We have had our barracks up for almost 2 years and they have been great. They are easy to clean and give our fish lots of room to grow their finnage. I started out siphoning out the cells every other day or so and that seemed to work ok initially. Then we had some fin issues.. dorsals curling and some fin rot issues. On to Google I went and even emailed some more experienced than I. We determined I was doing too many water changes and the system was not getting cycled. Bettas typically are kept in their own container and they get major water changes several times a week.. so I never really thought about cycling nor took the time to get it done.
I was told to do less water changing so I had stuff in the water to feed these bacteria that convert ammonia to less harmful stuff. So I tried to do only 1 water change a week to give the bacteria a chance to build up and take care of ammonia and nitrates. Unfortunately, my fish seemed to continue to have issues. More time with Google and I learned that the bacteria I needed to balance my system prefered pH of 7-7.4. With Bettas I was keeping the pH much lower.. closer to 6. I also learned that the RO water I was using with a little RO Right added in did nothing to provide stability to prevent pH swings. So, I got and have learned to use buffers. I now am keeping the water at a pH of 7.0. For my 32 gal trash cans that is 1.5 grams of acid buffer and 3.0 grams of alkaline buffer. I am cheating a bit there using only half the buffer and the other half plain old baking soda. I still am adding the RO Right for electrolytes and trace elements. So I now have my water where I want it.. now just need to look closer at what is going on in the barracks system.
In the big barracks I have 4 barracks each housing 12 fish. So there are 48 fish in each system. I was running everything down to a 20 gal tank where I had two rubber tubs stacked on top of each other with filtration media. In the bottom I had Pond Matrix and in the top one I had some BioBalls and Bio-Bale. Over the top was one of the lids inverted with holes punched in it to allow the return water to trickle in over the media in a wet/dry setup. I cleaned sumps every month but the amount of debris that came thru all the filter media was amazing. It did not take long to accumulate a fine particulate film across the bottom of the sump. And before long that fine stuff was in the water being circulated through out the cells with the fish. I tried using a very light PP [potassium pomanganate] solution to “burn off” this particles and it worked temporarily. I had the cloud back in the water as often as the next day. So.. time to do something else.
My conclusion is I really never had adequate filtration for 48 fish being fed, quite heavily at times, to get them grown up. So I once again spent some time with Google and researched filtration. I decided I wanted a lot more mechanical filtration and wanted the water to travel thru various media. I also like the fluidized beds so I went about designing a new and improved sump.
Water now will enter the sump and travel thru at least 6″ of filter floss. This stuff is cheap, can be rinsed and, if necessary, thrown out all together without costing me too awful much. It will then go thru 2 layers of stainless steel pot scrubbers. I have found these things have incredible surface area for beneficial bacteria to grow, and I should get some mechanical filtration for some particles. Water will then go under a partition and up and over into a wet/dry filter area. I made the space between the two partitions large enough to get a siphon hose in there to remove debris. I am hoping stuff will be too heavy to flow up and settle at the bottom to be easily removed and therefore not enter the wet/dry. Water will overflow onto a plate with holes drilled to allow the water to trickle over the wet/dry part of the sump. The first thing the water hits is the Bio-Bale that is above the water line. Below that is a layer of BioBalls and below that Pond Matrix. All of these medias have great surface area for bacteria to colonise. Water flows down thru all these media and under yet another divider and up through 57 pot scrubbies. I found in my research these are another inexpensive yet highly effective media that has a lot of surface area for bacteria to breed. It will also provide even more mechanical filtration for any particles. At this point I should have absolutely NO particulate matter in my water. The water will exit two holes drilled through the partition and will overflow into the fluidized bed I have K1 media in.
The K1 media is yet another media that has good surface area for bacteria to grow. As the Kaldnes media moves within the filter, it causes the old dead bacteria on the outside to be displaced. This makes space for new younger heavier feeding bacteria to rapidly colonise. Within the wheel is a protected surface which enables colonies of bacteria to naturally follow their life-cycle, of maturing, dying and then fueling the latter stages of the nitrification cycle. Kaldnes has been designed to provide the best possible habitat for both young and mature beneficial bacterial colonies. This media takes time to mature and move properly in the water. So, right now we do not have as much in the chamber as we will eventually have. It will be added a little at a time so we have proper movement for the bacteria to grow.
