Greetings and advice on my new 40 gallon breeder project - Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources
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post #1 of 10 Old 07-05-2012, 02:45 AM Thread Starter
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Greetings and advice on my new 40 gallon breeder project

Greetings fellow fish lovers. As the title suggests I wanted to introduce myself and my new project that I have under way. Before going and gluing in my glass baffles, I wanted to run the project by you more experienced folks first. My goal is to plumb a 40 gallon breeder into a 20 gallon long refugium system that I'm building. I'm planning to use the "Herbie" method or silent overflow box method. I will be drilling at least two holes and plan on drilling a third for my return. I'm hoping to get by with a Eheim compact 1000 pump. The design has a ball valve from the tank and a union one-way valve on the return line. This system should be fairly "flood proof". But before I get all Titanic on this design, has anyone had any experience with this system? For filter media, I'm thinking of coralife bio-balls on the bottom underneath a filter sock in the first section. Then through the bubble baffle into the refugium where I'll have a mud bed, some micro algae, moss balls and maybe some ghost shrimp. Then through another bubble baffle system and up through the return pump. I'm guessing that the system will have roughly 55 gallons of water volume cycling. This should maintain a decent bio-load and maintain rather high water quality.

My overall goal is to have a few Ottos, about five mollies and maybe some Angel fish, but I'm not married to anything. My wife like the way that the marble and dalmation Mollies look. I tend to agree with her that they look pretty cool. I do plan on putting some live plants and a nice rock aqua scape in the center of the tank that facilitates easy cleaning, hiding and some swimming room.

The stand that I'm designing will have room for the breeder display, the refugium underneath and room for a 10 gallon on the bottom shelf (quarantine for now, maybe top-off tank later). I'm building this rig to run a fun fresh water tank for a bit, but designed to have room for development later. I'm still a bit shy of the reef investment, but I do want to build this project to see if the bug is going to stick. So far I can't get enough of reading about this stuff. I kept fish all growing up. I did not, however, know then what the internet can teach now. That being said, some experienced feedback is what I need now. So without further ado, any advice or suggestions would be welcomed. Thanks in advance and its nice to meet everyone.

Last edited by sphere830; 07-05-2012 at 02:48 AM.
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post #2 of 10 Old 07-05-2012, 08:13 AM
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Refugiums and the system you are designing is more for a saltwater tank than freshwater.

What size bulkheads are you planning on using for the holes? This will dictate what the TOTAL flow is going to be coming from the overflow. It will also dictate whether the pump is powerful enough for your return.

Bioballs work best when NOT submerged, you would need to create a wet dry filter as such for them. Another issue with bioballs is they need to be cleaned fairly regularly to prevent a build up of nitrates, having the live plants though will help with that.

When considering smaller fish, it is also a good idea to consider a mesh or prefilter covering the overflow drains, this will prevent anyone going down the drain and getting stuck in the filter chamber, should they make it into the overflow (which can happen).

10g Fry / Hospital / QT tank (as needed)

75g Saltwater Reef, Ocellaris Clownfish, Lyretail Antias (baby), Lemon damsel, Longtail Fairy Wrasse, purple dottyback, snails, crabs and a few LPS corals.

220g Still sitting empty (come on Lottery I need the numbers to come up!)
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post #3 of 10 Old 07-05-2012, 09:26 AM
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Originally Posted by sphere830 View Post
My overall goal is to have a few Ottos, about five mollies and maybe some Angel fish, but I'm not married to anything. My wife like the way that the marble and dalmation Mollies look. I tend to agree with her that they look pretty cool. I do plan on putting some live plants and a nice rock aqua scape in the center of the tank that facilitates easy cleaning, hiding and some swimming room.

Have you determined your tap water pH, GH, and KH? That is key to the fish you select.

Mollies require hard, basic water like all livebearers, but mollies are porbably the most sensitive to this.

