Tuck's Low Tech Tank - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 7 (permalink) Old 08-29-2013, 09:04 PM Thread Starter
Algae Grower
Join Date: Aug 2013
Location: Central Pennsylvania
Posts: 17
Tuck's Low Tech Tank

Hi Everyone!

I would just like to start off by saying what an awesome site with tons of resources and information. I also apologize for having such a long post, but I would like to have everything squared away so I can order plants over the weekend and begin planting next week once they arrive.

I have had some size aquarium in my home since I was a little kid. A few weeks ago, I was woken up in the middle of the night to a loud crash. The plastic center brace in my 55g had snapped and dropped the lights and hood into the water. Thankfully no lights were on and nothing shorted out. While looking to fix the tank, I found your site, The Planted Tank, and was immediately impressed and fascinated with setting up my own planted tank. I was able to fix my tank with a new aluminum support and save it. I then began tons and tons of research into planted tanks through the forum and have settled on a “low tech” approach.

I think I have a pretty good idea of what I would like my end tank to look like and what I would like to maintain. Over the course of this project and post, if anyone has any advice, ideas, or help, it would be greatly appreciated.

Substrate: After researching the forum and watching a few videos, I would like to go with a dirt planted tank. I looked into eco-complete and other comparative products, and they were over $100 for my size tank. I settled on Miracle Grow Organic Potting Soil. I sifted through the dirt to remove any debris that would float, and I have allowed the soil to soak in a bucket for the last two weeks in-order to leech our any excess nitrates and nutrients. I plan to cap the dirt with the current gravel substrate in my established tank. I am thinking 2” of soil with a 1” + cap of gravel. I believe that the soil with establish the plants but after a few months I may need to start dosing with fertilizer tabs which is fine by me.

Lighting: I placed most of my budget money into buying a new T5 fluorescent lighting system. It has 4 x 54w bulbs with blue moon LED’s and an automatic timer. The timer was important because I am away for weekends very frequently and this will allow the tank to run when I am not there. I plan to use half the lights at a time giving me 108 total watts. It’s just shy of 2 watts per gallon which would keep it in the low light category?

Aquascape: I found a large piece of driftwood in a local stream that had been knocked down during a summer storm. It’s too large to boil, so I have it soaking in a large tub to leech out any brown coloration and soak up water to hopefully sink. If it doesn't sink, I have old slate tiles to attach to the bottom with stainless screws and keep it down.

Plants: I have found a few low light plants that seem to be hardy and will grow well in a low tech tank. I have a little more research as specifically how to plant each one. I have also found several members in the “for sale” section that have these plants available. I would be happy to give them a few dollars for their hobby, rather than a big box store.

Dwarf Sag- I would like to plant this in the foreground to the left side of the tank. I hope to create a carpet like effect over time. I also have a question about planting this on the driftwood. I have a small pocket about 5” long 4” wide and 3” deep in the center of the driftwood. Would I be able to plant the dwarf sag in this if I put soil in the bottom or shouldn't you plant on the driftwood?

Hydro sp. Japan- I plan to plant this in the right foreground of the tank and once again create a carpet like effect.

Peacock Moss-I plan to attach this to a long flat portion of the driftwood by using fishing line or cotton thread.

Anubias Coffeefolia- left mid-ground of the tank. I hope the leaves will provide cover for the small fish.

Amazon Sword- left background of the tank

Brazilian Pennywort- Center background. I would like to try and have some chutes grow straight up while others would grow on the driftwood in front of it.

Jungle Val- I plan to grow this in the right background.

I figure I would add a sketch I drew up about the layout of the tank. I attempted to create a draw up on the computer but it proved more of a pain than anything lol. Aside form the artwork, lack of detail, scale and authenticity of plant structure, what do you think lol? Are there any problems you might see have any of those species of plants near one another? Will some overtake the others? Planting on driftwood a bad idea? Too much in the tank?

Process: I have set up a 30g tank to place the fish in while I am working on the 55g. As I am draining the large tank, will it be helpful to save some of the water in buckets? Will this allow the tank to establish itself faster? Or is it a waste of time and harmful to the plants and fish? Once I have the plants in and tank filled, I will allow the tank to run for a week or so before I begin adding the other fish one at a time for a few days.

