The Whitney Fish Room Project (how it began)

By Kyle May
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Kyle May
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The Whitney Fish Room Project (how it began)

Post by Kyle May » Thu Jun 25, 2009 10:02 pm

I moved into my current home in the summer of 2007. I was lucky to find the new house had 1/2 of the basement unfinished and with plenty of room for my collection of tanks. Although I shared my space with the laundry machines, I found that I could share space with the laundry without too many problems. The errant drying line full of women's undergarments did intrude on my space from time to time, but not so much that it was a continuous problem.
This space also houses the furnace and the Water heater.

I set to work building my tank stands which turned out to be quite sturdy as I used masonry screws to anchor them to the concrete block walls. Eventually I ended up with around 40 tanks, all bubbling away quite happily. Most were 20-30 Gallon tanks ( liters - liters). Everything was fine and I thought I had the best fish room around until 3 things happened.

1) I saw Don Danko speak about Carpintis.
2) I bought a group of Green Texas Cichlids and a group of Vieja Bifasciatus
3) Dan Woodland visited my fish room

These might seem like three innocuous events, but I assure you that they each of these were the straws that made me rethink my fishroom and change my attitude about the hobby in general.

1) Don Danko has a great talk about Carpintis. If you are a cichlid geek and are not interested about this species after hearing this talk, then you need to either check your pulse, or sell your tanks. I was so hooked that I immediately bought a group of these fish (Green Texas Cichlids) - all about 1.5" long. No big deal right? Well like most idiots, I didn't think long term. While these guys lived happily in my 30 gallon tank, they began to grow at an alarming rate. No problem. I got a 75 gal tank, added it into the mix and figured that would buy me some time. It did buy some time, but the point is that as an aquarist, you need to have a definite plan for a group of fish PRIOR TO PURCHASE! I know that many of us have made this mistake...and I did immediately buy a 125 for their next move. The bigger point here is that my entire fish room was set up around my love of 4" long Peacocks, Metriaclimas, and dwarf cichlids. So after a 1 hour Carpintis talk by Danko and suddenly I'm completely hooked on Carpintis and large fish.....and finding that my fishroom needed a complete rethink.

2) So now I'm doing research like crazy (and posting on this site where Juan gives me some excellent info on Carpintis, especially Green Texas Cichlids). After reading everything you guys have written here on Centrals, I come across this group of V. Bifasciatus. Again I had to have them and, although the Bifasc grow slower, it becomes evident that they'll need a larger home soon. This leads to another 75 gal and then to another 125 gal.....until finally I've got five 75 gal tanks, a 90 gal, a 120 gal, plus three 125 gal tanks. Hey...remember the fishroom ain't set up to handle these big room....remember...laundry machines...furnace....water heater......women's garments...etc?
Now the fishroom is so cramped a mouse can hardly walk through there....and who comes over to visit? Woodland!

3) Dan Woodland comes over to visit my fishroom. Now if you guys don't already know Dan Woodland or Don Danko from this site or the United States cichlid community, then I'll have to give you some background. I'm in Cleveland, Ohio..actually a Southwest side Cleveland suburbanite and I am a member of the Ohio Cichlid Association. This club is one of the best in the US for someone who loves cichlids. I knew who Danko and Woodland were even before I joined the club because they are both legends in the local fish community. Both have written extensively on fish and given many talks, etc...but a lot of their cred comes from actually going to the areas where these Centrals live and collecting them. So these guys are like the rock stars of the local cichlid was a big deal for a small timer like me to have one of them visit.
So Woodland comes over and, while looking around my immaculately clean fish room, he begins to ask questions. You see...I do water changes by draining my tanks with hoses and refilling them from a vat of make-up water. In essence, while I am doing maintenance, it looks like a fire crew is putting out a 4 alarm fire..with all the hoses running about. Dan proceeds to explain in detail a system that he uses where the tanks drain and refill themselves thereby eliminating the plethora of hoses that I am constantly tripping over. He also mentions a plan to get the laundry machines out of the fishroom without ticking off my I can claim the extra space for some larger tanks.

So my fishroom needed a rethink and a revamp. This is why I started this project. I'll update this post soon with the particulars of the jumping off point, room dimensions, and my philosophy of what the ultimate fishroom must be like.


Kyle May
Kyle May
Ohio Cichlid Association
Northern Ohio, USA

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Re: The Whitney Fish Room Project Part Deux

Post by Kyle May » Tue Jun 30, 2009 8:31 pm

I have an existing fish room whose dimensions are 22' X 14'.
In this room exists a chimney, Water Heater, and a furnace.
The door is in the corner on the long end.

So, outside of the furnace and water heater, this is a pretty ideal room.
Prior to the remodel this room housed about 41 tanks ranging from 5 gal fry tanks to 125 gal tanks.
As I mentioned earlier, this room is pretty open. I built it with large aisles so that you can see the fish, not feel cramped walking around, plus the fish are calmer when you are not constantly walking close to the tank fronts.

