Low Tech, Planted 125g - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 16 (permalink) Old 09-29-2016, 02:03 AM Thread Starter
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Low Tech, Planted 125g

SPECS
Low-tech (no CO2)
Gallons: 125g
Measurements: 72" length, 18" depth, 21" height
Lighting: (2) Finnex Planted+ 24/7 LED
Filtration: Aquatop FORZA F213 Canister Filter
Heating: (2) Cobalt Aquatics Neo-Therm Heater 200w
Substrate: top soil capped w/ Safe-T-Sorb & pool filter sand
Dosing: EI for low-tech (no Excel) & water changes twice/year when tank is stabilized

Plants:
Dwarf Water Lettuce
Hornwort
-----
Fissidens fontanus “Phoenix Moss”
Callicostella sp. Pancuraji
Bali Moss
China Moss
Brazil Moss
Taxiphyllum sp. “Peacock Moss”
Pilotrichaceae sp. "Pilo moss”
-----
Glosso elantindoides
Pennywort
Stauro "Low Grow"
Crypt wendtii "Green"
-----
Blyxa japonica
Monte Carlo
Echinodorus parviflorus
Crypt lucens
-----
Anubias "nana"
Crypt red metallic affinis
Crypt bronze
Java Fern Needle Leaf
Bolbitus
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Anubias "coffeefolia"
Anubias "nancon"
Echinodorus I have no idea whatsoever
Echinodorus melon
Echinodorus bleheri
Java Fern
Dwarf sag
Bacopa carolinians
Water Wisteria
-----
Anubas "nana petite"
Buce "Velvet Leaf 4"
Buce "Hades"

Fish, etc.:
Female bettas (have five, they get along well)
Lemon Tetras
Black Neon Tetras
Harlequin Rasboras
Bristlenose Plecos (have two females that do a great job on algae, so might not need Otos)
Cories (pandas, adolfoi, concolor, or a mix)
Kuhli loaches
Shrimp?

I’m currently sanding the wooden tank stand. It was previously kept in an underground room that was very damp, and the carpeting wicked moisture up to the bottom of the tank stand, which left the wood discolored. I’m using a hand-sander, but it’s still taking forever, due to the inclement weather (I also obviously need to sand the deck it’s sitting on).

I’m using Safe-T-Sorb because of the low cost, the high CEC, and the nice, dark color. I have read that it can crash the KH/pH, although it’s less likely to do so in hard water. I’ve dumped 3” of STS in a bucket with water, and I’ll be testing the parameters over the next couple of weeks.

The first result is from Tetra Easy Strips, and the second is from API. I know that the results from the Easy Strips are not as accurate, but my water’s pH falls right between API’s pH and High pH tests (the exact colors are confusing), so I’m using Tetra as a back-up.

—————
9/28/16 - Just did the 3rd day test results. The KH is finally budging, although the pH seems to be around the same. The GH definitely went back up, although the Safe-T-Sorb is supposed to lower the KH, not the GH. Not sure what happened there. The ammonia continues to rise.

I’m going to get a pH pen. I had one 15 years ago when I was last in the hobby, but this time around I didn’t see them available at a large retailer I used to frequent, so I assumed they weren’t available anymore, but I’ve since read of someone else using one, so I’m just looking in the wrong place. It’s just to satisfy my curiosity since I’ve read that neither test strips nor liquid drops tests are very accurate.

I wish this rain would hold off another day so I can get further on the sanding of the tank stand! My mom asked me why I didn’t just paint it instead of sanding & re-staining. I didn’t have a good answer.
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Last edited by Butterfly Bettas; 11-23-2016 at 01:18 AM. Reason: updating
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post #2 of 16 (permalink) Old 09-29-2016, 03:35 PM
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cool shelf. has that rustic style. very classic. those hinges though. hope to see some plants and fishes on top of that rack soon. SUB
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post #3 of 16 (permalink) Old 09-29-2016, 06:21 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks, SUB! LOL, I never thought about the hinges. Some dark brown ones would look nice with the final staining.

About another week, and I'll have the stand finished. Then the tank will be brought up from the basement and cleaned. I found pool filter sand that was still in stock, so I'll buy that this weekend and also check out the ingredients of cheap topsoil. Also need to get more stain and possibly different sealant. Has anyone had good results with using a spray-can sealant?

I had originally considered pearl gouramis for this tank and leaving the top open, but now I'm going to use the glass tops I have and put the betta girls in instead (one of them is quite a jumper). The tops will also keep the moisture from the LED lights.

