TMQ's First Planted Aquarium - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 30 (permalink) Old 12-19-2018, 09:59 PM Thread Starter
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TMQ's First Planted Aquarium

Greetings Everyone,

Let me begin by saying that I would never have attempted this project if this forum did not exist. I have been reading threads and combing the archives on and off for nearly two years. This forum is a tremendous resource, and it is all because of the time, thought and consideration that you all have put into your threads and your responses to questions.

With that said, please feel free to comment on any aspect of this thread. I have read through many journal threads on this forum and the most informative ones always have a lot of great feedback from forum members. I have a thick skin and am accustom to critical feedback, so don't hold back!

As I begin this journal, I am about five days out from "starting" this aquarium. By "starting", I mean adding the substrate and stones, and then beginning the aqua-scaping process. Once that is finished, I will add the plants and begin a dry start for about two months unless I have to flood sooner due to mold.

So right now, no photos to look at. Sorry! I know that the first thing I look for in these journal threads are the tank photos. Trust me, I will post lots of photos, but right now I am still in the final planning stages.

Background and Introduction:

I have about 20 years of experience keeping saltwater fish and reef aquariums, so I'm not new to the aquarium hobby, although I have never attempted a freshwater planted aquarium. I gave my last reef aquarium away nearly 10 years ago, shortly after my son was born. At that point in my life, I had essentially negative free-time to pursue hobbies. Fast forward ten years and my son is asking for an aquarium for Christmas. Unbeknownst to him, I have been planning to start a fresh water planted tank for nearly two years, and during that time I have been slowly acquiring all of the gear I need to get things started.

The Tank:

I am using a CPR Life Tank version 4 (aka CPR LT4), a 24 gallon acrylic tank. You can see photos of this tank here. Unless you have experience with saltwater aquariums, you are probably not familiar with CPR. Just over 20 years ago, CPR Aquatics introduced the BakPak, a HOB protein skimmer that actually did a really good job removing organics from the water column. Back in the day, it seemed like everyone had a CPR BakPak on their saltwater fish and/or reef aquariums. The CPR LT4 is an acrylic tank with a built-in overflow into a rear filter area that contains CPR BakPak skimmer/filter. Although this tank was intended for saltwater enthusiasts, I think it will serve well for a freshwater planted tank. Below are my primary reasons for using the CPR LT4 in this project:

1.) The overflow into the rear filter area is essentially a surface skimmer that is very effective at preventing the build up of an organic "scum" layer at the water/air interface. Not only is this scum layer unsightly, it can hinder good water/air exchange, especially at night when the oxygen demands of the aquarium increase.

2.) Protein skimmers are designed to maximize the surface area of bubbles and the resident time of those bubbles in the water column of the skimmer. Although protein skimming is not of use in freshwater aquariums, the skimming chamber can be used as a CO2 reactor by injecting CO2 into the Venturi inlet on the power head. I think that this will be far more effective than any of the static diffusers, and probably comparable to the various CO2 reactors on the market.

3.) The rear filter area is not visible from the front of the aquarium. Therefore, additional equipment such as heaters, aerators, etc... are hidden from view. The result is a pristine display tank that is free from unsightly heaters, powerbeads, wires, etc....

4.) I already own a new CPR LT4 tank. It has been sitting in my basement for years, just waiting to be used for something.

The CPR LT4 is a bit of a throw back to the days when hiding your tubing, equipment and accessories was considered to be aesthetically pleasing. However, today's modern rimless tanks with their glass inflow and outflow piping have their own kind of beauty to them that I greatly appreciate. I'm guessing that if this project is successful with the CPR LT4 tank, my next project will be based on a rimless glass tank. But for now, we are going with what we know and what we have.

Lighting:

The CPR LT4 came with a canopy/hood with two 55 W compact fluorescent bulbs, or ~110 W total fluorescent lighting capability. I was originally going to use the OEM lighting, but quite frankly the newer LED lights now available seem like a much better option.

In the 10 years I have been away from this hobby, the lighting technology has changed A LOT! I admit to being more than a bit overwhelmed when researching this topic. For you newbies to the hobby, I hope you appreciate what a huge improvement the newer LED technology is over the old fluorescent or metal halide lighting systems.

After reading tons of reviews on this forum and elsewhere on the web, I decided to go with two Nicrew ClassicLED Plus fixtures (20"-24" size). I also purchased a digital ramp timer for each fixture. These fixtures fit underneath my canopy/hood nicely, and having two separate lights on two separate ramp timers gives me a lot of flexibility and hopefully A LOT of light without needing to run either fixture at 100%. I also plan to install a cooling fan into the canopy to prevent the LEDs from overheating.

