Planted 10G Tank w/soil & Flourite (Journal)
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Old 01-05-2012, 02:41 PM   #1
Hawkian
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Planted 10G Tank w/soil & Flourite (Journal)


I wanted to start a Nano tank, “Walstad-style”, to cut down on cost and maintenance. My way to cut down cost was to cheat and put a “new fish tank” item on my Christmas list. I ended up receiving a check for $150 to go shop for a new tank and equipment. It should be said that I intend to house a Crowntail Betta along with some dwarf corys and a few oto cats in this tank so right off the start there were some requirements that had to be met. In the end I probably got more stuff than I really need for this kind of tank but at least I know that I have everything I need to start over should this project be a disaster. Here’s what I got:

• Marineland 10G tank (20L x 10W x 12H): $17.99;
• Marineland incandescent hood (2 x 25w): $39.99;
• GE Energy Smart Compact Fluorescent Bulbs, 2-pack: $15.00;
• Hydor Theo 50w submersible heater: $27.99;
• Marina power filter Slim S10: $18.99;
• Total: $119.96

I realize that some of these prices may seem high but I live in Canada and I find that fish supplies tend to be more expensive here than they are in the US for some reason. All in all, $120 for a fully equipped 10G tank wasn’t a bad deal. Other items I needed (I had already purchased these ahead of time):

• Miracle-Gro Organic Choice Potting Mix: $8.00;
• Seachem’s Flourite Dark 15 lbs. bag: $24.99;
• Grand Total: $152.95

The purchase of the incandescent hood was deliberate even knowing that incandescent light wasn’t going to provide enough light for growing plants: the sockets were going to provide me with the versatility that I needed to use compact fluorescent lights instead of the regular T8 bulbs that come in the fluorescent hoods. I already have a tank using T8’s and the low-light I get from the two tubes has been a constant pain over the last two years. It was time to try something different without spending too much money.
I cleaned up the tank with tap water and added a black background to it (I already had it from the previous tank). I’m not sure I like the black background but it will have to do for now.





The hood I purchased was a cheap hood and came with some pretty lame reflectors. I was planning on either replacing or adding to them with foil plates, but at this point I really wasn’t sure how much light 2 x 15w CF lights were going to give me so I left them untouched.





I initially placed 2 x 10w CF bulbs in the hood and found the light to be not enough. Now I had no way to measure light so when I say it wasn’t enough I was going on a hunch. I replaced the bulbs with the 15w CF bulbs I had purchased just for that reason and found that much better. Each bulb emits 900 lumens at the 6500K spectrum, takes 15w of energy to run, and is marketed as a 60w equivalent. The box in the picture shows the 10w variation of the packaging but they are the same lights only the 15w version. I’m not sure how much light that will give the tank and the plants but comparing with the light output I get in my 32G it seems fairly good.

It was time to add the soil layer. I picked the same soil that was used by Diana Walstad in her article on pet shrimps: Miracle-Gro Organic Choice Potting Mix (0.10-0.05-0.05). Don’t ask me what the numbers mean; while I enjoy planted tanks, I am not a good gardener and most of the time I proceed on hunches. If it worked well for Diana Walstad and some others (see this thread), then it’s good enough for me. I removed the bigger chunks of organic material from the soil, mostly sticks and some stones, and placed a layer of about an inch at the bottom of the tank. The soil in the bag I bought was wet (that’s what you get for buying potting soil in the winter in Canada) so the process was messy. I figured the soil would compact even more when soaked so I tried to get an idea of what kind of compacting I would have to deal with to find out if I needed more soil. I used a spray bottle to wet the soil even more to see if it would compact. After about 5 minutes of spraying and no visible compacting, I realized the absurdity of what I was doing and stopped. It was time to proceed to the next layer.





Seachem’s Flourite Dark is what I arrested my choice on for the substrate. I wasn’t sure about going this route. I read many posts from people who had bad experiences with it, and many others that had great ones. One of the posts I read (see here) was from someone who hadn’t rinsed their Flourite prior to adding to the tank and was complaining to Seachem that the experience had killed most of the plants he had bought due to the dust settling on the leaves. The argument was that the bag stated that it didn’t need to be rinsed or washed before use. That seemed farfetched to me: who doesn’t rinse a substrate before adding it to a tank?






