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Discussion Starter · #21 ·
The next big step for me is finding a stand, selecting a substrate, and getting a co2 tank (already have the regulator). Originally I have planned to use the wood from my home-built lofted bed frame to build a stand. However, I am starting to lean away from that option as I access to only limited tools. So now I am thinking a commercial option, I looked at some of the stands at Petco and didn't love them as they didn't seem very sturdy or have much storage. Do y'all have any budget conscious ideas for a stand for a 20 gallon long?

As far as substrate, I've been thinking about going with soilmaster select (or similar) mixed with wormcastings. From what I've read it seems to offer many of the benefits of MTS with less preparation and less mess when planting/rearranging.
 

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Discussion Starter · #22 ·
Some updates for y'all. In my quest for finding a stand, I came across a post for a drilled 20 gallon long with 10-gallon sump and homebuilt stand for $50 that had only been used once as a quartine tank. I decided to make the hour or so drive to pick it up as it seemed to be a good deal.
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When I got there everything looked good so I loaded it up and drove it back home. However, once I got it home and gave it closer inspection there seems to be some issues. The stand doesn't make full contact with the tank rim and seems to be out of square leading to it being wobbly enough that I don't really trust it, especially since I really can not have any floods considering the difficulty in being allowed to have an aquarium at my apartment. On a more positive note, I going to pick up a real stand tomorrow (as long as I can successfully stuff it in my car) that I found on craigslist.

Both of the tanks seem to be in very good shape aside from some salt residue that should clean up easily. However, the 20 gallon seems to be drilled in a not ideal manner. There is only a single 3/4" bulk head close to the top, the top edge of the hole is about 1.5" below the tank rim. From my limited understanding of sumps and drilled aquariums, a single drill hole is not ideal since it poses a risk of flooding if the drain plugs. Ideally, I'd like to go for at least a herbie setup (bean animal would be ideal) but this would require extra drilling. I'm not opposed to attempting to drill the additional holes since I have another 20 gallon long already and can realistically only manage one tank right now. However, since the hole is so close to the top of the tank I'm worried about having enough room for setting the drains up correctly. If anyone has any experience with drilled tanks I would really appreciate some advice on if this is worth pursuing.

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On a positive note, my test kits came in the mail today. Testing my tap water yielded the following results:
10-11 dGH
7-8 dKH
pH 7.6~7.8
Much better than my tap water when I last had a tank (pH around 8.8, hardness in the 20s). Think I can get away without our RO this time around?

So as a whole today was a good reminder about why patience is a virtue in this hobby since I now two 20 gallon longs and a 10 gallon, not sure what I'm going to do with all of these tanks now since I don't really have room to store them. Thinking about doing an emmersed setup, let me know if you have any thoughts! In the grand scheme, not to bad to only be out $50 bucks and some gas though. Especially since I got to check out some LFS on the drive home that I haven't been to yet. The stores were very impressive and I may be visiting them again when comes to stock. I also found some nice driftwood at them that I was going to buy until I saw the price tag. Is ordering online a good option?
 

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Discussion Starter · #23 ·
Went to pick up that other stand today. Looked good, nice, and solid. Loaded it up and got it home and started wiping it down when I got a nice little surprise. Roaches!! As soon as I saw the first one I immediately rushed it out the door onto the patio. Thinking it was a fluke or one-off I continued to clean it outside and realized the whole stand was basically full of roaches! So now I'm 0/2 on buying used stands. Hopefully, this isn't a sign from the aquarium gods...
 

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Discussion Starter · #24 ·
Lots of updates for y'all! Since this thread is starting to turn into a journal I was wondering if a mod could move it to the journal section?