Thanks for looking, and if I have something wrong or need to fix something with my tank set up please let me know.
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post #2 of 7 (permalink) Old 09-10-2013, 02:24 AM Thread Starter
Algae Grower
Join Date: Aug 2013
Location: Central Pennsylvania
Posts: 17
10 Days Later

Alright everyone... it has been about 10 days since my initial post. Since then I have bought plants through the "for sale" section on this site, set up a dirted tank, and assembled a DIY co2 system.

First, I moved my fish to a temporary tank. A 30g I set up when I first bought most of the fish I currently have in the 55g. They have since grown in the 4 years I have had them and I feel bad making them stay in such a smaller tank. I know it doesn't look like it, but there are 8 fish in there.
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I then emptied out my tank and removed the plastic "plants" and began to spread a 2" - 3" layer of dirt. The dirt was a little muddy and wet. When I do this again, I will make sure to have the dirt dried or slightly moist. The soil was Miracle Grow Organic Mix. I needed to remove some pieces of mulch that floated to the surface while I was soaking the soil for a week.
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I left about an inch of space in front of the tank so you won't see the dirt when looking into the tank and creating a better cap.
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I then spread the gravel over the dirt to create a "cap" and cover the dirt. Some of the gravel sank right into the dirt (which is another reason I would make sure the dirt was just moist). I placed the driftwood and waited for the plants to arrive. I received about 3/4 of the plants I ordered this past Friday, so I was able to get started on the planting and cycling of the tank. Here is the set up as of now.
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Some floating plants I ordered. Frogbit and what I believe is Tropical Hornwort. The hornwort was thrown in by the member on here during the purchase.
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I left space on the right side of the tank for the plants that are still in the mail. I received an email that they were shipped this morning.
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On Saturday, I noticed that some of my Dwarf Sag was melting, but I read this is common for this species of plant when moved, however it should come back? My question is; how will I know when a plant is too far gone and needs to be removed? Just about all of the nodes still have a green leaf left on them, some have a little more.
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Sunday, with the Sag still melting, I looked into making a DIY Co2 system. Using this site as a reference, I built one using some old air hose, two soda bottles, an old baby food jar, yeast, sugar, baking soda, and a q-tip as a diffuser. I ordered some check valves (I don't want my room smelling like a brewery without the beer lol) and a glass nano diffuser (much more reliable than a Q-tip) from online which should be in by the end of the week. I set up the system today, and within 5 minutes, I had bubbles in the tank.
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Finally, I ordered a general freshwater testing kit. I have been changing about 20% of the water in the tank every day. I have a slight oil looking substance on the surface of the water. Anyone know what that might be? I used the kit to test the water in the tank and my water pH is a little high running 7.6 but I read that Co2 will drop that? If not, what could I use to drop it? The ammonia levels read 0 ppm, Nitrite (toxic ammonia that will harm the fish?) 0 ppm, and Nitrate (this leads to algae blooms from fish waste and old food?) 0 ppm. Anything else I should monitor? I do have a heater in the mail as well. I dropped my last one while moving it out of the tank to dirt it.

Thanks for looking and if you have any advice or answers to the questions I have, they would be greatly appreciated.

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post #3 of 7 (permalink) Old 09-10-2013, 04:34 AM
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Location: TN
Posts: 890
The dwarf sag, you can remove the brown and melted leaves by clipping them off so that all the energy gets pushed to the healthy leaves. So far in my experience the dwarf sag has been a really fast grower so as long as you have 1 piece survive it will eventually put out runners and cover the areas you want it to. I received some that had been floating in a 5 gallon with LED very, very low light for weeks before I got it and now 6 weeks later, it's recovered and putting out runners left and right and making a very nice carpet for my 10 gallon and several other tanks.

If you have zero ammonia and zero nitrate then your tank has lost it's cycle and without fish or snails to push the ammonia up you can do a fish-less cycle, which there are a few threads explaining it here on the forum. Get plain (no additives, fragrances, etc) ammonia and put it into the water. It's slow this way but better, healthier for your fish in establishing a cycle. http://www.plantedtank.net/forums/sh...97#post1960797 / Guide to Starting a Freshwater Aquarium (including Planted Tanks)
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post #4 of 7 (permalink) Old 09-10-2013, 02:50 PM
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Join Date: Jul 2013
Location: Canada
Posts: 118
peachii is spot on.

