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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
How to start new aquarium

Because there is so little information about setting up a new aquarium right I am going to use 90 gallon aquarium and start it from scratch and post pictures and analysis step by step every week as it goes forward. A guide on How to start new aquarium.

Here is the plan. No fish, no driftwood, no decoration, no shrimps and no plants except for regular 'Java' moss Taxiphyllum barbieri (Vesicularia) and few Corydoras. Specialized substrates are not necessary to grow plants so I am going to use pool filter sand available cheaply in pool stores. Need about two inches or 5 cm, washed and rinsed. Fill up aquarium. Set CO2 to one bubble per second 24/7, Reactor 1000 by Aqua Medic driven by pump Eheim 1250. Add one air stone and set it to the lowest possible rate. No filtration of any kind. Take the moss and break it to about 16 pieces and attach each chunk to gravel about 1 inch size with a green thread. (For 50 gall 12 pieces, 90 gall 16 pieces, and 130 gall 24 pieces). Place evenly on the top of the substrate. Get about 6 Corydoras fish, feed sinking food regularly. No other animals until the aquarium settle in.

Dose:
once only 10 measuring tsp or 30 grams of CaSO4, 25 ppm Ca
weekly ¼ tsp of K2SO4
monthly ¼ tsp of MgSO4, ¼ tsp CaSO4

Light:
8 x 23 Watt Philips CFL reflector flood 1300 lumens each, 10400 lumens total, 184 Watt total, 2 Watt/gall. (Example: 250 Watt HQI Metal Halide 20000 lumens)
1. month 3.0 hours
2. month 3.5 hours
3. month 4.0 hours
4. month 4.5 hours
5. month 5.0 hours
6. month 6.0 hours
7. month 7.0 hours
8. month 8.0 hours

Test:
weekly for NO3, KH and Ca:
If NO3 is zero start dosing PPS-Pro daily at 1/10th strength, more if needed in the following weeks.
If KH is more then 2 degrees do water change. (If KH is more then tap KH do water change, for those who use tap)
If Ca is less then 25 ppm add CaSO4, (maintain 20 - 30 ppm)

What I am trying to achieve here is to find the easiest way to start a new aquarium without tiresome water changes, endless replanting and algae cleaning. When aquarium settles in algae unexpectedly dies off in a matter of days. Then the aquarium is ready for more fish and aquascaping.

Edward

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Week 1


Cleaned and ready


Substrate and inch of water


Filled up


New moss attached to one inch size stones with string

Dose:
Added 10 measuring tsp or 30 grams of CaSO4 to 25 ppm of Ca, TDS increase from 20 to170 uS.
Added ¼ tsp of K2SO4

Light:
Photoperiod 3 hours

Test:
NO3, zero ppm
Ca, 30 ppm
KH, 0.25 degree

Other: (TDS 170 uS, pH 7.0, PO4 zero, GH 3 degree, Mg 0 ppm)

Note:
No fish yet, waiting for some plant growth first. Zero algae.

__________________________________________________
Week 2

Dose:
Added ¼ tsp of K2SO4

Light:
Photoperiod 3 hours

Test:
NO3, 2 ppm
Ca, 30 ppm
KH, 0.75 degree

Other: (TDS 190 uS, pH 6.3, PO4 zero, GH 3 degree, Mg 0 ppm, CO2 11 ppm)

__________________________________________________
Week 3

Dose:
Added ¼ tsp of K2SO4

Light:
Photoperiod 3 hours

Test:
NO3, 2 ppm
Ca, 35 ppm
KH, 2 degree

Other: (TDS 220 uS, pH 6.3, PO4 zero, GH 4 degree, Mg 0 ppm, CO2 30 ppm)

Note:
Due to dissolving substrate by CO2 we have an increase of Ca and KH. Will do a water change of 15% to lower Ca to 30 ppm. Zero algae.

__________________________________________________
Week 4


Dose:
Added ¼ tsp of K2SO4

Light:
Photoperiod 3 hours

Test:
NO3, 2 ppm
Ca, 30 ppm
KH, 2 degree

Other: (TDS 200 uS, pH 6.3, PO4 zero, GH 3 degree, Mg 0 ppm, CO2 30 ppm)

Note:
Zero algae. Moss start growing.

