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Building an Advanced ‘Freshwater Reef’ Aquarium for Discus, Altum Angelfish and Zebra Plecos

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 what's going on reef builders i have a  different type of video for you guys  today as you may or may not know you  know one of the things that informs and  instructs our reef aquarium experience  is looking at  you know very comparable sides of the  aquarium hobby and horticulture  to see what kind of tips and tricks that  we can learn to bring over to reef but  i'm also quite an avid freshwater  aquarist and so i cross pollinate some  of my  reef you know upbringing to my  freshwater aquarium so in this video i'm  going to show you bring you along for  kind of a  reef style freshwater aquarium build so  we're going to use some saltwater  aquarium techniques on a freshwater tank  and we're basically going to be  replacing this aquarium  [Music]  so i just want to tell you a little bit  about the tank that we're going to be  upgrading these fish uh to this is a 150  gallon five foot acrylic aquarium and it  currently holds my four wild ultima  angelfish uh two koi angelfish and a  couple random discus that i've picked  out just to test the waters with my  discus skills and uh definitely one of  my pride and joys in this aquarium is a  colony of 15 zebra placos this is a  really awesome tank  the wood you see here is just kind of  logs that i literally pulled out of the  local creek cut them down exactly to  size and kind of wedge them in in  certain places and  the tank is fine it's fine for these  fish i just want something a little  showier  especially for the altums because i've  been growing those guys for i don't know  four years maybe five  and they deserve you know a really  classy aquarium uh to show them off so  this tank already  has some kind of reef aquarium  techniques um it's got a built-in  overflow there you can see in the back  um we're using a vortec mp10 on the side

 to create some water flow in it you know  kind of like a river and the water is  being returned by an ecotech marine s1  down below you'll see a 20 gallon sump  just a very basic sump with  a float valve to maintain automatic uh  water level and we're also using a  clericy gen 2 as an automatic filter  roll so this tank already has you know a  little touch of saltwater aquarium  techniques but let me walk you over to  uh the new tank that we're going to  build from the ground up with some of  these principles in mind my upgraded  fancy angelfish discus and zebra placo  tank was made possible by custom  aquarium and this is the tank and stand  that they built it's a rimless aquarium  it's got three quarter inch  high clarity glass all around  it's 48 inches long  24 inches wide and 29 inches tall right  so i can really show off those long  flowy fins of my angelfish and it's  sitting on a really robust  um steel tube stand when i got this  whole thing and set it up i was like man  i love the tank but i'm gonna have that  stand forever that's gonna be um just  something i i have around for a very  long time as a lifelong aquarius you  know i want to stress that none of these  features on their own are inherently  exotic especially not in the salt water  space but i think put all together it's  going to result in a tank that's just  going to be  you know just a little bit tricky but  also trouble free for a very long time  so the first thing we're going to do is  we're not going to use the canister  filter  i do run a canister filter on one of my  freshwater tanks  i don't clean it ever because the last  time i cleaned it i got a nice green  water bloom so i'm not really a huge fan  of canister filters in general so this  is a drilled aquarium this is going to  allow us to install a sump underneath  and that in itself is not super new  but you'll notice there's no overflow  boxes here inside the aquarium what we

 have is an external overflow box so this  is the  version that's made by custom aquariums  so it's kind of slim profile it's got a  few different  holes in the bottom you can actually  drill it for a variety of different  tubing so  standard it comes with  two inch and a half  drains and we're going to reduce those  down to one inch and that's going to  bring us down to the sump over here  so just like in the freshwater aquarium  world in a saltwater aquarium hobby we  treasure and value the trusty 40 breeder  aquarium for a wide range of  applications especially as just an  oversized sump so we're going to use a  40 breeder for the sump and the first  trick you know that we're going to bring  to this  freshwater aquarium party is an  automatic filter rolls now these are  just starting to catch on in the  saltwater aquarium space but if you're  not familiar with them it basically is a  spool of a kind of a fleece-like  material and as the spool or the filter  material clogs up a float switch inside  will actuate it and  produce a little bit more clean filter  material so that water can continue to  pass through without overflowing  so we're gonna do again something a  little bit trickier because between the  overflow box to the automatic filter  roll  we're going to have a continuous siphon  overflow it's a little hard to do  with an automatic filter roll unless you  have a controllable return pump so  instead of putting a ball valve  on the drain which we might still end up  doing what i'm going to try to do first  is i'm going to use a controllable dc  return pump and fine tune the water flow  coming back to the aquarium and going  down the drain to be a perfect balance  of a siphon so it's incredibly silent  operation

