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Old 03-07-2004, 06:10 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Techno-Geek Planted Aquaria

Don't get me wrong, I love a great tank, no matter if it's high tech, low tech or no tech. I'm in it for the fish so to speak, but at the same time I am a techno geek, I live for gadgets and Rube Goldbergesque contraptions. In that vein I've been planning a planted tank now for a few months and am about to embark on the purchase and construction of one heck of toy. I'm writing this for a few reasons, one, to get my ideas down, two to bounce said ideas off others to make sure 'm not making any huge errors in my thinking and three, cause us techno-weenie-geek types like to share. I already know that for every high priced overkill item or method I choose there is a DIY or low tech or even free way to accomplish the same thing, the Techno-Geek in me ignores such trivialities.

First off I guess I should describe my ultimate goal. Discus, lush plant growth and of course a killer looking aquascape.

The Tank AGA 210 72x24x29 drilled, with the new "MegaOverflows". I choose a drilled tank as I hate all seeing all the stuff one needs, hanging in a tank. This way I can keep all that out of the tank and in the Oceanic Model 3 sump. 2 Iwaki pumps will be employed to move water, an MD70 will be the main return. My calculations show an approximate 15' head taking in account not only actual static head but also frictional losses from fittings and the like. This will provide in the order of 1300 GPH in theory. The tanks overflows are only rated at 1200 GPH, giving me some fudge factor in my pump sizing and the need for good quality valves, less I overflow the tank. The other, MD 55, will push about 800GPH through a group of items, CO2 reactor, UV and chiller. I'll construct a nifty manifold with valves to each device individually as well as a 4th leg to connect to a garden hose, facilitating water changes.

HVAC System: I keep the house at 65ish in the winter and 82ish in the summer. To that end I will need some decent heat to keep the tanks at 80-82F in the winter months. 2 300W Ebo Jager heaters controlled by a Medusa controller will keep the temp up. I'll need some cooling in the summer, that to be handled by 1/5 HP Artica Chiller, with built in controller. I also plan on using substrate heating, however that should not have much of an effect on overall tank temps.

Lighting: This will probably generate more controversy then anything I plan. AB Aquaspace light. 72" w 3 5000k 250W HQI metal halide and 4 24W actinic PC. Yeah 850W is a bit of overkill but this will allow me to suspend the unit 12-18" over an open tank, the plan is to let plants grow out and mingle with the bog plants I plan on using outside the tank. I'll get into that later. While the actinic is more attuned to reef-keeping and could potentially cause some algae problems I really like the way they make the tank look. Iridescent fish scales look incredible under this light, I hope to be able to capture some of that on with my digital camera and share.

CO2 I'm leaning towards the JBJ regulator combo getup controlled by a Milwaukee pH controller. The Aqua medic reactor is on my list and I have a call into a dude that builds incredible quality skimmers, Kalk reactors and all that acrylic stuff for reef folks. 10lb tank to be sourced locally, the local brew shop has them, 50 bucks the first time for a new used tank and then you just swap a filled one for the princely sum of 6 bucks.

UV: When you combine the alleged propensity of actinic lights facilitating algae with Discus and my admittedly heavy handed stocking plans, UV looks like a good prophylactic. Aqua Ultraviolet 15W w/wiper. I think the wiper deal is pretty nifty and actually useful to.

Substrate: I figure about 300lb of substrate will yield a 3" depth. Bottom 3rd to be inert sand, middle 3rd a mix of SeaChem's Florite and Florite Red, top 3rd mainly Eco-Complete with some SeaChem onyx sand. As stated earlier substrate heating will be used. I'm just not sure if I want the Tunze 24v system of the FishVet 120v one. They both suit my needs in their longest most powerful runs, I just worry about a 120v system running through the tank.

Misc: Grounding probe. I hate getting shocked by tanks, been there, done that, soiled the T shirt. GFI protected power strips mounted high in the stand, plugged into 2 different GFI fused 20A circuits. AGA pine stand, refinished to smooth rough edges with semi gloss black exterior, polyurethane, interior to be painted white, and coated with polyurethane. Mount 2 24" under counter florescent fixtures so I can see when working in the sump. Timers for the lights.

Thoughts, comments, glaring errors?

Thanks

gnatster
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Old 03-08-2004, 02:41 AM   #2 (permalink)
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gnatser,

From a fellow techno-geek, YOU DA MAN! However, it seems you are planning more of a reef tank (acro at that) than a freshwater planted tank, let alone one set up for discus. I would initially suggest you take a look at my converted 58g in the General Planted Tank Discussion. The thread is called 58g Challenge. It is a converted acro tank and you will see the resulting challanges of maintaining such high light intensities.

On the tank itself, I have no problems with it. A 210 with overflows, returns by Iwakis and sump are all great. I have a sump system myself and it works great to keep everything out of sight. What will you be using for returns, SeaSwirls?

