This is my first tank journal on Planted Tank Forum. Although I have been keeping planted tanks for several years, my participation on the forum and within the hobby has slacked off while I was finishing grad school. Recently for my wedding anniversary, my wife gave me a collection of planted tank books and told me she supported my aquarium hobby (very sexy). I don’t think she realizes yet what she is in for, but as long as I have her permission I am pushing ahead with a new tank. I have had most success in the past with small “nano” tanks, mostly because I could afford decent equipment for small tanks on a student budget. This time around, I am going for something larger, with CO2 dosing and enough WPG to move on beyond the swords, java ferns, and vallisneria I have grown in my previous large tanks. My equipment budget is not unlimited, but I am prepared now to sink some money into tools that will let me move on to growing something more interesting than duckweed. That being said, I treat aquaculture as a hobby and would like to build much of my own stuff instead of ordering it from an ADA catalogue.
It’s an exciting time to be me! But first, some bad news: this tank will largely be rebuilt from pieces from a failed tank. For about four years I kept a school of angelfish in a moderate to low-light (1.6 WPG) 50 gallon planted tank. Unfortunately, I lost them over Thanksgiving holidays when I left the house with the heat turned off. The tank’s heater was underpowered for the cold weather. When I returned, the water temperature was in the low 60’s and my angelfish were gone. Let my mistake be a lesson to you all in the value of a good tank heater! I replaced my old one with a 150 watt Eheim heater and have been happily heating the tank’s surviving black tetra ever since. Here is a picture of the old tank (sorry for the quality, I am using a cellphone).
As a side note, I found that driftwood while kayaking and spent several months soaking it before adding it to my tank. I have been slowly growing java fern on it for about two years, although it hasn’t been looking too hot since the disaster. Saving it is definitely a priority.
Here are some of my juvenile white clouds I am breeding downstairs. I put some up here when there were no longer angelfish that could eat them. I can’t seem to get them to stay still, but you can see the bright yellow on the tips of the fins. Very pretty.
Other bad news: over the last few months the load-bearing crossbar on my 50 gallon tank has developed a major crack separating it from the tank rim and the glass has begun to bow out.
I am not too sure if it is easily reparable, but I don’t want to risk a catastrophic failure by keeping that tank running. Very soon I am tearing down that tank and replacing it with a new system. I couldn’t find an exact replacement (turns out 36” x 13” x 24” is a hard-to-find size), so I am actually downsizing to a 40 gallon high (36” x 13” x 20”) so I can use the same stand and lights from the other setup. I am not too bummed about the downsize; I still have the same plant area and now the light travels through less water to reach the bottom. Here is a picture of the new tank.
I have always been a fan of black silicone. I haven’t decided whether to paint the back, but I am leaning towards just using a backdrop. In a few years when I am tired of looking at all the scratches from scrubbing I can just turn the tank around and look through a scratch-free surface.
I have heard for years of the benefits and dangers of a soil layer in the substrate. Last summer, I setup an outdoor 10 gallon tank with a substrate consisting of a 0.5” topsoil layer covered in pea gravel. I was surprised that I wasn’t plagued by algae during the initial break-in period, even though the tank received several hours of direct sunlight per day. I successfully grew some wild hairgrass until the seasons changed and I had to tear down the tank. After this experience, I am more willing to try soil-based substrates in my main tank. I have purchased a 0.75 cu. ft. bag of Scotts topsoil to serve as a base layer. I obviously haven’t done it yet, but I plan to filter the soil, removing large solid chunks before I lay down a 0.75” to 1.0” thick layer on the tank bottom. I might mix some sand (preferably black, for aesthetic reasons) to help support roots and to avoid turning the bottom to pure muck. On top I will place 1.5” to 2” of recycled black Flourite gravel from my old tank. Now mind you, this isn’t fresh nutrient loaded Flourite; my iron-starved sword plant can attest to that. I am hoping good old dirt will help breathe new life into some old rocks. If any of you think this is a bad idea, let me know before I mix the substrates. I might even listen.