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Matt's Planning For 220 Litre Aquaoak

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Offline Matt

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Matt's planning for 220 litre Aquaoak
« on: December 03, 2017, 09:10:06 AM »
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8 otocinclus
10 galaxy rasbora
8 cardinal tetra
8 rummy nose terta
8 harlequin rasbora (mix of normal and purple)
8 sparkling gourami
4 german blue ram
4 checkerboard cichlid
10 pygmy cory (I've decided to give these a go, especially now I can get a larger shoal)

I'd like my tank to look something like this: https://m.youtube.com/#/watch?v=SVJWKpyaCyM though a low tech version eg. without carpeting plants.

I'm going to use a fluval U4 internal filter as these get very good reviews which I will hide behind the wood.

Above is my thinking over a year ago in anticipation of upgrading my tank to a 200litre Aquaoak. Well, as you may have seen in the Gallery thread for my current tank, this is now finally becoming a reality, though due to a slight miscalculation on measurements previously the tank I'm getting it actually rated as 220litres. Given the exterior dimensions of the tank the calculated volume is 220.9litres.

This probably leads to my first question... the filter I'm now going for is an external with inbuilt heater as I really want to keep as much equipment outside the tank as possible. No good hinging a U4 and not a heater! If I take a cm off each dimension to allow from the thickness of the glass on both sides and allow a bit of room for an air gap at the top of the tank I get to 205litres. As most of us know, you should extract 10% of the water volume from your stocking calculations to take account of the volume taken up by substrate and decorations etc. my tanks are also heavily planted. So... my question is, do you think Ill be OK on with a filter rated for a 200litre tank? It's not that its significantly more expensive or anything than the 300litre rated filter, I am a more worried about the noise of the larger filter. It's going in my sitting room and so the quieter the better.

Also thought I'd share my latest favourite YouTube video regarding the aquascape for the tank 8)!... https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Z_dBQfPo4Ec

As for lighting, I'm thinking about the Fluval Aquasky, does anyone have these? I'm trying to find out if they will work off a normal plug in timer so I can continue to have a siesta period in the middle of the day.

As for stocking, my thoughts have developed but only slightly...:
3 otocinclus
3 cobalt blue goby
10 galaxy rasbora
10 ember tetra
8 cardinal tetra
8 rummy nose terta
8 five band barbs or harlequin rasbora
4 honey gourami
6 rams - 2 German blue, 2 neon blue, 2 golden
checkerboard cichlid - if I can get hold of them I might add a pair
6 false julli cory

Deepening on exact choices, that puts me at 80-90% stocked using the internal filter option on the community creator. My water hardness is 160ppm so I think the all works...  I also like kuhli loaches and maybe hatchetfish for the top and and and and and...  :vcross:

Other thoughts:
Plants - existing, plus... narrow leaf java fern, eleocharis montevidensis
Rocks - not the current ones but can't decide if I like dragon stone, not sure what else looks better (more research required!!)
Substrate - like the video, sand in front possibly graduating from gravel near the rocks, and I was thinking ADA aquasoil behind the rock work as it helps reduce hardness though this stuff is expensive so filler of crushed lava rock underneath (may encourage denitrifying bacteria see https://www.aquaessentials.co.uk/blog/2015/11/the-hidden-benefits-of-lava-rock.html)

I'm going to try and write up my plans for transferring stuff over to the new tank, filter media, fish, decorations etc as I'd appreciate any thoughts on this.

Have I missed anything?? (Winner of the long post award right here)

Offline Sue

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Re: Matt's planning for 220 litre Aquaoak
« Reply #1 on: December 03, 2017, 09:35:39 AM »
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Most decent quality external filters have adjustable flow rates so a filter rated for a larger tank isn't a problem. That's the only real downside to getting a larger filter, it can create too much flow. Apart form the gobies, all the fish in your list prefer gentle flow.
I would imagine that all the filters in the same range by the same manufacturer make the same noise regardless of size. It is certainly true of Eheim Aquaball internals - I have had the largest and the smallest (for the QT) and they sounded the same.


What lighting comes with the tank? Is it the aquasky or are you thinking of upgrading to that?



Don't forget that rams need to choose their own mates. And if the two fish that look like a pair in the shop tank haven't bonded that closely, they could well swap partners in your tank.

Offline Matt

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Re: Matt's planning for 220 litre Aquaoak
« Reply #2 on: December 03, 2017, 09:42:27 AM »
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Thanks Sue. Good to know about the noise levels with externals, the oversized one would cettainly give me a lot of confidence in things.

It was the aquasky that i thought about getting. I bought the tank withowithout any accessories as the range offered to go with it was limited and i wanted to be able to go away and research things/look at prices on the net etc.

Thanks for the warning re the rams too, I'm also concerned 6 might be too many for the size of tank, but both of these things are risks I'm willing to take especially as I will now have a spare tank on hand if required.  I'm a huge fan of this species!!

