*Out of Service* Finnex 4 journal - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 67 (permalink) Old 04-18-2011, 04:49 PM Thread Starter
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*Out of Service* Finnex 4 journal

This is my first attempt at a low tech nano tank and it is still a work in progress. I do have a stump of Mopani wood that will be the focal point. I did set it up both dry and partially filled with the stump in place but it was removed as the moss I have coming for it has not arrived yet. I am hoping to have that sorted in the next day or so.

The look I am going for is medium planted with some carpeting in the front. Fauna will be shrimp and some micro-*insert fish here* that I can hopefully get via the forum as the local LFS deal mostly in saltwater. Currently I have ghost shrimp in there because A. they are only $0.43 and I won't be attached to them when B. they may die while this tanks settles in due to my using soil.

The tank canister was seeded with media from my oldest tank, I had a bag in there with bio material for a couple of weeks collecting 'stuff' to help speed things along. Day three and everyone was alive, active and seemingly going about their business. I may come home though this evening to find everything dead but I am hoping otherwise.

Tank: Finnex 4 gallon
Filter: Zoo Med 501
Heater: n/a
Lights: Finnex Power Compact Fluorescent w 13 W PC Daylight 6500
Substrate: MG Organic Choice topped with combo of Carib Sea Moonlight Sand and Tahitian Moon
CO2: n/a
Dosing: n/a


1 - Olive Nerite
4 - Ghost shrimp - i.e. victims
fish TBD

Planted -
Hemianthus Micranthemoides (Dwarf baby tears)
Cryptocoryne Wendtii 'Red'
Aponogenton Crispus
Bacopa Australis
Echinodorus tennellus (Pigmy Chain Sword)
Dwarf Anubias Nana

All the plants came from Planted Aquariums Central except for the Anubias which was in another of my tanks waiting for a home.

I will keep this thread to initial setup pics and some comments but I will start another thread with my journal entries. Although I am mostly complete I am open to some suggestions not requiring a complete tear down of the tank so feel free to make suggestions. I am always open to them and it is appreciated.

I hope everyone enjoys, this being my first nano and choosing soil there is a learning curve, I just hope it turns out well and I don't come home one day to find out there was a huge spike sending the shrimp to leap out to their deaths and everything else pretty much done for.

Link to web player that I will continuously update as pics are added.


Tank fresh out of the box. The supplied filter will never see the light of day in lieu of the Zoo Med 501

Clips for lid. These were a separate purchase. The tank does not come with a supplied lid so this will be a DIY most likely will purchase glass cut to size. This would fit on these lid clips nicely.

Profile frontal of Mopani stump - the side I will be using

Profile side of Mopani - back side. It has character, I just don't think this is the side that should be shown.

Frontal shot after soil added

Tank with soil added

Close up shot of the rounded tank edges in front. For the most part the finish work is very good. I was impressed with the quality of this tank.

Full frontal with tank light

Another full frontal shot

Stump placed in the location it will eventually reside. For the final I did slope up more to that side, as much as I dared considering I am using soil.

Another shot of the above

Profile of the other side as it appeared, I just wasn't feeling this much although it has character. I don't think the coloration would be as visible. Wet it does not show it at all sadly.

Full frontal with the Mopani in place. The last version I worked on I replaced the white background which was just a sheet of paper with a piece of white rice paper material used for window covering. It really looks interesting and not so plain as simple paper. I am not sure though if that is the right color/look, up for debate still.

This was a layout that I chose after some planting. I eventually filled the tank, looked at everything to make sure I was happy with it then lowered the water level in order to remove the stump.

This frontal of the tank was what I chose as the final layout for the stump. The Anubias made it in after this.

This was taken later after adding the plumbing for the Zoo Med 501. See the spoon off to the side? Yeah, that is how I filled the tank. More details in the next thread on this.

Tank filled with ghost shrimp acclimating prior to release. You can see the canister off to the left of the tank.

This is a full frontal of the tank with the house lights dimmed. The tank on the right is the feeder tank where the plants were until I moved them over. This was a test soil based tank that will be decommissioned soon.

Another frontal of the tank

I took a series of pics of the ghost shrimp foraging & exploring about. The camera is a POC p&c that is giving me fits when I try to use the macro on the shrimp. It focuses on them fine and when I snap the picture it refocuses and drops out to what you see below.

