A Beginner's Successes and Failures
I want to share some things I've learned since I dove into planted tank world last August. I have a 75 gallon tank, it is only four months old so it's still relatively new.
The biggest thing I've learned so far is to do it correctly the first time. I tried to skate past some things with DIY builds or cheaper options but most of them lead to more money spent than if I had just purchased the commercial option in the first place.
The infamous 5 gallon bucket canister filter.
I tried to make the infamous 5 gallon bucket canister filter. Just as everyone suggested it could not take the pressure and burst. I used one of the commercial screw on lids and that didn't work either. My last attempt would have been to create a negative pressure setup with the pump inside, but instead I scraped it all together. I ended up building a sump out of a 20gallon long tank which has worked great.
The Sump - Noise Control
I settled on building a sump still not wanting to purchase a comercial filter. I was aware that CO2 out gassing would be a concern, but I have not faced that problem. I was also concerned about noise since it's right behind my bed, but with some careful planning and intricate plumbing I've made it silent. Look up the silent and fail proof overflow system. I didn't drill holes in my tank, instead I made an overflow box. I messed up the calculations for the diameters of the syphon pipes, and I sill haven't figured that calculation out.
I designed the baffles in the sump so that the water only cascaded down one wall. I set this bulkhead at a slight angle so it ran down the glass instead of falling into the chamber below, again silent. I originally had the pump in the last chamber but this caused a lot of vibrational noise. I suspended it in the chamber so it wasn't touching any of the glass, this was still noisy. I then changed it so that it hung above the sump out of the water with a water intake pipe, this is fairly quiet. I have some blanket material and some old pillows stuffed in the area to dampen any remaining noise.
I collected some dry cedar from the beach. It was actual driftwood, but still fairly fresh once I cut into it. I soaked it for about 4 weeks and mounted them on pieces of slate to keep them submerged. I use a little bit of charcoal in my sump to make sure the tannins don't build up. But even if I pull out the charcoal for a week the water doesn't turn brown. As far as I can see, cedar seems to be fine despite people's concerns.
I'm currently having the most problems with the CO2. I use a 5 pound cylander with an unknown brand regulator that I got from a friend. I've had problems with the dreaded end of tank dump, killing some of my fish. I bought an aquateck regulator which seems to be working fine now. I have realized how important the CO2 is for my tank. I left it off for a week and algae proliferated, and the plant growth quickly slowed and started to die back.
Lighting - Odyssea
I originally used three clamp lights with 19w CFL full spectrum bulbs. The output didn't cut it. My small foreground plants started to grow up towards the lights instead of outwards. The biggest problem was that the light was too focused and did not cover the tank evenly. I've upgraded to a four bulb Odyssea T5 HO fixture, two 10,000 bulbs and two 6,700 bulbs. I've seen mixed reviews on the Odyssea, I've had no problems with it so far.
Cyanobacteria - BGA
I ran out of CO2 for a week and in that week period there was an outbreak of cyanobacteria and some other algae. Once I had the CO2 running again the algae went away but the BGA stayed around. I did three things to get rid of it. I first physically removed as much of the BGA as possible. I then treated it with hydrogen peroxide (water change), and then did a 3 day blackout (water change afterwards).
Any suggestions or questions let me know.