The sag will survive but prune the melting leaves, they're just waste. Just a note too, if your sag leaves ever get too tall, you can't trim them, they will die after a couple of weeks. Pull them instead. It grows quickly enough they'll be replaced in no time.
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post #5 of 7 (permalink) Old 09-10-2013, 05:13 PM Thread Starter
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Join Date: Aug 2013
Location: Central Pennsylvania
Posts: 17
Thanks for the response peach and primo. I will have to prune them when I get home. Should I remove the whole leaf or just the brown dying part? As for the cycle, should I have added fish at some point? The tank has only been running 4 days now and I have some more plants arriving within the next few days. As for the pH will the co2 reduce that or do I need to add a corrective solution of some sort?
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post #6 of 7 (permalink) Old 02-26-2014, 03:11 AM Thread Starter
Algae Grower
Join Date: Aug 2013
Location: Central Pennsylvania
Posts: 17
6 Months and 2 Tanks Later

Wow... it has been a quick 6 months since I started my first planted tank. I figured I would share some progress on my tank, because I know I have not been a very loyal contributor to my journal. My 55g is currently doing very well with stable water conditions and plant growth. I have had to start trimming the plants regularly which has allowed me to set up a smaller 10g planted tank. I am using the smaller tank to breed guppies and hopefully begin to populate the 55g community tank. I have found a lot of great advice and information on this site, but as with anything we never know it all lol. I have some pics of my progress to this date of both tanks as well as a few questions that I am hoping some viewers can help with. I am having trouble placing the text near the pictures but I will try and explain each.

Pic 1) The middle of the tank with the driftwood center. I tried to wrap the Brazilian Pennywort around the loop, but it always seems to pull up to the surface. The fish however, love to hide within the vines and leaves of the plants. The Java Fern mother plant on the left has been constantly producing small plantlets that I have attached to rocks and spread through the tank.

Pic 2) The Rotalla forest on the left with some Dwarf Sag in the front and a Java Moss covered stone. The Rotalla is growing like a weed. Every week I am trimming the plants and the surface to spread and widen the growth. Recently the Dwarf Sag in the front has taken off. All but three of the original plants died from my original set up. They had plenty of light and space but just wouldn't grow. I bought some more from a fellow member on the site, planted them, and now all of them have taken off. The moss stone was also something new added. I attached the moss to the stone and then covered it with the plastic mesh that the stones came in. The mesh is tight and the moss is held in place and currently growing around it.

Pic 3) The right side of the tank with a Pink Cory and Black Neon Tetra and More Java Fern, more Rotalla, more Java Moss, and the sad Jungle Val in the back corner. I cannot get it to grow for the life of me. I am also not sure the name of the small leaf plants in the center of the picture with the rounded leaves? Any ideas?

Pic 4) More sad Jungle Val. The plants along the back glass were the original plants. They were the length of the tank and then some. After about a week, they began to rot from the top down. Leaves broke apart and developed holes so I trimmed the rotting parts in the hopes to save the plant. Most melted away all but two or three leaves. Small new leaves were grown but they were dark brown on the edges and didn't grow very high, nowhere near the top of the tank. The plants also sent out runners for a few baby plants but they are the same. Small leaves with brown edges. The leaves also fold over and break once they reach 3 or 4 inches. Not sure what is going on lol. I don't dose Excell which I heard can melt the leaves. Any help on this would be great?

Pic 5) More Jugle Val before I cut back again. You can see the holes and tears in the leaves. The leaves were green just full of holes and falling apart.

Pic 6) This was the plant with rounded leaves I asked about before. It really took off when I move it to the front of the tank so I had to move it again. I also saw roots shooting like the Rotalla, so I figured I could trim it to replant somewhere else in the tank. It has nice red color under the leaves.
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post #7 of 7 (permalink) Old 02-26-2014, 06:05 PM
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Location: Columbia, SC
Posts: 84
It looks like you've made some great progress. Are you still using DIY co2? What is your stocking like? How about a picture of the whole tank?
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