12 Gallon Reboot — Learning Experience
First, I want to say that I'm very new to this hobby (less than a year). Any and all advice offered would be excellent. I'm an information sponge and want to learn as much as I can.
Back in Febrary 2012, my wife and I got a Fluval Edge 12 gallon LED on an impulse buy as an anniversary gift to each other. We had talked about an aquarium in the past, but not very seriously. We did almost no research, and just dove in. Let me just say — it's been quite the learning experience.
This is a pic taken a day after it was set up (hence the cloudiness). The plants were real, although none of them lived other than the little anubias nanas in front. I wasn't very happy with how it ended up, and almost every plant we put in it died. And as you can see, the layout was kind of a mess. :redface:
Since then, I've just been taking care of it. I've done a few minor layout adjustments, but nothing dramatic. Doing water changes, keeping it clean, feeding the fish, and that's about it. The only long term plant that thrived was Java moss. Why? Not enough light, crappy substrate, no ferts, etc... generally a lack of experience and knowledge.
Time For a Change
About a month ago I got some serous renewed interest in making it better and in getting plants to grow well in it. Long term it's getting replaced by a 29 gallon rimless, but for now I want to try and do much better with this one, and I want to grow nice healthy plants, and I want to feel like I have a good understanding of what's going on in there. That's the plan.
The LED unit in the Edge frying out from moisture is what kick started the renewed interest. I decided to take it as an opportunity to upgrade to something brighter. I built my own light fixture to replace the LED by buying a 27W PC 6500k desk lamp for $18 and gutting all the parts. I will cover that in the next post.
The lighting kicked me up to 2.25 watts/gallon, and I had a quick takeover of string algae, green algae on my glass, and something on my anubias. Java moss was about 1/3 of the tank, and I also noticed my cheap target end table I used for a stand was starting to succumb to the weight. It was time for a change.
Current Status: 11/26/2012
Yesterday I moved the entire contents of my tank over to a temporary 10 gallon I got off craigslist for $5. All of the critters survived:
After 24 hours the temporary tank is reading .25ppm amonia, 0 nitrite, and 0 nitrate, so I think it's doing just fine. That's good. It was stressful for me, and I was worried I was going to loose some.
The Edge has been cleaned out completely and scrubbed/rinsed very clean. It's sitting on a new very heavy duty stand (covered 2 posts down). This time around, here is my current plan:
Substrate: ADA Aqua Soil Amazonia (already in and cycling)
Lighting: DIY 27W PC 6500k (2.25 watts/gallon)
Filter: The OEM unit, which is basically an AC20. I also use purigen.
Ferts: Going to start dosing using EI at roughly 1/2 the recommendation since I'm not high light.
As for the aquascape, here is where I'm at. The 12 gallon Edge is tricky, because while it's a 12 gallon tank, the floor space is only 17" wide by 10" deep. Also, it's 18" tall so there is a disproportionate amount of height to the tank. Last time I tried to fill height with a very tall rock and a tall piece of driftwood. It looked off to me. This time I'm going to try and build some minimal height with the aquascape, but then let the plants fill the rest. Here is how it looks now (sorry for the iPhone pics, it's all I have at the moment since my Nikon DSLR crapped out):
I used a piece of Malaysian driftwood to create a bank/wall to build up the substrate in one corner, and rocks to do it in the other. I collected the rocks from Lake Superior, and I'm partial to them because I love that part of MN, and because I don't like the rocks available at my LFS. The ground is covered in snow for at least 6 months, so it's what I got for now. I do have more of them, and can rearrange still. Because it's hard to photograph depth in a tank, here is a corner shot so you can see how much height I've built in the back:
Below is a top down pic showing the planned plant layout. I have already ordered plants from a few guys here on SNS and they'll be arriving over the next week or two. I was just going to order the foreground first, but then decided just to order all of them.
A: Jungle Val
B: Rotala and Myrio Green
D: Crypt Parva and some Dwarf Hairgrass
Also, the java moss on the driftwood will be staying there, although I'll be keeping it trimmed back realtively short. I think I should have enough light for all of them. None of them should *require* CO2, but they'll all appreciate it.
I would love some feedback on the aquascape and planned plants. Especially on the rock placement and where I'm planning on putting the plants. I'm open to moving things around a little bit. This is my very first crack at trying to make it better.
Go easy on me. :redface:
It started when water got into the built in LED lighting fixture somehow and the whole thing, other than about 5 lights, was toast. A replacement unit isn't cheap, and it never provided enough light anyway. I ended up going the DIY route. I'm now pushing 2.25 w/gal with power compact, and for only about $20. The funny thing is, Hagen responded about a week after I was done with this and replaced the LED fixture under warranty. I'm keeping this one though, as it is easily 2x as bright — it's not even close.