So I washed the Flourite as I would have washed any substrate: thoroughly! As I was rinsing over and over again until no more brown water was coming out of the bucket I was using, something dawned on me: was I in fact removing all the good stuff required for plants by rinsing the brown gunk out? As is often the case in these situations, the thought occurred to me way to late in the process and the Flourite was well rinsed by that point. It was time to add it to the tank. A 15 lbs. bag was ideal for a 10G tank as it provides a good 2 inches of depth so I was happy with the purchase for that reason. Another happy surprise was the fact that the Flourite Dark I purchased is pretty much the exact same colour as the soil layer underneath so dirt doesn’t show through. I only purchased the Dark variation because it was a buck cheaper at the LFS, but I guess I lucked out on the colour as well. But the more I work with this tank the more I dislike the black background. I will have to do something about that…

Time to start adding water to this puppy!

I used a plate to break the flow of water; I was still obsessed with the idea of avoiding a cloudy tank. I filled it about halfway and looked at it with surprise and satisfaction: there was barely a trace of cloudiness in it!



In fact the cloudiness in the first picture is mostly from the glass needing to be cleaned. I skimped on the pictures for the last stretch mostly because my hands were not in any shape to handle the camera while transplanting cuttings from the main tank to this one so apologies for that. I planted the tank while it was hallway full (I’m a half-full kind of guy). Plants that were transferred are:
  • Hygrophila difformis (Water Wisteria): there were two stems in the main tank that were simply not growing so I decided to bring them over to this tank;
  • Vallisneria corkscrew: I was never sure what kind of vallisneria this was but it was overshadowed in the main tank by a large echinodorus so I transplanted most of it (5 plants) to the new tank as it offers a nice height against the ugly background right away;
  • Echinodorus tennellus: that plant was so nice when I first got it and produced two runners within a week to propagate into about 9 plantlets. The main plant died (or rather was pulled) and I removed the plantlets and planted two of them in the new tank. Hopefully they will do better in this tank without having to cope with taller plants around and they shouldn’t have to get used to new water parameters since I used a lot of the water from the main tank to fill this one up;
  • Hygrophila polysperma: this plant is currently turning my main tank into a jungle: talk about a weed! While I really don’t want this plant in the new tank because it grows too fast and overtakes everything else, a lot of posts that I read for cycling a planted tank mentioned that fast growing stem plants are ideal for sucking up most of the ammonia out of the water so I placed two small cuttings at the forefront of the tank. I will remove them once I know the tank is “cycled” or rather stable;



Finally I proceeded to fill the rest of the tank up and attached the heater and the filter. I realize that a Walstad-type tank should not require a filter but I wanted to play it safe so I bought a cheap filter with a pre-filter sponge attached (remember the plan is to house a Crowntail Betta). The filter is small and doesn’t take up too much real estate in the tank which was a requirement. Using a power filter also meant that I could pretty much put anything I wanted in there instead of the filter pads that came with it so I put the ceramic blocks from the main tank’s filter into this new one along with the old filter foam (which I had to cut to make it fit). Whatever good bacteria the plants brought over to this new tank will be helped by the one that exists in these two filter components from the old tank. It certainly can’t hurt.

Since I have no idea what to expect from the lights in this tank, I decided to add a very small cleaning crew to it and picked two unfortunate snails from the main tank and dropped them into this one. Both started grazing on the plants almost right away. I’m not sure what kind of snails they are. The main tank mostly had MTS in it until I bought the last load of plants about two months ago and these little guys started showing up. They look like they may be pouch snails or something similar.

As I was starting to settle back and watch my handiwork, the timer the lights are attached to went off and both tanks were plunged into darkness. Figures! In the next few days I will be adding DIY CO2 and take water readings to see where this tank rates at compared to the main one.
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Old 01-06-2012, 01:20 AM   #2
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Can't wait to see the plants fill in! Im planning almost the same setup for my 10 gallon! Good luck with the tank!
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Old 01-06-2012, 11:53 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by akdylpickles View Post
Can't wait to see the plants fill in! Im planning almost the same setup for my 10 gallon! Good luck with the tank!
Thanks akdylpickles! When are you planning to setup your tank? So far so good for me and this tank but it is very early in the process still...
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Old 01-06-2012, 11:54 AM   #4
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Default Day 2: CO2 and New Plant

I wasn’t sure what to expect to see from the tank when I got home from work today, and I was somewhat pleased with what I saw. The slight cloudiness was still apparent but that really isn’t something I was expecting to go away overnight so no worries there. I was somewhat surprised however to find surface scum in the tank so soon: I didn’t get surface scum in the main tank for months after I set it up but I really didn’t know what I was doing back then either. The surface scum makes sense: more than likely it is from the layer of soil underneath the Flourite, which is obviously full or organic matter. Surface scum never hurt anything in my main tank so I left it alone.