First up, I decided to go a semi DIY route for the stand. I picked up a metal stand from petco on sale with an online pickup discount on top of that. Reading reviews of this stand showed that many were not flat on the top so to avoid pressure points on the tank I picked up a laminated spruce project panel (end laminated so not plywood) which I will place on the top of the stand with a sheet of foam between the stand and wood to help the tank self-level and soak up the nonflatness of the stand top.
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Since this tank will be near my stereo which is dark stained wood I decided to stain the top dark. I really like the color even though it's not a perfect match to the stereo.
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I then sealed the panel with a spray can of spar urethane. It worked pretty well I'm just waiting for it to finish drying so I can sand it smooth. If I did it again I would not use the spray can as it was very difficult to tell how much I was applying since the wood was stained so dark.

I also made a shelf for the bottom of the stand where the 10-gallon sump will sit. The shelf was built using only hand tools and a cordless drill so it was quite the project. It's constructed from 2x4 scrap from the lofted bed fame I used in college. Three 2x4s was almost a perfect fit front to back, I just had to sand a bit off of the edges for fitment. The 2x4s are edge-glued with cross braces screwed to the underside. Due to the irregular thickness of the 2x4s I hand sanded them to get a flat surface which took about 6 hours. What I wouldn't have done for a free orbit sander...



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It turned out well but is just slightly out of level. I have the shelf resting on some styrofoam sheeting to see if it self levels, if not I will shim it to level. I'll be painting it black with rust-oleum protective enamel paint before the final install to help it blend in and protect it from water.

As for the tank, I decided to go with the Eshops Eclipse S overflow which required drilling the left side of the tank. The existing hole on the right will be used as the return. This was my first time drilling glass, much less an aquarium, so it was tad bit stressful. Luckily it went well and nothing cracked. The first step was to strip off the old paint from the previous owner. I probably could have drilled through the paint but I was planning to repaint anyway since the old paint was peeling.

The Eclispe S comes with a diamond hole saw and drill guide so its a very nice little package. Since this tank is rimmed, I couldn't use the jig on the outside of the tank or the water level would have been well below the tank rim. After playing around with the alignment I found that if I put the jig on the inside and push it flush against the inside rim the alignment was about perfect. I then traced the hole with a sharpie and taped the jig to the outside of the tank to prevent drill walk.



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I went very slowly and stopped every minute or so to pour cold water onto the glass to keep everything lubricated. I did have a little bit of chip out on the inside of the hole but I was able to clean it up with sandpaper.



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Really the only problem I had was getting little glass shavings stuck in my hands and legs despite wearing gloves and being careful. No bleeding just itchy and prickly.




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I think this overflow is going to be awesome since it only protrudes into the tank about half an inch. It's very sleek and low profile.

The next major steps are painting the back of the tank. I'll be using the rust-oleum protective enamel and a small foam roller as I've read on some of the forums that it's a popular choice. I do need to figure out if I need to tape off the area around the holes for the bulkhead seals or if they will seal to the paint. If anyone has experience with this let me know.

I also need to figure out sump baffles and pick a pump. I'm planning to have the pump feed through a CO2 reactor before returning to the tank so I'll have to get something beefy enough to overcome any headloss from that. If anyone has pump suggestions or advice on what flow rate to shoot for on this tank let me know!
 

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Discussion Starter · #25 ·
Sorry for the long delay in updates!

First thing first,

The tank was set up and planted yesterday!
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Don't mind the HOB filter, I'm just using it to help clear the water faster. I'm worried my rocks are melting causing cloudiness as they are rather soft (likely mudstone or clay stone) and the water doesn't seem to be clearing even with all the mechanical filtration of the sump and HOB.

The current plant list is:
Anubias Frazeri
Anubias sp. unknown
Crypt. undulata
Crypt. sp. unknown
Ludwigia repens
Hydrocotyle tripata
Eleocharis parvula
Narrow-leaf Java fern

Hopefully, this is enough plant mass to get things rolling. The Ludwigia probably won't stay long term but I needed a fast grower to help suck nutrients up.

I'm a bit worried I planted the hair grass too deep, tricky stuff to plant since it was tissue cultured and didn't have much for roots.

Working on getting my hands on some buce, moss, hygro. pinna. as well as more crypts and anubias. Will probably add a lily at some point as well.

