Quarantine To High Tech - Urban Nature - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 26 (permalink) Old 12-11-2019, 12:57 PM Thread Starter
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Quarantine To High Tech - Urban Nature

I really never thought I would do a journal for this tank because its supposed to just be my quarantine tank. Meanwhile the tank the fish are supposed to be going into simply does not exist yet, so I figured I might as well scape this tank.

Enter my Urban Nature aquarium. A tank that is designed to have elements of man made construction in it but at the same time look like a natural setting. I got the idea walking along rivers and seeing ruins of old mills. The mills were built in the river and their ruins were now habitats for various animals and plants.

This tank is the first implementation and frankly not quite what I wanted it to be, but in time I may rescape it to be more of my ideal. It was however very cheap to setup. Literally everything in the tank was either free or I already owned.

All of the fish in the tank with the exception of one flag fish I caught myself in streams relatively near my house.

Ok enough introduction, lets look at pictures!

Here is the tank before I rescaped it. The plants in it are a mix of store bought and found. Some are clearly dying and probably not meant to be aquatic. Others are doing .. ok.



Here is my hardscape, bricks from my property. I can't be sure but I suspect they date back to the early 60s when my house was built. I scrubbed them down before adding them to the tank.



Rough idea of what I wanted to create in the tank:



And here is the tank after I rescaped it:



And now for some close-ups of fish!

Here is a Mountain Redbelly Dace swimming with some Eastern Blacknose Dace. I only have 1 so far of the Mountain Redbelly but definitely plan to catch some more.



Here is my unexpected favorite of the tank. A Blue Ridge Sculpin. I have 3 in the tank. When I caught them I almost threw them back since I was not really fishing for them specifically, but on a whim decided to keep them and I'm glad I did they are a lot of fun to watch.



More Sculpin!





This one is hard to see but behind those giant subulata is a Northern Hog Sucker. Yep, that's its real name. I have no idea why its called that. Anyway I mistakenly caught quite a few of these, I think I have 6 in the tank.



Some pictures of my eastern blacknose dace. I think I have 7 in the tank.





And last but not least the only store bought fish. A Flag Fish I bought to help with algae... I'm sure he will get to work any day now.



Plants in the aquarium include:

Giant Sagittaria Subulata
Dwarf Sagitarria Subulata
Rotala Bossii (according to fish store)
Ludwigia Palustris (wild collected)
Pearl Weed
Fissidens Fontanus
Java Fern
Watercress (wild collected)
Something unidentified I got from a lake (possibly an elodea or pearl weed variant)
Juncus Repens
Lobelia Cardinalis
Giant Duckweed


Next I will wait for things to grow in a bit and or get bored of it and rescape it ;P

Last edited by minorhero; 01-10-2020 at 05:21 PM. Reason: reason
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post #2 of 26 (permalink) Old 01-10-2020, 05:14 PM Thread Starter
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Update!

I rescaped this tank about a month ago and there have been some good things but mostly bad.

The good: The scape is better then it was. Its nice to see a bit of hardscape in this tank. Some of the plants have been doing better as well.

The bad: The darn fish are all hiding in my hardscape! Heh I didn't think about this beforehand, but almost all the fish in this tank are wild. The previous scape had no hardscape in it so the fish swam among the plants but that is all. Now that I have a wall up that the fish can get behind, the majority of my dace spend their days behind that wall. This can not continue. Even more annoying I have a truly terrific amount of algae growing in this tank. Mostly staghorn I believe. I have done pretty much nothing to get rid of it as well which hasn't helped. I had hoped the plants growing in a bit would get rid of the algae but it hasn't happened.

This brings me to current. Rescape the tank, and get rid of the algae. This rescape is going to be a big one... as in remove everything kind of big.

I will need to remove all the livestock and put them in a bucket with a bubbler. I will remove all the plants and put them in a different bucket, and then I will need to remove the majority of the substrate as well and put that into another bucket.

Once everything is out I will put down a layer of pre-soaked dirt. There is already a very very little bit of dirt in this tank, but I am planning to put down an inch of soil. I will then re-arrange the hardscape into a design where the bricks are built into a hill. That will get me to a point where the fish can't hide behind my hardscape at the very least.

