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Old 05-15-2019, 06:41 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default My First NPT, 20g Long

Greetings! Here is my first foray into the NPT world, after a lot of research and trepidation. Trials and tribulations to come! These are a few photos of my set up process as well as the final product on day one, April 26th of 2019.

The Details!
20 gallon long, purchased used on facebook marketplace, came with Finnex 24/7 light and a Marineland 32" light
"Rocky Style" textured 3D background from Universal Rocks
Homasy 80 gph pump (as recommended by Hoppycalif, thank you!) for water circulation/agitation
30% Safe T sorb & 70% Sifted Top Soil dirt layer, approx 1.5 inches
Black Diamond Blasting Sand, medium grade, substrate, approx 1.5 inches
Local tap water dosed with Aquasafe Plus
Spiderwood Stump
Nifty looking striped marble? stone
Cabomba, planted on the left interwoven with the spiderwood
Wisteria, planted on the right behind the stone
Unknown Sword plant (free with the purchase of other plants from LFS) planted in the background, dead center
Dwarf Baby Tears (3 pots worth) planted across the foreground
2 nerites

The plan!
Get both light bars in place and leave them on 24 hours a day at max output for about a week. I won't be running a filter, a heater, dosing ferts, or doing water changes. My hope is to get the plants really well established early in this manner. Normally this much light would be a concern as it will cause algae growth, however I intend to have a school of Otocinclus so the algae growth is a bonus as far as I'm concerned giving them a smorgasbord from the moment they're dropped in. They, as well as other livestock, to be added later. Also hoping to add a couple more Tropica Swords in the background, as they're appropriately sized for a shallow tank like this one.
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Old 05-15-2019, 06:45 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: My First NPT, 20g Long

24 hours later, the expected cloudy waters are in full effect. Lights are on full blast. White-ish growth on the spiderwood is already noticeable. Diatoms? Otos love diatoms, so here's hoping.
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Old 05-15-2019, 06:53 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: My First NPT, 20g Long

Diatom(?) growth on the spiderwood is really going wild by the 29th, just over 48 hours into tank life. At this point I admit I was having a lot of doubts about my plan, that perhaps having both light bars on full blast constantly was going to allow for such explosive algae growth as to choke out the slower growing plants. Despite this, I stayed the course, and if the whole tank imploded I had buckets full of left over dirt and blasting sand in my garage still, if it came to a complete tear-down.
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Old 05-15-2019, 07:00 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: My First NPT, 20g Long

April 30th, tank is now 4 days old. Wandered through the plants section at my local big box pet store on my way to buy cat litter and food, spotted a plant-in-a-tube they labeled as "Rhosette Sword" but also had written below that Echinodorus parviflorus so I decided to toss it in. Here's hoping it's what it claims to be. Planted it to the left of the mystery sword. Diatom(?) growth is everywhere now. Nerites are happily marching all over the spiderwood.
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Old 05-15-2019, 07:09 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: My First NPT, 20g Long

May 2nd, 1 week in. Added 7 Otocinclus and an apple snail, pulled the marineland light bar and set the Finnex to the 24 hour light cycle mode. Plant growth over the past week has been shockingly high, dwarf baby tears are already billowing out and throwing out roots, the Wisteria is unsurprisingly shooting out roots everywhere and the cabomba is clearly getting taller and closing in on needing a trim. Clear diatom growth is still heavy and brown spots are coming in as well through out the tank, which I understand is a type of diatom as well? A lot of detrius covering the substrate from snail poo and plant melt. So far resisting the urge to vacuum it all out, hoping it'll sift down to the dirt and feed the bacteria? Starting to be concerned that I cheaped out and used BDBS instead of pebbles that would allow better exchange between the cap from the water and the dirt.
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Old 05-15-2019, 07:25 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: My First NPT, 20g Long

