Nature/Dutch/Other Hybrid 29g (New Photos 12/5/12)
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Old 11-30-2012, 07:35 PM   #1
jshaffer740
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Nature/Dutch/Other Hybrid 29g (New Photos 12/5/12)


Hi fellow TPT members!

After a lot of tank journal "lurking", I have decided to finally start my own. What follows is my story up to this point (November 30th, 2012). Subsequent posts will track the progress of my current tank - what is referenced in the title to this thread.

Introduction
I got started in the general aquarium hobby not too long ago - probably around mid-September of this year. Since that time it has been a major learning experience, with my tank(s) going through many changes and iterations as I learned more about both fish keeping, and planted tanks. This journal is going to end up being kept about my latest tank/iteration, but I think it would be helpful (both for me and you) if I tell you my story up to this point. Then you will know where I came from, and I will have a record of my progress.

September 2012 - The Beginning
It was not that long ago that I decided I wanted to get "back" into the aquarium hobby. When I say "back", that is sort of a misnomer, as I have never been seriously into the hobby. I have had several tanks in the past (at least several years ago), mostly smaller tanks, which faced the usual problems of an inexperienced, under-informed aquarist. I didn't know what a cycle was, didn't know about stocking levels, didn't know a thing about planted tanks, and so on. Of course I was never successful with those tanks, and none really lasted over 9 months or a year.

Fast forward to September 2012. My brother decided to start a tank a few months previously, and after seeing his tank, and learning much more about the chemistry and biology of an aquarium, I decided it was something I was very interested in. I felt I had enough knowledge (looking back I can't believe how much I still did not know - and still don't!) to be successful in the hobby. So, armed with money to burn and a new sense of determination, I headed to my LFS and left with a lot of new equipment and a lot to do!

Original Equipment List - September 2012:
  • Top Fin 37g (30x12x22) Aquarium
  • Marineland C-220 Canister Filter
  • Marineland LED Fixture
  • Top Fin Heater
  • Assorted artificial plants
  • Standard aquarium gravel

Of course there were so many other things to buy that I did not have - siphon, scraper, test kit, etc. It was not a cheap day! But I came home, set up the tank to my satisfaction, and began my fish-less cycle (after a trip to ACE Hardware for some pure ammonia, of course ). Here is a photo of the original setup:



I happily cycled this tank, added livestock, and enjoyed it for several weeks. However, as is true with many of my hobbies, I soon began to long for something to do, or add to the tank. Something that could keep my busy with the hobby. After perusing the forums, I started reading and seeing more and more about these things called "planted tanks" . I was bitten.

November 2012 - Part I
Fast forward a few more weeks, and I was back at the LFS. Now at this point I had not read much about the idea of "aquascaping", so I went in without much of a plan in that regard. I would say that my original tank vision was much more of what I would now call a "jungle" style. I also picked up a new piece of DW, as I felt the artificial piece I originally had would not work well now that I was moving towards live plants. My original plan was to do medium light, no-pressurized CO2, and EI dosing. So I picked up an Aquaticlife dual-bulb 30" T5HO fixture, Excel, and standard EI ferts from GLA.

I went home, planted my new purchases (I wouldn't call it aquascaping at this point...), and began the process of caring for my new plants. Here is a picture of that set up:



November 2012 - Part II
Fast-forward another week. Now I've done more reading - on CO2, on aquascaping, on filtration and flow, etc. I decided I wanted to move to high-light, pressurized CO2, and upgrade my filtration setup. So its back to the LFS, and GLA. At the LFS I picked up an Eheim 2217, and another Aquaticlife T5HO fixture, which I linked to the original. I also picked up a Fluval Spec V (5g) and some flora, but that is a story for another journal.

At GLA I ordered an Atomic V3 regulator (after much consternation and conversation with the owner), Atomic atomizer diffuser, and CO2 resistant tubing. I also picked up two CO2 tanks at my local welding supply, filled of course.

I then added the various pieces of new equipment to the tank. Here are two photos of the diffuser and filter/CO2 setup:





I also decided that while I was making changes, that a re-scape was in order (you could also just call it a scape as the first setup was never really an aquascape). This time I actually put some thought into plant positioning, substrate slope, etc. The final product of that scape (this was just the day after) is this photo:



This was what I had running for a few more weeks. Until, after more research, inspiration, learning, and (what I feel is going to be my biggest weakness in this hobby) general unhappiness with the current setup, I decided that I wanted to move this setup to a 29 gallon, and rescape.

