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AndrewM

My COVID Project

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@MattG_Sydney 

In the African tank, there used to be about 80 mbuna, fully grown (i.e. around 10-12 cms depending on species).  Included a group of Tropheus also.  Plus a 4 clown loaches and half a dozen bristlenosed catfish, similar size.  90 fish in all.  I'm in the process of switching to all-male Hap, so the numbers (and - temporarily - sizes) are lower now.

In the American tank, there are 7 very large silver dollars, 5 severums at around 15 cms, most of the others are around 12 cms (e.g. blue acara and ellioti).  Total of 50 fish in this one, but they're bigger, and will grow more (flagtail, leporinus and the severums are not fully grown yet either).

In the planted tank, there are about 120 fish - 4 discus, 30 rainbows, 14 catfish, 14 miscellaneous and a bucket load of small tetras.  Rainbows are mostly young still, around 5-6 cms.

And you're correct, the substrate and other decorations in the tank can be a significant contributor to the filtration in a tank.  All mine have a decent substrate plus rocks and in one case live plants.  The planted tank typically has the best water parameters, with identical water change routines.  Although the bioload is potentially different in each tank also, I do try to max out the fish in each, and the difference is very large between the planted and the other tanks, always has been, which I put down to the live plants.

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@MFF Thanks for the detailed response. It seems your tanks are well stocked. Most my tanks have 20 - 30 fish at the most.. both tanks are smaller than your tanks but from a bio load perspective stocked lot less. (275 - 300 l tanks) .. 

my new tank is a 450 l tank and planning to have 1 x FX4 and a 307 as a back up. Substrate would be aragonite coral sand. All my tanks have coral sand and lava rocks. All my canisters have plenty of seachem purigen, Matrix and carbon etc + sponges .. 

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@MattG_Sydney  Yup I like lots of fishies in the tank!   The African tank has aragonite sand and a heap of Marco Rock, which is basically fossilised coral.  All helps to keep pH and hardness up.

I can see an argument for two filters as a failsafe - just like I have two heaters in each tank - but as a requirement because of the water flow, that argument never made much sense to me.  The FX4 is certainly much easier to maintain than the Nautilus, I'll be changing the other two tanks over to FX4 when the time is right.

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@MFF - That is a good amount of fish in your tanks - I was thinking of stocking levels around 40 (mix of Peacocks and Haps), but after your post I might look at 60 - but it will take time to source fish and stock the tank so I can see how it progresses.

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@MattG_Sydney- COVID gave me some extra time, but yeah still very busy at work.

My dad mentioned there are two things to play around with - pressure and volume. 

  • Changing the pressure is achieved by reducing the filtration material inside the canister, which will increase the pressure due to less resistance.
  • Changing the volume is achieved by increasing the size of the pipes that are on the outlet side of the filter up into the tank, which helps increase flow by reducing back pressure on the pump.

He also mentioned that shortening the length of the pipes probably won't make a significant difference, the size is more important. So after a bit of a chit chat, he said if I am going to be fanatical about it, just go and buy another cansiter filter - otherwise be guided by the water chemistry and clarity (obviously the whole point of filtration).

Anyway, I wanted to move the pipes anyhow and also improve water flow within the tank itself, so I decided to spend a few hours making some changes. So here is what I did:

FX6

  • Shortened the pipes and repositioned it - so the inlet and outlet are on the same side right above the filter. (should have done this a month ago anyhow).
  • Removed the activated carbon bags and added more biomedia to the tray (can't see how this would change anything)
  • Removed one layer of fine foam and changed the position of the foam based on the water flow within the canister

Nautilus

  • Increased the size of the pipes for both the inlet and outlet and kept them short
  • Added some additional filter material, while I had the filter open
  • Added the activated carbon bags and removed some of the biomedia

Was it worth it?

I re-tested the flow rates and below are results from both filters at the outlets into the tank (brackets are previous results):

  • FX6: 1,160 L/hr (1,110 L/hr)
  • Nautilus: 768 L/hr (768 L/hr)

I gained an extra 50 L per hour from the FX6, although it is difficult to say what the increase came from, I suspect it was a combination of things or maybe the water flow meter read it differently 😀. I did expect an increase from the Nautilus, but because I added more filter material and the carbon bags, that probably offset the increase.

For a new installation I think it was worth it, as now I have a baseline that I can compare against, maybe in 6 months time etc. But for an established tank, if the water chemistry and clarity is right, then I can't see a reason to consider it.

