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  1. #1
    Smallmouth Bass dimfer's Avatar
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    10-29-2014 8:29 PM

    My Aqua Hobby Journey


    My first experience in keeping fish came in 1991, when my cousin gave my daughter a goldfish bowl with 3 feeders on her fourth birthday. Well, of course, the feeders didn't last too long. After all feeders died, the bowl was put away for three or four years, then converted into a betta tank. I did much better in keeping the betta alive as it survived for more than two years. When my betta died, the container was put away again .

    Back in 2002, my wife decided to change things around at home, doing what she called a modified feng shui. She wanted to add a water feature, so, the entire family headed to Petsmart to pick up our first real aquarium. She wanted to get a ten gallon but I convinced her to go for a twenty (an early indication of what's to come, I suppose). After the aquarium was setup, we got some guppies, then some gouramies, then three goldfish, then some little sharks & some more beginner fish. Later that year, my brother-in-law from the Philippines visited us and told me how popular arowanas were in the Philippines. I got curious and started searching the net for articles about arowanas. This led me to PALHS, a Philippine based aquahobby site dedicated to arowanas and flowerhorns. Palhs forum was the first forum I participated in, and the cool people there got me more interested. Being based in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada for a number of years, Palhs forum also became my new connection to my country of origin. At the same time, I was slowly getting more information about local arowana sources and local arowana fanatic groups. I also found arofanatics. Now I am hooked.

    Not too many fish stores sell asian arowanas here in Edmonton, and the prices are quite prohibitive as well. Unwilling to spend $ 1,800 for a chilli red, I responded to an ad at a local Bargain Finder Magazine. After a short telephone conversation, I was convinced that I would get my first asian arowana from Tony, a very accomodating Vietnamese fellow whom I found out later to be the master purveyor of arowanas in our city. From the very beginning, I had a very good impression of Tony, his pricing was fair (but still expensive) and I thought he was honest in giving me informations about his arowanas, citing the good, and the defects.

    I bought a complete 130 gallon Oceanic setup from a fellow who switched to smaller saltwater setup. I rounded up a few friends, and we picked up the tank. My wife was totally against buying a bigger aquarium, I had to promise her many times that this is the last one, the ultimate setup for me. A month later, on June 30, 2003, I picked up my first asian arowana from Tony's place - a 7" DFI chilli red. I can still vividly remember the feeling of bringing my first arowana home, so afraid that it would die on the way home.. I can also remember, how I spooked the arowana after I took it out of the bag, and it jumped out of the tank. My daughter was shouting so loud, while I was trying to catch this slippery fish under the dinner table. I did not sleep much that night, and the next few nights after that. When my wife asked me how much I paid for it, I waived four fingers, she exclaimed - whattt, you paid $400 for a fish ( she would have probably passed out if I told her $1,400). Feeling guilty, I told my older daughter my true cost. Armed with the informations acquired from PALHS & Arofanatics, I was able to grow my first asian arowana to a very nice looking specimen. It had seen a number of tankmates, from blood parrots, to stingray to tigrinnus. I moved my aro to a 210 gal in 2004 and converted my 130 to a flowerhorn community. This move allowed me to practice my d-i-y abilities, I did all the plumbing and cabinet of the 210 gallon setup myself. I also designed my own d-i-y overhead filter box to replace the Fluvals that were starting to fail on the 130.

    I kept two setups for a while. My 210 gallon which was located in the dining area housed my chilli red, 2 blood parrots & the green severum. Sometime in 2005, I added a tigrinus, and then a motoro stingray.

    In the meantime, my 130 gallon which was located in my basement became a flowerhorn community. These guys fought night and day, but kept on breeding like crazy.

    In late 2005, somebody shared a link about arapaimag's 50,000 mega monster tank. This introduced me to MFK. I was awed and inspired by the big tanks posted here. This gave me an idea - how about a bigger tank and arowana community. There was no room for a bigger tank in our old house, so, my first step was to convince my wife to move to a bigger house. We bought a new house in June 2005, with the builder's estimated possession date of early/mid 2006.

