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Old 09-15-2012, 06:39 PM   #556
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Son of Kahuna (56K!)


If you don't like rants, then please skip this post...

I just spent a silly amount of time getting the tank plumbing and electrical system back in order.

I mentioned earlier that one of my Pentair heater units started leaking. It leaked - slow, slow drip - from where the main light blue tube is inserted in the dark blue base. Fortunately I've got unions and ball valves everywhere in the tank, so with a few ball valves turned, and unions unscrewed, and a little too much cursing, was eventually able to extract all four Pentair units (three heaters, one UV) from the stand.

In the process I learned a valuable bit of info. Though Pentair sells horizontal mounting hardware - which I use - it's not necessarily the best orientation for the units. I drained all the water out before I began removal. But mounted horizontally, about 1/3 of the water they hold does not drain. It pools in the unit. So extraction was a very wet and messy process. Though I would never recommend these products to anyone, if you do buy them, you should consider vertical mounting if you don't want a mess during maintenance.

Once I got the units out I discovered that 2 out of the 3 heater units were broken. There is a small diameter tube inside the larger tube of the unit, that is used to channel the inflowing water to the top (or far end if horizontally mounted) of the unit, so that the water flows along the length of the heater before it flows out the bottom. On 2 heaters these tubes had come detached from where they attach to the base inside the unit. Upon inspection it appears that Pentair had originally attached them with something that looked like rubber cement, a glue that degrades over time. I determined the parts were actually ABS plastic, and used ABS cement to glue them back and got what feels like a really strong bond. They'll hold now!

Likewise the UV was also coming apart. Inside the main tube is a long sheet of plastic that is rolled up and against the walls of the larger tube. It appears to be an extra thickness of plastic to keep light from leaving the main light blue body of the unit. Whatever the purpose, it was coming unstuck from the tube. Again, ABS cement solved that problem.

As for the leak - where the main blue body tube is inserted in the blue base - I was shocked at what I found. From the brown glue residue where the two pieces join, it looked like the same glue I found to have failed on the inside of the heaters. I took a dremmel with a grinding bit and ground down the seam where the large tube was inserted into the base. My intent was to expose fresh, clean unglued plastic on both pieces to cement over the seam. To my shock just the lightest grinding exposed unglued gaps between the large tube and the base. It's as if when Pentair built these things they just inserted the big tube in the base and ran a bead of glue around the join. That's as opposed to covering the inside and outside with glue (cement) and then insterting one into the other - as you would to get a strong seal with PVC. I was shocked, and decided that if this leak could happen to one unit, it could happen to all of them.

But foolish me... when I removed them from the stand, I lost track of which heater was the one that leaked. I could only narrow it down to one of two. So for those two I ground down that join and applied a generous amount of multi-purpose cement (PVC, CPVC & ABS), not being sure of the two materials. Followed up by a generous 2nd coat after two days of curing. And finally followed up with several reinforcing wraps of "WrapIt Repair" branded self-fusing silicone tape. Great stuff that, get some and see.

On the other heater and and UV, I did not grind the joint, but just reinforced the seal. That was with a generous bead of "Goop" branded plumbing sealant around the seam, and again wrapped with the silicone tape.

So with all that done, you would assume I could just wedge the units back in the stand, screw together the unions, turn a few ball valves and I'd be good to go. Right? Not so! The Pentair website makes this this statement on their website - "Compression coupling allows easy installation and removal of heater. Accepts 1" or 3/4" diameter aquarium heater."

My a**.

They do NOT accommodate "easy" installation of heaters. So that very little compression would be required, I bought heaters that are exactly 1" in diameter. But I spent hours. Yes HOURS, trying to get the heaters back in without leaks. By building up the diameter of the heaters with more of that silicone tape (great stuff!), I was eventually able to get it leak free. But it was a massive PITA. And wet.

