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· Planted Tanker
6,139 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
So this is a journal for my new 120, which replaces my long running 75 gallon. For anyone who followed the previous tank, this one will be basically the same style with just a bigger footprint.

First planting, about 2 months ago.


48" x 24" x 24" Marineland 120 gal


GLA Grow 1 regulator, 10 lb tank.

DIY PVC reactor. Main pipe is 3" x 24"

CO2 cuts on 90 min before the lights, goes off 1 hour before. PH drops 1.1 by lights on, proceeds on down 1.3-1.4 at peak. Livestock are fine at this level, heavy flow and good surface agitation helps.


Two canisters: 1 Aquatop CF 500, and 1 Hydor Pro 600

Measured flow combined is about 600 gph.

1 Koralia Nano 425 for added circulation

Both canisters have SunSun intakes with the skimmer

Left corner is the the Aquatop. Using a 1" outflow pipe to reduce velocity (the in-tank flow is crazy!)

Right corner is the Hydor. The CO2 runs inline with this one.

^also you can see my LED night lights, mounted on each end of the main fixture.


Black Diamond blasting sand


6 bulb T5HO hydroponic unit

Bulbs are front to back:

TrueLumen Flora
Agrobrite 6400K
Zoo-med Flora
Plantmax 3000K
ATI Purple
TrueLumen Flora

Fixture is 9" above the tank, PAR at the sub is around 120. Having lots of red bulbs help keep it down, not to mention awesome color rendition. PAR would be a lot higher at this distance with more 6500Ks, for example


Macros 3x week
7.5 ppm KNO3
1.3 ppm K2PO4
3 ppm K2SO4 (for 6-7 total K)

Micros 3x week
.015 Fe from csmb
.02 ppm Fe dtpa

** Micros are more now because Im rolling my own instead of using csmb. Will update the amounts once I arrive at the sweet spot.

50%-60% water change every 6-7 days


25 Harlequin Rasboras, will soon get this up to maybe 30 or so
6-7 otos
Trio of young German Blue Rams, just coming into their adult colors
10-12 Amano shrimp

Here's the latest rendition. Plant groups are no way shaped for height or footprints. Mainly just tentative placeholders of where things are going to be. Have lots of ideas to try, and open to any suggestions! :)

Detailed plant pics to follow....

· Planted Tanker
6,139 Posts
Discussion Starter · #2 · (Edited)
Left side

Right side

Rotala Sunset. Currently in a rebuilding phase. This is 3 main stems, tallest one is about 16". Probably next WC will cut them apart and make a nice group

Staurogyne 'purple' on the right, Pogosteman erectus in back

Ammania sp bonsai. Will expand this group pretty soon, have a lot more growing out in the 50

AR mini 'variegated', Downoi, Lagenandra meeeboldi 'red round', Erio vietnam, Proserpinaca palustris (mermaid weed)

Left to right: Isoetes lacustris, Rotala macaranda 'variegated', Oldenlandia salzmannii, Acmella repens

Trying to figure out a way to snake the Ludwigia red more front to back, and keep it low. Right now is just a sideways cluster.

Willow moss sp gigantea on the smaller log, Pogosteman kimberly in back middle, Floscopa scandens to the left

Changed the original Buces on the log. The other ones were smaller leaved greens and they werent doing so well. May need more traces, idk. Reason I liked them is because they bloomed profusely in the 75. Digging the red stems on these though, and the leaves I think are a better contrast. Gonna give them a month or two and see how it goes


Other thoughts: Reduce the Staurogyne repens and shape it up differently. Currently just a big oval with no personality. Same goes for the Monte carlo in front of the log.

Bring the Stauro purple on down to the left in a bigger group

· Planted Tanker
6,139 Posts
Discussion Starter · #11 · (Edited)
Thanks guys

The colors of your plants never ceases to amaze me

How high did you hang your lights and how high is the substrate in your tank btw? Are you still getting over 100 par at the substrate?
Yeah I forgot to add this in the OP. It's 9" above the tank. PAR at the sub is about 120. It would be a lot higher if not for all the red bulbs.

