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50gal Ugly Tank

57102 Views 224 Replies 23 Participants Last post by  zer0zax
This thread will waste your time! Go away!
Still here? You have been warned....

I am setting up this 50 gal solely to grow out plants, test different soil mixes and try my hand at some DIY. The plan is to fill up the tank with 30 gallons of water and grow some Tropica swords, moss, pellia emersed, and as the plants fill out plant them submersed. So basically a paludarium/growout/DIY experiment tank.

Quick stats:
50 gallon aquarium
2 x 32 watt T8 elcheapo 6,500k
Fountain pump
3.75 cups Topsoil with 1/2 cup bone meal (3-15-0)

#1. No laughing in this thread, I take this hobby very seriously.:tape2:
#2. No talking about anything on topic, this tank will be boring and a waste of breath.:(
#3. Go back to #1.:confused:

Let the journey begin!
1 - 20 of 225 Posts
The original plan was to use AaronT's mineralized substrate, I bought everything except dolomite a year ago and never got around to it until now...Then the Oregon plant swap happened and I received a motherload of great plants (thanks guys!) and the plants couldn't wait for me to finish mineralizing the substrate! I soaked and dried the topsoil 1 time, so it is still basically topsoil.

I screened out as much bark as I could with window screen. Cobra Commander assisted me.

The topsoil I bought at HD had no fertilizer, but it is mostly wood debris. Cobra Commander does not approve of wood debris.

After heavy screening very fine particles were left, a lot of wood slivers in there. Cobra commander HATES slivers.

After screening the dirt I realized I didn't have nearly enough! 3.75 cups was all I had, so I planned to add a little clay to the dirt to keep the wood from floating all over the tank. At the plant swap I laughed at OregonAqua because he admitted trying to make mineralized substrate with Miraclegrow, fertilizers and all! I thought that was funny, but at least he tried it with dirt instead of twigs.

Anyways, I go to grab this 50# bag of clay that has been sitting for over a year in my apartment and when I open it up there is all of this white dusty stuff inside. Apparently I bought a bag of %#[email protected] of paris by accident. The bag said pottery plaster of paris and in the store I DID read a label that said potter red clay, but I grabbed the bag next to it....I think I 1-upped OregonAqua....I blame AaronT.
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Next I mixed the little dirt I had with 1/2 cup of bone meal. Dianna Walstad said she had good results using it and I don't have any dolomite, so I thought why not? Right now I am planning on running a very lean main substrate, and I will put plants in coco pots with mineralized soil and some with experimental soil, so if anything goes wrong I can just switch out the pots and try something else.

Last night I I put the soil in the tank and began covering it with a gravel cap....only I ran out of gravel! I dug out all the sand and threw it in, and ran out of that to! Usually I have tons of driftwood and enough gravel to open up my own store, but evidently I was running low and just now found out. I covered the very little dirt with very little anything and filled the tank up halfway. I filled it so slowly that it took 40 minutes to hit the 30 gallon mark, and I made the dirtiest water ever! It took another 30 minutes to net out all of the slivers. No pictures of this, I forgot to snap pix as my mind was running in overdrive trying to find a solution without having to start over (Cobra Commander says I am just a sissy and to embarrassed)>

Performed 1 100% waterchange and everything's a lot better now, bunch of dirt on top of the substrate though, and I do predict mass amounts of algae in the near future, especially since I don't have enough gravel to cover all of the bone meal. That's okay though, Cobra Commander has a secret weapon...More on this later.
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I am to cheap to buy a canister filter so one of the things I want to experiment with in the Ugly Tank is a DIY PVC internal filter. The goal is to use 4" diameter PVC and cut many holes in it so the flow will be low and won't gunk up quick. I can't stand filter maintenance, so hopefully this will fit the bill. I also want to cover the whole outside of the filter with moss while still allowing water inside. It will also be easier to pull the pump out of the top without disturbing the aquascape. This is not needed for this tank, but if it works I will build a larger one for my 110gal.

