Zoom's Article 3- A practical guide to setting up your tank.

Discussion in 'Articles' started by Zoom, Mar 3, 2011.

  1. Zoom

    Zoom Retired Moderator

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    I'm not going to re-invent the wheel here, because most of what I have to show you I have said in my first 2 articles, which can be found here & here. I would therefore suggest you read those 2 articles first, as this will simply compliment them.

    I recently moved into my new home, and had to re-set up my entire tank. This gave me a good opportunity to provide a step by step guide to the practical setting up of a tank.

    So let's start:

    First you will need a tank. (duh)! Preferably without water at this stage! One of the most important things that is often overlooked is your background. People in there haste set up the tank, and then suddenly decide they want a background. This is no easy task to add to a tank that weighs more than you, and if the tank is placed up against a wall. So firstly, you will choose your background, cut it to the required size. Some people use sticky tape to tape this background on, but I've found the most effective way to put it on is to "glue" it on with olive oil. Smeer the entire background with olive oil, ensure you get the edges and corners.

    [​IMG]


    Using an old credit/store/plastic card, smeer out the bubbles. (Trust me, a background with bubbles in it will look 10x worse when the tank is filled with water.) As you smeer out the bubbles, have some disposable kitchen towels at hand to wipe off the excess oil.

    Check very carefully for bubbles when you are finished.

    [​IMG]


    Now that you are happy with the outcome of your background, position the tank where you would like to have it placed. Ensure you have enough space at the back to get your hand in (always handy tip in case you need access to the back). {Side note... this picture is my old background. If you see the "bubbles" at the top... this is why you need to smeer them out. This looks 100X worse when there's water in the tank}

    [​IMG]


    The following advice cannot be overlooked. At this point you should not have consumed any alcohol yet. (come on, you've hardly even begun working!) The reason I say this is you need good eyesight at this stage. The tank needs to be checked for levelness. I cannot stress this point enough. I've had a tank burst on me before, and an investigation by a tank builder revealed that there was a strong suspicion it happened because the tank was out of level. NEVER assume that your floor is level. Working in the construction industry I can vouch for the fact that "level" is not always level. It is best to use a level for this (for obvious reasons). Check that the front, the back, and the 2 side panels are all level. If your level is long enough, check the diagonals as well. (I.E is the front right level with the back left, and is the back right level with the front left?) If the tank is out of level, fix it! I have used hardwood under the feet. Wood is not always recommend because it absorbs water and rots, but it is usually all we have lying around at this point in time. Also ensure that the tank is stable, and not "rocking" on the legs.

    [​IMG]


    Now comes the fun part. Drag the hosepipe through your lovely home (which is obviously full of tools, olive oil, cloths and fishy stuff in any case), secure the one end of the hosepipe into the tank, (I put the end of the pipe between a rock and styrene), and switch the tap on. Ideally you would want the tap outside to be LOWER than your tank. (You will see why later.)

    [​IMG]


    As the tank fills up, check for leaks. As the water nears the top of the tank, use your eye to check for levelness again. (Always better to double check... if you used an old level, you may be shocked to find that the level was out). Remember to check the front AND the sides.

    [​IMG]


    When you are 100% happy that everything is level, there are no leaks, and you are ready to move onto the next step... simply turn off your tap, unplug the hose from the tap, and let it lie on the ground. Remember I told you it would be better to have the tap lower than the tank? Well, this is why... the water will simply siphon out the tank, saving your back a lot of ache shunting buckets around. The time used to empty the tank can be spent enjoying a well deserved drink! Obviously if you discover a problem (leak, levellness) you then need to start again!


    Now that the tank is empty, we can move onto the more fun stuff. The way you do this is really up to you, but this is the sequence I followed. Installation of all the equipment. On the left of my tank I have the outlet and inlet pipe of my main canister filter, the heater, as well as my airstone. On the right I have my secondary canister filter's inlet and outlet

    [​IMG][​IMG]


    If you plan on putting in a lot of "hardware" (i.e rocks) near the heater, it may be advisable to install the heater at a later stage. A tumbling rock falling against your brand new heater will certainly send a few blue words out your mouth. I set up everything complete in the cabinet below as well. Meaning I connected the airpump, put all the necessary filter media into the canisters and connected them too. Nothing was connected to power yet, however, the multiplug was attached to the inside of the cabinet, and all the wiring was tidied up. (This could be done at a later stage too).

