Building a fish breeding operation in a shed

Johnykiwi

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HI. I recently got access to a shed that I want to turn into a fish breeding room. The shed is a steel shed, and I was wondering what I would need to do to it to make it worthy of holding and keeping these fish. This would include ventilation, insulation, etc.
Thanks in advance :)
 

Salt

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I'm a newbie but my first question would be, are you a newbie to fish keeping? Because there is a learning curve. :)
 

GaryE

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I start work on a shed/outbuilding fishroom next month. But the issues will be different, given that I'm in Canada. My concern is cold, and yours I expect will be heat.
In common? The need for climate control. Metal sheds get hot. Energy efficiency, for costs. Electrical outlets (ground fault interrupters) at eye level, not along the floor. The walls you put over the insulation need to be able to handle the odd splash.
I doubt you'll have to manage humidity/dampness as I will. I'll have a room sealed at 21, with -21 outside a few times through the winter. That has structural issues. And when you run the water in, I'll bet your pipes potentially freezing won't be an issue.

I'll need an electrician and a plumber, although I can do the rough work. I can build my own racks, will run a central air system with a linear piston air pump and valves in pipes around the room, and am busily trying to find budget materials for a semi-automatic water change system for the fry tanks. I've seen central filtration and even fully automatic water changing systems, but the fish I keep call for lower technology than that.

I have run large fishrooms for years, and worked a bit in commercial set ups. So I've seen the northern 'how to' lessons. So if you have specific questions, I'll give them a shot.

I'm kind of jealous. I'm planning local expeditions that will let me run two Canadian killifish species tanks, but they are not quite as beautiful as the Melanotaenia duboulayi a lot of Australians have access to...
 

Colin_T

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Which part of Australia are you in?

Use 4 inch thick polystyrene foam sheets to insulate the walls, door and roof. Seal up the windows too if the shed has a window.

-----
If the shed is big enough, remove one or more of the roofing panels and replace them with clear Laserlite sheeting. Double glaze it too if you can. Have the 2 panels about 5-6mm apart.

Alternate the roofing panels so you have 1 clear, 1 tin, 1 clear, 1 tin, etc.

-----
Get some rubber floor mats from Clark Rubber or somewhere like that. They are made from recycled car tyres and come in 1/2 inch and 1 inch thick mats that are 1 meter square. Get the 1 inch thick mats.

Put the mats down and leave them for 24 hours before cutting them to fit. They squish out when stacked on top of each other and shrink back to their normal size when laid out individually.

-----
If the shed is not on a concrete slab, pour a 4-6 inch thick concrete slab for the shed to sit on.

If you have to do any concrete work, do it when it's cold so the concrete has time to cure and doesn't fall apart. If you pour concrete or build a brick and concrete wall in hot weather (above 25C), you should water the ground before you pour the concrete, and then water the concrete with a sprinkler after it has been poured. You keep the concrete damp for 24 hours after pouring so it has time to cure properly.

When concrete doesn't get enough time to cure, it becomes brittle and cracks and breaks up very quickly. You see this in houses that have been built in summer where the concrete driveway has cracks in it, and where walls get cracks in. These places have been built in hot weather and the concrete dries too quickly and becomes crap.

-----
Get an electrician to run a couple of double power points to the shed and have circuit breakers built in.

Have a single 4 foot long fluorescent light unit fitted to the roof, or a couple of compact fluoros or LEDs. This light can be used in the early morning or evening/ night if you are working on the tanks.

You can have lights on the individual tanks if you like but there is usually enough light coming through skylights (clear panels) in the roof.

-----
Get a large blower type air pump to run undergravel and air operated sponge filters.

Get a heater for cold months if you live in the southern half of the country. Gas heaters are cheaper to run but you need to have a flue for them otherwise the fish suffer from carbon monoxide poisoning and you get lots of deformed fry.

Electric heaters are expensive to run but don't produce harmful gasses. If you have solar power then go electric heaters. One decent sized heater will warm the entire fish room and if the room is well insulated, then modern electric heaters are quite efficient.

-----
Build stands that are 2, 3 or 4 tiers high. The more tanks you have, the more water to hold the heat and the more stable the air temperature. Plus the more tanks you have, the more fish you can keep in the room.

Have 8-12 inch gaps above each tank so you can get in them to work on them.

The bottom tanks should be 6 inches off the ground so you can syphon water out of them. The gap under the stand also allows you to see if anything is living under the stands (rodents, spiders, dead fish, etc).

Have tanks that are 12-18 inches high.

Maybe have a couple of water holding containers, depending on what your water supply is like.

