Hacker Aquarium

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Please do not do this. — Just about everyone except Charles

There is an empty aquarium filled with various objects.

I'm going to make a salt-water aquarium using the berlin method. Berlin Method[1]

Indeed, this is a hacker project. I would be abfab to have a few partners in the hacking process.

Long standing low cost success comes from high water flow, a protein skimmer, light with a high kelvin rating bulb, and a good biological medium to drastically reduce bio-load and once a month maintenance (a water change). Considering the fact I do not want to spend hundreds of dollars on this project, or any money at all, I have a few parts I salvaged from various places. I need people to help me with these mods. There should be quite a few options.

1. Koralia Pump Modification: I have found a modification thread for a powerhead I scrapped, it requires a change to the impeller. The Koralia Pump Modification [2] could be done better, however. I think the magnetic impeller could take the pressure of a computer fan in water, which should provide the GPH movement necessary to drive the entire 20 gallon tank, for incredibly low power. Also for a realistic feeling, I found this

2. Light: I have a used meanwhile driver and some really really powerful lux leds. Now, It would be cool if they all worked, but I think I blasted them when I tried growing tomatoes in my closet. Regardless, if anyone is aware of some higher kelvin rating LEDs it'd be great. I didn't find any searching. I do have some T-5 fluorescent tubes but they are only about 8000k which would make the fishies look jaundiced.

3. Protein Skimmer: I think this will be the really fun part. There are several examples online of engineering these things. [3], but this is my specialty, I've built like 10 of them over the years, and they are always fun to make. If we get this part right, you really don't have to clean anything, just take a cup of water out and replace it to get the trace minerals stripped from the skimming process. The tiny bubbles and the engineered pluming strip the organic matter from the water making it clear, and fresh.

4. Biological medium | IMPORTANT!- Craigslist, and a reef enthusiasts meet-up. I need to fish for this stuff, but I've received it before. There is an alternative to hack our own, which would require oyster shells and cement, exposing our rock sculptures to an acid, then exposing it to a biological medium. However, that takes months.

5. Arduino Control: I'm sure people may like this, but this is where the ultimate control comes from. The main reef controller, auto feeder and metrics probe. They are just starting a community Open Reefs Controllers[4]


Suggestions of fish, invertebrates, corals, sponges and algae are accepted. I'll do my best to find all of it. However, I will not add any livestock that meet the following classifications: fish from pet stores, fish that are at risk but not stated as at risk because of the pet trade and that CITES isn't working fast enough, fish that ostensibly will not do well in the environment (such as temperature, biotope, and potential conflicts with other fish)

This was my last project at home: 9 different corals, 4 hermit crabs, a tiger pistol shrimp, and a lux lamp it was only .7 gallons [5]

In popular culture

from the discuss thread:
  • Batkid: I don't know who you are but I think this is a bad idea.
  • Al: Having a salt-water aquarium in the space is a terrible idea.
  • Tom: I also think that an aquarium is a bad idea.
  • Praveen: Bollocks!! Aquarium is an AWESOME idea!! WE WANT AN AQUARIUM.
  • Alexandra: He said he plans to grow coral, which I think is pretty cool. The tank as-is would not support happy fish.
  • Snail: I want a hacker fish aquarium. :( I want to have nice things.
       What if the tank were populated with tiny robot fish?
  • Alaric: I approve of robot fish.
  • Eric: I am a scuba diver, and would love to help collect local specimens and water for a temperate marine tank.
  • Frantisek: I think that is a really interesting project and I like the bio focus.
  • Ronald: We buy lots of stuff from sparkfun and adafruit.
  • Hannah: I'm gonna chime in with the "bad idea" crowd.
  • Charles: It's an AQUARIUM
  • Dot Commie: An aquarium is a great idea if you're willing to pay the $200+ monthly power bill. I'm excited about Charles taking on this fiscal responsibility.
  • lizzard: I think it sounds interesting and cool, have lived with salt water aquariums and their enthusiasts before and they don't have to be all that hard or expensive. Our power bill is about 400-500 a month currently.