Rays on a budget- My (somewhat long) story w/pics

Clearwater guy

Jack Dempsey
Original poster
MFK Member
Feb 27, 2010
575
10
33
Michigan, USA
Hey folks, I'm new, and I've seen a lot of great stuff here, but I've got some pretty cool stuff going on here as well.

I've owned monster fish for only 10 days now, but I'm doing it to tie into my business that is getting started. I quit my job 6 months ago, with no savings, and I don't plan on getting another job until I fail over and over and over and over....I say that now, but if that time ever comes, I'll be tempted to try again!

I started Clearwater Systems as kindof a "blanket" for the many things I intend to do with water based life-forms anywhere from Koi pond installations on up to anything anyone wants me to do....But my real aspirration has always been large scale fish farming...Which costs a lot of money to start.

Well, on with the stuff...After chatting with a friend who owns a very reputable petstore (not a chainstore), I decided that spending $1000 on Koi to grow out and re-sell might not be the best investment...But $1000 for 5 Motoros of which at least one is pregnant, seemed like a risk I could afford to take. At 37 years old, I actually had to talk to my MOM before I did this...See, since I'm doing this as a business, it was hard for me to be sure of the reason I was getting the Rays. I've wanted Rays for years now...I've studied them, and drooled over them....and I knew how much of a mess they make and what they do.

Ding, ding!!! the light went on in my head, and I went into action. I had $3000 to start my business resulting from talking my brother into giving me a 1 yr "pass" on money I owed him. I was going to start my Tilapia growing system in a very small scale, which would also provide me with some supplemental food for the Rays...since I will be able to breed way more than I can grow out.

Well, about 3 hours after I came home with 2 leaky 150's that I was going to fix up over a few weeks for ordering 2 Tilapia species, I had already found and decided on these 5 Rays. 3 of them are adult breeders (2F 1M), and at least one of the females is pregnant... The other 2 are a separate 8"F and 9"M. the male is from one of my females, and the female was purchased from a different bloodline. Just as a note- I am a naturalist, so inbreeding and un-natural hybridizations are something that I will not allow.

I started by taking apart the tank that for sure leaked. what was the front panel was the only panel that had a failed bond, so I took it off, and took the whole thing to a local glass shop. They cut the glass so it would fit what 'was' the top, and now the tank sits on its side for a 72" x 24" footprint. I also had them drill it, and the grand total into the tank now including glass shop labor, fittings, and silicone comes to $185.00

I plumbed the drain underneath the 48" high 48" x 96" shelf so that it comes out the end, then it goes through 4 layers of biological filtration which is backwards from most setups. The drain pours right out onto the fine filtration wich sits right in the open so that I can remove it, clean it, replace it, or whatever I need to do. In fact, the whole biological filtration system can be taken apart and put back together without turning it off. Auto top off, and automatic timer controlled water changing make it complete, and bring the total for the filtration system to $225 (including all mentioned items, return pump, and timer controlled drain pump with switching system, and filter media)

Grand total for my first semi-automated Stingray system is under $500 once I got a heater and a few things. Fortunately, a lot of the things I already had. I realize that this is not anywhere near a proper Ray system, and this will be the tank for babies. These adults actually came from a 150g tall, so they have more space now.

I built the shelf like I did for 2 reasons. One, it needed to fit the space, and I didn't want to add another supprt when there was one already there. and secondly, I will be building Budget ray system #2, and #3 very soon. #2 will be 48" x 96" x 22" tall.

I will detail the next systems later. I may even make it a "ride along" if enough people are interestind in following the progress. But there is some really awesome stuff in the planning. Steel framed tanks with 96" glass fronts...which can be quickly dissasembled and moved out of my basement when I relocate....And how about oxygen pumping through a DIY ozonator? Don't think I'm silly about the unnecessary expense, but I am going to be experimenting with Tilapia densities approaching 7 lbs per cubic foot. You guys know how dangerous that is, and there's no way to even get half that without an Oxygen concentrator pumping through an ozonator.... Well, I happen to know how to make an Ozone generator for $15- $100 depending on the size of the transformer needed. Unfortunately, the Oxygen concentrator is an expense I can't get around...but at least I will never need to buy bottled o2 or any regulators to use for shipping. The concentrator puts out 3 lpm of 95% pure oxygen at 4psi. So as soon as I get the ORP system, I can test my ozonator and see how much ozone 3000v puts into water.

So- Who fell asleep, and who's interested in following all these things I'm going to make happen.

And who wants to buy my Tilapia culls for feeders??? These Tilapia will be grown in conditions for my own consumption, and will be gauranteed to be clean for live feeding, or frozen, or cut up as adults. Anything I can do with Tilapia that doesn't involve the health department would be awesome. I'd stay out of the food market for good that way.