I won't bore you with all the things I tried, or was planning to try — just where I ended up. While bumming around my local Menards trying to come up with a solution to use regular compact fluorescents, I had an "ah ha!" moment. I found an inexpensive way to get a 27W power compact bulb, ballast, and socket by getting this cheap $17 lamp: Natural Full Spectrum Desk Lamp. It came with everything I needed!
I made the housing and light diffuser/reflector from 4" sewer PVC. It's a little lighter and thinner than regular PVC. I happened to have about 6' of it sitting up in the rafters in my garage (free!). I cut it so it's not quite as wide as the lid, and heat can easily flow out the sides and escape through the mesh on the lid. I cut in little notches keep it from sliding side to side, and the big notch lets the pump flow water by it. Here's what it looks like:
The next step was to gut the lamp for parts. This was very easy. All I needed was the socket, the ballast, the metal clip that holds the end of the bulb, and the wiring. I mounted them into my fabricated PVC hood with a trimmed piece of a PVC end cap for the socket and a cut down hollow wall anchor for the light clip. As you can see, the light fits into the whole setup perfectly!
Next was to make arms just that attach where the LED one did so I could swing it up out of the way. I also needed to paint the back of it with black paint so that light didn't come though the top, as you can see in the last pic.
Using 1/2" PVC pipe and connectors along with some cotter pins, I fashioned the connecting arms:
I painted the whole thing black for looks and to block light from bleeding out the top of the PVC.
I am absolutely thrilled with how well it turned out! :)
"Raw Industrial Style Stand"
Raw Industrial Style is the name hydrophyte gave is design. I thought his idea was brilliant, and decided to build on it and adapt it to my space and situation.
Right now I just have the small 12 gallon Fluval Edge, but I my plan is to slowly piece together a 29 gallon rimless tank. I thought it would be cool if I could design it to handle my Edge for now, and then the 29 when I'm ready. I also wanted to be able to hide my stuff since I plan on running CO2 and need a place to put my test kits, fish food, ferts, and the rest of the crap that I've accumulated.
Here is what I came up with after many hours in sketchup for what I want in the end with the 29 gallon rimless. It's 25" tall, 32" long, and 14" deep (there will be a 1" lip with the 29 gallon):
In the mean time, all I had to do to adapt it for the edge was add a top, which was all of $9 worth of 1x3 cedar. Here is my rendering of how I thought it would look with my Edge until I get the 29 gallon setup put together:
The stain I used is Minwax Red Chestnut, and I painted the galvanized brackets black. Here is a pic of it without the top, so you can see how I reinforced under top. With the Edge, the weight won't be supported the outside edges, so I needed more support underneath the top.
As for the top, it's simply 6 1x3's glued together such that it overlaps the stand by 1" on the sides and front:
After painting all of the screws and completing the lower shelf, I moved the stand into place the newly emptied 12 gallon on it. Here it is with the screws painted, just before moving it into place:
Here it is sitting in it's new home under my 12 gallon Edge.
Google sketchup worked great for building it virtually first and making my actual material list, but for the tighter tolerances I wanted it in front of me first, which is why I didn't make the doors at the same time. For now, for the doors and sides I'm just going to make small curtains from black cloth. I can hang them in the openings. That'll let me hide stuff until I make the real sides and doors when it warms back up in the spring. That's the awesome thing about hydrophyte's design — it's very easy to customize to however you want it!
To make planning/customizing easier for anybody interested in using Sketchup to build one of these, I've uploaded the model I made to their database. Sketchup is a free download, but there is a bit of a learning curve to it. Once you have it, just go to 3D Warehouse and Get Models. Then search for 29 Gallon Aquarium Stand. It should be in there now.
Nice start to the reboot!
Also, I updated the lighting and stand posts.
I like the hardscape/rock formation. That's a beautiful stand you have and nice light fixture.
Tonight I received my foreground plants from Sean (sjb1987) in the SNS forums here. I am very happy with both the quantity and quality! The main foreground plant is Marsilea
Here is how it looks. Sorry for all the bubbles and cloudy water — I just finished planting them and I'm too impatient to wait for it all to clear up. :)
It should fill in nicely over the coming months.
So this week I fired up a DIY CO2 setup. The first mix I'm trying is 2 packs of jello with 1.75c sugar added. After letting it set, I cut it up and put it in a 1.9L juice container and added Lalvin Dried Wine Yeast EC 1118 (and water), which is yeast that'll live to 18% alcohol. After 2 days it's pumping out CO2 now at a rate of about a bubble every 4 seconds. Slow, but very very steady. I have a drop checker on the way to see how well it's working. The edge has such a small air opening (only 7" x 4 3/4"), and it's only 12 gallons, so I'm curious to see how well the CO2 holds in the water.