CO2 is currently running at a pretty good clip so will need to get that dialed soon. Also wondering when to start dosing since this has an active substate, right away? Since I am not planning on any live-stock till the tank and substrate cycle should I go far full EI and blast CO2 right off the bat and ween it back later? Also not sure about the height of the light, guessed and put it about 6 inches from the top of the tank.

I did have run into some issues this week. First, off the dirt, I was mineralizing on my patio caught some pesticide overspray from the landscapers so had to be abandoned. I honestly didn't have the patience to wait another few weeks for the dirt to be ready (especially since I needed to get things planted and cleaned up before my flatmate moves in) so I went in another direction. The substrate I am now using consists of a very thin layer of boiled and baked worm castings mixed 50/50 with black diamond blasting sand and a little red clay. Everything is then capped off with more black diamond sand. I also placed a very light sprinkle of dolomite, KCL, and osmocote plus on the glass before adding the substrate. I will say that its very hard to tell how deep the cap is since the enriched and plain sand are the same color. As a result, I think the substrate in the front is a little thin, maybe an inch, inch, and half total. The enriched layer is very thin so it's mostly sand.
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Tested the water this morning:
Ammonia: 0.5 ppm
Nitrite: 0 ppm
Nitrate: 5
kH: 6~7 dKH (6 drops turn it green, 7 turns it fully yellow)
gH: 10 dGH
pH before CO2 on: 7.6 ish? Having a very hard time reading pH since it seems to be where the high and low range test kits cross over

From these values, everything looks pretty good to me. Doesn't look like my rocks are leaching any hardness since those numbers are in line with my tap. Also looks like boiling and baking the worm castings worked since I measured the same 0.5 ppm ammonia in my tap water (coming from chloramine I think). I also measured nitrate in my tap water as a bit less than 5 ppm so looks like a little nitrate leaching.

I was actually hoping for a little bit of ammonia to leach out to help with the cycle. I wonder, could I cycle the tank with the ammonia from the tap water?

Even though the parameters looked good, I did a 10-gallon water change which is about 40% since I put around five, five-gallon buckets in. This is about as large of a water change I can do once I have fauna in the tank since it drops the water level to within a few inches of the substrate. I can do bigger if I empty the sump, but this has to be done with pitchers since it's too low to siphon from so it will probably not be done as often.


A couple of pictures of the engine room, excuse the cords, I still need to route them correctly.
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The tank is running on a Jebao DCP-2500 return pump. Co2 injection is handled via a cerges reactor T'ed off the main return line. The sump is a baffle-free design using three 2" thick sheets of poret foam. Currently, no heater as I am tentatively planning on white clouds and neo shrimp once the tank cycles. If you look close, you'll notice two bio-media cartridges in the sump as well. These are there temporarily as it is looking like I will have to return the pump and run the tank on the HOB filter until the replacement comes. The issue I am having with the pump is intermittent surges/losses in flow making it impossible to tune the gate vale on the main drain. This leads to a varying water level in the overflow box which is very noisy.

If you look closely at the first picture you'll notice that the return is running over the top of the tank instead of drilled in like in pictures in the older posts. This is because I broke the original tank during leak testing at the return hole. This happened because I had to undo a union to fix a leak at the bulkhead threads. However, the union was jammed and I twisted too hard and cracked the back. To avoid this issue, particularly because I had re-tapped that bulkhead multiple times and it was still leaking, I skipped drilling the return in entirely.

Any comments, suggestions, or thoughts are always welcome and appreciated!
 

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Very impressive! It's been a long time since anyone described a high-tech setup in such detail.
 

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Discussion Starter · #27 ·
Very impressive! It's been a long time since anyone described a high-tech setup in such detail.
Hopefully, that's a good thing! If you think this a lot of detail you should see my journal on some of the other forums, a two-month build with at least one post a week 😅.

On a more serious note, I find forums and journals extremely helpful. It's sad to me to see how all of the forums have declined in activity since my last tank (mid 2010s). I like to think that posting a detailed journal might help, if even a little bit.
 

