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I went through several central air pump setups before finding one that I think is perfect for any fish room with 10+ tanks.

The Perfect Central Air Pump for Fish Rooms With 10+ Aquariums

Jehmco LPH26 Linear Piston Air Pump
Jehmco LPH26 Linear Piston Air Pump

The majority of my aquariums run on sponge filters. A central air driven sponge filter system becomes a necessity when you start keeping double digit numbers of aquariums. Sponge filters require less maintenance than other forms of filtration, and a linear piston central air pump uses less electricity than running a hang on back filter on 10+ tanks. I went through several air pump setups before finding one that I think is perfect for any fish room with 10+ tanks.

Fry Tanks with Air-Driven Matten Filters
Fry Tanks with Air-Driven Matten Filters

The air pump driving my central air system is a Jehmco LPH26, the smallest in Jehmco.com's line of linear piston central air pumps.

(I do not make any commission from Jehmco for recommending their products - I genuinely believe they are the best source for your central air system. Their website isn't very good by modern standards, but you can call and speak to a real human person right away.)

Linear piston air pumps are pricey - they start at almost $200 - but they're one of the best investments you can make in your fish room. Compare the cost of a central air pump and several sponge filters to buying the same number of hang on back filters. For 10 aquariums around 20 gallons each you would spend well over $300 on Aquaclear filters. The more aquariums you have, the more efficient a central air system becomes.

Super Quiet Air Pump

Before I got the LPH26, I bought a cheaper ($70) generic brand diaphragm air pump. It put out enough air for my needs, but it ran very loud and very hot. Over time it got louder and the output was less consistent. After about 6 months the noise coming from this cheap pump got so loud it was unbearable to stand near it. I never wanted to hang out in my fish room because of the constant noise.

My Jehmco LPH26 runs SILENT. Even standing with your head a couple feet away from it, you can barely tell its running. The sound of the bubbles hitting the surface in the aquariums is actually louder than the pump itself. My fish room is so much quieter, which makes it so much more enjoyable to spend time in there.

Sponge Filter
Sponge Filter

Planning a Central Fish Room Air System

I highly recommend calling Jehmco and talking to them about what you need to setup your air system. I went with one of their pre-assembled air manifolds so that I wouldn't have to spend any time drilling PVC and leak-testing valves. They sent me a pre-cut length of braided tubing with all of the fittings included to connect the pump to the manifold. I didn't have to make any trips to the hardware store to get this system installed.

Air Manifold
Air Manifold With Bleed Valve and Silencer

I used a label maker to label each output valve on my manifold. This isn't a necessary step but it makes adjusting the flow to each aquarium much easier.

Right now I'm using 11 out of 12 outputs on the manifold. The LPH26 is rated for around 20 outputs, depending on water depth, how you set your valves, etc. A bleed valve with a silencer lets me bleed off the extra air output to avoid burning up the pump. This leaves extra capacity to potentially add another rack of tanks to the same air system at a later date.

If you need your air outlets spaced further apart, you can simply run a PVC loop around the perimeter of the room. You can then drill holes in the PVC and press in an air valve wherever you need one.

In addition to a central air pump and manifold, you'll probably want to have a few other supplies in bulk. Obviously this project will require a good size roll of airline tubing. And it doesn't hurt to have some air valves mounted closer to the output of each line for fine adjustments. It might make sense to buy a bulk pack of air stones and/or sponge filters as well.

Placement for a Central Fish Room Air Pump

The air pump and manifold should be mounted above the water level of your aquariums. I've seen some people build a small shelf up in a corner for their linear piston pump. I was able to place mine in a space above the ceiling of an adjoining room's storage area. The manifold is mounted to the floor joist above my middle rack of tanks.

With the whole air system mounted above the highest water level, there is no need for airline check valves. Even if the pump dies or power goes out, water can't siphon higher than the level of the aquariums.

Manifold Mounted Above Aquariums
Manifold Mounted Above Aquariums

If you are planning a fish room build or already run 10 or more aquariums, the investment in a Jehmco linear piston central air pump is well worth the cost.

Running a fishroom can be a lot of work, especially once your number of aquariums crosses into double digit territory. These gadgets are things I use at least weekly and consider an integral part of running my fish room.

Running a fish room can be a lot of work, especially once your number of aquariums crosses into double digit territory. These gadgets are things I use at least weekly and consider an integral part of running my fish room. Most of them are not sold for aquariums and may surprise you!

