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6' Tropical Aquarium

This page will show the progress of my biggest aquarium to date. The aquarium its self is a glass, 72" x 18" x 24" Seabray tank which I picked up for a steal at £32. The only issue with the aquarium was that it has a crack in the bottom pane of glass, but is 100% water-tight. I have fitted and sealed a sheet to the bottom of the aquarium to give it extra strength and ensure that it stays water tight. Here is a projection of what the finished aquarium could look like.

Planning

The Stand

The stand is custom built by myself, based on timber stands used in aquatic shops. It's completely solid, and will have no problem in taking the weight (approximately 90 stone/570kg) of the filled aquarium. It's made from 38 x 63mm timber with 19mm marine plywood tops. In the stand there will be a 48" x 12" x 15" sump with 3 compartments. The first will have a fluidised bed using K1 and Bio-motion media, the second will be the largest compartment and will house plants, snails, and shrimp, the third compartment will house the waste overflow, heaters, return pump, and biohome ultimate media. The stand will be finished off with completely removable panels to allow easy access to the sump and plumbing. They are made from 18mm thick furniture board. Below are the plans I'm using to build the stand and the hardware for the aquarium.

The Aquarium

The aquarium is pretty much as-is, and will sit on a 48mm thick piece of polystyrene. I'm going to have some glass lids made to reduce condensation in the top. I'm using glass as the 10mm thick acrylic lid I have in my current tank gets cloudy very quickly and buckles with the heat of the lights. I don't need to worry about gas exchange too much (though there will be a fair amount of room in the top) as there will be a lot of this happening in the sump. The water will get to the sump via a syphon overflow system, which stops flowing when the aquarium water drops below a certain point (in a power failure for example) and resumes when the water rises back above that level.

As for the decor, I'm still deciding. I'd love to go aquascaped with a sandfall, but if I go down this route I will need to re-home some of my fish, or they will destroy that work in a few days.

The Top

The top will be made from the same 18mm thick furniture board as the cabinetry, and will be glued together as well as fixed with corner brackets. Across the top, slightly off centre there will be an aluminium cross brace to give the lids some support as well as stiffening the structure. The rear lid will be fixed to the top with magnetic catches, with the front lid hinging off of it; this allows the entire lid to be removed for easier access.

The Lighting

This aquarium will be lit entirely with LED lighting, running off 2 controllers. The main aquarium lights will be made up of 5 pairs of 10watt LEDs, with varying colour spectrums to mimic daylight. There will also be strips of cool white and blue LEDs in the top that I can use to tweak the light and add a moonlight glow at night. The sump will have an LED light source for the refugium section only.

6 foot aquarium - LED lighting layout.

So, why the different colours? Quite simply I'm trying to mimic the natural light throughout the day. When the sun rises, it's closer to warm white, in the middle of the day, cool white, and sun set has those beautiful red/purple tones which I'll replicate to with full spectrum LEDs, used mainly in hydroponics. Each pair of LEDs will be separately timed using a TC420 programmable LED controller.

The lights will illuminate and fade from left to right over the 10 hour photo-period, with the colours naturally fading as it goes. I may need to change set 4 to a pair of cool white and set 5 to cool white/full spectrum if the effect is too pronounced. I will be using a second TC420 to control the white and blue lights in the top and the sump light above the refugium. More information can be found about the TC420 on this page.

Waste overflow?

Yes, waste overflow; this aquarium will be running a constant water change system. Fresh, filtered water will be dripped into the display tank at around 0.8 litres an hour, which would equate to a 100% water change every 30 days (estimating 600 litres total). Before entering the tank, the water will pass through a sediment filter, carbon filter, and nitrate filter. I may add more stages to lower the TDS depending on what results I get with this level of filtration. The excess water will flow out of the sump through the waste overflow. The waste water will go on to water plants.

Progress

This is the newly built stand. It's constructed from 63x36mm timber based on a design by Joey, "The King of DIY" on YouTube. If anything, the design of this stand is a bit overkill, but at least there's no way of it failing. It seems to be a much stronger version of the designs used in LFS' to build their sale and display stands. This framework was topped with 18mm marine ply surfaces on both the top and bottom levels.

The cabinet doors will fit directly to this framework using magnetic catches, making every panel easily removable for accessing the sump, inlet filters, brine hatchery, CO2 canisters, and whatever else I keep in there.



After a long delay, the aquarium was placed on the stand. The aquarium is a 6' long, 18" wide, and 2' tall. It has 10mm thick glass everywhere, including the bracing at the top of the aquarium. My next jobs are to cover the top, to stop the cats getting in, cleaning the aquarium thoroughly, working out the overflows, building the cabinetry and lid. Then I have to dig out the sump tank, install the dividers, fit it into the base, install the overflows, install the inlet filters and system, work out the sump return pump route, and much more....



I've made some more progress recently, fitting the skirting and doors, and building the lid. There is still more to be done with the fascia as I need to square off the doors, fit blocks behind so that alignment on the magnetic catches is easy, and iron on the edging. I'm also going to make a small panel to go at the side between the base and the lid to hide the pipework, and stop the cats from getting behind it, again fixed with a magnetic catch.

Then it will be finishing the lid which involves getting and fitting handles to the front opening lid, adding a support brace across the middle, fitting the hinge to the lid, and covering the inside in reflective, silver vinyl to concentrate the light into the aquarium. I'm also toying with the idea of having the back of the lid fit on with magnetic catches, so that the whole lid can be removed. I would just need to work out some kind of quick release for the lighting power, and would have to attach the lighting controllers to the removable part of the lid.

Overall I'm pretty pleased; it's looking pretty close to the mock-up, other than the fact I underestimated the size slightly. In the new photo, the cat tree has moved into the room a bit more, so I was pretty accurate with the width, but the hight of the mock-up is a bit short. It's all good though, more aquarium to see.