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Discussion Starter #1
Well, for years I've been talking about plant only filtration. I've had plans to build a fresh water refugium on the back burner for some time as well, so it's time to stop talking about it, and get it started... so today... thats exactly what I did.

I started with a 55g aquarium that someone gave to me out front of a local pet store... half heartedly cleaned in preparation for the project.




a trip to home depot and the local glass shop




and my project had begun

of course I made a few mistakes, like finding the one white tube of silicone in a box of clear and getting a two prong timer instead of a three. the white was fine and timer will be returned.

the other challenge was the glass. It's hard to get inside measurements and mine came out less then perfect. What i did was (I thought) quite clever. I measured the outside dimension and subtracted the width of the front and back panel. the problem was that they would have been two snug and the glass shop cut them about 1/16" to long. that means they fit in crooked. Luckily the other measurement was a 1/4" smaller. they fit straight but were a bit short. I caulked them in place and they seem strong but, the water test will tell if it's strong enough. if not, back to square one.

progress so far



the idea was to have the water drain into the right side and go through a couple baffles to trap bubbles and smooth out the water flow. then the water will flow through the planted section in the center then Finlay into the pump area on the far left.
 

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Discussion Starter #2
the idea of the refugium is basically the same as a planted pond (just like the one in the back yard)



this pond has no filter except the plants and no regular feeding except the creatures living among the plants. and the two guramies that live in there have turned into 100+

for my filter I will take cuttings and cultures from this pond.

right now I'm trying to decide which plants to use, as I want the fastest growing plants possible that will thrive in the flow and grow densely. I would also prefer not to use any substrate in order to have less to maintain. this will also allow me to siphon off any detritus that collects on the bottom.

I've narrowed my choices down to two plants. (1)horn wart. it grows fast and dense without roots. It also is excellent for housing microfauna. the only downsides are that it may require more light than I want to use (2X40watt shop light) in order to get the desired dense growth and small pieces could break off and clog the power heads (well placed floss could fix that). (2)water lettuce. it grows fast with roots in the water column. these will trap detritus, and be easily removed as needed. It would also be less likely to break up and clog the power head (but the same precautions would be needed). Also, as a floating plant the light would be just fine and it would have free access to CO2. The downside is that they will not be quite as good for hosting microfauna. perhaps some substrate could be used for that purpose, but i was trying to avoid that.

anyway, I'm sure I've missed something but my eyes are getting tired.
More latter.
Comments welcome.
 

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so your just going to fill the mid section with plantlife?

Seems like that would work as good if not better then the regualar mixture of balls and sponges. Only thing that comes to mind is the decaying plant life. You could try to put a screen above that last wall to catch the debris before it gets to the powerhead

the water lettuce, imo, will get everywhere however, it doest need any substrate. which is what you want. but i find that they discart alot of roots. i have a bamboo bowl (2ft dia) with them. i tried puttign them in a tank before and i was constantly picking roots out of the tank, and i only put one ...cluster... of them. Secondly, and limp leaves or leaves catching a splash will leach the tank lowering the quality, as im sure you know. Id go with the wart, and if you don;t want rock, root them in some biosponge and then you can easily remove them in a bulk and clean the sponge and replace it


Where you plan on putting this sump?

gotta admit that white caulking is ghastly.


THis is a great idea.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
ceahorse, thanks for your insight.

i hope to cut down on the plant scraps by removing old growth on a regular basis, keeping the fast growing new growth to filter the water, and yes I am planning some sort of screening, but haven't fully decided yet.

also, hornwart has no roots, so no need to anchor it down.

Finlay, removing the bubbles cuts down turbulence and prevents micro bubbles from getting into the main display. I also use free standing baffles around my pumps.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
The water test was a success. I filled the sump from one side, so that all baffles would have to stand up to maximum water pressure and nothing budged




next, I added a handful of hornwart to see how it would settle in the water flow.
here I used 2 X Rio 2100's rated at 600+ GPH each. The final display will have two Mag 9.5's, but with the rise of the plumbing the flow should be comparable.



as you can see from the next picture the plants are almost falling over the last baffle so I needed some sort of strainer.



