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With the filter finished, it was time for the finishing touches: Filter Materials, Tubing and Testing.

Filter Materials:
As mentioned I want to use ceramic rings in the middle section of the filter. I do want to change/wash them every once in a while so easy removal is key. I used a new (mind the detergents in used ones) bag that we normally use to wash delicate laundry. I put in in the filter and slowly filled up the bag with rings. I cut off the remaining piece of the bag, as it was too large to fit in the filter completely. The result:

Intermediate step: 
I wanted to have a black backside in the aquarium. I purchased black foil and specialized glue at the pet store. See the result below, which I'm quite fond off.


With two 90 degree corner pieces and some standard tubing (that I knew would fit the pump!) I created the tubing upward out of the innermost filterchamber and via a 90 degree turn to a horizontal piece. The last 90 degree turn then guides the water to the outflow. I created the outflow from a piece of PVC that I had lying around. I shopped the internet beforehand, but only found expensive outflows for either original filters or lily pipes. The latter is nicer, but expensive. I simply cut the pipe, poured hot water over it, bend it in a 110 degree corner and flattened it. I then attached it to the tubing. The end result:

Note that I bent two small pieces of plastic to form attachment clips of the filter to the tank. Easy does it!

I then filled up the tank with soil in order for the filter to remain in place and water. I tested the filter and checked it regularly. As you become used to it not leaking or malfunctioning, you automatically check less frequently. I checked water quality using a 7-test strip and kept this running for about two weeks. 

Next up will be planting the tank.
All parts were in, ready for assembly. Take your time if you're planning for an activity like this; it's not over and done with in a rush. The end result is nicer if you plan carefully and take the time to work with the materials. 

First I drew out the acrylic parts on the acrylic. It has got protective foil attached. Leave it on there and you can use it to draw your lines with a normal pen. I then attached painting-tape to prevent the glass from breaking while cutting/sawing it in shape. I decided to go for the latter with an old, small-toothed saw. This is what it looks like:

The pictures above show the upstanding sides of the filter. I also created two squares to form the base. The two are to be glued on top of each other to form a solid base. The lower plate is slightly smaller, to allow for the silicone glue in the sides of the tank to stay intact.

I then used sanding paper to make the edges nice and even. I also created the overflows in the smallest of the upstanding parts. Note that you need to cut out the overflows quite deep, as otherwise the waterlevel will need to be fairly high for the filter to start working!!! (one of my pitfalls...)

I removed the protective foil and used a 'creme-brulee torch' we had lying around, the edge of an old table and a piece of spare wood to bend the sides in a 90 degree angle (along the table, flattened with the wood as the plastic becomes hot). The end result, already in combination with the base and the pump (for illustration purposes) is shown on the right:

As mentioned I used special purpose silicone kit to glue the sides and the bases together. This is a slow process and an ugly result - unless you're really good with this stuff. For future attempts I would prefer to spend a little more and buy 'welding-liquids'. These melt the plastic locally and 'weld' it together. The result is much cleaner and stronger.

I then cut the old cable guides to fit and glued them on the sides to hold the mat. I also used a spare piece of plastic to bend in form of the mat that is intended to keep the soil away from the filtermat for easier cleaning/removing. I then cut the mat in shape (calculations make this easy) and inserted it into the cable guides. A last photo before testing is shown in the pictures below:

The final test is to put the filter into the tank. Luckily I had done my calculations correctly and the filter exactly matches the tank. See the picture below. 

The next post will cover the tubing, installation and testing


HMF Building Plan

I had read a lot about the Hamburger Matten Filter - from hereon referred to as HMF. The HMF is said to:

  • Be a cheap filter to install
  • Create a (very) large filtering surface for (good) filtering bacteria to do their work and therefore function better than the average internal filter
  • Give you room for CO2 and Heating to be hidden in the filter
  • Not take up room outside the tank (one of my favorites)
  • Give opportunity for experimenting with aesthetics
  • Be big fun in combination with shrimps as the low water flow and filter bacteria give them plenty of surface to graze
Some of the things I personally found to be a downside were:
  • In a typical HMF, there is just one filter chamber. In typical external canister filters, there are 2 or 3 chambers
  • You have to build it yourself to create an optimal filter. That means having to glue inside your tank and thereby devaluing it a bit
  • There is no easy way to change the filtermat, even if it only needs to be changed once a year
This is the design I figured out in order to overcome these downsides.

As can be seen from the plan, there is a second chamber behind the filter-mat that contains ceramic rings that are normally found in cannister filters. The third room, the inner-most room of the quarter-circle design, contains the pump and can contain other equipment or additional filter materials. As can be seen I've modeled overflows to the final chamber.

It was my specific intention to build the filter in a 'closed' format, i.e. the chambers are closed and the filter can be placed in the corner of any tank without having to glue anything. The water pressure and weight of the soil should, in combination with the enlarged footplate, keep the filter in place.

I also included a curved 'barrier'  for the soil to be put up against. This doesn't touch the filter, So I can exchange the mat without having to move the soil.