As for the electrical system, a few weeks ago the tank's GFI circuit started tripping. Not all the time though. It was odd. Through the process of elimination I finally determined that it was being caused by the Aquamedic dual electronic ballast that powers my two MH pendants. It was toast. Fortunately I still had the magnetic ballasts that came with the pendants. I had originally purchased that electronic ballast because I did not want to hear the buzzing sound of the magnetics. But I don't hear it now - except when they first start up. So I don't know if when I got the electronics I had not given the electronics a chance to warm up. Or maybe you don't hear it over the noise of the reef tank in the same room. Either way I don't hear the buzzing any more.

However, there is no room for them in the stand. The single electronic ballast that they replaced was much, much smaller, and mounted on a side wall the stand. They can't go there. And the floor of the stand is FULL. So they'll just have to reside on the floor beside the tank. I hate it, but have no choice - short of buying a replacement electronic ballast.

And if that were not enough, I had not one - but two - failures on one of my Ocean Clear filters when I was replacing filters. IMO they are responsible for the failures of my Pentairs. You might ask "What does Pentairs leaking have to do with Ocean Clear filters?"

Answer? Shock and vibration.

To replace the filters you have to unscrew the ring that holds down the lid. And that requires a mallet. That's right folks, a hammer is required to open and close Ocean Clear filters. I know it seems unbelieveable. But years ago when I called Ocean Clear to see what I was doing wrong... why I could not get the lid to seal without leaking, I was told in no uncertain terms that a hammer was required to get a good seal. And sure enough, no amount to lid re-alignment, rescrewing, or tighening was suffecient to stop the lid from leaking until I took a rubber mallet to it.

And in the process of tightening the lid until it no longer leaked - after replacing the filter last week - the pressure gauge fell apart. I guess there's only so much wacking with a mallet that a filter can take. So that had to be replaced. But it gets better...

On the Ocean Clear filter lid is a small plastic plug that is used to vent air out of the filter. As the filter is filled with water you unscrew it a bit to bleed air out until the filter is nearly full of water, then you close it by tightening the plug. In principle. In actual fact, the plug does not plug very well. And I personally cannot hand tighen it enough to get a good seal. Every time it requires pliers. Not wanting to break it - it's only plastic - I've always given it a tiny turn with the pliers, see if it is still leaking, and if so, repeat the process until the leaking stops. Well, last time, the last tiny turn both stopped the leaking and cracked the plug. Amazing. So that too, required replacement. And when the replacement was required turning way too hard with the pliers too, I concluded the problem may not be the plug.

Indeed, with close inspection with a magnifying glass, it was clear that a manufacturing defect in the lid itself was the problem. There was excess plastic in the area where the seal is made that should have been removed somewhere in the finishing process of the product, but was not. Two minutes with a little careful trimming with an exacto knife, and it seals easily now. No pliers required.

So everything is fixed now. Humpty Dumpty is back together. I've got heaters that heat, filters that filter, and lights that light. And the water is all staying in the tank where it belongs.

Sorry for the rant. I guess now I can turn my attention - at long last - back to the reason why all this silly equipment exists: the aquascape.
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Last edited by scolley; 09-15-2012 at 06:49 PM.. Reason: bad grammer in original post
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Old 09-15-2012, 08:32 PM   #557
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Crikey! Despite being impressed by the technical expertise you'd displayed in creating this system as well as your reeftank, I think I'll try and go the opposite direction to a fair degree, and simplify everything to at least some degree! That doesn't sound like a great deal of fun you're having there in dealing with leaks and all!

I'm thinking a narrow rear tank compartment might be the way to go for me, to house all the equipment and keep it out of sight while remaining relatively leakproof and not having to use extra electricity to lift water.

