Aquarium *updates*


Long story short I went through a couple updates on my aquarium in the last year.

As mentioned in a previous post I’m just going to post fast track updates.

I had good success with my aquaponic/pothos plant setup test that probably cost more the the final setup. The water was clear and the plants grew well. I basically had my Canister filter return dumping water into a dry goods container with gravel and a couple Pothos plant. and eventually overflowing into the tank.



I wanted to come up with an all inclusive canopy that:
– was able to contain a good amount of plants.
– didn’t didn’t have the bulk of a canopy.
– could help with a little with bio-filtration.
– could help filter out nitrates.
– possibly grow herbs and other edible plants.

So here’s what I came with.

I really wanted to take advantage of the 1.5 inch Top Trim of the tank and I realized that a two board thickness is would mimic the look of the stand. This gave me about 3 inches of media space if I designed it right. The two boards a 1×8, 1×6, 1×2 cost about $15.

Across the top I cut 10 holes to hold 10 net cups. These cost ~ $.50 each at hydroponics shop. The Net Pots a have a height of 3 inches which was convenient.

In each of the net cups I filled them each with Expand Clayballs aka Hydroton, Hydrocorn(which was free 55 Hydroponics really hooked it up) They are ceramic and I assume would have a very similar surface area as other ceramic media and each ball is pea-sized. They float in case anyone is wondering. I put the pothos plant that I had in the previous set up. But I’ll eventually place herbs and maybe fruits or other plants.

In the back is a crazy a spaghetti, but consisted of a very simple network of vinyl tubes both 3/4″ and 1/4″ and I’m taking advantage of the output of my canister filter. I will get details later if anyone is interested.

The most expensive part was the lights. I bought the multi-color led strip lights that Joey used in his diy aquarium light. I ran them back and forth and used the self adhesive and a two screw to attach them to the wood lid.

For the plumbing network I used a 3/4″ vinyl tubing, 1/4″ tubing, and barbed fittings.
I drilled a hole smaller than the barbed fitting in the 3/4″ tubing and pushing the barbed fitting into the vinyl tubing.
next I attached the 1/4″ vinyl tubing.
After that, I pushed the vinyl tubing in the in the net pots
Lastly I filled the net pots with clay balls
This is a better picture of the network

I capped the 3/4 by folding it over to kink the 3/4″ hose and clamping it down with a zip ties. It’s a little ghetto(why I didn’t take a picture), but it’s a cheap solution. It leaks a little into the tank, but does a good job of forcing the water out the 1/4″ lines. Actually even though the pressure is divided into 10 lines, it is still really high. When I first plugged in the pump/canister, I got it squirting water all over. Luckily, my wife was there helping me plug and unplug the pump/canister filter.

Latest Update:

I bought a couple clamp lights from Ikea to put up on top, just to light the plants at night. Give some ambient light while watching tv and hosting party’s etc.


I had a couple issues with the multi-color led strip lighting.

Because the light strips were connected to my hinged lid, the constant opening and closing cause the lights to wear down the electricals. Obviously these lights were not designed to move a lot. I was actually very annoyed that I had to replace these light already.

In general, the multicolor lights were cool, but truthfully I only used two color settings; The pinkish white(the “pure” white was too blue for me) and a deep blue purple for nighttime(rarely used). I never used the dimming, flashing, or other rave invoking modes. I noticed on a local forum that a lot of people used Beamworks lights that were a little more expensive(but still inexpensive) than the hyper color led strip. I decide to give it a try instead buying another set of led strips. I have found out that sometimes diy isn’t always the best or the cheapest solution.

I removed the hinged door and threw the light on top. not as clean looking as the previous designs but oh well.



I was still not completely satisfied with the light quality, it looked too sterile and kinda boring. Then someone posted, on a facebook group, a tank with a dramatic spot light effect from two possible expensive leds lights. He/she asked how they could achieve this effect without breaking the bank.


I fell in love with the look; Someone on the group jovially said you could get two flashlights and hang them above your tank. I thought about this and well maybe if got a couple flashlights from Costco and wired them up so I didn’t use batteries, I might be able to get the effect. I decided to test it so I grabbed my flash light with batteries walked over to my tank. held the flashlight over and thought that’s pretty cool. Then I noticed the Ikea clamp lights right next to my plant. I felt like a moron, I moved the clamp light over the open top of the tank and got this.


I thought not bad, too yellow though and the fish didn’t look the best. I went to turn on the beamworks light and click the switch to night/blue mode accidentally and holy smokes! Over all it was very dramatic and just freaking amazing.


