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post #1 of (permalink) Old 09-13-2012, 08:12 PM Thread Starter
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Join Date: Aug 2012
Location: 413, Massachusetts
Posts: 97
Evolve 8 - Life Soup

Well hello!
And thanks for taking a look at my Aqueon Evolve 8 planted dirt tank journal!

Teaser shot taken on Day 20:

My name is Matt, I’m a new-ish member on here who’s been creeping/researching for the past few months. I’m not new to aquariums, but have taken a few years away from the hobby (except for raising a young snapping turtle) and for a long time I’ve wanted to get into growing things underwater. I went through many months of research and several idea phases, and finally have settled on the notion of a small, easy to manage planted dirt tank. On a side note, I unearthed my digital camera to document this build and found it contained old pictures of the 20-Long my snapper was housed in as a baby:

-I can be incredibly longwinded, and although I will make a sincere effort to stay on point I apologize in advance for any digression into randomness (such as posting pictures of a snapping turtle on a planted tank thread!)
-Any links to other forum posts and/or external websites may or may not be used with permission, and should the author(s) of said links wish them to be removed please PM me and I’d be happy to take them down.
-I’m somewhat odd and from here on out will be referring to myself in the third person as “Mr. TBS”
-Progress updates will be inhibited by my crappy digital camera (a many-years old Nikon Coolpix) and by a lack of internet at home ('unplugged' living is where it's at!)

Project Goals
-Small, beginner-friendly planted dirt tank as a learning experiment in keeping live plants
-“Low Tech” tank – what the heck do you mean by this, Mr. TBS? Well, I mean I want a tank that’s low light, non-CO2 injected, lower cost (but not necessarily cheap!), low on fertilizer dosing and capable of being left unattended for several days at a time
-Aesthetically pleasing. Duh, right? I’m obviously no Takashi Amano but I’d like to try my hand at an appealing aquascape – something jungly and lush looking similar to this tank

Intended Plant List
-Anubias, I’ll be using whatever I can find at the local store
-Cryptocoryne, again I’ll be using what I can find locally
-Water Lettuce as my “floater”
-Duck Weed, it’s sure to hitchhike on the Lettuce and I’ll let it grow in (call me crazy but I love the stuff!)
-Banana Plant, I like the look and will try to incorporate it as a background plant
-Java Fern, probably attached to wood
-Java Moss in “foreground clumps”

Intended Stock List
-2 Nerite Snails
-2 Fancy Guppies (male)
-2 Otocinclus
-1 "Centerpiece" fish??

Materials Gathered for Initial Setup
[Note from Mr. TBS: This tank has been running since Labor Day weekend of 2012, and the materials listed were gathered before the setup or in the days immediately after the fact]

-Aqueon Evolve 8 aquarium kit including: 13”x13”x14” acrylic tank & lid, small LED light unit, filter cartridge, small filter pump, water conditioner & Aqueon flake food
-75W heater left over from an old turtle tank, I set the tank up assuming it would be too powerful but so far it’s maintained the temp well (80F)
-50lb bag 1mm clear Silica pool filter sand
-5lb bag Petco-brand white aquarium sand
-8qt bag Miracle-Gro Organic Choice Potting Mix
-Various quartz stones gathered from my yard
-Pre-used piece of Mopani wood from an old turtle tank (incidentally the piece I ended up using is pictured above)
-Small suction-cup thermometer
-Aquaclear filter media including foam blocks and pouches of ceramic rings
-API Root Tabs
-Seachem Flourish & Flourish Excel (I know, I know, I’m already breaking my “low dosing” goal…)
-Nets, buckets, thread, scissors, rubber tubing, clamps, silicone, plastic silverware & cups, drill, extension cord, chainsaw, small-caliber Glock and all the random supplies I could foresee needing with this project

Initial Construction Phase
Now I bought this tank some weeks ago on impulse and filled it immediately. This allowed me a few weeks to play with the hardscape (without using dirt), and to pre-cycle some of the tank components. It also let me see the tank in action, and I noticed a few areas that needed slight modification before the final setup.

[Note from Mr. TBS: The brave & noble Cardinal Tetra pictured above is no longer for this earth; he was placed in a cup while I planted, pulled a jumper and ended up as a snack for Mr. Snapper. RIP Mr. Cardinal Tetra!]

First of all, the stock filter cartridge is one of those “activated carbon wrapped in a flossy sleeve” deals, and I don’t plan to use any carbon with this tank. Instead I went out and got replacement media in the form of Aquaclear foam blocks & bags of ceramic rings.

Secondly, I noticed that the flow through the “filter chamber” at the rear of the tank was rather poor – due to the intake for both chambers being at surface level & very close to each other, water flowed over the filter media instead of through it. To remedy this I had fun with power tools and drilled an additional intake into the first media chamber:

After the drilling I placed the filter media like so, with ceramic rings in the lower portion and several blocks of foam in the upper portion:

Media, wood & LED light in place

And then I started playing with dirt! It went very, very slowly – I used a plastic spoon to shovel the Miracle-Gro one cubic inch at a time. API Root Tabs were spaced out evenly as I went with a total of 6 used. I pulled it off without making a mess but man was it tedious! Plastic silverware & an old plastic credit card were invaluable tools in placing/shaping the dirt.

Once the soil was more or less fully in place I started planting Crypts and slowly spooned Silica sand over the roots. The reason I did this is that I’ve found Silica to be hard to plant in once it's in place, and I wanted to have the roots start out fairly deep without running the risk of crushing them with my giant monkey fingers. I didn’t take nearly as many pictures of this as I should have because I rushed so the plants wouldn’t dry out too much. A few chronological shots:

Somewhere along the line I attached a few Anubias to the wood & placed a Banana Plant in the rear left corner.

With everything finally in place I was very eager to fill it up... so I did!

So that's the first 24 hours. I let the tank sit overnight and the next day started having fun with Java Moss. I have pictures to document it but will probably not get around to writing another long post until tomorrow. Thanks for reading so far & stay tuned!

Fraternity of Dirt #101
Evolve 8 - Life Soup

Last edited by TheBigSleep; 09-20-2012 at 09:01 PM. Reason: Incomplete
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