In terms of creating a planted rear wall, this 1600 by Barr was what I had in mind to try and replicate myself

I was thinking of building a series of 'gutters' along the rear wall faced with a bit of Manzanita wood, which I could fill with capped soil and plants to create a solid back wall of plants once it filed in. Such a frame wouldn't necessarily require a tear-down, and could be built and then dropped in. I was just wary of what the challenge of cleaning the inside rear pane might be like in a tank such as yours otherwise, so was trying to design around that instead. I'm trying something similar in my new trial reef tank actually, but just used dry rock rubble siliconed to the back wall there as corals don't exactly have roots which need to be fed in quite the same manner. http://www.nano-reef.com/forums/inde...owtopic=310061

However, I should know better than to encourage or provoke a perfectionist, (knowing how it is myself).

Not sure what a Congo biotope would have looked like in terms of plants in any case, but sticking with your general Amazonian theme will remain impressive I'm sure. Other fish than tetras? I keep wondering myself what else I'd go with if I wasn't happy with discus in such a tank, although there isn't a great deal of other options that are quite as breathtaking in the same way...

And good to hear the aquascaping underneath your moss still has legs in it, and retains some of it's previous impressive character, which I was quite inspired by!
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Old 09-15-2012, 09:26 PM   #558
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Crikey! Despite being impressed by the technical expertise you'd displayed in creating this system as well as your reeftank, I think I'll try and go the opposite direction to a fair degree, and simplify everything to at least some degree!
Fair comment, but let's break it down. I had several problems:
  1. An electronic ballast that died.
  2. No room in the stand for replacement ballasts.
  3. A leaking Pentair heater module.
  4. Broken Pentair heater modules (broken internal pipe).
  5. Uncontrolled water outflow upon disconnecting the Pentair modules.
  6. A broken internal shielding in a Pentair UV module.
  7. A broken Ocean Clear canister filter pressure gauge.
  8. A broken Ocean Clear canister filter air bleed screw.

I think that's it. So...

An electronic ballast that died. All planted tanks need lights. Most require ballasts. All ballasts die with time. That's not a function of complexity.

No room in the stand for replacement ballasts. That appears to be a function of complexity - not enough room in my stand. However, the real problem is my unwillingness to buy a new replacement ballast right now. If I bought a proper replacement, there would be not problem at all.

A leaking Pentair heater module. That IS a a function of complexity. I have those module because I'm not willing to put heaters in the tank. And because I wanted to automate daily water changes for the discus. So yes, this is a complexity issue. But if I had it all to do over again, I'd STILL put some form of massive in-line filtering in the stand to help eliminate that COUNTLESS hours I saved not having to do manual water changes.

Broken Pentair heater modules (broken internal pipe). That's just a function of equipment that's not very sturdy. Should have chosen a different method of in-line heating. The fact that I had it is a complexity function, but I covered that in the previous point.

Uncontrolled water outflow upon disconnecting the Pentair modules. Definitely a function of complexity. Though - as before - if I had it all to do over, I'd happily trade this momentary problem with the countless hours I saved not doing water changes for the discus.

A broken internal shielding in a Pentair UV module. Same issue as the broken Pentair heater modules.

A broken Ocean Clear canister filter pressure gauge. Has nothing to do with complexity. It's just bad product design of a large canister filter. Any 180 is going to need a lot of filtration. I just picked the wrong product.

A broken Ocean Clear canister filter air bleed screw
. Same issue as the broken pressure gauge - product quality at fault, not complexity.

So, were my problems created by complexity? Except for the decision to have Pentair modules at all, I'm inclined to say "no". But then there's 5 years of no water changes I got for that decision. A pretty good choice IMO.

Also, please keep in mind... other than an annual filter change, and the rare cleaning of algae off the acrylic, I've barely touched this tank in 5 years. The one exception is when two of my Pentair heaters sprung a leak a couple of years ago. All told, I'll wager I've got thirty to forty hours of maintenance on this tank in 5 years. How many other people can say that about a planted 180? Especially one with discus?

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In terms of creating a planted rear wall, this 1600 by Barr was what I had in mind to try and replicate myself
Well, my hat's off to Tom on that setup! That is a spectacular biotope!
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Old 09-22-2012, 08:54 PM   #559
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Just an update...