Parts: 1ft. 4"dia. PVC, 1 drain guard cap, 1 knockout cap (bottom), zipties, window screen, gutter guard screen, fountain pump.

Holes drilled in sides. I didn't drill holes near the bottom because I don't want to suck up any gunk from the substrate. Power cord and outlet tubing threaded through drain guard cap. Knockout super-glued to bottom.

Window screen secured tightly with zipties. Pump placed inside and filter floss pressed against inside holes.

Assembly complete.

Later on I will secure moss over the filter with the gutter guard screen, but the moss will only cover 2/3 of the sides so the filter can still suck in water. My future shrimp should like feeding on this. Now we are in the present, all events are running in realtime. I have to go to the store and buy real dirt so I can start the mineralization process over again. Diana Walstad and a few others said they got good results with Miraclegrow organic, so I will look for that. It will cost a couple dollars more, but hopefully I won't be surprised with twigs again. Cobra Commander is hopeful...
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Well I got to lazy to go to the store for dirt:bored:, but I did attach moss to the filter. Here is a picture of all of the moss I got at the plant swap. From left to right: Java, Unknown, Christmas, Flame.

Close up of Flame moss. MedRed gave away a bunch of this moss, and I got either half or a 1/3rd of it! Thanks again!:hail:

Securing Java moss to filter with gutter guard screen.

Moss secured.

Easy kitty, niiiice kitty.......

Cobra Commander riled the cat up and got stomped:croc:. I was tempted to take a picture but it was just to graphic:twitch:...he should live though. Now I will build the moss wall.
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Tex Gal, you just broke rule #1! For some reason Cobra Commander approves of you, he says rules are meant to be broken:slywink:
dawntwister- I got the black PVC at Home Depot, ~$3 for a 2ft. 4"diameter length. The drain guard cap was ~$4, and the yellow knockout cap cost 36 cents! Not the cheapest way to go, but after seeing all the stuff Bpimm builds out of PVC I had to try it!! If this filter works alright I will make a larger one for a 30" tall paludarium. The goal is to have the cap be 1 inch above the water so I only have to reach halfway down to service the pump instead of all the way. I am over 6ft. tall, but I still end up swimming in that tank when I try to do anything!:rolleyes:

The Miracle Gro "Organic Choice" comes in 2 forms, one is garden soil with fertilizers and the other on is for potted plants. The potted soil is comprised of spangham and composted bark fines (I think).
If I had to do the 50 gal over again, I probably would have used Organic Choice instead of TOP SOIL and added some Bone Meal to it. But what I used will probably still work out; "perfection" is ever so elusive. :p
I will have to ask her what Organic Choice she used, I would rather buy a bag of consistent soil than a bunch of large debris! What bag were those N P K values for?
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hoplo- the Commander would like to salute you, but he is recovering and doped up on meds right now. He hopes a wave with his good arm will do.

I guess a 50# bag of &%$#plaster of paris came in handy after all...

I plan to grow the moss emersed on squares with a spray bar dripping on the back wall to keep them moist. As the moss grows out I will trim them and make new squares. The squares will be made of gutter guard screen, nice large holes that will allow me to insert anubias and ferns into them also. The filter floss is used for retaining water, for moss mesh submerged I won't use floss.

Back side of mesh. Suction cups inserted and the floss rests between them to keep moss and plant roots moist.

Moss square complete. I spread the moss very thin so it will have room to grow. Another square of gutter mesh is placed on top and 4 zipties were woven on the edges to contain everything. This holds the square tight enough and will let me open it up easy without cutting anything. I will make a big moss wall for my big tank and make it look pretty, but this is good enough for an ugly tank.
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Here are a couple of ugly Ugly Tank shots. Spray bar sprays:)rolleyes:) behind the moss squares and reduces turbulence, the moss stays wet without blowing away.

