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In my article, A Visit to Tank and his Amazing Fish Bins, I talked about a great deal I got on a large, 55-gallon plastic bins for growing out fish.

Here, I'll discuss how to double-plumb one of these bins to make water changes easy and to prevent accidental overfills. You can use this technique with just about any large container.

Here's what you'll need:

- Two one-inch bulkhead fittings
- One-inch PVC ball valve
- PVC Elbows
- Two PVC Barbed Connectors (for hose)
- One PVC barbed T Connector
- One inch ID flexible thin wall clear tubing

The actual parts you use may vary, but the basic principle is to drill two holes in the bin. One hole is the drain and other is the high-water level overflow. The high-water overflow bypasses the drain valve.

To drain the bin, you turn the valve at the bottom. To refill, turn the valve to off. The high-water level drain prevents flooding or may be used in a trickle system. The drain line runs to floor drain or sump pit for your home.

Make a Tank Divider

Make a tank divider with simple handtools for about $10 

Why do you need a tank divider?

  1. One common way to breed large, aggressive Central American cichlids is using the "divided tank method". A sturdy divider is used to separate the pair which then spawn on opposite sides of a barrier.
  2. When you're low on tankspace and have incompatible species.
  3. When you need some extra space for a recovering fish

You can complete this project using only simple handtools in about an hour.

Before you get started…

  • Be safe! Wear safety goggles.
  • This projects involves the use of sharp tools. Be careful! This is not a project for kids.
Step Pictures

Tools Needed

a. Hacksaw
— or — 
b. Backsaw

c. Ruler

d. Diagonal Wire Cutters

a. Hacksaw  b. Backsaw
c.Ruler   d. Diagonal Wire Cutters

Materials

a. Purchase a 2' by 4' sheet of Styrene eggcrate material at a building supply store such as Home Depot. Expect to pay between $5 and $6.This is the cheapest material and works better

You will find this material near the drop ceiling section.

b. 1/2" PVC Elbow (Qty = 2)

c. 1/2" PVC Tee (Qty = 2)

d. 1/2" PVC Pipe (comes in ten foot sections)

e. 8" Nylon Cable Ties 
(Qty = 10)

a. Eggcrate Material  b. PVC Elbow
c.PVC Tee d. PVC Pipe
e.   Cable Ties  

Step 1

Measure the inside width of your tank.

Measure the water depth of your tank (from the bottom of the tank to the water level).

Subtract 1/4" from each dimension to allow for easy placement in the tank.

Measuring the tank   Measuring the tank

Important Note!

Take into account the size of the PVC fittings in your measurements!

Generally speaking, you will need to subtract another 1/2 to 3/4 inch for each fitting. We suggest you first cut the PVC pipe to size using the dimensions in Step 1. Then, press on the fitting(s) and measure the length to find the necessary adjustment. Measure twice, cut once!

Step 2

You'll need to cut 7 pieces of PVC pipe:

A) 2 Verticals

B) 1 Horizontal

C) 4 Legs (8" long)

Use the hacksaw or backsaw. A vise is helpful.

Assembly Pieces  Cutting the PVC

Step 3

After cutting all the pipe, 
deburr the ends using a utility knife, file or sandpaper.

Deburring the pipe

Step 4

a. Assemble all pieces excluding the legs.

STOP! Test fit the divider in your tank.

b. Add the legs, once you're sure everything fits.

NOTE: PVC Cement is not required. A friction fit is adequate and allows for easy
re-configuration.

 a.        b.

Step 5

Using a pair of diagonal wire cutters, cut the eggcrate material to size. The eggcrate should slightly underlap the frame.

   

Step 6

Cut notches in the eggcrate for the base.

Use the diagonal wire cutter.

Step 7

Fasten the eggcrate to the frame using the cable ties.

Use one per corner and one in middle of each section.

   

Step 8

Cut off the excess cable tie.

Installing the Tank Divider

Step 1

Remove the bottom "legs" from the tank divider.

Step 2

Clear out gravel from the bottom of tank.

Place the tank divider in the tank.

Note: We've added a clay tile as a spawning surface for a pair of large Blackbelt cichlids.

Step 3

Clear out gravel from the bottom of tank.

Place the tank divider in the tank.

Insert the four legs securely.

   

Photos by Rick Borstein.

 
 
 

Making Inexpensive Tank Covers

Make four 10-gallon tank covers for under 5 bucks! 

