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Old 09-17-2012, 09:27 PM   #1
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Kindergarten: First tank - 29g


Goal: To learn what works, what doesn't, and what doesn't matter using budget components.

I started getting interested in making a planted aquarium around June 2012 and have spent a fair amount of time researching and reading up. Tonight I went ahead and started the tank. Since this is a journal, I thought I would try to document it as such. Might give people who have been doing this for years perspective from somebody just getting into the hobby. I will update this post as I add more to the journal.

Timeline

June - Early September: Initial Setup
September 12th: Dry Start Method
September 13th: Reshaping
September 17th: Growth of the bad kind
Nov 5th: A Whole Lot of Doing Nothing
Dec 4th: Nearly full carpet and the end of the tank

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Last edited by player 2; 12-04-2012 at 07:32 PM.. Reason: updated timeline
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Old 09-17-2012, 09:46 PM   #2
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June: Moved cross country for fiance's school. She's attending school a few hours away and I transferred to my head office. Since she is going to have the dog, figured I needed something to occupy my time. I looked into aquariums since I've always liked them. Didn't want to do a salt water reef due to the amount of work and cost involved. Looked online and found some of Amano's tanks. After looking at a lot of different styles, decided to do something in the Nature style. Made a budget of $500 for hardware.

July: After going back and forth over things like canister filter vs wet dry and with a lot of great help from PVAS (local fish club I joined), finally settled on my equipment.

Tank: 29 Gallon
Substrate: Eco-complete
Stand: PetCo Metal Tank Stand
Filter: Penguin Aquarium Power Filter 200
CO2: Flourish Excel
Lights: Odyssea T5 lights (96W)
Heater: Jager Thermostat Heater 150W
Powerhead: Marineland Maxi-Jet PRO 900 PRO

I know that injected CO2 is the best option but money is tight and I can't afford it at the moment. Maybe in a few months. For now, this should get me going well enough. I bought everything around the middle of July and it just sits in the apartment. Between driving 4 hours each weekend and not quite sure where to start, its taking longer than I thought. I learn more about the methods of cycling a tank. Having to do water changes nearly every day seems too much and I'm lazy. Good to know your strengths. Fishless cycling sounds alright but its a lot of testing and still doing water changes. Read a lot on Tom Barr's site about emersed growth and it sounds too easy.

August: I contact my local fish club again and start collecting some plants. I picked up some Java moss, flame moss, christmas moss, suesswassertang, and riccia. I bought some containers from Target and Miracle-Gro moisture control potting mix. After filling the containers with water, the soil looks like mud but I put the plants in anyway. I snap the clear lids on and put my tank lights over them. The riccia I just let float in some distilled water and put in a small amount of liquid fertilizer.



After about a week, my plants are sinking.



Go back to Home Depot and get Micacle-Gro organic potting soil and move them over. I lost the suesswassertang somewhere in old soil. The organic potting soil is a much better choice.



By now I'm itching to get started and I decide to just do a normal cycle with fish. I put in the eco complete, fill the tank with water, and go to work. When I get home, realize I'm not ready and don't want to rush things. I don't have any driftwood and with only two bags of substrate, I can't make an incline like I want. Also my riccia is not doing well with the powerhead and nothing to block the flow.



I drain the water. So much for the bacteria in the water from the eco-complete. I pull out all of the eco complete and put it in a bucket.

Bought some driftwood from Tom Barr. They look cool in the pictures. He says they will take 8 days to be delivered. They take a lot longer. While I wait, make a new game plan. People say you can fake hills and inclines by using pea gravel in panty hose. Figured I'll do that to raise the back a few inches but nothing dramatic. I also buy some new lights for my collection of emersed plants. They seem to like the new soil a lot better and are looking good.

I'm still researching different fertilization methods and buy basically 1lb each of the various dry ferts. EI sounds easy but so does PPS-Pro. Thankfully since I decided to do the dry start method, I have time to decide.

Went to a GWAPA (another local club) meeting. We went to a few peoples houses to look at their tanks. Very impressive. I'm afraid I will have 5+ tanks like them unless my fiance can keep me in line.

Early September: Got back from a long weekend with my fiance after Labor day and the driftwood finally arrives. Try a few different placements to get an idea of the space they take up and maybe a layout. Haven't decided on anything. They are too large to boil so I'm just going to soak them in a bucket. With the driftwood, I now have everything I need.

I start by putting the pea gravel into the panty hose. Be sure to rinse the gravel off. Mine were covered with dirt of some type. Just did a few since I don't want a huge hill.



Mix some time release plant fertilizer (Miracle-Gro something or nother) with my substrate. With the eco-complete having no nutrients of its own, figured it won't hurt. Pour the substrate in place and sculpt the hill. Looks good if I do say so.



Place the driftwood on the substrate. Depending on how I lay it, one piece sticks out a lot. Would need to raise the lights to avoid the wood from touching it.



Take the driftwood out and begin soaking them. Now the fun part, water. Unfortunately I put too much in so I have to drain some of it. I leave one corner beneath the water so I can see how much water I have left and when I need to fill it back up.

