The Beginning of J-Aqua's 25g Dirted Low Tech Journal - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 3 (permalink) Old 09-24-2015, 10:59 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: Sacramento, CA
Posts: 4
The Beginning of J-Aqua's 25g Dirted Low Tech Journal

Hi All,

Where do I start. I initially started on this tank about 2 years ago. Life grabbed me by the balls and said "You're getting married, and then you'll have a baby boy." Well crap! So this is long overdue and on this day I am starting back up on this project and FINISHING it.

Since this would be my second effort at a planted tank the first time was absolutely a horror story I wanted to do things right (as much as I can). I know I will more than likely have problems down the road, but that's why we have forums like these right!?

Mineralized Top Soil: I started the process with EB Stone's Organic Top Soil. It was readily available and cheap to boot. I only needed one bag i think it cost me 10 bucks. I started out by soaking it in a giant tub, and sifting out any floaters. I let it soak in the tub for a couple of days without being disturbed. I removed the water and placed it out in the hot California sun and RINSE AND REPEAT! I did this about 5-7 times. See below for results.

After sifting and soaking

Drying in the sun

This is the stuff that was removed from the dirt and just floated to the top. I used a very fine strainer to get all the rest of the "floaters"

After it was all said and done this is what I have

The Stand & Tank: I received this 25 gallon tank for free! It was gently used so I took some vinegar and water to remove calcium build up on the tank itself and the plastic molding at the top. Everything came off nice and clean. More than likely its a AGA tank, but I am not 100% sure. I absolutely hated the color!!! I'm a fan of cherry or dark wood and this tank had the light oak color on the plastic molding AND tank stand, YUCK! So I spray painted the plastic molding around the tank a flat black, and stripped the oak coloring from the stand, sanded it all down nicely and finished it off with a mahogany stain. I think it came out really well for my first time. I had to stain it twice.

No more oak molding!

Oak Stand - YUCK!

Just a side note: Stripping off vinyl or stain is a SOB! Patience is virtue!

I didn't take any pictures of the sanding job that I did. It didn't need much, but mainly to get the remaining vinyl and residue off and smoothed out the wood a bit more. I used 200 and 300 grit sand paper on it. Staining was actually easier than i thought. I took a old white tee shirt that I had and used it as my "brush." I cut it up in a couple pieces for the small areas that i needed to do.

1st coat of stain:

2nd and final coat of stain:

I bought some new hardware (hinges and door opener and cuplings for the conduit piping) for the stand and spray painted them. Easy!

Moving onto lighting - Thanks to hoppy for his PAR lighting thread I am local to Catalina Aquarium lighting. I called them up and requested a 24 inch T5HO 1 bulb lighting fixture. I think the bulb is 5700k or 6500k my memory is failing me at the moment. I requested them to drill holes at the top so I can suspend the light fixture over the tank. The height of the 25g is 20 inches. In order for me to get 20-25 PAR i'll need to suspend the light over the tank approximately 32-35 inches from top of substrate.

Everyone should have a electrician as a friend who can teach you how to bend pipe! I bought 10ft of conduit piping and we measured out the center of the tank where the light would suspend at and this is the result:

Side angle

Next I took some rust-oleum spray paint and painted the conduit pipe. Same thing I used to spray the rims of the tank.

Both the rims of the tank and this conduit piping took a total of 2 cans of spray paint. I did about 4-5 coats on the conduit piping. No drips it turned out great! Next pictures are of the lighting setup. I took apart the light so i can gain access to the metal plates. I used some "hook" screws of full "hook screw" not sure of the name sorry, and put these through the light fixture where catalina drilled holes for me. I had to cut the remaining hook screw with a drimel where I tied the nut down onto it.

Before drimel


I went to a local hydroponic store and picked up some adjustable ratchet hangers for 5 bucks as they were an open box. I went ahead and picked them up even though they're white cant pass up a deal like that. They worked flawlessly. In addition, they gave me some hooks for free. See picture

I still need to do some fine tuning with the light. Its not completely level it "droops" forward a bit. I need to put more spacers in the front of the light. Once I finish this I will post pictures of how i bolted the conduit piping that will suspend the light over the tank.

I've been in the aquarium hobby for about 10 years but haven't had a tank setup since 2012! Long overdue! I have some manzanita branches currently soaking that I have had for a while. I probably wont use all of them but soaking them all any ways and will play with the arrangement in due time.

For the filter I have a API Rena Filstar XP2 that I will use. I am contemplating on using an internal heater or an inline heater. I need to do some research on this. I want to have as much space in the tank and if I can get away with using a inline heater I will go this route.

The substrate:
1.5 inch of MTS w/ emulsified red clay + dolomite
0.5 inch of eco-complete
1 inch of Brightwell Aquatics FlorinVolcanit Plant Substrate
I was able to pick this up really cheap from a friend of mine that bought this stuff and didn't use it. I have 10lbs of this and I think I have more than enough to skip out on the eco-complete but we'll see. I got both bags for 10 bucks!!

For plants I plan on planting very very heavily with crypts, java fern, various anubias, tiger lotus, and give a try for blxyia japonica, or DHG. Once everything is ready I'll have more of a descriptive list.

I guess thats it until next time! If you have any suggestions please let me know. Hope you like!

Last edited by J-Aqua; 09-25-2015 at 04:07 AM.
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post #2 of 3 (permalink) Old 09-25-2015, 05:28 AM
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Hetzer's Avatar
Join Date: Sep 2012
Location: California
Posts: 83
Great start! Really nice work on refinishing the stand and tank...

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post #3 of 3 (permalink) Old 09-25-2015, 06:08 AM
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Join Date: Jun 2015
Location: Victoria, BC, Canada
Posts: 1,418
Originally Posted by Hetzer View Post
Great start! Really nice work on refinishing the stand and tank...
Agreed. Doubly nice when the tank is free.
Those wood pieces look good, hope you enjoy messing with the arrangement.

Daisy Mae V
According to my husband, I have a habit of jumping right in!
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