Doing A Nice 55g Planted On The Cheap

Discussion in 'Freshwater Aquarium Builds' started by sixtyfour, May 20, 2019.

  1. sixtyfour Valued Member Member

    I'm going to try to set up a pretty decent 55 gallon rig on the cheap.

    I started by hitting the antique stores looking for bargains on solid wood furniture. I found this 90s TV stand, and negotiated it down to $25. It was one of the old tall ones, and it came in two pieces. It’s an Ethan Allen which was fancy back in the 90s.



    The neighbor and I broke it down, and parted it out, and I keep the bottom, and the TV stand part that pulled out. This way I can pull out the filter, or sump when I’m servicing it.


    Then I rigged it up with a light, a shelf, two top mount power strips, some water proof mat, and some hooks.


    Stay tuned

  2. toeknee Well Known Member Member

    Nice set up! Unless you're confident it will hold 600-700 pounds as is I would consider adding some 2x4 supports since that 55 will be 600 pounds or more once filled up.

  3. sixtyfour Valued Member Member

    That's the great thing about the 90s era furniture. That thing is solid oak. The bottom part without the gear weighs about 200 pound. I'm more concerned about my floor than the stand[ ]

    I'm playing around with some acrylic to make my own canopy. This part might shoot the whole budget. I've messed with a couple of different saw blades, a new Dremel bit, more acrylic to test stuff on. I should have gone with off the shelf, but I'm learning.

  4. sixtyfour Valued Member Member

    We got the 55 gallon tank on a dollar per gallon sale at PetValue (formally Jack's aquarium). I would have preferred a 75. The stand is built to support a 75, but the sale capped out at 55 gallon. A 75 would have cost me $160 instead of $55. The dog in the picture is my helper. She makes sure no fish food is left on the floor.


    It's an Aque-on, standard issue. I was a little surprised at the lack of finish work on the silicon job. I'll need to go through and clean it up a bit. Overall it's a great tank for the price and it has a 5 year warranty. I wish I had the budget for something nicer, but this will do.

    I need to read more about the forum formatting. That brand name gave me trouble, and I need to figure out how to post images correctly. It seems to be harder on my phone.

    I ordered this window privacy film off Amazon for $14.

    It is the style that sticks with static. The install went real smooth. Nothing really to report.



  5. 12Cin12 Valued Member Member

  6. sixtyfour Valued Member Member

    We are going to use the Black Diamond coal slag for sand. I got two 50 pound bags at tractor supply for $9 each. This is an idea I got from this forum, but I've seen other sources recommend it too. The first time I bought it I got the fine, rather than the medium. I read that some people use the fine, but the medium was strongly recommended. We washed up a bucket of the fine, and decided it was best to go back and get the medium.

    We have one 50 pound bag done. It wasn't nearly as dirty as I expected it to be. I can see how people can get away with just letting the filter do the work. Personally, I would wash it. The attached picture shows the bucket the first time I added water to it. I risnsed it for about 10 minutes per bucket. 
  7. 12Cin12 Valued Member Member

    I’m Using medium coal slag too! I’d kinda regretted not having access to the finer grain, so I’m glad I went with the medium. I bought 2 25 lb bags and I only used one for my 75 gal. But I’m also using pool filter sand for my Cory’s and Bolivian rams
  8. sixtyfour Valued Member Member

    I'm pretty excited about the coal slag. It looks super cool.

    Last night we finished the canopies, and put the light on. The light is a NIcrew RGB. First time trying out NIcrew. It was quite affordable. $64 on Amazon.

    The canopy is another story. I have never done much with acrylic so there was a lot of learning that had to be done. I also had to buy the fancy glue ($15), knobs (10 pack for $10), hinges ($10), some tools (guessing $40), and twice as much acrylic as I needed so I could test stuff out ($65). So that's a really expensive lid. I could do it again for way less, but if it's your first go don't expect to save money on this DIY. Mine is a lot nicer than the store bought. I used really heavy duty acrylic.  

    I'm going to speed this process up. Dave125g sent me some amazing plants and they need a home. I filled the tank, and I'm running an old HOB and mechanical media to clarify the water.

    I think I'm going to plant a couple of the plants in small mason jars with that fine slag I didn't use, and a root tab. The plants are currently floating in my 20 Gallon.

    I hope this old heater I have still works. I intend to get an inline filter.   
  9. sixtyfour Valued Member Member

    The new inline heater will be in tomorrow. The two little guys I have in there now are pretty much useless.

    The water is clearing up, and I'm having fun playing with the back lighting.

    I installed the leak sensors in the cabinet, and on the floor. $44 for 5 on Amazon. They are real basic, not internet connectivity, but they get the job done.
  10. sixtyfour Valued Member Member

    I wanted to practice more with the acrylic so I made a couple of shelves.


    That glue is very interesting. It's really slightly melting the acrylic to fuse the two pieces together. You can see in this picture where it reacted with the acrylic. It's water thin, and a little trick to control.


