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Old 07-02-2013, 01:05 PM   #91
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CO2 ran out. And the tank is out of hydro. I guess that's what I get for pulling a 7 year old rig out of the closet and running it.

I'm going to bring it to my usual gas supply place who swap tanks, and see if they'll swap it out of hydro.
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Old 07-02-2013, 01:09 PM   #92
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Exciting to see this beast planted!
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Old 07-02-2013, 01:49 PM   #93
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Thanks. It's quite the milestone. I have to say, every day I am happier about my switch from reef to planted FW. I certainly enjoyed the reef and all, but this is just so much less stress.

And cheaper. My entire cost to convert (substrate, driftwood, plants, few plumbing and electrical odds and ends, test kits, fertilizers, fish) is going to be a tiny fraction of what the reef cost to set up. And ongoing operating costs are going to be much less, too.
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Old 07-03-2013, 02:53 PM   #94
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And, I am back in action with CO2. The local welding shop swapped the non-hydro'd tank, no questions asked. The tank they gave me has hydro dates going back to the early 1960's. I guess that says something about the durability of a steel tank.

Last night I also finished rigging the auto topoff/auto water change system. This is probably my favorite part of the system because I think I've managed to hit the sweet spot of "simple yet effective." I've done all kinds of ATO and auto water change setups on marine tanks, but the flexibility of not having to maintain salinity means I can combine the two on this system.

I don't remember if I explained it in detail yet so here goes. In the basement below the tank, there's the remnant of my old RO/DI unit. Basically, just the prefilters - sediment, and two carbon blocks. This ensures the water has no sediment and really bad things (chlorine) are gone. A standard poly line runs from this filter up to the bottom of the stand, through a chaise I use for plumbing and wiring.

Inside the stand, the water supply line goes through a solenoid. The solenoid is on a timer. After the solenoid, the line runs up over the rim of the tank and is secured to the return plumbing from the main pump.

Inside the filter box (old overflow box), one of the 1.5" bulkheads in the wall of the tank is plumbed to a 90 that points straight up, with a very short length of straight pipe. This upwards-facing pipe terminates right where I want the water line in the box. It's covered with a home-made grille to keep fish/plants/filter media/whatever from getting in. On the outside of the tank, this bulkhead is connected to a standard hose bib that has a hose on it, which runs outside the house to a drain in the yard.

The solenoid on the water supply line is on a timer that I can set to run for a few minutes each day. I haven't dialed this in yet, but the eventual goal is to set it so it runs JUST longer than required to account for topoff. When it runs, the water level in the filter box rises. Once it hits the level of the drain, old water drains outside the house.

With this design, I can account for evaporation, AND perform very small daily water changes, with nothing more than a timer and a solenoid. No float switches to run the ATO! No complications! If the solenoid sticks shut, I have probably 5 or 6 days before the main pump starts sucking air, no big deal. If the solenoid sticks open, no big deal, extra water just goes down the drain. If the drain partially clogs, well - it's got a whole day before the water supply runs again to drain the small "extra" water. If the drain clogs 100%, I will have probably a week or two before the "extra" water builds up enough to cause a spill. If the drain clogs 100% AND the solenoid sticks open, I've got probably 6 or 8 hours before a spill. These are acceptable levels of risk in my book, and way way less risk than most people with ATOs or auto water change functionality seem to have.

If I want a large water change, I can just override the timer and let it run for whatever interval I want. The water enters slowly enough that I'm not worried about matching temperature. I will NEVER have to deal with lugging buckets of water or hoses or any of the typical mess associated with water changes! If I did ever decide that I needed to siphon detritus from the substrate, I can just unscrew the drain hose and start a siphon in it, suck things out, then override the timer and let the tank refill.
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Old 07-06-2013, 02:14 PM   #95
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First fish are in! As of yesterday. Six otos, two red tail zebra sand loaches, one bushynose pleco baby. Figured I would start small.

Took about two hours of searching this morning with me and the kids, and we can find three otos, the loaches, and I finally got lucky and saw the pleco. I knew small camoflaged fish would blend in but man, this is hard work!