 so the last hardware trick that we're  going to employ on this freshwater  aquarium is we're going to use what's  called a float valve so this float valve  will automatically replenish water to  the sump as the water evaporates if you  have a power filter or canister filter  you know your water level can drop quite  a bit and doesn't really affect the  operation of your primary filtration  but in a sump if the water gets a little  too low your return pump is going to  start sucking in air and you have to top  it off and it's just not a good  arrangement so we are actually fortunate  that these tanks here  on this spine of the reef aquarium  studio um there's already a freshwater  line that is gravity fed from  that vat over there  and um we're gonna be able to just tap  right into it and we're gonna feed it  right to this float valve so it keeps a  constant y level in this sump so in a  typical sump we would just drill one of  the baffles and plumb this through but  since  we're not going to be working this up  very often i actually feel confident  enough using just a magnetic holder um  this one's a little bit janky because it  was the last one that i had  but you know we're going to run with it  and it's going to be good so um i'm  going to go ahead and start showing you  some of the parts that we're going to  use and  start putting this thing together  all right so you know the tank did come  with a couple accessories and the first  of these is going to be our overflow  drain this is a h2 overflow which has a  real high surface area so if you have a  tank with like a lot of leaves or um  some bigger fish this will allow you to  basically have real large surface  strainer  to go  to pull water from the surface keep that  film down and you don't have to glue a  fitting like this but it's actually just  quite easy to just stuff it in there and  you know as we operate this tank we'll  figure out which orientation we want  this uh  overflow skimmer to be at  now another part that came with the tank  which um i've seen before but this is  going to be the first time that i use it  this is the  siphon stopper so if you use a

 sump style return you want some kind of  mechanism to break the siphon so if you  have your return line you know deep  under the water  it's not going to suck all that water  back down to your sump and cause any  kind of overflow situation so this  actually has a couple  guides right here to help  guide the water that's coming out from  the return water but should the power to  be interrupted these will quickly break  the siphon going back into your tank and  um i actually have a few tanks that need  something like this so i might look at  picking up a few more siphon stoppers  for some of my salt water tanks and um  this one we're i'm gonna just uh put in  here just kind of pressure fit for now  since it's inside the tank not a big  deal but we'll probably glue that in the  near future um so now let's start  talking about plumbing the actual drain  and return line for this tank  i got my hat on backwards that's how you  know it's time to get to work so first  thing we want to do is we want to reduce  those one inch holes from inch and a  half to one inch just because one inch  is easier to work with it's cheaper and  i have a lot of extra sticks available  we're going to do two drains because  there's going to be a primary drain  that's where like all the water is going  to be going into the automatic filter  roll and the second drain will be a  stand pipe here a little bit higher so  if anything should happen to clog that  first drain we got our secondary or  emergency drain there to take uh care of  that so for the inside we're just going  to pressure fit them in into  the holes because there's just not  really that much pressure if it leaks  it's only going to leak into the pipe so  we're just going to stick these in here  without gluing and that way in the  future we have some uh some options ooh  that fit in there real nice and tight  all right we're just going to put a  healthy dab  of pvc glue here go around a few times  make sure it starts activating and  there's always a little bit of leakage  that ends up on my hands but we're going  to twist these in

