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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I did the full setup on this tank the morning of Thursday, May 29, 2008.

TANK: standard 5g glass with black plastic frame
FILTER: none
LIGHT: 25w incandescent bulb in cheap desk lamp
HEATER: 50w Tetra Whisper Heater
BACKGROUND: DIY with styrofoam, a utility knife, sand, gravel and silicone sealant
SUBSTRATE: ~1/2" top soil, fiberglass window screen, 1/2-2" of sand with a bit of gravel mixed in for visual interest
DECORATIONS: 2 driftwood branches, 2 rocks
PLANTS: E. tennelus, E. augustifolia 'vesuvius', Duckweed
TEMP PLANT: H. polysperma 'sunset', Rotala rotundifolia - both are free floating and will be removed to larger tanks when the other plants get established

No fish or critters in there yet until the tank has cycled. Then I plan to move some RCS in. Possibly Endlers or Badis badis. Not sure which yet, as I'm waiting to see which I can get when the time comes. Won't be many of either regardless, just a couple or three (depending on which it is). Also considering an oto. There are maybe 4 ramshorn snails in there that came in with the plants. (Yes, I wanted them in there. ;) )


I realized this photo looks a bit deceptive, but the water is actually clear. No yellow. I think I needed to adjust the WB on my camera. However, there is some discoloration settling on the floor of the tank:


I realized this is from the soil under the sand. I'm also wondering if this isn't part of the "tannins" I'm seeing in my recently set-up 30g hex tank. Since this 5g tank has no filter (ie no water movement to speak of), there's nothing to stir this stuff into the water column, so I can easily remove it with a turkey baster, which I do each morning I go into the office.




WTS showing the lamp over the tank. It sits on top of a file cabinet in the corner of my office. There is a window behind it, but the blinds are closed for about 20 hours a day. They are only open when I am in the office from 9-1. East facing window. The desk light is on a timer, currently set up for ON 8-12, OFF 12-1 and then ON 1-5. I'll adjust that as the plants get established and eventually remove the OFF time in the middle of the day. I want to prevent algae growth as the plants get established as best I can.

Anyone see anything that could use tweaking? I'm still playing with position of the lamp, including height above the tank. Since it is a 25W bulb, I don't want the tank getting too much light (especially in front of that window), but I also want to make sure the plants get enough light.
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
I got tired of dealing with that top soil. Was worth a try, but I was totally not happy with that substrate. So I tore this tank down this morning and re-did it using the system that worked for me years ago - clay litter, Osmocote and sand substrate. I'll get photos hopefully tomorrow to post. :D

Next tear-down and rebuild is my 30g hex tank, which I used the same substrate combo with and want it out. Going to the clay mix with that tank as well.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 · (Edited)
Doh! Brain fart. :rolleyes: Here's the update on this tank since I redid it.

I did the full take down, clean out and re-setup on this tank the morning of Thursday, June 12, 2008. I did NOT like the way the top soil discolored the tank or the way it smelled, so I decided to go back to the substrate mix I used in the past. I hadn't added any critters yet, so it was an easy task to break the tank down and redo it.

TANK: standard 5g glass with black plastic frame
FILTER: none
LIGHT: 25w incandescent bulb in cheap desk lamp (bulb about 6" above top)
HEATER: 50w Tetra Whisper Heater
BACKGROUND: DIY with styrofoam, a utility knife, sand, gravel and silicone sealant
SUBSTRATE: 1/2" in front to 2" in back mixture of clay kitty litter and sand (1/2 & 1/2) with some Osmocote added; topped with about 1/2" of plain sand with a bit of gravel mixed in for visual interest
DECORATIONS: 2 driftwood branches, 2 rocks
PLANTS: E. tennelus, E. augustifolia 'vesuvius', Duckweed, Fissidens (attached to the driftwood) and HM for foreground
TEMP PLANTS: H. polysperma 'sunset', Rotala rotundifolia - small pieces of both free floating, will be removed when other plants get established

No fish or critters other than a few tiny snails right now. I still haven't made up my mind what will go in there. Trying to decide between Endlers or a Dwarf Puffer. I know I want an oto in there, but I haven't been able to find one down here so I'll have to order one when the weather cools down (bloody hot here right now!). The otos my LFS stocks are actually SAEs. I made the mistake of buying one of those from them years ago and won't make that mistake again.

WTS:


HM:


Fissidens (Phoenix Moss):


Nice and clear and is still that way. So I'm a very happy camper. :) Once the plants are growing well, I'll start adding critters, assuming I've found what I want (and DECIDED what I want) by then.
 

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That is the same heater I use for my betta tanks. I love this set up! I have never heard of kitty litter for substrate, does it eventually get mushy?
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
where did you get those branches, I want something exactly like that for my nano!
The driftwood pieces are smaller pieces off some large pieces I got from "badcopnofishtank" on the PT forum. He sent me some great branchy pieces. I used one of them in the 30g hex tank I posted in the El Natural section of this forum.

I have never heard of kitty litter for substrate, does it eventually get mushy?
Mushy? No. Maybe since I mix it with sand. I'm not sure. The longest I had a tank set up with this substrate was about 2 years, and that tank was only taken down because I got out of the hobby due to personal circumstances. It never got mushy or nasty on me. This substrate works great. You do have to be careful when pulling plants out of it, or you can cloud the tank. But I have found if I'm careful, that rarely is an issue. Planting in this substrate is really easy, too. Filling the tank has be done very carefully to avoid stirring up the substrate (like I did with the 30g hex - doh!). But even if worse comes to worse, a filter with polyfil type media clears it up in no time flat.

I originally learned about using kitty litter as a substrate by doing online searches. I wanted planted tanks, and I found that gravel and U/G filters like I had in my tanks at that time just wasn't working very well. I decided to look for info about doing tanks as close to nature as possible. The kitty litter came up highly recommended on one of the few sites I could find at that time. Needless to say, that was nearly a decade ago, and there's MUCH more info online now. My trying the top soil was one of those options I ran across in researching things this go around, but I wasn't happy with it at all, so I went back to what I knew worked for me in the past - kitty litter, sand and Osmocote. (BTW, other ferts may well work for this. That is the brand readily available to me locally and I know is safe for fish and inverts. That's the only reasons I chose to use it this go around.)
 

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I like the overall look of the tank but am distracted by the red rock on the left. Tank may look better w/o it.
 
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