A small fish room.. in an apartment

by George J. Reclos

Most of you probably know that an addict will do everything possible to satisfy his passion. So, it is only natural that a fish-addict will go to extremes to satisfy his need for more liters, more tanks, more species. Very few things will stop him – if anything. Consequently, I recently decided to build a small (tiny by the usual standards) fishroom in our home. Just 10 tanks, each holding 114 liters.. Although the liters may not sound many, still the existence of 10 tanks is a great plus for me. It is not only the volume that matters. I can now keep fry away from their parents, incompatible species, raise small fish to add in my big tanks, grow some plants, experiment with water / light conditions and many more.. Of course, building this fishroom was a really painstaking issue. Much more than any tank I have built up to now. It is fairly easy to make such a fish room if you have an empty basement but when you have to use a rather small normal room which is already filled with other things the issue becomes more complicated. If you happen to have a wife who always claims that she prefers her clothes than one more rack with tanks, things become even more complicated. The positive thing this time is that I didn't have to pay for a bathroom reconstruction. Just a big closet - that was the deal. Well, this is not entirely true.. a new car was also part of the deal. Sometimes I wish I was born a male Parachromis dovii..

This is the metal rack which will hold the tanks. It is made of galvanized iron with an 8x4 cm cross-section for the horizontal bars and 4 x 4 cm for the vertical bars). Measuring a total of 210 x 210 x 80 cm it came in two pieces (otherwise it wouldn't be possible to get it into the house) and was assembled in situ. The stand doesn't have any legs but a frame so the weight is spread to the floor evenly. Unfortunately this is one of the few rooms in our home which has a wooden floor so some extra care must be taken.

The usual blue "Roofmate" plates (by DOW chemicals) are placed at the bottom of each row as a start. The 2 cm thick plates are an essential part of every setup and are highly recommended. They will smooth any irregularities, insulate the bottom of the tanks, absorb most vibrations and spread the weight of the tanks evenly on the stand.

The short bottom row (40 cm high) is ideal to keep small things, medications, foods, even marine salt. When all the tanks become functional, this is the place where the external filters will be placed. Out of sight yet within reach. Needless to say, each tank will have its own filter.

I decided to place a good number of metal wires covered with green plastic (the ones used to bind terrestrial plants on supports) on the top of each row. Those wires come in handy when you want to keep electrical wires or fluorescent tubes away from the water surface. The more you can have, the better. They may not add to the appearance of the rack but you can always bend them to hide them. However, once you need one of them you will be glad it is there. Adding them afterwards is simply impossible.

No matter what, ten tanks need a lot of wiring. The most simple approach calls for one filter, one heater and one light per tank. In some tanks you may need to have an air pump, too. This is a must in fry raising tanks to avoid the risk of fry sucked in the filter. Lights also need a timer. Therefore the least I am going to need is 30 outlets, which will become 50 to ensure that every tank has an outlet within reach. Most aquatic equipment come with 1 - 1,5 m long cables which is not very convenient. All the electric sockets were facing outwards to reduce the possibility of a water spill and all of them have an "on-off" indicator light so you can be sure that you have turned off the ones you want before putting your hands in the water. The sockets at the front of the bottom row also have a cover to keep them spill-proof. The wires were kept together with electric tape. A waterproof marker was used to identify each cable - in case you need to take out one particular plug.

A view of the bottom of the lower rack. You can see the metal strings and the electric outlets. The top row can hold larger equipment like filter, pumps, fluorescent tubes and filter media. Most of them will soon be used so this place will be empty.. till it is filled again with more equipment.. old habits die hard.

A view of the upper row with the five tanks in place - still no water in them.

The lower row of tanks, ready to house fish. They look much better now.

For the moment only four of the tanks house fish.

Tank # 1 houses 4 cardinal tetra, 1 zebra danio, 1 discus, 1 Corydoras paleatus, 1 Corydoras aeneus, 2 Corydoras aeneus albino, 1 Acanthicus adonis and 1 Panaque sp. nigrolineatus. Some plants are included and the bottom is plain sand. A "carbonator" was also included releasing 1 g of carbon dioxide daily. Light: 4 fluorescent tubes. Filtered by an internal sponge filter (1000 l/h).

Tank # 2 (left tank in the photo above) houses 2 Acanthicus adonis. Ceratophylum demersum and Limna minor are added. L.minor has already formed a dense population at the surface of the tank creating a nice shadow - much enjoyed by the catfishes. Bottom: plain sand. A rock and bogwood formation is placed in the middle of the tank as a shelter for the fish during the day time. Light: one incandescent lamp 120 W energy saver. Filter: One internal sponge filter (650 l/h) and one air driven sponge filter (air pump 350 l/h).

Tank # 3 (second from left in the photo above) is the home of 10 Cichlasoma (Archocentrus) octofasciatum (convict cichlids), kindly donated by Manthos Vagionakis. Ceratophylum demersum and Limna minor are added. Bottom: plain sand. A bogwood formation with some Anubia sp. on it is placed in the middle of the tank as a shelter for the fish. Light: one incandescent lamp 120 W energy saver. Filter: One external canister filter (650 l/h).

Tank # 4 (right in the photo above) houses 3 Paratilapia polleni. Ceratophylum demersum, Hygrophila corymbosa and Limna minor are added. Bottom: plain sand. A large rock formation is placed in the middle of the tank as a shelter for the fish. Light: one incandescent lamp 120 W energy saver. Filter: One external canister filter (650 l/h).

Tanks #5, 6 and 7 will house my few Malawi cichlids when the 500 liter tank becomes a marine one. At this point I will have to give away the two 140 liter tanks which were used as "experimental" tanks. Unless I can find another place for them.. or a friend to take them.

Tanks #8 and 9 will be used as raising tanks when (if is more correct) I can get some more Madagascan cichlids.

Depending on the number of Madagascan species I can find, the 10th tank will be devoted to them, too or will become a small marine tank to keep some mussels and sea snails alive for the Octopus.

Needless to say, I would prefer to have the kind of fishroom I read about in the magazines or the fishy groups I attend. Those 175 tanks reported by a fellow hobbyist still make me dream. However, even 10 tanks are better than nothing and they offer me the kind of versatility I never had before while their maintenance is not adding too much in my week schedule. Now comes the pleasant part of this story.. What to keep in those tanks. Although this was largely decided before setting them up, it still allows me to add some species I always wanted to keep or get that catfish I couldn't keep before. Not to mention the fact that I can hardly wait to decorate them and add some new photos in MCH. This small fish room raises the number of tanks in our home to 17 (total volume 3.290 liters) a number which will be reduced to 14 tanks (total volume 3000 liters) once the 500 liter marine tank is finished. Excellent compared to the fishbowl we started with, nothing compared to my dreams which include tens of thousands of liters. However, this time, we are getting much closer to what Francesco usually says.. we will have to stay with them or soon we will need a new home.

See next page for photos of the tanks already set up.

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