I made a bracket out of 1x8s, painted them black. It just sits on the tank. The width worked out just right, easy to slide back and forth.

Not the sexiest thing in the world, but it works!

Hey burr did you place osmocote root tabs under the substrate? I'm assuming you did.
Not this time, but Ive added a few to certain things.

The Lagenandra has about 6 individual balls. It did better in the 75 when I gave it some. The AR mini has a couple balls under each plant. Again this is individual balls, not "tabs" full

Probably stick a few under the stauro purple when it's location is finalized.

· Planted Tanker
6,139 Posts
Discussion Starter · #12 ·
It is beautiful. Totally not my thing at all though. The colors are crazy impressive. How do you like the 120? I've always debated getting one because I had a 4' section of wall to work with. But I've also been told, extensively, that a 6' tank is where it is at.

4' is all the space I have too, or I would definitely have gone with a 5-6 footer.

Im loving these dimensions honestly, coming from a standard 75. The 24" depth front to back is really nice. The height is more than necessary but Im using it to advantage. The empty space up top makes it easy to blast flow without disrupting things too much.

Like if you stir a pot of soup from the top, the bottom starts swirling as well.

· Planted Tanker
6,139 Posts
Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Beautiful tank and fantastic work! Thanks for posting those and killing off any self-esteem I had remaining :). What are those clear, suction-cup looking things on the Buces?

Those are plastic/metal push pins like you use on a bulletin board or whatever. In a month or two the Buces will be stuck and I'll take them out

What substrate are you using?
Something else I forgot to include in the OP :) Black Diamond blasting sand.

· Planted Tanker
6,139 Posts
Discussion Starter · #18 ·
That is a great idea and I'm sure it is so much easier than tying knots under water. I'm assuming they are just the standard ones and nothing specific to aquariums. No problems with them fouling the water?
Yep, just your basic little push pins.

The metal part will eventually rust after a few months but I dont think it's much of a problem. Used them many times before.

· Planted Tanker
6,139 Posts
Discussion Starter · #23 · (Edited)
How are you keeping the AR variegated so good looking? Mine Is tiny and stunted, leaves are 2 cm long and the entire plant is maybe 3 or 4 cm tall. It has been months, and it is directly under the light.
These look like crap honestly. Ideally the leaves are perfectly flat, no wavy margins. I tend to sell my good stuff and keep scraps to start over with. What you see above is the scraps.

Here's some better specimens, not perfect, but better -

As for why yours are doing bad, idk. ARs in general dont like high micros, wavy leaf edges is a classic symptom. Could be 100 other things too though. CO2 being a usual suspect

Very nice! You always get such amazing colors in your plants. It gives me something to aspire to.

Color has a lot to do with T5s and bulb selection. It's hard to get a pop like this with LEDs, at least without dropping a small fortune.

· Planted Tanker
6,139 Posts
Discussion Starter · #30 ·
Thanks guys

Glad to watch your new tank here Burr. May I ask you to post your GH and KH values? I am always amazed to see so much rich color with that low traces... Amazing indeed. Keep it up, I will be following you here!
I use all tap water. KH is ~5.5, GH is 50 ppm Ca and 4 ppm Mg, then I add another 10 ppm Mg via Epsom salt at water change

· Planted Tanker
6,139 Posts
Discussion Starter · #38 ·
If the cut off valve is wide open there's some mist coming out, not a lot but some.

Closing the valve just a little eliminates it due to the increase in pressure it creates. Apparently it takes very little pressure to squeeze out a micro bubble.

Oh yeah somebody asked if I put bio ball inside this one. No it's completely empty. in retrospect I probably would have, because they made a difference in some of the other ones I built for the 75.

· Planted Tanker
6,139 Posts
Discussion Starter · #41 ·
Do you use any sort of root tabs? The black blaster sand is inert right?

