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Old 06-14-2012, 04:49 AM   #1
RukoTheWonderDog
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180 gallon Planted Cichlid Community of Extreme Annoyance


*disclaimer* This is a very long read.

I hate this tank. I do. I wanted to push the envelope. This is what happened.

I initially had dreams and aspirations of an aggressive Central American cichlid tank. I bought a trio of baby Jags and put them in a 125. As they grew I decided the 125 was too narrow for a fish of that size. As I prepared to purchase a larger tank, I came upon the opportunity to buy a trio of F0 Festae (of course I bought them). One Festae female was cast out of the trio and promptly removed. I purchased and setup the 180 gallon, built a wet/dry sump, and dumped in the Festae pair. Other friends were added, and the tank was a harmonious community. Then one day, the 7” male Festae decided to kill EVERYTHING in the tank, which sucked a lot. Big mean Festae got his own 75 gallon, solitary confinement tank in the basement. Annnnnnnnnnnnnnnd then I decided that plants were pretty cool, and I jumped into that nightmare. That was two years ago.

I knew that CO2 injection in a drilled tank was not advisable due to the bubble-off of dissolved CO2. My sump was especially problematic, as all water flowed over a drip plate into a wet-dry chamber. I decided to give it a try anyways. My plan was to get a lot of CO2 dissolved, as I would be losing a lot of it. I built Durso style standpipes in hopes of reducing gas loss, and used a pair of Quiet One 4000 pumps for the returns. The next step was building the CO2 delivery system. After more research and buying a different regulator first, I settled with:

-Concoa 332 SS High Purity reg
-McDaniels Instruments K gauges
-2 x Ideal V54-1-12 SS needle valves
-Burkert 6011
-2 x JBJ Bubble counters
-20 lb tank

After several weeks of researching CO2 injection I experimented with all of the CO2 injection methods. A Tom Barr style and Rex Rigg style CO2 reactors were both constructed and tested extensively for several months. I played with water and CO2 flow, as well as 5 different plumbing configurations to try and achieve a proper level of CO2 dissolution. The reactor results were unanimously poor regardless of how they were plumbed. An in-tank diffuser proved even worse due to the size of the tank. The Cerges’ style was really picky about flow. Better results came from running the CO2 directly into the intakes on the Quiet One 4000 return pumps. With only a single output from the CO2 regulator however, getting the gas to evenly run into both intakes was a challenge. The use of valves, T’s, and other plumbing pieces to split the CO2 flow evenly always failed. The gas would prefer one pump over the other, and I would only get CO2 enriched water from a single return. As each return was at opposite ends of the tank, an unequal balance of CO2 was seen in tank.

I contacted Tom Barr for help. He suggested using a powerhead to atomize the gas and split the output. I did exactly this using a Maxi-Jet 1200 powerhead. While this did work very well, I could not crank up the CO2 as high as I needed. My design also had a fatal flaw…all of the extra tubing from the powerhead caused a lot of gas to build up in the return system. This would occasionally cause the impellers to spin in the opposite direction or fail from cavitation. In either case the filtration essentially stopped causing many problems.

Sooooo……the powerhead and tubing was pulled. The CO2 regulator was ‘upgraded’ with another Ideal v54-1-12. Gas is run directly into each return pump several inches before the impeller. This made a good bit of difference on plant growth; CO2 levels were more uniform with more pearling seen on upper leaves. Even still I have reason to believe that I’m not getting as much CO2 dissolved as I could. I occasionally battle BBA still, but I am hoping that upgrading to Danner Mag-Drive pumps w/ the air fractionating impellers will further help atomize and dissolve the CO2. The CO2 continues to be a big, expensive experiment.

