Not a pot pot- version two - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-04-2016, 05:07 PM Thread Starter
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Not a pot pot- version two

A while back I did a posting where I used a piece of semi hollow wood to make a place to set plants in a way that the roots would be protected from digging fish. Something that served tow purposes as décor and as protection. Those of us who keep fish like cichlids who dig know the problems.
Bu then finding hollow wood in the shape wanted can be difficult so I've moved to version two in this post.

First point I want to make is that this idea is not one for everybody and only works if you want it to and have the tools and talents to make it work. If that's you, read along and I will show you a few items that might work if you do the same for your tanks.

First I started with some found wood and cut the bases flat on several pieces as I didn't know which might work out best and it is easier to do a group rather than repeating single items. You may note that the wood is not all the same item in all the pictures as I did several. Some of these pieces are juniper and some what might be oak but I find little difference in what type of wood as long as it is totally dry. I normally keep a stash of wood around and these are just some that appealed to me for this project.

First piece cut flat on the bottom.

Before going too far, I always want to know how much weight will be needed to sink the wood. I DO NOT want to wait around for a month! So one way to do that is to strap on what might be enough and try it. I use large rubber bands like this to hold surplus tile scraps for weight.



Testing first is good! You can see that I failed on one as it is floating and needed a larger weight.



I will fill in more details as I get time so check back if is something you might want at some point. I find it is always good to have a few backup ideas in mind for long slow holidays if nothing better happens!

I hope you are all enjoying the holiday. You've probably earned it! If not, try to remember it is the working people who got you this day off, not the boss!!!
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post #2 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-04-2016, 07:59 PM Thread Starter
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So to continue?
Once we have the right weight sorted out, the next part can be the tough part or the fun part. We begin to make room for something for the plants to sink some roots into. We will assume that we each have a favorite and I don't want to change that but you do need a place to put it.
So I took the weight off, turned the wood over and began to remove the inside wood to make a hollow space. Drill hammer, chisel or whatever you feel works for you. For me drilling a series of holes was right.
One thing to keep in mind is to not get so busy removing wood that you forget to save some space for screws to hold the weight on the wood. I found two screws were enough. While deciding where and how to screw them together, I went ahead and drilled both.



While drilling, I also added some holes on the top side for the plants to come through. The idea is to have the roots protected so, plants on top , roots on the bottom?


I had chosen a couple swords as likely easy plants for this as they are tough guys and they also have a nice set of roots which makes them really hard to pull. But those big roots make them a bit awkward to get stuffed in the top holes so I had to work out a trick to help. I found wrapping a piece of paper loosely around the roots made a much easier job of fitting them down through the hole.



With the plant in the wood, I turned it over on a small box full of paper so that it kind of held the plants in as well as held the wood in a position where I could work on the bottom.
Pretty simple job now to fill the bottom with planting mix of your choice. I used Flourite and sand with a Flourish pellet added, placed the cover/weight and screwed it down.
A point to mention is trying to be somewhat organized and quick once you get the plants out as drying is never really a good idea so the less time the better.

All done, ready for the tank.



Since my wood had already been in the bleach soak and I knew it to be safe, into the tank it went!



With the weight covered with a bit of sand, etc. it is now complete and ready for fish inspection!
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post #3 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-04-2016, 09:32 PM
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Very clever idea! One I may have to try :-)
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post #4 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-04-2016, 10:10 PM Thread Starter
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I've had a question on why and what I used for weight. It is a pretty classy looking piece of tile for hiding under a plant!
But then there are lots of things that we might repurpose so some reasons for using this?




I started with some experience drilling stone and tile and I know there is a lot of difference in the type of tile I try to drill. They all do much better using a masonry bit designed for the job but we can fudge it a bit more if we use the right tile. Slate tile is a good one as it is somewhat soft but then natural stone types are often good, too. The problem with the natural stone types is that they are also often the more expensive types if you buy them.
That's where a bit of thought can help.
Who has bunches of tile that they no longer value? Tile is often removed but it is gunked up with adhesive and often thrown away as soon as possible so it's kind of hard to lay hands on but the next good bet is the store who sells tile.

Stores have to stock tile and display lots of it and lots does get broken so they have a stack of tile in the back with chips or broken corners. But if you want to collect a bunch at one time, they may also have a trailer out in back with the obsolete patterns and overstock that is not enough to sell but not be hauled off just yet. BINGO! That overstock is something I find, they are more than ready to see leave in any amount you want to take with you!
I try to go in when they are not busy, wait very patiently until they have a minute and then just lay out the plan for them.
I'm looking for something really cheap, kinda soft but I don't care what it is! I try to explain that I'm just doing hobby stuff and they treat me very nice and lay this stack on me and offered more anytime I run short.

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post #5 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-05-2016, 03:07 AM
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That looks like a great idea! I don't have any "diggerfish", but the reason is because of the damage they do. I may have to rethink my prejudice against them with this in mind.

What will happen if the plants continue to expand their roots, until the space is used up? Could they crack the wood, or strip out the screw holding the weight on? I found that riparium planters can get rootballs packed so tight it is very hard to remove the plant at all.
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post #6 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-05-2016, 03:30 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hoppy View Post
That looks like a great idea! I don't have any "diggerfish", but the reason is because of the damage they do. I may have to rethink my prejudice against them with this in mind.

