Spec V - Mistakes were made! - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 25 (permalink) Old 06-23-2019, 03:57 PM Thread Starter
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Spec V - Mistakes were made!

I have had an aquarium on and off since I was a child. Always smaller tanks and never with plants until about 5 years ago where I technically had my first planted tank. Just a couple of plants in a 29 gallon bowfront. I ran that tank for a couple of years and then got rid of it when I moved. My wife and I moved again into our current place back in October of 2018. Shortly after I started watching some videos on youtube and heard the term "aquascape" for the first time. I became fascinated by it and decided it was time to get another tank.

I am currently renting and the wife is not super excited about aquariums. So the tank needed to be pretty small. This would really be my first planted tank where I actually did more then just add 2 plants and walk away. It has gone through a LOT of changes and frankly I did not document all of them. In fact I had no intention of writing a journal whatsoever. But after being on this site for a while I decided to go ahead and start documenting this tank while the wife and I hunt for our next house to buy. After we buy that house I will get my next real tank which will be substantially bigger.

In the meantime, enter the Spec V.

So yea... a lot of mistakes were made with this tank starting with the fact that I bought the saltwater version instead of the freshwater. They are absolutely identical except that the saltwater version comes with a 10k light which makes everything look a bit washed out. I didn't realize how much I would hate this when I bought it. I just wanted a light strong enough to grow plants and I figured the saltwater version would do that. But yea.. definitely not a good way to go.

I don't have many pictures of the tank after the initial setup but I did manage to find two:



This one is the best FTS I had of its initial setup. The substrate is eco-complete which I really do not like. The hardscape is 3 rocks. The large rock on the left is huge but I really liked how the sword plant next to it looked and left it in for most of the tanks life up to current. This rock would determine much of the rest of the aquascape. The moss balls.. yea I bought a bunch online for pretty cheap and decided I wanted to use them all...... so not the best decision.



Here you can see the tank and where it is located. Its very visible from 3 sides which mean all the aquascape needs to be in the middle row of the tank and I can't just lean everything up against the back. This makes aquascaping pretty challenging.

Stocking for the tank was a betta named Umami, various neo shrimp, and at one point a orange dwarf crayfish. Here is the next iteration I have record of:



I wanted to provide hiding places for the shrimp so I used a piece of manzinita wood and attached java moss to it. The java moss kinda took over. It provided hiding places but blocked out the rest of everything a bit too effectively.

I removed the wood eventually and glued the java moss directly to the rocks. Over the next few months things grew in pretty well until I added too much excel or flourish or both during a water change and managed to kill a few shrimp and my poor crayfish who could not climb the walls to get out of the danger zone.

Here are some pictures from this time period.







You can see some Ludwigia and some cabomba in these pictures. At some point I tried growing stems. They did ok but at the time I was unaware folks would cut the tops off these plants after they establish themselves and replant them getting rid of the bottoms. This would definitely have been helpful information to me since I ultimately got rid of the stems because the tops looked great but the bottoms looked terrible. I thought they were just dying. They might have been... but they also might have just been adjusting to submersed growth. So yea.. mistakes.

Regarding the stocking, even at the start of the aquarium I noted that Umami was not a great swimmer and preferred to move as little as possible. I have had bettas like this before but Umami was especially unmotivated. After a few months I noticed he was essentially only moving when food was offered. The rest of the time he would hang out against the skimmer part of the filter and not move. The current was not too strong for him since I had muffled it by this point. He just didn't like to move. I rescaped the tank a couple of times to see if I could interest him but nothing worked. Sometime in early spring I decided it was time for Umami to go back to the fish store and to get some endlers which would be more active and interesting fish.

What I was not prepared for was my 2 year old daughter having bonded quite thoroughly to Umami. She pretty much lost it when she saw me bagging him up. Thereafter whenever she was upset about something she would start asking about Umami. She cared not at all for the endlers which I frankly thought were pretty neat.

After a couple of months of of this with no sign of her losing interest in the departed Umami I decided it was time for Umami to come back. This time though I would be more careful with my betta selection.

Umami being a very modern fish had gone through a bit of a transformation while he was away. He looked quite a bit different and also had a sex change. She was now a koi style plakat betta. My daughter did not sweat the differences and once more was happy and fascinated with the aquarium.

