West African Biotope - 8 Gallon Long - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 10 (permalink) Old 01-11-2017, 06:24 AM Thread Starter
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West African Biotope - 8 Gallon Long

Welcome everyone, to my first Tank Journal. I've been meaning to type this up for several months, but figured I'd wait until it was more complete and this snow day has made me pretty lazy, so I've nothing better to do! Scroll down for a TL;DR, but please, read!

I got this tank from a friend back in June or July, and I'm guessing it's many years old. It measures 24" x 8" x 8" (61x20x20 cm). It's got very odd dimensions from the tanks I've seen, and it struck me as a great option for a combination of my favorite tanks - nano and long. (My dream tank might be a 33 Long, but whatever). I stripped the warped plastic trip and glued my own wood trim to the base. I had planned to add a matching trim on top, but the addition of rimless lid supports made my pre-made trim too skinny. The tank cost me $5(!) and the wood etc. cost about $5.



My old coworker moved to a new job at a Habitat for Humanity Restore Center, and I happened to find this little piece for $30. I moved to a new place in September and this happened to fit perfectly between my front and side doors against the wall.



I've always wanted to keep Jellybean Tetras (Ladigesia roloffi). They are a great color combination (plus I went to the University of Miami, so the orange and green works on a personal level), they are long and slender compared to most tetras, and they come from West Africa, which doesn't really get much of a reputation in the hobby's more common circles. I happen to have a great LFS in Portland and they had a group of larger Jellybeans that had been sitting there for a while, so I knew they were healthy enough to buy. I took ten home to a spare ten gallon while I worked on their future home.

I've also always wanted to do a "true" biotope, in that I want to create an aesthetically pleasing aquascape representing a certain part of the world. Certainly these fish and plants aren't all from the same area, and it may not look exactly like an African rainforest stream, but it's in my budget and it's my first try, so to hell with the specifics I found three pieces of "Congo" driftwood at the LFS as well, which is great because I was really struggling on deciding on a type of wood. What better to use than something from Africa?!

I took home three pieces and played with their orientations in the tank. One of the pieces fit almost perfectly, and the second I could cut in half to make a nice slope. I returned the third.



I went to the Columbia River Gorge for an afternoon hike one weekend and picked up some stones from the base of the waterfalls on my way out. I grabbed a $10 bag of Cannon Beach sand from a local shop, which I still have more than half of...well worth the money! Fast forward a few months and I have slowly moved into my new place and acquired the furniture. I had slowly picked up some Anubias sp. plants here and there (trading with local guys, buying a few from the store, etc.). I was ready to start aquascaping.



How it looked after my first sand-stone-wood insertion:





I super-glued the rhizomes of the Anubias sp. to the wood. I had two Anubias coffeefolia plants that I wanted to be the centerpieces of the tank, a bunch if Anubias barteri var. "Nana" and "Nana Petite" that I would add wherever I felt like, and some Anubias barteri var. "Golden" (I think) and regular that I added to fill some space in the middle of the tank (they have longer stems for me).





I drilled a hole in the back of the cabinet below the tank so I could hide my filter (ZooMed Nano Canister I got from a friend). I purchased a Current Satellite LED+ which has multiple preset colors and conditions. I have landed on "Cloudy Afternoon" as my permanent setup.



At this point, I was waiting for the tank to cycle and the plants to settle in before adding the fish. Plus, the wood leeched tannins like a sunofa--- even after I boiled it for many days, so I had to let it get that out of it's system. Basically daily water changes, removing the dark brown water. After a few more weeks, I was ready to add the fish. I had collected a few small rhizomes of Bolbitis heudelotii, the African fern. Most leaves melted (one rhizome had nothing left), but I glued them on in hopes that they'd come back. I also found some more Anubias spp. along with several species of fish from a guy in the local fish group. Thanks man! (More on the fish later). I added the largest to the back left to fill space, and sprinkled the rest in where I saw fit.

