Aquarium room build with pictures - advice welcome

Discussion in 'DIY - Do It Yourself' started by Sebastian, Dec 26, 2012.

  1. SebastianNew MemberMember

    Hi, my name is Sebastian and I have been keeping and breeding fish for over two decades. I always dreamed of building a nice aquarium rack ‘breeding station’. Life has settled down a bit and I am finally able to dive into the project. Here is a picture of the setup I am building right now:

    The stand is pretty much complete; I will just stain and seal it over the next couple of days. The two lower levels will hold six 10 gallon tanks each, and the upper level four 20 gallon tanks for a total water volume of 200 gallons. I would like to make maintenance of this system as easy as possible and have been reading about different solutions for the filtration, water changes, and would love some input from you guys.

    Since I will not be specializing in a particular region I would like to keep the water from all of the tanks separate, otherwise I would be tempted to go with a large sump system and circle it all back into the tanks. I am pretty sure that I will use an air system with sponge filters to do the primary filtration and aeration of the tanks.

    What I am most worried about right now are the water changes. The last thing I want to do is carry buckets, especially with so many tanks that need frequent water changes while breeding. I am fortunate that this setup is in the basement and I have access to both a drainage pipe in the floor and a fresh water outlet (both to the right of the stand). What I want to do is have several plastic barrels that I can use to age tap water and have a pump that I can drop into the barrels to pump it into the tanks via a hose (Any particular pump you can recommend?). At first I was thinking about drilling each tank half way down and plugging in bulkheads so that I can just open a valve to drain all the tanks half way at once and then fill them up. But since I will be filling them up individually anyway, I don’t know if it’s worth draining them that fast, I could just drain them individually with a hose. What kind of water change system would you suggest? The easier, the better.

    As for heating, the room stays pretty warm because of pipes that heat the house (in the top of the picture), but each tank will need its own heater. Not a solution that I love, but I think I will drop a 50w heater into each 10 gallon and a 100 into the 20 gallons.

    In terms of the light I would like some cheap custom option. There will be pretty much no plants, mostly bare bottom tanks or a bit of sediment where required. This is mostly to see the fish and give them a light cycle. What would interest me is an LED solution that I could install myself under the shelves of the rack (i.e. install and wire individual LEDs). Any suggestions?

    I might expand the room with a few more large tanks, all of the systems discussed should allow for more tanks.

    Thanks for your input!
  2. beginnerValued MemberMember

    very nice. I have a pvc siphon for each of my tanks that drop into a trunk line and away to the drain. I have an elevate storage tank and a hose that reaches around the room. if you would tee up out of the trunk line, just to the bottom of each tank, then tee off your stand pipe, put a shut off, elbow up and to the top of the tank and put a tee there and cap the top( this can be used in case you lose siphon) then elbow into the tank and stub down
  3. featherblueWell Known MemberMember

    Ive used this pump to move water at that heighth at a reasonable rate....I'm sure you can find a better price with some shopping. I thinkni actually got mine at a Fred Meyer for $85 in the garden center.
    How high you're lifting water to the top shelf is going to affect pump performance, keep that in mind with whatever one you chose.

    Id just use a normal inexpensive siphon to a buck or the drain itself, depending onnthe tanks content. Water changing system seem to benifit when water source and tanks aren't close together. With aging water the fill feature wouldn't be very useful, it needs flow which is being supplied by a pump. With the drainnso close you wouldn't even need the 25'
  4. Meeps83Well Known MemberMember

    That looks awesome! What do you plan on breeding? And welcome to FL!
  5. SebastianNew MemberMember

    Thanks for the input!

    beginner - having an elevated storage tank is nice. I don't think I can get high enough for the top level tanks, I guess I will need to stick to a pump. PVC siphon solution might be a good idea, but I'd also be willing to just drill the tanks and put bulkheads in.

    featherblue - That looks like a nice pump, I was thinking about sump pumps. I definitely want to go with a model that has enough power to fill the tanks quickly. Thanks for the pointer with paying attention to how high I will pump the water, didn't think about that.

    Meeps83 - Thanks! In terms of what I'm going to breed, I will do whatever I enjoy the most that won't be too big for the tanks. I have fond memories of breeding small cichlids like rams, Apistogrammas, and P. pulcher. I also would like to breed a few Cories and Ancistrus. I might look into some Killifish and Boesmanis in a larger tank.

    Update: Petco is having their 1 dollar per gallon tank sale and I could not pass up on picking up two 40 gallon breeders. I guess I will build another small rack for them. These will be great as grow out tanks. my wife and I are just putting the last polyurethane coats on the rack, I'll post pictures when we are done.
  6. Meeps83Well Known MemberMember

    Can't wait to see more updates!
  7. SebastianNew MemberMember

    Update: Here is a picture of the large stand with a cherry stain and a few coats of polyurethane. The boards have been nailed on with finishing nails before the last coat of polyurethane:

    After we were done with the rack, we decided that the wall behind the rack should really be painted before we put up the rack. We took that opportunity to patch up a few holes and replace one section that had some mold on it (this is in the basement). Then I decided I might as well put a few more GFCI outlets in. While I was doing that I figured I can put a few more outlets in for my compressor and pump. One thing let to another and we spent the weekend remodeling half the basement :;snow.
  8. jetajockeyFishlore VIPMember

    Looks good.
  9. SturtyValued MemberMember

    Agreed i think it looks great. Are you going to allow walking room behind the tanks?
    If you did a bulkhead drain and valve on each tank and plumbed them to a single drain, water changes would be easy. Just walk behind open the valve easy done.
    Walk in access would alow for neat out of sight plumbing, wiring and easy maintance if a bulkhead leaks or something falls behind.