With just a few tools, you can make durable and inexpensive tank covers using prismatic lens lighting panels. The material comes in 2 feet by 4 feet sheets are used as the lenses for fluorescent fixtures in drop ceilings. You can find it any hardware or home center store.

Before you get started…

  • Be safe! Wear safety goggles.
  • This projects involves the use of sharp tools. Be careful! This is not a project for kids.
Step Pictures

Tools Needed

a. Utility Knife 
— or — 
b. Acrylic cutter

c. Carpenters square

d. Fine-point marker

e. Cutting surface such as a sheet of plywood, not shown.

f. Fine Sandpaper, not shown.

g. Gorilla Glue (optional)

a.   b. 
c.   d. 
g.    
        

Materials

a. Purchase a 2' by 4' sheet ofStyrene Prismatic Clear Lighting Panel. The green labeled material at right is available from Home Depot. Expect to pay between $3 and $5.

This is the cheapest material and works better than more expensive acrylic sheets which warp.

b. Close up view of the material.

  a.   b.

Step 1

Measure the inside frame of your tank and subtract 1/8" from both the width and depth dimensions.

Step 2

Place the plastic sheet flat side up on a hard surface like a large piece of plywood.

Use the ruler to carefully measure across the shortest dimension of the sheet.

Mark a small line with the permanent marker.

Step 3

Lay the square on the sheet at the mark you made in Step 2.

Hold the square down firmly and score the sheet repeatedly with the utility knife (or acrylic cutter).

Continue scoring until you have cut through the material.

Step 4

Cut the corners to add access for airlines and heaters.

Simply score a corner and bend to snap.

    

Step 5

Smooth the edges with the fine sandpaper.

 

Optional Steps

Add a Knob

A knob makes it easy to remove the cover. Purchase the following:

  • Plastic knob
  • 1/2" Stainless steel screw to fit knob
  • 1" nylon washer

Drill a 3/16" hole about 1" from the front edge of the cover and install the knob.

   

Add a Feeding Hole

Use a 2" hole saw to add a feeding hole. A drill press gives the best results, but you can use a standard electric drill if you have a steady hand.

Use a backing board and work slowly through the material.

Add filter cut-outs

For outside filters, carefully measure from the edge of the tank to the furthest protruding edge of the filter.

Transfer these measurements to the tank cover and score the outline of the cutout.

Flex the cuts leading from the edge of the cover in first. Next, flex the cuts parallel to the edge and break out the piece.

You may need to reinforce the cover. See below.

Strengthen large covers

Large covers over 18" may need reinforcement. Some options:

a. Use Gorilla Glue (polyurethane glue) and plastic drywall corners. This is the easiest method. The glue hardens through the small holes adding strength.

b. Use clear corner protectors and stainless steel screws. You will also need to add a small nylon washer.

a. 
  

b. 

Photos by Rick Borstein.

Paint a Tank

Make your tank beautiful!

It's easy and inexpensive to spray paint the back and sides of your tank. Not only will it look better, but your fish will be happier, too!

Before you get started…

  • Paint outside on a dry, sunny day when temperatures are above 70F and there is little wind.
  • Paint will not adhere to silicone sealant. Remove any excess silicone sealant with a razor blade… not for kids! Be careful and don't break the seal!
  • These instructions are for glass tanks, only.
  • We have had good results with a variety of paints. Krylon brand spray paints seem to drip the least.
  • We recommend the following colors: Black, Blue and Green.
  • Follow the manufacturer's instructions and be safe!
Step Pictures

Step 1

Place the tank with the front of the aquarium down on a pair of saw horses.

Clean the back and sides of the tank with Windex and a soft, clean cloth.

Step 2

Mask the frame of the tank. We recommend 3M Scotch-Blue™ Painter's Tape for Multi-surfaces available at hardware stores and home centers.

  

Step 3

Apply a strip of masking tape to the front of the tank. This prevents overspray onto the front glass of the tank.

Step 4

Use newspaper to completely cover the top of the tank. This step prevents paint from adhering to the inside of the aquarium.

Step 5

Paint the sides of the tank.

The spray tip should be 6 to 8" from the glass.

Tip: Don't overspray. Avoid drips.

Step 6

Paint the back of the tank.

Step 7

It will take a minimum of three coats of paint.

In between coats, invert the spray can and spray to clean the nozzle.

Step 8

Look through the bottom of the tank to check for coverage. After three coats, you should not be able to see light through the painted surfaces.

