The 12 gallon long lava rock scape! - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 38 (permalink) Old 01-04-2019, 12:52 AM Thread Starter
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The 12 gallon long lava rock scape!

Hey all,

I decided to start a tank journal for my recent rescape of my 12 gallon long tank. I'm pretty new to aquatic gardening so I'm hoping I can get your ideas and feedback.

This is what the tank used to look like:

While it was a fun start, I didn't save myself enough room in the background for stem plants, so I decided to do a full rescape a few weeks ago.

I used black diamond blasting sand on top of a very thin layer of worm castings, dolomite, and Mexican clay. The rock is all lava rock from Home Depot that I cut with a masonry chisel.

The idea was to have a concave shape with a path between the two sides. I wanted to grow some mosses, anubias, and bucephalandra on the rock in the foreground with plenty of room for stems on the ledges.

Here is the tank about a week after planting. Major plant groups, from left to right, are limnophila aromatica, staurogyne repens, ludwigia (repens I think?), Java fern, bolbitis heudelotii, limnophila sessiflora (just in there until the next GSAS auction), rotala rotundifolia, pogostemon helferi, and ludwigia senegalensis.


The tank got off to a really good start. I'm using injected CO2 and was very diligent about maintenance. The only inhabitants right now are my cherry shrimp colony and some otocinclus. Then came the holidays.

I didn't get the chance to properly prepare my tank, but I figured that with the light stocking and the timers there would be nothing wrong with just letting it do it's thing. I was wrong. Next pics are what I got back to last night.

My worst ever BBA outbreak, it's all over the Java fern, bolbitis, anubias, limnophila and bucephalandra. There is also a good (read: not good) amount of GSA on the anubias nanji. The ludwigia, rotala, and pogostemon are in pretty good shape.

What happened was the water level evaporated below the level of the surface skimmer intake. I thought the bottom intake would continue to work, but it didn't. So for at least a few days there was no filtration, no heating (it's an inline heater), and no CO2 (inline diffuser).

Luckily the shrimp and otos are fine, and while there was some stress molting I haven't found any dead shrimp. I was too exhausted to do anything last night, so I refilled the tank with water and went to bed.

I'm going to do a big trim and replant on all my stems, I'm sure they will recover just fine. I'm more concerned about the epiphytes covered in BBA. Usually when a leaf gets BBA on it I just trim it off, since I've found that even when I kill it with Excel the BBA never really goes away. But I'm not ready to get rid of all my precious buce! I'm thinking of doing a bleach or H2O2 bath to try and kill all the BBA. Does anyone have experience with this sort of thing? I'd love advice if you have it.

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Last edited by gjcarew; 05-20-2019 at 10:13 PM. Reason: (Now 22 calling long!)
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post #2 of 38 (permalink) Old 01-04-2019, 01:26 AM
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Your tank looks great despite the algae that came to visit over the holidays.
I have no expert advice, just wanted to let you know that it still looks better than anything I could achieve, lol!
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30 g. low-tech African Biotope
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post #3 of 38 (permalink) Old 01-04-2019, 01:59 AM Thread Starter
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Your tank looks great despite the algae that came to visit over the holidays.

I have no expert advice, just wanted to let you know that it still looks better than anything I could achieve, lol!
Thanks Discus! I'm hoping to have it spotless again soon, but it's always a work in progress.

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post #4 of 38 (permalink) Old 01-04-2019, 09:45 AM Thread Starter
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Did a big maintenance session tonight. After checking out the plants and parameters it was way worse than I originally thought. A lot of the bottom stems had BBA as well, there was hair algae and GSA on the glass, and many of the plants looked fairly chlorotic. Here you can see some buce brownie ghost and staurogyne repens looking particularly insipid:

Also in that picture is my sad looking L. aromatica. I trimmed all the stems to the substrate that had algae on them and replanted a couple healthy looking tops. I'm nervous to uproot since I can never get it to anchor well in my tanks. I'm thinking of giving up on it, I've been working on it for months and I just can't get it to grow vertically and get that lovely delicate pink color I have been hoping for.

Ludwigia repens got a big trim. I'm thinking of subbing it out for rotala mini butterfly since the ludwigia grows like a damn weed and shades out the other plants on the left island. It also doesn't look as dense as the rotala. I trimmed off all the side shoots or the ludwigia senegalensis as well and replanted it. I'm hoping these will cooperate and grow towards the light!

I took out a bunch of the mother plants of Java fern and bolbitis as the rhizomes were just too big to fit in those little gaps in the spider wood. I'm hoping if I sprinkle a few of the Java fern babies around they will grow a little more naturally and really let you see the character of the driftwood. I also got rid of the limnophila sessiflora.

I checked the parameters and boy did I set myself up to farm algae! No ammonia or nitrates (essentially no nutrients), combined with the lack of CO2 was the clear issue here. I was only dosing micros before I left since I was still seeing nitrate growth, but now it seems like it's time to start a regular dosing regimine. Current plan is to go lean the next couple weeks and ramp up so the shrimp have time to adjust, since they can be sensitive. Here's what I'm going to start dosing (per week):
10 ppm K
7 ppm N
3 ppm P
.2 ppm Fe (with micros)

Since the plants were looking starved, I added some osmocote+ balls. I'm hoping that will tide them over while not giving the algae access to too many nutrients. Hopefully solid growth will take care of all my problems!