I will cover my dirt in the same mix of sand and sts that is already in the tank - adding more sand if needed.

Then everything can go back.

But wait.... theres more... specifically I think its time I go:

HIGH TECH!

Yes I am taking this tank high tech and I am unbelievably excited about it.

I have purchased two 36" Beamsworks FSPEC LED Lights. I have also bought a post body kit from diyco2regulator.com and purchased a rebranded Victor HPT270 regulator from e bay. I even have a dwyer flowmeter with appropriate fittings to make this thing really come together.

With all of the above comes a need for reactor. I technically already have a reactor but the one I have is both large and opaque. I decided I really wanted to see what was going on in this thing so with that in mind I bought a schedule 40 2" clear pipe, plus a bunch of other odds and ends. Here is how it all looked:



Some cement, a bit of sawing, and goop later and here is what I had:



I went this route with the ends because I really wanted to avoid the reduction in flow a 90 degree elbow would give me. I am running this off a canister filter I sized to the aquarium. I had no plans of running a reactor off of the filter output when I bought it. So I really have just enough flow for the aquarium. Whether I even have enough flow for the reactor to work remains unknown at this point. I will not be running a bypass on this reactor. Still I wasn't quite done with the build. I needed to add a means of getting the co2 into the reactor. A true Rex Griggs reactor has just a hole you poke the hose into. I have never liked this method simply because I worry about replacing my hose once the reactor is complete. With this reactor as with the last one I built I used pvc cement on an airline coupler to attach a port permanently into the side of the reactor.

Here is the reactor with a drilled 3/16" hole:



And after the port has been cemented in place:



Next I will need to buy a 10lb co2 cylinder and get it filled. In Maryland I believe we essentially only have exchange locations so I plan to buy my cylinder from one of them.

After that I will "build" my regulator using my post body kit and begin the rescape.

Question for everyone that read this far. Best suggestion for getting rid of algae on plants? I plan to remove all the plants in this tank and put them in a bucket. My first thought is to dump a bunch of hydrogen peroxide in the bucket as I fill it with water going for a much higher concentration then I could possibly do without killing livestock. Then leave the plants to stew in that for at least a few hours and maybe overnight. I am definitely however willing to consider other options. I would like to reuse my plants in this scape again as this is definitely a budget build. The whole purpose to this aquarium beyond acting as a quarantine and holding tank for wild caught fish, is also one of experimentation. I have been collecting wild plants and putting them in this tank for the past 6 months or so. Some do well, others die right off, and others linger for months. I have been wondering if the ones that linger might thrive if given more light and co2. Thus my desire to take this tank high tech. With that in mind I don't want to get rid of any plants in this tank.

Thanks folks for any advice.
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post #3 of 26 (permalink) Old 01-13-2020, 12:57 AM Thread Starter
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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.


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post #4 of 26 (permalink) Old 01-15-2020, 07:11 PM Thread Starter
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UPDATE!

Getting closer to having this rebuild rescape complete!

Planting has occurred. It took about an hour and a half to do the replanting. A lot of that time was spent pulling algae coated leaves off and breaking down the rotala for propagation.

The general plan is to create two thick patches of plant matter in the front with some smaller plants towards the back along with more rotala back there as well. The idea is to provide some depth, and to provide cover so the fish feel more secure while still encouraging them to swim in the open. These patches of plant matter are pretty mixed with rotala, sublata, and a wild species that might be ludwigia of some kind mixed together. In between is a patch of dwarf sag which will hopefully spread a lot since my future high tech native tank is supposed to have a lot of sag in it.

Additionally, I bought some plants recently for my walstad tank (the stems in the back were taking too long to fill in), and I had leftovers since that tank is frankly not that big. So I added a plant that started with a "C" and gosh darn it I can't remember what it was called now. Some broad leaf ludwigia, and another plant that looked very appealing in its grass like lushness that I also can't remember ;P

Here are what those new plants looked like:



I also got my reactor up and running (without the co2 currently). I am pleased to say that flow has not been noticeably affected. I mean I am sure its been affected to some degree but I honestly can't feel or see a difference.

At first I had the reactor up top near the tank (this tank is in my basement ontop of some old shelving/counter space that was down there when I bought the property).