    Keep us updated id love to see this when its finnished :)
  10. AquaristFishlore LegendMember

    Good morning,

    Thanks for the update! Looking forward to seeing more!

    Looking good! Adding GFCI outlets...wonderful!

  11. SebastianNew MemberMember

    Sturty, access behind the tanks would be nice, but I am not sure if I will leave more than 6 inches behind the rack because of how I want to build the room. I'm going down the bulkhead road, each connected to vinyl hose draining into a pvs pipe and into the sewer. Drilling all the tanks half way down and putting a valve in the line.

    I've cleared out the room and painted the concrete with Rustoleum epoxy. Looks great now, I'll upload a picture once we got the stands back in. Oh, I am also done with building the smaller stand for the two 40 gallons. I put in a larger order with Jehmco for most of the infrastructure, things should arrive this week.

    I'm about to order a few cheap t8 fixtures, but I just wanted to ask if anyone has ever tried the single strip t5 fixtures that go under kitchen fixtures? It's nice that they are so flat.
  12. SebastianNew MemberMember

      is a link to the T5 fixtures I was talking about. The nice thing is that they come with a power cord, have a really low profile, and a bulb cover.
  13. SebastianNew MemberMember

    Just a quick update, here is a picture with the two racks in place.

    fish room.jpg

    The room has been completely overhauled, the Rustoleum is a lot nicer than the bare concrete. I'm painting the back of all tanks black. First I tried Krylon spray paint, but that took too many coats for a nice coverage and I was only able to do a few tanks with one can. Plus, I live in the northeast and since the winter is wet and cold I had to spray inside, which was not that great. I switched to latex paint which produced better results in only two coats.

    I installed T5 undercabinet lights that came with daylight bulbs, they work nicely for the lower tanks. Regular t8 shoplights will hang over the top row.

    Right now I'm drilling and tapping 3/4" pvc for the air valves. Then I'll drill the tanks for the bulkheads. And then I'll drill the 1 1/2 PVC for the drainage hoses. Should be hitting oil soon.

    Question: To foam or not to foam? I know people have different opinions on whether to put foam under a tank or not. Even though my carpentry skills are not too bad, some of the 10g tanks and the 20's wobble a bit due to natural bending of the lumber. Would you use any foam to evenly distribute the weight? What about the 40 gallon tanks?
  14. beginnerValued MemberMember

    personally I would use foam. but then again i'm foam crazy, I put it inside the tank too but, I have big rocks in mine
  15. SlugWell Known MemberMember

    Foam it. Dual purpose. Levels the tank and helps insulate it so its more efficient to heat and you shouldn't have to crank the heaters, maybe foam the sides and back too if you wanted to conserve a lot of heat in the tanks. I like the rack and the lighting, really like the lighting.

    Are these tanks staying open top? Have any plans for humidity/water in the air? I've seen this destroy walls, ceilings, foundations, etc because of the moisture. May not be a problem with so few tanks, but something to keep an eye on.

    You will be happy with your decision to drill and have drains in the tank. Turn the knob, drain the water, close the knob and fill the tank. I will be doing this once I have a fishroom for sure lol.

    By far my favorite aquarium related purchase in the last 15 years has been my Linear air pump. SO QUIET, and I can run tons and tons and tons of tanks off of one pump. Saved energy by using a single air pump and saved my ears by not having to listen to a constant hum.
  16. AmazonPassionModeratorModerator Member

    Awesome start of a fishroom. I would like to do this one day.
  17. SebastianNew MemberMember

    Thanks for the replies; what kind of foam in what thickness would you suggest? I remember using styrofoam under my tanks as a kid, I guess I could just pick up some 8x4 house insulation sheets. Another option would be a roll of high density ethafoam, don't love the looks of polystyrene insulation.

    beginner - I definitely remember putting foam inside my old cichlid tanks with large rock structures. Almost a must if they bury underneath.

    Slug - It took me a hile to figure out the perfect position of those under cabinet lights. It was tricky because they are about a foot above the 10 gallon tanks. When I mounted them in the middle of the rack they would shine against the back wall and you could see imperfections in my painting of the background.
    They won't stay open, I will have pretty tight filling glass covers. Working on that right now. Also, since our basement is sometimes on the humid side during the summer we have a dehumidifier holding humidity at 50%.
    Just received my linear piston air pump from Jehmco, can't wait to turn it on!

    AmazonPassion - Thanks!
  18. AlanGreeneWell Known MemberMember

    It is my life goal to start a room like this with a huge center piece discus tank and surrounding shrimp frog and fish tanks
  19. SlugWell Known MemberMember

    Awesome, sounds good. Are the lights just simple single bulb T5 fixtures you would find at a hardware store? I think when I do this, and make multiple racks, I'm going with LEDs....cut as much costs as I can haha.

    You will love that Linear pump lol, seriously the best thing ever created. You literally have to put your hand on it to make sure its still on. On that note, I'd advise devising some way to bleed off excess pressure so there won't be back pressure on the pump. I installed a few extra outlets in my PVC manifold and just keep them open the whole time. Can also just attach some extra airline tubing to them and leave them open behind a rack or something just to bleed off the pressure (use longer lengths to cut down hissing sound of air). Some people advise putting the pump up above the water level and pumping down, but I personally have mine on the floor under a rack and haven't had any issues.
  20. SebastianNew MemberMember

    Yes, they are just single T5's, not HO. They illuminate the tanks just fine, not planning on keeping more than java moss in this setup. I would have loved to go with LEDs, but even if you do the wiring yourself they are not exactly inexpensive. Gotta wait a few more years.

    I've been thinking about how to bleed off extra pressure, especially since my pump is a little oversized. The manufacturer told me to just drop a few more airstones into some of the tanks.

    I'm done drilling all the tanks, which was a pain. The air system is also done. I should have water in all of them by this weekend.