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Celestial Glade - 125Ltr Low Light - Low Maintenance

5333 Views 21 Replies 7 Participants Last post by  Supercoley1
I thought I would start this journal earlier than normal to include my research period and maybe 'bounce' a few ideas off people before I get to the moment of truth.

The current scape (under the forest canopy) will be in residence for a couple of months until I am ready to rescape so as a reminder the setup is as follows:

Fluval 125Ltr/33USG tall tank
Tetratec Ex700 filter with glass Lily pipes
Hydor 200W external heater
Pressurised CO2 with a Rhinox 2000 diffuser
Realux T5 HO 30W Plant Grow
Arcadia T8 18W Freshwater

LIGHTING - I will be reducing the light to just using the T5HO on its own (0.9WPG) for the whole 10 hour photoperiod and just use the Arcadia to balance the colour when taking photos/when people are visiting.

FERTILISATION - I shall be returning to the PMDD+P formula which I found to be very successful previously.

SUBSTRATE - I am trying to keep the cost right down and so I am intending to use mulm - ½" Leonardite - Previous Tropica mixed with a product called Aquagrit Underworld - topped with some 3mm Dorset gravel.

The Tropica has been in the previous scape for 9 months and as I have been water column dosing should still have some oomph in it. I will only use half and top it up with 2kg of the Aquagrit which is clay base like the Tropica and has trace elements in it. The trick I have up my sleeve which could all go pear shaped is that the previous setup has play sand which is quite easy to suck up through the siphon leaving the Tropica behind (already seeded of course.)

CO2 - I will be running at 2bps because I like to keep the Lily outflow permanently at the surface disturbing the surface which means that some CO2 is lost. I shall also be using a solenoid again.

PLANTS - I shall only be buying some Cryptocoryne Parva as I will mostly be using plants from the current setup which I can separate. They are producing runners everywhere too and with no pruning for the next 2 months should give me a lot more coverage than present. I also have Ferns and Anubias in there to use. I shall be removing Lotus' and Blyxia from this scape entirely.

Known species that I have are:
Crypts: Wendtii (Brown), Wendtii (Green), Undulata, Balansae (3 variants), Spiralis + some stray unknowns.

Anubias - I think they are all Barteri but I have 3 sizes 1 species has 1" leaves, 1 has ½" leaves and the other (petite) has ¼" leaves.

Ferns - Philippine Java Fern (This is a huge plant at the moment), Needle leaf Fern (Also huge amount of growth)

HARDSCAPE - I am removing the plum slate and Mopani caves that I have used in the last 2 scapes, I will probably start this scape with totally new rock and wood as I want to utilise more of the footprint of the tank with plants.

MY IDEA OF THE SCAPE - I want to get this scape more structure. The last 2 were more of a scattered natural effect and using crypts has made it even more so with their runners popping up large plants at the front etc. This time I want to start with the plants tall at the back and ascending toward the front where Parva will be the smallest. The Anubias and Ferns will of course be on wood somewhere in the midground.

I am veering toward the redmoor style of wood but I don't want this tank to look like the ones I am always criticising for looking like Amano copies. I want to use the wood without it being a focal point. It will just be there to use for depth with the narrow leaf ferns and Anubias mainly and should eventually be hidden. I may take a trip to my local nature reserve to see what I can find there before I look in fish shops.

FISH - 4 x Pitbull plecs, 4 x Bolivian Rams, 3 x Otos, 20 x Cardinal Tetra (I am going to restock the full shoal again.) Heavy stocking but that’s what I have done since the very beginning and with the plants they all seem to get on nicely.

So there we go. Another scape to plan for and something for me to look forward to.

Any ideas welcome (please note I'm terrible for sticking to my guns and ignoring advice. lol)

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Due to the washing up liquid incident (3 year old son, washing up liquid and aquarium - fill in the gaps) I will now have to replace all the fish and this has burnt a big hole in the budget for this scape therefore the gravel and fresh Tropica has now gone out the window!!!!

However I have decided that I am going to crack on with this tonight.yippee.

I have 2 new pieces of wood (pictures below) yes it is redmoor and yes I always moan about samey samey copycats and how boring it is seing redmoor wood etc BUT with my tank being tall (20") and this wood being quite low it should look different to the usual 'branchy' ones. These 2 pieces cost me £24 so I think they were a bargain and as you can see spread nicely across my tank.

I'm going to remove all the current hardscape & plants (trying to get all the roots out too) then I shall remove all the anubias and narrow fern from the current Mopani. Then reattach it to the new wood (spraying it to keep it moist.)