The light is a 72” AquaticLife 8x39w T5HO fixture. I run 4 x Giesemann AquaFlora and 4 x Giesemann Midday 6000Ks. The light is on a 12 hour cycle (the AquaFloras in the morning, and the Midday 6000Ks in the afternoon). The built in timers are way cool, but I am only moderately impressed with the QC of the fixture. Hoping that TEK comes out with a 72” at some point :/

Every drop of water is prepared and preheated before it is pumped into the tank. The Limestone bedrock under the water table here increases the tap water’s pH to 8.2+ and hardness (GH & KH) that exceeds the testing range with the standard drop kits. The tap water is great for African Cichlids and……………..African Cichlids. As such I run a 5 stage, dual membrane 150 GPD RO filter. Water is collected, mixed, and heated in 55 gallon barrels in the basement, and pumped upstairs to the tank during water changes. I also built a drain into the wall for waste water; water is simply siphoned out into the drain. No buckets!

I reconstituted the water to roughly 6.0 gH and about 3.0 kH using Epsom Salt, CaCl2, baking soda, lemon juice, and a little marine salt for other trace elements. The water is also treated with peat moss to drop the pH slightly and add some tannin to the water. pH crashes from the low kH have not been seen, and the whole tank is very stable.

I dose EI with KNO3, KH2PO4, CSM+B. Keeping levels of nitrates & phosphates stable has been extremely difficult due to the very high bioload. I do two water changes a week, swapping nearly 60 gallons of prepared water each change. Even still, excessive feeding for 1-2 days can cause massive spikes in nitrate & phosphates. I keep the fish well fed enough that they don’t revolt and tear apart plants, but not so much that I have to adjust EI dosing to compensate.

For substrate, I decided to reuse the PFS I had been using for years. I like the look of it, I like how clean it is, and cichlids love to dig in the stuff. I supplement the PFS w/ earthworm castings & Osmocote caps. There is also a good amount of mulm in the sand from years of use. The water is kept at temperature using (3) x Eheim Jager 200W heaters. I used to run Marineland Stealths, and those were great until they started to melt/crack and electrocute me. I like the Jagers more, as they haven’t shocked me.

Fauna:

This tank has seen a very diverse collection of fish in the past two years. Some were cool, some sucked, others died, many were killed and eaten. This is the current stock….they get along well with each other, but some have a personal vendetta against the plants. This really annoys me.

I'm not a huge fan of planting aquatic plants in this tank. I *really* don't like replanting the same plants several hours later. The fish play this game with me when I move something in the tank; I'll replant 3-4 times before they get tired of uprooting it. I think the male Yellow Acara tears the plants apart as some part of a mating ritual. He occasionally strips plants to the stem, and then abandons the site to harass his lady partner. He also tends to target certain kinds of plants; Hygrophilas rarely survive more than a few hours. Regardless of the frustration they cause, it is an absolutely stunning group of fish.

(14) HY511 Tetras
(4) High Fin Corydoras Sterbai
(8) Thin Bar Silver Dollars (Myleus Schomburgkii) ~ 5”-6”
(1) Electric Blue Ram
(1) German Blue Ram
(1) Green Severum Male ~ 6”

Flora:

Due to the combination of plant eating and plant destroying fish, I have attempted roughly 70 species that have not survived the tank. What’s left are mostly your basic, hardy, common plants.

Bacopa sp. 'Colorata'
Barclaya Longifolia
Blyxa Japonica
Cryptocoryne Crispatula 'Balansae'
Cryptocoryne Walkeri ‘Lutea’
Cryptocoryne Nurii
Cryptocoryne Wendtii ‘Bronze’
Cryptocoryne Wendtii ‘Florida Sunset’
Cryptocoryne Wendtii ‘Green Gecko’
Cryptocoryne Cordata (?)
Echinodorus Augustifolia 'vesuvius'
Echinodorus Ozelot
Echinodorus 'Kleiner Bar'
Hydrocotyle Verticillata
Hygrophila Polysperma ‘Sunset’
Hygrophila Araguaia
Hygroryza Aristata
Limnophila Aromatica
Limnophila Rugosa
Limnophila Sulawesi
Limnophila sp. 'Wavy'
Ludwigia Arcuata
Ludwigia Palustris
Ludwigia sp. 'Red'
Microsorum Pteropus sp. ‘Needleleaf’
Persicaria Kawagoeanum
Rotala sp. ‘Bangladesh’
Staurogyne sp. 'Bihar'
Staurogyne Repens
Vesicularia Dubyana 'Christmas'

The not so good news is, I’m moving in 3 weeks, and this is all getting torn down. I suppose starting fresh isn’t terrible though….I need a lot of work on my plant layout now that I have an idea of what I can grow in the tank.
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Last edited by RukoTheWonderDog; 08-13-2012 at 06:19 AM.. Reason: Updates
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Old 06-14-2012, 04:50 AM   #2
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Very noice!