Here’s more pictures at night. I use the day time mode mostly. But when relaxing with my wife I enjoy this lighting mode best. The lights are nicely vibrant on the fish. Strangely overall the tank feels more natural like a pond at sunset. My wife loves this look as far as an interior design prospective.  It has a great feel. 







I’m excited that I’ll be working on a new new tank in the near future.  Just teasing with the words bar and 8 foot.

I’ve done so much!

Hey Guys,

The HUG project sales went very well.  We made a little over $600 in sales and all of it going to Thailand.


Unfortunately, my blog got pushed to the side. I’m unsure who out there is really following me, but I got a little bit of feed back.  Mainly to post more pictures.

Truthfully, I got really busy. Since starting my new hobbies of fish keeping and furniture making, I’ve received a few request for designs and furniture ideas. My wife has really loved having a husband that can build furniture and has put me to work. I’ll be posting a few more post of “old” stuff with lots of pictures without so much text to quickly catch you up. I really want to blog about current work that I am very excited about.

I’ve really done a lot as you can see. Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll see next few days:








Coffee table legs

Option one: Hairpin

So in the DIY world, especially with pallet furniture, the generic thing to do is use hair pin legs. They are often used for mid century modern furniture. Pinterest has a ton of homemade tables that use these.  I think they look okay. But sometimes when the table top is too thick the spindly legs look a little too thin. Kinda reminds me of those muscle builders that skip leg day. I will use them on a future project, but for now I wanted to come up with something a little less expensive and more clever.


Option two:

I started looking around the garage and noticed. I had jack stands for cars. I thought it looked fun! But several people didn’t agree with me. I would have finished them so they didn’t just look like I used jack stands. Maybe strip the paint  or just paint them black. But at around $20 bucks a pop and the fact that I’d lose my jack stands. It wasn’t the most efficient. So on to other ideas.


Option three: Threaded pipe.

Just as common as hairpin legs are threaded pipe. Personally I love the look. I have always dreamed of living in a home with exposed pipes. Dream became reality when we moved in to our loft as it has lots of exposed fire sprinkler pipes throughout the place. I thought it would look great. But I’ve used threaded pipe in the past on my fish tank stand and it’s surprisingly expensive.


Option 4???

I did not have an option 4. I flipped through my sketch book hoping there was something I drew in the past, but came up empty. I drove to HD walked down the aisle seeing if there was something that would conjure up an idea. I knew I wanted to incorporate pipe/metal. While walking down the electrical aisle I noticed that electrical conduit was fairly reasonably priced and mildly sturdy. So how do I incorporate this into the design? I sat outside sketching out different ways.  AVKU6399What if I took a 1×4 with drilled a hole in it then stuck the pipe in it, yeah but it’ll pop out the other end. What if I put something behind it so it does not pop out like another 1×4. What if it’s a two 1×3 instead?  What what if it was 3 1x3s ? What if it was 2 1×4 and a 1×3? What if.. what if..  three dozen sketches or so later!  YES!!! That will be sweet!

I walked back into HD with a Mission.

Hairpin legs Photo Credit

Coffee Table: Donkey’s first cut.

As far as this project was concern the design was very off the cuff. I had a basic idea of what size I wanted the table to be, by measuring the area of the space. Also I had a few ideas for key design elements that I wanted to include. One key element was a mitre joints to to minimize end grain.  But not much else was necessary for the design.

The previous owner left a weird shelving unit behind which was made of unfinished 1×4 red oak. To this day my wife and I can’t figure out how it was used. The former owner decorated the home in a very fun yet masculine manner. It had the somewhat modern minimal style, yet used skateboard decks for decoration, and had a eclectic lamp/chandelier made of wine bottles lamp.  The shelf was in the closet, so my a realistic assumption was the owner had a very extensive watch collection.  But I would like to believe that the former owner was a closet Precious Moments collector.


I’m not one for waste and the shelf was made of excellent wood that will make a good coffee table. Dead blow hammer in hand, I quickly got to taking the shelf apart. Constructed with glue and nails, it took a lit bit of effort to dismantle the shelf and keep the wood in good shape. I noticed that the wood broke before the glue broke, this made me snicker a bit. It’s common to hear “the wood will break before the glue breaks”  and it was cool to see the theory in person.

At this point, I had about 14 of 2 foot lengths of 1×4 red oak. I laid out the planks of wood side by side. Redwood is very beautiful, but I was not feeling the top all being the same wood.  I got to sketching out a basic layout and headed to HD to get some wood.  I got some 1×4 poplar and some 1×4 pine.  I cut some pieces to size and laid the pieces randomly.