Using the information on, it was easy to calculate if the filter I was about to build would obey the laws of building a good HMF:

  • a 10cm radius, and a height of 30cm (the height of the tank), would provide a filtering surface of h x w = 30 x w = 30 x (1/4 x outline) = 30 x (1/4 x Pi x radius) = 150 x Pi ~ 471 cm2
  • the pump capacity of the pump I ordered was 250 l/h. That brings the flow-rate to (250 x 60 x 1000)/471 = 8,87 cm/min. This is right about what it should be  -- again I used the formula on
    • In fact: I used the other formula for Q to find the minimum and maximum pump capacity that would drive me to the minimum and maximum flow-rate described. That brought me to a pump capacity varying between 140 and 340 l/h. I settled in the middle. 

This all felt good and I finished a shopping list:
  • Filter material (I used filter mat for pond-filters bought at a gardening center -- Intratuin)
    • The mat measures 120 x 60 x 2 cm, which is plenty of surface for the filter I designed
  • Lycra (I used 2mm thick material bought at the local DIY store)
    • The glas measures 120 x 60 x 0.2 cm. In hindsight, Plexiglas would be the better choice as it is better to be used in combination with adhesives and withstands heat better.
  • Tubing (1 meter at the aquariumstore (Heems))
  • 90 degree angles for tubing (2) (Heems as well)
  • Two suction cups to fix the tubing to the side of the tank (Heems as well)
  • Silicone Kit for use in aquaria (Finally found it at the hardware store: Gamma)
    • Shrimps are sensitive to chemicals, don't use regular kits!
  • Two cable chuts I had lying around will be used to clamp/fix the mat
    • I only use the part normally fixed to the wall. It is exactly fit to push the mat into
So, I finished shopping. The next post will be about the building process, along with pitfalls that I encountered.


Where it started

It all started with a birthday gift from my brother: a 10 liter Dennere Nano Cube. It is a really nice tank with all the things you need as a starter. I equipped it with some real plants -- instead of the plastic ones that came with it -- as well as some guppies. 

The guppies in the 10l tank
That all worked really nicely. We must have had the fish for more almost a year after they started 'leaving' us. As one of the guppies was definitely more dominant than the rest, he was the last to remain. Solitude didn't bring him happiness either as a short while later he left us as well...

All that being sad and all, it was time for some in-depth investigation as to how the perfect tank should look like and how I could bring maintenance time down a bit. The 10 liter tank takes up a fair amount of time as it is difficult to control algae. 

By now it was a year later so my brother gave me two books for starting aquarium enthusiasts for my next birthday. They were:

As you understand, putting shrimps in the aquarium was his advice for keeping algae under control. He also found it a low maintenance inhabitant that supplied a lot of entertainment.

In reading the books I soon found out that larger tanks take less time than small tanks since there is a more balanced environment in larger tanks. The tank thus was to become larger, but not larger than 35 liters due to spacing restrictions and my personal beliefs with regards to interior design. That sounded like an upgrade, which meant a whole new range of options and decisions. 

I didn't like the 20 and 30 liter Dennerle cubes, as their shape becomes a bit too bulky in these dimensions. I did some thorough searching on the internet and stumbled onto the tanks made by Aquatic Nature. Both the tanks in the 'Cocoon' series and the 'Evolution' tank had my attention. There are some alternatives, but they didn't seem to have the same quality standard after reading various reviews. 

Next choice to make: the fully featured, nicely built, but expensive Evolution? The cheaper Cocoon nr. 6 (7 is too big for me)?? Or a DIY alternative???

The Evolution soon quit the shortlist, as my girlfriend thought it looked like a deep frier. I then found a small company in the Netherlands that supplied the Cocoon in a tank-only delivery -- thus no filter & light. An ideal solution for me, as it brings the tank with the nicely rounded edges (as compared to squared glued edges of a DIY tank) as well as the freedom to experiment with the filter that was advised in the two books I had read: the Hamburger Matten Filter -- or short HMF. The link to shows you all the details!

I ordered the tank, as well as a LED light fixture from Superfish and a Aquapower 300 pump from Superfish. I am always conscious when it comes to energy usage, and both the LED light and the 3 Watt pump are the obvious choices in that case. 

I also sold the old tank on (eBay). I've attached the promotional pictures at the bottom for the curious folks.

Time had come to wait for delivery and start to make a building plan for the filter up front.


It has already been a while since I got the idea of upgrading my 10 liter Dennerle Nano cube to a bigger and more sophisticated tank that was better suited for shrimps and easier to maintain. It has also been quite a while since I started to draft the ideas for it and implemented it. It has even been a while since I started the tank.

Ever since I started searching for more information though, I found there was too little of it available for the specific tank I was about to build. Therefore I have carefully noted my findings during the selection of parts, suppliers and DIY actions in order to share them with other interested folks around the globe.

As you probably understand by now, I finally got myself to publishing my findings on this blog. It will be filled with a step-by-step description of how I chose, built and selected my nano shrimp-tank as well as my experiences along the way of keeping it in shape. It will be on a chronological basis, although it will not be timed correctly due to my late start.

I hope the information provided is useful for you. I sincerely believe that the more information becomes available, the easier it will become for shrimp- and nano-aquarium enthusiasts to practice their hobbies. Therefore I hope that if you have question or a comment, you feel free to post it to me personally or directly on the related blog.

Best regards,