    In September 2005, me and Tony decided to split an arowana order from Singapore. We inquired from the usual sources like Dragonfish, Imperial Palace (Vincent), Arowana King & others. I was inquiring directly to Kan Tan Siong, who promised to ship us high quality arowanas for a very competitive price. Tony had dealt with Panda before, so we decided to place our order with Mr. Kan. I ordered six golden crossbacks, three chilli red, and an hbrtg, Tony ordered mostly reds and hbrtgs. A few days prior to the arrival of the arowanas, whatever was left of the flowerhorns were given away to friends. Our order arrived in late October 2005.

    My first taste of arowana community came. Boy, I was excited and very anxious at the same time. Having read many arowana community failures, I prayed hard for the success of this one.

    In my estimation, the arowanas would be around 10" to 15" by the time we move. That would be perfect, I'll be able to move them to a bigger tank before they get too crowded in the 130 gal. But boy, were we ever wrong about the target possession date. The boom in the oilpatch drove the housing market in our city into a frenzy, the 10-12 month construction promise became "sorry, we don't know".

    In early 2006, I started finalizing plans for my monster tank. My wife was quite convinced that we should hire a professional to do this. We inquired at a local fishstore that specializes in bigger tanks (Aquarium Illusions/Concept Aquarium). I was quoted $17k for a 1000 gal tank, plus stand, filter, cabinetry & so on, and in my estimate, it would be a $30k project by the time everything is said and done (professionally). The figures were acceptable to her, in exchange for the peace of mind that the tank is properly done. But, there was still a nagging thought in the back of my head - that this project would be sweeter if it is done D-I-Y style. It took me a while to convince my wife to let me do the design and most of the work. By the way, I am an accountant by training, but had been running a sheet metal shop for a number of years, so, I'd been exposed to design, properties and construction of various metal products.

    I decided to go with a stainless steel box with glass front and back windows. I contacted our metal suppliers and finally decided to go with 11 gauge 316L stainless material. It was supplied to me at cost by my good friend Lou Cardamone of Thyssen Group. The 1/8" thick 2x2 square tubing materials used for the stand were supplied by another regular supplier, Wilkinson steel.

    Since we don't do stainless welding in our shop, I had to have it done at our sister company's shop. Here, I dealt with Terry, a sheetmetal journeyman, considered to be one of the best. Terry disapproved my first design employing square tubing reinforcement all around the box to eliminate the risk of bowing due to too much continious welding. He suggested that the folded 11 gauge sheets would be strong enough.

    So, I went back to the drawing table.

    The Big Tank Project

    Here's the final plan of my big tank.
    the stand - 120" long x 75" wide x 28" high.
    made of 1/8" thick 2 x 2 steel square tubing

    the tank - 120" long x 75" wide x 32" high.

    The actual construction began in our shop. Two younger fellows in the shop volunteered to stay after work hours to do the welding. I pre-cut all the materials for them. These two guys quit their jobs in the middle of the project. I paid them $100 each for their time.

    I had to get somebody else to finish it one weekend, it only cost me a case of beer.

    after the stand was finished, it sat in one corner of our shop for months.

    Sometime late 2006, Terry was able to work on the stainless steel part of the project. What I didn't realize until after the job was done, was the fact the Terry is more of a craftsman than a journeyman. While he did an excellent job, it took him 75 hours and I ended up with a whopping over $ 5,000 bill. Man, I was surprised, and felt sick. This is supposed to be the cheaper way of doing it.

    Me and my wife did the prep works (sanding & grinding), priming and painting of the stand on two weekends.

    The stand, tank and the filter box sat in one corner of the shop for a few more months.

    We finally took possession of our new home in February 2007. Aquarium project related, we upgraded to a 34" door in the basement ($400) to allow the 32" high tank into the house. We also added a window ($300) to have a little bit of natural lighting in the location of the tank during the day.

    The building code specified that unfinished portion of our basement must be enclosed as part of the basement development plan, my first move was to tear down this wall.

    I invested on a used compound mitre saw and a set of brand new cordless power tools from Costco.

    A couple of friends (Joey & Noel) from work helped me with the construction of the aquarium room. We did this project in weeknights and a couple of weekends.

    Expecting elevated moisture inside this room, we used Aquaboard all around. Our inexperience presented a few challenges, but we're very happy with the result.

    My wife helped me with the paint job, she also installed the vinyl tiles. She was also in charge of keeping our construction site organized & clean.

