Well, I was talked into doing a journal, so here goes.
I have had an aquarium for about 5-6 years with plastic plants. I was talked into trying a planted tank about Dec. 2010. I jumped in without knowing what I was doing. Someone told me just get some wisteria and stick it in the gravel, so I did. Then I got more plants. Then I got into a mess with brush algae. Someone on another forum (fjf888) helped me a lot by answering questions and pointing me to this forum. I started reading and got interested in the El Natural, bought Diana Walstad's book, and here I am.
This won't be very technical. I do very little water testing. (I will be checking for ammonia until this tank seems like it is doing ok.) That's why I liked the idea of this type of tank. No dosing to figure out, fewer water changes, etc.
It is a 20 gal high (24" x 12" x 16" high)
Fluval 104 filter
Two 18" strips of T8, 6500K lights
Sits in a southern facing window (living room)
50 watt heater
3/23/11 - starting the tank:
I didn't plan to do a journal, so I don't have any pictures of the various stages of setting the tank up.
I poured an 8 quart bag of Miracle Grow Organic Choice potting mix into the bottom of the tank and let it sit for 3 days while I was waiting for my plant order to arrive. Apparently I missed reading that I should have removed the wood chips. Oops!
When the plants arrived, I put about 1/2" of fine aquarium gravel on top of the dirt and, using a saucer, started putting water in. When the water was about an inch above the gravel, I started planting. What a mess! Some dirt and wood chips floated up every time I poked a hole to stick a plant in. It got hard to tell where I had already planted. I kept plugging away. After I got all the plants in, I added more water using the saucer.
3 sagitaria subulata (I rec'd 5 but put 2 in another tank)
5 Italian vallisneria
2 cryptocoryn lutea
red ozelot sword
I intended to move a bronze crypt and some wisteria too, but things got crowded.
When the water level was high enough to safely start skimming the junk off the top, I got to work with a net. After I had cleaned out as much as I could, I added water to the top and cleaned out some more junk.
At this point, I tied my java ferns to a piece of mopani wood (the wood had soaked for approx. a week) and placed it in the tank. I also put the hornwort in to float at this point. I got the heater in and moved the filter from the stocked tank where I had it running to preserve the beneficial bacteria when I cleaned out the 20 gal to get ready for this experiment.
I put another layer of gravel (more of the very fine, BB size, aquarium gravel mixed with very small rock-type aquarium gravel) around the plants and between them. This seemed to make it much easier to see what I had accomplished in the very cloudy water. I was happy with my placement.
There was a lot of dirt(??) floating that worked its way to the edges at the waterline. I managed to clean a lot of it away by trapping it with a paper towel. By the time I went to bed on 3/23/11, the water was looking much better
and even better when I got up the next morning.
On my way home from work (3/24/11) I stopped and got two small opaline gouramis. When I got home, the water was quite clear and looked pretty good other than the color from more tannins leaching out of the mopani.
My husband asked me how to check the temperature because he couldn't figure it out on the thermometer I have attached to the front of the glass. Just by sticking my hand in, I could tell it was way too warm. I put an in-tank thermometer in and found out the temp was 86. (I had started out using a new 100 watt submersible heater which apparently was malfunctioning.) I floated the fish in my other tank and immediately siphoned a pail of water out and added a pail of cold water, again using the saucer. Whew, temp at 78! I took the heater out and put in my old trusty 50 watt, non-submersible.
I then took the necessary steps to get my fish in their new home and took another picture.
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Today (3/25/11), the tops of some of the vals are brown and a crypt leaf looks like it melted, but overall, everything seems ok. I really hope I didn't cook the plants too much.
I already love having the tank in the living room. I can just look over and watch the fish whenever I am sitting.
Well, that's enough for now. If someone would be kind enough to walk me through the steps to post pictures from imageshack.com, I will get some in here.