Darkcobra and Stef's "Wall of Tank" - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 21 (permalink) Old 12-13-2013, 09:31 AM Thread Starter
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Darkcobra and Stef's "Wall of Tank"

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...


Left: 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).


Middle: 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:



Awesome.


Right: 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.

Take care,
Chris
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post #2 of 21 (permalink) Old 12-13-2013, 10:51 AM
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Wow - awesome trio!

For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.
-Carl Sagan
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post #3 of 21 (permalink) Old 12-13-2013, 12:21 PM
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Nice tanks. Question-- what LFS do you use in BR? Going there today for CE course.
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post #4 of 21 (permalink) Old 12-13-2013, 05:09 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you, Jack and Fishbait!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dr Fishbait View Post
Question-- what LFS do you use in BR? Going there today for CE course.
The Petco on Siegen near I-10, and the Petsmart three minutes away on North Mall Drive. We already grocery shop in that area, so we regularly drop in to these two to see what's in stock. There are some avid fish/shrimp/plant keepers employed at both, of varying disciplines, fun to chat with.

Our expanded tour includes "The Aquarium Store" on Airline. We were there yesterday. If your CE is economics related or requires a locally owned store, see if you can catch Mark, the owner, in. He'll give you some interesting opinions on the state of retail.

Further out is "The Reef Coral" on Jefferson. Also locally owned. Mostly saltwater, yet they've saved my arse by having things in stock other stores do not.

We will of course drop by any other store we happen past.
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post #5 of 21 (permalink) Old 12-13-2013, 05:33 PM
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can we get a close up of the individual tanks??

-Jacklyn
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post #6 of 21 (permalink) Old 12-13-2013, 05:36 PM
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Alas, the Wall of Tank!! Only rivaled by the infamous Wall of Sound...but I digress. Those must rock you to sleep quite nicely. Thanks for sharing, I as well as others I'm sure, have acquired alot of insight from your posts keep up the good work!

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post #7 of 21 (permalink) Old 12-13-2013, 05:51 PM
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Lovely tanks--and I use the same trick of pulling water from my main tanks for my nano/pico tanks. So much easier to do it that way.
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post #8 of 21 (permalink) Old 12-13-2013, 06:51 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jmf3460 View Post
can we get a close up of the individual tanks??
Separate shot of the 46G, taken same date, max resolution:



And the 10G:



I removed the Elite just after this photo, and before the main Wall photo. It hadn't actually been used in months, silly to have it uglying up the tank. At this size you can see the silicone is shot. I don't even try to clean it for fear I'll accelerate its deterioration. Will have to replace this tank eventually, but putting it off as long as possible, I hate to mess up Stef's scape.

I didn't get a close up of the 29G. Don't remember the last time I took one. Will try to get one tonight after lights on.
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post #9 of 21 (permalink) Old 12-14-2013, 03:28 AM
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Well my trip to BR was uneventful. Man! Your traffic is as bad as Houston's!!
What's the story on your using a bright blue background on the 46 and the more popular black on the others? I've been thinking about backgrounds as I'm planning to set up a new 65gal in the house as I move my 75, 29 and10s out to my "man cave". Want to "reclaim" my house! Have black on the 29 but I had put a background on the 75 that actually matched the wall paint behind the tank. Kind of a light pastel blue green. I like it because it of course hides the gear but let's the tank blend with the room almost like no background. I also find black absorbs a lot of light.
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post #10 of 21 (permalink) Old 12-14-2013, 07:29 AM
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Nice tanks dude, and great read.

