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Old 03-31-2005, 10:08 PM   #1
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New Construction - Built-in Tank

Greetings all,

We're in the process of buying a new house with a large basement that we'll be finishing immediately for an amusement room. Several walls will be shared with a storage or utility area, and a built-in 125 gallon cichlid tank would certainly be plenty cool! We'll plan on reinforcing the studs that sit under the tank.

I'm already planning on running water directly to the tank for water changes.

Issues I see already:

1) Leveling the tank. Houses are not built flat or square!
2) Sound transmission through the walls.

Those of you who've done this yourself - what other obstacles do I need to plan for?

Now please shoot this idea down - what if I plumb the tank so that water is constantly flowing into the tank and out of an overflow apparatus? Let's say I plan on turning the water in the tank over completely once per day? Once every three days? The tank wouldn't cycle, since I wouldn't be using any dechlor. Obviously that would kill beneficial bacteria, but would it hurt the fishies? I imagine there'd be no algae issues either. What if I use a deep sand bed and snails? Would chlorinated water kill snails? If not, would I even need to vacuum the substrate?

As far as heat, I would run the water through some sort of large holding tank at about the right temp, and heat it there with some monster heaters. My guess is the tank would probably need a seperate heater, but maybe not? Probably...

Please tell me I'm crazy and it can't be this easy.
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Old 04-01-2005, 12:58 AM   #2
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If you are going to go through all that why not add some kind of filter system to remove the chlorine? RO systems have opinionated affects when used with fish tanks, but it doesn't have to be that advanced just to remove the chlorine. I personally think this is a great idea, although admittedly I have no experience with such a setup. Chlorine is NOT good for fish, so you should probably at least figure out a a way to remove that.

Leveling the tank shouldn't be a big deal, but you might want to wait for the house to fully settle before you mount the actual tank.

What kind of sound transmission are you referring to? Sound disturbing the fish? Or sound traveling through the big open hole? Both can be dealt with rather easily.
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Old 04-01-2005, 01:07 AM   #3
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I think that constant flow will give you chlorine problems and cost a fortune in water. You could plumb in a drain line and a fill line with RO water into a large trash can where you could declor and heat the water. Use a cannister filter and y valves to allow filtration through the same fill and drain lines. I envy you the place and ability to build a project like this. Good luck and keep us posted.
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Old 04-01-2005, 01:15 AM   #4
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If you are on well water & the water is OK for fish coming right out of the pipes (doesn't need to equilibrate in terms of dissolved gases) this might very well work. If not you could probably set up an automated reservoir that would let the water sit for gas exchange or do dechlor for a day before it was added slowly to the tank (apparently running an airstone during this process speeds things along). So the water would fill up the reservoir, sit for 24 hours & then be released into the tank only to have the reservoir be refilled. Not quite total flowthrough but close. Chlorinated water or water with chloramines will definitely be harmful to your fish & your snails.

If it where me I would put concrete blocks in the wall under the tank to make sure you won't have any collapses. I would also build in an access to the back of the tank in your utility room. Apparently the problem with most in wall tanks is that they are too narrow to keep fish happy & have insufficient surface area for gas exchange. So the best scenario would be to use a normal tank that could stick out a bit into the room behind the wall so your fish would be happy. If you do go with the narrow tank keep it long & shallow & just get small fish that are happy with a small turn around space.

I personally am also a fan of planted tanks because plants take up the wastes/nutreints that the fish put out from digesting fish food. Plants are also found in the natural habitats of almost all fish & tend to make them more relaxed & less aggressive. There are some plants that can live with chichlids I believe & they would also compete with any kind of algae that decided to form. However, I wouldn't run a tank without a bacterial filter as well (at least as a safety net). I would just be afraid of a plumbing problem & fish overwhelmed with waste. Even a small HOB filter would make a difference. Dead snail & wammo ammonia spike. Yes your flow through would carry out the waste eventually but why not have a few plants (anacharis even) which would damp those spikes down & not stress out your fish.

In terms of not cleaning, the flow through system could certainly simplify that if it where properly designed but would make little difference if it weren't. In order to get the mulm that settles at the bottom your overflow would need to feed from the bottom & since tanks have corners & usually decorations there are always places that it can get trapped. A rotating powerhead if they build such a thing would certainly minimize cleanout. I would move it to a new location like once a week to maximize its effectiveness. You will also have to clean out the filter/screen out the inflow tube that leads to the overflow. You might also want to design the tank so that the inflow to the overflow is slightly lower than the rest of the tank (the accumulation of debris is usually in lower areas so this could help your not cleaning idea). Maybe to protect it from the digging chichlids you could put it in a loose bunch of rocks. You will have to do some maintenance though so you might consider some algae eaters to help you out. Snails actually put out a lot of waste even though they do eat algae. It might work great with a flowthrough, I have only ever tried this with tadpoles.

