I bought this tank from the $1 a gallon sale at Petco recently and after much (MUCH) deliberation, have decided to go with a blackwater biotope. I feel like I have a good grasp on how to go about it, but want to check my facts. I know not to use rotten wood but I live in Florida and its summertime; meaning daily thunderstorms. Just how dry does the wood need to be? I have already collected a fair bit of oak and they feel solid, but are damp.
As far as leaves go, I know you can use oak and that the leaves need to be dead/dried (no green at all, right?) but is there a limit to the type of leaves you can use? The oak leaves here are definitely not what they're like up north (small, one point) but we do have some pretty neat leaves on the coastal trees... I just wanted to make sure they are safe to use, I can take photos if it would be helpful.
I was not planning on having any plants. The only thing I would consider is a floater like frogbit or duckweed. Opinions?
Any recommendations for fish stocking? I was thinking along the lines of either angelfish or apistogramma, with kuhlii loaches, otos, and corys. I would also consider a small school of tetras or similar fish. Any particular invertebrates that are at home in a blackwater setting?
I think that is all for now, any and all advice is greatly appreciated!
I just went through this whole process with my 29 gallon tank. You should check out my journal (link in sig) might help you out some. I will also try to answer your questions.
It is ok if the wood is damp... remove the bark, then what I would do is stick it in the oven on "warm" should be around 170 for about 5-10 mins to dry it out. Keep a close eye on it. After doing that boil it in a large pot or if they are too big to fit in the pot bring water to a boil and slowly pour it over the entire piece of wood (I would recommend a couple kettles for this as it is much easier to pour and you can direct the flow better than from a pot) You can also use a wire brush or a stiff plastic brush at this point to scrub it down, but its not required. Then you can bake it on warm again to dry it out. You might have to tie it down or attach rocks to the wood to keep it down in the tank.
I would feel safe in recommending the use of oak and maple leaves other hardwood leaves might be fine. As long as the leaves are dry and crispy I will use them. Again any leaves you put in the tank I recommend boiling first. This will leach out their tannins so they won't color up your water that much. What you can do though is use the tannin stained water to mix with your water change water. After you boil the leaves, pour the stained water from the pot through filter paper into a pitcher or large measuring cup. Then just pour this into your treat bucket of water before you pour it into your tank.
I would not recommend duckweed. Frogbit or water lettuce would be a much better choice simply because duckweed is a PITA.
In a 29 you could do a pair of angelfish, but they are really better suited for bigger tanks. Apistos would be awesome the square footage of your tank would limit you to a pair, proven pairs are hard to find and if they aren't proven they may not accept each other. A harem of 2 females and 1 male might be better, but if the male and a female pair up you will need to watch for aggression and be prepared to rehome the oddball female.
I would suggest you choose between a SA biotope or Asian and not mix if you are trying to setup a legitimate biotope. So Apistos, cories, tetras for a SA or Gouramis, rasboras or cherry barbs and loaches for an asian.
I'm not sure about invertebrates.