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73 gallon Vietnamese hillstream tank

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Feb 4, 2014
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Posted this in members aquariums and pics on accident instead of in here.

Just a heads up it's a long post. You have been warned.
It's been a while since I last posted on here or even got on at all let alone started a new fish tank. Been about 1 1/2 years since I last posted and in that time I had my 220 gallon reef tank which was a great success but ultimately I made the choice to sell the tank and all my fish to focus on my farm and building a house along with other everyday life stuff that was getting busy. It's been about 6 months since I've had any fish and in that time I accomplished most of my goals that I had when I decided to take a break from the hobby. Now as any of you that have taken a break surely know it's an addicting hobby and one I don't think you ever outgrow so returning to it was always the plan. This last weekend I sat down in my favorite chair with a cold beverage and decided to let my mind run wild with tank ideas and it did. I thought of a mango grove tank and a nano reef or a huge discus display or perhaps a fish from my childhood fishing the backwaters the dangerous and challenging alligator gar. Ultimately all these fell short in grabbing my attention or harnessing my imagination in the way I wanted it to. Until I hit on a fish that I'd long been inthralled with after seeing two babies in a small pet store tank. The reticulated hillstream loach with its brilliant gold patern a body shape and swimming tendencies that conjure images of a sting ray like bottom dweller it captured my attention from the second I spotted them in that tiny tank almost 4 years ago. I went home and started researching them right away only to find that they required a very specific cold water and fast moving river current environment that at the time I both lacked the skill and monetary means to provide. Well a lots happened since that first time seeing them and I not only want to jump back into the hobby but get my feet wet with going back to a freshwater tank. The tank idea I'm running with at this time is a low, wide and long one that will mimic the cold, fast moving and highly oxygenated hillstreams these fish come from. I'm going to attempt as close to a boitope as I can get with probably two acceptions one will be the tank mates which in this case will be a large school of around 75-100 White Cloud Mountain minnows which are another cold stream dwelling species that while reportedly some are found in Vietnam dew to assumed transplanting of the species there origin is in China's cold mountain streams and lakes around White Cloud Mountain. I've yet to see any reports or data showing that these two fish have ever actually been together in the wild I don't find it a huge stretch to say it's possible so I'm at least sticking within the premis of a biotope in my mind at least lol. The second acception is that in the wild from reports and data I've found it's rare these fish encounter anything but rocks in these streams high in the mountains I however will include at least some driftwood as I want to provide some areas the minnows will feel safe along with the fact that this tank will be completely plantless in the display so the driftwood will add a little break up to the rocks and in keeping with the biotope again this Is a possibility they could encounter driftwood in the lower regains of the streams. Now that the long winded explanation is done let's get onto the tank idea as it sits now.

