3 different UGF planted tanks, an experiment (56K warning) - The Planted Tank Forum

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post #1 of 5 (permalink) Old 07-31-2016, 06:53 PM Thread Starter
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3 different UGF planted tanks, an experiment (56K warning)

I'm mostly starting this thread to attempt to force myself to document my experience as I go. I've already failed in the first by forgetting to get pictures during setup all three times. /lesigh.

So, without further adieu, what am I doing?

I've kept fish most of my life. (Un)fortunately that experience is tied almost exclusively to UGF tanks, un-planted, and extremely fish friendly ground sourced well water. To give you an idea, I had never experienced a fish loss, and mostly struggled with the fact that my fish constantly reproduced. I thought fish death was something only really bad fish keepers experienced. Fast-forward to moving to the east coast, and spending an entire year trying to figure out why I can't keep a fish alive to save my life. 1) PA municipal water is the suck. 2) Cheap RO units are the suck. 3) lead and copper pipes + chloramine is the suck. 4) Canister filters are needy 5) API pH strips are not accurate 6) Aquasoils + PA water = unstable acidic pH. Thus, the experiment, I want plants, I do not want canisters, stabilize pH by removing most of the pH activity of the soils, all while doing minimal water changes so I don't have to boil gallons and gallons of water each week. And just so we're clear, this isn't very scientific, each tank has too many variable changes to be comparable to each other.

Okay. On to the tanks!

Tank 1: start date 2016.07.17
Current USA Solo 5G w/ LED
(setup from the bottom up)
Penn Plax Clear-Free UGF 5.5 Gallon Aquarium (1 plate fits the Solo) operated with Hpumps nano air pump - carbon filter added, 100% Polyester batting (2 layers), Eco-Complete depth 1.5", ADA Amazonia depth 1"
Plants:
Dwarf rotala, anubias, dwarf hair grass, bulb spidery plant thing, java moss, marimo moss ball, duck weed
Fill:
PA tap water, treated with Seachem Prime (one extra drop for every 3 gallons seems to deal with my heavy metal toxicity and remaining chloramine), Dr. Tims Aquatic One and Only added at the time of set up.
stock:
bladder snails, rams horn snails
So far this has been the least stable of the tanks. It takes less than 24 hours for the pH to drop from 7.2 to 5.2, and it will continue to drop to about 4.2 over the next three days then settles there. This was the original pH issue I was having with PA water & plant substrates. ADA is by far the biggest contributor to this problem, though Eco-complete certainly does a share of it as I've tried several tanks without ADA and they still experienced the pH issue. Even after 5 complete water changes the pH is still highly unstable in this tank two weeks later.

I am beginning to see snail breeding finally. This was the goal for this tank all along, it simply never worked prior to this setup. It also seems to have gotten its copepod population under control, when I added the tap water to this tank I wasn't planning on adding fish, so I didn't bother to boil it, and it exploded in copepods and other micro-organisms. High five PA, you have some truly disgusting municipal water.

no, i am in fact not a professional photographer, how did you guess?!
http://i.imgur.com/C4V743j.jpg

Tank 2: start date 2016.07.18
Aqueon 13gal widescreen w/ Finnex Planted+ 24/7, + aquaclear 20g power filter (pre-sponge, sponge, NitraStrate)
setup: (from the bottom up)
Lee's 5-1/2 Premium Undergravel Filter 8-Inch by 16-Inch covers 3/4 of the tank bed operated with VicTsing Ultra Silent Air Pump (moderate output) - no carbon filter, Seachem Pond Matrix, 100% Polyester batting (3 layers), 2.5" Petco River Rock Shallow Creek Aquarium Gravel.
Plants:
java moss, swords, hair grass, staurogyne repens, dwarf cardinal, water sprite, water wisteria, temple narrow leaf.
all plants are in Ceramics Water Plants Planted Pots with a root tab, eco-complete, and topped with ADA Amazonia (and more river rock for those plants that refused to stay rooted in the pot with ADA). Hindsight, these should have been planted with root tab, then ADA and topped with Eco-complete. the ADA is simply too light to allow the pots to be moved around much or with anything resembling speed without disturbing the ADA soil from the pot. Moving these things around the tank reminded me of Willard Wigan's ted talk on micro-sculpting ><
Fed with Seachem Flourish & Excel once a week, only quarter doses as most of my plants don't seem to really like the stuff but do better with a little bit rather than none at all.

