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My first Journal (And 4th Tank)

6100 Views 37 Replies 7 Participants Last post by  fwdixon
Well, figured I would share my next creation with you all, see what suggestions you may have.


This all started a month ago when my wife's Betta died and, in order to stave off the tears, I rushed out to buy a new one. Well, my little teal/blue/purple Delta Tail "Oscar" is definitely more demanding than his predecessor. I found out the first week he absolutely will not eat any dry or freeze-dried food, only Live or Fresh-frozen (after thawing, of course). Found the second week that he loves his Hospital Tank more than his aquarium, and I think gets sick just to go back. So now, after trying (and returning) and Aquablock, a 2.5 gal aquarium with plastic plants, and my first attempt at live-planting a 12 gallon, he's back in the hospital recovering from a second round of tail-rot and I've completely torn-down the 12 gallon to rebuild.

The Tank (and Other Hardware):

The aquarium I am using is the Acrylic Eclipse System 12 from Marineland. We live in a small apartment and originally I was only authorized to purchase a 5 gallong tank, but after see the 12 was roughly the same footprint, I bought it and asked forgiveness from the Boss when I got home :). Heating is via a REMA 50 watt Filter inlet heater, set to 78 Deg F. The heater seemed to work well on the previous attempt, so I decided to keep it.

Lighting will be provided by the System's compact 13w 5000K flourescent Lamp, 1 Current USA Moonlight White LED Fixture, and 1 Current USA Moonlight Blue LED fixture. The flourescent lamp is set to be on for 11 hours a day, preceded and succeeded by the Moonlight White for 1 hour each. The Moonlight blue will be on overnight.

There will be a few small bubblewands also set to come on at night . CO2 is currently provided via a homemade yeast/sugar system and diffuser.

The Fish:

This tank is primarily intended to provide a low-maintenance home for my Betta, and will also include 10 pygmy Cory Cats, a dozen ghost shrimp, and some Helena snails. I am hoping the shrimp will be able to reproduce faster than Oscar can eat them, if not, then I may have to rethink the algae-eating livestock. I am thinking of adding the Betta last to give the others the best chance. He is not overly aggressive, but I don't want to risk it.

The Hardscape:

While poking around online I came across two things. First, plant retailers want to pack my little tank full, and second, that I wanted to add something other than just plants. I saw pictures of interesting driftwood and rocks and what not so I went out snooping to my local pet shops (I really don't have a fish store in the area, I guess they expect us to just walkdown to the beach for our goods.). Well I found a few rocks I liked and piece of wood, so back home I went. I also knew I want a dark sand substrate to replace my gravel, so I purchased Eco-Complete on the advice of a plant guy.
Well, the substrate will arrive this week so I've been looking for plants and generally goofing off (and spending money).

The Plants:

The plan is to have a relatively traditional plant layout, tall in back, short in front. But I don't like all-green, so I've been hunting for color. I have decided on some Hemianthus micranthemoides between the big rock and the wood, I am hoping it will creep up on the rock in the future. I found some Ludwigia Repens to go on that side as well, I am hoping I can keep it trimmed down to grow into more of a bush. If I can, then I am going to place it in front of the rock, otherwise, it will go to the right of it. For the back I am planning on putting so Apogongeton, not sure what type yet. On the left, I want to plant a short gras of some kind, still digging around for this one. Also, waiting on someone to trim some Purple Bamboo for that side as well. There will also be some Corkscrew Val scattered around, and a small stand of banana plants. The driftwood will be planted with petite Anubias Nana and a Java fern or two around the base. I still want to have a fair amount of exposed substrate to offset the color from the plants, so I have a feeling there will be a fair amount of trimming on my part.

The Rest:

When I got the goodies into the tank last week I pictured the big rock and Driftwood forming a kind of "canyon", the Driftwood leaning against the back of the tank gave the illusion of a root overhang, and then on the left I wanted two "channels" coming out from the back, one wrapping around the base of the driftwood, and one following the Large rainbow rock out to the corner. Seperating the two I am going to put a smooth piece of rainbow rock laying "exposed" from the substrate. I couldn't get the driftwood to stand up the way I wanted, so I flattened out the fun end and adhered it to a 4 inch square of Lexan. This works well, and I am hoping the substrate on the lexan holds the piece in place and slightly off the back wall.

I'll post more as I go along, and welcome any input. I killed my anacharis (sic) in the last aquarium, so i hope I don't repeat the same thing in this one.


