DJGSnax's 36g Bowfront Driftwood River Cave Tank Journal - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 26 (permalink) Old 06-13-2018, 12:25 AM Thread Starter
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DJGSnax's 36g Bowfront Driftwood River Cave Tank Journal

Long time lurker here but finally decided to take the plunge and start a tank journal. I've had a few basic tanks previously but I got a 36g bowfront from a friend and decided to do it right so I did a bunch of research and got set to go. So this is my first heavily planted tank and I'm about 2 months into things right now. Going to catch up on the development right here and then journal from there on.

Specs (updated):

Tank: 36 gallon bowfront
Filter: Aqueon 50 gallon rated HOB (inherited with tank) + Aquaclear 50
Light: Fluval Plant 3.0
CO2 injection: Compressed CO2 with a standard diffuser
Heater: Fluval e-series 200w
Ferts: Tropica Premium Nutrition
Hardscape: red lava rock in mesh bags for shape, Malaysian Driftwood and local river/beach rocks
Substrate: Tropica AquaSoil

Flora: Anubias Nana, Anubias Coffeefolia, Microcanthemum 'Monte Carlo', Jungle Val, Ludwigia Repens, Echinodorus Rose, Crypt Wendtii Tropica, Hygrophila 'Compact', Bacopa 'Compact', Christmas Tree Moss, Micranthemum umbrosum.

Fauna: 12 x Amano Shrimp
20 x Ember Tetra
2 x Red Racer Nerite Snails
5 x ghost/glass catfish
10 x Forktail Rainbowfish
2 x German Ram


It all started with this gorgeous piece of Malaysian driftwood (nerf dart for scale?) coming into my LFS just as I was standing there talking to the owner about some of my plans:




Bought it on the spot and had to saw it apart a bit to have it fit properly in the tank. Once I got it in the tank in a few configurations one really stood out. Decided to use a trick I had seen in my online research and use mesh bags of lava rock to define the basic shape of the tank. This was what I ended up with and this is where the idea for the driftwood cave appeared:



Decided I wanted to to build a riverbed inside the cave so picked up some white sand, and took a trip to a local beach to pick up some smooth basalt rocks to place in the riverbed, since they reminded me of similar wood formations I've explored locally, and some other riverbed rocks I've collected (tested them all for reactivity with vinegar first):



Poured in my aquasoil over the lava rock bags to get the general shape of things, still rearranging rocks and shapes as I went to arrive at a setup I finally was content with:



Added some rougher natural coloured gravel into the riverbed section as I decided to make it look a little more natural:



Filling day! Got my first set of plants put in and started to get the water in. The plan for this tank was to keep things low tech and so everything was low co2 demand, with the possible exception of the Monte Carlo carpet. I decided to take a chance and be patient in waiting for it to grow in since I had a solid light and lots of full spectrum brightness, which was possibly a mistake (more on that later):



Day 1 all filled up:



About 2.5 weeks in the tank is finally cycled (fishless cycle), and there is a little growth:



1 month in and I decided to add some more plants to fill things out:



And decided it was time to get the cleaning crew in place as it's first denizens, a bunch of Amano Shrimp, which aside from being amazing to watch have polished the driftwood to a gleam:



A few more weeks and in go my first school of fish - 20 Ember Tetras, and a couple of Red Racer Nerites. I lost a few Embers off the bat to (I think) a heater that was allowing pretty big temp swings, and a PH difference between my LFS and tank, so I replaced the heater and adjusted PH and have been fine since:









I then decided that though my carpet was not melting, I wasn't patient enough to wait it out. A good option came along so in went compressed co2 last week, which brings us to today:



Things have gone surprisingly smoothly so far for me. I can credit a lot of that to spending a LOT of time on this site and others like it, learning from the mistakes of others (thanks all ).

Still lost a few fish and had a few bumps along the way (and I'm sure there will be more to come) but things are looking good right now!

Last edited by DJGSnax; 09-12-2018 at 12:42 AM.
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post #2 of 26 (permalink) Old 06-13-2018, 04:46 AM Thread Starter
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Excavating the riverbed

So my current issue is the riverbed section. Originally it was layered with white sand and gravel, however since the Amanos have gone in they have gotten into the habit of kicking the aquasoil down into the centre. So now I have a bunch of aquasoil sitting over top of the original sand and gravel substrate in there as below:




In hindsight I should have put some sort of transparent plastic divider along the banks, but for now I've tried to shore up the left bank with some more rocks to stem the tide.

That seems to be holding but now I'm stuck trying to figure out how to dig into the riverbed section and remove the aquasoil from the sand/gravel.

Only thing I've thought of is maybe using a fish net to excavate it? Or a fine strainer outside the tank after just digging some out?