By the time water gets to this point the particles should be removed and any harmful ammonia, nitrate or nitrites should be gone. After swirling around in the fluidized bed water will drain out to a compartment that houses the heater. I chose to have a separate chamber rather than house it under the K1 media. Always concerned something could fail and the filter media press down on a heater that was warm I had visions of melting plastic. So I decided the heater needed its own space for safety’s sake. At this point water should be warmed up, flow around the corner and be pumped back up to the barracks.
Since I just set up the sump it is too soon to tell how well it will work. With all the filter media I should have no problem controlling the ammonia, nitrates and nitrites even with the heavy feeding of youngsters I like to do. All that remains is for the system to cycle. To hurry the process along I got Dr. Tims One and Only nitrifiers. The reviews sounded good and I also got recommendations from a Facebook friend. I added the recommended dosage yesterday and today had ammonia at 1.0. Did a good water change and will see where we’re at tomorrow. The One and Only is supposed to cycle my system in about a week. If you want to know how well it works, join us on FaceBook where I’ll be posting my results.
Here is a video of the completed sump.
I got a camcorder to record my son’s drill team competitions and am finding it real fun in the fish room. We have recorded some of our young fish and it has been nice to see them on video. We have had a request for an overview of our barracks. So, we kinda walked through and touched on how the different barracks I have made work. We uploaded it to YouTube and here it is. In time we will get more detailed videos of the barracks, taking care of food cultures and of course our young fish.
Since I had the camera out taking pictures of the new barracks, I decided to shoot a few of the boys in the bigger barracks I have had set up for about 6 months now. I love the barracks as they are easy to clean and the fish have a lot of room to move around. These two boys are flaring through a crack in the dividers I’m using now to keep them isolated. They are out of my second placing green marble male with a sibling sister. So far, there has not been a bad fish in the entire spawn. If I had a larger spawn, I would be offering some for sale. As it stands now you will have to wait until the show season comes to an end to get one.. but they will be worth the wait. High and wide dorsals and super sharp caudal edges with great overall balance. I have my eye on a few that may even be BOS quality. Can’t wait for the season to start.
Finding something to use as a divider has been a real issue on my large barracks. Bettas spend time flaring at their neighbors and we rotate them a bit to keep them flaring. But coming into the show season we card them and then remove the cards to allow controlled flaring to prepare them for what they will experience at the shows. I don’t want them bored with bettas next door, so some isolation tends to make them explode when they see another betta. I needed something flexible to slide down under the pvc that puts the water into each cell and was wracking my brain on what I could use that would be water proof.. and cheap. I prefer to spend my money on more barracks or fish.. lol. So I happened along these plastic notebook dividers from Wal-Mart. I cut the tab off then divided them in half and slide them into the cells. The water tension holds the divider along the sides fairly well.. though you can see it kick out a bit on that pink one. The fish can get on the backside and so far don’t do it often. And they don’t get to where they tear up fins. And taking them in and out is simple and quick.
In case you’re wondering, the needlepoint mesh in the back was inserted to keep the young fish from getting under the flow through and into the neighbors cell. Once they get big enough we remove these. I have plastic stretched across the top to reduce evaporation and keep fish from jumping out. Nothing fancy or expensive.. yet they get the job done. You can raise high quality bettas with a shoe string budget.
Since I have a rack you can see from both sides, I built some barracks that you can see from each side. As you can see from the photo we have cells on each side of a central gutter. The cells are 6″ deep, 4″ wide and 6″ high. I prefer at least a 6″ length to get the better fins. The 4″ x 4″ beanies do not seem to allow the fish to do much but go up and down, not natural for a fish if you ask me. The longer cells allow the fish to actually swim and seem to give me better and stronger finnage.
Because I had young bettas getting under the flow through I used on the previous barracks, I decided to do these a bit differently. On these barracks I drilled through the back walls several hole where I wanted the water line. The holes are small enough bettas can’t get through them and they allow for the water to drain out quickly enough provide good circulation.
