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Fish Room Build Journal

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IMG_6968.png.a79d5094c64f3f972e9fb2e14a40e81e.pngHi everyone! Going to try out this journal thing.

I currently have a Home Depot rack with 11 tanks on it. I drilled the tanks and ran a drain to a sump pump in another room, and I have a linear piston air pump powering them. I fill a 32g trash can with tap water and Prime for water changes. Here's what it looks like:


The things I'd like to improve upon by building a fish room:

  1. I'm powering the entire rack (4 lights, 9 tank heaters, 1 AquaClear) with a single 15A non-GFCI outlet, and there isn't another outlet nearby. So I'm going to carefully plan outlet locations/breakers/GFCI/etc.
  2. In addition to the tank heaters, I have an electric oil heater warming the room to 75, but the room is pretty large, and includes a stairwell to the first floor. Ideally I'll be able to heat a smaller room to a consistent temp, and do away with most of the in-tank heaters.
  3. I'm going to plan an automatic water change system, so this is a good opportunity to incorporate that.
  4. I'd like to add a sink, so that I can do things like rinse test tubes or make brine shrimp without running up and down the steps.
  5. I have an idea to do 2 separate lighting circuits, so that I can have much lower brightness lights on for longer during the day without growing a lot of algae. I'd also like to make the room a lot brighter overall.
  6. More tanks! I'm already running out of room, so I'd like to plan for at least 40-50 tanks, but will likely start closer to 20-25.
  7. And probably wishful thinking, but I think I can keep the room more organized if I plan storage/etc better.

This part of our basement is naturally split by a support column, I-beam, and soffit for HVAC ducts. These make the ceiling pretty low, but I think I can make it up with thin shelving and spreading out a bit more. Here are the dimensions I'm planning on:


The bottom wall will be new, and that door will be the entry door. The right door goes to storage and our HVAC system. The top door is a thin room with our electrical panel, water heater, and oil tank. I'm hoping I can fit a ~75-100g water tote in there.

Here's the space after draping some plastic:


And the other side where the fish rack currently is:


I spent last weekend framing it out and installing a door. Here's what it looks like now:


This was my first time using steel studs. They're really great! You can carry 10 through a house under one arm, they cut easily with metal shears, and the room wasn't covered in sawdust when I was done. They were also about the same price as wood 2x4s. I chose them because the other basement walls were already steel studs, and some suggested that basements use metal instead of wood framing due to moisture.

I had to get creative with keeping the existing drain and air PVC functional:


Next up is electrical! Hoping to find some time this weekend to wire outlets and install new breakers.


Edited by Justin Campbell
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7 hours ago, Streetwise said:

Will you be using any automation?

Yup! A lot of our switches are Zwave, which we bridge with SmartThings and schedule with Alexa routines. I’ll use the same for the lights, but not sure yet how I’ll schedule water changes. Is that what you meant by automation?

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  • 4 weeks later...

I roughed-in all of the wiring that next weekend, took a few weeks off, and this past weekend I got the drywall up!


There will be 6 outlet boxes around the room, behind where the racks will go. Each box will have one 15A GFCI for heaters/power filters, and two switched GFCI-protected outlets for lighting. 3 of the 6 heater outlets share a 20A circuit each, so maxed out it can have 1800W/rack, 2400W/wall (3 racks), or 4800W/room. We removed a double-pole breaker for an old hot tub, so there was plenty of room in the panel for the new breakers. Here's a diagram of the old and new circuit:




The GFCI outlets for heaters/pumps have an audible alarm, so we'll know if they get tripped. I'm not sure yet if they're loud enough to hear throughout the house or how close you have to be. Our kitchen is right above the fish room, so hopefully we could at least hear it from there. I'll do some testing once they are wired up.

This was my first time hanging drywall, but it went pretty well. I have a few things to adjust where I didn't account for the thickness of screws behind the drywall and it bulged a little, but other than that I'm pretty happy with it.


I also removed the old room lights and added 2 new lights, one for over the sink, and a wall light for over a work surface. Both are wired to a motion sensor, so they'll turn on when someone is in the room and turn off after they leave.


