Benjamin's 55g Malawi Cichlid Build

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I went with the 29WA-S Slimline background. My tank is already filled and cycling, so I was somewhat limited to the Slimline models. If I had a larger tank with more front to back room I would get a regular background, silicone it in, and hide all of my stuff behind it. I will almost certainly do that on my next tank.

It actually just arrived, and I couldn't be any happier. They have some excellent customer service over there! I will defiantly use them again!

I had some time to work on the canopy this weekend and while I was cutting the lid I decided to build a shelf which I am still cursing myself for not doing it from day one. While I was painting the inside of the canopy I did the shelf as well. Unfortunately it required a break down of the sump plumbing to get the shelf in at an angle and up into the stand. It was worth it thought to not have food and gear all over my office :) As for the canopy, it's slow and steady. I'm cutting out the vents this week and hopefully mounting lights if time allows.

So I happened upon a 15g tall this week and will be picking it up sometime this weekend. It just so happens that I noticed the acrylic box I made at the top has sprung a rather small, yet constant leak. So this has prompted me to redo the sump much sooner than I thought. Right now I have the tank pulled away from the wall and a few towels behind it to catch the drips down the side of the glass. Any suggestions on redoing it this time around? I have to redo my lower plumbing now because the drain won't go into the side like I have it.
Some quick updates tonight. I had a little time this weekend to start on the top of the canopy. I cut out holes for the vents and handle and came up with a crude mount for the lights. Basically, the fixtures have adjustable side legs so I just cut some wood and ran the legs through. The wood will be screwed inside the lid. I also snagged a 15gallon tall on Craigslist for $20.

I'm starting to get discouraged with the build though. I'm not looking forward to redoing the lower plumbing or the sump again. I'm also just really frustrated with how much I have to dick with the valves to adjust the flow every time I turn off the tank to clean or anything else. The ball valves only allow you to adjust the flow but so fine. I need something else I can adjust even more slight.



Something doesn't sound right. You should be able to adjust the flow once and just leave it, even when you do pwc's. The last sump chamber should show your water level, just mark it with a piece of tape and add/take out water till you reach the same water line.. you should always have the same flow with the same amount of water.. no need to readjust.

Don't give up!
What's happening, because it's only 10g, is that the water level is right at the rim when I shut off the pump and let it overflow until the last drop. So in order to not be freaked out like that, I have to shut off the overflow valve and then shut down the pump. So when I turn it all on again it usually takes a few hours on and off of playing around to get it right. When I redo the system this month with the 15gal I'am going to have 2 valves on the overflow. 1 to adjust flow and the other to turn it off. That way (hopefully) when I cut it back on it stays at the same rate and I don't have to play around with the fin tuned one. Make sense?
OIC, missed that small detail, in my mind, I saw the pipes going over the top, but not after looking again... It's still a good concept to read though, I'm nowhere close to this and still learned from it...
Well I finished painting and assembling the canopy today. It was just a ton of work finishing everything, running the wire neat, attaching the hinges and messing with the handle and lid supports. But it's done and on. The lift supports turned out to be a huge fail. I ended up removing them and cutting a dowel like an old car engine hood :) I will post pictures tomorrow.
So the lid supports I got from were to stiff for the hood. When closing it the screws pulled out from the wood. I'm going to look into getting some others eventually but for now I'm just propping it up.

Also, the electrical. I simply bought another switched power strip (again, the rarest item on earth for some reason) and I got everything as tight and neat as possible inside. The CPR is hooked up, super silent (surprised) and everything seems good. I need to get a filter on the CPR soon. I'll probably try and make one.

The lighting rig worked out great and all I have to do to change a bulb is remove the stands and it'll pull right out. I gave a 1/4" on each side so it wasn't tight.

Lastly, the hidden handle and vents worked out well. Both great internet finds. Future plans are the moonlighting next month and possibly a fan for the lights if the temperature gets wacky. I am going to make covers for the sides so you can't see behind the background as well. I also have some plastic that came with the glass top to cut up and fit around the back portion to help with evaporation and moisture inside the hood.








BTW, it's apparent that I haven't vacuumed in awhile from these pictures :) I just finished a big cleaning after looking at them lol.
Beautiful tank! I've been lurking for a while :)

You mentioned using some plastic on the back to help with condensation and moisture. Did you seal the wood to prevent rotting or mold?
I just finished reading this thread... Awesome... I love the media ideas on your sump... Love the set up... Makes me want to rework my African set up... Very nice.
Beautiful tank! I've been lurking for a while :)

You mentioned using some plastic on the back to help with condensation and moisture. Did you seal the wood to prevent rotting or mold?

I didn't seal it. I painted it with Killz primer that's for high moisture areas. I had it left over from our bathroom remodel this summer and just used it to save some money. The top of the tank is covered with glass so there isn't any direct contact. I'm hoping it holds up. If it doesn't, that's what threads like these are for :)
Great idea. I've got some Killz in my garage, I may have to pull it out when I get some time (I've heard people use Thompson's too).
Again it's my first build. I don't know anything about what I'm doing, just making some guesses and such. I'm also doing this DIY on a budget so if I were going a different route I could buy sealers and such just for this project. Also, note there are different kinds of Kills. I used the high moisture area Killz from the remodel.
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