We spent a few days putting every thing together and then got the plumbing hooked up this weekend. Here is the first one set up and running. If you look you can see the water streaming down the back sides of the cells into the center gutter. I pulled 1 female and 23 boys to occupy these barracks. I am also finishing up on another one to go on the shelf above. I got it together today and then re-glued every joint and am allowing it to sit overnight. After work tomorrow I hope to have it online as well so I can pull some more boys.
One side effect of working with plexi is the cuts you get. The edges of this stuff are like razor blades and I have yet to not lose some skin in the construction of them. But with hundreds of bettas, I’ll take losing some skin over a gazillion water changes.
We have added a Face Book page.. if interested you can check it out here.
Spent the afternoon hooking up the plumbing for 2 new barracks we are building. These are double-sided and drain into a center gutter. I will have more posts on this new design shortly. Had a small leak from cell to cell so allowing the cement to cure over night before filling. I plan on having the first one filled and circulating water in the morning and fish pulled by afternoon. The second one lacks drilling the end piece for the drain and if all goes well, that one will be online tomorrow as well. Time for bed and some hand lotion. An afternoon of bleaching beanies has done a number on my hands. Can’t wait untill all my barracks are built and I no longer have to house my fish in beanies.
Today I am heading to Lowe’s to get 2 pieces of plexi cut to make some more barracks for my gazillion juvies I have at the moment. The people at Lowe’s never forget you when you have all the cuts I need done.
Photo is not one of my fish.. just a nice pic I have picked up along the way.
The fish room is still a work in progress.. but here is a tour so you can see what we are working with. My apartment has two bedrooms and a den or study on the other side of the kitchen. Having the fish room close to water makes changing the water a lot easier than lugging water back and forth. This picture is the view from the living room. I have four 6′ heavy duty wire racks in there and my Oscar tank. When I am done I will be able to house 190 individual bettas and have several areas to grow them out. I have arranged things to make working in the fish room easy.
This is the view from my kitchen into the fish room. You can see the hoses for my r/0 unit draped into the sink. I have an adapter on the faucet to inset the imput hose for the r/o unit. It takes most of a day to fill my 32 gallon storage can with r/o water so I can let it run as I go about cleaning the house. The red line is the waste water that drains back down the drain.
Another view from the kitchen, this time the left side of the fish room. The spice rack you see on the far wall is home to some of my medications and pellet food. The bar makes it easy to pass water back and forth for water changes. When I drain water from the tanks I can pour it over the bar and into the sink.. no toting water.
My r/o unit is in the window sill. The black line is the water into the unit. The blue line is the purified water that runs into that trash can next to the window. I fill that can and then pump r/o water into the other one till it’s about 3/4 full. I top off the can with my tap water run through peat moss and add some Prime water conditioner. Run the pump a bit and I am ready for water changes. The small table my son built for me in his shop class in school.. and I am using it to photograph the fish we sell on Aquabid. I have small spot lights I shine through the light tent to try to show each fish we sell accurately so buyers can get a good look at them.
This wall has two racks. The first one will house my grow outs. There is a 30 gallon on the bottom and a twenty with some tens on the second shelf. That shelf will end up having two 20’s and the top shelf will hold four 10’s. I had my spawning tanks on here and a few of them remain. I won’t be spawning so many at a time so will be setting up spawns somewhere else. Having them up so high also allowed a lot of vibration to affect the spawns. My males were good and did not eat fry.. but not going to take chances. Still thinking about where to set them up.. but will be closer to the ground. The rack to the right has beanie containers housing fish right now, but in time will have a barracks system that will house 48 bettas. The sump will go underneath.
The center rack lines up with the window. I have my 2 smaller barracks I made in Ohio line up back to back on the second shelf up. Dont have much on the other 3 shelves right now but will be making some double-sided barracks soon to house the amount of fry we have maturing right now. The sump for that system will go next to the 10 gallon I’m currently using. The green water in the gallon pickle jars on the top shelf are daphnia. The daphnia reproduce and clear the water in about 3 days. I siphon the water, through a net to catch the daphnia, down to about an inch. Then I top it off with green water from one of my tanks and have a harvest in a few days again. By alternating the harvest on different days I can produce a decent amount of daphnia for feeding the young fry.