Offline Sue

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Re: Matt's planning for 220 litre Aquaoak
« Reply #3 on: December 03, 2017, 10:24:14 AM »
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What is the footprint of the tank? That would determine how many rams you could have. Of course you could always keep the ones you have now in your current tank and get some more but fewer for the new tank   ;D
I forgot to mention before that having 2 species of cichlid (in this case rams and checkerboards) in the same tank can be risky.

I have also read of problems using timers with the aquasky. If you don't mind not having all those colour options you could go for an Arcadia light bar. http://www.arcadia-aquatic.com/product-category/led/




Offline fcmf

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Re: Matt's planning for 220 litre Aquaoak
« Reply #4 on: December 03, 2017, 11:24:43 AM »
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I'm actually salivating in delight at reading your proposed stock - if only I had the space...

I don't think there's much I can add to Sue's comprehensive advice other than that potentially increasing the numbers of otocinclus to the recommended 6 in Seriouslyfish - I know they're not a shoaling species but I wonder if it's their timid nature which causes that site to recommend 6. The section on Behaviour & Compatibility makes interesting reading re it not being an ideal community fish and "should be kept alone or at most with diminutive, non-aggressive characids, smaller callichthyid or loricariid catfishes, and perhaps freshwater shrimp" but I know you've had them for some time and it seems yours have settled in fine as they are (with the existing stock anyway). Having more cichlids might make them feel a little more timid, in which case this may be the time to increase the number of otos.


Offline Matt

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Re: Matt's planning for 220 litre Aquaoak
« Reply #5 on: December 03, 2017, 04:24:28 PM »
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I managed to have a play with the Aquasky today and found out it does work with a normal timer. It also has a lot of features I like, including a cloud cover mode which very gently and subtly simulates clouds passing over head by modifying the brightness.  Some of it is a bit gimicky light the lightning effect but this is really nice. I also want to be able to dim it in the evenings rather than use a blue light as i always think this looks very fake and apparently Ive heard it encourages algae.

I'm still no further regarding rocks... I need to see if there is a proper aquascaping shop I can find myself conveniently nearby at aome point!

@Sue  The tank is 94 by 47cm

@fcmf Good point about the otos, I always used to worry about them starving whilst I was away and couldnt feed algae wafers. I think what I'll do is review how many I should add once the tank is a bit more mature. I can increase gobies first if they are fighting then go from their for oto numbers.

Right time to try and write up the transfer plans...

Offline Sue

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Re: Matt's planning for 220 litre Aquaoak
« Reply #6 on: December 03, 2017, 04:34:24 PM »
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Ah, with that footprint it might be risky having more than 1 pair of rams, just possibly 2. I wouldn't go for 3 pairs though. I wasn't sure if it was a long tank or a tall tank. My 180 litre has a 107 x 45 footprint but it is not very tall or I wouldn't be able to reach the bottom.

Offline Matt

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Re: Matt's planning for 220 litre Aquaoak
« Reply #7 on: December 03, 2017, 04:39:09 PM »
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Ok so I'll go for 4 rams of different colours at first and go from there.  They live in the wild with checkerboard so I'm assuming that combo will be ok...

Offline Sue

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Re: Matt's planning for 220 litre Aquaoak
« Reply #8 on: December 03, 2017, 04:55:11 PM »
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I just looked up checkerboard cichlids and they are another one that likes higher than usual temperatures - Seriously Fish recommends 27 - 30 deg C. It doesn't say anything about keeping them with other cichlids though.

Offline fcmf

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Re: Matt's planning for 220 litre Aquaoak
« Reply #9 on: December 03, 2017, 05:27:38 PM »
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If you're keen on the checkerboard cichlids, then their profile on SF suggests they might (just about) be ok in your 64 litre - well, the footprint of it anyway, even if the height might be slightly short. An option might be to base the 64 litre around those as the key inhabitants.

Offline Helen

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Re: Matt's planning for 220 litre Aquaoak
« Reply #10 on: December 03, 2017, 11:26:04 PM »
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My contribution is going to be more technical! I don't have the aquasky, but I've got fluval's other LED lights. The main question for me, is what controller was it working off? I bought the Fluval controller, which is also marketed for the aquasky, but would not recommend it. It is an extremely basic 2 channel power 'dimmer'. My LEDs have the ability to dim and be blue, but that functionality is operated by the remote control. Hence, I never use it because I have my lights working off analogue socket timers (which, incidentally are the noisiest bit of kit associated with my tank!) I imagine in the future I will invest in a decent controller, but that's pretty far down my list at the moment.

My other comment is about the crushed lava rock as a filler. I would just be careful how much you crush it. The article you linked, suggests it's benefits are because of it's porous nature. I would worry that you'd lose a lot of that if you crushed it too much.

