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Old 03-25-2020, 02:31 PM
Kovitlac is offline
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Building a Budget Tank - Is This Possible?


I'm thinking of putting together a small, fairly budget-conscious aquarium. I've always liked how entertaining fish can be to watch. That said, I live in a small apartment and don't have the space, money or desire to maintain a big, pricy or super particular set up. I did own betas as a kid and am familiar with the whole water treatment process thing. Although any fish not needing it (I don't recall doing it for goldfish?) is a bonus, lol.

What I'm wondering is:
  • Are there any fish that thrive in a filterless tank? I can get one if need be, I might just have to make some decisions regarding price, location (not a lot of outlets in my apt), etc.
  • What kind of fish do well in a small tank? I don't have a specific size in mind, and am open to suggestions.
  • I've always liked sucker fish - are there any types of fish that outright attack them (betas?)
  • I think mini shrimp, mini frogs, etc are all super neat. If there's a variety that doesn't need a ton of space (apparently blue shrimp require at least 10 gallons), that'd be awesome.

I'm not looking to shove a bunch of fish into a small area - just wanting to keep different options open. Or is building a budget tank a useless endeavor?

Thank you for any and all suggestions!
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Old 03-25-2020, 02:59 PM
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In the Olden Days before the internet, and before the Japanese and Dutch ideas of underwater gardening in aquaria had reached the US (we planted-aquaria fans circulated a xeroxed newsletter amongst ourselves), I hd a number of small tanks going with a lot of plants and a few fish in each. Ten gallons is really the bottom limit for fish, in my opinion. About all I bought besides the special full spectrum fluorescent lighting and the tank itself were the plants and the fish, and a bag of gravel. I got my substrate out in the woods, digging under the leaf mulch for organic soil. No filter, no heat either. Zebra danios and white clouds will survive at room temperatures. White clouds will even breed. The key is lots of healthy plants and a very few fish. By the way plants are a lot more work than fish are. But well worth it.
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Old 03-25-2020, 03:07 PM
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Fish, tanks and accessories can regularly be found for free or nearly free on Craigslist.
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Old 03-25-2020, 10:01 PM
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And I thought this was going to be about the armoured war vehicles...
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Old 03-25-2020, 11:33 PM
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By "filterless" do you mean that you want to skip the entire water circulation mechanism? Or that you want to use one but literally just omit a filter within it?

Because if it's the former, then a bigger issue will be the water sitting still and becoming stagnant. The filter motor stirs the water slightly and breaks up surface tension, allowing oxygen to mix into the water.

If you can't run even a tiny water pump/filter, your options become far more limited.

If you can, then most of the various danios and barbs at your local big box pet store should do ok in a small school. Ghost shrimp are an entertaining little cleanup crew, and I highly recommend adding a couple of those. The tiny little African frogs can get along with peaceful fish, provided your tank isn't very tall/deep as they live on the bottom but still need to surface for air. They are also slow eaters, so be careful that their fishie roommates don't starve them out.

Cory cats (corydora) are funny little bottom dwellers. I always named mine Zoidberg.
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Old 03-26-2020, 12:24 AM
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And I thought this was going to be about the armoured war vehicles...
Same here. Does that mean there's something wrong with us, or with the OP?
  #7  
Old 03-26-2020, 12:44 AM
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You really need some type of filtration. Note this could be plants, you can do something like this pretty cheap and put some cherry shrimp in it:

https://www.aquariadise.com/setting-...ted-fish-bowl/


Alternatively there are some reasonably cheap all in one aquariums out there, that would include a filter. You could do a Betta in a 5 gallon or previously mentioned cherry shrimp. If you want something other than a Betta you really need at least a 10 gallon. You could do an Otocinclus Catfish (small algae eating sucker) and a couple of small tetras (like neon tetra) and have a nice setup. With small tanks you don't want any fish that will grow bigger than 2 inches or so as adults.

ALL fish require water treatment. The chlorine in the water destroys the fishes gills.

Also look on craigslist for aquarium and supplies, people are jumping in and out of hobby all the time.
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Old 03-26-2020, 02:19 AM
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@Sunspace - I was thinking the same thing - you could build budget tanks out of paper mâché- but as soon as the Chinese or Russians opened fire, you'd probably regret it.

@Kovitlac
Last time we had a setup like your're talking about, we had a beta in it. We were told they were the hardiest fish for tanks with no filters, aeration or heating. We bought a large 6L clear vase from Goodwill and kept the beta in it on our kitchen table as a centrepiece. We changed the water weekly.

