jbeech's 150g bowfront - The Planted Tank Forum
 
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post #1 of 6 (permalink) Old 03-30-2014, 10:43 PM Thread Starter
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jbeech's 150g bowfront

As a kid my hobbies were a 10g tank with guppies and model airplanes. Once married, I acquired a 29g tank and an easy first large fish (an oscar). Before long, largely due to his being fed chunks of hotdog and beer by my pals, he grew much too large. He was re-homed to a guy with a 250g tank and was followed for a brief period by rather aggressive fish (Tanganyika cichlids). Anyway, by the time the final round of 'pick the winner' let me with one fish, I was tired of them. I've been a marine aquarist ever since (early 80s) beginning with easy fish (grouper, rock beauty, and a peppermint shrimp, etc.). From there, an anemone and sebae clown further evolved my hobby and as time went by, I found myself adding more and more corals (because of their beauty, of course). However, in recent years I found myself growing bored with the marine tank and thinking about building out a planted tank.

With that in mind, I recently began selling off my corals, inverts, and fish. Finally, last week I pulled the plug, stripped out the last of the base rock within my 150g glass bow front, poured in a gallon of bleach to sterilize everything, and the next day gave it a real good scrubbing. This, followed by several fill and drain cycles over the course of several days completed the process of ensuring a completely sanitary start.

Equipment wise, the tank is pretty basic. The fanciest bit is the programmable LED lighting (presently simulating a 12 hour tropical day). Otherwise, it's mundane stuff like an under tank 30g wet/dry with two sump pumps, a protein skimmer with it's own sump pump, plus a 30W UV sterilizer. I'm thinking all this stays (or at least can't think of any reason it would hurt).

Fish-wise, I'm leaning toward a simple yet elegant community of perhaps 20-30 cardinal tetras, 6-8 corys, plus maybe a red tailed shark . . . and that's about it. Plant-wise, the swords are appealing as are wisteria for height. Maybe even some bamboo. I also like the ferns but frankly, I'm not yet sure what to do for low plants. Also, while some wood is appealing, I'm undecided whether to opt for the driftwood look, or a stump. Also, I've no clue where to source it. E.g. go beach combing with my wife, or buy it. This is because, while we're blessed with many LFS in my area, marine specialty stores far outstrip freshwater stores and thus, selection is rather limited.

Speaking of freshwater-oriented stores, yesterday we visited a newish store in downtown Orlando (Darkwater Aquatics) which had a fairly nice selection of plant life. The store is oriented toward life versus selling hardware and is quite decent. Anyway, a very nice young man (Charles) patiently shared his hard won knowledge and wisdom. Moreover, after asking how I planned to cycle my tank (a couple comets was my plan) immediately offered a convict cichlid if I'd bring him back once he'd peed and pooped enough to peak the ammonia and nitrates. I accepted and he's presently inhabiting a bathroom size trashcan with an air stone (where he's exceedingly unhappy).

Today we visited a much closer store called Fishy Business, which is split equally between marine and freshwater life. This long established store has been one of our go to places for years but last year the owner sold out to his employees and retired. Unfortunately, it looks like things weren't working out as hoped and today I learned Rich is taking over once again. This may bode well.

Next, partly because I like it, but also in part because it will help the cardinal's colors pop, I've decided I like the black sand look. So today we picked up 300 pounds of coal slag (an inert recycled industrial byproduct of coal fired power plants used for sand blasting). I don't know if this is too much but any I don't use will be available for the odd thing I need to blast the rust off of.

Our water (from our well) is, as is typical for Florida, somewhat alkaline (pH 7.4). It's also quite hard. The locals say pretty much everything aqua-cultured around here is acclimated to this and thus, to not worry overly much. I've used RO water forever and am somewhat unconvinced but am open minded and thus, willing to give it a chance since I am concerned RO water for a freshwater tank isn't such a good idea. In the meantime, I also picked up 60 pounds of peat moss but fear underlaying the sand with this will be quite messy.

Anyway, because I'm in no special hurry in the meantime we're washing the sand a bag at a time and I suspect this will consume another few days, so perhaps some of you with greater experience with peat moss will take a moment to share your thoughts. I'm also interested in filtration because my present plan is to use the oft hated bio balls (plus foam for mechanical filtration). However, an alternative has been suggested, which is setting up a refugium with lighting and more plants within the under tank wet/dry. This last seems silly because the tank will be loaded with plants anyway, but nevertheless, I'm quite keen to hear what others have to say. My final thought is to place peat moss within the type of fabric bags my wife uses for washing delicate undergarments in the washing machine and placing one or two of these within the wet dry (instead of underlaying the sand). Thoughts?

