Getting my feet wet. My first ever aquarium! - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 25 (permalink) Old 09-17-2015, 02:05 PM Thread Starter
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Getting my feet wet. My first ever aquarium!

So, I live in Singapore, the city-state which is the world's largest exporter of ornamental fish. We have over 100 LFSs (and numerous fish farms) on our tiny island-country of approximately 700km2. However, I have never owned an aquarium before. But that's going change.

I have been reading up on fish-keeping on-and-off over the past couple of years, acquiring a wealth of knowledge on aquariums and planted tanks. But as a poor college student, I did not have the financial resources to start my own planted tank. Now that I have graduated and have a stable income, I finally decided to start my own aquarium.

I was about the bite the bullet and plonk down S$450 for a brand new 2ft*1.5ft*1.5ft (33.7gUS) high-clarity glass tank plus cabinet, when I saw an online posting offering to sell off a 2nd hand 3ft*1.5ft*2ft (67.3gUS) tank plus cabinet for S$300. I immediately contacted the seller and reserved the tank set.

And here it is!

67.3gUS tank with 12mm glass on all sides, high-clarity glass for the front panel. Comes with a silicone-sealed external overflow box and full set of pipes, and a 3D background.


ADA-style cabinet


Came with a sump included.


I also bought a fully functioning BEAMSWORK 3ft LED light from the same guy for S$60. He told me that it should be sufficient for plants requiring low- to mid- lighting, but not for plants requiring high intensity lighting. Works for me for my first planted tank!

Last edited by grandweapon; 09-19-2015 at 04:53 PM. Reason: fixed images
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post #2 of 25 (permalink) Old 09-17-2015, 02:12 PM
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Sounds like you found a really good deal! I'm excited to see how this progresses.

Oh, and welcome to the hobby!
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post #3 of 25 (permalink) Old 09-17-2015, 03:29 PM Thread Starter
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As always when you buy anything off the internet, there will be some things that you did not expect beforehand. Other than how freaking heavy and difficult to transport the tank is, my biggest gripe was with the external overflow box as it was not mentioned in the posting. I had already bought a Fluval C4, looking forward to starting my cycle as soon as I got myself the tank I was originally looking at purchasing. So either the overflow box or the C4 had to go.

I also did not really like the 3D background, although the seller urged me to retain it as he paid over S$100 for it.

When I finally got the tank home, I considered for a brief moment before deciding to rip out the 3D background. There were some green algae stains on the sides, and the back was poorly siliconed to the glass which could allow food and other debris to get stuck at the behind the 3D background. It also took up quite a bit of space, and that means less space for fish and plants!

So I took out a paint scraper and slid it in carefully between the glass and the 3D background. After separating some of the silicone, a gave it a few hard pulls and the entire background came off in one piece, leaving behind blotches of silicone on the glass. That's something to take care of later.

I gave the entire tank a good rinse, removing all remnants of the previous owner's substrate and wiped it dry.

Now to the overflow box. Depending on how you see it, this could be my best decision or my biggest mistake that I would come to regret. I decided to get rid of the overflow box. There were several reasons for doing so.
  1. I did not have much knowledge on sumps. I know roughly how they work, but not enough to mess around with one.
  2. I was not looking forward to spending even more money on media for the sump.
  3. Most importantly, I had to rip out the pipes before transporting the tank, and did not any experience with siliconing them back onto the overflow box.

So I took the paint scraper and tried to cut away at the silicone. That was when I learned the difference between a shoddily done DIY silicone job (the 3D background) and a professionally done silicone job (the overflow box). I managed to cut away most of the excess silicone, but my paint scraper was too thick to get between the glass panels to separate the silicone.

After an hour and a half (including from removing the 3D background and rinsing the tank) of work, I decided to take a break. I was at the point of no return now. After cutting away so much silicone, the overflow box is more or less useless now and simply have to go. I turned to Google and found a tip to use razor blades. BEST TIP EVER! The razor blade slid easily between the glass and with a bit (a lot actually) of force, I managed to pull the blade through the silicone. Once one side is cut, I simply gave the glass a few hard tugs and the rest of the pieces finally came off. It only took me a total of 2 hours from the beginning till now.