Wondering if I could still place a divider of some sort down under the substrate as well, something like a miniature version of the edging you can use for gardens.

Any ideas out there?
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post #3 of 26 (permalink) Old 06-13-2018, 05:23 AM
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I watched a vid the other day where a guy used clear DVD cases cut up for a barrier
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post #4 of 26 (permalink) Old 06-13-2018, 05:40 PM Thread Starter
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I watched a vid the other day where a guy used clear DVD cases cut up for a barrier
That's actually a really cool idea! I think I could make that work once I figure out how to get the aquasoil itself excavated out of there.....
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post #5 of 26 (permalink) Old 06-13-2018, 08:25 PM Thread Starter
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Managed to excavate and re-substrate the river section. Built some CD cover dividers and put them in place and they seem to work well!



Hard to see the clear plastic barriers but they are there against the rocks in the front left corner and at all of the points where aquasoil can fall in. Added a few up top under the plants to make it harder for the shrimp to kick the soil down the rocks as well.

Thanks for the tip on that MNBassin!
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post #6 of 26 (permalink) Old 06-13-2018, 09:45 PM
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Awesome design! Love it!

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post #7 of 26 (permalink) Old 06-14-2018, 11:09 AM
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That is really looking good!! Great score on the wood and I love the placement of everything.

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post #8 of 26 (permalink) Old 06-14-2018, 11:41 AM
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Really nice looking tank, great scape design to it.

For the riverbed section, I recommend using corrugated plastic you can get at the hardware store, the stuff outdoor signs are made out of. I learned this trick from The Green Machine on YouTube. In my journal- link in my signature- I have a few sections on how I have used them. Really effective, as well as cost effective!



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post #9 of 26 (permalink) Old 06-14-2018, 04:51 PM Thread Starter
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Really nice looking tank, great scape design to it.

For the riverbed section, I recommend using corrugated plastic you can get at the hardware store, the stuff outdoor signs are made out of. I learned this trick from The Green Machine on YouTube. In my journal- link in my signature- I have a few sections on how I have used them. Really effective, as well as cost effective!
I can't see your sig yet until I get 2 more posts! Well, I guess 1 more now.

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I can't see your sig yet until I get 2 more posts! Well, I guess 1 more now.
How about now?
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post #10 of 26 (permalink) Old 06-14-2018, 04:54 PM
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I can't see your sig yet until I get 2 more posts! Well, I guess 1 more now.

Bump:

How about now?
Here ya go!

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post #11 of 26 (permalink) Old 06-14-2018, 04:57 PM Thread Starter
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The Amanos are already hard at work finding holes in my river/soil barrier. They're certainly on a mission.

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post #12 of 26 (permalink) Old 06-14-2018, 05:58 PM Thread Starter
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Excellent thanks! The corrugated plastic would certainly be easier to maneuver than the CD case plastic. I feel like the white would stick out like a sore thumb in my dark substrate though. If I find the barriers I put in yesterday not working I might head to the hardware store and see if they have any of the corrugated plastic in black.

For now I'll wait and see if the Amanos are more clever than I am.
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post #13 of 26 (permalink) Old 06-14-2018, 06:24 PM
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Excellent thanks! The corrugated plastic would certainly be easier to maneuver than the CD case plastic. I feel like the white would stick out like a sore thumb in my dark substrate though. If I find the barriers I put in yesterday not working I might head to the hardware store and see if they have any of the corrugated plastic in black.

For now I'll wait and see if the Amanos are more clever than I am.
They do have black for sale at places like Home depot (usually). I just happene to have white on hand that day. Otherwise I would have used black!

https://www.homedepot.com/p/24-in-x-...24BK/205437929
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post #14 of 26 (permalink) Old 06-14-2018, 10:00 PM
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Between the 12 Amano shrimp and the nerites you should be pretty good. They are something I always NEED, but dont remember when Im at the LFS. I Added 6 Amano shrimp and 6 nerites a couple months ago to my 150 bringing me to 12 Nerites and just the 6 Amano shrimp. I hadn't wiped the glass down until today and I went from having to dip my buces and anubias every three weeks to... well... I don't remember the last time I did.
Did you get that red racer locally?? I've always wanted some, but they are rare.

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post #15 of 26 (permalink) Old 06-14-2018, 11:54 PM
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I love the serendipity of a chance meeting with a piece of wood turning into a beautiful ecosystem!

Aquatic soil and whiteish substrate is a nightmare. I sometimes grab balls of soil with my planting tweezers when I’m feeling OCD, but mostly have just learned to love the chaos.


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Did you get that red racer locally?? I've always wanted some, but they are rare.
Aquatic Arts carries them, if you’re open to mail order!
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