I did improve water flow through the tank itself by making some changes, so I am happy with that. Now it is just a matter to starting to stock the tank and see how the water chemistry and clarity holds up as the number of fish increase.

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@AndrewM nice.. thanks for the details.. very informative.. 

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16 hours ago, AndrewM said:

@MFF - That is a good amount of fish in your tanks - I was thinking of stocking levels around 40 (mix of Peacocks and Haps), but after your post I might look at 60 - but it will take time to source fish and stock the tank so I can see how it progresses.

Remember the Haps in particular get bigger than mbuna.  Not only longer, but much heavier in the body.  That is what really matters.  I've got 24 haps, 5 peacocks and 25 electric yellows & some other things at the moment, in the middle of a switch to all-male haps.  The haps I've got are (mostly) juvies, but they will grow.  I'm still planning to add about 10-15 more haps and I'll be keeping the EYs.  Probably end up with about 50 fish, just like my American tank.

But it also comes down to the amount of maintenance you want to do.  Your filtration will be adequate for 60 haps/peacocks.  But heavy stocking will demand more water changes than light stocking.  If you look at the tanks in shops and such, many are very heavily stocked compared to tanks at home - but they do frequent water changes.  I monitor nitrate levels to ensure it doesn't get out of hand, while minimising water changes.

It also comes down to how you want the tank to look.  With the larger haps, and less aggro behaviour (compared to mbuna), I think 40 haps is a good number for this size tank, but that is my personal opinion.  See how you go.

 

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@MFF - Great advice, thank you.

What do you recommend for brands of food and do you ever make your own? 

Also do you feed everyday or every second day, there are soo many different suggestions but you seem to have it working right for a good amount of fish in your tanks.

 

Edited by AndrewM

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@AndrewM   I feed all my tanks twice a day, in small amounts.  I scatter food widely across the surface, not dropping it all in one spot for one greedy fatso to grab it all.  Each tank gets a varied diet, a mix of spirulina flakes and a more high-protein pellet.  Brands vary - there's quite a few good brands out there, just depends what I can get.

The spirulina flakes I currently have from Ocean Nutrition, in the past I've had Sera brand ones also.  Both fine

The high protein stuff at present is NLS Spectrum and some Discus Krill food.  Next will be a bag of Fish Keepers Choice AquaMunch - haven't tried that before, but it's popular up here in QLD.

Each tank also gets frozen shrimp (Mysis or Brine) and something like black mosquito larvae, but not everyday.  Probably twice a week.

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@AndrewM

Thanks for sharing your experience

I too have a Brilliance 180 (which is your tank in the pic, correct me if I am wrong) , I switched out the Nautilus for an FX6 also. But I notice you tank cover at the back sits flat.

For me the FX6 pipe size is too  large for the back cover panel to sit flat, it actually holds up the cover probably 7 - 10 mm, and you have both inlet and outlet through the same area (cut out as well).

The Nautilus obviously has the fitting to fit the gap in the tank but would have though that would have also been pretty tight to have both fittings  through the one cut out area as well 

So really interested in how you achieved the top cover to sit flat 

Cheers 

 

 

 

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@AndrewM alot of people love NLS, Tropical, Ocean N and Dainichi fish food. I have used all except Dainichi, all seems to go well with the fish. NSL new macrobiotic food has great reviews .. one of very good Tropheus keepers I am friends with uses it and likes it too.. have a read and see

 

Good luck with it all ..

Edited by MattG_Sydney

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@Slipshodman - Thank you for your message. Yes it is the same tank.

I made the following modifications (I am also not a fan of the flimsy covers).

  • I cut some pieces out of the back covers for the pipes as I agree the lids look better when they are flat (it is more difficult to cut than expected). It would have also been good if it came with some covers for the pipes as I have not solved this bit yet - in terms of visually seeing the pipes.
  • I cut up some perspex into 4 sections to cover the top of the tank - helps reduce heat loss and evaporation - these also include some areas cut out for ease of feeding and access
  • For the perspex covers, I had to silicon (aquarium grade) some perspex as brackets on both ends of the tank so the perspex cover pieces sit properly - for some reason the tank does not come with any brackets on either end of the tank.
  • I also found some small plastic clips at Bunnings and siliconed them onto the underside of the front lid and the side of the tank. For now I have just tied string between them, so when I lift the front top lid open it stays propped up. The string is easy to remove when I want top do a clean, but I will find something that clips on when I have some more time. Also previously when I opened the lids, they just flipped back and sometimes it popped out of the grooves in the light box.  Really bad design.