__________________________________________________
Week 5

Dose:
Added ¼ tsp of K2SO4, MgSO4 and CaSO4

Light:
Photoperiod 3.5 hours

Test:
NO3, 5 ppm
Ca, 30 ppm
KH, 2.5 degree

Other: (TDS 240 uS, pH 6.6, PO4 zero, GH 4 degree, Mg 0 ppm, CO2 20 ppm)

Note:
Due to dissolving substrate by CO2 we have an increase of KH. Will do a water change of 20% to lower KH to 2 degree. Zero algae. Photoperiod changed to month 2 rate of 3.5 hours.

__________________________________________________
Week 6




Dose:
Added ¼ tsp of K2SO4

Light:
Photoperiod 3.5 hours

Test:
NO3, 3 ppm
Ca, 30 ppm
KH, 2.5 degree

Other: (TDS 210 uS, pH 6.5, PO4 zero, GH 3 degree, Mg 0 ppm, CO2 24 ppm)

Note:
Due to dissolving substrate by CO2 we have an increase of KH. Will do a water change of 20% to lower KH back to 2 degree. Zero algae. Moss filling up space and pearling little.

__________________________________________________
Week 7

Dose:
Added ¼ tsp of K2SO4

Light:
Photoperiod 3.5 hours

Test:
NO3, 3 ppm
Ca, 30 ppm
KH, 2.5 degree

Other: (TDS 230 uS, pH 6.5, PO4 zero, GH 2.5 degree, Mg 0 ppm, CO2 24 ppm)

Note:
Due to dissolving substrate by CO2 we have an increase of KH. Will do a water change of 20% to lower KH back to 2 degree. Zero algae.

__________________________________________________
Week 8


Dose:
Added ¼ tsp of K2SO4

Light:
Photoperiod 3.5 hours

Test:
NO3, 3 ppm
Ca, 30 ppm
KH, 2.5 degree

Other: (TDS 190 uS, pH 6.5, PO4 zero, GH 2 degree, Mg 0 ppm, CO2 24 ppm)

Note:
Due to dissolving substrate by CO2 we have an increase of KH. Will do a water change of 20% to lower KH back to 2 degree. Zero algae. Moss is pearling.

__________________________________________________
Week 9

Dose:
Added ¼ tsp of K2SO4, MgSO4 and CaSO4. Fertilizing 1 drop a day PPS-Pro.

Light:
Photoperiod 4 hours

Test:
NO3, 2 ppm
Ca, 20 ppm
KH, 2 degree

Other: (TDS 130 uS, pH 6.5, PO4 zero, GH 2 degree, Mg 0 ppm, CO2 19 ppm)

Note:
Zero algae. Photoperiod changed to month 3 rate of 4 hours. Start fertilizing 1 drop a day PPS-Pro.

__________________________________________________
Week 10


Dose:
Added ¼ tsp of K2SO4. Fertilizing1 drop a day PPS-Pro.

Light:
Photoperiod 4 hours

Test:
NO3, 2 ppm
Ca, 20 ppm
KH, 2 degree

Other: (TDS 140 uS, pH 6.6, PO4 zero, GH 2 degree, Mg 0 ppm, CO2 15 ppm)

Note:
Zero algae.

__________________________________________________
Week 11



Dose:
Added ¼ tsp of K2SO4. Fertilizing1 drop a day PPS-Pro.

Light:
Photoperiod 4 hours

Test:
NO3, 4 ppm
Ca, 20 ppm
KH, 2.5 degree

Other: (TDS 170 uS, pH 6.5, PO4 zero, GH 2 degree, Mg 0 ppm, CO2 24 ppm)

Note:
Will do a water change of 20% to lower KH back to 2 degree. Moss looks active enough to support Corydoras that are needed to keep white substrate clean. Added four Corydoras Sterbai, adult size up to 2" or 5 cm. Zero algae.


__________________________________________________
Week 12
… to continue …
 

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Edward,

Would you like to bet with me?