My pH about two hours after the CO2 went off was at 7.5. I didn't realize how much the Fluval Stratum was lowering my pH in my old scape. I was buffering with crushed coral in the filter, but now I'm thinking I may take it out to get my pH closer to neutral for the corydoras I plan on adding.

I'm also having an issue with my cheapo CO2 setup. No matter how I adjust the needle valve, I can't get the CO2 to flow faster than about .5 bubbles per second. Not sure if it's a problem with the needle valve or with the in line diffuser, and I'm not sure how to find out. I'd love to hear suggestions on how to fix this, or at least narrow down what the problem is. Until the CO2 is fixed I've lowered the light intensity to 50%.

FTS is below:



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post #5 of 38 (permalink) Old 01-04-2019, 11:07 AM
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My complete amateur opinion is to just trim all algae covered plants even if you lose an entire species from your tank. You can always buy another plant, but you don't want to be fighting algae forever.
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post #6 of 38 (permalink) Old 01-04-2019, 07:31 PM Thread Starter
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My complete amateur opinion is to just trim all algae covered plants even if you lose an entire species from your tank. You can always buy another plant, but you don't want to be fighting algae forever.
True, that's my usual approach. I'm just unwilling to lose my bucephalandra, it can be pricy! I'm going to see how well the H2O2 dip worked before doing anything more drastic. Hopefully the added ferts, frequent maintenance and lowering the light intensity will have a beneficial effect.

I haven't fed my otocinclus or RCS in about 12 days. There are about 10 berried and saddled females, and I already have more shrimp than I wanted! I'm a little worried about the otocinclus though. Their bellies are round, but they aren't particularly chubby. There is plenty of natural algae in the tank, but should I be dropping some veggies in there anyways? I don't want to starve them. Picture is below, let me know what you think!

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post #7 of 38 (permalink) Old 01-05-2019, 08:32 AM
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I'm just unwilling to lose my bucephalandra, it can be pricy!
How much is it? Just curious.
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post #8 of 38 (permalink) Old 01-06-2019, 03:17 AM Thread Starter
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How much is it? Just curious.
It varies. I think the brownie ghost was $10 for a couple plants, then I bought four small plants for $18. Part of the issue is I don't want to buy online since most buce sold online is wild collected from fragile environments. Not the end of the world if I lose it, but it looks like the hydrogen peroxide dip had some effect so I'm going to keep treating with Excel and hope my amano shrimp takes care of the rest. You can see here that the BBA has turned a pinkish color, a sure sign that it is dying/dead:

I stopped by aquarium co-op this evening and picked up a school of 10 pygmy cories. These guys are super cute and TINY! I'm thinking they must still be pretty young because they are at most three quarters of an inch. I had trouble with corydoras habrosus in my tank with a Fluval Stratum substrate, but I'm hoping the BDBS will be strong enough to keep my plants rooted with these guys roaming around. I'm thinking the final piece of livestock will be a Plakat Betta, but I'm not 100% on that. I'm worried the flow might be too strong for a Betta

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post #9 of 38 (permalink) Old 01-09-2019, 06:47 PM Thread Starter
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I sold about 30 shrimp tonight, and still have a crazy amount. I can probably get more for them selling to a pet store than at auction, but I figured I might as well save myself a trip since I was going to the auction anyways.

I tore out the plants from the left side of the tank since I wasn't happy with it. The Ludwigia "super red" behind the driftwood did not stand out as much as I'd like, so I'm going to see if Ludwigia pantanal looks any better. I also got rid of the Limnophila aromatica. It has been limping along for months, and I just don't think it likes my tank conditions. Maybe my water is too soft? Who knows. I replaced it with Proserpinaca palustris and a single stem of Ludwigia inclinata "curly leaf" just to see what grows best and if I can get the mermaidweed to color up.

Hair algae has started popping up around the tank to go with my GSA, BBA and GDA. Hopefully the local club will start an algae horticulture awards program so I can really show off what I can do. The interesting thing is that there is still good growth. The rotala is pearling and needs to be thinned out soon, but still has BBA on it.


There are new, good looking leaves on the anubias as well but the old growth is still looking super raggedy. I'm now leaning more towards cutting off the algae-affected leaves, but I want to make sure there are enough healthy leaves available for photosynthesis.

In other news, this is going to be a catfish only tank. I'm loving how playful and active the Corydoras pygmaeus are!

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post #10 of 38 (permalink) Old 01-14-2019, 10:40 PM Thread Starter
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New plants are getting acclimated in the 12 g long, I'm going to wait until the next maintenance session to update since not much has changed. In the meantime I thought i would share my office tank. It's a low tech dirted Spec V that I got secondhand. The idea was to do a deserted jungle style castle. I also added a dwarf aquarium lily and some rotala rotundifolia because I'm a sucker for colorful plants.

I'm mostly impressed with how well the Vesuvius and rotala have done with only 4 hours of above-tank light a day!

