Someoldguy's pile of rocks - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 37 (permalink) Old 12-21-2016, 12:34 AM Thread Starter
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Someoldguy's pile of rocks

So , around 15 years ago I converted a 65 gallon tank into a ‘river system/paludarium sorta thing .




Worked well enough that I kept it going until this spring when the decision was made to turn it into a display tank . Somewhat like ‘TheGreenMachine’’s Altitude . Spring turns into summer turns into fall and finally I disassemble the now terribly overgrown mess .




Once I’d pulled it apart and scraped most of the silicone off , I found that the areas which had water flow were etched , or lightly frosted .



The glass was actually damaged , it wasn’t any kind of biological film , or mineral deposition . Tried to remove it with , salt paste , vinegar , ammonia , scraping with razor blade , Ajax , polishing compound , 3200 grit wet sandpaper , steel wool . No luck . So out on the curb . And on to plan B ; a 45 I had gotten for a project that kept being put off . Same width , but shallower front to back . It’ll fit just fine on the old stand , but needs some plywood under it and a shelf in back to hold things that would otherwise fall behind the tank and never be seen again .

Probably won’t be until after Christmas , or maybe New Year’s , before I really get rolling on this thing . Just too much Holiday nonsense getting in the way .

Last edited by someoldguy; 12-21-2016 at 12:45 AM. Reason: Images inserted into Word document won't import
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post #2 of 37 (permalink) Old 12-21-2016, 12:33 PM Thread Starter
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So here’s what I’ve got to work with :

Aqueon 45 gallon tank w/ glass cover

Finnex Planted Plus 36” ( from old 65 )

Eggcrate light diffuser cut to fit inside tank bottom

Lots of lava rock (think 150 lbs . or so)

Eheim 2215 (from my old 65 , thing’s been running near 15 years , must be broken in by now)

Black ½” acrylic pipe for inlet /spraybar

½” pvc & fittings for substrate filter pickup

150 watt Jaeger heater ( probably won’t use immediately)

Maybe a UV sterilizer down the road .

fiberglass screen / craft mesh

Probably black sign vinyl to cover back and sides .

Substrate ….. haven’t decided . Either Black Diamond 20/40 over Eco-complete ; or the fine gravel I had in the 65 . Both will work ,and I’ve got both around , so guess it just depends on how I feel when I’m putting the thing together. Whatever I use , there’ll be lava bits and/or pea gravel for backfill behind the rockwork .

No CO2 , low light EI twice monthly after 20% or so water changes . I want this thing to be low tech/maintenance , and to run for several years once it becomes stable ( say 5 or so ) without any heroics on my part . This fert/water change scheme works pretty good for my other tanks so might as well carry it over to here .

Plants : I’ve got a few different Buces , some Anubias , one or 2 or 3 types of crypts , hornwort , lots of small java fern , java moss ,other mosses , frogbit , riccia , bolbitis , vallisineria . All this has been accumulated over the last 9 months to a year or so from fish club auctions , forum members ( you know who you are , many thanks , again) local shops , and Petco/Petsmart tube/tissue cultures . So I’ve got lots of low light plants . Nothing bleeding edge exotic or real demanding , which is fine .

Livestock : Really haven’t decided yet . Won’t be putting livestock in for a while , maybe 4-6 weeks after setup . I’ve got a couple of different lampeyes , some Furcata rainbows , and some other stuff that might work well . I plan on having 1 or 2 species only , plus some small corys ( hastatus , habrosus , pygmaeus) , and CRS .
Not a particularly high bioload , and stuff that will self propagate , if possible .


