The Aquatic Gazette

jcardona1′s Wild Discus Biotope (3)

In Build on May 10, 2011 at 00:01

Welcome to Edition 3! If you have missed out on Edition 2, it can be found here: Enjoy this edition!

jcardona1: Decor for this tank is pretty simple, since I was going for a South American biotope look. I wanted a nice 3D background, but I didn’t want to lose several inches in depth. So I settled for the thin pieces that are tiled on. I ended up going with the Aqua Terra Slimline Mesa Rock background. For those of you that are familiar with backgrounds, you will know that Aqua Terra is really the best there is. When you see one in person, you’ll know why. To finish up the look, I have also covered the overflow box with the background tiles.

The substrate is a mixture of sand and gravel. Sand is 12# mesh Monterey Beach Sand. The gravel mixed in with the sand is ‘Klondike Brown’ gravel. Both the sand and gravel were purchased from a local rock yard.

Driftwood is Manzanita, collected locally in the northern California area. I placed the driftwood vertically in the tank to give it the look of tree roots growing into the water.

To make my life easier with the constant water changes needed, I decided to set up as semi-automatic water changing system. Since the tank was in my living room, it was a little difficult to set up a 24/7 drip system as I couldn’t take advantage of gravity to drain the excess water from the sump. To do so would have required a system with float switches, reservoirs, solenoids, etc. I didn’t want to deal with the extra cost, so I chose a super simple setup.

The main part of the system is the 55 gallon ageing barrel. The water is fed from my washer’s cold water supply line. It passes through a chlorine/chloramine filter, pressure regulator and then goes to the ageing barrel. The water level in the barrel is maintained automatically with a float valve. I chose to use a barrel to heat and age the water for degassing purposes.

The 55 gallon barrel is in a coat closet, and contains a small submersible pump to supply fresh water to the tank. There is another submersible pump in my sump; this is used to drain the tank for the daily water changes. The drain and refill pumps are controlled by a wireless remote control. To actually perform a water change, this is what I do:

– Turn off main pumps and heater, let extra water flow down to sump. – Turn on the drain pump in my sump via the remote control. This drains to a nearby bar sink. – Once the sump is empty, turn on the refill pump via the remote control. This supplies aged/heated water from the 55 gallon barrel. – Once the sump is full, turn on the system.

And that’s it! After that, the 55g barrel gets refilled with treated water from the float valve, ready for the next day’s water change. With this setup, I can change 30 / 35 gallons per day, depending on how much water I keep in the sump. And I can do it in a matter of minutes while sitting on the couch, thanks to the wireless remote!

cold water feed from washer hookup | feeds to ageing barrel (not shown)
drain pump that drains to nearby sink
drain pump
spigot that refills the sump from the aging barrel, with a Y-valve for adding water to other tanks

In a few months I plan on going to a fully-automatic system, whereby the drain pump comes on at set intervals throughout the day using a timer, draining only a few gallons at a time. The sump will then be refilled using an automatic top-off controller, commonly used in reef tanks. I spent too much on this tank already, so I saved some money by not buying the top-off controller right now. I will soon though.

Well, this has been a long write-up. I think that covers most of it. On to the full tank shots!

In Edition 4, jcardona1 updates us on changes to his completed tank. To read about more wild discus, an RO/DI system, and a modification to his LED controls, click on this link:


credit: jcardona1

  1. I have a discus tank (55 gallons) with 6 fish and just number 1 sand and no plants and the fish are very healthy and colorful. But i love the tank with the drift wood. Is that any special wood.

  2. This is the most beautiful tank I have ever seen. Ever.

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