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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Well, I think I’ve finally reached a point where I can start posting about my display tank build.

In the fall of 2008 my wife said she would like a fish tank for Christmas.
Seemed like a nice idea.
A friend and coworker suggested I check out cichlids. I’d never heard of them, so like anyone else in these times, I Googled them.
They looked cool! Cichlids, specifically mbuna, it was going to be.

The next step was a trip to my LFS.
The stock available was overwhelming - but not as overwhelming as all the hard-to-learn names.
I’ve since realized the value of Latin names; all the fancy made up trade names only serve to complicate and muddy things.

Since I was originally planning on getting a 10 gallon tank, buying a three foot 38 gallon tank seemed like a massive upgrade. I was worried that my wife might send me back!

The realization that a 38 gallon tank is way too small for mbuna is where my story begins.

In the spring of 2009 we renovated our first floor; this was my chance to fit in a big tank.
Our house was built in 1914 and there’s an apartment in the basement.
So the weight of a large tank couldn’t sit just anywhere.

Plan ‘A’ had a built-in 4x2x2 120 over a support column in the middle of the house.
A neat idea that wasn’t great for viewing – I was going to cut a window in my planned background to work around this:



Then we changed our minds on the location of the kitchen, which created an opening on a 74â€Â
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Plumbing.

Trolling the DIY forums for the better part of two years exposed me to more ideas and methods that could possibly be hooked up to one tank.

The first killer idea I saw was the addition of a Drainage Valve for my canister.
I bought a new FX5 for $200 a year and a half ago – too good a price to even bother comparison shopping.

The same thread from which I stole that idea also had a UV Sterilizer plumbed into the canister.
Although superfluous, I liked the option of zapping all those nasties in what will be a plant-free tank.

I wanted to include a surface agitator since I don't plan on having any of the outputs aimed toward the surface.

I also wanted an In-Line Heater. One less piece of equipment to hide.

And ball valves to regulate the whole deal.

Among my rejected plumbing ideas were Wave Makers and Fluidized Bed Filters.

To increase my filtration and water flow as well as not over-plumb my FX5 I decided to add a Fluval 405.

Forgive the awesomeness of my Google Sketch prowess:


So...a quick trip to the LHS to buy some PVC, et cetera.

That’s when the whole thing ground to a halt.

FX5 has 1â€Â
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
PM sent.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
The stand might be on its way, but I've had a busy week of drinking with long lost friends - new post soon.

kevin
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Aquascaping.

A basic black painted back ground always looks nice but I’ve done that before and wanted to try something more ambitious.
I’ve seen some nice DIY BGs over the years but I’ve seen some that look…very…DIY.
Something that kinda sorta looked like the lake wasn’t going to fly in a six foot display tank.
I’ve always loved the convincing natural look that can be ‘bought’ with polystyrene back grounds.

Finding said back grounds can be a chore.
In Canada, I found the best place to be Gills N’ Fins.
Patrick is a super-easy guy to deal with and packs his stuff for shipping with great care.
On one of my orders we had a misunderstanding that he corrected right away – he clearly knows his customer service.

I tried a dry run on a 15 gallon Tanganyikan set up a few years ago that turned out fairly well.



The build thread is here if you have some time to kill.

But really, a two foot tank with no brace and two holes to cut was not that much of a challenge.
And the more I thought about it, the more I thought that just dropping a 72â€Â
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
newforestrob said:
did you get a custom stand made,my tank wont fit a "normal stand"
Yes. Stand building seems fairly straightforward if you have tools and a little know-how, neither of which I have. So custom it is.

To be covered in the next instalment...

kevin
 

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Discussion Starter · #22 ·
cantrell00 said:
Those backgrounds are just too expensive... This may be a viable route...
Don't kid yourself into thinking this is cheaper 'cause it's not. It's just the way I decided to go...

kevin
 

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Discussion Starter · #24 ·
I had planned on mixing Slimline & Modules. My plan was to cut the Slimline down so that it covered the height of the tank on one side but gradually descended as it came across the tank - kind of like an underwater drop off.

I think it would have looked cool, but when it wasn't available I decided to forge ahead with just Modules mixed with real rocks.

In hard costs the Canyon 72" is $249 (Malawi and Tanganyika are $389 but I like Canyon better).

The 6 modules I purchased ended up costing $405. I don't know if the shipping one over the other would have made a difference.