The lfs has a low tech planted 120, mostly crypts and anubias. They recently put a huge school of cardinals in. It looks AMAZING. One of the lamps in the florescent fixture is actinic, the fish practically glow. I've never seen an actinic lamp over FW like that. My RB LEDs would create a similar effect I bet. I may have to do a school of neons or cards after all.

Also I may take out the twiggy wood. I have been spending a bunch of effort trying to convince myself that I like it and I think it's time to give up.

PS, after putting the CO2 tank back on earlier in the week, my drop checker stayed blue. Spent a good while troubleshooting and found a kink in the line. Still no juice. Then realized the tank valve was closed.
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Old 07-06-2013, 06:12 PM   #96
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Your tank looks great. Give the java fern some time to settle in and it will really fill out in time. Definitely get some Cardinals, I've got a school of 200 or so in my tank and they look amazing under RGB Leds. As for a super "low maintenance carpet plant"- I recommend planting some Staurogyne Repens. It grows into a very tight thatch and stays low to the substrate. I've had some growing in my tank for nearly 2 years now and it's never needed a trim. Given enough time, it's going to carpet the whole tank.
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Old 07-07-2013, 02:07 PM   #97
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I don't think I have the open space to support a school of 200! When I was scaping I was firmly convinced that I would never be able to overfill a tank this big but I kinda think I did...
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Old 07-07-2013, 07:41 PM   #98
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Oh you'd be surprised how many small fish can go unnoticed in a large, heavily planted tank. I can probably only see 20% of the fish in my tank at any one time, and there's over 300 in there. Some of my fish go months between sightings. Just about the time I give them up for dead- they make a brief appearance at the front glass. LOL
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Old 07-08-2013, 03:15 PM   #99
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Well, pre-fish I have a few more things to nail down. I'm happy with CO2 being dialed in now. I basically set it up in what I thought would be a "temporary" way until I got some sort of official method set up (needlewheel pump or reactor or something) but this is working so I'm going to leave it. Basically, I took one of those el-cheapo ceramic disk diffusers and stuffed it up against the intake strainer for the main system pump. At this high a flow rate, the bubbles come out of that diffuser really big, but they all immediately get sucked through the pump. There are some microbubbles in the tank when it's on, but not a ton, and they don't really distract, so I'm OK with it.

Also I just realized I never mentioned my final choice for filter media:

http://www.doitbest.com/Scouring+pad...sku-632989.dib

The pricing is confusing - you're paying $12 for a 12-pack of 8-packs of scrubbies. I bought two. So I have 196. I left out two 8-packs, so I have 176 scrubbies in the filter box. $24 for this much bio media is a really good price in my book. I don't really know if I trust or value the "surface area per unit volume" metric for bio media, but anecdotally these things sure look really good - they definitely have more surface than a bio-ball, that's for sure.

One of the remaining items is working out a fertilizer regime. I have dry chemicals for fertilizers - KNO3, K2SO4, KH2PO4, and CSM+B. As the tank sits naturally, water parameters are more or less as follows:

pH (CO2 off) ~7.6
pH (CO2 saturated, ~30ppm according to my drop checker) ~6.8 - 7.0
Ammonia: 0
Nitrite: 0
Nitrate: 0
PO4: .3ppm
5 dKH

The filtered tapwater I'm doing topoff and changes with is generally close to these numbers.

Over the weekend I dosed a small amount of CSM+B and K2SO4 (I am leery of dosing lots of things I can't measure). I also dosed ~4 grams of KNO3. I think my approach will be to dose KNO3 until it hits a target of 10ppm. Then, let the tank sit for a few days and measure NO3 and PO4. Then, try to determine a useage rate based on how much the parameters dropped per day.

Once I know the daily consumption of NO3 and PO4, I will know how much KNO3 and KH2PO4 to dose.

