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How We Drill, Fill, And Circulate Our Discus Hatchery Tanks

by | Oct 22, 2018 | 6 comments

Hi guys, welcome back to the Jack Wattley Discus hatchery. I’m Gabe Posada, this is the tutorial on how to build your own system and Drill Your Aquarium.

The Circulating Water System At The Hatchery

Here we’ve taken Twelve 20 gallon tanks. The racks were made out of aluminum and they were designed specifically for the 20 gallons. This system is a circulating water system that is draining from the tank into a filtration system and then that water gets picked up and brought back up. The way that facilitate the circulating water is by drilling out the tanks on the bottom.

How To Drill Your Aquarium

We’re going to show you how to drill the holes with a specific drill for cutting glass. Some guys will just buy the diamond blades and hold the drill. The problem with that is that if you go off kilter by a little bit, and it’s not the same as a press, you can crack the glass on your tank. It’s very, very easy. Once you get the proper tools, then it’s very simple.

The Bulkhead Fitting

What we’ve done is put a bulkhead fitting in the hole drilled in the bottom of the tank. I’m going to show you how to drill it later in the tutorial. Once you have drilled your hole, you need something to put through, this is called a bulkhead fitting and it goes into the drainage portion of our water circulating system.

Adding The Stem Pipe For Overflow

We ad what is called a stem pipe. Stem pipes come in half inch, three quarter and inch and a half. For a 20 gallon tank, three quarters is more than enough space to move the water through the system. The idea that water is going in, but at the same time it’s going over and into the overflow (drain pipe).

Using Custom Irrigation Filters For Breeding

We use these filters so that the discus fish babies don’t get sucked down the overflow. You have to take that into consideration because remember, it’s an open hole so the discus fish babies will disappear. They sense the water running and they go right down. Then all your babies are going to end up in the filter dead, so you want to put something on there, some kind of a mesh or something where you’re going to be able to control them from going down. We use this irrigation pipe as a cover on the overflow.

The Bio Filtration System System At The Discus Hatchery

You need a filter, a wet dry filter or some type of sump filter that’s has all your biological media. You need a pump to return everything. You have your drain underneath which goes back to the sump underneath. Then you have all your return pipe back to the sump filter and wet / dry filter. We use a three quarter inch ball valves for the returns, which is basically the cheapest way of doing it. And then we put up in Venturi fitting on them so that as the water is trickling in, it’s actually creating more oxygen in the water which is a must.

Replaceable Fish Tank System

Since this is a constant circulating system what we did to make it simple if one of the tanks cracks, we have installed a union that is easy to remove. This way, the whole tank comes out and I can put the new tank in its place. This is a little bit more expensive but it is easier to maintain. Some people use vinyl tubing that would need to be re-cut and fitted to the replacement tank.

The Constantly Circulating System Details

Once you figure out the principles of water, water going in and water going out, then it becomes very easy. People ask me “why the water doesn’t overrun?” They don’t overrun because whatever amount of water you’re putting in is going down the drain (overflow) constantly. So you’ve got a constant rotation (circulation) of water.
Now we are going to take you to the breeding section.
We have more space here in the breeding section to show you the return system and filtration. We have a giant wet dry filter on this system and as the water comes in, and I’m going to take the Venturi fitting off, so you can see it. There’s the water going in from the pumps, and as it’s going in, it’s automatically pushing the old water out and it’s going down the drain in the back. We have got them all covered here obviously because those are the breeding section and the babies will get sucked right in. But there is a drain right here so you can see that here on the top layer, instead of going the expensive way with the couplings, we went with a regular vinyl tubing and this is three quarter inch and you could see the nipple is going straight into the return pipe.

Then you’ve got the bulkhead fitting coming down and you could see where this is draining into one giant pipe. This pipe, here’s one on the top tier and there’s one on the bottom tier and they’re both heading in the same direction. And what they end up doing is they empty out into a giant sump, which is nothing more than 150 gallon tank. You can see the bubbles coming in, there’s a pump over on the left hand side, which is now taking all that water that’s accumulating in here and pushing it through the giant biological tower. Now on this one, it’s a wet dry that’s on top and it’s like an air station basically. More air is going in through here and so it’s aerating the water and it’s also removing the ammonia.

It’s coming down and then there’s a second pump that picks it up. Now this is the giant system. You don’t need this many pumps on a normal little system, but there’s a giant pump that does 6,000 gallons an hour that’s now providing all the water that you see running in all 78 tanks.

A Wet / Dry Filtration System

Now we’re going to show you the one with the wet dry. Basically this is the wet dry that we have in that small system upfront. And we also have in the back where we keep the tetras and the rams, same principle water is going over the overflows on all the tanks and coming down into the wet dry. Now we have felt on top to collect all the debris and you could see some of the debris in there, which is creating brown spots on top of the white felt.

The Time-Saving Flow Valve

As the water trickles through, it becomes oxygenated. And also there’s bacteria in here which is converting the ammonium. You need that all right from here, it goes straight back with a pump and it shoots it back into the system. Whenever we do water changes in any of the systems, if you look inside the sumps, you’ll notice there is a flow valve, much like your toilet. So basically when we start draining in the tanks, when we start siphoning out all the poop and uneaten food, these systems, the water level will start to go down. And as the, the flow valve goes down, it automatically starts to fill. You could hear the pumps turning on behind me. It automatically starts to fill. You see the water level coming up, so it’s an automatic system that you set up, you take water out of the tanks and the sump will fill up the tanks.
That’s something you guys should consider so that you don’t have to be shutting off the pump while you’re doing your water changes and then having to turn it back on or filling up tank by tank. This whole system will fill everything up automatically for you and believe you me, this system saves us a lot of time because every single tank that we have in the hatchery, you’ll notice that’s it’s own float valve even if they’re not on a central system. And what ends up happening is once we do our water changes, the system will automatically fill them up for us. That saves us a lot of time and that’s what we want you guys to do is save time

So I hope this tutorial has been good for you guys and if you have any questions, please send them to us. We’ll be happy to reply.

And once again, thank you for coming and joining us at the Jack Wattley Discus hatchery.

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Wattley Discus Admin


  1. Vincent O'Connor

    Outstanding presentation! Thank you.

  2. Leo

    Hi sir…
    I have been wanting to hatch diacus egg without the parents.

    What do i feed the fry after they become free swiming ?

    How do i make it ?

    Thank you for your advise

  3. Hal Handley, Jr. Ph. D.

    Superlative my friend. It answers several adjustments I’ve wanted to make to my big tank and provided me wth the template for expansion!!


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