See the image below of the right side under the lid. Also when I figure out a decent black cover for the pipes at the back of the tank (and the holes I had to cut), I will let you know.

 

IMG_5929.jpg

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@Slipshodman - One other thing, I see you are using the FX6, are you intending to hook up the Nautilus as well? I use both filters as if I need to switch one of the filters off, there is always another one running. I am also obviously over filtering but at the same time preparing for the bio load that Cichlids will bring.

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Oh some great news also, I finally cycled the tank - took 28 days from when I first put water in - this included seeding it - not bad (poor fish).

My water conditions (using chemical testing, not strips):

  • Ammonia: 0.2 ppm
  • Nitrite: 0 ppm
  • Nitrate: 2 ppm
  • KH: 11o
  • GH: 11o
  • PH: 8.2
  • Temp: 24

I am starting to feed the fish more to increase ammonia in the tank and see how well the filtration handles it during this week, before I start buying a few Cichlids (hopefully this weekend). 

It is a bit of a challenge finding breeders and good quality fish during COVID lockdown, can't travel to view fish and I checked out the local clubs but there are no auctions on for a while. 

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@Slipshodman - while I remember, I am not using the heaters that came with the tank as I do not like internal heaters.

I purchased an inline heater and it is awesome, very accurate and efficient as it heats up the water on the outlet based on the water temperature from the filter - I also have thermometers at either end of the tank to check the temperature. The other added benefit is that it has an alarm that is quite loud, so if the water stops flowing the alarm goes off, or if the temperature changes too much it is also goes off. The alarm has gone off a few times when I switch the FX6 off and forget to switch the heater off, it will switch its heating off when the alarm goes - https://www.amazingamazon.com.au/inline-aquarium-heater.html

I highly recommend it if you are not already on an external heater.

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@AndrewM  Hi Andrew - you've got the new version of the tank, with LED lights.  Mine are over 2 years old, so they were still the old T5 lights.  Talk about bad design on the lids!!!  Each tank had 6 T5 bulbs, 18 in all across 3 tanks.   I managed to break 4 lights just assembling the tank.  The bulbs were just open, no protection at all from minor bumps, and what with moving light fixtures around a bit, it was so easy to bump the bulb on a cross brace.  Fortunately all of this was before I put water in the tanks.

Clearly I was going to end up with broken glass in the water, so I very quickly decided to remove the lids entirely.  Now I have just standard 6-ft LED lights sitting above the tank, and a clear perspex lid on each one.

Questions for you - how thick is your perspex?  And did you cut it yourself?  (rather than cut yourself with it, which I have found is extremely easy to do).   If so - what method have you found works best for cutting it?

 

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@MFF - I am glad you changed your lights, imagine glass in the tank. I am also glad I have the LED lights, but they could easily improve the design of the lids.

Link below to what I purchased at Bunnings for the perspex - it's 3mm thick. I purchased two sheets and cut each one into 2 pieces, including cutting out sections for the filter pipes out the back and feeding holes at the front (I also have some small pieces to cover a central feeding hold - not that its important). I was going to silicon handles on them, but they are light and easy to move around so I did not bother. 

As mentioned I had to make some brackets to hold the perspex covers. I did this by cutting 4 small rectangular pieces (350 x 50), siliconed 2 of them together (one on top of the other to increase thickness) after a few hours I then siliconed them to the tank on each end, as supports - see in the image.

I cut the perspex with a hacksaw, but make sure you run a strip of tape on the perspex (both sides) and then mark a line on top of the tape for where you want to cut. The tape will help reduce damage from the cutting process, although you will still have to smooth the edges, which can be done with some light sandpaper. Also a small jigsaw with a fine blade would have done a far better job than me using a hacksaw, but you have to be careful not to crack the perspex in the process of cutting it - so stable suports underneath like some lumps of timer or something.

Also I assume you know but don't remove the plastic covering on the perspex until you have completely finished all the cutting, otherwise it might scratch. Also I gave mine a quick clean mine after I removed the protective plastic, using a paper towel with some vinegar.

While they also state the perspex is clear, it is not 100%, there might be a slight reduction in light in the tank (barely noticable) and the plants are growing. The Milfoil is growing crazy, it grows at about 10cm a week. 3 weeks ago it was hidden behind the rocks and by this coming weekend, it looks like it's on track to hit the surface of the water. 

https://www.bunnings.com.au/suntuf-600-x-1200-x-3mm-clear-pvc-handisheet_p1010176

IMG_5930.jpg

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@AndrewM   Good work!

