Disclaimer: This was more of an experiment/fun project to get used to sump/refugium systems more than something that was really needed, so yes, I fully realize how overkill this system is
I have a 20 gallon long that I've been using as an actinic/glowfish tank for a while now. While I absolutely love the tank, I hate how live plants ruin the look, and I've been too spoiled with my heavily planted 75 gallon tank to go back to not using live plants on a tank... Also, the tank itself was standing on a bookshelf that was just a touch too short in length, so I wanted something with better dimensions to properly support the tank. Add in the fact that none of my LFS
have stands that match my decor for a 20 gallon long, and I was pretty much looking at either living with how things were or build my own solution.
I started off with simple goals...
1) I wanted to see how a sump/refugium system worked so I have an idea of what works when I eventually have a saltwater tank.
2) I needed somewhere to put the live plants so I still got their benefits without taking away from the actinic/florescent look. I always have extra plant trimmings from my 75 gallon tank, so this would also give me a spot to let those smaller trimmings grow out to the size my LFS
prefers to buy.
3) I wanted extra water capacity since the tank is fairly heavily stocked and I wanted some buffer in case life caused me to miss one of my weekly 50% water changes.
At the time I was planning this out, Petco was having their $1 per gallon aquarium sale... I was originally planning on a simple 5 gallon sump, but found out on arriving at Petco that their sale didn't apply to the small tanks, only 10 gallon tanks and up. For the price of one 5 gallon I could get 2 ten gallon tanks, and at this point I had the crazy idea that part of the sump could be a shrimp breeding tank for fun. So now I needed to build a stand to hold the display tank, as well as two 10 gallon tanks...
First issue... I've never built furniture before, let alone furniture sturdy/strong enough to support an aquarium's weight. After much research and several tweaks, I sort of landed on the following design...
Top level would be the 20g long display tank, middle level 10g would be a shrimp tank, bottom 10g would be my main live plants area for growing out extra trimmings from my 75 gallon tank.
The entire stand would be made out of poplar plywood (ended up going with 3/4" thick instead of 1/2" thick due to availability and extra strength), while the middle shelf is supported by three 1"x4" support struts (on in the middle of each side, and one in the center of the back pane. I considered adding steel brackets for extra strength, but was talked out of it as it being way overkill for the planned weight
The bottom shelf would rest on 1"x2" trim pieces both front and back length-wise, both to look nice as well as to give added support. At this point I also found some intriguing article about lava rock serving a de-nitrification purpose for FW
tanks, so I decided to experiment with that in the shrimp tank area since I know shrimp like really low nitrates... Ideally I would like to keep the nitrates low without needing weekly 50% water changes (like I do now) and/or without having to understock the system, so the lava rock and live plants combo will be a good test before I think of adding the shrimp (aiming for 6 months from now, pending how fast the lava rock bacteria matures).
So I got all the lumber, had the Home Depot folks cut it to my carefully calculated sizes and brought it all home just to find out they hadn't cut very carefully... The back pane was a full half inch long, among other issues. Trekked back to Home Depot with lines showing where things SHOULD be cut and had them fix it. Spent an entire day assembling, and it turned out great!
(ignore the demon kitty eyes, only had my cell camera handy when they decided to claim the stand as their own)
Went through the VERY messy step of staining the wood to match the rest of my decor as well as water proof it, and started putting in the tanks and wiring! I was leaving for a trip the following day, so I apologize for the lack of pics of this step... I went with Eshopps overflow boxes for going between the display tank to the shrimp tank, and from there to the plant grow out tank. Turns out that starting the U tube siphon in the overflow boxes is MUCH trickier than I realized, and several small floods resulted while attempting to start both overflows. The waterproofing step I did earlier held up though!
Unfortunately I couldn't get the system working before I had to leave, as I forgot to plan on how to keep the tubes from the overflows to their next tanks above the water line to avoid creating a siphon... So today I started working on it again! Made a lot of good progress...
To be continued later, as it's getting late!