by Eric Hanneman
The fish hobby is a wonderful and sometimes funny thing. I have spent hundreds of dollars on a new group of fish, with the explicit promise that I would earn it all back and more when the new fish spawned. Most of us know how that usually turns out. But at other times I have gone out of my way to build some piece of equipment or make some homemade remedy to save money, when it would have been cheaper just to go out and buy some product.
I guess I take some satisfaction in building things and being frugal; even if the only person I am fooling is myself. This blog is dedicated to the cheapskate in the corner of all our fish rooms, the little voice that justifies the big purchase over here by focusing on the small savings over there.
In this endeavor there are solutions to any problem, with most of the solutions being no further than the local hardware store. But before we buy anything, let’s talk about the basics.
The first step to creating a fish room is identifying the space. After tanks have proliferated throughout the house, and bucket hauling has been replaced by an automatic water changing system like a python, the next step is usually to consolidate the tanks in one space, maybe leaving one in the family room or some other choice location. The fish room space can be a spare bedroom, a basement, an attached garage, or some building separated from the main house.
The spare bedroom is most commonly available. Just make sure it is on the ground floor. Never put an aquarium on the second floor, for the same reason that you should never put books or electronics underneath an aquarium. This is a sure fire recipe for all the water to leak out of the aquarium, ruining the books, your stereo, or in the case of the second floor aquarium, the ceiling down below.
The basement is a good bet. Being in the ground, the walls will stay around 55F year round, cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Things to look for in a basement are head room and a floor drain. I hate banging my head into things and ducking all the time. Without a floor drain, you might have to use a sump pump, to pump the water from changes into the sewer, and you might spend a lot of money on electricity. For this reason a daylight basement can be very useful. Heating a basement presents less problems than heating a garage or an out building.
To get the maximum bang for your heat dollar, insulation is the way to go, whether in a basement or garage. But moisture is always present in the fish room so it is doubly important to install a vapor barrier between the heated fish room and the insulation. This can be as simple as a plastic sheet. Be sure to tape any seams for as air tight a fit as possible. The reason being, the garage walls in the winter and the basement walls year round, will be cooler than the humid air in the fish room. If you just put up insulation, you trap the cold air against the wall, but still allow moisture access, which can cause precipitation. The vapor barrier keeps the moisture in the room, and out of contact with the cold walls.
Types of Insulation
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