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?
Last edited by jbeech; 03-30-2014 at 10:54 PM.