    [​IMG]


    Just a side journey, this is specifically what I have in my main canister:
    Top left is bio-balls
    Bottom left is Seachem Matrix
    Top right is Ceramic rings
    Bottom right is a sponge, and filter wool goes on top of this

    Filtration occurs as follows: Filter wool -> Sponge -> Ceramic rings -> Matrix -> bio-balls

    [​IMG]


    In my secondary canister I have 2 very thick sponges, left over ceramic rings (they actually came with the filter and just using them cause I can), Xeolite, and activated carbon.


    If you are going for a planted tank, you might want to invest in an undergravel fertilization strategy. I opted to use the Palm Fibre Peat + Chemicult method, (a full explanation can be found here & here

    [​IMG]


    Next step is to place all your "hardware" into place. If you are placing a lot of rocks in, ideally you would prefer to have them sitting on styrene. If you are building them up, then I would recommend gluing them together (an epoxy would be best). Driftwood is put into position, and finally a good layer of your chosen choice of gravel. If you are using an undergravel fertilization medium, make sure you cap it properly according the the instructions.

    [​IMG][​IMG]


    At this point, you may need to take a day's break (especially if it's getting late, or you are waiting for rocks to dry from being glued together.) Remember that fatigue will result in a poor scape, and you do not want to land up with a second rate scape, when you know you could have done better.


    Something you are going to need to get the hang of is filling your tank. There are many methods people use. Some people say put a saucer over the gravel and the water onto the gravel. For me, this did not work. Other people will cover their entire tank with plastic, and fill up, removing the plastic later. (Please... do you honestly think this will work?) The method I use is as follows:
    * Place a bucket next to the tank. Try and get it as high as possible, but not too high.
    * Place a submerible pump into this buck. (not a 5000l/h thing... something small)
    * let a tube go from the pump into the tank, and place it in such a way that when it is pumping, it is not going to be dislodging your gravel (if you have undergravel ferts).
    * Using another bucket (that you can measure) fill the "pump bucket" with water and turn the pump on.

    Fill the tank only slightly (about 20mm above the gravel level). If you have plants, now is the time to plant them. When you are completely satisfied with the plants positions, you can resume the filling.

    Remember I told you to use a bucket that you can measure...? Did you? Well, here's a small trick. On the side of your tank place some tape, and for every bucket you put in (i use a 10litre bucket) place a marking on the tape.

    [​IMG]


    Why? Well, simply put, when I am finished filling the tank, I can count how many marking there are... so 25 markings = 250 litres. This is important to know if you are going to be using any medication, or liquid fertilization. Also, if you want to do a water change, and only want to do a 10% water change, you can employ the hosepipe trick and simply drain 2.5 markings down. You then don't need to count how many buckets you fill up again... you will automatically know that 2.5 markings was 10%, which was 25 litres, meaning you add fertilizer for 25 litres. (nice trick, eh?)


    Fill tank:
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]


    Please excuse the driftwood that is currently floating. Driftwood needs to become waterlogged before it will sink.


    I then attached a thermometer to the tank (not sure how accurate this one is tho).

    [​IMG]


    Finally, turn on the filters, the airpump, and the heaters. Check that everything is working, and admire your new responsibility. If you have read the first two articles, you will know the responsibility you are in for! (But it's all worth it.)

    On a final note, there are many products out there to help your filters along (I hope you've read article 1 & 2 to understand this statement). I have personally found that the best starter culture to put into the tank is the Microbelift's Special Blend. (which you can just see on top of the tank in the last picture.)

    Hope you have as much fun setting up your tank as I did!

    Regards

    Ashley
     
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  3. Khalid

    Khalid Loricariidae

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    Nice write up zoom
    Will the residual olive oil not eventually drain downwards over a few months leaving a pealing BG?
     