In preparation for the new Umami I did another rescape (my 5th or 6th by this point). I finally removed the big rock to the left which really freed up some space. Here are some pictures of the tank as it is today:







The big brown leaf is a mini catappa leaf.

The current setup is still settling in with some melt on the crypts but overall I am quite happy. This post has been crazy long so I will end it here and update more on the tank as things happen.
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post #2 of 25 (permalink) Old 06-24-2019, 01:08 PM
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I think the tank looks beautiful, I'd love to see an FTS of the current look.

Old Umami looks beautiful but I guess that crazy tail must have weighed it down a lot. New Umami looks gorgeous too!
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post #3 of 25 (permalink) Old 06-24-2019, 06:49 PM Thread Starter
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So I just learned a whole lot about trying to photograph my tank. One thing I learned was that I should do it at night when the windows won't be introducing glare. I tried blankets and it was terrible heh.

I used a blanket for the back of the tank just so I wouldn't have all the stuff on my kitchen counter showing through. Here is a full tank shot as requested:

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post #4 of 25 (permalink) Old 06-25-2019, 04:20 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by minorhero View Post
So I just learned a whole lot about trying to photograph my tank. One thing I learned was that I should do it at night when the windows won't be introducing glare. I tried blankets and it was terrible heh.

I used a blanket for the back of the tank just so I wouldn't have all the stuff on my kitchen counter showing through. Here is a full tank shot as requested:


Haha yeah, I always take pictures of my tank at night. You tank looks great! Looking forward to more updates.
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post #5 of 25 (permalink) Old 06-26-2019, 06:20 PM Thread Starter
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I really didn't intend to be updating this journal so quickly... but .. well.. DISASTER

So I was feeding my infant son while my 2 year old daughter played in another room. No big deal, our house is childproof, this happens all the time. But as it turns out our house is only 'mostly' childproof. Our daughter has gained a lot of capabilities over the past few months including the ability to move chairs around and then climb up on them. This defeats a lot of previous childproofing. It hasn't been a problem till today because she has never messed with things she isn't normally allowed access to. She is old enough to recognize what she is allowed to touch and what she isn't.

What I didn't take into account is that I allow her to feed the fish. Heck, I encourage her interest in the tank. I just never allow her to feed the fish without me giving her the correct amount of food and usually holding her hand as she does it.

Today she managed to pull the chair up to one part of the counter where the food is kept. Get a container of omega 1 betta food. Get down, push the chair over to the tank. Unscrew the lid. And dump the entire can into the tank, onto the lid, onto the floor, onto the cat's stand next to the tank.

I was unaware of this. I didn't discover the issue till about 20 minutes later (I am guessing). When I walked by I didn't even realize what had happened. My first thought was that the water looks cloudy, and the lighting appears odd. Then what I was seeing registered. This was how that looked.



I would estimate that the amount of food in the middle was over a centimeter deep.

So I immediately got out the gravel vac and tried to get as much up as I could and do a big water change. I still missed a ton and just the act of gravel vacuuming ended up spreading a lot around. I did another water change and gravel vac about 30 minutes later. At this point I decided I wasn't going to be able to get all the food up without removing the plants. The pellets had all drifted into my jungle area and I couldn't gravel vac without just smashing the plants flat.

I bit the bullet and pulled everything except the hairgrass (though eventually I pulled at least half of that as well). This is how that looked:



And the plants I pulled:



I then spent some time replanting everything. I did organize it a bit better with different types of plants not just being thrown in as a complete jungle like before (though its still a jungle - at least now it has layers). Other then that its essentially the same as before. Here is what it looks like now:



Now to move the remaining food well out of reach.
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post #6 of 25 (permalink) Old 06-26-2019, 06:45 PM
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"Have kids!" they said, "It will be fun!" they said...

I am very happy I didn't discover aquariums until the oldest was 11! Glad you were able to avert disaster fairly quickly. I might use prime liberally and keep an eye on ammonia levels for a week or two though!

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post #7 of 25 (permalink) Old 07-11-2019, 07:06 PM Thread Starter
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Two weeks out from the toddler fish food disaster and I feel like the incident is mostly behind me. No livestock was lost which is good. Plants were another matter. So right when this happened I was about to treat a blue green algae outbreak with erythromycin.