Step 9

Allow the last coat to dry thoroughly.

Remove and discard the masking tape.

Enjoy your tank!


Photos by Rick Borstein. Demonstration by Sam Borstein.

Hey~

Some of you here have commented on the background I have started to use for my tanks…. and asked me to do a simple DIY for this easy to complete background that shows well, lasts well, and is much less work intensive than the DIY backgrounds using Great Stuff expandable foam, quickrete, and paint.

It’s very simple really, as a guy who is not a fan of the “Great Stuff Backgrounds” (although very cool, they interfere with my HOB filters and take away too much space from a thinner tank: i.e.: a 55 gallon is only 47” x 12” inside dimension). With the Central American Cichlids I have, they need every inch of space I can give them.

Basically I started to standard spray paint my tanks before installing them, well you know we are always looking for something different, so in a effort to “think outside of the box” I was perusing my local home center looking for paint for my 55, it was wintertime and I had to do it indoors, my garage was too cold (below 50 degrees) so I was going to do it in my basement, as I was looking for your standard gloss black/low VOC Latex, (I like the dark and the way my CA/SA Cichlids color up with the dark background and also use a dark substrate) and I came across a spray can of Rust-Oleum Stone Creations…… I tested it on my 20L and I could not be any happier.

I will say this; the Stone Coat is not something that you could do indoors. I took the tank over to my brother’s car dealership and painted it in the shop (weekend). It has high VOC’s! But the results speak for themselves. If you are able, do it during the spring or fall when the temperatures are not to cool and not too hot, that way the garage is a good place, and as soon as each coat is complete, ventilate your paint area, like I said HIGH VOC’s can kill you!

Stone Coat comes in a bunch of different colors: I am unsure of attaching a link to a Manufacturer, (I will provide the link if asked or you can PM me and Ill email it to you).

So I will just give a quick rundown of the colors I saw. (Percentages are just guesstimates on my part)

Black Granite (N7991) Black (70%) with shots of White (10%), Grey (10%) and Silver (10%) mixed in.

Bleached Stone (N7990) Tan (85%), with a Light Brown (15%).

Canyon Moss (N7987) Black (75%), Grey (12.5%), and a Moss Green (12.5%).

Granite Stone (N7989) Brown (75%), Black (12.5%), and a Grey (12.5%).

Grey Stone (N7992) Grey (75%), Black (10%), White (10%), Silver (5%).

Mineral Brown (N7988) Brown (85%), Tan (15%).

Sienna Stone (N7994) Brown (35%), Tan (35%), Natural Red (5%), Black (10%), White (15%).

Tuscan Rock (N7986) Mustard Yellow (75%), Brown (20%), Black (5%)

Other needed materials:

Clear Coat (V2102938) Fast Dry Hard Hat coating.

3M Blue Paint Masking Tape: (1”) Standard 3M Paint Masking Tape Model Number 2090

I don’t think you need me to tell you to tape off the edges of the tank, cover the top as well; I more or less wrap the entire tank with newspaper except for what I am painting.

This is a 3-4 coat process followed by a quick clear coat at the end to add strength to the back.

1) Using you painter’s tape, tape off entire tank more than 1 layer (newspaper, Chicago Sun-Times works great, I go with 3 layers, never have had a issue).

2) Clean and dry surface of glass (You have no idea how Windex F’s up a paint job should you start and forget/miss a 1”x2” area).

3) Break out your stone coat (I use Black Granite Rust-Oleum Model Number: N7991) and lightly coat glass covering all areas).

4) It is a textured spray paint, resist the urge to touch, (I could not) it will need overnight to dry. Do NOT overcoat, the more paint you lay on the more likely it will not be dry when you want to re coat (dries to the touch in 1-2 hours my ***!)

5) Ready for coat 2? Now try the touch. If it is dry, take a flashlight to the inside of the tank and look for weak coats. Reapply.

6) Retape you newspaper layers

7) Apply the test again for coat 3, and then apply the final coat of Stone Coat.

Cool Now that you have completed the Stone Coat, apply 1 thin but complete coat of clear (I use hard hat coating Rust-Oleum Model number: V2102938) Remember that the Stone Coat is a textured paint, and although you will not feel it yourself, it will chip easy if you do not apply a clear coat of some kind.

I am attaching the images from when I did the 20L. I will add more images to this if asked, as I will be doing this on a much larger scale with my new 110 and 150 in the next month or two.

(Images to follow)

Comments?? Opinions??  Huh?