Great piece of DW also!
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Old 06-14-2012, 05:35 AM   #3
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Absolutely gorgeous!
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Old 06-14-2012, 06:47 AM   #4
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Very nice! Enjoyed the write-up, too. Hate you hear that you have to tear it down, but sounds like you'll make it even better when you set it back up.
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Old 06-14-2012, 07:05 AM   #5
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Wow after reading your post and then looking at the photo I wasn't expecting it to be as good as it is!
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Old 06-14-2012, 02:44 PM   #6
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I'm doing plants and cichlids too
re-planting, is starting to get on my nervs, especially because I came up with the brilliant idea of "hey, lets try dwarf hair grass", which is in itself annoying as hell to plant but then added with cichlids....uuggggghhhhhhhh
what I'm more surprised about though is that you can keep plants with the silver dollars you have, I tried a little anubias with them once, and they then ripped it down to the rhizome.
same thing goes with the sevurms, always heard that those were big on plant eating, did you manage to find a way to get them to cut down on pruning your plants for you? or did you just get lucky and end up with fish that stopped caring about destroying the plants?
sad to see this thing get torn down, but are you going to do another planted cichlid tank? I kinda always loved the idea of being able to get things to work that generally aren't supposed to work, such as this. great job man
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Old 06-14-2012, 03:47 PM   #7
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majestic tank !
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Old 06-14-2012, 05:48 PM   #8
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I have a huge bioload and don't dose much KNO3 or KH2P04. The fish produce plenty of nitrate and phospho comes from the food. Instead I dose Potassium Sulfate. If I feed the same everyday I can keep my nitrates and Phospates at acceptable levels.

Great tank. Sorry to hear that you hate the tank. Big tanks can be alot of work.
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Old 06-14-2012, 06:34 PM   #9
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Thanks for all the kind words!

Quote:
Originally Posted by octavusprime View Post
Great tank. Sorry to hear that you hate the tank. Big tanks can be alot of work.
I mean this tongue in cheek...I do keep it up and running because I also love it, and oddly enough it is my daily Zen. I hate certain aspects of the tank, and it chaps my butt that the inhabitants enjoy tearing stuff up for sport.

All in all, the past two years since this tank has been up has been more positive than negative.

Quote:
Originally Posted by HybridHerp View Post
.....what I'm more surprised about though is that you can keep plants with the silver dollars you have, I tried a little anubias with them once, and they then ripped it down to the rhizome.
same thing goes with the sevurms, always heard that those were big on plant eating, did you manage to find a way to get them to cut down on pruning your plants for you? or did you just get lucky and end up with fish that stopped caring about destroying the plants?
I firmly believe that individual behavior is to blame here. The current myleuses in the tank as well as the other 5 spotted silver dollars that used to inhabit the tank never were problematic. The green severum has also never been a problem, however the Super Red Severum, the Gold Severum, and the Rotkeil severums did raise hell with plant growth (notice that they are no longer part of the community ^_^). The green severum is just super laid back....he eats from my hand and doesn't mind a little petting from time to time. Even while guarding eggs, he never got overly aggressive or desructive. His mate, the Super Red, managed to kill two Electric Blue Rams and destroyed 2 square feet of heavy plant growth per day. I litterally lost hundreds of dollars of livestock and flora in a matter of days.

