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Jon Elion


  1. Experiences with a new plant tank
    by (Jon Elion) (Tue, 25 Aug 1992)
  2. Automated water changes
    by (Jon Elion) (Tue, 25 Aug 1992)

Experiences with a new plant tank

by (Jon Elion)
Date: Tue, 25 Aug 1992

This posting is a summary of my experiences setting up a 90-gallon
planted tank.  This tank is practically a clone of George and Karla
Booth's "Almost Optimum Aquarium" (AOA).  For those who have not seen
these postings, the AOA is in turn based on "The Optimum Aquarium",
but minus the under-gravel heating coils.

I spent many weeks researching, and a few months gathering supplies and
equipment, and another few weeks assembling.  The tank has been set up
and running since the beginning of July, and it is GORGEOUS!


   * 90-gallon All-Glass tank (custom-drilled at the lower part of back plate)
   * Overflow drain (standing CVP pipe thru the hole --> house drains)
   * Wrought-iron stand (only Fluval 403 and CO2 tank show!)
   * Substrate: #3 sand, Duplarit added
   * Single Ebo-Jager 250W heater
   * AquaComp digital timer/feeder (controls lights, heater, filters)
   * BioLogic hang-on-the-back filter.  DLS replaced with BioBale.
   * Fluval 403 cannister; CO2 injected into intake line
   * SandPoint pH controller-I
   * 20-pound CO2 tank, gauges from Marine Invertebrates
   * Custom-built oak cannopy
   * EnergySavers AquaPro ballasts (two)
   * Four 40-watt fluorescent bulbs: (1) Rainbow Lifeguard BioLume,
     (2) Vita-Lite Power Twist, and (1) Sylvania soft white (adds some red)
   * Temperature-controlled mixing valve (delivers tap water at 82 degrees)
   * Temp 84, KH 3.0, GH 3.0, pH 6.8, Fe 0.15
   * DuplaPlant and Duplagan weekly, Duplaplant-24 daily
   * NaHCO3 and CaCO3 with each water change

My pride and joy is the plumbing.  The mixing valve has a solenoid with
timer.  Each evening it runs for 1 minute to replace evaporative losses.
Each Saturday I turn it on for 45 minutes, and 1/3 of the tank volume
turns over.  No hoses, no fuss.  Water is added thru the mixing valve at
a fixed temp, and water leaves the tank thru a fail-safe passive overflow
setup (out the hole drilled in the back).  This means that some of the water
added also gets discarded, but this is minimal.  Experimentation (and
lots of water testing) showed that 1/3 of water is replaced in 45 minutes.
A longer description of this is being posted as a separate article.

Plants obtained from Delaware Aquatics Imports (Vinny's suggestion)
include Tiger Lilies, Dwarf Swords, Red Ludwigia, Java Fern, Anubias
(Barterii and nana), Rotala Indica, Hydro Poly, Rot. Marcantha,
Apon. Undulatus, Crinum Thianum, Val Torta, and Barclaya Longifolia.
Only a few Ludwigia survived, but are coming around nicely.  Barclaya
bulbs I had given up for dead, but tonite's exam showed possible signs
of life (I just raised tank temperature recently).  I can highly recommend
Delaware Aquatics.  Mike (owner) was very helpful, and in most cases sent
more plants in each bunch than I ordered (maybe he's too lazy to count
precisely).  Don't ever call him if you are in a hurry (he loves to
talk plants!).

Inhabitants so far:  6 pearl gouramis, bunches of corys and algae
eaters.  Still hunting for good discus (nothing good locally, with
probably mail order from Marc Weiss, Regal Discus, or Jack Wattley).


   * Ballasts failed.  Energy Savers admitted a design flaw, That Fish
     Place replaced them, no questions asked.
   * CO2 tank was originally in basement, but kept backing up (despite
     check valves).  Now tankside and working fine.  Had problems
     controlling flow rate, so needle valve was replaced with an
     NO1 needle valve from ARO Corporation (less than $10).
   * Frisky hair algae (moderately controlled).
   * Outrageous plant growth (must be pruned TWICE A WEEK).

I just wanted to share my experiences with others in netland who might
be contemplating the same endeavor.  Go for it!  Many thanks to George
and Karla Booth, Jim Hurley, Vinny Kutty, and others on the net who
either posted or e-mailed help and suggestions.

Automated water changes

by (Jon Elion)
Date: Tue, 25 Aug 1992

This is a description of the automatic water changing system I installed on
my heavily planted 90-gallon tank (soon to house discus).  Both the plants
and the discus want frequent water changes.  Since I would rather spend my
few spare moments enjoying the scenery rather than lugging hoses and
buckets, I devised an automated system that is connected to the house's
plumbing to accomplish the task.

