The WILD side! - 100 gal Discus build thread

Slug

Well, I finally bit the bullet! I put the deposit down on the tank today, so I guess i'm into it now. It should be noted first that this is an evolving project that will take time to complete (Though I hope to have it complete come mid wild season!). This is my Rome, and i'm NOT building it in a day. All criticisms, suggestions, comments are welcome. I was greatly inspired by a member on Simply Discus who has a 100gal wild tank and decided I wanted one based off of his setup. This is a long thread, and I will continue to update it as progress is made, lots of pictures too.

Here is the rundown:
Tank: 48x24x20 Rimless/braceless with 1/2" glass with polished edges. Approx 100gal
Stand:Homemade 2x4 and 2x6 as usual. Skinned and stained in a darker walnut.
Filtration:2x Eheim Classic 2217
Lighting:DIY LED fixture
Substrate:Pool filter sand
Decor:Manzanita wood, small rocks, maybe a little leaf litter?, and possibly some floating plants
Fish: See Below

The Tank - As said above its going to be a 48x24x20 (100gal approx) custom rimless tank that will be made by a Canadian company and shipped to me. Surprisingly US companies charge almost twice as much for tank and freight as this Canadian company, and it has a good rep among reefers (good quality and service). It will have Starphire front and side panels and all edges will be polished smooth. Kind of stoked about it. I debated going with a 60x20x20, but I really wanted to be able to utilize 3 visible sides, and the 48" tank afforded me that. Also I find the increased width adds more to the tank then say adding more height, that's why I chose the 48x24x20. I wanted to stay as low on gallons as possible, but still have a big tank. So I opted to go 100gals and not 120gal. Still should be a very nice footprint to work with regardless and offer plenty of room for the fish.

The Stand - Home built from the usual suspects, 2x4 and 2x6. Will be my first attempt at skinning a stand with plywood, I usually leave them bare skeletons. I'd like to skin it and then stain the wood a nice darker tone...like a walnut. Still not 100% sure, as I don't have much experience doing this and don't have a lot of tools at my disposal. Things like doors are still being thought out, might just make a whole panel removable and use magnets.

Filtration - 2 Eheim 2217 classics. Simple and easy, will be getting clear tubes for them so they will become almost invisible. I figure I can always tweak them and turn them down, you can always decrease flow, never increase. I really didn't want to mess with a sump for this tank, that's why its not drilled and there is no overflow. Like I said, simple and easy....that's the best way to keep discus. I might regret my decision if I ever turn this into a reef....but as of now, meh.

Lighting - This will be the biggest project of the build, and the area I have the least amount of experience on. But what better way to learn. The good thing about this setup is that I'll be wiring 4 whites together, 2 blues together, then another 4 whites together. So I can choose to use all 8 at once, or just 4 whites at once. And the blues will be moonlights. All of these are dimmable too so I can adjust brightness as I want. This is a project in itself. Between this, the stand, football on Saturday, and school I'll have my hands full!

Fish - This is the part that is the most up in the air at this point. Wild discus will be in there, obviously...i'm thinking around 6-8 as i'd like to have more fish in the tank. I don't mind overstocking a little as I don't mind the maintenance, but will the fish? The type of wild discus will come later, I haven't decided and quite honestly it depends on what is on the supplier's stocklists when I am ready for them. The tank layout will be pretty similar regardless of type. As far as other fish I'm thinking some Mesonauta for the top, and maybe a couple Biotodoma for the bottom? I would really like some Satanoperca, but they might outgrow my tank. I'm open to suggestions for species to use, going for as close to biotype as I can (Without getting to crazy with type localities and stuff) but as long as the discus don't mind I won't mind. Whats the opinion on the Satanoperca? Would a small group of Biotodoma fit the bill better then Satanoperca or Geos? I want something to just kind of clean up the bottom and still provide some activity. Push comes to shove I'll look at getting some SterbaI cories, but they are not biotypical so leaving them out for now.

I can't guarantee the exact replication of the pictures below, my design work is better then my carpentry or DIY work. However I will try my hardest. Not worried about the skeleton of the stand, the part that worries me is the skin around it, never really skinned a stand, attached molding, or doors, or made anything fancy before so it should be interesting. The LED fixture should be a challenge too, never done a real electrical project before. There's a first time for everything! This tank will be in my bedroom, here's a almost to scale replica to show its position against the wall, next to my rack of breeders. (The bottom of my bed is not wood...I just thought it looked better that way. Easier to distinguish.

