Archive for the ‘aquarium’ Category

fishtank update

Much time has passed since the last update, and quite a lot has changed since then.
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Tank update

So algae. How frustrating is this stuff. Short answer? Very.

We did a bunch of research, and the prevailing wisdom says that there are a few different causes of algae growth. Phosphates, Nitrates, lack of filtration, lack of circulation, not enough competing life (macro-algae in the refugium) and lighting cycles.
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liverock bonus plan

So there has been quite a bit of progress on the fishtank front. Where to begin…
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Couple quick fishtank notes

Steve was kind enough to bring over some extra live rock that he had from the shipment. It is, quite honestly, some of the best we’ve ever seen from any LFS around here. It is provided by Tampa Bay Saltwater. Please do check out that link. They have quite an amazing setup.

The issue, for those unaware, is that, as this hobby has become more popular, there were a number of “bad players” in the market who were harvesting live rock from active reefs around the world. Unfortunately, the reefs of the world are already facing decline from any other variety of factors, and us meddling humans just going out and further hurting that was just going to make that worse. So there has been an active ban on that for some time now. What Tampa Bay Saltwater did was to gain a permit for a five acre lease of underwater area in the Gulf of Mexico, and created his own reef. According to the page, they have over four million pounds of rock that they have put out there to “grow” their own, in short creating a “farm” of his own, and preventing any destruction of active reefs. As you can see if you poke around the page, the rock he’s shipping out is just rich with life.

Finally, it brought to light another aspect of this that I’ve long believed, but never really any confirmation of. Reef tanks need a “cleaning crew”, consisting typically of snails, hermit crabs and so on. If you take a look at this page on his site, you can see the ratios of critters he recommends (based on number of gallons). For our size tank (225gal), he recommends approximately 440 pounds of live rock, 220 pounds of live sand, 220 blue leg hermit crabs, 110 astrea snails, 10 tiger tail cucumbers, 5 serpent or brittle stars, and 5 peppermint shrimp.


Now, don’t get me wrong, this guy is trying to sell you a product, and obviously, will probably error on the side of more rather than less when it comes to giving you amounts that you need. I have previously seen estimates that are roughly half that for the amount of live rock. But even if I went with numbers 1/2 of what he indicates, that is still quite a serious commitment in terms of the life in the tank dedicated to cleanup.

I just went to the closest LFS I trust, and this brings our current population up to: 1 emerald crab, about 15 hermit crabs, and about 5 snails. Even with really conservative estimates, we’re still a LONG way from having enough in there to keep the reef clean. But we knew this was going to be a long project. No illusions there. Now it just puts a number to it. Oh, yeah, and just for scale? That guy sells that whole lot of stuff to you in what he calls “The Package”. Essentially all of the aforementioned rock, sand and critters in one bulk shipment. His cost for our size tank? $2614.00. Yup. Thats right. And that is without shipping. And quite frankly, for what you get? Thats CHEAP. His prices are either on par or slightly cheaper than buying from local stores. Again, even if you cut that number in half, you now get a sense for what kind of commitment you’re talking about in maintaining a large reef tank.

I hope to get some pictures up at some point here of some of the new critters and such we’ve got going on.

Oh! And in one further bit of tank news. I did get the Spa-Flex plumbing installed, and even found the *exact* right connectors to get it hooked up to the current sump and the overflow box side to get rid of the frankenstein connection I had previously built. The overflow is working great, and has a minimum of tubing now, so there isn’t this massive drain down if the power shuts off anymore. Now we just need to drill the small hole for the suction break, and we’re pretty much good to go until we get a new setup under the tank.

I did get the new collection cup for the skimmer, and put it under as well. It isn’t running currently. We turned off and removed the other two canister filters. I suspect they were actually contributing to instead of helping out with the algae problems. As previously mentioned, they aren’t really designed for a reef ecosystem. So if things are stable in the coming few weeks here, we’re probably going to switch gears a bit, and get a few more fish to pretty things up a bit.

Oh, one final note. When you brush a whole mess of algae and crap off your rocks, that will get sucked into your overflow box. The filters installed in there will start to get covered with all that crap. Guess what… that reduces the volume of water that can get sucked down! Who knew. Yeah… this guy. Of course things get less efficient in that system when you do that… duh. That balance of the water getting sucked out of the tank to that getting pumped back in gets disrupted, and makes you more prone to overflows or pumps running dry. Lesson learned… make sure you check all filters after doing major cleanings like that.


Another tank update

A couple things to mention since the last post.

This month’s tank budget was spent entirely on replacement light bulbs. They have arrived and are now in. Finally we are getting proper light wavelengths and spectrum. And, aside from that … it is nice to have the whole tank lit during both the light and dark (actinic) phases. A few old and/or burnt out bulbs makes for a less than ideal viewing experience, to be sure. So that is done now.