Changing the stand a bit now to adapt it to the narrower tank . Should have some pix right after Christmas .
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post #3 of 37 (permalink) Old 12-24-2016, 02:20 AM Thread Starter
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As mentioned previously , I’m using James Findlay’s ‘Altitude as an inspiration for this thing . Findlay’s original build was in a tank roughly the same size as my old 65 .
36x18x24deep . Right now I’m dealing with a somewhat shallower container front to back . 6” less to be exact . 18” down to 12” . So slopes are going to be somewhat steeper and I’ll have to be careful to make sure all the parts are stable even though there’ll be some black silicone to help things out .
Playing around with sticks and stones , here’s what I’ve come up with ……








Probably go for the last one . Either way the wood needs to get a coat of penetrating epoxy .The root been weathering for probably many years and was starting to get a bit spongy when I got it . Wouldn’t last too long if I just dumped it into the tank.
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post #4 of 37 (permalink) Old 12-28-2016, 12:28 AM Thread Starter
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One of my goals on this is to have the absolute minimum amount of plumbing visible . I’ve seen too many really nice tanks that are littered up with nice green Eheim pipes , heater , circulators , drop checkers , diffusers , and the like . There’ll only be inlet and outlet/spray bars , all of black acrylic , plus a piece for the spray bar/outlet pipe transition made from ½” cpvc fittings and painted black . Both the inlet and outlet are in the far left rear of the tank where the rockwork will conceal as much as possible .

The filter inlet will draw from beneath the substrate and behind the rocks .
I’m just counting on the filter for biological filtration of the water column. I’ve got a siphon hose for visible junk .

The substrate part of the inlet assembly consists of a 90 degree tee fitting with a mounting flange that’ll give the vertical pipe a bit of support . Probably I should have used a flanged 90 ell , but originally had planned a somewhat different layout that would have picked up water from both ends . Anyway , one end of the tee was cut back and blocked with some JB Weld . So now it’s an ell .




The horizontal run has been drilled 7/32 on about 1½" spacing . There’s 3 rows of holes spaced very roughly equally around the circumference of the pipe . A pipe cap corks up the far end and forces flow through the smaller holes . There’s way more holes than I need ( working out the math , I only need 5 to equal the area of the inside diameter of the pipe), but some will get blocked by gravel when I set it up .




The vertical pipe had to be drilled out to fit the filter’s inlet pipe, which is ½” . I drilled it a bit bigger ( 17/32 ) to allow easy removal from the substrate section , if necessary . The visible part gets painted black .




The spraybar is the same ½” black tubing as the other 2 pipes . It’ll be drilled with a 7/64 drill , 9 holes . I have no idea where the original 2215 spraybar went , so I extrapolated the drill size , and number of holes from a 2213 bar , which is #43 or so. Seeing as the 2215 theoretically flows 163 gph vs. the 2213’s 116 , or 1.4 x the smaller filter ; I needed to increase the area of the spraybar holes by that amount.A bit of math and some research yielded a 7/64 drill bit as being 1.4 or so bigger in area than a #43.

The spraybar connects to the discharge tube via 2 ½” cpvc spigot and slip elbows joined by a small bit of cpvc pipe , and painted black . The 3 pieces are just pressed together , not glued , so I’ve got a bit of play to align stuff right . The spigot ends have been opened up a bit with a Dremel to allow the spraybar and outlet pipe to press fit into the fittings.




Seeing as I’m using light grid to distribute loads from the stones , and pulling filter water from under and behind the rockwork , I’m considering cutting reliefs into the bottom of the grid to enable flow between the cells , and then capping the grid with some fiberglass window screen . I’d used this on my 65 and it worked pretty well . When I broke the tank down , the sub screen area was pretty clear of mulm , but had lots of roots in it .






Any thoughts on using something like this in my current build?
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post #5 of 37 (permalink) Old 12-29-2016, 01:25 PM Thread Starter
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I’ve always found the suction cup spray bar hangers to be less than satisfactory . They’re OK for a few years , then the plastic cup loses suction and the thing comes loose . Nothing on TV last night so figured I’d solve that problem for this tank , at least .
Some playing around in Inventor and came up with this :




Some scrap ½” acrylic and a half hour or so in my workshop and it became real :




Fastened to the rim of the tank with a 4-40 x ¼ stainless flathead machine screw :



Another annoyance solved ...
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post #6 of 37 (permalink) Old 12-29-2016, 01:29 PM
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post #7 of 37 (permalink) Old 12-29-2016, 01:49 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks ..... Been wanting to do the hanger for my other tanks that have Eheims for some time now , but never got around to it.
If it works OK on this tank then I've got something to do on a cold winter day .
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post #8 of 37 (permalink) Old 12-29-2016, 02:29 PM
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post #9 of 37 (permalink) Old 12-29-2016, 10:34 PM Thread Starter
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Nice rainy day , could either wash the floors or play around with stacking rocks .