The ugly filter up and running. I have only done 1 water change so far and it looks good, still hazy and I can't see from the long side to the other, but part of it is because I didn't rinse the massive amount of charcoal I added to the filter:twisted:

Next I will add plants.
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Thanks everyone! The Commander is feeling better, still a little loopy but but very optimistic. He would also like to thank everyone for their support! I suggested that he might want to wear a foil hat to protect him from future attacks.

Shortly after posing for his picture, I heard a loud beeping sound. The Commander said that an intruder was closing in! A few seconds later we heard a BOOM, one of the EMP mines was triggered. We immediately set off to see what had gotten blown up, and found this:

I don't know what this pile of twisted metal once was, but the Commander would like to offer the remains to Sunstar and the seekers as a gesture of goodwill. He believes the Seeker's goals are inline with his.

Dawntwister- Thanks so much for sharing that info! I am glad I didn't buy more dirt the other day or else I would have grabbed a bag without looking at the ingredients:rolleyes:! I will make sure to grab the right "Organic Choice", but if I can't find it I will look for the topsoil you used at HD, I can't believe it can be this hard to find just dirt! Your information just kept my Ugly Tank from transforming into a Nasty Tank!

PS: The ninja on charmed is actually the Commander's mother's cousin's nephew. they weren't close, but the Commander would say 'hi' if they bumped into each other at family reunions.
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Chadly- Thanks! After I plant this thing I will try to find a spot to lay the moss flat. Most of my tanks are ugly right now. Here is an old pic of my big tank (110G).

I got tired of it before the plants even got a chance to grow out, it just looked to cheesy after awhile. Right now there is only 20 gallons of water in it, and you haven't even seen Ugly yet! 4 dwarf puffers, 1 fan shrimp, and the Commander's 11" pet dragon (gobioides broussonetti) are all that reside in there.

For being the dirtiest looking tank on the planet, it is actually quite clean! The glass is caked with algae, but that is the only place algae will grow. No algae whatsoever on any plants or rocks in there! The Commander has been reading his favorite book looking for a way to formulate his secret weapon.

He found a lot of great inspiration in his favorite chapter: 'The Aerial Advantage'

The tall stem looking things are actually 3 pacific willow trees (Salix lucida ssp. lasiandra), the Commander's secret weapon! Why use a willow branch to fight algae when you can use the whole tree?! Right now I am on a weird night schedule, so the tank lights are on at night and the tank gets indirect sunlight in the day, but the algae on the glass is receding as I put these trees in 1 month ago. During the first week all of the leaves died and I thought the trees were dead, but the Commander was still hopeful. 2 weeks ago little leaf buds started showing up and new roots started growing. One week ago the algae on the glass started dying and the fan shrimp has been grazing on it a lot, I have had that shrimp for a year and and a half and he never used to do that. The BBA algae used to be half an inch thick and I couldn't even see through the glass, but only half of it remains now.

Each branch on each tree grows a leaf or 2 everyday, and there are around a hundred new roots forming, each about an inch long. I will have to trim these trees when they get bigger to keep them from boring through the silicone or breaking the glass.
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chagovatoloco- THAT was back in the day lol! (crap, just broke rule #1) Those were very turbulent times for the Commander, and for the record everyone of those Cobra foot soldiers who were beaten yet still lived were rewarded with a swift beheading:axe: for stupidity and incompetence:icon_hang. Since you reminded the Commander of these bad memories unresolved, he has dispatched his best assassin:ninja: to take care of that despicable WHINY Sgt.Slautered...or whatever his name is....I have been ordered to document the upcoming battle so no one will EVER think the Commander is slacking off again! Will keep you updated...:slywink:

dawntwister- I think any Salix species will work. I don't think it will be a miracle cure, but it has the possibility of working a little TO well. It might suck up all of your ferts out of the water column and starve the stem plants. I had red mangroves before and read online that if they were used in saltwater aquariums (mangroves), the skimmer would become useless and could be removed. The bad part is the mangroves would also suck up magnesium like there was no tomorrow.

