New 10 Gallon Penn Plax Build - The Planted Tank Forum
 
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post #1 of 8 (permalink) Old 04-08-2018, 09:52 PM Thread Starter
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New 10 Gallon Penn Plax Build

Hello everyone,

I'm a new guy here, and I'm starting my first fish tank in about 15 years. The tank is a curved edge, 10 gallon Penn Plax, which first got filled this past Tuesday. It's cycling with the "stock" filter, a pile of filter pad scraps from a friend (more than I will need for the final custom filter), and a Finnex 16 inch light. I'm prepared to buy a second one and double up if I need it, but I think it will be good. It's the perfect size for the tank. I thought I would document the build progress here for all to add their advice... or jabs .

First the design. As I shared in a thread asking for plant advice, the inspiration is an undercut steam bank. I will be attempting to glue gauged slate tiles one on top of another to look as close to naturally laid slate as possible, and carving out the shape of an undercut stream bank. Take a look at the attached sketch. I plan to have 2, maybe 3 species of plants. OVT's advice has confirmed dwarf hair grass for the "carpet", and pointed me to dwarf baby tears for the cliff top. It will grow naturally at the surface of the tank, without needing CO2 as when it is submerged. It will also be home to a few small fish, shrimp (i'm thinking black and blue to go with the slate), and some snails. The heater, filtering, etc will hide behind the slate.

The tank is actually on my desk at work. Since it is away from home, I want it to be a well balanced, low maintenance ecosystem (as much as is possible in a 10 gallon space). No complexity from CO2 or other large support systems, at least two weeks between water changes, and capable of going every weekend without food or other input from me. Bio diversity is a big goal, for balance, and also, just because it is interesting to me. I want a well established bottom-of-the-food-chain, with daphnia, the occasional baby shrimp brood, and any sort of tiny inverts that aren't parasites. Any advice on getting something like this established without rolling the dice by buying a plant from the dirtiest fish shop I can find will be appreciated.

Work so far: I filled it with straight, untreated tap water (gasp!) on Tuesday afternoon. I knew a day of chlorine evaporating out wouldn't make that much of a difference to my time line. It turns out 10 gallons of moving tap water in an open tank gives a noticeable chlorine smell in a small office. It was completely gone to my nose when I arrived about 7am on Wednesday. The chemistries were completely static for Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday: 8.2 pH, 0 ppm ammonia, 0 ppm for nitrites and nitrates. The hardness test kit finally arrived on Friday. 6 for KH and 11 for GH. I plan to bring those down with RO water changes, and then get the KH back up if I need to. I started "dosing" a small amount of fish food on Friday so I can at least look at something new running the chemistries this week. We'll see what they are tomorrow morning.

This week I'm going to take out about half of that ball of filter scraps. I'm not going to need that much. And decide on substrate. It's going to be until next month before I have time to really do the background, hence the "I have time approach" to cycling. I may also add some scraps of slate and see if that changes anything.
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post #2 of 8 (permalink) Old 04-08-2018, 10:26 PM
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So you are inoculating all that filter floss to use in your filter later?
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post #3 of 8 (permalink) Old 04-08-2018, 11:36 PM Thread Starter
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I'm not sure what you mean by inoculate in this context. I may not be up to speed on the lingo after so long. I intend to use those scraps of filter pad for my biological filtration in the custom filter that will go behind the slate background. I'm getting their bacteria colony going now.
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post #4 of 8 (permalink) Old 04-08-2018, 11:47 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TankDave View Post
I'm not sure what you mean by inoculate in this context. I may not be up to speed on the lingo after so long. I intend to use those scraps of filter pad for my biological filtration in the custom filter that will go behind the slate background. I'm getting their bacteria colony going now.
Yes, that's what I meant. Sorry for the confusion. "Seeding" the filter wouldn't really be the case here since there not an existing colony being added in this case. Either way, it's a neat idea if you haven't purchased a filter. Never thought to try that myself.

Like the drawing, btw. I'm curious on how it will all come together. Good luck!
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post #5 of 8 (permalink) Old 04-11-2018, 01:11 PM Thread Starter
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I’m thinking about a big white mystery snail against the black slate. If a 3 inch snail dies while I’m on vacation, am I just asking for my tank to crash, or do you think the shrimp would take care of it?
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post #6 of 8 (permalink) Old 04-16-2018, 05:46 PM Thread Starter
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So after almost two weeks of coming into work early only to see 0ppm across the board, I went with a nuke-it-from-orbit style approach and put about 2 cups of lightly rinsed compost in there on Friday. Today showed 0.25ppm ammonia, off the chart nitrite, and 5ppm nitrate. So after 3 days it’s somewhere in the middle of the cycle. I still have plenty of time to wait it out, but now I at least get to observe something going on.
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post #7 of 8 (permalink) Old 04-17-2018, 03:38 AM Thread Starter
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I upgraded my air pump with a little “muffler” today. With a quiet pump, I realized that a lot of noise actually comes out from the air stones themselves. The simple pump is just an electro-magnet riding back and forth on the alternating current from the wall, so it makes sense that the pressure waves from that back and forth motion are heard as sound when they make it out of the stone into the water.

I found enough PVC adapters from the nearest big box home improvement store to go from an air line, to a 2 inch pipe, and back to an air line. The idea is the pulses of air that make a big pressure difference in the tiny air line will make a tiny difference in the big pipe. Once the waves are smoothed out in the pipe, it goes back to an air line and to the tank. It worked great.
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post #8 of 8 (permalink) Old 04-28-2018, 09:30 PM Thread Starter
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So the tank is pretty well cycled now. I’m trying to lower the ph with RO water changes. Whatever makes Albuquerque water hard seems to buffer the ph at a solid 8.2 with only 5 dkH and 8 dGH. That’s after some small water changes too. It started at 8 dKH and 12 dGH. I did a roughly 50% change on Friday. It was about 7.5 ph, 3 dKH and 5 dGH right after. Going to bring another little bit of compost to add to the tank on Monday. We’ll see if it’s soft enough to at least keep the ph in the high 7s.
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balanced ecosystem, nano, no co2

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