So that's that.

Oh yeah! Pictures!

Here's an overview of the mess I made. I wish I had used the other tank I have cuz it isn't so green. I use a piece of foamboard with some weight on it as a temporary cover right now.


Using a 55 gallon drum was facilitated by the height of the shelf. The top bucket contains Filter fiber and course lava rock. The 2nd bucket contains 2 gallons of bio balls that I stole from my Koi pond and boiled clean in our spaghetti pot. Don't let your wife catch you or smell you doing that btw. The bottom bucket is the only one that the media stays submerged, and it contains 1/2" to 1" chunks of lava rock. I also have 3 large net bags to hold another 9 gallons of media that I will put in the bottom of the barrel over the pump. I'll wait till summer so I can get another yard of lava rock... Why pay more for man made porous stones when the real ones cost $18 for a truckload? Rinse it well, the fine particles will build up at the bottom of the sump and aren't real friendly to pumps.


I intend to add more media to the top bucket, and I also want to use a cloth strainer above the filter fiber. That way it is much easier to get the meat particles out of there with something that is "rinse and re-use"


Heres one of the ladies. In 10 days, they have gone from hating me and not eating, to nibbling on crawlers and then spitting them out, to eating like pigs. They will investigate my hand, but they still don't quite trust me enough to take food from my hand. They spent 27 months being fed by only one person who imported them.


Well, I'm hopiong that I can learn to take better pictures, but that glass is a challenge. Better light and a background will help a lot I am sure. Also am still waiting on the pump I ordered for this sytem. It will circulate around 600gph instead of the 125 or so that it is doing now. Right now I have it supplemented with an XP3, but it still isn't enough.

That's all for now!

Mike
 

nolapete

Jack Dempsey
MFK Member
Jun 1, 2007
2,724
6
38
New Orleans, LA
Pics don't show.

Click Go Advanced then manage attachments then browse to select each picture then upload. MFK hosts the pics and automatically resizes them appropriately.

Dare I ask why at "age 37" you have to "ask your mom?"

Steel and glass tanks won't be budget unless you're getting the steel for free/cheap. Dimensional lumber, plywood, and glass or acrylic fronts is much cheaper.
 

Clearwater guy

Jack Dempsey
Original poster
MFK Member
Feb 27, 2010
575
10
33
Michigan, USA
Why ask my mom? Wouldn't you ask someone that you trust before you make an impulse decision with your last dollars? Because Mom would tell me that I don't need more pets...if it wasn't a good idea. My wife likes the Rays just like I do...I needed an outside opinion.

Angle-Iron frame... Not going to make the whole thing out of surgical steel or anything. A bolt together frame with epoxied plywood panels in all except the front panel, which will be glass. I expect the steel to cost $100.00, or a little more by the time I get bolts. Finish grade 3/4" is $32 here, I'll need 2 sheets. Epoxy to coat the frame and panels will cost $200 including surface prep and primer for the steel, but that will do 2 of these tanks. I don't charge for my own labor, but I'm going to use exactly $8 worth of welding supplies and $3 worth of electricity. I can't think of any other reason why it would not be a budget friendly project at under $500 for 2 very durable, transportable, aesthetically pleasing tanks that will last. Wood doesn't fit the criteria that I need for a frame that will be slim and not get in my way when I am servicing tanks above them. If I had to make walls out of 2 x 4's, then the tank would end up being 8" narrower, and 8" shorter on the inside.

Anyhow, why worry about the next project that I'm not even done designing....

The pictures that didn't show up, in the same order....

tank.jpg

barrel and buckets.jpg

top media.jpg

Momma.jpg
 

turtlemandan

Feeder Fish
MFK Member
Jan 17, 2010
25
0
1
conneaut
did those come from a guy named yue? you sure got some nice rays there keep up the great work and best of luck, i didnt read all of the posting but im just wondering if thats a little to much fish for that size of tank? again best of luck! -Dan
 

Clearwater guy

Jack Dempsey
Original poster
MFK Member
Feb 27, 2010
575
10
33
Michigan, USA
Yes, they came from Yue, you know they Rays? And that tank is intended to be a nursury for pups. It is very temporary for these adults.

I'll be adding Rays as soon as I can... I'm actually looking right now, but I'm waiting on some financing that takes "processing time".

I intend to add Marble Motoros in the next month or 2, and I hope to afford some P13's or P14's if the funds line up as I want. If any of you have adult Rays such as these that you would like to get into a good home, let me know. I've seen some awesome Rays in the classifieds that I'd like to have, but I don't want to be a "tire kicker" with no money.

