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davemonkey's 50 gal journal

47693 Views 290 Replies 49 Participants Last post by  mudboots
Okay, this is my first planted tank set-up. My goal is low-maintenance, low (or moderate) tech, and just to get a good feel for planted aquaria.

-Tank is 48"x13" and 18"tall (50 gal...or more like 48...).
-Substrate is "planted aquarium substrate" from, 3" deep.
-Filters: emperor w/bio-wheel; 1 powerhead on undergravel filter for right side of tank only.
-Lighting is 130 W PC of 50/50 10,000K and Actinic and a 2x15W "aquarium bulb" (came with original hood). Light duration is for 10 hrs (but only 8 with the PC hood).
-DIY CO2, 2x 1 gallon jugs with same ingredients for smaller containers (gives just a bit of CO2)
-dose excel and ferts

Plants are val, swords, crypts, anubia, egeria, mosses, java fern, hygo. difformis...low-mod light (due to half my light being actinic and non-productive)

Fish are random fellows I've been trying out, haven't yet decided what to keep in there. Getting rid of 5 SAE's and a Pictus Cat soon.

Many of the plants still need to do ALOT of filling in. Feel free to critique/comment. I am totally open to suggestions (unless it involves buying more plants for awhile). ;)

Here is the moss-rock I just tied-up a couple days ago. The SAE's liked it alot...yummy treat...hence, I'll be trading them in soon...:boxing:

Thanks for looking,
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I think it really looks nice. I had the same problem with my sae's. They ate my Rotala wallichi. One of mine was about 4.4" and one 6". They went to live with somebody else. I really love your little tiny crypts. and your vals look so nice! :D
HAH! Yes, my SAE's are about to move in with a friend. (He's the only other aquarist within 15 miles of me that I know of!!! And the closest pet store is 50 miles South in Abilene.)
Funny thing about the Vals, I heard they wouldn't do well with poor lighting and low-tech. But, from day one (when I only had 30 watts of questionalble light and no ferts/excel) they've been trying to take over the aquarium. I started off with 10 little baby plants and now I clip out runners every 2-3 days just to keep up! I'm going to let them eventually crowd out the egeria and then try to keep them just in the back and the left corner.

As for the Silver Dollar, he hasn't touched the plants yet, but he's still very young. I was thinking about trading in all the 'other' fish for maybe 20 serpae's and 10 or so bleeding hearts (they seem to be easy keepers for me). Of coarse, my wife gets her say in it....we'll see how it goes. Either way, the only fish I'm 100% going to keep are the Oto's. They are great fish!
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Howdy, Shurik and inareverie85!

Shurik, I think you are more skilled in this hobby than I am at this point! I'll be going to you for advice.

"inarev", I haven't started looking for adapters yet, but I'll let you know what I find. Today I'll be out at the zoo, though. My two yr-old wants to fee the giraffes!

i like the start, few questions though..
1. hows the aquarium plant substrate?
2. any thoughts on foreground plants?
3. which way are you using to diffuse the diy co2?
oooooooooo, I was hoping no one would ask about my CO2. I'm going to catch a lot of flack on this one. :rolleyes:


1. I think the substrate is nothing more than Soil Master with a different label (according to rumors). It has done WONDERS for the plant roots, but it's VERY light-weight, so you'd have to be extremely careful when siphoning and adding water.

2. as foregrounds in my particular set-up, I've done well with Crypt. wenditii and C. parva (very slow). (I've managed to kill 5 pots of HC.) I'd like to try pygmy chain sword some time.

3. I'm rotating 2 bottles for DIY CO2 with the same ingredients for smaller set-ups (2 cups sugar, 6 cups water, 1/4-1/2 tsp yeast). I have these connected to a "T" valve and run the output line to my powerhead directly to the air intake (the literally sucks/vacuums the CO2 as it is produced). I DON'T RECOMMEND THIS...IT CAN SUCK MUCK INTO YOUR TANK!!
The only reason I get away with it is because I'm using 1 gallon containers instead of 2-liter (1/2 gallon). This gives me a great deal of air space and prevents the vacuum from being enough to suck out liquid from the CO2 containers. I have a check valve at the "T" to prevent back suction in case the powerhead fails.

