Monday, February 2, 2009

full and stocked

So I have had the tank up and running for a while now, and things are exactly what I had envisioned when I started out with this project. I stocked slowly at first, and now have a shoal of 80 harlequin rasboras, groups of three-spot gouramis (we fished for these off of our front porch in my first rainy season in Thailand), moonlight gouramis, snakeskin gouramis (a favorite Thai jerky treat), siamese algae eaters (endemic to Thailand), and Khulii loaches, along with a single red-tailed shark (thought to be extinct in the wild, yet can be found in every country that keeps fish in aquariums, endemic to Thailand). So here is the tank stocked and planted, better than TV!!
A couple months ago from the "left" side

Last month from the "right" side, plants have filled in a bit.

...and a few inhabitants shots
Gold three spot, the king of the tank, or so he thinks.

Siamese algae eater.

snakeskin gourami, can't wait til these guys are 10"+!!

When I was planning this tank, I had some specific things in mind. A large showpiece, and I didn't want to spend all of my time keeping it looking like a showpiece. I am so happy with what it has become! Here are a few things about the tank that allow me to enjoy my fish, and not spend my fish time doing tank maintinance.

Live plants
The perfect natural aquarium filter, I actually have to add "fish waste" in the form of chemical fertilizers to the water because the plants use the available nutrients from the fish faster than the fish can make it.

Low light
Relatively slow plant growth = little to no pruning. High light tanks can grow plants fast, which is nice if that is what you are going for, but I have not had to prune this tank in three month, and it will go another month or more before it needs it. I also rarely have to wipe algae from the viewing panes.

Auto waterchanger
I traded some snakes for this reverse osmosis filtration unit.

It removes just about everything from the tap water so I am left with 99.9% pure H2o with nothing dissolved in it. I have it on an auto sprinkler timer to add about 5% of the tank volume everyday. This flows into the sump where there is an overflow bulkhead which goes right to the drain, changing 5% of the tank volume every day "the secret to pollution is dilution!". This also keeps the tank topped off at all times.

Lights are also on timers, and the fish do the rest. I just feed, and watch, and feed some more! I love being able to enjoy my animals without feeling like all I ever do is clean things. I really think it turned out to be the perfect showpiece for the basement!

Friday, October 3, 2008

2nd fill.....dern bulkheads

So after having the tank running for a couple weeks sans life, my nice piece of manzanita wood sunk and I decided it was time to do a little work on getting this thing closer to being planted.

I hung the light earlier this week, and it is definitely out of the way and I won't have to move it to work in the tank, PERFECT!! We finally got around to going out to the Home Depot and deciding how we wanted to face the stand. We're going for cheap but classy, and went with wainscoting and crown molding (since I have a little experience with it e.g. Mom's basement) and Robin wants to paint it a rich espresso brown. I really like the ledge around the tank, I think it adds a nice dimension.

So I spent a good portion of Monday afternoon measuring and cutting and thinking about ways to access under the stand, but make it look clean. I ended up gluing a couple pieces of wainscoting together along with the edging to make an invisible access door on one side. I was worried it wouldn't work well at first, but it slips into the slot and slides in perfectly flush!! I will rarely have to access anything underneath as all my equipment is behind the wall, but it gives me plenty of room to store things.

I didn't take any shots of the build itself, but I snapped a couple as I filled it a second time. Here it is with the door off.

...and on!

Here is a shot of everything in place in the "back of house". Garbage can sump, submersible pond pumps runnin' the tank.

I ran the light power cord through the wall, and got the ballast mounted up nice and high. I was feeling really good about my progress and was picturing how the hardscape will be arranged (went rock collecting earlier in the week) when I noticed a small drip running down one of the drain lines. NO!!! When we had drained the tank earlier I decided to try to get the rest of the protective plastic off the back of the tank (forgot to do this before everything was hard plumbed through the wall......grrr). We moved the tank around a little, and I guess we tweaked the three-year-old bulkhead gaskets just enough. Everything had gone so smoothly up to this point, I really expected something to go south at some point, so I wasn't surprised to find not one, but two bulkheads leaking. I drained the tank, and felt like I just got kicked in the gut after almost winning the big game......oh well. The past three days I have just walked by the tank and scowled at it a work has been done to it since. I think by Monday I'll be ready to tackle the leaks, and hopefully plan out the hood.