I still have some ceiling drywall to hang, and a LOT of drywall repairs after wiring, and then the next step is drywall taping. It's the part of this project that I'm the least excited for, so hopefully I can muster the willpower to get it done sooner rather than later. I can't wait to wire the outlets up and start on the drain/drip system.


I've also been thinking about where I can fit racks to maximize space. Having so many doors in the room makes it difficult to use all of the floor space, but I still think I can get way more than I need in there. Here's what I came up with so far. The 20L along the back wall will be a fry system. I might try to fit some 5.5g above it or somewhere else.


Edited by Justin Campbell
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22 hours ago, Ken Dyer said:

Looks like plenty of room to add the most important accessory... a chair to sit and watch your tanks. I like it!

Thanks! Yes I'll definitely need a good rolling chair or stool in here.

22 hours ago, Andy's Fish Den said:

Its coming along nicely there! I'm assuming you will have rack that you can stack tanks two or even three high? 

Thanks! I'm planning each rack will be 3-high for 12" tanks (10G, 15G, 20L) and 2-high for 16+" tanks (20H, 40B). But, I think on the one wall without the soffit I might be able to fit two 40 Breeders and one 30 Breeder on top. A lot of this depends on shelf construction. I might start with wood shelves and then experiment with welding some custom/thinner shelving.

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  • 5 weeks later...
  • 2 weeks later...
13 hours ago, umfalcon said:

What is the brand name of the rack? It looks great. I might want to get one for my fish room.

@umfalconThis is the Husky rack from Home Depot model #HBR782478W4. It's working out pretty well for now, but I don't think I'm going to use them for the new fish room. The shelves are 3 or 3 ½" thick, which means I can only have 2 rows instead of 3 with our basement's low ceilings, and I'd like more flexibility with shelf widths so I'm going to build some.

I've also heard the Edsel or Gladiator versions of this rack design are a bit stronger, so do some research there if you decide to get one. I think both @Randy and Jadren Aquatics use similar metal stands.

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I have 3 Gladiator racks and 1 Husky from Home Depot.  The Husky was the only one that came in the 90" long option.  The first 90" Husky rack that I purchased had a busted weld on the upright upon opening the box.  This really didn't give me much confidence in Husky vs Gladiator.  That being said, Husky 90" #2 was installed without incident and has not come crashing down.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Happy New Year!

Current status is: still working on drywall. I've been working about 2 hours at a time 1-2 times a week to get to this point. This is my first time taping drywall. It's not fun! I would definitely hire someone to do this in the future, but we didn't want someone working inside of our house for extended periods of time during COVID.


But it's close! I think I have 1-2 more mud sessions, and then sanding, and then I can begin priming and painting.

I did pick up a sink and sump pump/bucket this weekend. This will drain the short wall in between the doors on the right side of the layout image. The other walls will drain to the existing sump pump that's on the other side of the wall.


I have a bunch of stuff picked for automated water changes, but waiting until I get painting done to move on to that.


Edited by Justin Campbell
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I hate taping and mudding drywall as well. When I put an addition on my house, I wanted to hire someone to do it, but no one would just tape and mud, so I had to have them hang, tape and mud, which was fine with me, because I know they got it all done in one weekend where it would have taken me a lot longer to get it done. 

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19 hours ago, Andrew Puhr said:

@Justin Campbelldid you do all the plumbing and electrical yourself?


I've been doing electrical in our homes for a very long time, but this was my first time working in the panel.

I was always scared to do plumbing until I had to tap into our water supply for water changes and drainage via a sump pump in a bucket in our basement. After that, I felt confident enough to replace our hot water heater when it failed this past summer. SharkBite fittings are a lifesaver!

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Drywall is almost finished, just a few tiny touch-ups/sanding spots and then I can begin adding trim and caulking/prime before painting. I’m hoping painting goes quick since the entire room will be a single color, so no need to carefully edge.

There are a bunch of spots where I dropped drywall mud on the floor. They’ve been popped off and are now flush, but I need to either hit them with water and a wire brush or leave them be. The center of the room will have rubber mats but the tank racks will be bare underneath. I will put plastic down before painting.


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