Choco's 55g hi-tech journal
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Old 06-10-2013, 02:27 PM   #1
chocological
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Choco's 55g hi-tech journal


So this should be my introduction to the forums and to my ongoing project.
So I go by Chocological (or just Choco), and I live in NYC with my two kids and lovely fiancée in a small 2 bedroom apartment.
This of course limits my options for tank sizes and dirted tanks (DIY mineralized soil is out of the question). I've long been fascinated with fishkeeping, and I currently have a 20g low tech planted. It's grossly overstocked, and I'm embarrassed to say.. I bought the fish in there before I knew anything about fishkeeping. There's a sailfin pleco, a blood parrot, a blue ram and about 10 kribs. I started with 2, but they just kept on breeding. These fish were all small... then grew. I came to the conclusion I needed a bigger tank.

I also came to the conclusion that I would not be able to house the pleco any longer -- I simply did not have the space for the size tank he deserves. I've found him a new home.

So a friend of mine posts on Facebook that he's selling a 55g tank and stand for $30. Score!
The tank itself is a generic petco type of glass tank, probably Aquaeon brand or something, with a barebones type of metal stand.
As soon as I set it up, my mind races thinking of the possibilities for such a tank. I could do everything I wanted to do with my 20 gallon!

But enough story, let's get on with the details!

Planning

I decided early on to go for a underwater root-type of scape. these are my favorite type of scapes, and look the most natural to me. I also decided to incorporate a sand path (cliché, I know), but to have it be a natural progression from large rock, to small, to sand. I then created my plant list after doing a lot of research. My fiancée also had her "I want colorful plants" input, so I set about tying to satisfy the both of us.

Carpeting: Glossostigma Elatinoids (main), Dwarf Hairgrass
Mosses: Christmas Moss, Willow moss, mini pellia (for driftwood)
Foreground plants: Blyxa Japonica, Pogostemon Helferi, Anubias Petite, crypts, hydrocotyle japan
Stems/background: Pogostemon Erectus (green), Rotala Walllichii (red), Rotala macranda/ rotala magenta (red), ludwigia inclinata cuba (green and red)

Of course, this may be too much diversity for the 55g, and this list reads somewhat like a dutch tank. This is not set in stone, but a few of my must haves are glosso, willow moss, blyxa, anubias, hydrocotyle, and pogostemon erectus.

Then, I made the equipment list.
I have it all down in a spreadsheet, but here are the meat and potatoes of it all.

Lighting:
4 x 54w Catalina fixture

Filter:
Ehiem 2217

Substrate:
ADA Aquasoil Amazonia

Ferts:
Dry Ferts and Plantex CSM (EI method)

Pressurized CO2

Time to begin!
I decided to break the rest up into phases.

Phase 1: Shopping
Phase 2: Prep and Assembly
Phase 3: Planting
Phase 4: Fish

So, without further ado, on to the journal!

Last edited by chocological; 08-11-2013 at 12:33 AM.. Reason: details, details...
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Old 06-10-2013, 02:27 PM   #2
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Phase 1: Shopping


This phase is the longest, and I'm expecting it to be complete by mid-August 2013. Basically I'm just buying all the materials needed for the scape and all the equipment.

Since I'm going with a high tech setup, the first thing I decided to shop around for was the CO2 regulator. I'm not entirely sure why I started there, but I'm glad I did.



I picked up this rebranded Victor 253 A-1993 from eBay, for my DIY regulator assembly. I still have to purchase the Swagelok fittings and solenoid, but they're coming. I also put an order in with Bill from Ideal Valves, for one of their stainless steel needle valves. After all is said and done this should be a slick looking regulator assembly, in all stainless steel.

I then decided the next step would be to paint the back of my tank black. You can see a little accident in the carpet in the pic above (oops0). I spent some time studying PAR charts, and I decided on getting 100 micromols at a distance of about 18", which would be the lowest point of the substrate. I found a good deal from a guy on eBay who apparently is a distributer of Catalina new old-stock, $179.99 shipped for a new Catalina 4x54w T5HO fixture, with moonlight leds and hinged feet.