-----
If you fill the tanks with a garden hose, turn the tap on and water the lawn or garden for 5 minutes before using the hose to fill the tanks.

Garden hoses have a softening agent in them to stop them kinking, but the softening agent is toxic to all life forms including fish. Most softening agent leaches into the water in hot weather and running water through the hose for a couple of minutes removes any harmful chemicals that have leached into the water, and flushes out any copper from the water pipes.

Black poly pipe (irrigation tube) does not have softening agents and is safer to use. Again though it's a good idea to run water through any hose for a few minutes before filling tanks with that hose.
 

GaryE

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You can get potable water safe hoses in hardware stores here, which is useful. Some are quite long. They are popular with the people driving around large recreational vehicles.

Consider floor space between racks. For me, since I am tall and my sad attempts to be athletic caused a fair bit of knee damage, I want a nice clear view of every tank with no crouching. The Cirque de Soleil founding group were some old local acquaintances, but I'll leave the contortionist stuff to them. People building fish spaces for the first time tend to want to jam everything in and they forget that a human has to have convenient access. Narrow aisles are a pain, although if the breeding is commercial, could be worth it.
Lower tanks tend to be harder to drain.
I am going with two level racks, with the top level 1.5 metres from the ground so I can reach in (you have to adjust the ideas to your own height and I'm tall). The bottom row will be 1m, and the 40 l tanks will be end out.

I wouldn't get a blower, but would spend a bit more at the outset and get a linear piston pump. My current one has run 24/7 since 2004 and has paid for itself in energy costs many times over. Friends who bought traditional blowers have had more noise, and mechanical problems that made them be replaced far sooner. For similar cost reasons, go with LEDs. Since I switched my electricity costs dropped a lot. We probably use more lighting as a skylight deal is impractical in the climate - if I had one it would be covered in snow. We also have very short days in the dead of winter, and a lot of night.

I'll use different insulation than Colin, but he's in Australia so listen to him first!

How big is the metal shed? I'll be using a siding and shingled roof garage, which is 10mx10m. I am dividing it inside as I don't need that much space for fish. The only real issue is digging a long deep trench and getting water in as the shed is 25m from the house, and I don't need frozen water.
 
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Johnykiwi

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I'm a newbie but my first question would be, are you a newbie to fish keeping? Because there is a learning curve. :)
I wouldn't say I'm a newbie (i might be wrong), I've owned a single tank that has been running for a bit over a year without many issues. I've done countless hours of research also. I don't want to get a massive amount of tanks just yet, but rather my main focus is to insulate the shed so that if I want to, I can use it as a breeding room. I have a 150L (38g) tank and an 80l (20g) tank which I will start with, and the fish that I'm planning on breeding is the super red longfin bristle nose pleco, which is quite rare here in Australia. Im really into rare plecos, L number plecos and so on.... so that will be my main focus for now, but having the shed gives me the upgradability option in the future.
Which part of Australia are you in?

Use 4 inch thick polystyrene foam sheets to insulate the walls, door and roof. Seal up the windows too if the shed has a window.

-----
If the shed is big enough, remove one or more of the roofing panels and replace them with clear Laserlite sheeting. Double glaze it too if you can. Have the 2 panels about 5-6mm apart.

Alternate the roofing panels so you have 1 clear, 1 tin, 1 clear, 1 tin, etc.

-----
Get some rubber floor mats from Clark Rubber or somewhere like that. They are made from recycled car tyres and come in 1/2 inch and 1 inch thick mats that are 1 meter square. Get the 1 inch thick mats.

Put the mats down and leave them for 24 hours before cutting them to fit. They squish out when stacked on top of each other and shrink back to their normal size when laid out individually.

-----
If the shed is not on a concrete slab, pour a 4-6 inch thick concrete slab for the shed to sit on.

If you have to do any concrete work, do it when it's cold so the concrete has time to cure and doesn't fall apart. If you pour concrete or build a brick and concrete wall in hot weather (above 25C), you should water the ground before you pour the concrete, and then water the concrete with a sprinkler after it has been poured. You keep the concrete damp for 24 hours after pouring so it has time to cure properly.

When concrete doesn't get enough time to cure, it becomes brittle and cracks and breaks up very quickly. You see this in houses that have been built in summer where the concrete driveway has cracks in it, and where walls get cracks in. These places have been built in hot weather and the concrete dries too quickly and becomes crap.

-----
Get an electrician to run a couple of double power points to the shed and have circuit breakers built in.

Have a single 4 foot long fluorescent light unit fitted to the roof, or a couple of compact fluoros or LEDs. This light can be used in the early morning or evening/ night if you are working on the tanks.