That leaves CSM+B and K2SO4 up in the air. I am making some assumptions about the levels of K and traces: they are hard to test, accuracy is less important, and they're used in somewhat fixed ratios to N and P. So, my plan for choosing dose rates for CSM+B and K2SO4 is to look at what others are doing for dosing these two in proportion to N and P dosing, and then just copying that ratio.

I am hoping to dose once or twice a week. Small daily water changes as described above, probably with larger water changes on an infrequent basis.

Anyone see issues with this approach?
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Old 07-08-2013, 05:22 PM   #100
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Dosing ferts like that isn't something I've done yet so I have no experience, but have you looked at the EI for dosing? Tom Barr has an excellent method that might help you get your dosing figured out.
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Old 07-08-2013, 06:22 PM   #101
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You can model your dosing and water change strategy here. http://calc.petalphile.com/

Dose the phosphate now too. It has a serious public relations image problem it doesn't deserve. Plants sparkle and GSA vanishes when it is used liberally.

I'd go the other way around and use EI at first. Once you see how plants do in the tank try reducing/increasing dosing. Don't look at tests to determine how much NPK the tank needs as some of your plants may look better with a lot more in there than seems reasonable according to a water test. I have gone through lots of algae plagues and usually plants aren't growing well then algae attacks. I've gotten rid of algae using NPK, never rid the tank of algae by withholding nutrients. Well, occasionally a black out has worked - light is a nutrient too.

I am all about numbers but have to go on hunches sometimes. I dosed more and more and upped the CO2 and light and still Rotala was stunted. On a hunch I put in a bit of GH booster. My tap water ought to have plenty of magnesium and calcium as I am in southern California but apparently not enough for Rotala. It doesn't stunt now and my snail shells are again healthy.
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Old 07-08-2013, 08:16 PM   #102
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I appreciate the feedback. It seems to me like part of the point of traditional EI is so you know you're not limiting plants but you don't have to test. I don't mind testing and honestly I don't care if the plants are limited. Tom seems to make a point often that algae issues are mostly linked to lighting, CO2, and ammonium, not fert dosing. If the only harm in getting ferts a bit wrong is slightly worse growth, I'm OK with that. One of the tenants of traditional EI is weekly 50% water changes, I am certainly not going to be doing that!

I am guessing that my method will get me close to what people would end up with by following the "hate water changes?" version of EI:

http://www.barrreport.com/showthread...l-modification

In the end, once the slower plants have really taken off, I'm planning on pulling out most of the fast growers and reducing dosing, moving the whole tank towards a lower-maintenance approach anyways.
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Old 07-12-2013, 12:20 PM   #103
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So after roughly a week of fiddling with fertilizers I'm already testing my attention span. It's not the "difficulty" of the action, it's just the fact that I have to do something every day. Yes I'm that lazy (told ya I got burned out on reefs). Regardless of which method I end up with, I'm starting to think about an auto doser...

Also I am no longer afraid of giant water changes, since I had the realization that I can effectively do a 50% water change by leaving my auto topoff running for about 20 hours, which can be accomplished with a timer. BRILLIANT!

Also I am definitely getting an auto feeder if anyone has ideas on those.
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Old 07-12-2013, 01:52 PM   #104
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The auto-doser sounds like a good idea - actually easier on a big tank like yours (in my mind) even if the dose is a little off or wahtever you have such a huge volume that it won't be a problem.

The auto top off whater change is very cool, you could could even leaving it throttled down to a slow stream and leave it running constantly. (Saw a youtube once of a guy who did a greenhouse style irrigation drip into his tank - could adjust anything from 100% a day to whatever percentage a day he wanted)

The auto feeders scare me (even though I have never used one) - too many stories of them clogging up and not feeding from the humidity.
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Old 07-13-2013, 06:02 PM   #105
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Well, around 50 neons went in today. They look AMAZING under the LEDs. Even under the typical daylight setting which is fairly warm the RB LEDs just make them explode with color. Somehow a stray rummynose ended up tagging along too (not sure how, the LFS keeps neons all on their own.) He looks good too.

I am starting to think I should choose more red or blue fish to take advantage of the lighting.
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