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Dear Folks,

I thought you might all like to see the "redo" of my 50 gal tank. After 15 years I decided to try something different! Its like moving furniture around.

Pictures were taken during setup, at 2 days, and then two views at 4 weeks. You'll see a front sandy, unplanted area surrounded by quartz rocks I found out in the yard. Its an "aquascaping thingy".

For substrate I used 5 gal of Home Depot's "Top Soil" ($1.29/40 lb bag) into which I mixed 2/3 cup of Vigoro Bone Meal (1-11-0) [the phosphates in the bone meal should stimulate root growth]. After adding the plants (see pic), I spooned in enough sand to just cover the soil and keep the turbidity down. Still, I had to change the water twice before it was acceptably clear.

The Ludwigia died out and started decomposing, so I had to remove it. However, the other plants are doing fine, especially the two swordplants and the C. cordata. The substrate has bubbled quite a bit, and the MTS have been happily digging, so the sand and soil layer have sort of mixed together now.

I haven't measured any nitrites or ammonia and the baby Rainbowfish I added last week are doing fine.

Tank get 60 watts of fluorescent light (one cool-white and one "Flora Glo" bulb) plus strong window light (Western exposure with 1-2 hr late afternoon sun). Lights go on at 7:30 AM and then off at noon for a 4 hr "siesta". Lights go back on at 4:00 PM until 9:30PM. With the siesta, I save electricity, and the water doesn't heat up as much. [Siesta was a great idea, thanks to our own CS-Gardener!]

Plant species are:

Anubias barteri var. nana
Bacopa monnieri
Cryptocoryne balansae
Cryptocoryne cordata var blasii
Cryptocoryne pontederiifolia
Cryptocoryne wendtii
Echinodorus "Ozelot" green?
Echinodorus bleheri
Echinodorus radicans (dwarf, spotted)
Echinodorus major
Echinodorus tenellus
Ludwigia arcuata
Rotalia macrandra
Sagittaria subulata
Vesicularia dubyana
 

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I love where this tank is headed and that you are getting out of your comfort zone (considering all your posts about aquascaping in general). It’s really helpful to see how you approach a tank and your plant selection. Great to see your slightly modified approach! I can only hope mine looks that good soon... Thanks for posting.

PS: Could you post more info on the FloraGlo bulb? Is it similar to the Philips Plant and Aquarium bulb?
 

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Thanks for your encouraging comments. Sometimes, it just takes a little rethinking and imagination. :D I don't think that the center unplanted area will hurt the ecosystem, and it will show off the fish and the rocks.

Also, I used some small quartz rocks to hold plants down until they got their roots going. Much prettier and safer than lead weights!

As to your question about the Flora-Glo.... The specs are this: 2800K and 150 LUX. Hagen, the manufacturer advertises it as an Aquarium Lamp for plant growth. It gives off a pinkish light, which is what I always look for. That means that it has some red and blue light, which nicely balances the yellowish/green cast of the Cool-white bulb. The balance is good for plant growth and it makes the aquarium more attractive for viewing.

Please note that I only chose the Flora-Glo, because Drs. Foster and Smith sell it as a plant bulb. Ordinarily, I would get any old plant bulb from the hardware stores (Sylvannia Gro-Lux my favorite), but I couldn't find a 30 watt, 36" plant bulb at any hardware store. It is an odd size, which is the one drawback of having a 3 ft long tank.
 

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is that 2 amazon swords in there?

also, I think I have an e major and it gets *really* tall.

Yea, I'll be the tank will do fine with that open area. Tho it's liable to get mulm happening more than you'd like on that white sand. I still have to fight to keep foregrounds in my NPTs.

Is your sag subulata staying short? What about the tenellus?

I'm glad to hear the HD soil is working well. remember, thats' the brand that took a month to settle in my 125 gallon NPT.
 

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You weren't kidding when you said the swords were happy, it looks like they've already doubled in size. Is the red plant in back the Rotala macranda? It really stays a nice red all the way down the plant and looks to be quite happy. I've avoided trying it because it's a "difficult" plant per the PlantFinder.

What is the total depth of your substrate? I'm wondering how much substrate depth plants like the big swords and tiger lilies really need for their roots. Other than the initial turbidity have you had any trouble with the thinness of the sand cap?
 

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I misspoke about the HD topsoil. That evil topsoil was from Lowes.

My big sword appear to do fine with an inch of so of soil. The ones I have potted have deeper soil in the pots and do fine.
 

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Discussion Starter #7 (Edited)
Hello DataGuru, CS-Gardener, and others,

I do have two Amazon Swordplants (E. bleheri) in the tank. They were stunted specimens from the old tank when I put them in, but not any longer! I plan to prune them heavily so that they don't take over.

The short, grass-like plants (mostly E. tenellus) are doing very well, multiplying quite a bit all over the tank. None of the grass stuff is getting more than a couple inches off the ground.

Rotalia macrandra is, indeed, in the tank. It is my favorite red plant. I had this plant in the 50 gal a few years ago and lost it. This time, I'll try harder. :D

The combined substrate is probably 1.5 to 2 inches deep. For cultivating Amazons and Red Tiger Lotus, I'm not sure that a deeper substrate is better. I think that the reason the substrate went bad in this 50 gal tank is that I had a too deep (2-3") layer of heavy clay garden soil. The Amazon swordplants got severely stunted.

The front unplanted area is only 0.5 inch deep. I don't think it will be a problem to keep clean. I just pour water directly on it when filling the tank, and the debris on top "blows away". I really like having a small, unplanted area.

The thinness of the sand layer doesn't seem to be a problem. The sand and soil have kind of mixed together with many wood particles now on top. It hasn't caused any turbidity.

