted tank, because it will require the most maintenance and initial setup so have it at a good working height and the top tank a chichlid tank with Texas Holey Rock. The middle and top tanks will be fully visible from both sides, my office on the inside and from our outdoor sitting area, hence I would like to have 2ft deep tanks to create a nice viewing area from both sides. All the pipes (feed and return) will be on the short sides of the tank and hidden / integrated by 3D backgrounds. The bottom tank will be fully enclosed and insulted to create as stable as possible thermal environment with minimal exposure. Each tank should hold around the 430 to 450l, which combined is around 1300l.

My questions:

1. Should I use a common sump system for both tanks above, even thou fish from two different regions will be living in each tank and enjoying completely different environments? I expect the PH levels to be in the high 7s regardless, history has shown, no matter how hard I try I cannot keep the PH level low and stable, so I have given up and my fish and shrimp don't seem to mind.
It will provide a larger overall water mass creating better thermal and environmental stability, but carries the risk of total disaster of something was to go wrong (disease, algae outbreak, overheating, water loss / leak, etc). My planted tank receives CO2 injections, which I will only apply to the supply line for the planted tank, but what effects would liquid fertilizers have on the Chichlid tank in a common sump setup? Or should run each tank on its independent sump system? Should I divide a 6ft tank up into two smaller sumps or just buy two 3ft tanks and convert into sumps?

2. Cooling; my office doesn't have AC and relies on airflow through the window. With fishtanks in front of it, this airflow would be cut off, am I going to die in my office or will the fish tanks provide a natural buffer for the room? Will the tanks proximity and exposure to that room help in stabilizing the temperature of the fish tanks? I am planning on putting together a high efficiency thermal sensing cooling system in the sump section, based on the results I have gathered from the 60l tank, will sump cooling be sufficient or will I need to consider also individual cooling for each tank? Is 1300l enough volume to stabilize the water temperature, keeping in mind that evaporation from each tank will only be minimal due to the full enclosure?

3. Heating, should I invest in a small nuclear plant, or will as above the volume assist me in maintaining stable water temperatures during the cooler months? I am considering having some easily removable insulation panels for the 6ft exposed glass outside for when either it is too hot or too cold and I need to protect the tanks from the environmental influences. What have your experiences been in outdoor setups or even shed setups? What volume of water vs thermal fluctuation have you experienced?

4. Am I completely insane and I should I book myself into a mental institute?

If you have made it this far, you are either a very brave soul or very bored, either way thank you for reading. If you have valuable input, I double thank you :) 

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10 hours ago, EvilChief said:

Am I completely insane and I should I book myself into a mental institute?

If you have made it this far, you are either a very brave soul or very bored, either way thank you for reading. If you have valuable input, I double thank you :) 

Define insane vs normal @EvilChief :-P I too however have thought once or twice about a mental institution when looking at the amount of tanks in my house lol

the long spiel is worth the read i think, 

as for my input, personally i would have 2 separate sumps, just for peace of mind regarding disease etc., as you mentioned...

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just a quick addition in regards to heating or rather stability

my 6ft is closer to 700ltrs, i run a 300W Jager heater and its set to 29 (for discus), the most i have ever seen it fluctuate even on the hottest day was 1.5 degrees,

and my power went out one night during winter and it only dropped to 26.7 over the entire night of no heating,

given the average temp around northern NSW/ south QLD you may be able to run without a heater during the summer if the tank starts out at the approximate temp you want it to stay at...

N.B. i have never had a tank outdoors/semi enclosed though so that may make a small or large difference :?

 

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1. i personally would run 1 sump for the whole set up, unless you have different species of fish that need different parameters, all your new fish would be put into a QT tank anyway so shouldn't bring anything bad into the new system and if keep up with water changes and everything there shouldn't ever be a problem ( hopefully )

2. if your tank is getting to hot just angle a small fan to blow over the top of the water and this will cool the tank off ( like in summer )

3. heating i would just get 2-3 300watt heaters ( i used 3 on my 1100L tank )

4. not at all, im 21 and starting build on a 10x3x4 everyone has hobbies and addictions aquariums are just ours ( probably better then a lot of things ) 

these are all just my thoughts on your build but im no "expert" 

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Insanity is sometimes described as doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results.

Having too many tanks may be described as an addiction.

 

Cutting back on fish keeping and then getting back into it again, and then cutting back on tank numbers to only find yourself buying more tanks. Repeat. Repeat. So whats my problem?

