Sunday, February 10, 2013

How To Build a Complete Jellyfish Breeding System

It is long overdue for me to present a guide on building a jellyfish breeding system. I've mentioned my own several times in past posts. For the longest time I could not figure out how to build one properly. After a few tries/failures and help from other jelly keepers, I got it down.

The whole system is fairly simple in parts. I will go more into depth on the parts throughout the guide. I used,

(2) Plastic storage bins with lids. 3-5 gallons
(1) Large and low storage bin.
(1) Three cabinet plastic organizer shelf.
5ft of 1 inch PVC piping
5ft of flexible tubing that will fit your powerhead of choice.
(4) 90 degree PVC connectors
(2) 1 inch bulkheads
(1) 150 micron nylon screen mesh (Aquatic Eco Systems)
(1) Powerhead pump (the variety depends on how far away your sump is from your tanks, more on that later)
(1) Stand or surface to put your tanks on, with room under to add the sump.
A few bottles of aquarium safe silicone.
Lots of filter media with high surface area (Bio balls, plastic pot scrubbers, etc)
(1) Filter floss pad
(1) Valve for powerhead. (I used a 1/2 CPVC valve and two sections of CPVC tubing to hook it up directly to the flexible tubing. You can also buy various other valves and appropriate fittings that better fit your set up.

Optional-
Heater
Chiller
Additional filter


Key components of the system

  • Polyp Tank- This is the first tank in the system. Polyps are grown and kept in this tank. Water comes in from one side of the tank and drains into the ephyra tank on the other end. Ephyra that are created by the polyps will drain away into the ephyra tank, automatically. 
  • Ephyra Tank- This is the second tank, and receives water from the polyp tank. Ephyra drain off into the tank when they are produced. Water from the polyp tank produces the flow necessary to keep your ephyra up and moving around. A screen is glued in the ephyra tank so that the ephyra stay in their tank. Past the screen is a drain that leads to the filter and sump. 
  • Filter/sump area- Water will drain from the ephyra tank, and is then allowed to drain over a wet dry filter. The filter sits directly in the sump, or tank under the main system, and water will drain right into it. The sump is there to hold all of the pumps, heaters, chillers or other filters desired. A powerhead will pump water back up to the polyp tank. 
Below is a rough schematic of the system. The polyp tank is first, then drains into the ephyra tank. The ephyra tank then drains below into the wet dry filter and sump. Note the fact that the polyp tank is slightly raised so it is able to overflow. The return pump in the sump is also not pictured here. 
*I must give credit to Wyatt Patry, who works with jellyfish husbandry at the Monterrey Bay Aquarium, for presenting a blog article on how to make an ephyra catch tank. http://www.jellyfishaquarist.com/diy-jelly-tank/

Step 1- Assemble the polyp tank. Take one plastic container and drill a hole at one end with and appropriate size for your bulkhead. The containers are generally rectangular. I find that your bulkhead goes best at the short ends that are long ways down from one another. The location of your bulkhead is key, as it marks your water level in the tank. Mine was placed about an inch to and inch and a half from the top. Put the bulkhead in. The side with the rubber seal goes inside. Tighten the bulkhead snug, but not too tight. This should definitely be water tight, but some silicone never hurt. Your polyp tank is done, for now. 

Step 2- Assemble the ephyra tank. Start off by doing the same process as you did with your polyp tank. You want a bulkhead drilled at one end, same height as the one in the polyp tank. Now you will need to glue in your screen. The nylon screen purchased, generally comes in a much larger quantity than needed, so you will need to cut a section off. Ideally, you want your screen to go from one side of your tank to the other, and have a slight curve to it, with the curve pointing towards the drain. The curve helps increase surface area, and causes less suction on the screen. Once you have measured out and cut your section of screen, you will want to silicone the tank. Run a line of silicone up both sides of where your screen will be glued. Take a piece or ice or dip your finger in water and run it along the silicone line to flatten it. Set the screen in place so that the bottom of the screen touches the bottom of the tank. Push the screen along the flattened silicone. Now run a second line of silicone along top the screen, following your first line. Repeat the flattening process. Let your silicone dry for an hour or two, and come back to silicone the bottom. Place lines of silicone along the bottom until you have sealed up the bottom perfectly. It is generally a good idea to smooth the bottom silicone out as well. 

