It has been quite some time since I acquired
a great bare top tank which I thought was ideal to turn into a planted
tank. I had spent some time setting up my smaller tank, playing around
with the plants and experimenting with CO2, lighting with some success.
However I would still not consider myself an expert since I had moderate
success with the real difficult plants and had to fight with algae many
But this time I wanted to go a step further and try a couple of tricks
I had seen in books and the net as well as create a specific layout. Since
I was going to start from the beginning I thought it would be a good idea
to write everything down and also take some photos. In fact I had to construct
quite a few things in order to set it up, and since I did not want to
spent much money, I had to figure out some DIY solutions as well.
The tank measured 80cm length, 47 cm height and 40 cm wide, a maximum
of 150 liters completely filled. There was no top cover on the tank, so
a new one had to be constructed, because the tank would not be fitted
into a self as it is very common especially in planted aquaria. The top
should accommodate all the appropriate lighting, and also cover all the
filter hoses and all needed cables so these would not be visible when
viewed from the front.
For filtration an Eheim 2213 external canister filter was purchased.The
filter is adequate for tanks up to 150 liters. I knew that when mine would
be filled with gravel, wood, rocks, plants etc it would be much less than
150 liters. On the other hand it would be a heavily planted tank, without
many fish, or with many small fish, in any case a small bioload, so I
assumed it would be sufficient.
I already had the equipment to support 2 sets of two fluorescent lamps.
3 18 watt cool whites were selected plus a 15 watt red fluorescent lamp.
Still not enough but more lighting will be added later on.
Fine sea gravel, 0,5 mm was selected from a specific beach that was of
a very specific dark black and brown coloration. Two were the main reasons
to get gravel from nature, the first because of the color, the second
that it is cheap (actually free !).
I would use at least two DIY bottles (1,5 lt each) with the yeast-sugar
method, and later on try to switch to a proper pressurized CO2 system.
CO2 would be inserted in the intake of the external filter hose, so that
bubbles would travel a long way until the exit hose and dissolve completely.
I would only use wood as decorative material in the tank. In fact I was
planning to create a layout around a quite large piece of wood, if I could
find one. I already had a couple of smaller ones, and had successfully
tied Anubias barteri var nana on them.
Building the top
When I first saw the tank, I immediately came up with the idea for the
proper cover. But to be on the safe side I first tried with one of my
smaller tanks. You can find my previous test in this article which will
give you an idea of how to measure glass, how to silicone it together
etc. since I don't mention these things here. The cover I built for this
tank is much more complex than the small one.
The real benefit of a bare top tank is that it gives the ability to work
on the tank very easy. Planting it, or cutting the plants becomes an easy
task, compared to the tanks that have fixed tops.
So in order to leave the top completely exposed, it had to be moveable
and also carry the lights with it.
Next challenge was that no lighting cable, no filter hose, or thermostat
cable should be visible from the side or top of the tank, mainly for aesthetic
Apart from that since it would hold all the lighting it should also be
water proof. In order to avoid extra heat and also make it lighter in
weight all necessary ballasts would be outside of the cover…. So how would
you move it ? Easy, all you need is a male – female electric connection
that you could unplug and then its free to move.
Lets go into details.
I chose 6mm thick glass for the cover which is exactly the same as the
glass of the tank. At first I wanted to be on the safe side with quite
thick glass that would last any high temperatures produced form the fluorescent
lamps, later on I realized that it was not necessary and had I chosen
a thinner glass the whole cover would be lighter, and would be easier
to lift. But its ok, when you perform water changes you build muscles
as well :).
Glass was measured in order to form a “box” and was cut to the proper
dimensions. The height of the box was about 7cm, enough to hold any kind
of fluorescent lamp, but also the Energy saver bulbs (which are thicker).
Glass was stuck together with silicon. The whole idea is that the cover
will "sit" on top of the tank since it has the exact dimensions,
and should not move sideways in order to avoid any accidents (like the
whole cover falling inside the tank).
Here is the tank. You can see the filter hoses as
well as the thermostat cable (on the right side) coming out of the
tank. We have to cut the bottom glass of the cover shorter than
the width of the tank, so that the hoses can go through.
At the same time we will leave the top of the cover in the same
width of the tank so it covers the gap that will be left at the
rear, so that dust is not falling in the tank. The self adhesive
strip on the top part is used for aesthetic reasons.
In the photo on the right you can see the bottom
of the cover and the back side. Watch how the bottom glass is shorter
than the top, leaving the gap we need for the hoses.
I also made a mistake here. I should have left a small cut in the
bottom glass as well, in order to be able to feed the fishes, or
add liquid fertilizer. As it is now, I have to struggle and throw
fish food from the gap that is left in the back. :(
If I want to add fertilizer I have to lift the entire cover just
a bit from one side and squize the bottle in to add a few drops.
All it would take was just a diagonal cut in one of the bottom corners.
|The lamps are held on the glass by small pieces of self adhesive
tape on the cables. Doing this we can move the top without worrying
if the lamps move or crash on the sides of the cover.
||The photo on the left shows the cut that allows the cables of the
lighting system pass through the cover. These are actually two different
pieces of glass, which their total length + the width of the gap that
is necessary equals the width of the cover.
The two cables that are visible are parts of the plugs that are connected
and disconnected at will, with the rest of the cables that lead to
the ballasts and the power plug.
When the photos were taken we only had two systems of two fluorescent
lamps each. That is why you see only two cables. Later on we added
one more Philips energy saver bulb.
|In order to fit the cover on the tank and also make
sure that it is not possible to move sideways, two pieces of glass
were cut and siliconed to the bottom of the cover. They are marked
by the number 2 on the photo on the right. Watch the 6mm difference
(marked by number 1). This difference allows the cover to sit on top
of the tank, while the two pieces of glass fit on the inner side of
the tank glass, blocking any kind of accidental movement of the cover.
The top of the cover also opens to an extend, so
to be able to work on the lighting system. It is made of two parts,
that are siliconed together. Only the front part opens, the rear
remains stable. After all the silicone work is over we used a plastic
self adhesive sheet with a black and white marble decoration to
dress the glass.
(You may find this aesthetically strange but I liked it! In
fact the back of the tank is covered with this as well, instead
of the plain black background that one usually sees in planted aquaria.)
But enough of covers, lets move on to the real fun part,
plants and planting layout !