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Wheels Does A Fish Thing
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WheelsOfConfusion



Joined: 09 Jul 2006
Posts: 14324
Location: Unknown Kaddath

PostPosted: Tue May 17, 2016 3:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I was very careful, especially in rinsing. The only things I cleaned it with were rounds of baking soda, white vinegar, and water.

I'll add some more fish food (or maybe pick up a bottle of cheap ammonia) and keep testing periodically.
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WheelsOfConfusion



Joined: 09 Jul 2006
Posts: 14324
Location: Unknown Kaddath

PostPosted: Fri May 20, 2016 6:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Did a ~40% water change yesterday afternoon, tested the water last night and tonight. Holding stable around 8.0.

It should be alright. Most native fish can adjust to a pH of 8, as long as it's not swinging wildly up and down. And the fish I'm looking at in particular are extremely hardy (to a fault, even), able to live in a broad range of conditions.

I'd better start getting the display tank's lighting situation sorted out. Sunday's my next day off, maybe I can work up the motivation and focus to actually do some of it!
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WheelsOfConfusion



Joined: 09 Jul 2006
Posts: 14324
Location: Unknown Kaddath

PostPosted: Sat May 21, 2016 4:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Tonight's pH was 8.2

Nitrites and nitrates both tested at 0 ppm, but ammonia actually crept up to 0.25 ppm. Could be a culprit in the mysterious case of the rising pH.

It's also possible that my well water has some CO2 in it that off-gases over time, and with the very low mineral hardness there's no buffering capacity to speak of. That would explain why I can read a pH of 7.6-ish right out of the faucet. So it could just be that leaving our water out for a while lets the acidifying gas seep out, and this process would be sped along by the vigorous aeration I've got with my 40-gallon rated pump and two sponge filters burbling away.

I've added another 10ml dose of API Quick Start to freshen up the nitrifying bacteria in the tank, just in case they're lagging. Once I get the pH situation figured out I can move on to moving in the fish.
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mouse



Joined: 10 Jul 2006
Posts: 21163
Location: under the bed

PostPosted: Mon May 23, 2016 2:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

ran into a guy i used to work with who does bioassay stuff. he said the usual culprit in high-pH situations was usually calcium carbonate (or i suppose any carbonate). you don't have a lot of shell hash in your sand or anything, do you? but no buffering capacity...i would think that could potentially cause you problems in the long run; while fish may be tolerant of a range of conditions they may not be as happy with a sudden change.
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WheelsOfConfusion



Joined: 09 Jul 2006
Posts: 14324
Location: Unknown Kaddath

PostPosted: Mon May 23, 2016 5:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Our bedrock is an iron-rich slab of stuff that weathers out into the region's trademarked, infamous red clay ultisol (and leaves behind a fragile quartz/mica matrix that you can crumble with your bare hands). Being on a well means we get what's in the rocks. In our case that's tons of iron and almost no calcium or other traditional "hard water" minerals.
Calcium and magnesium hardness are both super low, hence the lack of buffering capacity. In my display tank I plan to add some crushed oyster shell to the substrate to remedy both of those deficiencies. But my quarantine tank is bare-bottomed for hygiene (yeah, really).

pH seems stable around 8.2, and the ammonia level is a pretty constant 0.25 ppm or less. I don't have time tonight to do more testing and investigation though. Hopefully, tomorrow will yield answers!
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nathan



Joined: 10 Jul 2006
Posts: 6316

PostPosted: Thu May 26, 2016 8:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

WheelsOfConfusion wrote:
Most fish tanks are cleaned by a powerful filtration system that includes some combination of water-scrubbing sponges or floss, some paper or rocky stuff with tons of surface area for ammonia-eating germs to grow on, and typically something like charcoal that chemically absorbs any leftover wastes.

I'm not doing that. It's a bunch of time, money, and effort to change the filter stuff, change the water once or twice a week, and buy new filter stuff as your old stuff wears out or gets clogged with post-gut fish food.


I'm a bit ginny, but I've gotta say this concerns me.

