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A Barrack Bonanza


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So..... I've been making noise elsewhere and hijacking perfectly good threads asking my questions, so here's a place for me to think aloud and invite y'all to help.

I keep making more fish, and buying more fish, and ... aquiring more fish... so in essence, I have more fish and need to work out a clever way to keep them.

Currently my setup is not very effective, my breeders all in individual glass tanks with a reptile heat pad that isn't very stable nor effective transferring heat.

I have a functional sorority and spawn tank, along with some 2 footer grow outs... they're fine, until I have to jar, then they are not fine.

As a grow out at the moment I have a large shallow plastic container that has a heater sitting in the bottom, heating the submerged solid containers, I guess this is working alright, but I can't really see the kids.... they're warm & healthy, but I can't keep an eye on them for health and growth monitoring.

I have a large industrial shelving unit that I want to keep ALL my tanks on.... in one SANE corner of my room. Concentrated MTS.

While I'll have the sorority and spawn tank on the top shelf (within reach) the second and third shelf I would like to design a SORT OF barracks system.

Pictured below:

I plan on custom making 14 tanks (insane, yes, but I am silicone queen do not forget) They are just wide enough for the fish to comfortably turn around, the width of a beanie box... and recess back to nearly the full length of the shelf so they can swim up and down flairing their little faces off when they are un-carded.

(Remember my philosophy with the "runs" to help develop finnage during my copper spawn?"

About 20 cm high, bit shorter than a beanie, but allows for good access for feeding, cleaning and general fluffing.

The acrylic back could be drilled top and bottom for in and out

Note that this system isn't proposed to be a siphoning based system, so bare with me...


Would this be a "Sumpless system" ? With the Eheim Cannister acting as the sump?

I'm just wondering what the logistics of something like this would be.... (and the practicality)

I'm seeing the overall biomass as a benefit for parameters & fluctuations.

Also.... to do water changes, can I directly work out of one - or all of the individual tanks? would it eventually equalize?

I'm thinking each one has equal imput to out-take... so... not sure about this

Would have to put taps on each inlet and outlet, to get the balance right... do you think?

Also - would it be wise to heat say #14 (no fish) so that the water going through the filter is warm, and comes out warm?

Also - UV Sterilizers, who's had one, how big are they? good idea?

I'm being lazy and smart (??) cos I don't really want to engineer a whole plumbing system with a sump and bells and whistles... tooooo many variables.

I just want a way to filter and heat my grow outs effectively - noting that I want to have the fish separate so I can isolate for disease.

Thoughts? designs? eh?

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Dangerous to use a sealed system like that for a 'sump'..... if outlet pipe lets go then you will end up with a whole lot of empty tanks...... much better to have the overflow at the top of the tanks that way if power goes out or pipes let go the tanks will still hold their water.....

Re UV sterilisers - they will only sterilise if they are powerful enough and the water flow is slow enough - most canisters with UV in are under powered and have too much water flow to be effective against water borne diseases - they will control algae though.... you need to go about 24W UV at least and a slow the water flow down.... I have a neat little 24volt 24W unit that won't kill you if it blows out in the water and has its 240V to 24V transformer external to the tank - I just move it from one tank to the other in my setup but you could put it permanently in one tank in your setup....

Edited by fishbites
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A planted tank for the females could be put at the bottom and be turned into a "sump" if you wanted..... if you use a filter sock to take out solids from the overflow water then only clean water would end up in the tank and the plants would benefit from the dissolved wastes ....

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Nah just hire a slave to keep pouring cups of water into the top of the barracks :P

You'll still need to do water changes and you'll still need plumbing but the 'sump' doesn't need anything but a small pump powerful enough to get water to the top of your barracks - even small powerless pumps can get water up to 1m high (my pond pump will do up to 2m height and it was only about $35 and had adaptors to take normal garden watering system 19mm pipes).

you mentioned before making tanks - the words silicone and perspex don't go together very well - you need a special bonding glue for perspex and joining perspex to glass is not done successfully unless you bury the perspex in silicone)....

Drilling glass is easy if you get a cheap diamond drill bit from China - and I'm assuming you're using only 3mm or 4mm glass for your tanks so shouldn't take too much to drill the panels before you construct the tanks....

Edited by fishbites
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How big is your sorority tank?

Could you take Wayne's idea of a planted sorority tank as a sump and then add sump filtery bits to either side? Something like my crude drawing here?


You'd probably need to have a 3 or 4ft tank to do that and have the bit in the middle still large enough for a sorority.