My 75 gallon High Tech Tank:
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My 10 gallon High Tech Tank:
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My 5.5 gallon nano College Dorm Tank:
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Mom's Spec V:
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post #11 of 21 (permalink) Old 12-14-2013, 04:07 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you everyone for the positive comments!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dr Fishbait View Post
Well my trip to BR was uneventful. Man! Your traffic is as bad as Houston's!!
Last time I was there, Houston's traffic beat us easily. But it's been a while, and times they are a changin'. If we're now as bad, that means Houston must have gotten worse too.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dr Fishbait View Post
What's the story on your using a bright blue background on the 46 and the more popular black on the others? I've been thinking about backgrounds as I'm planning to set up a new 65gal in the house as I move my 75, 29 and10s out to my "man cave". Want to "reclaim" my house! Have black on the 29 but I had put a background on the 75 that actually matched the wall paint behind the tank. Kind of a light pastel blue green. I like it because it of course hides the gear but let's the tank blend with the room almost like no background. I also find black absorbs a lot of light.
The 46G was purchased used from someone who was using it for SW, and the background was painted aqua. "Apple Barrel" brand acrylic art paint from Walmart, "Carribean Blue" color to be exact. Unusual for freshwater, but we left it; not wanting to tackle removal and repainting, which we'd never tried.

What we found is that between the green content of the background, and the green in the tank when plants grew in, is that the reflected light seemed to combined with anything that was not green to produce an unattractive yellowish cast. Then I switched from 6500K T8's to the T5HO DD Giesemanns, which have a lower color temp, and tend to amplify colors. That made it worse.



This is an uncorrected photo with the camera on full auto, before I learned how to learned how to manually set up white balances and such. So the camera is exaggerating it even further. But the gravel really did look yellowish and dirty, despite being clean. Any plant that wasn't pure green didn't look good either. Plus any GSA/GDA algae that grew on the back acrylic, being darker than the background, stood out.

Soon after that I started adding plants that propagate through the substrate via runners. They did very poorly compared to the 10G, which at the time had Soilmaster Select Charcoal. So we decided to upgrade the substrate, and took the opportunity to replace the background.

I wanted black. Stef wanted cobalt blue. You see who won.

It's an unusual color choice, and you aren't the first to ask why we went with it.

I like it better than the original aqua. Still, I'd prefer black to provide maximum contrast and neutrality, and Stef now agrees with that choice; though we're not tearing down the tank just to change the paint again. Black does absorb a lot of light, but reflected light from other colors may not be particularly useful or attractive light. Just depends on the overall tank setup, surroundings, and personal preference.

The 46G and 10G are the only tanks which have backgrounds. The 29G has a woven bundle of grape vines mounted on the wall behind the tank. Stef came up with that idea. The little you can see through the dense planting adds depth, acting like a continuation of the tank as it visually ties in with the manzanita branches inside. It looks good! (I still need to get a closeup of it, last night was too hectic.) Other tanks throughout the house are more utilitarian, and have no background at all.
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post #12 of 21 (permalink) Old 12-14-2013, 05:05 PM
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Interesting. I'd would still like to experiment with backgrounds that are dark at the substrate then lighten to the surface just like when you go swimming in at lake.
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post #13 of 21 (permalink) Old 12-14-2013, 06:07 PM Thread Starter
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Had a plastic backdrop with that on it, a long time ago, in a 10G. Looked pretty good.

I've always wondered if a shot of a sunset, with a few wispy clouds and all those crazy colors, would look good. Never tried it though.
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post #14 of 21 (permalink) Old 12-14-2013, 07:30 PM
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Dr Fishbait, I like that idea. If you can get 3 jars of paint, all a slightly different shade, like on a paint tester chart strip, start with the darkest on the bottom and gradually sponge/airbrush to the lightest. I was actually going to experiment with that, but getting "Carribean Blue" off the back of the 46 in a bathtub was a real female dog, and didn't feel so much like experimenting at that point-just wanted to get the fish and plants back in.

Sponging with 2 slightly different shades and a sea sponge was another technique I wanted to try. I think it would look soft and "watery".

If I was going to get more artistic, I will try on a smaller tank. Like a 5 gallon and take it from there. Basic black is nice, but black fish/snails and such tend to get lost. Too many colors are too busy for me, I want the focal point to be what's in the tank.

I also pondered the spray on faux stone look, but again I would start with a thrift store glass bowl or something because I don't know how easy it would be to remove if I didn't like the effect.

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post #15 of 21 (permalink) Old 12-14-2013, 08:04 PM
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I was think'n maybe using layers of transparencies. Air brushing would be best if you knew what you're doing, I would think. I like the look of nature. Some tanks are so PRETTY I think of them as being scaped by AQUA-FLORIST!!( coining a phrase maybe?)
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