What will happen if the plants continue to expand their roots, until the space is used up? Could they crack the wood, or strip out the screw holding the weight on? I found that riparium planters can get rootballs packed so tight it is very hard to remove the plant at all.
Perhaps put the weight on in such a way as to leave the bottom hole open then the roots could just grow into the substrate . Just a thought . I do like the idea , not because I have diggers , but because it looks so much more natural than just tying a plant on a piece of wood .
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post #7 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-05-2016, 03:21 PM Thread Starter
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I've never worried too far about plants that grow too old!
But it is a question and I had not thought about it too far. With the tiny type roots even swords have, I would not expect them to break anything but never tried it so I don't really know. In flowers and garden plants they will just grow far less and don't do well if root bound. In those, it is hard to keep watered but that would not bother our plants. At some point, I may find they are going bad and have to change them out or some move.
The idea of leaving the space open might work and the roots could just come on down and spread across the tank bottom if they got that far. But then that would leave some question on what type fish and how large versus how much root damage they might do. Given a chance, I find my fish can get the sub out from some pretty small spaces when I lay a rock pile down. Things that I've stacked on top of sub are prone to eventually tilting and sliding so i now try to clear the space under rock piles.
I would not work too hard to give the roots room for my own use as it would make it somewhat harder.
One could use two pieces of tile, one at each end but that would leave a center section open for small fish to slide under. It might be okay with small fish that are not the ones who do most digging.
Just something still not tried?
Maybe the whole plan is full of holes but then I'm open to letting a few failures in now and then!

A small point that I did fail to mention is feeding. I did drill an extra hole and at some point might feel the need to poke a fert pellet down to the roots. Yet to be determined but easy to do now rather than later.

Part of the motivation to do this comes from the two types of fish I'm keeping in my 125. My main fish of interest is a large Protomelas type called insignus. They are a "cousin" to the more common "red empress" but more blue and larger. About the only time they are interested in the bottom is to spawn. That makes it easy to pair them with mbuna (rock fish) who love the rock piles. So the plan is to leave one end for the big guy and the rest in rock piles for the mbuna and it all works somewhat well and I am able to get some breeding done but not as smoothly as I would like. The big guy needs a screen to divide his section from the mbuna so he can do his work but they tend to live in the rocks so near that it is a hassle for him to clear them out and he misses getting half the eggs fertilized. I think a screen of plants will serve me better as it will give cover but not a rock pile for somebody to duck under. Normally they are a quite peaceful group but I do want them to stand back further so I can get larger spawns. The last trip only produced 8-10 when 20-25 might be normal.
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post #8 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-05-2016, 03:34 PM
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I love this idea, as well as the follow-up idea of drilling through the entire hole to let the plants have access to the substrate.

Once upon a time I had ludwigia. It disintegrated.
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post #9 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-05-2016, 03:50 PM Thread Starter
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Some depends on how one is set for tools and methods to clear the hole. Drilling a large enough hole in the tile is going to be somewhat difficult and time consuming to do without cracking the tile. I might look at adding two narrow strips down each side to leave a center space if I were doing this piece over. But that is where tools and methods will change what we each might do. I have both the masonry bits to drill the tile and a tile saw that makes it easy to cut strips. Cutting strips seems easier for me.
But this is also not a project that works for those who are in smaller quarters or not automatic DIY folks as they are not as likely to have either drills or saws.
I like it as a change from doing the techie stuff and at times, I really like just going out and tearing up some wood and rocks! I do a lot of looking at plans and drawings and it helps to just go out and let the dust fly! Watching plants and fish grow only gets me so far.
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post #10 of 12 (permalink) Old 10-04-2016, 03:47 PM Thread Starter
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After some use and rethinking a bit, it does make sense to use some method to let roots grow out the bottom. Easy enough to do is one only adds tiles at the ends, rather than totally full length. Some depends on what your fish are doing and whether they are small enough to get fully under the tile to do the damage. Yellow labs, for instance do go totally under the tile if I leave a gap there, so for me, drilling a holes works better for use with them. Learning and adapting as I find what works.
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post #11 of 12 (permalink) Old 10-04-2016, 11:47 PM
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Really great idea.


Any reason for water logging before drilling? I would think that the wood would water log faster after drilling (more surface area).
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post #12 of 12 (permalink) Old 10-05-2016, 01:10 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
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Really great idea.


Any reason for water logging before drilling? I would think that the wood would water log faster after drilling (more surface area).
Since getting wood to actually soak up enough to be water logged is a really slow process, I never go that way. I've had wood that never would settle down well so I mostly go straight to weight of some type. The idea of putting the weight on and trying it in water is more to let me see how much weight and where it is needed. Since wood tends to come in really weird shapes and sizes, there are some pieces that have big ends sticking out that I have to guess at how far to extend the weight and in which direction. The rubber bands are just a simple, quick way to get a good idea of how much and where before I go the trouble of drilling only to find I got it wrong.
You are correct that it would soak up better after drilling and cutting but then it might then run the risk of having wood removed that I wanted to use to attach the slate. Working with wood and nature, it has to involve some guesswork at times. Probably part of my method involved the fact that removing the center wood is the harder part so it gets put off??
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