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Handmade cover materials
October 25, 2013
8:17 am
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Longnez
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Hi, I'm kinda new to fishkeeping, having had a 60 liter tank when I was a teenager, now wondering how I got to keep my fish for those few years changing all the water and washing everything once every two weeks...

Anyway, this has nothing to do with my question. I have now a custom-made tank (It was not supposed to be mine, nor used for tropical fishes when it was bought...) without a cover, around 120 L.

I live in China, in a place that gets really hot in summer, but not too cold in winter, never really freezing. For that reason, people usually just add layers of clothes, and in-house heating is quite rare. Indoor temperature can drop to 10-12°C.

The tank already got quite warm during summer, I had to use a few computer fans to keep it under 30°C, and I fear that water temperature will drop under 15°C if I don't cover it.Frown

 

I couldn't find anything about that in this forum, would an aluminum structure with plexiglas panels be able to provide enough insulation ? I would like it to get high enough to enclose my neon tubes and overhead filtering boxes, but wood will probably get a bit heavy, and stocky.

 

Tank dimensions are 75 x 40 x 45 (h).

I'm not afraid of DIY, have a few years of furniture making and odd repair jobs under my belt, I'm mostly looking for advice about materials.

 

Thanks for all the help you could offer.

October 25, 2013
11:52 am
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KittyKat
Norwich, UK
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If the air temperature is doing to drop to 10-12°C overnight on a regular basis, then the tank will do the same (unless you insulate it with polystyrene on all 6 sides only overnight, I imagine).

Why not just get a heater and set it to 15°C? I think that's the only way you could  maintain a minimum temperature. A cover would help with reducing water loss, of course.

Kat
October 25, 2013
2:24 pm
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Longnez
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10-12°C is the indoor temperature we'll have by day in the house. At night it could drop to 8°C, I guess. All this over a period of around 2 months.

Hadn't thought about polystyrene night insulation, I'll keep that in mind. The tank is already on a polystyrene mat, so the bottom side should be somewhat ok.

Heating the place is not really a solution, because of the size and shape of the room the tank is in. I originally intended to use the tank for some goldfishes my mother-in-law had bought, but the trip to the fish store made her change her mind... Didn't get a lot of time to think things through at the time.

I'll probably get a spare heater to add in the tank, and cover it when the sun goes down. I was thinking a cover may at least keep the heat from the lamps directed towards the water.

October 26, 2013
10:41 am
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Rüdiger
Brunswick / Germany
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Hi Longnez

Unfortunately you do not mention which fish species you intend to keep! 

There are quite a few subtropical species, which wouldn't have a problem with a twoo months "cold period". On the other hand, they'd suffer quite a bit during summer. I guess the best (and easiest) solution is to install an aquarium heaterstat (as Kat mentioned) and set it between 16 and 18*C.

I don't think your idea to cover that tank at night would do all that much good, as the lights, which are supposed to heat the tank, will be switched off? And since the lights aren't enclosed, they won't do too much heating during operation either, all depending of course on what kind of lighting you use! 

Since you are a "handy feller", you could, for the cold months, build a hood with enclosed lights, which would save on energy consumption. 

Regards

R.

 

If you must insist on living in a box ...... at least do your thinking outside.
October 26, 2013
12:00 pm
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Longnez
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I forgot to mention the fish! Embarassed

And it looks like I'm not precise enough in my descriptions...

The tank is currently heated with an aquarium heaterstat (300 W), the temperature is kept around 24°C. The light comes from 2 neon tubes, so a somewhat useful source of heat when they're lit, though it dissipates everywhere because of the lack of cover. the heater worked well during the spring, but the air temperature was already higher than what we have in winter when I cycled the tank, so I'm not sure what temperature it will be able to keep during the winter, nor at what cost (electric bill) this temperature will come... The glass is 6 mm thick, but that won't make a big difference anyway.

I have a few neon tetras, danios and shrimps, red cherry, I think, plus another sort, transparent with red stripes on their backs, all of which endured the summer, much to my surprise.