But in straight comparison they probably cost about the same - my modules will be used on the sides and top - they will cover more than just the back of the tank.

kevin
 

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Discussion Starter · #27 ·
Things are getting hot and heavy now, so a quick update only:

Fingers crossed my Synodontis njassae (I know I haven't even talked about my proposed stocking yet) will arrive this Sunday.
They've been very hard to find so I am getting them sooner than I'd prefer.

So the 3m/8f saulosi in my 38 gallon are being shipped off to the 29 gallon in my office to make room for the njassae in the 38.

I stayed late last night and converted my 29 from this:



To this:



Sorry about the reflecty cell phone pictures, but I think my saulosi should do well here.
I was careful to create a few territories without sightlines into other territories.
I hope to keep all 11 but will trim to 1m/5f if need be.
Right now my BN pleco has the run of the tank:



kevin
 

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Discussion Starter · #29 ·
I've now successfully siliconed one (one!) polystyrene rock to my tank glass, but I'm wracked with self-doubt and second thoughts about my arrangement, so I'll switch over to stocking.

I've had my 125 since August but have been changing my mind about stocking for much longer than that.

The only thing I've never wavered from is my only non-negotiable cichlid: Labeotropheus.
Fuelleborni or trewavasae, didn't matter. This tank had to have Labeotropheus.

With so many species combinations available in a six foot tank I thought I hit on a pretty brilliant idea: a collection point aquarium.
The idea was to pick five species from one tiny area of the lake and replicate it.
I knew it wouldn't be easy but it turned out to far more unworkable than I had ever imagined.
Some of the things to consider:
5 mbuna from one collection point that I like.
5 mbuna from one collection point that I like and are compatible.
5 mbuna from one collection point that I like, are compatible and are available.
5 mbuna from one collection point that I like, are compatible, are available and one is Labeotropheus.

I started with Zimbawe Rock. Protected waters. Finding 5 available species was going to be a problem. Same with West Thumbi Island.
I loved certain fish from Minos Reef, Gallireya Reef and Boadzulu Island but they didn't have 5 species I was crazy about.
Chinyankwazi, Chinyamwezi and Taiwanee Reef came closest to fruition, but ultimately I wasn't able to confirm that the 5 species I wanted were available for purchase.
I even considered mixing mbuna and haps as a shortcut, but I really wanted mbuna.

So that idea eventually died.

Now I was back to the drawing board of finding 5 mbuna species that I liked and were compatible.

I've been all over the map on this one, but here is where I'm at today. The pictures are from one of our site sponsors where I'll likely be making the purchase:







By all accounts these cichlids should be okay together. Not surprisingly I have't come across someone else with this stock in a 125 who can say: "Yes it will work," but I think there are enough colour differences and temperament similarities to have a chance.

Confusingly, I've had some advice from people who have worked and dived with Ad Konings suggesting a mellow hap species like Copadichromis borleyi or azureus to occupy the top of the tank.

I'm still undecided about that one.
If I do add a group of haps I might remove the joanjohnsonae, since as a Labidochromis (many still call them Melanochromis) they might not have the spunk to do well with some of my other rowdies.

At any rate, I plan on purchasing about 10 juveniles of each (15 or so demasoni) and weeding out troublemakers until I get to about 5-8 of each.

But the hot news on my stocking front is that I already have some!

The only "pure" thought I had left from the collection point idea was my catfish; I wanted something native to Lake Malawi, and that meant Synodontis njassae.

These fish were hard to find.

I had want ads posted all over the place with no results.
But then two weeks ago I came across another hobbyist by chance who knew of a store in Montreal that sold them.
Fast forward to the weekend, when I moved my Pseudotropheus saulosi from my 38 gallon at home to make room for its new inhabitants:
Six 4cm Synodontis njassae!





Cute little buggers, aren't they?

kevin
 

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Discussion Starter · #33 ·
I was out of town for a little early March break and have also undertaken a home reno - but things are still going!

I have some rocks siliconed and some plumbing done - will post soon.

Thanks for asking!

kevin
 

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Discussion Starter · #35 ·
Things have stalled considerably. Partially because we're renovating part of our house, partially because I've been terrified about making a mistake siliconing my biggest rock.

It's going to have one intake and two outputs behind it, so getting the plumbing all lined up properly the first time (with no prior experience) is of the essence.

Here are the results - freshly siliconed tonight:



Between the angle and the reflections you can't tell, but I've drilled three intake holes and two output holes.
I siliconed plastic screen door mesh over the intake holes to keep any little fishes from swimming inside when the outputs are turned off during water changes.



A different view so you can see two of the three hoses - the last hose has been measure and will hopefully fit!
The protruding hose will be trimmed once the silicone dries.



