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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi from a new member; I've had Discus / Amazon-themed aquariums for 30+ years (basically since childhood), mostly 200-400L low-tech.
We recently moved to a new house and am now planning my dream aquarium build - a ~1.200L aquarium with a "wild" nature aquascape hopefully catching the atmosphere and concept of something close to Josh Sim's Congo. There will be many technical hurdles to overcome and figure out how to do this project and I look forward to learning and hopefully getting some good tips and guidance from experts here.

I have several initial construction concepts first I need figure out and your help would be greatly appreciated. Overall I would like to (a) keep aesthetics of as clean as possible with minimal intrusion of hoses and devices in the display area (using ADA glass accessories where needed etc.), and (b) design a system that is a quiet at possible - this will be in the main living/reception area so continuous humming sound of filter pump gets really annoying.

1) Dimensions of the tank: 240cm width (covering the wall connecting dining area with the main reception area / living room; with this width, I am considering 65cm depth and 80cm height to give reasonable dimension proportions, but could also do 240x65x70 if lower walls would be easier to fill with scape and avoid too much empty space at the top...?
2) Rimless open top: for such a huge tank & water pressure, I don't know if glass would hold rimless open top design? Any ideas how to calculate?
3) Clean ADA glass style inflows-outflows etc. from the top of the aquarium, or drilled-bottom design? Again, considering the size of the tank and the desired aquascape, I am not sure if drilling the bottom will be possible?
4) Canister or Sump for filtration? ...one VERY important factor in this decision is not only efficacy for filtration, but also quiet operation; we currently have Eheim Professionel 3 XL for our 400L aqaurium and my wife complains that it is much too loud and wants something that would be able to run quieter.

I like the simplicity and ease of use and maintenance of canister (if there is one that can be quiet enough), but worry that I may need to canisters to ensure enough flow for 1.200L and that would raise the noise further. On the other hand, I worry about troubleshooting the sump and all the complexity it brings, but at the same time it would allow me a lot of added flexibility in terms of adding all the other devices incl. CO2, UV, etc., but most importantly, it would allow me an automated water exchange & top-up (e.g. on timer, each day 50L water would be drained from the sump and refilled back; also with a floater, water level would be continously maintained, as I would expect a lot of evaporation in case of open top design.

4) Surface skimming: a nice ADA-style skimmer or an overflow system? ...considerations of aesthetics, noise, functionality...?

There will be many next steps to consider, but this is the first stuff that I need to think about as it pertains to how we actually design/construct the glass housing itself and what technology will/can be used to support it.

Any tips and suggestions at this stage would be very very helpful!!! :)

cheers!
 

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This sounds like it will be a fantastic aquarium. :)
But the problems you bring up, will definitely cause challenges to overcome for a successful build.
1) Dimensions look pretty good. Are they fixed? Or, do you have some room available to adjust those dimensions?
2) Yes, rimless/open top is certainly an option. You will have to accept lower walls as a consequence of the rimless design, however. A 60 to 65 cm wall height might be as high as you can go, and even then the rimless design will require much thicker glass to accommodate that without bracing to reinforce it. A rimless type aquarium will also be a LOT heavier in weight than a braced-up type would be.
3) Drilling is certainly an option for either the bottom or side of the tank. Filtration type and personal preference will determine that decision. Canister discharge and intake hoses look much nicer if run through drilled holes with bulkhead fittings sited either in the back or bottom of the tank.
4) I believe this one is actually the hardest challenge to overcome. Reason is: NOISE. If the Eheim canister was considered too noisy? Then I'm kind of at a loss here to recommend something even quieter in filtration for this monster-sized tank. Eheim's are legendary for being extremely quiet canister filters. A sump will give you a whole lot more options in filtration design, capacity and water flow. Unfortunately, any sump I've ever seen (heard) running will be several orders of magnitude NOISIER than just about any Eheim canister filter made however.... And, skimming filtration is very tough to do well, without box overflow type intakes for a sump.
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Hmmmm... a possible solution you could consider to overcome the noise problem would be to design and build sound-proof enclosures for your canister filters to be placed inside. Heat build up would be a concern inside enclosures like that, but proper ventilation could be set up to keep things cooled down in there for electric canister pumps. Or, you could consider placing a sump in something like that. Not sure how you could achieve it outside of placing the sump in an actual DIFFERENT ROOM however, with piping run through the wall separating the aquarium from the sump. It's a do-able option - but, kind of awkward I would think....
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Plus, there is this Water Thing. I suspect you already know all about the challenges of providing a lot of soft, acidic water for sensitive Cichlids species like Discus. For this size aquarium, esp. with an open-top rimless design you are going to have to go BIG in a Reverse Osomosis (RO) filtration install with a pretty sizable reservoir for it. It'll definitely be somewhat industrial looking! And, something like that would almost certainly need to be set up and run in a separate room from the aquarium. if for no other than aesthetic reasons, a big RO water filtration system in action will also, probably not run very quietly either....
Yes, a lot of challenges! But, everything can be overcome with a bit of thought, planning and possibly a lot of build work, i suppose. :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks for quick feedback! :)
Responding below:
Auballagh said:
1) Dimensions look pretty good. Are they fixed? Or, do you have some room available to adjust those dimensions?
I have flexibility; that is the width of my wall where the aquarium would lay against... it could be end-to-end (I think this looks best), or I could make it a bit shorter and center with some space remaining from each side (e.g. 180cm or 200cm instead of 240cm); equally I can lower the height as you suggest to make it 65cm instead of 80cm. 200x65x80 was my idea of a perfect size in terms of not looking too thin if I stretch it wall-to-wall which was my intention.

