Home | Jon | The FishCAM and Fish-Keeping
Spewed on: January 2, 2012
It’s called a “bio-wheel” filter because as the water exits the filter, it passes under a rotating fabric wheel. “Good” bacteria live and propagate on this wheel and in the process, consume nasty chemicals in the water like ammonia. The bio-wheel is a fantastic idea because it preserves the bacteria culture even when rather massive water changes or tank cleanings are called for.

On the floor of the aquarium is sand. I bought the sand at a pet store. It was bagged as “aquarium substrate” so I figured it was safe to simply pour into the tank. My friend Larry, a fish-keeping pro, recommended that I rinse it first, but I ignored him. I paid the price with a wasted filter pad and a ground up pump impellor as the filter attempted to clear the cloud of minute sand particles suspended in the water. I ended up taking the tank out to the front yard where I ran those hose through it for a good half hour. There are also a handful of pebbles her and there on the bottom for visual accents. Also on the bottom is a small ceramic bit of fake driftwood. It looked a little ridiculous on the shelf at the pet store, but partially buried in the sand and nestled amongst a few pebbles, it doesn’t look half bad. In particular, it contrasts nicely with the live plants Larry gave me.

Overhead, we’re using a Marineland Single Bright LED 18-24 light. It’s quite bright, especially for a tank this small and shallow, and it runs cool. (We may have actually boiled one of our fish with the previous aquarium’s rather warm-running integrated fluorescent fixture.)

Surrounding the aquarium is an elaborate scaffolding made from K-NEX parts. I build everything out of these things! K-NEX parts are kind of magical in that even though they consist of just a handful of different sized components, you can get a structure to conform to nearly any shape or dimensions if you work at it long enough. In the case of the aquarium, the K-NEX structure fits the base of the tank, the filter, the light and the camera so snugly that it is as if it were designed especially for them. And it was, I guess, by me, but it fits better than it should! I haven’t told Karen yet that I plan on remodeling our kitchen using K-NEX parts.
Speaking of the camera, the FishCAM is viewed through a Microsoft Xbox Live Vision web camera. This is a very inexpensive video-only camera, but it produces a pretty good image (albeit, not HD) and it is Universal Video Class-compliant, so it does not require any additional drivers. It has a manual focus ring, so I set the focus on the center of the tank. Video from the camera is processed by Adobe Media Encoder and then streamed live to the Internet with Adobe Streaming Media Server. I’m using the free developer editions of these products which limit the number of connections we can support.

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