I want to keep the costs from getting crazy so I used something I had on hand. What I found was an old piece of plastic from the backside of a glass top. I drilled a honeycomb pattern in the plastic.



being made for glass tops, the piece fit perfectly on the glass baffle



Ill let in run over night, to see how it holds up.
 

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That hornwart, just lives loose like that naturally?

Lucky fit on that find for the strainer.

Im getting so jealous... i love projects.

got any pics of these "free standing baffles"
 

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PS I love the cameo of the potted plant in the 1st picture, just trying to get some attention. all askew sitting on some debris. "Why don;t you love me, like your other plants?""

ohh.. actually theres noting in that pot... its behind it.....
 

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Discussion Starter #11
That hornwart, just lives loose like that naturally?

got any pics of these "free standing baffles"
yep, floats and grown in all directions.

as for free standing baffles, they are just pieces of plexi that will surround the pumps. Ill post pics once i get to that part

Looking good! What are you hooking it up to?
210g

thought this was going to be a presentation at an upcoming meeting?
possibly, but this project is the next step
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Well, about a week ago i set up the filter to recirculate with old tank water a a few plants in different configurations.







as you can see I used free floating hornwart, floating parrots feather, potted stem plants (collected in a Miami canal), and plants attached to rocks including Anubis.



with the addition of the planter, the flow seemed just about right.

things seem to be going well



today I added wysteria and anacharis in planters as well as more hornwart and parrot's feather. the water is a bit cloudy from the planters, but here you go












i also added an egg crate top instead of the class tops

 

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Discussion Starter #13
I still need to decide weather to use a 48" 2 X 40w shoplight or a 4 X 20w light that only covers the planted area. Input is welcome.



and here is a couple quick pics of the tank the filter is being made for






current stock (off the top of my head) includes 9 Frontosa, 2 Texas, two Midas, a small oscar, several small salvini, 3 small red texas, pair of clown loaches, and several exotc plecos.



The frontosa are leftover from when the tank was full of Africans (Im giving south americans a try now)









I may remove the frontosa before I replace the filter, but I'm still undecided.
 

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as for the lights you talking 80watts on 55gal either way..... So price the bulbs and use the cost of 4 bulbs to the cost of 2 bulbs........ you may even be able to just have the fixture over the plant areas,,,,, My concern would be aglea growing on the equipment and the floss..... more maintence
 

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Discussion Starter #15
OK... Time for updates!

The project has been on hold due to the birth of my third perfect daughter, who was born at home. It was a great experience and wife and baby are doing very well.

as for the filter, it has continued to re-circulate on itself out on the back patio. the water had turned a light green likely from the early morning sun that lit it up in the mornings. the plants have thrived, especially the hornwart and parrot's feather. I thew in some gourami fry from the pond and they grew quite a bit, but they are out now.

I decided to move the filter today. before moving it I gave the glass a good wipe down and rinse to hopefully prevent the green water from blooming once inside the house. After a great deal of sweat and grunting the new refugium was put into place.



The water flow was a bit stronger than the test condition, but should not make a major difference.







after letting it run for awhile I replaced the plants and used the carbon bag from the old filter







I also kept only one of the planters. The hornwart was superior to the planters, but having one seemed to break up the flow through the sump allowing detritus to settle on the bottom.



I decided to use the regular shop light instead of the 4x20w light. the 4x20 put off allot more heat, seemed to draw a huge amount of electricity, and discharged a little from the casing. If the shop light doesn't work for the project, I will consider buying a better light latter. But, for now this is how things stand.



I also added a small fan to circulate air and prevent any possible heat issues



I will monitor the levels in the tank over the next few weeks and post the results.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
I can remove detritus with the "python" gravel vac system. If it gets really bad I can use a shop vac.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Ammonia and nitrite have been reading 0's all week!!!

The filter is working well!
 

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Discussion Starter #19
I finally got around to adding filter pads.

I built a small basket out of egg crate to fit inside the first baffle section.



I then made "hangers" out of plastic butter knives to hold it in place.



I used the old padding from the previous filter and sloppily cut it to size.



once put in place it made a perfect shelf for my pads and carbon and is working very well.

 
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