In the past I've had Cardinal tetras and harlequin rasboras (with kuhli loaches). I won't be putting cardinals back in my tank (for no reason other than I fancy a change) but the harlies and kuhlis are staying. Kuhlis are my favourite fish - the only ones I will keep restocking. Though not very often as they're long lived. And I intend to stock five band barbs, when I get there. So I think your choice of fish is great. :cheers:

Offline Matt

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Re: Matt's planning for 220 litre Aquaoak
« Reply #11 on: December 04, 2017, 06:22:28 AM »
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Thanks Helen, I'm with you on Fluvals controller. It also cant do a siesta period in the middle of the day which rules it out completely for me.  When i saw a sunrise and sunset controller on Interpet lights it actually put me off - the reds are too harsh/fake looking. 
Thankfully you have confirmed again that it works of a plug socket timer.  I also find the analogue timers far too noisy and so recently went over to using silent digital timers. These are a bit more expensive than the analogue ones but are completely silent. The clocks in them also keep running if their is a power cut. I'd highly recommend them.

Lava rock - not sure why I used the word 'crushed' - it's 1 to 2cm pieces  :)

I'm very tempted by kuhli loaches.. I'd have a tank full of bottom dwellers though if I wasn't careful.  The rams would not be happy with me!  I keep wondering if I should do a layout with more floor space to accommodate the both of them... It's either have the planting substrate across the back two thirds of the tank, or the same but leave the sides free also - like an island layout but without the space behind it.  Decisions decisions...

My wife wasn't a fan of fivebands barbs... or cetainly preferred harlequins anyways. Not a problem by me they are a marginally smaller fish so... more room for other fish (those kuhlis maybe lol...) and ive always liked the thought of mixing the normal harlequins with purple and gold ones (like you might do with gold and green tiger barbs). So that might be an option too.

With some of the tweaks I've made (fewer rams, harlequins not fivebands...) I'm now down towards 80% stocking. 70% when i select oversized internal (seeing as the filter will now be an overrated external). The addition of rummynose terra brought that back to 80%. I need to wait a few days now without changing things I think to see if that stocking plan still works for me...

Offline Helen

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Re: Matt's planning for 220 litre Aquaoak
« Reply #12 on: December 04, 2017, 09:44:30 AM »
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If you do manage to find / make space for the kuhlis, I'd suggest that you don't need to leave open space for them. Based on the behaviour of mine, I would expect to receive kuhlis draped over rocks (if you go for a design like the George farmer nature tank you linked).

I'd kept space clear for my kuhlis, but even with dither fish they didn't come out much, only really for feeding. When my tank was neglected, the crypts spread over pretty much the whole of the substrate and I found that the kuhlis would come out a lot more. As long as they have crypt leaves over their heads, they seemed happy. I never succeeded with parva, so my crypts are all small to medium. Ie the leaves sit between 5 and 10cm above the substrate. This is enough to make the kuhlis feel comfortable without actually obscuring the substrate from my view.

As I rearrange, I'm increasing the number of plants that provide cover, but higher up. The kuhlis also seem happy with this. The area of substrate that looks 'clear' (and will eventually be replaced with sand) has java fern narrow leaf and bolbitus providing shade to it. I'm hoping that with the sand, this will become the kuhlis favourite place.

Also the harlies swim amongst the leaves - which is a nice effect to watch.

What timers do you have for your lights? I'm also intrigued with which controller you're thinking of for the aquasky. Will it allow you to program the different colour effects?

Offline Matt

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Re: Matt's planning for 220 litre Aquaoak
« Reply #13 on: December 04, 2017, 12:14:44 PM »
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No controller for me.  Just a digital timer like this: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Electronic-digital-mains-Socket-Display/dp/B002P7RF9A/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1512389403&sr=8-3&keywords=Digital+timer.  This wont do different colours at different times of course, the lights just remember the previous setting they were on. If it ramped up then that would be nice but i want the siesta more than it ramping up...

Offline Helen

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Re: Matt's planning for 220 litre Aquaoak
« Reply #14 on: December 04, 2017, 02:35:17 PM »
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I'm the same - value the ability to have a siesta more than the ramping function. But I'm still on analogue timers!

I'd wonder whether it is worth the extra money for the bells and whistles of the aquasky if you don't plan to use that extra functionality?

I would be extremely interested if you do (decide to look and) find a controller that allows you to use the extras.

Offline Matt

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Re: Matt's planning for 220 litre Aquaoak
« Reply #15 on: December 04, 2017, 04:41:28 PM »
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Try the Current USA Ramp Timers. I dont know how well they work with Fluval kit, but apparently they do...

Offline Matt

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Re: Matt's planning for 220 litre Aquaoak
« Reply #16 on: December 07, 2017, 12:25:34 AM »
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Here is a write up of version 1 of the process I'm hoping to follow when I upgrade to my new tank. I would welcome any thoughts you may have to improve it.