The problem with what you're suggesting is that as you get more fish, you need to change the water more frequently, which is a pain in the ass. To change the water you need to scoop the fish out with a net, most fish don't like that and can easily go into trauma and die. That's exactly why filters and aerators and heaters were developed. Heaters are important see most aquarium fish are tropical and "room temperature" water is too cold.

I once had a spectacular 50 gallon tank with an underwater filter, side filter plus heater with a huge range of fish. It was also a huge pain to clean, but I only needed to do a full cleaning once every year.

FWIW - I second RedSwinglineOne's advice, keep your eyes open on Craigslist or Kijiji or yard sales. People are always getting rid of that type of equipment for cheap or free. My neighbour had a 100 gallon setup for many years before growing tired of it after his kids grew up. He'd bought new from PetsMart for about $1000 and sold on Craigslist for less than $100 just to get it out of his basement.
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Old 03-26-2020, 08:51 AM
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And I thought this was going to be about the armoured war vehicles...
I'm so sorry to disappoint
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Old 03-26-2020, 08:59 AM
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Originally Posted by purplehorseshoe View Post
By "filterless" do you mean that you want to skip the entire water circulation mechanism? Or that you want to use one but literally just omit a filter within it?

Because if it's the former, then a bigger issue will be the water sitting still and becoming stagnant. The filter motor stirs the water slightly and breaks up surface tension, allowing oxygen to mix into the water.

If you can't run even a tiny water pump/filter, your options become far more limited.

If you can, then most of the various danios and barbs at your local big box pet store should do ok in a small school. Ghost shrimp are an entertaining little cleanup crew, and I highly recommend adding a couple of those. The tiny little African frogs can get along with peaceful fish, provided your tank isn't very tall/deep as they live on the bottom but still need to surface for air. They are also slow eaters, so be careful that their fishie roommates don't starve them out.

Cory cats (corydora) are funny little bottom dwellers. I always named mine Zoidberg.
While I've never had a tank with a filter before (only a beta here and there in college, and a cheap goldfish and an angelfish as a kid), I am open to getting one. I think I was worried about the set up being complicated, but from what I've looked up you can buy smaller tanks with a filter already in it, which sounds handy. I know those tanks are often geared toward kids, but I really am just leaning toward something simple and relatively low-maintenance. I am open to expanding my set up in the future if the hobby grows on me I used to have hamsters and I adored them. It makes me sad that apartments are so reluctant to ever allow them.

I did look up ghost shrimp - those look really neat! Do you think something like a ghost shrimp and a guppy or two might be okay in a 5 gal tank with some hiding spots?
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Old 03-26-2020, 09:01 AM
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Same here. Does that mean there's something wrong with us, or with the OP?
Nah, it just means I'm a tease
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Old 03-26-2020, 09:07 AM
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Originally Posted by GMANCANADA View Post
Last time we had a setup like your're talking about, we had a beta in it. We were told they were the hardiest fish for tanks with no filters, aeration or heating. We bought a large 6L clear vase from Goodwill and kept the beta in it on our kitchen table as a centrepiece. We changed the water weekly.

The problem with what you're suggesting is that as you get more fish, you need to change the water more frequently, which is a pain in the ass. To change the water you need to scoop the fish out with a net, most fish don't like that and can easily go into trauma and die. That's exactly why filters and aerators and heaters were developed. Heaters are important see most aquarium fish are tropical and "room temperature" water is too cold.

I once had a spectacular 50 gallon tank with an underwater filter, side filter plus heater with a huge range of fish. It was also a huge pain to clean, but I only needed to do a full cleaning once every year.

FWIW - I second RedSwinglineOne's advice, keep your eyes open on Craigslist or Kijiji or yard sales. People are always getting rid of that type of equipment for cheap or free. My neighbour had a 100 gallon setup for many years before growing tired of it after his kids grew up. He'd bought new from PetsMart for about $1000 and sold on Craigslist for less than $100 just to get it out of his basement.
I've done the whole beta thing too. I college I had a number of them. I do remember them being fairly hardy, and I did the whole chemically treated room tempt water thing with them. I'm open to having a beta, I just thought it'd be neat to have 2 fish and that's a no-go with betas. Although I read they can be okay with a ghost shrimp or an African dwarf frog, which could be a neat little addition. I'm thinking maybe a 5 gal tank though - I simply don't have room for anything big.
  #13  
Old 03-26-2020, 10:58 AM
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This article discusses "low tech planted tanks", some as small as one and three gallons.

