All right, so. This tank has a long story so far. Feel free to skip all the words if you want, but you're welcome to kick back and read if you'd like!
The year was 2001-- doesn't seem that long ago. I lived in Houston, TX, and got my first job at a Petco. It was an awesome job that went sour thanks to management changes but that is another story! Anyhow, I was poor and young but in love with fish tanks, though I didn't own one. I wanted something special and unique, and so started taking extra work after my shifts were over, doing art commissions.
For about a year, I was teased every day by a black finish AGA corner bowfront tank in our store.
I imagined it full of beautiful plants and fish. You see, cruel fate had placed my store not terribly far from ADG in Houston, and I used to go and lust over their beautiful tanks. Every day I'd go to work, earn minimum wage ($4.50 at the time), and stare at that lovely, beautiful tank.
After about a year, I had saved enough, and the day I walked in to work with a wad of cash in my pocket, the tanks was GONE. WOE! I was just sick over this. I talked to the manager and he begrudgingly allowed me to order one, which I did. Some weeks later it came, but it was in an oak finish, which I really didn't care for at all. Still, I was foaming at the mouth for this tank. I bought it and took it home to my apartment (they allowed it because I was on the ground floor, on a cement slab).
Somehow, despite my apartment being next to the apartment complex office building, I didn't get caught masking off the tank with newspaper and spray-painting the trim black with Krylon in the parking lot....
After a lot of reading online (it was 2002 by now), I was convinced that I needed a canister filter and saved for several more months. In the meantime I put my corner tank... well, in a corner, and used to put plastic dinosaurs in it to keep moral high.
I picked up a filter, scored a beautiful piece of driftwood that was completely wrong for the tank, brought home gravel and plants, and set it up. It had 2 24w dim T8 bulbs on top and I just thought that I had the bee's own knees going on.
Hint: It was not exactly the Bee's Knees, but it was something.
(sorry for these photos, I think I had a 1MP camera at the time, no joke)
Everything except the anubias were confused about how little light was actually reaching them, and died.
Around this time roommate situations were occurring, and I unwittingly moved to a pretty bad part of town down in Clear Lake. I also quit my terrible Petco job and jumped ship to... Petsmart. Which, while not awesome, was worlds better than Petco. They essentially dropped me and one other girl in charge of what was called "specialty" at the time, which covered all the aquaria and live animals sold in the store. I worked at the one at 59 and 610 for anyone that might live in the area... during the time the fuel tanker truck rolled off the highway and blew up right outside our store (the sign was still melted when I moved away). I worked there for three years and went out of my way to educate myself so that I could help customers. I'm actually pleased to say that I had some really loyal customers that I helped to the best of my ability, and had a manager that didn't care if I sold stuff or not (for a while, until we got the Kmart manager. Sigh!). I actually had C___ (not sure if he'd want his name shared) from ADG informally offer me a job, but I couldn't apply because I didn't have my driver's license.
Anyhow, in my long hours researching, I discovered that the plants I wanted to keep really wanted more light. Things were simple back then: There were "High Light" plants and "Low Light" plants. Pretty easy, huh (haha!)? At the time, everyone was talking about Watts Per Gallon, and so I went to a local shop that had CF fixtures. After a few more months of saving commission money, I got two CF fixtures to go on the tank (one in front and one behind the T8 fixture). Around this time people were really starting to talk about C02 online, but I couldn't afford it so I just hoped that the increased light would help.
And, it did.
More learning, more research, more life upheavals. Our apartment complex was.. well, essentially it was the ghetto, and changed hands every 3-6 months. No one ever came to fix things, and if I wasn't so scared of being homeless surely I could have called Code Enforcement and had the place condemned (it was actually condemned after I moved away). At one point the slab itself cracked, and water from broken (thankfully clean) water lines came up through our floor and turned it into a horrible swamp. I had to move the tank to various locations in the apartment over 8 times, sometimes by myself (I'm a rather twig of a girl), to try to keep the stand out of the water. Alas, it was all in vain, as one day when I was not home the apartment flooded again and the pressboard that the special curved stand was made out of soaked it up like a paper towel.
This photo has the tank standing in the middle of the room, in my desperation. I did have some wicked cool algae on my driftwood, though. (2003)
Well, things fell apart, stuff got bad, my apartment was condemned, and I had to leave. At this point I was poor enough that I shouldn't have even had a tank, but it was one of my only pleasures and as long as I didn't buy anything for it, it didn't cost me anything to own as my electric and water were rolled into my rent. I ended up crawling back home with my parents for a while as I had no alternative. That meant moving the tank and inhabitants 1,600 miles, in the winter.
I tossed the old, damaged beyond repair stand in a dumpster, a tear in my eye.
All the fish made it. I made a packing error with the plants, though, and all the plants did not make it. Alas.
A few of my crypts made it, somehow, and I gleaned some of the plants out of my nanocube. The area I moved to in NY is very... isolated, and as I had no way of mail ordering plants yet, I had to make due only on what survived the trip.
My dad helped me build a solid wood stand for the tank, though it does not have the rounded front panels that the old one did, as we didn't have the proper woodworking tools.
Without being able to do much with the tank, I kept it going and took care of it, but don't really have any photos until 2006 because the tank really looked the same!