I recently added some Lampeye Killifish, Pristella Tetras and Bristlenose Pleco (at least they look like albino Bristlenose Pleco, tropical fish keeping does not actually seem very frequent around where I live, most people tend to keep goldfishes, and the names used are not always clear or easy to find the english equivalent or latin name).

I was planning on building a cover enclosing the lights, to keep their heat, and the filter unit, to avoid cooling the water in the filter, and now, I think I'll make a polystyrene hood, which I'll put on before the lights go out if the water temperature seems to risk getting too cold. I'm thinking of using aluminum, plexiglas and silicone glue to build the cover, because it needs to be quite high for the lights and fliter, and wood would be heavier.

All in all this winter will be a test, I didn't plan very well for the temperature variations, still stuck in my western heating habits.

I hope I was clearer this time, thank you both for the insight, I already feel more confident about this winter.

L.

October 26, 2013
3:18 pm
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KittyKat
Norwich, UK
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Oh, if you already have a 300 W heater in a 60 litre tank, then you shouldn't have any problems and don't need to do anything (cover will still reduce evaporation).

 

I'd also recommend that you revisit your stocking as it's a bit on the far side from what I'd consider ideal.

Kat
October 26, 2013
4:23 pm
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Longnez
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All right, I'll stop worrying and get working on the cover, then, thanks.

My current tank countains 120 L, not 60. 60 was the one I had in middle school, a few years back. I wouldn't dream of putting that many fish in a 60 liter. Is that why you think I should revisit the stocking or is there incompatibilities between these species that I don't know ? I have, in all, 17 fish (the summer did, alas, take its toll), plus the shrimp. There's a bit too many shrimp, with a lot of young, but I plan on giving  of them a new home soonish.

I had gathered from my readings that I could have around 20 fish of that size in a 120L tank. Was I wrong ? I already have a hard time stopping my wife and her wother from asking when I will add more fish, they find it empty as it is, and to be frank, the more I look at specialty sites, like this one, the more I want to add fish. And make another tank, or two... Well, maybe later.

For now, I was planning to maybe reinforce the neon tetras' numbers, the last remaining two seem kinda lonely, and add a few more plants. They seem to play nice, but if there are risks, I'll just go for the plants, and keep looking for infos on theses species.

Regards,

L.

October 26, 2013
5:45 pm
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KittyKat
Norwich, UK
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Sorry, apparently I can't read today :-S

So for a 120 litre tank, a 300W heater should be able to raise the temperature by 15-20°C (these things are usually listed on the back of a heater box when you buy it). That's why for a normal, heated house, the general recommendations tend to be 1W of heater per litre of water as that covers +5-10°C range.

Regarding stocking, it did make me jump because I thought you had a 60 litre tank! Stocking is usually a lot more complicated than x fish per y volume or x inches per y surface area… for example, I would happily keep 20-30 small, not particularly active fish, in a 60 litre tank, but I would also not want more than a pair of large, aggressive, fish in a large tank.

What I prefer to do is keep more of smaller fish in good social groups as I find that that gives the best behaviour patters for viewing. For example, I would only keep  15+ fish per species of schooling fish such as danios and tetras. Many, many years ago, I used to recommend 6+ as ideal for schooling species, but once I'd kept a few, that changed to 6 as an absolute minimum and 6-10+ as ideal. Nowadays, I honestly consider 10 to be an absolute minimum and I personally would only keep them if I can have 15+. FWIW, my opinions changed when I had the opportunity to keep larger tanks.

I have found that bristlenose plecos do best in groups of 1m 2f in at least a 3ft tank (tank footprint matters more than volume for larger species) because they're quite active and I find that they are somewhat social. A 60 litre tank is normally 2 ft long, but a 120 litre tank can be anything from 2.5-4.5 ft long (hence why footprint is important to know).

I have a love/hate relationship with zebra danios: great that they're so easy to keep, really awful that they're abused because of it. I've found them to be very active, so I would personally not keep them in any tank under 4 ft long. I know people do cram them into 1 ft long tanks and this website recommends 2 ft (probably the only point where I disagree with it).

I won't comment on the lampeyes as I've not kept them and my killifish knowledge is sorely lacking.

