65G - First Dirty Tank (SA Focused) - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 11 (permalink) Old 11-14-2016, 03:26 AM Thread Starter
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65G - First Dirty Tank (SA Focused)

Welcome!

As mentioned in my introduction thread, I am returning to the aquarium hobby after a lengthy absence. I managed to score a 65 gallon stand/tank/light combo brand new for $100, only downfall was that the stand had some of the black pant rubbed off and the doors were not affixed. Both are simple to fix.

I purchased a large some of equipment from Amazon, including the SunSun HW-303B, which is the first time I've ever owned a canister filter. I did not have a HOB Canister filter by Marineland in a previous 55 gallon setup, that I had moderate success in growing some plants in with a large array of community fish and Angelfish.

All of that being said, I am already facing four new challenges: A taller yet not as long of a tank than what I am use to (previously had two 55 gallon tanks, which run a whole foot longer), a canister filter (which I have always wanted to do), 65 gallons (which can't be much different than 55), and dirt.

I have always been a large fan of planted tanks, and in fact, was selling water lettuce like wildfire on these forums many years ago (although I failed to remember my credentials, and had to create a new account). During my time in the past, I was reading about using different substrates, including dirt, at the time. However, I did not want to risk the fish that I had, and was waiting for a better opportunity. Many years later, finally getting back into the hobby, I have deemed this the perfect opportunity to pursue these aspirations.

Some of my biggest joys of this hobby in the past came from keeping south american fish, those of the pleco variety and Angelfish. That being said, I feel now is the time to step up my game. After much research, I have decided that I would like to try my hand at Discus fish and Rams. More particularly, Green Turquoise Discus and German Blue Rams. I intend to keep these fish, along with a pair of clown plecos and a school of corys. From what I have read, this should be a fine setup, as long as there are opportunities for hiding. My biggest concern is bioload. I would love to have a school of black tetras, and even hatchet fish; but I am not sure if this could be achieved or not.

My substrate will consist of Miracle-Gro Organic Choice Potting Mix (MGOCPM), purchased from Lowes. Capped with Pool Filter Sand to be used as a cap, purchased from Home Depot. I also have some pea-size river rock purchased from Walmart's lawn and garden center that I may end up placing in the tank, but I have not decided on that. I have some larger river rock/stones purchased in a small bag from dollar tree that I may use to add some texture in the foreground.

Outside of the live plants, which will hopefully consist of swords and anubis, vals, along with javamoss and some other varieties that I pick up, I plan to use some red clay pots to act as shelter. This is especially beneficial for the L104 clown plecos. Additionally, I can keep some of the more rapidly growing plants contained in on or two of these pots, to create a simulation of flooded river banks. This will also keep these plants from taking over my tank, and will allow me to easily maintain them. I have done a trial run of gravel, MGOCPM, and sand in a pot submerged in a 5 gallon bucket on my patio which I have been soaking a piece of driftwood in. To my surprise, Wisteria has been growing extremely well under these conditions. Camboba has only had moderate success.

I plan to run lowtech, I don't feel the need to add CO2 if there is a balance of bioload and nutrients from the dirt, and given enough light.

I have a Costco purchased LED shoplight, along with a 24 inch T8.

For future use and to referenced quickly once update:

Equipment
-Will be updated.

Fish
-Will be updated.

Plants
-Will be updated.

I'm about to order some plants from a member here, and will be setting up the tank with dirt once they arrive. I'm excited that this week has finally came.