May 7, almost 2 weeks old. Dwarf Baby Tears are HUGE and clearly in need of a trim in the photo, and I had just finished trimming the Cabomba and Wisteria but held off on the DBT trim as my curved scissors hadn't arrived from Amazon quite yet, and doing a trim with kitchen scissors is hard! Also, stocked the rest of the tank, a school of 12 neon tetra and a Veil-tail Betta. Also lost 4 of the original 7 Otos and restocked with 5 more. Hoping they fair better, but anticipating losing at least a couple more along the way. I'm now researching what it would take to breed these little guys because wild-caught Otos are heartbreaking to buy, but they're really all that's on the market.
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Old 05-15-2019, 07:53 AM   #7 (permalink)
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May 15th, going on three weeks now! Got to trim the dwarf baby tears. Hopefully this will encourage them to spread out more and up less. Have trimmed the Wisteria twice and the cabomba three times. The cabomba is clearly growing like the weed that it can be! Had a terrifying incident two days ago. Woke up with only a few minutes to spare before I needed to leave for work. Noticed that the tetras seemed stressed and inspected the tank closely. Three were already dead and floating at the top of the tank! The water smelled vaguely of sulfur. I did an emergency water change, for lack of knowing what else I could possibly do to help. It was about a 25% water change, though I wasn't paying very close attention as I was rushed. About 5 gallons out and 5 gallons back in. After I return from work about 14 hours later, only five of the 12 tetras were still living. Whatever happened that caused them to die does not seem to have affected the beta or the otos. I am concerned that the Black Diamond blasting sand substrate isn't allowing the bacteria in the dirt to breathe as well as it might had I used a pebble substrate. If this was a aerobic bacterial burp, I worried that it may happen again. If it was instead some kind of bacterial bloom that caused the sulfur smell, it may come back again as well! I have also noticed in the past few days that I have somehow acquired pest snails! I did some research into what I could do to rid the tank of them as I worry that they will compete for food with the rest of the livestock. My conclusion so far is that I must live with them, because even if I were to dose the tank with copper after having removed my nerite and Apple, I would never be able to put them back in the tank as the copper does not cycle out quickly or completely.
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Old 05-25-2019, 08:15 AM   #8 (permalink)
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One month old! There was another mass dying of tetras a day after my last post, followed by what I believe was Ich a week after. Down to 3 neons, but the otos and the betta seemed unphased. The ich treatment wrapped up a couple days ago, and if all remains calm I will probably replenish the neon school at the end of the week. I've been trimming the dwarf baby tears but as the second picture shows, my apple has taken to plowing under them when they're short and uprooting sections! >.< So it may be time to let everything grow wild! Cabomba and Wisteria have been doing fantastic and one of the Tropica Swords looks great. The other is slower in flourishing, but it's not dying either. The mystery sword is looking like it might be an Amazon? If y'all agree, I might need to rehome it soon, as there's no way it won't choke out everything in this little tank.
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Old 05-25-2019, 04:27 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Default Re: My First NPT, 20g Long

Hi, David,

You have given us a huge amount of data, probably more than many can (or want) to deal with. So please summarize what's going on, and you'll probably get some help.

You've probably already supplied this info but once more, if you will.

1. What kind of light do you have? Not the name of the manufacturer, but the wattage, the color temp, stuff like that.

2. Where does your water come from? Do you do anything to it?

3. What substrate do you have?

4. What chemicals do you add, including nutrients?

5. If you know, what is the pH and hardness of the water?

Now:

What is the current state of things in your tank? Be as brief as you can.

What is your biggest question? Be specific, not general.

Working together we can help you to solve your problems. Let's get started!

Bill
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Old 05-25-2019, 06:25 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Default Re: My First NPT, 20g Long

Welcome aquabillpers! Thanks for tuning in! I may be in error, but I posted all of this in the Journal section intending it to be just that. All and sundry are free to read through or not, and offer input or not, but none of my posts in THIS thread are requests for assistance. Just documenting my journey.

That said, since you've taken the time to tune in, I'll answer some of your inquiry as I appreciate you!

1. The 30" Finnex Planted Plus 24/7, according to the specs posted on the site. Wattage = 29. LED Count: 36 W/ 20 R / 28 RGB. PAR Data by depth: 3" = 350, 6" = 182, 9" = 119, 12" = 85. I fully endorse this light system, personally. It's worked fantastically well for a newbie like me as a set-and-forget option by switching it to 24 hour cycle mode. No complaints, great light!

2. Just local tap water (Plano, Texas in Collin county) I have no idea the specifics of ph or how hard/soft it is. The only thing I added to it was the aforementioned Aquasafe Plus additive designed to make tap water fish safe.

3. The substrate is medium grade Black Diamond Blasting Sand. The dirt below that is cheap-o local top soil sold at my local big-box home improvement store, 40 pounds for a buck fifty. I sifted it using fine chicken wire mesh. After that I stirred in some Saf-T-Sorb. My concern mentioned in previous posts is that the substrate is too fine and won't allow for the easy transfer of mulm and detrius to feed the microbes in the dirt, nor the gases from the microbes back up through the substrate to the water.

4. I add nothing. No ferts, no nutrients, not a single thing. Fish food and algae wafers, if those count, but beyond that there's nothing added after initial tank set up.

5. See #2

-Current state? Balance is returning! I'm pleased that it's lasted this long with no heater, no filter, and no additives! A testament to Mrs. Walstad's method and instructions, and a rewarding endeavor as much due to the trails and tribulations as in spite of them.

-Problems? Fear that my substrate is too fine for the proper Walstad method to work appropriately! If that turns out to be true and it's creating pockets of anaerobic bacteria that will kill the tank eventually, is it feasibly to remove the substrate without tearing down the whole tank and replacing it with coarser pebbles? Also I have pest(pond?) snails and I would rather NOT have pest snails but there's no easy solution that I know of since I DO want my apple snail and 2 nerite snails.
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