Bort's Spec V - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 13 (permalink) Unread 09-30-2019, 08:16 PM Thread Starter
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Bort's Spec V

So maybe this is premature but what the heck. Mods will move it if this doesn't belong here yet. I'm going to be setting up a planted Spec V! It will be awesome! I know it!

Lol, all kidding aside it will be awesome to me regardless of how it looks to the rest of the world. I'm pretty excited to see how this turns out. It will be a slow burn project due to a number of circumstances. Recently relocated from Maine to Atlanta. I've had tanks for most of the last 20 years, with a gap here or there. My experience has been mostly FW, but I did have a SW tank that was mostly the inverts that came on the LR, hermits, snails, and just a few fish. I don't tend to stock heavy. My last tank was a 120 that was moderately planted, dirted, low tech. I gave it away prior to the move and didn't expect to be setting up anything in Atlanta. The smallest I have ever done is 20 gallons, so I will be branching out from what I am used to.

Now if I haven't bored you or chased you off with the mini background here goes...

I was lurking on these forums and ran across the Spec V. I have a home office and it will be moving down to the first floor right off the foyer. That room was meant to be my office when we bought the house but the basement finishing is behind schedule and it's making a mess of things all around. I have been thinking of a small tank in my office. I feel that the tank itself should look good since it will be in a very visible place in the house. The Spec V has good reviews and looks more finished that a standard glass tank. Because of my office moving within the house, I don't know when the actual setup will start. Hence my comment about being premature to start this thread off with.

I have the tank, bought it yesterday and it's still in the box. I ordered the API freshwater master and the GH & KH test kit. I am curious to see what my water is like out of the tap. That will likely play a role in what type of livestock I have. I also ordered a few items for a DIY CO2 setup. I've never tried it before and thought it might be interesting. It'll be the citric acid version, not yeast.

Plants will be low to moderate light. I've never dabbled with high light plants and I'm not sure I want to upgrade lights and deal with them yet. I'm thinking java fern, java moss, and crypts. I've had decent luck with them in the past. Also a floater of some sort. It's a small tank so less will be more with regard to the species. Crypts would probably be a center piece plant like the amazon sword i had in the 120

I'm leaning towards BDBS for my substrate. No dirt this time. Probably some driftwood and smaller rocks. I'll have to see how it goes. I'm not going to try to get fancy with an aquascape like I see some people do. They are very pretty but I don't see myself trying to replicate a tree growing next to a stream as an example.

Livestock is an unknown. I'd like to try shrimp but need to see what my water looks like and do more research. I found a LFS that carries pygmy corries, and I like corries. I also like snails. The favorite part of my SW tank was watching all of the wildlife that came on the rock, the pods, and small worms, etc. Kind of funny in a way since it was a 120, yes my 120 SW tank became my 120 planted, but the ecosystem was cool. So I'd like some biodiversity if possible.

My game plan is to setup the tank and plant it. Do a fishless cycle. Let things run for a couple of months before I add livestock. Let everything stabilize and have the biofilm grow. If I do have shrimp and fish, the shrimp will go in first and I'll give them time to get established before adding any fish. It's not the end of the world if some baby shrimp become snacks. I just don't want them to get wiped out, if you know what I mean.

Enough of me writing a 'book' here. I'll get pictures posted once I reach a point in time where there's something worth seeing
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post #2 of 13 (permalink) Unread 10-01-2019, 09:34 PM Thread Starter
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I forgot to mention in my first post, feel free to comment on things. Feedback is always helpful.

I know it's boring with no pictures etc but I'll get there eventually. I just have nothing to show yet.

Test kits came in and I was surprised by the numbers. This is city water, no softener or in house filtration, straight from the cold water tap. I did rinse the tubes first. All tests were API and I shook the nitrate bottle #2 very well.
PH came in at 8.4
GH 3 or 53.7 ppm
kH 2 or 35.8 ppm
Nitrate was 0 ppm

Did not test Nitrite or ammonia.