Auballagh said:
2) A 60 to 65 cm wall height might be as high as you can go, and even then the rimless design will require much thicker glass to accommodate that without bracing to reinforce it. A rimless type aquarium will also be a LOT heavier in weight than a braced-up type would be.
Also will be a lot more expensive if I want the "Opti-White" glass. My alternative as I was thinking is, instead of open top, I would build a mask from aquarium to the ceiling - so as to make the aquarium a "window" visible from 3 sides with walls below and above. It will "seem" like a wall, but will in reality be a cupboard for all the rest of aquarium equipment. But I think that open top would look nicer and would not close the room that much... keep it more airy

Auballagh said:
3) Drilling is certainly an option for either the bottom or side of the tank. Filtration type and personal preference will determine that decision. Canister discharge and intake hoses look much nicer if run through drilled holes with bulkhead fittings sited either in the back or bottom of the tank.
Yes, considering that we'll be doing custom-build, drilling is "allowed" - I will certainly need to consider good execution here, but it could probably make the looks really nice and clean.

Auballagh said:
4) I believe this one is actually the hardest challenge to overcome. Reason is: NOISE. If the Eheim canister was considered too noisy?
Any experience with Fluval FX6 or Oase Biomaster Thermo 850 as compared to Eheim? Oase seems to be quite nicely designed new style filter; I'd need 2x to support the tank (probably even better 3x FX6), but if I put it on anti-vibration rubber pads and then use sound-insulating foam to sound-proof the cabinet (as you also suggestetd), this could minimize the sounds coming out. My current Eheim stands on a wooden shelf of a poorly constructed wooden cabinet of Juwel Rio 400 aquarium. No sound isolation whatsoever and the fact that the filder stands on the shelf is further enhancing the vibration in the cabinet like a drum effect...
Indeed - most comment's I've read by now on forums of people making sumps was problem with noise in various areas of the sump construction...
Also, ease of use of canister filters is incomparable.

Auballagh said:
Plus, there is this Water Thing. I suspect you already know all about the challenges of providing a lot of soft, acidic water for sensitive Cichlids species like Discus.
4) I believe this one is actually the hardest challenge to overcome. Reason is: NOISE. If the Eheim canister was considered too noisy?
I agree, this needs to be considered well... However, I do not intend to use R/O but have a central filtration and ion exchange station in the cellar; it cleans and softens the water and is good to go as is... I also want to install some kind of automation to further release ~50L of water per night into the drain pipe below the aquarium and then refill with fresh water to the appropriate level (I'd need to install some floater with feedback-loop) and an automation for dosing small amounts of water treatment chemicals with these water changes to keep pH and nutrients consistent to an Amazon biotope.
 

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Whew.... the automated aquarium top off thing is actually a pretty tough dream to realize. You are definitely on the right track with the float valve and automated water treatment thing. But still, that will be extremely hard to execute correctly (and safely) for your aquarium.
To simplify things, it may be best to install a water reservoir separate from the tank. Something that is big enough to easily sustain the aquarium water level needed for replacement due to daily evaporation. Treating the water when re-filling the reservoir once or twice per week could be done that way. To put it into operation, the tank itself could have a float switch installed somewhere discretely in it, that would automatically turn on a pump located within the water reservoir to top off the tank. When the float switch comes back up to the right water level, the reservoir fill pump would then shut off. Pretty easy! :)
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As far as canisters go? I'm still going with the mighty Eheim on this one! Those things are just the quietest canister filters I've personally heard running. Someone else may offer some personal experience, with a different brand canister-noise recommendation to you though.... :wink:
 

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Hello aeneas,

Before I offer suggestions I want to ensure that I understand three aspects correctly.

