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Changing an Old Tank for a New Use - I

by George J. Reclos

If I said right from the beginning that this "new use" means keeping Discus (yes, I mean Symphysodon discus) and not tell you the whole story, my mailbox would be flooded in no time. There are two reasons to tell the story. Firstly, some of you may see them so I can't hide this fact and second, it would be a pity not to take some photos of them for MCH. Well, this time it was not a long story. In fact it was as short as it can be. It reads like this:

After five years, the last of our goldfish passed away, leaving an empty tank in our office. Apart from the sorrow this brought to us, the fact is that an empty tank is a very sad thing to look at. In fact, having an empty tank is a blasphemy for any cichlidiot - why should we become the exception? Johnny and I had already made our plans for this tank which (plans) included some Copadichromis borleyi sp. and the standard rock - sand combination which has worked so well in our other tanks. Of course, our plans didn't include the opinion of Christine (my wife; hereafter called Lady C) who immediately told us that it was a golden opportunity for her to try keeping some Discus. It goes without saying that if I made a list of the fish that I would like to keep, Discus would be somewhere near the bottom - if it managed to make it into that list. Unfortunately, Christine had already given in to our new 360 liter Central American cichlid tank plan (still under preparation) and the construction of a 1500 liter Mediterranean marine tank next year so there was absolutely nothing we could say. Yes, of course, it should be Discus. So much for our Copadichromis secret plan. Of course, you can't house more than 2 Discus in 100 liters of water but you can get 6 of them, grow them till a pair is formed and then (yes, I know what you are thinking but you are wrong.. ) buy a 240 liter tank to house all of them - because Christine doesn't want to give them back when they grow. I know this is not really the way to go but it is Christine's way. A man has to know his limits..

First things first: Lady C decided that the old tank (actually the first tank we ever had) was dirty, not well equipped, the lighting wouldn't do justice to her fish and of course needed some little extras. I have to admit that algae had covered a considerable part of the glass (see photo below) so yes, it needed some cleaning to start with - she had a point there..

Since discus require a lot of large water changes, we should add a semiautomatic water change "thing", get some peat to adjust the water values (our tap water has a pH = 7,8 and a high GH) get a new cleaning magnet, a heater etc. When 1860 liters of vital water space are at risk, your only reply can be "yes sweetheart". Still, we were impressed that she had done her homework. Of course those little "things" she wanted had to be constructed and - if possible - with zero cost (you have to keep in mind those 1860 liters which will cost a fortune). To make a long story short, we used some left overs and parts we had in our home to create this magnificent thing you can see below. Actually the end with the pad (from an old internal filter) goes in the aquarium and stays there with the help of the "U" shaped plastic (from an old external filter) while the other end of the tube (again from an old external canister filter) is attached to the inlet valve of yet another filter. Thus, you need to fill it with water once and then every time you open the valve you can have a nice water change. The proud future owner of discus was really impressed by our innovation - although not equally much by the craftsmanship. However, the equipment got the "C approved" logo and could be used in her tank. You may be surprised but this "thing" worked, too !

After searching our home stocks a bit more we finally got everything that we would need to create the perfect tank for her discus. This included my brand new heater (meant for our 360 liter tank), the masterpiece described above, an algae scraper by Kent (the only thing that could possibly remove this amount of algae from the tank glass), a brand new "full spectrum" fluorescent tube (to show up the many shinning and striking colors of her future discus), a sucker (not me, a water sucker), some discus food (dedicated for discus, not including discus), an automated feeder (so, in case I forgot to feed them, those poor little things would not starve to death.. ) etc.

Then we scrubbed, cleaned, rearranged and re-planted everything to create an appropriate environment for the precious fish that were to become the inhabitants of this tank. I must confess that after a couple of hours (and after performing a 600% water change - till Lady C was satisfied with the quality and clearness of the water) the tank looked brand new and really clean (photo below). If I were a discus, this would be my dream home. This particular tank is also the home of a large number of Malaysian trumpet snails which help keep the gravel always clean so food left overs and gas pockets are practically absent from it. Well, this may not be entirely so, but it worked well in our case. So the gravel was not removed (according to plan C)- which proves that a deep knowledge of the basics is always needed in fish keeping. It is always a good precaution to check the silicon edges and make sure that they are still there and intact. You can use your finger to make sure they are not loose, something that can be the result of algae accumulated under the silicon. If they are loose you can remove them with a razor till you reach the glass surface and re-apply a new coat. Waiting for a couple of days to let it harden is recommended.

Just before calling Lady C for a final inspection, Johnny noticed a fingerprint on the front glass. Such a major flaw would never allow the tank to get the "C" mark and we would have to start all over again. If a fingerprint is seen on the front glass it is a clear sign of a "low quality" work.

Everything was now OK and the only thing remaining is buying some fish - sorry Discus. People who know Lady C may never believe that but yes, she was determined to get the Discus first thing next morning.

Continued in next page

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