We continue to experience algae issues. At some point, maybe I’ll get pics of the various types and post them, but suffice to say it isn’t going away. The weird part is that we have, effectively, nothing in the tank “feeding” it. There are only a couple fish, which should be adding almost negligible amount of waste matter to the overall ecosystem. We have only a few pounds of live rock at this point, and it probably is not doing much at all to contribute either. Nitrate/Nitrite/Ammonia levels have been effectively zero since very early on.

At the moment, I think it is a lack of biological filtration producing this problem. That can really only be remedied by having a proper live rock environment plus active refugium with macro algae to consume those resources. I think we need a bit more overall water flow, but it isn’t bad as it is now. The addition of the overflow box and wet/dry box underneath is definitely helping as well. I cleaned out the two canister filters today. They ultimately aren’t intended for a reef system, but they should help keep some of the major particulate matter from circulating.

I’ve been doing a fair amount of research on sump/refugium/skimmer systems. A few notes on that. There are dozens of vendors for each individual piece of that. They come in a variety of flavors, but the basics are as follows.

The sump tank serves a few purposes.

  • It allows you to maintain the level of water in the main tank since that level is now dictated by the overflow system. Any water level changes will now be in the sump tank, and are much easier to manage.
  • You can “hide” all the major elements that would otherwise have to occupy space in your display tank down in the sump instead, allowing you to keep the display tank relatively free of clutter. This includes things like heaters, water supplement systems (ph balancing, carbon reactors, etc).
  • You can a good part of the biological and mechanical filtration to the sump tank/refugium, again, keeping the display tank occupied with the kinds of critters you really want to see, instead of having a big ol’ glob of macro algae floating around in there. And it gives you a place to put your protein skimmer (more on that in a minute).

The refugium is mentioned above, but I’ll summarize anyway. Generally, a full reef ecosystem requires solid biological filtration, in the form of macro algae, live rock and live sand. Some of those elements would generally be unsightly in the display tank, so having a refugium out of the way is definitely aesthetically better.

And finally the protein skimmer. This is a weird contraption, but definitely essential. So it has a pump, that spins the water up inside a cylindrical chamber, and injects air into that as well. When it is functioning properly, that column of water and air creates a frothy layer of bubbles at the top of the cylinder. Fantastically, those air bubbles tend to hang onto some of the waste products in the water and that froth layer pushes up into a collection chamber and must be emptied periodically. The resultant goo is REALLY smelly and if you’ve ever seen or dealt with them before, you’ll know just how nasty that stuff is. It also stands to reason that anything smelly that nasty really has no business being in your tank. I’m going to plug one of our local businesses here briefly to show you a picture of one of these things. Give that a clicky. I’ll get more into Lifereef in just a minute. This is a much bigger model than most tanks need, and I pointed to that one just to make the parts really clear. That whole column is a spinning mass of water. It looks cloudy because of all the air bubbles. At the very top is the aforementioned collection cup, which as you can see looks very brown. And yeah, it looks and smells like sewage. Yuck.

Anyway, so I have a skimmer. It is a Coralife model, I believe intended for a 125 gal. tank. unfortunately, the collection cup dropped onto the porch and broke into a few pieces, and is not reparable. Fortunately, the replacement part is only about $40. I believe this will be the next thing purchased on next month’s budget. Even though it isn’t what we will use in the long term, since we really need one that is bigger and can handle a larger tank, it will also improve our current filtration situation.

In the last post I mentioned that I was also going to be working on getting the tank properly covered. There is some progress on that front. I made it over to Jeff’s house (he has a table saw) with my acrylic sheets, and measurements to cut them to the proper size. Thanks Jeff! That was cut to four pieces, two for each side of the tank. I have a plastic “hinge” that you then put between the two pieces and slide them in, and then you effectively get a lid that can swing up on one side while the rest remains covering the tank. The cover is there to prevent stuff from dropping into the tank from above, and also to help limit the amount of evaporation that will invariably occur. The downside of using acrylic is that it has a tendency to “bow” in the middle if the pieces are too big. It also won’t support the same kind of weight on it that using glass would, for sure. But that generally isn’t a huge issue as you aren’t normally putting stuff on top of the tank anyway. It is *definitely* easier to work with if you have to make cutouts for things like return spouts or power cords for water movers, etc. I may have been a little bit too tight on the tolerances in my measurements, and may need to make another cut to make everything fit perfectly, but it is looking good so far.