Quote:
Originally Posted by HybridHerp View Post

....sad to see this thing get torn down, but are you going to do another planted cichlid tank? I kinda always loved the idea of being able to get things to work that generally aren't supposed to work, such as this.
I will be keeping the same plants and livestock, just going to be moving the tank to the new apartment. The tear down will only be for a day

I also like challenging the rules of fishkeeping. Has it been successful? Well, I suppose that depends on your definition of success. This isn't a perfectly maintained, manicured, planted tank and for that reason many won't like it. Most people though really enjoy sitting down and watching the sitcom unfold.
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Old 06-14-2012, 07:44 PM   #10
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Parts of it have been succesful, but my issue spots are stem plants and the fact that I had below low light lol
Interesting though, I can keep mts and mystery snails with my cichlids as well. I'll keep you posted on how my things go
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Old 06-15-2012, 01:54 PM   #11
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btw, how are you liking the Florida Sunset Wendtii? I was thinking of picking some up for my tank, as well as some of that sunset hygro. Could we get any pics of the plants, either old or after you set everything back up?
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Old 06-15-2012, 10:12 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HybridHerp View Post
btw, how are you liking the Florida Sunset Wendtii? I was thinking of picking some up for my tank, as well as some of that sunset hygro. Could we get any pics of the plants, either old or after you set everything back up?
The Florida Sunset is pretty cool, although it doesn't have pink streaks on the tops of the leaves like you often see pictured. I'm growing the majority of it emersed, and that is considerably more colorful than the submersed plants, which almost look like a streaky brown Wendtii.

The H. Polysperma 'Sunset' is fantastic, although the plants were moved from my emersed setups into the tank fairly recently. It will be interesting to see if the new growth will have the bright pink veining.

I'll have some more pictures after setup; I only posted the single picture because I want to have a reference for the future. Once I get it setup again, I'll post pics on a regular basis.
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Old 06-16-2012, 04:15 AM   #13
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that's disappointing about the Florida Sunset, I was thinking of picking some up and trying it out in-between a red tiger lotus and a banana plant, but am not thinking otherwise
I definitly want the hygro though, do you find that the cichlids give it a hard time?
I'm just having issues with stem plants to begin with, and dwarf hair grass...I'm starting to wonder what part of me thought dwarf hair grass was a good idea XD
that and with floating plants...because then anything uprooted just becomes lost in the mass of red root floater and amazon frogbit lol

btw, how do you like the 18 little tetras you have in there? I have that species in my low tech 10 but never thought of mixing them in with cichlids, does it work well? I'm considering adding in a shoal of swordtails though, mainly cause I have an endli bichir that would make quick work of small fish (though it leaves baby cichlids alone for some odd reason)
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Old 06-16-2012, 05:03 PM   #14
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I used the non-Sunset H. Polysperma as ground cover early on (I mistook it for a variety of staurogyne) and it was never a problem with the fish. I did however, initially put a 7" of the Hygro Sunset in the 180 when I received it, and it was literally torn apart within minutes. This larger chunk has not been destroyed yet.

The tetras are great; they add a really nice dynamic to the tank. The roommate calls the group "The Small Fish Contingent" because they seem to have some clout. Like with the plants, large numbers of fish seem to do better than individuals.
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Old 07-29-2012, 02:10 PM   #15
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*UPDATE* 7/29/12

I have successfully tore down, moved, and setup this beast once again. Unfortunately, I encountered several show stopping problems which prolonged my setup time. Coupled with the high 90 degree temps on tank moving day, I lost a majority of my uncommon and more costly plants. The casualties included:

-C. Affinis sp. Metallic Red 'Pahang Barat'
-majority of C. Walkeri Lutea
-complete loss of C. Nurii
-majority of C. Balansae
-complete loss of B. Japonica
-complete loss of Limno. Sulawesi
-E. sp. 'Red Diamond'
-complete loss of all varieties of Bacopa (including the 'Colorata' and Australis I had just added a week prior)
-majority of Persicaria Kawagoeanum
-complete eradication of all Hygrophila species in the tank.

Bummer.

I also removed the Peckoltia Compta L134 to make room for some additional Cory Sterbai. The corys are active in the day, and the P. Compta was not.

I did however have some additions to the tank; Jeff Rapps had another shipment of F0 Myleus Schomburgkii and I purchased an additional 4. I suspect that I will have to thin out the herd at some point, possibly removing another male or two.

Also, my local shop received a shipment of very large Kleiner Bar swords and mislabeled them at $4.99. I had to get one.

Will update with pictures soon.
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