Anyway, it gives enough CO2 to give me just a bit of pearling, not too much (or else I'd have to have a high-tech...).;)

I'll post pics and complete details of the DIY CO2 I have set up in a later post (maybe tomorrow night) that shows everything set up. For now, I'm off to the zoo! Yippee!!:D

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Im kinda confused as to why you dont replace the 50/50 bulbs with some good plant bulbs?? btw your tank looks good, but the 10k/act. light is why it looks a bit washed out. Some advice, can the 10k and 50/50 and go with some 9325s. Youll love the look and they arent expensive. If your going to have a nice sized setup like that why cheap out on the last 30-50 bucks for some good bulbs??
First of all, thanks V.PooH for the advice. I'll look at doing some rearranging and what-not.

Fishman, I totally agree about getting better bulbs. The reason I got the 50/50 is because that's what came with the PC hood. Originally this was going to be a fish-only tank with a few ferns and moss and I wasn't pleased with the 30 watt hood it came with (too yellow). So I bought a PC hood without any concern about color temp (because anything was better than what I had.)

But then I found this web-site and, you know the rest. I've been looking at getting the 9325's, but I've only found straight pin arrangement for them and my hood is square pin. Are there adapters for this? If not, I'm looking at getting a 10000K/6700K mix.

Thanks guys for the critique and advice.

Okay, this should probably go under the DIY forum, but since xpistalpetex asked, here is my version of DIY CO2:

Two 1-gallon bottles* (Tropicana OJ) that I alternate. Each has 4-weeks of CO2 production (1/4 tsp yeast, 6 cups water, 2 cups sugar).
(*if you have the output end in a proper diffuser, use a 2-liter bottle to reduce the air space "void")
I have a T valve connecting the two containers and run only one line as output.

The 'make' was simple. I punched a nail through the cap, cut the tip of the tubing to a point, and pulled it through about 1-2 inches with pliers. (The dark color of the contents of this bottle is because I'm trying a cheap/no chemical wine-recipe.)

Check Valve between the T Valve and the output end

The "correct way"* to run the output directly to a powerhead. The CO2 bubbles get sucked into the intake and this provides a fine bubble spray with your waterflow. (*I took the picture this way to show what is recommended, but I actually have mine hooked up to the air suction intake and get a vacuum effect. I can only get away with this because I have so much air space in the 1 gallon jugs.)

Also, I don't use a bubble counter because the amount of CO2 I'm getting isn't near enough to over-dose my tank, but I recommend one for safety (muck guard) for anyone doing DIY and for smaller tanks.

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thanks for posting pics and new updates on the tank?
No real updates. It'll be at least two or three weeks before I have any plant growth to speak of. I did, however, wind up releasing my SAE's back in the tank. The guy that was going to pick them up backed out. So, I have 5 SAE's and a Pictus Cat I no longer want, but I suppose I can wait until my next trip to Abilene to the LFS (50 miles away is local?!:rolleyes: ) and trade them in. I'll probably do that next month.

I thought about selling them here, but the cost of shipping is too much and it's so hot here that they'd likely be too stressed, even with next-day. Besides, it will be fun to bargain with pet store people. They seem very nice.
Well, someone wanted the SAE's I had to re-catch them. The only problem is that one of them wised up and refused to get in the trap! I tried for 45 minutes to catch him.....looks like he'll be a lone SAE in my aquarium for a long time to come. ;)

On the bright side, I was able to catch the pictus cat without snagging his fins in the net. So, he'll be joining the other 4 SAE's in a new home. And, since I uprooted several plants in the process, I 'cleaned house' a bit. I had enough Val to thin out spots and put it in the corner where the Egeria was. (No more Anacharis for my tank.) This really brought out the moss tied to my "Dino-Tail".
Then I moved the sword back a little and thinned out the crypts into several smaller plants and filled in that corner. I've decided not to have a 'foreground' there, just a thick corner.