Ghost shrimp foraging

Dueling shrimp, this was a battle royale!

Mine, all mine muahahahaha!!

Look, food! Run for it..

Last edited by demonr6; 12-08-2011 at 06:40 PM. Reason: warning label
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post #2 of 67 (permalink) Old 04-18-2011, 05:59 PM Thread Starter
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now the fun stuff..

Lessons learned:

Soil.. boy that was fun. I spent a good hour sifting that Miracle Grow Organic potting soil making sure it was debris free. It looks like fine ground coffee and smells great but.. when sifting soil for something like this, go out and buy yourself a vegetable sifter and a tub from Wal-Mart or wherever else you can find a cheap one that you can use again in the future. Why? Well you don't want your wife coming out to the garage asking what happened to her kitchen sifter only to find you sitting on the garage floor with a mess and there is the sifter with a pile of dirt and sticks in it. Oh, her tub she uses for soaking her feet, yeah, finding that with a pile of dirt in it organic or not is not going to make for a fun evening for you. A small bowl so you can dump the debris is a good thing to have, I tossed all of it into the garden so as not to waste it. Also use gardening gloves to help force the good soil through the sifter.

Laying the soil down in the tank was pretty easy except for me deciding to do this indoors and in a room with carpet. I left it unattended on the floor and when I came back our spaniel decided it was cool to dig around in it. I followed the dirt trail to where she was hiding and subsequently cleaned her muzzle which was covered in dirt. Luckily my wife was working on Saturday and I was able to wash the dog, clean the tile and was able to get most of the dirt out of the carpet. Mercifully this threw down in my office and my wife did not see it.. till this morning.

Now laying out seems like a breeze and I have watched a few videos on YouTube with planting tips. Let me tell you those people are highly skilled because I cannot begin to tell you how frustrated I was when I tried using that technique to simply pop in that plant and bask in the glory of my aquatic gardening skills. I was ready to pull my hair out when the plants would inevitably pop right out of the soil and float to the top making a mess.

Filling the tank without making a mess is quite a mission. I initially filled it with the stump in place. Being that it is a small tank there is not much you can get in there but a small cup. I first started gently filling in by pouring water on to the stump letting it make its way down the side and gradually wetting the soil enough to get me to where I could take a better approach. Well that made a mess. The sand cap is white for the most part except for where the stump is placed. For some reason unbeknown to me I got this brilliant idea to use the black sand under the stump, well the black sand ended up bleeding all over the place causing a mess. Little black grains peppered all over my beautiful white sand cap! GAAAH! Luckily more experimenting on my part since the water level was still low I took some white sand on a spoon and gently let it fall on the offending black sand. For the most part the problem was solved.. until of course the plants decided to float up on their own causing another set of problems. I took a different approach to raise the water level once it was high enough. I took a plastic spoon, laid it right at the water level and carefully poured the water right on to it. This technique worked and once I raised the water to a couple of inches I was able to pour the water in more liberally speeding up the process greatly. The saucer on the bottom is a great idea but you still get kick up of the sand and when you lift up the saucer the suction caused makes a huge mess.. huge, epic, like oh crap I have to do this all over again because I don't know how the heck I am going to fix this!

Everything else pretty much fell into place. The shrimp are still alive which is more than I can say for the red cherry shrimp that I received on Friday who were supposed to inhabit this tank. When I got the package I should have known something was up. Although they were packed great, the box looked like they were playing kickball with it. One side was crushed pretty bad which means they did not have a smooth trip. Although they were active when I got them and I did my best to acclimated them to the temporary QT tank they did not make it through the next 24 hours. I was really bummed, these were juveniles and I really hoped for the best but when the one bit the dust that evening I should have seen it as the dark cloud on the horizon. The next morning they were history.. hence the reason for the expendable ghost shrimp. I feel less bad about five shrimp leaving me two dollars out than I do six shrimp leaving me sixteen bucks in the hole that lasted me less than eight hours.

