Riparium with Refugium/Auto Feeder for Kindergarten Class - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 102 (permalink) Old 09-19-2019, 09:13 PM Thread Starter
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Riparium with Refugium/Auto Feeder for Kindergarten Class

I set up a planted tank for my daughter's kindergarten class. I've had planted tanks for years. I like the Walstad approach with an Amano aesthetic. For this tank I was hoping for a setup that would survive during the summer with little to no intervention. I was inspired by Tom's Bucket o' Mud and his ability to leave the tank alone for 6 weeks at a time.

The tank I have to work with is a 20gal high tank. I put in a small power head (restricted) for circulation currently located at the top of the tank. I split the tank up with a plastic mesh to create a refugium against the back of the tank. So far I added gammarus (with green water), snails, and a mix of hitchhikers that came along with the gammarus. I seeded the whole tank with a good amount of filter sludge to aid in cycling. I'm adding moina in about a week and cherry shrimp not long after that. I'm also considering adding some blackworms. I'm interested in adding anything that will reproduce, without additional food, that could be eaten by small adult fish.

The tank is heavily planted with a variety of random plants (Az Gardens mixed potted plant special) and there's two anthuriums planted in shower caddies riparium style in the back and a good amount of driftwood. I'm covering most of the plastic mesh with java moss in a few days. I added some oak leaves to the refugium along with some hornwort that came with the scuds. I also plan to add some of the java moss back there as I know cherry shrimp love to breed in it. Substrate is a mix of Fluval Plant and Shrimp and black flourite. The light is Fluval Plant Spectrum 3.0.

For fish I was thinking a couple of otocinclus and around 10 white clouds to be added in about a month. Hoping that a low fish load will make this whole idea possible.

I could use some help with suggestions for making the refugium work (best organisms, approach, etc.) as well as it can. Anyone who's had experience with freshwater refugiums please share your wisdom.

Also all opinions/advice welcome! My goal is to make this a pretty self contained little ecosystem. I'm going to add a partial cover to the tank to minimize evaporation. I'm hoping this will be a no feed tank that only needs an occasional top up due to evaporation.

I'll post some pictures shortly and document the tank's progress here as it goes along.

Last edited by rakali; 01-16-2020 at 02:15 AM. Reason: Removed Freshwater from the title because duh.
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post #2 of 102 (permalink) Old 09-20-2019, 05:20 PM Thread Starter
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After seeing Michael Langerman's video I biked up to Central Park and collected a bunch of plants, a few leaves, and some snails. I'm hoping to make mini plastic cup tanks like Michael has for each of the kid's to take home. Additionally I'll culture some myself to add more diversity to the tank.

Last edited by Darkblade48; 09-21-2019 at 07:01 AM. Reason: Please use the edit function for back to back posts to keep threads cleaner
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post #3 of 102 (permalink) Old 09-20-2019, 06:07 PM
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Very cool start. Looks like its going to be a interesting tank setup and I am sure the kids will love it.

Not so sure how well leaving it over the summer will work with the fish but no expert myself on setups like this. You would be surprised at how quickly 10 of any predatory nano fish will clean out a tank of its small organisms. My 10G which has my betta and some amano shrimp had a huge amount of little critters and detrious worms cruising all over the tank. I added 5 chili rasboras and it was cleaned out in under a week. Well atleast all the stuff you could see anyway.

Hopefully you can attain more of a balance with yours in that respect.
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post #4 of 102 (permalink) Old 09-20-2019, 06:42 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for your reply! Yeah I'm hoping to stock the hell out of the refugium with adult organisms that are too big to pass through the screen (shrimp, daphnia magna, etc.) The tank will find it's balance. It could end up that there's no fish left come start of school. Hoping it won't come to that.

Also hoping that rounding out the ecosystem as much as possible will lead to better health all the way up the food chain. We'll see.
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post #5 of 102 (permalink) Old 09-21-2019, 12:38 PM Thread Starter
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@Wasserpest Can you move this to Tank Journals? Didn't realize there was a category for them. Thanks!
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post #6 of 102 (permalink) Old 09-21-2019, 08:18 PM
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Sure, not a problem.


