The Fish House
Following a house move several years ago now, I decided to convert a large garage to a new, larger fish house than my previous one.
This new fish house measures approx 30 by 9 feet (approx 9 x 3m) internally. The floor is solid concrete, so the weight
of the tanks isn't a problem. The roof is wooden with waterproof felting.
To make the building suitable for a fish-house, it was necessary to insulate the building well, and install
a power supply, along with heating and lighting. A water supply was also installed.
The roof was in poor condition, so it was replaced with a new felt roof, courtesy of my colleague and friend Dean West (who is apparently the "third best felt roofer in
the country" - his words) with some semi-skilled labouring help from myself!
Fibreglass filled "Space Blanket" was fitted into the roof space, followed by sheets of 50mm polystyrene.
A layer of plywood was then fixed below this and painted with gloss paint.
The floor was painted with two coats of waterproof and stain-resistant driveway paint. Linoleum was then placed on the floor to provide a thin insulation layer.
The walls were insulated using sheets of 50mm polystyrene as used for the ceiling, cut to size as appropriate. Plywood was fixed over the polystyrene and painted.
The original up-and-over style metal garage door was completely unsuitable and impossible to insulate, so it was removed completely. Side panels and a wooden frame
were built to house double wooden doors that would allow large tanks to fit through! These were made from a timber frame and plywood with a layer of 50mm polystrene
inside to make it a double sandwich layer.
With the main part of the sealing and insulating done, attention was turned to how the tanks would be supported. I used existing double metal stands for my
smaller tanks, but had a total of five new box-section steel stands built to order from 2"/3" box section and sprayed black.
18mm plywood was used on the steel frames to provide a firm base for the tanks. 25mm polystyrene sheets were placed on top of the wood to support the tanks evenly.
Power, heating and lighting.
To provide power, armoured cable was run from the main fusebox in the house. A small fuse box was then wired in which would provide seprate fuses for the lighting and main power circuit.
Double sockets were placed high on the walls where they were away from the danger of splashes or spillages.
To heat the room, I bought a second 1.5KW oil-filled radiator to use along with the one I had from the original fish house, placing one at each end of the fish house.
The heater is equipped with a thermostat to maintain a stable temperature, and 3 power settings to allow adjustment for seasonal temperatures.
Some tanks do have heaters in for back-up or where a slightly higher temperature is required (the room is heated to around 25 C or 77 F).
A fan at each end of the room helps to circulate the warm air around the room evenly.
The room is lit by three 5 foot (152cm) 58W fluorescent tubes on the ceiling, which provides enough light and also means that some of the tanks do not require individual
lights of their own, as they have sliding glass covers rather than full hoods. This lower level light suits the inhabitants of some of my setups, but some of my tanks,
including the planted ones of course, have their own tubes. This ceiling fluoresent comes on before the tank lights and remains on all day, switching off after the tank
lights go out in the evening. There is even a blue moonlight tube at one end of the ceiling which comes on just before the main ceiling fluoresent, switches off in
the daytime, and then comes on just before the main ceiling light goes off in the evening, remaining on for about half an hour afterwards. This ensures that the fish are
never switched between light and dark suddenly.
One major improvement in this second larger fish house was the inclusion of a central air circuit. This consists of a circuit of solvent-weld plastic pipe (1.5"/40mm) into which
air is pumped from a large central air pump (in this case a Hi-Blow 80). Small holes are drilled in the pipe at intervals, and connectors fitted so that individual airlines can
be taken into separate tanks as required for small air powered filters or large airstones for extra aeration. This system is much better than using a manifold with individual airlines
coming from the pump. It allows space for the air to expand to and provides much more air whilst avoiding excessive back-pressure on the pump.
As with my previous fish house, I decided to install a running water supply. The room has a partial divider at the back, so I use this area at the rear for water storage and smaller tank stands.
I used a system based on PVC piping which is very easy to work with for those of us not in the plumbing trade. This is marketed as Hep2O in the UK, I'm sure similar products
The local tapwater is soft with virtually no measureable nitrate or phosphate, and hence ideal for most fish. The tapwater is run into a 1000 litre (220 gallon) container and aerated
vigourously for 3 days before being used for water changes. This allows chlorine to evaporate and the water to warm up to the fish house temperature. I do this twice per week, which just about
provides enough water for my water changes.
For the various East African cichlids the water is hardened with magnesium/calcium salts and buffers. Instant Ocean marine salt is used to prepare water for the brackish tanks.
The harder water and brackish water is prepared and stored in a separate container to my main water change storage.
Approx 10 metres of 1" flexi-pipe is used to drain the tanks for water changes, this feeds into 1.5" solvent-weld pipe in the front corner of the fish house, which takes
it to the nearest drain. An Eheim 1262 pump is used to pump fresh water from the storage container into the tanks. Smaller pumps are used for the brackish/hard water containers.
Around 20 tanks were moved from my original fish house, and I had several new ones built. The largest three tanks, all around 8ft long, were built in the fish house with the help
of my colleague and friend Richard Hardwick.
Help with some of the DIY, painting and electrics came from my wife and my father-in-law - it helps to have an understanding family when you're a fish-nut!
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