This sounds like a really cool idea but it might be a little less simple than you originally envisioned in terms of water flow. I think the turnover rate of water will depend a lot on your bioload. So you probably want to figure that out ahead of time with a little margin incase you want to add something. Keep us posted with new crazy ideas (I love them).

P.S. Hopefully you have plenty of water in Minnesota . . . You could plumb the outflow to go into a flowerbed (fish tank water is supposed to be great fertilizer).
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Old 04-01-2005, 10:56 AM   #5
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This sounds like it's going to be beautiful. Let me know how it goes. I am interested in doing this as well.
I saw at someone's house a tank that was visible from both sides of the wall and slid out on a large tray for easy tank maintenance.
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Old 04-01-2005, 11:01 AM   #6
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Y'all are supposed to be shooting this down as ridiculous. To hit on a couple points -

I like the cement block idea. I'm handy enough with studwork, but that seems like the way to go.

I refer to sound transmission as kids playing in the family room directly above the wall we plan on using for the tank. I imagine foam will do the job, but maybe cement block will absolutely kill whatever problems I'm imagining?

It will be a "standard" tank with access from the storage room for maintenance. Those ultra thin ones are just cruel (my humble opinion only).

Ok, so I need to dechlor this water somehow. How about one of those water purifying systems they use for drinking water, such as Brita or Pur? And then, since the tank might indeed cycle, running a HOB as a secondary system would be useful indeed.

I'd also set this up with some automatic sensing system, at least for temperature. I see the saltwater guys have all sorts of options along these lines - do they work for freshwater? I would guess not.

Scott

P.S. - Water is not an issue in the Land of 10,000 lakes.
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Old 04-01-2005, 11:20 AM   #7
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An automatic temperature sensor if thats the one you are interested in should work in either salt or fresh water. Its the water chemistry GH, KH that wouldn't translate easily from salt to fresh. I am also pretty sure you would need a freshwater ph probe. As for ammonia, nitrites, nitrates & phosphates I'm not sure.

Something like Brita would take out the chlorine but it could never handle the volume you are talking about. I'm not sure how brita works but I would guess activated charcoal. That would be a ton of activated charcoal & you would have to change it a lot (kind of defeats your low maintenance plan). I think the reservoir would still be the simplest thing to do (I am a big fan of the KISS theory). As for a RO system it would give you super soft water which I don't think cichlids like.

I know you have a lot of water up there but you will still have to pay for the chlorinated city water & it seems a shame to waste so much down the sewer. Seriously think about reusing the water for irrigation or an outdoor pond or a bog garden. I lived in Wisconsin where there is also tons of water and I lived right near a lake where my treated sewage flowed into the outfall for the folks downstream so it made me a bit more conservation minded.
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Old 04-01-2005, 12:05 PM   #8
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Personally I wish I was talented enough to rig something like that up. The discus breeders in Asia change 100% with that type of plumbed system. Never having to clean fliters or do water changes manually.
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Old 04-01-2005, 02:17 PM   #9
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You need to consider chloramines in addition to chlorine, since most municipalities utilize chloramine these days. This does not outgas, so it has to be removed chemically. You might consider one of those "whole house" water filters that is normally installed where the water line comes into the house, but as Frog Girl mentions this might clog too quickly for you.

I think you have a good idea and what I would do is talk to the people at some of the newer LFS that have constantly changing water systems. I know one near me has one designed by Marineland that they use, and it changes the water constantly. They would be able to tell you how they have theirs set up and if it could be scaled down for your purpose.

You could rig an algae scrubber type system, which is sortof a sump or refugium, with plants and inverts, as mentioned above, which is a filter itself but you have to really stay on top of it and it would not save you anything in terms of maintenance or monitoring.

You might get some more responses in the DIY forum, since I know people have done this kind of thing before, so if you like I can move it over there.
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Old 04-01-2005, 03:39 PM   #10
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TankGirl, please do if you think that'd be more appropriate.

Thanks for all the input, you've all given me some great leads! We don't close for a couple months yet, so we do have time to figure some of this out. I'm going to check and see what my LFSs do.
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