At the end of the rack and facing the kitchen is my Oscar tank. He has gotten big enough he is starting to uproot the plants [fake] that are in with him. We may have to remove that big stone to the right so he can have some more room. We have had several Oscars and really enjoy them in the fish room. They are worse than puppies and beg.. to the point of jumping into the lid to get attention. I’ve also learned to barely open the lid and drop in his pellets. We started to do that after he came out of the water and got my finger. Scared the bejeebers out of me.. and I hadn’t had my second Pepsi.. though I was plenty awake at that point. Under the Oscar is a 5 gallon tank for now. In time it will be a 15 gallon.
The shorter wall has a complete barracks system. I have had it up and running now for 3 months and love it. Each cell is 4″ wide by 6″ high and 9″ long.. plenty of space to grow bettas quick and keep the fins nice. I will have another setup like this on the other wall and will do some smaller double-sided barracks for the center. So far they have been easy to clean and maintain. Lighting is not fun.. I have a shop light on top and it lights up the other shelves fairly ok. Might need to add another shop light half way to light the lower shelves. For a sump on the bottom I’m using a 20 gallon I picked up on Craigslist.
My sister-in-law gave me this corner tank that is about 55 gallons and we placed it in the front corner of the kitchen. She told me it leaked so we filled about an inch at a time. This is my metallic spawn and it was huge. They went in at a few weeks of age and I just kept adding water. When I found the leak we drained the water down a bit and sealed her up. After letting it cure for a while we are now adding a bit more every few days. Don’t want to have to drain quickly any large amount of water.
In my son’s room we have two more 30 gallon tanks for grow outs. I like the 30 gal because they are the largest size tank I can comfortably carry and clean and are a good size even for larger spawns. The bottom tank with the green water feeds the daphnia when I do water changes. I just put some 4 week old fry in there and will turn lose some daphnia with them. They won’t get the water clear before the fry get big enough to eat them all.. but it will clear it up a bit. That top tanks has two spawns in it.. my coppers and the cross with TB.. a multi colored spawn. Those guys are coming of age and getting pulled regularly. The fish in the 55 are also getting close to having the males pulled so it is time to get some more barracks built. I look forward to the day I get everything done and can sit and just enjoy watching the bettas.
I realized I had not finished the series on my barracks. We left off getting them online with the sump. I put the first barracks on the top 2 racks and did my plumbing, guessing on the placement of the bottom two. When the time came to add these in, I had to cut and redo the PVC. I also had issues with water leaking out of the fittings I set up for the lower barracks. So, in the future, I will build these from the bottom rack up.
My output is a ½” hole drilled in line with that back gutter. It is located relatively close to the bottom.. the bottom edge of the fitting about ¾” off the bottom. The bit I used to cut the hole did not make the opening big enough for the fitting to slide through, so I took my Dremmel with a sanding bit, and sanded a bit off to allow the fitting to slide through. I then took aquarium sealant and put it on the inside around the hole. This is done before adding that back piece of the barracks to make it easier to work in this area. I also added sealant to the opening itself and around the outside opening. Then, insert the fitting and twist slightly to spread the sealer. I then sealed even more around both the inside and outside.. completely covering the edge of the fitting. Set the barracks aside and allow them to set up and cure.
The water into the barracks is accomplished with a piece of PVC drilled with a hole over the center of each cell. I used the Dremmel with a small drill bit to drill holes along the length of the PVC. The end is capped and the other end has a fitting that is attached to the PVC and has a hose nipple as well. Water is pumped from the sump to the valves that control water flow up to the barracks. These hoses attach to the PVC that lies on the top of the barracks. Water is pushed up to the PVC and it flows across the pipe and through the holes that were drilled. The flow rate is controlled by the valve. Having the valve is nice as we can shut water off to a barrack and remove it for cleaning or maintenance. We can also use a gentler flow for younger betas till they get bigger.
I had originally wanted to use tubing attached to the output and just bend it down to the filter in the sump. The larger ¾” tubing is not easy to bend. So, I came up with using a short piece of tubing to join two nipples… one from the output and the other attached to a PVC drain. I used 1” PCV for the drain because it was the biggest I could cut with my cutters. It seems to handle the water flow ok. But, if you have the means to cut the larger sizes you might go with 1 ½”.