The next most tedious task was to remove all the silicone stains. I decided against using any chemicals and stuck to my trusty razor blades. The blades worked like a treat! From algae to silicone stains to old water stains, everything was removed using the razor blades. It took over an hour to remove all the stains due to the size and the amount of silicone to remove, but the result was amazing!



Now placed back on to the cabinet. Looks brand new, apart from the notch where the overflow used to be. The cabinet even matches my existing furniture!


Last edited by grandweapon; 09-19-2015 at 04:54 PM. Reason: resized images
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post #4 of 25 (permalink) Old 09-17-2015, 03:45 PM Thread Starter
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The following day, I bought 3 bags of 9L ADA Amazonia (Normal) and 1 bag of 3L ADA Amazonia (Powder). Got a piece of driftwood and 3 pieces of rocks together with some egg crate.

Hardscape time. I love the shape of the driftwood, and the fact that the rocks have holes, forming natural caves for my fish to hide in. I'll probably need more (larger) rocks to fill out the space. I initially thought that the rocks would be sufficient when measuring their sizes while at the LFS. However I failed to account for the height of the tank. While I feel that my hardscape fills up the floor area at the bottom of the tank nicely, it's looking rather bare higher up. I'll probably have to get tall rocks and/or driftwood to balance out the space.



What do you think? Do I need more hardscape, or will background plants fill in the space nicely?

I poured in the rest of my Amazonia soil and flooded the tank.

Cloudy water. Not as bad as I thought it would be. I can still (barely) see my hardscape!



The following morning, it cleared up quite a bit, but still some way to go.


After 24 hours. Can't really tell the difference in pictures, but I can see that the water is much clearer now.

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post #5 of 25 (permalink) Old 09-17-2015, 04:00 PM Thread Starter
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My first water test! 24 hours after flooding the tank.

Ammonia: 1.0ppm


Nitrite: 0ppm


Nitrate: looks to be between 0 and 5.0ppm


pH: 6.8 PERFECT!


All seems normal for a new tank with ADA Amazonia. The water have mostly cleared, so I turned on my filter for the first time to start the cycle!

I am using Fluval C4, with Seachem Matrix in both the carbon and biological media areas. Also added a pre-filter sponge over the intake tube. The only original C4 media I am using are the foam pad and the piece over the drip plate thingy.

And that's where I am at right now! Looking forward to a wonderful journey with my first ever aquarium! Will be heading down to an aquatic plant farm to get some plant over the weekend.

I'm still very very new to this, so please let me know if I do anything I am not supposed to be doing!

Last edited by grandweapon; 09-19-2015 at 04:56 PM. Reason: resized images
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post #6 of 25 (permalink) Old 09-17-2015, 04:38 PM
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Yes, the beamswork light should be good enough! I have that light on my tank and it is fine for low light plants, although if you even have some low/mid light plants all the way at the bottom of your tank you will need to be wary about light penetration even for some if you have plants towards the top blocking too much light - your tank is actually decently tall. But yeah, good luck with the tank! Looks like a good start

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post #7 of 25 (permalink) Old 09-17-2015, 04:38 PM Thread Starter
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I'm still very very new to this, so please let me know if I do anything I am not supposed to be doing!

A few things that I already think I should have done differently:

1. I should have thrown out the old styrofoam board on the cabinet and replaced it with a proper tank mat. But I simply flipped the foam board over and sat my tank on it. Shouldn't be too much of an issue though.

2. AqAdvisor is telling me that my Fluval C4 may be insufficient when the tank is fully stocked. Perhaps I should have went with the overflow and sump instead. But with a heavily planted tank and approx 700mL of Seachem Matrix (more than twice the volume of original C4 biological media) in the filter, it might just be enough. I will cross the bridge when I get there.

3. I should have used at least 6L of Amazonia Powder instead of just 3L, or just none at all. The powder barely formed a thin layer over the normal soil. After flooding, some powder shifted and uncovered the normal soil. No biggie, but I could have done without the 3L of powder.