Step 3- Build the wet-dry trickle filter. WDT filters sound more complex than they really are. Take your plastic storage cabinet and pull the shelves out. You are going to drill several holes in the bottom of each shelf. The amount of holes and the size is something you really have to play with. You want water to "rain" from each shelf so that all of your bio media in the filter is well covered in water. Start with many small holes. Try testing the shelves in your sink (don't get soap in them!). If you notice several inches of water collecting in the bottom of your shelves, drill more holes or try slightly larger ones. Make sure all three shelves are drilled and drain properly. Take some of your filter pad and cut it so it fits into one of your shelves. This will be your first shelf. The first shelf is there to filter out larger particles. Take some of your bio media and place it into the other two shelves. It doesn't really matter what kind of bio media you get, as long as it has lots of surface area. Aquarium "bio balls" are very expensive. You can simply buy those colorful plastic pot scrubbers from the dollar store. They are cheap and have tons of surface area. Put your shelves back into your plastic cabinet. 

Step 4- Assemble your sump. The sump is the area or reservoir that goes under your tank or in this case- system. The sump holds your filter and any other unsightly or dangerous components. For my sump, I used a large flat plastic storage bin. You want to make sure it will hold all your components, and hold as much water as what drains from your system. You want to also make sure the sump isn't so shallow your powerhead cant run. Five gallons or more is generally ideal. Set your WDT filter in the sump. 

Step 5- Hook up the powerhead. As I said above, the kind of powerhead you buy really depends on how far up it will need to pump to reach your polyp tank from your sump. Take your flexible tubing and fit it up to your powerhead. I used a plastic zip tie to ensure that the tubing never comes loose. The tubing should then run back up to your polyp tank. I personally cut a small hole in my polyp tank lid, and pushed the tube in. You can clamp it or attach in using any other method of choice. Attach a valve somewhere before the flexible tube reaches the polyp tank. 

Step 6- Plumb the Polyp tank. Measure out how far your bulkhead is from your ephyra tank. Cut that length of PVC. That PVC tube should fit snugly inside the bulkhead. Again, more silicone couldn't hurt here. Take one of your 90 degree connectors and put it on the end of your PVC pipe (leading into the Ephyra tank). The 90 degree should be turned so it is facing one side of the ephyra tank. The idea here is to position this piece so that the water drain and creates a flow that runs parallel to the screen, not perpendicular. This is known as a gyre.  

Step 7- Plump the ephyra tank. The lengths of PVC here are largely dependent on how much space is between your ephyra tank and the edge of your stand as well as the height between your ephyra tank and the WDT filter. First measure how much space is between your ephyra tank bulkhead and the edge of your stand. Cut that length in PVC. Stick the PVC into the bulkhead snugly. Take a 90 degree and put it on the edge of your PVC tube. Have the 90 stick straight down. Attach another length of PVC tubing to the 90 degree. Fit on another 90 degree so it is facing forwards, and will run parallel to the ground. Add a length of PVC tubing that will carry your drain to the center of your WDT filter. Add your last 90 degree so it faces directly down into your WDT filter. If there is a lid to your WDT filter, cut a hole that will fit the drain. I find adding a short tube of PVC to the 90 degree will prevent splashing. 

Silicone all of your PVC connections after you have cut and test fitted them. Wait 24 hours for everything to dry. You can then fill it up with fresh water and test it. I would use tap water to test and rinse all component and tanks in the system. You can the dry it and fill it up with saltwater. If you have jellyfish tanks already running with the species you intend on breeding, then feel free to add some bacteria from that tank to seed your WDT filter in the new system. Otherwise, I would wait a while for bacteria to naturally find their way into your system. Then you can add polyps to their tank. 

Play with the valve and see what levels fit the system best. Slower flow is generally better. You don't want polyps being uprooted off their dishes or surfaces, but you also don't want it so slow that your ephyra aren't staying suspended in the water. 

That is how you build a jellyfish breeding system. This particular system is good for growing moon jellyfish and Sea Nettles. It has the potential to grow many other species as well!