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You'll notice I did not add any trim or doors to the stand, to lazy. And the light bar is made from bent electrical conduit, easy DIY. It will be attached with brackets to the back of the stand, or the wall. The controls on the left side is the power center. Just an array of switches so I can flip a switch instead of unplugging a heater for water changes, or to turn certain lights on, etc. I recommend these to everyone, its like a power strip with switches.

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LEDs mounted on a heatsink hung above the tank. The 2 blue will be wired separate from the whites, and the 4 whites straight across the middle will be one array, while the other 4 in a square shape will be another array. All will be dimmable, and all arrays will be able to be turned on/off separately. You will notice these do not span the width of the tank. I want some spotlighting effect and the sides to be somewhat shadowed. Should give me a nice ripple effect too.

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Well, that's it for now. That's my plans as they stand. Feel free to add any input you might have. And stay tuned, this is just the start!! I'm excited.
 

JRDroid

That is really cool looking!

Are you planning on doing the wood like that?
 

korrupted555

the design looks great! can't wait to see how things progress! sounds like an interesting tank for sure
 

Slug

Thanks. JR, sort of. Really depends on what pieces I get to work with. It will, for the most part, be very rooty and branches all which way. I probably won't go for a full stump, but more roots hanging down into the water.
 

snakestorm526

that looks and sounds great... would love to see the original tank that you are basing yours off of
 

Slug

Thanks. This is my inspiration.
 

bolivianbaby

It sounds like a really fun project! Love the plans!

It's pretty funny-discus have such a "hard to keep" rep. You can not only keep them, but breed them. Pretty good stuff.

Now it's like you decided the "domesticated" aren't challenging you enough and you want to try to wild. These are going to be some VERY LUCKY discus!
 

Slug

Haha, domestics can be tough once in a while. I just want to go back to the roots. The wilds are where it all began, this is the natural beauty! Theres nothing better then wilds. And now I'll finally have a place to house them.

I think the most surprising thing to people is how discus really live in the wild. They don't live in big heavily planted places like the tanks most people set up for them. They inhabit giant rootballs, roots, branches, and wood piles in slow flowing waters. The water is not always clear, often very sediment and tanin rich and the lighting is dim. And most plants, apart from floating which are there constantly, are only present once the rainy season hits and the water rises above the banks of the river.

I think I'll be the lucky one keeping these wilds. I plan to get some really high quality fish, not the busted up wilds you see in LFS sometimes. Can't wait to get this really started.
 

mirday

Years ago when I started thinking about getting a tank I found a book that showed natural biotope tanks from around the world. I love the look.

I can't wait to see pictures as you get it going!
 

joshua 74

a store around Perth just set up a tank like that but bigger they have like 15 wild discus and ularu not shore if that's the name but it had massive deices of drift wood hanging over the tank and it just looks amazing. if a store can make it look amazing I cannot wait to see what u can do slug.
 

Treefork

You made me laugh that you felt the need to point out that the bottom of your bed is not actually wood.
 

Slug

LOL well, it looks to nice like that. I don't do nice like that unfortunently LOL. Makes it look to fancy.

Thanks all, tank will tank anywhere from 6-8 weeks to build so it could be a while. Meanwhile I plan to work on the LED lighting and lighting stand. Then the tank stand.
 

joshua 74

love the idea slug looking forward to seeing the pics shore u will do an amazing job.
 

Slug

Well, update...didn't want people to think i've abandoned this! I've ordered and received my filters for the tank. Now all that is left is to get the wood for the stand, and the LED supplies. The LEDs will be my next project, and the stand will come a little bit closer to when the tank is done.

I'm thinking about tank backgrounds now. I've always liked the look of a 3D background, but I'm concerned that it might limit the depth perception in the tank. With a dark or all black background the tank seems to fade off into the distance. With a 3D background its like looking at the bank of the river from the river, which can be good but I haven't decided yet. I've thought about using some car window tint for easy removal and I can darken it as I see fit with more layers or darker material, it also gives me the option to backlight this tank and maybe get a sunset/sunrise type of effect.
 

joshua 74

iv never herd of that back light I like it!! do u have any exampls in a discus tank ?? soz 2 be a pain.
 

Slug

No discus tank examples that I know of, but its used a lot in planted tanks. Its basically a separate light that shines either up or down on a certain colored board or the wall behind the aquarium to give a gradient effect. I love the effect. Here is my absolute favorite planted tank, ever. Done by a guy named Alex, he's from Greece and this aquascape is properly titled "Zeus's Throne". Real dynamic lighting, and you can see the back light it gives off that orange sunset-like effect.


