Aquatic Plant Forum banner
1 - 20 of 34 Posts

· Registered
373 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Now that my new tanks are one year old, I thought it might be interesting to present a photo journal. I have 3 tanks set up last year after i moved to my new house: a 120g and two 90's. This journal is about my 120g. The custom built glass 120g is 24"x24"x120' has an overflow whose box is drilled with extra holes to permit 50% water drain and refill. The plumbing is connected directly to my main water system. CO2 is injected using a Gen-X 1000 needle wheel pump into the main return This has provided adequate CO2 despite the use of overflow and sump. Main drawback are the micro bubbles which interfere with nice clear photos.

The sump is set up refugium style with short Plexiglas dividers and several sections of 2" poret sponge. See I use the center section to house extra fish and plants. Moderate water flow is provided by a Quiet One 4000. I also included an inline 8-watt UV filter, which is run 24/7. This was primarily intended to avoid any green water. Later, I will describe why running a UV 24/7 may not be such a good idea. The substrate is ADA Amazonia which was layered over "Power Sand Special." Lighting is a 4-bulb T5 HO Tek Light. I also have a Hydor Koralia Model 2 Powerhead Pump for extra circulation. The substrate, lighting, use of sump, etc, were all new to me. I was building and flying my airplane at the same time. I looked forward to the challenge.

Let's start with the initial planting plan. As shown, I used a very large number of Cryptocoryne which mostly disappeared during the first few weeks. Same for the Lagendandra meeboldii 'pink.' Many however came back by mid-year. Same for the L. meeboldii. Shortly after the initial planting, I also added a so-called dwarf Crytpocoryne spiralis. This turned out to be a very robust species, and not so dwarf.


The hard scape mostly consists of 2 large pieces of driftwood, and a few smaller pieces and lava rock in the front which I covered with moss.. One of the large pieces of wood was not totally water logged and I attached it with rubber suction cups to the rear wall. The other piece came out of an older tank.


Prior to planting, I submerged the substrate for a few days to allow some of the ammonia to be released. I changed 50% water daily for the first week which was not a problem with my system. For the next few weeks, I changes water a few times each week.

Initial Planting

Water Clears after 4 days

As the crypts disappeared, the tank looked really empty. So, I added non-crypts from my other tanks - Blyxa aubertii and Microsorum. The latter included several types including needle leaf, and wide varieties. I also positioned a small cutting of trident and windelov which later dominated the top of the hardscape. Later, I obtained B. japonica which filled in nicely and seemed to thrive in the rich ADA substrate.


Aside from frequent water changes and small weekly amount of potassium sulfate ( 1/4t) I did not add fertilizer until week 4. Then I started to use KNO3 and two weeks later added phosphate. At the two month point, I dosed weekly with TMG. From that point on, I did macros as needed. I initially used 4 parts by volume dry KNO3 to 1 part K2HPO4 and later switched to 3:1.

1-9-09 The ferns on top of the wood have been mostly removed. The more mature reddish-green aubertii is quite striking.

Fish were added at week four. These initially included two pair of adult keyhole cichlids and a small group of German rams which I obtained from local hobbyists. One pair of keyhole cichlids quickly surprised me with a clutch of eggs. While this is normally a nice happening, it created havoc to the parva lawn in the foreground. The parents created new pits and moved the "wrigglers" daily. I tolerated the new landscape because this was the first time I had keyholes with free swimming fry -- a beautiful sight in a planted tank.

1-11-09 Keyholes tending their young and keeping me from removing algae near the substrate

Around the same time, I introduced 2-3 dozen smaller fishes - rasbora, cardinals and neons, obtained from another Raleigh hobbyist. I had no fear that the new fishes would upset the spawn. To the contrary, they might only heighten the parental behavior.

By mid-January, the keyhole's were still bedding down their young at night. Both parents appear to take turns . One with babies, the other guarding perimeter. During this time, I allowed the plants to grow a little too large (including the B. japonica bush).. The German Rams also got into the action and remove plants from front left corner in front of their spawning pit. The fishes were happy and my plants had to take second position.

A little about lighting: For the first 2 months, I had been running all 4 bulbs of the T5HO Tek lights for 12hours/day. I figured 216 watts over a 24" deep 120 gallon tank would be perfect, if not a little less intense that I might even need. The T5HOs in the TekLight fixture performed much more efficiently than my previous T12 linear bulbs. All my tanks seemed to have more algae than I liked or expected, so I reduced lighting to 10 hrs with 2 bulbs and 5 hrs with a mid day burst using all 4. This seemed to work a lot better in this tank and in my others also with TekLights.

A planned aquascaped tank is somewhat of a new venture for me. For the last decade and a half, my tanks were about the plants and nothing but the plants. Fish were secondary. Sometimes, the tank was packed so full, that even if there were fishes, you would not see them. For example see my last 65 gallon in 2008.