Then I'm going to replace the huge Java Fern (on same bit of bogwood as it is now) which is similar in size to George's specimen that moves from tank to tank. lol Add in the 2 pieces of wood and finally plant up the Crypts.

No Blyxia or Nympheae/Nuphar in this scape. Just Crypts, Ferns and Anubias.

I have got the Tetratec working again (hit and miss when closing the lids on these filters wether you get a seal or not!!!.) Due to me noticing my Fluval3+ which was in for 4 days gave much more flow even though it is rated 700lph same as the Tetratec I have added my Maxijet MP400 powerhead to the left of the tank aiming at the stream of CO2 bubbles. It doesn't alter the direction of the current as it is directed in the same line. Just gives it a second push in the same direction.

Looking forward to doing this now. No plan for the plants, I'll just lay them out on the table and stick them in where I see fit. More structured this time tall at the back, small at the front.

I have decided on the fish being 4 x Otos (maybe Zebra Otos if I can get them), 8 x black corys and 10+ Thick Band Zebra Rasbora (Microrasbora erythromicron) These will be the stars of the show and are similar in size to galaxys (if I can find them) pic below

I will add the fish in July/August as and when I spot them so this scape can be blasted with CO2 from now until then allowing for all the current crypts to 'bush up' a little.

Will add some completed pictures tomorrow.

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Sounds like a good plan. Those rasboras will look great in your tank. I say wait until you find the zebra oto's. What will your background plant be?
I have 3 different types of Cryptocoryne Balansae (1 thin crispy, 1 thin flat and 1 with a wider leaf) These will make up the left 2/3rds of the back while the huge Java will occupy the right rear corner.

I have already completed it. Just waiting for the water to clear (always a problem when using an existing substrate with clay in it)

Will post piccies tonight hopefully

Well after the troubles of the Tetratec filter's constant leaks and the washing up liquid incident here it is and I have to say I have impressed myself at last (about time)

These are the plants that I removed last night:

Top left to right
Cryptocoryne Undulata, Cryptocryne Spiralis (large version - speckled), Needle Leaf Java Fern, Anubias Barteri ver Nana (1 inch leaves), Anubias Barteri ver Nana 'Petite' (¼ inch leaves)

Centre left to right
Cryptocoryne Wendtii Brown, Cryptocoryne Balansae Sp, Cryptocoryne Balansae 'crispulata', Anubias Barteri Sp (2 inch leaves)

Bottom left to right
Cryptocoryne Wendtii Green, Cryptocoryne Spiralis Sp (smaller version - non speckled), Phillipine Java Fern.

The picture doesn't show just how much actually came out of the tank!! I pruned and discarded any bad leaves etc leaving me about 2/3rds of the quantity on this table. It would've looked much better from the left hand side but this is a 5ft table and I couldn't get a decent pic of it whilst showing as much as I could in this picture.

As usual I have done things that others wouldn't. I couldn't soak the redmoor wood for 3 weeks as I have a family that needs the bath and nothing else large enough to contain it (and I didn't want to wait 3 weeks) therefore it is soaking 'in situ'. You are now expecting that I have created a 'floating' hardscape. Well you can see the result below.

Also with the Tetratec playing up I have been using my old Fluval3+. I managed to get the Tetratec working again but I have also left the Fluval3+ in and it blows the CO2 about perfectly as you will also see below. This means I have 2 filters with a rating of 700lph (I know realistically this is reduced drastically) so a total maximum flow rating of 1400lph. When I get the fish in a month or two I will replace the Fluval with my maxijet MP400 which is much smaller and inconspicuos but until then I may as well make use of the extra filtration I have on hand.

As expected with 're-using' the existing substrate the water is still a little cloudy due to each plant that gets pulled through the sand barrier having some clay stuck to its roots. The pics below show the cloudiness but you could not see into this tank last night when I finished at 1pm. This is a testament to the Tetratec's capabilities when it doesn't leak (It has no filter floss in it, just foam, bio balls and ceramic hoops!!)

All that is left to go in is some Cryptocoryne Parva which will surround the base of the redmoor pieces and to the sides, leaving the central front as plain sand (samey, samey) like I have in the past 2 scapes. I have sloped the sand (as much as I could with reduced visibility) from front to back so that the substrate depth is about 9cm at the front and 13cm at the back.

