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Old 09-09-2012, 04:33 AM   #1 
SpookyTooth
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DIY Filter Journal

The Built-in DIY Filter
Disclamer: the following was written almost a month ago. As I was waiting for the aquarium I needed to come into stock I didn't want to post anything as there was a risk it could take weeks, I didn't want to find that this topic was left seemingly abandoned while I waited to be able to make progress.

I wanted to start this journal to document a mini DIY project I’m attempting. The project is to modify an aquarium and build a filter into it; by doing this I hope to maximize swimming room for the aquarium’s future inhabitants and keep things as aesthetically pleasing as possible. The manner of filter I’m creating will offer minimal amounts of suction and water agitation whilst still offering superb filtration and so it is, in my opinion, ideal for a betta tank.

The entire project is somewhat more complicated than it honestly needs to be but complication keeps my mind occupied for longer, it also allows me to check for flaws better (in my opinion at least) should I ever reattempt the project on a larger scale. My planning allows room for mistakes but should this entire project fall through the aquarium I use will still be functional.

This project is centred on a 30 x 30 x 30cm glass cube that holds approximately 27 litres (5.5 gallons) of water, it will be Kaze’s future home. The cube is the exact same size as Echo’s (my other betta) and is a very attractive tank, it is also much larger than I originally thought (I believed it to be between 21 and 24 litres but this has since been proven false) and is at a size I am completely comfortable with. Once this project is over I will be planting the aquarium and will continue the journal for a brief time to study how well the filter functions.

The filter I’m looking to build is known as a moving bed filter, it’s an extremely simple design that works off the principle of survival of the fittest. The most basic design for a moving bed filter (and perhaps the easiest example used to explain how it works) is a plastic bottle with tiny holes drilled in the bottom and larger holes drilled into the top. Through the cap of the bottle an airline is fed and on the end of the airline is an air stone or an airline “T” junction. Air is then pumped through this; the invading and released oxygen encourages water to be sucked into the bottom of the bottle where it then escapes out the top (similarily to a sponge filter).

Before this can be an effective filter the bottle needs to be filled part way with filter media, many people use ceramic balls or serrated plastic pieces – the more surface area the better. Once the air is flowing freely through the bottle it juggles the lightweight media around, causing each piece to bump into each other. These collisions are believed to force the beneficial bacteria that will form on the filter media to re-establish itself regularly so only the strongest survive. This strong bacteria is then believed to be more effective at consuming ammonia and nitrite than your standardized static bacteria found in non-moving filters with filter sponges.

These filters are often found to be used with koi ponds and fish farms.



I made this random diagram in an attempt to show how these things work… I er… hope it doesn’t confuse anyone.

While the project itself seems complicated the actual design is very simple. I intend to use a small sheet of plastic (perhaps styrene or Perspex, depending on what is available) cut to an appropriate size and drilled as required, I will be siliconing this into the back corner of the aforementioned aquarium with the airline and relevant accessories. I suppose the fun is in the planning and taking photos.

I will be using:

* A 27 litre/7 gallon glass cube aquarium
* A sheet of plastic cut to size with appropriate holes
* Geocel brand aquarium sealant/silicone
* Silicone airline tubing
* An airline “T” junction
* Airline tubing grip suction cups
* A random drill

My filter media of choice is known as HEL-X, it is a serrated plastic wheel. I prefer plastic media over ceramic as ceramic will likely break down due to the continuous movement and collisions it would be subjected to.



I am not, nor will I ever claim to be the one who came up with the moving bed filter idea. I simply think it’s a wonderful filter and wish to utilize it in an efficient and space-saving way. I discovered a video regarding making a moving bed filter on YouTube and thus my curiosity was peaked – you can search for moving bed filters on YouTube to find various videos on how to make your own in a very quick, simple and cheap way.

One question I may be asked is “why build the filter into the aquarium and not use the bottle method but hide it behind some plants?”, this question is a very good one. My reason for wanting to use a thin sheet of plastic in the corner of the aquarium is to make a narrow corridor leading directly upwards, my hope is that due to this smaller space the oxygen released by the airline “T” junction is spread more evenly thus giving better movement of the filter media. I would also find this corridor a lot easier to maintain should I need to add or remove media as it would lead directly up towards the lid of the aquarium whereas a bottle would need to be completely removed and the cap undone.

