John's network tanks part 1

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This is the first part of a 5 part build:

1: goals and previews
2: 29 gallon all in 1 show tank, 3D background
3: 20 long and 10 black out and digging safe planters
4: networking tanks and stuff about pump sizing/testing and spray bars
5: "the" rack and custom lights

This is an expensive build but budget friendly when tackled step by step. Budget is important to my family. This build is also very time intensive but my boys and I like projects.

I want numerous small water volume planted tanks I can buffer together and make adjustments easier by having a larger water volume. In the long run we will have shell dwellers and various fish that tend to live in a harder water; however our well water is extremely soft but does have a decent pH. This will make buffering tricky. The target fish are breeding dwarf cichlids that will not all be compatible and tend to be territorial so multiple tanks seemed to be the right solution. These tanks will have built in solutions to slow or stop the uprooting of plants by digging fish. I need to be able to isolate a tank for a week or two if required for special "breeding parameters"

I will be running a test stock of community fish that my normal water can handle in case I need to break it down. I do not want to try to buffer a bunch of buckets and Tupperware tubs while I make adjustments.

This project started in late September and I have allot completed but will be doing the detailed threads in the order I have completed them.

Here's the rack in its current state:


The tank on the top right is not currently in the network but did inspire it. It houses a few endler/guppy mutt females dropping fry, and a rescued garter snake that funnily no longer enjoys eating the tiny fish I learned to breed to feed him. It was my first custom tank build and is very simple. It already has it's own thread in some other section of the community.


The top center is the male endler/guppy mutts I have bred, they look primarily like peacocks, and a hybrid chili, and a hybrid sunset. I think the sunset is an off breed out of a drop and was tossed in with a few tigers and the chili. This tank is on the network and functioning very well


The top left is the future home of shellies, in the soft water configuration it's a bunch of nothing, though I may move some purple rasbora's into it to make sure I like the current flow. It is also on the network.

And finally, the 29 custom all in one filter/nano sump, DIY 3D plantable background show tank. It is the heart of the network and is currently being load/current tested by 4 tiger endler hybrids, 9 purple Rasbora with one straggler harlequin, and 9 Cardinal tetra.

These are all lit by custom full spectrum light bars I built on a serious budget (professionally I'm an electronics technician and as a lifelong hobby I'm a 12 volt automotive fanatic), I expect this will be the post that gets the likes lol.


The tanks are done, the rack will be getting shelves/doors/hoods/fans over the next couple weeks. I could put another 29 and a 15 tall in there but for now the lower middle will be bucket storage, the bottom pockets storage for hoses and supplies and the lower right will house board games. The lower right will eventually house another 29 with my soft/normal water community fish but as I said earlier, I really need to test this as it is for a while before putting in the cichlids and buffering.

I hope you all are interested and stick around for further posts. Thanks for reading.


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  • #3
Just a quick update on the progress, sorry I haven't posted the next step but the blackout tanks haven't been working perfectly. The weir on the 20L doesn't have enough surface area and the current near it is a little too strong. Ramshorns can crawl across and don't quite get stuck but it is running the water line almost 3/8" up the mesh instead of 1/4". Once I solve it I will continue the threads. I'm still building the doors/hoods.
I have found silvertip tetra love the current and layout in that tank so 15 of them are currently calling it home. I have moved the rasbora into the 10 and they have been spawning non-stop.
It finally got dirty enough a few weeks ago to introduce some ramshorns and a mystery snail.
The filter system and plants have finally started to balance well. My sword are running new growth like mad as they adapt to the lights, and the crypt wendtiI are starting to bush up a little. Getting consistent 0-0-0 tests and an watching for algae as the plants diminish the nitrates pretty quick.
Had a little algae in the return line to the top tanks and may go down in diameter to increase flow velocity through the line if I don't lose too much head from the pump. Testing to be done on that.
Here are some pictures from this week:

Hope you are enjoying this build thread as much as me and my boys are enjoying the building journey.
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  • #4
The one thing that bothers me about your setup is do you feel that you have enough room above the tanks to fully 'tinker' with them when you need to adjust the landscape ?
I had a metal stand with a 29 on top and 20 below it - not as nifty as your - but from the picture i had more room for the 20 on the bottom than you have for your tanks and i still found it somewhat constraining.
not trying to be critical since your setup looks really nifty - just wondering if it create issues with long term maintence.

