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My basement

Hi, welcome to my basement! I'm a hobbyist having fun raising tropical fish and poison dart frogs. Every fish or frog for sale on this site is captive bred in my home. I moved into a new house in 2004 and built my dream basement! It has almost 300 electrical outlets (yes, this required a second panel for the basement!) and a plumbing system that runs carbon-filtered water all around the room. There's also a PVC drain pipe running around the room just off the floor, ending in a floor drain at each end of the room. Every tank has a hose going from the overflow into the drain pipe. I've set up about 50 fish tanks (100 as of 2008, see below). Most are on a drip system with overflows that head straight to the drain (this is not centralized. Fresh water goes in a tank and the overflow water goes straight to the floor drain. It is never pumped back into other tanks. I also bleach all the nets and scrubby pads between every use so there is no tank-to-tank disease transmission like at a pet store (I'm a microbiology professor). I've also set up 46 terrariums for dart frogs, all with misting system and overflows.

Construction of the drain system

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More drains, this time for the fish room

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second electrical panel

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All water in the room goes through this filter system. It's 4 pre-filters and then a carbon filter. The pre-filters range from 20 micron down to 1 micron to remove clay (lots in our water) and protozoans. The carbon filter at the end eliminates fertilizers, pesticides, and chlorine. These are standard size house filters and are available everywhere online. Here's a source for the carbon filter. I get the one with lead and cyst reduction. Here's another source.

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putting in frog room shelves (I got all my shelves from globalindustrial.com)

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Heavy duty fish shelves

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This next thing is my favorite invention, the siphon acceptor. When you're siphoning the crud off the bottom of your fish tank you can stick the end of the siphon hose in this thing. It heads to the floor drain just like the overflows in the fish tanks. That way you don't need buckets! Unfortunately, I didn't think of them until after all the pvc and fish tanks were installed. So I had to crawl around on the floor under the fish tanks and cut the pipes and install them after the fact (see the picture of the fish room above, they are not there). Now they are installed at five foot intervals around the fish room. If you're designing a fish room these things are awesome. Just remember to put them in before you put fish tanks in front of them!

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It took me forever to finally get the water changing system installed on the fish tanks. There is a Rain-Bird sprinkler timer controlling a solenoid valve and a Little Giant pump. Every 3 hours the pump turns on for 5 minutes and water flows through a valve above every tank (shown below). This results in up to a 50% water change every day, depending on how much I open the valve above each tank. The valves were from specialtymfg.com part # pvc 689-6smc8qest t link $10.53. It's not the cheapest way to do it but the valves provide a lot of flexibility. They are cheaper if you order them in bulk (I ordered 100). The water reservoir fills automatically and shuts off with a float valve. The water is heated and circulated before the next time the pump turns on. Now I never have to think about water changes again, finally!!

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Finally getting some frog tanks installed! The four on the left are 40 breeders. All the rest of the tanks in the room are 20H tanks stood up vertically (there's one row of horizontals).

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Most frog tanks up and running, all with misting system and overflows. The misting system is running on R/O water to avoid calcium deposits on the glass. I got my misting system at Ecologic, but I also recently got a different kind of system for my chameleons at herpmist.com and bought some more components for it from mistking.com. The second kind of system is much more expensive but very nice, of course. I haven't tried hooking up more than a few tanks to the second system so I don't know how it compares to my 46 tank system.

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A year later more tanks have stuff in them and the tadpole system is running.

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The tadpole system is a five foot rack with a 40 gallon reservoir on top. This reservoir fills automatically with the regular carbon-filtered tap water. There's a heater and a pump in the tank to heat and move the water around. There's an overflow in case the float valve ever fails. And finally there's a ball valve that drains the water into the tadpole tanks. Each tadpole tank holds 50 tadpoles. I have four tanks on the first row operational now (200 tadpoles!), and I have the tanks ready for a second row (and a third could be installed if needed). So soon I'll have 400 tadpoles in five feet of space! Every tadpole tank overflows to the floor drain. With this system I can feed the tadpoles like crazy and change the water on the tadpoles every single day with no effort (some days I change it more than once!). I feed them frozen brine shrimp, frozen mysis shrimp, algae, and various dry fish foods. My tadpoles morph out in about two months and they are very large and robust. I describe how to build this system here.

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Kitchen area with microwave, refrigerator, and freezer (2004 to 2007).

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In 2008 the kitchen area was transformed with 48 new fish tanks, 15 gallons each, all dedicated to zebra plecos! This wall of tanks is cool because I put in two completely separate air systems (two separate lines, two separate pumps, each plugged into two separate electrical circuits). If one air line ever plugs up or a circuit breaker trips, there will be a second. At the end of 2008 I got a whole-house backup generator so that the basement will be safe in the event of a power outage.

I also switched to using the European type of sponge filter where the entire back wall is foam. The air lifts bring water to the front from the back space. The overflow and the heater are in the back space. So the overflow can never get plugged with plants from the front and the filter capacity is enormous. Another plus is that there is nothing in the way of catching fish, there's just a big square area for the fish and they can't hide behind a smaller sponge filter. My friend Stephan Tanner imports the foam for these from Germany.  His website is swisstropicals.com

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The finished half of the basement for taking a snooze after building!

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This is Stephan Tanner (left) and Ingo Seidel holding my daughter Isabella (November 20, 2005 just before OCA). Stephan lives in Columbus and was an important part in the design of my basement. He also breeds many more fish than I do and has started a website called swisstropicals.com. It's possible that we could combine orders if you want fish from both of us. Ingo lives in Germany and works at one of the biggest fish importers in Europe. He is also the author of several catfish books. He's an awesome photographer and was kind enough to take some of the pictures on this site. Stephan and Ingo took me on a fish tour in Germany in May 2006. You can see a journal of the trip here.

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