The Aquatic Gazette

jcardona1’s Wild Discus Biotope (1)

In Build on April 28, 2011 at 10:48

We were quite stunned when we found this discus biotope by jcardona1. Beautiful and healthy discus were swimming among driftwood, in simmering water. We knew we had to share it here and hope that you will be as inspired as we were. 

jcardona1: Well after several weeks on this tank it is finally finished!!! I picked this tank up at the end of January and have been working on it nonstop. I put a lot of thought and planning into this one. In fact, this is my most intense tank build yet. Lots of DIY work, made the setup of my old 400g seem like a breeze. This tank will be home mainly to my wild discus. I went for a biotope-ish setup, even though I have a few fish that aren’t truly native to where the discus are from. Enough of that, on to the details!

The tank measures 60x30x24, is made from ½” glass all around and holds roughly 190 gallons of water. I bought the tank used from Charlie @ The Fish Tank Factory in SoCal. The previous owner cracked the bottom pane, which was repaired by Charlie’s builder. The customer never came back for the tank, so I ended up getting a really good deal on it. It just involved a very long drive to pick it up!

The stand is DIY, about 33” tall. This is the second stand I’ve built. I hate working with wood, I don’t enjoy it all and only do it out of necessity. The stand is extremely overbuilt, but it’s the easiest way I’ve found to build a stand. It’s framed out of regular 2x4s, then skinned in whiteboard since it’s light and cheap. Because I’m only painting it, I didn’t need to go with some high quality wood.

The stand has side access doors along with the two front doors. The doors were built out of birch plywood panels, with a simple trim. It’s not perfect, but came out decent, and I’m learning! Maybe one day I can build a stain-worthy stand. But for now, I think this will look just fine in my living room. Final color was gloss leather brown. I also made an open top canopy out of whiteboard. It’s just a simple box frame as I only needed something to hide the black plastic trim and finish up the top.


jcardona1: This is one area where I spent a lot of time, especially doing research. This was a bare tank with no overflow boxes and no holes, so I was starting with a blank canvas. I’ve ran the Herbie setup before and I loved it. My main requirement was that this tank be dead silent as it was going in my living room. The filtration also had to be clean and simple. I’m not a fan of messy wet/dry filters. Those that have seen my sumps before know what I’m talking about

After doing lots of research on, I decided to go with the Beananimal overflow system. It involved a little more work since it uses 3 drain lines, but after running both the Herbie and the Beananimal, I’m convinced the Beananimal is better, safer, and quieter. It’s quieter because it uses two downward facing elbows, unlike the Herbie which uses two vertical open standpipes. The downward facing elbows make it so the system runs silent with no air bubbles in the lines at all. But because the elbows are facing down, you get air trapped inside at start-up. This is where the 3rd line comes in. When you start up the pump, the water level quickly rises past the two drain lines and starts flowing down the emergency drain. After a few minutes, the system purges the air out of the two main lines and the water level drops down, resuming its normal operation.

So with a plan in mind, I set out to drill the holes. I have never drilled glass before, so this was a learning experience. I bought a cheap diamond glass bit on eBay and practiced on a spare 20g tank. It was really easy actually. There’s plenty of videos on YouTube that show the steps involved. I ended up drilling five 1.75” holes for 1” bulkheads.

The Beananimal is built out of 1.5” piping. In fact, the entire system is built exactly like Beananimal original design as seen here:…ow-system.aspx. The bulkheads are 1″ with 1.25” elbows and strainers in the overflow box. Overflow box is DIY as well, using three pieces of ¼” glass.

The main drain is the one at the far right. The drain runs submerged and handles the bulk of the flow. Because it’s submerged, it runs as a full siphon, which can handle a lot more flow than a line that has air trapped in it. To restrict the flow and to control the noise, I’m using a 1.5” brass gate valve. I was using the ball valve at first, but it’s much easier to fine tune the flow with a gate valve. You’ll also notice that I have a small valve up top. For some reason, the air bubbled that traps inside this line during startup would not purge. I think it may be that my drain lines are submerged too far past the water level in the sump. I haven’t researched this yet, so I just added a small valve up top where I could release the trapped air. Without this, I was having water go down my emergency line indefinitely. As soon as I purge out the air, it goes back to normal.

The middle line is the open channel standpipe. This one basically operates like a Durso pipe, with a vented hole up top. The vent hole has tubing that extends below the rim of the tank. In the event of an emergency and a rising water level, the open channel standpipe will convert to a full siphon like the one on the right as soon as the vent tube becomes submerged under water. When it turns into a full siphon, it can handle a lot more flow than it could as a Durso, and can aid in quickly moving water down to the sump. Under normal operation, this pipe is flowing a small amount of spillover; whatever the main drain can’t handle. Because it’s a small amount of water, the water clings to the inside walls of the pipe, thereby not making any noise. If it begins to flow too much, then air gets trapped with the water, and you get the classic gurgling sound that overflows are known for!

The last pipe on the left is the emergency drain, and simply consists of an upturned elbow. As I mentioned above, this pipe sees water each the pump restarts, until the system purges the air out.

The main drain and open channel drain both flow into one filter sock in the sump. I’m currently using a 25 micron 7×16” filter sock.

The sump itself is made from an old 40g glass tank. This is quite possibly the cheapest, easiest, and most efficient sump you can build! You don’t need any drip trays, dividers, or baffles. All thanks to the media of choice. I have about 30-40lbs of porous ceramic media, which works much better than bio balls or pot scrubbers. Because this media is used fully submerged, it makes the sump very easy to build.

I’m using two return pumps for this setup: Quiet One 4000 (1017gph) and 4000 HH (980gph). These return back to the tank via two 1” return lines. I have a ball valve on each to be able to reduce the flow as needed; wild discus are particularly picky about not having strong currents in the tank. The returns on the inside consist of 45* elbows that I can rotate to adjust the surface current, or aim down if I wish. The return lines also have 1.5” swing-type check valves to stop the flow back to the sump, since they are several inches below the water surface.

Heating consists of a Rancho ECT1-R temperature controller and a 1000w titanium rod. I hate using regular aquarium heaters. They are so inaccurate and unreliable. This setup truly is ‘set it and forget it!

Thanks for reading Edition 1, Edition 2 can be found at this link:


credit: jcardona1


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