It was cool cause this was the first time I got to use Donkey! Donkey is the sliding compound mitre saw that my father-in-law gave me. The saw needed a lot work and so he just gave it to me. Moving the head up and down the saw gave a loud HEE HAW, HEE HAW.  The saw had a personality, it deserved a name, and Donkey seemed appropriate. The saw worked fine, just needed some WD-40 and maybe he’ll a get a new blade soon. Along with donkey, I used my unnamed table saw(for mitered cuts), and a finishing nail gun with the compressor to run it.

Laying out the red oak, poplar and pine planks out randomly. I quickly shifted to a pattern that looked like a pack of fruit stripe gum, it finally ended with a “design”. Everything came together rather quickly except for the sanding part. The table is somewhat flat.  The quick process lead to a crudeness that is refreshing and fun. Somehow woodworking seems natural to me. I’m unsure if it was because of watching my dad with his numerous projects around the house, building lots of ikea furniture, or building toothpick bridges from Troy High School.  This is fun, now on to table legs.


**I know a lot of people want more pictures and my apologies,  This blog was an after thought, but on newer projects tons of picture are being taken. Stay tuned!

Precious Moment photo credit

Art Walk – Sept 19th

My community has a monthly art walk/business open house Santiago Art District.  It’s one of the many reasons I love the community I live in.

In the past,  I’ve had different types of artists including Photographers, Woodworkers, and Ceramic Artists.  I like to keep it changing so every month it’s different.  I will also often host swing dancing in the courtyard, which includes a free lesson from me as well.

This month, we will be selling some goods to support the efforts of our friend Heather Askew in Thailand.  My wife met Heather in India while filming a drama/documentary which focused on human trafficking in India.  This was a very difficult film shoot and many of the crew walked away as different people, including my wife and Heather.  Heather left her career in film making to move to Thailand to work with an anti-trafficking organization, The HUG Project, which is part of the Family Connection Foundation. One of the biggest things that prevents kids from being trafficked is education, so the Family Connection Foundation started Education Matters, providing scholarships to the poorest and most vulnerable children in Chiang Mai, Thailand.  The proceeds from this month’s sales will go directly into this scholarship fund. To learn more about how you can give directly to the various anti-trafficking efforts of the Family Connection Foundation, visit

We have some beautiful goods such as wallets/checkbooks, whistles, t-shirts, pillowcase covers, kick boxing shorts, purses, and fisherman pants.


Here’s a picture of the first time we sold Thai items in the gallery.

To help promote this blog and the HUG Project, the first three people to share this blog on Facebook and tag me in the post, will receive one free item from the sale. (Don’t worry these items will be purchased by my wife and I, feel free to share and let me know you don’t want anything.)


What do I build first?

I was excited to use my new tools, and I had the itch to build something.  Also, I knew my wife thought I’d never use all these tools that I purchased, so I thought, “I’ll show her”…

Weeks ago, my wife and I went to a furniture store to see a coffee table that she liked.  I saw the table and I agreed it was a pretty nice.  I liked the look and style of the table; it was industrial modern. The size was a little wrong for our space and our custom sofa, but in general, the quality was good, the style was good, and the price was $450!

Around the same time that we were looking at furniture, Jeff and I had just finished the aquarium stand.  I already had the creativity bug.  I was already looking into buying tools.  And $450 dollars was enough to buy the many tools I believed we would need.  I felt bad because I had to say no. My wife has very beautiful eyes that always made it difficult to say no to her. But I gave her all the reasons and, because she’s logical, it all made sense to her.  But I knew what she was thinking: “GAH! I’m never getting a nice coffee table!”

I still feel bad saying no to my wife.  She barely ask for anything.  She lives modestly. She only really buys things on sale.  So I had to make her one that I knew she’d love.

Our coffee table…


We gave the old coffee table away to Goodwill. Here’s a picture of it with Louis (in his cone of shame), my wife, and Winnie our neighbor’s Corgi.

Tools! Thanks Dan!

So after working with Jeff to build the aquarium, I got the bug.  I started to research what I wanted and needed to get going.  I searched craigslist and everything was over priced or not in good condition.  Then my wife got news that her Mom and Dad were selling their home.  This was a shock, considering all the hard work her Dad put into build their dream home.  They were doing it to downsize,  as the home was just too big for the empty-nesters that they have become.  As my wife and her Dad talked about the move, he began to talk about selling a lot of their stuff, in particular, his tools.  Next thing I knew, I was on the phone with Dan talking about his tools and made arrangements to pick them up.

