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Completed Filtration Install
Completed Filtration Install

**Important note: I am not a licensed plumber and this plumbing configuration may not meet building codes in your area. Please check your local regulations before taking on a project like this**

Why Add a Whole House Water Filter

The city water in my area is somewhat hard and sometimes has a chemical odor out of the tap, so I installed a whole house filter system to bring down sediment levels. This means we no longer need to keep a brita filter in the fridge for our drinking water, and I know the water going into all of my aquariums has had the heavy sediment removed.

This system is installed in front of my house's water heater. Removing sediment before water reaches the hot water tank reduces buildup inside, which can extend the life of the appliance.

The installation was pretty simple and I'll go over everything I used for the project here.

Supplies

This system uses two Pentek big blue 20" filter housings with a dual stage 50 / 5 micron sediment filter cartridge in front of a radial flow carbon cartridge. All of the filter parts used are listed below:

Sharkbite fittings and PEX tubing made the plumbing really simple. The process was the same as my fish room sink plumbing project (I listed the tools out in that post). The only difference is here I am working with the water supply line before my water heater, so it is 3/4" pipe rather than 1/2".

Mounting the Filter Housings

The first step was to secure a piece of plywood to the wall to support the weight of the lag screws that hold up the filter brackets. I used wood screws to attach the wood to the studs behind the drywall. Then I used 1/4" x 1" stainless lag screws and washers to attach the filter brackets to the wood. I tied the two housing tops together with a section of PEX before mounting them so that they would be level with each other on the wall.

Filter housings mounted to wall
Filter housings mounted to wall

With the housings mounted, all I had to do was plumb the system into the cold water line coming into the fish room.

Plumbing

Its important to "dry fit" all of your connections before making the pinch clamp connections, in case you need to make changes. Once a piece of PEX is clamped onto a fitting, its difficult (though not impossible) to remove. A 10 foot stick of PEX tubing is cheaper than a brass fitting, so cutting a new piece while testing out your configuration isn't a big deal.

Making a pinch clamp connection
Making a pinch clamp connection

My system has a bypass line with a ball valve above the filter housings so that I can shut off the flow to the filters. Without a bypass, changing the filters would require shutting off the water to the entire house. There is also a ball valve on either side of the filters so that they can be entirely isolated. Water will still flow to all of the downstream fixtures while I change the cartridges.

Sketch out your fish room plumbing before you start
Sketch out your plumbing before you start

I recommend drawing out your plan on paper before you start making connections. This should include the direction of flow through the system. The handle of a ball valve in the open position should point in the direction of water flow. The picture above shows all 3 valves open, but the bypass valve at the top remains closed while the filters are in use.

After I finished the bypass plumbing, I extended the PEX lines up to the ceiling to join with my cold water supply. I made the connection to the copper pipe using a 3/4" sharkbite fitting on both ends of the system.

3/4" Sharkbite Connection
3/4" Sharkbite Connection

This project took me a few days because I took my time figuring out where I wanted to tap into my existing pipes, but the actual plumbing could be completed in an afternoon if you have it planned out. Based on my usage the filter cartridges should last somewhere between 3-6 months. So I should only have to touch the system a few times a year.

Finished Plumbing
Finished Plumbing

hardscaped 90 gallon
hardscaped 90 gallon
hardscaped 90 gallon
hardscaped 90 gallon

This 90 gallon aquarium has been in the works for a couple months now between other fish room projects. I posted about the sump I built for it last week as well as how I drilled the overflow. I finally have the background, substrate and hardscape in place and I'm getting ready to add fish.

The 3d background in this aquarium is from YourFishStuff. Its a thick silicone material that is coated in crushed rock, so it has a realistic texture and real depth to it. I cut it to fit around my overflow box, and it is held in place by the substrate and a couple of clips at the top of the tank. I'm really impressed with this background and very glad I went for it instead of painting the back of the aquarium black like I usually would. YourFishStuff sells these in a variety of standard tank sizes and the price is very competitive, especially for the quality of the product.

Hardscape in place

The sand substrate is Caribsea Super Naturals Sunset Gold. I got both the substrate and the spider wood on amazon. My first choice is always to support local aquarium stores but none in my area carried this particular sand or large pieces of spider wood.

marked down aquarium plants

I scored some nice big anubias and an El Nino Fern at a 75% discount. I covered how I find cheap aquarium plants in a little more detail in this post. I used super glue gel to attach the anubias to a piece of spider wood. Eventually I plan to have this tank heavily planted, so I'll add more plants over time.