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Discussion Starter · #28 ·
Seems way too early to me, but started popping nitrites today, pretty low but definitely a purplish tinge to the test. Ammonia also crept up a bit to between 0.5 and 1.0 so looks like a little leaching is going on. Three hours into the photoperiod I'm at around a 1 point pH drop (I think...). Really need to get a pH meter. The question is weather I get the new membrane/probe thing for my old Hannah pH pen or just get something new?
Also started dosing at around half-strength EI so nitrates are in the 15 - 20 ppm range now. Since I'm currently doing daily water changes I plan to dose macros every day right after and micros every day in the morning before lights on.
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Still having a bit of a hard time deciding on how much flow to run overall and how much to run through the cerges reactor. Currently running the pump around 50% power which has most of the plants waving in the current a bit. I'm sending a good portion of it through the cerges. Getting some gurgling from the reactor so still not quite dialed in.

Plants seem to be fine, not really doing anything yet. Also no signs of algae so far so I'll take that as a win.

In other news, the cloudiness is the same if not worse. I gave up on running the HOB after I had to clean the sand out of the impeller for the fourth time. Hoping its just a bacterial bloom and not my rocks... Currently trying to brainstorm a way to stuff a bunch of polyfill in my sump.

The haze is bad enough you can actually see it in the picture. If you look closely at the top of the picture you can see faint smokey clouds of whatever it is being blown around.
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Also worried about whether I have my light (36" Ray2 DS) at the right height or not. It's so old that I am having a hard time finding a PAR chart for it. Ended up guessing and putting the light about 5.5 inches from the water surface which gives about 16" from the lowest point of the substrate to the light. Currently running an 8-hour photoperiod.
 

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Discussion Starter · #29 ·
Been a bit since the last update so first things first - pictures!



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I apologize for the poor full tank shot, the glare from the hanging light makes it tricky to photograph



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Close up on the wood featuring some new plants I glued to the wood yesterday.



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View from the side of the tank, I find this view very artsy.

New plants:
Anubias Barteri round leaf (yesterday)
Bucephlandra Sp. Green (yesterday)
Another Crypt. Sp. Unknown (last week)
Ludwigia sp. Unknown (salvaged from the failed emersed bin) has longer and thinner leaves than the L. Repens
Rotala sp. Unknown (salvaged from the failed emersed bin)

Now that the pictures are posted on to the boring details. Since my last update, a number of things have changed or been tweaked. The largest of which was uprooting all of the plants three days after planting to add more blasting sand I realized that after settling my substrate was under an inch deep in places. During that, I also took out some of the rocks from the wood mound and shifted a few to the right rock ring I'm now referring to as the "Stem Den." Still not sure if the scape is right but I'm pretty happy for my first real attempt at a real scape.

Plants have been growing well but perhaps a bit slowly. The hair grass is starting to put out some runners and will probably need a trim soon. All of the crypts are putting out new leaves and the large anubias is looking like it's maybe thinking about putting up a leaf soon. The java ferns have started rooting into the wood and one of them is just starting to form what looks like daughter plants. The hydrocolotye seems very happy and is putting up lots of much larger leaves. The ludwigia's seem perked up quickly but started showing yellowed new growth. I suspected it was an iron problem that motivated me to get my dosing to a consistent plan vs. random chaos. However, I am now wondering if it wasn't actually a deficiency since the same leaves are starting to develop a slight but nice-looking orange tinge. Really looking forward to being able to top the stems to get rid of the old damaged emersed form leaves. Luckily I have seen no algae (knock on wood) except for a little bit of brown slime-like stuff on the old leaves of only a single crypt. Once it gets a few more leaves I will snip its old leaves off.

Current dosing:


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I also moved the lights a few inches closer to the tank, bumped CO2 up to two bbs (nearly double), and spent a few hours dialing in return nozzle positioning. Took some more pH readings today.


