For Christmas in 2019, my daughter was given a 3 gallon tank with a grow tray on top
. Suddenly, there was renewed interest in water-filled tanks in the house.
In January, 2020, I had had enough of the wasteland in the foyer, and I decided to take this hobby seriously. I read that loaches are not aggressive, especially if they have other loaches with which to frolic. I decided to get Tiger Face (and Ocho) some friends. But their house was a filthy mess, so I had to address that first. Unfortunately, I did not think to take a "before" picture in January.
On January 19, I measured pH 8.0, 0 ammonia & NO2, 7ish NO3, 6-7 KH, TDS 530ppm
, and my GH test was very expired. I had 2 remaining java ferns along with river rocks & driftwood that were covered in algae. I pulled out the mess and started doing WCs and frequent filter cleanings to gradually bring the parameters into check. I added an old HOB for more filtration. The vague plan was to put a 20 gallon long on the bar to house fish while I restarted the 36 with pressurized CO2 & new substrate. I was taking my time and doing it right this time.
I bought a 20L, and I slowly gathered knowledge and supplies to build an all-in-one configuration into it, modeled after the NUVO Fusion 20 Peninsula. I downloaded the user manual, and it includes diagrams complete with dimensions. They weren't an exact fit for my tank, but I made it work. Again, I wish I had pictures of that build. I had never built anything with acrylic before, and I enjoyed the new experience.
I got out the old 10gal to use as my quarantine tank. Light (new Finnex Planted+ 24/7 HLC LED 20"), filter (new AquaClear 20), heater. I started the fishless cycle with the same old bottle of Ace Hardware ammonia from years before.
By the end of February, I alread had plants in the QT because I was ready to flood the 20L. I had read enough to decide on Fluval Stratum for the substrate for the 36BF restart, so I got enough of that to do the 20 also.
I was just starting to learn what it takes to make plants grow well. I was reading tank journals and other threads on TPT and BR. I bought a pound of AquariumFertilizer.com MacroMicro Mix because I wanted to make it easy on myself. Big mistake: I know enough about myself to know I always want to customize. I started dosing this stuff on March 1 in all tanks that had plants. I also had K2CO3 for KH because Just Say NO to pH crashes... right? I was still reading my way through older tank journals.
I bought a 20lb CO2 cylinder off fleaBay, and I traded it right in to a nearby welding supply shop for a full one. I ordered a single-stage, dual-gauge Victor G150-60-320 regulator and a Clippard MME-2PDS-D110 solenoid to feed a manifold that I built with 2 Dwyer RMA-151-SSV flowmeters (one flowmeter for the 20, one for the 36, but temporarily diverting that to the 10gal QT). All that CO2 gear is tucked away in my laundry room, and I fed some silicone tubing through walls to the tanks. We'll see how that silicone holds up.
The QT with Bacopa (caroliniana?) and Seiryu stone from LFS, and Cabomba "green" (caroliniana?), Juncus repens, and Bucephalandra 'Brownie Ghost' from Aquatic Plants Factory. Not pictured: TC cup of HC also from APF.
First pic of the 20 long on the bar: Fluval Stratum substrate, Seiryu stone hardscape (I slept through the lesson where they teach you what these rocks do to RO water), Finnex Planted+ 24/7 HLC LED 30". Since it's on the bar, it's double-sided, so get ready for lots of paired FTS. Sometimes I drape a black cloth or bag over the back just for pictures.
This was the first of many times I have said "damn Stratum." You may also notice I did not know what to do with Buces yet: I buried the rhizomes. Or with HC: planted in clumps.
After a few days of settling & growth (look at that "damn Stratum" dust all over my pretty plants & rocks):
March 7: Over on the 36, it's time for some cleanup. I had already removed the algae-coated rocks & wood, and I threw some PVC pipes and a flower pot in there to give fish a place to hide. It had already been vacuumed a few times in January & February before this.
WARNING! These photos are scary!
I warned you!
I used the Bacopa and the remaining Cabomba to spruce it up a bit. I scrubbed. I vacuumed. I cleaned filters. I added CO2 with a ceramic in-tank diffuser. I changed water (RO + Equilibrium). 13 hours later, TDS is down to 302, GH 4.5, KH 3.
After 2 days of settling (and experimenting with camera settings in order to end up with decent photos):
Meanwhile, I cleaned the Stratum dust off my rocks in the 20L:
I like the side/end view of this tank:
March 13: I had seen pictures of Rotala wallichii & Ammania senegalensis that I must have in my tanks. And why not some java moss as well? Here they are in the QT with some weak CO2 branched off the hose running to the 36:
In the 20, I had realized that I made a mistake by using too-large lava rock pieces under my plateau of Stratum. I dug those out and broke them to bits and rebuilt the high end of that tank. I had also decided that Cabomba grows too fast for the long low tank. I had a lot to learn.
Also, signs of the evil cyano/BGA on my dwarf baby tears.
All those stems went to the 36. It's still growing coats of cyano on the substrate and on the java fern roots.
This is about when I was reading @burr740
's journal and learned how carpets are best planted
. On March 18, I hurried to plant the R.wallichii that was suddenly melting in the QT, and I re-planted the HC carpet. Holy tedious tweezer work, Batman! Buces and A.senegalensis (still with only emersed growth) went in as well. I also buried a bunch of O+ balls all around the HC, Rotala, and Ammannia.
On March 20, I started dosing KH2PO4 in addition to the AF MacroMicro Mix. I also ordered some ingredients to supplement AFMM: Flourish Iron, H3BO3, ZnSO4.H2O, NiSO4.6H2O.
I mixed my first "custom micro" mix using AFMM as a base on March 27. I also started dosing KNO3 at this point since I was using the AFMM more for micros than macros. I was looking for more than what the CSM+B in AFMM allowed me to do. Of course, this was around the time I was reading a lot about custom micros / custom dosing in general. I was dosing macros at 5:1:3.5ppm NO3:PO4:K 3x/week (50% weekly WC); micros added another 1.13:1.74 NO3:K 3x/week. Here's the mix of micros from March 27:
In 500ml soln where 10ml treats 30 gallons:
PPM Grams Source
Fe EDTA .1 42.37 AFMM: CSM+B
Fe Gluc .096 54.6ml Flourish Iron
B .037 .6 H3BO3 (supplement AFMM CSM+B)
Cu .0014 - AFMM: CSM+B
Mn .029 - AFMM: CSM+B
Mo .0008 - AFMM: CSM+B
Ni .0003 .0075 NiSO4.6H2O (10x, sample)
Zn .0057 .38 ZnSO4.H2O
NO3 1.13 - AFMM: KNO3
K 1.74 - AFMM: K2SO4
Mg 0.2 - AFMM: MgSO4
Pics from that day show that the 20 indeed has the cyano, but not nearly as bad as the 36. But we were excited about our first Buce flower bud! This is easy!
Just kidding: this still isn't easy! I am determined to defeat the plague in the 36. He doesn't look like it, but I am sure Tiger Face was still mad at me.
On March 28, I hit the 36 with Ultralife Blue Green Slime Stain Remover at 4:15pm. These pics are 5 hours later showing BGA already receding:
I gave it another dose on March 30, and that finished off the cyanobacteria. I felt like a new man.