November 2012 - Part III
It wasn't that I was really unhappy with the 37g, it was just that I could see this format was going to present some challenges for a planted tank. The height of it is tricky - it takes a lot of light to get sufficient PAR for light-demanding plants. Also, the ratio of the height and width are difficult. You need plants to grow quite tall to fill up some of that height, but unfortunately by the time they get sufficiently tall, the lower regions of the plant begin to show thin growth due to reduced light. It also becomes increasingly challenging to hide outward root growth on stem plants. Finally, hardscaping is more challenging with that height as well.

All of these facts are pretty known to many on this forum, and it's not that 37g is impossible. It's just that aesthetically and practically-speaking, the ratio of a 29g seems to work much better for planted tank purposes. And that was pretty much my main option, as the footprint is exactly the same as a 37g - meaning it would fit my current stand well.

So now we end the "history" part of this journal, and can move into the actual tank journal.

29 Gallon Journal - The Beginning
When I was thinking about this tank, I had a few different ideas in mind. I have always liked the look of driftwood in a tank, so I knew that an Iwagumi was out for this tank (although I would love to do one in the future - but that almost demands an ADA setup, which I don't currently have). I like concepts from the Nature Aquarium style, namely the big emphasis on hardscape placement, the importance of "empty" space as well as planted space, the idea of carpeting plants, and the overall aesthetic of what I would call "heightened" nature. However I also like concepts of the Dutch style - variety, the manicured, well-taken-care-of look (although I prefer it to be a little more wild, not fully "topiary-like"), the use of reds and contrasting colors, and the idea of "streets" of plants.

I decided on using driftwood, and something more "branchy" than what I had before, but not quite manzanita. I also had a better idea this time of what types of plants I liked, based on my current set up. Furthermore, I knew more about the final stages of what the plants would look like. The first time I tried this, I bought and scaped based on the current status of the plant. However this time, I sort of imagined what the final stage of the plant would be when planting. This was strange and counter-intuitive, because as you're planting it doesn't necessarily look right. But you know in your vision that once fully grown-in, and pruned appropriately, it will look great.

So with all of that in mind, I went to the LFS, picked up a 29g. I also spent about 30 minutes in the store trying out various pieces of dw in my tank. I definitely did not do this the first time I scaped. It made a huge difference though - because I was confident in the piece I had selected. It was fun, too, because the manager came over and offered advice, and even took me around showing some of the "special" pieces that he really liked. I think he was just happy to have someone as into planted tanks as he is.

After the dw, I also purchased more plants. Between my first planted tank and the current one, I realized how important and how much more successful a tank is if you densely plant from the get go. So I primarily purchased additional plants of the type I currently have, although I did add some Blyxa japonica to the list. I felt it would be a nice mid-ground plant, and help hide some of the stem plants' lower area. I also decided to replace the substrate with Eco-complete. I did 2 bags of Eco-complete, and I also purchased 1 large bag of standard black aquarium gravel. I used this almost like ADA powersand to help with the slope as a cheaper alternative. Finally, I picked up some flourish tabs to add to the substrate to assist the heavy root-feeders.

I got home, and began the laborious process of moving all the fish to a temporary tank, disassembling the 37g, draining, de-planting, etc. etc. This took a while! Luckily the fish were fine as they had a nice filtered, heated, temporary home (So far I have not lost any in the new tank due to stress).

I laid out all of the plants I had to work with. This picture shows that (although it does not show the DHG I had separated into little plantings on another towel):



I utilized the method of laying down substrate, getting the hardscape right, misting the substrate, and planting in an inch or two of water. Wow! That was SO much easier than what I did originally - i.e. planting in a tank 1/2 to 3/4 full of water. I have no idea why I didn't do this before.