Because I breed frequently, I needed to upgrade this room so that I wasn't constantly tripping over hoses while doing water changes. With this many tanks, you are constantly doing water changes and I eventually got lazy and stopped putting the drain and fill hoses away each night. I knew I would just be dragging them out again the next night anyway. This is what necessitated the need for an auto water changing system....not only to make things easier for me, but safer as well.

This upgrade centers around 3 sections of tanks: 1) a wall of 30 longs that I will change into a wall of 40 breeders, 2) a wall of 20 high / 15 gallon tanks that I'll uprgrade to add tanks and drains, and 3) a revamped fry tank rack.

My previous 30 gallon rack was pretty good although it had some problems. The tanks were too close to the walls and the moisture facilitated mold growth, the wall was white...not good for photography or breeding, and it didn't have adequate electrical outlets or drains.

Here is a crude pic of the wall of 30 long tanks:

If you could pan around you'd see that there were 4 more tanks in this corner and all were 40 gallon high tanks.
The first thing I had to do was auction off the inhabitants of these tanks....and while I got rid of most of the fish, I still had to set up some temporary tanks in the adjacent family room. Here is a pic of those tanks, plus you get to see how messy the entire basement became during the remodel:

If you ever remodel your fish room I recommend that you sit down and list all of the tasks that will need to be done prior to doing anything. I found that many tasks depended on another task being done prior to being able to move on. Before I built the first rack, I had to seal the basement wall and replace an existing glass pane window with glass block. These tasks not only took time, but also took money out of my wallet that I had planned for the actual fish related materials. It was essential to bolster this room because I live in Ohio where winters are cold. The glass block will really help keep my energy costs down. I also painted the wall with the best exterior paint I could find. Exterior paint not only has mold inhibitors in it, but it also holds up to moisture very well. Here is a pic of the wall ready for the next steps:

I installed this glass block window too. If you want to know how I did it, just let me know. It wasn't hard, time consuming, nor particularly expensive:

This wall will be home to six, 40 Gallon Breeder tanks (36" Long X 18" Deep X 16" High).
Next I had to add drains for each of the tanks. Each tank has it's own drain that tee's into a 1 1/2" pvc pipe that runs the length of my basement to an existing drain. The pipe pitches toward the drain at a drop rate of 1/4" per ten feet. The 1 1/2" pipe is plenty for the drain system because each bank of tanks will auto water change separately. Therefore the total flow through the pipe will be minimal at any one time.
Here is a pic of the drain system that two tanks will share:

Next I needed electrical for the room. With nearly 50 tanks pulling power for heaters, pumps, filters, and lights, I didn't want to overload the house circuits. So I pulled 85 feet of #6 wire the length of my house and installed this 50 amp panel. The panel will host 14 circuits and I'll use 11 for the fish room:

Each section of tanks has it's own circuit for heaters and it's own circuit for general power to run filters, accessories, etc.
The lights for every tank in the entire room will operate off of one industrial timer. My fish room will automatically turn on and shut off lights as one unit. I will add Moon lighting to help keep from shocking the fish. So main lights off, then moonlight off 1/2 hour later. This eliminates the dozen or so lamp timers I currently use. The timers themselves use power as there's the power savings. The sections of tanks themselves are wired to provide general power and a separate outlet for heaters only. In this pic you can see the power that I have for each pair of tanks. You see on the right two outlets for heaters only and then a gang of four outlets for general power:

If you redo your room, make sure you have someone who knows how to wire. In this pic you can see how complicated it can get - it seems like there are dozens of wires and it's easy to forget what wire goes to what outlet:

This entire room runs off of one Won Brothers AP150 pump that's hooked into 1" pvc pipe that runs in loops throughout the room. This pump pulls only 90 watts. I keep a rebuild kit and an extra pump on hand for emergencies. This pump sits on a shelf higher than the tallest tank in the room. It is sitting on a 1/2" piece of rigid foam that sits on 5" of memory foam.
This keeps noise and vibration to an absolute minimum:

Here's a pic of the initial tanks being set into place:

Prior to being put on the rack, they were drilled for a 1" bulkhead and then painted on three sides. This makes the breeding fish feel more comfortable since they can't see the fish in the tank next to them:

I'll stop for now, but I want to leave you with two thoughts lest I forget to tell you.
1) There is no good time to revamp an existing fish room.The best time to make changes is before the first tank is filled. It's been crazy trying to maintain tanks while working on the upgrade and there's a tendency to put off water changes to work on the remodel.

