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post #1 of 37 (permalink) Old 05-05-2014, 04:57 PM Thread Starter
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A First Timer's 60L Planted Tank Journey

Up until 12 months ago I was firmly in the camp of "Why would you want to keep fish as pets? You can't do anything with them!" believers. Yeah, I grew up with dogs. Then as a partial joke, and as a final statement of "We are not getting a dog" by my wife, I was convinced to buy my very first fish tank at the age of 33. It was a no-frills 25L sale-special from the LFS - didn't even come with a light, basically just a clear plastic tub with a little teenie black box that claimed to be a filter (only evidence of that was that it had a plug and made loads of noise...did very little else). And it was at this point that the flood gates opened and I got hooked. Now a year on I have retired that little gateway drug of a tank and now embark on a journey into the world of planted tanks.

For the last 6 months or so I have been wandering around these forums, learning what I can, and dipping my toes in with questions here and there. Based on everything I've read I've planned as well as I can, but I joyfully look forward to being told "What are you thinking?", "Really?!", "Actually those two species enjoy eating each other", and "NO! DON'T TOUCH THAT WI...[boom]" at appropriate moments by the community. Let's get to the story shall we?

Oh, and my apologies in advance, I have a knack for rambling.

The Tank and The Plan

The tank (60L) is a friend's old tank, which I believe he actually never used. When he pulled it out of his shed it was calcified to the extreme and a bit grubby. I've cleaned it up as best I can and decided to ditch the hood. While I would absolutely love to go whole hog and play with CO2 and all the other accoutrement of the hi-tech world, neither my budget monetarily or time-wise allows for it. The main reason for the 6 month gestation of the idea for this tank is I also now have a three month old son. Not very surprisingly most of my extra resources in both those categories now get focused on him. I mean I've had a chat with him about possibly pooing less so Daddy has a bit more time to deal with potential pruning and water changes, but they've all been greeted with little more than grunts. Geez. So, with that in mind I'm going low-budget where I can and keeping things (relatively) simple.

I'm really attracted to the Walstad method in general. I think the ability to create a self-sustaining eco-system that needs little outside intervention is truly magical. But I also like kit! So, I've decided to take trappings and inspiration of that method and allow myself a few choice sleek bells and whistles. Basically keep things as simple as possible, natural as possible, diy where possible while always doing as little harm as possible.

The Kit

Lighting: Satellite Freshwater+ (my bell and whistle)
Filter: Fluval C3 HOB
Heater: Hydor Theo 100W
Substrate: Verve Aquatic Compost (B&Q brand basic) topped off with sand/pebbles (TBD)

Flora: I was rubbish at biology. Killed it in chem and physics, but biology I was absolutely rubbish in. After researching plants and trawling these forums for months I now begin to think its because scientific names are like latin to me...wait they are latin! I just have no ability to retain them in a way that has meaning. Yes, I can name crypts, anubias, etc but even after all this they are still just abstract concepts in my mind. As a theatre director visual conceptualisation is usually a strong point of mine, but try as I might, it's really just not happening for me with my flora planning. Thus, I have decided to let others do it for me to begin with. I've found a lovely little highly recommended online supplier who does starter kits for varying sizes of tanks. The packages come with a varying assortment of carpet, foreground, mid, and background plants. I figure I'll use this structured set as a way to get some hands-on experience, and possibly replant/scape in a more considered manner once plants cease to be just a foreign language. Though the company does list what the set might contain, everything is subject to availability and substitution. I'll post a full list when the arrive (with piccies)

Fauna:
Current plans include...
A school of Schwartz Cories
A school of Harlequin Rasbora
A school of Serpae Tetra - though these may turn into neons as thats what my wife would like and I know my record in previous such matters
A Kribensis
And a healthy crew of snails (nerites) and shrimp (species TBD)

So here's the tank in situ with the gear setupish...



Next I threw my driftwood and soil base to play with the initial hardscape...



The intention is to eventually have a slight upwards slope to the back right.

And and now I've put a plastic mesh layer over the soil as a retainer to reduce mess and soil plumes in the future during replanting and maintenance. This was a top-tip from a how-to guide on soil tanks I found.



