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Installing a 150-Gallon Tank
by Ruby Bayan

Aquatic Garden We learn the best lessons when we are faced with challenges that seem bigger than life. Let's listen in to an exchange between one of our visitors, Uriah who wants to set up a big aquarium, and our expert, Shawn who can't contain his excitement.

*Caution: Note that a 150-gallon tank is the kind that will fit on a table but must be placed carefully on a supported floor, as Shawn explains below.

Here's the question Uriah posted in our feedback section:

Hi again Ruby!!! Yesterday I was fortunate enough to gain a 150-gallon long aquarium for almost nil. I have no experience with a tank this big, so I have a few questions.

1. How much water flow is good for a tank? It came with two emperor 330s that have 400gph of filtration. Is that enough?

2. Does it make more sense to buy one heater that can accommodate the whole tank, or to buy a couple at half the wattage for either end of the tank?

3. With only 9 Tiger Barbs, a Khuli Loach, and a pleco, there seems to be plenty of room for a few more fish. Do you know any good, hardy ones that can get along with my barbs, or should I just purchase more of them? Thanks again!!!

And here's Shawn's reply:

Wow, a 150 is a great tank. I am assuming that it is already running. I thought I would comment on a few things not in your specific question, in case this is posted on the site and others read it.

Water is heavy (period). With substrate, a 150-gallon tank will weigh in at over 1200 lbs. Placement is, therefore, critical. If the tank is sitting on floor joists (not a cement floor) care must be taken. The typical floor joist set-up is a separation of 12" between joists on newer homes. This can carry a load of 40 lbs per sq. foot.

So a quick calculation (not sure if measurements are exact) 6 foot X 1.5 foot = 9 square feet. If the tank is lying across the joists this means that those joists can handle 9 x 40 = 360 lbs (not enough!). The danger is not that the tank will suddenly crash through your floor and flood your basement, but rather that over a few years the joists will sag. This sagging will cause stress on the tanks seams, and eventually the tank may leak, crack, etc.

All of this greatly depends on your tank placement. Placing your tank near the outside wall (above the foundation) is quite different than placing it running with the joist, closer to the center of a room.

Regarding your specifics: 400 gph of filtration is a good flow for your tank. A general thumbrule for freshwater tanks is 1-2 times the tank volume per hour. Salt tanks require a little more, and reef salt tanks even more, but you are fine.

I would have a filter unit at each end of the tank. It would be easier to reach them for maintenance (rather than both of them in the middle), and, being on opposite ends of the tank, they will provide better cross current flow (to help stir up sediment on the bottom).

One heater would probably be fine for your tank. Place it in the flow of one of the discharges from the filter. I would buy a high quality submersible heater. If you have the funds, a cheaper back-up heater would be a wise investment (just something you keep below your tank, just in case).

As for fish, wow a 150! You have plenty of room. Just don't stock it all at once. Every time you add fish, your tank will go through a mini-cycle while the bacteria population (or biomass) catches up to your fish population.

Although some people go for more, a general thumbrule for freshwater tanks is 1 inch of fish per 2 gallons of water. A 150-gallon could be a great discus tank, or predator tank, or breeding tank for cichlids, or even a brackish amazon tank ... lots of possibilities. Take it slow; introduce fish slowly. Watch for trouble.

Ruby would probably be a better gauge on freshwater fish temperament than I. I always liked the freshwater sharks; they can get big, but you have a big tank.

Good luck,
Shawn.

To complement the current residents of the 150-gallon tank, I would suggest to Uriah to get more Barbs (a big school is always awesome!) and to consider other schooling fishes (like Neons or Danios).

Zebra Danios
Zebra Danios

Suggested Reading:

A Practical Guide to Tropical Aquarium Fish

Tropical Fish: Setting Up and Taking Care of Aquariums Made Easy

[05-20-02: Ruby's Note: Shawn Ballee was our Equipment and Accesories expert at the former FreshwaterAquaria.com site. He can be reached at sballee@mail.wcc.cc.il.us. He is currently building a 360-gallon at home.]


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