Starting a journal on my 55 dirt tank
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Old 08-11-2011, 03:58 AM   #1
driftwoodhunter
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Starting a journal on my 55 dirt tank


Hey there! I'm starting a journal on my 55g, which I am doing as a "dirt" tank. I set up a 40b earlier, but it doesn't have any real soil in it. This 55 has a base of Miracle Grow Organic Potting Soil, capped by a 50/50 mix of pea gravel from Lowes and FloraMax, purchased at Petsmart.

Here's the tank - it's about 3 - 4 weeks in, so I have some catching up to tell how it got to this point.
The big piece of quartz you see on top of the driftwood is only there to hold it down until it stops trying to float. I'm glad I've gotten used to seeing it there, it looks like it's going to take a while to waterlog the wood!
The tank is totally low tech, because I don't know how to do Co2. This is only the second tank I've ever set up with live plants (the 40b being the other) so I have a lot to learn. The lights are a twin tube 48" shoplight with T8s in it - one is an Aqueon 8000 full spectrum, the other is a Phillips 6500 daylight. It sits directly on top of the versa glass tops, under a wood canopy. It puts out very little heat, and the wood canopy isn't solid so it vents well.
If the plants look like they've just been haphazardly tossed in there, it's because they have - lol. I've been moving them around a lot as I buy more, and it doesn't really disrupt the soil much - it all settles right down again. I have a HUGE amount to learn about plants, and some will not get enough light with this setup I fear, but that's how I'll learn what works & what doesn't.
I'm very bad with plant names, but I will look them all up and monitor how they do. The distance from the soil to the lights is about 19" - 20" and I bet the par is nil by the time the light hits the bottom. I'm erring on the side of caution, because I don't have the funds to do Co2, and I don't really want to anyhow (at least pressurized). I'm hoping I can find the right plants that will do well in this tank. Slow growth is fine with me, as long as I can keep the whole tank healthy.
Well, that's all I have the energy to write tonight!
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Old 08-12-2011, 03:47 AM   #2
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how would fish do in this tank?
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Old 08-12-2011, 01:15 PM   #3
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LOL - I have fish in this tank - I never noticed you can't see them in this pic! lol I have it stocked with 6 black tetras, 11 cardinal tetras, and two blue rams. I did have a hifin pleco in it, but I never realized how much waste they produced. I also had an oto in it, but I moved it to my 40b, where it was needed.
I like the looks of tetras and may beef up their schools, but I've been waiting to see if I could find some kind of schooling tetra that has a shiney silver or silver/gold/pewter type color. Something like bloodfins or big scaled african characins. I never see anything but the same-old stuff at petsmart or my lfs. (which has much less than even Petsmart, which is pretty good here!) I'd like to see the flash of a metallic color in the tank - I think it would look good in the blackwater.
Even with all the driftwood and MGOPS, my ph and alkalinity is high. I'm going to take a small amount of pure peat and ball it up in a bit of nylon stocking. If it doesn't come out of the stocking's mesh in a bowl I'm going to tuck into the tank behind a plant. A few of these might help lower the alkalinity - I'll test my water every few days to see.
Oh, to answer your question, the fish that are in there are doing great. The rams have spawned once since I got them, but they ate all the eggs as they developed. I don't think they'll spawn as readily until the water becomes more acidic. I do have some snails in there too, hitchhikers from plant purchases. I've seem a few miniscule baby ramshorns, a single snail I think is a MTS (saw it once, and never saw it again - guess it's underground - lol) and a 1/2 dozen pond snails. Every once in a while a pond snaill will climb the glass high enough that I can squish it, but mostly they cruise the drftwood, bottom, and plants. When the population explodes I'll use the lettuce trick to thin them back out.
More on the tanK soon!
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Old 08-17-2011, 01:48 PM   #4
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That looks great!, looks bigger than a 55g
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Old 08-17-2011, 02:25 PM   #5
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Thanks, iKine! I love to use big driftwood and big rocks - so I always figured the tank would end up looking small (a 55 lacks depth anyhow - so hard to scape!). Some of the plants have grown a bit, I'll try to update soon - I have a hard time remembering to come back to my journal...lol
I'm still in the early learning stages of doing planted tanks. The only thing I really know is that I don't want the hassle of pressurized Co2, so the light will stay low. I enjoy the murky mystery of a low light, tannin filled tank. I think it all stems from my fanatacal love of the movie Jaws - lol. I hope to see a shark come cruising out of the gloom... lol
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Old 08-17-2011, 02:48 PM   #6
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Looks good!
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Old 08-22-2011, 02:51 AM   #7
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Well, today I got closer to one of my aquarium goals - I found another 55 on Craigslist that didn't cost an arm & a leg! ($75.00)
I don't think I've mentioned it in this thread, but I have an idea for two 55 tanks. I live in a single wide mobile home. It's a good size for one person - about 1200 ft with two full baths & three bedrooms. I tore out 1/3 of the wall between the smallest bedroom & the living room, and used that bedroom to extended the living room. (it's like an 8' x 10' library)
One of the things I liked about this mobile home was the open floor plan. I have NO division between my living room & kitchen except the kitchen's base cabinets that I'm tearing out in favor of a rustic wood island I'm making this winter.