Do your plants get all the ferts they need from the dry ferts?

Blasting sand is inert, yes.

Ive put a few individual Osmocote+ balls around a couple of things, but 95% of the tank has nothing.

Most plants can do just fine with only water column dosing.

Burr very beautiful tank. I never understood how can one make the red plant pop, ive keep red species plant and all i could turn them rust red but not bright red. Any secret hiding there?
No secret. Healthy plants is the first thing. Then you need a light with a good amount of red.

· Planted Tanker
6,139 Posts
Discussion Starter · #45 · (Edited)
Burr740 could you describe a little more what you mean when you talk about the tank uber clean. I am seeing positive effects in my tank adopting this practice, and wonder what all it means to you?

For instance, I also have BDBS substrate, and I'd be interested to know more about your vacuuming routine. Lightly vac, deeply vac? And anything else you think might be helpful.

Thanks for anything you can share.
Keep things very clean is all that means.

- Filters obviously. Mine will run a good 4 months before flow starts to decrease. But I try to clean them every two months.

- The substrate surface. Mine stays pretty clean by itself and I rarely do anything. But anytime there's a build up of crud somewhere I use a bucket and siphon hose to spot vacuum it up.

Now, unlike your rainbows, all my fish are small and I really dont feed that much. So fish poop isnt really a factor, at least I never see any. Not sure how that would be with a fish load like yours, or how I'd deal with it. In my case, having good flow through the tank and strong filters seems to do the heavy lifting.

As for deep vacuuming, plants in my tanks get moved all the time, so there's a pretty good "turnover" happening from pulling roots out. I really never do any deep vacuums until the tank gets a little older, after a year or two. Then I may do small areas at a time, like if I pull a group of stems out to trim and top, or move or whatever, I'll do a deep vac on that one area.

- Pruning and plant trimming, often overlooked as part of the cleaning process. Dead or dying leaves, get those out asap. They wont repair, they'll just sit there and leech organics back into the water.

Any stems with ratty bottoms, replant the nice tops and toss the bottoms.

Just keep all the crappy stuff out. That's it in a nutshell. :)

· Planted Tanker
6,139 Posts
Discussion Starter · #46 · (Edited)
Beautiful! Burr, what are some red plants that are good for foreground, either short/compact or can be trained that way? I had a hugely successful Pogo erectus behind AR mini which I think choked it out and outcompeted it. I've since pulled erectus out and dropped osmocote capsules but the AR mini cannot seem to recover. I'm thinking I need to replace it entirely..
AR varieties obviously. There's some red/pink crypts out there, not sure on the names. Lagenandra meeboldi 'red round'. Under high light Blyxa japonica turns shades of yellow/pink and even red, can be a nice in between contrast. Hygrophila araguaia is a good one. I may try this in place of the Monte carlo. Not a red but Staurogyne sp 'purple' is a really cool plant I think.

Also Ludwigia sp red is totally doable as a mid ground plant. (aka super red mini) You can let it grow out initially, get rooted well, then mow it down to the bone, leaving 1"-2" stumps. It'll come back out with several side stems from each stump creating a dense low bush.

If you look at some of Tom Barr's recent renditions, he does this really well, also. Pikez journal on Barr report.

I'll be trying that more here soon as I figure out a good way to have it going

Sux about the pogo erectus. That's a great contrast behind AR

· Planted Tanker
6,139 Posts
Discussion Starter · #50 · (Edited)
Your threads are always an amazing resource for researching bulb combo's. With this tank you really did an incredible job with the combination.

I've been running a 4 bulb T5 combo with a UVL Red Sun, ATI Purple Plus, Giesemann Aquaflora, ATI Aquablue Special, but need to replace them soon. UVL Red Sun's are just about impossible to find nowadays, any recommendations for something similar?
Thanks. I wish more people around here used T5s and liked to talk bulbs.

