My First Tank - 65 gallon planted tank (DIY, low cost, low maintenance) - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 27 (permalink) Old 03-30-2017, 10:09 AM Thread Starter
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My First Tank - 65 gallon planted tank (DIY, low cost, low maintenance)

Hello guys! I just want to share my experience in setting up my first planted tank.

I found an old 65 gallon tank in our garage (I remember my parents used this for 20+ cichlids tank when I was little) and figured that it would be cool to set up a fish tank once again. And so I did.

I researched intensively the kind of fishes, and type of tank I want, the care I can give, and came up with this decision:
>>Planted Tank with semi-aggressive species, using the most readily available materials for substrate and decorations, and whatever ready available food I can provide -- all with minimal maintenance since I work Mon-Friday, and travel to surf on weekends<<

I also read about how long cycling takes, and the risks of using local dirt and decorations(bacteria, parasites), but decided to just give it a go.

My initial materials:
65 gallon tank
1 pail of Garden Soil/dirt
Twigs and rocks
Pebbles from a gardening/landscaping store
two old desk lamps
Tap water
Small sponge filter


SETTING UP

Step 1: I positioned the tank beside my window, exposed to 3 hours of morning sun everyday, and indirect light throughout the day
Step 2: I put 1 to 2" of dirt, then another 1 to 2" of pebbles as my substrate
Step 3: I filled 1/4 of the tank with water, then put some rocks and branches for a tropical stream look
Step 4: I planted 4 kinds of plants: Vallisneria (grass), Moneywort, Amazon sword, and Red Ludwigia
Step 5: Filled 1/2 of the tank when the plants, rocks and branches were set in place
Step 6: I thought of cycling the tank first, as many said it will take weeks, but out of my hard-headedness, decided to buy and put 5 Tiger Barbs, and fully-filled the tank with water.

POST-SETUP

The tank was bluish-grey cloudy for two days (not sure if bacteria, or simply the pebbles that I did not rinse, probably the latter as the color was immediate when I disturbed the pebbles), but started to clear starting the third day. Looks crystal clear from 5th day, onwards. Tiger Barbs were fine from day one, though a little faded in coloration during their first night.

I then added 5 mollies (4 females 1 male) hoping to see fry soon, as alternate food for my barbs. The male is relentless in mating the females, and two are obviously round(pregnant) from store. The barbs chased them around for an hour or two, and resumed to schooling on their own. They all get along now, and even eat together without issues.

For the first two weeks so far, I feed them: hotdog bits, grocery-bought raw shrimp heads (this one is their favourite, swarming and frantic feasting), bits of white bread, veggie scraps -- As mentioned above, I am not planning on buying expensive foods, opting for whatever available edibles from my kitchen.

On my 2nd week
- Algae started growing on the rocks and branches - which the mollies are always munching on. But the glass and water stayed clear. Good sign.
- All of my plants are growing new shoots, and leaves/branches (after melting for the first week)
- I also started adding twigs and dry leaves to imitate the natural environment of tiger barbs in the wild
- No water change from day 1

Now my questions:

1. I sure did not do a proper cycling, so what happened? was it luck? or did I do something right that I wasn't aware of? Or am I due to experience a bacteria or algae bloom soon?
2. Do you think this setup will hold, and be ready for my future additions? - planning on adding 4 more barbs for bigger shoal, and a red tail shark, also considering to get Boeseman rainbowfish to turn my tank into a pure Southeast Asian tank.
3. What other things I must do to make my tank more "self-sustaining" (I am planning to go for an 8 day surfing trip soon)