I said I thought this reset of the existing aquascape would take a couple of weeks. It's taking a lot longer. There is a TON of mulm under that moss. And there's a lot of moss. So I'm siphoning off about a 6" square section - or so - and waiting a few days before doing it again. There's just too much muck to do much more than that without turning the tank into brown soup, and possibly stirring up too much anaerobic bacteria. Not to mention removing a source of nitrifying bacteria. So I'm taking it slow, by doing a small section every few days.

Should be through before too many weeks go by.
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Old 09-25-2012, 06:01 PM   #560
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Sounds like you need one of these! http://www.amazon.com/Automatic-Grav.../dp/B003C5U2SU

I want one too...
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Old 10-05-2012, 11:03 PM   #561
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Sounds like you need one of these! http://www.amazon.com/Automatic-Grav.../dp/B003C5U2SU

I want one too...
Naaa... Thanks for the suggestion, but the gravel filter that comes on Python's work just fine. Thanks though.
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Old 10-05-2012, 11:32 PM   #562
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Default Brief Update

In the process of fixing up the aquascape, which as I indicated is mostly just the process of removing the jungle. It's the whole "less is more" concept all over again I suppose. There's more 'scape tweaking to do. But this is a start.

Front


I'm not real happy about the dark right side. It is farthest from the viewer as the tank is in a corner. But that side was never really set up right in the first place - too much wood under-structure. And that wood now supports some massive root for the big anubias, so I'm not sure what I'll do. But it will need work.

Left side (side you approach from)


View toward center from the right (the corner where people don't go)


Right side


It's a work in progress. Figured I'd share. I'm just glad the underlying 'scape can be worked with, and that I don't have to start all over!

Oh... sorry about the reflections. LOL the little dots of light on the right in some shots are the DIY LEDs over my little reef.
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Old 10-06-2012, 01:29 AM   #563
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Nice looking start to the scape! How many rummies ended up making it, it looks like a nice school?
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Old 10-11-2012, 12:09 PM   #564
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Nice looking start to the scape! How many rummies ended up making it, it looks like a nice school?
Thanks Digsy.

I'm not sure how many rummies are left. Far fewer than I bought - that's for certain! I'll have to take a pic as I feed them to know for sure, but I'm estimating 40. 50 tops.

I don't ever see dead ones, but I do see the occasional straggler - one that does not stick with the shoal. And when they aren't partaking in the pack feeding frenzy (like mini-phiranas), you know they are not long for this world. What I don't know is if this is finally a stable number, or if it is slowly continuing to diminish.

I feed twice a day - all the Cyclopeze that they can eat in 2 minutes. And they attack that with gusto. Until last week I could not get them to take anything else. But now some of them are also taking New Life Spectrum Small Fish Forumula. And yesterday I gave frozen blood worms another try, and this time many of them attached it.

Bottom line - they are beginning to eat a broader range of food. So maybe they are stabilizing at last.

It's worth noting, when I got the first batch and one of the two bags of fish had fish that were lethargic, I saw something I'd never seen - Amano shrimp picking off swimming fish! The lethargic ones would swim near the bottom. And if one got close enough to an Amano, the shrimp would grab them and start eating them. I saw several that started to swim away as the Amano lunged, and the Amano was only able to grab their tail. But sometimes that was enough. I'm afraid it was a bad day for a lot of Tetras, and a feast for my shrimp.
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Old 10-11-2012, 09:03 PM   #565
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They like frozen brine shrimp but I'm not sure how nutritious they are, I had a large(ish) school of Rummy's at 43 strong but it turns out they are a good indicator fish for high CO2 and are the first to go if you step over the line, I did it a month ago and I'm so mad at myself I have yet to turn the CO2 back on. I fed mine everything, Ken's earthworm and color flake, NLS Thera plus A, and various other sinking pellets and the like, but it seem a good variety can really get their color to come out and I love how tight they keep the school, your tank looks good and I'm glad to see it's still running well, good luck.