Oh yeah, one other thing to mention. So… with overflow systems, there is one really important thing to worry about. What happens if you lose power? With a poorly designed system, you are going to get a whole mess of water that still is flowing down into your sump tank that ISN’T subsequently being pumped back up! Sounds disastrous, eh? Well, it can be if you aren’t paying attention to how that all is supposed to work. On the “input” side of the overflow system, it fortunately is based on the water level in the display tank “overflowing” to provide the pressure/suction to move water down into the sump tank. If things are setup properly, if there is no more water being pumped back up into the display tank, that should level off in short order and won’t contribute more water after a short time. In our case, I can expect about a 1/2″ of water that will still overflow after the pump stops. Given a surface area of 8’x2′, that means roughly 5-6 gallons of water. Not a big deal. However… you also need to consider the output side. The problem on the return side is that you may (and probably do) have the spout for the return water submerged by a little bit. If you consider that for a moment, you’ll realize that if that is a “closed” system (so to speak), and if there is no more active pressure pushing water out (since the pumped turned off when the power went out), and given that that pipe goes down below the level of the display tank, gravity is actually going to then start sucking water out of the display tank, down the return pipe, and back into the sump as well. THAT level of water is unfortunately not dictated by the carefully controlled overflow system, only by you, and might be one or even several inches down below the level of the water in the display tank. It will continue to suck water out until the water level goes below that spigot, and sucks air back into the tube, breaking the suction. 1″ = 10 gallons. In my quick testing, a power outage would cause a SERIOUS overflow of the sump tank. It just isn’t designed for that much water. So that leads to my other discovery… you MUST have a small hole drilled ABOVE the level of the water (but facing down into the tank) on that return line. That provides an immediate suction break, since air can be sucked in as soon as there is no more back pressure from the pump. Essential! Amazing how physics just works and stuff. Dig it.

A good friend from one of my old jobs also recently got in touch (Hi Steve!) and is also getting into the reef thing with his son. He is going to come over soon to take a look at what I’ve got going on here, and we’ll hopefully be able to exchange some of our collective wisdom. I’m certainly no expert, and any advice is helpful. Apropos, we had a brief discussion on the phone the other day about Aiptasia. As it turns out, the live rock we thought was dead isn’t quite dead. We have a few of these damn pests poking up. A good reference page for what this stuff and how to deal with it can be found at this great Reefkeeping article. I was going to try and get a picture, but the conditions for taking pictures isn’t great at the moment. That site linked above has some good ones anyway. It probably does mean we’re going to need to get some Berghia (also mentioned on that site) soon to deal with them. That, in my somewhat limited experience, is the only really effective way to be rid of Aiptasia.

Finally, I did want to again mention Lifereef. In my investigations about getting sump/refugiums custom built, I found them. This guy (Jeff Turcheck) runs a company that has been doing this for 28 years or so, and his products are really something. Rave reviews on all the boards I’ve been reading about stuff, and his current backlog for building stuff is 5 months. He also sells complete systems, so you aren’t doing the “pieces parts” thing over and over and having to struggle with plumbing and how to get everything attached right. He provides *everything* to get you up and running. I’ve had numerous email exchanges with him already and one phone call, and I’m convinced that having him build something for us is the right long term solution. Downside? Expense. Instead of being able to buy a skimmer one month, then save two months and get a refugium, etc … I’ll basically have to save up about 6 months of aquarium budget to pay for the whole shot at once. His prices, once you remove shipping (since I can just drive down there and pick it up), is just slightly more expensive than what I would pay for going piece by piece. But I think that tiny extra expense is more than made up for by his quality of workmanship, 10 year warranty, and ability to provide a full solution with no hassle. That and being able to support a local business and I consider this a solid win. Now I just have to convince the budget committee (wife) and I’ll put my name on his list. We’ll see how that goes.

Good enough for now. Hopefully there will be more new info soon.


Fishtank update

So a bit of progress has been made in terms of the megatank.

I’ve done a bunch more reading on reef tanks, refugiums, DIY acrylic work, overflow boxes, etc. I suppose I should preface this with the circumstances we’re in, and go from there.

We had quite a bit of existing gear from the old tank (92gal. bowfront with builtin overflow). Refugium, protein skimmer, return pump, some tubing, a whole mess of lace rock, some water movers, and two canister filters. We also had a smaller tank that was designed to be used as a refugium for this tank. The problem was that, with the stand we made for this thing, you really need to have put that tank underneath the big tank (essentially, inside the stand) BEFORE you closed everything in. As it stands now, we would need to remove too many structural supports. I was willing to remove one, since it is actually really well built, but not two. With the one removed, I was literally like 1 freaking inch shy of being able to squeeze that tank in. No dice. That brings us back to the old refugium we were previously using for the bowfront. It fits under just fine. However, it is really too small for this tank. Yes, it’ll do for now, but in the long term, we will need to get a bigger one, or perhaps more to the point, another smaller one that I can create a junction between or something.