Posting these pictures for now. more to come soon!
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post #2 of 11 (permalink) Old 11-14-2016, 06:25 AM
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Nice tank.
Might would place Adult size Discus and Ram's in the tank after plant's have been well established.
In order for juvenile Discus to reach growth potential,they would in my experience need three to four small feeding's a day with high protein food's such as Ocean nutrition,New life Spectrum.
These three or four small feeding's (organic matter), plus organic matter in substrate leaching into water column would make Daily large water change a must to prevent ammonia/nitrite spikes and to provide clean water not being fouled by food's.
Adult Discus can get by with once a day feeding's for they do not need the protein rich food's any longer for growth.
Weekly water change would suffice IMHO.
Raised a group of Seven juvenile Discus in 75 gal and fed as mentioned for eight month's till they reached Adult size an would not attempt to do it in dirted substrate for reason's mentioned.
Sterbai cory's can tolerate the heat that the Discus and Ram's enjoy along with neutral to soft water with regard's to GH.
Not sure on the black tetra's or Hatchet's with regard's to temperature, but clown pleco's would tolerate the temps so long as oxygen level's remain high, Ditto for the cory's.
If I had to raise the juvenile Discus again, I would do it in bare bottom,(prolly easiest) or thin layer of large pea gravel to break up reflection from the bottom glass as well as making gravel vaccuming easier, more effective.(would be must do )
Well established tank with plan's doing well ,would be what I would want before placing temper mental fish like Discus and Ram's.
My two cent's.
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post #3 of 11 (permalink) Old 11-15-2016, 10:51 PM Thread Starter
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Hello Roadmaster,

Thank you for the advice! I greatly appreciate it. I do plan to run the tank until it is stable and reliable before getting either the Discus or Rams. The Plecos and Corys are a bit hardier and I believe could handle being placed in the tank sooner.

It should be filled with some plants this weekend. Just waiting to receive an order from a member here, and purchase some more this weekend.

Also, I forgot to mention that I have a high power air pump that I plan to use.
I also a nice piece of driftwood that has been soaking for two weeks, with water changes every other day. This is being done in the same bucket that I started growing Cabomba and Wisteria in.

This will be an exciting Friday! I'll have it running just in time for the in-laws to come over on Thanksgiving.

Quote:
Originally Posted by roadmaster View Post
Nice tank.
Might would place Adult size Discus and Ram's in the tank after plant's have been well established.
In order for juvenile Discus to reach growth potential,they would in my experience need three to four small feeding's a day with high protein food's such as Ocean nutrition,New life Spectrum.
These three or four small feeding's (organic matter), plus organic matter in substrate leaching into water column would make Daily large water change a must to prevent ammonia/nitrite spikes and to provide clean water not being fouled by food's.
Adult Discus can get by with once a day feeding's for they do not need the protein rich food's any longer for growth.
Weekly water change would suffice IMHO.
Raised a group of Seven juvenile Discus in 75 gal and fed as mentioned for eight month's till they reached Adult size an would not attempt to do it in dirted substrate for reason's mentioned.
Sterbai cory's can tolerate the heat that the Discus and Ram's enjoy along with neutral to soft water with regard's to GH.
Not sure on the black tetra's or Hatchet's with regard's to temperature, but clown pleco's would tolerate the temps so long as oxygen level's remain high, Ditto for the cory's.
If I had to raise the juvenile Discus again, I would do it in bare bottom,(prolly easiest) or thin layer of large pea gravel to break up reflection from the bottom glass as well as making gravel vaccuming easier, more effective.(would be must do )
Well established tank with plan's doing well ,would be what I would want before placing temper mental fish like Discus and Ram's.
My two cent's.

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post #4 of 11 (permalink) Old 11-21-2016, 12:32 PM Thread Starter
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Finally got around to getting the tank started! It was a fun experience working with dirt and sand... Can't say I'd recommend to someone that doesn't like mud. Which, by the way, I was never a fan of.

I went to my LFS on Saturday and bought my wife a couple of plants and new fish; and bought myself some Red Jungle Val, Temple, and a couple more pieces of driftwood. I left them sitting in a gallon of water until last night, when I started working on the tank.

I first put on my "background," which is simply a sheet and a half of black poster board.

I then rinsed out the tank with my sink connecting syphon hose while it was in place. I have to say, the plastic in those connectors are complete crap. They shattered, and shattered again. I had to super glue two pieces. In the end, it works, and I guess you get what you pay for. :P

Finally, I got to the fun part of landscaping. Since I have been soaking one piece of wood for the past two weeks, it was already good to put in the tank. However, the two new pieces that I bought are in desperate need of soaking. Thus, I did my landscaping dry on the bare bottom so that I knew how to arrange my plants that I currently have and will be getting. Attached is a picture of that landscape.