In 2006 I had worked long enough to have some money saved up, and struck out on my own again. I was in NJ very briefly, but realized that it would be at least a month before I could set the tank up again. I sadly rehomed all of my angelfish buddies, and took clippings of each plant and put it in my nanocube, and completely tore the 54 down. I ended up in Marietta, GA, and stayed for a little while with my inlaws. They had a very nice home and so I was a little restricted with what I could do for the tank.
At the time, everyone was raving about Excel Flourite. Since I had to restart the tank entirely, I put down Flourite as the substrate. I realized that my big, beautiful driftwood was cutting my deep tank in half, which was silly, and so I bought some driftwood. I wish I'd had the sources I do today for driftwood, but I got what I could. None of the LFS seemed to have beautiful stone, and I ended up digging some lovely quartz out of the yard.
I know it was sort of ugly with the equipment showing but I was told rather clearly that no one in the house at the time cared for the black paper I had back there.
Okay, I thought. Just gotta wait for the plants to fill in! These were all the plants that I managed to salvage from my Nano.
The plants did not like our new water.
Things got ugly.
Bleagh. (Oct 2006)
I was in the bad position of understanding enough that I knew what I wanted, and knew that something was wrong, but I didn't understand enough to know exactly what was wrong. I kept looking at C02, but I really must impress that the term 'starving artist' is not without it's source.
Then my fiance got me the most wonderful Christmas gift any girl could hope for.
A paintball canister and a CO2 system.
Then for my Birthday, a dream! My fiance turned husband got me discus (they bred several times, much to the dismay of the other fish)!
Not real pretty but I felt that I was doing something right!
Just as things started to go well, DOOM! We were forced to move. Because of the short term notice (<2 weeks), we again holed up temporarily with my parents while we acquired living accommodations.
Unfortunately, I had to get my tank out ASAP, and that meant taking it across the country again
and then leaving it at my folks house for a few weeks. My dad likes tanks, so at least he didn't mind feeding and doing a few water changes. He told me he wouldn't touch the plants, though. Okay, dad, that's okay.
It.. it wasn't okay.
Oh.. oh my goodness.
hygrophila angustifolia anyone? I ended up giving this whole mess of plants to my cousin, who asked for them. Turns out he kept pacus. The plants lasted about 23 minutes, I hear.
By the way, that goby front and center, which I think is a Clay Goby (the seller had no idea), was easily the most personable and wonderful fish I've ever kept. I'd be delighted to ever find one again.
Fortunately we were able to purchase a house. That meant moving the tank again. For anyone that has purchased a home since the housing bubble crashed might know, it was a truly soul crushing experience up until the day we walked into our new home. The new house was good news for us, but my tank was sadly neglected. Java ferns grow slowly, thank goodness, but not much else did.
For two years, we were immensely tight on finances (young, stupid, just bought a house). I had a priority to get a garden started and get chickens going. The tank was taken care of but not nicely. The fish were happy-- it was just plain ugly
Then, last year, I finally had the time to really get my nose wet and learn what the heck I needed to do to have a reasonably enjoyable planted tank. I found this forum and read and read and read. My head spun as half the things I had learned earlier in life (watts/gallon, etc) went out the window. I learned about PAR, dosing ferts, why the plants in my nano were always beautiful but they did crummy in my big deep C02 injected tank, the works.
I realized that my C02 diffuser wasn't really doing much at all, and so I built one in-line with my canister filter out of PVC. My bubble counter broke in the process and I made one out of a check valve and plastic syringe housings. I got some dry ferts here, and a few plants. I read and read and read about lighting, and I realized just how miserable it is to light a tank that is shaped like a fat, deep triangle. I worked extra hours and bought a custom T5 HO fixture from Catalina and applied everything I learned here...
In May 2012, I tore the tank apart, re-scaped it, and planted about 30 billion microsword plantlets. It looked pretty rough but it was closer to what I wanted.
I let it grow out for a few months, and re-homed the rainbowfish as they kept spawning and tearing the plants up in the process. July 2012:
A bit monochromatic, but I was so excited about the difference my applied learnings gave!
I wanted some different colors going, but I had to wait because of financial concerns.
This is just a closeup shot, the tiny fish in the circle is o. woworae ricefish fry that I had hatched out.
Then, this past fall/winter, several bad things happened.
A few nasty things happened to me personally, and I had to travel to do a show in November. Both of these things meant the tank got neglected a bit.
Then my heater nuked the tank when I wasn't home at the same time 4 of the 6 bulbs on the tank blew out. Most of my plants melted except the microsword, moss and crypts (which is sort of a mystery to me). Funny enough my amano and cherry shrimps made it, as did the ricefish. Tough critters! Needless to say, I could only afford either a new heater or new bulbs at one time, not both, before the holidays. Caring for my livestock, I moved a bunch of plants into the nano again, and got a pair of external controlled titanium heaters.
I recently got the new bulbs and so am recovering the tank at this moment. I'll take some photos of the progress shortly!
I just wanted to thank all of you here for your invaluable information and resources! I cannot dedicate as much time or funds to this hobby as some of you, and as such this tank will be a slow work in progress and will remain fairly unremarkable, but I just had to show you that being stubborn pays off.