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The left two viles are the tank right before CO2 turns on (two viles since it's at the cross of the high and low test kit). The middle vile is two hours later at lights on and the rightmost vile is around the midpoint of the phot period. If I am reading the colors right I am getting a drop from 7.8 to 6.8. Drop checker is turning green (not sure if it's the right green since I've never had a drop checker before) around the 1.5-hour mark from lights on. Still planning to get a pH pen but I need to do more research on brands, calibration, and proper storage before I spend the money. The plants seem to be very responding very well to the new ferts, light, and CO2 so things seem to be on the right track!

The next steps going forward is to finish populating the rocks and branches of the wood with buce, anbuias, and moss. Still going back and forth on what to put where.

As always any comments, suggestions, or thoughts are appreciated!
 

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Discussion Starter · #30 ·
Been a while since my last update since life got pretty busy for a bit. The tank finally cycled a week or two ago and is now home to one mystery snail, two nerite snails, four (supposedly) Amano shrimp, a couple of trumpet snails, and about a billion limpets that must have come in on some of the plants.

A few weeks ago I was having issues with new growth coming in very pale, almost white. Since my pH before co2 is well over 7 I picked up some Fe-DPTA to hopefully keep the iron in solution longer than the EDTA in CSM+B. The plants are still coming in a bit pale, but definitely seem to have improved. I'm hoping things will continue to improve with time. In the past week, I have had some issues with necrosis on old-growth which I suspect might be an after-effect of the iron deficiency?

I'm still having issues with diatoms on plant leaves. Hoping this will go away on its own but any advice or suggestions would be welcome.

I also got some tissue cultured buce and anubias a while ago. Pretty much all the leaves on the buce melted but the rhizomes are still greenish so I'm hoping they make a comeback. The tissue-cultured Anubias hasn't really done much either way.

Did a trim today and hacked all the plants back pretty aggressively. Here is the tank post trim.
Plant Green Nature Leaf Rectangle
 

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Discussion Starter · #31 ·
Two weeks since my last update and saw some good growth on the hydrocoytle. The tank was getting pretty overgrown so gave it a good hack and whack to open things up a bit.

Before trim FTS





After Trim FTS





Still having some issues with leaf necrosis, pale/yellowing, and loss of leaves on the ludwigia. Nitrates tested in the 30 ish range so decided to bump up my potassium dosing a bit on a whim to rule it out.









Current Dosing





I also picked up 20 blue diamond shrimp this weekend from a local seller. I don't really know anything about shrimp grading but they are gorgeous with a very deep, dark blue. The shrimp are so dark that they show up as black in all the pictures I've taken.









I also found out that the 'Amano shrimp that were currently residing in the tank are likely wild-type neos. Since I don't want my future generations to lose their blue the "amanos" have been banished to the large open chamber in my sump. So far I've managed to catch two out of the four. The remaining two have proven themselves worthy adversaries and will require force of will and gumption to catch.


A few more random pictures of the tank I took this week that I thought looked decent:










 

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Discussion Starter · #32 ·
Did a very aggressive trim on the hydrocoytle today and I can finally see my crypts and java fern again! The hydrocotyle growing wrapped along the full length of the wood is a nice look but it's very hard to control due to its quick growth! As a result, I am suspicious that it has been choking out the other plants for both light and flow. I am also picking up some more plants this week and needed to clear some room for the aroids (bet no one will be able to guess all three genus correctly ;))







In other news, I turned up my pump to increase overall flow through the tank and slightly bumped CO2. I also added a chunk of 30 ppi poret foam over the central outlet tube in the cerges reactor. I've been having issues with gas build-up in the cerges during the photoperiod which makes me think I am getting poor dissolution of the co2. However, increasing flow through the cerges just lead to it spitting bubbles that were large enough to quickly reach the surface. With the poret now installed I am able to push a higher flow rate through the reactor as the foam is acting as a bubble trap. I am still getting some microbubbles but I don't mind them.

As always any feedback, comments, or thoughts are welcome.
 
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