I want to make a dividing wall between the kitchen & living room with two 55g tanks butted end-to-end. If I place one tank against the exterior wall, extending into the room, and butt the second tank up to it, I'll have 100" of tanks and still have 5' of entryway between the two rooms. Today, I found the 55 on Craigslist and I'm picking it up Friday. I haven't seen it yet, but the sellers said they just moved here from out of state, and the tank was new before they moved. They bought more tanks and don't need it now. They say the glass is in perfect shape and it comes with a wood stand, the lids/lights etc. I'm not interested in the lids/lights because I'll be replacing them with versa glass tops & a new light. I'm hoping the stand will bring the top of the new tank level with mine, but if not I'll put layers of ply under the shorter tank. My tank's stand is pine, I assume their's is pine or particle board. I'm going to get the tanks level and make a casing to unify them. I love walnut so that might be what I use.
Now a question ~ I make such a God Awful mess when I do water changes. I'm in the process of laying t&g pine flooring (stained in dark walnut - what else? lol) but I worry about the water hitting the floor. I'm sealing the stain with top of the line Varathane in a satin finish, but I wonder if it would benefit me to put tile under the tanks? The same tile that will be in the kitchen. Remember the two rooms are continuous so I don't think it would look odd. I'm not disiplined enough to lay towels on the floor every time I tinker in the tanks - lol.
This will be a slow project as funds are very tight, but I look forward to journaling it here!
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Old 09-19-2011, 01:25 AM   #8
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Subscribed... Nice tank! Hows the growth under those two T8s?
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Old 09-19-2011, 09:37 AM   #9
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Oh, you poor thing! You'll have to wait a while before a photo update!
I had to break this tank down due to a nasty columnaris outbreak recently. I just started to tear it down about a week ago. The columnaris killed 11 cardinals, 4 black tetras, 2 blue rams, amd 6 celebes rainbows in a week. It is thought the rainbows brought the columnaris in, since the deaths started the day after they arrived. The large water change I did the day before I put them in the tank didn't help in my opinion (stressing the fish). I never had anything but ick in all my years of keeping fish as a kid, so I never saw the importance of having a QT tank. By God I've got one now! I'll soon have a second one set up too.
I still have about 5" of water in the tank, to keep the plants alive. I'll do a potassium permanganate (sp?) dip of them before I switch them to a new tank.
I did have some ups & downs with the tank that I think are worth noting; first, the two T8s worked like a dream! I like the idea of low tech/low light tanks. The slow pace of growth appeals to me. In the tank I have a giant anubia, some anubias nana and coffeefolia, vals, baby's tears, some kind of huge coppery brown crypt I got as a RAOK here, another unknown smaller crypt, an red tiger lily, bacopa (sp?) and anacharis (again, not sure on the spelling). Oh, and a cabomba, or however it's spelled! LOL lousy way to list plants, but its 5am and I have to go to work soon & don't have time to look then up! ; )
All the plants did fantastic! I was seeing new growth on everything, and some were taking off. I saw an average of 4 - 6 new leaves in 3 - 4 weeks. Snail-slow for the Co2 crowd I'm sure, but I loved it.
My issues were with the Miracle Grow Organic Potting Mix - I'm not sure I'd do that next time. Mayby my cap wasn't deep enough, but it always worked it's way to the top. I did move the plants around a bit, so that didn't help. But bits of peat were always settling heavily on the leaves of the plants - it was constantly dirty looking. Really dirty looking. Also, this tank had problems my 40b doesn't, and I wonder if the MGOPM was the culprit. The 40 is set up exactly the same way, minus the Miracle Grow. The pea gravel/FloraMax mix is identical. The 40 is also seeing the same kind of growth, slightly slower, but healthier, too. The plants are the same in the two tanks (minus the red tiger lily) and they seem more robust in the 40. No debris is ever on them, there are no Co2 "burps" to break up, the tannins aren't present for so very long, the water is much clearer in terms of tannins and general appearance. The 55 tended to have a strange look - not really cloudy - but odd.
I don't know if this was related to the potting soil or not - I never see people posting about dirt tanks that they are unhappy with. Maybe it was noob mistakes of my own. I have to say though, that the 40b - which is identical in every other way - is a super healthy tank and I've neevr lost a fish or plant in it, in 6 months.
When I redo the 55 (and it's companion - I bought another to have them side-by-side) I may change the lighting. I'd like to go with T5NOs just to save electricity, but if I can't, I am still very satisfied with the twin bulb T8 I bought at Home Depot!
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Old 09-19-2011, 12:13 PM   #10
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I would not blame MG for what occurred, the 'culprit' is a combination of factors starting with the cap mix.
With more time I'll be back like Arnold LOL.
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Old 10-10-2011, 03:13 AM   #11
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Too bad you had that outbreak it was such a nice looking tank! Hmm I am intrigued by your twin tanks idea, i would love to see a pic of how you plan to do this it sounds cool. I would definitely go with the tile under the tanks, I too am too lazy to drop towels and I always get the hardwood floor wet.
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Old 10-10-2011, 10:39 AM   #12
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mr2, I am a total slob when doing water changes, and I have yet to take the time to drop towels ; )
I started a small tiled area under two 29g tanks I have in a single metal stand. The 29's are placed in a area that is the transition spot between the living room and the kitchen, so I picked out a tile I'd like to do the kitchen in (I live in a giant DIY project = a 1988 mobile home - lol) So I will have the 55s projecting out from the wall as a room divider, and the 29s up against the opposite wall. What's left is an approx. 5' entryway/opening to pass from the living room to the kitchen. I'm going to love it when it's done!
If I do this right, there should be a link to my 29s on the tile floor below...

http://www.plantedtank.net/forums/ta...stand-pic.html

Oh, and thanks for saying my 55 looked nice, it was my second planted tank, and my first dirt tank. It was really starting to come alive! But I learned a great deal from the whole experience...
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Old 10-16-2011, 02:49 AM   #13
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Hmmmmm, how did I miss this thread? Oh well. I am here now.
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