Since I wanted a very specific tank it wasn't like I could go to any pet store and find one in there stock so like my forefathers I decided to man up and build what I needed with my bare hands I mean gloved hands. Safety people! Nothing ruins a good tank building like a trip to the ER for stitches in your hand and explaining to your girlfriend your not crazy for having a hobby that's keeping tiny creatures in a glass box with water and power balancing on a fring edge of existence. Anyways safety rant over for now.
My first stop was visiting the excellent and time/headache saving tank building calculator Garf Tank Builder which allows you to punch in your sizes and building materials and they give you a list of in this case glass sheet sizes and assembly instructions. I chose glass because I hate acrylic with the burning passion of a man who has cleaned up 100 gallons off a basement floor after a seem split at 3 in the morning. I'm also just better at building glass aquariums so glass is my go to choice pretty much all the time. I decided that my preferred tank would be a 14" tall, 20" wide and 60" long this gives me around 73 gallons not accounting for water displaced by rocks, driftwood and sand also not filling the tank to the very top so probably more like 65-67 gallons of actual water in the display tank. I will drill the tank on one corner for an overflow that empties into the sump. That's right freshwater nerds a sump not all the saltwater reefing is out of my blood yet haha. One thing I will never do again is any tank without a sump I love them and I'll explain why when I get into the sump build in a later post. On the opposite side of the tank from the overflow and outflow I will drill the tank for three or four inflows thusly in theory providing a loop current rather then a tumbling current which should mimic a streams natural flow very well. Now since this is all still in the planning stages I'm still working through all the engineering and finding the materials. This Monday I will head into town and talk with the money sucking leech that is my local glass dealer to see what crazy price he will conjure up for one of the most common building materials known to man. Mini rant aside anyone of you that has ever built your own glass tank knows the struggle of getting glass at a price that doesn't make you wonder if it's a sheet of silver you just ordered. Assuming I can pull all the supplies together at a price that doesn't break the bank I'll be going ahead with the build at a decent pace hopefully.
I will do post and videos of DIY lighting along with glass tank building also designing a freshwater sump and drilling glass, building a stand and canopy, plumbing, filtering and with any luck and some hard work fish care for this cool underrated and rarely kept correctly fish of Vietnam. So thanks for reading if you managed to get through the whole post hopefully you will stick with me through the build and see what trouble I can get into along the way.
I built a 8 gallon cube and it is almost cheaper to buy one from the pet shop, He charged me $40 just to grind the edges, $52 for the glass.
Yeah with any standard aquarium you are miles ahead money wise just buying it from the shop. If the glass is to much then I'm going to try and get my hands on one of the new zoo med low boy 50 gallon frag tanks. They just started arriving in the shops here but price on them from the shop is 179$ I've seen a few online for 125$ plus shipping though so depending on glass pricing here I may go that way. My problem is with exception to the 20 gallon long and the 40 gallon breeder I despise all the rest of the standard tank options commonly for sale. So any time I want a tank I'm stuck with building if I want it just right. My perfectionist side also makes me want the tanks just right for the species I'm keeping. Glass pricing is out of control though. My father used to work for a glass shop back in the 80s and they would throw away sheets of the stuff for miner imperfections in areas of the sheet. They would give you any scrap you wanted and heck even a brand new sheet 4x8 was like 20$ go to get glass now days and they rake you over the coals.
Yeah for nano tanks I actually like the standard 5.5 gallon tank they sell. It's easy to drill as well. I've never been a kit fan because I like my own different brands of heaters, filters and such but heck sometimes the tank is cheapest in a kit versus buying it without lol.
Well it looks beautiful. Love a lush planted cube.
So step one to this proses is quarantining and conditioning the school of white clouds and in time the RHLs as well but for starters the white clouds. Now why am I doing this you might ask the answer is the only local pet store that stocks or sells white clouds in my area stocks them as feeder fish in what I can only describe as abismal common feeder fish conditions. Now I know many will say why support such a place by giving them my business and normally I don't but if it's a choice between local fish I can see and buying the same fish online from a factory that likely has them in even worse conditions I choose local. What's the cons to these guys? Potentially sick, juveniles mostly, no idea of breed quality. What are the pros? Extremely cheap at 20 cents a pop so my target starting number of 100 will only cost me 20$, I can choose visually ok looking ones and weed out the very sick right in the store. Ok now that I've explained how I'm obtaining the little guys and girls let's get onto the tank and conditioning.
I don't have the 73 gallon specialty tank built yet and I won't set it up until I move into my new house so I can build it into a wall and set it up the way I want however since the conditioning of both the white clouds and the RHLs will take several weeks I wanted to get started as well as do it in a more manageable tank that I can fish around in move stuff in and out and generally not worry about aesthetics as much as I would on a display. The two main rules for this tank are that it's as cheap as I can make it and is easy to adjust various items as the conditioning process moves forward. So I decided to brave the depths of my overcrowded garage in search of something I stashed in the corner many months ago. After battling with hoses and boxes of god knows what I unearthed my unused 40 gallon breeder purchased last summer for a reef project that fizzled out. Yes I'm advocating hording because you never know when you need something and I will show you how true this is in a later post. So after a fast wipe down was done to remove months of dust she's ready for her maiden voyage into finally housing fish. Now let's talk a little about conditioning and what the heck I'm talking about. These fish are native to rather fast flowing streams in china that are decently cold as well which means high levels of dissolved oxygen since colder water holds more oxygen these fish do best in a colder tank with high flow and lots of oxygen. Now here's the problem one would think you could plop them right in the fast moving cold tank and they might do great but these fish aren't from those streams they are from a dark hot almost non existent flow small feeder fish tank on the bottom shelf of a questionable LFS so if I plop them in a fast moving cold tank some might make it but many simply won't. So what needs to happen is an epic Rocky worthy training and conditioning montage. Basically I need to put muscle on them and slowly get them used to being in cold water as well as bulk them up with good foods and healthy schedules. This means I need a few key things set up wise. I need adjustable flow, adjustable temp, a big filter that can handle over 100 fish, easily accomplished water changes if it's easy to change water you will do it, easy to add chemicals to if fish are sick and natural cures aren't working and a set up that is conducive for the fish to breed in as I hope to up the numbers through breeding the minnows and eventually the RHLs as well. So that's a pretty tall list of requirements for a 40 gallon breeder and on top of trying to keep it all within my cheapskate budget. But I have a few tricks up my sleeve so if you stick with me you just might learn something. Probably how not to do something but hey maybe something useful in my rambling as well.