I want a carpet of dwarf baby tears and I bought a pot from a LFS about a week ago. Taking it apart is a lot harder than I would have guessed. Hopefully I didn't mess it up and kill all of them. Space them out on the substrate just above the water line.



Take out my plastic wrap and seal off the tank. I'm going back to see my fiance tomorrow night for another long weekend so I wanted to get it started before I leave. Hopefully when I get back, everything will be alright.



Going forward, I need to decide on a few things.
  1. Driftwood layout. Both pieces take up a fair amount of room in the tank. I might can only do one but I really like the look of both pieces
  2. Fertilizer method. Need to research these more and decide which one. Might try them out but that won't be for a few months
  3. DIY components. I want to build a canister filter and yeast co2 with a co2 reactor. DIY doesn't always mean cheap. I bought the components for a canister filter and even though its a bit over engineered, its still at $60 without the powerhead.
  4. Wait. Thankfully I only really come back to my apartment to eat and sleep but I need to leave the tank alone and just mist it every few days. I might see about buying another pot of HC to speed the process.
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Old 09-17-2012, 09:46 PM   #3
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September 12: My driftwood has been soaking for a week now and its not floating anymore. I could leave it to soak longer but I want to continue with my layout and there wasn't a lot of tannins in the water. Since the HC has only been in for about a week, I was able to pull them out without damaging the roots which are growing nicely. I scrapped off a lot of stuff from the driftwood with a butter knife and generally cleaned it pretty well. I tried a few different layouts. Because the driftwood is two larger pieces, a lot of layouts that I tried looked too symmetrical or too cluttered.



I liked this but I moved the pieces around and couldn't figure out how to get it back.



This is the layout I decided to keep. My phone takes the worst pictures. Should be getting a charging cable for a real camera in a day or two. Anyway... This layout doesn't have the "huge clump of wood" appearance that the other layout did. There is also more gaps and places to see through the driftwood. In person it looks a lot better. I also put another panty hose worth of pea gravel under the substrate to give it more of a slope on the right side. Not shown in the above is a few small pieces of driftwood that I buried partially under the substrate.

Now that the driftwood is in place (still can't decide if I should get a few stones or not), I replanted the HC. I also pulled some of my mosses that I'm growing in the containers. Chopped up and smeared on the driftwood, they should attach in a few weeks. Going to be misting them with distilled water with liquid fertilizer added. It is a pretty weak dilution so it shouldn't burn them. Worst case I pull them out since I have more growing.





You can see the small pieces of driftwood here.



From left to right on the driftwood I have java moss, christmas moss, and flame moss. I bought two more pots of HC while I was in NY last weekend but forgot them so my fiance is baby sitting them. That should give me a nice starting carpet while they grow in.

TODO

1. Start deciding what background and midground(?) plants I want. I'm trying to keep the number of plant species under 10 or have very specific placements if I start getting a lot.
2. Clean up the apartment. I have aquarium stuff all over the place.
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Old 09-17-2012, 09:51 PM   #4
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Sept 13th: After cleaning up my apartment of all the aquarium stuff that was laying around, I went back at the suggestion of Garuf and adjusted the substrate. It was not as easy as I thought. The panty hose pea gravel that is underneath kept showing meaning that the substrate was not deep enough in those areas. Ended up taking everything out including the HC, moving all of the substrate to the front of the tank, and re-doing the substrate. Now its much more even and there aren't any shallow spots. Recommendation if you want to be cheap and use pea gravel, get it right the first time. There is already a lot of small holes due to the sharpness of the eco-complete. I figure you only get about one chance to adjust it before the holes rip open and all of the pea gravel mixes with your substrate.

I adjusted the substrate so the slope is higher under the wood and it does give it a more pleasing visual. The slope on the back is also less extreme. Comparing the two, it almost looks like the driftwood is sliding down a river bank in the first layout compared to how it is now. The right side is lower than the left now and this causes the entire driftwood layout to "tilt" in a sense. Basically the bottom of the wood on the left is higher than before. Another drawback of the panty hose pea gravel is that I can't bury the driftwood as deep in the substrate. If I just used substrate, I could have positioned the driftwood and then filled in around it. It would also be more secure. I'm not too worried about it falling over but I do need to take care. Might need to find a way to anchor them down in the future.



TODO

1. Patience. The only thing really left for me to do is plant the rest of the HC once I get back from NY and continued misting.
2. Continue deciding on other plants. Depending on how the Java Moss acts, I might rip it out. Staurogyne Repens look like they would go good nestled next to the driftwood. Also Anubias Nana seems intersting. I like the idea of having some plants that can flower.
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Old 09-17-2012, 10:10 PM   #5
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Sept 17th: Got back from NY with my two pots of HC ready to plant when I made a unwanted discovery. Something was growing in my tank that I don't want.



