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50gal Ugly Tank

57047 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!
41 - 60 of 225 Posts
So, the addition of phosphate bearing bone meal into the tank and cap it with flourite? that would work?
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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So, the addition of phosphate bearing bone meal into the tank and cap it with flourite? that would work?


That is what tried with vege firts that has phosphates in it and now my plants are suffering. Need clay to keep it down. Also read that some pottery clays have a chemical that is not good for aquariums. Can't remember what it was or where I read it, perhaps at this forum.
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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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.

Well it might if you don't move anything or vacuum the substrate. Logically I think essabee's idea to use clay to keep it capped would work better.

If you add bone meal you might want to cover it with a thin layer of sand.

I did that and added fluorite over the sand. Still things floated up into the water column when I moved things.

Here is an article on clay balls written by
Richard Sexton (rs79)
excellent article. I am bookmarking that.

make some fert balls might be good.
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!:)
So the purpose of this tank is a progation tank?

I was thinking of doing that with my other tank. I just need lights and some way to get it working. But I was not planning on doing that until my tank reset. I was thinking of using my current inert subtrate in it, put my shrump in it for the time being until the flourite and the main tank stabalises. I was thinking propagation so I might....keep my hobby fed.
The biggest problem I am running into is I want to try everything all at once!

I did that and some conversions. Now I have to start over.

I mixed the vege firts, root starter and kitty litter into my dirt. Then topped with sand and Fluorite. Moving plants caused some fish deaths. Thus I put HOB filter on afterwards. Now, even though color is good, Hygro is melting. Also brush algae appearing. I am impulsive by nature.

Many say using kitty litter is bad but according to the krib it depends on the kitty litter. I am going to use it again. I am using the red bag kitty litter. For 1st layer will put sphagnum moss down. Then will bake the dirt with the kitty litter, for can't leave it outside to heat. Afterwards add ferts I use to the dirt. Then will make a test run in a bucket with water from my bare bottom tank. It is a combination mineralized substrate and substrate at this link.

Kitty litter is considered poor mans laterite

Instead of buying fluorite why not just beat the lava rock? I think they are about the same. I just have fluorite because I got it free.

Glad to pass the info along. Feels good to help others not to make mistakes I have made.

I forgot did I mention you get bone meal, by KAL at a Health food store?
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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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Dawntwister- Yes you did already mention getting KAL-brand bone meal at a Health food store, but it is worth posting again! I have been thinking about it and have decided I will buy a box of KAL next time I'm out doing errands, I feel bad about having a full box of the bone meal I used still sitting here, but I can always use this stuff on my outdoor plants. I'm not to worried about bone meal leaching out so much (it will have to wait inline with all of the other problems!), but using a brand with less P is worth me buying a different box IMO.

Hopefully people will learn from our experiences and not make the same mistakes I made! READ those labels and be very picky when buying stuff for a new setup, don't do what I did and plan for years and then rush out to buy everything at the last possible instant. Take your time planning AND buying materials, this will save a ton of headaches and you won't waste money on stuff you don't need! These are wise words and someday I plan to heed them!:rolleyes:
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Chaos, Algae warfare, and Ninjas oh-my!

Well we got back from the hospital and Dumb Bob will live unfortunately...I just think that incidences like this are mother nature's way of eliminating dummies from the gene pool. It really is funny though because every time Dumb Bob comes out from the lavatory we notice that it is covered in blue! The doctors said this will occur for a couple more days.

Meanwhile the Commander's #1 assassin has been tracking Sgt. Slaughter, traversing through rough terrain all the while unseen...or so he thought:

Joes have ninjas to (they're like rabbits), and this ninja tries to take #1 by surprise!! #1 is far to cunning to fall for a trap like this though, nevertheless a lightning-paced dual ensues...

#1 quickly subdues our common enemy, disarming the ninja of his sword and knocking him down...he has been in this business for a long time. That's why he's #1! Before the ninja can regain his bearings, #1 picks him up and tosses him in the microwave. This battle must end quickly before the Joe's are alerted to #1's presence...