It's been a while since I looked at water hardness but it looks like I don't have much buffering along with a high pH. Not sure what this will mean with my plans. I know the tannins from driftwood should lower the pH some.

At least I have something to start focusing my research on
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post #3 of 13 (permalink) Unread 10-02-2019, 12:46 AM
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Welcome to the forum.

That kH should be fine for stability. gH will likely need to be bumped up 3-5 degrees for most critters.

I think a group of, say, 7 (maybe more? 10-11? 7 seems good, though) Corydoras pygmaeus would be great in a Spec V. That should absolutely be what you get. Full of personality, they'll explore the entire tank, perfect scale.

2-3 Amano Shrimp would also be great. They're larger and hardier than most other shrimp and do a better job at cleanup. If you end up liking them? Maybe then you could explore other shrimp. But Amanos are cool shrimp and you'd see them a lot in a Spec.

You don't have to get fancy with an aquascape but you also shouldn't settle for something you don't enjoy. You should be able to find some nice driftwood - a branch of some sort - for under $20.

If you're not set on Black Diamond as a substrate, it may be worth considering other options. I like the color and texture of it but with a tank so small, it'll be cheap to get whatever you want for the tank. Even crushed lava fines/cinders, the expensive black sand you can get from big box pet stores, various sands from hardware stores, you name it. Just check out a few different things in-person if you can before settling. That way you'll have something you truly love.


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post #4 of 13 (permalink) Unread 10-02-2019, 05:11 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the feedback somewhatshocked.

The aquascape will look good to me The comment was more that if a reader was looking for an ADA type scaped tank, they are in the wrong place. Those tanks are beautiful but more work and planning than I want to do. I really like driftwood, the branchy kind in particular. I have always had some in my FW tanks. I am thinking of possibly using a small rock or too as well, not positive on this though. I want to have places for things to hide if they feel like it. Though places for any sort of micro fauna that were to hitchhike in would be good too which makes me think of lava rock.

My last tank was dirted with a PFS cap. I liked it and had no problems at all with it. My corries liked it too as did the MTS. I've looked at tanks online and the black substrates are nice looking. It seems to help things pop a bit and I have never tried it before. That's why I was thinking BDBS. I don't feel like I need a buffering substrate per se, correct me if I'm wrong. I'm pretty open but not sure I want to deal with an aquasoil but I am open to suggestions.

Regarding the GH, it looks like I can add a buffer to my water, perhaps buffer is the wrong word, to raise the GH. The hardscape could possibly do it some if it's something that does leech. A key thing would be to keep things as simple as possible. My well in Maine had harder water, so this is something new for me.

Spec V in particular, any reason I can't use electrical tape to cover the slot that they have in the overflow to prevent pump burnout? I know you used solicone and screening, if I remember correctly. Thought I saw a comment on electrical tape and that is simpler. I'll want a sponge for the overflow as well, believe that will be an AC20 sponge.

I'm trying to decide on a heater. The house is currently set to 75 with the AC and come winter I assume we'll set the heat someplace around 68ish. I'm thinking I want a small heater in the overflow/pump area just in case.

Thanks again.
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post #5 of 13 (permalink) Unread 10-02-2019, 05:22 PM
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Black substrates are my favorite. Though, Black Diamond is... not. I'd consider using it in a large tank but not in anything smaller than 20 gallons. Which is why I hinted at shopping around before settling.

To increase gH, you can use any number of gH salts. I'd use something like this for $5.

Electrical tape is fine but it will fail over time and require replacement. I wanted something more sturdy that was equally easy to remove and chose to use silicone. Looks cleaner overall. If you have silicone, that's what I think you should use. But if you don't? Tape will work well enough.

Having a heater is a nice bit of security. Just be sure to get a temperature controller (something like an Inkbird, roughly $30) to avoid accidentally cooking the tank if something goes wrong. C. pygmaeus should be fine in 68-80. I've never kept mine in heated tanks but never hurts to have a plan for winter.


