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moonshinetheslacker 01-23-2011 09:15 PM

help with my ugly tank!
So here she is, one of the ugliest! I now have about half of the blue gravel removed, but it's a little stressful getting rid of it all. If that slate wall (about 2 inches thick) is sitting on a single piece of gravel, then the entire weight of the slate will be on a very small surface area, and I'm worried it will break the glass. Plus, I made it so it would be very tight fitting, and if I bump it too hard against the sides... well... the tank might shatter. So I have to work around the slate, and I almost broke the tank getting it in, so I don't want to tempt fate by removing it, and putting it back in later. So, finished rambling, on to the questions!

I want to put in a substrate that will actually help sustain life, that has nutrients and all that in it. What sort of substrate should I use for a low tech tank? Should I decide what kind of plants I am going to put in, before I decide on substrate, or the other way around? Also, if I put a new substrate in, lets say Amazonia, then will I deal with ammonia and nitrate/nitrite spikes? I don't have another aquarium to put my fish in while I replace the substrate, plus I have kuhli loaches which will be hiding under the rock wall, and therefore will HAVE to stay in the tank while I put new substrate in. And what kind of plants do you think would go well in front of, as well as on top of, the slate wall?

I'm sorry about the poor quality photo, I'm currently saving up for a DSLR, and should have one in a month or two, but until then, poor lighting, combined with a poor camera, and a poor photographer, doesn't make for the greatest of pictures, LOL! And in case you all can't tell, I am, by every definition of the word, a newbie to fish, aquariums, and plants, so ANY help would be beneficial.

By the way, the plants in there are some sort of duckweed (not sure which one) some grass that I pulled out of a pond near the north end of the chesapeake bay, and a piece of lucky bamboo. I'm not terribly attached to any of them, so they can all get replaced by new plants.

EDIT: Before pic

After pic:

Thanks for all the help!

P.S. All the dust/junk all over the rocks is due to a melted crypt. I have sort of poor waterflow through the tank due to the wall, so it's hard to get all that junk filtered out. If anyone decides to do a full slate wall background, I would recommend something that makes some current. That way all the dust and dead plant debris will get stirred up and sucked into the filter.

Fahnell 01-23-2011 09:26 PM

you have a Ramirezi right?
I will go for a Heiko Bleher style
Lots of bogwood, some slim twisted one up to the surface, catapa leaves on the bottom (lots of them)

Look at that

or that

seadreamer 01-23-2011 10:26 PM

I like your wall. Is there any way you could just leave the blue gravel under the wall area while replacing the rest with another color then just layering over the blue? It's hard to tell from the photo if that's possible or not.

Off the top of my head mosses, anubias, or java fern will grow on your slate.

moonshinetheslacker 01-24-2011 12:30 AM

Fahnell: yes, she is a ramirezi, but I'm not really looking for a blackwater style tank. I appreciate your reply though. Those tanks are very cool, just not really my thing.

Seadreamer: You know, as soon as I read your post I said DUH! Yeah, I certainly can leave just a little bit under the wall. In fact, do you by chance know of any aquarium safe clay I could put under there? If not, it's really no big deal, I can certainly leave the ugly blue gravel, and just cover it with something else. And thanks for the wall comment, I like it too. Even if it was/is a pain.

I was thinking of sticking a few pieces of fissidens fontanus in a few spots on the wall (not sure if you can tell, it's full of holes) and I'll look into anubias. I kind of wonder what would look good sitting in front of the wall. The only reason I built it, was because I don't like seeing all the wires and everything from the filter and heater behind my aquarium, nor am I a fan of the fake poster things that people put up as backgrounds.

decoman 01-24-2011 12:38 AM

i had a tank like that then went all natrual buy things (starting with the rocks) and buy all brown or tan with a lot of plants

Wolfgang 01-24-2011 08:44 AM

For substrate I recommend eco-complete. The bamboo will have a shorter life span if it is completely underwater. Since this is the low tech forum, I assume that you do not have very strong lights. In this case, you might want to try moss, java fern, or anubius. Attach them on driftwood. Have a lot of fun with the tank!!!!!

drlower 01-24-2011 11:55 AM

love the slate wall, great job. i would remove as much of the blue gravel as possible and i like flourish substrate available in brown, red, or black.agree with woldgang on the fern and moss. they are not buried and can be tucked into the spaces in the slate. one of the hardest things to create in a scape is height and depth. you already have a leg up because of the options with the slate wall. bamboo is not a true aquatic plant and will not live long submerged. one of the biggest things you need to watch for is many of the plants sold at the chains and even lfs are not true aquatic plants and will live for only a couple months submerged, best of luck.

moonshinetheslacker 01-24-2011 02:41 PM

I've been looking at anubias, and it does look like a great plant for this aquarium. I'm thinking about making a carpet of fissidens fontanus, and putting some anubias on one of the shelves that are sticking out of the wall. But I think something growing on the very top of the wall that could sort of drift down into the tank would look very good. So what kind of plant would have a drifting vine effect, which can tolerate very high light? (the top of the wall is about 3 inches from the hood light)
I'm tossing around the idea of putting in some driftwood, or instead some longer somewhat pointy rocks, sticking up out of the substrate, almost like a "cliffs of doom" out of the princess bride movie. As far as the driftwood goes, I could only use very small pieces, maybe get some manzanita branches, because the wall sits about 2 inches away from the back of the tank (for the HOB filter and heater to have room) plus it's another 2 inches thick, I only have about 8 inches from the front of the wall to the glass.
I assume it won't hurt my fish to replace the substrate then? Since nobody has commented on it... Also, are anubias and ferns my only options here? I think I need something a little taller to help tie everything together...

lauraleellbp 01-24-2011 04:40 PM

What light do you have over the tank? Light level is crucial to plant selection.

