Uncycled Newbie with Fry - Eeeek! - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 9 (permalink) Old 06-17-2013, 05:28 PM Thread Starter
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Uncycled Newbie with Fry - Eeeek!

Hi everyone, this is a really kind community and I have learned a lot lurking here. I thought I should introduce myself, and also seek some help!

My name is Mike, I live in Buffalo, New York, USA - a couple hundred yards from where Lake Erie turns into the Niagara River. I discovered planted tanks recently, and despite never having done aquariums before I thought I'd give it a try. Having read about the Walstad method and it's variants I decided to go with soil and low light/tech. Filterless in fact.

I picked up a 5 gal. tank, some Miracle Grow Organic Choice Potting Mix, and a bunch of plants, with the idea of throwing a bunch of stuff at it and seeing what stuck - I got some swords, some hornwort (which I foolishly attempted to root!), a Java fern, some vals, some crypts, creeping jenny, etc.. And of course inadvertent snails. I was actually excited to see the snails, and I still like them!

The tank became dark with tannins, which did not bother me. I thought it looked quite natural. I planned to wait until my API freshwater test kit indicated a cycle, and I figured that 5 gal. would be too small for anything but shrimps.

Then my mistakes began to become apparent: I had not in any way compacted the soil initially, and the substrate was soupy. My (black lfs gravel) cap was too shallow. At least one plant purchased was likely not a submerged plant. Rooting hornwort does not happen. Etc.

Still, I thought to persist, and went to obtain some duckweed. The guy at the shop gave me a bag for free (I didn't notice the evil twinkle in his eye at the time!), which I took home and put about a fifth of into the tank. As I sat at my desk looking at the remaining plant matter muck I suddenly realized that there was a fish in the goo! Yikes! Quickly into the tank it went, and looking more closely I saw another, so I dumped waaay too much duckweed in - all of it. So suddenly on week 2 I had a female Endler and a juvenille who I thought to be female also. These poor creatures had endured about 2.5 hours in a blob of green muck without water and survived!

So knowing that the tank was toxic I undertook to do 1 or 2 water changes per day to assist their comfort. The water cleared up nicely, and Little Martha and Zhenya seemed content. About then I had several realizations - Zhenya was actually Zoltan, Little Martha was pregnant, and the bubble eruptions that were so frequent were stinky and toxic.

I decided to rescape, and was going to try to recycle the at least partially cycled bacteria laden tank materials, but when pulling plants and fish out it was clear that what I had was a septic tank of sulfurous dreck. And then I broke the tank! Off to the store, picked up a 15 gal. and some more plants and set it up, with no choice but to place the fishies within. The fry appeared on day one! So darned cute, like little grains of rice with eyes . . .

I corrected a few of the previous mistakes hopefully, discovered Seachem Prime (which seems like clean air in a bottle for fish), tamped down the moistened substrate to 1.5 inches and capped about 3/4 - 1 inch with lfs gravel, and bought more stems and rooted plants. But now these poor fishies are in a newly setup tank, and I can only hope that my ineptitude does not kill them or cause them to suffer. I stopped eating animals many years ago from a desire not to harm creatures, and I originally was going to have a plants only setup, as I struggle with the morality of imprisioning critters (yeah I know - damn hippy!), and here I am - Mike the fish torturer.

I know that Little Martha and Zoltan are 200 feet tall and indestructible after all they've endured, but do the fry stand a chance?

Nice to meet you all, sorry about the long post!
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post #2 of 9 (permalink) Old 06-17-2013, 05:42 PM
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The tank looks great! Do you have any up-close pictures of the tank?

The fish will appreciate large daily water changes until the cycle is complete. How long has the tank been setup? What filter are you using?
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post #3 of 9 (permalink) Old 06-17-2013, 05:51 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you, I admit to liking the new setup also. It's only 3 days old now, and I do not have a filter on it, I was hoping to go filterless but I do have a sponge filter that I am leaning towards employing since Endlers are so prolific and the bioload will become rather high! In fact I have no idea how I'll manage the population explosion .
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post #4 of 9 (permalink) Old 06-17-2013, 05:55 PM Thread Starter
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These were taken right after setup, and are not good photos, but they show the nifty rocks and driftwood well. Zoltan can be seen foraging in one pic!
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post #5 of 9 (permalink) Old 06-17-2013, 06:17 PM
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wow that's a heavily planted tank! like you said, throw it all against the wall and see what sticks, haha! well at least you won't have to worry about filtering, that should provide enough for the fish you have i bet - but yes, invest in a water testing kit to keep the parameters of ammonia, nitrite and nitrate down (although i bet nitrate won't be a problem in that tank).

one thing i told my kids was not to name any fish until they've been in the tank for at least a month, that way if they go belly up trying to transition, you won't feel as bad. that said, we named one "ghosty" because it looked like it was going to give up the ghost so so so many times, and avoided death where other fish could not. it eventually gave up the ghost about a month in, sad.

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post #6 of 9 (permalink) Old 06-17-2013, 06:31 PM Thread Starter
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Oh, thats encouraging - I was worried if indeed I was planted enough . . . I love the idea of finding equilibrium within a closed system. Of course with these inadvertent Endlers, I may be in trouble - I've been told that I'll have a billion by winter!

They are so sex obsessed I think I'll name this tank Studio 54 (1970s disco meat market in case that's obscure)!

I love your advice about naming, perhaps I'll just give them numbers!
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post #7 of 9 (permalink) Old 06-17-2013, 06:45 PM
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You have so many plants, you might not have very high ammonia/nitrite/nitrate levels at all. It's called the "silent cycle." (Some reading on the topic http://www.rexgrigg.com/cycle.htm) As Jahn suggested, get a test kit, test daily (or every other) and if you see any ammonia or nitrite show up, do a water change. You probably want at least some water movement, so I would get at least an air stone, or some kind of small filter.
Here's a thread from the low tech forum about filter less tanks The Filterless Tank Picture Thread
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post #8 of 9 (permalink) Old 06-17-2013, 07:02 PM Thread Starter
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Hi there! Yes, a silent cycle would be marvellous, I really hope so as I loathe the idea of hurting these animals. I do have the API Freshwater Test Kit, and got pretty good at using it with the first (doomed) tank. I am a bit confused about how to do the ammonia test while using Prime, as the API test does not differentiate between ammonia and ammonium, but I'll likely start another thread on that topic. I did stick an airstone in there, but I'm not sure why - I have heard that with the Walstad method it may not be useful, but on that also I am unsure. Thanks so much for your thoughts and the good reading!
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post #9 of 9 (permalink) Old 06-24-2013, 04:54 PM
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i'm enjoying reading about your progress! hope all the endlers are ok! i have tiger endlers in planted tanks (filterless), and they seem to do great - active, hungry, curious, breeding (although not as much as i would've expected), etc. i haven't had luck selling any tiger endlers back to a LFS but i have sold some on my local fish forum. good luck + keep us updated!
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