A little background on myself to start. I had the most basic of basic 10 gal tanks as a kid. It had everything from goldfish to a catfish my brother caught while pulling crawfish from rice fields. I eventually found other hobbies as I grew older and moved on.
My next tank was a 5 gallon desk/office tank I threw together after the tech company I worked for in the late 90's went bankrupt after the bubble bust and 9/11. Someone just left a fish behind in a call center that I, for whatever reason, just happened to notice in the rows and rows of cubes with nobody in them. It was missing most of its tail when I found it. I don't know what it was, but it was small and pinkish. I named it Pink Slip as that seemed appropriate and kept it alive for about a year as the company wound down and I helped turn off the lights.
Since then I had various ideas of doing a marine/reef tank over the last decade or two, but just never had the time or resources to dive into it. I knew I would enjoy a tank, but nothing really clicked. That changed a little over a month ago when I came across a pic of a paludarium. I was intrigued to say the least. Google images was ripe with perfect little worlds of ferns and water. More google images and YouTube eventually lead me to aquascapes, ADA, Amano, George Farmer and all the others and eventually here. I was hooked and set my mind to do it this time.
Timing-wise I guess I couldn't have picked a worse time. Evidently being forced to stay at home because of Covid drove the masses to all buy aquariums to stay sane. Every online retailer out there was wiped clean of anything I remotely thought I wanted to do. I needed something not too big/not too small. Something I could keep a Betta in because after googlewebbing for aquarium stuff, I came across some great videos and they seem to be a perfect desk companion. Not too chatty, willing to eat lunch whenever I do and grumpy enough to commiserate with at the thankless job that is corporate outsourced IT related work.
So with that all in mind, I was off. I found a nice 60P clone at Amazon finally; a Lifegard 17 gal with 45 degree edges. I was intrigued, it was fairly cheap and I wasn't finding a lot of other options. Next was a stand. And a filter. And a light. And tools. And substrate. And CO2 (shout out to Bettatail who is hooking me up with a nice reg). And hardscape. And jeebus it just never ends. I haven't had to sell a kidney yet, but for some reason I thought freshwater would be significantly cheaper than marine. Now I know better.
I'm about 80% there right now for gear in-hand. I need the Co2 reg (coming) and a tank (I can get that this week). I also need 16/22 Lily pipes. Evidently they are the 3rd most sought-after item during Covid right behind hand sanitizer and toilet paper. Amazon says I will get them by October. Maybe November. I am hoping for a bit sooner....
Today I made a LFS run for rock and wood for the hardscape. I was able to hit 3 well rated stores, and as it happened each one was better than the last. #1 was good and I bought way too much wood and dragon stone most of which turned out to be too big. #2 I bought 3 small pieces of Dragon Stone and will probably use 2 of those. Store #3 was ADG in Houston. OMG, that place is amazeballs. I bought 2 pieces of very "rooty" wood and a bunch of SeaChem additives. Also got some other goodies to fill in some gaps. I wish I had known about this place a month ago and just went there from the start.
Anyway, so here I am ready to start the hardscape layout. I am probably 2 weeks out from having all the gear I need to be able to run (sans Lily pipes maybe). Plant design is next, but I want to get some input on the hardscape before I start that planning. So with that, pictures!!
There is just so much stuff (and this is maybe just 80% of what I'll end up with)....
The cabinet is an Aqua Worx in weathered grey. Nothing too fancy. It fits the tank length perfectly and is reasonably stable. Fit and finish is typical for assemble yourself.
My first attempt. I really want something breaking out of the surface with some immersed plants up there. Maybe even a fern or an orchid. Not sure yet. My initial thoughts are to raise the substrate in the back right corner a bit and let it flow to the front where I may transition to sand. I am torn there. I like the idea of some sand in there for bottom dwellers to play in eventually, but I also like full carpets. Being only 24" long and 11.5" wide, I don't have a lot of real estate to play with for that.
I plan to add more roots onto the right tree so the Dragon Stone is more covered. That structure is two main pieces right now. One large chunk that has the roots on the rock (plus a few I added individually already) and then a 2nd more simple branchy piece to break the surface.
Thoughts? Too much? Need more small pieces? Angle anything different? Once I feel I am on the right track here, I'll add substrate and get this into the tank for final tweaking and then planting design.