The whitish algae/mold is hanging off one corner of the driftwood but I see smaller pieces of it on other sections. There is also a green spots over a lot of driftwood. From some initial searching, some people say it could be nonharmful and will go away after a few scrubbings. Others suggest that it might be due to being too moist. Either way the green algae/mold is worrying me. Before I plant the rest of the HC, I need to find out what is causing it.
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Old 09-18-2012, 04:29 PM   #6
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Nice start that's a beautiful piece of driftwood
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Old 09-18-2012, 07:30 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by player 2 View Post
Sept 17th: Got back from NY with my two pots of HC ready to plant when I made a unwanted discovery. Something was growing in my tank that I don't want.

The whitish algae/mold is hanging off one corner of the driftwood but I see smaller pieces of it on other sections. There is also a green spots over a lot of driftwood. From some initial searching, some people say it could be nonharmful and will go away after a few scrubbings. Others suggest that it might be due to being too moist. Either way the green algae/mold is worrying me. Before I plant the rest of the HC, I need to find out what is causing it.
Thats definitely mold. it loves to grow on new driftwood during dsm because of the humidity. it also happens alot in terrariums. i cant speak on how harmful it is. i just take it out and scrub it.

PS: great driftwood/hardscape. so jealous.
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Old 09-18-2012, 07:44 PM   #8
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One, probably really dumb, question. Why pea gravel in pantyhose? To get the height? Won't the pantyhose affect water quality?
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Old 09-18-2012, 08:25 PM   #9
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The driftwood pieces are from Tom Barr. It is actually two pieces that I have sitting nearly on top of each other. Up close you can kind of see where they are the two pieces but if you aren't looking, you might not notice it.

As for the pantyhose, yeah...that's an odd one. I got the idea while trying to figure out how to build a hill on the cheap. My two bags of eco-complete didn't have a lot of room for height and I didn't want to buy another bag. You can see how it looks flat in an earlier picture. Pea gravel is about $4 for a large bag and the nylon in the pantyhose is inert. So with the pantyhose pea gravel in the back, I'm able to get the height I need without the extra substrate.

Looking back, I don't think I will do it this way again. Layering another substrate like Miracle Gro under would give me some ferts and be nearly as cheap once you add the few bucks for the pantyhose. It would also let plants with longer roots dig deeper. I don't have any yet but I'm wondering if it will be a problem in the future.

One of the threads that gave me the idea
http://www.plantedtank.net/forums/sh...d.php?t=159314
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Old 09-18-2012, 08:26 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wijnands View Post
One, probably really dumb, question. Why pea gravel in pantyhose? To get the height? Won't the pantyhose affect water quality?
And I'd image the pantyhose would provide a barrier that would inhibit root growth... not sure if I'd stick with this idea longterm, you can achieve the same effect using plastic/acrylic "retaining walls" or through strategic stone/driftwood placement.

Also, with the mold, do what Loucas6290 says and just scrub it off. If it's just surface mold I wouldn't get overly worried - it's unsightly, but remove it and go from there. When I've had to do this before I've placed the wood in a bucket of conditioned tap water, scrubbed it with a toothbrush and plopped it back into the tank. You may end up seeing the mold come back over time - as long as the wood underneath is firm & not rotting it still shouldn't be anything to worry about and will go away as the wood "matures". But, if the wood ends up turning squishy/rotten/off-color/smelly/etc then you'll probably want to find another piece to use - but cross that bridge when you get there. Good luck!

+1 to loving the hardscape / driftwood!
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Old 09-18-2012, 08:34 PM   #11
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Layering another substrate like Miracle Gro under would give me some ferts and be nearly as cheap once you add the few bucks for the pantyhose.[/url]
Dang, you got here 1min before I did and beat me to the punch with the pantyhose/root barrier thing!

Anyways, I wanted to say that I started a Miracle-Gro tank approx 3 weeks ago and so far I couldn't be happier with it. There hasn't been any mess to speak of, there's the low cost, and the fact that although my plants aren't exploding (I'm non-CO2 injected & low light) I have at least 1-2 new leaves on every single plant so something is going right in there Long story short, I'd highly recommend the stuff!
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Old 09-19-2012, 12:08 PM   #12
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I scrubbed the mold off and sprayed it with a 20% dilution of hydrogen peroxide. Now its back to daily misting and trying my hardest not to mess with it.
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Old 09-19-2012, 12:35 PM   #13
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Great hard scape and thanks for the thorough documentation process!
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Old 09-19-2012, 10:08 PM   #14
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Good God it's like Speed posting. Thought I was going to have a seizure reading that lol. "I did this and that didn't work so I did this and didn't like how it looked so I...". Lol very thorough posts. It looks good honestly. When you are just starting it is really difficult to make things exactly how you picture them in your head. Just keep at it and sometimes you get lucky and you learn from it.
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Old 09-19-2012, 10:58 PM   #15
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haha didn't think about it as speed posting. I just wanted to capture my main thoughts in the early months. Going forward I'll try to keep this updated about once a week. Although my tank is in the dry start stage and not doing much, I'm still looking up info on various plants and diy projects.
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