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I got some 20g longs at the last $1 per gallon sale and other odds and ends laying around so I figured I would try something and turn the end 10-15% into the filter because I love canister filters but hate having them next to the tank and get annoyed trying to do maintenance on them. Here's some pics, this is just a first run, already finding things I would like to change for the next tank






Using miracle gro organic soil with laterite capped with some finer gravel and then UP shrimp sand

The undergravel I saw someone else do I think on here I used lava rock I think they used matrix

1st chamber is run by a hydroponic 160gph hydroponic pump with k1

2nd is more lava rock topped with a filter pad

3rd is not 100% decided yet, I think I'm going to throw a couple sponges on there with the heater and any kind of chemical filtration I chose later on

The shelves I got off home depot for $60? Was about to go get some plywood for reinforcement until I saw that they didn't bow, needs another shelve on each unit for misc supplies I think and had to bolt it to the wall for stability

Will need to be an airstone probably because with this set up there is little surface agitation, right in front of the pump in the tank portion would be a good spot to promote more water movement there.

I'll be buying some lights next week so no plants for a little bit

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Got some of the lights, 10w L.E.D. floodlights. Used them in a 10g and was surprised by the plant growth.


The cable does actually run through the PVC pipe and out the bottom to the outlet

Sorry about all the floatys, I just threw some clippings in there from other tanks until other plants come in the mail

Siliconed this piece of glass in place to raise the outflow level so it falls slightly


Not sure if I need more light yet or not, I still have 2 more lights I can use.

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Got a few plants from Han, the java won't stay where it is I think I'm going to take it and make a wall out of it to go on the "filter wall" or the back glass


Apperently had a few hitchhikers on the java, a couple blue pearl shrimp. Those shrimp are kind of an oddity, I can't ever seem to get any color out of them unless there is a lot of shade and cover in their tank.


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  • 3 weeks later...

It all starts at the PVC at the bottom of the tank, the inside of the PVC "ring" has holes in it and the ring is filled with lava rock for bacterial growth.


-The water is sucked through the lava into the PVC and goes to the hydroponic pump


-The pump blasts the water through the k1 and goes over the glass barrier into the next where there's lava rock. This chamber also has an air stone to create a better circulation of the k1 and hopefully oxygenate the water to help support more beneficial bacteria


-It flows down through the lava catching a lot of the particles where they actually break down fairly well and then to the next final chamber


-The final chamber has all my filter pads for polishing, purigen, chemi-pure elite, and heater - the water flows out the top of this chamber back into the tank


It's kind of like a built in sump I guess, I just want to make sure it can hold a high population of shrimp no problem + it is considerably cheaper than buying a decent canister filter and almost no maintenance. Its not a bad trade off either, it only takes up about 6-7% of the tank and leaves everything but the air pump contained in the tank itself

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Cycle finished, now the sand is buffering to 6.2-6.3 ph Gh is 5 Kh is 1


Changed the plants around a bit, added some hair grass that's just comin back for me and starting to grow, the java fern is now mounted to cholla - it seemed to be fine just in the shrimp sand I think it's loose enough that the roots are ok.


Got 10 blue bolts in there now, they are very active

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So far not much maintenance, but in the future to clean the compartment with the pump I just have to turn it off and empty the k1 and I don't have a problem with the water flowing back through the pvc

For the other 2 as long as I lower the water level by about an inch they are essentially isolated from the rest of the tank and I can empty everything water and all without getting the aquarium messy

Ill try and get a better pic of the filter so you guys can see it

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Looking good!


you should definitely make a moss wall and add it to the glass on your "built in sump" that would look cool!

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Here's a (bad) pic of the "sump". I think it shows the flow of water fairly well.

Something I'd like to change is the third chamber with the filter pads. I'm currently searching for maybe so coarse to fine thick foam pads or sponges that I could cut to fit in a little better.

At any rate the shrimp seem to be doing well, found a berried blue bolt in there this morning, hopefully that goes well.

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  • 1 month later...

The hydroponic pump in the bottom tank will get boxed in with glass today and return the water to the top tank. Also have some lexan sheets around that I would like to make into breeder boxes, unsure on how to get them to hang onto the tank though, still thinking about it. Maybe If I could find some good stainless steel hooks...

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Got pretty much everything ready for the tank but hit a wall, the substrate I'm going to use was left at my door and gone by the time I got home. So I'll have to wait a few more days to finish.
Installed a ball valve
The divider turned into a double wall for the filter pads and lava rock for lots of bio media, ignore the tape I was just installing a couple braces just in case
Outflow room for pads, purigen, carbon, whatever I need
Drains into a corner which is full of k1 and will have an airstone for maximum circulation - drain water pushes it down while the air throws it back to the top
The divider is a single pane here, everything has ss mesh from Han. That stuff is awesome! There is a double wall in front of the pump, 1 on the outside you can see with the mesh to allow water through and then another one about an in inside that is taller that will keep the water from dropping below a certain level. I just want a large surface area for the water to be able to move through to keep the mesh from clogging so easily.

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