Self-Inflicted Deadlines:
Water and plants no later than the Wednesday after next
Fish by the middle of June hopefully - water parameters allowing

So the questions/things I am pondering over and would love your thoughts on:

First off the sand/pebbles question. This is primarily being dictated by my desire to have cory's in the tank and wanting to make sure that my substrate is cory friendly. Initially I was just going to go play-sand, but I can't really find a shade of sand that I like - picky yes, I know. I found sound great "pewter" sand, but then doing some reading I realise this is not sand and looking more carefully at it I discovered the granules are definitely jagged/rough. Then I thought nice cool looking white beach sand, but I've read this can cause fish not to fully develop their colours and wash out due to not wanting to stick out against the sand. Then of course on further research I've read lots about sand possibly becoming anaerobic and therefore have thought about small darkish pebbles. Will cory's be happy with that? Am I over thinking it and should I just go with simple good old sand - much more in line with my simple and cheap mantra - and simply learn how to keep it from getting anaerobic (is that really so difficult?)? Need to get this sorted out by weeks end, so I can finish off the scape.

I will also be adding some rocks and working out how to create a natural looking cave like structure for the kribensis.

Question 2 - the scape in general, specifically the driftwood. Originally when I bought it in the shop my plan was to lay it so that it sprawled horizontally primarily and maybe nab another piece to attach in order to create a strong diagonal upwards angle (I might rotate it and post a picture just to get your thoughts). Then playing with it in the tank I laid it on its side and found this fun layout. I like it 70% of the way now. It feels a bit flat as it only plays in a single plane. Putting it on the angle kinda fakes a third dimension but it still feels a little flat. Also, I still need to tip it forward a bit as the upward branch is nearly perfect vertical, which does my head in. My thought is that using rocks (creating that previously mentioned cave maybe?), or small bush-like mid ground plants I can fill that area in a bit just down right of it and give a bit more of a sense of depth.

My intention currently is to plant the right side heavily, with a bit of foreground carpet as well, dissipating to a sparser, open-sea, feel on the left.

Ponderance 3 - the placement of filter and heater. Looking at the tank at the moment it feels very heavy on the right. My plan is that once planted the filter and heater will "disappear" behind the plants and driftwood making it much more pleasing overall visually. My concern is that this brilliant plan will backfire as plants might clog/block the intake of the filter thus weakening flow and filtration. Thoughts? I was hoping that its placement right in the middle of the plants might even work as an advantage in some way as it would guarantee good flow over the plants. The placement of the heater right next to the filter was another "brilliant" plan as I was thinking it might increase flow and distribution of the heat if placed there (warmed water going directly into the filter and being spat out and current of filtered water shooting right across on top of it). Anyone else think this might actually work in practice?

And final ponderance for the day - Flow! I definitely think I have enough filtration, but I'm not sure I will have enough flow, or at least even distribution of flow throughout the tank. A power head might be somewhere in my future. Thoughts?

And that's where I will sign off for this first chapter. I look forward to hearing all your thoughts, and starting off on this [possibly obsessive] journey!

PS I apologise for any major grammatical or spelling mistakes. Normally I proof things such as this, but previously mentioned 3 month old dictates otherwise. Still can't believe I even finally got this posted. He's been a gem this nap.
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post #2 of 37 (permalink) Old 05-05-2014, 05:05 PM
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Well thought out so far. I'm interested in how this will grow into in the future :p.

If you're worried about anaerobic conditions, add some MTS into the substrate and they'll help move around the substrate. Cories also help move around the sand so it shouldn't be much of a problem unless the sand bed is too deep.

Plants won't reduce flow, just as long as not alot of plant particles get caught in the intake of the filter.

A power head's always good. Especially in larger tanks. If you believe you're starting to get dead spots, get a power head near that area to help circulate it.
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post #3 of 37 (permalink) Old 05-06-2014, 12:19 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks mistuhmarc! Yeah, I'd read recently about the use of MTS to move around the sand. The thread mentioned that they sometimes can wind up bulldozing plant roots and multiply like rabbits. So, if possible, I think id like to avoid them. How deep is considered deep for the cories to be useful? Guessing the sand will be at least an inch deep as base goes from a few centimetres to about an inch in the back. Too much for the cories to clean for me?

Good to know that plants in close proximity won't affect the overall flow.

Anyone think my heat distribution hypothesis has any validity to it? also, and i'm probably gonna be embarrassed by asking this question but thermodynamics in fluids is no specialty of mine, does heat still "rise" in water or does it just radiate? I suppose hot water is no less dense and therefore just radiate equally?




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post #4 of 37 (permalink) Old 05-18-2014, 08:31 PM
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My 2-cents : I would definitely advise against what you call dark pebbles as a substrate for corydoras. They not only pigroot in the substrate, they actually sift it through their gills. This is natural behaviour for them, and pebbles would not allow that. Give them sand (0.4-0.8mm), on at least half their bottom space.

Secondly, cories don't "clean" your substrate. Yes, they will pick out pieces of foodstuffs and turn the topmost layer over a bit, but mulm will still be there.