    I ordered the acrylic panels from GE Polymershapes. From a 1.5" thick 72" x 120" sheet, they cut to size the front and back panels. My wife insisted in hiring a professional to be in charge of preparation and installation of the acrylic panels. It took me a while to find somebody to do it. I originally found this Johnny guy who was very enthusiastic in the beginning, but chickened out in the end, fearing liabilities after the installation. What pissed me off with this guy was he did't have the guts to tell me, he just kept on pushing the project aside. Finally, I found Rick of Stony Design. Rick agreed to do the job, provided I sign a waiver that would free him from any liability related to the installation of the panels.

    One Friday afternoon, I rounded guys from work to help me with the move. A total of 17 guys helped me load the tank, stand and filter to a flatbed truck.

    Because most of the snow in our city was gone, we were not prepared to deal with the almost waist deep snow in the back of the house. This provided a stiff challenge to the guys, making them quite hungry and thirsty in the end.

    When we laid the tank in the stand, one end of the tank was lifting quite a bit. I decided to overcome this issue by putting the rocks/substrate inside the tank before the silicone sets. Me and my wife hauled approximately 800 lbs. of California lace rock from a local landscaping store in my van. My 80 year old mom helped me wash the rocks one Saturday morning. I also put stainless steel shims on some areas where the floor is not even.

    I consulted various articles here at MFK in choosing the appropriate silicone. I checked various articles in the D-I-Y section, exchanged some pms with my idol johnptc and decided to go with Dow 832.

    Rick prepped the acrylic sheet by roughening all surfaces where silicone will be applied by using a palm and a belt sander.

    here, Joey was waiting for his turn to do some work.

    we also used an air driven silicone gun to apply 15 tubes of silicone

    Rick supplied some 3/16" thick acrylic spacers so that the sheet is not sitting right on the floor of the tank. Silicone was generously applied.

    Acrylic panel installation was done in 5 hours, Rick is a very nice guy, but still charged me $ 100 per hour.

    the panels were clamped to place

    as planned, bags of rocks were distributed around the bottom of the tank as required

    after all the bags were put in, we finalized siliconing all around the acrylic panel. there is a 3/16"
    gap all around, all these gaps were filled with silicone.

    The next step was building the wooden frames for the front access door and the enclosure over
    the tank. As per advise of a guy at Home Depot, I used mostly cedar, for it's resistance to rotting
    when exposed to moisture. All the wooden parts used have 3 coats of water based silicone
    varnish. I used a satin coat floor and porch paint for all other parts that needs to be painted, with
    3 coats as well.

    A 1"x6" piece of cedar board was screwed and siliconed in the front and back upper lip of the
    tank frame.

    partially finished view of the back side

    There was a deep scratch and a crack on the edge on one of the acrylic sheets (which we installed
    in the back side). Rick came back after 3 weeks to polish the edges of the scratch and insert
    acrylic glue to the crack. We also inserted a 1.5" x 1.5" strip of acrylic inside the top frame, glued
    to the main panel, like a Euro bracing, for added rigidity. This time, he only charged me a couple
    of beers.

    The D-I-Y access doors, made of 3/16" acrylic sheets and siliconed to the 1/4" aluminum U
    channel frame.

    I ordered the bulkheads, heaters, filter media and other fittings from Aquamerik (Montreal), it
    took them over two weeks to ship out my order.

    When I started to do the plumbing, I found out that the holes for the 2" bulkheads were about
    1/8" too small. I was pissed off because before the tank was built, I asked them 3 times about the
    size of the hole needed for the bulkheads.

    Terry advised me to use a cone shaped grinding stone. It took me 4 noisy, dusty and smelly hours
    to do all 6 holes.

    The project continued. Tight clearances around the tank made the plumbing job much more
    difficult. Measurements were taken, parts were measured, fitted, assembled and installed.

    The pipes connected to the return line (pump)

    One of the 2 2"pipes running from the tank to the filter box

    Tight space required me to cut the throat of some fittings

    top view of the filter box, the bead will serve as a gasket

    one of the many custom fittings

    Me, observing occupational safety procedure. The smell of PVC primer & glue were just too strong to do without a mask.

    additional faucets were installed inside the fishroom

    The legs of the filter box were strapped to the legs of the aquarium stand

    I kept the paper wrapper of the acrylic panels until we were ready to put water to ensure minimal scratches. The walls were washed and thoroughly vaccumed.

