I was going through some old photos and realized how much my 10 gallon has changed from when it was originally set up to it's current set up. I thought it might be an interesting thread for the others that are just getting into the planted tank world to see how it went. I think I made every mistake possible and am still racking up the mistakes.
So, for those of us that drool on those gorgeous aquascapes while killing our supposedly unkillable plants and battling algae, here is the evolution of my little 10 gallon from June 2012 to January 2013.
It's divided to house two male bettas. Plain gravel substrate with a couple root tabs and a group of plants I picked up at Petsmart. I think the lighting is still incandescent. Yes, those are Amazon Swords in my 10 gallon and microswords in front in big clumps. Not a good setup. I also tossed in a couple of Marimo moss balls. The only survivors of this phase are the two anubias.
Amazon swords are out, replaced by hornwort and water wisteria. I also added some banana plants. More biomass, yes, but the plants aren't growing worth a darn. I replaced the incadescent with two spiral CFL bulbs, so at least nothing is dying quickly.
Huge upgrade. I tore the tank apart completely for this overhaul and bought new equipment to make it a real planted tank. The tank now has Eco-complete substrate, crypts (spiralis and wenditii), java ferns, and a java moss carpet started. I've upgraded the lighting to a 20" Finnex Fugeray sitting right on the tank, maybe three inches from the water surface. I started dosing Flourish once a week at .75 mL. Yes, this is a recipe for disaster, as the tank is mature with light stocking, so I just increased the light sharply in a tank with no nitrates to speak of.
Unsurprisingly, I start having BGA issues. You can see a spot of slime on the heater in this picture. I do some research and realize that I need to improve circulation. Out comes the divider and the blue betta male gets moved to his own 10 gallon. The marble male and the 3 otos take over the whole tank. It certainly doesn't do him any harm, he is the most gorgeous $0.99 fish I've ever seen with a tail that is ridiculously long. I also start to dose Flourish twice a week at .75 mL. Growth in the tank is good, but the BGA starts to hit the spiral crypts that are tall enough to run along the top of the water. More research shows that low nitrates can be part of the problem. The lesson of needing nitrates to actually show up in a planted tank is learned.
Got hit with a round of crypt melt, most likely due to having lots of light but not enough of pretty much anything else along with the BGA issue. I've now added pressurized CO2 and have started an EI fertilization schedule. It was a rough couple of days for the tanks inhabitants while I got the CO2 settled in (pH bounced pretty hard while I made my mistakes) but everyone has survived and it looks like I've settled in around 20-25 ppm. The BGA is falling back as I prune, clean, and get my water parameters in line.
The plants are already bouncing back. I added some pennywort to add some variety to the leaf shapes. I also added some dwarf hairgrass to make my first attempt at a carpet. At this point, I think this tank has run the full evolution from pretty much not at all planted to high maintenance. I have a dosing schedule posted next to the tank to keep me on track and I'm keeping a journal for water parameters. The hairgrass went in last night in these pictures, so hopefully I'll have pictures of the sixth iteration in the future.