Step 1 - Putting new tank in place
I want the new 220litre tank to be sited where my current 64 litre tank is already. Therefore I plan to remove as much water as possible from the current tank, before moving it to a temporary location a few feet away. I realise that ideally all water should be drained from the tank for this step but I feel that this is the best compromise rather than stressing the fish overly by attempting to catch them etc. I will store 24 litres of water removed from the tank in buckets. I'll have maybe an inch left in the tank - 10 or 15 litres whilst it is moved and then will refill with tap water as if Ive done a large water change. I should be able to gently lift the cabinet the tank is on with the water removed and move it slowly across to its temporary location.
Step 2 - Doing the hardscape in the new tank
I have produced a sketch of the layout for the new tank which I can follow in this step and so I know what I need to purchase. The substrate will be a combination of sand and ADA Aquasoil separated by rocks, and volcanic rock will be used as a filler under the aquasoil .The aquasoil releases ammonia initially which is great for plants getting started but not for fish.  I know I want to use this substrate as it gently lowers hardness and pH a little which is something important to me for my rams. But the release of ammonia from the aquasoil makes things a little complicated.  Heres the plan...
Step 3 - Taking the plunge
At this point I cant get much further without adding water so the plan would be than the following day I would do another 'water change' on the current tank, using the removed water to begin to fill the new tank (I know theres not much bacteria in water but I feel like I may as well), to plant the first plants. The first plants to go in would be the carpeting plants. Some of which I am growing currently and some of which will no doubt be new. At this point the water level in the tank need only be far enough above the substrate that I can get the new filter running. The new filter will be set up to include some media (no more than a third initially) from the existing filter (placed first in the direction of flow).
Step 4 - Water tests
Wait for stable water parameters in the new tank. If ammonia gets too high for any reason, add water from mature 64 litre to dilute (and fill tank).
Step 5 - Adding the first fish
Following stable readings, and the substrate ammonia release having subsided, I then need to add a new source of ammonia to the new tank to keep the bacteria alive in the filter and the plants fed. I would plan to move across the harlequin rasbora first as the hardest non territorial fish. If the water level needs raising at all or if nitrates are high, this can be done at this time again using water from the current tank as part of a water change. Water testing to follow ensure no ammonia/nitrite spike.
Step 6 - Increasing stocking and planting
Further water tests will then identify when I can transfer over the galaxy rasbora (smallest fish so lowest bioload) then the corys, and finally the cardinal tetra (largest bioload). This means adding 8cm fish to 9cm existing stocking, then 9cm to 17cm, then 12cm to 26cm stocking. I feel that this is workable as the filter should be capable of dealing with about 18cm of stocking from the start due one third of the media being transferred from the current filter.  I can then add more as I add the corys. The riskiest bit would the be the addition of the cardinals (increase of 46% which would not be accompanied by more media as there would only be the large sponge left. I will also be doing some additional planting in the new tank at this stage with newly purchased plants and there will still be very few fish in a large volume of water. I think this is therefore doable. I will need to start doing regular water changes anyway by this time on the new tank as part of my routine maintenance and these can be timed appropriately.
Step 7 - Moving existing plants and wood into the new tank
At this point I cant progress further without starting to break down my current 64litre tank a bit as I want to reuse most if not all of the plants and the wood. These will therefore be moved into the new tank at this point.  However, the 64litre tank could become very bare as a result. The remining stocking will be x1 goby, x1 otocinclus, x2 rams. The rams will need structure of some kind to form territories and the other 2 fish will get stressed if they cannot hide away if the rams pester them. As such I will add an old bogwood piece I have back into the tank and will go to the lfs to colect the new additional rams and then add them to the new tank along with the current rams at the same time. This will mean all rams enter the new tank at the same time and will stop any territories being set up before new ones are added, mitigating the risk of any in-fighting. This will add approximately 14cm of stocking (new ones not fully grown) to a filter running 38cm. This is a 37% increase and again a few fish in a large volume of water so I believe doable without too much risk.
Step 8 - Transferring remaining fish
The other inhabitants of the 64 litre tank would then be added to the new tank once water parameters are confirmed to be stable. At this point the 64 litre tank will be empty of fish. Decorations would be removed (stones, bogwood and a couple of plants) temporarily whilst an attempt is made to move as many shrimp as possible into the new tank trying my best to move only the best looking and reddest specimens (i have some older orange 'cheap' shrimp too). I realise I'll never be 100% successful in getting them all which is fine as I intend to keep the current 64litre tank running and am happy for this to contain shrimp and for subsequent transfers to be made. The 64 litre tank will then need some rescaping to make it look reasonable again and I need to add some fish back in to keep the filter bacteria alive. I believe I could add about 9cm of fish (x3 3cm fish) at this point as the filter will be able to cope with 7cm just transferred out to the new tank and some dormant bacteria from rams etc being removed aprox a week ago. Again copious water testing throughout. Im not certain what I want to do with this tank long term and will make use of it in the short term as a quarantine for new fish so stock added will be used to increase schoal sizes in the main tank.
Step 9 - Further increasing stocking in the new tank.
Increase schoal sizes of existing fish starting with corys (as only 9cm additional required) leaving gobies and otocinclus till last due to ditoms and algae needing to grow. Add more red cherry shrimp to increase the gene pool. Then adding new species, make use of quarantine throughout and ensure building 'stocking' level for quarantine tank back up slowly with each purchase.