On with the pictures:

This is the first full frontal pic of the new scape showing the wood and plant positions as well as the cloudiness of the water (p.s. I forgot to turn the Arcadia Freshwater on for the photos so this is with just 0.9WPG T5HO 4500K pink light. Its a damn good light:

No I have not put rocks into my hardscape. I have put them onto the hardscape to hold it down lol. They are just natural limestone I dug out of my back garden whilst digging it through (I have about a ton of this stuff which came out of the ground!!! The rest I am gradually chipping into small squarish pieces to cover my patio area for free.) These will of course come out well before I get fish in there because it is not good for the Ph stability, but until then I can't see the problem.

The Blackpool lights at Christmas

Drop checker is still only lime green and CO2 is only on for 8 hours a day (2 before, 2 after lights) yet look at the pearling on the needle ferns. They would usually flair out from the branches but all the bubbles of CO2 and pearling are holding them bolt upright. This is 24 hours after the tank was refilled so I am pretty sure it isn't from the water change as it wasn't there when the lights turned on this morning.

This is the left hand side (showing the Fluval3+):

This piece of wood has needles, plus the large, medium and petite anubias on it. You can see the larger Spiralis and the 2 types of balansae pushing over from behind the wood.

Finally the right hand side:

This piece just has medium Anubias and needles on it. The Java in the background is much bigger than it seems but I used some cotton to pull it together at the base as it was flattening out from its own weight out of water. It will spread out once it attaches again and I 'cut the cord'

So there you go. Have I cracked it at last. Doing the 'in thing' inevitably in my own way. I like it but criticism is welcome. As with the last scape though remember that the Crypts will over the next 2-3 months bush up quite dramatically to fill out the space at the moment.

First fishy arrivals will be at the end of July/early august and they will be 4 Zebra Otos (Cocama)

Thanks for reading
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The scape is now 2 weeks old and still looking good. Tetratec did me proud sending me a replacement O ring and a new in/out hose connector for the filter's powerhead. Is up and running and not a sign of leakage at all.

The tank is looking nice and lush, just wish it had fish in it but 2 weeks more waiting and I shall have the microrasboras in there.

Some of the crypts have a few melting leaves but overall they are holding up really well. They are starting to blossom with life now. This has cause some very minor hair algae outbreaks though but when I say minor I do mean that. they are very small and isolated. I have however left the melting leaves in there as with me not having fish and therefore no leftovers the MTS need something to eat. They are eating up the melting leaves pretty quickly too.

Just re-installed my nightlights and thought that I would show you a pic.

Roll on 2 weeks time when I get put some life back into the tank.

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This is the reason for 'Under the forest canopy' finishing prematurely. I guess you could say the inspiration for the new scape.

Those doors were closed and locked very soon after I took this pic I can tell you and the canopy put on before Bob went for a swim:

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I thought I would update this a little (step by step) since I haven't done so for a while. Be patient. Will be a few posts here :)


I went to Portugal for a couple of weks and when I returned I got 6 black corys as I planned (Corydoras Schultzei 'Black) and I have added some Cherry Shrimp

The zebra Otos died off within a few days of adding them. Its a problem I often have with Otos when I get them but normally most survive with a few deaths.

The Microrasboras are terribly hard to photograph. Very shy fish.

The photos:

Firstly the Black Corys and then the cherry shrimps.

These fish are lovely, the shrimp are cool and all seems to be going well. The microrasboras are shoaling but are still at the back of the tank. Very hard to photograph.

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One problem with tanks that are long term is that growth changes the effectiveness of the circulation which in turn of course changes how well the bubbles are moved. In this case the Crypt Spiralis in the left rear section went rampant!!! Much faster than the balansae in the same area. The Philippine Java in the rear right was getting a bit large too. Reminded me of Carlos Valderama!!! Therefore I moved it all about trying several positions within the tank for the diffuser and the powerhead.

I eventually settled on returning to the needle wheel concept!!! but with a difference in that the powerhead was now placed next to the Lily pipe and therefore both were pushing the water from the same place in the right rear corner to the same place along the back to the left rear corner. Then the diffusor was positioned near the substrate directly below the powerhead intake. From there the bubbles rise, enter the powerhead, get chopped even further to the point that you can hardly see them at all (I wondered if some were missing the intake at first) and then blowing along the back. Proof of the pudding was I could see them traveling along the front glass so I was pretty happy with the new positioning.