Although not entirely necessary, your discus will do much better with their natural temps of 82-86. This means you'll need to pay close attention to your heating. Certainly your heaters and the underground substrate heater will work overtime in the winter. Depending on your light source, your chiller MAY turn on in the summer. Nevertheless, you are going top of the line with the Artica and Ebo-Jager so no complaints there. I've never used the Medusa so can't comment.

I would recommend to you the Neptune Systems AquaController II. It will function as your temp controller for the heaters, confirm that your Artica chiller's probe is working well, monitor you pH (obviating your Milwaukee controller) and control the CO2. In fact, you can tie your lights into it and it will control everything. The cool thing is its safety measures. For example, if the temp get too high, it will turn off your lights until the temp goes down. Then it will alert you to the situation via beeper or alarm. VERY cool and not ridiculously expensive.

Lighting, I used 2 x 250w Giessmann Nova IIs because I love an open top tank. The Giessmann are awesome fixtures! However, I had to go down to 1 raised about 5 inches off the aquarium because I didn't want to dose nutrients constantly. The high light intensity will require you to constantly monitor your nutrient levels to ward off algae and ensure plants' health. In a discus tank, I think you AB Aquaspace light will be too much. I would suggest cutting back to the 2 x 250w or even the 3 x 150w or 175w. Your discus are low light fish, they won't appreciate so much light.

Who are you talking to about the CO2 reactor, Andy? I converted my calcium reactor (that I made) to a CO2 reactor and it is working great. Please see my other post in this forum.

As for UV, I would agree you need it with the discus, but watch out for its impact on the trace nutrients. You will need to monitor them closely. You didn't mention what you will be doing about testing. What kits will you be using?

On the substrate, I'm not so sure I like your plan. Why are you combining so many different commercial products? I would probably go with the Eco-Complete 100% with Onyx Sand if I wanted some areas with finer grained material.

Lastly, with all this gadgetry, you need a good electrical system. I made my own GFI set. You seem to be covered with the twin 20As.

Sounds good. Can't wait to see pictures! What's you ETA?
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Old 03-08-2004, 03:56 AM   #3 (permalink)
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I wouldn't think about using a substrate heating cable...it's a waste of money and it's going to cause you root trouble.
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Old 03-08-2004, 06:21 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Raul,

I understand about the necessity but how would it impact the roots?
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Old 03-09-2004, 10:16 AM   #5 (permalink)
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With root feeders, they tend to wrap their roots around the cables. Thus, when you come to trim them, the cable comes up...
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Old 03-09-2004, 01:01 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Ah, I understand now.
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Old 03-09-2004, 01:56 PM   #7 (permalink)
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I would ditch the actinic bulbs. We're not trying to grow corals here.

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Old 03-09-2004, 04:53 PM   #8 (permalink)
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I agree, ditching the actinics is probably a good idea. If you want to switch two of them with plain blue bulbs that would do a lot to bring out the color in your discus. FYI, dark substrates and dark backgrounds tend to make the discus darken. It's not always a bad thing, but it will cause a loss in coloration in your fish. I have the same problem with my discus.

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Old 03-10-2004, 07:16 PM   #9 (permalink)
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I have a super toy-laden plant tank as well, so I will discuss a few things here that I feel you may want to reconsider. Art made a lot of good points, as did Phil but here are a few more, and ones I concur with.

The pumps are WAY overkill. That amount of turnover will not only sound like 3 large flushing toilets, your going to be blowing your plants over sideways. Before you go for the Iwaki, consider the Blueline. They are engineered by the same guy who did Iwaki, but cheaper and better. If you really want a large amount of water flow, consider a closed-loop. It requires a LOT of holes/bulkheads, but will be far better then the turnover you planed.

The Mega-flow overflows just plain suck. If you want a Durso, go ahead and make you own.

On the substrates, reconsider mixing them all like so. Pick one good one and stick with it. You can do Flourite, or Eco-Complete. But they look bad when they mix together. I guarantee they will. The only one I would say might be ok to mix is Onyx & Eco.

On the light. That much intensity will be enough to grow some stunning plants, if you don't mind daily nutrient dosing. It may also cause your Discus a LOT of stress, possibly enough to effect thier health. You might even lose one or two to jumping. I couldn't seem to keep Discus in anything over 3 watt per gallon ish without they going nuts.

Keep an eye on the micros with UV. Dose them in smaller amounts more frequently.

Have fun, I second the neptune for what your doing!
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Old 03-10-2004, 08:22 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Thanks for the constructive replies. I also cross posted at the same time on the Aquabotanic forum and received some great replies there too.

I've made significant changes in the plans, posted in thread of the same subject on Aquabotanic.

Thanks for the help, I hope to be able to contribute from my learning experience, stay tuned for a yet another person documenting an aquatic plant tank experience site.

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