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How To Build An Aquarium Filter Cheap (Part 2-2)

By KG Tropicals on

0:00:00.0 John: Hey folks, this is John with, it is time to wrap up this 240-gallon aquarium project and finish off what we started last week. Plus, I got a lot of questions about this sump system in the last week's video, so we'll address those too.


0:00:28.0 John: In last week's video, I went through my whole process of building these two sumps right here, and the project was a whole lot of fun to do. But if I was to make that video, the whole process of getting it up and running and everything else, the video would have been like 45 minutes long. So that's what this video is for, getting it up and running, getting everything all set. Just to recap, I built two sumps for this tank because my original plan wouldn't work because I'm an idiot and didn't realize that it wouldn't fit. I talked all about that in last week's video. If you missed that, I'll put a card up here for it. Definitely check that video out. I go in great detail about how stupid I am.

0:01:09.2 John: Today is all about the plumbing, getting the water down to the sump system and then getting that water back up to the tank. We're gonna talk in great detail about that. I filmed me doing that over the course of a couple of days. So you're gonna see me wearing different clothes and stuff like that, that's why that is 'cause I did this several days ago. Also, you're gonna see some awkward moments in this because I'm gonna be showing things to a phantom other camera.

0:01:38.3 John: There was another camera there, but I lost all that footage, I don't know why that is, so when you see me doing things like this and showing things to people that don't exist, that's what it is. I was showing it to my other camera... I don't know, I'm an amateur. What do you want from me? But let's get started talking about how to get the water down to the tank, and then we'll talk about getting it back up, and then we'll address the questions about this system that came in last week.

0:02:04.4 John: So how are we gonna get water from the tank down into the sump, we're gonna do that by way of bulkheads and the Custom Aquariums stealthbox. This is something that's relatively new. It's only been out a couple of years, and this is something that Custom Aquariums created. This mounts onto the back of the tank, it allows the water to flow into it and then drains it down very quietly, which is why it's called stealth, down into the sump.

0:02:32.0 John: It's very efficient, I've got one on my 360. This was not available when I got my first 240, but it's available now, and so of course, I was gonna get it. How do we hook it all up? It's very simple, we do that by way of bulkheads. These are big, monstrous bulkheads with a nice gasket on the inside, which is gonna go on the interior side of the tank to seal it off from that direction. We've got two of them, and then there's another huge gasket that goes on the back.

0:03:08.6 John: This one's like three eights of an inch thick. It is massive. Very simple to do, you put those gaskets on, you hook the stealthbox up to it, and then you take the big giant nuts and you put these on the back. It could not be easier. The only challenge is getting them really good and tight because with your fingers reaching down in here, it's a thin nut, it's kinda... I don't know, you kinda don't feel like you're able to get it tight enough with just your fingers.

0:03:46.6 John: Maybe you're somebody that has super strong hands. I like to think I have strong hands, but they're not strong enough to make me feel comfortable that it's all sealed off. I also am checking to make sure that the square gasket that's between the stealthbox and the tank is in there flat and in there the way that it's supposed to be, because if you have anything disturbing these, they're not gonna go on properly, you're not gonna have a good seal, and that is kind of like the biggest enemy of a fishkeeper is that dreaded leak word. We definitely don't want that, so we wanna make sure those gaskets are seated in there nicely, and that everything is good to go.

0:04:34.0 John: Now, tightening them, like I said, usually you're not gonna have a wrench that's big enough, what I've got here and it works 'cause I've done it before, this is just an oil filter wrench that you would use to change the oil in your car, it's like eight bucks at Walmart, I think this is what I use on its wider setting, get it on there, grab a hold of that nut and I turn it about a quarter turn, you can feel when it's good and tight, and then you go about a quarter turn beyond that.

0:05:10.3 John: Once it's tight, then you go another quarter turn just to ensure that everything is all good and tight, it's a real thin nut... Is it a nut, I don't know. What do you call these? Alright, that is in there. Rock solid. Good to go. Happy with that. The box is mounted, the box even has a little lid on it to make it even more comfortable or even more quiet, so sitting just like this... It's not done. It's not even close to being done. No, because if this was left alone like this, your water line would be to the bottom of these holes here, which you can't even see...

0:05:53.8 John: I guess you can see it in this angle here, but it would be way, way down, and we don't want that. So what we're gonna do is install the H20 overflows, this is another product that is exclusive to Custom Aquariums, these just install in there, just like that, very, very simple. And the good thing is, these are adjustable, you can lean them or tilt them whichever way you want, which is very cool.