 right here  it makes a nice flush connection  okay all right so if you can see inside  we got the two bushings where we want  them  because this one that's closest to me  further from the camera is lined up  right with this middle pole we're going  to call that our primary drain that's  going to go straight to uh  the automatic filter roll and the other  one is a secondary drain and we're just  going to do a straight drop  of one inch with a couple 90s and get  these uh pointed into the sump a lot of  people  will try to take really precise  measurements and dry fit everything  before they actually go into gluing it  and i have plumbed so many tanks in my  life i kind of freestyle a little bit  but we're going to measure  just  up into this bushing  down just a little bit further than i  know that i need and then i can trim as  necessary so we're at let's see 30  let's just call that 30 inches  [Music]  give that a  look-see  see how that's feeling  and that feels exactly like what i want  awesome  nice twist  i did test fit the  the drain version just to make sure i  got the good length on it you always  want to  put this  on  the male side the receiving side the  innie  we're gonna go  get a nice little twist  and get good bond and then put it right  where we want just like that oh man that  is beautiful isn't that looking nice  good just gonna go ahead and get this  done this is the secondary drain so this  is not super critical  ideally this won't be uh passing very  much water

 and uh  there we go aim into the sump  so because i'm hard plumbing it and it's  going to be you know pretty locked in i  think in the future i am going to add a  union to this uh  plumbing but that's something i can  always add  later when it comes time to actually  servicing the device but you really need  to think about  considering the order in which you  install the part so i'm going to eyeball  this part right here  and i think  and it's just going to drop  right in there oh my goodness that is  almost like freaking exactly where we  need it to be  i'm gonna put it almost exactly look oh  man that is as good as it gets  for some freestyle action okay i thought  of a way to kind of cheat a little bit  because this sump is empty i should be  able to  basically glue that on  and then slide it into place remembering  that these two are exactly the same  length does that sound does that sound  kosher need to get this part  just right  definitely  need to include a union for future  servicing of the clarissey  and there we go  that's that's right i am liking that  on here we've got a little bit of play  push the whole assembly  on  the last major piece of uh hardware to  install in this tank is a return pump  and this is going to be crucial so we've  got a sine wave technology dc pumps  gonna be super quiet it's controllable  um and that's going to help us kind of  get two birds with one stone as far as  using the automatic filter roll and  creating that continuous siphon drain  this is a model that we actually use on  a handful of different tanks around at  the studio  and this is going to be super easy  because it comes with the barb comes

 with a barber fitting and we're just  going to use some flexible black tubing  on the return line so that's another  small trick  i stopped using clear tubing a long time  ago because invariably just grows a  bunch of algae and looks nasty inside so  the last thing to do with this nice  piece of flexible black flexible tubing  is put it on  the barbed elbow here on the return line  and  we're basically done  with you know the nuts and bolts of the  system so now it's just time to fill her  up  [Music]  it's been a couple months since we did  some of the initial work here on our uh  reef inspired freshwater aquarium not  much has changed other than my resolve  to  inject a few more kind of tricky  features so  one of the things that i've changed  since our original plumbing job  was to  add a gate valve and the union so i did  mention the union in the plumbing i  thought i could fine-tune the pump with  a ball valve but the bulb i've had is  super tricky and that's actually the  third time i thought i could get away  using a ball valve for continuous siphon  and it really didn't work so i won't  make that mistake again we ran this  thing just kind of uh  just with water and it's incredibly  quiet there are no leaks as expected i  want to show up a couple details about  this aquarium and particularly what's  going on under here so i knew  that this was i wasn't really going to

 do anything with this space in  particular as far as adding equipment or  heaters or extra filtration or anything  and i thought okay maybe i'll have some  plants down here below but i realized  this will be just a really nice  isolation space for this aquarium system  so i've already cut out a big partition  right here that we're going to get to  here in a few minutes that fits  perfectly and because we're going to be  a little bit lighter on space inside of  the sump i decided to  get rid of the  the liability and kind of janky  magnet mount for the float valve and  instead we're going to drill it right in  the tank right where it is  for sure it is advisable to plan ahead  and do all your drilling of any kind of  glass hopefully with a drill press and a  little bit of a well and plenty of water  but  we already have everything in place so  we're going to do something a little bit  trickier i've got a specimen cup full of  water  and a basically a drip acclimator and  i'm going to use that  to  lubricate and cool the hole right here  it's not going to be that much water  coming through so i'm just going to have  a towel here to catch most of it up  it takes a little bit of finesse to get  the hole started but you're not really  drilling like you would with a bit  you're really kind of grinding out the  hole that you want so we're gonna get  started on that all right so we've just  got a little bit of a water stream  that's hiding hugging  the uh the glass pretty much right where  we want it so uh just gonna get her  started  oh  safety safety's super important  especially when it comes to glass and  eyes  [Music]