I had Celestial Pearl Danios planned for this tank in addition to shrimp but someone beat my auction at the last minute by swooping in and leaving me empty handed. Unfortunately for me the auction was over in the middle of the afternoon on a Sunday which is horrible timing might I add for anyone to end an auction. Weekends, afternoons in particular are spent running errands and doing yardwork so keeping tabs on an auction is not happening. Especially if you are already in the dog house because you ruined your wife's vegetable strainer and foot tub.

As of this morning all five ghost shrimp were alive, I did not notice any killer gas bubbles forming under the surface of the soil, at least not that I can see around the edges but surely that is always a possibility that I can come home to find everything dead. That is why I have the ghost shrimp in there... If all goes well and it does not happen then great, they will be moved to one of my older tanks and will have to deal with my bettas. Every ghost shrimp that has ever spent time in those tanks has gone missing or we find them outside the tank after leaping to their death for some reason.

I will keep updating with new pics and what I learn along the way and I would be happy to offer my experiences with anyone who would like to know more. I'm new at this so please be gentle.

Thanks for looking!
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post #3 of 67 (permalink) Old 04-19-2011, 01:29 AM Thread Starter
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Progress pics

Day 2:

Day 3:

Tank params -
Ammonia - 0
pH - 7.6
Nitrate - 0
Nitrite - 0

I threw in a floater today as additional help to suck up any excess heebie jeebies in the water.

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post #4 of 67 (permalink) Old 04-20-2011, 01:02 AM
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Great looking tank, looks bigger then 4 gallons! I also enjoyed reading your posts about the journey to put this tank together, thanks for sharing. I have a question tho, are those the stock spray bar and tubing that comes with the 501? If it is do you know the size of that tubing? Also, how is the flow for the 4 gallon?

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post #5 of 67 (permalink) Old 04-20-2011, 01:47 AM Thread Starter
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The stock tubing is what I am currently using but I did buy a replacement set of ADA style tubes made of acrylic from a forum member on another aquarium forum I frequent. He also makes a sweet drop checker as well. The stock tubing is 10 mm. The flow is not bad really, I have it facing the back wall and you cannot really tell. I just did a 50% water change and I adjusted the bar so it shoots up some and you can see it shimmer just on the surface. So far the ZM 501 has been really quiet. The stock tubing has to go though, I am glad I hooked up with this guy who makes the acrylic tubing. I will post pics as soon as it is installed on the tank and write that up as well. PM me if interested and I will get you his contact info. I have pics of what I bought as well.
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post #6 of 67 (permalink) Old 04-20-2011, 02:05 AM Thread Starter
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New pipes

I have been looking around for some replacement inlet / outlet pipes for that ZM 501 as the stocks are not visually appealing. Not wanting to spend a hundred bucks on glass pipes at the moment I found someone who makes acrylic versions that are very nice. Yes, it's not glass, I know but right now I am not convinced the expenditure for the glass is the best idea. Certainly I would consider it in the future as the crowning touches once this project has reached that level but for now I think this is a good acquisition for me. Pic spam below.

Once I get them I will write it up, take pics and post them up in the tank as part of the journal.

Drop checker

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post #7 of 67 (permalink) Old 04-20-2011, 03:04 AM Thread Starter
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Day 4:

I did a partial water change today. Checked the parameters and nothing changed, everything still the big goose egg zero. I took advantage of the lower water level and readjusted the spray bar and moved the intake to the left side wall. I also planted another of the plants that was intended for this tank, the pigmy chain sword, sandwiched right between the anubias and the aponogenton. That right side with the dwarf baby tears though is still bothering me. There was not quite as much as I thought in that bunch I purchased. A lot of it was not plantable, as much as I tried. I have this bare area that I hope fills in. I can always find some more online and buy it to plant it and get it over with too.

Pigmy Chain Sword in the middle planted today

more Pigmy Chain Sword

the Dwarf Baby Tears.. need more cover

Anubias with one of the ghost shrimp hanging out on it

Bacopa Australis

I really get a kick out of watching the shrimp, too bad they won't last long. I will replace them though with something a little more flashy than won't be so hard to get the camera to manage a good focus on. You cannot imagine how hard this is to capture them in focus.

