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Fish and Shrimp Rack Build - First Attempt


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I have been a long time lurker on this forum and have learnt a lot from past and present members who have contributed to this forum. Thank you.

This is my first 'real' post and I hope this would help anyone who might be considering building a rack themselves. As requested by @Disciple, hope this helps you too.

Just a bit of background on my experience. My only previous build attempt was for a stand and sump for a 4x2x2. It was my first build dabbling with staining wood and using silicon for sump baffles, etc. As you can see from the photos below, they are pretty amateurish but I am happy for how it turned out as a first attempt. Next step is to fit some doors to it.

The stand was built following this video by King of DIY. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jN4Y9AYuwcQ

Anyway, this gives you an idea of the level of experience I have before I embark on my ambitious attempt to build a rack.

Below are some photos of my 4x2x2, sump and stand build, and some of its inhabitants. Sorry they are not shrimp related and not of great quality taken using my phone.


Stand and sump



Filled up and planted.



Display tank front view.



Display tank side view.



With background in place and tank inhabitants added consisting of altum flora discus, german blue rams, panda corydoras, cardinal tetras, otocinclus, red cherry shrimps, darwin algae shrimps and darwin red nose shrimps.



Altum flora discus.



Panda corydoras.



German blue rams with their fry.



I have browsed many build threads including some from here and have built on my ideas collectively from different sources. The specific post from @BlueBolts here: http://shrimpkeepersforum.com/forum/topic/1415-breeding-rack-no2/ has inspired me greatly and I would like to acknowledge that.

I followed the DIY rack build as outlined here: http://shrimpkeepersforum.com/forum/topic/7063-diy-rack-for-under-50-in-under-2hrs/


The plan, materials, and costs

This rack will be located in the lounge room so it has to be 'display-ish' quality and light from it must not interfere with the TV or be too blinding to people sitting around the lounge room. Also, no unsightly hoses/pipes are to be seen. I managed to convince the Minister for Home Affairs that a canister filter and chiller by definition, is not categorised as hoses or pipes, and would be in no way unsightly. The LED display from the chiller would provide subtle mood lighting, and the gentle humming of the filter and soft soothe whirling of the chiller fan would be therapeutic for lounge surfers, and would also greatly enhance movie watching experience with enriched sound depth and effects.

Hence I received approval to have a canister filter and chiller located next to the rack.

I used 5 x 5.4m long 90x45mm MGP10 untreated structural pine bought and cut to size from Masters for $83.75. I find Masters generally sells timber cheaper than Bunnings. Since I have both of them close to where I live, I selectively buy what I need from where it is cheaper.

The frame is held together by 10-8 x 75mm zinc plated countersunk screws. I bought a box of 250 screws from Bunnings for $27.50.

The rack measures 1390 x 420 x 2200 mm (L x W x H). The plan is to hold 2 x 2'x15"x15" tanks on the top and middle tier each, and a 4'x15"x15" hospital/quarantine/grow out/sump tank on the bottom tier.

Each tank would be insulated by 20mm foam around the sides, back and base as I plan to run both tropical (28-30 degrees C) and chilled (22-24 degrees C) tanks on this rack. Plumbing for air and sump would be hidden within the frame.


Please disregard the mess in the background. Still sorting out stuff in the garage after the move.

From this:



To this:


Edited by jc12
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My 'allocated' footprint in the lounge for the rack only allows a maximum depth of 450mm. In order to maximise tank size/volume, I would have to drill and sump from the side instead of the back of the tanks.

The first challenge was to find low profile bulkheads to fit within the confines of the 45mm thick frame so I can keep all plumbing enclosed. Since I will be insulating the tanks with 20mm foam and allowing another 10mm clearance, I need to find a bulkhead and tee fitting that does not exceed 75mm long.


The bulkheads commonly used for tanks are like this which is too big once you add on a tee fitting to allow to drain to sump.




However, Bunnings sell another type of bulkhead that looks like this.



