View Full Version : 3 part Aquarium renovation

08-15-2014, 04:02 PM
part 1 -- Explanation
Part 2 -- Fish room
part 3 -- Ingredients


Part 1 --> Explanation

I am doing a multi hundred dollar upgrade to my fish tank.
I have kept fish continuously since 1969 and my equipment has changed many times. Sometimes I had a dozen tanks, but since I moved here, just the one. I have 4 fish that are about a hundred years old, thinking about adding some Discus this Fall.

The tank is 150 gallons, and I have had it since 1986. I built the stand out of cheap 2X4s housing studs with just a hack saw and a $10 drill as I had no time for things that needed tools back then (so I had none). I see no reason to upgrade the tank or the stand as both remain sturdy.



For my new home (since 2001) I drew in a fish room which is a narrow room with a work sink. The tank sits on the other side of the wall in the big room near the TV. I watch/enjoy it a lot.

In 2001 I built a filter out of a large plastic tub I filled with plastic media and some glass balls which were the top of the line then. I fed clean water from small canister filters into the tub which then drained into the tank through the wall. I did not touched that tub since 2001, just cleaned the canister filters that fed it.

I have accumulated equipment for a major change over the last weeks.

For the fist time in 13 years, took the tub away, tossed it and the contents. It looked OK in there, but WTF?

I drained and cleaned the tank with bleach for the first time in 13 years. It took about 7 hours to refill the tank as I ran all the water slowly through an ion filter. This is the same filter I use to filter water to make beer.


"API Tap Water Filter effectively removes impurities and dissolved solids from tap water. It removes sediments, chlorine, chloramines, heavy metals, organic chemicals, and inorganic ions from tap water - creating contaminant-free deionized water for reef, saltwater, freshwater, and planted aquariums."

I use no gravel as I think that is just a place for bad things to hide. If you must have a bottom, use sand.

My tank is always clean. I do partial water changes when the mood hits me. The clean bottom allows the filters to work more efficiently.

08-15-2014, 04:07 PM
Part 2 --> Fish Room

As I said, I have a fish room behind the wall.
I have a utility sink there:


This is extremely handy. All my maintenance is easily done through the wall with no mess.

Water leaves the tank and goes through the wall here:

I use a piece of leaf gutter (kiss) drain pipe, it looks tacky, but I have it tiled in on the viewing side.

Here is the big filter (950GPH). It is the biggest I have run across and does the job. Size matters as you can load in more media crap. Just circulating water accomplishes little. This sends filtered water to he new pond filter:

I got one of these for my 4000 gallon pond and really like it, so got one for inside.
This is big too, I am there for size reference:

Here is a cut away photo:
The deal here is that the media is kept in motion (fluidized bed) to encourage bacteria to grow. All that white stuff floats and will be whirling around. This is just a big house for bugs (bacteria to grow in. The water coming in will be filtered, should not have to open it for years.

Then the water flows back through the wall to the tank through the leaf gutter drain pipe you can see in the photo. This pipe has been there for 13 years, so while it might look 2nd rate, it works perfectly. This drain pipe splash also adds oxygen to the water. In the past, have not used/needed an air pump, but am adding one in the upgrade for ambiance.

08-15-2014, 04:14 PM
Part 3 --> Ingredients

As with all hobbies, the real cost is in the accessories.
You scrape up the $$ for a boat, fish tank, bike, Bride, computer, etc -> then you find the real expense was not the "major item" but the food or ear rings.

Some ingredients I use are:

Fluval FX6 High Performance Canister Filter

Tetra Pond Bio-Active Pressure Filter

Chemi Pure Grande Elite 46.96 oz,

Phos Ban

Pinpoint ph monitor

Poly Filters

Luft Pump

-- test kits

-- heater

etc, etc :cower:

The reason most people start a fish tank and don't succeed is not that they don't have all this equipment, but that they don't read and learn about the hobby. There is a lot to know --> a lot!
You can keep a fish healthy in a salad bowl just using a tea cup for equipment. It would be a lot a work. That is not a lot different than when I was a kid and had a gold fish bowl, except I did not know about the tea cup.

08-22-2014, 03:34 PM
This thread has been so popular with zero replies, thought I would quench your desires for an update.


One problem for me here has been low ph and me not keeping up with. To that end, got the PinPoint 24/7 tester. I love this thing:emmersed:. My tap water is about 8, so don't understand why the ph falls, but it does.
The newly filled tank came in at about 4.9 and that is a mystery. It took me a week, but I have it steady for a couple days now at a perfect 6.8.