In these pictures, you can see the B. heudelotii in the upper right, and the larger Anubias sp. in the back left - two of the leaves are outside of the tank.

Before water change:


After water change:


I added my ten Jellybean Tetras very shortly thereafter:



They are very active and there are two or three that chase each other around constantly.

I had been flirting with a few other species to add. I love Nanochromis splendens, which are probably one of the prettiest dwarf cichlids I've seen. However, they are semi-spendy and like to dig, which I would prefer not to have to deal with. Also, they like to be in pairs, which I don't have room for. Most other species are either hard to find when healthy (Jae Barb, Enteromius jae), hard to keep alive (Adonis Tetra, Lepidarchus adonis), or hard to find and expensive as well (Butterfly Barb, Barbus hulstaerti). Neolebias ansorgii were thought about, but I decided that they were too shy and not worth the extra tank space.

However...remember the guy who gave me some Anubias sp. for free? Yea, turns out he had all of those species! I was so excited. I picked them up one night after work before he had to skip town, and most made it home safely (one Adonis Tetra died out of five, just because I moved it). My final count was 3 Jae Barbs, 4 Adonis Tetras, 4 Ansorg's Neolebias, and 3 Butterfly Barbs. What a find! I kept them in my spare ten gallon until I decided they would be okay to add to the tank.

The perks of living in a city with a great selection of fish is obvious. However, the negative side is that I'm always tempted to buy something new and rare. The store had some Amber Fin Lampeye Killifish (Foerschichthys flavipinnis) which were starting to color up, and I had done about as much research as I could find on them. They are small, 0.5" Killies from Africa that inhabit clear streams. They swim near the top of the water and their eyes glow when the light hits them (though Normani Killies have much more of a "Lampeye" look to them). One had a slight bend in his spine, so I convinced the store to let me take 5 for the price of 4. I added them to the tank with the Jellybeans and was amazed at how quickly they adapted.

You can see why they are called "Amber" Fin, though their color is very difficult to see in most light scenarios:



You can kind of see the "Lampeye" effect:





They most often like to hide near the back under a leaf, but they occasionally swim in the front, directly into the filter output. See him way in the back center?



All in all, I was happy with the purchase and believe that the tank won't be too overstocked.

Fast forward another month: Time to add some more fish! I brought over the Adonis Tetras (one of which died mid-transport, again), 3 Jae Barbs, and my three Nerite snails (Neritina sp.). I have one Zebra, one greenish thorned, and one reddish thorned snail. I added them in and watched them closely over the weekend. They adapted as I had hoped - the Adonis swim with the Jellybean (both are shy species, though Adonis especially like to be with friends and family), while the Jae Barbs swim among the shadows of the driftwood and pick up food from the substrate.

Two Jae Barbs hiding under the wood, with the third in the far right of the picture:





A Jae Barb and an Adonis Tetra. Adonis Tetra males are clear, aside from these deep purple spots that appear on their posterior end. You can see the two males I have left in this image:









An Adonis Tetra mingles with his friends:



My Zebra Nerite Snail...



...with a Killi swimming nearby:



At this point, the plants are sending out new leaves every few days (the fastest growing are the plants under the direct light, of course). The roots are growing wonderfully and finding their way along the wood:





The rhizome of Bolbitis has about 3 leaves between 1-2" long, so in a few more weeks, it should be sending longer leaves along the back of the tank. You can see the new growth in the back center of this image (along with a new leaf on the Anubias):



I will be waiting a few more weeks before adding the Butterfly Barbs and Neolebias, but I'll update the thread when I do. For now, I hope you like what I've done - I'm rather proud of it, to be honest. The fish are filling their niches, and I'm very happy that my design is working for them - shy fish have shy-fish areas, the Tetras are free to swim in the open half of the tank above the rocks, and the Killies have plenty of leaves and darkness to hide in at the surface. I'm hoping the rest of the fish adapt in the same way.





Thank you for taking the time to read through this. I'd love to hear any questions, comments, or ideas you have.