Regarding willows, I read that gardeners make 'willow tea' out of the growing tips of willows and use the tea as a natural root growth stimulant, instead of using products like Rootone. Google 'willow tea' when you get a chance, as you can imagine my head is boiling over with crazy experiments! What would happen if I put a new growth tip under a freshly-planted sword?:rolleyes:

I still have a lot of research to do, but the main thing I gather is a tree is a tree as far as aquariums go, each one has different properties and some will work better, but trees are HUNGRY! I want to form aquarium bonsai in the Ugly Tank and when I have enough plants I will rebuild my big tank. The only roots or wood in the big tank will be live driftwood! If I were you, I would give myself a hug, and then I would find some swamp cypress! Cypress knees look killer, and you never have to worry about root-rot! Wish I could find some cypress here....
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Tex Gal- The Commander is VERY shocked that you could possibly think HE would intentionally provoke the General! Nonetheless he did heed your advice and gave the General a peace offering of catnip! I am sure they would like to say hello to you, but they are asleep at the moment....

cs_gardener- I think everyone could use a few laughs in this day and age, but the Commander doesn't understand what you people find so humorous...General Kitty Foo Foo is way to smart for that! However my sister did have a cat that fell into a 20G long one time...he swam so frantically that his feet never touched bottom (big cat to!), and we were stunned for a few seconds before we rescued him! I think he was scared to death because the guppies would nibble anything that was put into that tank, even him! That same cat liked to watch the toilet flush also, his head would follow the water 'round and 'round, all the way down to the point that he would end up swimming in toilet water. This happened on more than one occasion. I'm just happy I didn't have to fish him out...:rolleyes: By the way, I happen to have around 50#s of plaster of paris laying around...let me know if you want some, I can bring it to the next swap:p

Here are some pics of the plants I got at the swap (thanks again cs_gardener!)

Bolbitis, anubias 'nana, anubias barteri, hemianthus micranthemoides?, limnophila aromatica, flame sword (awesome!), marsilia quadrifolia, frogbit (been wanting this for awhile, thanks again!)

In case no one has figured this out, my camera skills are horrible! I can't get the colors to show for anything! Here is the freshly planted Ugly Tank:

I just spread them out a bit haphazardly, once I find out how everything grows I will rearrange things.

Next time I take pics I will at least wipe the glass, and play with the manual settings. Someday I will figure this camera out! Another Ugly point is that the tank sits against a kitchen divider, and a wall is 3 feet from the front glass, so full tank shots are just about impossible! I don't think the limnophila aromatica will be happy in this tank, but it is my favorite stem plant. I'm very tempted to add 1L of DIY co2, not only for the stem but also because the spray bar is creating a lot of splashing. If I do add co2 I only want to add enough to cancel out the excessive splashing, or maybe just target the stems with it somehow. The bad part about co2 is my tropica swords will get bigger and I want them to stay as small as possible while still being healthy, this will let the future scape appear a little larger. If I don't use co2, I will just let the limnophila aromatica grow emersed so it will survive. Even though it will turn green, at least it will live!

Well that is some heavy posting on my part, not a lot of pics but I will have plenty tomorrow! I picked up my soil (really! It's dirt!) today, so a lot more fun coming up:p
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chagovatoloco- Shhh!:-$ It's still under construction! Not ready for warfare... yet. The Commander won't use this as a battleground, merely a convenient way to get rid of dead joes. The main inhabitant will be his 11" long pet dragon (that's huge in the world Of Mice & Joes!).

