15H Journal - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 10 (permalink) Old 02-23-2006, 12:27 AM Thread Starter
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15H Journal

Been lurking on here for quite some time, but I'm finally starting up an upgrade tank from my 10 gallon "planted" tank to a 15H heavily planted tank. I'll post some setup photos as soon as I figure out photobucket or some other file dump site. I'm setting this tank up as an experiment tank before I set up my Oceanic 30G cube tank. Will probably use a lot of the same equipment for that tank, so this is kind of a "wet run." I'm posting some notes for now, with updates hopefully to follow throughout. Any comments would be welcome, but I'll be honest and say I'm stubborn and will probably have to learn by error mostly. I know the lighting is a bit much for only 15 gallons, but with the 18" high tank, I'm going to lose a lot of light on the way down, so I've overdone it a bit. Enjoy....


AGA 15H (20 x 10 x 18)


Base Layer (apprx 1in):

55oz First Layer (c) Laterite (apprx 50%)

5lb Estes Bits of Walnut (c) Gravel (apprx 50%)

Top Layer (apprx 2in):

20lb Estes Bits of Walnut (c) Gravel (100%)

All Estes gravel approximately 1mm - 3mm in diameter


AH Supply 2 x 36W Bright Kit w/ 20" Finished Enclosure

Marineland Penguin (c) 150B HOB Power Filter w/ Bio-Wheel

Jager 50W Heater

Penn-Plax Therma-Temp (c) 'Digital' Thermometer

Whisper 10 Air Pump w/ Airstone (Run at Night)

Setup Notes:


None of the laterite or gravel was washed prior to filling and mixing. Water dumped in right after gravel setup. Water immediately clouded, so bad you couldn't see an inch into the tank (photo taken with water partially full and clouded). Let settle for a day, then topped off water and started Penguin 150 running with a handful of polyester pillow stuffing from Wal Mart loaded instead of a filter cartridge. After one hour, another photo was taken, and the floss was changed. At this point, the water was already fairly clear. Man, that impeller is loud at first! Will it quiet down? I seem to remember my last power filter doing the same thing....

Some Notes on Ferts, Livestock, etc.:

Planning to dose with Flourish Excel, Potassium, Trace, and eventually Iron. As I said before, this tank is a bit of a trial run, so I'm experimenting with readily available nutrient packages. Hopefully the livestock will be supplying all the nitrate I'll need.
With that in mind, I'll be slightly overstocking. Planned flora and fauna below. I'll also be running the bio-wheel (nitrate factory), just for kicks.


Cryptocoryne wendtii
Microsorium pteropus (Java Fern)
Vesicularia dubyana (Java Moss)
Rotala indica
Cabomba caroliniana


Cherry Barbs
Cherry Shrimp

Not sure about stocking numbers yet. Tank will be fully planted before anything moving goes in, which should help with the cycle. Starting with 10 Cherry Shrimp. Will be adding 2-3 Ottos and 3 Cherry Barbs over the next few weeks. Then maybe 3 Corys, then maybe a few more Cherry Barbs.

Sorry this is a bit disorganized, but i've been doing a lot of planning, and now that it's coming together I realize that I've got a lot more to post than I thought. If anybody's got advice on photobucket or the like, let me know. I'll be trolling for info on it tomorrow at lunch break. Peace....
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post #2 of 10 (permalink) Old 02-23-2006, 05:28 AM
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A few thoughts: I don't see the need for the airstone at all, night or day. Are you injecting CO2? If you are heavily planted there's not likely to be a 'cycle' per se, as the plants will uptake ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate. Bacteria will eventually colonize, so I guess you could call that cycled sans spikes. I'm not clear on the connection between the biowheel and nitrates. Can you elaborate? PhotoBucket is pretty straightforward, so I look forward to pictures. You might want to think about adding tough fish that don't rely on algae (like Corys) before adding the algae eaters. If you really want to add the algae eaters before they've got enough to eat growing in the tank, plan on feeding them, especially the otos, which can be fragile when first introduced. I never introduce them until I've got a good brown diatom layer for them to fatten up on. Good luck!
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post #3 of 10 (permalink) Old 02-23-2006, 05:51 PM Thread Starter
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Great advice on the Ottos. Think I'll start with the Barbs and wait for the goo to grow before I bring in the Ottos.