    Ever wonder what's in a aquarium heater? It took the bad Marineland one apart. Now I have this neat glass tube:)


    It's pretty much a long metal spring insides more little glass tubes.
  11. sixtyfour Valued Member Member

    The Hydor inline canister heater arrived. The directions were terrible. I suggest skipping those and looking at the videos online.

    I made a mess with it. The Penn Plax is hard to prime to start with, and when you add this in it gets worse. After a lot of pumping and cursing I got it running.


    I made another shelf. I'm getting better at this acrylic stuff. This shelf has a lip so I can put sand on it.

  12. sixtyfour Valued Member Member

    The temperature in the tank is stablized at 75 degrees F. I have a ton of plants coming tomorrow and I'm not really ready.

    I bought a bunch of used display acrylic to cut up and use. I should start a thread just about acrylic.
  13. sixtyfour Valued Member Member

    Today's mission was to get the plants in the tank. We toyed around with a few methods to weigh them down, but my favorite was ceramic rings and a small zip tie. Fishing line worked fine as a tie, but it's a little harder to do. I tried to use scrap acrylic as a weight, but it wasn't heavy enough. For some of the bigger plant clusters I used a small socket. I have a bunch old extra sockets. I have some super glue gel coming tomorrow to play with.

    I got the fertilizer in the tank. I need to get the timers set up on the lights.

    Dave125g and VishAquatics supplied the plants and they are awesome.

    Lots of work to do getting everything organized still. 

    The "On the cheap" idea isn't coming together quite how I thought it would. I'll have to do some accounting soon, but we have had some surprise costs. I really should have figured on that.

    I put some API CO2 booster in this morning. It's the best I can do for the time being. I'm going to start work on real CO2 systems soon. I'm not really happy with how any of my shelves turned out, so those have been sent back to the work shop. I did the first round of water quality tests, no surprises there. I'll try to get the Seneye moved into this tank today. It is so handy when your starting a tank. It keeps me from testing the thing every day out of paranoia:)
  14. sixtyfour Valued Member Member

    Last night we added about 4 ounces of Tetra Safe Start and a pair of sword tails. The kids each got to pick out a decoration to add also. The fish seems happy. We found a couple of fry in there this morning. I'm not going to try to preserve any of them at this time.

    Got the root tabs installed. The girls said they are happy with the plant placement for the time being.

    The lid is sagging in a bad way. I think I'm going to pitch it and buy a glass one for now. Clearly I need to learn more about acrylic. I used the same sheet to make my shelf. Now I'm concerned it won't hold up too. I'm going to check the receipt and figure out exactly what kind of acrylic that was. I'm also going to test the self in a bucket for a while.

    I forgot the pictures[ ]  
  15. sixtyfour Valued Member Member

    The Seneye is installed. I wish I could share the dashboard for it, but I don't think I can. The Seneye measures NH3 and NH4 separately. Where as the API kit measure both together (total amoninia). I like the Seneye method, because it's really only the NH3 that hurts the fish.

    The Seneye says the NH3 is on the rise which is what I would expect. It's currently at 0.035 ppm. Here is the link that explains that.


    I added 4 more ounces of TSS. Depending on how things go we might be doing a water first thing in the morning.
  16. sixtyfour Valued Member Member

    Things are moving along better than expected. We've seen a big NH3 drop today, and that was before I added the sweet driftwood from Dawn Michele. The driftwood will drive down the pH, and reduce the NH3 in addition to the growing bacteria colony. The swordtail couple seem quite happy, and I think we still have 4 fry.

    We have four fish arriving Tues from CoralBandit. I want everything to be perfect for them.

    I attached some of the Seneye results.

    Attached Files:

  17. sixtyfour Valued Member Member

    I turned up the temperature a bit.

    I'm happy with the way it's going. Before I add the 4 fish on Tuesday I'll dose TSS again, and move the sponge filter I've been running in the 20G for 10 days.

    I'm running out of space in the cabinet. I'm trying to install a fan now. I want to store CO2 down there. I'll probably have to move the supplies, and just keep it operational equipment only. 
  18. sixtyfour Valued Member Member

    I'm so excited about the fish coming tomorrow it hurts. CoralBandit is sending 2 German Blue Rams, and 2 Super Red Bushy Nose Plecos.

    I wish my pH was lower, and my water was softer. There isn't much I can do about that at the moment.
  19. ShamFish97 Valued Member Member

    What would you suggest having done this once, for someone wanting to have a tank with this substrate? I'm guessing it's best in a new tank, since adding it to established tanks could be a testy process.
  20. sixtyfour Valued Member Member

    Adding sand to an existing substrate is always tricky. I think that's what killed my Cory. I don't think this is any more difficult, but expect the water to be cloudy for 2 days. The dust kicks up even when you move it around.

    I don't think I answered the question. I strongly recommend medium grade Black Diamond Coal slag as a substrate if you want black. If you want white, go with pool filter sand. The stoney river products are superior. You can get it in any color you want and the poly coat is a real thing. I just didn't have $175 to spend on sand. The Black Diamond cost me $19.

    I put this blue sand in the 20 Gallon. I read that I didn't need to wash it. I disagree with that. It was real dusty when I put it in.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 4, 2019