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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I gave up on the idea of using an acrylic tank after the one I had ordered arrived with great big gash in the lower left hand corner. Have no idea how it got there. I assume it left the seller in usable condition. These things happen:
Wood Rectangle Flooring Floor Wood stain


But, it left me with a bucket full of plants and four Borelli cichlids on their way from a dealer in Alabama. So, I relied the only thing I thought I had any control over - my junk closet. And, from there I pulled out an old war horse from the 1980s, a 30 gallon long glass tank complete with flourescent light hood. Imagine my surprise when the light and ballast still worked!

Not knowing exactly when the fish would arrive, I immediately went to work mineralizing the soil. I did it the quick and dirty way - in the tank itself. Basically, anything that floated after I added about three inches of water got skimmed off (and put into the "dry" storage pot.)

The water was a nice dark chocolate soup at that point so I was rather anxious to put a cap on it. The STS I chose had some welcome and unwelcome surprises. Among the pluses was the fact that it soon became apparent that a 50 pound bag no longer seems the white elephant that it once did six months ago. I must have gone through about 10 pounds just covering the bottom of the tank by an inch. Another pleasant thing about STS is that it feels very soft to the touch when inserting the plants; I could barely tell where it ended and the soil began. The apistos should have no problem sucking it into their mouths.

The bad part was how much dust comes out in the rinsing. It was absolutely soupy and showed little sign of really coming clean. I remembered @dwalstad 's advice about not overdoing the rinsing (some of that dust may have denitrifying potential) and stopped when the soup became a mere broth.

Luckily, I had plenty of floaters on hand. Didn't need to cull them this week. Just transferred half the ones in my porcelain bowl:
Motor vehicle Hood Plant Rectangle Wood


Next went the newly sprouted red lotus. It seems happy to be in water:
Plant Water Terrestrial plant Underwater Aquatic plant


Next was the lovely but diffident lily that started me on the road to dirt eight months ago but which I hadn't fully seen since the bowl got taken over by lotuses. This was a good move for it since (apparently) it no longer had any pads:

Twig Wood Tints and shades Rectangle Flowering plant


Then, as I continued ferrying water (5 gallons at a time via a bucket) from my bathroom to the tank, i stopped and looked at it and thought to myself "Gosh, if I were a Borelli cichlid, that would look perfect right about there." The water was nearly halfway up the tank. They're bottom swimmers. They're territorial. For them, its' about length and width. Height, not so much. So, I stopped about here:

Front:
Water Plant Vertebrate Pet supply Organism


Back:
Plant Light Nature Organism Pet supply


I'm agnostic at this point. According to the seller, the fish won't be shipped out before next week. I have time to decide. It looks murky now, but I'm assuming things will settle down in short order, if algae doesn't become a problem.

Ammonia tests out at:

Liquid Fluid Wood Flooring Gas

What would you call that? About a 1 ppm?
 

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Go ahead and fill the tank. Greater water volume gives greater chemical and temperature stability. A. borelli are beautiful little fish and go through lots of color changes during the breeding cycle. You will love them!
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Another bump on the road: my old hood does not take kindly to the new, souped up, fluorescent bulbs; it just kept flickering and emitting a burning smell (indeed, the newer bulb felt much hotter to the touch than the old ones ever did.)
Decided to swap out the entire bulb housing out for a LED catwalk (2100 lumens). Arrives Friday.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 · (Edited)
The new LED light array arrived just a few minutes ago and I am over the moon. Mainly, it's because they fit the glass opening in the old hood like a glove:

Old Fluorescent Bulb Housing:
Plant Houseplant Flowerpot Wood Gas



New LED Housing:
Wood Bumper Automotive exterior Gas Motor vehicle


It's been all hands on deck ever since I started filling the tank with water and plants. I'm relying heavily on a basic floor of dwarf sag supplemented over time by an aggressive red tiger lotus spreading roots all over the substrate. For that reason I have held off on getting a similarly fast-growing species like cryptocoryne. But, I'm agnostic about it. Right now, I'm using a couple of big sticks of lucky bamboo as place holders until I can make up my mind. Similarly, I have enlisted one of my biggest guns, a pot of umbrella palms borrowed from my porcelain bowl. And, of course, the salvinia minima which were the first to go in.