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The third rock looks kind of suspicious.

It looks like a carbonate rock, I would test if it I were you.
It looks like its gonna raise the KH,
The third rock looks kind of suspicious.

It looks like a carbonate rock, I would test if it I were you.
It looks like its gonna raise the KH,
The one on the Right? How do I test it? I had it in a bucket for a few days to rinse it and didn't get a rise in KH. Is there a better way of determining?

I found out that my big rock wil raise my PH, so... off to find a a replacement. I have an idea so hopefully I'll find something that will work.
Well, today was another day messing around with the aquarium. Went rock collecting again and got a neat little "Cliff" rock, although I realised I didn't have the space for the cliff/cave combo I wanted. Picked up the Ghost Shrimp, man those things are fun to watch! Paid for a dozen got twice that, but I'm not sure what to feed them....I guess algae flakes? Eco-Complete came yesterday, so after fixing the Driftwood so it stood a little more vertical, i switched out my rocks and dumped 20 pounds of Eco in. Looks nice but clouded up the water so I'll post a pic of the dryscaped after it has a chance to clear up. Unfortunately, I missed the cutoff for my plants, so I won't get them until the day after Christmas. I did manage to find a really neat looking pink plant that I'll use for color (I forgot the name). I guess I can go ahead and start the cycling process. I filled the aquarium with tap water, which has a 7.0 ph and an NH3 level of 1.5 mg/l. figured that should provide more than enough food for the little critters to munch on during the first stage.

I also managed to make a little shelf(?) to hold my air pump, CO2 canister, and air valves. It doesn't look professional but it works great, so all things considered, I think it's a keeper.

I was poking around on here and saw the thread about the Elite Mini CO2 diffuser, so I went to Petco and picked on up, made a few mods and hopefully it will work. I'll post pics once it cures. Nothing really much going on otherwise due to no plants. I really don't want to start moving livestock in until I get them planted. My Betta is looking healthy, which is good. Hopefully he won't get sick again when I put him in the new tank. I also hope he won't think my pygmy cory's are supper. Well, post more later, if it get interesting.
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I would stick with smaller wood or smaller rock with that size of a tank. Just an idea just in case you have not scape your tank yet. You can check on my scape with just rock only for my 18 gallon tank.
Thanks for idea, I've already done the hardscape, went with medium sized features. I like the look it gives, hopefully it will work with plants I picked. I'm still waiting for the sand to settle out of suspension and I'll post some pictures.

On another note, I solved my shrimp food problem. I had 4 die and apparently Ghost Shrimp will eat their own, so they have some food for now. I'll try to use all of the dry foods I bought for the Betta to feed them again later.
Here is the diffuser. I added a barb connection for the CO2 hose just upstream of the flow control. On the other side is an airstone. I also sealed most of the top grating off and installed a sponge filter on the intake to prevent any little creatures from getting sucked in.

Here is my setup so far. I need to do a bit more leveling but Eco kicks up a lot when it's disturbed. Guess I'll wait til I start planting.


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The plants came today from AZ Aquatic Gardens, rather unexpectedly I might add -- Call it a Christmas gift. So I tried my hand at planting. I never realized how hard it would be to tie things to driftwood. Also, didn't realise how bad it would look in a picture, hopefully it will get better with time.

On another note, had to change out the mix in my CO2 generator, and boy did that stink. The wife is making me buy a gas rig that uses a paintball canister (Darn!). I added the shirmp as well so I could reclaim the Tank that was housing them for my hospital/quarantine tank.Those things are quick, took me nearly 30 minutes to catch all 10, and it was only 2.5 gal.

I am hoping the Anubias nana v. petite grow out a bit and cover the whole top of the driftwood. I also noticed some wierd looking growth on one of my Java Fern leaves, I'll try to snap a picture and post for thoughts.


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Plant Problems

One thing that came up while planting the tank is the difficulty in actually planting. I would push one plant into the bottom, and the one I just put next to it would float out. Is there an easier way? I was doing some maintenance today and both my hemiathus floated out, had to replant them. What a Pain!
Day 6:

My Shrimps have made good work of the algae, and seem to be loving life. Out of the original 24, 10 survived the holding tank, and two of those died shortly after planting the main aquarium. But, I won't complain too much about having only 8 left, since I only paid $2 for the whole group in the first place. I also bought 10 pygmy cories yesterday, and they didn't survive the night, so tomorrow I get to go try for a refund. They went into a QT with the water they came in and a heater. The heater is going back too, didn't heat the water above 74.