Photos from start to present:
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Last edited by Silang; 04-25-2017 at 04:16 AM. Reason: Title change
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post #2 of 27 (permalink) Old 04-06-2017, 01:52 AM
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I'm glad it worked out for you. I'm not gonna lie as I kept reading more into your thread I just keep thinking to myself, "Oh no he did not just do that" lol. Very unorthodox way to setup a tank, at least from my knowledge and experience. But again, it worked for you and that's good. I'd say becareful about adding Red Fin and Rainbow Sharks. I had those when I first got into the hobby, they're cool to watch BUT when they get bigger they can become really aggressive and kill everything in your tank. Other than that, tank looks great! Keep an eye on your water parameters. Sine it's been about a week since you posted this thread, how is your tank holding up? Did it run into a bacteria bloom?
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post #3 of 27 (permalink) Old 04-18-2017, 04:13 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DiegoBedoyaVision View Post
I'm glad it worked out for you. I'm not gonna lie as I kept reading more into your thread I just keep thinking to myself, "Oh no he did not just do that" lol. Very unorthodox way to setup a tank, at least from my knowledge and experience. But again, it worked for you and that's good. I'd say becareful about adding Red Fin and Rainbow Sharks. I had those when I first got into the hobby, they're cool to watch BUT when they get bigger they can become really aggressive and kill everything in your tank. Other than that, tank looks great! Keep an eye on your water parameters. Sine it's been about a week since you posted this thread, how is your tank holding up? Did it run into a bacteria bloom?
I know man, lot's of dumb things done here. But surprised it turned out fine. HAHA

Here's some update from week 2 to present (week #5):

1. Stock: 9 tiger barbs, 5 mollies (still hoping to find time to go to buy the single red tail BS I am hoping to add)
2. Plants:
- I added 3 more plants of which I don't know the name haha kinda look like Anubias, but has thinner and brighter colored leaves, what do you call them?
-Ludwigia has not been well, base of the plant is continuously melting and coming off, despite new leaf growth on top. What's the deal with this one?
-Vallisnerias has been great, growing nicely, and 4 runners are growing their own blades now.
-Amazon swords are growing (very slowly) new leaves, but the old ones doesn't look healthy; partially melting
-Bacopa (moneywort) is doing really well; fastest growers in my tank thus far
-Looking to add more vallisnerias since they seem to fare nicely to my tank
3. Water: No idea about the ph, kh etc.. but still no water change since. I only add around a gallon or two of tap water every three days to supplement evaporation
4. Surprisingly, no algae or bacteria bloom since. Got lucky here
5. I observed some algae growth on the glass when I was away for 8 days. (yes I left them for 8 days, just asked my brother to drop a small slice of frozen shrimp once a day) Easily cleaned with a magnetic glass cleaner.

Here are some photos from week #3 (I'll try take latest photos and post them soon)
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Last edited by Silang; 04-18-2017 at 04:25 AM. Reason: added some details; changed some formatting
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post #4 of 27 (permalink) Old 04-18-2017, 11:22 AM
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I am worried about this tank. With no testing how do you know you are cycled? It's not nearly heavily planted enough that you had a "silent cycle" so I don't know how you couldn't have suffered ammonia burn early on or even now with soil leaching and livestock in the tank.

Adding tap water to top off with no W/C ever will result in an ever increasing TDS and hardness value.

I just think this tank needs a couple hundred more stem plants now until you get more growth in your desired plant list.
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post #5 of 27 (permalink) Old 04-18-2017, 11:56 AM
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I had to read that twice- did you really feed your fish hot dogs and bread? I'd stick with the veggie bits and shrimp heads instead. I think you can also feed some greens from the yard like dandelion leaves, and I often give my fish insects that I catch- fruit flies, small moths, larvae I pick off the rosebush etc.

And you put straight tapwater in, and no problems with chlorine?

It's cool you can get a tank to run with so little expense. I have a tank I'm running without a light and I'm going to pull the heater soon to see how many plants I can grow in just room temp. It's just an extra filter I had with leftover substrate and plant trimmings from main tank- totally thrown together but has its own charm.
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post #6 of 27 (permalink) Old 04-18-2017, 12:26 PM
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I don't understand, why is a bottle of flakes that cost $9 and lasts months and gives your fish decent nutrition out of the question?

