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120-Gallon Adey-ish Tank

[F] New plant tank

by booth-at-lvld.hp.com ()
Date: 25 Apr 1994
Newsgroup: rec.aquaria,alt.aquaria,sci.aquaria

OK, here's the deal...

We have finally grown tired of our "low tech" 55 gallon plant tank and have decided to upgrade it considerably. Since we don't have a fish room per se, we will replace the 55 with a larger tank which can use about the same space. We are stuck with a 48" length but will go to a tank 24" wide and 24" deep, generously called a "120 gallon" tank. Actual water capacity considering the tank is not full to the brim and accounting for 150 pounds of gravel is 95 gallons or 360 liters.

The 24" width will be nice for a few of the plants which have overgrown our other tanks. We have a huge red-leafed E. horemani growing wild in our UGFd 85 gallon Rainbow tank that is begging for a new home.

This tank will generally be a Boothian Optimum Aquarium set up much like our last effort, the 90 gallon Super Show Tank, but will incorporate some hopefully interesting new wrinkles.

We will use substrate heating but will lean more towards the Dennerle school of thought - lower wattage than Dupla-style heating. We will set up the heating coils like Dan Resler and Erik Olson have done - a 100 w Dupla coil controlled by a light timer or variable transformer. This will provide water circulation in the substrate but not the high heat we see with the coils in the 90 (which are actually higher in wattage than Dupla recommends). The substrate will be our standard 2-3mm quartz gravel with 500g of Dupla laterite.

Lighting will be a MH/FL combo. We were lucky to pick up a used Coralife dual 175w MH plus dual 40w FL hood from a reefkeeper in Boulder who was "going out of business" a couple of years ago. This will be suspended over the tank. We will use 5500K MH bulbs and 2 Triton FL bulbs. We will have the tank covered with glass since we're keeping Rainbows. Since plants won't grow emersed due to the cover, we will most likely keep the hood close to the top for maximum light. We will use a lamp chain for the hood so we can easily raise it up for maintenance.

Filtration will be an Amiracle 150 trickle filter (4 gallons of biomedia capacity) run by a Quiet One pump. Initially, the CO2 injection will be a manual system with a not-yet-determined reactor. The old 55 has an Eheim 2213 canister filter; we will probably run the CO2 through it for the time being. We will use a 10# CO2 bottle with a commerical regulator and a NO1 fine control valve. Later, we will probably get a Sandpoint Accurate 1 controller and a more efficient reactor.

What will be different about this tank will be an attempt to provide more natural filtration. I have read Adey's "Dynamic Aquarium" and like the ideas presented with a few exceptions. I agree with the concept of a separate "unit" providing the equivalent of a large nearby "pure" water source (the algal turf scrubber in his systems). I also like his ideas of a more complete food chain, from the smallest microbes up to the higher life forms. We will try to mimic this as best as we can with reasonable commercial resources.

What we will do is set up the now extra 55 next to the 120 and run them in parallel, like an Adey algae turf scrubber except with Real Plants in lieu of problematic algae. We just can't bring ourselves to add algae to the system on purpose. The 55 will be somewhat hidden behind large houseplants next to the main tank.

The 55 would be lit at night when the main tank is off, allowing plants to utilize ammonium 24 hours per day and providing high levels of oxygen continuously. In theory, this will allow us to not have any biomedia in the trickle filter and reduce or eliminate the build up of nitrates.

We will put a trickle filter skimmer/prefilter box with NO mechanical filtering on the 120 and use that to feed water (detritus and all) to the 55. The top of the 55 would be positioned halfway between the top of the 120 and the top of the trickle filter sump. A skimmer box on the 55 WITH mechanical filter media will then feed the sump of the Amiracle trickle filter with no biomedia. The drip tray will also have a filter pad to provide more mechanical filtering to keep the pump from getting gunked up.

The water will flow from the sump of the trickle filter into the right side of the 120 at a vertical position of 1/3 and 2/3 from the top. The skimmer will be on the left side, providing a linear flow across the tank. The water from the 120 will flow into the 55 on the right side at the bottom. The skimmer on the 55 will also be at the right side. Hopefully, this circular pattern will allow any detritus to settle out before getting sucked in to the skimmer.

The 55 will have two or three varieties of fast growing plants: Bacopa caroliniana, Nomaphila stricta and Rotola macrandra. It will act as a settling basin for detritus from the 120 which will hopefully settle out and form a nice "soft bottom" in Adey parlance. It will be fun to get some detritivores in the 55: Malaysian snails, freshwater shrimp (?) and perhaps a tubifex or redworm colony if we could find "clean" ones. I wonder how a crayfish would do as a top predator in the 55? It's too bad most of the lower-food-chain things turn into flying insects at some point in time; this limits the biodiversity of the overall system. Larvae from the shrimp or whatever probably wouldn't make it through the Quiet One to the main tank even without mechanical filtering, but, then, most of Adey's tanks had the same problem.

This will be a cross between Diana Walstad's "natural" system where the main tank may look a little tatty due to little cleaning and a good ol' Dupla setup where the main tank is pristine. We will still get some nutrient recycling (perhaps even more than Walstad due to interesting critters in the 55).

If the grand experiment "fails", the skimmer on the 120 could easily be connected right to the trickle sump for normal operation.

The one problem I have with the dual skimmer idea is that each tank would have 2 or 3 gallons of extra "head" when the pump was running and the sump would probably overflow when the power was off. A larger trickle filter may be necesary.

Well, whaddya think?

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George L. Booth                      The Technology of Freshwater Plant Tanks 
booth-at-hplvec.lvld.hp.com             __         Aquatic Gardeners Association
Software Development Engineer       /  \  /\        Colorado Aquarium Society
Manufacturing Test Division      /\/    \/  \         Rainbowfish Study Group
Hewlett-Packard Company         /  \/\  /    \/\         "Modern Aquascaping"
Loveland, Colorado  _____utah__/    \ \/      \ \___me____________kansas_____
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