The Commander salutes you! He also wishes you many successful battles and much joy in pillaging!!
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Tex Gal- I'm not filling up my tank because I am building an ugly plant shelf to grow swords emersed. Hopefully the swords above the water line will grow and flower a lot quicker, and this will give me a greater yield of plants! I gave up on the co2 idea also, the main substrate will be normal dirt El Natural style and I will use coco pots for the experimental soils (mineralized soils and crazy combinations). I will also let the stem plants grow emersed to keep the tank healthy, when plants break the waterline they gain access to unlimited amounts of co2! They might not look pretty, but the growth rate should put a co2 enriched aquarium to shame (based on same light levels).:rolleyes:

Another reason the tank is not filled up is because I want to grow out my bonsai trees in the tank, I will keep them trimmed and not let them grow out of the hood. Hopefully this will be a good grow-out tank and after I have propagated enough plants and run enough experiments I will transfer everything over to the big tank. But that is a long way off and destined for another journal!

This is why the Commander has been reading up on 'The Aerial Advantage', healthy plants and good strategies the General can use against Sgt. Stands-no-chance Slaughtered! Here is a pic of the dirt I finally got:

Diana helped me out and gave some very good tips, you can read about it here:

I will need to devise a way to add some of this new dirt to the substrate, basically I am aiming for a quarter inch of dirt on the left side of the tank and sand on the right side for the dragon. Tree roots will hopefully keep the sand from going anaerobic. As mulm builds up on the right side I will move it to the left side to help the lean substrate (hopefully!). I will take plenty of pics during this process, but I need to take some time to think this through very carefully as I might end up cooked! Being prepared at the beginning of this build and making sure I had all of the materials to be used laid out and accounted for would probably have been a smart move! Hopefully someone will take note and learn from my mistakes, but honestly I am having fun shooting from the hip! John Wayne would stand no chance against me!:p
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Chagovatoloco you cursed me! full on algae warfare already! I bet you people didn't see this one coming, did you? Lots of events have happened and I think it is only day 4 or somewhere around there (3? 5?!), I will have to check out Sunstar's journal to see what earthdate it is again.

I have many pictures to upload, so run while you still can! I was to busy to add separate events to this journal as I was fighting chaos and shear terror in my aquarium, plus I had to get my oil changed and that always takes awhile... In case you are wondering "What's wrong with that guy?:twitch:", well, the docters haven't figured that one out yet, but for one thing I'm not human, I'm actually a mech. The guy pictured in my avatar is actually my maintenance man named Bob. I prefer to use his picture so I won't scare people.

Here is a picture of yours truly next to the Commander (he's my favorite villain!):

And here's a headshot of me:

A couple days ago the Commander and I had to clean up our base, he told me the twisted metal happened to be the remains of one Octopus Plime, or something like that (sounds like dinner). This junk pile started oozing out some blue coolant and I let the Commander clean up the mess by himself, as I was afraid that the Octopus might have been infected with nano-bots (I don't know where that guy has been, you just can't tell nowadays). As the Commander was removing the head for Lord Starscream, coolant started spraying EVERYWHERE, all over the Commander! It was hilarious and I leaked oil all over myself! I guess it was one of those 'you would have to be there' kind of moments...Anyways, here are a couple of pics:

After removing the head, we both decided that we didn't want to clean the rest up, so we got Bob to do it for us. Bob always cleans up, things like water changes and taking out the trash...that kind of stuff. He is incredibly anti-smart and he would burn the whole base down if we didn't keep an eye on him, but he is cheap labor after all. I always call him 'Dumb Bob'. The second we turn our backs on him, look what he does! He starts cleaning coolant....

And now he's eating it! What a moron!

Shortly after ingesting the foul stuff, Dumb Bob muttered something about it tasting sugary, then he was out cold.

That idiot reminds me of the golom character straight out from Lord of the Rings. We called an ambulance for him and off to the hospital he goes.

After laughing for hours the Commander and I felt kind of bad for the guy. He is to dumb to breed and most likely a gelding, but he does our DIRTY dirty work for us, so we both decided to fly to the hospital to pay him a visit. Here is a pic of the Commander hopping in for a ride. I keep telling him he needs to lose some weight, but does he listen? Nooooo!