I received the fixture the other day, and it looked great, except... they didn't sent it with the moonlights or the feet. Mistakes happen, no biggie. The seller is away until next week, so I'll update on the status of my claim.

Next up, driftwood. I began by scouring these forums, and eventually came across someone's advice to check out Tom Barr's selection on his site, and wow.. He definitely has a good selection, I'd advise everyone to check it out and buy from him. I picked two pieces that he described as "scaper type" pieces, and received them a week later. They cost me $45, and $35 shipping from Sacramento to NYC.



I've set them in the tank pretty much how I want them to be. I'll probably start the initial soaking and leeching of tannins in about two weeks. I don't have much space in my place, like I said, so they will have to soak in-tank.



Here's a closeup of the "root" structure. Sharp eyed people will also spot the 20g on the bottom rack. That's going to be my quarantine tank, when all is said and done. Subscribe for more updates!

Until next time..

EDIT:
How could I forget my haul from the beach yesterday? Found these awesome stones yesterday at Jones Beach.



This is after boiling them, giving them a good scrub, soaking in a bleach solution, scrubbing again, H2O2 bath, scrubbing, rinsing, drying.

Last edited by chocological; 06-10-2013 at 02:39 PM.. Reason: Forgot a detail.
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Old 06-10-2013, 02:46 PM   #3
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Looks good! Good luck with the setup and I look forward to seeing your progress.
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Old 06-10-2013, 03:39 PM   #4
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awesome! who knew jones beach had such a treasure trove! don't forget to pad the bottom of your tank before putting substrate and those stones in - don't want any cracks!
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Old 06-10-2013, 04:25 PM   #5
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Yeah, Jones Beach, who knew?
You can also find some awesome rock in the city on Randall's Island.
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Old 06-18-2013, 09:22 PM   #6
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Update Time!

I ordered my needle valve from ideal, and here it is!

Beautiful isn't she? It's the ideal V 54-1-2. This weekend I hope to either buy the rest of the components for the regulator, or build a reactor. Still haven't decided.

Also, I returned to the beach and found this awesome rock.



Not entirely sure how I'm gonna incorporate it, but if I was doing an iwagumi, I'd be set right now. First world problems.

Until next time...
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Old 06-24-2013, 06:59 AM   #7
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Short update:
This weekend I decided to build a CO2 reactor.
Just waiting on my order of clear pvc and bio-balls, also some stuff from GLA.

I went to two Petland's and the first one claimed they were sold out of bio-balls. The second one's employees looked at me like I was crazy.
How do you sell fish and aquarium products and not know what bio-balls are? Anyway, it was Amazon to the rescue.
I'll document the build when the orders arrives.

I also changed the scape. With this tank, I'd be better off focusing on the length rather than the depth. I'll post a pic of my arrangement tomorrow.

Until next time...
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Old 06-24-2013, 10:21 PM   #8
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Your regulator is going to be a really sweet rig. Have you considered an inline atomic diffuser? I built pvc reactor and ended up spending more on parts then when I eventually just ordered a knock off inline atomic.
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Old 06-24-2013, 10:48 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tizzite View Post
Your regulator is going to be a really sweet rig. Have you considered an inline atomic diffuser? I built pvc reactor and ended up spending more on parts then when I eventually just ordered a knock off inline atomic.
Thanks, man.
Yeah, my original plan called for an inline diffuser from GLA, but I decided on just building it myself following Tom Barr's venturi design. Most agree it's the cheapest way to make a reactor and it rivals reactors that sell for a small fortune... and it's only for around $20 or so.
This reactor will cost me around... $60 or so total, including the powerhead and 2 ft. clear pvc.

I decided to lay my driftwood on it's side.



