Part 2 – The Design Overview
Here are many aspects of an aquarium build that have to be considered in a design that achieves a healthy self-contained eco-system able to sustain itself with minimal maintenance and maximum enjoyment. My primary design considerations for my African Cichlid aquarium are as follows:
I will share my thoughts and reasoning in detail about each of these design areas in future posts with the aim that they will assist you in your decisions whether it be for your new build, upgrade or simply to improve your existing aquarium. I have in the past built several aquariums for myself and customers so I am familiar with the construction methods and dependencies. Inspiration lead me to my first decision which was to build an African Cichlid aquarium but following on from this I had to use my knowledge and imagination to picture what the end result would look like so I could piece together the build plan to achieve this. This aquarium will become a part of my home, a proud conversation piece and will display my passion in a beautiful form.
In this post I will give you an overview of each design area listed above.
I am of the opinion that if you are going to build a large freshwater aquarium of 300 litres or more with lots of well fed large fish that produce heaps of waste, your best filtration option is a sump. As mentioned in the previous introduction post, I prefer to build aquariums that give me options to expand and improve. No other filtration unit gives me this flexibility more than a sump but it does require considerably more effort and expense to build.
Although many people talk about the three main methods of filtration, mechanical, biological and chemical, I believe there is a fourth and that is water changes, which is in my opinion, the most important. Nothing can replace scheduled partial water changes for the regular removal of waste from the water. The role of the filter is to stabilise the water condition for longer periods and extend the time between water changes.
Heating requirements are primarily determined by the total volume of water in your system which includes sumps and external filters and the desired temperature you wish to consistently maintain all year round. There are many heaters of varying quality available on the market and broadly linked to two groups, all-in-one submersible with internal control or the externally controlled. I would always advocate that you spare no expense when buying a heater as there seems to be more tragic stories of heaters failing than any other piece of equipment. This is even more compelling when you have or planning to have a considerable investment in livestock some of which will become your pets.
LED Lighting is my lighting of choice for any new aquarium I build unless there are high output demands that require metal halide units. In this case my light requirements are far less demanding so all that remains is to determine what features I would like and which LED chips will highlight the colours in my fish. The features I look for in LED lights include programmable controller, timer, dimming and hanging kits.
As much as filtration, heating and husbandry are vital to a successful aquarium, they are the basic requirements. My most important consideration is the Aquascape because I am a visual person, as are many people and that is what gives me the greatest sense of achievement and pleasure. Finding the perfect balance between science and creativity is the hardest part of aquascaping and sometimes the science lets us down, suppressing our creativity. Acquiring knowledge, finding inspiration and using our imagination help meet this balance to create the living art.
When I first heard the term Aquarium Husbandry I did not associate it to the care and ongoing maintenance of my aquarium. After some research I learned that Aquarium Husbandry incorporates all of the above plus much more and is best practiced on a frequent schedule in small amounts. The effort you put into performing a regular Husbandry regime will enable you to proactively avoid many issues and is directly associated to long term success.
My design has to make Aquarium Husbandry an effortless set of tasks starting with an easy way to do water changes. Other factors to make this simple include installing reliable equipment, easy access, over filtering, automation, testing and documenting parameters, etc.
In my future design posts, I will discuss in detail all these topics supported by pictures, lots of pictures, with my product selections, specifications, calculations and build options. Once we have finished the design topics I will start the build posts and show you videos of the physical construction.
Thank you for reading my post and please give me your feedback and comments below as this helps me focus my writing to areas that are important and informative to you.
Previous post, Part 1 – Introduction to my African Cichlid Aquarium