While I was getting it all sorted I took Carlos out and gave him a haircut (and beard trim - you should see the roots that I cut off!!! like a ball of wool.) As usual I got a little carried away but this plant grew like mad. When it regrows there will be a plus in that the diffusor and powerhead will be totally hidden. There will be a minus though in that it will be quite awkward getting out each week to clean. At this moment I was getting quite interested in the inline Boyu that Zig used on his mountainscape V2 (AGA winner)

This first pic just shows the tank / scape from the front. Ignore the Macrandra at the front as this is a test only as at this point I was trying to prove that there is no such thing as a highlight/lowlight plant (I succeeded as you can see ;).)

The Philippine Java in the right rear is about a third of what it was previously as I took to it with some sharp scissors. lol

This second one shows the tank from a more 'arty' angle. I think it looks fuller and a little better from this angle too as you can't see through the stalks of the crypts while I was waiting for them to fill out more.

One more pic of the corys 'schooling'. They are actually feeding and they tend to congregate together.

Now onto some fish that are darned hard to capture and even when you do get pics of them they are not very good when using a compact. I guess someone with some decent equipment and knowledge to go with it could get much much better.

These 2 pics show males. Notice how intense the blue stripes on his side are. They are more intense in real life but again compact camera etc. His fins are red and his head yellow to go with the blue stripes. I think this is the same male. How can I tell? Each fish although having the stripes has slightly different stripes. Some are wider and less of them, some are fine like this one. the wider ones are the more spectacular as the contrast between the white/silver flesh and the blue stripe is even better than this:

These 2 pics show females. Now you can see the difference in that although they still have the red fins and yellow faces their stripes are a dullish grey/blue. Nowhere near the intense blue of the male.

Finally one more shot of the tank in the daylight (before I trimmed the Philippine)

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I removed the balansae and Spiralis from the left of the tank as they were just getting too big for this scape. I then put the Philippine Java in its place. I then had a potential 'triangle' from left to right.

I then planted Pogostomen Helferi as a 'carpet' in the right rear part of the scape.

Full tank shot from the front:

From the left:

From the right:

And the Helferi:

And a couple of pics I managed to take of one of the Zebra Microrasboras:

After about 8 changes of positioning / equipment I had settled on the setup shown in the pics below (This would change again a few weeks later :))

I also decided to have a darned good clean of everything and a small 'restructuring/repositioning'.

First thing I did was to remove all the hardscape pieces. Only 3 so not too much trouble:

As a sense of scale the bottom piece is 50cm long!!!

And this is what was left with no hardscape in (you can see some of the microrasboras. There were only 6 left of the original 12!!!)

The main changes then were that I removed the pogostemon helferi from the rear corner. Then removed the Crypt Parva from the front right corner. Put the 2 left pieces of hardscape (not the long one) as they were. then I replaced the long piece but instead of it coming from the front right corner it is a lot further toward the back. I then added some Crypt Wendtii (Tropica and green) behind it. The Parva I removed was then used in front of the Wendtii (the whole length of the tank.) Finally I replanted the Pogostemon Helferi in the front right corner.

This is how it looked:

This is the left part of the tank:

And this is the Pogostemon on the front right:

And although its not incredibly visible the Wendtii at the back:

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1 pic I liked from early in the month (still with the previous CO2 setup here)

I cut a couple of handfuls of the longer needle leaves out at this point (this would prove to be a weekly thing with this 'slow grower') along with the P Helferi (which I wasn't really liking.)

Then I removed the front 10cm of the Anubias on the left as it was starting to push against the glass. Got a little carried away and some of the wood was now exposed.

So the needle leaf was thinned out quite a lot, The left front was a little lighter but there was a little space which looked a little odd and would do for a while.

At this point I switched to EI as I had time on my hands due to losing my job and 50% water changes fills at least an hour of the week. lol (The real reason is it is very hard to get lean dosing right with such high plantmass ;))

I also extended my photoperiod to 9 hours as I had lost my job and waiting for 4pm was too long :). It was now 3-3-3 in that the 0.9WPG came on at 3pm The other .5WPG comes on at 6pm then back to 0.9WPG from 9pm to midnight. I also lengthened the CO2 so it ran 1pm to 11pm.

I was at this point happy with the flow and CO2 setup but as the plantmass was growing I conceded that there would be future flow problems and ordered a Koralia 1 (1500lph) to take me to 2200lp total (17.6 x tank volume per hour!!!)

I added 5 Otos and as per usual for me 5 quickly reduced. First day I noticed one with it's back stuck against the slit in the filter intake. Turned off the filter and it swam away but then next morning noticed what was left of a fish carcass with shrimp loving the feed. Then a few days I found the weakest of the 5 arrivals had his nose stuck in the slit. I don't think it had been trying to feed there, just it was too weak to fight the flow when it got too near. The other 3 were doing a great job and fattening up nicely. I always find this with Otos that you buy a few and a couple don't make it.

