I wanted to share my experience (and ask some questions) and since this has to do with upgrading nano aquariums, aquascapes, and plants, I felt this was the right thread for it!
I attached two photos (the one with the mini driftwood and swords on opposite ends was my first 5 gallon, and the other is the new 10 gallon upgraded aquascape <-- I am loving it).
I am all about learning so if anything I have done is completely questionable please advise me
I was determined not to spend a fortune as I saw how quickly the cost of hardscape can add up - I went straight DIY.
the driftwood I found at the cottage ... boiled, soaked, it wouldn't sink ... with stainless steel screws I attached two old ceramic (food safe finish and glaze) tiles to the bottom of it ... it still didn't sink entirely so I piled some rocks to keep it still.
the rocks I found outside and tested with muriatic acid ... quickly learned that granite and quartz are beautiful inert rocks that can be found rather easily.
the substrate was done as follows: 1) a teency weency layer of flourite on the bottom, 2) miracle gro (osmocote equivalent in Canada) sprinkled, 3) Flourite put on top: 2 inches sloping to 3 inches of substrate from the front to back, with a 50/50 peace river gravel and flourite substrate cap put on top.
cholla wood in the back came from my old tank.
Of course, with the upgrade I used the old HOB filter and some old substrate in the new setup; ok, I place the hardscape, rip apart the old tank (leave the livestock in a bucket with tank water and work as fast I can). I retransfer the fish, top up with aged water - everything seems good, I go to bed.
Livestock: 4 furcata rainbow, amano shrimp, bloody mary shrimp, a nerite, and some pest snails.
The perils begin
I expected a mini-cycle, and by mini I mean maybe .25 ammonia that I could easily neutralize with prime, but it seems that I had a huge bacteria die off. The next morning, my ammonia hit 6 ppm and I immediately 30-40% WC with the best matched water that I could. Tested, ammonia dropped. Then (not the best choice, but learning) did another water change 4 hours later (it is important to note that the water had clouded slightly - the bacterial colony bloom), then I ... 4 hours later ... did another
... so I "reset" my re-cycle 3 times --> I thought I was helping.
I was then advised to add purigen to the aquarium to help with the load ... sounded good ... woke up this morning tested at 6 ppm ammonia again ... was advised by someone much more reputable to remove the purigen potentially stop dosing stability and let nature take its course.
All this to say, my crypts in the front all sprouted a new leaf, the anubias have started sprouting leaves, the amazon sword "cut" one of its own leaves off (I think because I trimmed the roots a bit so it is just naturally reducing its leaf load), the rotundifolia seems fine, and so do the floaters.
So livestock hates the ammonia but the plants are in heaven? Do I keep dosing excel? Potassium? DEFINITELY not phosphates or nitrate as they have spiked, Iron? ... my intuition says to leave it and if I see deficiencies then dose the nutrients, but KEEP with the excel.
With all this stress, I lost 3 furcata rainbows, so I am down to 1 (he's going strong), but no inverts.
I finally left it alone, and on some of the cholla wood and on 1 anubias stem, I noticed some BBA developing -- is this a good sign? This same algae developed when I started the 5 gal for the first time and it was taken care of with Amano shrimp and went away over time.
It is worth noting that the 5 gal (after learning how to properly clean, properly water change, and properly dose (all thanks to this forum), having my heater boil the aquarium up to 88: I had combatted cyano, diatoms, BBA) was doing really well and algae clear (either my parameters were superb
LOL or, much more likely, excel kept it at bay).
Well ... what can I expect to come as I leave it for a week? Should I dose stability daily to help the bio load catch up? Excel?
For what it's worth:
lighting period 7 hours (15 min ramp up and down),
light: rgb, 1800 lumens, 18 watt, 9000K, Nicrew https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B07DDCBC4C/...ing=UTF8&psc=1
, 1 inch from surface of water (it might be worth finding a way to raise this higher?)
Plants: frogbit, red root floater, anubias nana, anubias barteri, rotala rotundifolia, amazon sword, crypt wendtii, pothos in filters
10 gallon with aquaclear 30 and aquaclear 20 (from the 5 gal) in the top ... my positioning needs to be fixed with the filters, but I can't push the heater and further left until the driftwood won't move without the rock support (I am bastering to help with the flow -- but it seems ok ... for now.
Note: I have removed purigen while "re"-cycling, then I can add it later if I want to.
Thanks in advance and ...