Ok, so that led to the idea of making my own. How hard can acrylic be to work with? Turns out, it isn’t too bad. There are some great resources out there to assist with the process. Most notably, this thread over at Reef Central. When I realized this was no minor undertaking, I also tried to see if there was anyone out there making custom sump tanks/refugiums. That led to this guy, who appears to do some really quality work. Somewhere down the road, a new sump tank, or at least something to supplement the existing one, will be in order. For the moment, we have what we have.

In the process of testing the sump, pump and skimmer, I also broke the skimmer we have. Ah well. What we have would have been undersized anyway. Another thing that has to be put off a bit due to cost. I refuse to get a crappy one this time. We’ve dealt with crappy ones too many times. The pump we have will push 1200 gph. With a 5′ (approx) head, that is probably more like 900 and one 90 degree elbow reduces by another 50-100gph. All said, that is too little flow. But again, it’ll do for now.

And that brings us to the overflow box. The bowfront had the overflow built in, so that required no additional hardware. This one is not pre-drilled, and doing that yourself is always a gamble. So we opted to just go for one of the HOS (hang on side) variety. I ended up buying an Eshopps PF-1200 Overflow Box. I think for the tank size, it is just about right. It does have two downspouts, of which I am only using at the moment. I will get into the plumbing required here shortly. The key with this type of overflow is maintaining the suction (in my head, all I can hear is Craig Ferguson harping on “the proper amount of suction”). Getting that to work correctly is pretty easy, actually. It really only took a short amount of time to get a decent balance going with the water level in the tank and overflow and the water level in the sump tank. Well, and this was take 2 on that effort. This first pointed out a few leaks that had to be resolved. $40 and some plumbing solvent/cement later, and all was well. No leaks that I can see.

Ok, some pics… taking a short break from this post to get my gallery uploader all working and automated again.

Off to the right is a picture of the overflow box hanging off the back of the aquarium:



You can see a few things here. First, I am not using the second downspout yet. Until I get a sump/refugium setup that can accept two inputs, there isn’t any point. Second, you can see how stupid the types of connectors you get with these things. Or, perhaps, my stupidity in plumbing. To get a flexible hose to the refugium of the right size, I’m using “sump pump hose” from home depot. The connectors on the overflow box are also not any standard that I can identify, so makeshift plumbing hack it is. Closer inspection of the “U” tubes that provide the suction will show that there are very nearly no air bubbles at all at the top, which is perfect. Nice even flow the whole time with no danger of it just stopping function. The picture links back to my gallery where the full size image can be found. Ok, lemme see if I can get multiple image to play nice in the layout here…



Ok, good enough. So there you see the tube I used to connect the overflow box to the refugium. Why so long, you say? Remember the aforementioned “sump pump hose”. Well, it comes in a 24 foot length, and the only place where you can put clamps on it is at 10′ intervals. So there’s obviously a bit extra there. I don’t consider this a long term solution, but it’ll work for now. It doesn’t leak, clamps on well, and thats about it. Definitely the “budget” option, here.

And so it is up and running. I haven’t tried measuring the outflow rate, but it is definitely cycling, and the water level is right at the top of the glass (when viewed from the front of the tank. The part of the overflow box that hangs inside the tank is black, and the background paper on the tank is black, so it is barely visible unless you’re really looking for it. There is already a difference in the surface particulate matter that was accumulating, so it is doing its job well. We’ll see how much water evaporation we get.

There is a LOT more work to be done here before the system can be considered to be fully operational and capable of supporting the kind of life we want it to. Next steps, as budget permits:

  • Replace broken bulbs (just a couple actinics, I think)
  • Get glass or plexi tank cover sized and slotted correctly
  • Settle on tank layout plan, including water flow
  • Supplement water flow with movers as needed
  • Decide what to do with the extra canister filters (if anything)
  • Replace skimmer

There will definitely be more of these posts as we make more progress. The only real limiting factor in continuing these efforts is just money. So as budget frees up, we’ll knock out some of those above items.


More basement stuff

We’re really getting close now. Plumbing is 90% done. Basement electrical trim is done (there are a few items upstairs still to do). They’re going to be starting carpet tomorrow after a thorough cleanup. Fish tank goes downstairs tomorrow as well, and possibly the trim around the tank if they get time. We’ll have a trimout inspection probably early next and final walkthrough next week. Amazing journey, this.

The daily pictures are posted here:

You do need to be in my circles on G+ if you want to see that stuff, though, so circle me if you can’t see them and let me know, and I’ll circle you back promptly.