The general idea is that the UGF due to the odd shape of the tank only covers the middle, the edges are all on their own so that's where the pots mostly sit, hopefully preventing dead-space in the UGF itself, and the pots can be picked up for gravel vacuuming.
Fill:
Boiled/Cooled PA tap water (this has been the only way I've been able to successfully deal with pathogens in the water), Seachem Prime, Dr. Tims Aquatic One and Only, fish were added after several hours of running. The tank thus far has been perfectly stable and no fish death has been experienced. yay! okay, okay, that's a very early celebration, i'll hold off for the 6 month mark.
stock:
6 24K gold white clouds, 1 White cloud, 1 cardinal tetra, 1 dwarf puffer, 2 otocinclus, 1 bristlenose pleco, 2 ghost shrimp, 3 nerite snails, there's an amano shrimp that's supposed to be in here too, but until i know for sure my dwarf puffer isn't going to go on another killing spree (his name is Hannibal Lecter for a reason) it stays where it is safe. The puffer is fed 5 bladder snails every day, this tank's setup is designed to allow easy snail shell recovery from the large pea gravel, while still allowing rooted plants.

other things in the tank:
iron shale, Seiryu Stone (i wish i could remember where i bought this stuff. it was an awesome supplier who supposedly traveled to japan and hand picked each rock, very affordable, and the pieces were gorgeous, each purchase set was photoed individually so you knew exactly what you were ordering instead of getting a random grab bag. if anyone knows who that might have been, throw a link please.), fluval ceramic decor, stainless steel mesh (for moss carpet, it's not working very well, too tiny)

only issue i've run into so far, and i freaking knew better, I bought a plant from petco and it brought in thread algae. but i kinda like the wafting threads along the back wall, if i can keep it from strangling my plants it could be pretty.

http://i.imgur.com/dlzXdTl.jpg

Tank 3: start date 2016.07.30
Current USA Solo 5G w/ LED
(setup from the bottom up)
Penn Plax Clear-Free UGF 5.5 Gallon Aquariums (1 plate fits the Solo) operated with Hpumps nano air pump - no carbon filter added, Aquatic Arts FilterPlus Bio-Media Aquarium Filter, 100% Polyester batting (3 layers), Eco-Complete (thoroughly washed and run through a sieve to remove the sand, yes i know you're not supposed to) depth 3", edged with ADA Amazonia depth 1/2". more bio-media, mostly to shore up the ada layer and prevent it from flowing down over the eco-complete.
Fill:
Boiled/Cooled PA tap water, Seachem Prime, Dr. Tims Aquatic One and Only
Plants:
Anubias, java moss, dwarf hair grass, green cryptocoryne wendtii, marimo moss balls
stock:
beta, otocinclus, 2 amano shrimp, random snails that hitchhiked in and the beta decided not to eat
other things:
fluval ceramic decor, glazed ceramic

the hope with this one is that it will be more stable than tank 1. Will I see some pH stability after stripping the substrate of most of its reactivity, and using minimal ADA for the dwarf hairgrass to root in? We'll see. Once the hairgrass is well established i'll add some trumpet snails to be my gravel rooters. I'm very curious how this tank is going to behave. the combination of trumpet snails and eco-complete as well as the natural bio-activity level of the two fluval ceramic decor... it will be interesting to see. My only real problem with this tank is that i lost a LOT of water volume to the 3.5" of soil. I have never set up an UGF that deep, I'm not sure what to expect from it. On the up side, after 24 hours the pH is still where it started, so that's promising. If nothing else the extreme reactivity of the soil seems to have been mitigated by washing it, I was also able to add the fish to it after only a few hours of running the UGF as there was virtually no sediment dust up. Tank 1 had sediment dust up for 10 full days and multiple water changes.

http://i.imgur.com/qOFf4Mn.jpg

Sooo, that's setup-ish day/month 1.

Now, if I can just remember to come back here next month and record how things are going. /nod.

Last edited by nakeeta; 08-06-2016 at 07:33 PM. Reason: 56k warning
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post #2 of 5 (permalink) Old 08-06-2016, 07:32 PM Thread Starter
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hadn't intended to do an update quite this soon, but such is life.

tank 2
http://i.imgur.com/60Zta1F.png
13gal had a bit of a make-over. removed the foil backing that was a hold over from the previous set-up and i'd simply been too lazy to get around to removing. tossed the java moss mats, they were doing so poorly. they're sitting in a shallow DHG planter, seeing if i can't get them to recover a bit. and i know, i know, it's so gauche, i added a bubble wall. but I happen to like them. also removed the iron shale, since i'm not using DI the plants are getting plenty of minerals. overall, MUCH cleaner looking. water chemistry is still very stable, no issues with the pots or soils in the pots. though in hindsight, i'd probably only have purchased two or three S size and one L size pot. the M and XL pots are really awkward to place well, maybe in a much larger tank they'd work.

tank 1 (not bothering with an image update, it looks exactly the same) has had its first few snail deaths, and copepods are still rampant. grrr. on the up side, plants are doing swimmingly, including the DHG which I was not expecting. pH is still very difficult to keep stable.

tank 2, after a week the DHG has started to melt. le sigh. on the up side, while I did have to do 1 pH adjustment, compared to tank 1 the pH has been much more stable so far.
http://i.imgur.com/Dt11ra8.png

need to figure out the bbcodes here, i can't seem to get image resizing to work? till then i'm just tossing up direct links so people can choose or not to hit the data load as some of them will be quite large unless i decide to make a separate album of smaller images just for this thread. for everyone not on google fiber or verizon fios... i'm sorry.