Then the fish food disaster. All of sudden the bacteria in my tank was super important and I could not go 4 days without biological filtering. So the blue green algae had to take a back seat. This allowed it to spread a bit. I was doing water changes every day but that didn't matter. Then after a week or so when I felt sure I could go a few days without biological media I treated the BGA. During the next 4 days I had a pretty decent outbreak of brown algae which I had never had in this tank. I also disconnected the pump when using some kitchen devices and forgot to plug it back in. So I went more then half a week with no circulation in the tank and no biological media either. Undoubtedly this brought on the brown algae. It got all over everything but the hairgrass took the hardest hit.

Once everything was back in the tank and running normally I cleaned the algae manually as best I could and bought a couple of amano shrimp to help with the cleanup. Now fast forward to today. Over the last 2 weeks I lost about half my crypt parva, The hairgrass looks pretty terrible and has definitely stopped growing. I have a lot of dead and dying leaves on my longer leafed crypts (forgot their name) and generally the scape is not looking so hot. The only thing that did well during the disaster was the duckweed which had its biggest growth spur to-date at more then tripling in number in the last 2 weeks. I am sure I could keep up everything and it would recover but I think I am about done with this scape and its time to do another redesign.

Here is a look at where things are at today:







So things I learned from this scape:

1) I want elevation changes in my scapes. Flat substrate in profile does not look good to me. I want dips and swoops and hills etc. This is difficult in this size tank but I will do what I can to make it happen going forward.

2) Black substrate does not look good to my eye. A lot of folks like black substrate but the eco-complete I am using simply looks too unnatural to me. I need to change my substrate going forward.

3) My current tank has too many different kinds of plants in it. Plants look better in groupings and my tank is too small to have this many different types of plants all jumbled together. I need to limit the types of plants in this tank to 1 to 3 plant types max. (not counting floaters)

4) I need to do a better job planning out my scapes in advance. The approach I see so many youtubers do of "I am just going to throw this stuff in there and see how it turns out" does not work for me. I need to have a game plan before I begin and work towards that because the unplanned plantings thing simply does not work.

I have a pretty good idea of how my next scape will go and have already ordered plants for it. As part of my planning process I cut a piece of cardboard to match the interior bottom of the tank. Then I laid out my rocks and wood on that piece of cardboard so I could get an idea of how much space I had to work with. I wasn't able to go full 3d with this design because there was no substrate to hold things up, but I was able to move things around and see how far from the edges I needed to be to use a scraper etc.

I also went ahead and obtained new substrate. I will go into more detail on this in my next update which will hopefully be the teardown of the current setup and complete rescape. But bottom line is that the next substrate should look substantially more natural. At this point I am just waiting on at least some of my plants to come in which should be in the next few days. When that happens I will be able make this whole thing come together.
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post #8 of 25 (permalink) Old 07-11-2019, 07:21 PM
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Kids (when they're yours).. gotta love em. And I don't mean that sarcastically.
I bet right after, you probably saw a goofy look on her face and you melted anyway.


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post #9 of 25 (permalink) Old 07-11-2019, 09:17 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ipkiss View Post
Kids (when they're yours).. gotta love em. And I don't mean that sarcastically.
I bet right after, you probably saw a goofy look on her face and you melted anyway.
Well we had a heart to heart talk about not taking things off counters and never putting stuff into the aquarium without an adult. Then 5 minutes later she was off playing again. There is at least a 5% chance that she remembers the talk to going forward.
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post #10 of 25 (permalink) Old 07-11-2019, 10:45 PM
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She'll remember bits and pieces. They will surprise you.


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post #11 of 25 (permalink) Old 07-12-2019, 12:02 AM
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Many years ago when my kids were 4 their friend drop a piece ( 3" x 3") of chocolate cake in my 20 gallons tank
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post #12 of 25 (permalink) Old 07-12-2019, 12:34 AM Thread Starter
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Gah! Did you discover it quickly?
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post #13 of 25 (permalink) Old 07-12-2019, 12:37 AM
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Disaster aside, it looks like you're getting the hang of scaping and that's a good thing!