Next, I setup a folding table near the tank. This was my work bench to keep my plants, dirt, sand, and tank decorations on. Using a couple of towels on the table and on the floor between the tank and table to keep the mess as contained as possible (which only goes so far).

I took one of the small clay pots to scoop out portions of dirt. I then dropped these dirt mounds in patches throughout the tank until it seemed fairly even. Since there was already a little bit of standing water in the tank from rinsing it, I didn't have to do any additional watering to get the soil wet so that I could start making flat mud. I used the backside of my knuckles to continuously go through the tank, forcing air out of the soil and making it more compact. I would then repeat this whole process until the entire bag of soil was gone. In the end, I got between 1.5-2" of soil in the tank. This seemed good enough for me, based on what I have read and what I intend to do.

It was then time to cap the soil. Before starting that process, I used my hand to push the soil away from the glass about an inch to two deep. This created a space for me to fill in with sand, so as to avoid seeing the dirt as much as possible. Using a 50lb bag of pool filter sand from Home Depot, I took a small plastic food container (about two cups in size), and started doing the above method but with sand. By the time I was complete and felt there was plenty of sand, I had used about 3/4 of the bag.

Then the fun part came.... I added just enough water so that I could see it on the sand, placed my three pots and driftwood in their positions, added a little more sand around the pots, and then planted.

After about an hour of filling the tank slowly so as to not disturb the soil, it was complete. To my surprise, I could see through the tank fairly clearly. I then turned on the heat, hoping to get the water from 69 degrees fahrenheit to 82 degrees fahrenheit.

This morning when I turned on the lights, as I was unable to figure out the mechanical timer last night that I bought over the weekend (which is sad considering I am a master's student in technology), the tank looked as I expected. It was still relatively clear. However, there are some hard mineral deposits on the inside about a third up the tank, which bothers me. I hope I can get these off somehow, I will have to look into it.
Here is the dilemma from this morning:
WORMS. I hate worms more than I hate mud. I appear to have Detritus Worms (Aquarium Planaria; Wiggly Detritus Worms, in Tank Water, on Glass). I really hope my fish eat these guys up!

I also noticed that my tank is 85 degrees fahrenheit, but I did not want to adjust it yet. My wife's tank consistently runs between 78.8 to 79.2, but was at 81 this morning. I am thinking that since our apartment dropped into the mid 60's overnight, the exterior glass is cold and the heaters are getting a false reading. I will wait until this evening to touch it.

As for now, the filter is turned off. I am waiting until I can get a car sponge to place over the intake, so as to avoid picking up plant matter and sand as much as possible. This was a huge oversight that I had forgotten to pick one up earlier in the day.

I have micro bubbles galore, coming mostly from the clay pots and heater. As I was sitting here typing all of this, I had noticed that every now and then a small bubble will come from the substrate.

Current Plants: From left to right
4 - Scarlet Temple Stems (taken from my wife's tank due to malnourishment)
1 - Water Wisteria (was grown in the same substrate in a pot in a five gallon bucket)
3 - Red Jungle Vals
1 - Temple
1 Bunch - Cabomba

Forum Member JJ09 was kind enough to ROAK me some of their plants. Unfortunately, USPS had made an error, and the plants won't be arriving until today. JJ09 has been great throughout this process, and we are eager to see how the plants fared. They have sent me Flame Moss, Subwasser, and Crypt Wendti.

Member Bartohog has offered to sell me some Red Root Floaters, which I really want. I may also purchase some Sagittaria subulata from him at the same time so that I have a foreground plant.

Next weekend I'll be getting a large sword from my LFS to plant in the back left.

I can't wait to turn on the filter tonight, and start truly cycling my tank. If only I didn't have to wait so long for that drift wood to soak!
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post #5 of 11 (permalink) Old 11-22-2016, 02:51 AM Thread Starter
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Got a couple of plants today from JJ09! Despite USPS having a delay, the Wassertang and Flame Moss seem to be doing well. I am little worried about the crypts. We'll see if they bounce back thanks to the good amount of light and nutrient rich environment.

I also got a chunk of car washing sponge and placed it on the filter intake. By no means did I try to make it look pretty. This is just to help get my tank going without sucking up all of the initial debris.