This is my current 28g bowfront. Sad, I know, but everyone's healthy. It houses 3 betta girls and 2 female bristlenose plecos.
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post #4 of 16 (permalink) Old 09-30-2016, 07:50 PM Thread Starter
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Does anyone know what kind of plant this is? Some type of crypt? It's about 3" across, and grows extremely flat with a slight wave at the edge of its leaves. The aquarium light is an old, 15w florescent bulb. I have two of these plants left that I'd like to move in to the new 125g for the DSM.

Edited to say: May be Cryptocoryne wendtii "green". It will be interesting to see how its growth pattern changes in the new tank/lighting/substrate.
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Last edited by Butterfly Bettas; 10-04-2016 at 02:45 AM. Reason: Add update
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post #5 of 16 (permalink) Old 10-03-2016, 09:19 PM Thread Starter
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7 day water testing. Ammonia continues to rise slowly; everything else has stayed the same. It looks like my hard water is keeping the Safe-T-Sorb in check.

I've purchased pool filter sand and top soil, and today my aquarium lights, planting tools, thermometers, and pH pen arrive! And we FINALLY have a beautiful day outside, so I can hopefully finish sanding the stand. Tomorrow should be nice, too, so perhaps I can make some progress on the staining. Then 3 more days of rain. Come ON!
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post #6 of 16 (permalink) Old 10-04-2016, 08:57 PM Thread Starter
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Well, I might have overdone it today, but the tank stand is now sanded! I did two grades of sandpaper, and I have to admit that I didn't sand the innermost part (figured that no one will see it). Maybe this weekend the weather will cooperate enough to stain it.

I received my Finnex Planted 24/7 lights yesterday, and I am very pleased with them! It took me awhile with reading threads online to realize that the plastic stands that came with the lights can be moved inward from the ends (I kind of had to force them) so that (2) 36" lights can truly span my 72" tank. With the plastic stands in the position that they "default" to, the two lights end-to-end were too long for the tank. Nowhere in the instructions or on their website could I find any information about it, so I thought for awhile that I would have to stagger them on the top of the tank to make them fit. Thanks to everyone who shared their experiences online so that I could figure that out!

The tank itself is still downstairs; I'm going to have to ask (bribe) some friends to come over and help my husband move it. I can't believe that 20 years ago I was able to move the tank and stand downstairs (different house) by myself!

Here's a photo of the sanded tank and the lights. Does anyone know, can I control both Finnex lights with the same remote? It seems that maybe I can if I have the lights' sensors positioned together. Also the driftwood I have to play with.
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post #7 of 16 (permalink) Old 10-06-2016, 07:05 PM Thread Starter
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Next to final water tests before the 125g is set up. No surprises here. The pH pen read the same as the API kit. Although it seems that my 28g is 7.8, and my tap water/STS water is 7.4. I don't know what in the tank would have caused the rise. I do 50% water changes every week, and there's only wood, some plants, and aquarium decorations in the tank. The substrate is inert gravel. Hm, I suppose it could be the aquarium decorations? In any case, .4 is not anything to worry about.

I'm finalizing the hardscape and then will decide about planting. Thanks to the many people who have shared their aquarium photos, I have plenty of ideas! :-)
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post #8 of 16 (permalink) Old 10-17-2016, 08:36 PM Thread Starter
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A bit farther along on the 125g. :-) I think Iíve got the hardscaping done, although I may put a few rocks in. Itís a little difficult to understand what Iím going for in this pic, but once the substrate is laid down (and sand put in front), it will be more obvious. I KNOW that the driftwood layout is super-predictable, but it will hopefully play well against the plants, and while I would love to be a ďnaturalĒ gardener (many flower beds outside), Iím just not. Iím an artist, but Iím drawn towards the geometric and balanced. Iíve given up fighting it.

I found the center driftwood piece at my LFS. He said that some guy obtains it from overseas and then spends the rest of the year driving a truck around the U.S. to sell it. He stops at my LFS around 4 times/year. The selection they had was astounding! Not cheap, but an incredible piece, and it will make a wonderful cave for the cories. I look forward to attaching many plants/moss to all the driftwood.

The final staining of the stand itself (doors are done) will be this week, and Iíll clean the tank. DMS/planting will be the start of next week. Many plants are on their way here (still need to find some large swords/crypts), and Iíve set up a temporary plant tank, as my established tank is extremely low for lighting. One of my cats found the plant tank today. He was freaked out that I saw him. I canít wait to see what his reaction to the 125g will be once the fish are there (2 more months - ack!).

Testing on the Safe-T-Sorb water is done. As hoped, my liquid-rock water kept its softening capabilities down, and there shouldnít be much of a pH drop in the tank.

Thanks for following!
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post #9 of 16 (permalink) Old 10-19-2016, 12:54 AM
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You moved a 125 gallon tank down a flight of stairs by yourself? Holy cow!

