60g Tropical Aquarium

60g Tropical Aquarium
60g Tropical Aquarium

I have been thinking a lot recently about my reef aquarium and why I initially started the setup. As you may know a while ago I started a small 12g freshwater tank for my kid, with lots of plants and some tetras and a siamese fighter. For some reason the green colour and for lack of a better word - the "pace" of the tank - was just very calming. I started doing more research and visited a couple of the better freshwater aquarium shops in the vicinity. The more I looked at planted tanks the more I became hooked.

Most people start out with fresh (technically I did too as a young child) and then migrate to reef as and when budget allows. However very few people go back to planted aquariums. I am one of those exceptions. I tore down the 90g v2 tank, and sold pretty much everything off to fund the new tank. Yes - the new tank being a 60g tropical aquarium.

My major gripes with the reef tank were:

  1. It generated way too much heat. In the summer it was unbearable. Two 250W metal halides and a chiller and pumps generate a lot of heat if you do not have great ventilation in your house.
  2. It was extremely noisy - even though I did everything to keep it as quiet as possible (top quality skimmer, pumps, etc.), it is still inherently noisy due to the amount of equipment needed. The chiller - though it worked great - was just too much. After 4 years of listening to that thing turn on several times a day during the warmer months of the year I knew something had to be done. And no, fans did not help.
  3. I got bored. The tank was almost 3 years old. Everything had matured to a point where very little growth occurred after year 2. Looking at an unchanging setup got a bit monotonous. Also, not that I am an expert, but I achieved what I set out to - I managed to keep a reef aquarium alive and thriving for almost 3 years with no algae growth and no excess nutrients. My fish were as healthy as fish can possibly be. So the challenge ended...

The new tank has to:

  1. Be unobtrusive and not generate excess heat.
  2. Be quiet - very quiet.
  3. Be a learning curve - it must challenge me and be dynamic.

Below are some details on the tank build. This is the final result:

60g Tropical Aquarium
60g Tropical Aquarium Final Build


The main tank is a 60g (232L) Fluval tank that came bundled with canopy and hood, 4 x 24W T5's, a heater and a canister filter. The dimensions are (W x D x H): 85 x 48 x 65 cm (33 x 18.75 x 25.5 in). This is a deep tank, which looks nice but it is a pain to maintain and get enough light to the bottom. I do not always think my purchases through. This came as a discounted kit, and I did not think further than my appetite was wet. Even before I hooked up the Fluval canister filter I could tell that it would not cope with a heavily planted / stocked aquarium. It was undersized. The heater that came with the unit did not heat the water reliably and could not keep up with my target of 26.5C. Then there are the 4 x 24W T5's built in to the canopy. While beautifully quiet, these were just not sufficient to reach enough corders of the tank for anything but low light plants. That being said, the tank is nicely built (no ADA but still well built and neat).

So I went on a mission to replace these components. I'll elaborate in the sections below on the components I ended up getting.

Mechanical Filtration

An Eheim Professional 3 Electronic 2076 Canister Filter replaced the stock Fluval 205. This filter has three to four times the amount of media, much better flow rates and better build quality. The one thing that stands out for me is how quiet the unit is. I cannot hear anything even if I press my ear against it. Remember - this tank was designed to be zen. It had to be ultra quiet.

Eheim Professional 3 Electronic 2076 Canister Filter
Eheim Professional 3 Electronic 2076 Canister Filter

Chemical Filtration

There is no chemical filtration as the Eheim has no room for GAC.

Biological Filtration

See the section on Mechanical filtration. The Eheim is filled with Eheim EHFI Substrat PRO and Eheim EHFI Mech filter media.


A trusty Eheim Jager 300W taken from my now dismantled reef tank replaced the Fluval 200W heater. It is reliable and works like a champ. I have no cooling due to the following reasons:
1. The tank does not have significant heat sources 2. The base temperature is set at 26.5C which is already high - most of the time I am concerned about heating more so than cooling. My reef ran at a cooler 25.5 - 27C. 3. I do believe the tank can sustain higher temperatures than the reef.