Coupled with a 25mm barbed x 20mm BSP male threaded tee like this, I get a 20mm bulkhead with a 25mm outlet to sump and all this measures around 65mm. The female thread on the bulkhead also allows me to fit a stainless steel strainer to prevent fish/shrimps from taking a holiday in the sump.



All images were shamelessly copied from the internet. All credit goes to the original owners of these images.

Edited by jc12
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Thanks a lot @jc12 i am already picking up a few ideas.

Looking forward to the updates.

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Thank you all for the kind words.

I decided to use 9mm thick MDF for the exterior of the rack. There would be a couple of openings at the top of the rack to allow moisture/heat to escape so hopefully the MDF would not warp over time. Coupled with an undercoat and a few layers of paint, I hope the MDF would be well and truly sealed.


Cutting up the MDF boards to size.



Fitting them on.



Couldn't find the type of hinges I wanted so thought I'll give these ones a go. I am thinking of having some aluminium trimmings on the edges as well. Oh well, I'll decide on them after the painting is done.




Not only am I gifted in rack building, I am also highly skilled in producing complex engineering drawings that were meticulously drawn to scale. Armed with these drawings, I went to the tank builder who has no issue whatsoever understanding these immensely technical but high quality drawings.




He got to work right away.


Edited by jc12
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Wow Man 

This looks awesome. Good work.

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I think planning and putting ideas down on paper is important and helps minimise errors. I do accept there'll be some 'oops' moments but hopefully with a good plan, such moments could be greatly reduced.

Every trip to Bunnings/Masters was an inspiring scouting trip for items I could potentially use in the build... timber, board, screws, plumbing, etc. I keep an Excel spreadsheet to document materials (including number of screws... haha), costs, dimensions, calculations, and even stocking list. Yes, I am a geek and I love my Excel. Haha. I plan what will be going in those tanks, flora and fauna, right down to the exact quantity... haha. Oh dear... I am getting a new perspective of myself.

Some of the calculations I do include stocking level (species specific) for tank volume, sump volume to allow for overflow in power outages, water level in the tanks so water line would be hidden, dimensions to hide the plumbing and insulating foam, sump media volume, even the baffle height in the sump to accommodate those ridiculously long Eheim Jager heaters (i.e. Pythagoras theorem in 3D) so that if the return pump runs dry, the heater would still be submerged in water to prevent overheating and potentially shattering the glass element.

I am also building up plans for a semi-automated water change solution out of 2 x 200L water drums. This could possibly be for another post when I get to it.

Anyway, ideas started building in my head in May this year. The actual build only started in late June. It has been a slow process trying to juggle between family, full-time work and part-time uni (including those bloody exams).

This is where I am now. An undercoat was applied early this week and the rack is ready to be painted. Tanks have been made and ready for pick up. We are at the end of July. Yes I am slow. Haha.


Taken the rack apart to apply an undercoat.


Edited by jc12
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@jc12 what was the cost of the tanks out of interest?


PM sent. I didn't think I should openly disclose prices in case it was a special deal only for me. Just wanted to respect the tank builder.

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Looks great so far! How are you getting flow between the partitions?

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Looks great so far! How are you getting flow between the partitions?

There is a 1" gap at the base of the dividers and hopefully with a 2-3" substrate depth, the flow would not be too restricted. I would probably also try running multiple intake and return via a canister filter. Each section will also run a sponge filter. It'll be a bit of trial and error as I have never ran a divided tank this way.
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I had a kiddies birthday party playing cricket at the park this weekend so didn't get much done. Still I managed to pick up the 2' tanks and made it to Bunnings to buy the paint for the rack. Still waiting on the 4' tank to be made for the bottom tier.


Apologies for the photos as it was pretty late at night but I couldn't resist myself. Haha. I just have to see if they all fit on the rack as planned. Very happy. :happy:




A closer look at the shrimp tank that I hope to house CRS, BB, KK/Panda and RR/WR for selective breeding.