Ottos and Angelfish are acidic, softwater fish. Most angelfish you find in stores are tank bred, have been for awhile, and thus are slightly more adaptable but should still not be placed in hard water. Even so, they'll still do best if kept in acidic, soft water. Another issue with Angelfish is in a 40 gallon tank you would be restricted to having to buy a breeding pair. Without a pair, they need to be kept in a shoal of 4+ fish (with 5+ better), which a 40 gallon is too small for four of these guys (you would need a 4 foot or longer tank).

I have five in my 6 foot 125 gallon tank. While I could have gone with more, I decided to stay with 5 since there is a real possibility of getting a breeding pair, and while spawning the parents will turn aggressive to anyone who approaches their eggs.

Ottos are pretty much all wild caught, and thus their water parameters are quite a bit more strict. They can do 'okay' in medium-hard water, same with mollies, but their pH ranges do not overlap.

All three of these fish are in the profiles here if you wish to read up on them. Second link on the blue bar at the top of the page. If you type their name in the forums, it will highlight them and you can click on that too (Oto Catfish, Common Molly, Scalare Angelfish). I strongly suggest putting as much research into the fish as you have into the tank itself
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post #4 of 10 Old 07-05-2012, 01:31 PM Thread Starter
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"Refugiums and the system you are designing is more for a saltwater tank than freshwater."

So is this system capable of handling an average freshwater load? Ultimately I want to build this system into a saltwater system, but simply can't afford it right now.

The bulkheads that I would like to use is 1" as are recommended for cycling the tank about six times an hour. So I'm looking for about 300 gph. I figure double that for headroom and elbows and 500-700 gph pump should be sufficient. What are your thoughts concerning this? I will go to my local aquarium store and get some advice on types of fish related to local water parameters. I'm hoping to build a small community of South American fish.

I'm using sticks to measure my water currently (I know that the liquid kits are much more accurate). My readings this morning in my small 10 gallon betta tank was, between 60-120 GH, 80 KH, 6.5 PH, 0 NO2, 0 NO3. Any advice would be great. For my community tank I'll acquire a liquid testing kit.

Last edited by sphere830; 07-05-2012 at 01:49 PM.
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post #5 of 10 Old 07-05-2012, 02:18 PM
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60-120 ppm GH would be in the soft range if that's accurate (you can also get this probably from your water utility website or by calling them). Buying a kit is a waste of money, unless you plan on changing it at each water change. Hardness of the water will be pretty much a constant, so you would only need to test it once.

That would mean avoid livebearers as they thrive in harder water.
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post #6 of 10 Old 07-05-2012, 03:44 PM Thread Starter
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So I just looked at last year's official water quality report from the local utilities. The general hardness was 110 for 2011 (newest published report). That matches exactly from what my litmus strips have been reading. Water and chemistry I understand. The biology of fish, on the other hand, is a gap in my knowledge basis. So, mollies are out...I will continue the research for the fish. In terms of refugium plants for primary filtration, I'm considering and researching duckweed, hyacinth and water lettuce. The duckweed seems to be the most promising in terms of removing nutrients thus far. I know that this system may be a bit of an overkill, but I am looking forward to the bio research in terms of creating a synergy between filter and display tank that sustains very high quality water standards. I'm not looking for a packed house, just some interesting and enjoyable space mates to share the living area with.
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post #7 of 10 Old 07-05-2012, 08:14 PM
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It's 17.85 ppm = 1 degree

So your 110 ppm water is 6.2 dGH. Some places list ppm, others list in degrees for fish. I believe all the profiles here give it in degrees. 6.2 is a good number, you can have most of the south american fish and they'll be quite happy.

Duckweed is very fast growing. It's also very small, and gets everywhere. Some people consider it more of a pest than something helpful. I have it in my large tank ... and I lean more towards pest. It's like glue too, you reach your hand in and when you pull it out your entire arm is covered in the stuff.