All (10) of my Corkscrew vals and melted and fallen over. The Limnophila aromatica 'hippuroides' is starting to follow. I have to reattach my Anubias barteri var. nana 'Petite' to the driftwood, as some has floated off.

The good news is the tank seems to be cycling quickly. I filled it with tap water, specs:

PH 7.0
NH3 1.5 mg/l
NO2 0 mg/l
NO3 0 mg/l
GH 5 dGH
KH 1.5 dKH

Tank Specs on 12/21

PH 8.0
NH3 1.5 mg/l
NO2 .2 mg/l
NO3 15 mg/l
GH 5 dGH
KH 2.5 dKH

Current Tank Specs:

PH 7.5
NH3 0 mg/l
NO2 5 mg/l
NO3 50 mg/l
GH 5 dGH
KH 3 dKH

I am wondering how much Baking Soda to add to raise the KH, but then got to thinking maybe there would be a better recommendation. I would like to keep the GH around 5, but raise the KH to somewhere around 5-8. I am running a Pressurized CO2 injection so I think I should e able to use this to keep a relatively neutral PH. I am really mad that the plants aren't fairing well. I am dosing with Hagen PlantGro and SeaChem Flourish, but might need additional ferts. Any suggestions?
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Day 8:

I removed all of the melted Limnophila-hippuroides and Corkscrew Vals (I was able to save 4 roots of the original 10), and rearranged the tank a little. Also, all of my string rotted before any of the Anubias or Java Ferns attached to the driftwood so I reattached them with mild steel staples. It's not the prettiest thing but I think by the time they rust away that the plants will have attached. I noticed that the Banana Plants and Anubia Barteri v. nana "Petite" had new green shoots coming off them so that bolstered my spirits a litte (at least something is growing). The hemianthus is looking about the same as it did at first, but with a little bit less. I really want to get some color in the tank but so far all of my red plants are melting away. I purchased some Flourish Iron, some SeaChem Alkaline Buffer to raise the KH, and some Acid Buffer to keep the ph from spiking too high. The pressurized CO2 is working incredibly. I am assuming that at 4dKH the drop indicator will show green around 30ppm, but anyhow I have it set at 1 bps and am seeing no visible bubbles leaving the diffuser. I am also thinking about adding Flourish Excel. I also ordered a Sera Aqua Test kit so I can check iron, Phosphate, and Carbon. I needed to replace my test kit anyway since I overtested my first tank and am now out. Hopefully I can figure out why I am losing plants and get everything balanced and stable so I can start adding fish.


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Day 14:

Well, the Banana plants seem to be thriving, the hemiathus and saggitaria dying, and everything else is hanging on. The Java Fern leaves are still growing another plant, and I took a picture but not sure what it is. I've been fertilizing with SeaChem Flourish, Excel, and Iron.

Temp: 79°F(26°C)
NH3/NH4: .20 mg/l
NO2: 0 mg/l
NO3: 30 mg/l
PO4: 1.25 mg/l
FE: 1 mg/l
PH: 8.0
GH: 6.0 dH
KH: 7.4 DH
CO2: 2.25 ppm (I ran out of CO2, haven't had a chance to get it refilled)

7 Ghost Shrimp
2 Hikari Sinking Wafers per wk

I just added some purple bamboo and really would like the aquarium to do well. Please help!

Banana Plant Growing


Petite Nana Anubias


Java Fern and Rider
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Well, today Oscar moved in to his new home. (Oscar's my Delta Tail Betta). First thing he did was make a bee-line for one of the ghost shrimp and I'm pretty sure he inhaled it. Still waiting on roll call tomorrow to verify. Next he tried to go after one of the largest, and all he managed to do was get punched in the face a few times. All in all it took about 2 minutes for him to establish a relatively peaceful co-existence with his new tank-mates. He then tried to eat every piece of floating plant debris he could find, only to spit it out like a 2-year old being fed peas. He has spent the remaining time exploiring, and seems pretty pleased with the new crib, alothough I have learned that apparently all he cares about is clean water and a heater. Damn fish, all the things I've done for him and all he wants is a heater to cozy up to and some food that was alive at one time. (Oh yea, forgot to mention he's a very picky eater, not mizerly mind you, just picky.) Well, once he settles in I'll post some pics, and hopefully I'll still have some shrimp left to take pictures of too. Meanwhile, the plants are still turning brown.
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Can't wait to see pictures of your Oscar's my Delta Tail Betta. What a character!!:p
I might be wrong, but you may have better luck if you don't try to adjust the water chemistry. The most stress-free way to go is use what you have available (tap water) and grow what grows. Fish will adjust to water conditions as long as you keep the water clean (weekly water changes of 20 - 50%, or LOTS of plants to keep it clean, or both) .

