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Build thread for 46 Gal bowfront (DIY BG, Stand, ect.)

9417 Views 38 Replies 9 Participants Last post by  R-DUB
Well my brother is getting married this fall and since he is the person who originally got me interested in fish, I'm making him a cichlid tank with DIY BG, stand, Lighting, and maybe UGJ.
I will be documenting everything with pictures of course and I'll certainly be asking questions, especially if I do jets. Any suggestions are completely welcome.

I picked up a 46 gallon bowfront yesterday, used for $50. Just a few tiny scratches on it. Came with a stand too but I'll be making a DIY one.
A little dirty but in good shape.

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What a good sibling. I'm going to forward this to my brother :lol:

I love watching DIY projects unfold, good luck :popcorn:

Love the apartment by the way, reminds me of the good ol' days!
I went to home depot in search of styro and cement for the BG but I could only find the cement. I never knew there were so many types of quickrete...Which kind is best for DIY BG's? I got the fast drying kind...I wasn't sure.

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I was finally able to find the foam I was looking for at Home Depot. I got a great deal on it because it was "damaged", but it's just barely. About $10 for 2'' thick by 4' by 5'. I'm cutting and gluing to sheets together so I have one 4'' think sheet.

I'm hoping to start carving it out sometime tommorow. I plan on making some nice cave for hiding. My only concern is figuring out how to fit in the filtration. 1 AC 70 and a fluval canister. Also the heater.
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i started carving out the background this morning. Not as easy as it looks but I'm going slow so it hopefully looks good. My goal with this BG is to create caves so I don't have to have as many rocks t make up for the loss of space from the BG. Still not sure how to integrate filters...any help would be greatly appreciated. :fish: Always, questions, suggestions, and comments are very welcome.

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Hey dude, I woulda probably commented earlier but I hadn't seen the thread. I'm going through almost the exact same thing as you so maybe we can bounce some ideas off each other.

I'm doing a BG for my 120 gallon. Mine is going to be removeable though so I'm looking at using magnets to hold it in place. Its going to be in 3 sections that will hopefully butt up nicely together so you cant see the seem in it.

I also just finished my UGJ's. I love them. I'd suggest doing them and you can probably do it quicker than I did by benefitting from some of my errors. Let me know if you have questions about the UGJs if you do decide to go with it. I've got some unique ideas that have my UGJs working very well and keeping my substrate quite clean despite a couple dead spots *** created only because of the layout of my ornaments.

As for your quickcrete question. I'm not sure which one is best either. I'll probably be buying my quickcrete in the next two weeks or so if things go well, but it could be longer as I'm still designing my BG.

I too am having some caves but I'm forming them first by siliconing "boxes" that jut out from the BG wall and then just carving the square features of the styrofoam to something more cave like rather than carving a whole cave out. I dont have pictures yet cause my progress isnt quite where I want it to be for my first pictures yet. I'm maybe 15% done the background project at this point. I've got my firsts section almost structurally complete. Meaning that it hides my powerhead on one side of my tank but still doesnt look quite rock like enough for my liking. I'll be doing all the structure of it all then use "Great Stuff" to add more features so it looks rock like along with just carving the styrofoam. My base depth of my background is only 3/4" and the cave/powerhead covering section sticks out a good 10 inches or so but I've managed to make it look relatively natural. I'll post pics asap in the thread I started all about it: ... highlight=

If you do go with UGJs you should be planning this right now since you might want to integrate them into your background. My background is going to cover the powerheads that run my UGJs so my tank will look a lot more natural. I'm quite excited. So if you want to do the same I'd say do your UGJ's first before the BG. UGJ's dont take that long to make. My BG is going to take me at least 3 times as long I figure by the time Im done.

As for where to put your intakes and returns... Im struggling with this a little bit too but moreso just with the intakes and my water heaters. I have an AC 70 as well and it just will waterfall over the BG on the back. The two canister filters I have both have returns that will still overhang the tank and over the BG. One is just a flexible return like in fish stores and the other is a spray bar in the top side wall of my tank. Both will remain after the BG.

I'm thinking of having my intake tubes hidden behind my BG and eventually appearing, but camoflaged, at the depth they should be. I guess I'll just carve out an area where they'll have to exist. I dont want to hide them much more than that so that my water is still being circulated properly and debris can actually get to the intakes rather than finding its way through some small hole or something.

Anyways thats a long reply. Let me know what your thoughts are about it all.
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Thanks so much for the info. I checked out your thread, some good ideas there. I definitely like the idea of being abke to remove it, but I may still stick to the silicone. I'm starting to really think about doing UGJ's now but I'm not sure of what all I need and how much it will cost. This tank is a lot smaller than your so I imagine I won't need as much. I did just get an idea about the canister intakes though. I have a 72 gallon with an eheim pro II on it and i have an extension tht goes all the way to the bottom of the tank. So Maybe if one of those was used and the UGJ's were pushing debris towards that, it could be hidden under a cave in the back? Anything you can show me to get me started on the UGJ's would be great though. Again, thanks for the help :thumb: And good luck with yours.
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I've submitted an article to the site about my UGJs thats pretty useful. If you PM me your email address I can send it to you since it hasnt been approved and added to the library yet. It has some pictures explaining how I made my UGJs along with the flow scoops which is different than anyone else so far that's made them as far as I understand.