2) Invariably the fish will spawn while you are short on tank and you'll end up with tanks on the floor or tanks on an errante piece of furniture like these demasoni that just had to spawn before I had a tank for them in the room:


Kyle May
June 2009
Kyle May
Ohio Cichlid Association
Northern Ohio, USA

Dave Schumacher
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Re: The Whitney Fish Room Project (how it began)

Post by Dave Schumacher » Wed Jul 01, 2009 10:19 am

You're a brave man putting a pool table in a fish room! :lol:

I look forward to watching your progress.
Dave Schumacher

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Re: The Whitney Fish Room Project (how it began)

Post by trebor69 » Thu Jul 02, 2009 8:07 pm

dang Kyle

looks like a lot has been going on since I was there

if ya need any help with anything i.e. moving big tanks around gimme a shout

I will learn sumthin while Im there haha

~Rob <----- laid off with lots of time to help haha

Dean Hougen
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Re: The Whitney Fish Room Project (how it began)

Post by Dean Hougen » Thu Jul 02, 2009 10:50 pm

You people with basements really make me jealous. I remember basements!

Seriously, thanks for sharing. Good info and interesting story.

Chair, American Cichlid Association (ACA)
President, Oklahoma Aquarium Association (OKAA)

ACA 2012 Convention in Indianapolis, IN

Marius Purcel
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Re: The Whitney Fish Room Project (how it began)

Post by Marius Purcel » Tue Jul 21, 2009 2:55 pm

Every little boy/big man's dream :wink:
You can never know too much.

Petro Boy
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Re: The Whitney Fish Room Project (how it began)

Post by Petro Boy » Thu Sep 10, 2009 6:30 pm

what kind of cichlids do you have in your fish room

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Re: The Whitney Fish Room Project (how it began)

Post by Kyle May » Sun Sep 13, 2009 6:03 pm

Petro Boy:

Here is a list of what I currently have, arranged alphabetically:

Altolamprologus compressiceps
Amphilophus Rhytisma
Ancistrus Dolicopterus
Aulonocara Stuartgranti "Ngara Flametail"
Callochromis macrops Red
Corydoras Sterbai
Cryptoheros Cutteri
Cryptoheros Myrnae
Cryptoheros Nanoluteus
Cyphotilapia frontosa (Kigoma)
Fossorochromis rostratus
Geophagus sp. Tapajos II
Hemichromis Crystatus
Hemigrammus bleheri
Herichthys carpintis
Heros efasciatus (Turquoise)
Hypsophrys nicaraguensis
Julidochromis Marleri
Laetacara dorsigera
Lepidiolamprologus hecqui (Mbita)
MetriaClima Estherae
Neolamprologus Caudopunctatus
Neolamprologus leleupi
Neolamprologus Signatus
Neolamprologus Tetrachanthus
Paratilapia Polleni
Pelviachromis Pulcher
Poecilia Latipinnis
Pseudotropheus Demasoni
Pseudotropheus Polit
Pyxichromis orthostoma
Synodontis Petricola
Telmatochromis sp "Orange Scribble"
Telmatochromis sp "temporalis shell"
Thorichthys meeki
Tramitichromis sp. "Intermedius"
Vieja Bifasciatus
Vieja Synspilum

I usually have around 40 species in the room at any given time. They change frequently because I share these groups of fish with young fish keepers in the area who are just becoming interested in cichlids. My hope is to improve the quality, availability, and the variety of the cichclids in my area.


Kyle May
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Ohio Cichlid Association
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Re: The Whitney Fish Room Project (how it began)

Post by Dan Woodland » Sun Sep 13, 2009 6:58 pm

An impressive list. I bet you didn't think you had that many species until you sat down and wrote your list?

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Re: The Whitney Fish Room Project (how it began)

Post by dbrummitt » Mon Sep 14, 2009 8:11 pm

Dang Kyle and I thought I had a lot of fish. Man we have a lot of fish to offer in north central ohio lol. Dustin B.
Fish and Disc Golf, what else do I need?

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Re: The Whitney Fish Room Project (how it began)

Post by Kyle May » Thu Sep 17, 2009 2:31 pm

The funny thing is that:

1) Dan is correct in his post that I didn't realize how many fish I had. It seems like the room is empty!

2) Dustin is also correct. This list is just a very small segment of the enormous variety of species
that are available to me at any given time. I am truly lucky to live where there are a plethora of cichlid mavens.

Kyle May
Ohio Cichlid Association
Northern Ohio, USA

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Re: The Whitney Fish Room Project (how it began)

Post by juicebigalow » Fri Nov 20, 2009 9:33 am

Kyle, What do you do for moisture control?

Also, can you elaborate on the water change system that you use? Could you get the same results from a siphon tube that can be moved from tank to tank and still have the drain going to the pvc drains on the wall? (if that makes sense) :lol:

I just moved into a house w/ a big beautiful full basement that is unfinished... It's like clay in my hands waiting to be molded into the fish room it was always meant to be. With that being said, I want to do it right and not compromise the health of my family and the house so that is why I am asking you these questions. Any assistance you and your colleagues can give me would be awesome!

Also, I'll be at the Extravaganza this weekend so if you are around there I'd love to chat it up... or if you know someone I should talk to while I'm there, that would be great too!

Thanks in advance

Josh <><
Current breeding list:
Enantiopus Kilesa (Yellow Throat)
Dragonsblood Peacock
Benga Sunshine Peacock
Cyprichromis Kerenge Island
Cyathopharynx Ruziba

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