I say what you are about to do will work 100% no matter how many times you try. I mean no algae, no issues with anything. Well - you will have a tiny bit of algae on the glass. I mean the glass will need a very light wiping about once a month.

Let me know if you think otherwise and we will talk about the stakes.

:D
--Nikolay
 

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I don't doubt that this method will work and work very well. I do wonder if people starting their first planted tank would be willing to follow this, given the amount of time before they would have a fully planted tank, and the water testing needed. Is there a way to shorten this, and not do the testing, with equally good results?

One big help would be to show that a tank with just mossy rocks in it could look very beautiful, then at least the 8 months wouldn't be just dead time.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Hi niko,
I know you have done this many times and always with great success, we talked about it few times. What I have usually done before was with full photoperiod, full fertilizing and standard plants and that have not always produced smooth outcome. Also I tried with moss only and that was always the easiest experience to start new aquarium. Moss is very tough organism, almost nothing kills it. Dump it in a jar for few years, no extra light, no fertilizer and it does just fine, amazing plant. I think algae produced chemical warfare does not negatively affect moss as it does standard plants, so there is no dead decaying leaves releasing nutrients back to water and as a result no algae spore favorite conditions. Further, aquariums with moss also probably produce chemical warfare that actively inhibits algae development.

Edward
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Hoppycalif,
Moss aquascapes are one of the most stunning designs looking continuously beautiful while requiring minimal care. Unlike stem plants looking good for a week and then need replanting and waiting again, a constant struggle of maintaining fast growing sticks at desired height.

The time for the new aquarium to settle in doesn't have to be 8 months. What we are waiting for is for the biological system to naturally start killing algae. At that moment the aquarium is ready for any kind of algae free aquascaping.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Hoppycalif,
Quite a lot of people never experienced the beauty of algae free aquarium. Some people even believe algae is normal and always present in healthy aquariums. Weekly cleaning, necessary algae removal and massive water changes became the way of life. This is so wrong and preventable.

Aquarium is about balance, biological balance where fish food become fish waste and then is mineralized by microorganism to become plant food making plants to grow. Then plants are trimmed and removed out of aquarium. This natural process creates conditions deadly to algae. Even algae brought from outside and placed in such aquarium dies.
 

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When I redo my aquarium sometime in the future I will very likely try this method. New methods are fun to try out, so at worst it is a learning adventure.
 

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Very interesting experiment. Subscribed.
 

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Week 7 update
Where? Seems like Week 7 update disappeared. No matter. Does not change what I wanted to reply. I definitely feel like I am "between the Devil and the deep blue sea"! I have read most of Aaron's thread on his experiment with mineralized soil. That one has raised as many questions as answers. And during the reading of that long thread (16 pages!) I happened upon Edward and his experiment.

Now Edward says that many aquarists accept the notion that algae is like death and taxes. Whereas he seems to be saying, "not necessarily". That appeals to me very much. In fact it was the (apparent) lack of algae in Amano's tanks that got me interested in the first place. (By the way does he get algae but doesn't talk about it?). Whereas, although I am attracted very much to the "natural" system advocated by Walstad, et al., their fights with algae are not attractive.

So, why can't one have a "natural" aquarium, without all the CO2 and fertilizers added daily and bright lights and fancy filters, and without algae?

Now Edward, with your experiment, I have one quick question which occurred to me right away. Did you treat your moss before introducing it into your experimental tank? to make sure that the moss was not harboring algae? Afterall, although I understand that algal spores are "everywhere" as the literature says, the degree to which they can be eliminated at the outset the better. Thus far your experiment has had "zero algae" and good growth of the simple moss. So the moss did not bring the algal spores? or, has the environment you have created killed the alga before it can get to the point of being in evidence?

What I would like is to have aquaria that look like Amano's and Senske's and Lo's but use Walstadian methods. Can happen or no?
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 · (Edited)
Gasteriaphile
The most common path people go trough while setting up new aquariums is not pretty. We see it over and over again. Even some of the today's more knowledgeable people prefer one system over the other. Why? Because during the new tank syndrome struggle one system did not work for them, neither the second system until they tried the third system and wow - what a system - now it works. Both previous systems are junk, only the third one is the real deal, they say.