And yeah, when I first saw the thread title I thought of people building armored vehicles with which to go down to Kroger and knock off supplies of toilet paper and hand sanitizer.
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Old 03-26-2020, 02:00 PM
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Goldfish and guppies can survive quite well with some occasional water cleaning. Small sucker fish, snails, and some others will be fine. You can do much better with just the addition of an air pump. With that you can also use a gallon jug or larger as a tank. You don't even need an air stone, just bubbling the water keeps it moving and oxygenated. You can add a simple foam filter that just uses the air hose collect solids and can be rinsed out occasionally.

I thought it was here, maybe somewhere else that I recently heard about someone experimenting with a natural aquarium where they just scooped up dirt gravel and biota from a local creek. Seemed like interesting ideas there although the fish aren't ornamental, they'd be worms and hydra and the like.
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Old 03-26-2020, 05:43 PM
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And I thought this was going to be about the armoured war vehicles...
Little known fact: the confusion arises because when decorative fish tanks were first developed for the retail market, the code word used was "armorred war vehicle"...
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Old 03-26-2020, 06:09 PM
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I thought it was here, maybe somewhere else that I recently heard about someone experimenting with a natural aquarium where they just scooped up dirt gravel and biota from a local creek. Seemed like interesting ideas there although the fish aren't ornamental, they'd be worms and hydra and the like.
I believe it was this guy:

"It costs almost nothing and indeed wonderful: cover the bottom of a glass tank with clean sand, and insert in the foundation a few stalks of ordinary water-plants. Pour in carefully a few pints of tap water and stand the whole thing on a window-still. As soon as the water has cleared and the plants have begun to grow put in some little fish, or, better, still, go with a jam-jar and a small net to the nearest pond — draw the net a few times through the depth of the pools, and you will have a myriad interesting organisms."

Konrad Z. Lorenz, KING SOLOMON’S RING
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Old 03-26-2020, 06:27 PM
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I believe it was this guy:

"It costs almost nothing and indeed wonderful: cover the bottom of a glass tank with clean sand, and insert in the foundation a few stalks of ordinary water-plants. Pour in carefully a few pints of tap water and stand the whole thing on a window-still. As soon as the water has cleared and the plants have begun to grow put in some little fish, or, better, still, go with a jam-jar and a small net to the nearest pond — draw the net a few times through the depth of the pools, and you will have a myriad interesting organisms."

Konrad Z. Lorenz, KING SOLOMON’S RING
I was thinking of a more recent experiment performed by FloatyGimpy.
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Last edited by TriPolar; 03-26-2020 at 06:27 PM.
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Old 03-26-2020, 06:37 PM
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I'm no expert, but I kept a carnival goldfish alive for 7 years in a 5-gallon tank that came with a pump and a light. I don't recall what we paid for the aquarium but I'm sure it wasn't that much. You've confirmed that your lease permits aquariums, right?
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Old 03-26-2020, 08:30 PM
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@ Kovitlac
You ideas are fair enough, one fish does get boring pretty quickly, (unless you're a little kid who is fascinated). It's certainly worth a try and your investment in the fish etc is pretty low. Nothing to lose, go for it!

The only thing I'd suggest you think about is tank size. A 5 gallon tank will still weigh around 40lbs. That's a big weight to carry over to the sink to dump, all the while worrying about dropping it. If it's not feasible to carry it, you'll need to siphon the water to change it, a pain in the ass.
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Old 03-26-2020, 11:22 PM
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Another important point, that I heard from a friend who was a building manager. Some guy thought an in-wall aquarium would be cool, so he got one big enough to just fit in the bedroom closet, then cut a six-foot-wide hole in the wall so the glass was flush with the living room wall. It apparently looked cool with the lighting in it until the building manager saw it, evicted the guy and had a repair crew come in to fix the load-bearing wall.

Also, most silicone caulking has anti-mildew agents in it, so don't use that for aquarium repairs - fish are like mildew. Both smell.
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Old 03-27-2020, 08:55 AM
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Same here. Does that mean there's something wrong with us, or with the OP?
Makes at least three of us who were hoping to see a thread about someone building their own backyard AFV.
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Old 03-27-2020, 07:00 PM
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Makes at least three of us who were hoping to see a thread about someone building their own backyard AFV.
I was going expecting a Killdozer thread.
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Old 03-27-2020, 08:38 PM
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[QUOTE=TriPolar;22212399]Goldfish and guppies can survive quite well with some occasional water cleaning. Small sucker fish, snails, and some others will be fine. [./QUOTE]

And usually the cory 'catfish".

