I haven't abandoned you! I'm really sorry that I haven't posted any updates lately, I've been really busy at work and what little time I've had at home has been occupied with a couple major projects (like this one!) and trying to relax a little every once in a while..
There hasn't been much to report either: I've been working on sterilizing a lot of various pieces of equipment and decorations, building my "Clean" and "Dirty" emersed rigs, and setting up the 20gal permanent QT we've spent so much time discussing.
I'll try to make up for the delay with a few pictures of what I've been doing...
First off, I set up my "Clean" emersed rig. This one will only be used for plants that have never been exposed to the TB (at this point that list is limited to the plants that were in my jury-rigged and soon-to-be-decommissioned setup for growing HC emersed before setting up the big tank last time around). Eventually, I'll also move over the "deemed-clean" cuttings from the "Dirty" emersed rig, like Diana and I were talking about earlier.
It's made using a Sterilite tub, cut-up sections of water bottles, and a mix of artificial and natural lighting. I punctured small holes in the bottom of each bottle so that the water could get in and lined one wall of the rig with aluminum foil to try to capture as much natural sunlight from the window as possible. I don't know if the foil is making any real difference to speak of, but what can it hurt to try? Originally, I used the body from a Finnex 26w clip light for the artificial side of the lighting, but between a couple weeks of a lot of clouds and the weakness of the light getting through the lid, the plants were hanging on with little-to-no growth to speak of.
So, I decided to build a new lighting system that would work better for this rig. I purchased a cheap incandescent hood for a 10gal tank and a couple of Walmart fluorescent aquarium lights, mounted the fixture from the hood to the inside of the lid, and added a couple of combination reflectors/bulb protectors made out of water bottles and aluminum foil. Here's how it turned out:
Sorry, I don't have any recent pictures of the interior of the rig, but after a couple of weeks of mostly-sunny days and the new lighting, the growth inside has absolutely exploded! I've used these same bulbs before in a Walstad-style 10gal tank and was also really impressed with how well the plants did under them in there.
Speaking of that 10gal and those other bulbs, I also just finished the "Dirty" emersed rig for the plants I want to preserve from the contaminated tanks. I've cut the bottles a little taller than normal and made clippings of the plants so that they (mostly) fit within the height of each bottle. Assuming they successfully transition to emersed-mode and grow well, I'll make cuttings from the parts that grow out the top of each bottle and move them into the Clean emersed rig (after a quick bleach dip, to be safe). Here's how it looked after I set it up a few days ago:
I'm mainly using it to grow the Willow Leaf Hygrophilia that I like so much (and haven't seen elsewhere), but I had extra room in the tank and decided to toss a couple other plants in there just to see how they'd do emersed.
The last thing to update you on is that I've just begun cycling the 20gal permanent QT tank. I set it up on Friday, added a little ammonia, and then poured in Tetra SafeStart on Saturday afternoon. I've tried using SafeStart before without a huge amount of success, but after reading through this Q&A with Tetra I figured out that my water conditioner was likely also killing off the SafeStart bacteria by detoxing the ammonia solution it comes in:
SafeStart Questions Answered
So far the cycle is off to a very promising start. When last I measured it, it'd converted 1ppm of ammonia into nitrate within the span of 6 hours! My plan is to keep dosing ammonia until the tank is very-heavily cycled, put in plants, and then move the fish over from the big tank. Then I'll be able to start tearing down/sterilizing the 52gal itself.
The teardown of the 52gal will be a hugely time-consuming project and I have vacation later this month (which I'm hoping to get out of town for), so updates will continue to be infrequent for the time being. In the meantime, I continue to welcome any ideas or suggestions you guys may have!