Another thing I would advise againt is the thought of Kribensis with cories. Those cichlids live in the same bottom space with the cories and they get quite territorial, especially when they get hormonal ;-) Cories have no inkling about territories...and end up getting trashed.
I wish you good luck with your project !

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post #5 of 37 (permalink) Old 05-19-2014, 02:51 AM
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A First Timer's 60L Planted Tank Journey

Your heater hypothesis is certainly true. As far as heat rising- Yes. Warmer water will be less dense and rise.

Aside from that, your plan seems to be great to start. You'll always change things around.

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post #6 of 37 (permalink) Old 05-26-2014, 08:52 AM Thread Starter
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My 2-cents : I would definitely advise against what you call dark pebbles as a substrate for corydoras. They not only pigroot in the substrate, they actually sift it through their gills. This is natural behaviour for them, and pebbles would not allow that. Give them sand (0.4-0.8mm), on at least half their bottom space.

Secondly, cories don't "clean" your substrate. Yes, they will pick out pieces of foodstuffs and turn the topmost layer over a bit, but mulm will still be there.

Another thing I would advise againt is the thought of Kribensis with cories. Those cichlids live in the same bottom space with the cories and they get quite territorial, especially when they get hormonal ;-) Cories have no inkling about territories...and end up getting trashed.
I wish you good luck with your project !
Thanks Ghia for the advice. Definitely will avoid the Kribensis then. Cories are definitely my priority, with the Kribensis being just a nice central showpiece fish. I'll look further for something that will be a better member of the community.

I've gone with a slightly darker speckled sand in the end, so that should work out well. I knew they didn't clean the sand in the long, just moving the top bit around to keep it from getting to compact and anaerobic. I'll have snails and shrimp for proper clean up.

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Originally Posted by keats View Post
Your heater hypothesis is certainly true. As far as heat rising- Yes. Warmer water will be less dense and rise.

Aside from that, your plan seems to be great to start. You'll always change things around.
Glad that the heater idea works - in theory at least. And a bit embarrassed that I couldn't remember from middle school chem whether hot water would rise or not. Oops.

And, yes you're right. Already changed a bunch of decisions.

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post #7 of 37 (permalink) Old 05-26-2014, 11:11 AM
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Great...cichlids and cories are seldom good together, since cories never respect other fish's boundaries. They have none, so the concept is foreign to them. They can be skittish to movements outside their tank, though.
I keep almost exclusively cories...love them ! Just about to set up a 48G with a large footprint for more cories (and maybe some small dither fish and shrimp).
Here's a (not very good) snapshot of a growout tank with young cories doing their thing :-)
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post #8 of 37 (permalink) Old 05-26-2014, 11:39 AM
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Originally Posted by Ghia View Post
Great...cichlids and cories are seldom good together, since cories never respect other fish's boundaries. They have none, so the concept is foreign to them. They can be skittish to movements outside their tank, though.
I keep almost exclusively cories...love them ! Just about to set up a 48G with a large footprint for more cories (and maybe some small dither fish and shrimp).
Here's a (not very good) snapshot of a growout tank with young cories doing their thing :-)
While I m not doubting your experience commonly SA cichlids are fine with cories. They ignore each other until the cichlids breed. I have 2 mated gbrs , 2 Bolivians, and a krib with 4 juli cories and 7 emerald green cories. No one bothers anyone. Even when the gbrs lay eggs the cories just get rammed when they enter the territory. No nipped fins, no damage. Otherwise they all ignore each other. That is my experience. This is a 36" X 18" tank btw they r all in. So they commonly "could" interact if they chose to.

If in doubt, add more plants!

My not-enough-plants-but-not-enough-space-to-put-anymore-so-will-start-going-up-box-of-water.
http://www.plantedtank.net/forums/sh...d.php?t=456129

Last edited by jeepguy; 05-26-2014 at 11:41 AM. Reason: speeling
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post #9 of 37 (permalink) Old 05-26-2014, 11:52 AM
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... They ignore each other until the cichlids breed. ,,,.
Well, that's just it...as I said, when they get hormonal. Cories get rammed and buffeted about. Not fair to the cories as they're always on the losing end. And they never learn. Of course, worse with the smaller cichlids that use the bottom even more. And footprint has a lot to do with it, too.

