Cadd's First Community Tank - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 33 (permalink) Old 05-31-2017, 01:50 AM Thread Starter
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Cadd's First Community Tank

I will use this thread to document my journey of my first tank set up. I decided to start with a 50+ gallon lightly planted tank and I’m open to stocking options. I'll try to be as financially responsible as possible, searching for deals on pre-owned equipment on Craigslist if possible. I set an initial budget of $500 and hope to stick with it. I'll document the cost of everything I purchased in case there are other new hobbyists looking for an idea of what to expect budget wise.

I invite you to join me along for the ride. Your advice, ideas, guidance, suggestions and constructive criticism will be greatly appreciated!!

Over the past week, I've been slowly procuring equipment.

Rummaging through my parent's basement, I found the following items from the 80s & 90s. Not sure if any of these still work though.
20 gal tank (free):


HOB filter (free):




Pumps/powerheads (sponge filter???) (free):



Holy fish poop! NOT made in China


Heaters – two 200W and one 100W (free):



20 gal tank with equipment above:


I also purchased newer equipment as well.

Penn Plax Cascade 1000 Canister filter ($79 Amazon):


API Freshwater Aquarium Master Test Kit ($23 PetSmart):


Running Total: $102
Remaining Budget: $398
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post #2 of 33 (permalink) Old 06-05-2017, 03:44 AM Thread Starter
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Today was a good day.


But if something’s too good to be true, it usually is. When I got there, it was a 29 gallon tank with a HOB filter, hood & light. It was a really old grandma. I asked her how she knew it was a 50 gal tank. She said she guessed. Grrrr. But I took it home anyways. ($20 Craigslist)


The cleaning and testing begins


The filter to the right is my dad’s old 80s/90s filter. The filter on the left is the filter that came with this 29 gal tank


I also got notified that my tank stand came in. So, I went to pick it up ($11 Home Depot)


Some of my other goodies came in as well.
Aqueon gravel vac ($7 Amazon)
Seachem Prime ($13 Amazon)
Floating thermometer ($2 Amazon)
Python water changer 50ft ($60 Amazon)


Ok, time to assemble the fish tank stand. Only three 2x4s were needed


29 Gallon tank will be used for cycling until I find something larger.


Oh, by the way, the old school 80s/90s HOB filter puts the newer HOB to shame.
https://youtu.be/Vx5tfo6wzW4

Running Total: $215
Remaining Budget: $285
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post #3 of 33 (permalink) Old 06-06-2017, 01:35 AM Thread Starter
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Alrighty! I jumped on the $1.00/gallon sale and grabbed a 55 gal Aqueon tank ($53 with coupon Pet Supplies Plus). Although it may not look it, the 55 gal tank on the ground is longer, wider and taller than the 29 gal on the stand.


I was also messing around and setting up the Penn Plax Cascade 1000 as well. I think all I need now are bio media for the media baskets in the canister. I’ll probably toss some bio media in both HOB filters as well (unless you tell me otherwise). Any suggestions on bio media? I was thinking either:
Seachem Matrix Bio Media (https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0002A5VIO...SIN=B0002A5VIO)
Or
Fluval Biomax Filter Media (https://www.amazon.com/dp/B000HHSG5M...=2Z04RU952LR2R)

Does it make a difference which one I use or how I use it? I’m open to other suggestions as well.

Setting up the Penn Plax Cascade 1000 was a unique experience. Never used a canister filter before. I always like to lube everything up before I fit things together. White lithium grease or silicone grease is my go to in the garage. But since, we’re dealing with live creatures, I decided to use something a little less toxic. I applied some of this lube on the hose & plastic fittings. Slides right in!


For this particular canister model, water flow is from the bottom to the top. There are 3 media trays. On the bottom tray, there’s this dark color course sponge material. The middle tray & top tray are filled with white floss pads. When I do purchase bio media, I don’t even know which tray to put them in. I look forward to your suggestions.