About the Bio-Wheel... They're really just there to allow lots and lots of nitrifying bacteria to grow, aren't they? Kind of like a little nitrate factory.

Figured out photobucket at lunch. First pics to be up tonight, as soon as I get time....
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post #4 of 10 (permalink) Old 02-23-2006, 08:53 PM
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Yes, the biowheel can sustain nitrifying bacteria, but with plants eating up ammonia and nitrite, it's more likely to contribute to unnecessary CO2 loss, which limits plant efficiency. I'd skip the wheel and keep the CO2 in the tank, where the plants can maximize it.
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post #5 of 10 (permalink) Old 02-26-2006, 10:04 PM Thread Starter
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A quick setup photo post to check out photobucket....

Here's the 'scape at Day 0 (yesterday):
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post #6 of 10 (permalink) Old 02-27-2006, 02:22 AM
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Ahhh the 15 high. My favorite tank. A small piece of driftwood looks good in the center, but let me advise you to put it against the back wall. It looks awesome. Let some moss grow on that wood, in a few months you will look back and say, "damn! that is a nice tank!"

In college....so no aquariums for a while.....
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post #7 of 10 (permalink) Old 02-28-2006, 02:01 AM Thread Starter
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"This wood may discolor you aquarium water" said the label. This wood will excessively drop your pH even after three weeks of soaking and water changes. Came home from work (late, as usual) to find that my tank looked awful, crypt and cabomba leaves were literally melting off, and there was a white powder in suspension. pH had dropped lower than my kit can measure (less than 6.0). Pulled the bogwood, cut the java ferns free, and replanted everything. Upped the KH of some fresh water with baking soda and did a quick 30% water change. Topped up Excel, Potassium, and Trace levels, and threw in a bit of Kent Freshwater Plant ferts (for Nitrate, still haven't put any fish into this tank). pH was back up to 6.8-6.9. Within 15 mins the wallichii was pearling. Within 30 mins everything was pearling, including all the crypts. All of their older leaves have melted away, but all the newer ones look ok. Hopefully everything'll be alright. Can't wait to run home tomorrow and check the pH.

Oh, on an interesting side note. Just to test to see if the bogwood was the problem, I threw a bit of baking soda on it. It hissed like a newly popped can of soda. Stuck it into a bucket with about a tablespoon of baking soda and some water. When the pH in that bucket stops dropping, i guess i'll move it back into the tank....

Whew what a rollercoaster. And here I thought I was actually planning ahead and trying to avoid these little disasters.
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post #8 of 10 (permalink) Old 03-01-2006, 03:28 AM Thread Starter
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Pulled all the melted leaves out, changed a few more gallons out, and replanted everything. Threw in a dozen or so MTS from the 10 gallon. Still way skittish about fish, so I'll be introducing nitrogen with change water from the other tank for the next week or two, and waiting till that stupid wood is cured and stable before adding any fish. Hope this works....

Anybody have suggestions on how much Excel I should be dosing per day? It seems like a capful or two per day is working fairly well (5-10ml per day in the 15gal).

Here's an updated shot from after the cleanout tonight:
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post #9 of 10 (permalink) Old 03-01-2006, 07:04 AM
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unlucky with the wood, some time it works out, sometimes it doesnt. At least you have gained nice experience in aquariums :-)

Nice selection of fauna and nice aquascaping. Hope it goes well
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post #10 of 10 (permalink) Old 03-04-2006, 04:33 PM Thread Starter
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A quick update:

I've had this malaysian wood in a bucket all of its own. It's maintained a steady 7.0pH since Thursday, and the kH is actually creeping up, not down. I don't think the wood was the acidity problem in this tank.

Meanwhile, the pH and KH continue to creep down in the 15H, no matter what I do.

The questions: Could it be possible that the plants are sucking carbon out of the CO3 due to lack of CO2? Should I try upping my Excel dosages? Any similar experiences?

I've got to be away for work for a week. Not sure how to try to keep the tank running without a pH crash while I'm gone....
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