Dry fitted the low profile bulkheads to make sure they fit in the drilled holes and that the tee joint fits within the confines of the rack. This is how they look. I'll be sure to use plumbing tape generously to ensure there'll be no leaks when I do the final install.




I am quite happy with how they all came together so far. Just need to try get off work early enough so I could paint the rack in the evenings.

Edited by jc12
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Some plumbing bits have been ordered and is in the post. I find Dural Irrigation to be well priced and free post to boot. What better way to get things done from the comfort of my home in this cold winter weather. :cool:

The base/insulating foam has also been ordered and they are now ready for pick up. I went with Koolfoam Ultra for both aesthetic and superior insulating reasons. It is supposed to be 35% more efficient than white EPS. Hopefully, the grey coloured foam could double up as a tank background as well.

The cold winter weather has not done much to spur me on. It is after all much warmer to sit in front of the computer for our first SKF auction than to work away in the garage. However, @buck's recent post on his rack journal inspired me to get my butt moving again.

Let the painting begin.

I forgot to mention in my earlier post that the undercoat/primer-sealer I have selected was Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3 from Bunnings. This was recommended to me by the staff for my application as It is water based, has low odour and has mould and mildew resistant properties. 950ml cost $26.90 and covers 10m2.

Paint wise, I chose Dulux Aquanamel Vivid White Gloss paint to match the interior trimmings of the house. 1L could cover 16m2 and I bought 2L which cost $67.45 from Bunnings. Since I already have an undercoat, I intend to apply only 1 coat of paint to the frame and double coats for the exterior MDF claddings for a smooth finish.


This was the make-shift paint shop. Let's just say the family wasn't impressed the garage was occupied for an indefinite period of time. :grimace:




I am extremely happy with the paint. It has minimal odour and being water based, cleaning up was extremely easy.

Next step, once the paint is dry, is to move the rack in place and proceed with plumbing.

Mods, I have provided some links and mentioned some businesses which I believe do not compete with our sponsors. However, please remove them if they are not allowed. Just to clarify, I am not affiliated to them in anyway.

Edited by jc12
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During the evenings over the last few days, I painted the base boards for the tanks and installed them on the rack (sorry no photos as I usually paint them after work and was too tired by the time I am done).

The show day holiday in Brisbane yesterday provided a good opportunity to work on the rack. While it was a holiday in Brisbane, it was business as usual in Logan, which suited me perfectly as I could pick up the foam and plumbing bits without taking time off work.

I was so excited when I got home and immediately went about to put things together, hence I forgot to take more photos while I was working on the plumbing.


I moved the frame to the lounge and after installing the sump return plumbing to the top and middle tier, I couldn't resist myself and had to install a tank and some foam temporarily just to see how they look together. Sorry for the low quality photos... the tank is on the left on the middle tier. You can also see the painted base board for the 4ft tank on the bottom tier.



20mm stainless steel strainer to 25mm drain.




I am planning to run 12 sponge filters from a circuit constructed using 19 mm poly tubes that will be driven by a Resun LP-20  that is placed on top of the frame (top left in the photo below). The LP-20 is placed on a piece of carpet to help further dampen any vibration.



A closer look this morning... the poly tube that runs across the length of the rack is for air while the other is for sump return via 19mm poly tubes reduced to 13mm inline taps.



This goes to the air pump (not connected yet).



Greatly appreciate any comments or suggestions for improvements. Thank you.

Edited by jc12
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Ohhh getting close to having the tanks running now. Exciting.:aha-!:


I like the white paint. Always used black myself. 

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Looking Great JC.

Now if I ever convince the wife to let me get a new set up. I'll have to get you to fly over and help me make something similar! lol

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Wow, makes me wish I had room to do this too.

Make room. Sell the car and free up the garage??? :grimace:

Looking Great JC.

Now if I ever convince the wife to let me get a new set up. I'll have to get you to fly over and help me make something similar! lol

I showed my wife the photo of BlueBolt's rack and convinced her I would try my best to make it look that pretty. That was how I got permission and 'acquired' some space in the lounge room. Haha.

Edited by jc12
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