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574 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Many of you know I started my newest tank, "Is there life on Mars?" way back in May. Having had reasonable success with my previous tank, I decided
to go all out this time: lots of hardscape, difficult plants, heavier bioload...

I bit off more than I could chew:)

Since then there has been stunted and melting plants, massive BBA outbreaks, plant eating snails and protazoan parasites, not to mention constant changes to the plumbing, lighting and flora.

This tank has taught me much about planted tank care, and I feel I am finally ready to debut:

Is There Life on Mars: The Return

Most of the work on the tank was done in the beginning on November, between the time I quit my job and the start of the holiday season. I haven't had time to post much as my wife has forced me into 90+ hour workweeks and my kitchen and living room have looked like this, respectively:

Now, with the holidays winding down, I finally have time to trim it back into shape, and start the new journal!

Here's a couple shots of uncommon weeds:
Erio type 2

Erio type 3

Egleria fluctuans

Two types of Lindernia

574 Posts
Discussion Starter · #2 ·
The tank is 36x18x16 inches. Commonly called a 40 breeder, holds approximately 45 gallons:/
A glass top keeps evaporation to a minimum, keeps the fish in the tank and the cat outside of it!

Substrate is ADA AquaSoil Amazonia, hardscape is some sort of lava rock and manzanita.

The tank gets the EI treatment:
1/2 tsp KNO3 3xweekly
1/8 tsp K2PO4 3xweekly
1/4 tsp CSM+B 3xweekly
1/32 tsp iron (gluconate?) 3xweekly
3 tsp Grumpy's GH booster 1xweekly at waterchange

50% water change weekly with tap
dKH and dGH both <2

The amounts of iron and traces is well above the recommended EI levels, but I have found it necessary to maintain healthy green coloration of the plants.
Less iron and some of the plants get pale and less attractive.

Originally I was adding much less GH booster, and was having problems with contorted growth on my Tonina 'Lago Grande'. Raising the levels of GH added has straightened that out.

For a while I was adding 1.5x the current levels of KNO3 and K2PO4. During this time plant growth seemed to be accelerated, but there was no improvement in overall health.

On the rare occasion that I break out my test kits, the water column reads 2-5ppm PO4 and around 5-15ppm NO3, so it does not seem that using the EI method
has caused any significant nutrient buildup in this tank.


This tank uses a 2x55 watt AHsupply kit across the middle and a 2x21 T5NO Coralife fixture across the very back.

The lights are on for 9 1/2 hours total:
12:30-3:30 pcs only
3:30-7:30 pcs+T5
7:30-9:30 T5 only

Originally only the pcs were used, but because of the depth of the tank, supplemental lighting was needed for the background plants. Having the second fixture evens out the lighting for the whole tank and allows for morning, noon and evening lighting.The fish seem to really enjoy the subdued lighting in the evening, and it looks really cool:)




574 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Filtration and CO2

Filtration, flow rates and patterns, bubble counts and injection techniques... This is where all the problems started and all my headaches began.
Anyone surprised?

The tank started with an XP3 powering a Rex reactor at 1.5 bps, through a spraybar across the top of the left wall. This is the same setup that grew blyxa, lobelia, HC, Limnophila and others beatifully for me previously, but had mixed results with more delicate Rotalas. This time it failed spectacularly.

I'll skip all the intermediary steps I've taken the past few months, and get right to what is working

Flow Rate
Flow rate is driven by an XP3 and a Gen-x 1000 needlewheel pump run inline. The XP3 gets an approximate 160 gph, and the pump seems to nearly double that when on, so I am guessing there is 8x turnover of the water column per hour.

Flow Pattern
The flow pattern in the tank has been vastly improved by removing the spray bar, and replacing it with a marineland output, similar to a plastic lily pipe. The output is positioned in the back left corner, at a 45 degree angle towards the front glass. This pushes the water down the front, across the foreground and back into the corners. This pattern does a much better job of pushing the current down into the plant beds than the previous set up, which seemed to just circulate around the top of the tank.

CO2 mist

CO2 is pumped into the system just below the needlewheel pump at a rate of 3 bubbles per second. The needlewheel impeller chops the CO2 into a mist of fine bubbles that are pushed around in the current.

I'm not exactly sure why CO2 mist is more effective than dissolving the CO2, but it does seem to be. The same rate of bps through a reactor would kill all my fish, yet with this set up they are happier than ever, and my plants look healthier than I have ever seen them.

Future Plans

The tank is finally shaping up, but there are still a few changes in the works. Some plant species need to be moved or removed, and the middle section needs to get cleaned up. There is still some residual BBA that needs to be spot treated, and the substrate has leveled out a bit and accumulated in the foreground and needs to be removed (I am so not looking forward to this).

In additon, all my shrimp have been removed or murdered by my checkerboard, so it is time to copper the tank and kill off all the plant eating pond snails and foreground disrupting MTS:twisted:
Once the MTS are gone, hopefully my UG will form a tighter carpet, otherwise I will switch to HC or maybe the mysterious microsword I have a tiny piece of will grow out.

Other than that, it is just letting the plants grow out, and hopefully soon I will have the tank I always wanted:D

Thanks for reading, Rupert says "Happy Holidays!"

930 Posts
I don't see any place that you mention the size of the tank. What size is this tank? Is diy pressurized or diy? Are you on a fert dosing regiment? Do you do weekly water changes?

Premium Member
2,095 Posts
that's coming along nicely. Did you get Rupert to do some of the tank work for you? :)

574 Posts
Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I've been moving hardscape, shifting plants, retying moss, and splitting erios. I finally am starting to really enjoy this tank:D The plants are looking closer and closer to how I've wanted them to, and the chocolate gouramis were great additions! I have a few more threadfins going in very soon, and I'll probably add some marble hatchets as well.

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