BTW we have a club member that states she was bitten by her Amano and it hurt enough to make her jump, the do get to be a good size.
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Old 10-13-2012, 09:31 PM   #566
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BTW we have a club member that states she was bitten by her Amano and it hurt enough to make her jump, the do get to be a good size.
Yeah... I guess if they get old enough, they get BIG. I've got zebra loaches in my tank (all adults) and some of my biggest amanos are about the size of my smaller loaches. Hard to believe I know, but true.

As for the Rummynoses, their diet of primarily Cyclopeze seems to be working - though it will put me in the poor-house. Their noses are as red as I have ever seen. Bright cherry red. They look spectacular. And now they've taken to eating the bloodworms that I feed my bottom dwellers; loaches and corys. So I have to feed the tetras first, just so that the bloodworms will have a chance to get that far down.

And just got a few pair of apistograma; two Triple red cacatuoides pair and a fire red agassizi pair. And have a pair of double red agassizi ordered. The tank's looking up.
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Old 11-28-2012, 06:03 PM   #567
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The tank's coming along nicely IMO. The aquascape is much improved. I've still got the dark right side problem, but it's at least a little improved.

The Rummy's are big now. Too much good eating I guess. Fortunately I've weaned them off Cyclopeze and onto pellet and flake. They were going to eat me out of house and home.

I loved the way the tank looked with all the smaller fish. But to my surprise, no one else (but one of my sons) liked the look. They were disappointed at the lack of "big fish". I spent a lot of time mulling that over, and gave my decision to stop stocking discus a good review. And I thought about all the things in being a discus keeper that I did not like:
  1. Them picking on each other all the time - sometime leading to the death of smaller fish.
  2. Their general lack of vigor.
  3. The tendency of discus keepers to ceaselessly evaluate the conformation (shape, coloration, size) of every discus they see. A nice discus is never enough - there's always a nicer one in someone else's tank.

If I were to get more discus, the picking problem is easily solved - get a bunch of fish the same size/age/growth potential. But the vigor and discus keeper pickiness had me stumped, until I had a Blinding Flash of the Obvious - WILDS!

I love wild discus, but have never had them. They fix the vigor problem. If you get healthy ones (after many rounds of meds) they are much more robust than domestic discus - none of the problems from too much inbreeding.

And the the discus keeper pickiness goes away because that's what nature produced. Sure, there's always a bigger, more colorful wild animal somewhere. And you can pay big bucks to get them. But generally speaking a set of wilds is a set of wilds - this is what mother nature produced.

That revelation was about 6 weeks ago. But I had to wait for discus season on the Amazon to get into full swing, as it is now. And I've got a QT with 8 medium sized Tefe Green wild discus in my QT now! They should be ready for the main tank right about Christmas.

Oh yeah... one more thing. Has anyone seen this discus tank by Jeff Senske? I just saw this last week and almost had a duck. Those look to be Tefe Greens too! I know imitation is the greatest form of compliment. And I'm unabashed in saying the Jeff deserves compliments on his tank - he is an aquascaping Master! But I decided on Tefe Greens and put a downpayment on my soon-to-arrive fish weeks before I ever saw that. Now I'll be stuck with everyone thinking I'm intimating Jeff. Bummer. Unless - maybe - that pic on their website went up VERY recently.

So either I independently came to the same conclusion of one of the very best in the industry. Or I at least have the good sense to know who to copy. I guess I'll be the only one that ever knows for sure.
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Old 11-28-2012, 07:50 PM   #568
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If I were to get more discus, the picking problem is easily solved - get a bunch of fish the same size/age/growth potential. But the vigor and discus keeper pickiness had me stumped, until I had a Blinding Flash of the Obvious - WILDS!