Since I still wanted a predominately underwater cryptocoryne garden for my 120g, I started to add additional cryps. My notes say that in mid-feb, I added C. x willisii (aka C. nevillii) from my emersed culture, and C. cordata var. blassii and C. pontederiifolia (or "moehlmannii ", as it was called by the friend who gave them to me). In Feb, I added some undescribed crypts which I picked up at August, I also added C.undulata (formerly called C. willissii)

Around this time, I agreed to give a photography talk at the Carolina Aquarium Workshop, so I started to take more pictures and improve my technique a bit.

As the C. crispatula varieties started to spread in the back corners (which I call "retrosprialis" and "balansae" as they were labeled by Florida Aquatic Nursery), I slowly removed the B. aubertii which grew into nice large specimens. After a few months, I also trimmed back the B. japonica which seemed to grow disproportionately large for the neighborhoring smaller cypts. The tank satisfied my desire for a nice low maintenance garden.

2-6-09 Blyxa needed some major trimming :)

Unlike the tanks in my old house which were crammed into a room behind the garage, the ones in my new home were in my office. This was a much more prominent location of the house, so I wanted it to look nice and also with fishes. So, I added a school of 50 cardinals and some SAEs. They nicely accompanied the existing several dozen small fishes.

The next pictures show the progression over the next two months with the "spiralis" soon earning a prominent center location.


3-22-09 The rosaefolia is now more evident. The "spiralus" provides a nice focal point.

In early April, I removed keyhole babies ( the growing group of keyholes seemed out of place) and the next week went the adults. The parents were showing pre-spawning behaviour, including fanning substrate and disturbing the now nicely developing C. parva.

During April 2009, I also removed/cut back the java moss which had been growing profusely on rocks and wood in front. The moss would get tangled in the neaby parva bed, and when I tried to separate them, the parva would sometimes get uprooted. For the first several months, the moss nicely served their decorative purpose and providing a food haven for the young keyholes. For the first few trimmings, I used scissors inside the tank. To avoid small pieces of moss floating away and later re-establishing in unwanted locations, I later removed the stones and small pieces of wood and cut the moss out side the tank. After a few months, the moss covered wood seemed to stop growing. I am guessing that the group of 2" SAEs kept it in check.

Around that time I added 8 dwarf chain loaches (Yasuhikotakia sidthimunki), who almost immediately developed ich. They were not quaranteened, which was a mistake. First I did not medicate, figuring the UV would knock it out. After a month or so of noticing an occasional ich spot on one of the sids or cardinals, I finally resorted to Aquar-Sol ( 7ml /140g.). I generally trust this copper salt for a plant tank and especially in this case since most of the plants were crypts which tend to enjoy more than a trace concentration. The ich seemed to disappear, or so I thought.

The photo journal then had a 5 month pause. All my archived pictures seemed to be either of close-ups or of my other tanks. Full tank pictures of the 120g resumed at the end of August. My written journal notes were more intermittent, so apparently everything was fine during that period. The plants were maturing and filling in nicely. The so-called dwarf spiralis was starting to spread into unwanted areas of the tank, especially the front. It was getting more and more work to keep up with them intruding into the parva which uprooting both. In June, I decided to remove the nice group of adult plants from the center of the tank. This gave the aquascape an entirely new look and better achieved expectations for a relatively low maintenance garden.

My notes also show that I treated the tank again with Aquarisol in June after I noticed a few ich spots. In early August, disaster struck, I was away for the weekend and upon my return, I discovered a bad outbreak ick in the 120g. I resumed Aqarisol with a vengeance for the next 6-7 days, but it was too late.. Day by day, I found dead cardinals floating until all 50+ were all gone. Soon thereafter, I had lost a total of 5 sidthimunki.. The medication brought the tank under control, but not before I lost a ton of fishes. Interestingly, not a single rasbora, neon or SAE had died. I tried to figure out what might have happened and then discovered that the UV bulb had burnt out, presumably right around that time. It seem plausible that the in-line UV had kept the ich in check but did not knock it out completely; once the bulb failed, the ich took off. Thus the moral is to not use a UV continuously with mild and intermitted ich.

During the later summer, I started to remove more B. japonica and permit the smaller crypts to fill-in the front. For the next few months, I let the tank do its own thing, but this meant that some plants started to grow too much. In particular, the ferns on top of the drift wood had become a dominant feature of the tank and while it looked very nice, they were shading out the plants in the substrate. During this time, nevertheless, the Lagendandra and some initially planted crypts seemed to reappear.

8-28-09 Without the "spiralus," the aquascape takes on an entirely different appearance

9-13-09 But, the ferns seem to be growing too fast and requiring maintenance



9-18-09 The middle is opened up

9-27-09. The ferns have grown back again

I did not talk much about the red plant which I did not intentionally add to the tank. This Alternanthera reinecki 'rosaefolia' grew out of a crevice in the left piece of driftwood. It took a few months before it was even identifiable as a stem plant. I would typically pinch off the stems and only leave a small amount to add the only splash of contrasting color in the tank. During the period when I let the plants get overgrown, I allowed it to go emersed for a while.

9-27-09 I have allowed the rosaefolia to break the surface.