Bellow is the 40 gallon and since others might be interested in setting up a breeding and conditioning system like this I figured I'd keep a running tally of cost.

40 gallon breeder 40$ at petcos 1$ per gallon sale.
In the words of Willy Wonka "Come with me and you'll be in a world of pure imagination" and so we delve into the wonderful world of DIY projects. If you are a cheapskate like me or just enjoy seeing how much better you can engineer something then the fish factory can also me then this project is right up your ally. Today we are gonna build the engine of the fish tank the guts of the aquarium the mystery box that none fish keepers think we are crazy for spending so much time and money on. That's right the filter. Now in keeping with the lowest possible budget rule for this tank and also keeping in mind the needs of the tank I laid out in my last post I couldn't just slap any old filter on here and turn it on. Well I could have but not if I wanted it to be just right and next to free. I was left with a couple of options. Option 1 is the tried and true hang on back filter or HOB for the newbies but the HOB presents problems for any breeding and conditioning tank as it's bulky if the right size for a large community of fish it's hard to clean without getting water everywhere and they are expensive for a decent sized one of good make and model you are looking at 60$ now that's more then the tank and fish combined so a purchase like that was out. Option 2 is one I've used in the past for breeders it is the dumbly simple and yet awesome little peace of perfection that is the bubble filter or air driven sponge filter. These little guys are a breeders dream they are low power consumption, relatively zero chance of it hurting a fry or egg of any size, cheap to buy and even cheaper to build and you can run many off of a simple and relatively cheap air pump. Now after all that praise here's why it won't work for me. I wanted a one directional flow to condition the fish to a river current and get them built up strength wise for there eventual home in the hillstream tank. A sponge filter has many awesome qualities but flow ain't one they basicaly flow strait up in a torrent of bubbles and creat a light current not even close to a raging river. So the bubble filter is out. My last and 3d option was some sort of external filter I considered canister but again to expensive and hard to clean. I thought sump! I love sumps afterall but that would mean drilling, overflows and baffling all in all about a weeks worth of working nights on it plus risking breaking the tank which I'm all up for drilling but not if I can get around it. So I decided to go with the tried and true overhead sump filter. I've got plenty of head room above the tank to mount a shelf and plumb the whole thing in so in my next post I'll show you how I build these guys and how you can to with a few simple tools and a little can do attitude.
Lets dig right into the meat of the filter build.

These are the tools and some supplies your gonna need. Drill, hole saw bit in diameter of bulk head you choose, file optional, egg crate, small wire cutter or other small cutting device, zip ties and bulkheads.

What you see bellow is a boat battery box sold at most stores that carry any sort of boat supplies. This one happened to be on sale about two years ago when I purchased it as you can see it was 8.99$ which they normaly run 10$-12$ Depending on size. Now why a boat battery box instead of standard plastic containers or some other thing. The answer is that they are black instead of clear which is a plus in my mind for an external filter. They are made of a thicker plastic then most storage containers sold which keeps them from bowing out really bad and the plastic is slightly softer then most plastics so drilling is easy to do without shattering the box or splitting it. A note do not build this with a used battery's case as that's just bound to end badly.

I chose two holes for redundancy in case one gets clogged.


Your bulkheads go in the holes like this. Gasket on the inside nut on the outside. I find that a bead of silicone used between the gasket and box helps ensure no leaks.


Then construct a small stand that fits snugly in the box just short of the bulkheads using the egg crate/light defuser. The small wire cutters work great for cutting the pieces and the zip ties on the corners hold it all in place and will never desolve under water.


The small stand supports a drip plate now normaly I'd just use a long chunk of egg crate but I had this old drip plate laying around that luckily fit perfect.