I really planned this whole thing around a limited budget, of both time and money. A big tank on a budget has some limitations, and this tank build couldn't be better suited to a low light, heavily planted, sparsely stocked tank. Some planted tanks are super high maintenance, lots of light, lots of dosing fertilizers, lots of testing, lots of water changes etc. The only addition to this tank is fish food, which becomes plant food, which in turn filter the water quite nicely (as long as things are balanced anyway, which is the real challenge). I'm going for 10 minutes of maintinance a week tops here people, that is the goal. I always thought the Dutch had the right idea for freshwater tanks, not the typical American fluorescent gravel/sunken ship/overstocked ten gallon goldfish tank that doubles as a night-light (sorry Mel).

So a lot of ups and downs with the cube this week, but I think we're making good progress considering.....


Sunday, September 28, 2008

I'm a moderately big loser

With a fair amount of effort and work, I now have one less lie in my life. For years I carried this little lie around with me everywhere, and even fooled a few cops along the way. I am of course referring to the three digit number that represents my weight on earth in imperial units. My license has had a weight on it that I had not seen staring back at me from the digital readout of our bathroom scale since Leo was king of the world.

I'm not sure exactly why I let myself get so big, but I can honestly say that I have always had a pretty good self image. I had never felt that my extra baggage had kept me from doing things that I enjoyed, and I think this fact helped get me up to the over 20 stone guy you see here with a very attractive woman at Sea World (I do think that Shamu still had me by a few tonnes however).

With the help of a very active and excited dog, I learned that running in the winter is actually quite enjoyable, and I stay much drier than when I used to run at noon in mid summer (they called me Evan "Sweat-ball" Jamison for a reason). It wasn't easy to start, and this is when I realized just how out of shape I really had become. I also decided to use the falcon perch/towel hanger/total gym 1000 complete exercise system for it's intended purpose for a while (endorsed by Chuck Norris himself, I believe for the use as a falcon perch, but I could just be remembering it wrong...)

I also learned to enjoy real food, and my palate changed dramatically over a few short weeks. I didn't crave sugar, nor did I want to eat late at night anymore. I actually lost most of the weight in about two months, and have been creeping back down to my high school weight, which I have now been sitting at or around for about 4 months. Here is me in my "skinny jeans" a few months ago that are now way to big for me (I'm down another 15 since this shot).

So here I sit, four pant sizes smaller maintaining a admirable 210, and back to eating ice cream almost daily. I do love having a much more efficient metabolism.....thanks Chuck!! The only drawback to this whole thing is that right before this dramatic change in size, I acquired quite a few nice pairs of pants for Christmas that really only fit for about a month or so. I guess that's not so bad, at least there is a lot of material for a denim quilt at some point.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

I like dihydrogen monoxide. It has played a very special role in life, namely sustaining it. :) It has also made it much more interesting (and moist). Recently I somehow convinced Robin that the one thing that our beautiful home is missing is a small aquarium in the basement, and wouldn't ya know it, I found a small, unused 240 gallon 4'x4'x2' custom acrylic tank for sale (....small is a relative term...). It was the perfect little tank! so I have recently begun a new adventure in the aquatic world....setting up an aquarium that I have to pay for! The adventure actually started when we tried to get this little aquarium home.....they just don't make trucks as big as they used to or something, but that's another story.

So if you had an afternoon, 40 bucks, and part of an ex-waterbed frame/headboard, what would you do with them? The obvious answer is build a rock-solid custom stand for an awesome Thai river biotope tank, what else?!

If you too need to build something, what do you do first?.....Draw up the plans, in extreme detail no less. (Yes that is the actual blueprint I worked off of. If you need help reading it, please contact me and I can get you a copy of the key)

Measure, measure, cut.....

Keepin it Square, careful......

The most versatile bedframe I've ever slept on, it has served me well since '88!

....Tada!! On the stand (Albeit upside-down)
Now for plumbing plans........Yep, that'll fly.

...and that's where she sits now. If only it was that easy for Robin to decide what she wants me to face it with!! Next time, plumbing and hydro test!!!

So obviously to do this right one must become one with the cryptocorynes, but the one question remaining question.....which cyprinids to go with?...hmmm