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October 2007 Tank of the Month: Dan Pellegrini

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October 2007 Tank of the Month
by Dan Pellegrini

Introduction and Background

Hi my name is Dan Pellegrini (aka Dapellegrini). Ever since I was young my family had an aquarium. Among my first memories I marveled at how my mother's kulhi loach would half bury itself in her tank. I don't remember when I got my first tank, but I was young and over the years I have had more than I care to count, ranging in size from 1g to 80g, and including planted, terrarium and other setups. Eight years ago I got married and reduced my tank hobby down to one 72g bow front tank.

About the Tank

Over the last couple of years my 72g suffered from severe neglect. I guess you could say that I was it bit burned out with the Aquarium hobby. Scrubbing the glass, taking out the plants that I bought 4 weeks ago because they had died, and constant battle with Black Beard Algae wore me out. I basically got to the point where I was either going to do away with the tank, or make some big changes.

Around that time I stumbled on and saw some incredible freshwater planted tanks for the first time in my life - and quickly decided that this would be my new mission. I have never really paid much attention to details in a tank (water quality, ferts, filtration, etc). I have spent $1,000's on plants over my lifetime, but never had much success with them.

So I decided that I had a lot of learning to do. That was Sept 2006 - so about one year ago.

I am surprised that this tank would get much attention. While a lot of effort has gone into it - I have never been happy with it and am continually moving things around and making new discoveries of what looks good and what does not. Originally I was going for a 2/3 split with a sort of wash down the center. I wanted to try and create depth by focusing on a mid-ground planting of HM. I used driftwood and rocks mostly to segregate planting areas. The substrate was sloped on each side in the beginning down towards the middle - and I later decided that it looked much better if it is level from the front and slopes towards the back.

Tank Specifications

Tank Dimensions/Volume: 72 Gallon Bowfront
Lighting: Catalina Aquariums T5-HO with 324w of total light. Dusk and Dawn lighting is with 2x 6k Aqua Medic Planta Bulbs and full lighting is these plus 4x 10k URI bulbs. 8x 1w blue moonlights (dimmer knob set in the middle) run at night (part of the fixture)
Filtration System: 2 Rena XP3 Filters
C02 supplementation: Aqua Medic Reactor 1000 w/ Pressurized (10lb) CO2 plumbed into the outlet of one of the filters. SMS122 pH Controller is set on a timer to come just before dawn lighting and go off with dusk lighting. Glass Drop checker with 4dkH Reference solution is used to cross-check CO2 levels.
Substrate: 100% Eco-Complete

Tank Maintenance and Fertilizer System

I use the Estimative Index (EI) fertilizing method with dry ferts. Each week I do a 60-75% water change. Suppliment 60% RO/DI water to soften my extremely hard water of some of the pickier plants I wanted to keep. It has been a while since I tested anything - that is the nice thing about EI. pH is around 6.2, KH around 2dKH.

Aquascaping Technique

I wish I was much more talented than I am currently in respect to aquascaping - but I am learning. Having success with plants is still such a new concept, I continue to go through bouts of collectoritis. I am still learning how various plants grow and where they might work best in an aquascape. The concept for this tank was quite simple - tear out the old gravel and flourite, replace with eco-complete and then wing it. I have always liked the "wash or stream" look and was roughly going for a 2/3 split with a wash of low growing carpet plants.

Over the course of the last year my trimming knowledge has grown enormously. I used to pull all of my stem plants up, bring them to the sink, trim and replant… Well I have found that topping most stems is the best approach - requiring good scissors - an upgrade from my fingers. I have also torn out quite a few plants that just grew way too fast. To give you all an idea, here are some pictures as the tank develops over time.

Here is the tank 2 weeks after setup

And here it is 4 weeks after setup (2 weeks later)

October 2007 Tank of the Month - "Contrasts"

Final Thoughts

The biggest challenges I have had were mostly experience related. Selection, placement and trimming of plants, etc. Balancing aquascaping "aesthetics" with collectoritis can also be challenging at time. I find the Freshwater Planted hobby to be unique in that a lot of effort is put at visual harmony and balance. This adds a strong artistic aspect to the hobby that I really enjoy. Seeing some of the spectular tanks done by others provides me with continual inspiration - and leaves a lot of room to play around and explore new things.
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Beautiful tank. I haven't invested in a CO2 tank system yet myself. I am using the ecolite substrate also. Keep up the good work!!

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