 [Music]  all right that wasn't so hard just slow  and steady almost no pressure like i  said we're not really drilling or  cutting it's just grinding away and just  barely barely wetted this towel nothing  on our stand and now it's going to be  really easy to install  the float valve  just like that  we're going to come back to this but now  let's go do a little prep work on the  partition that we're going to glue into  the sump since we had so much room in  the rest of the 40 breeder it's  basically going to turn into a  separate aquarium of variable water  height this is the partition that i've  already pre-cut  and test fit into place i think this is  pvc board so it's like really rigid but  where most sumps will use like acrylic  or glass for panels i don't want to be  able to see through it and this is  incredibly rigid but that's going to  help us just incorporate an extra little  mini system into this overall tank um  the two things we need to do to this  before we seal it up is go ahead and  drill it  for the return line so this is a half  inch uh bulkhead we're gonna put some  lock line and that's where the flow  control is gonna come in on the bottom  we're gonna put in this three quarter  inch bulkhead and an elbow and this is  going to act like a stand pipe that i  can change the height uh when i want to  if i wanted to be shallower or deeper  and make it a full-size aquarium so  let's go ahead and drill those holes  [Music]

 [Music]  i have to tell you i'm very pleased with  how this panel turned out it's  incredibly rigid and uh i cut it to size  so well that really had to round out  these corners a little bit just to get  it to sit in the silicone seams that are  there already  and even cut some little tabs right here  in the rim  just using a little hacksaw blade so  that this could fit into place  real nice and neat and be further held  up  by the tank rim itself  [Music]  all of the prep work has been done we've  wiped down where we're going to apply  some silicone with some alcohol to make  sure it's clean and dry  one small trick is i put some large  magnets on the other side of the  partition so that as i'm pressing the  silicone and it's not going to move out  of place so now there's nothing left to  do but to do it  it's nice to wear some gloves like evan  reminded me and uh  some old school guys may or may not use  this trick but of just kind of putting a  piece of tubing on your finger so that  way when you're making the seams you'll  have just a nice concave surface so  let's jump into it  [Music]

 like a lot of major projects you know  you think you're going to have  everything you need and you're going to  put it together exactly how you want and  it's not until you know your elbow deep  in it that you see a few improvements  that could be made midstream and after  taking a little bit more consideration  after getting some of the  primary plumbing completed  i think we buttoned up some really nice  features that are going to make this  tank just all that it can be and i'm  super excited to make use and i've  created a 25 gallon chamber out of part  of the sump that's going to be really  fun for keeping different species or if  there's a you know spawning pair of  discus here i can put them down there  and they can spawn still be part of the  same water  but one of the best parts of this  aquarium is that it is already cycled  sometime last year i just put a bunch of  biomedia in here with uh an air pump and  started feeding it some ammonia  the ammo alerts blue because there's  still some ammonia in here and still  keeping it going but we're just going to  put this in a basket basically  underneath the automatic filter roll so  water can flow through it so the tank is  essentially cycled you know we'll stay  it'll take it a little bit easy  on the uh fish editions we're not gonna  explode it right away but we still have  a few things to button up on this  particular aquarium particularly you  know some of the hardscape rock wood um  the lighting this is a kind of token  current usa light that we're using for  general illumination but we have a  special trip up our sleeve to make this  tank really really eye-catching so if  you want to make sure not to miss those  future installments of our freshwater  reef tank or building a freshwater tank  with saltwater techniques make sure to  subscribe um if you have any questions  about anything we did in this particular  tank build make sure to put those down  in the comments below don't forget to  hit that notification bell so you don't  miss any future updates on this tank  thanks for joining us on this video big  thanks to custom aquariums for  sponsoring this aquarium build and we'll  catch you guys on the next one very soon  

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