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post #6 of 13 (permalink) Unread 10-03-2019, 01:42 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the link, I'll check it out.

Good points on the substrates too. BDBS does make sense in a larger tank from a cost perspective. I see it mentioned a lot and just thought I'd use it without really thinking about the fact I don't need much. I can get black Topfin sand locally, not sure if I saw black flourite. The closest LFS is a 40 minute drive but there's both Petsmart and Pet Supermarket within 10 minutes. So I can get basic stuff without much of a problem. other stuff I'll just order.

Regarding the heater, I don't know if I need it just in case or not. Living in Maine it was mandatory. Now I'm in Atlanta and a heater may not be needed. New to the region, so I have no clue what 'winter' is like down here. I'm just glad I won't be shoveling snow anymore, lol. Good point on the controller. I used two smaller heaters in my larger tanks to help prevent cooking the tank if one went bad.

All of the parts for the DIY CO2 came in. It's nothing fancy and something I want to try out. I don't plan to keep plants that need it to do well. My understanding is the stock light will work for up to medium light plants.
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post #7 of 13 (permalink) Unread 10-09-2019, 01:56 PM Thread Starter
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I'm thinking of using black Flourite sand for my substrate. It looks like I need 1 15lb bag per inch of depth based on Seachem's calculator. What I'm thinking of is possibly using one bag of Flourite with a bag of regular black sank to add any additional depth I want. I'm still not set on anything though.

I'll have to make a road trip back to the closest LFS to look at driftwood and stone. The boxstores don't have anything that I really liked but I expected as much.

Amano shrimp, if I go that route, are larger and won't breed in FW. Should I still put a sponge prefilter on the overflow? I know I would need it for smaller shrimp. Also, will stocking order matter as much with Amanos? I've read that normally shrimp go first to give them time to settle in and establish a colony, but there wouldn't be a colony with these.
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post #8 of 13 (permalink) Unread 10-09-2019, 03:21 PM
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A single $22 bag of Flourite Black Sand will give you enough depth. It's what I'm using in one of the cubes in my Cubes journal linked in my signature. I used less than 1/2 a bag in a 10" cube to hit about 1.25 inches in uniform depth.

If I had to do it over again? I'd just buy black sand from Petco or somewhere similar. Cheaper, better color, fewer issues all around.


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post #9 of 13 (permalink) Unread 10-10-2019, 02:30 PM Thread Starter
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More exciting, pictureless progress... I am hoping to begin setup in the next 7 - 10 days. The basement is behind schedule still but we're clearing out the room that is supposed to be my long term office. It's been full of boxes that are meant for the rooms in the basement. I have an L shaped desk with a laptop and desktop. I'm hoping that I can arrange things so that the tank will use one side of the desk. I have risers on order to see if I can make enough room by raising my monitors to pull this off. If it works the tank will be a peninsula, viewable from all three sides.

Ordered a heater, just in case, temp controller, GH salt, silicone, and AC30 foam which supposedly will fit the filter intake area. It'll also work as a prefilter which can't hurt. That should mean I have all of the hardware that I think I need.

The hardscape will depend a little on if I am able to make the tank viewable from three sides. There may be no 'back' per se. I like what @somewhatshocked did in his 9g build with a pile of lava rocks and a driftwood branch on top. The rock pile seems like a perfect place for small stuff to hide. I think I have seen some people get their lava rock at Home Depot. So right now I'm envisioning black sand, with a rock pile, and some wood. I'm hoping to check out another LFS that may be closer to us this weekend, maybe I'll see some wood that I like there.

Plantwise I'm still thinking of keeping it simple. I like java ferns and crypts. Will any sort of smaller carpeting type plant work with the stock light? I may try adding a grass just to see how it goes.