#1: Specimen Container

Specimen Container
Specimen Container

The clear specimen container might just look like a plastic box - and it is - but it is one of the most useful investments you can make for a fishroom. These containers are perfect for moving fish between tanks, bagging fish to sell, drip acclimating fish, and a lot more. Look for a design that hangs on the side of an aquarium - Lee's is the best widely available brand.

#2: Magnifying Glass

Magnifying Glass
Magnifying Glass

This may be a weird item to see on a fishroom list. I use a magnifying glass all the time in my fishroom. Some of the things you may want to get a closer look at: fish eggs and fry, sick fish, shrimp and snails, tiny organisms like infusoria, copepods, artemia, planaria, etc. If youre a fish nerd youll want to have one handy.

#3: Infrared Thermometer

Infrared Thermometer
Infrared Thermometer

A handheld infrared thermometer is very useful for checking temperature on your aquariums. You should have a thermometer in each tank, but it is super helpful to be able to verify the readings. The handheld thermometer can also be used for a quick temp check on a brine shrimp hatchery, or a bag of fish you just brought home.

#4: Measuring Spoons

Measuring Spoons
Measuring Spoons

Yes, measuring spoons. In order to maintain "domestic tranquility", you'll want to have a dedicated set of measuring spoons for your fishroom. I use these to measure out seachem safe, brine shrimp eggs, aquarium salt, medications, powdered additives, etc. It's helpful to have a small set and a larger set so you can always do quick measurements (and avoid doing math).

#5: A flashlight

Flashlights
Flashlights

A good flashlight can be really helpful in the fishroom. You can use it to spot plecos hiding in their caves. You can check on fish after lights out without messing with timers. A flashlight is also an easy source of light for harvesting brine shrimp. If you watch a lot of fishroom tour videos, youve probably seen a breeder walk through his fishroom with a flashlight in hand.

#6: The Turkey Baster!

Turkey Baster
Turkey Baster

A turkey baster is another kitchen implement that is invaluable in the fishroom. Like the measuring spoons, its best to have one that is just used for fish stuff. I use a turkey baster every day for feeding live and frozen foods. They're also good for catching and moving very small fry. A trick that is popular among aquascapers is using the baster to "squirt" water into plants and gravel to stir up debris during maintenance.

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Completed DIY Rack
Completed DIY Rack

This rack is designed to hold two 29 gallon aquariums. It was built using 2x4 pine studs, wood screws, and steel corner brackets. The total cost was less than $50, and the only tools required are a saw and a drill.

Design

I created a 3D model of this rack using SketchUp before I started building so I could check all of the dimensions. A 29 gallon tank measures 30 1/4" Long x 12 1/2" Wide x 18 3/4" High. Note that 20 gallon "long" tanks have the same footprint, but are 6" shorter in height, therefore this rack design also works for 20 longs. Its important to make sure you will have adequate space between tanks when designing a multi-level aquarium rack. This design allows roughly 7" of space between the lower tank and the top shelf.

Building

I cut the 2x4 studs to size using a Dewalt miter saw. The only lengths needed for this rack are 53", 31", and 11". The sketch above shows how they all fit together. I sanded all of the pieces at this stage so that every surface was smooth.

2x4 Cuts
2x4 Cuts

I assembled the shelves by placing the 11" sections on the inside edges of the 31" sections, and securing with 2.5" wood screws. I always drill pilot holes before driving a screw into a stud.

Assembled Shelf
Assembled Shelf

I  stained the shelves and the uprights before connecting them all together. Then I assembled the rack in its designated position in my fish room starting from the floor.

Testing the New Rack
Testing the New Rack

To prevent the weight of the aquariums from putting too much stress on the wood screws, I added steel brackets under all 4 corners of both shelves. This design would probably not support a larger aquarium, but a filled 29 gallon weighs only 330-350 pounds. Each #8 wood screw has a shear strength of about 100 pounds. I used 8 to secure each shelf to the uprights, plus the additional supporting brackets, just to be safe.

**Disclaimer: Do your own math - I'm not responsible for any damage caused by this design failing in your application**

Steel Corner Support Brackets
Steel Corner Support Brackets

These brackets were less than $2 a piece at a home improvement store. They are secured with 3/4" metal-to-wood lath screws.

Final Setup

Currently this rack holds a 20 gallon long fry tank and a 29 gallon planted tank. Although it was designed to hold two 29's, I already had the 20 and decided it would make a good growout for my Endler fry.

Filled Tanks on the Finished Rack
Filled Tanks on the Finished Rack

See my other DIY rack design here.