Side view showing the depth of the Sierra 1 rock (the tank is 18" wide)



And here's a shot from behind that shows the 1" intake and one of the 5/8" outputs.
The FX5 input strainer was too big to fit back here, so I just have some more screen door mesh held over the intake with a rubber band - I'll be able to remove this tube easily if that little DIY fails.
The output not shown will point towards the surface to cause some rippling.

If this part worked out well things should speed up pretty quickly from here...once all my rotisserie baseball drafts are done!

kevin
 

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Discussion Starter · #37 ·
I have two pieces of plexiglass sheeting that I am going to paint.

I am hoping that by using a sheet that I will attach to the background I can do something more interesting than a flat colour.

With the first sheet I will try a very dark blue with a faint light spot that will seem like distant sunlight from the surface.

And if that fails I'll just paint the second sheet one colour.

kevin
 

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Discussion Starter · #38 ·
The aquascape is finally done. Well, I may add some vals on the left side...I haven't decided yet.

At any rate, all the AquaTerra rocks are siliconed in place. I found some brown silicone, which is nice because the few mistakes I made don't show up at all.

I worried myself sick over how to place these things, knowing that mistakes in cutting and siliconing were fairly irreversible and fairly expensive.
But in the end I'm pretty happy with the way they turned out.

Keep in mind that I will be adding a painted plexiglass back ground:



There is an "easter egg" on one of the rocks on the right - I'll give more details later.

I had to make some changes along the way once I got the AquaTerra rocks.

In the summer I spent about $80 on 300 pounds of sandstone. But once I saw the sandstone didn't match the fake rocks at all I had to switch them up.
The $80 didn't go down the drain since I used half of them in my 29 gallon saulosi tank.

I ended up buying rocks called "Pennsylvania Chicken Stone."
Trade names in the rock business are just as ridiculous as trade names in the fish business.
They don't match perfectly, but coming from the largest rock yard in Toronto, it was as close as I could get.

I also had 50 lbs of pool filter sand that I had bought in the summer. Once I started washing it I saw that it was far too white for my tastes; brown rocks would not dissolve into white sand.

So I ended up going with play sand - about 75 lbs in total - the rocks took up a lot of space!

My plumbing is almost done - I've painted myself into a corner with the Fluval 405 I've had seeding on my 38 gallon - I need to hook it up to my plumbed equipment, but as soon as I do all that nice bacteria is going to die off - I'm trying to avoid having to cycle the 125...

kevin
 

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Discussion Starter · #41 ·
That's right. From Marineland. Super bright when there's no water in there.

kevin
 

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Discussion Starter · #47 ·
All except plumbers; I fired up my FX5 last night, which has a split output that runs through an in-line heater, and about half (or more?) of my connections started spraying water.

Being fairly useless I was ready with buckets and towels in case of something like this - I've never drained a tank so fast.

Time to reevaluate my plumbing plans...I'll likely post some pictures in the DIY section when I have a chance in the hopes of getting some assistance.

kevin
 

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Discussion Starter · #49 ·
The heater is vertical - that wasn't the problem - I have a lot of tubing and PVC parts to split my output hoses. Many of those connections weren't, and may never be water tight enough.

kevin
 

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Discussion Starter · #51 ·
It makes sense. Even if I get all these tubes working the way I want them I'll never be able to leave home for a week or two without worrying myself to death about coming home to 125 gallons of spilled water and a bunch of burnt out motors.

I may attach the inline to the Fluval 405 since they both take 5/8 hose. Barring that I will put a heater behind a rock.

The UV is a luxury - I don't really need it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #52 ·
An update with nothing to update:

Nothing has been torn down and the tank is still happening...eventually.

I may have mentioned that part of my house is being renovated. The plan now is to grab the professional plumber when he's on-site and have him look at it.

Then I'll be back in business, either with the original plan properly executed, or with a submersible heater and no UV sterilizer.

At least I don't have to worry about shipping fish in the cold.

kevin
 

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Discussion Starter · #53 ·
I've ditched the external heater and the UV.

Going with no UV is not a big deal - I always knew it wasn't necessary - it's for sale!

I managed to squeeze a heater in behind my biggest rock where it can't be seen. It just fits without touching the polystyrene, and there are lots of screened ventilation holes.
It only took a day to get all 125 gallons up to 78 degrees.

I still need to paint the background + one side. I won't post another picture until then because you can see the hoses and it looks awful! My wife keeps asking if it's going to look "like that." No, it's not.

Started cycling yesterday...

kevin
 
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