I then re-ran all of the various pieces of equipment, and fired it all back up. When all was said and done, several (several) hours later, this was the finished product:



There are several things to note. First, there are lots of bubbles from the initial fill - those have of course dissipated. Also, as I alluded to earlier in this post, I believe that the final look of this tank will be much different once everything grows in and is pruned properly. I expect the DHG to fully carpet the front; the Diandra in the back right and left (much of which is not visible) to fill in and be the tallest plants in the tank; the c. carolina in the back middle (much of which you also cannot see) to fill in and be taller (although I will probably slope it down some to create some open space in the top to the left of the dw), and also that floating piece of dw on the top left is actually supposed to be submerged in the substrate to the left between the DHG and the Blyxa. Hopefully as it soaks up water it will lose some of its buoyancy.

However, all-in-all, I am pretty pleased with where it currently stands. I am looking forward to seeing how it progresses, and will try to take more pictures than I have so far. I know it is much more interesting to see than to read.

To conclude and for my own record, here is the current "equipment" list for the tank:

Equipment:
  • Eheim 2217
  • Eheim Jager 150W Heater
  • Atomic V3 Regulator
  • Atomic 55mm Diffuser
  • (2x) 5lb CO2 Tanks
  • (2x) Aquaticlife TH50 Dual-Bulb Fixtures w/ Stock 24W bulbs
  • Koralia Nano 240

And overall plan:
  • EI dosing - following the 20-40g standard guidlines
  • Flourish tabs
  • 9 hour photoperiod
  • 50% weekly WC
  • Waiting 2 weeks before first pruning

And finally, my current stocking. This is one area I also wish I had done with more planted tank research. I really would rather have a large school of some smaller fish, with a few otos, and the loaches I currently have (I love those guys). Oh well, live and learn!
  • (8) Danios rerios (Longfin Leopard Danio)
  • (5) Hyphessobrycon eques (Serpae tetra)
  • (5) Puntius tetrazona (Tiger barb)
  • (3) Botia almorhae (Yo-yo/Pakistani Loaches)
  • (3) Otocinclus vestitus


The Beginning (Again)
Whew! Well that post was MUCH longer than I originally expected when I set out to create it. But I felt it would be good for my own benefit to capture my own journey thus far. I will post regular updates as the tank progresses. As always, I would love any constructive feedback you may have - this forum is where I have learned everything so far, and I always learn more from your comments.

Thanks for reading!

Jason

Last edited by jshaffer740; 12-05-2012 at 05:27 PM.. Reason: Updated title
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Old 12-01-2012, 01:39 AM   #2
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Update: I'm already seen a lot of good growth. I'm in the process of taking some photos and will have those uploaded once processed. Thanks for reading!
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Old 12-03-2012, 03:46 PM   #3
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Here are some additional pictures showing the tank from different angles. Please excuse the iPhone pictures - I have yet to take proper photos with my digital camera. I'm starting to see growth in the c. carolina and diandra in the back, which is good. Also, I removed the cryptocoryne wendtii that was in the front. It was making the scape a little crowded I thought. Anyway, let me know if you have any thoughts. Thanks!









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Old 12-03-2012, 05:31 PM   #4
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This looks really amazing! I can't wait to see it all filled in!! I'm truly in shock as to the intensity of the initial planting! Take that algae!
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Old 12-03-2012, 05:36 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by urbguy View Post
This looks really amazing! I can't wait to see it all filled in!! I'm truly in shock as to the intensity of the initial planting! Take that algae!
Ha - that's exactly what I was thinking. I didn't want to give algae a chance. Many of the videos of Amano and others show much denser initial planting than what I was used to, and I thought maybe that was part of the trick. Also, my 37g had given me some good growth, so I was able to cut many of the stems from that tank in half and effectively double the number of plantings I had to work with.

We'll see how it goes! Fingers crossed - I'll keep the updates coming.

Thanks for the comments!
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Old 12-03-2012, 05:39 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jshaffer740 View Post
Ha - that's exactly what I was thinking. I didn't want to give algae a chance. Many of the videos of Amano and others show much denser initial planting than what I was used to, and I thought maybe that was part of the trick. Also, my 37g had given me some good growth, so I was able to cut many of the stems from that tank in half and effectively double the number of plantings I had to work with.

We'll see how it goes! Fingers crossed - I'll keep the updates coming.