    Did I say I am an organized worker?

    My wife is, very organized.. and I spent a lot of my time finding stuff after she put them away

    After I finished all the plumbing works, I invited Joey over one Friday evening. We installed the lights and the inner front windows, we also vaccumed inside the tank one more time. For the occassion, I also had a wet vac available, just in case there is a leak. We ate a hearty dinner, rested a little bit while listening to music and started filling the tank. We started with the filter box, no leak at the bottom and bottom pipe connections. There were small leaks in all bulk head terminations. We drained the box and proceeded filling up the main tank. We filled it up just before it reached the plumbing connections. Me, Joey and my wife were constantly going around the tank, looking out for leaks. Thanks God, no leak at all. I continued adding water on Saturday morning, and discovered more leaks in the bulkheads.

    Joey & my wife resting a little bit.

    I also threw in the bag of filter media

    I had persistent problems with small leaks in the bulkheads. The painstaking process of removing the old silicone, re-applying a new coat, drying/curing took weeks and tested my patience. I probably had to dump close to 1500 gallons of water because of this excercise. Per John's (johnptc) suggestion, I stopped using teflon tape and switched to teflon paste. I also used a concoction of Dow 832 & Lexell sealant to finally stop the leaks.

    I used different types of silicone

    I originally liked to use water lifting instead of the conventional water pump, thinking that I'll be shooting two birds with one stone (introducing oxygen into the system & use the same to circulate water). This elaborate water lifter produced a lot of noise and only moved about 1000 gph of water, so it had to go.

    I replaced it with Sequence Dart (3600 gph) and continued cycling the tank. Prime Stability Plus and Microbe Lift were also added to the water. I also threw in 30 goldfish feeders. None of the feeders died in the 2 weeks they were kept in the tank prior to the move of the arowanas.

    We moved to the new house in mid-May, but all my arowanas and my two tanks had to stay in the old house. In the span of one month, my ever reliable Hydor pump in the arowana community stopped working three times, thanks God no serious adverse effect on the fish. For how long were my community left without filtration, I don't know. Also, during this period, the sump of my 210 in the main floor overflowed, thanks God (again) we got there before it did a serious damage to the kitchen floor. With so much risk of running 2 big setups without close supervision, we rushed to move everybody.

    We started by moving the arowana community first. My original plan was to drain the tank to 30% and put transmore to calm them down, but reading more about the risk of the procedure at Arofanatics, I decided against it.

    Me and my wife searched for the thickest bag available at Home Depot, ended up with a Tuff 3 mil construction grade garbage bag. I consulted Arofanatics again for tips on how to do it. Me and my wife decided to go ahead with the isolation system. We also bought ten pieces of 24 gallon containers. It was a Friday evening, I asked my father-in-law and my brother-in-law to help us out.

    We started by turning off all lights, pumps and bubblers. 50% of water from the tank was removed, cover was removed. We filled the garbage bag lined plastic boxes with the water from the aquarium. We pushed the arowanas to one end of the tank, then using a wood divider, my wife would allow them one by one to the corner where I have a garbage submerged in the water. I would slowly let the arowana into the bag, hold the opening on the bag, let excess water in the bag out through hole in one of the corners (so that the bag is not too heavy to lift), and transfer it to the bag in the container. My brother-in-law was in-charge of securing the bags in the container. I think we did exceptionally well and finished bagging the ten arowanas in less than 30 minutes, with only two of them able to jump out, and landing on the floor. We used a towel to make it easier to catch the arowanas in the carpet.

    The bags were floated for 20 minutes before the arowanas were released.

    The community in their new home

    In the meantime, the green severum almost fully skinned the stingray alive. It broke my heart to see the stingray with almost no skin left on it's back.
    I sold my 210 gal & stingray to a fellow named Jimmy in the following week and moved the contents on Friday. The tigrinnus and the 24" chilli proved to be much harder to catch than the others. They both made serious attempts to get out of the bag, the bag proved to be strong enough in both occassions.