In the oh-so-slight, off-chance that everything you buy dies a slow and horribly languishing death (not including bettas, which are aqua-equivalents to Wolverine, and equally prone to depression and alcoholism), might I suggest that you think about hooking those water movers up to a simple undergravel grate system? It requires literally no maintenance and provides a massive surface area for bacterial growth.

I'm not saying that your set up can't theoretically be successful in certain specific situations - but I am saying that professional aquariasts don't go to the lengths they do simply because they're slaves to fashion who haven't read the relevant biological literature.
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WheelsOfConfusion



Joined: 09 Jul 2006
Posts: 14324
Location: Unknown Kaddath

PostPosted: Fri May 27, 2016 2:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Can't do an undergravel system with rooted plants, nor with a soil underlayer or sand-sized grit on top. I would have to tear the whole thing down and basically start over, and it would require more than an undergravel filter to get everything running again.
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WheelsOfConfusion



Joined: 09 Jul 2006
Posts: 14324
Location: Unknown Kaddath

PostPosted: Mon May 30, 2016 3:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Despite having a couple of consecutive days off work, fish thing has been put on hold until the afore-mentioned iron bacteria in our well are under control again. It would do no good to maintain a fish tank with water opaque from rusty germ poop.
So the hospital tank is still up and bubbling, but I'm not doing any tests on the water until I'm sure I can get something clean from the sink again.
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WheelsOfConfusion



Joined: 09 Jul 2006
Posts: 14324
Location: Unknown Kaddath

PostPosted: Sat Sep 10, 2016 3:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've left my quarantine tank set up and topped it off water-wise, but the darn thing still refuses to cycle.

I'm starting to suspect that the original sponge filters' design is not the best, since they have a single tube acting as both airlift and inlet in the same volume. Not only might this impact the efficiency of the whole operating mechanism, but the fact that the outlet and inlets are in pretty much the same space could be causing the filter to constantly recycle too much of the water nearby and not pull in enough from further out.

Perhaps a wider separation of the disparate functions in space will yield a better filter that allows for easier bacterial colonization, and a greater rate of water turnover.

New design dry-fit, pre-drilling:



It'll rest on a single tile, have a single airlift in the middle, and sponge-covered intake tubes set out to either side. The two sponge-inated tubes will also be significantly lower than the filter's outlet, reducing the amount of freshly-filtered water they can suck back in (theoretically). I'm also experimenting with a 3" extension on the outlet, assuming it won't be too off-balance in the tank.
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WheelsOfConfusion



Joined: 09 Jul 2006
Posts: 14324
Location: Unknown Kaddath

PostPosted: Sat Oct 29, 2016 1:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The new sponge filter is ready to go, but I'm putting the quarantine tank on hold for a little while longer.


Meanwhile I'm making some headway the DIY aquarium light fixture for the big tank.

For this main "show" tank, the goal is to provide the right kind of lighting to grow lots of aquatic plants. The lush plant growth should be fueled by the breakdown of fish wastes, so they'll keep the water clean and conditioned while looking good and giving lots of shelter for the fish.

My aquarium is an odd size at 30" long, and standard T8 or T5 tubes and fixtures won't fit. My original plan was to use a DIY fixture fitted with CFLs, for which there is a ton of hobbyist experience regarding light qualities and plant growth. The basic requirements are a color temperature between 5,000 to 7,000 Kelvin and enough lumens to reach the bottom of the tank.

The Fixture, Part 1

Measured and cut some half-round PVC gutter to length. To use standard IPS 1/8 lamp fixture mounting hardware, which has a 3/8ths outer diameter, I needed snug holes of a slightly larger size. Measured out about 8 and 3/8ths from each end and drilled two 13/32nds holes to hang my light sockets. Then about halfway across, I cut another hole in the middle of an inclined section to pass the wires through.

Measurin'
Drillin'
EXPLODED VIEW (no actual explosions were harmed in the making of this view)

After that I measured 2" and 3" inches from either side of the two socket holes and drilled a couple of 3/16 holes with the aim of giving the bulbs a little ventilation. These holes lay right above the ceramic bases of my bulbs when they're mounted in the sockets.