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post #7 of 102 (permalink) Old 09-22-2019, 06:36 PM Thread Starter
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A few updates on the tank. In a different thread I asked for recommendations for fish for the tank and @tamsin recommended Endlers because they are bold and beautiful as opposed to CPDs which are also beautiful but shy. They also recommended only males which makes a lot of sense. So for now Endlers are my front runner. I read here that Endlers do not need a heater and that it may actually increase their longevity to have them in cooler water. I am considering hardening up the water a bit as I read that this is better for the shrimp and preferred by the Endlers.

I've been devouring all the old @auban posts and his tricks post was really illuminating. After reading it I bought Astaxanthin to make greenwater and Catappa Ketapang leaves to make black water.

I also decided to go back to the original Tom's Bucket o' Mud post that inspired this whole approach in the first place. I found his list of critters and basically ordered everything I was missing.

Tom's list:

"I added (at various points), shrimp, Hyalella and several species of daphnia (big ones got gobbled up very fast but I have a tiny species that hangs on the substrate that still appears from nowhere whenever I have a tank without fish in it - a bit like a mini ostracod). Other than that ostracods, cyclops, freshwater limpets and various other microfauna seeded themselves really. Also had less welcome planaria, hydra and leeches at various points.

I've also now got Asellus and Lumbriculus in some tanks which both make excellent additions. My new Paros are going mad for the Lumbriculus - the worms bury in the substrate with one end waving in the air, which the Paros bite off with glee. Apparently just about any Lumbriculus segment is able to regenerate into an entire worm so they should just grow back."

I already had the scuds and shrimp are coming soon. I ordered moina and daphnia magna which should arrive shortly. I found the Lumbriculus at Carolina Biological supply and they seem like the perfect worm. Thinking I need to add to the mulm before the worms arrive. There's currently a thin layer of filter sludge which will be a good start but I'll need more. I've been collecting oak leaves. Maybe I can make some kind of slurry in the blender with them. I also want to add nori which my cherries have loved in the past and it really makes their color pop.

Found this nice mix of crustaceans (Daphnia, Alonella, copepods, ostracods, aquatic isopods, amphipods) from Carolina which should just about complete Tom's list. Well everything but the limpets and the Asellus. Although Tom did so much wild collecting who knows what else was in there.

My java moss order finally arrived and like a dumb ass I only ordered one portion when the seller who was running a 2 for 1 sale had agreed to send me 5 for the price of 2. Doh! I ordered a few other orders from another seller. Hopefully it's enough. I want enough to cover most of the refugium mesh and some to add to the refugium.

Also I'm having thoughts about my pond collection. I'm not seeing any ostracods which are what I was really hoping for and I'd rather not get any weird worms that won't be helpful. I think I may just return the samples to where I got them from. Thoughts?

Last edited by rakali; 09-22-2019 at 07:12 PM. Reason: Back to back post. Meant to edit.
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post #8 of 102 (permalink) Old 09-23-2019, 04:46 PM Thread Starter
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This morning I checked on the tank and the greenwater is getting thicker. On the one hand I'm glad. I added greenwater to help support the scuds and daphnia (I'll be adding shortly) and other infusoria but on the other hand aesthetically the greenwater makes the tank look bad. The teachers in the class understand that this is an ecosystem tank and that the water won't be crystal clear but there's still part of me that wants to throw a filter in there and make the water clear. Hopefully the addition of the daphnia will help increase clarity a bit. Sometimes in the pursuit of aesthetics we compromise the health of our tanks I think.
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post #9 of 102 (permalink) Old 09-23-2019, 05:04 PM
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Great thread - and good on you for doing this in a classroom! I bet those kids love it! My son's pre-k class has a 10 gallon tank with 2 goldfish (that are each about 1/3 the size of the tank). Makes me so, so sad.