Spider wood with anubias
Spider wood with anubias

The rock I used is 40 lbs of landscaping river rock that I got at Home Depot for $12. Its a little more colorful than I had envisioned but once it grows some algae and the tank is densely planted it should look more natural.

river rock
river rock

I'll post further updates on this aquarium when it's fully planted and stocked with fish. If you want to see more of my fish room on a regular basis follow me on Instagram.


two planted 10 gallons
two planted 10 gallons

These two tanks sit on the bottom shelf of my DIY aquarium rack. They are standard aqueon 10 gallon aquariums, but they are positioned with the short sides in the front and back. I've never set up aquariums in this configuration, but I knew it would work really well with how I wanted to drill them. It's also an interesting layout to try to aquascape.

Plumbing

These tanks are drilled with an overflow in the back, which flows out to the main drain stack for the room. See this post for info on how I drilled the glass and this post for the drain system build.

The overflow allows water changes to be done by just adding new water to the tank. Eventually this will be accomplished through an automated drip system operating on a timer. For now I'm doing water changes using my python hook, which makes filling tanks really easy.

filling with python hook
filling with python hook

Filtration

hamburg matten filter

I used hamburg matten filters in these aquariums to hide the overflows and heater at the back of the tank. Matten filters provide a ton of surface area for biological filtration and are excellent for keeping shrimp and small fish away from an overflow. The filter is a thick foam sponge cut to the dimensions of the aquarium, with a hole for a PVC lift tube to fit through.

matten filter installed

The lift tube uses air to pull water up from the bottom of the tank behind the sponge and out the tube in the front. This pulls water through the sponge to the back, trapping debris in the sponge and feeding the beneficial bacteria. The foam sponge also provides a great surface for shrimp to graze on biofilm. I got these matten filters from Flip Aquatics.

Lighting

The lights for these aquariums are 20 watt LED floodlights. I am keeping mostly anubias in these tanks so I went with a cheap lighting option since I only need low light. The lights currently sit directly on top of my DIY glass lids. Two of these LED lights only cost me $22.

LED flood lights
LED flood lights

Stocking

Shrimp Tank

cherry shrimp on anubias
cherry shrimp on anubias

The tank on the left is home to a colony of red cherry shrimp I've had breeding for a long time. I may add a small group of nano fish like celestial pearl danios or white cloud mountain minnows later, probably after the auto water change system is complete.

cherry shrimp tank
cherry shrimp tank

I set this tank up with Fluval Stratum because it is marketed as a shrimp friendly substrate. So far I have been happy with it, although it does require a thorough rinse before you dump into an aquarium. I do like that it has a nice uniform grain size and shape. The substrate is larger than sand but smaller and lighter than most types of gravel.

fluval stratum
fluval stratum

Betta Tank

The other tank is home to my male betta. He is alone except for some ramshorn snails. I tried adding some cherry shrimp to his tank, but he hunted them all down and ate them within a day. In the betta tank I used a combination of white sand and white gravel. I like the combination better than using either sand or gravel alone.

betta tank
betta tank

Plants

Both tanks were scaped with easy low light plants.

Shrimp Tank

driftwood with anubias
driftwood with anubias

In the shrimp tank I used a single large piece of malaysian driftwood as the only hardscape. I attached to that two anubias nana rhyzomes and another large anubias that I've had for a long time. I used zipties for the larger two rhyzomes, and the smallest one is tucked into an opening in the driftwood. Once the roots attach themselves to the wood, the ties can be removed.

driftwood in shrimp tank
driftwood in shrimp tank

Betta Tank

betta tank layout
betta tank layout

In the back of the betta's tank there's a wall of rotala rotundifolia, which is a stem plant that should grow thick if its trimmed regularly. This plant will grow quickly under high light, especially with CO2, but it does fine in a low tech setup.

large anubias rhyzome
large anubias rhyzome

I also included two large anubias rhizomes attached to pieces of malaysian driftwood. The anubias plant in the back has been growing on the same piece of wood for several months. The one toward the front is over a year old, and was ziptied to the driftwood. Zip ties were easier than super glue and can be easily snipped off later if I want to make a change.

Finally I have a small cryptocoryne wendtii in the foreground. This plant has some nice red shades in its leaves and grows differently under different lighting conditions. If it does well here I will probably add more crypts to both of these 10 gallon tanks.