I wonder how the planted+s are going to work with no Co2. They may be a bit too much light in 24/7 mode. Great lights, though. I run a pair of 36" ones on my 125 with two Ecoxotic e90s.
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post #10 of 16 (permalink) Old 10-19-2016, 06:55 PM Thread Starter
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I mostly dragged it on a rug. :-) But for the life of me, I can't remember exactly how I got it out of the car or finally on the stand. I think it involved a lot of chairs. Now, I can barely move the thing. Oh, to be 20 years younger again!

I am a little concerned about the amount of light. I'm planning on running it on the 24-hour setting, using a timer to shut it off for the majority of the night. I could also just run it straight and cut down the light intensity. Or, I suppose I'm not adverse to using CO2 if it actually became necessary. I used to use a lot of DIY CO2 set-ups back in the day.

Glad to hear the lights are working well for you! :-)
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post #11 of 16 (permalink) Old 10-25-2016, 11:56 PM Thread Starter
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Ah, man, I went to turn on the light to my 28g (which currently houses all my (female) fish) this morning, and I said, "Good morning, swimmin' women". My sense of humor is so lame.

So, the tank stand is FINALLY done! I am definitely not getting into furniture refinishing for a career. Two grades of sandpaper, three coats of stain, and three coats of surface sealant/fine sanding later, I'm very tired and sore. But I'm glad it's done; I couldn't have afforded a new one. The brasses have been spray painted a darker color to go with the stand (not that it really matters - when the doors are closed, you can barely see them).

The tank is mostly cleaned out. Tomorrow I'll take a razor blade and go after the hard water stains that are left. I had no illusions that it would ever look new again. I need to visit my LFS tomorrow to get new plastic strips for the back of the glass covers and handles to lift the fronts. While I'm there, I'll see if they have any large sword plants for the background.

Today I strained 4 bags of top soil. I was expecting pieces of wood or the like, but it was all nice, black dirt with the occasional clay ball. Still, what's left is quite fine and extremely soft. Tomorrow, I'll strain the Safe-T-Sorb (keeping the larger pieces), cut and lay down the bottom piece of plastic crate, and then put the front driftwood in. Then I'll fill the tank a few inches to test the seal. It didn't seem to leak yesterday, but after we got it on the stand last night, we noticed some wet spot on the chairs that we used to jack it up. It might just have been from the tank washing I did yesterday, but best to test. If it holds, then I'll cut the further levels of plastic crate for the substrate incline and put in the rest of the driftwood.

Here's the latest photo of the stand and tank (followed by the photo of the stand in its original condition). I am very glad that's done.
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post #12 of 16 (permalink) Old 10-28-2016, 07:49 PM Thread Starter
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Here's the tank up with the plastic eggcrate cut and laid in with the hardscape on top. I'll use zip ties to bind the layers together next, then cut some plastic sheet I found to separate the front sand layer from the back dirt/Safe-T-Sorb layer. I did have a black background that I was going to put on, but I forgot before we lifted the tank, and I'm not doing that again. I have other tanks that I can eventually cut it down for and use it on.

I got the Safe-T-Sorb strained. Next time, I would gladly spend the money for a commercial substrate (assuming I have it). That was a LOT of work. More than I thought it would be, of course. It's always like that. The dirt/STS is currently in the aquarium room in large, plastic buckets. Here is also a pic of my two insane cats "helping". Actually, they're about to fight (the small, orange female is always the instigator. The white male is quite gentle). He's sitting on a towel on the dirt, which is as soft as cake flour after being strained. Yes, I'm watching to make sure all he does is sit on it.
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animalcules and animalcules like this.
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post #13 of 16 (permalink) Old 10-29-2016, 08:34 PM Thread Starter
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Didn't need all the strained top soil and Safe-T-Sorb. I think I could do three 125g tanks with the amount I have. Oh, well, I still need to make a raised, terrestrial garden at the front of the house next year; I'll just save this for it.

I'm pleased with the way it turned out. Keeping the sand and dirt/STS separate is tricky even with the plastic sheet in between. Maybe the plants will help with that (or maybe they'll just make it messy). I know that others have used this technique - any advice, experience you all could share? Maybe I shouldn't even bother trying to keep it neat with the bristlenose plecos joining the tank in a couple months. LOL They are gonna have so much fun.

There are still a couple vintage, Japanese aquarium ornaments to put in, but besides the plants, I think that's it. And also some beads: I used to make glass (lampwork) beads for a living. I'm out of it now, but I've saved some of them. They're completely inert, so I'm going to put some in the tank near the front that are too big for the fish to eat.

Now I get to plant!
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post #14 of 16 (permalink) Old 10-29-2016, 08:50 PM
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Looks great already!
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post #15 of 16 (permalink) Old 10-29-2016, 08:53 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you!
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