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post #10 of 37 (permalink) Old 05-27-2014, 09:51 AM Thread Starter
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While I m not doubting your experience commonly SA cichlids are fine with cories. They ignore each other until the cichlids breed. I have 2 mated gbrs , 2 Bolivians, and a krib with 4 juli cories and 7 emerald green cories. No one bothers anyone. So they commonly "could" interact if they chose to.
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Well, that's just it...as I said, when they get hormonal. Cories get rammed and buffeted about. Not fair to the cories as they're always on the losing end. And they never learn. Of course, worse with the smaller cichlids that use the bottom even more. And footprint has a lot to do with it, too.
Think I might steer clear from the krib just in case. I had a resident bully in my previous 25L tank and I always felt guilty (just a whole bunch of territorial ramming, but still felt bad for the little fish). I'm sure there's another "showpiece fish" that I can find.

Orginally I was thinking of just getting a bunch of Schwartz Cories, but looking at your photo Ghia I fancy getting an assortment. Will a mixture of varieties of Cories still school (i.e. 2 of one type, 2 of another, maybe 1 of another) and bond as a group, or will they all act as individuals? I know its important to have them in groups of at least 5.

In other news, original time frame/deadline = out the window. Finally got sand yesterday, and now I have to wait until Wednesday in a weeks time for the plants to be delivered. I'd like to get water in the tank though (patience...what's that?). Is there any value to getting the water in the tank a week early in hopes of starting to establish the tank? It would be just filter and heater - no light (as I imagine that then all I would do is start to grow algae). I guess my fear is that while it seems like a good idea in theory, the nutrients in the soil and substrate will go ahead and start growing algae and bacteria, and start going anaerobic, without plants (even without light). Is this accurate?

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post #11 of 37 (permalink) Old 05-27-2014, 10:14 AM
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I wouldn't say cories "school" in the tetra sort of way. They mix and "flock", is a better word for it :-) While different cory species will group and mix peacefully, cories do interbreed within their species group, which isn't a good thing. So, the answer to whether you should do it would be "depends on the species in question". My picture shows C.duplicareus and C-141, but they are young and under breeding age. For grown cories, I only mix species from different species groups.

I'm not familiar with your VAC substrate, so have no idea what kind of nutrients would leak out. But IF you can get it planted in a week's time, I doubt you will have much of a problem. You'd get a headstart with cycling the tank if you filled it now, and filter bacteria do need nutrients. Also, "bad" bacteria don't just explode into being.

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post #12 of 37 (permalink) Old 05-27-2014, 10:36 AM Thread Starter
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I wouldn't say cories "school" in the tetra sort of way. They mix and "flock", is a better word for it :-) While different cory species will group and mix peacefully, cories do interbreed within their species group, which isn't a good thing. So, the answer to whether you should do it would be "depends on the species in question". My picture shows C.duplicareus and C-141, but they are young and under breeding age. For grown cories, I only mix species from different species groups.

I'm not familiar with your VAC substrate, so have no idea what kind of nutrients would leak out. But IF you can get it planted in a week's time, I doubt you will have much of a problem. You'd get a headstart with cycling the tank if you filled it now, and filter bacteria do need nutrients. Also, "bad" bacteria don't just explode into being.
Good to know re: cories.

Think I'm just gonna get the water in it and start cycling it this evening. Love the "IF" in your comment. What, doubting someone keeping to the exact tight time frame they've set?! Will give it a go, and if it all goes wrong I haven't gotten very far at least.

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post #13 of 37 (permalink) Old 05-27-2014, 10:42 AM
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Good to know re: cories.
What, doubting someone keeping to the exact tight time frame they've set?! Will give it a go, and if it all goes wrong I haven't gotten very far at least.
Hahaha...funny you should say that. I just sent off a (somewhat sharp) email to the guys who are making my new tank. When I ordered it (on 29th of April), it was promised in 1-2 weeks. Then, it was promised to arrive during the week last. So yes....I do doubt *LOL*

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post #14 of 37 (permalink) Old 05-27-2014, 11:03 AM Thread Starter
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Hahaha...funny you should say that. I just sent off a (somewhat sharp) email to the guys who are making my new tank. When I ordered it (on 29th of April), it was promised in 1-2 weeks. Then, it was promised to arrive during the week last. So yes....I do doubt *LOL*
Ahhhhh....yeah, that would explain it. Well the plant order has now been placed and they promise plant arrival on the following Wednesday if placed before a Wednesday. Will let ya know if it holds true. If the Universal Law of Maximum Inconvenience holds true, it should arrive perfectly on time as I'm not currently home to receive a package that day and have to work late, leaving very little time to do any actual planting that evening. No easier way to guarantee its on time-ness if you ask me.

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post #15 of 37 (permalink) Old 05-27-2014, 11:17 AM
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Alas, too true ! I got a new date now for my tank, June 4th. By the same law, that means it will arrive during the following weekend...when I'm not home. *grins*
Even my Finnex LED unit from USA has arrived now...ordered on 14th May. (I'm in Norway.)

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