You read the title and you begin to wonder, "What am I about to read? Did this guy create a masterpiece on his first try?" NOPE!
Like most hobbyists we fail our first attempts and that is what I have done...at least it feels this way.
I've done hours upon hours of research to get this tank up and running, but the more I learned the more I questioned and couldn't seem to figure out how exactly I was going to set up my tank. So, with the little knowledge I have of the topic as compared to experienced fresh-water tankers I dove right in.
I'll begin with what I have and what I know of this far.
Plants (All of which I picked because my research said they were "easy")
Anubias nana petite
Amazon Sword (I accidentally crushed the stems when planting so I ended up cutting them off and planted them still to see if they would grow back)
and a Mossball (not going to be in final edition--I bought it first just to begin the ecosystem cycle)
Substrate and Obstacles
CaribSea Eco-Complete Substrate (40lbs)
20g "Normal" Tank
Aquaclear 30 Power Filter
Marineland Heater 200watt
Marineland Advanced LED Strip Light 24" (the one with programmable timer for day/night)
Planting and Propagation Tools
Flourish Excel Fertilizer
Flourish Iron (not used yet)
CO2 Drop Checker (to be delivered)
CO2 Regulator System (in-hand ready to install)
CO2 Cylinder (this one I still need so any recommendations would be nice--it looks like I need a 1" nozzle for the regulator fitting?)
API Freshwater Master Test Kit (pH, High pH, Ammonia, Nitrite, Nitrate)
Ok, my intentions for the tank was to build the planted ecosystem before adding fish. I didn't want to deal with minute details of trying to keep fish alive while trying to build plants up. However, I'm finding I'm devoting a lot of time and "worry" to this project with no fish in the foreseeable future. /sadface
Early November I had the substrate sitting in a few inches of water in the tank and the Mopani wood boiled and sitting in a bucket of hot water to leach all the tannin--water changes in the bucket were daily. This lasted about a week until the water with the wood appeared clear. Then I introduced the wood to the substrate and filled up the tank as to submerse the wood. A few days later my filter arrived and I hooked that up. Been running nonstop since. Light and Heater came soon after and been teetering with settings ever since because I'm unsure what I should set it at--that is, both the light timer and the heater temperature.
Now, about a week after introducing the wood to the tank it began developing a white film, which I researched as a relatively harmless fungus playing out its course of decomposition on bios still living(or dying) on the wood. The fungus sprouted and covered the entire log making it look like a nicely frosted doughnut bar.
I recently got all my plants within a two day period and planted them all in the tank. I'm beginning to wonder if I should have staggered the time frame of planting them all.
So, where am I at now? Nearing defeat.
My S.repens and ARs are transparent green with extremely fragile bodies. One repen even had some black on the stem and when I grabbed it with tweezers to uproot it vanished like the Wicked Witch of the West. When I got the rest of it the root appeared a healthy white and possibly a little grown. I'd have to say 70% of the grasses are still a decent green while some blades are yellow (some were like that when I planted so I don't think they have changed too much). Java Moss was green/brown when I got it (or was it? lol...I can't remember) and seems to maintain at that. My shaved amazon sword is probably wishing to die because of how pathetic of a hobbyist I am. The only things that seems to be doing great is my rich-green anubias petite with two cute little leaves and some slowly growing roots on the wood, and my moss ball, which I'm sure would still flourish if I dropped a turd on it. I've been giving the water daily treatments of fertilizer in recommended doses. BUT this is where it gets good!
Today, I come home from school and my wife tells me the whole tank has the fungus! Now I'm worried because I'm beginning to wonder if these plants are decaying.
Did a water test today and here is what I got.
Ammonia maybe a hair over 0ppm, but under 0.25ppm
Nitrite/Nitrate both 0
I even tested my tap water which had higher ammonia levels (1ppm) than my actual tank.
I took a water sample to Petco for them to do their test strips, which came up same readings except ammonia read 0.5ppm for them. I don't know how accurate Petco is or if ammonia develops in a still container like that...whatever. My intention was to buy a pleco and some shrimp to eat all this goo, but with them saying ammonia was at 0.5ppm I succumbed to the fate of being stuck between a rock and a hard place.
Needless to say, I didn't buy any fish because I didn't want them to suffer at my expense.
CO2 won't be set up until I get the drop checker and find a CO2 cylinder to fit my regulator (about 1" size). I hear people buy paintball gun canisters, but often have to find adapters to fit so if anyone has knowledge on cylinders to save me time and money hunting for one that would be great.
I'm at the point of just maybe dosing the water once a day with fertilizer and pray for the best. I feel if I mess with it too much at this fragile stage I'm going to ruin any opportunity for restoration. Any freakin tips would be helpful. I started with a beautiful arrangement of "easy" plants and finding out this hobby is kicking my @$$.
Here are some pictures.
You'll notice bamboo kabob sticks holding up my ARs because they were literally laying on the substrate while bottom stems were still firmly planted.
I promise I'll post some more aesthetic photos if the tank ever survives.