When it comes down to it, I'll use kiddie pools if it frees up more money for Livestock...But I won't skimp on labor or water equipment function... If there's a filter that I think works better than my 3 bucket spaghetti strainer barrel, then I'll spend another $3 and add a 4th bucket ;)



Mike
 

Cakilla

Feeder Fish
MFK Member
Oct 2, 2009
1,948
1
0
Illinois
I think your rays look awesome!, I really hope your invewstment works out for you , I understand how it is times are hard, so what kind of tilapia are you going to be breeding ? or have any idea what you would charge for them ? I would really like to see your build on your other tanks, a DIY build is in my plans also I always like to look and see everyones great ideas and try to learn from their builds as much as I can and once again Good luck and keep us posted
 

Clearwater guy

Jack Dempsey
Original poster
MFK Member
Feb 27, 2010
575
10
33
Michigan, USA
Thank you for the compliments!

I have White Nile Tilapia, and also Blue Aurea that will be shipped in the next week or so.. I intend to maintain separate colonies of each, as well as a 3rd colony to experiment with hybridization. I have no idea how much I will sell them for, but they will be cheap. I have not considered the pet-food fish farming market until about 10 days ago when I was driving from Detroit with 4 huge tubs in my Geo Prizm and the heat cranked all the way up to keep the back seat warm for them....

But it seems reasonable that clean feeders such as these could be sold by the pound...Live or frozen.... Although, the smaller they are, the price per pound might be different...who knows. Just a brainstorm for now, I still have to make this all happen. All I know for sure is that tomorrow I'm not driving to a shop to swing a wrench. I'm working for me, and I'm working to take the load off of all of the wild (food and hobby) species in the world by providing clean farmed fish, and domestically bred exotics.

Mike
 

nolapete

Jack Dempsey
MFK Member
Jun 1, 2007
2,724
6
38
New Orleans, LA
I was just curious about asking your mom. I figured that was the case, but wanted to be sure before I dove in. I'm venturing into the same arena and currently building plywood tanks to do so.

I've developed an easy low-budget, low-profile, inexpensive, durable, and ray friendly tank design (large footprint). See my 90 gallon expansion thread. The tanks can be easily disassembled and reassembled. I'm using construction adhesive between the lumber because I have no intention of ever taking them apart. You'd skip that step.

Instead of using epoxy, I'm using Permadri's liquid rubber product. No VOCs, self-healing, 850% elasticity, and water-based, so no toxic fumes to inhale when applying. I'm currently building 2 170s, a 160, a 215, and a 450 gallon besides my 4300 gallon project.

Anyway, what I'm doing is much less than $500 for a 48"x96" approx. tank and accomplishes the same thing you want to do. And NO, you don't lose 8" in width and 8" in height doing what I'm doing. 3" width, 4.5" height framing the way I am and that's with an extra layer of bracing that could eliminated with a few changes.

In regard to tilapia, be sure to check the regulations on states before shipping to them. Here in Louisiana, all tilapia are banned. There's very few who have permits to possess them and they are highly regulated here. A friend of a friend owns a tilapia farm where they produce about 10 million fry for export annually. Til-Tech Aqua Farm Robert, LA.
 

Clearwater guy

Jack Dempsey
Original poster
MFK Member
Feb 27, 2010
575
10
33
Michigan, USA
I realize that I can build these cheaper. I may even just use a liner and cinder block for temporary so I can spend more on Livestock though.

The reason I wanted the tanks as I described is because I am an experinced metal fabricator, and I want these to be "show-room" grade, and industrial duty.

Also, I want to be able to use every bit of the space under that shelf. 3" walls would still take away 6" from L & W, and I can't have it protrude from under the shelf without it becoming a p.i.t.a. to service the upper tanks. That tank already requires a step stool to be able to reach in and clean.

I am aware of the Tilapia restrictions, and I think it is idiotic for them not to have an exclusion for indoor operations.... I'm pretty sure none of them are going to jump out of a building and displace all the native species. But that's our government.

So, If I sold them as pet food in those states, they would only be able to order frozen ones.

Mike
 

nolapete

Jack Dempsey
MFK Member
Jun 1, 2007
2,724
6
38
New Orleans, LA
Clearwater guy;3937538; said:
Also, I want to be able to use every bit of the space under that shelf. 3" walls would still take away 6" from L & W, and I can't have it protrude from under the shelf without it becoming a p.i.t.a. to service the upper tanks. That tank already requires a step stool to be able to reach in and clean.
Not 3" doubled, 3" total. 1.5" on top, bottom, sides. Look at the thread in my signature and you'll see what I'm talking about. You're not understanding the design.

Regardless of what construction you use, rays don't require tall tanks. Floor space and filtration are most important.
 
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