Last edited by demonr6; 04-20-2011 at 12:38 PM.
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post #8 of 67 (permalink) Old 04-22-2011, 01:54 AM Thread Starter
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Almost complete

Day six:

My acrylic drop checker and replacement pipes that I bought from a forum member that makes them came in today. It was a yay moment for me. Also, I was waiting on some moss that I bought from another forum member, that arrived yesterday so today I set to attaching everything and replumbing the Zoo Med and here it is. The right rear needs help, I know. I don't know what to do with it but it needs a taller plant. Suggestions, comments and concerns welcome.

Drop checker, inlet & outlet pipes

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post #9 of 67 (permalink) Old 04-23-2011, 04:05 AM Thread Starter
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Day 6 update

Day 6:

No more shrimp loss.. a forum member suggested I check for copper since everything else tests fine so I went and bought an API to test for copper.. it's not copper. I do stand by my thought that the temperature is not doing them well. Our a/c is set to 75 overnight, this morning I saw the temp on the digital read 74. Short of closing the vent in the office each night I don't have any other recourse. I could run the lights overnight in an effort to keep the temps up due to the heat generated by the light but would that be sufficient to keep the temperature stable and not cause the wild swings from 80 to 74? I thought their range was lower than 74 and down to 70 with the ideal being around 75. Maybe the poor mishandling by the LFS since they are treated as nothing more than feeders. I have two in a 6.6 with one of my bettas and they do nicely. The betta kinda chased the rest and they leapt to their deaths. Anyhow, everyone is still alive for now, they still seem inactive to me and if I find them all dead one morning I would not be surprised.

Tank parameters still all read the same as they have been all week. Nitrate is the only level not reading 0 and at around 5 ppm.

You can see on the last two pics the dwarf baby tears have visible roots starting to rapidly develop. Good for me, yay! Something is going right!!

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post #10 of 67 (permalink) Old 04-23-2011, 04:19 AM Thread Starter
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Oh, and this arrived today in the mail.. what to do, what to do..

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post #11 of 67 (permalink) Old 04-29-2011, 02:38 AM
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I think you should just let everything grow out and see what it looks like a few months from now.
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post #12 of 67 (permalink) Old 04-29-2011, 02:59 AM Thread Starter
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Figured out how to work my drop checker that I had picked up from a forum member who makes them and also added added an end-to-end moss wall that I built this evening.. what a mission that was.

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post #13 of 67 (permalink) Old 05-03-2011, 01:44 PM
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Everything looks great! It's going to be so green when the wall fills in

Nothing Ventured. Nothing Gained.
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post #14 of 67 (permalink) Old 05-03-2011, 03:08 PM
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Looks good. Keep it up.
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post #15 of 67 (permalink) Old 05-10-2011, 02:39 AM Thread Starter
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05/09 update

Almost two weeks since the last update and a few things have changed. I have a school of Celestial Pearl Danios happily swimming around doing their thing. Really neat little fish and I enjoy watching them go about doing their thing. The last two surviving ghost shrimp are doing well. They finally came around and started eating. I am feeding the CPD's a mix of flakes and micro pellets and the ghosts seem to like that more than the betta pellets I was using before. It's funny watching them grab a flake and start munching on it.

The tank is healthy and most of the plants have acclimated although some more than others. I am still playing around with the light period and the amount of light I am allowing though the blinds to get that right combo. I did make a drastic light change though replacing the light that came with it and going to an desk lamp the last week. I think that stock light crammed right on top of the tank was too much for these plants. Now I went one up on myself and bought a 10W LED that the manufacturer claims to be in the 6000~7000 K range. We will see right? I made a DIY mounting arm for it where I can adjust the height and angle without a hassle.

The plant situation is going good. I started a dosing regimen using the medium tech Pfertz package. You can see by the pics that the dwarf baby tears have really taken off in this tank. The pigmy chain sword is doing really well too, it sprouted a new plant and took over in front of the anubias. That plant also amazed me for the first time in six months I had it, in the last week the first new leaf came in.

I had to trim back the aponogenton because it was not doing too hot. I threw in some cambomba from another tank to fill in the back and it seems to be doing well also. Even the moss which was browning badly has come back and is a nice full green now. I may have to trim the dwarf baby tear soon which I was honestly not expecting to take off since I am not using CO2.

Enjoy the pics.. questions, comments or concerns always welcome.


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