0:06:18.6 John: I don't really know why you would need to do that, but if you have some kind of a decoration or something like that, like I have that tall log in my 360, if you need to get it out of the way, you can turn it out of the way like that, which is very, very cool, and this is gonna be what determines your water line, it's gonna go basically to this overflow here. So now it's all the way up there at the top of the tank, beyond the trim, which is good because then you're never gonna see that water line.

0:06:50.2 John: So as far as the drain is concerned, whoops... This is what you're gonna see from the top. I'm gonna glue this in place, don't worry, it's not gonna fall. That's the one thing I am gonna talk about here today. I'm not gonna glue any of this in place yet. I'm gonna get everything put together, then I'm gonna glue everything and all of that, so if things are falling off or whatever that just is what it is.

0:07:10.5 John: But this is what it's gonna look like on the inside. Now, let's go to the outside and get this thing all buttoned up. So you can see this looks very nice on the back, it doesn't stick out too far, it's very slick, very sleek looking, you're not gonna have to worry about a bunch of leaks and all of that because you have all of those gaskets, it's very, very efficient and it's very quiet, that's actually the purpose of this is to keep everything quiet. Again, that's why they call it the stealthbox. How do we get the water from this tank down into here? We do that. First of all, it was nice Custom Aquariums cut this little hole for us, which I guess you can't see in the frame, but the hoses hook up right to the bottom of the stealthbox, just like that, I am gonna be gluing it in place.

0:08:00.0 John: There's two of them. Here's the other one right here. These hook to the bottom of the filter... Bottom of the stealthbox, it's not the filter. I will use PVC glue to glue them in place when everything is all finalized and everything's fitted in, all of that, the hoses are cut to length and everything, that's when I'll do the final gluing, and I may even add this large ball valve to it to give a little bit of fine tune ability to it. I don't know, we'll have to see about that. But they included it in the package. So that's cool, but I'm not sure that I'm gonna use that.

0:08:38.0 John: I have that on my 360 and I've never adjusted it, so I don't know that I'll need to adjust it here. The thing is, with that ball valve, that's gonna send less water down one of the drains, and when you see the configuration of my sump, we're gonna talk about that in a second, you're gonna see why that wouldn't be a great thing. I want the exact same amount of water going down each drain again... That'll make sense in a minute. But this is very simple. It looks very nice. You've got about four inches. Where's my tape measure? It's not even four inches, it's three and a quarter inches back from the back of the tank, so you don't have to have this thing sitting really far away from the wall, I like to have some space behind the wall or behind the tank... Between the tank and the wall, just because I like to be able to get back in there, my 360 is a foot off the wall, and I can't really squeeze back there because once you have this and everything on it, it's not like you can easily walk through it but anyway, you don't have to do that if you're limited on space, you could literally have this thing four inches off of the wall and you'd be completely fine all the way down.

0:09:47.6 John: But now we need to talk about the next part, which is, how are we gonna get water back into the aquarium. First of all, I think it's a pretty common sense, this drains down into the sump, it doesn't just drain out into a drain somewhere, it drains down into the sump, it gets filtered in the sump and then it has to go back up into the tank. How do we do that? First of all, there's gonna be pumps in the sump, which are going to hook to a hose, which is gonna come up to these holes right here, through this device right here. This is called the siphon stopper. Again, a product from Custom Aquariums, this is an absolutely critical piece to a sump system as far as I'm concerned, because due to gravity, if you have a power outage and the power is no longer pumping or providing power to the pumps, which is sending water back up into here, the water, because of gravity, is gonna wanna go right back down into the sump.

0:10:45.0 John: If your returns are lower than... I don't know, than they should be... Then you can actually have everything from here up is gonna drain out in this tank right here, that's about that much water, figure it out. I don't know, that's a lot of gallons. We do not want that going back down into the sump. It happens because of gravity. This device stops that. How does it stop it? I have no idea. But it stops it. I don't know, I don't know how it works, but it stops it from... Because with gravity flowing back down into the tank, which is absolutely genius, so you don't have to worry about it if the power goes out your entire or the top third of your aquarium is not gonna drain all the way down into and overflow your sump and flood your entire base, what a nightmare that would be.

0:11:38.7 John: Very similar as far as how they connect, as the stealthbox, you have a bulkhead here, which you can take off, but it's not really necessary to. This part goes through the glass, and that goes on the outside, obviously, gasket on the inside this connects to it, that's all there is to it. It's very, very simple. And then this elbow is gonna connect to my hose. Again, I will glue that in with PVC, so let me get that done, I gotta take this lid off, let me get that done, and then we can start talking about the fun stuff, we can talk about what's going underneath this bad boy.