A goldfish or 2 or a betta will do fine in a large fishbowl, more fish need real plants.

But yeah, a bubbler will help.

The thing about filters is that you can keep more and a larger variety of fish.
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Old 03-27-2020, 10:12 PM
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Makes at least three of us who were hoping to see a thread about someone building their own backyard AFV.
We'll have to stick to the topic.
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Old 03-28-2020, 03:19 AM
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Well, at least four of us were looking for a discussion an cheap-ish DIY armored vehicles.

As for fish tanks, a childhood friend had a 30 gallon plastic garbage can buried in the earth under the 2nd story deck, with the top 2" above soil level. Why? I have no idea. His father installed it. My friend filled it with rain water & put 2 each gold fish in it. We were about 13 at the time.

Fast forward to grade 12, our senior year in HS. I house sat the family home while the entire bunch went on a three week vacation. I was sitting in the shade reading a book beside that garbage can when a large fish came to the surface & snagged a dragonfly off of the surface of the water. The fish was about 24" in length. I had no idea gold fish could live that long or that they could get that long.

When they returned I mentioned the fish. They said that it was one of the original fish & that they had not fed it in years. The water was green & some frogs lived near, or in, the garbage can.

If one wanted a budget fish tank, it does not get much lower cost than that. It is not pretty to look at, but it is cheap.
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Old 03-28-2020, 05:58 AM
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Goldfish do NOT as a rule do well in an unfiltered bowl. They are incredibly dirty and produce a lot of ammonia which is a killer. They also can get very big very quickly if you feed a lot. The recommendation for goldfish is at minimum 10 gallons per fish.

In any tank the most important thing is getting the beneficial bacterial cycle going and keeping it stable. A decent filter, substrate, and plants are keys to that. The good bacteria grow in the filter medium and the water cycling through the filter feeds the bacteria and keeps the water chemistry at a healthy level. Water changes are still necessary, but how often depends on how densely stocked the tank is and how healthy the cycle is. There are test kits that help keep an eye on that.

If you were interested in goldfish this is a pretty good resource: https://puregoldfish.com/
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Old 03-28-2020, 06:41 AM
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^Saje is correct. Overpopulating the tank will lead to disaster. When I was running tanks, I always adhered to the " 1" of fish per gallon of water " rule. So a well filtered 20-gallon tank can support 20" of fish just fine.
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Old 03-28-2020, 11:17 AM
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^Saje is correct. Overpopulating the tank will lead to disaster. When I was running tanks, I always adhered to the " 1" of fish per gallon of water " rule. So a well filtered 20-gallon tank can support 20" of fish just fine.
I believe this rule holds for fish that run less than two inches long.

My experience is that the surface of the water will grow crud (I believe it is protein) if it doesn't move a bit. An airstone and small pump will provide for some water movement.
Regarding sucker mouth fish, plecostomas (sp) grow too large for most tanks. True Chinese algae eaters become large and aggressive. Otos are small, active little catfish.
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Old 03-28-2020, 11:43 AM
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One gallon per inch of fish is very different from 10 gallons per fish when we're talking about goldfish, so I don't see how you agree. Again, I had one fish in a five-gallon tank. He was maybe an inch long when I got him and maybe three inches long when he died, so I followed the latter rule but came well short of the former. But with that filter he managed to hold on longer than some of my friends' dogs, so...
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Old 03-28-2020, 12:26 PM
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And I thought this was going to be about the armoured war vehicles...
You could always start your own thread.
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Old 03-28-2020, 06:05 PM
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You could always start your own thread.
The closest I found was What kind of license do I need to drive a tank? from 2001, which almost wandered into building a tank. That, and a photo of a Smart Car, er, conversion.

Sorry, Kovitlac, I know very little about aquarium tanks, though I did have a gerbil in one as a kid.
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Old 03-28-2020, 09:01 PM
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One gallon per inch of fish is very different from 10 gallons per fish when we're talking about goldfish, so I don't see how you agree. Again, I had one fish in a five-gallon tank. He was maybe an inch long when I got him and maybe three inches long when he died, so I followed the latter rule but came well short of the former. But with that filter he managed to hold on longer than some of my friends' dogs, so...
Yes, goldfish are very dirty, and grow very large. They are better in outdoor pools than aquariums.
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