It sits on top of the egg crate stand nice and stable

Next up is the lid now these battery boxes normaly come with very well fitting lids which I promptly lost so I looked around in my left over fish stuff pile and saw an unused lid from an old fish carrier I had and it fit like a dream.

I'll punch out this hole for the incoming water pipe.

Here's how it works. Under the drip plate you can place your favorite kind of media in this case I'm going with some ceramic media I had already it will not be in the plastic bag lol. The egg crate stand doubles as a cage to keep any media falling into the bulkheads and clogging them.

After the drip plate is in place on top for the wet dry portion I went with pot scrubbers as my media of choice they were purchased at my local dollar tree and since they were hard to find years ago when I purchased them I hord the little buggers.

And there you have it a simple to build and maintain above tank wet dry sump filter. Total cost to me was 15$ taking into account things like the ceramic media and egg crate I got free as well as the bulkheads. If you purchased everything you would probably be into it for 25$ but for 25$ at a pet store you can't even touch a decent small filter let alone one with this much room for media. All in all build took me about 30 minutes not including the hour of digging in my crowded garage and basement.
Nice build, I am experimenting with a Riparium, I got some soap holders and I am going to attach them to the back of the tank then fill with gravel and plants.
Alright so with pretty much every tank there is some site prep that gets done. Wether it's building a stand, finding an open surface or adding onto the house there Is always prep work which in my mind is probably the most boring part of the build yet also extremely important. In my case the room picked out for this particular fish tank was in need of some pretty big changes to make it usable let alone livable and comfortable alll things that one needs to be able to do if your gonna enjoy spending time around the tank. So first up was cleaning the floors and dusting everything after that was done the floor needed a new coat of paint. As this is a rental house that's scheduled for demolition in a few months I'm only fixing the room up enough to be livable not to be perfect so that's why it's not a super professional job done here.



It still needs a second coat and a little more time and love put into it but this is the basic set up for what's briefly my new fish/lounge room.
I've been busy moving and such this week but I did fit in time to head down to my favorite local charity place to buy parts for the project it's called Habitat for humanity basically they have all kinds of building supplies donated to them which they sell at a marked down price and donate the proceeds to building houses for the needy. On top of getting a good feeling from helping people with my money rather then a huge corporation it also allows me to do much of my building for 1/4 the cost of what I'd pay at a hardware store. Anyways what I picked up was the plumbing supplies I didn't have laying around which everything I needed came out to be around 8$ including several sticks of 3/4 inch schedual 40 pvc pipe. A side note I always go with schedule 40 instead of 20 because it's way stronger and will hold up for years even withstands a good hit where schedual 20 will crack or wear out much faster. Cheaper isn't always better when it comes to the plumbing of a tank. Now since most of the materials are used or older donations the pipe fittings can be a little grungy from this place so a good clean up is needed which even if you buy brand new fittings I'd suggest cleaning them as they spray them with several things that you don't want in the tank. Here's how I clean them and any other tank part I have.

To start with your gonna need a bottle of vinegar. I purchase it in big jugs as it's cheap and a great cleaning product that's natural. White vinegar works just fine. A note on this it will raise your ph levels if you just drop the parts you cleaned in it back into the tank so a good scrub and wash after the dip is recommended.

Using a paint bucket like this with measurements on it makes this a breeze as well as many other aquarium task so I'd suggest getting one or three as they are cheap and they also come in 5 gallon which I use for water changes and dosing.

Fill whatever bucket you have with as hot of water as you can get boiling is awesome but standard hot tap water work fine to. I use 9 parts hot water 1 part vinegar. That's just my mix you can really add however much you want and it won't affect much. Side note if you have a pump or powerheads that's got a ton of calcium built up or other nasty stuff a 24 hour soak in pure vinegar will bring it right off.

Before adding your fittings a fast rinse in the sink to remove any loose stuff is best. Place your fittings, pumps, rocks, or powerheads in the hot water and vinegar and let them soak over night then give them a final really good rinse in hot water and you are good to go.

I'd like to point out I never use any fittings that have visible chemical marks or old glue on them try to find ones that look like new.
Also if you don't want you significant other cringing as you come in for a kiss I'd suggest not getting any vinegar on you as it doesn't come off easy.
OMG look at all the paint you got on those nice walls,
I didn't mention I have to put baseboard on did I? Lol
Either way house will be a pile of mashed up rubble in 6 months time so if I wanna go nuts nows the perfect time.

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