Livestock, I am really liking the idea of pygmy corys, some various snails, and shrimp. No sure if anything else is on my radar as possibilities yet.
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post #10 of 13 (permalink) Unread Yesterday, 07:33 PM Thread Starter
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Progress! All the remaining key parts arrived Friday and I did the test to make sure the tank is watertight Saturday. It passed with flying colors. I sealed the two holes in the filter compartment. It's not pretty but it'll get the job done.

I put some small holes in the return tube to help with the heater in the pump compartment. I really don't know if I need the heater or not. I know what to expect for temps in the Northeast, not Atlanta. So the heater is just in case the temps in the house drop below 72. It probably won't run much but it's there until I have a better feel for things down here.

We checked out another LFS and liked it. I got plain black sand there. They didn't have any driftwood for a nano tank in stock, so we went to the other LFS we checked out a couple weeks ago. I found a cool little piece there. Rocks are supposed to arrive later this week.

I got my desk moved to the new office and played around with the layout of stuff on my desk. The original plan won't work but what I ended up with is probably the best location. I have the tank in the space where the two sides meet to for the L. So I have a great view of the tank regardless of which computer I'm on.

The tank is up and running now. All that is in it, besides black sand, is driftwood and some Java ferns. No pictures yet since the wood and plants are free floating right now, so things look funny. I think I have two different types of Java fern. One has long thin leaves and the other looks to have shorter and wider leaves. I'll have pictures later this week, once the rock is in and things are not just floating in the water column.

I need to find ammonia for the cycle still. The couple of places I looked didn't have what I need. I know Ace Hardware carries ammonia without added stuff that is not aquarium friendly. Just gotta see where one is here.

Have a good one.
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post #11 of 13 (permalink) Unread Yesterday, 07:57 PM
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Excellent-- sounds like making progress, indeed!

Look forward to seeing your pictures

All Low-tech:
180 g. w/ wild South American cichlids, corydoras eques, and African Congo riverine tetras.
60 g. w/ F1 Alenquer discus pair and wild red spotted green discus
30 g. Shrimp Bloody Mary Shrimp and Caridina cf. babaulti "Zebra"
Fluvel Flex 9 gallon- Bloody Mary Shrimp and Caridina cf. babaulti "Zebra"
Fluvel Spec 3- Golden Bee shrimp
30 g. Quarantine/Hospital

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post #12 of 13 (permalink) Unread Today, 02:13 PM Thread Starter
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Okay here is the first pic of the tank. I haven't done anything with the tank since dumping everything in it yesterday. The wood just happened to sink in that position. I kinda like it in that orientation for some reason but I'm not sure how I'll actually place it. More plants will be added once the rocks are in.

I noticed that the java fern that's currently stuck in the wood has a lot of blue thread wrapped around it. Should I remove the thread or leave it?



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post #13 of 13 (permalink) Unread Today, 02:30 PM
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Looks like you're off to a solid start. Your tank will look really nice with a ton of ferns.

I'd remove the thread if you don't like it - not hurting anything but it's not necessary. It's probably there from being attached to hardscape previously.

If the ambient temperature in the room is 65 or so, I doubt you'll ever really need a heater. But nice to have just in case. I've found that heat from the LED fixture and the pump bumps the tank temp up a few degrees F. That's in addition to the 2-3 degrees warmer (than ambient room temp) that my tanks usually run. It's just below 67 in the room my Spec V is in right now and the tank temp is about 72.5. When the light comes on, the tank will slowly warm to 74-75. (I have a fan that kicks on when temperatures hit 72 - for sensitive shrimp.) Since my tank is up against a wall on one side, I'm guessing that adds a bit of insulation that you may not have in an open room. But it's probably not that much of a difference.

Should you not be able to locate an Ace Hardware nearby, this stuff will work. There's a smaller bottle available but it's only a dollar cheaper. There's also Dr. Tim's Ammonium Chloride - which is likely available at various LFS locations in your area. It's more frequently sold in reef/marine/salt water stores. Also available on Amazon but I don't have a link handy for that.


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