The tank is positioned to be viewed from the front and hence I decided to go with a 'Peninsula' layout. Egg crate acts as the bottom layer to help with preventing any acute pressure points from the lava rocks. Crevices between the lava rocks have been sealed off using filter wool. UNS Controsoil was poured to a height of 2 inches or so.
I did not go with a very strong substrate such as ADA Amazonia knowing that it will require large water changes at least for the first 3-4 weeks and I could also be fighting algae issues during that period. I simply could not afford the time/effort needed to get through that phase. From what I could read, UNS Controsoil seemed like a decent bet and hence went with it.
The La Plata sand around the Peninsula provides a nice contrast and I find it very appealing. Yes, it has a mild coating of GDA at a few spots even though it has been just 7 weeks, but I plan to replenish the top layer once every 3-4 months. It is very easy to siphon off and lay down a fresh coating of new sand for the top layer.
The initial layout had a lot more of interesting Spiderwood, but they all floated upon flooding which was a bummer. They were soaked for a couple of weeks and seemed to not float in the big trash can, but I was clearly wrong. I decided to do way with Spiderwood and settled with the hardscape you see currently. Almost all the plants were planted/setup on Day 1.
There has been no major algae issue in these 7 weeks and the tank seems to be settling in well. I do a large water change every week (70%), but the overall maintenance takes around 45 minutes. This includes wiping down the glass, filter inlet/outlet, skimmer, heaters, powerheads and trimming off any dead leaves. There has been no visible algae on the equipments in the last couple of weeks, but I still give everything a good wipe. I am pretty sure that the low light intensity helps a lot and that brings me to the lights.
I was running T5HOs/SB Reef Freshwater LEDs on the high tech setup. When I decided to switch, I wanted to try the new Kessil A360X Tuna Sun LEDs. I was always intrigued by the shimmer the Kessil's produce. These lights are very expensive and my tank does not need the penetration/power Kessils can produce, but I bought them to see whether I like the shimmer in person. The plan was to return them if I was not fully convinced. Just after a few minutes with these new lights, I started loving the shimmer. I do think that these lights are not for everyone. It can really be distracting in a dark room, but the Kessils do add something to the overall experience. I am not sure how to express it. It is best experienced in person. I just hope that the lights last long (there are some reports on the net questioning the reliability of Kessils).
The Spectral Controller provides the ability to ramp up and ramp down. It also allows one to control the Red and Amber channels apart from the intensity and color temperature. The lights are hung 13 inches above the water surface and are currently set at 25% intensity, 55% color, 25% Red and 25% Amber. Total light duration in 6 hours with 30 minutes of ramp up and 30 minutes of ramp down. I expect the PAR at substrate to be around 30-35 PAR. I should be getting my hands on a PAR meter in the next few weeks and plan to measure PAR data at various intensities.
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