Please be aware that the main "journal" part of this topic was started last month, I decided to hold off on uploading what I'd done so far as I was unsure when I would be able to acquire the second aquarium and didn't want to find I had no updates for weeks after starting.
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Old 09-09-2012, 04:40 AM   #2 
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14th August 2012
I’ve had the airline and airline “T” junction prepared for ages… as it’s not really that hard to do. I decided to put a small seal of aquarium silicone around where the airline and the “T” fit together just for a bit of extra stability.





Hooray for critical update!

5th September 2012
I never received a phone call from my favoured fish store regarding another cube aquarium for Kaze… but it doesn’t matter anymore.

Today Echo died. He became sick very suddenly, I tried to treat him but it simply wasn’t enough.

I’ve made the decision to bring in the old 54 litre (14 gallon) aquarium for Kaze as I now have space for it. Excuse me if that sounds cold-hearted, that’s not the intention -- I miss Echo already but I try to pull something positive out of a bad situation and in this case it is giving Kaze more room. Focusing on him is helping me through a lot of grief right now, not only due to Echo’s passing; we’ve had a family bereavement as well as other things happening so having a project to focus on keeps my mind off the frustration and pain.

I’m still going to build the filter into the corner; I’ve ordered a piece of acrylic and have everything else I’ll need. As for decoration, Kaze’s 54 litre will be planted. I still have Echo’s old tank set up but I will be reusing his substrate and plants, I’ll sanitize them as best as I can (considering the plants are live); I’ll also be getting some more plants. I’ve got an idea that involves a large Amazon Sword and some driftwood… also going to need more substrate.

For now I can’t do anything else. I’m taking some time to get my head around everything that’s happened today and will need to make some plans. Next time I update I will hopefully have some positive news and new photos.

9th September 2012
Finally got the piece of acrylic for the filter front, it's been drilled but needs to be cut down about a centimetre. No photos of it yet.

Last night I started work on the tank itself; I gave it a really good clean out using a high concentration of aquarium salt in hot water then a second scrub using just hot water. Once everything is done I'll need to rinse the tank again very thoroughly with hot water to ensure all salt is gone, that won't be a problem.



After I'd cleaned it (and removed old sticky tape marks from the background I used to use) I dried the back corner and siliconed the air line in, I was careful to make sure that the T-junction was in the right place and at the right height. I used an airline suction cup to attach the T-junction to the back of the piece of plastic mentioned earlier and then fitted this where I wanted it, this gave me a great opportunity to ensure stability and to make sure that the air released by the T would cover the corridor the plastic created.



I should be able to proceed a bit more in a day or two. I'm hoping to get the acrylic cut down just a little more then I can get that put in. All I'll have to do then is let it dry and cure, fill 'er up and test her out. If everything works well it'll then be the fun process of draining the tank, moving all plants and such from my two tanks and scaping.

Kaze is wiggling around like a mad man this morning, maybe he knows.

Last edited by SpookyTooth; 09-09-2012 at 04:44 AM.
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Old 09-09-2012, 09:21 AM   #3 
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Oh, wow! Spooks, this is an AWESOME project! Thanks for posting this for those of us who aren't so slick at DIY, lol! I really can't wait to see how this comes out. Kaze is going to LOVE it! Please keep us posted on your progress!
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Old 09-09-2012, 10:09 AM   #4 
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Thank you Chesh Things are gradually coming together! I will definitely update, probably tomorrow (the piece of plastic is the right size now)!
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Old 09-10-2012, 10:15 AM   #5 
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10th September 2012
The piece of acrylic has been cut and is good to go, it now slots perfectly into place! I have four 6mm holes in the top for air to escape out of and six 4mm holes in the bottom for water to be drawn into, I’ll be covering the inside of the holes in thin sponge just to reduce chances of Malaysian trumpet snails getting stuck in there (as the babies tend to go… everywhere).



I’ve been trying to figure out how to attach the airline T to the back of the acrylic, luckily the airline grips I use have a little clip that detaches from the main suction cup so I will be utilizing that to make the process a lot easier. I’ll silicone the suction cup onto the back of the acrylic, I’ll then be able to carefully manoeuvre the airline clip into the hole.



I’ll be fitting the whole thing together later today.