One thing I do like about Otos is that they can make even the poorest of cameramen (thinking me) look good as they stay perfectly still. In this one's case even more so than usual as this was the weakest one during its second day in the tank:

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This is up to date now. lol

So here we have it. I now have the Koralia 1 in place. CO2 is back to Rhinox 2000 in the rear corner. I also altered the hood to turn it into a luminaire anticipating that some new lighting that I am working on. This tank has gone open topped!!! For now it is hanging by chain and S hooks until I figure out a prettier way.

The whole setup with chains and hooks:

I found it really hard to get good pictures now that a lot of light from the gap between light and tank interferes with my compact where before the hood blocked it!!!. So here are the best I could manage :(

These first pictures just show the scape from the front:

Is it just me or does an open top tank look a lot bigger? I look at mine now and even though I can see more of the glass heightwise it gives the appearance of being longer!!! Strange but cool:)

A sneaky peak into the tank with the Luminaire raised

And for those who want to see 'low light' :roll: pearling here it is. Remember this tank has 0.9WPG for most of the day with 30ppm pressurised and full EI dosing. There is an extra 3 hour spell in the middle where it comes up to 1.4WPG. this is about 2 hours into that central spell so 5 hours into the photoperiod.

So under 1.4WPG. A 'low light' plant. Pearling like mad!!! Pearls even more later on in the photoperiod:

I am currently experimenting with an Anubias 'petite' carpet. We will see if it merges nicely. These are just superglued onto the little stones. They were rescued from underneath other larger anubias so look a little tatty at the moment but whatever anyone tells you. don't bleach anubias to remove algae. Sort out the problem and reason they are getting algae. in my case just put them in the light as nothing is suffering algae (fingers crossed)

This is a close up so you can see some glue:

And to get a sense of scale against the 'medium' v Nana. the medium is smaller than the normal Barteri variety that I have been hacking at and selling on:

The fish count at the moment is:

4 Black Corys (One died a week after purchase and then last week I assume one died whilst laying eggs. They must've got stuck whilst she was laying. I have a wriggler in a net at the moment which is 3 days old.

4 Microrasboras - These have proved not very hardy and with them hiding continually then it is very hard to see when they reduce in numbers. These will be replaced by Norman's lampeyes sometime this year.

3 Otos - These are very fat now.

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Well, I have to say, amazing. The ferns are very lush and healthy and the layout is great. Well done :)
I really like the wild and unkempt look + the open foreground. It looks almost menacing.

Good luck with the anubias carpet but I think I would prefer open foreground.

Great job!

I always enjoy seeing how tanks change over time and this has been a fun trip as there was no waiting involved. It looks very good as you have it now, wild but not overwhelming. The anubias should eventually branch and fill in but I hope you keep some sand exposed for the contrast it provides.
Your layout looks cool!!
And just as trackhazard said, i love your open light foreground
I am going to alter the scape significantly in a month or 2 though :( I apologise. lol

I will be using all the same plants and the same wood but want to open the scape up a little so I can see the fish more as they love to hide in the undergrowth :) I also want to get rid of the san and put some small gravel in. I will still be using the (now 18 month) existing nutrient rich substrate. Just scoop the main amount of the sand off the top, mix it all up and then put the gravel on top

I will be letting it grow on like this one as I am a huge fan of junglescapes as they look so natural.

This is the plan at the mo:

I will keep it updated though so you can see the change and voice your comments :lol:

Another surprise (I will start another journal later this month) is that the Corys are spawning every 5 days or so and therefore I have setup a 'nursery' for them. Being a scaper there was no chance of a bare bottom tank so there will be a little 10ltr 'Iwagumi' journal starting up

Thank you for your comments. Much appreciated when someone likes what you do. Makes it all worthwhile when others think the same :)

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Just a quick update.

Tried to take proper photos here. lol. as you can see from this pic:

I have been informed that the LEDs are actually running at approx 7.45W per series so this is a pic of my 33USG with approx 37W of LED above it!!! this is the first pic in this journal using the LED lights so you can see the difference by clicking backward a few pages ;)

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I love your black cories. I haven't seen those before.

So what happened with the R. macrandra? I can't imagine it growing in less than 1 wpg unless it really give a high par rating since they are LEDs.

I've enjoyed your journal and await your new scape. Your bioload is extremely light. Is there a reason you don't add more fish?
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