0:12:51.6 John: Do you ever ask yourself, how come things just can't go according to plan? When it comes to the interior of this tank, the aquascape of this tank, the substrate and the rocks, literally nothing has gone according to plan. First thing that happened was, I ordered a bunch of Lava Rock from one of our distributors. Now, let me just make it clear, this is not our distributor's fault, it just is what it is, but I ordered a bunch of black lava rock because my initial intent was to have this full of just nothing but black rocks, black substrate and black lava rocks.

0:13:26.8 John: Well, I ordered medium and large sized black lava rocks for this project. And this is medium. And this is large. Again, it's not the distributors fault, it's not like they make this, it's just... It is what it is. I didn't know the sizes before I bought them. I thought it was gonna be bigger rocks and it's just not. So you can see what I've got sprawled out on the table here, it's not nearly enough to fill up this thing. Of course, I don't wanna fill it up, but you know what I mean make a nice cave type structure, rock pile in the center of the tank.

0:14:05.9 John: So that's not gonna work out. I decided, well, I'm gonna go around and I'm gonna shop for black lava rocks. I went to every pet store within, I don't know, two hours of our house, and literally no one had any. So I decided to go with a plan B and kind of go against what I originally had planned and not have everything be all black, which is what I wanted, but we have some of this [0:14:35.5] ____ stone, that's what I call it. The story behind this is we ordered a bunch of this because we were entertaining the idea of selling it on the website.

0:14:43.5 John: Well, no, that's just not gonna work and it's not because no one will buy it. People will definitely buy it. The problem is shipping it. It costs a fortune to ship this and half the time the boxes get destroyed because they're heavy stuff in there, and the Postal Service just throws them around. So we decided against selling that, and it's been sitting in here, not a huge amount of it, but some...

0:15:07.5 John: And so I said, you know what, we'll just go ahead and combine the two and we'll have a nice little rock formation in there, who knows. It's gonna look like nothing once it's in the tank, but hopefully I can at least give the... Give some texture to the tank, and give it something to look at. Of course, I want the fish to be the main focal point, but here's the next story, when it comes to the substrate, I order 10 bags of black sand from the same distributor that I ordered these rocks from... And ordered it up, it takes a few days to get here, 'cause they have to ship it on a truck, on a crate, all this nonsense, go and pick it up and oh, guess what, the only thing that did not get included in that shipment was the substrate.

0:15:52.9 John: It's my luck again, nothing ever goes according to plan. So I went on Amazon and I ordered eight bags of eco complete African Cichlid sand. I paid for this stuff, I paid retail price. It's not like this is a sponsored video, this is a product that I've used before in the past, and I was happy with it.

0:16:11.0 John: So that's what I'm gonna use in here. So I'm gonna do that, but before I do that, I gotta finish getting everything all plumed in and everything, but I just wanted to tell you those stories. This aquascape is not gonna be anything like what I originally had planned, but isn't that just the way things go? For me anyway, always.


0:16:42.5 John: So one of the first things that needed to be done here to finalize this thing was getting the pumps hooked up, I had to add those extra fittings to it, because the hoses that Custom Aquariums uses don't fit the fittings that come with the pumps, so I bought them at the hardware store, and then I'm using the heat gun there just to soften them up and make it easier to get on there, and then holding it on with some pipe clamps. No big deal.


0:17:17.0 John: And of course, my guy, Ike, he just had to make sure I was doing it right and wasn't screwing anything up. All of the fittings that Custom Aquariums provides are standard PVC, so they can be secured with standard PVC glue. I went to the hardware store and got one of those combo kids that comes with the primer and the glue, it turns it purple, but once you get it together, you never see it... And that's all there is to it. Cutting the hoses is simple as just cutting it with a razor blade, you don't need any particular skills to do that.


0:18:27.5 John: Now that everything's hooked up, we can have fun with it and do the best part of this whole process, which is getting the substrate down in there and getting this thing full of water. Like I explained earlier, the Aquascape didn't go exactly like I wanted it to, but I'm somebody that likes minimal decor in aquariums. I like the fish to be the focal point in there, but filling this tank with yellow labs means that I need to have plenty of little hiding spaces, not only for the fish, but also if they do end up breathing, one of the best chances for survival is to allow there to be little hiding spots for the fry. What you see here is a highly skilled Aquascaper literally just taking the rocks and throwing them, and where they land, that's where they're gonna stay. I'm skilled at this, folks. I don't know what you want me to tell you. It's, I was just born with this talent, I don't know.