Offline Sue

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Re: Matt's planning for 220 litre Aquaoak
« Reply #17 on: December 07, 2017, 04:50:13 PM »
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Step 1 - as long as you are very careful not to slosh the water you should get away with moving the tank with a bit of water in it. It's the sloshing around that twists the joints.
Step 4 - from things I have read it could take several weeks for the soil to stop leeching ammonia, so be prepared for the temporary tank position to become semi permanent!
Step 5 - as long as the plants are growing well, they should help use the ammonia leeching from the soil and they should protect the fish as you move them over. Moving filter media may not help much as the small tank is heavily planted so the filter might not have many bacteria in it.
Step 7 - if you remove all the plants from the small tank, there is the small chance there won't be enough bacteria for the few fish still in there. keep an eye on the stats in that tank,
Step 8 - yes the shrimps will prove quite tricky. When I closed the 50 litre tank I caught 92 shrimps from adults down to newly hatched babies, and probably failed to find a lot of tiny ones.

Offline Matt

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Re: Matt's planning for 220 litre Aquaoak
« Reply #18 on: December 07, 2017, 08:02:42 PM »
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Thanks Sue, I had the same thoughts re plants meaning that the filter doesn't actually hold much bacteria. I struggled to quantify this and so have simply gone with the best plan I can.  It will ultimately be a balancing act between filter media and plants being moved to match with the transfers of the fish depending on the test results in both tanks.  I just hope that I dont have 2 fish-in cycles on my hands!!

I am sort of hoping that I can have this done by mid Feb if at all possible when we have visitors staying with us.  Of course, the fishes health with have to have to be the priority but it would be nice to be in a good place by then.

Fortunately in line with the above, I got the call from Maidenhead today... the tanks arrived!! Even they couldnt quite believe it... I suppose they must have had a cancelled order or something!

Offline fcmf

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Re: Matt's planning for 220 litre Aquaoak
« Reply #19 on: December 07, 2017, 09:56:01 PM »
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Fortunately in line with the above, I got the call from Maidenhead today... the tanks arrived!! Even they couldnt quite believe it... I suppose they must have had a cancelled order or something!
Fantastic news!  :cheers:

I'll have another read through your post and see if anything else springs to mind but, on the initial reading, it certainly seemed like you'd all covered - I do hope it all goes smoothly for you.

Offline Matt

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Re: Matt's planning for 220 litre Aquaoak
« Reply #20 on: December 08, 2017, 11:30:08 PM »
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Time for version 2. The aquasoil was a step too far I think... The ammonia release made everything massively more complicated, plus the fact you cant gravel vacuum it really put me off in the end.  Also the ability of the substrate to soften the water is much debated and probably wont make much of a differnece is seems... So I've gone back a step in my thinking and gone with an option I had previously researched - Caribsea Ecocomplete (lol... the cheap option... sounds like me!!)
Again, I would welcome any thoughts you may have to improve my plan.

Step 1 - Putting new tank in place
As per previous plan:
I want the new 220litre tank to be sited where my current 64 litre tank is already. Therefore I plan to remove as much water as possible from the current tank, before moving it to a temporary location a few feet away. I realise that ideally all water should be drained from the tank for this step but I feel that this is the best compromise rather than stressing the fish overly by attempting to catch them etc. I will store 24 litres of water removed from the tank in buckets. I'll have maybe an inch left in the tank - 10 or 15 litres whilst it is moved and then will refill with tap water as if Ive done a large water change. I should be able to gently lift the cabinet the tank is on with the water removed and move it slowly across to its temporary location.
Step 2 - Doing the hardscape in the new tank
I have produced a sketch of the layout for the new tank which I can follow in this step and so I know what I need to purchase. The substrate will be a combination of sand and Caribsea Ecocomplete, separated by rocks to form a path - I'll attach my sketch tomorrow to show what I mean. The Ecocomplete and rocks I want will need to be ordered and so this will likely take a few weeks to complete. As I will wait till after Xmas to move onto next step anyway (to ensure I dont have any distractions from daily water tests etc.) this isn't a problem. Set up electrics, lighting and filter pipework.
Step 3 - Taking the plunge (After xmas)
Do another big water change on the current tank, using the removed water to begin to fill the new tank so I can plant the first plants (I know theres not much bacteria in water but I feel like I may as well). The first plants to go in would be the carpeting/low plants. Some of which I am growing currently and some of which will no doubt be new.
Step 4 - Water tests
Fill up and wet test tank and filter. A quick water test to confirm suitability for fish.
Step 5 - Adding the first fish... and some plants and filter bacteria
The new filter will now be set up to include half the media from the existing filter (placed first in the direction of flow) and fresh media will be added to the 64litre filter.  I plan to move across the harlequin rasbora, cardinal tetra and galaxy rasbora first (about half the stocking of the 64 litre) as the hardiest and non territorial fish.  My research has shown that the corys prefer a mature tank so they will remain for the time being.  Water testing to ensure no ammonia/nitrite spike. I will also transfer some plants over at this stage as well because these are likely to be responsible for some of my filtration capacity at present.  Of course if I identify any funny reading in one of the tanks I can transfer stocking or media between them to balance things out and take a more gradual approach if required.
Step 6 - Increasing stocking and planting
Gradually increase the numbers of harlequins, cardinal tetras and galaxy rasbora and the planting of the tank (by transferring plants from the 64litre into the 220litre. As such this will act to increase the biological capacity of both filters. Add the corys and increase their numbers.
Step 7 - Moving remaining plants and wood into the new tank
At this point I cant progress further without starting to break down my current 64litre tank as I want to reuse the wood and most if not all of the plants. These will therefore be moved into the new tank at this point.  However, the 64litre tank could become very bare as a result. The remining stocking will be x1 otocinclis, x1 goby and x2 rams. The rams will need structure of some kind to form territories and have places for the other fish to hide, so I will add an old bogwood piece I have back into the tank and will go to the lfs to colect the new additional rams and then add them to the new tank along with the current rams at the same time. This will mean all rams enter the new tank at the same time and will stop any territories being set up before new cichlids are added, mitigating the risk of any in-fighting.The other inhabitants of the 64 litre tank would then be added to the new tank at the same time.
Step 8 - Transferring remaining livestock
At this point the 64 litre tank will be empty of fish. Decorations would be removed (stones, bogwood and a couple of plants) temporarily whilst an attempt is made to move as many shrimp as possible into the new tank. I realise I'll never be 100% successful in getting them all which is fine as I intend to keep the current 64litre tank running and am happy for this to contain shrimp and for subsequent transfers to be made. The 64 litre tank will then need some rescaping to make it look reasonable again and I need to add some fish back in to keep the filter bacteria alive. I believe I could add a maximum of 15cm of fish (the amount just removed). I now know what I want to do with this tank... but that's my secret for now!!! (I'll cover this in the 64 litre tank thread soon).
Step 9 - Further increasing stocking in the new tank
Purchase of new species of fish for 220litre. Then increasing numbers of gobies and otocinclus (left till last due to ditoms and algae needing to grow). Adding more red cherry shrimp to increase the gene pool.