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Sometimes in the pursuit of aesthetics we compromise the health of our tanks I think.
Absolutely. Clear water is beautiful, but when you look at bodies of water in nature, often they are green, or brown. And life thrives. Too bad a lot of newbies to the hobby are coached/chastised that these things are "bad" when in fact, they are signs of health for an ecosystem.
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post #10 of 102 (permalink) Old 09-26-2019, 12:33 AM Thread Starter
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Did a little presentation on the tank for the kids today. They seemed to enjoy it.

Bought a cover to help with evaporation and bought a mount for the heater the tank came with that was missing. LFS said set it to 78.

Adding two peace lillies tomorrow. Bought some dollar store jars for setting up some daphnia and other cultures in case the tank crashes.

Bought some crushed coral that I'm going to put in the refugium to up the PH and the GH. LFS said shrimp will need it.

I'm going away for a week starting Saturday. Hopefully nothing freaks out. Lots of organisms arriving this week (daphnia, moina, blackworms, asellus, ostracods, isopods).

Here's the slide I made to show our little ecosystem.

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Last edited by rakali; 09-26-2019 at 12:34 AM. Reason: Image didn't show.
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post #11 of 102 (permalink) Old 09-27-2019, 03:06 AM Thread Starter
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Today I fitted the cover and it was too big. I looked up a glass cutting place and realized how few are left. People don't hang pictures or art much anymore. When I finally did find someone he cut the glass for free.

I added two peace lillies as was suggested here and at my LFS. The shower caddies are now full.

I added the crushed coral and I think I got a slight bump in PH to 6.8 but with these test strips it's hard to tell. But at least things are headed in the right direction.

I added the heater which was missing mounts (I bought some yesterday) and set it to 76. LFS said 78 but I figured better to get there gradually.

The big news is the mixed crustaceans arrived from Carolina Biological. I was happy to see daphnia, ostracods, and copepods but so dissapointed to see no asellus that I called them. They said you get whatever is available but did offer to refund. I accepted the explanation and told them it wasn't necessary. If anyone has some aselus they'd be willing to share I'd appreciate it. We've blown through our budget.

I also got black worms. It's funny because I was thinking about black worms because I fed them to puffers in the past and then I saw Tom mention Lumbriculus and I ordered them thinking they were some kind of fancy worm not realizing they were just black worms. I looked up how to culture them and found this informative page. They recommend chopping the worms up to stimulate regeneration and to increase the size of your culture. I had to psyche myself up a bit to do it but the deed is done.

I now have two culture jars set up in the classroom. One with the crustaceans and one with the worms. I'll be setting up a daphnia only one shortly too when the big daphnia order arrives. I'll also have eggs for daphnia magna that I need to hatch and add over the next few weeks.

It was good to see the tank with more emergent plants and all the little critters swimming around. Numbers still look good too.

Last edited by rakali; 09-27-2019 at 03:09 AM. Reason: too not to Argh!!
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post #12 of 102 (permalink) Old 09-27-2019, 03:39 AM
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How about some photos or videos?

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post #13 of 102 (permalink) Old 09-27-2019, 11:33 AM Thread Starter
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How about some photos or videos?
I'll take some this morning. I was thinking the same thing last night.
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post #14 of 102 (permalink) Old 09-27-2019, 02:56 PM Thread Starter
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@Streetwise Here's some pictures and videos from this morning. Next time I'll shoot with a polarizing filter to minimize the reflection.





This is the refugium. It's sits behind a screen in the tank. It currently contains oak leaves, Indian Almond leaves, java moss, hornwort, and some cooked vegetables I added last night.



That's my daughter pointing out a snail. The teacher and I discussed creating laminated cards that list all the organisms for the children to find and identify. We want to turn it into a game.



These are the culture jars. I set them up by mixing filter sludge in with the gravel and water. They both contain hornwort, small pieces of java moss, and cooked vegetables. The jar on the left is the Carolina Biological mixed crustaceans and the jar on the right is black worm. The water is cloudy because it's greenwater from the tank.


Last edited by rakali; 09-27-2019 at 03:20 PM. Reason: images not showing up
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post #15 of 102 (permalink) Old 09-27-2019, 03:10 PM
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Cool tanks! I see a snail fan and some big root systems.

Cheers

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