Well the deliveryman put the gravel on top of my chest freezer, so it is at least in a place that I can deal with it, even if it means scooping it out little by little, it will take time to get it washed out doing it in batches of about 1/2 kg but it is doable at least.
Preparing the gravel and substrate for the aquarium
This is a photo of my first washed batch of gravel and as you can see it bears little resemblance to the stock photo used in Part 2, the colour is a much better and wider mix than expected, the size and shape also differ in that it is more irregular in shape and the size is more uniform, so all in all I am very happy with this.
In the photo there are a UK 1p coin and a standard match for size comparison purposes
The point to keep in mind here is that you will need to keep rinsing the gravel until the water runs clear.
The method I am using is as follows: –
Take a normal mop bucket with a round area to squeeze the mop out, line the strainer with multiple layers of kitchen paper, I also screwed up a ball and placed this in the bottom of the strainer, this will then filter out a lot (not all) of the dirt as you wash the gravel allowing you to reuse the same water over and over again, if you are on a water meter this could be a very real money saver, each batch (about a 3/4 of a take-away tray) is first washed with this water using a small scoop to get the water out of the bucket and pour into the tray and swish the gravel round and pour through the makeshift filter, once the water coming out is the same colour as the water going in only then do I use clean water until it runs clear, again pouring it into the bucket through the filter.
As you can see in the photo, it does not look pretty but it works, notice how discoloured the paper is, yet you can still see a few bits of gravel through the water in the bucket, what I did was as soon as it started to slow down filtering through the paper I put another layer of paper on, this layer then catches the larger particles and doing it this way although the ‘drip rate’ does not increase the filtration does, so the water actually gets cleaner, I have now washed about 1 1/2 kgs with this same water, just incase you are thinking that this may be a little too frugal for you, remember the aquarium takes 350 litres, the sump takes another 80 litres, now combine that with 3 – 4 litres of water PER KILO of gravel to wash it, so another 150 to 200 litres, total water used 580 to 630 litres, now never mind the cost, consider the environment, you can achieve exactly the same result with a minimum of water, yes it takes you more time, but look out your window and consider what you are giving up that time for before flushing litre after litre down the drain needlessly, the other benefit of doing it this way is that you get it cleaner throughout, attempting to clean 25 kg of gravel in one will take more than the aforesaid 150 – 200 litres much more. I have tried to clean an 8 kg bag all at once in the past got the water to run nice and clear before putting it into the tank yet as soon as I did a cloud of dirt rose into the water, the trouble with a large mass of gravel you cannot be sure that there is not a pocket of dirt moving around inside the mass. As said earlier you are constructing an ecosystem get thinking ecologically or your aquarium fish, plants and everything else alive will suffer!
This is what the substrate looks like in the tub, again a penny and a match for size comparison. This is where the plants will get all their nutrients from and is a long term fertiliser. Although the Laterite I used in the previous attempt came with instruction to rinse well before use, this comes with no instructions to wash before use.
It actually looks a bit more like peat then shown in the photo here.
This is an approximation of what the aquarium will look like with both the substrate and gravel in place. please note there is no water in the jar, but the gravel is wet as this is the end colour as it will be in the aquarium.
However there is a frame around the tank so much of the substrate will not be visible, but as you can see I will end up with a good depth for the plants to put roots down into.
Now to start looking at the filtration system.
Many people say that the filtration is the most important part of your aquarium, but if you read articles by many of hard core aquarists you will soon notice that there is no one part more important than any other, when building a new aquarium you are creating a new ecosystem, so attention to detail is just as important for each of the parts that are going to make up that ecosystem.
For the sump tank I have three grades of foam, Alfagrog and of course the activated carbon, as this is my first attempt at using a sump tank for filtration I have searched the web for guidance on how to do this, with a normal cannister filter usually the water is taken down to the bottom and thereby forced up through the filter media and then returned to the tank, now a sump is just a lateral instead of vertical filter isn’t it?
As the water is hitting the top in the first section of the sump my assumption is that , in the first chamber I should place the 3 grades of sponge, with the finest at the bottom of the stack, I still have to decide where to put the Alfagrog, in section one under the foam sponge? in section two or in section three with the pump and activated carbon?
For those of you unfamiliar with a sump tank, by use of baffles the water flows out of the bottom of the first chamber under a baffle and is then up and over the next baffle on to the top of the second section.
My thinking is if the Alfagrog is placed in the first section then the bag of activated carbon could be laid across the outlet to the third section to force the water flow through it, but until I have flow through the system it is hard to judge what effect placing the various media will have on the flow through the system, as obviously I need enough water getting through to section three to keep the pump submersed at all times.
So over the next few days I will be washing the gravel and gradually adding water to the tank, slowly increasing the pressure on all seals and testing for leaks, other than perhaps filling out the above explanation (perhaps adding some photos) of how I am washing the gravel, there will likely be a lull of at least a few days if not a week or so, just depends on how long it takes to wash all this gravel, a friend has offered to come and help so that would speed things up somewhat.