0:19:49.9 John: So here it is, the completed sump system. It's been running for about a week now, and I'm really happy with how it's been performing. It's taken me a little bit to get it dialed in so that they're both running at exactly the same level, so that one doesn't have more water in it than the other. It's kind of fun to get it dialed in with it being two separate pumps and two separate drains, and the two drains go into two separate sumps, it's been a little bit of a challenge to get it all dialed in. This is only being done because I had to do it in this situation. I didn't want to build a sump inside the tank, that would have been a huge hassle. But we're gonna address some of the questions that came in about that from last week's video. There's some that there's nothing I can do with, but then there's others that made a great point. And the first one has to do with there being two separate pumps. A couple of people commented, "Aren't you afraid that if one of those pumps goes out, all of the water is gonna continue draining into both of those tanks and it's gonna, inevitably, overflow?"

0:20:56.4 John: That is an absolute legitimate concern, but there's not really a whole lot that I could do about it. I suppose, if I wanted to drill a hole between the two tanks, drill out the tanks, put a pipe in there so that the tanks can overflow into each other, I suppose I could do that, and it's not a terrible idea. Maybe that's something that I'll do in the future, but as of right now, it's not something that I'm gonna lose any sleep over for several reasons. For one, these are CJ pumps, they're hooked up to Wi-Fi, I get alerts on my phone if something goes wrong. So if one of those goes out, I can quickly work with it and figure it out. One of us is always here. It's very rare that Lisa and I are both gone from the house. So if something does go wrong, it would be very easy for one of us to do something about it.

0:21:48.7 John: It's actually very simple what I would do to solve the problem temporarily until I can fix it, just take that hose and move it over to the other one or vice versa, so that both drains are draining into the same sump, and then I can take my time and figure out what I'm gonna do about it. It is a legitimate concern, and I appreciate everyone that mentioned that, but you know what, there's another thing to think about here when it comes to this. There is no way any of you... I don't care how good you are, I don't care how long you've done this, there's no way you're going to be able to prevent every single possible problem that could go wrong in your aquariums. You just can't do it. There's gonna be leaks, there's gonna be a hose that pops off, there's gonna be an aquarium that leaks.

0:22:37.2 John: Whatever it is, you can't prevent all of those problems. You do your best to put yourself in the best situation you can, but even when you do that, you can still have things go wrong. So the best thing to do is to do the best you can and just don't lose sleep over it. Have a plan if something's gonna go wrong. Like I said, we know exactly what we would do if things went wrong. And in the event that we were like on vacation or something, my neighbor has a key, he could come over here and take care of it for me. It's not a big deal. And worst case scenario, if it did happen and nobody could do anything about it, this is a garage. It's right next to the door. There is a slope. If this was to overflow, it would overflow and go right out the bottom of the door. So I don't wanna see that happen, but if this was in my living room, I think I would probably take an extra step to make sure that it doesn't happen. But it's a garage.

0:23:35.7 John: The next concern that came in was one that was another legitimate one, and it actually forced me to make a change. If you watched last week's video, you can see that the configuration in these sumps is a little bit different. I had the bio-media on the opposite side of the filter wall, the sponge wall, if you call it that, and a lot of people made the point that, "Hey, if that gets plugged up, clogged up with a bunch of detritus," which is dirt and fish poop, "It's not gonna be very effective." And that's very true. The smart thing to do would be to have that bio-media after all of the mechanical filtration, the filter sock and the sponge. When I read that, I said, "You know what, that makes a whole lot of sense," and I immediately made the change. All I did was slide the sponge wall over a little bit and then moved the bio-media to the opposite side. This way, the water is as clean as it's gonna get before it gets to that bio-media, so that it doesn't get clogged up as fast.

0:24:39.5 John: Again, these are easy to get in there and maintain. If the bio-media did get clogged up, I could take them out, shake them out into a bucket or something like that, it's not a big deal, but this is gonna prolong the amount of time between me needing to do that. So whoever it was that commented that, and there was quite a few of you, thank you. You taught me something on this one. I'm fully willing to admit when I've made a mistake. That's not a mistake that would have killed fish or ruined the system, but it's a mistake that would have made me have to maintain this longer, and you fine people who saw that and commented about it, you made me realize that, and I appreciate that very much. Nobody likes to hear that they've made a mistake, but you know what, you feel good about it when you just accept it and you make the change and you move on.

