A New Fish Tank

About three years ago my group grew by five or six people. We didn’t have office space near us for the newbies, so they were in empty offices all around the building. Not having your newbies near the rest of the team is a bad idea, so we went looking for a fix. What we found was an old, big room in the basement, and our managers willing to let us renovate it.

Part of the renovation meant a conference table in the middle of the room, and there was a natural spot for a fish tank. Fish tanks have been shown to reduce stress and decrease hypertension. Plus, they’re fun to watch, and I love playing with water. So we picked up a 55 gallon tank from a coworker and set it up.

That was three years ago. Lately, the tank has suffered greatly from lack of attention (my lack of time), overfeeding by some, and too many fish (platys reproduce like mad!). I can’t seem to get ahead of the algae bloom that happened over the holidays (all the green in the photo below), there isn’t enough light for the plants (again), the glass has some scratching from a scrubber mishap, and diatoms are taking over. In short, it’s a mess:

Old Fish Tank

(yes, that is a Chia Homer in there, shelter for our clown loaches)

Our network engineers have a 90 gallon saltwater tank they set up, and they gave me an old 30 gallon tank they were using as a sump in trade for an old 10 gallon tank[0]. 30 gallons is a nice size, fits nicely on the table I have, and so I decided to put it together with the goal of moving fish from the other tank. I am trying to do this on the cheap, too. My last two tank setups ran almost exactly $20/gallon to set up. This time I have $200[1].

New Fish Tank

The padding underneath is to reduce vibrations. One of the design goals is near-silent operation, to avoid cranky coworkers who don’t want to hear vibrating, slurping, or lots of fan or pump noise. Other design goals are leak-free operation and as maintenance-free as possible.

I want to put plants in this thing, because planted tanks look really nice. Problem is, you have to get 3 to 5 watts of light per gallon into the tank. That usually means expensive, fancy lighting systems. Here, I spent $31.56 on clip lights and fancy 60W daylight halogen crystal lamps, netting me 180W of light. With the powerhead filter making ripples on the top it makes cool wave patterns inside, which is something you normally don’t see outside of saltwater tanks. Plus, when I lose a lamp I can replace it easily. I win, as long as the lights don’t fall in the tank. 🙂

The powerhead and sponge filter are an experiment to see if I can get away without a canister filter (I suspect the answer is no). I’ve got it running now, having squeezed my other tank’s filter sponge out into the new one to transplant the bacteria[2]. Tomorrow I’ll add the rest of the gravel and some soil I picked up, a plant or two, and a fish or two.

Should be fun. Just thought I’d share, especially since I know at least one of you out there (Rich!) has similar interests. Plus, what fun is it to write about sysadminnery all the time? 🙂


[0] They want to use the 10 gallon for a “hospital” tank. When fish get sick you don’t want it to spread, so you isolate them. Plus, it’s very expensive and often impossible to medicate a big tank. Impossible sometimes, because some medications kill things you want in your tank, and filter systems often remove the medicine (via chemical filters).

[1] Current balance in our soda fridge fund. 🙂

[2] To help establish an ecosystem (nitrogen cycle) and shorten the tank’s initial “cycle.”

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