I’ve also done almost all of the wiring closet wiring at this point as well, and I’m very happy with the result. All CAT6 runs done, all RG6 runs done, all speaker runs done. The only remaining work is a couple more cables that come from the tv (2 HDMI, 1 VGA, a couple more RG6, etc). I still have to mount things like the infrared distribution thinger, the RG6 cable splitter, the UPS. I need to cut and put up the other time wireframe shelves too. They will hold the receiver, cable box/dvr, my two servers, the slingbox, the NAS and um… oh, the DVD player. I think that is it. All the wallplate work still remains. That should be pretty easy though, just a matter of getting around the room with some free time and doing it.

I was really pleased to see that the CAT6 keystone are punchdown and not crimp. My hands are just not as capable of hours of crimping cable like they used to. Punchdown is easy. The RG6 compression crimp is NOTHING compared to CAT5/6 cable ends. I’m actually contemplating hitting up one of the local network cable supply stores for a whole mess of 1′, 3′ and 6′ patch cables. Need to price that out and see if its reasonable and worth it. I’m sure they hire some kind of slave labor or college kids or something to crimp cables, so I’m really just pumping money into the economy, right? Right?

What else… not much I guess. It is a lot quieter now that all the saws and cutting and stuff is done. Its so close now that we’re getting into the sort of anxious excitement mode now to have our space back. Very ready for that, to be sure.

I have no idea what we’re going to do furniture-wise yet. There are a few items that were not damaged in the flood that we kept, and they will probably go down pretty quickly to start making the space usable again, but there are definitely a bunch of things we’re going to need to buy again, and not all of it (in fact, not most of it) will be covered by insurance. So it may take a little bit to get everything restocked, so to speak. In rough order of purchasing, I suspect it will go something like: couch, desk(s), shelving, exercise bike, guestroom bed, and then miscellaneous stuff like end tables and whatever else we need to fill out the space nicely.

As far as where everything is going to go… I really have no idea. The only “fixed” things are the couch, tv spot and the fish tank. The fish tank is going to be a huge project. We are definitely going to have to start it out fresh water, though I think the long term goal (once money permits) is to get back into a reef setup. The startup costs on that are going to be huge. Rough estimates say to have one pound of live rock for every gallon of water. So 250 lbs at roughly $4-$6/lb. Yeah. Now you’re with me. And that doesn’t include any of the ancillary gear you need like protein skimmers, more pumps, filtration, blah blah blah. Oh yeah, and something living. Both reef fish and corals are all on the high side of cost (at least when compared to fresh water fish). I think for the fresh water setup I will probably need some more substrate to add to what I had just purchased for the 75gal. tank. I should be able to get away with inert stuff since what I got before is good quality. A few plants, probably 1 or 2 pumps for circulation and probably some additional heating. The glass covers need to be replaced, and I want to get better quality lighting as well. I need to take a good look at the filter that came with it as well, and whether or not I can use it in conjunction with my existing eheim. If not, I’ll probably pick up another eheim. So it will be more in the order of a few hundred dollars, not a few thousand. Might not happen on day 1, but it won’t be too long in waiting either. Since it is such a central part of the new look of the basement, I’d really like to have it up and running as soon as possible.

I need to get some sleep… more to come very soon, with hopefully some final thoughts on this whole basement epic once they have wrapped up here in a week or so.


Basement update

As you might expect, work has been proceeding apace on the basement. I have been documenting that every day they do more work with pictures posted up to Google+. If you are not currently using Google+ or aren’t in my circles there, you won’t see them. If you are, here is a quick link to the albums page:

I created a new album (Day1, Day2, etc) for each day’s worth of pictures. Obviously, the days didn’t all happen in a row. Some days nothing except delivery of new materials, or an inspection of current work to meet code, or what have you.

Overall, I’m very impressed with the quality of work and the speed things are getting done. Communication from the contractor has been good, and responses to questions and concerns are generally handled the same day or at worst, the next day. All the subcontractors have been very professional, courteous to us if we’re home, and even ok with the dogs being upstairs and occasionally barking. Again, I’m hesitating to give any final recommendations until we see the final product, but my current sense is that I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending these guys to anyone, or calling on them again in the future to help us with additional work.

I will express one thing in particular, since it was so notable in all this progress. As I mentioned in a previous post, the owners of this property before us really did a number on the house when they “finished” the basement. As noted before, the electrical system in particular was really just not handled in a safe way. All of the downstairs circuits were simply tied back up into existing junction boxes upstairs. The net effect of this was two-fold. First, we would very commonly overload a circuit with it having load both downstairs and upstairs. Fuses popped all the time. Further, when they did the tie-ins to the junction boxes upstairs, they just didn’t do it right. Very often, we’d be left with an upstairs wall plate that was loose or just flat out not working. So the end result is that when we “fixed” the basement, we also wanted them to go to all the upstairs boxes that had been tied into, and fix them as well. In the end, we asked them to just do a full “audit” of all the electrical in the house. They expanded the panel in the garage. If we ever want to put more capacity in the house we can. This was done so that we could “properly” run a sub-panel downstairs. Every wall socket and switch on the house is now replaced with new plates. All junction boxes have been checked for safety.

