y first fishhouse was built in 1986 and by the year 2007 was beginning
to show its age, rotting floor etc. It was still workable but
with a bit of coaxing from my other half, who wanted this space
for her new patio, I was persuaded! to build a new one at the
other side adjacent to the gable end of my house. I was slightly
concerned that the structure would be too near the road and too
high that the neighbours, although good, might object. The project
had been in my mind for a couple of years and I decided that this
would need to be the year if I wanted my ears to get a rest. :-)
decided that since I was not getting any younger, I would need
to make this fishhouse, which would be my last, to be as user
friendly as I could make it, and a sink with a work area was high
on my list and a supply tank with a ball valve to return water
after water changes was on the cards as well.
I decided to make it a 12ft x 8ft so that 3 @ 8’ x 4’
x ¾” plywood sheets would be the base for the unit.
Being a Joiner by trade I went for the wooden floor instead of
a concrete layer as I was thinking of tiling the finished floor,
but this was my preferred option and a concrete floor is also
a good way to go if you decide to build your own.
I started the project at the beginning of March 2007 so as to
give me a good
run through the summer as it would be mostly the weekends, if
I wasn’t working, that I would be building it.
The ground base had slabs on it all ready
so I started with 4”x 2” treated joists levelled with
bricks and breeze blocks with the three 8’ x 4’ x
¾” plywood sheets screwed to the framework. The ground
runs on a slope and I quickly discovered that by levelling the
base, that one end would be around 12ins up, and it would end
up being unstable and dangerous. I then decided that I would need
to take away some slabs at the low end and dig down so that I
could get the other end down to a manageable height.
I also discovered that the height of the fishhouse would also
have been a problem as it would have been well above my fence,
which I had built the previous year and to the detriment of my
neighbours. This proved a bit of a pain but it had to be done
and in hindsight was certainly the best option.
The plan outlined shows the main
fish room with a dividing wall from the working area. This can
be closed of with the use of a plastic concertina (folding) door
which opens and closes on a top runner.
The image fh1 shows the
area dug down to the level of the slabs on one side. I levelled
the area underneath with sand. The joists are propped up level
with bricks and the joists also have a damp proof membrane attached
to them. As you can see the frame work has been started with 3”
x 2” cls treated which is 2½” x 1½”
finished and costs around £5 for a 3metre length and is
good value for general building work.
The image fh2 shows the
construction with the framing partly completed apart from the
bracing pieces in the corners which I will show later. The height
of the structure from the floor up is 79½ins (2020mm) and
is screwed down onto the floor. I would like to mention here that
I decided on a flat roof structure over a pitched roof as it would
not be so noticeable over the height of the existing fence, but
this is only a preferred option and there are arguments on both
sides for the two different types of construction if you are keen
to go ahead with your own project.
I then fixed 5” x 2”
joists for the roof, nailed to the top runners of the framework.
These had been run cut from 5ins to 4ins on the length to give
me a 1 inch fall towards the hedge/road side of the construction
(your local builders yard can do this for you) and away from the
door side which as you can see in image fh3 will
be opening out towards the gable end of my house.
As you can see in image fh3,
the ¾” sheathing ply has been screwed to the roof
joists. You can also see that I have overlapped the door side
of the roof over the framework to give the door more protection
from the elements and filled in between the joists front and back
to give a surface for the facings which would be applied later.
I have also braced each corner to give the structure more stability.
The next stage is to apply the first
layer of felt with adhesive and fix the weatherboard to the framework
(fs4) and this is when you can see that you are
finely making progress and making the structure watertight in
the process. You can also notice that I now have a U.P.V.C. double
glazed door fitted. You may think that this is an extravagance
but it was my old kitchen door which I had kept a year previous
after fitting a new one, and it would be maintenance free and
draught proof, which was an added bonus.
The next stage was to lay the second and
final layer of felt which would be green mineral and applied with
adhesive also. A good practice on flat roofs is to extend out
¾” so that any relevant drips from any part of the
roof will not run down and stain the weatherboard. I have pointed
this out in image fh5. I have also finished the
corners of the structure with facings and coated it with two coats
of a timber waterproof stain.
You will also notice the missing slab as this was my entry point
for the electric cable which I dug underground and into the fishhouse
and up the interior wall to be connected to a fuse box. The electric
cable had been put in place from the house by my next door neighbour
who is a qualified electrician and I would advise to go down this
route, as electrics and water don’t mix very well!! This
was me now into the end of April and it was now beginning to look
like a fishhouse.