Those who use Penn Plax canister filters, the next time you do your cleaning maintenance, can you take a look and see if you have a “media basket joint seal”? I may be missing it. The owner’s manual shows a “media basket joint seal”


I didn’t see anything like that (or anything that resembles an O-ring).


I also picked up Black Diamond Blasting Sand after reading other hobbyist having success with it. ($8 Tractor Supply)

I’m not sure if I picked up the correct stuff. I selected medium grit. If you guys are using it, does this look right to you?



I have doubts because I remember seeing pure black in other members’ photos. The bag I have isn’t pure black.


In water:


After rinsing:


Running Total: $276
Remaining Budget: $224
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post #4 of 33 (permalink) Old 06-07-2017, 01:19 AM Thread Starter
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I tested my tap water using the API master test kit and found the following:
PH: 7.6
High PH: 7.8
Ammonia: 0
Nitrite: 0
Nitrate: 5

I also tested the water that’s in my empty 29 gal tank (with 2 HOB & 1 canister filter running) that I have been ghost feeding (a tiny pinch of flakes a day):
PH: 7.6
High PH: 8.2
Ammonia: 0
Nitrite: 0
Nitrate: 5

I thought perhaps I was testing incorrectly. I decided to run to the local Walmart and grabbed water out of their Guppies tank and did the test in the parking lot with the following results:
PH: 7.6
High PH: 7.8
Ammonia: 0.25
Nitrite: 0
Nitrate: 20

I got in contact with my town’s water utility and was provided the following information



If I’m understanding the chart correctly, it shows tap water contains 5ppm of Nitrate?

With this information, I was hoping you can help me decide on stocking. For now, I want to stick with hardy fish. Smaller, non aggressive community fish (livebearers and/or schooling fish). If you can think of anything that would thrive in my town’s water, please let me know.
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post #5 of 33 (permalink) Old 06-09-2017, 01:53 AM Thread Starter
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So the cycling isn’t really moving along. Still ghost feeding. No signs of nitrites or nitrates. 0.25ppm of ammonia.

So a few more goodies arrived.
Aqueon Pro heater 200W ($25 Amazon)
Seachem Matrix 1 liter ($12 Amazon)
Fluval Biomax 500g/17.63oz ($8 Amazon)
HDE 2 pack LCD digital fish tank aquarium thermometer ($9 Amazon)
Aqueon 06171 Algae Cleaning Magnet medium ($8 Amazon)
Marina Floating Thermometer ($2 Amazon)
Tetra 77840 Whisper softnet nylon net 3 inches ($1 Amazon)
PENN PLAX Standard Airline Tubing Air Pump Accessories, 25-Feet ($3 Amazon)
Tetra 77851 Whisper Air Pump, 10-Gallon ($6 Amazon)
API GH and KH Test Kit ($8 Amazon)


I decided to use both Seachem Matrix and Fluval Biomax as bio media.



I organized the canister so water flows as follows:

From tank ---> Course sponge ---> Floss pad ---> Fluval Biomax ---> Floss pad ---> Sechem Matrix ---> Floss pad ---> To tank.

Please let me know if my filter set up is horribly wrong.

And finally, how do you say??? A man with a watch knows the time. A man with two watches is never sure?


Yay….all 4 are showing all different temps =)

Running Total: $358
Remaining Budget: $142
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post #6 of 33 (permalink) Old 06-09-2017, 03:10 AM
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Those digital ones are always off. I was lucky to get 2 that are .3 degrees different. The other two are always 2 degrees off


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post #7 of 33 (permalink) Old 06-12-2017, 02:44 AM Thread Starter
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The sponge filter was delivered today.

XY-2831 Air Pump Sponge Filter for Aquarium, Tank Size 10-gallon ($5 Amazon)


I was reading the directions and couldn’t find #7


Running Total: $363
Remaining Budget: $137
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post #8 of 33 (permalink) Old 06-12-2017, 03:03 AM Thread Starter
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Spent some time cleaning the black diamond blasting sand.

To get rid of any dusty and airborne particles



Lots and lots and lots of rinsing and gravel vacuuming


I’ll just leave it like this for a few weeks and allow the mechanical filters to do their thing.

