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Fomorian’s Fish Room


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In a 10x12 below grade basement I wound up with 9 20 tall, 3 20 long, 6 29 gallon tanks, and space on the other wall for a big tank I’m still waiting for (a spare 55 is holding the space).

Here is a rundown of what I used and some lessons I learned.

For stands, the cinder block racks are super easy to set up and very sturdy. They are also modular if I decide to change things around.

For tanks, I used solely Aqueon tanks from Petco’s dollar per gallon sale. Can’t really go wrong with cheap tanks in a fish room.

Filtration- Central air pump connected to a 1 inch pvc pipe loop around the room. This is where I started making mistakes. I first dry fit the whole loop, which made it very hard to pull it all apart and glue the connections. This led to some leaking connections which I patched with silicone. I first bought the smallest linear piston air pump offered by Aquarium Co-Op, which was undersized for the size of the air loop I had running (that or the leaking connections) and got no airflow to the tanks. I lucked out and found a Jehmco LA-120, an air pump with enough flow to run 100+ tanks, which gave me way too much flow, which I solved by just adding a bunch of extra valves (I later discovered Jehmco sells a bleed off valve for exactly that situation...). All of the tanks are running sponge filters of various manufacturers to try out.

The overflow system- oh boy here’s where things got complicated. The basement is below grade, and I couldn’t tap into the waste line or modify the existing plumbing. So I used a laundry sink sump basin and pump running into 1 inch flexible pipe routed out of a basement air vent to the back of the house, where the aquarium waste water will be used to water the garden. This could have been so much easier if I had been able to drill the foundation and run a 10ft section of pipe, but hey whatever works, works. I also ran a pex line from the washing machine connections by adding Y connector to each fitting for hot/cold water to a laundry sink without modifying the existing plumbing.

The overflow on each tank is a simple bulkhead and pvc elbow with a barb fitting connected to a bit of flex pipe, which in turn drains to a length of 2” pipe into the sump. A few other lessons I learned here - use 3” for a drain line, I don’t think it will be a problem but I’ll have to limit the flow into the tanks. As far as the flex pipe- I originally used poly tubing, but getting the kinks out of the thick clear tubing is a nightmare-I found out that the 1/2 inch irrigation tubing for garden sprinklers is dirt cheap and way easier to work with. Also buy a quality hole saw to drill into the large PVC pipe, I ruined a few cheap bits.

As far as drilling the tanks themselves, I originally used cheap diamond hole saw bits that took forever for each tank before just spending a bit extra on a decent bit that made it way faster. I used a bit of plywood with a hole drilled as a template, clamping it to the tank to start the hole in the same position on every tank. I then removed the template when the hole was started, used plumbers putty to make a dam around the hole and filled it with water - way quicker and easier on the bit if it’s lubricated full time. All of the tanks were drilled without more than minor chip out on the edges of the hole, it’s super easy.

Lids for the tanks; I had a few glass lids, but I wound up using polycarbonate greenhouse panels, which worked out to about $6/lid. I used a table saw to make long cuts and a box cutter to cut the horizontal sections, and colored duct tape to seal the edges and form hinges or handles.

All in, including renovating the room with insulation and paint and such, I probably spent about $2500-$3000 on the whole room, with probably $500 being wasted on mistakes or unnecessary things. 

I still need to add some reflective barrier to the ceiling and setup a sprinkler timer and lines to each tank for the auto water change system. I also need to find a lighting solution that won’t break the bank or take up all my outlets.






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On 4/22/2021 at 2:30 PM, Fishdude said:

Sounds a lot like what I'm tinkering with now, nice job. How much space did you leave between the top of the tank and the next set of 2x4s?

There is a bit less than 6” between the 29’s and the next row.  Enough room for a net, but I’ll be limited in what  I can fit in there.  It was a bit of a compromise in headroom between rows and making the whole thing short enough to reach the top row without a stool. 

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17 minutes ago, Fomorian said:

There is a bit less than 6” between the 29’s and the next row.  Enough room for a net, but I’ll be limited in what  I can fit in there.  It was a bit of a compromise in headroom between rows and making the whole thing short enough to reach the top row without a stool. 

Really nice work. I'm trying to decide how to space things now but I hope my setup turns out even half as nice as this.

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