And another update!
I have begun the rescape of the tank!
My method this time involved finding a place for the livestock and the plants, then taking my time with the rest. I am very very thankful I did this since its taking a while to get the whole thing done. With two small children to look after during the day, I simply can not devote a 12 hour block to redoing a tank.
I began by making a home for the fish (and dozen or so surviving ghost shrimp) while the rest of the tank was being dealt with. A plastic storage container and some rocks in the middle to break up site lines took care of that. I filled it with tank water, and attached the same canister filter to the side. This is how it looked:
With the temporary holding tank assembled I pulled all the plants and put everything I planned to keep in one bucket and everything I was tossing in the bin. Then I removed the hardscape, drained the water till it was only an inch or so deep. Then caught all the fish. From previous attempts I knew it was all but impossible to catch them before they were so restricted. Then I drained the rest of the water, this is what I was left with:
I used a floor dust pan (that had been washed off) to remove all the substrate and put that into a different bucket. Then I cleaned up the tank:
I played with the bricks outside of the tank till I had a rough idea of what I wanted to do. Then I added back into the tank enough sand/sts mix into the corner the bricks were going into. Just enough so the bricks had a little cushioning. Then I added the bricks back in:
I didn't quite like this look so I played with it a bit till I got this:
Hardscape done! Its really basic I know, but it gets across the idea that this habitat has some man made elements to it. With a dirt tank I really can't get much in the way of elevations without a lot of trouble so this was going to have to be good enough.
Speaking of dirt....
The day before I got my dirt squared away. I at first used the same dirt that I bought a few months before for use in my Walstad tank. This time I didn't sift it, I just dumped it into a bucket and added water. I stirred it up and then removed anything still floating. The idea was that I would use the stuff that sunk to the bottom. I did this a lot... like 4 times. I had a big ol bucket of watery dirt.... and it was a terrible idea.
As it turns out the sifting is important if you are using recently purchased dirt. I figured anything big like sticks or leaves would surely float. And a lot of it did. But not all of it. Some of it sunk right off....... darn it.
Anyway about the time I was resigning myself to using what I had, sticks and leaves and all. I ran out of dirt. So I pulled out a bag of raised bed soil I had from literally 3 years prior. I just never opened it.
Well... as it turns out.. the aged dirt was WAY better. All the sticks and leaves had decomposed. Whereas the more recently purchased dirt had least 3/4 of the contents floating and being discarded, NONE of the aged raised bed dirt floated at all. I don't know if this is because it was "raised bed" and the other dirt I was using was "garden soil" or if it was because the "raised bed" dirt had been aged 3 years in the bag. But for whatever reason the "raised bed" soil was FAR superior. I promptly dumped out the dirt I had been using and switched to just my raised bed dirt.
Here is the bag of dirt I used:
And the back:
Here is a big ol' pile of mud being dumped into the aquarium:
Notice all that water in the aquarium? Yea... that turned out to be a problem. There wasn't much to start with, maybe a centimeter down on the floor of the aquarium. But it was enough to make a big mess when the dirt was added. If I had it to do over again the only thing I would change would be to get rid of that water by any means before adding the dirt. This would have meant sponges as I had already passed the point of the python sucking it up but it would have been worth it.
Anyway I put down a little under an inch of dirt and then capped it with around 1 to 2 inches of sand depending where in the aquarium you measure. Then I filled it up..... it was messy:
Remember that centimeter of water that was in there when I added the dirt? Well it carried a good layer of dirt above the sand when I added it despite my best efforts. Thus the mess. If it had been dry instead of wet this wouldn't have been an issue.
I proceeded to gravel vac the tank (even though I couldn't see much of anything) using the python until it was just about empty of water. Then refilled, then gravel vac'd again. On the third refill it looked like this:
At this point I was in a pretty good place with the tank. I drained it till I had just an inch or 2 of water in the tank. I am now ready for planting.
Speaking of plants, they umm.. had some algae issues. I mean... a lot of algae issues. I originally was going to dump a bottle of hydrogen peroxide into a bucket of water and let them sit overnight. After doing some reading online I learned that would be a good way of melting all my plants down to mush. Not wanting a bucket of mush I decided to go a different route.
A lot of folks spoke very highly online of doing a bleach dip. The recommended dosage is 1 part bleach to 19 parts water, or 1 cup of bleach to about 1.25 gallons of water. I decided this was the way to go and dumped the pre-mixed bleach and water into my bucket of plants. I then washed out the bucket I used to mix the bleach and by the time I was done that I grabbed the plants out of the bucket they were soaking in and put them into the newly rinsed bucket. Total time in the bleach dip? Around 30 seconds would by my guess but I didn't count. I then rinsed the bleach bucket and then moved the plants into that along with some Seachem Prime. So the plants got moved around a bit to really rinse off. They are currently still in that bucket and I plan to leave them there overnight. If all goes well I will be doing my planting tomorrow.
My new (to my) regulator is coming in the mail sometime this coming week. Once here I will be able to get the co2 going. At that point I will add the extra light.