Most plants will grow in a wide range of water conditions as well except for some finicky species.

As for your ferts, you need more than just flourish. That only provides micronutrients. N, P, and K are also needed. Something else to consider is your light. At just 1 watt per gallon (if I read that correctly...13 watts on the 12 gal), you have barely enough light for a Low-light tank. (In which case, you may not need ANY ferts at all other than what your fish food provides. )

Try starting with low-light-tolerant plants such as Java Fern, Mosses, Cryptocorynes, etc... and see how they do. Or, bump that light up to 2-3 WPG if you want to grow a better variety. For HC, you'd probably need 3+ WPG for it to survive.

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I see you have done what I did. You bought some plants that need more than low light. Thus you have to compensate with the use of ferts. Main ferts I have found plants need a lot of is potassium and nitrates. Your nitrates are fine. I think adding potassium sulfate would benefit your plants. Also that bushy plant in the middle looks like it could benefit with Flourish comprehensive. I'd start with aprox. 2mm wkly. You can use a baby medicine spoon to measure. Ferts can be bought at: for a few dollars.

I think CSM + B would be a good substitute for Flourish comprehensive. I am thinking of using it when I run out. I got the flourish com. for I mistook it for excel.

Have found that wpg rule is based on T12 bulbs. Your tank looks like it has 2.5wpg.

Info on lights:
I might be wrong, but you may have better luck if you don't try to adjust the water chemistry. The most stress-free way to go is use what you have available (tap water) and grow what grows. Fish will adjust to water conditions as long as you keep the water clean (weekly water changes of 20 - 50%, or LOTS of plants to keep it clean, or both) .

Most plants will grow in a wide range of water conditions as well except for some finicky species.
You must be careful adding chemicals to adjust parameters, for this can cause fluctuations that can cause fish deaths. Most of your parameters are pretty good as they are, except for the high ph Injecting Co2 will decrease the Ph, which can get down to 5, according to Hoppy. The ph is too high for the fish, anyways.

I have found that flourish excel lowers the ph and doesn't cause fluctuations as baking soda does. Also baking soda raises the ph.
You also need to take in effect that it takes time for your plants to adjust to new envirment. Some plants will melt away and then come back with newer leaves that have adjusted to your water prams. Just be patient, before you rip the roots out of the substrait from plants that have melted away, let them be for a while to see if they will bounce back.
I found that with my CO2 injection, my ph stays around 7.2-7.5 which I'm happy with. I ran out of CO2 and haven't been able to get a refill. I currently am using reconstituted DI water since I have livestock because my tap water has an extremely high ammonia level. I use 1:2 dosing of SeaChem Acid Buffer to Alkaline Buffer to set my ph and KH, then add SeaChem Equilibrium to raise my GH, and dose Flourish, Flourish Excel, and Flourish Iron on Sunday morning and Thursday morning. The only Macro I'm not sure about is K, as I don't have a test for it (any recommendations?). I haven't seen a need for a water change the past 3 times I've tested (I test on Sunday and Wed before dosing), due to the absence of high levels of NO3, NO4, or NH3/NH4. Also, my PO4 and Fe levels seem to be staying constant even with my dosing schedule, so again, I don't see the need for a water change (correct my logic here if I am wrong). I am thinking of ways to up my wpg using my existing hood, but haven't really had the time to sit down and engineer it properly.

As far as the dying plants, the only ones I have removed are the 4 stems of Hippo Grass, they just completely disintegrated and clogged up my filter intake. 6 of the Val roots also melted away, but the remaining 4 are hanging in there. The Hemianthus is kinda uprooting itself as the days wear on, and I may give it another shot after the rest of the plants have acclimated. I'm also considering using a liverwort like riccia instead for the foreground cover. I needed something I could keep trimmed to 1cm with no ill-effects on the health of the plant.

Oh, one more question. I've heard that substrate compaction is a problem in all tanks and also that it isn't a problem in planted tanks. Which is true? If it is a concern, I was going to purchase some A. Helena to root around in it, since I'm kinda limited on the fish I can add.

Thanks all you guys for the suggestions, and I look forward to many more!
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