I decided not to notch out the grid and cover it with screen . Figured if there was enough coarse subbase I wouldn’t need to worry over compaction of the gravel behind the rock walls . So I trimmed back the grid to where it’s just under the rock walls ; and began to stack stone.




Put some pea gravel behind the stones as the walls grew . Up to the top of second course on the left and within 2” or so of the top on the right .




Was able to get pretty much all save 3 stones on the top left to stay in place via gravity , no silicone or hot glue needed . Was a little shaky as to the silicone stones staying in place long term so figured a bit of glue wouldn’t hurt anything .




Maybe tomorrow night I’ll try a test fill ….
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post #10 of 37 (permalink) Old 01-01-2017, 12:37 PM Thread Starter
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Planted !



Spent a couple of hours Friday getting everything in place . The wood’s held down on the ends by the weight of the gravel , and is zip tied to a piece of tile that’s been cut to around 3x12 and had 2 holes drilled for the zip tie to go through . Its’ planted with rose moss ( tied on ) some tiny Anubias , probably nana that broke off some bigger piece along the line , some Buce’s ( one’s ‘Brownie blue’ and one is just some sorta ‘Brownie’) , plus some little bits of Java Fern. All glued on with Locktite 380.

The remainder of the tank has the following :

Crypt. lutea
Crypt. wendti ‘red’ ,both bigger plants and some tissue cultures that I fit in wherever I thought one would grow into .
Anubias nana and nana ’petite’
There’s a couple of bits of Monte Carlo wedged here and there . Don’t think it’ll do well , but there’s no harm in trying , plus it was free.
2 types of Java Fern ; the small type that I’ve had for years , plus a different narrow leaf one I got from a member in a bag of trimmings .Plus a small piece of Bolbitis , just because it was floating around a different tank. Probably from the same trimmings.
Hornwort floating around to keep a check on excess ferts and to cut back on light a bit until things start going .
A bit of Frogbit and riccia , for the same reason .

There are a half a dozen Osmocote caps located near the biggest Crypts. , plus I’ll be starting liquid ferts (KNO3 , K2HPO4 , Microplex ; mixed to provide a 1ml./gallon portion of each as per the RotalaButterfly calculator)next week , and bi-weekly after water changes (every 2 weeks 20% or so).
Been using this for a while now in most of my tanks and it works pretty well .

Filter (2215) has been charged up with precycled media so things should get stable pretty fast . Plus the gravel is from the previous 65 and wasn’t washed out really well so a lot of mulm was brought over that’ll help things along some . The tank water was run through my diatom filter for a few hours after planting . Still ended up with what appears to be a bacterial bloom this morning .

I ‘m not too thrilled as to the amount of flow coming out of the 2215 . Full open the hornwort is spinning around like it’s in a washing machine . Got it throttled back some now , but might switch out to a 2213 in a couple of days .

Light cycle ( Finnex Planted Plus) is 10 hours right now . I’ll see how it goes from there .

Won’t be adding any livestock for a few weeks to allow for any changes in planting .
Probably some shrimp first , and fish a week or 2 later . Some small cories and a dozen or 2 of something else small .

Now just waiting for algae , diatoms , and crypt melt .

Last edited by someoldguy; 01-01-2017 at 01:38 PM. Reason: egregious oversight
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post #11 of 37 (permalink) Old 01-03-2017, 05:10 PM
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Lookin' good. I like all the red, and especially like the crypts in the back that peek over the rocks. That will be so cool once it establishes and grows in. All the javas, anubias, and buces are well placed too.