I never noticed that it was charred on this side, and the different coloring in the wood. It's gonna be nice when it's soaked!

Last edited by chocological; 06-25-2013 at 01:48 AM.. Reason: clarity
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Old 06-24-2013, 10:54 PM   #10
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Blood Parrot might not be the best with otto's and rummynose and the glo-lights

Also, why only one angel? Although, goodluck on the tank, I have the same light as you and I like it, and I used to have a BP with plants....might do it again, idk.
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Old 06-24-2013, 11:29 PM   #11
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Thanks, Herp. I'm actually undecided on the angels, and am considering shrimp and apistos instead. I've since changed my plans to two Eheim 2217's.. I ought to update this post to reflect all of that.

I've kept this particular parrot with harlequin rasboras and didn't have issues with nipping or anything.

I've been considering galaxy rasboras too.. (celestial pearl danios)
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Old 06-24-2013, 11:42 PM   #12
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I can already tell this will be a beautiful tank after its all said and done (even though we know its never really done). Haha

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Old 07-20-2013, 11:09 PM   #13
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So it's time for an update.
So much is new, and I've been neglecting this journal. Anyway, on to the newness!

In my last update, I talked about making a DIY style reactor. Well, I finally finished it. Today.
See, the clear PVC came, but I had to order 2 feet of it. When I received it, I realized.. crap, I can't cut this with a Dremel.

So today, I bought a saw, and cut that baby down to 14", and put the whole thing together.



Also, there's been some progress with my 20g tank: I began yeast CO2 injection.


You can also see my dry ferts stored in jars. Probably not the best way to store them. Still, it looks nice. I also ordered some up-aqua tools (straight scissors, curved scissors, straight tweezers, curved tweezers, and a substrate smoother thing) for $55 flat. It shipped from Taiwan, but still came rather quickly..
I will never again plant by hand. These tweezers are so much better than my fat fingers!

I received my new light fixture too, the 4x 54w Catalina with moonlight LED's.
Mounting the feet required me to trim the trim around the tank, which was made easy with my Dremel.

I'm not at all confident of these plastic feet and plastic hinge. I'll probably have to replace it sooner or later.

I also picked up some eggcrate from HD, and started placing my final scape. I also realized that my floor is crooked.
Well, that's actually something I always knew. I decided to do something about it this weekend and picked up some flooring tile to lift one side. Tada!



My next update will be detailing the regular assembly. I have the parts already ordered...
Until next time...
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Old 07-21-2013, 12:24 AM   #14
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You can't keep shrimp with parrot fish and angels. Even amano would be eaten by an adult parrot fish. An adult parrot fish is also much too agressive for german rams, if yours is male I would be worried about it killing half of your stock list once it is full grown. I used to have an adult male parrot fish a looong time ago. He killed a jack dempsey, oscar, green terror, common pleco, 4 other parrot's, and a big red devil 2x his size. This is assuming you have the common blood parrot hybrid, and not the king kong variety. Those are even worse. Overall I would definitely not recommend a parrot fish for a peaceful planted tank. It might do ok for a while, if its small and young, but remember it could snap any minute of any day, even 6 years down the line, just waking up and poof everyone's dead, that was what I experienced with mine. Years went by everyone was okay, 1 morning I woke up to everyone dead and a big cute orange ball trying to attack me through the glass, flaring his gills and baring his teeth like a feral pitbull on drugs. Oh what a night that was. Still etched in stone in my memory. That's why I decided to go planted. Don't make tthe same mistake as me....

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Old 07-21-2013, 12:41 AM   #15
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I'm with bigglesworth on this one.

Decide to either accentuate the plants, and have omnivores (peaceful small fish), or the fish, and keep relatively few meat eaters that don't eat the plants.

The mix will end up a heartache.

Also, trim the lighting feet rather than the tank rim.
Feet are much more replaceable than the rim.

Last edited by Xirxes; 07-21-2013 at 12:43 AM.. Reason: Update
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