First, that your tank is approx. 320 USG.
Second, that it will be situated on a floor above the basement level.
Third, that you have no experience with sumps.

Regards,
Stu
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Stu W2 said:
Hello aeneas,

Before I offer suggestions I want to ensure that I understand three aspects correctly.

First, that your tank is approx. 320 USG.
Second, that it will be situated on a floor above the basement level.
Third, that you have no experience with sumps.

Regards,
Stu
1) size: your calculation is correct. However I am toying with several design options; I made a sketch below to give an idea of the layout. Going from 335 gal max (97x25.5x31.5 in) which is wall-to-wall to 225 gal min (79x25.5x25.5 in) which leaves some space on either side and is lower in height. Currently, playing with design, the best looking to me might be 97x25.5x27.5 in wall-to-wall but slightly lower height, giving me ~293 gal.
Slide3.jpeg

View attachment 1

2) yes, above basement, but with very very strong reinforced concrete, so no worries regarding statics. No option for further drilling and extra plumbing though...

3) correct: no experience with sumps. I like the idea and it would allow me lots of additional flexibility - like having automated water changes with a solenoid valve letting ~50L water into the drain each night and then refilling back to the floater level; also automatically dosing nutrients and chemicals would be much easier... I have been reading about the bean animal overflow etc. but it seems waay to complicated to me for designing and all the engineering details that would need to go along. I understand overflow could be made quiet and there are some external pumps that can also be supposedly extremely quiet, but many people seem to complain about all the trickling of the water in the sump etc. If it is not done perfectly, it will be a lot of time and money wasted and my wife will not be too happy with it ;) Also I worry about power failures; we live in a new neighbourhood where there is continuous construction going on so there are frequent (i.e. once every 2-3 months) power cuts. But would be happy to consider it further if you guys help me out with thinking this through. :)
 

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Hello aeneas,

Your reply tells me you have anticipated some of my thoughts going forward. You've addressed the structural challenge from the extreme weight and the possibility of placing a sump in a remote location. Then you mentioned Bean Animal. You've done some reading and that's good! As I'm sure you now know there are other options aside from the Bean Animal but essentially they will all serve the same purpose but none will likely ever be quiet enough to satisfy your spouse.

I know how tempting it is to engineer a "perfect" setup (I love to spend hours tinkering with a system) but in your case I'd suggest keeping it simple. Go with several large cannister filters that can be cleaned in rotation so that you're never without adequate filtration. When it comes to cannisters I'm a fan of Eheim. I also hear good things about the Fluval FX6.

As to water changes and top offs you're going to have to keep it old school I think. Can you get hot and cold plumbing to or near your stand? If so you might consider a reservoir inside the stand that is similar in looks to a sump but instead is simply a chamber where you prepare new water ahead of time then pump it as needed into the display tank. If you use cannisters that have drain valves you could first drain off the desired amount then use a submerged water pump in the reservoir to top off the display tank. Once you've chosen your tank dimensions you can calculate how low the water level will drop during your standard change then make sure to have the reservoir of sufficient capacity to store enough water to replenish the loss. Given the size of your stand you'll have room for a reservoir well above your needs. You can have your water all pre-heated and dosed if required in the reservoir. At one point years ago I ran a 90 gallon reservoir on a 135 gallon display tank. Far more than I needed for weekly changes but very handy to have it all prepared ahead of time. For Discus you'll want to go big with the reservoir because of the more frequent changes. I'm sure you know that.

If it were me I'd place a large reservoir in the stand while leaving room for three or four large canister filters. Keep in mind also that a reservoir doesn't need much length like a sump. It can be high and that will leave room for the canisters.

Hope some of this helps. I'm sure you'll find your way and I'm looking forward to seeing the finished project.

Regards,
Stu
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
My wife is voting for canister filters - she says sump is too messy. I am thinking that with 2x Oase 850 Thermo (with added heater benefit) should be able to handle ~290 gal tank if properly heavily planted and with plants doing a big job in the ecosystem... if not, maybe 2x Fulvals...

But: with canister filters installed, I was thinking how to automate water top-up as well as do a ~50L water exchange per day. Here is a sketch that I'm playing with: one of the canisters will be linked to two separate solenoid-valve controlled hoses; first one will be timer-controlled and will open just enough to let 50L drain out once per day (e.g. during the night); the other solenoid is controlled by a water level detector in the aquarium - such as Hydor, which turns it on whenever water drops below the required level and then tops up with fresh pretreated water back to required level. This then takes care then of both the evaporation as well as when the other solenoid drains 50L per day.

