3/11/2011: All-around update

Hi everyone. I’m going to give an update on everything fish tank related, I want it to kind of serve as a summary of how things have gone since I moved. It will include an update on the lighting for the new tank as well.

First, the 20G planted tank: I’ve been trying to leave this one alone as much as possible until I get the new freshwater tank set up. The nine fish in there have been very happy with the nice big tank all to themselves, especially Torpedo who is having a grand old time swimming around between the plants and driftwood. I’ve been tweaking the fertilizers I’ve been giving the tank some more as well; the main reason for that is because with the small number of fish I have in there, they aren’t producing as much CO2 and Nitrate and I need to compensate for that. There’s a little algae but I think the tank looks good. Once the fish are out I’m going to try to get a nice big colony of shrimp in there as quickly as possible.

Now for saltwater. I’ll start with the quarantine tank: the two new tangs have been doing fine. They’ve sort of acclimated to their treatment and to life inside one of my tanks, even though they wish they had more room. They’ve shown no signs of sickness, so if that continues, they can go into the main tank in 4 more weeks. Even though the Powder Brown tang is smaller, it looks like he’s actually becoming the boss between the two of these guys. It’s not set in stone yet but at least that’s the way it looks for now.

In the main tank, I have a couple of updates, though not much has happened (which is a good thing). I haven’t seen Midgee in a long time now, so I’m going to assume he’s dead :-(. I’ve also noticed that the Cardinals have become a lot more assertive and outgoing recently. The breeding-related tension that they had before the move has seemed to resolve itself, and these guys are actually challenging some of the larger fish (even Sarge) when it comes time to eat. It’s amazing how well they can do when they aren’t beating up on each other all of the time.

Also, I finally managed to get done something I’ve been wanting to do for quite some time now: instead of resting on top of the tank, the light for the saltwater tank is now suspended from the ceiling. This doesn’t have much effect on the tank itself, but it will make my life easier when I’m doing work on the tank since I’ll be able to easily move the light out of the way.

Now for the new tank: here’s where everything stands. The fishless cycle is already making progress, I’m getting zero ammonia readings, so my guess is that the cycle will be done in 2-3 weeks. I’ve bought the decorations for the tank, which consist of some rocks and driftwood. Most of it is already in the tank except for one piece of driftwood which is still floating at the moment. With driftwood, I have to force it to stay underwater until it becomes waterlogged and then it will sink. The water is the color of tea right now since the new driftwood is releasing its tannins. I’m not too worried about it since I have to do a large water change anyways before I put fish in the tank.

Here’s where the lighting stands: all of the hard work is done, but there are a few things I want to add to the system at some point. First, I’ll probably tweak the lighting schedule several times before I’m happy with it. Also, I bought an LCD screen that I haven’t gotten to work yet. If I can get it to work, it will make setting and displaying the time on the microcontroller a lot easier since I won’t have to hook it up to my computer to do that.

I’ve taken a higher quality video of the lighting schedule — it’s running in super-ultra-fast-forward, so the entire cycle takes a little over a minute to run. I’m going to take down the old videos because they were crap, so here’s the new video:

As you can probably see from the video, there are four different channels of lights. On the left and right sides, there are orange LED strips, one for sunrise and the other for sunset (two channels). On the front and back rims of the tank, there are white and blue LED strips, which are the other two channels. There are a total of four white strips and two blue strips.

I think I might be able to make the lights brighter by clearing the water of the tannins, but also the water level was low enough that most of the LEDs were not submerged. If the LEDS are submerged, I think the tank will be brighter, so I think I want to play with that some more.

The second video I had, the “behind the scenes” video, I think would work better as still pictures, so I have a few of those. The LED strips are attached to the rim of the tank using plastic zip ties and hot glue.

The wires run behind the tank to the bottom where I have a lovely project enclosure box that will keep all of my electrical stuff safe from water, just in case I accidentally splash some down there. I also mounted a switch on the outside of the box that will bypass the timer on the white LEDs and just turn them on at full intensity. This is useful in case I want to work on the tank when the lights are normally off, or if I want to feed the fish at an odd time for some reason.

Next, I have a picture of the inside of the box, which just holds the breadboard and all of my electrical stuff. Look at how much of a geek I am!

More updates to come. I’m sure I’ll have more changes to the lighting to write about in the next couple of weeks, and I’ll probably upload some pictures of the tank once the aquascaping is done.

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