Your plans don't seem insane to me.

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Sorry I cant help you out with any sump questions as I have only ever used canisters. But it sounds logical to me to use two different sumps, one for each tank. That's why I like canisters. One canister filter for every tank.

As for outside tanks, mine gets pretty warm in summer and I always worry about losing fish when the temps get above 32degrees. My current location with my outside tank is very worrying as it doesn't get air flow and this will be my first year with it in this position, but yes outside tanks are a lot more difficult to control than indoor tanks. I use air conditioning through out the summer so my tanks that are inside always do ok.

When I don't use air conditioning my tanks are always up a few degrees, so even your inside tanks will get fairly hot.

I would think that by having your tanks near a window would not make too much difference to the tank, but will probably make life a little uncomfortable for yourself in the office.

Like already mentioned, it comes down to trial and error. Some things may work out, sometimes they don't.

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Thank you for everyone's input, working with sensors and smart controllers for a living means I can build myself some pretty intelligent control mechanisms for heating and cooling. With my rather rudimentary cooling mechanism currently installed over the 60l tank, I can lower the tank temperature from 28.5deg to 24.5deg with an ambient temperature of 34deg, which far exceeds my expectations and requirements, so combined with a smart controller I will be able to stabilize this temperature fairly well. The biggest hurdle there will be to set trigger points low/high enough to maintain temperature before it exceeds safe temperature levels, that's where I believe the increased tank volumes will help me a lot. I might setup my spare 4ft aquarium in the shed, where the ambient temperature is far more extreme and do some testing on some more intelligent control mechanisms and micromizing the cooling setup and collect some additional data points to extrapolate the temperature stability and cooling efficiency between different tank volumes. (Ie setting multiple trigger points and different fan speeds based on ambient and water temperatures.

I have been using canister filters and internal filters 20 years ago in my tanks and both worked well for their applications, bit I find them to be quite cumbersome at times. I can definitely see the benefits of them for larger tank setups, in terms of filtration efficiency and environmental stability. Since one tank will african cichlids and the other is a planted tank, I believe a two sump setup is the better choice. Ideally a divided 6ft tank would be the best option from both an operational point of view, where water inlet is one side and water pump on the other creating a  full cycle, but also having a 6ft glass walls hared between the two sump sections allowing for maximum thermal exchange, virtually acting as a single volume (minus losses through glass insulation, unless there are other materials that can be used as divider, which have better heat conductivity)?

Secondly I am really getting the SH&&&)* with all my shrimp always ending up in my canister filter and not in my tank!!!

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I have never kept shrimp before, but you could try to attach a course sponge onto the canister intake to prevent shrimp from getting sucked into the intake. Worked well for me breeding livebearers.

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ah should of read with more attention with what your keeping, i like the idea about the 6 foot sump split into 2 tanks to help control the temp

the idea of setting up a tank outside/ where you plan to put the rack is a great idea, i always try get as much information before i set up a tank because something always changes 

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Bit of a noob with both big tanks and multiple setups but I've been reading a lot of threads on here. 

If you are currently running all of your livestock on similar parameters then I couldn't see a major issue with a single sump. 

If you were to run your outlets from say top left to mid left then from mid right to sump right. That would allow for cross flow between the 2 stocked tanks. 

Again from doing a lot of reading, it would seem that running your cichlid water down to the planted tank would also act as a kind of prefilter due to the proposed plant life in the mid tank. Fish poo makes great fertiliser, lessening the need for high dosing levels. 

As I said, I'm no expert. I've never owned more than a 4ft myself, but I have researched and followed some of the amazing builds on here. 

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On 11/10/2016 at 11:53 PM, Pepperbris said:

Bit of a noob with both big tanks and multiple setups but I've been reading a lot of threads on here. 

If you are currently running all of your livestock on similar parameters then I couldn't see a major issue with a single sump. 

If you were to run your outlets from say top left to mid left then from mid right to sump right. That would allow for cross flow between the 2 stocked tanks. 

Again from doing a lot of reading, it would seem that running your cichlid water down to the planted tank would also act as a kind of prefilter due to the proposed plant life in the mid tank. Fish poo makes great fertiliser, lessening the need for high dosing levels. 

As I said, I'm no expert. I've never owned more than a 4ft myself, but I have researched and followed some of the amazing builds on here. 

