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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Fish Tank Build

My wife and I had bought a new house, and there was the spot in the main great room area that was just screaming for a fishtank. So I started the planning & building phase. I decided to make it more like an armoire like with a flatpanel TV instead of a built-in for numerous reasons, mostly due to what me & my wife thought looked good. Basically we were going with one of the trends in home design to have discrete pieces of furniture instead of built-ins (this is sometimes done with bathroom vanities, etc…). But I digress. Here's a pic of the mostly finished (lights were off) final product:


2006_07_10_10_19_56 by Stanfewcheez, on Flickr
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Anyway, I wanted it to be easy to maintain, easy to catch fish as needed (let’s face itâ€â€
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I’d had a 55 gallon tank for awhile, and it was about the right size, but I figured I’d need a little bit bigger if I added a bunch of styrofoam. I wanted to still be able to reach to the bottom of the tank when cleaning or trying to catch fish so I decided on a 75 gallon instead of a 90 gallon.

Next, for the weight bearing part of the tank stand I decided to go with ¾â€Â
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I put in a floor inside the tank stand for a nice even surface to put the canisters on, and also to keep any small amount of water (It better be small!) spilled from getting on the carpet. I sealed the seams of the tank stand with (silicon) anywhere I really didn’t want water to get to. Basically anywhere there were two pieces of wood joined together. Make sure you use the paintable silicone!


IMG_2164 by Stanfewcheez, on Flickr
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
So I decided with my tank stand that I wanted the piece to look like an armoire or a nice piece of furniture, and the sight of a hood sitting on top of a tank always ruins that look for me. I though it would be cool if it looked sort of like an in-wall built-in does, except being a freestanding piece of furniture instead of actually being built in. So I put walls over the sides of the fish tank, and put a face frame on the whole thing so that only the front window was visible. Putting walls over the sides also made it so I didn’t have to figure out how to cover up the parts of the tank where you can see the sides of the styrofoam background.

Additionally I wanted to have cabinet doors above the fish tank as well as the ones below the tank to give it that furniture look. So the question was how to access the tank (I was used to opening the hood to access it from above). I made doors as planned, but I also made the top of the tank stand removeable (it’s a box with crown moulding around it and with the fluorescent lights inside) like a lid. Turns out this was totally unnecessary. The opening that the doors covered was big enough I could put as much of my upper body directly above the tank as necessary for any maintenance or catching fish. It also had the side benefit in that I could easily reach the bottom of the tank without taking a hood off (like I had to do on previous tanks) since I didn’t have the extra height of the hood to reach down through.

So the top piece (the 3 inch tall part with the crown moulding on it) of my stand is removable, but there really wasn’t a need to do this with how big the opening is that is covered by the upper cabinet doors (which makes it easy to get in there). I was glad that I didn’t do a vertical center brace inbetween the top two doors because this allowed for easier access to the tank. However, this required that I had to have those two doors be very close together otherwise the light leaking out between the slot will look odd. You can see the slight amount that gets out in (right above the tank in the middle) in this pic:


2006_08_16_09_36_53 by Stanfewcheez, on Flickr
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Then I got out my paint sprayer…(Harbor Freight, $100 or less) I sprayed the inside of the box that had the lights with a number of coats of white paint (for more reflectivity). I sprayed everything else with a bunch of coats of black paint. Then I sprayed *everything* with numerous coats of polyurethane. I subsequently did a 29 gallon tank stand where I didn’t do the polyurethane and I really, really regret it. Anyplace water gets onto the paint will eventually peel. Compare that with my tank with the polyurethane where the water beads up on it, and 2+ years later with no water damage… Yeah. I highly recommend polyurethane for waterproofing even on painted tanks.


