• Brad Feller

The Beginning of Our Fish Room

Updated: Aug 20, 2017

I have been keeping fish for a long time, and have had multiple tanks. A genuine fish room, however, is an entirely different animal. A successful fish room requires planning. Well, that is not exactly how we started.

When we first moved into our current house, I did not really plan to have so many tanks. I started with a couple tanks in the basement. A couple turned into a few, and now we have 40. It is still not what I would call a functioning fish room, but we are working on that. Over the past 5 years in this house, we have made many changes to our little basement fish room. In the beginning we didn't know where we were going, or how we were going to get there. You could say we floated around in the fish hobby like a turd in a toilet. We were keeping what ever fish we fancied. We added tanks as needed, or sold some fish to make room for new fish. Then at some point we met the Goodeids, and our fish room took on a purpose. This is not to say that I think all fish keepers need a higher purpose, in fact I'd say that keeping fish just for pleasure is probably the best purpose of all.

Having said all that, we now have an objective and we need a plan to achieve it. Our main objective here at Chippewavalleyaquatics is to keep breeding colonies of all the species of Goodeids and their Evolutionarily Significant Units (ESU's). The term ESU refers to isolated populations of the same species with some genetic differences. The different ESU'S are designated by using the first three letters of the genus followed by the first two letters of the species name, then consecutive numbers in each species.

There are about 45 species, some with only one ESU others with multiple ESU's, within the Goodeidae family. Some of these species come from only one very small body of water, and are in critical danger of becoming extinct in the wild. We currently Keep 6 species of Goodeids and about 20 other species from various families. Along with all the Goodeids we also intend to continue keeping and breeding fish from other families. I am particularly fond of the new world cichlids.

Since the Goodeieds are relatively small fish, we can use 20 gallon tanks for our colonies and 10's for any selective breeding and for grow-outs. We need racks to hold all these tanks. This sounds easy enough, but there are trade-offs here. If you want to put many tanks in a small area, they may be quite difficult to clean and maintain. If you want them easy to clean and maintain, you may have to leave more room around them. Considering how you intend to maintain and clean them is important in stand design. We also intend to keep live plants in all of our tanks, so we must consider room for lights when designing stands. At this point we are not using any sort of automatic water change system, however, we are exploring options. We currently use gravel vacs to siphon water and detritus from each tank into buckets. Then fill the tanks back up with a hose connected to a sink faucet.

Filtration is another major factor to consider. I have used virtually every kind of filter. I now use only sponge filters powered by an air pump. At one time, I had at least 20 different little diaphragm style air pumps running in my basement. About 3 years ago I installed a linear piston air pump feeding a loop of 1-1/2" PVC running around the perimeter of my basement. The pump I have should provide enough air for about 100 tanks of the size that I am going to use.

The main advantages to this central air system, are simplicity and ease of maintaining the filters, and the fact that you need only one electrical outlet which can be isolated from areas with water. The sponge filters are great at keeping the nitrite and ammonia levels at zero, but do not help the nitrates, and do no real mechanical filtration. We are considering using air powered box filters to provide some mechanical filtration, particularly in the larger tanks. As the plants grow, they may help to lower nitrates as well.

Our basement is one open room 24 feet by 32 feet giving us 768 square feet. The furnace, wood stove, water heater, and washing machine take up some of that space. We are still working on how to efficiently use this space. The tanks we have now take about 1/4 of the room, and we have moved them around multiple times in the past five years, not really having any particular goal. Now that we know what we want to achieve, we can design the room to meet our needs. The following picture is our latest plan, giving us 147 tanks. In this plan we will have 84 twenty long tanks and 63 ten gallon tanks. I am hoping our current air pump will supply adequate air to run all the filters needed for these tanks.

Using this plan we will have to relocate all of our other tanks, which include: 20 high's, 29's, one 40, three 55's. and a 65. We have room for most of them on our main floor, barring weight limits.

Keep On Keepin' Fish

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