Drillin' 2: Electric Boogadrill

The twin socket fixtures I'm using for this build... have not arrived in the mail yet. So for photographic and mock-up purposes I'm using a similar model (dug out of a box in the garage) that has long mounting brackets on the top and bottom.
The ones shipping to me have the same phenolic sockets but slightly shorter mounting hardware and top-only. They'll keep the LED bulbs more fully within the envelope of the gutter/reflector, and give me the clearance I need to simply lay this fixture on top of the aquarium rim.
To keep them fixed in place I bought a couple of lock-up packs, in stylish brass that will look great with the black color of the final finish.

The hole through which the wires will pass was looking bare, so I found an old rubber boot for coax F-connectors and slipped it in as a very nice little grommet with some built-in strain relief.

But where's Wallace?

To finish this off I plan to spray paint the outside of the gutter and the two end caps with black Krylon, line the inside of it with aluminum tape for max reflectivity, and wire the lamps up in parallel to a length of lamp cord with a plug at the end of it. I'll see if some kind of angled reflective panels need to be made to bounce light down from the axes of the lights in the middle and at each end of the fixture.

The Bulbs

Astute readers may notice that I originally planned on using cheap CFL bulbs, but these are swanky LED models! I went with two two-packs of GE's Bright Stik LED bulbs, with a color temperature of 5000 Kelvin, rated at 1520 lumens and 16 Watts (100 Watt incandescent equivalent). They're significantly slimmer and run much cooler than CFLs of the same output. They should also have a longer useful life than CFL bulbs, which lose some of their illuminating power after about a year and a half. Downside is they're slightly less bright than most other LEDs in their class.

But I'm going into uncharted territory here. Hobbyists have years of experience with CFL lighting for plant growth, not so much for consumer LED bulbs and none I could find for this style. Despite the cylindrical design, they're not "corn cob" style bulbs that are just rows of cheaper, dimmer LEDs. A teardown on Youtube shows that they're higher-power LEDs pointing straight along the axis, their light being reflected and diffused by the plastic cap. Well, the plan is to make sure my plants are growing long before I spring for the fish so I'll have time to find out how well they work.

I figure if these don't work out I can replace them with some conventional daylight CFLs anyway. It's a pretty flexible design.


Last edited by WheelsOfConfusion on Sat Oct 29, 2016 1:36 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Taemon



Joined: 08 Aug 2013
Posts: 2064
Location: Europe

PostPosted: Sat Oct 29, 2016 1:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Could you shrink the pictures? I really want to follow this insane project, but you make it hard the read at times.
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WheelsOfConfusion



Joined: 09 Jul 2006
Posts: 14324
Location: Unknown Kaddath

PostPosted: Sat Oct 29, 2016 1:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

But I've already de-bigulated them! Perhaps I should enlinken instead?


Oh yeah, and the completed sponge filter mk 2.

Indecent:



Enrobed:

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Taemon



Joined: 08 Aug 2013
Posts: 2064
Location: Europe

PostPosted: Sat Oct 29, 2016 1:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ha, cool :-) Thank you.
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Rune



Joined: 08 Oct 2011
Posts: 1815

PostPosted: Thu Nov 03, 2016 7:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ooooh, fishies! Setting up fishy systems is frustrating, fascinating, and if you're a certain kind of crazy, pretty darn fun.

I will share what little fishy wisdom I have. On pH, a wildly high or low number is a problem, but unless you're planning on trying to maintain a particularly finicky variety of fish, (you know, the kind that needs its seltzer at precisely 22.2222 degrees Celcius, wants all of the Skittles separated out by color, and asks you to greet them with the traditional Mak'Tar three-pronged gravity salute just to make sure you read its rider,) your bigger concern is avoiding rapid and/or steep fluctuations in pH or any other key property. So, a pH of 8 is concerning, but not kill-it-quick-with-fire panic time. What it means is it's happy fun science experiment time! (See my above comment about needing to be a certain kind of crazy.)