    I was quite concerned how the big chilli red would behave when mixed with much smaller arowanas. Right from the beginning, he dominated the tank. But what amazed me was how he would behave like he was protecting the other 3 smaller chilli reds from the rest of the occupants. For more than a week, the 4 chilli reds would occupy one corner of the tank, with the big chilli red chasing away everybody else, and gathering up the other 3 right beside him.

    At this point, everybody was eating scarcely. The tank also suddenly got cloudy again. Then I noticed most of them have lifted scales and red spots all over their body. They were also staying at the bottom of the tank quite a bit. I tried to cure them with Melafix. After treating the tank heavily with Melafix for about a week, I did not see much improvement on their infections, I started to get worried when I noticed most of them breathing heavily and gasping for air on the surface of the tank. One afternoon, when I got home from work, my mom greeted me by saying "one of your fish is dead, it's been floating around since this morning". Man, I felt sick in the stomach. I rushed to the tank, to find out it's one of the 2 peacock bass.

    Getting more worried, I searched for possible reasons why they would be breathing heavily, I have 2 big bubblers and an oxygen generator going. I found out from AF, that Melafix could do this to arowanas. I stopped adding Melafix and did 25% waterchange. Tony insisted that I put salt, which I refused in the beginning because by doing so, I would have to remove the oxygen generator (it produces chlorine when salt is present in the water). The condition of my favorite chilli red was getting worse, with most of the scales red, lifting and the surface peeling away. Fearing to lose it, I decided to take the oxygenerator out and added 4 kgs of coarse salt. Within three days, everybody healed, as if nothing happened.

    I added another filtration system using Matala mats and a 2400 gph Laguna pump. A week after, the tank started to clear up again. The arowanas eating heartily again.

    the box on the left is the second filter (matala), the box on the right houses the intakes for the main filter box and the two 2500 watt heaters.

    There is a dehumidifier in the fishroom to keep the humidity at 50%. The discharge pipes are both kept submerged/pointing down to minimize condensation. The dehumidifier still pulls 3-4 gallons of water per day.

    I have recently added locking hooks to secure the access doors in the back of the tank. The tank is partially insulated with 1.5" pink foam, I'll finish it off when it gets colder in the winter.

    I also finished the front cabinets to organize my vinyl collection. My wife wanted to get it profesionally done, but I insisted (again) to do it myself, with the understanding that we will have it redone if she didn't like the end result. She did not say much, but she didn't ask me to take apart either.

    I think I am done for now, tools and stuff were put away, time to relax and enjoy whatever is left of the summer.

    I hope you enjoyed reading about this amazing journey.

  2. #2
    Tigrinus Catfish Wackamole's Avatar
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    Charles Town Wv
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    03-19-2013 4:50 PM
    very cool...thanks for sharing this
    Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after. ~ Henry David Thoreau

  3. #3
    Wels Catfish bigspizz's Avatar
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    Apr 2007
    That is some good good stuff man!!!! The kitchen tank is dope also!
    Quote Originally Posted by R1_Ridah;2965453;
    I'm writing this thesis on Internet Porn for my school paper and as I was doing my research I mistakenly clicked on a link that downloaded a virus on my PC?

  4. #4
    KIND and CREATIVE Bderick67's Avatar
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    Very nice article, nice aro community.
    "What you've posted is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this thread is now dumber for having to read it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul."

  5. #5
    Arapaima Mystix212's Avatar
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    11-21-2013 3:01 AM
    Great article. Any plans on getting a bigger and better tank in the next 2 decades? Lol
    Are you a Fish-Keeper or a Fish-Haver ?

    Atheism is a non-prophet organisation.

  6. #6
    Pacu salsa's Avatar
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    In Your Imagination
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    10-06-2012 3:51 PM
    (Bad Ass MFker)

  7. #7
    Arapaima Euge's Avatar
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    11-10-2014 4:55 AM
    great article! Inspirational.

  8. #8
    Pacu fishdance's Avatar
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    03-17-2015 5:02 AM
    Would you use stainless steel again or recommend it? Even your filter is stainless....

    Do you still have the goldfish bowl?

  9. #9
    Arapaima Loubard's Avatar
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    Today 9:10 AM
    Wow, awe-some project! Thanks for writing this up, very interesting read.
    This space is for rent

  10. #10
    Redbelly Piranha TROY25's Avatar
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    08-01-2008 10:01 PM
    Inspiring article kabayan

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