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post #7 of 27 (permalink) Old 04-18-2017, 09:27 PM
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@Silang: Glad to see your tank is holding up. As stated from the comments above, I am concerned for your tank as well. While I think it was great to get everything setup and you didn't run into any issues during the setup, for maintaining purposes I would definitely consider taking a few more steps to be cautious. Buy a freshwater test kit or even test strips so you can test your water parameters. Also, I have a rainbow shark in one of my tanks that's about 5" long (fully grown) had him since 2013. Obviously, he's very healthy. If you're interested let me know, but as a responsible fish keeper, I do need to know that your tank is fully maintained and controlled.

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post #8 of 27 (permalink) Old 04-19-2017, 03:11 AM Thread Starter
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Thank you for the feedback, everyone. I appreciate the concern, and will take all these into account..

As per the food, it was really silly and more of an experiment thing, but the hotdog and bread was one off. I stopped it immediately because I notice oil from those kinds of food. I am mainly using fresh shrimp heads and veggie bits since week 2.

@Doc7 For the plants, I agree that I need to plant more. I will make this the next immediate step instead of adding some more fish. I can't answer your ammonia burn concern though, I don't even know how that works/happen. But I get the concern - about the soil, and little plants, and 14 fish stock. So now I have the same question for myself. :/

Regarding the tap water.. I am not sure, but maybe it's the kind of water we have over here? Our home tap water is stored in a large tank, so the water coming out of my faucet is not straight from the utility pipes, but has been stored in a large tank for a couple of days already. You think that changes the chlorine contents of the water?

@Mattb126 $9 is P450 in my country, that's like my personal food allowance for a week already. But I agree that it is my responsibility to provide for my tank. Shrimps and veggie bits has been working thus far anyway and the barbs are looking healthy. Buying appropriate feeds will be considered once I get more stock variety Thanks!

@DiegoBedoyaVision Yes. I really do appreciate the feedback from all of you.. my setup and process must be full of cringe for serious hobbyists here, but again, main idea when I started this is really to setup up something using the most readily available things, and minimal expenses. And this is what I have now.

And about your rainbow shark.. sounds good man! Is it very similar to red-tail black shark? Considering my current setup, will a Red-tail fare nicely if I get one? or do I need to prepare for maybe a different feeding, and some other changes in the tank to suit their needs?
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post #9 of 27 (permalink) Old 04-19-2017, 03:25 AM Thread Starter
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Additional information that may help answer some of the concern:

I live in the Philippines, so:

*No concern with the water temperature (especially for barbs, and my next target RTBS).
*The soil, gravel, sand, rocks, twigs, and dried leaves I use in my tank are all sourced locally / around my area - same stuff you'll find in a real tropical freshwater habitat.
*Tap water - I am not sure of the chlorine content of your tap waters in your countries, but maybe your local city admin have a super high standard of killing all microbes that they dose you guys with all the chlorine they can give. Not the case for us here in the tropics. Our water are from the mountains, just piped to residential homes. And we also store water in a large tank (4 feet high, 8 feet long) in case of shortages/water cut.
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post #10 of 27 (permalink) Old 04-19-2017, 03:34 AM
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Rainbow sharks and redfin sharks are similar, yet different. I've actually owned both and I have to say that I enjoyed my rainbow shark more. They're both aggressive fish but at least rainbow sharks are more territorial. My redtail shark I owned was just a big bully against every other tank mates in my tank, eventually, I had to give him away. Look at their physical comparisons.. I even think rainbow sharks look cooler.

Rainbow Shark


Redtail Shark


As far as caring, I think you're good with your setup. As long as you have places for the rainbow to hide and claim as "his territory" you should be good. I would check up on their water parameters and understand what's required before getting one. I kid you not when I first got into the hobby my first fish was redfin and rainbow sharks. I bought at least 8 of them lol. Of course, after a few weeks, they all died except 1 which he's survived until now. The others died because they kept roughing each other over food so they eventually starved. It was a survival of the fittest type thing... if you know what I mean lol.