Last edited by grandweapon; 09-19-2015 at 04:56 PM. Reason: resized image
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post #8 of 25 (permalink) Old 09-17-2015, 04:49 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yuuki_Akitsuki View Post
Sounds like you found a really good deal! I'm excited to see how this progresses.

Oh, and welcome to the hobby!
Thanks for the kind words! I definitely got a great deal. A brand new tank and cabinet of that size locally would have cost at around S$800. The 3ft BEAMSWORK LED light another S$100. I got everything for just S$360, and got a spare sump tank too!

Haven't thought of what to do with the sump tank yet. I'll most probably commit even more blasphemy and tear apart to dividers and use it to quarantine new fish

Quote:
Originally Posted by andrewss View Post
Yes, the beamswork light should be good enough! I have that light on my tank and it is fine for low light plants, although if you even have some low/mid light plants all the way at the bottom of your tank you will need to be wary about light penetration even for some if you have plants towards the top blocking too much light - your tank is actually decently tall. But yeah, good luck with the tank! Looks like a good start
Yea. I had planned for a smaller tank all along, but this deal was too good to pass up. I agree that the height of the tank makes it even more tricky. Do you reckon I will be able to use Monte Carlo as a carpet with this light?
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post #9 of 25 (permalink) Old 09-18-2015, 10:14 PM
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Save the sump, you will eventually come to understand the beauty of that piece of equipment. Sumps=NO equipment in the display.

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post #10 of 25 (permalink) Old 09-19-2015, 05:06 PM Thread Starter
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2 days after turning on the filter, did my 2nd water test tonight, and the ammonia is off the charts! Other parameters remain unchanged.



This cycling thing is going to take quite some time! Plants will start going in over the next few days to help with the cycle.

In the meantime, I added another big piece of driftwood to fill in the space. I like the look much better now, but I still feel it needs a few more pieces of rocks. Stirred up the substrate quite a bit during the minor rescape, and the water is looking slightly cloudy.

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post #11 of 25 (permalink) Old 09-27-2015, 08:15 AM Thread Starter
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Plants finally went in today.



Here's my list of plants:

Background (left to right): Limnophila Sessiliflora (Ambulia), Bacopa Caroliniana, Alternanthera Rosefolia
Foreground (left to right): Nymphaea Lotus Red, Microsorum Pteropus 'WindelÝv' (Windelov Java Fern), Staurogyne Repens, Ludwigia 'Super Red'
Carpet: Micranthemum 'Monte Carlo'

After 10 days of cycling, ammonia level is still at 8+, and no detectable nitrites. I read somewhere that high levels of ammonia can possibly inhibit bacterial growth during the cycling stage. So I took the opportunity during planting today to do a 75% water change. Tested my water, and ammonia is now at 1.0 ppm

Dosed with Prime, Flourish and Flourish Excel after the water change.
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post #12 of 25 (permalink) Old 09-27-2015, 04:03 PM
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You got a great deal but paid the price in hard work. That's one reason some "old guys" just buy new. The reason we don't always buy new is because of the cost. It's a trade off that works better one way for some people some times and sometimes it works better the other way.

"Would have" and "could have" and "should have" are three phrases fish hobbyists use a lot. You don't seem to have made any BAD decisions. Would I or others have done things differently? Sure! That doesn't mean we're right and you're wrong. If it works for you, then it works for you. I set up my tanks differently from a lot of folks. I'm still using techniques I learned as a boy in the 1960s. It works for me and I like the results. My way just takes longer than some of the newer ways - then again, I use some of the newer approaches now and then too.

Filtration is so very important. I do not usually overload my tanks with fish and I usually have lots of plants. Yet I still like at least two filters on every aquarium and each filter should be close to what is recommended for that aquarium - meaning I double the recommended. I firmly believe in good, strong filtration. My filter media is usually sponges and pot scrubbers - the really cheap stuff. I do have bio-balls in a few filters. I do not use carbon at all. What you have will work fine for a light load of fish. There's nothing wrong with adding a second filter.