IMO you'll probably have better luck with the Fissidens on the wall rather than down as a carpet. It can collect lots of debris, and since you can't have any shrimp to help keep it clean (your Ram would eat them), I'd put it up on the wall where it's a little less likely to collect. Debris = algae, and mosses are especially prone to algae since they're relatively slow-growing.

I'd get some driftwood and attach the Anubias onto that. It would add a bit more depth to the aquascape, too.

Yes, you can switch out the substrate without harming the fish- as long as you're careful to do it in a way that minimizes disturbance to the tank's cycle. Do a thorough gravel vacuuming just before breaking down the tank, and collect as much mulm (debris) as possible. Pour off most of the excess water, and then lay the mulm down underneath the new substrate. The mulm is full of N-bacteria so can really help to get the new substrate cycled and minimize ammonia and nitrite spikes.

Reseve about 50% of the tank's water to put back in the tank, to help reduce the risk of water parameter shifts.

Also, be sure not to clean your filter for a few weeks before and after the substrate swap.

moonshinetheslacker 01-25-2011 12:08 AM

Lauralee: I have a singe 15 watt bulb, and it's a 10 gallon tank. The slate wall probably takes up about 2 gallons worth of water, and most light doesn't reach behind the wall. Mainly just to the very top, and the front of the tank.
Do you think mineralized topsoil would do well in this tank? Oh, and Laura, I'm pretty sure I've read my way through all of your tank builds at one point or another (I've been a lurker for a while) And I have to say, great job on all your tanks, and I'm totally jealous of your amazonian fishing trip!

lauraleellbp 01-25-2011 12:12 AM

LOL you've done alot of reading! :hihi: But thanks!

Yes, I think mineralized soil would work well. Cap it with whatever you want.

You might like Pennywort (Hydocoytle leucocephala) for the "vine" you're talking about?

Marselia minuta would make a nice carpet.

Rotala rotundifolia would be a good stem, planted directly under the light.

moonshinetheslacker 01-25-2011 04:07 PM

So here's what I'm thinking, I already have some topsoil that I just need to dry out and screen a few times so that I have everything needed for substrate. I'll just get some kind of smooth white sand for the topping. Then,

Carpet: Marselia minuta (thanks Laura! this stuff looks great, where can I get it?)

long stem going from bottom to top on left side: Echinodorus 'vesuvius'

Mosses for cracks, and top of slate wall (which sits about an inch under the surface of the water, and 4 inches from the light): Taxiphyllum alternans or maybe HC for topping

a plant tied to a slate shelf on the right: Anubias barteri 'Nana'

But I'm thinking about some sort of centerpiece... should I just leav the slate as the centerpiece, and have it basically "framed" by plants? I was thinking something kind of bushy, and hopefully colorful, like a red or purple plant, right in the center in the front. What do y'all think?

P.S. hopefully in another month I'll have my DSLR, and be able to get a decent shot of the tank!

AquaStudent 01-25-2011 04:54 PM

Your slate wall is awesome! great job with it. I really think that should be your main focus on the tank. You could also consider a small piece of driftwood. I could see this tank with mosses and java fern on the slate wall with some sort of larger stemed plant (like an anubais) on the left side and a small piece of driftwood with some mosses/java fern on it on the right side. The rest of the plants would go in like you were thinking framing up the slate wall.

I wouldn't consider this the ugliest tank at all. It's got a lot of potential and you seem to have the knowledge to get it done.

moonshinetheslacker 01-26-2011 01:15 AM

Thank you so much for your comment on my slate wall, Aquastudent! I like the backgrounds you did on your 10 gallon as well. And, even though I copied and pasted the latin names of the plants that I saw on here and said "ooh... pretty..." doesn't mean that I have the knowledge to get it done, but thanks for your faith!! :)
I think I'll start playing with the dirt either tomorrow night, or friday night (no life, I know) and I'll start getting things together for the substrate. Once I have that all done, I'll get to the fun part, and order some plants.
Next time I'm at a pet store, I'll look at the driftwood... I'm just having a hard time picturing how it would look. Also, I really wish I could show you guys how this thing looks in person. There are a few shelves in the wall as well, so it's not just a flat wall. I'm also thinking that I will try to eliminate all the duckweed that's in there as well... it's definitely the plant you learn to hate!

lauraleellbp 01-26-2011 02:00 AM

Check here in the swap and shop for Marselia minuta, that's just about the only place I ever see it since for some reason the online stores only seem to carry the other species?

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