More info: Rainbow Shark Fish

Bump:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Silang View Post
Additional information that may help answer some of the concern:

I live in the Philippines, so:

*No concern with the water temperature (especially for barbs, and my next target RTBS).
*The soil, gravel, sand, rocks, twigs, and dried leaves I use in my tank are all sourced locally / around my area - same stuff you'll find in a real tropical freshwater habitat.
*Tap water - I am not sure of the chlorine content of your tap waters in your countries, but maybe your local city admin have a super high standard of killing all microbes that they dose you guys with all the chlorine they can give. Not the case for us here in the tropics. Our water are from the mountains, just piped to residential homes. And we also store water in a large tank (4 feet high, 8 feet long) in case of shortages/water cut.
That explains a lot of it... and why us (in the states) were so shocked at your intro post lol. If I was to start a tank with tap water I'm sure fish would be dead within 30 minutes. Btw I got a lot of friends in the Philippines, definitely different from US. I'm in Miami so definitely far, far ways away from you lol.
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post #11 of 27 (permalink) Old 04-19-2017, 12:32 PM
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That totally makes sense about the water. Yeah, where I live there is so much chlorine and chloramines in the tapwater sometimes you can smell it.

Understandable you want to just feed them what you have. I have met people from different parts of the world who were shocked when they realized we let pets (dog, cat) inside the house and buy special food for them. Where they lived, dogs stayed strictly outside and only got household scraps, cats lived in the outbuildings and fed themselves. They loved their animals too, It's just a different norm.

I like to see how your tank grows out.
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post #12 of 27 (permalink) Old 04-19-2017, 01:10 PM
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I'm definitely gonna follow your tank's progress. I'd throw somewhere on your main post that you're based in the Philippines so new readers can understand your circumstances and perspective better, without jumping to conclusions.

Keep it up!

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post #13 of 27 (permalink) Old 04-19-2017, 11:11 PM
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Nice. Yeah when I was living in the Philippines I didn't use a dechlorinator since we have a big tub about 2 stories high of water. I kept tiger barbs too but I splurged a little on my filter and decor.


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post #14 of 27 (permalink) Old 04-20-2017, 12:50 AM Thread Starter
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@DiegoBedoyaVision thanks for the help, and the interest man! Now I am getting engaged more to this, considering I started out as a YOLO tank lol

My tank as of today 20/4/2017

1. Plant update:
Added Vallisnerias: tried filling the area from the left side corners (front to back) towards the middle-back of the tank
*What are good and hardy foreground plants best for my tank? (low light, no ferts) I am looking to fill the empty spots between the vallis and swords, and towards the empty side of the tank..

2. Stock: 9 Tiger barbs, 5 mollies, 4 kuhli loach(new), 1 redtail black shark (new) (19 total)
- Kuhli's are funny, after putting them in, they are gone! But maybe it is a good sign meaning they have enough hiding places between and under the twigs, rocks and leaves.
- RTBS is a juvenile still and get chased a little by a barb every now and then, excited to see this guy grow to be the largest fish in the tank
- I think I will settle with this number, seems manageable number for a 65g. Hoping to have some rainbowfish though, but maybe I will replace the mollies if ever, to make this a Southeast Asian Community.

3. Water: I did a little water change (first time in 5 weeks); as suggested, and will be doing this every week or two (especially now that my fish stock increased). But still using tap water - as my water source seems safe for my plants and fish


p.s. I need to use a better camera next time
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Last edited by Silang; 04-20-2017 at 01:02 AM. Reason: added details
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post #15 of 27 (permalink) Old 04-20-2017, 01:34 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Silang View Post
*What are good and hardy foreground plants best for my tank? (low light, no ferts) ...
I like to use subwassertang- you can tie it to something- and windelov java fern which can look like a bush. I have grown both in low light tanks have some windelov currently in a tank that doesn't get ferts and it is sprouting new baby plants.

I like the look of your tank w/the vals added in there. They should spread!

(You might see your kuhlis if you get a few more- 6 or 7 seems to be the magic number for me. Mine are always out & about even during the daytime. They're so fun to watch.)

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