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Old 02-26-2015, 05:27 PM   #1
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My Aquarium-vivarium Dome Build And Tweaks!

I started out thinking I'd build a tank stand for a 55 gallon glass tank I bought at the dollar a gallon tank sale at a local Petco. I got going with the build and decided to add a second tank for a reptile vivarium. Gradually the project morphed into creating an ultra efficient bio-dome of sorts.

I figured that it might be of interest if I began with how I insulated the frame. Through trial and error, I learned quite a bit.
I started out by making this frame out of Tigerwood that I had left over from another home improvement project.
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I added plywood for the tanks to lay on and attached rigid styrofoam and used spray foam to fill in along the edges, it makes for a strong adhesive. Here is a shot of the underside.

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Then I framed out the back section and added 3.5 inch poli ISO insulation, giving the enclosure a 20.5 R rating.
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I also used bubble wrap where there would be an air cavity behind the tank, which reflects radiant heat back into the tank.

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Then I began lining the inside with shower liner and siding the outside with Tigerwood flooring.
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Old 03-02-2015, 05:38 PM   #2
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Things are bustling in fish tank and vivarium. Quite a few fish are breeding and the rainbow Boa just had another successful shed! Here is a shot of the latest developments: Click image for larger version

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Old 03-02-2015, 07:13 PM   #3
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Yesterday I finally closed the loop, placing the air pump inside the enclosure, under the hood with one side of the dual pump going to the breeder type sponge filter in the fish tank, and the other side sending nice humid, warm air from the fish tank down to the vivarium where "Ruby Sparkles" lives amongst tropical plants. I've been taking it slow with the recirculation, making sure that the temp and humidity are pretty stable and that the fish and snake are well adjusted to their new homes, of only a few months.

the seal on the system is darn close to air tight. I've figured out some interesting ways of adjusting the temperature but for the most part, strangely enough, the amount of energy the lights put out is just about right to get the humidity pegged at around 80% and the temp for both enclosures to 80F, with a little help from a UTH in the snake vivarium. I'm very tempted to run the warm air from the fish tank under the primary snake hide to see if I can essentially create a heat pump, allowing me to unplug the UTH altogher. the trouble with UTH's and brazilian rainbow boas is that they dry the substrate out. it seems that there is an inverse relationship between warmth and humidity. I want to see if I can spread the heat out more evenly and maintain the high humidity with less manual maintenance. one of my overall hopes with this project is to create a system the manages to stay within parameters of temp and humidity pretty much on it's own, using mainly the heat from the LED lamps, drastically cutting the overall energy footprint of the system. I's also like to find the right balance of fish to aquatic plants to minimize the need for CO2 injection and water changes. of course this will not be a truly closed system as the fish and snake will need periodic feeding. I may find a way to put the fish on a automatic feeder so that I only need to crack the seal once a week, feeding the snake and refilling the fish feeder at the same time. all through this, however, the well being of the fish and snake will be my first priority, requiring frequent monitoring of gasses, temp, humidity etc. my friend tells me that he is almost done with my 02 monitor, he better hurry up!
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Old 03-02-2015, 07:21 PM   #4
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finding the right combination of fishes so that I can max out the bio loud to provide adequate CO2 and nutrients from the fishes (plus some supplemental plant feeding) has been tricky. not all fish considered good community fishes are truly good together. if one type out eats the others, things can quickly get out of whack, even if they are not beating up on the other fish. Also, finding a good combination of snails and other cleaners is still a work in progress.

the cycling of this tank began with a few surprises, without any fish, the amonia spiked, probably from the wood, which I did not presoak (DOH!). I got on a local facebook enthusiast group and got some "vacuum water" and some "starter gravel" donated to the cause, which dramatically sped things up. I decided to jump right in with adding fish as the amonia stabalized and the nitrite level began to rise and disappear, so as not to have a microbial die off. part intuition, experience many years ago with breeding and just plain dumb luck, I was able to ramp up the fish population successively over several weeks to a total now in the mid 50's. It's a lot of fish, and I had to return two groups for store credit in the process because they were just not playing well in the sand box and because I found some others that I liked better. I watched the chemistry like a hawk during this phase, doing 20% replacement any time amonia or nitrite began to spike. it was cool to watch the symnphony of biological activity begin to do it's thing!