Far as I know there's nothing out there like the red sun. These 3000Ks are "red", but to the eyes a harsh yellow. Gotta have some cools along with it.

The combo you're running now sounds pretty awesome!

Wow, looking beautiful already! Cant wait to see it all grow. How were you planning on containing those baby tears?
It's Monte Carlo but works the same as HC. Will need to keep the borders cut back and lined out every couple of weeks. Mow it to the bone every month or two.

Usually before the mowing phase I just take it out and start over. Easier that way

Burr... awesome. I just read your 75 gallon journey over the last few days. I'll be following this one too. Truly an inspiration. I'm confused about one thing though.

For your Dosing, how do you use the calculator (Zorfox downloadable) to figure out how much to use. The part that confuses me is the "calculating for" part. What do you calculate for KNO3 and KH2PO4. I assume K2SO4 is calculated for K.

The defaults are:

KNO3 - NO3
KH2PO4 - PO4

It might sound like a silly question, but I just want to fully understand.

Seeing your colors pop with that T5 fixture for the price makes me cringe to know I bought 2 Current Planted + for my 75, with far less PAR for when I finally go CO2.

As always, looking good. Keep it up. Your efforts are appreciated.

Also, one thing that nagged me as I was reading through the issues you were having on the 75 with the micros/Fe... Using the "Nutrient Acclimation" graph in the Zorfox calculator, after adjusting dosing levels it seems it could take 45-60 days for the levels to reach the highest peak. I guess you've mostly solved the problem for now with the P causing precipitation, but I was curious to your thoughts about this.
The "calculating for" defaults to the main ingredient in whatever compound you select. Once you calculate, it shows the ppm of everything that's in the compound. There's no need to do anything in this field unless you want to calculate for a secondary ingredient. Like dosing KNO3 for K, or a micro nutrient in csmb other than fe.

"Dosing method" defaults to EI, and will give results according to EI ppms. You can change it to "Custom" if you want to hit a specific ppm. Enter whatever ppm you want in the "concentration" field.

Here's a good online calculator, they all work about the same

Rotala Butterfly | Planted Aquarium Nutrient Dosing Calculator

As for the last part, you may be onto something but Ive never used the accumulation charts much. Lowering P definitely helped a few nagging issues.

· Planted Tanker
6,139 Posts
Discussion Starter · #52 · (Edited)
Couple of trims, made a few changes

- Replaced the Monte Carlo with Hygrophila araguaia

- Opacua verde sword in place of the Moss log. The giant willow moss had gotten about 4" thick and needed a trim. Scalped it to the bone and put it in the 10 gal with the shrimp and lower light to recover for a bit.

The Opacus grew flat and sideways in the 75. Think it's the bright light. Gonna see how this one looks after fattening up for a few weeks. But I really like the moss log, it'll probably come back.

Havent figured out a good way to stack the Floscopa. Need to be looking down on it to show it's full effect. From the side it loses a lot of impact. May put the Acmella there instead

Trimmed the Lud red about half way down last week. It'll be ready for another good whacking at nect week's WC. the plan is to keep it a lot lower than it is now.

There's about a 3" space between the L red and the Bonsai. The overhang of the red has forming a tunnel, also creating the shadow.

Rotala macaranda variegated is doing pretty well. About 1 out of every 6-7 tops stunts and withers. That's better than a couple months ago when it was 50/50.

Havent changed ferts much. Mostly just keep cutting out the bad and replanting the good. Trying to focus on better maintenance and pruning, keeping the overall bio-moss in check, trying to keep space between groups, all that sort of thing which good CO2 and flow depend on.


· Planted Tanker
6,139 Posts
Discussion Starter · #58 · (Edited)
Thanks guys

@burr740, how long does it take prepare the tank for these photo shoots?

I mean, I'm sure the tank looks great everyday, but I imagine the attention to detail to take those photos requires some work. The way each group is perfectly tapered and spaced doesn't happen by accident.