Microwave set on HIGH for 10 minutes, NO trace evidence left behind! (start canned laughter)

The search for the notorious Sgt. Slaughter continues...
(start theme song) #1 #1, #1 #1, he's the best #1 because he's #1!!

I know what you are thinking right now, you are probably saying "Gee zer0zax, we know you like taking pictures and have entirely to much time on your hands, but what does this have to do with planted aquariums?" Well, the simple answer is EVERYTHING! Planted aquariums are love & hate, peace & war, all rolled into one! If you do to much or to little and don't weigh the consequences, bad stuff starts to happen! Pay attention so this doesn't happen to YOU!

When the Commander and I got back to our base from the hospital, this is what we found:

Another one of Sgt. Slaughter's ninjas (they really are like rabbits, they got mad hops) had infiltrated our base, and was lowering two algae bots into The Ugly Tank! We dispatched the ninja quickly, but it was to late...the algae bots were already going to work in the tank.

At first we thought they were kind of cute in their own special way, it looked like they were trying to plant some kind of bio film in the substrate. Here is a crappy pic:

Unfortunately one of the algae bots must have been armed with an algae bomb, because once that thing went off, BOOM!

Here is a full tank shot. At first it looked like a film on the glass, but when I looked closer I noticed it was actually leaking out from the gravel. It looks like it is creeping toward the sand:

At least the water is crystal clear now, just wondering how long it will last! Guess the filter works after all!! The funny thing is that some of the very fine dirt is laying on top of the sand, and no film is on it. Some of the bone meal is exposed also as Dumb Bob mixed up the substrate by accident (I'm getting tired of him) but the film is not growing on all of it, just some pieces. I did gravel vac my 5gal NPT very heavily so I could use that mulm to help cycle the ugly tank though, and some of the gravel I used was very dirty, all of it unwashed. I can't really pinpoint what individual thing is promoting this film.

The film also appears to look like a white fog laying low, concentrated in the middle-right of the tank and not really developing on top of the gravel, only where the gravel meets the sand. All of the dirt and bone meal was placed on the left side of the tank, and the left side has very little of this stuff growing in it. All of the plants have reoriented themselves to the light and several new leaves are growing. The Limnophila aromatica is turning a brown red now, not vivid like when I first got it, but it has grown at least half an inch and has severl new leaves. All it has to do is reach the surface!

Here is a pic of the bio film up close. This is as close to it as I can get before the pics start to come out fuzzy looking. I really need to learn how to take close-up shots, hopefully I don't have to buy a lens to focus pics that are taken close.

The bio film looks like it is really starting to dig in! I know these pics are bad but if anyone can identify it, I'd appreciate ya! The film is light gray/whitish in color and a few tiny white specks can be seen in it here and there. Tomorrow I will have to take a dive in the tank and battle the bio film bot with a gravel vac, as Dumb Bob is still sick (guess he does have his uses).

Next time on The Ugly Tank: Gravel Vacs and Soil Bazookas
(stay tuned)
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Not to insult your intelligence. There should be a picture of a flower by or on one of your camera buttons. That is for macro photography. Just push that button, you should see a flower icon on your screen. There you go. :) (Didn't know if you knew that)

edit:I'm wondering if you just need some more plants, but also are you "feeding" your plants anything? I haven't seen any fish. So I'm thinking the bacterial process to produce nutrients in your substrate isn't kicking in so your plants aren't working to their potential. That's why you have the film. Just my thoughts.
it probably is as type of fungus. if it is what I think it is, it is because the tank isn't cycled yet and the bacteria in a cycled tank will out compete it.
Thanks Rohape! I don't feel insulted at all, I like learning and sharing information! I did notice the flower button, but since I don't have any flowers I thought that it did not pertain to me... I don't have crazy money to buy new lenses so I can't wait to try that one out! After I gravel vac and use a soil bazooka I will add an otto and a bunch of snails, see how they do for a little while. Even if a lack of fish isn't what is causing the film, the plants still need their nutrients. I should have at least added a bunch of snails on the first day, and the otto on the second day.