Offline Sue

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Re: Matt's planning for 220 litre Aquaoak
« Reply #21 on: December 09, 2017, 10:31:30 AM »
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Something I should have mentioned after plan #1. Gravel. If you want rams in this tank you need sand. They can live on gravel but they do much better on sand. Not to mention that fact that the gobies like to bury themselves and tunnel under decor, which would be a lot more comfortable for them with sand.

How gravelly/sharp is the eco-complete? The reason I say this is because of the way rams feed - if they try to take up a sharp substrate it could damage their mouths.
And I had a Bolivian ram get gravel stuck in her throat. It's because of this that I would now never keep any fish that feeds by sifting substrate on gravel. And I've now seen the way apistos and cories take up mouthfuls of sand, sift the food out and expel the sand through their gills.


A lot of people say that plant substrates are a waste of money. After about a year, they become inert and you have to feed the plants the same as you would if you'd started with much cheaper plain sand/gravel.

Offline fcmf

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Re: Matt's planning for 220 litre Aquaoak
« Reply #22 on: December 09, 2017, 04:45:22 PM »
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A lot of people say that plant substrates are a waste of money. After about a year, they become inert and you have to feed the plants the same as you would if you'd started with much cheaper plain sand/gravel.
Having no experience in this area, I decided to google 'Caribsea Eco-complete inert' and it threw up quite a few threads from elsewhere on this issue, including comparing Caribsea to ADA Aquasoil, etc, as well as the fact that they tend to become inert over time - worth a look.

Offline Helen

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Re: Matt's planning for 220 litre Aquaoak
« Reply #23 on: December 10, 2017, 12:14:02 AM »
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I have the eco complete substrate in my tank and have done so since I set it up nearly 8 years ago. I had read all the stuff about it being inert after a year. I don't remember, but when searching this site for information about substrate, I found a post I made several years ago about whether I needed to refresh my plant substrate. The conclusion then was no and several years later I still don't plan to replace the eco complete.

My plants didn't get the benefit of the liquid that is part of the eco complete (because my tank cracked - but that's another story), but I wouldn't say it did them any harm. And I don't think I've particularly noticed any point in my tank where things have changed because the substrate has become inert.

I think the Eco complete is a similar texture to the gravel I have. But it is a mixture of grain size. I am trying to keep as much of the Eco complete in my tank as possible and only remove the gravel (as I reduce the amount of substrate). But I have now bought a sieve, so can sort out grain sizes.

The only thing that I'd query is, if you do the aquascape that you linked - the substrate in the middle at the back seems quite deep. I've spent many years worrying that my substrate was too deep. That said, I'm not convinced my tank has suffered any of the ill effects of deep substrate. But it has been clear that the plants had pretty deep roots and seemed to take advantage of the deep eco complete layer.

Overall, I'm very happy with having used eco complete. I almost recommended it for your tank, but you seemed quite set on the aqua soil and I couldn't think of any reason why the eco complete would be better. Without having ever used aqua soil, it seems to be to be equally suitable for your aquascape.

Offline Helen

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Re: Matt's planning for 220 litre Aquaoak
« Reply #24 on: December 10, 2017, 12:23:54 AM »
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One thing I should add is that I've never had to use root tabs in my tank. To me it appears that the caribsea eco complete seems to 'hold onto' the mulm and therefore is able to continue to almost produce it's own fertiliser lower down in the substrate. I wonder if this has anything to do with the variety of grain size. Because physics means that over time it sorts itself out so the smallest grains are at the bottom and the grain size increases as you get closer to the surface of the substrate. Therefore the mulm falls in between the larger grain sizes at the top, but very little actually makes it all the way to the bottom of the substrate.