Unfortunately they are wrong. The reason why their aquarium suddenly looked spectacular was the timing, not the system. If they have continued either system the aquarium would have gone through the hell period and cleared up.

I have 13 aquariums and from time to time when everything is perfect I get bored so I rebuild few. Just to see what happens again, something to fix. So I tried all possible systems and fertilizing methods and waters, tap, RO, hard water, soft water, etc. I have automatic water change systems and variety of dosing pumps, no problem to set up anything. Still, no system alone started smoothly without problems. The worst case was a 130 gall completely sterilized aquarium that killed hundreds of new plants every week for six months. It took six months to break it in.
The fastest to break in was when I rebuilt 10 gallon aquarium connected to other three 10 gallon aquariums where water flow across all four in circulation. The other three aquariums made the rebuilt aquarium in the middle to clear up immediately. Nobody knows why.
We have resolved the fertilizing technique which took many years. Now I want to crack the break in period. Honestly, I rather wait for few months then keep pulling algae for few months. There is no way to cheat time.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Gasteriaphile
Amano's aquariums start just like any other one with break in periods, no exception.

So, why can't one have a "natural" aquarium, without all the CO2 and fertilizers added daily and bright lights and fancy filters, and without algae?
Have you ever looked at the bottom of a lake? Nothing appealing down there.

Did you treat your moss before introducing it into your experimental tank?
No, the moss was not cleaned. It was simply taken out of another aquarium and moved to the new aquarium. Algae spores are everywhere and can not be eliminated. They are simply waiting for better time to bloom and that is not coming yet.

What I would like is to have aquaria that look like Amano's and Senske's and Lo's but use Walstadian methods. Can happen or no?
Yes, but it takes more work and time. Why not do it the easy way instead?
 

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I'll state my thesis at the outset and go from there: by using the right equipment and learning to do some basic techniques quickly and proficiently one can avoid algae outbreaks, excessive labor, and long periods of time waiting for a tank to 'settle in.' It shouldn't take more than a few weeks to have a viable, beautiful, and relatively low maintenance planted aquarium.

I am so engrossed in this thread because it exemplifies the extremes people will go to in trying to avoid what they consider to be 'high maintenance' and repeats some common misconceptions about 'high tech' tanks when compared to Walstad method tanks (I use the terms 'high maintenance' and high tech' here because these, along with algae, seem to be what you are trying to avoid).

I'll play my cards facing up. I don't accept the following premises you put forth:

1. This is the "easiest way to start a new aquarium."

2. That 'high tech' and stem plant layouts are a "constant struggle."

3. That there is "so little info about setting up a new aquarium right…"

Please forgive my long-winded elaboration:

1. This is the "easiest way to start a new aquarium."
This method doesn't seem easy to me: fiddling with a timer, constantly testing water, and oh the aching waiting! At very least this method is too slow to be viable for beginners, as Hoppy points out. Also, it misses the point: the moss isn't thriving… it's reaching its stringy arms upward trying vainly to find some light. And while it does avoid algae, there are easier, faster, more productive and well-tested ways to do this.

2. That 'high tech' and stem plant layouts are a "constant struggle."
Stem plant and high growth layouts are not necessarily 'high tech' and are not synonymous with 'high maintenance.' Both phrases are misnomers. Canister filters, pressurized CO2, diffusers or inline reactors…all of these have been in common use for more than a decade and are not rightly called 'high tech.' PC, HQI, or T-5 lighting are also pretty standard these days (it also happens that all of these are WAY less expensive than they used to be and not out of reach for the average hobbyist, even beginners). Further, most of the Aquarium Gods more often forgo truly high tech equipment (most of the time) like dosing pumps and pH probes that determine CO2 injection, etc. And most of them aren't constantly testing the water either. They obey the plants and fish, not test kits, when it comes to water quality.

As to 'high maintenance,' I passionately believe that one of the keys to keeping successful aquariums is to learn that maintenance requires finesse. A water change shouldn't be a drudgery. Learn to do it quickly, proficiently, and, dare I say, with some grace. It can be, not only easy, but gratifying. I love the way my drain and fill hoses roll into a tight circle and how all of my equipment fits neatly like a puzzle into my service kit. What you consider unpleasant work, you will avoid. You erect psychological barriers for yourself that inhibit your results. The stringy moss makes my point.