Sunstar- It looks like a fungus to me to, there are some very thin brown pillow looking types also, and I always get that stuff when starting a new tank, but that usually goes away quick on its own and I just let it be. I think the brown stuff is a type of diatom looking thing though, but the white stuff is more like cobwebs.

PS: Rohape, I have an order of plants coming in the mail from AB and it was shipped yesterday. Since I live in Oregon and AB is here also it should be here in 2 days max!
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zer0zax Sorry about the repeat I am bit under the weather and forgetting where I post info, suntars 25 gallon or yours.

I wonder if adding potassium nitrate would offset the imbalance of the bone meal you have. Buying potassium nitrate on line is probably cheaper. Tell me what brand of bone meal you have and I will google it. Besides potassium nitrate and flourish excel are the main items I keep seeing that help with algae.

What is a soil bazookas?

Another experimenter is Homer_Simpson

I will try to get ninja on charmed to come cure bob.

Keep up the humor. I once heard someone cured his cancer with laughter. It seems humor and being positive strengthens the immune system to fight illness. I believe in the addition of eating good, supplements and medicine ( only when needed) helps.
I get the webby fungusy stuff on driftwood sometimes. it goes away or I unlease snails on it.
I know what you are thinking right now, you are probably saying "Gee zer0zax, we know you like taking pictures and have entirely to much time on your hands, but what does this have to do with planted aquariums?" Well, the simple answer is EVERYTHING! Planted aquariums are love & hate, peace & war, all rolled into one! If you do to much or to little and don't weigh the consequences, bad stuff starts to happen! Pay attention so this doesn't happen to YOU!
And knowing is half the battle YO JOE!
Dawntwister- Don't be sorry! The KAL bone meal you mentioned is very helpful! The bone meal I used is Whitney Farms brand, rated at 3-15-0. Diana's bone meal is rated at 1-11-0, so my stuff is more potent I guess, but I would rather have used stuff that is a bit weaker and be able to spread more of it throughout the left side of the tank. I think if I did it that way with the weaker stuff I wouldn't have to worry about P hot-spots.

It doesn't matter where you post the info! I am going back and forth between threads also, so it is easy to keep the same train of thought! I have a bag of muriate of potash rated as 0-0-60, the label says K2O=60%. Not sure if this type of potassium would be good to add to the water column...if not I will have to buy some of the right stuff!

The soil bazooka is what I will use to add the Organic Choice soil to my already planted substrate. I have no idea how it will work as I haven't built it yet, but hopefully it will work. Don't worry about curing bob, he makes me laugh! Humor is good, I might start calling him 'Bob The Blue'! If you could hire the ninja on Charmed to "take care of" bob, that would be great as he is getting on all of our nerves...
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I think your right Sunstar! I forgot about the driftwood fungus, I usually get that on soft pieces of driftwood. I never worry about it though because snails and my fan shrimp (atyopsis species) feed off of it until it is gone. After I do a tiny bit of gravel vac-ing and adding more soil to the substrate I will summon the hord of Cobra snails! I will make sure to leave a little bit of cobweb fungus stuff in the tank so I can see if the snails will eat it. If the snails do fine and don't mind crawling around on it then I will start acclimating my fish from the big tank.

It will take a while to acclimate the fish though as they are kept on a crushed coral substrate, PH is off the charts, my test kit only goes up to a PH of 9. My tap water has a PH of 6.4 and is very soft, KH= 0ppm, GH= 10ppm! I am also going to add some crushed coral to my filter to raise the hardness a little bit. Wish I had some dolomite so some magnesium would get added over time also. I do have some Epsom salt handy though, just don't know if or how much I should add...

And knowing is half the battle YO JOE!
:eek:Blasphemy!! No Yo-ing Joes here! Only Cobras are allowed:rant:
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