I did have a problem with the 16 baby Rainbowfish I added to the tank at 2 weeks. They began to die one by one every few days. Suddenly, I'd see one otherwise healthy baby lose its balance and start diving and struggling. Since I bred the fish myself, I was pretty sure they weren't diseased. I didn't think it was ammonia, nitrite, H2S, or lack of oxygen.

So I think it was the wood chips in the soil releasing their organic oils (for example: pine bark releasing tar, creosote, etc, or cedar wood releasing cedar oil, etc). I'd consider these chemicals to be specialized, "oily" allelochemicals (not so much non-specific tannins) designed to protect the tree from disease and pests. It wouldn't surprise me if they caused fish problems in a new tank.

Anyway, I did a 75% water change and added charcoal to the filter (this should help remove the oils and organics that the wood chips are releasing). In next few days, I plan to do another 75% water change and replace the charcoal. If any fish show problems, of course, I'll change water and replace the charcoal sooner. I believe that this will be a temporary problem.

This is a potential problem with new substrates that hobbyists should be aware of....
 

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Thanks so much for sharing your experience and trouble shooting! The HD soil I used in my little NPT is doing fine, tannins still build up, even after months of being submerged (and 2 waterchanges!). The cheap soil in my area has a LOT of wood in it, at least 20%. Next time I setup an aquarium I will probably screen the bark/ twigs out.

Can we have an update? :biggrin:
 

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I wonder if wood chips could have been what kept my Cherry Shrimp from breeding. I couldn't identify a problem with my 10 gallon, but when I switched them over to a 20G they bred. For a while I thoght I was the only one in the world who couldn't breed Cherry Shrimp! :nerd:
 

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I'll try to post some "6 week" photos later this week.

Everything seems fine right now. I don't have any adult fish in the tank-- just the babies.

That's interesting about the shrimp not breeding in a setup with soil. Sounds reasonable that wood products might be the problem. Babies, juvenile fish, and eggs are almost always more sensitive to inhibitors/toxins than adult fish.
 

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Looking forward to the follow up photos.
When I set that tank up, I didn't screen the soil and it had plenty of wood bits. I only took out a few large pieces. I topped it with the Eco complete because that's what I had available. It's light so I ended up with wood bits on top . I didn't care about the look, and my soil was sticking together, not making the water turbid, so I didn't worry about it. The plants were ok. Adult shrimp were ok, but no fry or fertilized eggs (berried females), even though I saw (saddled) females with unfertilized eggs in their bodies. Same shrimp and UV filter (which I thought was the culprit) were moved into the 20g- with fish- when I gave up on the Cherry Shrimp Breeding, and viola: there were twelve fry that I could see. Though the Dwarf Gouramis have noticed them also. So I won't have to worry about them over running the tank, I guess.
I have, reluctantly, come to terms with the fact that I won't figure out everything in the tanks. Too much I don't know, personally. Maybe every nuances isn't even understood by science yet... It's life. Life in a little bottle maybe, but still complex.
 

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I have, reluctantly, come to terms with the fact that I won't figure out everything in the tanks. Life in a little bottle maybe, but still complex.
Well said!

Here are photos of the 50 gal tank at 6 weeks. I included a shot of the fish while eating brine shrimp. Also, a photo of tank at 4 weeks for easier comparison.
 

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Nice tank Diana...& good progress :clap2: ,

I think those huge Swords will take over your tank very soon whic is a sign of good growth.
Are those sticks at the bottom on the 3rd pic(from the side)?If yes I think you can siphon them out,which makes the tank look better,coz I dont like that stuff on that beautiful sand.

Ravi
 

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Thanks. The tank I moved the spawning shrimp to was also soil. The fry seem to be doing very well. Their bellies are full and I see them actively picking all the time.

Your tank looks great, very dramatic difference between first & 6 week photos! Do you generally hatch babies in soil based tanks or move them there later?
 

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Thanks. The tank I moved the spawning shrimp to was also soil. The fry seem to be doing very well. Their bellies are full and I see them actively picking all the time.

Your tank looks great, very dramatic difference between first & 6 week photos! Do you generally hatch babies in soil based tanks or move them there later?
Glad your shrimp are doing so well. One tank can be so different from another!

I raise all my fish in soil-based tanks. The soil is either in pots or part of the substrate.

I put a pair of Red Rainbowfish in the 50 gal for 10 days before I tore it down. As soon as fry started appearing, I collected the fry (used a soup spoon) and moved them into a 5 gal (newly set up with soil/plants in order to raise these babies).

After I got enough fry, I removed the parents, tore the 50 gal tank down, and set it up as you see.

Funny thing was that the plants I added to the 5 gal apparently had Rainbowfish eggs attached (the plants were from another tank). Thus, many of the babies are "unplanned", but I won't complain. It looks like they're Neon Rainbowfish, which are very cute.
 

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So hows the "seista" working out for your tank?
I am very pleased with results from the "seista schedule". My other two tanks have been on the siesta schedule for a few months now. Plants in these tanks are doing well (if not better) than when they were on a 12 hr constant lighting schedule.
 

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Please don't take this otherwise. You don't actually have a siesta period for your tank. You get the sun direct/indirect after 12 noon and switch back to lights at 4pm.

Tank get 60 watts of fluorescent light (one cool-white and one "Flora Glo" bulb) plus strong window light (Western exposure with 1-2 hr late afternoon sun). Lights go on at 7:30 AM and then off at noon for a 4 hr "siesta". Lights go back on at 4:00 PM until 9:30PM. With the siesta, I save electricity, and the water doesn't heat up as much.
You actually have a 14 Hrs. light period.
 
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