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post #11 of 38 (permalink) Old 01-15-2019, 12:52 AM
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Very nice work documenting and sharing things so far. I like your scape with the lava rock, and hope you can pull through the algae attack.

The BDBS should work great with the Corydoras, I have been using it and all my cory cats have beautiful barbells and are quite active.



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post #12 of 38 (permalink) Old 01-18-2019, 05:24 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Grobbins48 View Post
Very nice work documenting and sharing things so far. I like your scape with the lava rock, and hope you can pull through the algae attack.



The BDBS should work great with the Corydoras, I have been using it and all my cory cats have beautiful barbells and are quite active.
Thanks! Things are already looking better. I made a few changes this week. The shadows on the wall behind the tank didn't look good so I moved the light up about 6 inches off the tank and correspondingly upped the light intensity 10% to compensate. The new plants are starting to get some growth. The mermaidweed is growing new side shoots where it was cut, and the Ludwigia inclinata curly leaf has already developed a new side shoot.


The plant I'm most worried about is the Ludwigia "pantanal." The trimmed bottoms do not appear to be growing at all. I trimmed the tops again and replanted, but if the bottoms never form side shoots how will I propogate it?? New growth also looks meager. For some reason some nodes are missing leaves and are generally strange looking.

Rotala is also a little washed out, which I'm assuming is due to the decreased light. It might also be adding nitrogen at EI levels, but I don't think that's the case. A water test showed nitrate levels close to 0!



Looking more yellow than red, right?

The good news is that diligent maintenance and fertilization has the anubias and buce looking pretty good. The anubias is growing enough new leaves that it's outcompeting the algae. The buce is also back with those pretty iridescent purplish colors!

Unfortunately I'm seeing an increase in filamentous algae. I think I might be dosing too much phosphorus compared to my other ferts, so I'm going to try increasing everything else 10% to see what happens. I might also get a second amano to take care of what is left.

My jebao dosing pump and float valve for an ATO system cam in the mail today. I take 2 to 3 week trips every few months so I want to make sure the tank functions well in my absence. Stay tuned for the set up struggles!

Final FTS:

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post #13 of 38 (permalink) Old 01-28-2019, 07:23 AM Thread Starter
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It's been quite a struggle the past week or so. My inline diffuser was not putting out enough CO2 (30 bubbles per minute when I want at least 60), so I tried taking it off the outflow line for a good cleaning. Unfortunately when putting it back on I overtightened the hose clamp and cracked it. The old HOB and Fluval diffuser came out of retirement for about a week while I sorted out my shabby plumbing job.

You see, I read on a forum somewhere that you should use reinforced vinyl tubing as it won't crimp. Unfortunately the stock hose clamps on my Hydor heater and Nilocg diffuser don't fit the thicker reinforced vinyl tubing. So I just used stainless steel hose clamps, and in the process of cleaning out all my accumulated aquarium detritus must have thrown out the stock connectors. The problem with aftermarket hose clamps is they just aren't as effective as the ones made for these things, so I had to order parts, get new tubing, and find time to set everything up.

Tl;dr: Just use regular vinyl tubing. It's what your aquarium equipment is made to work with.

Anyways, I finally got everything sorted, CO2 dialed, and the dosing pump set up.


That funny little pump stand was just thrown together with wood scraps. I got fancy with the containers and used acrylic ninth pans plumbed with bulkheads and painted black, except for a strip where you can view the fert solution height. This is probably the most tech ever for a 12 gallon tank, but I want the tank to take care of itself when I'm away so I think it's probably worth it.

Finally, I trimmed the plants. B&A below:



I was going to wait until the next GSAS meeting to trim so I could sell some plants, but it was just getting too out of control.

Proserpinaca palustris has taken off, and there is decent growth in the pantanal so I trimmed the tops off and replanted with the hope it will come back more dense.



The epiphytes on the wood are starting to fill in nicely and get that detailed, jungly look I'm hoping for.

I have one stem of Ludwigia senegalensis that has started to grow emersed. I've named him Tom. I will not trim Tom, I am going to see how tall Tom can grow.


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post #14 of 38 (permalink) Old 02-05-2019, 03:29 PM Thread Starter
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Quick update as I did a minor rescape. I removed the lava rocks on the left and right side to give more planting area and make the lava rocks look less like a straight line. Otherwise, things are going pretty well!

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post #15 of 38 (permalink) Old 02-08-2019, 08:40 AM Thread Starter
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I finally bit the bullet and removed all the anubias from the tank to trim off all the old BBA effected leaves.



The bolbitis and Java fern are finally starting to take their place as dominant textures on the hardscape. I'm conflicted about the whole look- is it too many textures? In the one section I have weeping moss, bolbitis, anubias, Java fern, bucephalandra, h. Tripartita, and pinnatifida. On the one hand it looks very intricate and "jungly", but I'm worried it might be TOO busy. Any thoughts?

There is a stupid amount of BBA on the rocks. I can't take them out since they are acting as a retaining wall for the substrate. I'm hoping enough excel application and brushing will do the trick.

I'll leave you with a FTS from the side so my phone camera's white balance isn't thrown way off for once.

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