For water lettuce make sure you get the dwarf kind. Regular water lettuce gets HUGE and is only suited for ponds. I also have Dwarf Water Lettuce and I find it to be a very good floating plant.
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post #8 of 10 Old 07-10-2012, 04:24 PM Thread Starter
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40 gallon breeder project

So my GH will average around 110 and 6.5 PH. Live bearers are out. The system will have approximately 55 gallons of water circulating (with display and refugium). I'm not sure if I will be planting the tank, as I'm not sure about what kind of fish will do well in this system yet. I've been actively searching for an active, center piece species that will thrive in this setup for a few years. Thus far, the tank is not long enough or something for most types of fish that I've found. I'd rather have something that is a tad larger than schooling tetras for instance, but not something that will require a 75 gallon juggernaut in the next few years. This might be a possibility down the road, but not for now. This system is designed around turning into a reef tank in the future, but again not a possibility while I'm finishing up graduate school (meager income at best). So with an eye toward a Central or South American freshwater tank (not excluding other that would do well here) what species would you folks suggest I research?
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post #9 of 10 Old 07-10-2012, 04:52 PM Thread Starter
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One possibility that I have recently found are blue rams. Does anyone have any experience with this fish and would six be too many for a 40 gallon breeder (with 55 gallons of water volume)?

If a hammer is your only tool every problem tends to resemble a nail.
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post #10 of 10 Old 08-05-2012, 06:22 PM Thread Starter
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So an update is in order on this project. I was outside my old apartment building the 40 gallon breeder stand when a neighbor offered me her old 55 gallon tank. Seeing the tank was in great shape, and unable to argue with free, I immediately began to tear apart my stand frame. The next morning I went to the lumber yard picked up some more wood and framed up a 55 gallon stand. My wife and I have now moved and have a great place for the new tank build. I've learned many lessons on this build so far and I'm sure the education is far from over. But, what follows, is where I currently am with the build.

For a pump I ended up going with a Danner 9.5 pump that is rated for 12 feet head height and 950 gph. I picked up a 300w Aquatop heater that is rated for up to 75 gallons of water. With my 20 gallon long refugium this system should contain about 70 gallons of water volume. I just mounted a shop quality power strip (rated to many more amps than aquarium equipment will need) into my stand. I also purchased a shop light clamp and a 2700k fluorescent floodlight. I've read articles concerning which is best between this one and the 6.5k light. If this one seems to be stunting the fauna in the refugium I will order the latter. I'm now waiting on my glass cutting drill bit, guide and overflow box. The overflow box can handle up to 1250 gph. My research suggest that a 1 inch drain, gravity fed, can easily dump up to 600 gph. The overflow that I'm going with is the "Herbie" or silent method. So the next hurdle is drilling two holes, relatively close together, and mounting the overflow box. The return will have a single check valve and be pumped through 3/4 line to an over the back return line.

If this goes well, the back of the tank will be painted black, then plumbed. I'll set up the system and circulate the water to make sure that everything is leak proof and getting the circulation that I want. Regardless of whether or not I use all of the potential of the system, I do want the capability to cycle the water comfortably at 10 time per hour. I hope to get to this point in the next couple of weeks. Somewhere between work and shipments the project will progress.

My research for livestock heavily suggest south american parameters with my local water quality. So I've been reading up on Blue Rams. They would be the show fish. I'm planning on a nice school of tetras (or similar hardy starter fish) for cycling the tank for the first couple of months. Then later adding either 5 or 6 Ottos or a couple of cats that will grow a bit, but appropriate for this system longterm. Maybe a couple or few dwarf cory? Let me know if anything this needs rethinking or some critical points concerning my design. I am currently trying to find a few freshwater refugium plants that absorb nutrients and are hardy enough for the light system described earlier. I have considered going up front with a dual T5 fixture to facilitate some hardy plants in the display. Again, any advice on lighting would be great. I don't really want to get into CO2, etc. though. Anubis are looking easy and really cool for the display tank.

If a hammer is your only tool every problem tends to resemble a nail.

Last edited by sphere830; 08-05-2012 at 06:31 PM.
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