The phosphate level is high and has not dropped, wondering if it is my test kit.
All other things are ideal.

Yesterday I looked on line and decided to mail order in about $400 dollars worth of Discus. Since I was in the house (sober) as opposed to out here today (drinking) --> I did not.:hopelessness:
I had to run into Lowes for some plumbing crap today, stopped at Petsmart and picked up a tub of tiny fishes, about 30.
I will see how these do and maybe in a month reconsider the Discus.

08-22-2014, 05:12 PM
Mighty nice setup AO.......tried to talk da huss into an out door pond, waterfall, etc......so far....naw (I do have an endless bird fountain though)
......of course, I'll pirate your ideas for later.........:cheerful:

08-22-2014, 06:17 PM
Mighty nice setup AO.......tried to talk da huss into an out door pond, waterfall, etc......so far....naw (I do have an endless bird fountain though)
......of course, I'll pirate your ideas for later.........:cheerful:

Good deal --

Lets do it here:

TNRabbit R.I.P.
08-23-2014, 09:18 AM
Lots of good info here. If I'm ever in the position to keep fish again (had 3 tanks as a teen), I'll use this thread to my advantage~

09-05-2014, 04:55 PM
I bought 30 small fish. One died, but these were baby fish, and I expected many more to go belly up. No juvenile fish were available in my area:cower:.
In olden days we added fish to a new aquarium expecting some to die and "seed" the tank. These days that is not needed as you can buy bugs.

Now I have bacterial bloom/ammonia bloom:shame:. This is a hazy look most might not notice. I really though I would avoid this. I changed a lot this month as to my tank including tossing my 12 year old bug chamber:courage:, but did keep an old established canister in line. It was not enough.
About the only downside to this is oxygen depletion, but I added more splash and an air pump I hope to remove at some point.

Clean tank, new filter, and new fish mean the present bacteria level is not up to the task. As my bugs multiply by the billions, the tank will clear. I have seen it many times, and it happens in a flash.

Of course I am keeping tabs on the ammonia level and using Amquell as needed.

This cannot be filtered. In the olden days I even tried with a Diatomaceous earth filter.

I don't know if they make those now. At one time only the pros and used them. They became obsolete when Magnum came out with a pleated poly filter that filtered to 3 microns:triumphant:. Even that will not effect an ammonia bloom. I just googled and see these days they call it a bacterial bloom.

Back in the golden age of aquariums, fish stores were popping up on every corner.
Most owners were business people and had no clue how to keep fish alive. They did "display" which was constant refilling the tanks with clear water. The fish were so stressed that if they did not die there, they would soon (at your house). Stress kills fish.

There were two shops in my town (Charlotte) that were 100%. The others came and went, every one. Now most buy fish at the box stores. It is a poor option, but WTF?

As a hobbits I was eager for new shops. Some were state of the art and beautiful.
They had no clue. The advice they gave to customers was crap. Go in any place with fish for sale and you will hear teen experts giving bad advice.

The two old shops in Charlotte did have a clue, in fact they understood it all. This was before the internet when people learned from people with experience. One guy died about 20 years ago, but he (Altee) never allowed me to go wrong. I would go in for a dollar filter floss, and he would start putting crap on the counter and just ringing it up. He refused to let my pocket book stand in our way:love_heart:. I/he/we also did a salt water tank at my place for years, long before it got easy and popular. Keep it simple was his motto.

The other was Tropic Pet which I believe is still there. Maybe the owner is not, but his sons grew up there and were running it on my last visit several years back. They believed every new miracle contraction was fake and they were right. You can't fool Mother Nature.
In new stores, all tanks are fed with one filtered water source. Not there as they know all tanks need to be different. Nature must be allowed to do her work in each tank. DAMN I miss that store. SD, they are/were on Wilkinson near Cat Daddys old restaurant in front of the trailer park.

For an ammonia bloom, giving time for the good guys to grow is the answer. That takes a few days, not weeks. My new set up has lots of place to grow bugs. The add claims for 4000 gallons. I don't believe that, but for my 150 gallons, maybe.

My fish are looking good!!!!
The new ones are always hungry and m a y b e I am feeding them too often. They beg and I respond.

11-13-2018, 04:24 PM
I have been a constant fish keeper for nearly 50 years.
I believe 95% of what you read on the web as to this to be bullcrap.

I consider myself to be up-to-date and an expert. "Up-to-date" is crap as the basics never change. The equipment does.

My last catastrophe was a year back when a quality heater went bad and over heated the water. The gear is better these days but digital is crap.