Here’s the scary part… and it only confirms the fears I had about how it was improperly done the first time around… when they went through and checked them, three of the junction boxes had to be pulled out and replaced because they were charred on the inside. Right. Burn marks from sparks or who knows what. We really are fortunate the whole place didn’t just burn right down to the ground along the way.

So when I got home that day after all this work was done, I walked around the whole house, checking outlets, flipping switches, etc. I really didn’t understand fully just how much all that had been weighing on me over time. To have everything finally be safe? Worth every single penny. I’m fact, I’m not sure I can even place a value on that. I truly felt (and still do) like a burden had been lifted, and relieved.

What’s next? Well, as the pictures show, they are up to the point now where mud/tape on the drywall is done and drying. They will come in I believe on Saturday to texture. Trim package and tile arrives on Monday. I’m not sure if they will start in with the trim and tile work on Monday or wait until Tuesday. I think they are also going to try and get the fish tank moved downstairs then as well, since some of the trim work depends on it being in place already. I also think we slightly over-estimated on the weight of the tank. Troy had originally told me it was about 700 lbs. empty. Based on some online calculators for it (not like I can just weight it)… it is probably more like 500, or slightly less even. In any case, they will get a few of their guys to come in one of those days and lug that thing downstairs. I’m grateful I don’t have to do that myself for certain.

What remains? Trim and tile. Cabinets, doors, shelving installation. Full cleanup, sweep and vacuum to prepare for painting. Paint. Door and bathroom hardware install. Final HVAC, electrical and plumbing. Carpet install. Final inspections. Final walk through and punch list. Done. I do believe we’re still on target for a completion date in the first week of March. It has definitely been exciting to come home from work every day, walk downstairs and see the incremental progress. Quite an adventure, to be sure. I’m anxious for this all to be done. We have this vision of the completed product. We will have a lot of work after that in turning it back into a living space. There may be a bit of lag in replacing some of the furniture, of course. We got rid of a few things that insurance isn’t covering (for example, the hated futon), which we will need to replace once money permits.

Though we do have notions of where things like desks and office stuff is going to go, I suspect that once we actually get stuff downstairs and have the ability to move things around in the space, we’re going to end up with a different configuration. Its very difficult, even with the walls up now, to imagine how things will work out once the space is occupied again with furnishings, bookshelves, paintings and such. But that part, I think, will be fun. I do expect that there will also be some additional stuff we decided to throw out at that point. When we were lugging everything out of the basement to get it out of the way, we didn’t really pay that much attention to whether or not we really wanted to save all of that still. Stuff that has been sitting in boxes for 15 years under the stairs? Maybe its time to look at it more closely and see if it really should remain. Having to carry it all back downstairs again shouldn’t happen until that evaluation has taken place. As I said, though, I think we’re both looking forward to that part.

And of course, the kids will have a lot more space to play again. I think that has been the hardest adjustment to this period of time … where everything is essentially cramped into “half a house”. We’re climbing over each other constantly. There is NO space that isn’t also occupied with the kid’s toys and books, etc. You can clean that up every day, and in 2 hours they will return it to the state they prefer the next day. Its almost not worth even trying to clean up after them. I’m looking forward to having proverbial elbow room again.

Finally, somewhere along the process of the aforementioned work, I will also be getting the remainder of the wiring closet work completed. Both the wall plates and the termination point in the wiring closet need to be punched down and finished off. Though I can already feel the cramping in my hands just thinking about doing that, I do like getting all that done and everything linked in properly. I’m quite certain I will be photo-documenting that effort once I get to it as well, to satisfy the geekiness of all that.

More to come as this progresses…



Its been a fairly busy weekend, all told. Saturday we went down to Larkspur to get the FishTankFromHell(tm). Thanks to Geoff and Tom for their heroic assistance in that move. We got everything moved, including about 40 gallons of the existing water. I think there were a total of … 15 fish? Something like that. We lost one already, I think just due to the “shock” of the move. We will probably lose one more if my guess is on. But I think, given what they went through to get to my house, that is about as well a result as can be expected. The rest look great, their color has returned, swimming around well, etc etc.

We had our friend Simon come over this morning to try to get some pictures of us and the kids. They were well behaved, but didn’t sit still very well. We’ll see how they turn out. We will post pics once we have them, and of course provide Simon with some advertising for his trouble! Thanks Simon!