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Hmmm - size is a concern, but I do like that idea of the sorority working in conjunction with the sump (nice graphic there Adam!)

I'm comfortable using glass 4-5mm thick for the individual tanks - I want this so I can slide them out and clean up individually if need be (very handy with my current setup)

But I've just discovered $5 small sponge filters, so begining to think I could sponge filter everything and do water changes - weekly? (if it was a 9 litre container) ...thoughts?

....the LFS has just changed into a PET STOCK or something... and has a barracks all set up - a little green, but ready to go..... gah - I don't know if I could cope with 800ml per fish.... I need that happy balance between letting the fish be fish - and jamming as many of them together as I can (ha) as space is an issue for any breeder.



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  • 4 weeks later...

With the impending shipment, barracks are back on the cards, I'm keen to get your advice on this design.

Initially I was just going to make one of these, and have the large Eheim cannister deal with the 60 litres. x 8 fish

But I have more breeders than that - and my heating and current setup is failing miserably - so maybe I need 2 of these bad-boys.

This is my current 90cm wide industrial shelving unit, and upon which I plan on popping all the fush:


So thats the break-down (for my reference) of how much glass I'll be needing, each fish ends up with 6.25 litres of water, which I'm happy with - the commercially available barracks have less than a litre, which just dosen't sit right if I'm keeping them in there long-term.

Firstly - if I have two of these, on separate shelves, can I use the eheim as the pump?

have the filter outlet going into the barracks 1 and the filter inlet sucking in from the bottom?

The do a sneaky switcharoo each week so it's flowing the other way around alternatively...........

I can also move the Filter sucky inlet into each barracks for a little while to directly suck up muck.

Also - not clear about how I engineer connection between the two shelves, just a permanent siphon??

OR is this nawty - and as Paul suggested, would this then be a closed sump system?

(and if - so, how is it different to a normal external canister filtering a 120 tank?)

IF SO.... how would you suggest little Nessy turns the sorority into a sump?

I'm more excited about using silicone again, than I am about the engineering of this mad-scientist barracks.

Thanks in advance for all yo' help.


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the main thing i cant see yet is how are you getting the water into each cell from the sump at the back and i think this will be the trickiest part

your filter will be removing and adding water into the back section but then how does it make its way to the fish cells, is the water going into the first cell and then thru each cell and back out to the sump in the last cell ??

you will need to be carefull that you are forcing the water to replace in the cells the fish are in and not just filtering the back section only because the water isnt flowing in and out of the cells.

the picture in the link is actually a pretty good way but it would require you to pump the water into each cell with a drip like system then it exits from the back wall which is 2 planes close together one with a gap at the top and one with a gap at the bottom.

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Hey Jess,

Yeah I probably haven't explained that bit clearly...

I am going to have a slightly shorter bit of glass (at the top) and a black plastic section that is perforated. (image below)

I'll be doing the research into how to connect everything (leave that bit to me)

What I'm trying to avoid is a drip system.... so the rear area is a tidy bit that heats and filters.

I can see how this would work with a single barrack shelf - but how do i do eet over 2 shelves?

Below is the wall between the barrack dividers, allowing flow through... was thinking I could stick the sucky-end of the filter into each barrack to do a targeted clean so i'm pulling the new water through....


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Hey Ness,

Instead of trying to combine plastic and glass to create the fenestrated bits for water flow (...just too complicated), why not just leave a small (4mm) gap under the long divider. The water and waste will easily get underneath, but the fish wont.

To get constant cycling of water, try using the filter to pump the water up into a pipe that works like a spray bar with a drip set just above each of the individual quarters. The heater sits in the back (sump region) warms everything up, the filter does its work and the water gets cycled around continuously.

Sorry doesn't solve the sump sorority issue... but if the back sump is big enough it may be used to house the girls????

something like...


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Woah - graphics extraordinaire!

(thanks Paul!)

Yep, I had considered this gap system, much like the one that inspired me for this design (if my phone would decide to send, I'd post it) they had a tiny little pump filtering the lot - and I would consider buying up a new pair of filters for something like this.... but the barracks I saw were very green...... so I wanted to use my monster Eheim.

I am less concerned about this design element, as I know I'll be able to achieve good flow throughout the tanks, I guess I wanted to take advantage of my very expensive filter, that happens to have never failed me - even when I had a grubby old 4 foot tank, COMPLETELY over-stocked with ruykin making a proper mess..... and nitrate/ammonia was 0 (even after a good 4 months without a water change, or even a second look)

Anyway - still a bit confused, why is a cannister filter (closed sump system) any different to the way it would be used in (say) a 4 foot tank?