I now started on the inside, fitting
insulation wool in the framework and screwing ½”
sheathing ply to ceiling and walls (fh6). I then
proceeded to mark out and cut the holes for fitting the double
sockets. I ran a wire ring main around the walls having of course
to drill holes in each stud to bring the cable through. I had
decided on plywood for the walls although I had fitted plasterboard
in my old fishhouse, and apart from a blackening at floor level
was actually not too bad, but with plywood you can screw anywhere
you want to without having to locate a stud. It was of course
much more expensive and later on I had serious doubts of my wisdom,
which I will explain later.
The next stage was to fit all the
sockets, which was later checked by my electrician friend, and
as you can see in image fh7 the walls and ceiling
were given 2 coats of a white bathroom quality emulsion which
was to combat any fungal attacks. You can also see the cables
for the middle fluorescent light in the work area and the cables
near the door for the main fuse box. The open switch box above
the double socket is for an immersion heater which was given to
me “free gratis” by my plumber friend who was to prove
a godsend in the later stages when the sink and storage tank was
to be fitted. His work and the electricians was what we call in
the trade as the “barter system” and he had a bit
of work needed on the exterior of his house, so no problem there.
This is where the plywood problem
arose as I had been getting problems with my eyes when I was working
inside, and my wife or anybody else could not enter the Fishhouse
because of the stinging sensation, in their eyes and the back
of their throats after a few minutes. This was a puzzle to me
which I thought I had cured when I had painted the walls and ceiling
but this did not make any difference and for once I was really
deflated and downhearted as I wanted to get on, but I could not
progress any further until this problem was rectified.
I asked at the local timber yard but they could not provide an
answer until I heard from another Joiner that they were now treating
sheathing ply with different chemicals and I now concurred that
this was the problem that I was facing as these sheets are used
for house building, but they are on the outside walls of buildings
before the bricks/blocks are built and as such would never reach
inside the house, as there is framework, insulation and plasterboard
on the inside of the plywood sheets.
Before this revelation I had cut through
the walls to install 2 vents and also an electric fan to take
the air out and fresh air in. This did not make any difference
and it was a chance encounter with a painter that I was told that
with the emulsion covering I would never get rid of this odour
and I would need to paint it again using an oil based paint. I
was not totally convinced of this and I was even thinking of taking
the entire ply off and reverting back to plasterboard again, which
was a massive task now and I was just getting very depressed with
it all. The upshot of it was that I purchased a 5litre tin of
a cream undercoat (so I could see where I was painting) and dutifully
applied a coat on the walls and ceiling, he did say that it would
be a couple of days before the smell of the paint would subside
but I couldn’t believe it as a few days later this stinging
sensation to the eyes was completely gone, and the undercoat had
sealed whatever was causing it, in. I applied another coat and
although I was painting again over the areas that were painted
a few weeks ago I was so much more upbeat that at last I had eradicated
This is a lesson well learned and if you
do decide yourself to plywood your walls with the cheaper sheathing
ply, apply either undercoat or gloss if you come across the same
problem as me, as you will not be able to last 5 minutes in an
enclosed area with it untreated.
I now concentrated on the floor and I picked
up floor tiles which were on sale at one of the DIY superstores
for a bargain price, which you can see in the final material count,
and laid them before I got around to erecting the dividing wall
to split the fishhouse up in to two areas. This would of course
limit the amount of tanks that I would have but I hold great credence
in that I can have an organised fishhouse where I can also relax
( note the radio!), as I would be spending a bit of time hopefully
in there and the fish would be getting the best of my attention.
After the electrics were all fitted and
working I dug a trench from my existing outside tap around to
the rear of the structure and laid a length of polyethylene blue
pipe which is quite pliable and able to manouvre around corners.
One end was connected to the pipe work leading to my outside tap,
and the other end was fed through the wall using connectors to
join up to the copper pipe work which fed the sink and through
to the 60gall cold water plastic supply tank on the other side
of the dividing partition wall.
This was all carried out by the plumber over two weekends.
The sink, unit and wall cupboard were all
sourced from a new kitchen fitting job that I had carried out
about 6 months previously (fh8) and they were
the old units from this job. They were to be thrown out anyway
and the bonus was that they were in quite good condition. You
may also notice the water heater, which I had not thought much
about , but was pleased to be given it as later I was to find
out that it would be an integral part of the work area, with hot
water on tap so to speak, as the main source from the tap was
of course only from the cold supply. In this image you can also
just see the pull handle on the dividing folding concertina door.
Previously to installing the pipe work
I had started to set up my main show tank which would be situated
at the far end wall furthest away from the dividing folding door
(fh9). This was a 6ft tank which I used to have
in my living room for the best part of 15 years until my wife
decided that she was getting the room decorated from top to bottom,
and it had to go. It lay around the back of my house for two years
knowing that when the chance came to build the new fishhouse I
could set it up again in there.
Surprisingly after a good cleaning it did
not leak, and when it was up and running I was beginning to see
the light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak!.