Things I wish I could do better:
Have the left side of the tank more lit. At times I like it, but at others, it looks odd. Maybe it's just how I have the plants arranged.
Find more Anubias coffeefolia to fill in the center.
Get rid of the largest leaf of A. coffeefolia that seems to distract your eye from the rest of the tank.
Probably a few other things, but I'm tired at this point.

Enjoy!

TL;DR Version: I have the following fish in a West African biotope 8 gallon long tank:

All are wild-caught:
10 Jellybean Tetra, Ladigesia roloffi
3 Adonis Tetra, Lepidarchus adonis
3 Jae Barb, Enteromius jae
5 Amber Fin Lampeye Killifish, Foerschichthys flavipinnis
3 Nerite Snails of various color, Neritina sp.

Will add soon:
4 Ansorg's Neolebias, Neolebias ansorgii
3 Butterfly Barb, Barbus hulstaerti

Plants:
Anubias species including A. coffeefolia, A. barteri regular, "Golden", "Nana", and "Nana Petite", along with one larger leafed variety and one longer leafed variety
Bolbitis heudelotii

Wood:
Congo Driftwood

Updates will be provided when I feel like it I hope you enjoy it!
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post #2 of 10 (permalink) Old 01-12-2017, 03:19 AM
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Looks awesome! Glad you at least still have a few Adonis Tetras after moving them twice lol. I really like the sloping effect and all the wood and plants together -- looks great. Is there much flow in there? I see a lot of stuff settled on the leaves and wood. And IMO, I think the lighting works as it is with the dark spots at the ends of the tank. You probably could raise up the light a little bit to spread it out to the ends a little more, but then it makes for an awkward set up. Anyway, good job!
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post #3 of 10 (permalink) Old 01-18-2017, 12:37 AM Thread Starter
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Looks awesome! Glad you at least still have a few Adonis Tetras after moving them twice lol. I really like the sloping effect and all the wood and plants together -- looks great. Is there much flow in there? I see a lot of stuff settled on the leaves and wood. And IMO, I think the lighting works as it is with the dark spots at the ends of the tank. You probably could raise up the light a little bit to spread it out to the ends a little more, but then it makes for an awkward set up. Anyway, good job!
No, the flow is rather low. I think it's a combination of the filter itself (designed to be lower flow than normal because it's for nano tanks), the wood that sits right in front of the output acting as a buffer, and the long design of the tank. I've been playing with lighting levels and timing, and after about 5 days of a change, I've noticed considerably more brown algae, so I took to the leaves with a toothbrush and reverted back to the original lighting.

I can buy a light holder from work for $20 that sits in the back middle of the tank and would raise the light up between 2-6". I was really debating that, but decided against it. I might still do it...it would look nice. Too bad I'm scared of jumpers, otherwise this would be a rimless tank with various sizes of Anubias leaves and Bolbitis fronds sticking out above the water line.

Over the weekend I added the rest of my fish. When I was catching them, one of the Butterfly Barbs died - he looks like he got hit by a piece of wood but I was very careful when removing everything, so I honestly don't know. I ended up with two Butterfly Barbs and 4 Ansorg's Neolebias. The Neolebias like to hide among the shadows in the middle of the tank, watching me closely from beneath an Anubias coffeefolia leaf. Their eyes shine with a dark red and their gold horizontal stripe shines at certain angles - a very pretty fish that doesn't have much of a reputation. The Barbs are just as active as I had hoped.