Also every time I move or remove a plant, the roots always have bits of eco complete stuck to them. In these cases, it seems porous and my plants seem very reluctant to let go! So over the years I've probably thrown out a fair amount with root trimmings.

Offline Matt

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Re: Matt's planning for 220 litre Aquaoak
« Reply #25 on: December 10, 2017, 07:09:22 AM »
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Wow, thanks Sue fcmf and Helen... super useful!  :cheers:

Fcmf, when I originally read your post I thought that I'd already read most reviews of the product, but then I found an article by George Farmer on his experiences with multiple different substrates. He is someone who a) knows his stuff b) has actually tried them all - so I feel this is a trustworthy source of info
https://www.ukaps.org/index.php?page=guide-to-substrates

Sue, I will have sand in the tank, this is for the planted areas. Eco complete is smooth enough for fish with barbells so shouldn't damage the rams, I intend on most of it being covered with carpettng plants anyway. I have rams with gravel currently, so this is a step in the right direction. I can't wait to see the sand sifting behaviour!!

Helen, The reason you don't need to change your eco complete is two-fold. Firstly it doesn't turn to sludge over time like clay based substrates (ADA Aquasoil for example) and secondly it has a high cation exchange capacity (CEC) meaning it absorbs nutrients from the water and stores them, making them available to the root systems of plants as it does. It's annoying that I'll have to sort it to remove the larger particles though... the alternative in the article would be seachem flourite black sand, this is twice the cost though!!. Eco-complete it is then!

Offline Matt

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Re: Matt's planning for 220 litre Aquaoak
« Reply #26 on: December 10, 2017, 07:37:34 AM »
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Here is the sketch of the layout I promised showing two sections of wood, coming from 'rocky outcrops' with plant substrate behind them and sand in the valley floor.  The photo below it is the best match I could find, though as you can see, I want a larger sand path. The guy who was making this decided to go in a different direction with the tank after this photo, so the planting is also not developed.

My filter arrived yesterday, Eden 522 with integrated heater. It took me a while to get over how big it is!  :yikes:
Anyway - the pipework etc has been built up and the filter itself disassembled and reassembled - so I feel confident I know how it all works now  :)

I'm hoping to go and get the tank and lights today and move my existing tank as per step 1 below - the weather/roads look ok so fingers crossed... I will put the filter into the new tank dry so it's ready and get the lights set up. I have an extension lead where each socket has its own switch arriving tomorrow so that will need to be installed then before the tank can be put into its final position. Then I need to get my act together a bit and order the substrate and rocks, and buy sand so I can do step 2... it's all happening so fast...  :-\

Offline Helen

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Re: Matt's planning for 220 litre Aquaoak
« Reply #27 on: December 10, 2017, 10:08:08 AM »
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I like the idea of having the sand area in between the planted areas, rather than infront.

You don't have to sort the eco complete - just if you only want the small grain size. I'm hoping that sieving mine will remove the larger gravel and most of the eco complete will be small enough to go through the sieve. I would say that I'll let you know how it goes, but I think you're moving faster than I am!

Offline Matt

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Re: Matt's planning for 220 litre Aquaoak
« Reply #28 on: December 10, 2017, 09:51:25 PM »
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Right... here's how things have ended up tonight... the aquarium is in, the lights installed (wow its bright on full power  :yikes:). Filter also installed including the plumbing.

I stopped off at Aquahome, Leyland and bought some beautiful rocks. Really happy with those - I didn't think I'd find anything quite that nice  :)

Next job is to install the extension lead into the rear of the cabinet so it is off the base and nice and tidy   :D. Then I need to set to washing the rocks. A quick scrub and a dunk in boiling water.  A sticker on the aquarium says not to put any water in it till 12th December... Presumably to let the silicone harden fully. I will need to give it a quick clean too.  Then I can set about starting to lay out the rocks.

Offline Matt

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Re: Matt's planning for 220 litre Aquaoak
« Reply #29 on: December 11, 2017, 08:41:09 PM »
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I didn't quite get round to the rocks...
Ive installed a frosted background to the tank which hides the pipework etc behind the tank. Most aquascape photos you see online include a frosted background.  I hate installing thigs like that as you always end up with a bubble or a bit of dust... let's just say after about a million attempts I was happy with it!

I have also tidied up the cabinet, sticking the extension lead to the back near the top and I bought a plastic tub thing to put the filter in in case of any leaks.  I also managed to pick up some sand.

I had to reinstall the filter tubes after doing the background, and have now got the inlet on one side and the outlet on the other.