After this I started on the rest of the
framework which would house the tanks from my old fishhouse and
would be 3 tiers high. The bottom would be for storage, or the
odd coldwater fish tank, and the upper two tiers for the rest
of the tanks which would comprise of around 20. 1 @ 6ft., 3 @
4ft, 3 @ 3ft and the rest would be miscellaneous sized tanks for
At this stage I also fitted the pipe system
which would supply air to a lot of the smaller tanks with foam
and bubble up filters (fh10).
In the image fh11 you
can see the cold water supply tank which would feed the tanks
after water changes with a hose attached to a submerged pump.
The supply tank was to be one of the more expensive single items
that I had bought. The return ball valve was a great addition
as this stopped the carrying of buckets to fill the tank up, as
it just filled up automatically when the level of the water in
it, dropped. I had thought of the chlorine situation in the water
supply but I have had no problems on this score, as the water
is pumped up from the bottom layer, as the water comes in from
the top, and also the chlorine will dissipate after lying in the
tank after 24 hours. There is of course an overflow pipe fitted
from the tank which goes through the wall to the outside in case
of the failure of the ball valve, which would lead to the tank
At the right of image fh11
you can see a pipe bend which is to be connected to a length of
1½” pipe which will go around the bottom frames and
will act as the takeaway from my water changes. There will be
a few open upstands to take the water away. This again saves the
use of buckets to and fro to the sink. The waste goes out to a
pipe that was also laid underground and takes it to a drain which
was already situated there under my driveway. I can of course
use buckets when siphoning out of tanks with fry in them.
The final picture (fh12)
shows the completed fishhouse with the addition of a vent which
matches the vent on the other gable end. There is also an electric
fan fitted in the fish room if it gets too hot in the summer !!.
I concreted and cemented around the base
of the structure so that any water will run away without going
under the fishhouse. There will probably be some water which will
go underneath but hopefully not too much.
I have given below a rough breakdown of
the costs of this 12’ x 8’ structure, if you are thinking
about constructing your own Fishhouse. These prices (circa 2007,
Scotland) will give you an idea. Depending where you live you
may be able to get these materials at a more favourable price,
but as I live in a rural area the costing of many products leads
to a higher cost of living compared to any fair sized City. This
of course does not include labour and if you are anyway skilled
you would be doing the majority of the work yourself anyway.
6 @ 8’ x 4’ x ¾” Sheething ply
|1127’ 0” (343.509m) x
3” x 2” CLS
|13 @ 8’ x 4’ x ½”
|362sq ft (33.6309 sq.m) insulation
|160’ 0” (48.768m) 5”
x 2” tanalised
|Sink, sink unit, wall cupboard.
|40’ 0” x 6” x 1”
|740’ 0” (225.552m) 4½”
|Electrics including sockets and electric
|3 x 2” CLS racks for tanks
|4’ 0” 2’ 0”
x 2’ 0” storage tank.
|Pipework for air and water.
The fish room ended up just under a 8’ x 8’ area and
the work area about 3’ 6” x 8’ 0”. The
wall on the left hand side as you enter the fishhouse, I intend
to build a rack which will hold about 4 @ 24” x 12”
x 8” tanks or equivalent. These can be used for cooler water
species such as S.barbatus, prionotus, paleatus etc. This is in
the work area and is not heated so I will maybe be able to keep
these tanks at around the mid sixties Fahrenheit.
The main fish room is heated at night by
a water cooled storage heater with a thermostat and the room is
lit after lights out by a “dusk to dawn” bulb, so
as not to startle the fish when the lights come on automatically
in the morning.
There is room in the future to add to the
existing tanks by a further shelf to the top layer, which would
give me an extra 14 tanks at 18” x 12” x 12”,
for future breeding projects. Below are a few images of the finished
All in all I am quite pleased with the
finished outcome, especially with the sink area, which I would
say was invaluable and the immersion heater, plus the addition
of a small freezer for my frozen food. The supply tank also saves
a great amount of time with the water automatically returning
via the ball valve during water changes. I have added a stop cock
outside which I would advise if you are having problems with chlorine
or other water matters, as you can turn the fishhouse off, carry
out your water changes, and then turn it back on again to let
the supply tank fill up again.
The only problem that I seem to be having
is condensation running of the plastic supply tank and on to the
tiled floor. I did cover it with polystyrene and plywood but I
am still having the odd wet floor due to this trait. This is due
of course to the colder water drawn into the tank and I should
not have this problem in the summer months.
My old fishhouse had a purpose built wooden box for water with
a liner and I may revert back to this method in the future if
it continues to present a problem.
This may give you an incentive to carry
out your own Fishhouse project, taking some ideas from this build.
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