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with just the holes in the wall you might not get the cell water circulating as well like pauls picture u need it to be forced into the area so it pushes the old water out the exit the holes in the wall would be a good exit but i dont think that water would flow in and out of them without aditional help.

to connect 2 you could have something like an overflow weir or a drainage pipe drilled into the wall in the top barraks, set at a higher height when the water reaches that height it goes into the pipe and down into the 2nd barraks sump

the upside down U part sits on the edge of the tank and the pipe conects to a pump it needs to have the water pulled down

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This is where my little dyslexic brain seizes up and freaks out.... not to mention my engineering brain wonders how the hell I'd create that thing.

I think it's more like Paul's image - minus the holes, go with the opening at the bottom (just can't use it as a juvi grow-out

I unfortunately went into a petstore (impulse) and saw this barracks, while I quite liked the concept, it was too big (and as a shop display, they don't sell these)


But they had a similar method - dividers were all 5mm off the floor and used gravel to ensure nobody got out.

I would keep it bare bottom (oooo) and probably do water changes far more often.

So a crappy internal filter would do the job of keeping this 60 litre tank ammonia and nitrate free???

Maybe this is the way forward..

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I think the gravel in this case is more beneficial the added surface area for the bacteria would help, Like an undergravel filter works.

Im still a huge supporter for the trickle/drip bar in pauls picture tho !!

Edited by Neffy
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Jess - Yeah I can do that trickle bar if it's just one little pump, that should be an easy modification - and it'll make the water flow more efficently.... but i'm a bare bottom gal (ooOOOoooh)

Lots of plant material and a timer with good lighting too - so my little green solar panels will do some of the work.


I think it's time to just BUY the glass (or I should probably wait a moment and measure up the filters I buy first eh...?)

INTERNAL FILTER SUGGESTIONS? (uncharted territory)

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I had my barracks running as the picture displayed, minus the back section. I had a heater down each end and an internal filter that sucked in water on the left hand end chamber and I popped a hose on the outlet and had it pumping water into the right hand end chamber. My barracks had a gap at the front rather than on the bottom.

Worked well enough but wasn't very pretty. The current was was also pretty bad in the right end chamber so I could only keep a female in it.

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Some Internal filters come with spray bars but they aren't super long they are about 8cm long.. the Aqua one filter in the goldfish fishtank has a spray bar that i can attach.. its the Aquaone 302F-LV Its a mini internal filter.

filter016.jpg< The spray bar attached to the spray bar elbow attached to the outlet adapter

filter003.jpg < the stuff that comes with it filter012.jpg < what it looks like :)

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Hey Ness,

Looks like its the barracks-building time of year! Must be something in the air...

Anywho- If you still want to join the two barrack through permanent siphon, its really not as hard as it looks- and if you're not to woried about 'looks' then you can construct an overflow easily on the cheap;

Here's one I made on the cheap, quick and dirty:


All it is is a milk carton- apple juice container and some garden hose. Simple. (also a fair bit of araldite)

I've since made a 'better one' with Tupperware containers and two thicker hoses to improve down speed.

I would probably avoid the drip bar and go for the gap on the bottom of the dividers- make it 3mm and you should be fine. Then all you need is a few small holes in a row in the last barrack bay and your pump hose in the first- the water flow should be fine for your fish and most of the waste 'should' collect in the last bay- making it easy to siphon out.

I don't see much of a problem in running your ehiem on these barracks all you have to do to prevent disaster is make sure the inlet hose isn't on the bottom of your barracks. Maybe put the filter in a large storage container :).

Good luck!


Edited by Rhys
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... but i'm a bare bottom gal (ooOOOoooh)

Hey "cheeky"-Ness

Really... I never would have picked it from your pics... You look considerably less...... "hirsute"



Haha, couldn't help myself!!! I know, I know... it's not how you spell it, but just humour me!

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You'se are awesome.

@Yan: I think that back area is just an excuse to regulate the flow between all barracks...

@Nicola: That's exactly the ticket! I think that's even the one they had in the shop display barracks I can pick up one of these bad boys for $35each! (filters 100lt / 1000lt p/h)

@Paul: You're picking up what I'm puttin' down.

@Rhys Thanks! .... I'd really like to use the eheim to run all of these, so handy hints are welcome.

When it's a more respectable hour, I shall try and de-code your message and try to make a wassitcalled

Silicone master extraordinare - yes, engineer; no.

How can I invent things when my brain is busy doing this: ...?


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