If you look at my tanks on my profile too there is one pic with my tank empty and my UGJ network laying in the empty tank. I've since only added my flow scoops to improve my design and it now works really well.

Depending on what kind of powerhead you use to run your jets it'd probably set you back 50-80 bucks if you bought everything new. Theres a couple articles you can read in the DIY section of the library. I think you've probably read them but heres the links:

Here is another system you might consider since your tank is smaller: ... 68&start=0

You'll have to decide what you want to power your jets. My tank's footprint is 2x4 so yours Id guess is probably close to 1x4 so you could probably get away with 4 jets doing the job as long as you position them well. Here is a place you can buy pumps from, its quite cheap compared to going to your LFS.

I bought two cap 3600's for mine. I actually bought a smaller model but they were out of stock and shipped the 3600's for free so I got an even better deal. Was about 90 bucks including shipping to get my two cap 3600s.

I think I like about 175-200GPH of flow for each jet. So if you went with 4 jets Id probably get a pump that has near 800GPH to run it.

As for the design, just make sure two jets aren't "covering" the same area or they kind of cancel each other out. Id probably worry more about just making sure the jets are keeping all the water near the substrate moving ever so gently so debris cannot settle; I wouldnt worry a ton about making sure that the jets ALSO channel the debris directly to your intakes. If the jets keep debris off the ground it'll just eventually get back there on its own.

Other than that its really simple to make the jets. I might also add that I'd order my pump first and see what kind of attachments and what kind of piping will work best for it. The cap 3600's had some really nice fittings that were for a different pipe than my system. I wish I would have just waited but its not a big deal either way. The Cap 3600s I think have a 1/2' Diameter on their pipes on the inside and the overall diameter including the actual pipe is probably like 18/32". Its quite thin. But if you decide not to go with their fittings then theres always gonna be parts you can buy that will work. Its hard to explain haha.

What kind of substrate is going to be in the tank? If you're going with sand the UGJs are reallllllly helpful. I switched from gravel to sand with this new 120 Gallon setup and without the UGJs It'd be hard to clean the substrate without sucking up half a cup or more of sand every cleaning. The UGJs help it so I dont have to syphon right off the sand very often at all. I just have to worry about stirring the sand every so often.
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Ohhh excellent. I think I'm really getting a good idea of what to do now. The tank is 36'' by and average of 14''(since it bows). Are the CAP's quiet? Do you think if I just did three jets on a CAP 1200 it would work out pretty well? Also how big are these CAP's? I just want to get an idea of where to put it in the background. This is really sounding great. Thanks a ton for all the help.
Yeah Id say a 1200 could handle 3 jets. I know that those ones dont have the ceramic shaft though Im not really sure how beneficial this is, I just know any pumps that have it communicate it as a benefit.

The Cap's are known to be quiet, it has a similar hum to any filter but it definitely doesnt sound loud. It sounds like a normal aquarium with just a very subtle hum but I dont even mind it especially cause my filters already have a very slight hum anyways.

As for the size of the 1200, Im not entirely sure. Id guess its prob like 4"x4" or so or 4x2 I cant really say for sure but my 3600 is about 8x4 after you factor in the suction cups that hold it to the wall and have it stick out a bit more. If you didnt put these on and attached it to the glass another way then itd be smaller still. The suction cups that come with these pumps are the best *** ever seen too. I hada hard time getting it off the dang wall when I needed to take measurements for my BG so that I can hide them. Keep me posted. I'll hopefully be adding more pics to my thread sometime this weekend if things go well and I figure out how to use photobucket.
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Oh yeah, another plus to the CAP pumps is they have an adjustable flow rate lever if for some reason your jets do ever run too powerful and you want to turn them down just a titch. Make sure you use the provided hardware if you want that adjustable flow though.
I bought some PVC a couple days ago and started working on my UGJ's. I got 1/2'' PVC, it may not work, but I thought I would try it anyways. all the PVC and fittings only cost me about $4 so not a big loss if I have to re-do it. I'm not sure at all how to do the jet parts, any suggestion?
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Is that a pic of the system you've built? That article I put a link to at the top explains how to do the jets. Another word of advice is to make them only come up just enough to they dont protrude too far. Mine come up a bit further than I'd like. I'd also say that putting some silicon on them and then sprinkling sand onto it is also worth while to help camoflage them.

1/2 piping will almost for sure work, you'll just have to find an adaptive fitting to attach it to the pump, worst case scenario you could just silicone one on or something if it doesnt fit real snug.
Hey sorry I haven't updated in so long. I just haven't had much time lately to work on it so progress has been slow. I do however, have all the holes cut in the bg for the filter intakes, outputs, powerhead, and heater. I have done a fairly good job in hiding them so that they will be almost impossible to see. I will be posting some pictures either tonight or tommorow. :thumb:
Hurry and post those pictures! Can't wait to see your progress :drooling:
Just make sure the heaters have good circulation around them so they adequately heat the water and also that they dont effect the BG at all.

I should have more updates on my thread on Tuesday as it's Canada Day up here in Canada and I'll have the day off and its suppose to rain.
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