Look into getting a piece of driftwood. (or "driftwood," look at what you're buying specifically as there are some treated hardwoods that fly under this flag. Just make sure that what you're getting suits the size and needs for your tank, and make sure to soak it out well before adding it to the tank.) Or peat balls. These work slowly within the environment of the tank to regulate pH, and help buffer against spikes and fluctuations. You're gonna want to do this at the same time as you are establishing the nitrogen cycle in your tank. It will all work in glorious harmony with the sponges in your filter, which will become home to all kinds of lovely helpful microbes and everyone will live in peace and harmony. Hopefully. With some luck.

But anyway, don't super freak out about pH just yet. You've got too many variables fluctuating all over the place in these early stages, especially with a secondhand tank. Work towards stability, getting your plants in, and getting a nitrogen cycle established. From there you'll be able to figure out what to nudge around to tweak things to a more fine-tuned hum. And don't waste money on short-term pH-correcting agents, they're just a bandaid that cause spikes.
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WheelsOfConfusion



Joined: 09 Jul 2006
Posts: 14324
Location: Unknown Kaddath

PostPosted: Wed Dec 14, 2016 7:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

After some delay, I have completed the lighting fixture assembly!


The Fixture, Part 2: Electric Lightaloo

With the gutters physically transformed into a reflector, it was time to do a little coating inside and out before filling them with electrical guts.

I sprayed the outside with several layers of Krylon black gloss paint. Skipped both primer and clear coat, though next time I'll probably use some matte clear coat to help protect the finish.

Then I lined the inside surfaces with aluminum foil tape. It was tricky to apply at first, but a few passes let me get better at it.

Foiled? Foiled.

I cut some foam rings from a CD spindle in half to help cushion my hollow lock-in check rings before tightening them down to hold the two socket fixtures in place. The foam rings fit right into the hollow part and are basically there to provide extra pressure while preserving the painted finish of my gutterflector.

Snip snip

With the socket fixtures finally fixed, it was time to do the wiring. This was complicated slightly by the fact that lights have to be wired in parallel, so that they all receive the same voltage from the mains.

The joins were soldered securely and coated several times with some liquid electrical tape. I used some 16 gauge stranded lamp wire, joined to a pre-terminated safety prong cord by an inline lamp switch. On either side of the switch I slathered more LET to act as a water seal, then applied some heat-shrink tubing for strain relief. This taught me that I need a bigger soldering iron tip, the tiny one that came with my otherwise awesome Hakko FX-888 is simply undersized for heatshrink of this magnitude.

The directions on the LET package say to wait several hours before plugging in the whatsits you're using with it. I did so, but on my first test plug-in was still treated to a thin, acrid smoke coming up from the joins inside the reflector. Apparently it had not fully cured; looking on line yielded other recommendations to wait at least 24 hours for a full cure. So 24 hours later came take 2, and this time there was no smoke (magic or otherwise) getting out.

Wire management was handled with more aluminum tape, after making double sure all the joins had been thickly coated with plastic goop and wrapped in regular vinyl tape for insulation, waterproofing, and strain relief.

Wired up
Strapped down
Sittin' pretty

Time to test!




(The last picture is artificially darkened [through some smoky safey specs] so I could get a clear view of the fixture from underneath.)

It seems plenty bright to my eyes. But I'm still a little apprehensive. Aquatic plants need some strong light, moreso if they live at the bottom of a deep tank. For this voluminous tank, plants at the bottom will be under ~22" of water.
The light spread isn't as contained or focused as it could be. But I think there's enough lux getting down where it needs to go for at least some modest plant growth when things are up and running.


If I make a fixture like this again, I'll probably do a few things differently.
- I'd route all wiring outside the reflector and use screw-down terminals for connections.
- I'dl use optical white paint instead of aluminum tape for better diffuse reflection
- I might even switch to 4" PVC pipe cut in half lengthwise instead of half-round gutter. A semi-circular reflector profile is probably much better than my multifaceted one, but cutting a pipe cleanly and evenly down its length is not something I can do myself with the tools I have available right now.



So for the main tank, things are almost ready to go together! Still need to prepare my substrate, clean and paint the tank, install my Substrate Blue-Green Algae Prevention Defense SystemTM, acquire my plants and install my powerhead.
After all that is done and everything is wet, I'll monitor the water quality until it remains stable and clean, then I can think about adding the fish.
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