IMG_2202 by Stanfewcheez, on Flickr


IMG_2201 by Stanfewcheez, on Flickr
 

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stunning!
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
For the aesthetic of the inside of my tank, I didn’t want the cliff wall lookâ€â€
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Here you can see how it’s going to work for me to have access to all of the components without having them visible or having to remove the background. I mean, get realâ€â€
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Now it was time for my undergravel jets. I have never liked the look of the PVC undergravel jets as the white plastic looks very artificial. I’ve seen people try and dye their PVC black using RIT dye & boiling water, but it looked like a hassle. Also, even if you dye the jets black, the rest of the tubing is still white. And as everyone who has cichlids knows, they’re eventually going to dig down to whatever is on the bottom of the tank. This is what I found happened on my first 55 gallon tank when I did PVC undergravel jets. And without sand on top of the jets, they work their way up off the bottom of the tank. Silicone could fix that problem, but you still have the eyesore issue to deal with when they get exposed.

So I went a different route. I started out with something that was black to start with, and even easier to work with than PVC: drip irrigation systems. You can get parts locally at Home Depot or Lowes. All you need is the hole punch (that comes with most any kit) and a pair of scissors. No glue, and you can even reconfigure it underwater in the tank if you wanted.

IMG_2198 by Stanfewcheez, on Flickr

My plan was to connect the powerheads to the ½â€Â
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
I tried siliconing the background into the tank prior to cementing the background. Big mistake. It was much more tedious trying to get the cement onto the background but not the glass, and required a lot of cleanup afterwards.

To setup the tank, I moved the tank stand into the room, and then slid the empty tank into the stand from behind (that’s the only want to get it into the stand), and then slid the whole tank stand back to the wall. The tank slides up flush to the face frame of the tank stand, and this face frame covers all the plastic on the tank. The face frame also has the nice feature of shrinking the visible area of the tank. This means I don’t have to have the water level as high to avoid seeing the waterline. It also hides the spraybars & moonlight which are suctioned to the glass near the top. I have one spraybar on the front glass on the right side above the waterline, and the other one on the left side glass above the waterline. I discovered that it is critical that these are above the waterline for aeration (I get gasping fish anytime I fill the tank enough that they are underwater). I’m still lazy such that I’ll eventually get enough evaporation to see the waterline…

I put the intakes for the two Jebo canisters behind the big rock so that all the poo that got sucked back there would make their way into the canisters. I’ve also got the heater and the two powerheads back there.

For the lid of the tank, I went with 1/8â€Â
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
So I finished all of this back in 2006. Right before the first kid showed up...hence the huge delay in posting. The tank is still running well.

Zero problems with the stand, or the painted & polyed MDF, or the plywood.

The background cement coloration is still almost as visible as when it was brand new, so I'm glad I bothered with tinting and doing different cement coloration.

I quickly ditched that ugly bubble generator that is in one of the main pics at the top left. Other than that, and adding a few more plastic plants, little has changed.

The two Jebos are still running well. I have one without any mechanical filtration so it is more sure to have good flow.

The only thing I still need to do is get some aquastick epoxy to epoxy the spraybar suction cups to the wall of the aquarium (they still lose suction every few weeks and fall into the tank).

I hope you enjoyed the tour, and I want to thank all of those who have posted before me and helped me to be able to do this.
 

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Great work, especially the stand. The covered sides work perfectly in that recessed area you have it tucked into, and the whole build looks very professional and well thought out. After reading of a few people whose entire backgrounds have detached, I'm a little surprised that you haven't had any issues with that hollow rock. It doesn't look like there is much surface area that can be siliconed to the tank, but hey, if it works then it works. :thumb:
Great job, and thanks for posting.
 

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Very nice! I must say that you accomplished your goal of making the setup part of the room and a fine looking piece of furniture, looks expensive!... Bravo! =D>
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
I did use a lot of silicone. I also siliconed the bare styro to the glass. I wonder if the people who've had them detach siliconed to styrofoam covered in cement instead of bare styrofoam. I know from experience that silicone doesn't stick to cement very well.
 

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Beautiful job on your build and very nice descriptions & pics of the project. Thanks for sharing this with us.
 

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Far and away one of the best DIY back grounds I have seen - both in form and function.

kevin
 

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OUTSTANDING!!! WOW!!! I am so impressed =D>
 
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