Don't get EC turn you off of black/dark substrates. I personally think EC is hot garbage and looks less than great. But there are tons of other great options - from soils to sands and even Seachem's clay-based products.


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post #14 of 25 (permalink) Old 07-14-2019, 11:27 PM Thread Starter
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Wow this thread was definitely apptly named.

So things... happened.

I am going to recount them in order they occurred for posterity. Also cause.. you know disaster.

So I decided to switch substrates. I bought a bag of Pavestone Paver Base at Home Depot. Specifically, this stuff. I think I paid a little under 5 dollars with tax so it was pretty darn cheap. I brought it home and began to wash it. After I finished I washed it again. Then I realized I really needed to wash it so I did a really thorough job of washing it. Then I took a good hard look at it and washed it 10 more times. After that was finally over I washed it just once more...before washing it again a few dozen times.

I spent at least 1.5 hours washing an amount that covered about 2 inches of the bottom of my Spec V. I used different methods of washing it from putting it in skimmer baskets and hosing it off to putting it in buckets and letting the crud run off the top.

Towards the end I was running the hose on auto and stirring it up by hand and letting it run into a skimmer basket and then into a drain. This is what that looked like:



The pile of rocks to the right are the rocks too large to be considered for the aquarium I pulled out of this pile.

I decided to use this wacky stuff because I saw someone elses journal where they were using it and I thought "golly that looks really natural!" They said it didn't change the water parameters and that they had been using it for years. So inert plus cheap? Heck yea!

So after washing it till it ran completely clear I settled down to replace the substrate in my tank.

I pulled everything out, put the livestock in a bucket with the plants and old tank water and cheerfully disposed of the eco-complete. Then added my new paver base substrate. Here is how that looked:



Tada! Super happy! I was planning a big change up to the hardscape with a new reliance on fissidens fontanus. I was planning to use lots of pieces of manzanita wood I had previously purchased with a rock super glued to their base (so they would stick in the substrate and not float away) with the moss super glued to the wood. I had seen lots of videos showing me how to glue wood to rocks with cigarette filters. I don't happen to have any of those lying around so I decided to use bits of paper towels. Note to reader: do not use paper towels. Here is how this looked:



I was also going to use some new dwarf sagittaria, keep my java fern, and my vallisneria nana. The rest was going to the bin. I didn't have enough time to fully make it happen but I got everything back in the tank so it would all survive the night. I figured I would clean up the scape the following day. Here is how it looked:



The fish appeared a little stressed but I figured that having your scape torn up and stored in a bucket for a couple of hours would do that to them so I went to bed. The next morning showed them being really stressed. Colors were dull, and they were not their usual energetic selves. They were mostly staying still which I have never seen my endlers do before. I used a strip to to test the water and the ph turned bright pink instantly (none of this waiting 30 seconds nonsense). I used my kit to test the ph high range and this is what it looked like:



The one on the right is my tap water. The purple death vial on the left is my aquarium. Remember when I used an unknown substrate without testing? Yea that was a bad idea.

It needed to come out and come out right away. I needed a substrate that could grow plants and didn't have time to do a lot of DIY work or investigate a completely unknown option. I opted for pool filter sand and obtained some immediately from my local pool supply company.

For the second time in about 24 hours I emptied the tank, stored the livestock, and cleaned out the substrate. I added some small aquarium gravel stones I picked up from petsmart into the mix plus some botanicals. The result was not what I wanted but its better then melting my fish in water so alkaline it literally is off the scale for my test kits.

Here is what it looks like now:



Some more work needs to be done still. I need to move around the wood a little, add some more moss to one of the wood pieces, plus add moss to the rock. I have 2 more squares of moss to work with that are currently just hanging out on the left side of the tank. Plus the sag showed up looking really sad. So I might need to buy some more. But this gives a rough idea of what I was envisioning. Plus the fish are no longer having their organs melt inside their body. So you know, bonus!
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Last edited by minorhero; 07-14-2019 at 11:40 PM. Reason: grammar!!!
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post #15 of 25 (permalink) Old 07-15-2019, 02:29 AM
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Looks so much better! Has a much more natural and dynamic look to it with the colors and grade of the substrate. Great job (thumbs up)!

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