Journal of the "Phase Tank" (work in progress) - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 4 (permalink) Old 11-20-2007, 10:08 PM Thread Starter
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Journal of the "Phase Tank" (work in progress)

Journal of the “Phase Tank”:

It had been over five years since I had a tank. It was, unfortunately, not by choice. But, when I decided to come back, I had big plans. A major event in my life made me realize all the dreams I had let slip by. I then vowed that I would do and have all of those dreams, by whatever means. Life is too short to waste a moment…

My dream was to have a very large tank, but not just any tank. I wanted it to be special. I, and other members of my family, had had many tanks and I wanted to do something completely different. Those details have morphed since the original conception, but the major points still remain. I would have a very large planted tank with large fish. It would be a natural mountain lake or mountain stream type tank with natural inhabitants. I would complete it in stages, or “phases”, to insure that I made no major mistakes on the final product. I would fine tune everything as the tanks got larger and closer to what I really wanted. The original plan called for three phases but due to unforeseeable circumstances, it may have to be four.

I had always had 29 gallon tanks, so I decided that I would start there. I purchased a 28 bowfront kit and set it up. I had been so out of touch that it kinda seems funny and embarrassing as I look back. But, it’s all history now.

This was the first day of “Phase I”, September 1, 2006. I chose to stick with fake plants to begin with. Hey, is that a fake anemone in a fresh water tank?!

I allowed the tank to cycle with a couple mollies and then stocked the tank with my old staple, Bala Sharks. I also began playing with the hardware and spent a lot of money learning a lot of lessons. I did try some DIY projects but after a month or two, discovered that halogens don’t grow plants too well. I then purchased my first CF light and discovered how much I had been dosing the tank while running the halogens. This was the day after installing the light:

But, within one week of installing the light, the water cleared and the plants went nuts!

I was excited! Plants and bulbs that I was sure were dead, were springing to life with a vengeance! The tank would continue to grow rapidly in normal aquarium gravel for some time. Within only a few months, I was having serious problems keeping them under control. The tank no longer looked good and the fish were getting bigger by the day. This tank was just way too crowded.

It was time to start thinking about “Phase II”. How big would it be? What hardware would I use? Would I do anything different with it then I had done with the 28?

I first decided that I would no longer use equipment in the tank. I wanted everything external. I would also use real substrate and real decor. I would buy my tank, stand, and canopy from and the tank would be their acrylic 95 (24x24x36). I started buying the hardware and looking for my perfect piece of driftwood. I would look everywhere and never find it, so I went to a firewood place and saw the beauty in a tree and had him cut that piece out. I would spend three days chiseling, carving, drilling, and sanding that one piece of wood:

I then studied online on how to prep the wood for aquarium use and boiled it off and on for two days:

I then grabbed the rest of my décor that required soaking and placed it in a 20 gallon aquarium for three months (well, that was the plan):

I would end up moving the aquarium and setting up some of my other equipment in preparation for insertion. I bought some feeder fish to help start the cycle and use them for food for my now much larger Balas and Tinfoils. But, two months after the soaking began, disaster strikes. I awake to find my 20 gallon has sprung a leak in a bottom seal:

I couldn’t risk the time for the cycle to start over so I ripped out all of my plants and threw everything in the 28 for the time being. It was so sad:

I now had to have a new tank, NOW! I knew I could never get the 95 in time (since their furniture comes unfinished). My lighting was 36” so I needed the largest 36” tank I could get right then. A quick look on Craig’s list discovered a 65 and it was being set up the next day (thanks April!):

It would be a few months before I would discover that I had made a critical error at the very beginning of the 28. I had chosen two types of fish that would have problems near adulthood. First, my catshark, as he grew older, required brackish water but my Balas couldn’t take much salt at all. I would spend a few weeks adding as much salt as I dared as he got worse and worse. I could find no one to take him and he finally pasted on to the great lake in the sky. My second mistake was choosing the Tinfoils for a planted tank. For one reason or another, they never touched the plants in adolescence but have since never allowed me to plant anything. Needless to say, they will need to find a new home.

This is the tank as it is now, nearly plant less:

I am still fine tuning everything for the next phase. I want to be sure that this tank ends perfect. I have recently added a chiller as here in Florida the temps can climb so high that the tank easily reaches 84 degrees with the lights on. My temp is now a solid 78 with the substrate at 80.

So what is left in store for the next phase? Will there be a “Phase IV”?

I have decided that this tank (“Phase II”) will be the end of this particular train of thought. Nothing but the driftwood will move to the next phase. Why? Simple. Mountain lakes and streams are bitter cold and everything will have to be specifically geared for it. I am doing mad research and speaking to a marine biologist about how best to go about it. I have decided that my “big fish” will not be Balas or Tinfoils, they will be Rainbow Trout. The average tank temps when full grown cannot exceed 58 degrees. That means in order for me to have plants in this tank, I will need to be creative. The plants will need to be chosen carefully and slowly adapted to the temperatures. The substrate will need to be much warmer than the water. This process alone (also allowing time for the plants to fill out while the water is warmer) could take 6-8 months!

I also will probably never be able to afford a “Phase IV” in time, so I need to do this right, the first time. This tank will have to be huge to accommodate 12”-18” fish and plants. I have two sizes in mind. The first is 27”h x24”w x60”l custom acrylic. This will be 165 gallons but I fear it still will not be big enough (ie. Needing a “Phase IV”). My second choice (if I can afford it in time) is 27”h x 27”w x 72”l. I figure this tank will have a true volume of 215 gallons and is a lot closer to the size I really need. The real problem will be the cost of the hardware. The first will need the most efficient 1/3hp chiller on the market and the second, a whopping 1/2hp. Ad lighting, substrate, substrate heating, massive pumps and filters, backup power, etc, etc, and the cost is breathtaking. Just the energy and upkeep costs will be staggering. But, this is the dream…

BTW, anyone near Tampa want to trade some plants for 3 7-8” Barbs? lol
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post #2 of 4 (permalink) Old 11-21-2007, 12:42 AM
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Right on man! Keep up the good work and it'll turn out just how you want it.

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post #3 of 4 (permalink) Old 11-22-2007, 02:08 AM
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good job, just be careful that those fish dont get too big for your tank
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post #4 of 4 (permalink) Old 11-23-2007, 01:26 PM Thread Starter
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The fish are on their way out. I just need to find them a good home. I don't want them going to a novice with a small tank. I've had these guys for quite some time and want to be sure they grow to adulthood. I just don't know anyone with a large enough tank that is unplanted.

I will probably keep the balas as they are slow growing and never mess with the plants. They should do fine untill the end of this phase.

Thanks for the interest! I know that my tank looks like crap but I'm learning, and from a different approach.
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