I picked up some Egeria densa and replaced the Hygrophila polysperma with it. I never had much luck with Egeria in the main tank due to the low-light conditions that exist there so I figured I’d try it in this new tank: it is fast growing and is said to help prevent BGA, and I really like the looks of it.

I also added a DIY CO2 system to the tank. A 2 litre plastic juice bottle filled with 2 ½ cups of sugar, filled a little over three quarters of the way and one third of a teaspoon of all-purpose bread yeast acts as the chamber, while regular air-line tubing connected to a wooden air diffuser goes into the tank. It’s very low-tech and inexpensive to setup. I didn’t take any pictures since anyone can find these setups online by searching on “DIY CO2”.

I didn’t take any readings from the water as I had planned: as I like to say, life got in the way last night so the readings will have to wait until later tonight or tomorrow. At any rate it can wait a little while the tank runs for a few days and things start to settle in there.

Finally, I mentioned in the first post that I have reservations about the Flourite and its usefulness. Well I just found a couple of new concerns last night as I was placing the Egeria in the tank concerning the Flourite. The size of the “grains” is quite a bit bigger than your regular aquarium gravel and looks more like sharp chips of rocks rather than your usual rounded gravel type. This makes planting quite a bit more difficult and one has to be very careful with the plants not to break them as planting. I have broken a few stems in the last couple of days due to the fact that it is difficult to create a hole in the substrate to place the plants into. The other concern is the fact that some of these rock chips are quite sharp and this may pose a problem to the corys I am planning on keeping in there: will the Flourite be safe enough for them not to lose barbels while grazing the substrate? I may have to rethink my stocking ideas…
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Old 01-06-2012, 12:20 PM   #5
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What light level would you consider this setup? Did you ever beef up the reflectors?


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Old 01-06-2012, 12:59 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cottagewitch View Post
What light level would you consider this setup? Did you ever beef up the reflectors?
Jenna
Jenna,

I am far from being an expert on light so ultimately I have no idea what level of light i have in this tank so far. Going by the old obsolete WPG rule, it is at 3 WPG but I've also read that this rule does not apply to CF lights and therefore that doesn't help me any. Judging by the amount of light reaching the substrate (it is only a 12" deep tank) and the light intensity, I'd say I may have medium light at best but this is a hunch rather than a science. I want to wait and see how the plants do before changing the bulbs to a higher wattage.


I can already see some problems with the lighting in the tank however and I will have to start thinking about how to fix these issues:

Issue #1:

The reflectors that came with the tank are quite poor (stainless steel I believe) and there is a dark spot inside the tank created by their inefficiency:



I am thinking of purchasing a reflector and replacing the ones that came with the hood. If I cannot find a reflector I can work with I may revert to good old foil plates molded to the actual hood and see where that gets me.

Issue #2:

I think it is possible that the black background is affecting the amount of light that goes into the tank in that black doesn't reflect light at all. It may even be at the root of the dark spots I am seeing in the tank. In fact the more I look at this background the more i hate it and the more i want to change it.

Has anyone done any kind of research on CF bulbs and their use in the aquarium? That may help me determine what light levels I have in the tank...
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Old 01-06-2012, 01:37 PM   #7
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There is a sticky thread in the lighting section about CFLs that might help.


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Old 01-06-2012, 02:57 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Cottagewitch View Post
There is a sticky thread in the lighting section about CFLs that might help.
Jenna
Wow! What a great read that was!

I obviously don't have a PAR meter but based on what I've read and comparing it to my setup I would say that the light level in my tank is medium to low light. There are 2x 15w bulbs (6500K) in there, placed about 3 inches from the water surface. The fact that they are positioned horizontally rather than vertically likely reduces the amount of light that is reflected back into the tank but I think the main culprits here are the reflectors, which I will now try to replace.

Thank for pointing me to that thread Cottagewitch!

More to come.
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Old 01-07-2012, 02:35 PM   #9
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Default Day 3: Water Parameters

I finally took the parameters of the water in the tank today and unsurprisingly they are exactly the same as the main tank’s:

• pH = 6.5
• Ammonia = 0
• NO2 = 0
• NO3 = 5 mg/L
• gH = 120 mg/L (moderately hard)
• kH = 40 mg/L (low pH acidic conditions)

I shouldn’t be surprised that the conditions are the same as the main tank since half the water was taken from it. However, I thought the soil and the Flourite may make the water parameters slightly different but that is not the case so far.