Nothing wrong with your filter and approach, it'll work great. I always recommend adding a sponge pre-filter to every filter. They help keep fry safe. They help bio-filtration. They provide a good place for fish to find extra food.

I'd take your tank just the way it is any day (and I'd keep the sump). You never know what extra parts you'll want down the road.
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post #13 of 25 (permalink) Old 09-28-2015, 08:06 AM
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This is a well planned setup and nice looking tank. Really amazing considering it is your first ever aquarium. One piece of advice I'd offer is to remove the calcareous rocks (the porous white rocks) as they will significantly raise the hardness and alkalinity of your water. Barring a few species, most plants do well in a slightly acidic pH (around 6 to 6.5) as this allows for a higher availability of some necessary nutrients, including iron.

Iron uptake and transport in plants: The good, the bad, and the ionome
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post #14 of 25 (permalink) Old 09-28-2015, 03:45 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VelcroWY View Post
You got a great deal but paid the price in hard work. That's one reason some "old guys" just buy new. The reason we don't always buy new is because of the cost. It's a trade off that works better one way for some people some times and sometimes it works better the other way.

"Would have" and "could have" and "should have" are three phrases fish hobbyists use a lot. You don't seem to have made any BAD decisions. Would I or others have done things differently? Sure! That doesn't mean we're right and you're wrong. If it works for you, then it works for you. I set up my tanks differently from a lot of folks. I'm still using techniques I learned as a boy in the 1960s. It works for me and I like the results. My way just takes longer than some of the newer ways - then again, I use some of the newer approaches now and then too.

Filtration is so very important. I do not usually overload my tanks with fish and I usually have lots of plants. Yet I still like at least two filters on every aquarium and each filter should be close to what is recommended for that aquarium - meaning I double the recommended. I firmly believe in good, strong filtration. My filter media is usually sponges and pot scrubbers - the really cheap stuff. I do have bio-balls in a few filters. I do not use carbon at all. What you have will work fine for a light load of fish. There's nothing wrong with adding a second filter.

Nothing wrong with your filter and approach, it'll work great. I always recommend adding a sponge pre-filter to every filter. They help keep fry safe. They help bio-filtration. They provide a good place for fish to find extra food.

I'd take your tank just the way it is any day (and I'd keep the sump). You never know what extra parts you'll want down the road.
Thanks for your kind words! I do agree that I paid the price in hard work for getting 2nd hand equipment. But I did not regret it at all as it added so much to my experience in starting my first ever aquarium! I learnt much from the entire process as well. With regards to filtration, I do agree with you that over filtration is good. I will definitely be adding on more filtration some time down the road.

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Quote:
Originally Posted by skoram View Post
This is a well planned setup and nice looking tank. Really amazing considering it is your first ever aquarium. One piece of advice I'd offer is to remove the calcareous rocks (the porous white rocks) as they will significantly raise the hardness and alkalinity of your water. Barring a few species, most plants do well in a slightly acidic pH (around 6 to 6.5) as this allows for a higher availability of some necessary nutrients, including iron.

Iron uptake and transport in plants: The good, the bad, and the ionome
Thanks! I don't believe the rocks are calcareous though. They actually look more of a brown/beige colour than white in real life. My pH is now at around 6.6-6.8 based on the API master test kit. And if I'm not mistaken, my pH will lower further when I start adding CO2 in the future. Nevertheless, I will continue monitoring the pH. If my pH starts to rise, I will replace the rocks.
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post #15 of 25 (permalink) Old 09-28-2015, 04:31 PM
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if they aren't calcareous that's good news. In the photos they look exactly like the stuff used in marine tanks for seeding "live rock." you can test the rocks by placing some drops of acid on them (vinegar might work, but it could be too weak) and watching for bubbles.

https://youtu.be/jmOoiLzV0Z8

a pH of 6.6 to 6.8 is perfectly fine for plants and most fish though so I wouldn't be too worried if it stays around there.
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