So for example, if I was keeping your stocking, I would have 15 neon tetras, 15 danios, 8-10 Lampeye Killifish, 15 Pristella Tetras and 3 Bristlenose Pleco. As you can see, that's way more fish than you currently have. In terms of what a tank would take, long tanks can take more stock than short tanks of the same volume. What would I do with your tank, assuming it's a standard shape? I find tanks more appeasing when there are only 3-4 species in there, so I'd find the danios a new home.

If you're getting more tanks/upgrading, I don't see any reason why you can't just keep the fish for now and split them up later, as you're probably going to offer them a better home than the next person as you're one step ahead, having made it here.

Kat
October 27, 2013
7:09 am
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Longnez
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Yes, usually sadly doesn't apply to chinese makers selling on the domestic market, so I only had the shop owner's word on it being sufficient for my tank. Seeing as it was almost the cheapest and smallest he had, I had doubts. And with him being, after all, a seller... But his tanks are nicer than the ones I usually saw in European shops when I was younger, planted and nice looking.

For the story, I had been considering getting back to fish keeping for 2-3 years, reading a bit on the subject, and had started around last november to seriously plan something, thinking of starting a tank around next april, in our apartment, which should be ready to live in around that time.

This tank was initially bought to keep a few goldfish, my mother-in-law having bought them on a whim, with almost the smallest fishbowl I have seen... As a result, I had her buy a biggest tank, which she had made to measure, thinking it would be cheaper. For goldfish, I didn't worry about air temperature, they are kept outside in temples around here, so there should be no problems. But when we got to the shop to buy the substrate, plants and other basic stuff, she and my wife changed their minds, and agreed that the colorful lukewarm water fish were cuter in the well-planted tanks of the shopkeeper, and of the "tankscaper" next door.

As a result, change of plans, the goldfish are going to the pond (we live on the 1st floor, with a small yard), and I have to decide right now what I need for the tank. The danios and neon tetras were actually a gift from the shop owner, the norm in China being to haggle prices and asking for free stuff. I tried to tell her it was not a good idea, but she doesn't really listen when she's set on something...

All that to say that I'm not really fond of the danios, actually. Granted, they are the most active fish in the tank, but I was kinda going for a more peaceful setting. As you say, 2.5 ft long does not make for a good running place. Getting a longer tank would be nice, but is not really an option for now, unless I can get the family to get rid of the living room TV... When the new place is ready, I'm thinking about putting a longer (and bigger) tank as a separation between the meal table and the living room, with some active species, and another tank kind of like the one I have now in my home office, with peaceful species.

I was actually looking to buy smaller fishes last time I went to the shop, hoping to add a small school of Endler's Livebearers (around 10), but when I went to the place I had seen them on my previous visit, there weren't any.

The bristlenose plecos I have are apparently albino dwarves, not supposed to get over 4 inches long, I suppose it makes a small difference in the footprint they need, though not in the companionship they'd prefer.

I'm planning on arranging a place for some of my shrimp, in a smaller tank, with some "lucky bamboo", java moss/fern, maybe a few other plants.

For the current tank, I'm looking for a way to plug a hole that was made to let cables pass, so that I can up a bit the water level, and also for nice surface plants, to add some shade. I'd like to add a few lampeyes and pristellas, they don't seem too shy right now, but I guess they'd feel safer if there were 10 of them. But, well, that's probably not a good idea right now.

I have to work on sexing the fish, too, the shrimp spawn took me by surprise, and I'd like to be prepared to the eventuality of having to take care of fry...

I'm looking forward to learning more about tropical fish, hopefully not making too many mistakes along the road... This site seems full of information, and the forum users friendly, too. Smile There is not a lot of info about plants, though. Do you know a good place for that ?

Regards,

L.

October 27, 2013
2:10 pm
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knutschi
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October 31, 2012
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Coming back to your first question about the heating. If you had no heater, the tank will eventually cool down to room temperature no mater how much isolation you put. You can significantly decrease heat loss (decreasing heating costs) by insulating the sides of your tank with polystyrene.

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