If I may offer one point of critique? I really like the valley you've created with your hardscape. However, having the larger crypts planted in front obscures it. I believe if that area of foreground (right of center) was more open, it would give your aquascape a lot more depth. Basically just by pushing those few crypts back and to the left or right just inches would reveal a path down through the valley. Just a thought, it looks great either way and will look even better once everything settles in and takes off. Cool tank.

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post #12 of 37 (permalink) Old 01-04-2017, 02:13 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by KayakJimW View Post
Lookin' good. I like all the red, and especially like the crypts in the back that peek over the rocks. That will be so cool once it establishes and grows in. All the javas, anubias, and buces are well placed too.

If I may offer one point of critique? I really like the valley you've created with your hardscape. However, having the larger crypts planted in front obscures it. I believe if that area of foreground (right of center) was more open, it would give your aquascape a lot more depth. Basically just by pushing those few crypts back and to the left or right just inches would reveal a path down through the valley. Just a thought, it looks great either way and will look even better once everything settles in and takes off. Cool tank.
Thanks ! Your suggestion re: opening up the center by moving the bigger crypts to the sides and back is well taken . It's probably what I would have done if I was working with my old 65 as was planned . The extra depth front to back would have easily enabled me to create an open area , sort of like a flood plain ,unplanted , filled with something like Colorado Sand , funnelling back to the space between the rock faces , with the tree root snaking across it from left to right . Just couldn't make it work to my liking in the 45 , though . So I went for a planting that I hope will eventually give me a wall of green in the background . There's smaller Lutea plus a couple of tissue culture Wendti in the back and climbing the rock walls to the left and right . Not a whole lot of substrate depth in these areas , so I went with smaller plants in the hope they'd shoot out roots advantageously as they grew . Don't know if this will work or not . Find out if they take in a few weeks , I guess . If they don't , I'll plant a wall ( or as much of a wall as I have plants for ) of Vallisineria in their place .
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post #13 of 37 (permalink) Old 01-05-2017, 02:32 PM Thread Starter
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Found a nice fungal growth on the tree root today . Just what the world needs ..… but it’ll go away on its’ own . Just interesting that it occurred on a piece of wood that was treated with penetrating epoxy . Second time I’ve seen this on epoxied wood , figured the plastic resin would not be conducive to fungal growth . But apparently that's not the case .



Just for laughs I did ammonia/nitrate/nitrite tests today . A couple of days back I had an ammonia spike and it’s been slowly going down since . The prescence of a nitrate reading in addition to the other 2 was a bit surprising ; but I think it’s just a combination of using cycled media , plus used substrate with lots of organics (mulm) .



Thinking about sticking a heater in the tank temporarily to keep temps. up a bit , 75 or so , as it’s supposed to get pretty chilly here . Usually I don’t run heaters , too many tanks , plus the stuff I keep will tolerate temps in the high 60’s no problem so long as the temperature change is gradual .
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post #14 of 37 (permalink) Old 01-08-2017, 01:19 PM Thread Starter
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No pretty pictures today , just a quick update . Ammonia’s pretty much gone , nitrate’s at between .25 and .50 . Getting some Crypt melt , which I expected ; but some of the Anubias also doesn’t look too hot . It doesn’t seem to be rhizome rot , maybe they just got damaged getting stuck into crevasses in the stone work , or maybe they didn’t like being stuck in an alum bath for a couple of days before planting . We’ll see . Stuck a heater ( 100 watt Jaeger) in , set the temperature to 75 . Probably 100 watts is a bit too small , but it’s working for now . It’s keeping the tank in the mid 70’s where everything else is 66-68 . If I go for a permanent heater setup it’ll probably be a 150 watt in a Rainbow Lifeguard heater housing plumbed into the filter outlet .
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post #15 of 37 (permalink) Old 01-08-2017, 10:01 PM
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I've experienced that cloudy white shroud on every new piece of wood I've ever used. I always thought it was just the beneficial bacteria establishing itself. Never knew it was a fungus until now.
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