Then, I thinned out my foreground plant in the center of the tank and turned 4 plants into 19! So, now I can get a better cover in the front/center of the tank. (I'm still not 100% sure what it is, but it's looking like Crypt. willisii x lucens?)

Anyway, that's what's been happening this morning.

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Well, I did it again. I've got this Ozelot Sword that I decided to make my focal point, so I moved some stuff around. The only problem is that the sword is currently too small to pull it off, so this will just have to take some time to start looking the way I intended it. I debated posting pics, but I figured it couldn't hurt anything, and everyone likes to see pictures! :D

Just think "two months from now it would look like..." The sword will be flanked on either side by Bacopa that slopes downward to the sides and front (I'll have to trim it that way). I'm hoping it won't be long before the sword can compete with that large piece of 'mopani wood'. The darkness of the wood should start to be hidden by an anubias and the moss I've attached. (I may have to put some crypts in front, but we'll see.)

Pics are Full Shot, then Left to Right, then a close-up of the sword.

Here are more pics of what has been identified (for the time being) as Cryptocoryne X willisii lucens 'bronze'. (I think C. lucens 'davemonkey' has a better ring.) :D
(The larger small crypts in the midground are C.wendtii 'brown' or 'red')


Edit: I forgot, the back right corner will eventually be filled in with Hygo. difformis. It's there, but it just got a major trim and hasn't recovered yet.
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Tex-Gal, I've already given that moss 2 light trimmings! You must have been feeding those things their Wheaties before you shipped them over here. :rolleyes:

I put two plant tabs under each sword (about 1" from center on either side). Then I placed more tabs throughout (according to normal instructions), so all my plants should start pretty soon here. I'm sure it will take a week for the root systems to get back where they were (I trimmed roots again when I moved everyting around).
Howdy, Shurik!

Well, I'm totally pleased with how the moss is turning out. I had done two 'Very Light' trimmings on it, and then I hacked it down pretty low just recently. But it's growing surprisingly fast for moss. And I had some doubt about whether the Flame Moss would attach as well as other mosses, but it has latched on with a death-grip just like the Christmas Moss! :D

My C. willisii x lucens 'bronze' carpet plants haven't done much since splitting and replanting. Each plantlet has put on 1 new leaf, and so far they are still 'low-growing'. I was heavily tempted to 're-bunch' it all and buy some Hemianthus micranthemoides this afternoon after Church (we took a trip to PetsMart for some food and they actualy had some nice aquatic plants...even some of that lacey-topped Java Fern that I forget the name). :p
But, I really want to give these little guys a chance to reacclimate and start spreading. I'm a very impatient person by nature, but I'm giving these plants every bit of patience I can muster. I don't think they'll let me down. ;) Maybe in another couple weeks they'll start spreading again.

BTW, "Hagrid's Woods" is looking WONDERFUL!
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Howdy, TexGal!

I put the roots tabs at the recommended spacing (5"x6"), but this doesn't give the little crypts very much "special attention". I've made my mind now that tonight I'm going to treat them like my swords and give them extras beneath their roots. Although I'll have to make 3-4 of them share a tab instead of each one getting it....otherwise I might overload the system. Thoughts?
Curt, thanks! I just got back in town from a LONG weekend, so they are probably sitting at the post office waiting for me to pick up (we had our mail put on hold).

"Old Man", I spread the Flame Moss out along the area I wanted to attach it (just like you would Java Moss) and then tied it with 4lb fishing line. It attached securely after about 4 weeks, but I never removed the fishing line because the moss hid it well enough.

What's amazing is that it has grown very fast for me. I don't think I'm doing anything different from anyone else, and my temps are actually on the high-side for mosses. It could actually use another trim pretty soon here. The more you trim, the thicker it will get!
My tank isn't really ready fo ran update, but I thought I'd better do it now while I have access to a camera. I moved a couple things around, and my Hygro. difformis has not grown AT ALL! I think it's because I had it planted in the highest flow area of my undergravel filter (nutrients got pulled past the roots before they could be taken up), so I've moved them over several inches and put Bacopa in their place. (Don't use UGF in a planted tank.)