Tell me what you think of the idea?
AQUARIUM-9.jpg
 

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I like it. A lot!
- Ahhhh, but does "familiarity breed contempt"? Well, maybe... And yes, those might be some very nice canister filters you mentioned. But, I'm still backing Eheim as the most reliable and quiet running 'Canisters Of Choice' for your aquarium. :roll:
- I REALLY like the simplicity of your design. The simpler and more direct it is - the more likely it will succeed!
- Failure Mitigation: The only real problem is can see is a potential overflow occurring for either the reservoir or the aquarium, if one of those solenoid operated valves doesn't shut properly. But, if you provide final overflow safety (Bulkhead fittings to piping to floor drain?) to mitigate that potential disaster, then I can see nothing wrong with your plan or design.

Looks good! :)
 

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Hello Aeneas,

Thanks for the updated info.

How do you plan to transfer the water from the reservoir to the display tank? I'm missing something perhaps. I see the inlet line but don't see any mention of a pump.

Or do you plan to mount the reservoir above the display tank and have gravity do it for you? I've done that before with small reservoirs holding under 30 gallons of water. You could go larger volume if the stand is built for the weight but I'd still be inclined to put my reservoir under the tank and deal with changes with a manually activated submersible pump. If you're changing water every few days you won't have to concern yourself with topping off in between changes.

Regarding failure mitigation - I've never been a fan of anything other than manually activated devices. I just don't trust electrically controlled devices. With the availability of a floor drain changes will be easy. It will also keep you active around your set-up. Being so will increase your chances of noticing anything out of order and allow you to prevent or at least address issues in a timely manner.

Regards,
Stu
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Stu W2 said:
How do you plan to transfer the water from the reservoir to the display tank? I'm missing something perhaps. I see the inlet line but don't see any mention of a pump.
Stu
Good question. If you look at the 3D sketch I posted, at the back you will see a glass sliding door on the lefthand side which limits my hoses/piping at the back only to the rear part of the aquarium. Behind the wall is a toilet and so I have drilled through the wall plumbing with fresh pretreated (softened, filtered and de-chlorinated) and heated water coming from the basement at the household pressure (i.e. the pressure coming out from all the other kitchen/shower pipes etc.) as well as a drain pipe going into sewage. I am hoping this pressure will be sufficient to push some small volume back into the return hose once the solenoid valve opens. I will need to test the hypothesis though.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
guys, I've been trying to look more deeply into the sump option. Technically I get it - would allow for much flexibility and my needs. But as far as aesthetics, I was not able to find anything that would be really pleasing to my eyes... I like the "bean animal" concept of a quiet overflow, but most of what i was able to find were really big overflow boxes on the inside of the aquarium, taking lots of space and not looking pretty and all the ready-made are, for some strange reason, made with black acrylic instead of transparent.

Can anyone point me to a thread / build or a link that would show some nice well designed overflow that is not only functional but also minimalistic and clean-looking (in an ADA sense... clean glass, minimal intrusion into the aquarium etc.)? I'd really appreciate some pointers... I've spent hours googling but I can't find anything that I like in terms of aesthetics... :(

...I made a couple of sketches of the possibilities... (a) either make an external overflow box to the right side of the aquarium - small overflow box on the inside, drilled back wall and a bean animal box on the outside; or (b) install an overflow entirely on the inside of the aquarium and set it somewhere at the back to be covered by the roots and plants with the scape design. I've made two sketches of how that could look like. I worry that with option (b) I might need to make it black to cover the piping inside, which will make the whole thing uglier - and will likely need me to paint the entire back wall of the aquarium, which I would not like to do as it would make the entire aquascape even darker and gloomier...
Here are the sketches I'm thinking about:
overflow_position.jpeg

overflow_position2.jpeg

Any thoughts and recommendations of some really nice overflow designs that hide into the scape well and are as transparent / unnoticeable as possible?
 