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post #9 of 33 (permalink) Old 06-12-2017, 03:10 AM
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Black diamond looks right. It's never pure black in my expeirence; sometimes photos from a distance make it look that way though. I also recommend picking up a syringe and bottle of pure ammonia (no surfactants) and cycle using that instead of fish flake. It's a lot easier and more reliable. Here are some instructions (from @Diana):

Quote:
Here is the fishless cycle.
If you make sure the parameters are as follows the nitrifying bacteria will grow as fast as possible.

When the nitrifying bacteria are first introduced to a tank, such as from a bottle including Nitrospira species of bacteria, then there will be some bacteria in the water. Within a day or 2 these bacteria settle on to surfaces.
When you add cycled media and are encouraging them to reproduce there MIGHT be some in the water, but I have not found large water changes to slow the cycle, that is, I do not think water changes are removing much of the bacteria.

During cycling:
Maintain the water parameters within the optimum range for growing nitrifying bacteria. Do water changes as needed to maintain these levels.
You could do the fishless cycle in a bucket, just the filter media and a small pump or bubbler to maintain high oxygen levels.

After the cycle:
You can move the filter to a new tank, and you are moving over 50% of the bacteria you have grown. If you did the fishless cycle in a bucket you are moving about 90% of the bacteria. You are losing only those few bacteria that grew on the side of the bucket.
You can do a 100% water change, move the tank, set it up with different water parameters. Bacteria are fine with raising or lowering the GH, KH, pH, TDS after they are established.

Cycle: To grow the beneficial bacteria that remove ammonia and nitrite from the aquarium.

Fish-In Cycle: To expose fish to toxins while using them as the source of ammonia to grow nitrogen cycle bacteria. Exposure to ammonia burns the gills and other soft tissue, stresses the fish and lowers their immunity. Exposure to nitrite makes the blood unable to carry oxygen. Research methemoglobinemia for details.

Fishless Cycle: The safe way to grow more bacteria, faster, in an aquarium, pond or riparium.

The method I give here was developed by 2 scientists who wanted to quickly grow enough bacteria to fully stock a tank all at one time, with no plants helping, and overstock it as is common with Rift Lake Cichlid tanks.

1a) Set up the tank and all the equipment. You can plant if you want. Include the proper dose of dechlorinator with the water.
Optimum water chemistry:
GH and KH above 3 German degrees of hardness. A lot harder is just fine.
pH above 7, and into the mid 8s is just fine. (7.5-8 seems to be optimum)
Temperature in the upper 70s F (mid 20s C) is good. Higher (to 95*F or about 35*C) is OK if the water is well aerated.
A trace of other minerals may help. Usually this comes in with the water, but if you have a pinch of KH2PO4, and trace elements like CSM+B that may be helpful.
High oxygen level. Make sure the filter and power heads are running well. Plenty of water circulation.
No toxins in the tank. If you washed the tank, or any part of the system with any sort of cleanser, soap, detergent, bleach or anything else make sure it is well rinsed. Do not put your hands in the tank when you are wearing any sort of cosmetics, perfume or hand lotion. No fish medicines of any sort.
A trace of salt (sodium chloride) is OK, but not required.
This method of growing bacteria will work in a marine system, too. The species of bacteria are different.

1b) Optional: Add any source of the bacteria that you are growing to seed the tank. Cycled media from a healthy tank is good. Decor or some gravel from a cycled tank is OK. Live plants or plastic are OK. I have even heard of the right bacteria growing in the bio film found on driftwood. (So if you have been soaking some driftwood in preparation to adding it to the tank, go ahead and put it into the tank) Bottled bacteria is great, but only if it contains Nitrospira species of bacteria. Read the label and do not waste your money on anything else.
At the time this was written the right species could be found in:
Dr. Tims One and Only
Tetra Safe Start
Microbe Lift Nite Out II
...and perhaps others.
You do not have to jump start the cycle. The right species of bacteria are all around, and will find the tank pretty fast.