My tank is robust and healthy. It is entertaining and sits near my sofa. Most would say I over do it, but a hobby is a hobby. There is an obligation when you take on the life of even a fish.

A couple weeks back an old filter finally died. It's job was maybe not required. My fish are growing and that needs attention.
Presently my filters would be seen as overkill by most. They have been working hard for years.

One of the 3 died and like I said - was overkill. Should I replace it?
Part of the hobby (like with audio) is the gear.

I have looked at all available gear and thought on it even lying in bed (used to think on on naked women).

One thing is water flow. Fish can't take a constant storm.
The bigger deal is not water flow but what happens to the water before it is returned. Many things to consider.

I tend to use different filters for different needs.
They all do all, but the emphasis for each differs.

The basic need is to filter the water. That goes beyond a clear tank which means little as to fish health. Fish crap in the water. They can't live in that. Removing what you see is important, but the real deal is dealing with things you cannot see. That is the hobby and where most fail.

Experts posting on line are energized and positive. They read and believe the sales pitches. Check back after 25 years or one year.

My decision is to replace the filter with a smaller version of one that works for me. The output may add too much flow, but that is easily trimmed back.
This will be about chemical and the main can then just do bio. The other is an expensive joke that is good for clarity due to the micron filter and a joke.

11-14-2018, 05:40 PM
--posted this on Amazon because I am chair bound and bored:

I have kept fish for about 50 years. I have experimented with many aspects of the hobby, studied everything, and done trail and error. Now I just run one 150 gallon tank, but at times have had many. I also have out door ponds.

What I know is that most crap you read from so called experts on the web are "crap". After 50 years the basics are the same. The equipment has improved.

Most people have no clue as to what a filter can do or should do. Go to my forum at yardcraphome dot com and open the critters section.

I hooked this fx4 in today. I have been running the older fx5 (new model is fx6) for years and consider it a good buy. The fx5 had some challenges as to leaks and easy to break clamps, but suspect/hope they improved with the fx6/fx4 update. The fx5 is very good, best filter I have owned.
Flow rate is important, but also is volume. These fx6/fx4 are huge.
If you just want flow, buy a circulation pump. What you want is the water to pass over lots of helpful things before returning to the tank.

I use multiple filters for different things as that helps as to maintenance. . One (fx5) is mainly for biological which is by far the most important. Due to the great 900 gal output, have it hooked to a a Tetra Pond bio filter that they claim handles 4000gal (doubt that). That reduces flow rate, but the combination is over kill for biological in my tank. The two together are like a large, but closed sump filter which can hold lots of bio material.

The now dead Fluval 300 (or something?) was for chemical and needed replacement. I looked at filters to replace it and almost went with the new Ehiem 600 (great filters), but in the end got the small brother of the large Fluval that is still working great after years. I decided on the fx4 as opposed to the fx6 due to the fact the volume was enough when just for chemical, and I don't want my tank to become a rushing river. One thing with these is adjusting flow rate is very easy so maybe should have gone with the fx6.

I hooked it up today and the only problem was a leak at the input connection. I wrapped some Teflon tape and easy fix. I filled it with Chemi-pure (because I have used it for decades) and and Purigen (which is just an excellent product). The flow rate is not that much more and my fish friends are large fish.
I don't think flow reduction will be needed.

My opinion is that for many, the fx4/fx6 is a best buy.
The down side is they are large. Large is also the good part, but maintenance must be done from time to time so keep that in mind. These are heavy. I have a small room with a sink where filters live and tubes pass through the wall, so easy for me.

My 3rd filter is the Fluval G6 which is a joke. This would be good for a nerd type with a small tank with low fish levels. I only keep it hooked in for the mechanical cartridge (no where near as good as the older Magnums, but very easy to service). Mechanical filtration occurs with all filters and while nice, should not be the focus of your filter choices.

Chuck Farley
11-14-2018, 11:52 PM
I kept aquariums for a long time myself, but didn't get into it near to the extent of Bill. That narrow room behind where the aquarium is is a great thing. I doubt many would include such a room in designing a home. The last home I had with an aquarium had a full unfinished basement. I had long hoses going to a filter in the basement which worked OK, but if I were to have a leak, the contents of the aquarium would siphon down to the basement. Sometime ago, when I lost my discus fish, I lost interest. I had a young couple doing some carpet work here and they expressed an interest in aquariums for their child. I gave them all the aquarium things I had, and haven't missed them. But I've seen Bill's setup, and it's a thing of beauty.