Thoughts on a fish room

Like most fish hobbyists, I would like more tanks. It doesn’t mater how many you have, YOU NEED MORE!

I don’t have that many tanks compared to some people so maybe my need is more crucial than most. I have researched building a fish room for a while and helped build one. The common theme is to do the planning first…. so this is the plan.

I will be building it in the basement of the house where I have easy access to water and electricity but more importantly, spills wont be a disaster. Also the load capacity of the floor isn’t a concern.

With a lot of tanks I would need to automate water changes as much as possible. The problem with my basement is draining the water. It will have to be pumped uphill which would be one more thing to break. I looked at using a sump and putting a pump in it to drain it, like a typical bilge pump for a boat. The problem is when the electricity goes out the pump will stop. A better solution is to cut a hole in the floor and install a drainage system that uses gravity and not electricity. This requires more thought.

Another problem is humidity control. Right now, with 120 gallons of water spread among 5 tanks it isn’t a problem but if I had over 1000 gallons it could be a problem. I can think of three solutions to bring the problem down to a manageable size.
(1) Put tight covers on all the tanks. Since I will be mainly working with killies I would do this anyway.
(2) Enclose the ceiling and walls with waterproof sheet rock. Basically treat it as you would a bathroom.
(3) ventilate the room to the outside. This will not be needed in the winter when the air is dry up here in the north but it would be needed in the summer. Those of you in the south would need to ventilate all year.

Being in the North East, I am also concerned with heating the tanks. Those of you that are living in an area with cheap electricity or down south probably wouldn’t be concerned with this but we pay 24 cents per kWh up here so I want to use my existing gas heater to either heat the whole room or at least the tanks.

I have thought about this for a while and decided to construct heated tank shelves instead of heating the room. I happen to have gas hot water heat in the house so this would mean I would have to add one or more extra zones to the hot water system. It sounds like a big project but it isn’t as bad as it first seems. I will add the drawings as soon as I figure out how to place drawings on the web.

The other big cost is the electric to run the lights. Being in the basement means I need to run some lights on a timer to give the fish a day / night cycle. I don’t know how important it is for them but it seems important for their well being. I should look into this further. Some of my tanks will be planted so those lights would be on the timer also. I will use LED lighting for this to save running costs. The working lights can be standard shop fluorescent lights since they wont be on 12 hours a day.

While on the subject of electricity, I would install a separate circuit(s) for the fish room on a circuit breaker that includes ground fault protection. If you aren’t sure how it’s done, you should hire an electrician for this. It’s expensive but a trip to the hospital, (if you are lucky) will cost even more.

Ted’s fish room site has a lot of good ideas and he has some great videos on building the fish room. It’s not exactly how I would do it but my circumstances are different and I intend to raise different fish.

One of the problems I noticed in many fish rooms that I have seen is in the shelf construction. Usually, 2 X 4’s are used which are relatively cheap and available. Most shelves I have seen have long spans between the supports. The problem with more supports, (or legs) is, it gets in the way of the tanks, especially the bottom tanks which usually are the big ones. After the shelves are a few years old, the shelves start to sag under the weight of the water. A typical shelf can be holding 2000 lbs. While it may not break, it can sag causing the tanks to leak.

My thought to get around this is to run 5/8″ steel rods to the  ceiling every 2 feet or so. The spacing will depend on the size of the tanks so that it occurs between tanks. This would work fine in the typical basement but may look a little unusual in a living area.

Another way to make legs is to use 1 X 3 inch board with the narrow side facing you. That way you only sacrifice three-quarters of an inch in shelf space for the legs.

Or another way is to place the legs on the outside of the shelf over some of the tanks. Removing tanks is more trouble but otherwise it is OK. Use screws to attach the leg so it can be removed if needed but DON’T remove the leg without either draining the tanks near the leg or putting in a temporary leg near the one you remove.


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