I was having a hard time getting the reactor to fill with water when I realized that by having a lot of the reactor being above the water level in my tank, any time I did a water change I was going to be in a situation where the darn reactor was going to empty itself and I would need to refill it. This meant I was going to need to buy a new canister filter hose for my tank since I had already cut my existing one. I am guessing my canister filter hose was a 17mm one because the 16mm hose replacement was a real bear to get onto my 3/4 reactor barbs. I managed it eventually but golly it was a lot harder then the 17mm.

Anyway while monkeying around with all this I did manage to break my air coupler fitting that is firmly cemented to the side of my reactor:



That was annoying heh. Anyway I drilled it out and cemented in a replacement. Was thankfully not a big deal.

After I got the new hose in place and the new air hose coupler I put the reactor on the floor and started it up. It did not instantly fill with water like I was expecting. After a few minutes of playing with it I recalled folks mentioning that you need to turn these critters upside down to "burp" the reactors. Finally I understand why that is. Anyway I turned mine upside down and all the air dutifully went out the return hose into the aquarium.

Here is the setup as it stands:



And here is my tank as it is currently:



Here is a closeup of my Mountain Redbelly Dace and the Eastern Blacknose Dace. The redbelly is colored up a bit here, I definitely need to get more of these guys:



I did a 50% water change yesterday and another today. The plan will be to follow the active substrate water change schedule for the next month. This is a well established filter media and substrate (reused the sand and sts from the previous build keeping it wet at all times) but its still brand new dirt.

I got in my regulator which I will likely "build" sometime today. Hopefully tomorrow I will go buy my first 10 lb cylinder of co2.


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post #5 of 26 (permalink) Old 01-16-2020, 12:51 AM Thread Starter
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Small Update!

Tonight I got a few minutes to "build" my co2 regulator. This is a pretty easy thing and if anyone is ever wondering if you can build your own co2 regulator or buy a prebuilt one.. well the answer is yes you can build one. The only tools you need is an adjustable wrench and a roll of teflon tape. Here is the regulator before I took the old connector and "needle" valve off. The parts I purchased from diyco2regulator.com are also visible:



Next I wrapped all the male threads with teflon tape. I had to remove one gauge to get the old needle valve off.



After that I put it all together. Doing this for the first time and going slowly the whole process took me about 25 minutes.

Finished product:



One thing I did differently then most folks is that I bought a different flowmeter then what is suggested. The regular flowmeter cost about 55-60 dollars. I found another one amazon for a little under 12 dollars and bought that one. Specifically its RMA-33-SSV. This has a scale up to 100cc/min... but, it's water not air. I have no idea if that will have any effect on its usability. I didn't realize this distinction till I after I received it. I don't care much about the accuracy of the scale so much as it's consistency. I will in the short term be using this on a 40 gallon breeder, but will eventually be using it on a 120 gallon standard sized tank. So /shrug.
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Last edited by minorhero; 01-17-2020 at 12:48 PM. Reason: forgot the picture of it when done!
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post #6 of 26 (permalink) Old 01-17-2020, 05:53 AM
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Cool setup. I like that red belly dace, cool little fish. Favorite are the sculpins. Although not the same up here in the PNW we have some really cool saltwater ones. They are black and tan speckled looking guys. Only scene them at night when going out with a nice flashlight. They dart around on the rocks. Most I have scene were in the 2-4" size.

If I could afford to live right off the ocean up here I could afford to setup a larger tank with plumbed water feed to it and would have some. Would be really cool IMHO. But Im not lol.


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post #7 of 26 (permalink) Old 01-17-2020, 12:36 PM Thread Starter
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Cool setup. I like that red belly dace, cool little fish. Favorite are the sculpins. Although not the same up here in the PNW we have some really cool saltwater ones. They are black and tan speckled looking guys. Only scene them at night when going out with a nice flashlight. They dart around on the rocks. Most I have scene were in the 2-4" size.

If I could afford to live right off the ocean up here I could afford to setup a larger tank with plumbed water feed to it and would have some. Would be really cool IMHO. But Im not lol.
I've often thought the only way I will ever do a saltwater tank is if I lived on the ocean where I could do a constant drip water change directly from the beach ;P

Thank you for the compliments, I really like those sculpins. I honestly didn't think I would like them when I caught them and almost tossed them back, but they are simply too cool. They spend their days swimming up a tiny amount then gliding down onto rocks, plants etc, they sit for a few minutes then do it again. So different from other fish.