With the CO2 going, I decided to buy a couple of pogostemon helferi which requires CO2. I also have some stems of rotala indica and a bunch of rotala roundifolia and bacopa on the way.
One thing that's really neat about the Edge is the crystal clear top down view:
Okay, I've added some more plants. I've got rotala (colorata?) over to the far right, with a bunch of anubias nana in front of it going down the hill. I planted a few pogostamon helfiri right behind the foreground plants (two normal sized and one baby). Behind that up the hill are a few rotala indica and then some bacopa behind that.
Ignore the diffuser that's attached to a rock via rubber band. :redface: I'll be mounting that nicely soon, but it came in today and I wanted to swap out the chopstick/cotton ball contraption I had on there.
They were just planted tonight, so they are going in every direction. Hopefully they fill in nicely soon. Also, I put in a drop checker with some home made 4 dKH solution and it's turned a nice green color, so I guess the chopstick/cotton ball temporary diffuser was working well.
I'd like to fill in a few "poofier" plants like some Cabomba or something, and then I'm going to put some tall grass like jungle val in the back corners (but nobody in SNS has any!? Anybody want to sell some?) Was also thinking of some DHG around the rocks, but I'm afraid it'll take over.
Other than that, I'll just be watching it fill out. I'm dosing 1/2 EI to go along with the CO2, and I'm trying 10 hours per day @ 2.25 watts/gallon for light. We'll see how this all goes.
Today I picked up some jungle val and cabomba and got them in the tank. I also properly mounted the CO2 diffuser with a suction cup. DIY Jello CO2 is going strong at almost 2 weeks. Drop checker is nice and green.
I'm pretty thrilled with how it looks, and I can't wait for it to fill out more.
When I planted the val I disrupted a lot of soil. I noticed two things. First, it's a bitch to place plants on a steep slope of ADA aqua soil. It's very eager to tumble down hill. It'll hold a slope, but if you start disturbing it, it's tough. It's perhaps even more frustrating when you are planting through a tiny hole in the top of your tank and can only use 1 hand.
The second thing is that when you disturb aqua soil, it deposits a lot of dirt on your plants. I'm not sure how to clean this off, or if you just can't and it'll eventually go away after a long period of non-disturbance. I have no idea, but I wish my plants weren't dirty right now, because otherwise they look great. Does anybody have any feedback on the dirty plants?
If you have amano shrimp, or Red cherry shrimp in your nano, they should sift thru all the dirst and clean off your plants over a period of a few days.. if you don't want to do that, then dust off your plants and do a lot of water changes
As far as the slope you created crumbling, well next time before you fill up your tank if you can get your hands on some plastic dividers or anything that you want to cut to shape(preferably thin plastic) You can stick it in areas of the soil that you think may start sliding down from erosion. This is also commonly used for Aquascapers when trying to keep plants from growing into the sand, or fine gravel area's of their aquarium.
Also a great way to keep plants from growing or spreading to area's you don't want them to spread to
Thanks for the tips! Once the tank is done cycling I'll be moving in about 25 or so shrimp, so I won't worry about the dirty plants. As for the erosion tip, I'll definitely remember that for next time.
UPDATE: Getting excellent growth! Amonia cycle is done. Nitrite cycle is almost done. Critters can go in *soon* but I'm not sure when.
Looking at pictures from just 4 days ago, the growth is really excellent. The cool thing about the Fluval Edge is that it just looks fantastic in your living room. Here are two pics of how it looks now when you aren't staring into it at point blank, and instead just looking at the overall view:
Here are some better pictures of how the plants are coming along. I'm really happy. Now that they have established their roots, they are just taking off, and I've even cut the photo period back to 8 hours per day.
This Wednesday will be 3 weeks with the DIY Jello CO2 mix, and it's still going strong. Drop checker is nice and green. I have another batch made up and ready to go when this one starts dropping off. There is about 25-30% jello left, so as long as the champagne yeast can keep on living it'll keep on going.
I'm getting great plant growth and have had to trim several stems as they touch the top and start to lean over to the opening where the light/filter are. Every plant is growing well, although the marsilea
It's all the way through the ammonia part of the cycle and it's about 1/2 way through nitrites. I just have to keep feeding it ammonia until it's ready. I can't wait to drop in all the shrimp and fish! It's fun to look at now, but it needs some action.
Last week I procured some christmas moss from the SNS forum here. On Friday I attached it to my driftwood. It was very tricky tying it to the wood since I couldn't move the wood and I only had 1 hand. I did manage to get 1 good loop of thread holding it down in the middle. Then I just laid 2 of those lead plant weights to hold down each end.
Anybody have any idea how long it'll take this christmas moss to attach to the driftwood? The lead weights are ugly, so I'd like to get them out sooner than later, but I want to make sure it's attached well first.
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