Here are some pictures of the DIY CO2 I added yesterday:

A 2 liter plastic bottle:


Check valve:


Diffuser:


The tank as of today:



I am not really in a position to add any fish to the tank yet as I have yet to see any visible plant growth in the tank, so I think I will wait another week at least.

I also added a piece of driftwood: I like the looks of it but am concerned that it may pose an issue to a crowntail betta’s fins to catch into so it may not remain in the tank.

Those reflectors are next...
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Old 01-07-2012, 03:17 PM   #10
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Default Day 4: Reflectors

OK I know that this post is the same day as the previous one but I've been posting one day late all week and today is Saturday so I was able to catch up! I apologize in advance if the pictures seem to be small: I compressed them a little too much and didn't keep a backup first (typical).


Today was reflector day. The challenge was to try to improve on light reflection by either improving the existing reflectors or replacing them altogether. The results were surprisingly satisfying to me, so read on to see a poor man's reflectors!

A picture of what was in the hood before the operation began:


The plan laid out: replace the reflectors with foil loaf baking pans cut to size:


The test: here I replaced the reflector on the left with a foil pan and turned on the lights to see if there was a visible difference… I would say the test was rather successful!


The complete operation (lights turned off). It doesn’t look great but what do I care… I’ll never see the reflectors anyway.


Final product placed over the tank. I can’t say that I see a difference in the light’s intensity but I can say for certain that the dark spots that existed before have vanished. Now I can wait a few weeks to try to figure out if I need to replace the actual CF bulbs (2x15w) with stronger ones.



Results:
- Reflector replacement operation = success!
- Being able to cut foil plates to size without cutting myself = fail! Be careful if you plan on cutting foil plates… they are sharp!
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Old 01-07-2012, 09:00 PM   #11
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I'm following this with interest. I'll be setting up a new 10g for the C.A.R.E.S. program shortly and need an economical lighting option.


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Old 01-09-2012, 05:28 PM   #12
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Default Day 5: A Change of Plan

So here I am with a 10G planted tank without any fish in it and I am now simply waiting for the plants to start growing and seeing snail eggs on some of the decor. There's nothing left for me to do right but wait. That's when I usually start thinking. That can be a good or a bad thing.

I'm starting to research some of the fish I want to keep in there in more details. I don't like what I'm reading. Rather, I don't like that I didn't start reading in more details before now. I know I want a Betta, some dwarf cories, and possibly some oto cats or dwarf loaches. As it turns out, two of the four choices on that list will do better on a soft sandy substrate. I wanted Flourite for the plants' benefit but I should have foreseen this before now. I should have added a layer of sand on top of the Flourite before filling the tank! This is stupid of me! I should have done this research before now. I had considered sand but dismissed it because I thought it was going to be difficult to vacuum. ARRRGH!

Of course it isn't too late to add the sand since there aren't any fish in there yet but that will mean emptying the tank, possibly removing some of the Flourite, and adding sand and refilling the tank, which will become cloudy all over again and I will have to wait another few days more for things to settle before I do anything else. This tank was supposed to be the low maintenance one but its setup certainly isn't turning out to be low maintenance! And of course now that the sandy substrate idea is in my head and that I will always regret not doing it if I don't do it now, I now simply have to do it.

More to come when the dust settles...
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Old 01-09-2012, 06:23 PM   #13
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Man, this might be the solution for my 10G lighting. I have the same type. And the 2 bubls won't do anything. I am just wondering about the safety. Will that reflector be ok for a long period of time? How hot does it get?
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Old 01-09-2012, 06:45 PM   #14
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How did you attach the foil baking pans to the plastic? Glue?

Quote:
Originally Posted by green_valley View Post
Man, this might be the solution for my 10G lighting. I have the same type. And the 2 bubls won't do anything. I am just wondering about the safety. Will that reflector be ok for a long period of time? How hot does it get?
My thoughts exactly. The original reflectors that came with the hood have a gap between them and the plastic to allow heat to vent out. Did you include that gap with the foil baking pans? If you did heat won't be an issue and should technically last "forever."
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Old 01-09-2012, 06:46 PM   #15
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Also, regarding your light level, since I saw that question was asked earlier on. The hoods are super crappy. Since the light is only 3" from the surface of the water, you're getting HIGH LIGHT near the top of your tank. Near the bottom of your tank you're probably getting low-med to high-med depending how much the taller plants block the shorter ones. I noticed I was getting algae all over the top plants/moss, whereas the bottom ones were perfectly fine.
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