I bought a section of Cameroon Moss (Plagiochila sp. Cameroon) from Bartohog on here, and I'm hoping it'll come in without melting. Wasn't planning on spending any more money on this tank for now, but a rare species of moss from West Africa sounded both unique and fun to experiment with. I'll be tying it close to the light in the middle of the tank.
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post #4 of 10 (permalink) Old 03-16-2017, 08:28 PM
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Very nice and clean!
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"C'mon, they're just plants, man, no big deal -- try some"
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post #5 of 10 (permalink) Old 03-17-2017, 10:32 PM
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how have I not seen this sooner

> I have not seen my heater bubble like that, and I have that exact same one. May want to look into that as to why it is bubbling constantly (if it is constant, mine only has like one bubble per week that I see, and im around 24/7 lol)
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post #6 of 10 (permalink) Old 08-27-2017, 01:16 AM Thread Starter
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Quick update: Jellybean Tetras proved to be very aggressive for their size, and after many of them jumped out, I got rid of the last few and bought a small school of Luxophthalmus Killies (Poropanchax luxophthalmus).

I lost all but one of the Amber Fin Lampeye Killies, and I still have two Adonis Tetras as well. I'm frustrated that I didn't know about the Jellybeans before I bought them, as I believe I could have saved many of the fish (and money!). I have treated it as a learning curve that was unfortunate and hopefully won't happen again.

It's amazing how small of a gap the fish can jump out of. I have about 1-2 square inches of space open, so I have since taped them shut as best I can and will hopefully get a new piece of plastic trim to add later this month.

The Luxo Killies are great little fish. I'm still waiting for them to grow up, but they swim into the current and shimmer in the light really well.

My tank has a lot of brown algae on the leaves of the Anubias and Bolbitis. I haven't figured out why it started, but it won't go away and I clean the leaves every now and then. I am moving in a month, so I will hopefully empty the tank and really clean it thoroughly. I should probably do it more often considering the size of the tank, but I've been working out of town for several months.

Side note: Anyone need any Anubias or Bolbitis? Happy to trim some rhizomes for you!

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post #7 of 10 (permalink) Old 08-27-2017, 02:09 AM
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Your plants look fantastic and the scale they create is awesome! I recently set up 2 75 gallon tanks and I struggled / am struggling with brown algae and diatoms. The tank that doesn't have pressurized C02 is still problematic so I started dosing metricide and cut the photo period. I've got a new regulator on the way so I can run both from the same tank so hopefully that works. The other tank with C02 has gotten past it for the most part now that I've got some good plant mass. With mainly anubias your going to have to keep your photo period and intensity towards the lighter shorter end if the spectrum.
Your tank is gorgeous though! I wish my anubias looked that good!
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post #8 of 10 (permalink) Old 08-27-2017, 06:04 PM Thread Starter
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Your plants look fantastic and the scale they create is awesome! I recently set up 2 75 gallon tanks and I struggled / am struggling with brown algae and diatoms. The tank that doesn't have pressurized C02 is still problematic so I started dosing metricide and cut the photo period. I've got a new regulator on the way so I can run both from the same tank so hopefully that works. The other tank with C02 has gotten past it for the most part now that I've got some good plant mass. With mainly anubias your going to have to keep your photo period and intensity towards the lighter shorter end if the spectrum.
Your tank is gorgeous though! I wish my anubias looked that good!
Thanks! The Bolbitis is growing long and I think there are too many leaves in the tank at the moment, since the flow on the left has been mitigated and there is a little more stagnant water laying around. This is partly why I want to trim it! I added another bunch of A. coffeefolia to fill in the gaps, but overall I like the tank in the pictures you see above compared to what it is now. It definitely needs a little maintenance in the aquascaping department (in addition to the debris/cleaning)!

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post #9 of 10 (permalink) Old 08-27-2017, 06:53 PM
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I just found this. Awesome job!! I love it. I want to do this one myself but with nanochromis spendens


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post #10 of 10 (permalink) Old 08-27-2017, 09:37 PM Thread Starter
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I just found this. Awesome job!! I love it. I want to do this one myself but with nanochromis spendens


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I so desperately want a pair of those fish, but I've heard they are on the difficult side to breed. Something about eggs being laid but always growing fungus immediately...

If my tank was a 20 Long, I'd have a pair. But I found that this tank is already smaller than it appears, which I didn't know before and lost fish because of it.
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africa, african, anubias, biotope, nano aquascape

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