The basic plumbing for system is shown in Figure 1.  The connections are in
the basement of the house.  The key to the system is the mixing valve, model
TAP Thermostatic Photomaster valve by Leonard Valve Company, Cranston Rhode
Island ($166.50 from the local heating supply house).  Quoting from the
literature coming with the valve: " economical, quality water
temperature control for lower flow applications in commercial and amateur
photography, X-ray labs, dental processing, or wherever water temperatures
are critical..."  Any similar product will do.


            MMMMMMMMMMMMMMM| S |MMMMMMMMM---> up to tank
            M              +---+
     H      M      C         |
     H      M      C         |
     H      M      C       +---+
     H      M      C       | T |-----> to electrical outlet
     H    +---+    C       +---+
     H    +---+    C
     H             C
     H             C
     H             C

Figure 1: Plumbing diagram for automatic water changes.  (H) is hot
          water pipe; (C) is cold water pipe, (V) is the mixing valve,
          (S) is the solenoid switch, and (T) is the digital timer.
          There is a shutoff valve (not shown) just before the solenoid
          that can be used to regulate the flow rate.


This was my first time attempting soldering of copper pipes, although I
have a lot of experience with PVC pipes.  The hot and cold pipes ran parallel
right under the floor holding the aquarium.  Using a pipe cutting tool, I
spliced in the needed T-piecs, adding the short horizontal pipes to the
mixing valve.  The mixing assembly has built-in check valves so that hot
water cannot flow directly into the cold water pipes (and vice-versa).  The
valve is not calibrated, but simple trial-and-error got the adjustment correct
to deliver water at a constant 82 degrees.  The water is delivered into the
tank using an Eheim Wide Jet Return.

One major goal of the system was to avoid breaking sipons (I use both a
Fluval 403 cannister filter, and a BioLogic hang-on-the-back trickle
filter.  I did not want to drain 1/3 of the water volume from the tank
before filling, as this would indeed break the siphons.  I wanted something
that was fail-safe and flood-proof, ruling out the use of float valves.
So, the second part of the system is a passive overflow drain, as shown
in Figure 2.


     G           G
     G.......SSS.G <--- Strainer at water level
     G       | | G
     G       | | G
     G PVC-->| | G
     G       | | G <--- Back glass of tank
     G       | | G
     G       | |----\
     G       \----\  | <--- Bulkhead fitting thru hole drilled into glass
     G           G | |
front              | | <--- PVC runs to the house drain system

Figure 2: The passive overflow system (viewed from the side of the tank).
          The tank glass (G) is untempered 1/2" glass.  A hole was drilled
          by the manufacturer (All-Glass) on the back panel, right-hand
          side, near the bottom.  A bulkhead fitting connects to an
          upright length of PVC in the tank, topped with a strainer at
          water level.  Another length of PVC connects to the drain pipes
          in the basement.  A shutoff valve (not shown) can seal off the
          drain pipe, if needed.


The operation of the system is as follows.  The solenoid valve controls
the flow to the aquarium, and is operated by a cheap digital timer.  It
turns on each evening at 7:00 PM and shuts off one minute later.  This
keeps the tank "topped off".  I may adjust this after the discus arrive
to give small daily water changes.

Each Saturday morning I push the "Manual" button on the timer to start the
water going.  Experimentation showed that 45 minutes exchanges 1/3 of the
water.  This was computed by artificially raising the KH of the tank water
with sodium bicarbonate to 4.0 degrees.  The tap water is 1.0 degrees KH.
Exchanging 1/3 of the tank water with tap water should give a final KH
of 3.0.  I simply ran the water, checking KH periodically, until this value
was achieved.  The magic time is 45 minutes.

I run CO2 injection into my tank for the plants, and find that I have to
turn the flow rate up a bit during water changes so the new water can get
charged with enought CO2 to keep the pH constant (6.8).  At the end of the
water change, I add 1/2 teaspoon sodium bicarbonate to raise the KH to 3.0.
DuplaGan water conditioner and DuplaPlant fertilizer is added after the water
change is done.  My city water is lightly chlorinated, but I do not treat
the water for this (fish are very healthy, and do not appear stressed or
distressed during changes).

CONCLUSION:  The system has been working flawlessly, and has achieved the
goal of hands-off, hassle-free water changes.  The schedule of weekly water
changes was established so I could monitor the process (I'm paranoid about
leaves clogging the strainers, but this has not been a problem), and so I
can adjust the water chemistry for the proper CO2/pH/KH at the end of the
water change.  Daily unattended water changes can easily be done by simply
reprogramming the timer.

One final note.  I have a wrought-iron stand, not a closed cabinet under my
tank.  The hoses run along back of the legs of the stand, and are virtually
invisible.  I make small slits in the carpet, and drilled holes thru the
floor, allowing the pipes to run straight down into the basement.  The only
tricky part of the whole job was tapping into the drain pipes, as the PVC
tubing installed horizontally in the basement has to slope gently downhill
(it was a 20-foot distance and not much room for downhill).

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