I haven't kept a fish tank in many, many years. In 2005, I setup an Eclipse 6 gallon curved tank in my office. Gave that to a co-worker a year later when I changed jobs. I stocked it with some neon tetras, a zebra danio, an oto, sparse plants like crypts and anubias, blue gravel, low light, no CO2. I had no time for maintenance between work and law school. Our office services guy used to feed the fish when I was out and he always dumped so much food in there. In 2009, I also kept a Betta and some floating plants in a repurposed 3 gallon glass food container. After a year, I had my now-wife take care of it since I was traveling all the time. Now I have a much more stable situation and I (like many other people) are working from home. We also have a toddler, who would love a fish tank. I've admired high tech tanks for many years, starting with Amano's works and had always wanted to try it out for myself.
Selecting and Installing the Tank
First, I had to decide how big of a tank to get and where to put it. I was coming from small tanks and wanted to get a relatively bigger tank. We have a built-in cabinet area that I thought would make a good place for a tank. Here's a picture of the area before.
The top is 36 inches wide and 24 inches deep; and there's 19 inches to the bottom of the upper cabinet. I thought a 24" wide tank would be a good starting point, either a 17.1 gallon like an ADA 60p (or equivalent) or a 20 gallon like a UNS 60U. There weren't many options in stock so I ordered a Landen 60p.
The cabinet construction is pretty typical 3/4" plywood over MDF. I was concerned about whether the top could hold the weight of the tank so I decided to retrofit a torsion box to support the weight of the tank without any deflection.
I had to buy a brad nailer for this project. I bought 24 feet of 1x2 and glued/nailed it to the bottom of the plywood. Then I used 1/2" plywood as the bottom skin of the torsion box.
According to the Sagulator
, a calculator to determine the amount of deflection on a shelf surface, I shouldn't have any sag for even a 300 lb load.
I also used a hole saw to drill holes for grommets. I will use the left hole for filter connections and the right hole for power.
Here's a pic of the tank sitting on its leveling mat and the new reinforced cabinet top. I also added frosted white film to the back and one side.
I also replaced the outlet with a GFCI outlet and added a smart power strip in the cabinet.
Hardscaping Is Hard
I put in my substrate (ADA Power Sand Advance) and soil (ADA Amazonia II). I found hardscaping very difficult. I bought most of my hardscaping materials sight unseen. I originally wanted seiryu, but then heard it hardens water. Instead, I got 20 lbs of Ohko (dragonstone) but had a heck of a time putting it together. I looked online for inspiration, but they were either over the top or just didn't appeal to me. This is my initial hardscape.
But I felt this lacked height. I went to my LFS and bought some driftwood I thought could look like roots embracing the stones, but they didn't fit quite that way.
In the end, I removed the driftwood and rearranged the stones more vertically. The smaller rocks also helped add a sense of detail, although I wonder if they will be more of a hassle when I have to trim the foreground plants.
Starting the Dry Start
Ever since first seeing Mr. Amano's work, I've wanted to have a nice lush carpet. I was sick of the giant leaf look from my prior tanks. I decided to get the smallest leaf I knew about -- hemianthus cuba (dwarf baby tears). I figured I could handle it even though I read later it is tough to cultivate.
I bought 4 containers of lab grown HC from my LFS. I think I broke them up too small though. Here's how it looked on the first day:
Almost immediately, I had fungus/mold growing on the smaller pieces that were dying off. Three days later, I already had bare spots.
A little while later I started to spot treat with a 3-1 ratio of water and 3% hydrogen peroxide using a 5 ml syringe. After a while I had defeated the mold. But I got nervous about adding moisture to the tank and I think the HC suffered because the big leaves turned brown. I started misting more and airing out more. I even changed to distilled water. So there have been changes that might have caused a little more die off. There is a lot of new growth and some spreading, but it's not uniformly green.
This is what the dry start looks like today, about 30 days in.
It's not an amazing transformation like you see in other people's tanks. But the roots seem well established. I'm waiting a few more weeks for Black Friday to get an RO/DI system since we have hard, alkaline tap water.
As I wait for the dry start, there's a lot of gear collecting in the cabinet underneath the tank. Here's what I have so far:
UNS Delta 60 w/ 2 doubletap valves
S2 Pro LED lighting controller (to provide ramp up and ramp down of light)
CO2art regulator, solenoid, check valve, bubble counter, inline diffuser
2.5lb tank -- this barely fits in the cabinet once the regulator + hose are attached
ADA Power Sand Advance
ADA Amazonia II
ADA hang on thermometer 6 mm
Twinstar Nano+ w/ Aquacradle
JARDLI lily pipe outflow and skimmer inflow
Should I use RO or RO/DI water? As I mentioned above, our tap water is hard ~13 dGH, 7 or 8 dKH, and slightly alkaline (7.9 pH). If I don't use DI resin, then I assume the KH will stay the same. Some people say the aquasoil is a good buffer, but what about when it runs out? Is our KH too high? Will it deplete the buffering capability of the aquasoil? I asked Green Aqua via YouTube and they said to use RO water, but I don't know what KH levels they have in their tap.
EDIT -- I have figured out this question. RO also removes KH and no need for DI. I will use another carbon stage instead of the DI resin stage.
Should I be removing dead leaves? They are tiny and there are a lot of them. It would be a challenge for even a surgeon.
I'm looking forward to getting this tank fully planted, flooded, cycled, and stocked!