11-14-09 The ferns are back. This seems to be a recurring issue.

In early Nov, I decided to remove, but left behind roots and the base of a few rosaefolia stems, so I am sure that it will again surprise me with its interesting bright red color. I also did a major removal of ferns (trident, needle leaf, etc.) and opened up the left middle of the tank again, and perhaps did a better thinning.

The shading of some crypts in the middle of the tank may be limiting their growth. For example, the wenditt 'Mi Oya' has not developed as widely as I had hoped.

Here you can also see how dramatic is the Lagendandra meeboldii 'pink.'

When I planted it last year, I did not pay attention to the orientation of the rhizome and clearly the new leaves are growing in the wrong direction - towards the front!. I now see some new leaves coming out of the back of the rhizome, so the front half of this beauty may soon be offered on APC. That's it for now.

· Premium Member
359 Posts
Great journal and great looking tank! Thanks for the details on the progress of this tank and the ups and downs you experienced.

One question: do you regularly thin the parva or is that as full as it got over the course of the year?

· Premium Member
8,540 Posts
I've enjoyed your journal. I love seeing all the progressions. Your C. parva is great! I don't think I've every seen a tank with a total foreground of it before. So neat how your you ended up with some plants making a surprise showing.

Also very sorry about the ich outbreak. It's horrid to loose so many fish. Glad you were able to get it under control.

I look at my tanks and marvel at the plant mass that seems to appear out of nowhere. It's incredible how soil and a few chemicals and light can create such mass. I'm always blow away after a big trim. It's like your sale of your java ferns!

· Registered
2,918 Posts
That's a great looking tank Neil. I'm sorry to hear about the Ich issues, but it certainly appears that you've got the better of everything.

Where did you find the C. parva originally?

· Registered
373 Posts
Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Thanks Phil, and to everyone else who gave compliments. I have had fun with the tank. I am still in the process of making a few more changes. Putting together the journal has also been fun, but it would have been a lot easier if i did it a little at a time like other folks.

The ich was a learning experience. Even though i have been in the hobby for almost 50 years, there as still things to learn (or i should i say, re-learn :)) In retrospect, i mostly regret loosing the chain loaches, which I find are really neat fish. Aside from the obvious cost, i dont actually miss the cardinal tetras. They did not school as tightly as i had hoped; maybe too many for the tank?

The parva came from Oriental in Singapore.

· Registered
148 Posts
Congrats on bouncing back from the outbreak of ich. Thanks for the read, it was enjoyable and interesting. I have no doubt we will continue to enjoy your other journals as they come.

By the way, great looking tank!

· Premium Member
4,880 Posts
Great looking tank and awesome journal. I'm really impressed with the keyhole cichlids, as the only photos I've seen in books showed them to be rather drab-looking. Yours looked amazing, especially in brood-care.


· Registered
373 Posts
Discussion Starter · #13 · (Edited)
The pictures now start year 2.
First, here is a link to a Slide Show of my pictures hosted on photobucket:Slide Show of Neil's 120g
I suggest viewing this using photobucket's "full screen option."

For those who have been keeping up, here are the latest views.

Nov 18

On the 19th, did some more fern thinning on top of my driftwood. I think i am done for now. I can be sure the plants needed thinning when i cant see a difference when viewing the front of the tank. It is more apparent from the top, and the substrate plants now are getting more light. I also introduced a few new crypts:
  • A group of Cryptocoryne crispatula var. tonkinensis, which very interestingly has reddish leaves. The ones i previously kept were quite green.
  • I also got a crypt which the Florida grower called "C. willissii." It is supposedly hard to grow emersed by the Florida Farms. I hope that they retain these colors, but it is possible that the colors is derived from the Florida water conditions where they have been grown. I am keeping my fingers crossed. The latter crypt looks very similar to my submersed C. undulata (previously called C. willissii), but mine underwater are all dark green. I have no trouble growing these undulata emersed. My emersed plants came from the later Robert Gasser, which i have maintained for well over 10 years. My submersed undulata are visible a few inches to the left of the Lagendandra meeboldii.
  • I also got some new C. parva (emersed) which i have planted on the right front corner of the tank... to see how they evolve compared to the other parva i have as my foreground plant.
Nov 19

Nov 21

BTW, the annoying dots on some of the pictures are the microbubbles from my CO2 injection. I am too lazy to turn off the CO2 to take the pics. I once did that and discovered the next day that i forgot to turn it back on.:-(

· Registered
373 Posts
Discussion Starter · #18 ·
i found out the the tonkinensis were nursery grown in full sun. This accounts for its current red appearance. I suspect that this will change once the plant acclimates to my lighting.

I also learned that Florida Aquatic Nursery has parva in production! They offer it on their web site, as do several "dealers" who get their plants from FAN. They are available as emersed potted plants. From the Nov 21 picture, you can see the contrast between the emersed plants and the submersed ones which essentially loose the leaf blade.
1 - 20 of 34 Posts
This is an older thread, you may not receive a response, and could be reviving an old thread. Please consider creating a new thread.