You can have lights on the individual tanks if you like but there is usually enough light coming through skylights (clear panels) in the roof.

-----
Get a large blower type air pump to run undergravel and air operated sponge filters.

Get a heater for cold months if you live in the southern half of the country. Gas heaters are cheaper to run but you need to have a flue for them otherwise the fish suffer from carbon monoxide poisoning and you get lots of deformed fry.

Electric heaters are expensive to run but don't produce harmful gasses. If you have solar power then go electric heaters. One decent sized heater will warm the entire fish room and if the room is well insulated, then modern electric heaters are quite efficient.

-----
Build stands that are 2, 3 or 4 tiers high. The more tanks you have, the more water to hold the heat and the more stable the air temperature. Plus the more tanks you have, the more fish you can keep in the room.

Have 8-12 inch gaps above each tank so you can get in them to work on them.

The bottom tanks should be 6 inches off the ground so you can syphon water out of them. The gap under the stand also allows you to see if anything is living under the stands (rodents, spiders, dead fish, etc).

Have tanks that are 12-18 inches high.

Maybe have a couple of water holding containers, depending on what your water supply is like.

-----
If you fill the tanks with a garden hose, turn the tap on and water the lawn or garden for 5 minutes before using the hose to fill the tanks.

Garden hoses have a softening agent in them to stop them kinking, but the softening agent is toxic to all life forms including fish. Most softening agent leaches into the water in hot weather and running water through the hose for a couple of minutes removes any harmful chemicals that have leached into the water, and flushes out any copper from the water pipes.

Black poly pipe (irrigation tube) does not have softening agents and is safer to use. Again though it's a good idea to run water through any hose for a few minutes before filling tanks with that hose.
Im in South Australia, How would the shed be ventilated (I might have missed something). Also, the shed is a bit on the older side and has some holes which I plan to plug using foam anyway. Would turning this into a fish room still work?
 
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Colin_T

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You don't ventilate fish rooms during winter. The idea is to trap the heat inside so the tanks stay warm. In summer, you simply put shade cloth over top and open the door. Plants growing in tanks will provide oxygen and when you open the door to go inside, you let some fresh air in.

Use silicon to plug the holes. Polystyrene foam breaks down in sunlight and will fall apart in 6-12 months. Silicon will be fine in sunlight for many years.

An older shed is fine as long as it isn't rusted out. If there is a small amount of rust then siliconing foam to the inside will work, but if there is major rust, then get a new shed.

If the shed is asbestos, don't use it. That stuff is real nasty and not safe for anyone to be near.

-------------------
If you only have 2 tanks, get a double tier stand and put them on that in your bedroom or wherever the tanks normally live. Build the fish room when you get more tanks.
 

itiwhetu

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The biggest mistake I made with my first fish room was blocking out all the natural light. I learnt later that a lot of fish need the first rays of sunlight in the morning as a trigger for spawning. Just something to consider.
 
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Johnykiwi

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You don't ventilate fish rooms during winter. The idea is to trap the heat inside so the tanks stay warm. In summer, you simply put shade cloth over top and open the door. Plants growing in tanks will provide oxygen and when you open the door to go inside, you let some fresh air in.

Use silicon to plug the holes. Polystyrene foam breaks down in sunlight and will fall apart in 6-12 months. Silicon will be fine in sunlight for many years.

An older shed is fine as long as it isn't rusted out. If there is a small amount of rust then siliconing foam to the inside will work, but if there is major rust, then get a new shed.

If the shed is asbestos, don't use it. That stuff is real nasty and not safe for anyone to be near.

-------------------
If you only have 2 tanks, get a double tier stand and put them on that in your bedroom or wherever the tanks normally live. Build the fish room when you get more tanks.
Thanks for the info, It will be really useful. How would you recommend getting more tanks, Is it easier to build them myself or do you know if any place that I could buy some?
 

Colin_T

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Find a decent pet shop and get the tanks made by them or their tank supplier. If you have access to glass and are handy, you can try building smaller tanks yourself, but bigger tanks should be made by people with some tank building experience.

Before you get tanks made, get the room set up and insulated so you can get tanks that fit. If you get tanks first and then insulate the walls, the tanks might not fit.

You can even start out with plastic storage containers for rearing up the fry. They are cheap and readily available, and you can replace them with glass tanks after you start making money.
 

itiwhetu

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Learn how to build your own tanks. Glazers have to pay to dump their secondhand glass, find a friendly one that will save you all his 6mm glass, pay him in beers. Teach yourself to cut it and away you go.
 

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