Offline Andy The Minion

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Re: Matt's planning for 220 litre Aquaoak
« Reply #30 on: December 11, 2017, 09:58:01 PM »
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This is all looking very excellent @Matt :) Two things crossed my mind, if you can fit a filter foam to the intake to prevent the larger particles entering the canister, it will save you a ton of work by cutting down on the build-up and keep it visible rather than let it hide in the external and produce Nitrates. I know you want to keep the tank uncluttered but this is worth a compromise or perhaps consider making something compact that suits. Secondly the tub is a good idea but don't rely on it, if a leak does start it will very quickly overfill. I have used a shallow tray before now, something considerably larger than the external to catch the drips and splashes when maintaining the filter. Low sides allows you to lift the filer out easier and also mop up spills. Oh and a third, if the cabinate edges aren't sealed run a bead of clear silicone to stop water wicking into the joints.

Offline Matt

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Re: Matt's planning for 220 litre Aquaoak
« Reply #31 on: December 11, 2017, 10:21:07 PM »
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Hi Andy - thanks for the words of encouragement and the tips  :cheers:

The filters design is such that any solids are caught in the first filter chamber on a sponge which is cut at an angle to the incoming flow (more surface area). I realise this means that any particles are in the filter, but are you concerned about them getting into the bit with the biomedical (noodles) or just the filter in general? This is my first experience with an external filter so sorry if that's a daft question! I can always get some black sponge to cover the intake if needed.

The filter contains a 300w heater, it is very tall, so a taller container seemed to make sense but you make a good point about splashes etc.  I guess I will need to put a towel around it if I do filter maintenance. A shallow tray sounds like a really good idea... I will have to keep an eye out for something like that.  I need to have look for some shelving/draws to go in the cabinet too as the storage is just a large space at the moment - no way of organising it.

I like your tip about the bead of silicone - will do.

Offline Sue

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Re: Matt's planning for 220 litre Aquaoak
« Reply #32 on: December 12, 2017, 10:41:37 AM »
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I think Andy meant that if you use a pre-filter it will mean you will have to open the external less often to clean that sponge in the first chamber. There are sponges you can buy specifically for this - usually a hollow cylinder that slots over the tube that takes the water out of the tank - or any sponge can be used, you just need to cut a slit in it so it goes over the tube.

The goo that builds up in filters is a nitrate factory so it needs to be removed before there is a lot of it. With an external, that means opening the filter casing on a regular basis, so anything that catches the bits that form the goo (fish poo, uneaten food, bits of dead plant) before they can enter the canister, the better.

Offline Matt

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Re: Matt's planning for 220 litre Aquaoak
« Reply #33 on: December 12, 2017, 06:12:34 PM »
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That makes sense, though do most of the bits not just fall off the sponge on the inlet pipe when the filter is turned off/when you remove it from the tube? Should I siphon them off?

Offline Sue

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Re: Matt's planning for 220 litre Aquaoak
« Reply #34 on: December 12, 2017, 06:26:35 PM »
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Not having an external myself, I don't know. But I do know that the sponges in my internal have to be squeezed quite a lot to get the brown goo out of them.

Offline Helen

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Re: Matt's planning for 220 litre Aquaoak
« Reply #35 on: December 12, 2017, 08:45:12 PM »
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I like the idea of putting an extra sponge pre-filter.

I noticed that when I put corries in my tank several years ago, I had to clean my filter more often.  Which makes sense, because by turning over the substrate, they're putting the mulm into the water and it then gets sucked into the filter.

But I've never been able to decide whether it's better to vacuum the mulm from the tank or to wash it out of the filter.

A tip for maintaining an external filter is to get a tub of silicone grease. (I repurposed the one from my scuba kit). Wash the silicone band and slick a bit of grease on it before putting everything back together. The grease does two things, it improves the seal, but it also prolongs the life the sealing band.

Offline fcmf

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Re: Matt's planning for 220 litre Aquaoak
« Reply #36 on: December 12, 2017, 09:44:40 PM »
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Every filter seems to have its own set of rules, so it may be a matter of seeing how it goes. For example, I have two internal filters in my tank - the older one (20+ years old) is much more reliable* and less prone to brown goo and I could probably get away with giving its sponges a gentle squeeze in old tank water once a month although I do it fortnightly, whereas the newer one is prone to clogging very quickly and especially since I've had live plants and needs its brown goo squeezed out twice a week otherwise the filter output reduces to virtually nothing while a slight expansion of the filter sponge can also reduce the filter output to virtually nothing.

* They don't make things like they used to!  :isay:

Offline Matt

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Re: Matt's planning for 220 litre Aquaoak
« Reply #37 on: December 12, 2017, 09:49:55 PM »
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Those pre filter sponges are as cheap as chips (literally!!) so they looks to be a no brainer.  :cheers:

Mrs Matt will be so pleased that I need to spend more money on fish!! I'll save silicone grease for another day... :o

Here's what I got up to tonight... Aquarium and rocks given a quick clean. First attempt at laying out the rocks is as per the attached. (Sorry I know this will win the worst photo ever award). Tomorrow will involve tweaking this I'm sure, then having a think about whether I can build some shelving from some MDF and other bits of wood I've got spare.

Not sure how much further I can get than that before filling the tank. I still want to wait till after Xmas for this as it will be so much easier to stay on top of water testing etc once all the festive stuff is out of the way.

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