Later today…
Decided against the sponge along the holes in the plastic as if anything had somehow gotten in it wouldn’t be able to get out, I’d rather the snails be able to get in and leave than get in and get stuck.

So, I siliconed the acrylic into place and all is well. It took a little fiddling, some messing up and some sticky fingers but when all is said and done I don’t think I did too badly considering this is my first time doing a major job using sealant.



It looks a little scruffy but that adds to its charm *cough*. Next up: waiting for sealant to cure (am giving it three days rather than two) and testing the air flow.

My cat was very impressed.

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Old 09-10-2012, 12:44 PM   #6 
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Heehee, I'm with kitty! Impressive job! You've never seen ME try to do anything that involves straight lines and/or sticky substances. . . I PROMISE you - this is a beautiful piece of work! None of the *charm* will really show once everything is all set up and operational, anyway. ESPECIALLY not when we've all got gorgeous little Kaze to look at instead!

Crossing my fingers for the test in 3 days time! I'm sure all will be perfection. . . can't wait for the next step, this is really a cool project!
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Old 09-10-2012, 12:55 PM   #7 
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Hehehe thank you Chesh! Not sure why one of the photos has suddenly stopped working, that's bizarre... it was fine earlier. Hrm, maybe it'll work again later.

I'm trying to figure out how to rearrange all the plants I currently have so I can move them over to this aquarium when everything is ready -- two tanks, loads of plants, one fish and lots of microfauna. Whew.
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Old 09-10-2012, 02:00 PM   #8 
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All of the images are working just fine for me! Arranging plants - that's the FUN part!

I can't WAIT to see how it all comes out - it's going to be a really nice tank, I think!
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Old 09-11-2012, 07:52 AM   #9 
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11th September 2012
When it comes down to the aquascaping of this aquarium I've had some difficulties visualizing how I want it to be. I have various pieces of driftwood, lots of plants and such but really couldn't figure out how to put it all together.

I went to the aquatics store today to look for more substrate as I wasn't sure if I'd have enough; after a look through the bettas (something I have a habit of doing funnily enough) and discovering their tank full of African dwarf frogs as well as one that housed sea horses I browsed around the plants and the driftwood. I immediately saw a piece of wood that wouldn't be suitable for an aquarium but that was ideal for one of my other animals: my stick insects. I'm looking to see if I can trigger a camouflage reflex in baby Extatosoma tiaratum by filling their enclosure with bark covered in lichen -- that's another story for another time, though.

After picking out the small chunk of bark I discovered a large piece of driftwood with lots of branches, it had no price tag so we asked the gentleman present (who had been helping us with reverse osmosis water), he weighed it but just shrugged and said it was a fiver. £5. There were smaller pieces of driftwood for £15 but I was so taken aback I didn't think to comment, I just accepted -- he threw in the piece of bark for free. I'm in that store regularly and the staff are always so friendly and accepting of me and my tendancies to ramble, I always have at least a brief chat with members of staff about general fish stuff and really feel at home in that store.

I hadn't really realized the scale of this piece of wood until I got home and tried to put it in the 54 litre aquarium. I had to ask my father to saw off a couple of small branches but after I got it to fit we all stood back and were utterly blown away.






(Please excuse the state of this room, we've been moving stuff around and it's become a bit of a temporary storage space)

£5. I just couldn't believe it, it's like this piece of wood was made specifically for Kaze's tank -- I have so many ideas now and can't wait to be able to get started. Just a couple... more... days! I'll give the wood a really good wash down soon.
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Old 09-11-2012, 09:22 AM   #10 
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WOW!!! That IS a fantastic piece of wood - and HUGE!!! He DEFINITELY gave you a good deal, no doubt about it. . .plus the bark for free - he must really like you! (speaking of bark, the experiment with the sticks and the moss you will have to keep me up to date on whenever you get there) You should figure out what his work schedule is and bring him in cookies or something next time you go in as a thank you! It looks GREAT in the tank, simply superb - you're right, like it was MADE for it!!!

SOOOOOO. . . what living plants to you have (or do you have any?) and how are you going to set everything up? Are you going to add the sawed off piece in there as well? SO many questions! Are you going with sand. . . Oooooh, Spooky! I am SO excited for this tank!!!

GAH! It's gonna look so NICE in there when all is said and done! HURRY up and DRY, epoxy! I need to know what happens next!
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