Cheers,

Last edited by jbeech; 03-30-2014 at 10:54 PM. Reason: spelling
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post #2 of 6 (permalink) Old 04-02-2014, 05:51 PM Thread Starter
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I decided on 100% sand because I can condition the water separately with peat moss using canister filters. Anyway, I picked up 300 pounds of Black Diamond 20/40 grit sand blasting media the other day and have been washing the media before using it because others have mentioned it makes an oily film on the surface. The technique for washing is pretty simple. Basically, half a bag (50 lbs) into a 5-gallon bucket and agitating this with a water hose fitted with spray head. Then I decanted the water, and repeated as necessary. Roughly 10-12 rinse/repeat cycles produced satisfactory results.

Turns out 300 pounds was too much for the tank (6' long 150g) because with 5 bags in place (250 lbs), the sand level was even with the bottom return slots in the corners, or about 1-1/2" above the plastic edge. FWIW, I'm reusing a marine set up, which is drilled though the bottom for the overflow/return lines. Anyway, this was easy enough to sort out and we simply removed a bucket of material (50 washed pounds fits nicely in a 5-gallon bucket). With respect to filling, since the sand particles are easily washed out of place by the force of the water, I used the old trick of placing a dinner plate on the substrate and directing the water hose there while filling. This worked nicely and kept particle disturbance to a minimum. By the way, smoothing and sculpting the media was easily performed with a plastic dustbin (yup, the one from the boom closet).

After a few hours of letting the system run the water was fairly clear and I pulled the mechanical filters (foam in the back corners, two socks (one each from the return lines) in the wet/dry, plus another block of foam and rinsed them clean. Next, we dropped the sacrificial lamb, er, the convint cichlid, which is on loan from Charles at Darkwater Aquatics in downtown Orlando (for the purposes of cycling the tank) into the tank. Being a discriminatory eater, he waited all of 2 or 3 nanoseconds before scarfing down the food we offered.

Now I have the boring routine of monitoring ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate (watching for the levels to peak and fall back) as I wait for the tank to cycle. Also, as a sop to PETA, I cut a 6" long piece of 1-1/2" PVC pipe and partially buried it in the sand (as a place for him to hide). Speaking of gender, since he doesn't have a flash of gold along the belly, I'm pretty sure he's a he. Anyway, with no tank mates, he feels no threat whatsoever, and this last was a waste of time because he's basically ignored the hiding place (he's boss in the tank and knows it).

Last thing, in a couple months I'll begin planting (after removing the convict, of course). Since I don't really want the hassle of CO2, and I want to keep algae at bay, I've programmed the lights to begin coming on at 5AM, be full bright by 5:30, begin dimming at 9, and go off at 9:30AM (there are thee colors of LED in each of the two 3' long lighting fixtures to simulate the sun's color temperatures during the day). Anyway, the tank will then receive incidental room-light until 5PM, when the lighting cycle will repeat. Splitting the light cycle should be disruptive to algae while not affect the photosynthesis cycle (plus this way I can observe the tank in the mornings, and once again in the evenings, e.g. when I'm home to watch).

Thoughts?
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Last edited by jbeech; 04-06-2014 at 10:29 PM. Reason: spelling and content
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post #3 of 6 (permalink) Old 05-10-2014, 07:06 PM
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Any more progress? I love bow fronts and almost got one. How are you liking the Black Diamond??
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post #4 of 6 (permalink) Old 05-24-2014, 01:23 AM Thread Starter
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Finished the tank today. Now to sit back and enjoy it. The biologic load is very low because I want to keep maintenance to the bare minimum, e.g. 25% water change every two weeks. Basically, I don't have free time to mess with it further (right now) because I'm snowed under with work. Anyway, I am satisfied with the results, especially the Black Diamond, which I would do again in a hearbeat. The rocks I picked up at Pebble Junction, a local landscape supply.
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post #5 of 6 (permalink) Old 05-24-2014, 01:30 AM
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fake plants??
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post #6 of 6 (permalink) Old 05-24-2014, 03:49 PM
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Oh my gosh, this is gorgeous! I'm not just saying that either. You have a great eye for design based on this layout. Wow!
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