We flew at mach 3.2 and grabbed some Starbucks on the way. It took 40 seconds to get to the hospital (Starbucks was kind of busy).

Alright, that's enough about me. I will quite thread-hogging my own thread! Next up: Chaos, Algae warfare, and ninjas oh-my!
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LOL! I will have to take a look at your site sunstar, great stuff! Yes, I am made of legos, my claws and legs look a little funky though as Dumb Bob was supposed to pick up some parts for me, oh well...Mangroves survive in fresh and salt, but grew slowly for me. I have never had cypress, but I think I have read online that either bald cypress or pond/swamp? cypress might grow in brackish water, can't remember though.

Dawntwister- You should be able to find plenty of cypress trees! I meant to say I would like the bald cypress, very common around your part of the states. At worst you could buy some at a nursery, not sure how much they would charge though. Bald cypress is highly recommended for beginner bonsai, very forgiving trees! The Oregon plant swap was free, this was the first time the swap was held and only 15 people showed up, but 2 tables were FULL of plants! There were so many plants offered by great people that a third or a quarter of them were given to an LFS for free because people just didn't have room in their tanks! We all forgot to take cameras though, and every single one of us was kicking ourselves for not having more aquariums. I guess that is how people get multiple-tank-syndrome...
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Rohape- I think I really meant to title this thread 'Much ado about nothing', don't know what I was thinking....

This is the first time I have used bone meal, but I think It will be like any nutrient-rich substrate: soil/mineralized/whatever, The important thing is to use a gravel cap to keep the stuff out of the water column. I am paying the price now for not having enough gravel! The bone meal is coarse and heavy so I have no worries about it floating, but I did gravel vac my NPT heavily and put a ton of gunk/dirty water in this ugly tank, and it is seeping out all over! I agree with Essabee, clay would help bind everything down like glue.

Sunstar- are you going to be using only fluorite? If you add bone meal you might want to cover with a thin layer of sand, I only used fluorite once and it was good stuff but water and particles seemed to move very freely through it, using a little clay like Dawntwister said should give no worries. To bad I bought plaster of paris...

I think the bad clay was modeling clay. This kind of clay is made of artificial polymers, the red pottery clay is the good stuff.
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Thanks for posting that article! The biggest problem I am running into is I want to try everything all at once! I believe it is very possible to use all of these techniques in one substrate successfully, the only thing is getting the ratios right and not going overboard on one nutrient, but rather trying to find that perfect balance where everything complements each other. I will definitely be comparing different additions to each other by the N P K percentages you posted earlier. It is very hard for me to keep from diving in my tank and throwing everything I have at it, the coco pots should work well for experimenting if I can just hold on for these first crazy weeks.

Sorry for being so long winded, I guess it's in my nature to beat around the bush until the whole forest falls down! Keep posting those links, very good stuff!:)
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Sunstar- Yes, I set this tank up for propagating plants. As soon as I have enough I will transfer them to my big tank. The reason I'm not using the big tank for plant grow-out is because it needs a bit of cleaning (in case you haven't noticed!), plus I want to build a hood and remodel the stock stand on the outside, saving the stock support on the inside. I'm not a handy-man at all so this will be my first wood working project!

My Ugly Tank is a little working model of the plans I have for the big tank, and I have it half filled so I can grow the plants emersed and convert them back to submersed before they go in the big tank. Of coarse I don't want my big tank to be ugly also though! If you are seriously thinking about setting up a propagation tank, just consider your goals first. Do you want to propagate stem plants for your main display tank? A grow tank full of water might be the best because emersed stems get leggy. If you want to grow out foreground plants and moss, a vivarium with very little water would fit the bill nicely, and once you have enough you could just fill it up with water to convert everything back to submersed growth. Have your husband bring home a shop light with 2 T8s, fancy lighting isn't needed, but enough light to grow your plants quick and healthy is.
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