I got my perspex from an industrial supplier, also 3mm thick (about $125.  They cut 2 pieces for each tank, 180 by 45 and 180 by 15 (approx).  These rest on the cross braces with a slight overlap along the length.  Without anything on top of the perspex (in my case) holding them down, I've found the larger pieces have warped over time.  They also had 6mm thick, which would not warp so much.

The smaller piece is at the front, which is easy to move for feeding and basic access.  As you say, perspex is very light, so they are very easy to remove completely for full & free access to the tank for major maintenance.  The lids do need cleaning, every month, as the algae builds up on the underside.  But that's no different from glass.  I have not found any issue with getting plants to grow - in my planted tank, I regularly chuck out a bucketful of trimmings.

Good tip on the sandpaper!  I neglected this and discovered the edges are very sharp...

The small areas for inlet/outlet pipes and one or two other things I cut out myself.  I used a jigsaw with a fine blade, as you suggest, but it was problematic.  It would crack very easily, and also it would melt.  There was one small semi-circle I cut out, and when the jigsaw got all the way around, the cut bit had melted and it was stuck back together again!!  I might use a hacksaw by hand next time, and good pointers on adding additional tape along the cut lines, on top of the protective covering it comes with.

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Whoops, pressed "submit" by mistake.  Just adding the cost via the industrial supplier was about $125 for a large sheet that gave 4 complete sets of lids.

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@MFF - ha! seems we thought of similar things. That's good and good work on remodeling your cover. 

Thanks for the tip on the jigsaw, I did not think it would melt the perspex, but it makes sense.

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Thanks for sharing  @AndrewM & @MFF

I did not know anyone who actually had one of these tanks

As for the lighting, well I have had both, my tanks about 3 years old, one light unit died completely over time so a few of weeks ago I went to replace it, you can't get the old T5 light anymore and have to go for the LED, which I was ok with as I would prefer LED anyway, but you also need to change the covers from 3 pieces to 2 as with the LED there is only the one light, dam expensive to for basically no additional functions like a Fluval Planted or Aquasky could offer, but basically the same cost.

But anyway, so installed the light and lids, the lids are way to big and flimsy with only the one light so I get why you added the string on the lid  @AndrewM to stop it falling back so far, I have actually gone back to  using two light units, at the back using the T5 that still works and the LED on the front and using the 3 piece top panels instead of the two larger ones with only one light, I haven't decided if I will leave it like that yet as I am considering a change up for the tank inhabitants so once I decide I will access if I use the two light fixtures or just the one LED 

The heaters died off for me after about 2 years or so, one started tripping out so I wasn't taking any chances as I had large Americans in there at the time that liked to smash things around so ended up with the Aquael Gold 500 W as it is well protected but in hind sight an inline heater would probably have been better. (add that to my to do list) 

I only run the FX6, the Nautilus moved on to a 4x2x2 I have , actually it was my excuse for the FX6, the cheap canister I had on the 4 footer died so upgrade the Nautilus, made prefect sense to me lol , I have done a custom outlet for the FX6 mainly because I wanted to try it other than I being particularly useful, I did want to get more flow on the bottom of the tank (pics in the middle of clearing out all the gravel to fit the custom outlet in). Now its all hidden behind rock so you can't see it and it helps with some dead spots in flow on the bottom of the tank 

The tank currently only has 3 Sevs and a Pleco, thinking it may end up with Angels and a river aquascape but time will tell

I was considering going full Perspex top like MFF but the misses likes the black covering,(can you flick us a pic @MFF of the full Perspex covers )

Thanks for the ideas as I may go Perspex under the light if I go back to using the one LED only 

 

Any other tips and tricks you guys have done with the tanks ?

20200607_165434.jpg

20200607_171912.jpg

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@Slipshodman  Sure, I'll attach two pictures, one with lights on, one with lights off.   You can see how the large piece of perspex is warping - but fortunately it warps in a way that helps rather than hinders.  Initially I used some of those sucker things the heaters use to stick on the glass to keep the lids up on the right and left hand sides.  But as the warp developed, these suckers were no longer needed, the perspex sits nicely by itself.

The narrow piece at the front doesn't warp, and it overlaps slightly on top of the back piece.  So it doesn't bend down in to the water as long as the larger piece is stable.

My missus is short, she can't see in the top of the tank!!  Otherwise I'd have the same issue. 

Perspex lid lights on.jpg

Perspex lid lights off.jpg

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1 hour ago, MFF said:

My missus is short, she can't see in the top of the tank!!  Otherwise I'd have the same issue. 

LMFAO

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