I left from DIA at 3:44 bound for Seattle and arrived relatively unscathed. Somewhere in the mix of security scanning and getting to my seat on the plane, I dropped my cash. I didn’t realize it. When we deplaned in Seattle, the lady sitting behind me passed me on the jetway, and handed me something, asking if it looked familiar. It was my billfold, all $150 or so it, plus receipts. I do believe at least some of my faith in honesty is restored. So thank you, nice lady sitting behind me. I do appreciate it.

Taxi to hotel, checked in. Dinner at Buckley’s. I also managed to get in touch with Johnny Rockstar, who I will be dining with on Wednesday evening. He is going to try and coerce Gamber to come along as well, who I haven’t seen in ages, so that would be great, of course. And I should be meeting Susan Ramsey and her beau for a drink or dinner or both tomorrow evening as well. Its good to be the king, is all I’ve gotta say.

Ah Seattle. I do like it here. I like the climate, could do with fewer hills. Could do with not being on a major fault line. But otherwise, I dig it. Now time to finish off my book and head for bed.


Fishtank, next installment

So this is mostly going to be about adding the inline filter in. I might even try to draw some little picture to describe whats going on, since this was such a pain in the ass. Really, I should have taken pictures, but I’m lazy. Meh.

So, first, let me describe the problem. I think I hinted at it in one of my previous posts, but I’ll get into detail here. The players are:

The only real detail you need to know here is this… the inline heater is intended to set in the OUTBOUND line of the filter. This stands to reason. You don’t want the particulate matter coming in from the tank to potentially get all clogged up in there and cause a mess or worse. So having it go through the filter first, and (presumably) get rid of all the crap first, THEN go through the heater just makes good sense.

Ok, Eheim’s tubing is in metric measurements. The INBOUND line on the filter is 16mm/22mm (ID/OD). This roughly corresponds to 5/8″ ID.  in US outdated backwards keep a brother down measuring. I’m not bitter. Really. The OUTBOUND line is 12mm/16mm (ID/OD), roughly corresponding to 1/2″ ID. Ok. The Hydor has 5/8″ compression fittings on both sides.

Now you can see the issue. Outbound line where it needs to go? 1/2″. So that needs to get adjust up to 5/8″, insert the hydor, Fittingthen back down to 1/2″ again. Big ol’ pain in the butt. Ok, so I hit the hardware store after work, and picked up a couple 1/2″ to 3/4″ (OD) barb fittings. They look roughly like the image to the right. I also got some of the screwdown clamps to make sure nothing would leak. Since we are dealing with metric/US conversions, there is always the minute differences that could be enough room for leaks.

Ok, so now let me see if I can get a decent image of how all this played out…Installation
There we go. Ok, so although the image is kind of tiny, you can see the different size hoses, and where the fittings had to be put in. It should be noted that this picture doesn’t include the shutoff valves eheim provides in order to make disconnecting the filter easier. That is, unfortunately, one downside to this, and something I may end up fixing later. Ideally, I’d want to have those quick-disconnects on both side of BOTH the filter and the heater. That way if I needed to take the heater OR filter out temporarily, I could. As it stands right now, if I want to take the filter out, the heater comes with it. Ah well, down the road.

Lets see, what else. Well… one thing I’m struggling with is that there is really limited space under the tank. Meaning, the stand is pretty space-constricted inside. Getting all of this stuff connected without bending hoses in ways they weren’t meant to be was quite a trick. Also, I think I fixed the leak I mentioned in a previous post! I think what happened is that the quick-connect thinger was not creating a good seal because of the way I was attaching it. Essentially, if you have both of the ball valves CLOSED when you attempt to connect it, you’re creating a compressed pocket of air in there that is inherently resisting your attempts to push the two sides together. Opening one of the ball valves fixes this problem. It isn’t leaking anymore after watching for awhile. HOWEVER, I am getting a leak right below there at the place where the 5/8″ tubing joins to the fitting. This is easily remedied with another screw clamp to fit over the 5/8″ side. So far, I had only used them on the 1/2″ side since that was the side that felt a bit loose. That is a problem that $1.20 can fix. So all in all, I’m pleased. We’ll see how this heater behaves.

Hmm. Ok, so I ordered a few things today. 2 replacement bulbs for the lighting (the actinics are burned out). A power strip that has clock controls to alternate lighting stuff, a submersible thermometer, some water conditioner, and some replacement clips for the filter. Not too bad. I spent some part of the morning looking for an online supplier that was Better Business Bureau Accredited. After four sites failed that test, was not only accredited, but answered the phone for support with a PERSON when I called, and had everything I wanted in stock. I will know next week how they are with shipping and such. Given that part of the order is light bulbs that are quite fragile, this should be a decent test.