It was a win-win situation for the both of us.  I knew I could trust that the condition of the tools were what he said they were, and I also got a good deal on the price.  He knew that the tools were going to a good home and he’d be able to borrow them if he ever needed them in the future. I picked up my new tools, which included an air compressor, nail gun, table saw, mitre saw, jigsaw, and circular saw.

In general, this was a good way for me to start.  I trusted the source of the tools.  There are better tools out there, but these tools were good enough to build a house – a very beautiful house at that – and these are perfect for the “weekend wood worker” like myself.

Dan and Baby

I don’t have good pictures of the tools, nor do I have a good picture of myself and Dan.  So, I offer this picture of Dan, with me in the background caught trying to steal my very cute niece Claire.😉

The Aquarium Project Part 5 (Done for Now)

Many aquarists would agree that an aquarium is never really quite done.

I love African Cichlids.  They are very colorful and are often mistaken for saltwater fish.  I got a lot of information from John at KGTropicals, who has a great youtube channel.  I’ve watched and listened to nearly every video and podcast he has posted.  He has a very simple way to explain relatively complex concepts, so if you are interested in fish keeping, I recommend check out his videos.

I’m grateful to my in-laws that helped me purchase this for my Christmas gift.  I want to thank Jeff for more than just a fish tank stand.  Because of a small, simple invitation to come help him build my aquarium stand, I got the creative bug again.  I just needed to find some tools!

But back to the Aquarium.  Overall I’m happy with the outcome of the aquarium stand.  I believe it fits our industrial rustic modern aesthetics well.  The pipe accents were both functional and matched a lot of the exposed pipe throughout our home.


I love the calm that a properly maintained aquarium gives to a home.  The aquarium at this point was still cycling.  I attempted a fish-less cycle.

5 Complete2

The lighting was almost perfect.  But because the 30in light was shorter than the 48in tank, it left the sides relatively dark.


Here are the two beasts of filtration!  The filter that I bought from craigslist was a piece of junk.  I decide to go with one canister filter and a sponge filter at first.  The sponge filter was relatively noisy, and my in-laws helped me purchase a second canister filter.


I love the glare during the day. The big windows in our loft are a blessing and a curse.


The fish were small, but the tank was still cycling so I added fish slowly.


The two large filters keep the water crystal clear.  Yes, that is a sponge filter.  While the tank was cycling, I left the sponge filter in the tank.  I read somewhere that sponge filters cycle faster than the canister filters.  The fish love the tank, they have even spawned.

Here were the specs at this point.

  • The tank size is 55 gallons.
  • Filtration: 2 SunSun 304b Canister Filters
  • Lighting: 30 Coralife t8 system.
  • Water heating: Via Aqua 300 watt quartz heater.
  • Decorations:  broken tile and landscaping boarders.
  • Substrate: is a 25/75 mix of Carib-sea Crushed Aragonite and Petco brand white sand.

The Aquarium Project Part 4 (Finished yet unfinished)

Jeff delivers!  With time constraints and me getting a little anxious to set up the aquarium, I asked Jeff to deliver the stand unfinished.  Jeff added both vertical and horizontal bracing.  He added a board to the top and creatively added a front door that flipped forward and uses one of the knots as a hidden handle (photo detail to come).  The stand was fully built, but the wood was unstained and unfinished.


It was my job to stain and finish.  As you get to know me, you will find out I love to over-think and over-research.  I’m an introvert that loves to be around people.  When I hear something in conversation that confuses me or I want to understand more about, I am not afraid pause, take out my phone and Google.  My wife hates it.  But that’s how I know a little about of a lot of things.

I wanted to get that natural old wood feel.  There are many sites that explain the process and this, as of right now, is not a “how to” blog.  Some call it a patina, others call it ebonizing, some call it ageing.  But the main ingredients are steel wool, white vinegar, and black tea…so google how to do it.  But this process is not just staining. It causes a chemical reactions to bring out the grain and natural features of the wood. It’s a simple process, I didn’t have to wear gloves and the smell isn’t too bad.

I put my wife to work on this and we had a fun time together.   My wife is my best friend.  We dance to random musicians at bars/restaurants,  go to free shows like “concerts in the park”, host board game nights, go to art walks, basically find random things to do together.  We do our fair share of Netflix Binge watching, but overall we have a very rich and full life. Between the two of us, we completed the staining process in one night.

I’d like to think that the finish on the aquarium stand came out so beautiful because of the careful measuring of chemical ingredients.  Or lots of research combing through all the information that the internet has to offer. But I honestly feel that my wife and I carefully – and not so carefully  – brushing on the mixtures and having fun in the process made it something special.