I take criticism well I promise this also doesn't seem critical but curious.
Above the lower 29s I have 6-1/4" to the wood rail, and 10" to the tank above it, while the upper rows I have 7-1/2 to the rail and 10-1/2" to the wood panel above.

Between each tank there is a space 1-1/2" to pass things through, and the same behind them.

To address the question you asked (I asked myself at the time as well) I have made the following concessions in process:

My network drain assemblies had to be 2 piece and well thought out, you can however remove them with the tanks full easily.

I had to trim the extension on my large siphon by 2" to keep the hose away from the lights that are hidden up there.

Anything that has to fit into a vertical channel (filters etc) had to be planned out for service.

I am by previous occupation and current hobbyist a mechanic and am very good at working with inspection mirrors. I can fit my head into the gaps if I really want to though, just drain a couple inches of water first lol.

I have a couple nets with telescoping handles on addition to my normal nets to make it easier to swing the corner at different depths.

Things it really doesn't effect though are things that go in the main tank sections. I have never wanted anything bigger than 6-1/4 x 10 x 30 in one of the tanks, but I could easily put it in there and rotate it into place. I usually do my substrate changes with a siphon hose and that's not an issue either direction.

The height considerations (I obviously could have put the top tanks higher) in my design were "how low can I make them and still get by". The reason was that I have 5 and 9 year old boys (younger when I first dreamed this thing up) that like the tanks and have always helped me with the maintenance and fish care. I didn't want them to need a step stool to watch the fish and inverts, and feedings could be tricky.

The 29s are as close to the floor as I can stand to slow down a siphon, but I can still fully drain them in 3-5 minutes.

I would not recommend the tanks be this close for anyone with mobility issues.

Hopefully I answered your curiosity

As an update in general to this thread: here is the current state of the rack, I recently set up another 29 in there to be run on its own.


The newer 29 has a thread:
29 all in one matten style corner with diy cave | 457512 | Freshwater Aquarium Builds

I will be completing the rest of these threads fairly soon, I have a design and just need to finish getting it built/installed to slow the drain velocity in the upper tanks.
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  • #5
  • #6
In context that you are using it can you explain what is the 'weir' in your design and how it is blocking ?
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  • #7
In context that you are using it can you explain what is the 'weir' in your design and how it is blocking ?
The top left, and top center tanks both have corner weirs. They have a stainless mesh screen on the top 1" for water to run into them (vs 1/4" notches since I keep small snails and nano fish). The water flows through the drains into the trickle section of the 29s internal sump then it's pumped up.

The blockage is simple, ludwiga repens doesn't make it's leaves any smaller to match the scale of the tank, the weirs have never caused flooding because I did design 1/4" of bypass above the screen, but if the plants dump enough leaves to plug one in the middle of the night (sometimes the rams massacre the plants to clear a section for breeding too) snails wash over and I'm pulling them out of the pre-filter in the sump. The pump for the upper tanks is in a chamber designed to run dry before flooding is a possibility as well so it's a safe system, just annoying. About once a day we wipe the screens with a toothbrush, it only needs it badly maybe weekly.

My current plan has been to install a 1" or 1/2" thick course sponge corner matten before the weir to increase the weirs effective cross section and make it impossible to plug, but still maintain the water line I have set with the weirs. The tanks are linked together to make buffering easier for sensitive species, and facilitate "hot swapping" fish from tank to tank without acclimating. Other than the weir issues, I've been very happy with this set up.

Circled in red, below the water view:

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  • #8
This story is over as I have sold this rack and all tanks *except* the 3d 29, in storage, and the snake tank, in use.

If I were to do it again I would put corner matten filters in front of the weirs, the plumbing held strong and despite building a pump rig to make priming easy, I only ever had to re-start the siphons once, and it was my own fault as in was looking for a missing fish and made them draw air. The black acrylic paint stayed on the planting bowls/cups pretty will until I dried the tanks out. The drylok and cement dye worked flawlessly on the cement background even after drying out.

Hopefully the new owner can do something cool with it. Parting shot:


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