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post #8 of 26 (permalink) Old 01-19-2020, 12:21 AM Thread Starter
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Update!

I am officially in the high tech club!

I went to Poist Gas yesterday and picked up a 10lb CO2 tank. If anyone else is wondering, don't buy your tank at Poist Gas heh. The tank is fine, just expensive. They charged me 160 dollars for a filled tank. I asked how much refills are and they told me 20 dollars. So I paid 140 dollars for an empty tank that is probably not brand new (though it is relatively shiny). By my calculations I paid at least 50 dollars too much but /shrug sometimes when going through local businesses this happens.

Anyway I brought it home and hooked it up to my system. Now I see why people talk about "dialing" in CO2. The needle valve is sensitive! And the gosh darn check valve doesn't help. I feel like if I push past the check valve I am pushing a lot of co2 out. Or at least more then I wanted. I am currently running around 2 bubbles per second which is not enough for my 40 breeder but I wanted to start off light and increase it over the next few days.

I tried using my flowmeter when I was at 1 bubble per second but it was useless at that point so I disconnected it. I will give it another try when I increase my bubbles to 4 or so a second.

With the advent of co2 though came my desire for HIGH Light. Oh yeah I got high light!



Those are 2 Beamswork FSPEC Lights and my previous shop light all working together. The shop light is 4000k and 3000 lumens. The Beamswork lights created a very blueish light so the shoplight helps to add a bit of warmth. I have no idea what my ppfd is 17-18" down at substrate, but I am pretty sure I am north of 50 ppfd.

The fish seem happy enough with this setup. Cue the gratuitous sculpin shot:



My Rotala is also starting to turn red at the new growth which is exciting! This Rotala was sold to me as Bossii but after looking at pictures online and seeing other people's tanks I am pretty sure its actually wallichii. That's pretty spiffy because it means it should get red to pink.



And general mass of plants shot:



And finally the full tank shot:



Will be super fun to see how it grows in!
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post #9 of 26 (permalink) Old 01-19-2020, 12:37 AM
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CO2 and higher light.

Strap on the seat belt and enjoy the ride!

Looking forward to seeing where things go from here.
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post #10 of 26 (permalink) Old 01-19-2020, 02:20 AM
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For co2 check fire extinguisher companies. I found one nearby that will fill a supplied tank.

The real fountain of youth is being a musician
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post #11 of 26 (permalink) Old 01-19-2020, 11:36 AM Thread Starter
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For co2 check fire extinguisher companies. I found one nearby that will fill a supplied tank.
Thanky! There is actually a good thread floating around of all the Maryland locations that will fill a tank. 20 dollars is about as cheap as they get. But buying the tank itself... yea that I didn't know about.


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post #12 of 26 (permalink) Old 01-19-2020, 01:06 PM
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welcome to the high tech club and even more so the diy regulator club!! sorry about the co2 tank ordeal though. there will be better folks out there. dont forget, some keg places for diy beer guys out there will gladly fill or supply a new tank too! a small intersection of hobbies.


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post #13 of 26 (permalink) Old 01-20-2020, 12:45 AM Thread Starter
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Thank you Ipkiss, definitely something to keep in mind! Plus you know... beer! ;P

Anyway not really an update so much as finding my old Micro-Nikkor 55mm. With a converter I can attach it to my Sony A7III. So here are some random pictures, mostly of sculpin











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post #14 of 26 (permalink) Old 01-25-2020, 06:41 PM
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Honestly so jealous! I love the wild species. Id love to do something like this some time
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post #15 of 26 (permalink) Old 01-25-2020, 09:33 PM Thread Starter
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Honestly so jealous! I love the wild species. Id love to do something like this some time
You should! I have a lot of fun fishing for my aquarium. And a quick search showed that dip nets are legal in Pennsylvanian which makes me pretty jealous heh. I have to catch all my fish in a minnow trap or seine net.

You apparently also have an amazing collection of darters in your neck of the woods including greenside and rainbow darters both of which I hope to be fishing for in the next few months.


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