Flame Moss and Christmas Moss coexisting on a small rock

Cryptocoryne willisii x lucens 'bronze'

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By the way, I stopped using the DIY CO2 and have gone exclusively to Flourish Excel as my carbon source (and I dose ferts using the EI method). I also got some better lights from Curt, so I have a true 2.2WPG and NO MORE ACTINIC! :p Thanks Curtis!

The pictures above are just after a trim (and a heavy trim of my mosses...hope it was enough, Curt...if not, let me know).

Also, the excel doses haven't hurt my Vallineria much yet, maybe because of such a large volume of water and many other plants to absorb it all? (Still want to get rid of about half my Val if anyone is interested.)

Curt, I got a notice that the package arrived yesterday, did they survive the treck?

I just re-did the middle section of my tank and part of the right side thanks to TexGal's generosity. :bounce: I wish I had a camera again so I could show pics, but it's probably best to let it all grow and fill in a bit so it will look it's best. By then I'll either have a new camera or I'll borrow the office camera again. :photo:

I ripped out 60% of the Vallisneria, a few crypts, and most of the Bacopa. Some things got moved around and then I added:
Phyllanthus fluitans, duckweed (which my rainbowfish LOVE to snack on), Ludwigia repens, Sunset Hygro, 'Windelov' (just a tad), Blyxa japonica (a whole fore-ground worth), downoi (we'll see if it lives), and a great big Aponogeton longiplmphnfdlunphemus :-s (the one with LONG, narrow, wavy-curled leaves...very elegant!).

I went back to doing DIY CO2 (4 gallons of wine in the making... :drinkers: ) and added 30 watts to give me 2.8WPG.

My tank has really changed alot. The middle is more open and alot more light gets through to the foreground.

Anyway, I'll let it grow for awhile and then update with pics.

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Some updates. I just got back from out of town for a week so I avoided close-ups of the algae spots. ;) A few differences, but the same concept. 'Sunset' Hygro is replacing most of the Val (still needs to grow out) and Ludwigia repens replaces the Hygro. difformis that would not grow. Some Blyxa and Downoi in the foreground. All the duckweed and red-root got gobbled up by my rainbows (PIGS!!!). :hungry: Thanks to TexGal for the majority of my aquascape!

Here's a new moss I found (to the right of my "moss rock" )in Ohio growing in a yard in a shaded spot. Been in water for 5 days...only time will tell if it can be grown submersed.

Thanks for looking.

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'Inareverie85' and 'Oldman', thanks. My favorite pic was the left side where the Val seemed to flow up and over the large piece of wood...almost like a volcano. Believe it or not, the picture there actually looks better than the real thing! :rolleyes: I guess it's the angle I took the pic vs. the angle I see it when I'm standing in the living room.

Glenn, I'd definitely take some more duckweed! I know most people see it as a pest, but it's a real treat for my fish. :D

Oh, and I just ordered some petite anubias from 'Six'! She is shipping them next Monday.
Thanks, ferris89! Hopefully I won't get transferred with work before it gets filled in. Otherwise it will get torn down and I'll have to start over from scratch! Of coarse, I'd be going in with at least some good experience.

wrkucera, that's neat about getting the willisii labeled as E.tenellus. I've noticed that mine also grow more upright when they are shaded by my Vals or when I only run the main light (without the extra foreground lamp).
No updates, Akaizhar. I wish I did, though. I have had very little algae growth lately and the tank looks fabulous. I just don't have a camera yet. It's a bit of a 'sneaky' issue to "borrow" the one from work...kinda' a Federal Offense... And I've gotten really poor quality from disposables.

The plants grew SUPER FAST after the last pics. I did a major trim to get them shaped up and in place (but allowed room for growth). Then I pulled out TONS of Vallisneria (but there is still a good chunck behind the driftwood). Everything is going great. I promise I'll get some shots in the next week or so before my luck runs out with the algae.

Also, I just put in for a transfer/promotion in the Houston area, so if all goes well this tank will get torn down in a month or two. I'm going to try to keep as much as I can and do a copy-cat of this current set-up. But, we'll just have to play it by ear for now.

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