0:25:25.7 John: So there was a couple more comments that came through that they're, again, legitimate concerns, but it's not something that I'm gonna spend a whole lot of time on. One of them was, "Are you worried that the interior of the stand might get mildew and mold and all that kind of stuff?" You have that in every single aquarium. I don't care what you're doing under there, so there's always gonna be water under there. I'm not gonna spend a whole lot of time worrying about that. I'm gonna do my job, I'm gonna make sure that I maintain these sumps. And I'm somebody that is a stickler for not getting water everywhere, so I'm gonna do my best to prevent that, but the inside of this stand is sealed off with lacquer and everything else, so it should help to prevent that as long as possible, but again, I'm not gonna lose any sleep over it.

0:26:13.8 John: There was also a couple of people that said, "Hey, shouldn't you switch out that wooden shim that you used to hold up the filter sock?" Again, not something that I'm concerned with. If it rots, I'll just put another one in there. A shim costs like a cent, [chuckle] so it's not something that I'm gonna worry about. Again, legitimate concern.

0:26:35.3 John: And the last one is, there was a couple of people that said, "Ha, ha, ha. This guy probably spent more for these filters then he would have if he just bought a filter," and that is so true. But it doesn't have to be true for you. It's true for me because I got super high-end, super premium pumps that are literally like $300 a piece. Again, I'm blessed to be a retailer, so I didn't pay that for them, but if you were to buy them, they would cost you about $300 a piece. That is a lot of money, and I get it. You can buy filters for that cost, it's very true, but you can also buy pumps that are like $45. They might not be... Or they're definitely not as advanced as these, they may not last as long as these, they might not be as powerful as these, but they'll get the job done. I've used those pumps many times and they're fine.

0:27:34.0 John: Again, not as good as these, but they're fine. This is a show tank. This is a set, literally, because this is being filmed right now. It's gonna be filmed a lot over the course of the next several years, and it's on display in every single live stream that we do Thursday nights at 8 o'clock now. We're switching the time. But this needs to be right, and it needs to be high-end, and it needs to be something that is gonna wow people. And so getting those expensive pumps make sense for our situation. It may not make sense for yours. The water will still pump through the cheap pumps folks, so you don't have to spend an absolute fortune.

0:28:16.0 John: If you were to use lower end... I'm not gonna say cheap, I'm not gonna say crappy pumps, but if you were to use sumps that are not... Not sumps, but pumps, that are not at the same level as these high-end CJ pumps, the water will still flow and it'll go, no problem, and you will spend far, far less than if you were to buy canister filters for this. I'm gonna put it up on the screen, I guess, right here, a breakdown of what the materials cost to do this, and you'll see it's nothing like if you were to buy a couple of FX6' or if you were to buy a couple of the big EHEIM filters or something like that. And don't talk to me about the cheap ones 'cause I don't wanna hear that. I know there is dirt cheap canister filters. I don't even wanna have that conversation.

0:29:03.7 John: So this project has been a whole lot of fun to do. I hope you've enjoyed it. I know the videos are long, but I'm a guy that likes to go into great detail. If you did enjoy it, you're gonna want to come back. Again, it's not gonna be next week, but within the next couple of weeks because I'm gonna be putting fish in here. If you don't know yet what I plan on doing with this tank, I'm gonna put 40 or 50 yellow labs in this tank. I'm so excited about it, to go back to my roots of African cichlids, and I've always had that fantasy tank of a blacked out tank full of yellow labs.

0:29:40.7 John: It might look a little cloudy right now, it's 'cause everything's brand new, but when this thing clears out and it's just a box that's just black, full of yellow fish, it's gonna be absolutely amazing. So you're gonna wanna check back to see that video. The fish are coming this coming week, at least that's what they're supposed to be weather-permitting, and I can't wait for that. It's gonna be so fun, so you're definitely gonna wanna check back to see that, but the video is not gonna be next week, it'll probably be in a couple of weeks. We're gonna need to be prepared for that, so gonna be a lot of fun. I'm also gonna be doing a detailed video about cycling this aquarium. So again, something that you're gonna wanna check back for, especially if you're a new fish keeper. So anyway, enough rambling. These videos are long enough. Thank you so much for watching, and I'll see you next time.

About KG Tropicals

There are many aspects to keeping an aquarium. Many newcomers to the hobby can be quickly overwhelmed. The KGTropicals YouTube channel was created to be a place for no nonsense information about the hobby, a place where the information is delivered in a way that even the most inexperienced fish keeper could understand. Whether you want to breed aquarium fish, heal a sick or injured fish or you just want to know how to set up your first tank, KGTropicals has you covered.

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