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Here are a few more, these are found in the ADA Aquascaping contests

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Just ideas at this point. Will take some playing with to see what works best for me.
 

joshua 74

they do look amazing love the sunset look with the water ripples on the top of the tank.
 

DaroRs

Wow Slug you're working hard for it!

I can just say good luck! Such a big project, and with so many other aquariums you have, I guess you'll have more work and especially more water changes to do every week.
 

Slug

Thanks, yes this will be my showpiece hopefully. Water changes, pffft...no big deal. I don't know why so many people complain about them. I stick the python in and go, and fill back up straight from the tap. Takes me right at an hour to do all of my current tanks.
 

LyndaB

When I was at House of Fins a few weeks ago, they had several planted tanks with designs that look like those you posted. I especially thought the "tree" was really cool. We're going back this weekend. I'm going to steal, I mean borrow, more ideas.

Can't wait to see your end result! arty0049:
 

Slug

So what does everyone think? Worthy of becoming a wild discus tank?? I'm excited. About to pay the second half of the tank and that means it should ship in the next couple days.


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joshua 74

u must be so exited
 

Slug

Very very excited. It shipped out today, tracking number hasn't hit yet but I'd suspect around 3 business days so I should get it around Monday hopefully.
 

joshua 74

that’s great slug. are u still looking at having a sunset affect on the tank? I have fallen in love with that look!! next time 4 me I gess lol.
 

DaroRs

I don't know why but it seems a bit small for a 100 Gallon tank... And it doesn't seem to be 120cm in length. Did you zoom out or something?
 

Slug

Thanks. Possibly Joshua, still up in the air right now. I think it could be a nice effect but i'm not sure I would want it on the tank ALL the time, perhaps the light should be on a timer.

That was taken by the tank builder, its hard to judge with nothing else in the picture to go by.
 

Akari_32

I can't wait till you get it done! Even I'm excited to see how it turns out lol
 

Slug

Update! Well...its inside now. Took advantage of my brothers being free and we lugged it upstairs, thing weighs a ton lol. Yes, upstairs. I've been slacking on the stand but I hope to build it this week though it might take into next week before its ready. I won't be filling this tank until I've sold the other discus (Ad in the buy/sell/trade zone HINT HINT!)

LEDs and supplies should be coming by the end of the week, maybe early next week so I'll get started on lighting as well.


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You can tell what's starphire and what's not!! Surprisingly that's the only place that needs a trim on the silicone too, really impressed with Miracles build quality. The polished edges are perfection too, smooth as ever and beveled edges, and the panes line up perfectly.

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lorabell

WOWSERS!!!!!!! Somehow I missed this...congrats.......I love all of your ideas.......and just know it will be awesome!!!!!!! One thing came to mind.......grapevine(roots I guess)..... I have stuff like that in with my angels....found it in local LFS...with the reptile stuff...my angels LOVE it....might be just the look your trying for.....
 

Slug

Thanks!

I've thought about grapvine, especially since Kathy posted that thread about it a while back. I've found a source for good Manzanita wood though so I might go that route, it gives me stumps, thin branches, and some thick ones.

On another note, all LED supplies are ordered!
 

lorabell

Yippee!!!!!! Good for u!!!!!! I love manzanita( I use it for my birds)....awesome find.....Ive gotten the grapevine with stumps....I do know the grapevine leeches tons......Ive never used the other with fish........
 

Slug

Leeching is ok with me. I'm going for a tea brown color to the water. More authentic
 

joshua 74

should be great I had a big peace of driftwoof in mine but at the time I could only do 1 wc a week and that lovely tea brown turned to a poo brown the fish loved it but it looked bad. then when you invite people around they just say u should probably change your water that cannot be healthy lol. love the sound of wilds with tannen water have you thorts of the strand u want.
 

Slug

I think i'm just going to do a normal 2x4 stand skeleton, and then decide on the skinning in plywood or fabric. We'll see, I really need to go buy the wood and get on that.

Got some of the LED supplies today, should get more tomorrow and the next day. I should be able to start wiring it up by next week sometime.
 

Aquarist

Hello Slug!

The tank looks fantastic! Great job.

Ken
 

Slug

Ok so I've been busy the last few days. Been working mainly on the lighting, also picked up the wood for the stand and conduit for the light hanger. I might need to double up the conduit (currently have 1/2") because this heat sink feels really heavy, 15-20lbs. If I bolt it enough to the stand it should be fine, I'll make it work.

