5 Foot aquarium


A side project of mine was to build an aquarium that was almost completely self maintained. I’ve owned a 70 odd litre tank before this for about 18 months and got to grips with the highs and lows that accompany it.

So lets start from the beginning – which was over 1 year ago.


First Design

So what did I need to accomplish and what where the challenges?

Well off the bat, this is all new – I knew I needed …

  • A tank
  • bracing
  • a method of auto water change
  • Little maintenance
  • A Sump
  • Lighting
  • Some pipes
  • Co2 injection for plants

I decided I wanted the tank to be 5 foot and freshwater.


My original plans went through some changes

base   overview1   pipeinplace  new overflow2   complete 1



Over flow not right?

The weight of the over flow was concerning and I wasn’t too happy with the look from the front, but I also wanted to remove everything from the main tank.

In the end I spoke to some experts in the area and decided on a weir design, with a single brace and glass thickness of 10mm

final tank   final tank weir



We need a Sump

So what do we want in the sump?

  • Filter media,
  • UVC light to kill unwanted algae
  • a return pump
  • Something to place excess water into a drain pipe

Next step was to build the sump, after a few designs


sump v1 sump2sump3


We ended up with this, The idea being the water would come in from the right into a nursery, then into a filter chamber, then into the return pump and back into the tank.

And we have placed a lid on top of the sump to keep Co2 loss to a minimum




Okay we have the over flow, how much water is moving

I started to work water flow rates – How much water can 1 inch pipe take with only gravity fed Vs how much water do I need to pump into it from the sump to maintain good filtration.

The ideal rate is to cycle the tank entire water supply about 4-6 times per hour

In the end I needed 2 x 1 inch pipes + 1 x 1 inch emergency pipe from the main tank to the sump and 2 x 3/4 inch pipe from the sump to the main tank.

emg siphon revision2

Co2 injection

We know we want Co2 in the tank to help the plants grow but what can we use?

lets face it, odds are we look at a Co2 fire extinguisher every day – lets use that. So what do we need to use it?

  • Co2 Canister
  • Regulator
  • Co2 proof tubing
  • bubble counter
  • Some way of telling how much Co2 is in the tank (we don’t want to kill the fish)
  • A Co2 reactor to inject the Co2 into the water

So a quick bit of searching and I got 2 x 5kg of Co2 from a local seller,
a bubble counter and Co2 reactor from a user on my local fish forum
a 4dkh fluid for a my drop checker – this will tell me how much Co2 is in the tank
and a trip to the shops got me some co2 proof tubing

After speaking to some experts I found out that any surface water moving will release any Co2 out of the tank. This is why the sump is covered.



Pipe work

With the numbers in mind I went ahead an reviewed suppliers and ended up with going with hendersons.co.uk, this is the end results of a few weeks of communication with the company

from top down - The piping from sump to tank – The piping from tank to sump – The emergency piping from tank to sump

Connections V3    Overflow     Emergency Overflow

So lets put the order in!

A week later they arrived





The cost of lighting it quite high, normally on a 5 foot tank you’ll need about 4 x T5 bulbs, at 30-40 each its too much.

So looking at the LED market – I found rapidled.com, and though more R&D I found the perfect light spectrum that accommodated both fish and plants and basic salt water life – if I ever decided to change to salt water

  • 10 x Natural White
  • 10 x Warm White
  • 10 x Cool White
  • 10 x Royal Blue

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A few weeks later they arrived and I put it together

20130711_224109     20130712_180743     20130712_180638


Auto water change

We have 2 outstanding issue, auto water change and UVC.

The auto water change was tricky. We need to

  • remove chlorine and other nasties from the tap,
  • have a controller that say’s how much water change should be done in a week
  • have a pipe from the sump to the drain to remove waste water

In the end I went with a 3 stage RO unit, that catch with the RO unit is that there is usually a 4:1 ratio of water water to clean water.



That’s alot of waste water AND fish cannot survive in pure RO’ed water. Plus the RO unit needs to have at least 60 psi of water pressure to work.


lucky the water pressure in my house was 75psi, so that one was easy.

Seems both the waste water and pure water had passed through the activated carbon chamber, the chlorine was removed,

So I feed both the waste water and pure RO’ed water into the same tube and placed a pressure controller at the end to control the drip rate.



I had already built in an over flow hole in the sump to drain the excess waste water out.


Simple one this, got a second hand UVC unit that handled the flow rate of the tank




Tank Stand

When I browsing the net for idea’s I came across this design and fell in love


So decided to do something similar (keep in mind that there is a radiator where i plan to place the tank.

fainl tank with stand


Issue with Weight of the tank??

Lucky there where no issues the floor in the room is concrete and can easily take the 1 ton of weight over the small area



Final Design

final design in room




Lets get it built

The experts in the field in this case where seahorse Aquariums. And after seeing some of there work I decided to give them the job.

They where able to take my 3D drawing and develop it off that

IMG_1705 20140419_101206


Once it arrived I got the guys to put it in place and give me a hand wiring up the pipe work

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Then I got a plumper in to install the RO unit


new Ro unit new Ro Feed new pipe


And started adding in the soil / rocks and water

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Added in the Co2 / UVC and tidied up all the wiring

Also added the sump cover and cut out the wholes for the tubing


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After a settling period of a few weeks I added fish / Plants and a sunset


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After this I added a tree


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And about 4 months later its all up a running with about 70 fish



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