It looks as though my ammonia level has been cut in half by adding more water (I had to stop in order not to drown the terrestrials.) I'm seriously thinking about how I can add a pothos plant to the mix. What would you say? Is this about a 0.5 ppm on the ammonia scale?
Liquid Fluid Wood Paint Flooring


The water looks 100% better than it did 48 hours ago. Hoping the new lighting will perk the plants up a bit:

Plant Water Rectangle Wood Pet supply
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Checked my nitrite level for the first time since the initial setup:
Liquid Bottle Fluid Wood Drinkware

Wow. That's the purplish vial on the right. I'm giving that somewhere between 0.25 and 0.5 ppms.

The vial in the middle is yesterday's ammonia test and the vial on the left is the ammonia test from 72 hrs. ago.
I guess I should be pleased by the fact that the toxic levels of nitrogen are not off the charts after dumping a load of dirt and water together. OTOH, I am stunned once again by how quickly the beneficial bacteria begin working, as evidenced by the presence of nitrites and nitrates. I'm beginning to wonder whether it was a mistake giving them such a congenial home in so much STS (Safe-T-Sorb?)
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
The a. borelli arrived this morning. The email alert yesterday afternoon prompted a round-robin of last-minute attempts to get my water parameters in shape, including a massive purchase of additional lucky bamboo. I even left the room light on all night in a final push to get the houseplants to photosynthesize on overtime.

But by morning, it was clear that nothing but a massive water change would get the ammonia and nitrite levels below 0.25. The only problem was that I didn't have enough conditioned water on hand to really do the trick. And, because I live in New York City, I'd grown accustomed to just letting a pail of tap water sit overnight - no chloramine to worry about - just chlorine which is pretty easy to gas out. So, I didn't have any commercial conditioner on hand.

The plan was to run out and make a quick purchase of the API tap water conditioner (for a lot of reasons I had decided to steer clear of the various "all-in-one", "stress coat" versions) while the fish sat in the tank still inside their plastic bags.

This was my first purchase of fish online and I could not be more nervous or excited:
Wood Rectangle Automotive exterior Gas Composite material


Each of the four fish was bagged individually and nestled in a styrofoam case. A heating pad was attached to the top case (it was still warm!) The bags themselves were opaque, some kind of new-fangled material that permitted air to pass through from the outside. So, there was no balloon at the top of any of the bags; they just sort of laid there passively.

I anxiously examined each one carefully (the instructions very clearly said to report any dead fish within two hours of arrival) and, I have to admit I was not too hopeful that this had been a good idea. They were all alive - but, barely; they really looked sad and forlorn - and still. You could barely tell they were breathing.

So, I gingerly put each bag into the tank and took off to look for water conditioner.

The trip took longer than I thought it would because my first stop had every kind of water conditioner but the one I was looking for. The second store would entail a trip on the subway.

By the time I got back, I didn't quite know what to expect. The unpacking instructions had said to unloose the fish after 30 minutes. I'd been gone for an hour and a half.

But, lo and behold, the fish had virtually risen from the dead as far as I was concerned. Each one was at the top of the bag, face pressed against the plastic, clearly eager to get out. I quickly dumped a capful of the just purchased liquid into the tank and went about cutting the knot on each bag.

Wow, I am so impressed with these fish. They are so peaceful. They behave more like gouramis than cichlids. Not a sign of territoriality - so far:
Plant Terrestrial plant Organism Grass Aquatic plant

Plant Plant community Natural landscape Terrestrial plant Trunk

Plant Plant community Leaf Botany Organism
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Yes! And, twenty-four hours later they are indeed showing different personalities. There's definitely an alpha female that rules a particular spot in the tank. It's like watching an underwater soap opera, figuring out who she permits coming into her space and who she doesn't.

One mystery is when do these guys ever eat? They are so busy scoping each other out they ignore food literally right under their noses. I've tried frozen brine shrimp served on a saucer - and, barely a nibble. A couple of dried shrimp pellets are still lying where they sank an hour ago. I read somewhere that they prefer their food in "desiccated" form. Does this mean, they are scavengers?
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Aww, man. What a beauty (and, what a photo!) My males' single biggest feature is the appearance of a "second eye" right above their real eyes; it's very distinct. I'm curious: what temperature do you keep your tank at?
 
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