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For your rimless aquarium, I am NOT a fan of using sump filtration for it. That's because of the NOISE problem produced by sump filtration systems.
I mean, if you did not have NOISE REDUCTION as possibly the number one priority for this aquarium? I'd say sure - go for it!
Otherwise, a noisy aquarium filtration system is going to possibly cause you all kinds of problems.
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However, you MAY be able to go with small, corner overflow boxes. The tank would be drilled on the bottom, and the water would transit down through the overflow box and thru a very low stand pipe. A foam filter on the stand pipe, with stacked up foam pads for the water to pass through before getting to the tank would provide a lot of particulate filtration. That way, if the water is kept to a stable level of 10cm to 16cm inside the overflow box - no air will be brought down into the intake piping.
Which would mean no gurgling, trickling and roaring sounds!
I would go with a pair of these smaller, corner overflow boxes. The piping that transits water from the overflow boxes could be run down to the bottom of the sump (below the water level) - ensuring the water sounds are minimized as much as possible. The submersible pump inside the sump would not have to be very large either. 1800ltr to 2100ltr per hour, would probably be more than enough flow. Primary filtration for the aquarium could then be provided with one very large canister filter, connected to the tank with low-mounted, side bulkhead fittings to minimize/hide intake and discharge fittings.
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This system would permit installation of the semi-automatic (reservoir-fed) water change/over-flow system you want, while still minimizing the noise level produced by the aquarium filtration system as much as possible.
A win? :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Guys, next "challenge" in consideration of the set-up: assuming this will be an EMS or MM style 30-32" overflow box with a sump system in the cabinet below and a quiet return pipe, such as Red Dragon 3 mini... for a 96" long aquarium - how should I handle the return pipes? I was always hoping for the beautiful ADA glass lily pipes. But I wonder if this is possible in such setup. What would you recommend to make the water flow well throughout the entire length?
 

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Yes, discharge water from your filtration must be planned and managed.
And that, can vary from something as simple as a discharge spray bar, to a full-on Under Gravel Jet System (UJG),



I am a huge advocate for UGJ, as they will:
- Distribute filter discharge flow more evenly throughout the aquarium water column.
- Can be directed and placed to remove dead spots on the substrate, that would be prone to debris buildup.
- Can distribute a massive amount of water flow and pressure throughout the aquarium (Instead of from a single 'fire hose' discharge point)



UGJ can be powered up basically by any source of water pressure. Driven by submerged powerheads, canister filtration discharge. Or of course, a sump. Canister discharge to a UGJ system could be accommodated very discretely by use of low-mounted bulkhead fittings. A sump discharge to UGJ is typically provided by vertical 'stand pipes' that direct the water flow over the lip of aquarium and down into the UGJ piping system. A small anti-siphon hole is drilled near the top of each stand pipe to prevent the contents of the aquarium from flowing back through the UGJ, and down into the sump when the discharge pump(s) are turned off.
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And.... if you're still hoping to somehow install a set of 'beautiful ADA glass lily pipes'? I say, "WHY NOT?" You could just drive a set of those using flow from another pump source located either in the sump or from canister discharge. No problem. :thumb:
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Auballagh said:
Yes, discharge water from your filtration must be planned and managed.
And that, can vary from something as simple as a discharge spray bar, to a full-on Under Gravel Jet System (UJG),
...
Wow, this looks like a really cool idea. But I've not seen many tanks with this system... I searched youtube and googled around and it doesn't show up often... some build plans but I could not find any live action. Do you have any reference / link to a large tank that would have this system in place? I would love to see that :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Guys, many thanks for all the inputs so far. I have now done much reading now regarding sump setups... Please help with some of the dilemmas below. Main aim: good performance and as silent as possible operation.

I am currently thinking of three possible designs - see the images below; one has 3 major chambers, one has 5 and one has 4 chambers with K1 media included. I also have no idea how to calculate the appropriate height of the baffles separating each chamber. Is there some recommended calculation?

Slide1.jpeg

Option 1:

- does the layout make sense?

- Any suggestion regarding the mechanical filtration in the 1st chamber?

- I noticed some people add glass strips on top of the baffle at an angle (see the small red coloured line on top of the baffle) which might make the water flow nicer and make less trickling sound. Does this make sense or is it unnecessary?

- how should I calculate the necessary height of the baffles?

- in 3rd chamber, are there any ideas of some additional coarse material I should use there - especially to prevent water trickling from the top of the baffle?

Slide2.jpeg

Option 2:

- this one has maybe even more "organized" flow... does it make sense? I think I like it even more than the 1st option

- any suggestion on the mechanical filtration in 1st chamber?

- chamber no. 2: should I continue with some more mechanical or should I add bio?

- same as Option 1: do these angularly placed glass strips (between chambers 2 and 3) make any sense in terms of quieting the trickling of the water flow?

Sump-design.jpg

Option 3:

- maybe best option??

- lots of people praise K1 media... I just do not want to add aeration pumps... this would make more noise and also lead to more loss of CO2. I could replace this with a couple of wavemakers instead? If yes, does this chamber make sense? What should be the height of the baffles? How should I calculate this so that I get correct flows?

- should I add some coarse filter to the chamber 4 before the pump, just to additionally protect the inflow there?

Any other recommendations highly appreciated!

I hope you will find the sketches useful and thank you for any inputs on this... :)
 
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