-nakeeta

Last edited by nakeeta; 08-06-2016 at 07:35 PM. Reason: spelling
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post #3 of 5 (permalink) Old 08-25-2016, 10:50 PM Thread Starter
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being ultra lazy with no pictures (i take lousy pictures any ways no one wants to see those) and just getting this out so I remember where i'm at with things

purchased a new pH pen. ditched the kits and the strips. sooooo much better. no guess work, my kind work!

13G:
hair algae went crazy. not surprising, the O2 added by the bubbler! but i will not give up the bubbler!! bubbles everywhere!!! i'll start dosing extra excel. i also cut back one of the swords that was simply so strangled by hair algae that it was actually turning brown from lack of light and nutrients. toothbrush cleanings clearly not doing enough. may consider adding another cleaner species, but honestly, i dont know of anything that eats green hair that voraciously.

looking for some new strong rooting plants, not too tall, and like strong light because they'll be up about half way in the water column, suggestions? the potted containers are doing really well as far as keeping the water parameters stable. the large substrate + containers hasn't had a flicker in water parameters and i haven't changed the water in 3 weeks. too early still to tell if the plants are going to get everything they need from them though. the last stem of dwarf cardinal gave up the ghost and floated off, the roots simply never took in the eco-complete (grrr eco-complete, grrrr), i think it needs more ADA for its soft roots. of course it's also possible that the rocks holding the ada in were causing too much pressure on the stems. either way, i'll be pulling that specific pot at some point in the next few months, refilling it with ADA and capping with eco-complete as an alternative potting mode. see how that works out. just need to figure out what i'm planting there.

i really need to pull the water sprite and let it float, it's not doing well potted. not surprising, but i was hopeful.

edit: oh i also removed the nitrastrate two weeks ago. it was doing so well on all levels i didn't feel the need, and so far the sponge i left in the HOB is doing its job solo with no issues.

solo 1:
we have baby snails. lots. and lots. and lots. of snails. super excited. i've been slowly adding calcium, just 1 drop every other week, hoping the plants will cope with the increased hardness, and my snails will grow rapidly for puffer food, i'd like to get up to 300ppm if possible. copepods are about 90% gone. dwarf hair grass is also doing quite well in here considering there's no CO2, and only the manufacturer LED light. I really hadn't expected that. water parameters still aren't awesome though. i keep getting ammonia. a few snail deaths here and there. and my anubias are getting yellow edges... need to investigate the cause for that one. i'm sure someone out there knows what deficiency that is. java fern has started to grow rapidly, i'll probably try and take the string off it soon, and shape it around the clay tree stump some more. if i had the patience for it i'd have painted it all over the clay and let it root in the humidor, but i'm too impatient for that. i want someone to make clay "trees" that you can attach moss balls to the ends of the branches, so they look like the dancing trees in Disney's Fantasia... how freaking fantastic would that be and why has no one done this yet?! that's how this is supposed to work universe... i think of awesome things, and someone else actually makes it a reality while I'm busy dreaming up more awesome things. chop chop.

solo 3:
water continues to be stable. DHG melt finally stopped, some root recovery and new shoots growing, so yay! added the malaysian trumpet snails two weeks ago. at first i thought they'd all died off, never saw a single one. finally seeing 1 moving around a bit as of this weekend. hopefully the other 3 are still alive in there too and adjusting okay. java fern is not taking off very quickly in this tank. Shinigami (betta) doesn't seem inclined to eat them... which is good since he usually considers all snails his personal meal treat.

i think i'm going to be super terrible and leave these till the end of next month, continuing with no water change just to force them to pass or fail a little faster. i go on vacation in september so i wont be home to see the havoc. perfect time really.
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-nakeeta

Last edited by nakeeta; 08-25-2016 at 11:48 PM. Reason: forgot something!
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post #4 of 5 (permalink) Old 08-25-2016, 11:37 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nakeeta View Post
being ultra lazy with no pictures (i take lousy pictures any ways no one wants to see those) and just getting this out so I remember where i'm at with things

purchased a new pH pen. ditched the kits and the strips. sooooo much better. no guess work, my kind work!