My intent is to stagger the lighting by about 3 hours, so that each light is on for about 7 hours, but both lights are only on at the same time for about 3 hours, with a total photo period of ~10 hours. I will probably limit the lights to about 75% at maximum illumination. Obviously, I will be playing with this quite a bit.

Substrate:

From what I have read, it seems like you can't go wrong with ADA Aqua Soil, so that's what I will be using. Plan on the soil depth to range from 2" to 4".

Aquascape and Plants:

This is my first planted tank, so I want to keep things relatively simple. Actually, I need to correct myself because this is technically my son's aquarium, not mine. The two of us perused the internet looking at different types of aquaecapes. He wants to try an Iwagumi style with a bonsai tree, so that is what we are going to attempt. I have some nice pieces of seiryu stone and a small driftwood bonsai skeleton. I plan to use Christmas moss on the bonsai skeleton, baby dwarf tears (Hemianthus Callitricoides) for most of the carpet, and java moss on some of the stones and underneath the bonsai where light is a bit lower.

Startup:

Dry start method. I bought a CO2 meter and am planning to do CO2 dosing during the dry start, with goal of achieving 1000-1500 ppm CO2 at the substrate surface. More details later as I figure it out.

Water Parameters, Fertilizer, etc...

Water source will be tap. I live in the Boston area and we have relatively soft water here, so I will likely need to boost the hardness. I intend to follow the EI method for fertilizer dosing. I will be measuring my tap water and playing with additives during the dry start period.

CO2:

I have a GLA CO2 system that came with a pH controller. I plan to figure out how this system works while the dry start does its thing. I do have a drop checker, but have read a lot of mixed reviews on their effectiveness.

That is pretty much it for now. No need to post a response unless you have any questions or see something really wrong with my plan. I will definitely be posting photos after we actually start the project.

Cheers,
TMQ
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Last edited by Mighty Quinn; 12-19-2018 at 10:00 PM. Reason: clarification
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post #2 of 30 (permalink) Old 12-19-2018, 10:57 PM
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Looking forward to seeing your progress going forward. Sounds like you have a lot of experience in saltwater and reefing so this transition should not be terribly difficult for you. You have already been doing a complex form of aquarium-keeping.

Im sure your son will thoroughly enjoy this tank because he has you to help him. It can be very complex for youngsters, and some get so frustrated that they never try again. He will be off on the right foot.

I am a beginner in the plant side, but long in the tooth with fish- lol! So any needed help just call.
Welcome (waves) and thank you for sharing your journey to this point.

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post #3 of 30 (permalink) Old 12-20-2018, 12:41 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Discusluv View Post
Im sure your son will thoroughly enjoy this tank because he has you to help him. It can be very complex for youngsters, and some get so frustrated that they never try again. He will be off on the right foot.
The deal I made with my son is that he has to keep a journal of the aquarium's progress. But unlike THIS journal, his will be written in a lab notebook that I bought for him.

Hoping to start the aquascaping this weekend and then get the cultures for the dry start after Christmas. I know that my son is going to be a bit impatient with the dry start phase, so I'm hoping to keep him interested by teaching him how to use various test kits, mixing micro/macro fertilizer solutions, setting up the CO2 dosing, etc...

Cheers,
TMQ
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post #4 of 30 (permalink) Old 12-20-2018, 12:58 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Discusluv View Post
Sounds like you have a lot of experience in saltwater and reefing so this transition should not be terribly difficult for you. You have already been doing a complex form of aquarium-keeping.
I suppose some of the experience from saltwater and reefing transfers over to freshwater planted tanks, but quite frankly, I feel like this is almost a completely different hobby. For example, the whole concept of EI dosing, where you intentionally flood the tank with nutrients, just blew my mind. And 50% water changes every week...are you serious? Oh, and the whole concept that you can actually have TOO MUCH LIGHT seemed absolutely ridiculous to me.

So, aside from the fact that I still have a transparent box that holds water, some sort of illumination for said box, and some submerged photosynthetic life forms, I think that freshwater planted tanks are a completely different animal.

All that being said, the one thing I did learn from my saltwater days that I believe will help me with this project is "patience". Someone once told me that "nothing good happens fast in a reef tank", and I suspect that the same wisdom can be applied to a planted freshwater aquarium (except of course for those crazy 50% water changes every week!)

Cheers,
TMQ
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post #5 of 30 (permalink) Old 12-20-2018, 11:10 AM
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Just remember too, 50% weekly is not a commandment and dont stress yourself too much over that. It's more of a guideline really. To start off on and figure out where u want to go as you get comfortable with how fertilization goes. The main idea is that you cant really go wrong with 50% weekly as it practically resets things in terms of nutrients and brings fresh "air" into your enclosed space, but tell someone a complicated regimen like change water every 2 weeks but fertilize half as much after you figure out the uptake .... yea. You can see how that isn't elegant.