Each barrack is lined up over the one below so the drain can run straight down. I have a length of pipe leading up for overflow protection and for air. You do not want to cap this as the air is needed to drain properly. The water over flows the back of the barracks, runs down the gutter and out the output and into the drain. Water falls down the drain to an elbow that routes the water to the filter in the sump.
I had plans of water flowing in the sump through various mediums.. each filtering the water a bit more. I opted to get a basket from Lowe’s that you put pond plans in, and put a filter medial that houses bacteria to filter the water in it. On the top I have a pad that reduced nitrates and over that a sock filled with peat moss. The water flows through the peat in the sock where the ph is lowered and heave metals and other things are filtered out. Then the pad removes nitrates and then trickling through the filter media will remove the ammonia, nitrates and nitrites. The water then is heated in the tank and pumped out again with a submersible pump.
Every three days I siphon the bottom of the cells and run a tooth-brush along the water line to remove deposits there. With three barracks online right now the system holds about 45 gallons of water. I probably remove about 20 gallons when I clean, so do about a 45% water change. So far the fish are thriving. The length of the cells [9” long by 6” high and 4” wide] allows for lots of swimming that I hope builds strong fins.
Overall I am pleased with the design and performance of my barracks. I am happy enough with them to do another four in time to hold about 96 bettas. My older barracks, with smaller cells, I have hooked to a 10 gallon sump. Water in that system flows sideways through each cell rather than out the back. I prefer the newer design but these will still accommodate my betas just fine. I will house my show fish in the 22 cells of this system and adjust the water in the sump to be similar to the water they will experience at the show they are headed for. I will also be able to run meds in that if needed should they be exposed to anything.
As much as I enjoy my fish, doing hours of water changes is not a way I like to spend my time. The barracks do require a bit more expense up front. The cost per cell is about $4.17.. a bit more than beanies.. and you still have the sump and plumbing costs. But instead of taking an hour of every day to clean 48 beanies, I spend 15 minutes every third day. Beanies also need to be scrubbed out at least every other week as they get nasty.. even with care. And that takes even MORE time. The barracks have been running 3 months now and look like the day I installed them. They have given me a lot more time to do what I enjoy.. looking at my fish and hanging out with my son.
We have had 2 of our barracks up and running for 3 months now and I can say I really like them. Each one has 12 compartments and hold about 10 gallons of water. So, with half a 30 gallon used as a sump there is about 35 gallons of water in the system as it sits now. I am water testing a third one now and will finish the fourth one shortly. I am hoping to have them hooked up and running in a few weeks. Then the system will have about 55 gallons of water. The large water volume gives the fish a large water change that allows them to grow large and quickly.
Maintenance has been very easy. Every two or three days I siphon out the feces and any uneaten food. I siphon from the barracks untill the water in the sump is too low to pump. Then I just refill the sump with aged water. The constant water flow has kept any film from forming on the bottoms or sides. My sump does have some funk on the bottom right now due to the peat I have my water running through. It is what gives the water the amber color as well. You can see a bit of java moss in the back of the photo. I have put this in both the barracks to see if it will grow in the back channel that flows water out of the system. If so, I have an out-of-the-way place to grow this moss and it will aid in filtration.
From the end you can see the bettas have a lot of room to grow and swim. They do flare at their neighbors. Since I do not have these barracks set up to put in cards to block vision, I just move them around a bit to keep them flaring. It is an issue I will have to address to get them show ready. Keeping them out of sight of other bettas does make them really snap to when they do catch sight of another one.. great for showing. The top barrack does have the ability to slid a divider down the sides to block their sight.. but with the pvc across the top to provide water into the cells it isn’t practical to take them out and put them in very easily. I’m still thinking about this…
So far the only issue I have had is the plexi bows. The pieces I have laid across the top to reduce evaporation have bowed as well as both back pieces. Don’t know how well it can be seen in the photo. So, for the next two barracks I am going to add a brace to see if it makes a difference. Otherwise, I will need to consider using a thicker piece of plexi for the back. It is a long-span and does not have all the bracing from the cells.