The past 2 days I've really been expanding my DIY skills. Thursday I was drilling and tapping the aluminum heat sink. What an experience. If you have never worked with metals before, definitely practice on scrap beforehand. I broke 3 taps in 2-3 holes before continuing and getting the hang of it with broken taps Also heated and bent some acrylic and I must say, I've found a new favorite DIY project. Its so easy and the possibilities are endless with this stuff!

You'll have to wait until at least Sunday or Monday before I post pictures, I'm out of town at the moment but I'm pretty impressed with my work. Especially having never done any of this before. I'll be mounting and wiring LEDs on Monday. Once the light is done I'm moving to the stand.

My wild discus are on order as well.
 

psalm18.2

What is the light holder made of? Conduit? I really need that same idea for my tank. Your links are amazing pics. Good luck w/ your build!
 

LICfish

Oh I totally missed this. The tank looks so great drool
Where are you getting your manzanita wood from? There are so many pieces I saw and want, if only I had a bigger tank. More drool
 

Slug

What is the light holder made of? Conduit? I really need that same idea for my tank. Your links are amazing pics. Good luck w/ your build!

Thanks. Yes, the light holder is made of Conduit, 1/2" though I might have to step up to 3/4" or double up the 1/2" for strength. It will be bolted to the back of the stand. I'll post some pictures once I bend it.

Oh I totally missed this. The tank looks so great drool
Where are you getting your manzanita wood from? There are so many pieces I saw and want, if only I had a bigger tank. More drool

Thanks, there is a guy on another forum that sells large stumps and tree like pieces. Its on planted tank.
 

LICfish

Thanks, there is a guy on another forum that sells large stumps and tree like pieces. Its on planted tank.

LOL. Maybe we're thinking of the same person. Username plantbrain? I got mine from him and he has these AMAZING new pieces. drool
 

psalm18.2

cool, thanks. can't wait to see all your hard work!
 

Slug

LOL. Maybe we're thinking of the same person. Username plantbrain? I got mine from him and he has these AMAZING new pieces. drool

Yep that's him! That's where I plan to get it from. Some nice branchy stumpy pieces.
 

LICfish

Yep that's him! That's where I plan to get it from. Some nice branchy stumpy pieces.

Yeah he has some really nice pieces. I wanted these 2 pieces but they're too big for my tank. Have you picked out the pieces yet?
 

nfeuerhelm

Did you mention the name of the company that built that tank? Its absolutely amazing. I would love to check them out for my next tank.
 

Slug

Yeah he has some really nice pieces. I wanted these 2 pieces but they're too big for my tank. Have you picked out the pieces yet?

Not yet, going to wait until the tank is on the stand at least.

Did you mention the name of the company that built that tank? Its absolutely amazing. I would love to check them out for my next tank.

Thanks. Miracles Aquariums in Canada made and shipped the tank to me. They are a great company, easy to work with and built the tank perfectly. It is pretty expensive, but its all custom (size, glass type, polished edges etc) so be prepared lol. Also freight costs to ship it. But its definitely worth at least getting a quote, they are free. Like I said, it was expensive but I shopped around all of the US builders and it was still cheaper to go with Miracles.
https://www.miraclesaquariums.com/
 

nfeuerhelm

Thanks, I'll definitely have to look into them for my next tank
 

Slug

Whew, well lighting is DONE! I'm happy to report I finished my LED fixture tonight (Besides a couple of extra screws here and there). It all works and I have to say, i'm quite proud of myself. By far the biggest electrical project i've ever taken on, biggest DIY project actually. Very pleased with the results. Here are a few pictures along the way, I didn't take pictures of every step...there were just to many!

I used thermal sticky pads rather then thermal paste, easier.

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Then stick the LED stars to those and solder them all up (wire them)!

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And here is the finished product

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The nerve center. Everything is quick disconnect, and I still need to attach the pot on the left side. Its not as complicated as it looks.

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Next up, Stand and light hanger.
 

Akari_32

Looking good, Slug! How long till everythings up and running?
 

Slug

Thanks. No timeline yet, but within 2-3 weeks. The fish I've ordered are due in the US by the 24th, so a week from today. Then 2 weeks QT at the importer's place then to me!. I'll probably be QTing them as well for a little bit and seed the new tank.
 

chevysoldier

Looking really good! Wish I had time for something like that. Looking forward to the finished product.
 

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