Just before I became ‘buried’ with the AGA convention (Aquatic Gardeners Association / aquatic-gardeners.org ) one the our forum members sent me a PM asked me how I set up my planted tanks. Rather than just provide the information to one person I decided (now that the dust has settled) to do a post so all have the opportunity to see how I am currently doing my planted tanks.
My 10 gallon tank had been set up for over a year, the previous inhabitants had moved on, and all that was in the tank were a Corydoras and an Otocinclus. I picked up some Melanotaenia lacustris (Turquoise / Lake Kutubu Ranbowfish) fry at the AGA convention and they needed a home so on Sunday I moved the fish out of the 10 gallon and did a complete teardown and reset. Here is how I did it.
After I cleaned the tank, the filter, the glass top, and the heater I was ready to start.
First I added a handful of 1/4 inch red lava stone which contain a lot of iron. If I were using Osmocote tabs or mineralized soil I would add that now as well.
Next I opened a new bag of Safe-t-sorb (calcined clay / Tractor Supply - 40# @ $6.49) which I am using for the substrate and put about 3” into my fish bucket.
I took it to the kitchen sink, filled the bucked half way, and rinsed the substrate stirring it with my hands. After two rinses the water coming out of the bucket still looks like chocolate milk. BTW, clay substrates will never rinse clean like gravel. Then I took the substrate to the clean, empty 10 gallon tank and started adding the Safe-t-sorb substrate. I like about 1-1/2 inches of substrate in my tanks so it is easy to plant without stems or plants floating to the surface. It took about 3 buckets of substrate to fill the tank. I sloped the substrate slightly higher in back than the front so detritus would move to the front where I could see it and siphon it out more easily.
Next I installed the hardscape, in this case it is Seiryu Stone (aka Ying Stone) that I treated with muriatic acid to darken the stones and make them look more weathered. I also installed the heater (unplugged) at this time so I would not have to deal with it later.
Now it was time to fill the tank. Remember how the rinse water from the substrate looked like chocolate milk? Do you want your tank to look like that after filling? If not here is how to avoid that problem. Take a piece of wax paper and lay it on the substrate of the empty tank. On top of the wax paper, in the middle, place a saucer. Add the water slowly being careful to hit the saucer. As it fills it should look like this.
After filling this is how it looks; cloudy but certainly not ‘milky’.
Next I installed the Aquaclear 20 HOB filter. In the filter I have ceramic rings and one (1) sponge - nothing else; no charcoal (which removes fertilizers) and no additives. I use Seachem Prime to remove chlorine and chloramines that are added to local water supplies. It was time to call it an evening, this is what the tank looked like after the filter had been running for about 2 hours.
Part Two will be posted later.