Thanks for the comments!
I was about to say! That would have all costed a really pretty penny. I'm glad everything worked in your favor! Now, the only thing to do is wait...
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Old 12-03-2012, 05:42 PM   #7
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I was about to say! That would have all costed a really pretty penny. I'm glad everything worked in your favor! Now, the only thing to do is wait...
Yeah - that's the hardest part. I'm planning on waiting about 2 weeks before the first pruning. Hopefully that will give things some time to get acclimated and some rooting done before trimming. I am noticing melting on the blyxia japonica - not sure if that is normal or not. I see new growth starting at the base of those plantings, so I assume the old leaves will melt and make way for new - but I'm not sure.

Otherwise everything is looking healthy and green (or red in the case of a few plants!)

Jason
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Old 12-03-2012, 05:54 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by jshaffer740 View Post
Yeah - that's the hardest part. I'm planning on waiting about 2 weeks before the first pruning. Hopefully that will give things some time to get acclimated and some rooting done before trimming. I am noticing melting on the blyxia japonica - not sure if that is normal or not. I see new growth starting at the base of those plantings, so I assume the old leaves will melt and make way for new - but I'm not sure.

Otherwise everything is looking healthy and green (or red in the case of a few plants!)

Jason
It's pretty normal. Since you have moved onto higher equipment you'll see new growth in no time, plus you have root tabs. My tank is similar to your medium light set up, I just bought like 2 packets of root tabs to give further nurients to my plants. I've tried the high tech approach and I couldn't really keep up with maintenance; however, you're doing awesome.
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Old 12-03-2012, 05:58 PM   #9
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Very fun read! When those plants fill in around the beautiful piece of wood your tank is going to be great! It sure does make things more interesting when a person has a love for different styles and puts them in one tank. Nice job.
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Old 12-03-2012, 06:07 PM   #10
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Very fun read! When those plants fill in around the beautiful piece of wood your tank is going to be great! It sure does make things more interesting when a person has a love for different styles and puts them in one tank. Nice job.
Thanks for the comments! I am definitely anxious to see it progress and fill in. I love when there is thick, lush group of mid-ground and foreground plant enveloping a piece of driftwood. I am hoping to get there with some time and a little luck.

And yes, I definitely have a love and appreciation for the different styles. I think it is what makes this hobby so interesting. There is such an unlimited amount of possibility and creativity that can take place in the exact same dimensions with the exact same plants. I love seeing what everyone comes up with.

Finally, thanks for reading my novel! I'm glad you enjoyed it

Jason
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Old 12-03-2012, 06:31 PM   #11
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I couldn't agree with you more I will be waiting for your plants to fill in and see what you do with it.
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Old 12-04-2012, 01:52 AM   #12
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Jason, you're doing a wonderful job on your 29g!! I just started my 29g back up and your tank is certainly an inspirational piece. If I could make a suggestion, I think anubias nana and fissidens fontanus would look fantastic on the driftwood that you have. Overall, though, this journal is definitely going on my subscriptions list!
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Old 12-04-2012, 02:50 AM   #13
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Jason, you're doing a wonderful job on your 29g!! I just started my 29g back up and your tank is certainly an inspirational piece. If I could make a suggestion, I think anubias nana and fissidens fontanus would look fantastic on the driftwood that you have. Overall, though, this journal is definitely going on my subscriptions list!
Thank you for the kind words. Now I'm going to have a look at your 29! I like drawing inspiration from other tanks . Thanks for the suggestion. I'll probably wait and see how it looks once things are more grown in, but I definitely have been wondering what I could/should do with the dw. I might have to get ahold of some of those plants and try them out. Sometimes that's the only way to know for sure. Thanks again!

Jason
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Old 12-04-2012, 03:28 PM   #14
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One thing I forgot to mention in my original post is that when planting, I utilized the method employed by Amano and others, of using toothpicks/wooden skewers to outline where you want your various groupings of plants. This was really helpful for me in envisioning my groupings prior to planting. It helped ensure tight, defined groups. You can see it best in some of the overhead photos I attached in a prior post.
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Old 12-05-2012, 05:26 PM   #15
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Week of growth:

November 28, 2012:


December 5, 2012:


Next week I'll give a two-week comparison, and then proceed with a major pruning.

Thanks for looking!

Jason
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