The selection of plants has been a bit of a hodge podge, mostly stuff that I found cool. the plant growth has been explosive and I've been very pleased by how it's all growing in so far, and apparently so are the fish.
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Old 03-02-2015, 07:25 PM   #5
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the plants:

2 Madagascar Lace
1 Argantine Sward
2 Anubias
1 Acorus
1 Java Fern
2 Green Manodo Grass
1 Hornwort
2 Aponogeton Ulvaceus
1 Narrow Leaf Sword
1 Crispus
1 Melon Sword
1 Ozelot Sword
2 Nymphea/Dwarf Lili
1 Banana Lili Plant
2 Aponogeton Ulvaceus ("ah pawn og it on you'll vay see us")
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Old 03-02-2015, 07:32 PM   #6
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the fish and critters:

10 White Cloud
12 Glowlight Tetra
10 Featherfin Rainbowfish
5 Dwarf Neon Rainbow
5 Marble Hatchet
4 Glass Catfish
3 Metallic Blue balloon Ram Cichlids
4 Orange Killifish
1 Butterfly Hillstream Laoch
1 chocolate Guarami
1 Banjo Catfish

1 Red Spot Nerite Snail
3 brown Nerite Snail
3 Ramshorn Snail
2 Singapore Flower Shrimp
2 African Dwarf Frog
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Old 03-02-2015, 07:45 PM   #7
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Feeding this cadre of mouths has been a challenge. I've never put together a community tank before so I had a lot of reading and picking the brains of local specialty store owners to devise a plan that would hopefully keep everyone reasonably well fed, so far, so good (fingers crossed).

right now, I'm feeding every other day, knowing that the plants and little macro critters that have come with all the plants are providing some sustenance. I will increase the frequency once I am sufficiently convinced that I am not over loading the system with nitrogen waste.

the regime as of late:
I take 2 or so small scoups of Ocean Nutrition's floating Betta Pellets, crush them into a powder and put them in a shot glass, then another couple of scoups of betta pellets and put them in a shot glass, then I take some premade Repashy Superfood gel from the fridge and chop into up into pretty fine chunks, add it to a shot glass and fill it with tank water, then I take 1 cube of Hikari Bio-pure frozen blood worms and defrost them in a shot glass of tank water. Once everything is ready, I pretty much add it all at once, with the idea that the mix of sizes of food and floating and non floating food spreads out fast enough to assure that the more aggressive eaters don't get everything. feeding the dwarf frogs is one of the biggest challenges, they don't appear to be able to see a thing and peck around quite a bit for each successful munch of actual food, which is why I put the blood worms in last, hoping that the fishes will have filled up enough on other stuff to give the frogs a chance to eat. So far, they appear to be getting reasonably well fed. I do the feeding at night, near lights out time. when there is still some food laying around, I turn out the lights, with the hopes that the Banjo Cat Fish gets a decent meal. by morning, the tank is picked clean with no waste! I may have to add an supplemental feeding or feed more, less often, we'll see with time. the fish are slender, but look very healthy... all accept the white clouds, which seem to nip at each other's tails quite a bit.
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Old 03-02-2015, 07:45 PM   #8
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This is a really interesting build. Following
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Old 03-02-2015, 07:54 PM   #9
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feeding the plants:
Flourish Potassium as directed
Flourish Nitrogen as directed
Flourish Comprehensive Supplement as directed

Also inoculated early on with Ecological Labrotorie's Microbe Lift, Special Blend,
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Old 03-02-2015, 08:03 PM   #10
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the water:
Last summer we got so into gardening that our water bill started to get out of control so we put in some rain water cisterns and added gutter glove filtration to the tops of the gutters, the water goes to a "first flush" adapter, where most of the solids are captured and then to another filter screen. I learned from reading up on watering veggies with rain water that it has been scientifically proven that plants grow better with rain water vs treated municipal water. I began to wonder if the same thing were true of plants and fish in a fish tank. so I did some reading up and testing of the rain water and found that it was rather acidic and very low total alkalinity. I also was told to watch out for contamination from the bird droppings and such on the roof. So, I have been capturing filtered rain water for the water changes right after good solid rains and so far, it's working great (fingers crossed, knock wood, hail marry etc). I added crushed coral to one of the filters to help buffer the hard, acidic rain water. the PH drops from 7.2 to 6.6 initially, then within a day or two returns to neutral (so far). I don't have to add dechlorinators or water conditioners of any kind though I do raise the temp to match that of the tank to reduce one of the stress factors.
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