Oh yeah... one more thing. Has anyone seen this discus tank by Jeff Senske? I just saw this last week and almost had a duck. Those look to be Tefe Greens too! I know imitation is the greatest form of compliment. And I'm unabashed in saying the Jeff deserves compliments on his tank - he is an aquascaping Master! But I decided on Tefe Greens and put a downpayment on my soon-to-arrive fish weeks before I ever saw that. Now I'll be stuck with everyone thinking I'm intimating Jeff. Bummer. Unless - maybe - that pic on their website went up VERY recently.

So either I independently came to the same conclusion of one of the very best in the industry. Or I at least have the good sense to know who to copy. I guess I'll be the only one that ever knows for sure.
Good choice on going wilds. That's why mine is all wilds too. No more comments of shape and size and this and that. I also went all Tefe like you in the beginning, but unfortunately, I started with wilds and ran into that problem you talk about, which is most of mine didn't make it through the rounds of meds. I now have 2 large Heckels, one Maracana, 1 small Tefe (left from an earlier batch) and 2 Cuipera cross from Forrest/Kenny. The 2 Cuipera Crosses have paired up with a Heckel each (both Heckels are males) and have been spawning non-stop, so there is still fighting in the tank, so I wouldn't rule that out.

As for that Tefe tank, Jeff's had a video on Youtube for at least 3 months that I know of, showing the layout and how it was put together. But those are average Tefe. Those are fully spotted and semi-Royal adults so I suspect that Jeff shelled out at least $250 a fish for those. And they are huge too.

I'm sure you'll be happy with the Tefe and I'm glad you didn't give up on discus with such an awesome setup for them.
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Old 11-28-2012, 08:27 PM   #569
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Good choice on going wilds. That's why mine is all wilds too.
Thanks! I've actually always liked the wilds. But they just are not as visually striking as many domestics. When I was re-evaluating the discus question, I realized that choosing wilds meant - almost by definition - that I was not ever going to get the "Wow!" reaction from people, because the color is just not there. But you know what? I really don't care anymore.

I've had a good run of people going ooh'ing and ahhh'ing over the tank. At this point this tank is for ME. And I happen to like wilds. There's a kind of beauty to their being nature's product - rather than the product of many generations of human intervention. IMO it's kind of like buying a dingo. Not the best looking dog. But what you have is pure, unadulterated, natural dog.

Sorry to hear about your trouble with meds. Any idea what went wrong? Most of mine greens are fat, and eating heartily, so I'm hopeful. And since it's still early in the season - if something goes wrong - there should be time to get replacements. It's also why I bought 8. Full grown, 8's about all I want in the tank. But if that number were to drop down to 6, it's not the end of the world. 8's better for reducing aggression though. IMO 8 are more than 2 better than 6, if you know what I mean.

As for breeding aggression, I'm not worried about that. I've had them breed in my 180, and there's plenty of room for everyone to recognize and observe the new territory rules when that happens. It passes soon enough.

Also... I don't know if you are using CO2. But I'm not. So my pH is in the high 6's. I've learned from experience that when I'm injecting CO2 for plant growth, my pH is generally in the low 6's. And that's like flipping the horney switch to the "ON" position for discus. In the absence of that, I'm assuming breeding will be infrequent - if at all.

Oh yeah... it figures Senske's had that tank up for a while. But on the website those are indeed nice fish. Jeff always springs major doh-ray-me for good fish. I've bought plain old Tefe's. Nothing special. But then again, neither is your average dingo.

Thanks for the feedback!
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Old 11-28-2012, 08:38 PM   #570
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I agree with going to wild discus, I think they have enough color to get some "ooohs" and "aaaaahs" and they are quite striking in my opinion. I wouldn't think you'd be copying Mr. Senske by going with them either, your tank has been running longer than the one he's posted so you have seniority by induction date, if anything he's "future copying" you.

Nice to see the Son of Kahuna is still running well!
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