  4. OP
    Zoom

    Zoom Retired Moderator

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    It actually doesn't. When you smeer it out with the card, most of it comes out, so it's not oily. I've done this on ALL my tanks and I've NEVER had any BG peel off. I took the old one off because it was actually stretched (from the shop) resulting in those bubbles at the top and bottom, so I used the move to remedy this. It peels off ok, need a bit of force. Only downside to this is that it leaves a dry oil residue on the glass. This could only be removed by using pure sunlight liquid. Not sure if oil "goes off" but man the stuff STINKS when you take it off. But the original one was on my tank for over 18 months now! The oil doesn't stay "oily" for long... it dries up, and works like a glue.
     
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  5. mydummyname

    mydummyname Balala shark

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    wow! neato!

    lots of patience (and a VERY analytical mind Zoom! lol) required for this method, but the rewards are clearly seen!

    can save a guy a lot of headache's following this route

    +1
     
  6. Khalid

    Khalid Loricariidae

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    Thanks zoom, makes sense.
    Our fire wall blocked your photobucket pics :(
    I also find styrofoam behind the BG helps with the insulation and heater power consumption.
     
  7. Kat

    Kat

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    Thanks zoom, fantastic write up :)
     
  8. mydummyname

    mydummyname Balala shark

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    good point, also, if you only want a "colour" background, you can just use a piece of styrofoam without a background pic, and paint it with non-toxic craft paint to whatever colour you like. it will never leave bubbles, etc, and it helps with insulation and heat loss as well, as you said. i learned this from @spider
     
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  9. Vez

    Vez

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    thanks Zoom

    i just done this now, and jisam, it DOES work, and all my bubbles are gone, looks GR8!!!!!!
     
  10. Equinoxe

    Equinoxe

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    I normally just spray water on the background. Next time I will steal some olive oil from the kitchen. Thanks Zoom
     
  11. snail

    snail

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    alrighty, 3rd article out the way....awaiting for the next article, maybe something on "how to add your new tank buddies once you have purchased them?"
     
  12. FishRMan

    FishRMan

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    @Zoom why use olive oil and not sun flower or canola oil? Olive oil= expensive and therefore grumpy SWAMBO
     
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  13. Vis

    Vis Gerhard

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    I have seen sun flower oil become a sticky mess and smells.
     
  14. Firefly

    Firefly Pleco

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    Did a little "article". Link:
    Acclimatising new fish.
     
  15. OP
    Zoom

    Zoom Retired Moderator

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    I've used sunflower in the past... and yes... it stinks after a few months.
     
  16. Newby

    Newby

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    I used water as well but still has small airbubbles.
    Wanted to remove them but the BG has rocks on. The bubbles now look like moss growing. Might have to redo it later on
     
  17. CDK

    CDK

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    Excellent reading!

    Thanks.
     
  18. Cropheus

    Cropheus

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    Excellent article @Zoom.

    One question. My cascade canister has only 3 baskets. Would it be good to then rather run; filter wool and sponge -> coal and sponge -> and then ceramics (or bio-balls)?

    Cheers
    Riaan
     
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  19. OP
    Zoom

    Zoom Retired Moderator

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    If you only have 3 compartments the do the following.

    First compartment have sponge, with filter floss on top of it
    Second compartment Ceramic rings
    Third compartment Seachem Matrix.

    So the water will basically flow through the material in the following order:

    Filter floss (Mechanical filtration) -> Sponge (Mechanical + little biological filtration) -> Ceramic rings (Little mechanical to higher biological filtration) -> matrix (your most important biological filtration spot)

    Chemical filtration (Charcoal, Zeolite, Resins etc) are not recommended to be in the filters permanently, and only need to be put in when necessary. For this I advise you to buy a small internal filter. That way, when you want to run Charcoal (to remove medication for example), you just put the charcoal into the internal filter and run it that way.
     
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  20. Darkfin

    Darkfin

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    Very nice,thanks for sharing.
     
  21. The_Fish_Guy

    The_Fish_Guy

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    Hi, this is an very interesting article, I know this is an old post but hope someone can answer this, I saw that you put in the plants when you fill up the tank, Is this fine to do so without letting the tank cycle first?
    Thanks
     

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