As an aside, I'm gambling with 3-4 week change intervals -- because, life. I'm flying by the seat of my pants with my macro ferts and screw up now and then and you can see the small problems up close in the plants growth history. But step back a bit and you wont see it. Not telling you to do so but just letting you know it's all quite flexible!


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post #6 of 30 (permalink) Old 12-21-2018, 02:49 AM Thread Starter
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Just remember too, 50% weekly is not a commandment and dont stress yourself too much over that. It's more of a guideline really.
Thanks ipkiss! Greatly appreciate your input, and I love your tank journal!

I hope to have some actual photos of the tank with the hard aquascape uploaded before Christmas.

Cheers,
TMQ
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post #7 of 30 (permalink) Old 12-23-2018, 11:09 AM Thread Starter
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Greetings Everyone,

I finally have something to take a picture of. My son and I put the ADA Aqua Soil, stones and bonsai skeleton into the tank today. The hardscape you see in the photos below is what we eventually settled on. Let me know what you think.

I think that the soil on the left side of the tanks is too deep, but I don't know how much settling to expect. Thoughts?

I have ordered the plants. The carpet will be baby tear drops, the bonsai will be Christmas moss, and I will use some java moss on and around the base of the stones.

The Nicrew Classic LED Plus lights fit perfectly under the hood. I installed a fan on the left side of the hood to pull in room air. This should prevent heat build up in the hood from the lighting.

Finally, I am monitoring the CO2 in the tank because I am thinking about adding CO2 during the dry start. You can see my CO2 logger in the last photo. I'll let you know how that goes.

Cheers,
TMQ
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post #8 of 30 (permalink) Old 12-23-2018, 11:46 AM Thread Starter
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Here's a few more photos that are a bit better than the previous ones. I have two more of the smaller size stones. Let me know if you have an suggestions on the hardscape. I will probably remove about an inch of the ADA from the left side of the tank today.

Cheers!
TMQ
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post #9 of 30 (permalink) Old 12-23-2018, 12:44 PM
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Looking good fellow reefer!

As far as the soil being too deep, it may be beneficial to stack something under it. I used some big, flat stones on the bottom of the areas I wanted to be higher and filled on top of that, for instance. That said, I'm completely new to the FW planted game as well, so I don't know if that is "too much" soil.

Looking forward to watching this progress and learning along with you!


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post #10 of 30 (permalink) Old 12-23-2018, 01:00 PM Thread Starter
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Looking good fellow reefer!
Ah, a familiar face in the crowd! The learning curve is steep for us former marine reef hobbyists. It's really crazy how different the hobbies are. Be sure to post a journal once you get that 20 gallon started!

Cheers,
TMQ
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post #11 of 30 (permalink) Old 12-24-2018, 04:00 AM
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Ah, a familiar face in the crowd! The learning curve is steep for us former marine reef hobbyists. It's really crazy how different the hobbies are. Be sure to post a journal once you get that 20 gallon started!

Cheers,
TMQ
Just a couple posts down!

https://www.plantedtank.net/forums/1...ted-build.html


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post #12 of 30 (permalink) Old 12-24-2018, 04:53 AM
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I am very new to planted tanks, so take whatever I say with a grain of salt. My one suggestion for your aquascape would be to make the substrate slope more from the back of the tank to the front. This is pretty common in iwagumi style scapes and can make the tank look bigger, your scene a little more expansive.
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post #13 of 30 (permalink) Old 12-25-2018, 12:44 AM Thread Starter
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Greetings Everyone,

Here are some updated photos of the hard-scape. Thanks to all of you that provided input. I still have a few days before the plants come in, so please let me know if you have any recommendations on the design.

Cheers,
TMQ
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post #14 of 30 (permalink) Old 12-26-2018, 09:01 PM Thread Starter
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I am very new to planted tanks, so take whatever I say with a grain of salt. My one suggestion for your aquascape would be to make the substrate slope more from the back of the tank to the front. This is pretty common in iwagumi style scapes and can make the tank look bigger, your scene a little more expansive.
You are totally right! Thank you for the suggestion and let me know what you think of the more recent pics.

Cheers,
TMQ
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post #15 of 30 (permalink) Old 12-26-2018, 10:04 PM
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I'd be interested to see the tree incorporated into the rock cluster. It's such a nice piece, and to me looks a bit overshadowed by the rocks to the left, or like it's competing with them. It would open up some negative space, allowing you to achieve the 1/3 rule. Maybe take one of the smaller stones and swap it's location with the tree? If you could incorporate the large stone and tree together, I think that would really pop. I'd probably bury the large stone a bit too so it doesn't look like it's placed there.


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