Building the fish room
Shelving and tanks
- We primarily use 30-gallon breeders (36 x18 x12”) and 15-gallon tanks (24x12x12”) for maintenance, and 5-gallon tanks (16x8x10”) for experiments. To source tanks, I recommend working with your local aquarium store; they can custom order from the large manufacturers (e.g., Marineland). Note that we chose to combine 30-gallon breeders and 15-gallon tanks because they have the same height and can easily be combined on the same shelf.
- For shelving, we use ULINE bulk storage racks with steel decking (72” high) with 24” (depth) shelves for 30 and 15-gallon tanks (single row) and 36” shelves for 5-gallon tanks (double row). On shelves that are 72” long, you can fit two 30-gallon tanks or five 15-gallon tanks; on 96” shelves, you can fit seven 15-gallon tanks. We use four shelves per unit, but if you want convenience, you are probably better off using just three shelves or upgrading to the 96” posts.
Aeration and filtration
Filtration in all of our tanks is powered with a central air pump. To install this, you will need the following component parts:
- A central air pump with sufficient capacity to serve the number of tanks in your system. We use the linear piston pumps (LPH series) from Jehmco, because they are quiet and easy to service. If you have a large system, you can hook up multiple LPH units to the same circuit.
- 1” PVC from your local hardware store (schedule 40).
- Air valves that you drill directly into the PVC pipe (we use AV1E valves from Jehmco). Make sure to buy the matching threading tap for easier installation (TAP-AV1E).
- Silicone tubing (we use AT-SR200 from Jehmco).
- Mattenfilters and air lifters that match the dimensions of your tanks. You can buy these from Swiss Tropicals.
Automated water change
Depending on the size of your system, you may want to install an automated water change system. Our system is a drip system that is directly connected to the municipal water supply. Water is first passed through a filtration system that removes chloride, chloramines, and other pollutants and then collected in a storage tank. From there it is pumped to individual tanks. Note that a system like this requires drilled tanks with a bulkhead fitting. Especially if you have a large number of tanks, it’s worth talking to your supplier about purchasing pre-drilled tanks (Marineland will do this for special order), because drilling them yourself is very time consuming (also, make sure to not drill into tanks made of tempered glass). The key components of our system are:
- Whole-house water filter system by Pelican (PC1000), which is now distributed by Pentair. You can buy or order these at most hardware stores. I recommend shopping around, because prices can be quite variable.
- A water storage tank that fits your size. We chose ours so it holds about 150% of the daily water needs. Tank Depot has a great selection of different sizes.
- A float valve that allows for the automated refilling of the storage tank. Jehmco has a good selection of these for almost any water tank you might pick.
- A water pump the matches the flow needs of your system. You don’t want to buy a pump that is too powerful, unless you have a flow-back mechanism. Jehmco has a good selection of suitable pumps.
- 3/4” PVC from your local hardware store (schedule 40).
- Water valves that you drill directly into the PVC pipe (we use AWV1TB valves from Jehmco). As for the air valves, make sure to get the matching threading tab (TAP1032). During installation, you want to add a dab of silicone to the threads while screwing in the valves.
- Drip water tubing that fit your valves. We use vinyl tubing (PHVB-014) from Jehmco.
- You probably also want to install drip emitters that compensate for pressure variation in your system and keep flow rates constant to all tanks. Our system runs at 0.5 gallons per hour (with AWE-CETA05 from Jehmco), but depending on your system you can go up to 2 gallons per hour).
- For the waste water line, we used 2.5” PVC. If I had to start over again, I would go with 3 or 4” PVC instead. Our waste water lines are feeding directly into floor drains.
- To cover our fish tanks, we use corrugated plastic sheets used to build greenhouses, simply because they are more cost effective than glass. You can purchase these from any hardware store. We used 1/4” Falken Design sheets from Home Depot.
- For lights, you can use any LED shop lights from your local hardware store. We use Barrina shop lights (6000 K and 9000 lumen). These can be easily installed in the ULINE racks with zip ties and daisy-chained to reduce the amount of cables.
- For substrate in tanks, we use natural river gravel from Red Flint Rock and Stone. I love this product especially because it arrives clean; no washing necessary.
- To provide cover for fry, we often use course biofibers manufactured by Sera that you can purchase from Swiss Tropicals.
We use a variety of fish food on a daily basis:
- Our staple food is a gel food manufactured by Mazuri (we use the formula for omnivorous fish). The gels are enriched with omega-3 fatty acids and essential amino acids using Easy DHA Selco from Pentair.
- We hatch brine shrimp that we get from Brine Shrimp Direct.
- We feed a variety of frozen foods (mostly copepods, adult brine shrimp, and blood worms). Jehmco used to have a large selection of frozen food, but since their supply has been dwindling, we largely order from Brine Shrimp Direct.
- We also use a variety of commercially produced fish diets, including several Sera products (especially ImmunPro Growth Food) that we source from Swiss Tropicals, and Purina AquaMax Fry Powder and Fry Starter 100 that you can buy at your local feed store.