Another change I might make with future barracks is instead of water flowing under the back of the cells and over another divider into the gutter I might just make a slit along the back of the cells where I want to water to over flow. Since I am not interested in moving waste, just allowing water flow, it may save me the price of the plexi as well as the additional work the other set up cost me. I also have had young fish get under and into the neighbors cell. Since I don’t want them in the gutter and washing into the sump.. I need to think that out a bit as well. As always.. we will keep you updated.
I used my Dremmel and cut out several places along the top edge of the overflow. As you can see in the second photo, there are 3 over the 4″ wide cell and one at the divider that does not have a support. I found with another water test that I needed to make them a bit deeper and wider to get the surface tension to let it flow. In the future I will cut these notches out before I glue the piece into place and probably make marks to keep them even in their depth. I bought a variable speed Dremmel and am using the slower speeds to work on the plexi. Faster speeds will melt and burn the plexi. It is best to use a scrap piece [I did!!] to practice with and determine the best attachment and speed to get the desired result.
The supports were made from scrap from cutting the pieces for the condo. Unused was a piece 4′ long and maybe 1 1/2″ wide. I cut this piece into 6″ lengths and cut enough to have one every other divider. I then used my Dremmel to cut each one of them in half and removed any rough spots. The two halves were glued together, glue was rubbed on both sides and they were inserted in place and held together till they stuck. You can see one to the left on the picture. On the next water test these worked great.. the overflow was supported and did not bow. This is how I did it.. now here’s what I will do the next time.
After the back wall has dried, remove the plastic film and apply these supports where every other partition meets the back wall and glue them into place. Because I lined them up with a wall they are not really noticable. Make sure there are no spaces between the halves or water will flow through them. Get a good seal with the glue and keep glueing till you get it sealed. Also make sure the supports have good seals to the back wall before adding the overflow. Things are gonna get tight and it becomes a real pain to get glue down into this channel. This is a lot easier than they way I did it. These added supports also reduce the flow of water from the channel into the next cell. There is a little gap that will allow the cells to stay even [ if one should fill more than the others they will equalize] and I am good with that. Most of the water will go up and over the overflow which is what I am wanting.
To add the overflow, remove the plastic film from both sides of the overflow and set it into place. The condo should be on its bottom/base. Make sure you have a good fit. If every thing looks good remove the overflow and apply glue to the supports. Carefully put the overflow in place over the supports taking care not to smear the glue. The overflow will sit on the bottom of the condo so make sure it has good contact alsong the bottom and once it is in place run a good bead of glue down its entire length. Once it sets up don’t forget to glue where it attaches to the sides as well. After it dries run another bead of glue along the base and sides for good measure.
Now we have everything done on the inside and it is time to finish with the back of the condo. Pull up the film from the bottom edge and put the back piece of plexi back in place and use masking tape to secure it like we did in the beginning. Once in place tack it in several places along the bottom and sides to get it to hold well enough for you to remove the tape and get a good bead of glue along the entire outside. Then run a good bead of glue along the joint from the inside. After it sets up hit both sides again with a good application of glue. We are not gobbing it on.. just applying it so it gets into all the little nooks and crannies to make a water tight seal.
Another thing I did was add support along the back seam. I took 2 long thin scrap pieces of plexi and glued them on the back along the seam to reinforce that area. I found moving the condo around put stress on this seam and I did not want it to fail with water running through it. A little added peace of mind.
Allow everything to sit over night then fill the condo with water watching for leaks along the way. A dry erase marker can be used to mark on the plexi so any leaks can be repaired and the marks removed. Allow it to sit a while and see if any slow leaks show up. I run my finger along the outside seams looking for any hint of moisture. If there are any leaks drain and dry the condo then seal the leaks untill it is done.
I then like to let them sit for several days to really cure before I set them up for use. Since I will be building 3 more of these in the next week or so they will have plenty of time to cure before being used. I will set them up and run water through the entire system for a week before I add any fish. And I will probably be adding fish to the system gradually so the biological filtration can multiply and keep up. As of right now I am not completely sure what media I will be using for the filtration.. watch for updates when I get to that step.