2) Add ammonia until the test reads 5 ppm. This ammonia is the cheapest you can find. No surfactants, no perfumes. Read the fine print. This is often found at discount stores like Dollar Tree, or hardware stores like Ace. You could also use a dead shrimp from the grocery store, or fish food. Protein breaks down to become ammonia. You do not have good control over the ammonia level, though.
Some substrates release ammonia when they are submerged for the first time. Monitor the level and do enough water changes to keep the ammonia at the levels detailed below.

3) Test daily. For the first few days not much will happen, but the bacteria that remove ammonia are getting started. Finally the ammonia starts to drop. Add a little more, once a day, to test 5 ppm.

4) Test for nitrite. A day or so after the ammonia starts to drop the nitrite will show up. When it does, allow the ammonia to drop to 3 ppm.

5) Test daily. Add ammonia to 3 ppm once a day. If the nitrite or ammonia go to 5 ppm do a water change to get these lower. The ammonia removing species and the nitrite removing species (Nitrospira) do not do well when the ammonia or nitrite are over 5 ppm.

6) When the ammonia and nitrite both hit zero 24 hours after you have added the ammonia the cycle is done. You can challenge the bacteria by adding a bit more than 3 ppm ammonia, and it should be able to handle that, too, within 24 hours.

7) Now test the nitrate. Probably sky high!
Do as big a water change as needed to lower the nitrate until it is safe for fish. Certainly well under 20, and a lot lower is better. This may call for more than one water change, and up to 100% water change is not a problem. Remember the dechlor!
If you will be stocking right away (within 24 hours) no need to add more ammonia. If stocking will be delayed keep feeding the bacteria by adding ammonia to 3 ppm once a day. You will need to do another water change right before adding the fish.
__________________________

Helpful hints:

A) You can run a fishless cycle in a bucket to grow bacteria on almost any filter media like bio balls, sponges, ceramic bio noodles, lava rock or Matala mats. Simply set up any sort of water circulation such as a fountain pump or air bubbler and add the media to the bucket. Follow the directions for the fishless cycle. When the cycle is done add the media to the filter. I have run a canister filter in a bucket and done the fishless cycle.

B) The nitrogen cycle bacteria will live under a wide range of conditions and bounce back from minor set backs. By following the set up suggestions in part 1a) you are setting up optimum conditions for fastest reproduction and growth.
GH and KH can be as low as 1 degree, but watch it! These bacteria may use the carbon in carbonates, and if it is all used up (KH = 0) the bacteria may die off. They use the carbon from CO2, and this is generally pretty low in water, but can be replenished from the air and from carbonates. Keep the carbonates up to keep the pH up, too.
pH as low as 6.5 is OK, but by 6.0 the bacteria are not going to be doing very well. They are still there, and will recover pretty well when conditions get better. To grow them at optimum rates, keep the pH on the alkaline side of neutral.
Temperature almost to freezing is OK, but they must not freeze, and they are not very active at all. They do survive in a pond, but they are slow to warm up and get going in the spring. This is where you might need to grow some in a bucket in a warm place and supplement the pond population. Too warm is not good, either. Tropical or room temperature tank temperatures are best. (68 to 85*F or 20 to 28*C)
Moderate oxygen can be tolerated for a while. However, to remove lots of ammonia and nitrite these bacteria must have oxygen. They turn one into the other by adding oxygen. If you must stop running the filter for an hour or so, no problem. If longer, remove the media and keep it where it will get more oxygen.
Once the bacteria are established they can tolerate some fish medicines. This is because they live in a complex film called Bio film on all the surfaces in the filter and the tank. Medicines do not enter the bio film well.
These bacteria do not need to live under water. They do just fine in a humid location. They live in healthy garden soil, as well as wet locations.

