Month long journey to my first aquascape - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 2 (permalink) Old 12-09-2014, 05:07 AM Thread Starter
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Month long journey to my first aquascape

Tank: 10 gallon low-iron, 5mm rimless tank
Light: Finnex FugeRay 18"
Filter: Marineland Penguin 100 Bio Wheel
Substrate: CarribSea Eco Complete over Generic Pebble Gravel
Fertilizer: Root Tabs + Flourish + Excel
Plants: 7 assorted species (dwarf hairgrass, java moss, banana plant, moneywort, anubias hastifolia, red sword, wisteria)
Hardscape: Red Lava Rock
Heater: Aqueon 50w
CO2 (installing soon): Milwaukee MA957 on a 5lb tank + tygon tubing + pollen glass ceramic diffuser

Written 12/8

The beginning of my aquarium-keeping hobby has been a pretty hilarious progression true to my obsessive nature. I've been studying hydro/aquaponics and indoor farming in grad school this whole semester for a design project, and what really caught my interest is the relationship between fish and plant. To add to the fire, my girlfriend - out of the blue, one day - said it was a goal of hers to raise a Betta fish.

Within 24 hours of her saying this, we set out and bought a male Betta, a one gallon cylindrical vase with some nice marbles and a fake bonzai tree. He didn't seem like the liveliest fellow to begin with, even in his cup. We got everything set up and dropped the poor little guy in there. After the first night, the water had to have dropped to ~68F. With some light reading, we promptly went and bought a heater and thermometer and noticed almost immediate results of putting some life into our depressed Betta.

The second night passed, and we woke up to a dead fish. Sadness ensued, but we were more disappointed in ourselves for not doing our homework before buying. We said to each other that we would get another one, but that we'd do it the right way and not kill another fish. The next trip to the pet store was to get a larger tank, the necessary chemicals, and some live plants to make things even nicer for our future resident. We ended up with a PetCo brand 6.25 bowfront tank with its own proprietary filter and a few plants from PetCo including this java fern wrapped around driftwood in twine to make it look like a tree. The other plants in the tank were purchased from a LFS.

This setup lasted about 17 days before we started noticing serious issues with the PetCo Preferred™ filtration system and the plants bought at PetCo. The filter cartridges (that we learned were only sold in singles for $8 a pop) only lasted about a week each before clogging. Clogging is to be expected I assume, but in the case of this internal filter system, a clogged filter cartridge meant that the overflow (where we kept the heater) would completely empty itself into the tank, causing water to spill over the edges since the water level was kept relatively high. One 5-day vacation left us with about a half-gallon of water on our wood floors. Fortunately we thought to move the heater outside the overflow compartment so the heater wouldn't burn up in dry air.

Additionally, both plants we bought from PetCo (the banana plant and java fern) developed a serious fungus that multiple wash/scrubbing couldn't get rid of. Fortunately, the fungus wasn't able to spread to the other plants.

I decided that enough was enough, and through market research, I realized that all those amazing aquascapes I'd been oogling over in TheGreenMachine, ADA, PlantedTank posts weren't too far away (financially) as long as I didn't go the ADA route. The PetCo tank was returned for a full $75 refund. I used the money for a $50 knock-off ADA 10 gallon tank, the bio wheel, and went the extra mile for the FugeRay on a Cyber Monday deal.

Everything came in last Friday (12/6), and the next day I was playing pretend-to-be the (self-anointed) aquascaping enigma, James Findley. With a loose idea of what I wanted the tank to look at in my head as I drove around picking up the aquasoil, extra volcanic rock, and greenery, this is what I was able to come up with (process pictures included). It was a long and joyous day of designing and planting the tank.. eight hours in total:

I took a few more pictures yesterday as the water began to clear up:

Unfortunately, the 6 gallon PetCo tank was about halfway through the nitrogen cycle when I returned it. I did wash the gravel but transferred over a couple gallons of the old water to try and pick up where I left off. Hopefully things will stabilize within the next couple of weeks - we're both itching to populate the tank.

The only other plans I have for this 10 gallon is to incorporate a pressurized CO2 system. Between the $75 Aquatek regulator, a $40 ebay 5# tank, and the $10 diffuser, $125 doesn't seem like too far of a stretch. Also, I can imagine that the system would make its way to the 55-gallon eventually.

Anyways, that's been the progression. I'm a pathological hobbyist, what can I say. Perhaps it's lingering shame from slaying the first Betta, but I can safely say we're now both balls deep in the hobby, as we're geared to set up a 55-gallon planted tank in the coming weeks. I look forward to hanging around here for the foreseeable future!



Update 12/9:

I posted this thread in the wrong place a while ago, so I thought I'd provide the early documentation to tell the whole story and keep this updated periodically.

Here's the tank after the water cleared up a bit:

Update 12/18:

I guess this will end up being another tank thread, but I am simultaneously setting up a 55 gallon planted tank as well. Here's a snapshot of how that is going:

Update 12/20:

Stocked the tank now that the cycle is over. Also replaced a crypto that never seemed to take off. Added more wisteria and some tapegrass.

Last edited by trouty; 12-22-2014 at 07:25 PM. Reason: updates
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post #2 of 2 (permalink) Old 12-09-2014, 08:39 AM
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Nice pictures, great aquascape start! Quite an adventure of trials, errors, and upgrade photos. Thanks for sharing. Really sorry to hear about you and girlfriend's first betta that didn't make it. That kind of stuff unfortunately happens.. fish goes into serious shock, weak immune system, pathogens.. so sometimes it's just too late. Hope the next betta will do better for you guys. Being in those cups 24/7, no filter, heater, extremely small cramped space and all, it is pretty harsh on them and you may have gotten a really weakened betta that was already dying perhaps.

Anyway, I noticed you just joined and this is your first thread. Welcome to ThePlantedTank, trouty!

Well, can't wait for more updates. Good luck on your first try at using co2 in a planted tank! I recommend you get a good quality drop checker so you can see how much co2 is inputted inside the tank. Cheers.

20 gallon - Sulawesi Golden rabbit snails/Japanese Trapdoor snails/RCS/Marbled crayfish tank
55 gallon - Rainbowfish Dutch scape low-tech planted tank

250 gallon - Community Tiger Oscar/Red hook silver dollar/Silver dollars/PB Jack Dempsey/Clown loaches/Tinfoil barb/Roseline sharks/Bala shark Monster fish tank
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