Bumped down my heater a tad, primed and started the filter. Filter is dead silent once I add more water to the tank (took 3.5 gallons out of the tank after it was primed and started). I am very pleased about this! The filter has a very good current, significantly stronger that I expected for such a cheap filter. I feel that it should be the appropriate strength once I get the large piece of wood and the plants start to grow, and I get a large sword.

The Cabomba seems to already be growing, and the Water Wisteria is bouncing back pretty quickly.

Keeping an eye out for leaks, watching to see if the heater is set properly, and waiting for growth. I will do a good size water change tomorrow and start monitoring parameters.

And yes, I did super glue the Wassertang based on what I read.

EDIT: How do I know if the skimmer is working properly?
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Last edited by 300DayZ; 11-22-2016 at 02:53 AM. Reason: Skimmer Question
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post #6 of 11 (permalink) Old 11-22-2016, 11:43 AM
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When the crypts get rooted, you should probably tug them up a bit higher. I think they do better when the crowns are not buried. Here's hoping they have a good recovery!


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post #7 of 11 (permalink) Old 11-22-2016, 12:21 PM Thread Starter
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I originally had the crypts a little bit higher, but they floated away once the filter kicked on. I plan to pull them up higher once they root. Thanks again!

Quote:
Originally Posted by JJ09 View Post
When the crypts get rooted, you should probably tug them up a bit higher. I think they do better when the crowns are not buried. Here's hoping they have a good recovery!

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post #8 of 11 (permalink) Old 03-23-2017, 11:55 PM Thread Starter
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Reviving my own thread...

I know it has been forever, but a lot has happened. Things were going great, then they were doing well, and now I am encountering problems... Go figure, right?

My tank peaked in performance in December. Since then, it has been a slow decline in success.

Problems at the moment: Snails are back, green algae on walls, brown algae on plants, one of the five Australian rainbow fish appears to be dying (laborious breathing, staying secluded from the group), slow to no plant growth, some dirt has made its way on top of the sand, and I can't seem to remove it efficiently.

The good news: Tests always come back perfectly where they should be. Temperature is always consistent. Water changes about every 10 days. No diseases that I have seen. Angel fish (Lucifer is his name, as he has killed two other angels that were both in the same tank as him from the store) appears to be full grown and happy. One male and one female Bristlenose Plecos have paired off well, but occasionally bully the 7 Corydoras during meal time. Feeding once a day in the evening. Flakes and sinking pellets from Omega One.

The light is running for 4 hours on, 1 hour off, 4 hours on. This is where I found I was having the best growth with controlled algae. Now, this no longer seems to be the case. I will most likely need to trim back the hours, but I worry about oxygen levels. I suppose I could just turn up the airstone when the lights are off.

Any suggestions on how to move forward here? I am wondering if the dirt has lost its nutritional value. If this is the case, I will need to look into how I can safely remove the substrate and replace it. If I do replace it, I will simply do a small layer of sand, and then place plants in the clay pots, so that I can easily exchange the substrate in them every few months when needed.

Here are a few pictures along the way (Note, they got out of order when uploading. However, it should be pretty easy to tell what is recent):
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post #9 of 11 (permalink) Old 03-24-2017, 12:02 AM
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im not a tannin kind of guy, but your artificial scape looks actually pretty well done!! compared to other tanks ive seen, you have done everything really well. The pots are faces towards you still so you can see the fish, love that!
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post #10 of 11 (permalink) Old 03-24-2017, 12:33 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BettaBettas View Post
im not a tannin kind of guy, but your artificial scape looks actually pretty well done!! compared to other tanks ive seen, you have done everything really well. The pots are faces towards you still so you can see the fish, love that!
Thank you for the comment, I appreciate it! The tannin really shows right now as it has been over a week since my last water change, and there is algae on the front glass that is making it dimmer than normal. Come to think of it, I haven't replaced my charcoal since the tank was setup... That could be why the tannin is so heavy right now, too.
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post #11 of 11 (permalink) Old 03-24-2017, 01:28 AM
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I really like how the cabomba looks in your 4th, 5th, 6th photos, there. And it's a plant I usually don't find too striking... Is your angel fullgrown now? I have a fondness for angelfish, even though they can be nasty.


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