C) Planted tanks may not tolerate 3 ppm or 5 ppm ammonia. It is possible to cycle the tank at lower levels of ammonia so the plants do not get ammonia burn. Add ammonia to only 1 ppm, but test twice a day, and add ammonia as needed to keep it at 1 ppm. The plants are also part of the bio filter, and you may be able to add the fish sooner, if the plants are thriving. 1 ppm twice a day will grow almost as much bacteria as 3 ppm once a day.
Past that, everything looks great and I appreciate how thrifty you're being! I do wonder what you're gonna do with all these extra tanks you're accumulating, though, lol.
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post #10 of 33 (permalink) Old 06-12-2017, 12:43 PM Thread Starter
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@geisterwald - Thanks very much for the reference to the detailed fish-in/fishless cycle. Very informative! And funny you mentioned the accumulation of all the extra tanks as I just sold the 20 gal (brown) tank for $20 bux on CL. Some kid picked it up for his garden snakes.

I also decided to attempt to DIY the stand for the 55 gal tank. Was able to spend some time on it.

Measure once, cut twice? Or is it the other way around?


Test fitting


After 1 coat. Will allow the paint to cure for 24 hours. But who am I kidding? I’ll probably be too lazy to work on it until next weekend.


Sold 20 gal tank (-$20 Craigslist)
2x4s and screws ($17 Home Depot)
1 quart of BEHR Premium Plus Ultra Paint & Primer in One. Black. Semi gloss ($18 Home Depot)


Running Total: $378
Remaining Budget: $122
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post #11 of 33 (permalink) Old 06-12-2017, 08:26 PM
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That looks fantastic! Is this your first stand? Have you decided on stock yet?
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post #12 of 33 (permalink) Old 06-13-2017, 02:36 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by japbart View Post
Those digital ones are always off. I was lucky to get 2 that are .3 degrees different. The other two are always 2 degrees off
Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
Yeah, all 4 of my thermometers read different temps. All about 1 degree apart from each other. So, my water shows as 75, 76, 77 & 78 degrees. But I'm glad they're at least all consistent in their difference.

Quote:
Originally Posted by The Dude1 View Post
That looks fantastic! Is this your first stand? Have you decided on stock yet?
Thanks!! Yes, it's my first "real" stand. The 29 gal stand earlier in the thread was a temporary stand I whipped up quickly just so I have something to place the tank on. No, I'm still undecided on stock. I'm open to pretty much anything small.
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post #13 of 33 (permalink) Old 06-13-2017, 01:02 PM Thread Starter
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So I have a little confession....because it’s one of the first 90 degree days this year, I decided to skip work and go driftwood hunting with a good friend. Although she told me she’s not too familiar with driftwood, she did say she has been around tree branches all her life. So, I thought it would be a good idea to have her along.

First, we can’t limit our search to only where the lake meets the shore. If we’re going to do this, we’re going to go big. I want 100% water access. No limitations! As you can see, my good friend is patiently awaiting as I prep our high tech watercraft.


We decided to go right in the middle of the lake just because we wanted to relax a bit before we start working the shorelines. But I asked her to keep an eye out for any wood or branches in the water that we can reach with our pole and cut with our miniature hacksaw. Look how diligently she’s taking this task.


Next we decided to row by the lily pads to see how they were doing.


After a few hours in the middle of the lake, we finally rowed towards the shoreline. Unfortunately, we didn’t find anything we liked. Five hours wasted. If I had known we’d come back empty handed, I would’ve just went to work instead....
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post #14 of 33 (permalink) Old 06-13-2017, 01:35 PM
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So cute!! That's not 5 hours wasted!! That's 5 of the best hours in her life! Spending time with our pups is always a good idea. This post put me in a good mood for my day!! Our second home is in the mountains in TN and at the base of the mountain is the TN river. Everytime we go I come back with as much driftwood as I can pack into the bed of the truck. Unfortunately I tend to discard less then perfect pieces and I haven't been up there in a couple years so I'm running low. I'm going to take my girl to the beach tomorrow and get some driftwood I think

My girl has never been to our other home
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post #15 of 33 (permalink) Old 06-13-2017, 02:57 PM Thread Starter
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Beautiful pup!!! I guess I should've included the [/Sarcasm] tag to my comment about time wasted. A bad day fishing or just out in nature is better than a good day at work! Hehe.

When you do head out for driftwood, please post photos!!
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