Since I want to redo my big tank, I've decided to get my old 20 gal tank out of storage and use it as a holding tank, quarantine tank and whatever else I'll need during my project.
Stupidly I had to do this twice since I hadn't check if my old heating cable still worked - it didn't, and I had to take everything apart again and start over. So people, please check your appliances before you put them in your tank...
Anyway. I decided to do it better the second time round.
So first thing was to level the stand the aquarium is on. I hadn't done that in the first round, and the upper left corner was sagging compared to the upper right one - that looked awful with the water line all diagonal through the front glass...
I made sure it was level front to back, too.
Second, since I'm using a heating cable at the bottom of the tank, and since I don't want to rip it up every time I have to take a plant out of the tank, I decided to fix it on a piece of eggcrate that fits into the tank.
I sewed it on with some sort of buttonhole stitch and fishing line.
Here I've done about half the length - you can see how evenly it sits on the eggcrate when it's stitched on:
And here you can see a close-up of the stitches:
That took a long time, and my patience started to wear pretty thin - have you ever sewn something on with fishing line? It's hell!
Anyway, I got it done and placed it face down in my tank, so that the eggcrate would hold the heating cable in place. The added benefit of a heating cable is that it circulates the water through the substrate when it warms it up.
Then I put a rim of black gravel with a bit of river gravel mixed in around the tank, so that there wouldn't be any ugly substrate-gravel lines to be seen from outside the tank. (There is a piece of black foamboard taped against the back of the tank, so I didn't have to worry about that side).
Next, I filled the center with clay-based, unscented kitty litter. I know, I know - but I've had good results with it, so I'm sticking with it at the moment.
I filled in some water, compressed the kitty litter with my hand and leveled it out by comparing it with the water level. Then I filled in with some more of my gravel mixture and tadaa - ready to plant.
I ripped out some of the plants from my old tank and put in a tacky ceramic garden lantern that my kribensis loves (he lives in its roof). So my plants are 3 Echinodorus bleheri (I think), and a dozen cuttings from my Ludwigia repens (I guess). I put them in a bit diagonally with some tweezers, then held them in place with small dark river rocks from my garden path. That helps avoiding them getting loose and start floating around the tank when I fill in the water. As soon as the cuttings are rooted, I'll take the small rocks out.
Now the only thing I still had to do was to fill the tank with water, attach my two filters (a biowheel and an aquaclear), put up the canopy and turn on the lights (two 18" T8 bulbs). This is how the tank looked immediately after filling:
I still have to clean the tank glass better, and take a picture during the evening, when you won't have the reflection of my orchid stand on the tank. The cleaning crew came with the plants: they're small ramshorn snails, and I've put in one of my two kribensis and one very old rainbow fish. The biowheel has been prepared by running it on my big tank for two weeks, so this tank should be all cycled and ready.
I hope you had some fun reading this, and I sure had fun making this tank journal...