Stef made the comment today that I hardly ever share pictures of our tanks. And though I write plenty of posts providing help, or write about specific aspects of what I do, I never really give a complete picture of how things are run around here.
Hmm, I suppose she's right.
This is what we get to look at every night as we drift off to sleep.
Except for Stef, I can think of nothing nicer.
All these tanks have a lot in common. For starters, they're all fertilized with heavily
modified EI. Maybe to the point where it would more aptly be named something else. I dunno, you be the judge.
I make an all-in-one liquid solution that I call "Gold". Dosing liquid is easy to measure. And it's dosed daily, which is easy to remember. Nothing else is required during the week, and it's been progressively tuned
to work without compromise in all our tanks. Ingredients are K2SO4, Epsom salt, Microplex, Fe DTPA, borax, vinegar, and a standard dose of Excel.
You may notice it contains no nitrate (NO3) or phosphate (PO4). All our tanks are stocked with enough fish that they generally provide enough of these nutrients for the plants. Dosing much more is unnecessary, or even harmful. Back when I was dosing unmodified EI, one tank reached 100ppm nitrate; which resulted in uncontrollable GSA/GDA, and probably wasn't very healthy for fish either.
Once a week I do a 50% Python water change and dose with dry CaSO4, to fix my tapwater's GH of zero. Then I add another liquid solution, "Booster", which adds 5ppm NO3 from CaNO3, and 2ppm PO4 from KH2PO4. This small amount isn't usually necessary, but it does seem to be just enough to cover plant requirements when we move fish around and temporarily drop a tank below normal stocking levels. The tapwater also has 1ppm PO4, adding another 0.5ppm to the tanks. Finally, I double-dose "Gold".
CO2 is provided by single-bottle DIY on all three tanks, at 15ppm average. The bottles differ in size and recipe, to supply CO2 for about three weeks between changes. Why 15ppm? Almost any level of additional CO2 really improves plant health, and 15ppm is more than enough to see this, though growth will of course be slower. Which is fine by me, I don't need or want super-fast growth - but I definitely
want health! It also reduces maintenance requirements and cost, especially on the big tanks. Reducing the CO2 level also makes the tank less sensitive to fluctuations. At 30ppm tanks often have algae problems due to DIY's instability. But at 15ppm, I can see plant growth increase when I replace the bottle, and decrease near the end of the three weeks; yet algae doesn't appear unless I let it run nearly out. Finally, I've had many problems with staghorn algae in the past, and mine really loves CO2; the more the better, even if it's provided by stable pressurized. It's also highly resistant to normal treatments. This algae is what caused me to develop the "One-Two Punch
". Which was worthwhile, but I've hardly needed the Punch since lowering CO2 to 15ppm. For me, breaking from the norm and reducing my CO2 is one of the best things I've ever done.
Stef frequently takes water from these main tanks and uses it as replacement water for her legion of nano tanks
. This "used" water is already chlorine and ammonia free, so no need for conditioner. It contains plenty of ferts to grow the plants in the nanos, and keep the water conditions healthier. Plus some beneficial bacteria and infusoria probably hitch a ride over as well. Sometimes she takes a lot
of water, replacing it with plain conditioned tapwater. I had some concerns that this might crash my moderate dosing scheme, but so far there have been no problems.
All electrical devices are controlled via X10 home automation, from my computer.
Now for individual tank specs. Plus anything interesting about them I can think of. Maybe even some random rambling...
This is Stef's first aquascape, and she has her own thread on it where you can see it evolve
. She often decorates it for holidays.
10G. Flourite Black substrate. Medium light, 6500K CFLs in an incandescent fixture. Normally
has dual Aquaclear 20 HOBs, one used to diffuse CO2.
There is a story behind that "normally". Seven weeks ago, I took the media out of both HOBs to perform a Punch; as staghorn has some torrid love affair with that big java fern at the right, and it slowly accumulates on that plant alone. Four weeks ago, I noticed the substrate was looking a little mulmy, and the water hazy, at which point I discovered... I had never put the filter media back in
! Ammonia/nitrite tests were immediately performed, and found to be zero
. The plants had admirably shouldered the burden of biofiltration completely on their own, though they couldn't perform mechanical filtration. I thoroughly washed and reinstalled the media, vacuumed the substrate, and everything went back to normal. Two days ago, I stole the non-CO2 HOB to quickly set up and populate another small tank; thinking surely it's recycled by now, and the 10G has proved it won't be missed. Last night I tested the new tank to find I was wrong. Apparently, the plants were working a little too well, and had prevented the filter from recycling at all.
Prompting a trip today to the LFS for some bacteria-in-a-bottle (many thanks to Diana, for the tip on nitrospira).
46G bowfront. Flourite Dark substrate. Magnum 350 used for both filtration and as a CO2 reactor. Koralia Nano used for supplemental flow.
2x39W T5HO, using the infamous DD Giesemann Midday/AquaFlora combo, in my DIY dimmable fixture
. I have yet to see any LED fixture that makes colors pop
like good fluorescents. But I wanted LED-like adjustability without physically raising the fixture, since that wastes and scatters light, and detracts from the beauty of a tank in my opinion. That's why I went with dimmable T5HO. It can still be physically raised for maintenance though, by virtue of the spring tensioners hung from the ceiling. They make the fixture virtually weightless, just lift or lower it, and it stays exactly where you put it.
Three weeks ago, I increased the light level from medium to high, while simultaneously reducing CO2 from 30ppm to 15ppm. Wasn't really sure if that was even possible, but if it was, I'd get better reds without excessive growth, and less chance of staghorn. This initially caused a GDA bloom. I tweaked my liquid solutions a bit, but mostly just waited for the plants and tank to adapt to the change in parameters. The plants are looking better every day, and I can no longer find any new algae growth, of any kind. It's actually kind of spooky. I hope I'm not jinxing anything by mentioning it!
I still have domain over the parameters, mechanical maintenance, and science-y left brained stuff in general, but Stef quickly surpassed me at aquascaping. This tank is currently the only one that I mostly aquascape by myself.
It's also my primary experimental tank. This is where the Punch was mostly developed and refined. Where I did my final test of a safer way to use Algaefix, for the benefit of anyone who chooses to use such a product (detailed in this
thread, with the final test posted on 01-15-2013). And many more experiments, most of which lack dedicated threads, but were mentioned here and there - and the results of which were rolled into my general tank keeping philosophy. I suppose experimenting on a smaller tank would be safer and cause Stef less stress, but risking more helps keep me on my toes, and honest about what works and what doesn't.
Besides, I confess I like scaring her a bit. I enjoy my mad scientist reputation.
Did it just earlier today, when with chemicals and test kits splayed out all over the kitchen counter, I chugged some of a test batch of remineralized water. And said, "if it's good enough for me, it's good enough for the shrimp!" Her response:
29G. Plain old gravel substrate from the home improvement store. Low light, maybe bordering on medium, from 2x 6500K high CRI T8's, sitting on a badly etched glass cover. Aquaclear 70 HOB, also acts as a CO2 diffuser. Sometimes indian almond leaves are added for a bit of a blackwater effect. About as low tech as I go. No notable stories I can think of. Boring. But still beautiful, and the Wall of Tank would be diminished without it.
That's it for now. Hope you enjoyed it. I'm not used to keeping a journal, so updates might be a bit sporadic, but I'll definitely post anything interesting that happens. And would love to hear your comments, questions, or suggestions.