13G:
hair algae went crazy. not surprising, the O2 added by the bubbler! but i will not give up the bubbler!! bubbles everywhere!!! i'll start dosing extra excel. i also cut back one of the swords that was simply so strangled by hair algae that it was actually turning brown from lack of light and nutrients. toothbrush cleanings clearly not doing enough. may consider adding another cleaner species, but honestly, i dont know of anything that eats green hair that voraciously.

looking for some new strong rooting plants, not too tall, and like strong light because they'll be up about half way in the water column, suggestions? the potted containers are doing really well as far as keeping the water parameters stable. the large substrate + containers hasn't had a flicker in water parameters and i haven't changed the water in 3 weeks. too early still to tell if the plants are going to get everything they need from them though. the last stem of dwarf cardinal gave up the ghost and floated off, the roots simply never took in the eco-complete (grrr eco-complete, grrrr), i think it needs more ADA for its soft roots. of course it's also possible that the rocks holding the ada in were causing too much pressure on the stems. either way, i'll be pulling that specific pot at some point in the next few months, refilling it with ADA and capping with eco-complete as an alternative potting mode. see how that works out. just need to figure out what i'm planting there.

i really need to pull the water sprite and let it float, it's not doing well potted. not surprising, but i was hopeful.

solo 1:
we have baby snails. lots. and lots. and lots. of snails. super excited. i've been slowly adding calcium, just 1 drop every other week, hoping the plants will cope with the increased hardness, and my snails will grow rapidly for puffer food, i'd like to get up to 300ppm if possible. copepods are about 90% gone. dwarf hair grass is also doing quite well in here considering there's no CO2, and only the manufacturer LED light. I really hadn't expected that. water parameters still aren't awesome though. i keep getting ammonia. a few snail deaths here and there. and my anubias are getting yellow edges... need to investigate the cause for that one. i'm sure someone out there knows what deficiency that is. java fern has started to grow rapidly, i'll probably try and take the string off it soon, and shape it around the clay tree stump some more. if i had the patience for it i'd have painted it all over the clay and let it root in the humidor, but i'm too impatient for that. i want someone to make clay "trees" that you can attach moss balls to the ends of the branches, so they look like the dancing trees in Disney's Fantasia... how freaking fantastic would that be and why has no one done this yet?! that's how this is supposed to work universe... i think of awesome things, and someone else actually makes it a reality while I'm busy dreaming up more awesome things. chop chop.

solo 3:
water continues to be stable. DHG melt finally stopped, some root recovery and new shoots growing, so yay! added the malaysian trumpet snails two weeks ago. at first i thought they'd all died off, never saw a single one. finally seeing 1 moving around a bit as of this weekend. hopefully the other 3 are still alive in there too and adjusting okay. java fern is not taking off very quickly in this tank. Shinigami (betta) doesn't seem inclined to eat them... which is good since he usually considers all snails his personal meal treat.

i think i'm going to be super terrible and leave these till the end of next month, continuing with no water change just to force them to pass or fail a little faster. i go on vacation in september so i wont be home to see the havoc. perfect time really.
nice thread keep it going ! im reading it don't worry XD

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post #5 of 5 (permalink) Old 08-27-2016, 01:04 PM Thread Starter
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tiny update:

hit a dilemma last night, went over to petco to get my weekly bin of bladder snails and discovered a new product line. Imagitarium Filter Pads, 3 different types, one a very coarse blue pad, one a carbon coated pad, and one your standard filter floss pad. they're perfectly sized to fit the SOLO cubes. I'd really love to swap the quilt baffle bottoms in the solos, one cube for the blue pad, one cube for the carbon pad. i know the carbon pad will eventually become biomedia since it can't be swapped without a tear down and my layered UGF tanks usually run for 5+ years between tear downs. the only real hesitation i have with this is they're very stiff and i'm pretty sure i wouldn't be able to keep the actual biomedia under them like i do with the quilt baffling. but it might be worth a test anyways just to see how they perform as biomedia and filtration on their own. ....i think what this really means is that i need two more solo cubes. >< after all, there were two full rainbow iridescent bettas at petco that needed rescuing (dear Petco, do something about your betta keeping, it's inhumane and i pull at least 1 dead one off the shelf every visit.)

i'm early enough on in the project that i wouldn't lose much time, but my plants are really just starting to do well again... argh! tough call, i'll have to think about it.

also, inadvertently, one of my puffer's bladder snails decided to inhabit one of the UGF upwell tubes. i saw him today for the first time and he's much too large now to be able to pass through the bars of the flow port, so he's stuck in there until he dies or i remove him. i have often wanted to toss one in and see how long it would survive as a permanent pipe cleaner. so, we're going to test that theory out now too!

-nakeeta
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