Eheim Jager 300W
Eheim Jager 300W


A 5lbs bottle filled with CO2 coupled with an ADA regulator, a Do!aqua bubble counter and a Do!aqua music glass diffuser provides the CO2 supply to the tank. Right now it is set to 4 bubbles per second. I had a Milwaukee unit with solenoid before the ADA, but it was horribly inconsistent and regularly popped the CO2 tubing from the diffuser due to higher pressures suddenly being released.


The Eheim canister filter is the sole source of flow in the tank. This is really getting used to - the reduced flow requirements when compared to a reef aquarium. It is currently set to automatic flow mode.


As I said, the 4 x 24W T5HO built in lights were not sufficient. I replaced them with 2 x Kessel 150W Amazon units, which I returned the same day. These lights were not stronger than the 4x 24W T5HO and they were extremely noisy. The fans were louder than anything else in my home. So they had to go back. I eventually replaced the built in canopy and lights with an Aqua Medic Ocean Light T5 Light Fixture (36 Inch - 8 x 39 Watt). This unit is suspended from the ceiling, the canopy has been removed and it is set on a timer to turn 4 tubes on between 10:00 and 20:00, and the other four between 12:00 and 16:00. The length of the 39W tube covers the aquarium width exactly, and the output seems to be sufficient. The lights have two tiny fans that only comes on when all 8 tubes are on, but these are whisper quiet.

At night I have the row of blue LEDs come on for a moon light effect.

All my plants except the hair grass have responded really well to the new light fixture.

Aqua Medic Ocean Light T5 Light Fixture 36 Inch - 8 x 39 Watt
Aqua Medic Ocean Light T5 Light Fixture 36 Inch - 8 x 39 Watt


The intent of this aquarium was to be simple. I therefore settled on a Digital Aquatics Reefkeeper Lite aquarium controller to handle temperature / heater, lights and the (future) CO2 solenoid. It is a cheap unit that seems to work well, it is easy to program and can expand should I want to.

Digital Aquatics Reefkeeper Lite
Digital Aquatics Reefkeeper Lite


I made a deep gravel bed from EcoComplete. In hindsight, although easy to work with, I would have much rather gone with the ADA based substrate or even what we used in my daughter's tank - Seachem's Fluorite Black.

Water Parameters

Measured: 29 Dec '13

Ammonia - NH3+NH40
Nitrite - NO2-0
Nitrate - NO3-0
Phosphate - P0


Right now I am feeding frozen blood worms and daphnia alternated with sinking wafer pellets. I am going to add brine shrimp, mysis and possibly frozen tubifex worms if I can find some. Feeding is once a day.

Maintenance / Supplements

Still undecided on this. Right now I have done a weekly water change, followed by a bi-weekly water change. I'll most likely settle on 33% bi-weekly water changes just due to the size of the drum I have for mixing new water. Speaking of which, I use RO/DI water remineralized with Seachem's Equilibrium to get to 5.6dKH, and the Alkalinity and Acid buffers at 4.4dKH and a ratio of 1 : 1.3 (Acid : Alkaline). I add no fertilizer to this mix.

I am trying out the PPS-Pro method of dosing. I have therefore prepared this mixture which I dose 6ml every day, and between 1 and 2ml of Seachem's Flourish.

Update: I stopped with the PPS-Pro method as it fuelled the growth of micro algae just as much as the plants. Once I stopped and just used Flourish, the micro algae started dying away and now I only have to clean the glass panels once every 2 weeks. I am trying out dosing 6ml of PPS-Pro fertilizer once every week.

Power Backup

The APC SMX750 UPS with one extended battery pack is on standby but not yet connected as I could not find room for it. It can keep the Eheim canister filter going for at least 24 hours.