Some of your statements are very telling of your maintenance philosophies:

Edward said:
...until they tried the third system and wow - what a system - now it works...Unfortunately they are wrong. The reason why their aquarium suddenly looked spectacular was the timing, not the system. If they have continued either system the aquarium would have gone through the hell period and cleared up.
This is simply untrue. The great aquarists create great aquariums, not by stumbling on what time would make an inevitability, but through understanding and experience. They are masters of their systems and of timing. They didn't happen upon their systems but created them through careful research, persistence, and, yes, probably some trial and error. Their results are to be admired, not demeaned as a happenstance a little more time could as easily have as easily produced.

Edward said:
Honestly, I rather wait for few months then keep pulling algae for few months. There is no way to cheat time...Amano's aquariums start just like any other one with break in periods, no exception.
That your personal experience has led you to this kind of extreme method is unfortunate; however,this isn't true for everyone. Because of their carefully refined techniques, Amano, the Senskes, Lo, and many, many others do in fact reduce or eliminate "break in time." No true masters spend months pulling out copious amounts of algae from a tank. And many of the rest of us regular peons don't either.

A couple of other maintenance-related points: you say something about "endless replanting." In an aquarium in the conventional "Nature Aquarium" method, plants are not often replanted. Stem plants should be trimmed/pruned and only very occasionally replanted when their bases are ragged (after many weeks). Some ground covers may be pulled and replanted, but even this is infrequent.

Also, many "Nature Aquarium" style layouts retain their good looks for long periods without interruption (many in the Nature Aquarium Gallery itself have been running and beautiful for more than four years). While there are many stem plant heavy layouts that look a little bare the week after a trim, the one you show here has looked bare for ten weeks! You've exemplified exactly what you're trying so desperately to avoid.

Lastly, Jeff Senske just gave a talk at the AGA Convention that addresses this idea of 'high maintenance' as a misnomer. If you haven't seen it or weren't at the convention, the DVDs are worth a glance. Trimming plants should not be 'high maintenance.' Luscious growth fits very neatly into the idea of a sustainable, low maintenance aquarium.

3. That there is "so little information about setting up a new aquarium right…"
There is, in fact, more good information available than ever. Unfortunately it is sometimes hidden amongst a lot of misunderstanding-though-well-intentioned not-so-great information.

For Gasteriaphile and others who are seeking good methods: find the aquariums you like and imitate the methods of the people producing them. If you like what Amano has done, look to his publications for answers to many of your questions:

Aquarium Plant Paradise is a great beginner's guide. Amano's Online Aquajournal is also a good resource.

If you like what the Senskes do, get their book, The Inspired Aquarium. Even though it's directed at someone looking to hire a professional aquarium service, it's got some excellent maintenance tips and covers new ground in regard to incorporating the aquarium into the home.

Also, the Creative Aquascape Union holds the world's most awarded aquarists… and their website is full of great info.

Gasteriaphile said:
What I would like is to have aquaria that look like Amano's and Senske's and Lo's but use Walstadian methods. Can happen or no?
Gasteriaphile, if you're seeking results like Amano and the Senskes, imitate their methods. Your backyard is unlikely to hide a deposit of Aquasoil, and Home Depot won't be carrying it anytime soon. Sorry. And while Walstad methods can produce lovely, viable aquariums, this doesn't seem to be the style you're after.

My point is that you need not go to unnecessary extremes to avoid water changes and other routine maintenance. Become proficient at them through practice and conscious self improvement.

The method Edward proposes here, while interesting and perhaps useful as an experiment is certainly no methodology to be imitated by beginners.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
I can see photos of post #1 only. But every other update has no pictures. Is that right or I miss one?
The new stuff, info, tests, specifications, updates and pictures are only in the post number one. I've been editing weekly the post number one in order to keep all of the information in one place. It is easier to follow. If you can see Corydoras Sterbai picture now then everything is just fine.
 
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