Oh, the two pieces of wood I bought the other day are in the tank, and leeching tannins like crazy. I’ll try to get some pictures tomorrow before I do a water change to help that process along. The water just looks really yellow at the moment.

Can’t think of anything else.


So it turns out that website I found for the fishtank light bulbs has a BBB rating of F and their website doesn’t actually work. *sigh*

Need to find someplace else. Feh.


Fishy overhaul

So my little teensy fishy world might just have received a serious overhaul yesterday. It remains to be seen, but events may be swinging that way.

First, I got an inline heater. Hydor 300H. Problem with that … The Eheim 2217 has a 5/8″ intake tube, and a 1/2″ (well, 12mm/16mm ID/OD) tube outbound. So if I adhere the manufacturer recommendations (which, in thinking about it, make sense), the filter needs to be on the outbound line of the canister. It would stand to reason that you’d want as clean of particulate matter stream of water going through the heater as possible to avoid any kind of chance of it getting all clogged and stuff. I get it. But that means I need to do a 1/2″ to 5/8″ expand before the heater, and then 5/8″ to 1/2″ reduction on the other side. Doable, for sure, just extra parts I hadn’t counted on buying. Assuming Home Depot or Lowes are not completely understocked, I should be good to go.

Also got the black backing for the tank, which is now up, and looks great.

Found a website that carries bulbs for my light fixture as well, which is awesome, especially since it has long since gone off the market. It is a Current USA Compact Flourescent 4x65W 48″ light. Each bulb is 65W, and 24″ (well, ok, more like 22″ long). So I’ll probably order 2x6700K and 2xactinics for it. That’ll run me, … hmm, maybe $100 when I get around to it. Oh, that website is here, for reference. Very happy to have found that. Nice website. Well laid out, reasonable design and good contrast.

But none of that is what has turned my world upside-down. Yesterday, an ebay-coworker of mine let me know that he is leaving there, taking a new job that is going to take him out of town, and he is not reasonably going to be able to take his tank with him. Its an active tank, with Cichlids, primarily, right now, and its got to go. Dirt cheap. And its 250gal. *blink*blink*. Yup. 250gal. 8’x2’x2′. *drool*

So now we’re all in kind of a panic mode trying to figure out *holyshitwtfoverbatman* we’re going to do with this thing. In the short term, the fish are going to go in the tank that I’m cycling right now, the tank itself is going to go in the garage, and we’re going to see what the heck we’re going to have to do with our basement to rearrange to make room for it. There is no reasonable way to have it upstairs. Full of water, that will weigh roughly 2200 lbs. We would need to build a substructure underneath it just to support the floor, and .. no. Not gonna happen. So yeah, I need to figure this out.


Fishtank update 2

The remaining substrate arrived yesterday. I hit Home Depot on the way home, and predictably, they didn’t have exactly the kind of peat moss I wanted. They had one kind which was “enriched”, a Miracle-Gro product, which was supplemented with extra fertilizers or something. I’m fairly certain I didn’t want that kind of thing leeching its goo into my tank. I ended up with something that is probably slightly less than ideal, but whatever.

I drained the tank down, which invariably leaves about 1-2cm of water in the bottom of the tank. That complicated laying down the moss since it essentially just floated. Ah well, it just meant that my first layer (Amazonia + Laterite) had to sort of … hold down the moss. It took a bit of playing with, but I think I managed it. Then came the layers of Eco-complete, mixing the red and black bags in to get a decent layering and some attempt to tier it up in the back as well. I think it looks pretty decent. I took a few snaps of it, but haven’t pulled anything off the camera yet.

Since I also got the replacement filters, I also pulled apart the canister and put the fresh ones in. No real issue there, primed it again, got everything going. Unfortunately, in doing so, I spotted a leak down there. Not a major one. For the moment, a towel underneath is good enough, but there will be a part under there that is going to get a new seal pretty soon here.


Fishtank update 1

The first batch of substrate made it to my LFS. I think I mentioned in the last post that they recommended, and I went with Activ-Flora. I did some looking into it, and it seemed a reasonable choice. Not my first choice, but reasonable. Went there to pick it up. Box opened… Eco-complete. Huh? Um. Pointed this out to the guy, he pulls out the catalog… Activ-Flora. I point to the label… Eco-complete. Hrmph.

I will still use it. But please, LFS guy… understand that I am an educated consumer, and I choose products for good reasons. If I order A, and you deliver B … as a general rule, I am not going to be pleased about it, and will certainly reconsider any future purchases at your store. Seriously, how unreasonable is that?

– me


Fishtank Redux

So over the last month, roughly, we’ve been thinking about and investigating the idea of getting the freshwater fishtank going again, and under a strict budget.
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