The Chichlid tank doesn't exist at the moment, only my planted tank and an outdoor test tank with B/N. Chichlids in themselves are pretty messy plus they cannot have a terrible lot of vegetation to aid in the filtering process, so I would be inclined to not filter the water down to the planted tank, unless I keep the live stock levels very low in that tank. I rather feed filtered water into each tank.

My main worry lies with the fact that I need to dose the planted tank with liquid fertilizers, which would cross over into the cichlid tank, which of course isn't needed and would encourage unnecessary algae growth.

The more I think about it the more I am leaning towards keeping the sumps separate from each tank. If both tanks would be stocked of same type of fish and and environment, then I think it would make sense.

The cooling side is still having me worried, I think I will need to consider setting up a larger test tank to understand the environmental impact better. while I have been away the 60l tank does not appear to be as stable as I first had hoped.

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On 20/01/2017 at 4:52 PM, EvilChief said:

None so far, I have been called out for remote work in WA over the past two months. Once this project is completed, I will revisit this build again.

 

Maybe pm me when you restart as I have a 6x2x2.5 on top of a 2x2x2 cube. No fish and planted tank with shrimps only running for nearly 3 year outdoor under my veranda. Filter only 1 ehiem 2215 pump water from bottom to top and overflow down. Top tank also have a big internal filter to get rid of big crap..

If I left direct sun light in the morning, I will have big problem with hair algea, otherwise it is great.

Winter will be cold for the first and shrimps are fine but growing/breeding slow.

Below is a photo after a big clean up and throw away...

IMG_4548.JPG

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On ‎10‎/‎11‎/‎2016 at 1:06 PM, TED said:

I have never kept shrimp before, but you could try to attach a course sponge onto the canister intake to prevent shrimp from getting sucked into the intake. Worked well for me breeding livebearers.

and that will work for bristlenose fry to good thinking ted I do that with my tanks to

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Small update, two 6ft tanks and one 4ft sump sitting in my shed. I ended up deciding to go with a single sump setup. After spinning some ideas with my electrical and instrumentation engineer at work, we have decided that we will engineer a complete off grid smart control system for this setup. The tank will be run off a 12/24V battery backed up solar system, controlled by a custom programmed PLC, which will monitor and control Temperature, water flow and lights and data log temperature, water flow to each tank, PH, O2/CO2 and some other parameters  that I will identify as I go along. In addition it will also control an automated continuous water change system with auto top up, fed from a dedicated water tank and filtration system, which will also be monitored through the PLC. PLC will be accessible remotely via internet and will send warning emails if certain parameters are being triggered.

Now two questions for the think tank:

1. My second 6ft tank is not drilled for sump, this tank is double glassed, can it be drilled, if so who can do this for me?

2. I was following someone on this forum who was building steel fish tank stands and powder coat them in Brisbane, but I seem to have lost him. Could someone point me into the right direction please, I'd like a custom rack build for this setup?

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59 minutes ago, Stoney said:

@Obeice for the stands mate. James does quality work, can't go wrong.

Champion! thanks for that.

 

Open for any recommendations on 12V equipment people are using, key items are:

Pump

I have found this pond pump which will suit the performance and head height i will need, one for each tank: http://www.ebay.com.au/itm/12V-1620GPH-6000L-H-Submersible-Water-Pump-Clean-Clear-Dirty-Pool-Pond-Flood-/222375310343?hash=item33c699f407:g:wDsAAOSwx6pYr9f4

Cooler / Heater

My electrical engineer recommended to use 12V peltier thermoelectric cooler modules. The beauty about a peltier will be it can act as both heater and cooler, controlled through the central PLC. Using an independent 12V pump to circulate the water through a heat exchanger to cool or heat the water in the sump to bring it back to optimum temperature. Temperature probes will be placed in strategical places throughout the aquariums and sump to observe an average temperature distribution. 

Now the downside is that peltiers are quite inefficient and need relatively large heatsinks. I will let the engineer crunch some numbers on how big the system will need to be and maybe start with some small scale trials. Has anyone else played with such setup?

Lighting

Using LED lighting 12V is a given and pretty straight foward, I will decide later if we will build our own light systems or we just going to use off the shelf units. Ideally I would like to use dimmeable LED systems with broad spectrum LEDs for the planted tank.

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For your planted tank I would look into makemyled lighting. As far as I can tell they are some of the best out at present and are Aussie made (Gotta support your local). Come with a decent price tag but by all reports it's well worth the $$$

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