And no matter how many times I see your tank, I marvel at it every time.

Planning the 180G yet??:grin2::grin2:
Thanks man. Calling it photo shoots is funny. I have a cheap point and shoot that I barely know how to use. The most I ever do in preparation is wipe off the glass if it needs it.

But you are absolutely right, the shape of each group doesnt happen by accident. But it's more routine maintenance than prepping for a pic.

I do a little pruning most every day or two. Get in there with my hands for 5-10 minutes and pinch off ratty leaves, wayward sprouts, unwanted side shoots, that sort of thing. To me it's relaxing, a meditative activity. I enjoy doing it so it's not like a chore.

Then, on water change days there's always a few groups due for a major trim. Might be only one or two groups, or several.

Some things do better replanting the nice tops, some things do better mowed down. Whatever the case, you try to shape the group however you want it to grow out. So until its time to trim again, the group maintains the same basic shape, or at least heads in the direction you want.

@burr740 your tank is amazing! Planning a 40 breeder and considering T5. Do you have any opinion on the Sunblaster Nanotech T5 High Output Fixture? Was considering them for lighting and maybe changing bulbs. Would 2 or 3 be enough for med. - high light?
Never had a Sunblaster but from what I know they are really good lights.

The main drawback is the reflector doesnt come down low enough to fully encapsulate the bulb, so you get a lot of light spillage, and viewing the tank from eye level can be unpleasant. So that might be something to think about, unless they're going in a canopy.

Two should be plenty of light, maybe 6"-8" apart to even out the coverage. Three would offer better coverage and more bulb options, but you'll need to raise them up a lot or it'll be way too much, like a foot or probably more above the tank.

With two bulbs can probably get by with...less than a foot. Just guessing

@burr740 thanks for the pointers on red plants. I am trying tissue cultured L. repens "super red" as a super low almost foreground, will see how that ends up working out.

Noob question here but are T5 supposed to be more temperature complete compared to LED? Is that why from a photosynthesis standpoint they tend to be superior? Perhaps pure PAR output? I see there are various color temps for T5 as well, so I'm wondering what benefits there are, or if it's mainly preference.
I really dont know enough about it to understand or explain the difference. Though "temperature complete" sounds like an appropriate term.

The problem with most LEDs is they dont have enough reds, or the right kind of reds. Unless you build your own custom job, or spend a helluva lot of money on the more advanced units (which Im not very familiar with)

One of the lighting gurus around here Im sure could explain it better

· Planted Tanker
6,139 Posts
Discussion Starter · #60 ·
Burr740 I appreciate the response. I think this illustrates that like many things in life, the end result is often proportionate to the effort put in.

You probably spend more time tending to your underwater garden than most, and it shows.

And I agree with you, I also find the time spent on the tank a form of meditation and enjoyable. Good for the soul if you will.

And by the way, the Nelsonia is a prolific grower. If left to its own devices, it could fill my whole tank in no time. Great plant for me, so thanks again.
It's a stunning plant, but those side stems make it a real pita for what I'd like to do with it. I may try to work it in somewhere at some point, though.

It's such a unique leaf



· Planted Tanker
6,139 Posts
Discussion Starter · #66 · (Edited)
Added 7 more Rasboras and 6 Amano shrimp.

Tried a few Amanos in the 75 a couple years ago with no luck. Dont think they liked the CO2. Now things like flow and O2 are much better so Im hoping they'll be happy. Early indications are promising.

Replaced the Erios with Hygro 'kompact', better look I think. Will bring the araguaia on over in front as it grows out. Wont take long

ARs are growing nicely, algae free but still not very flat.

@Greggz this fts is for you. Much of the left side has just been hacked and sold, right side is a jumbled mess of indecision. :)

From the side, what's left of the Sunset, Stauro purple, and P erectus. It'll grow back. Also mowed the Ludwigia red down pretty good.

Ditched the Floscopa in favor of the Acmella, gonna try this look for a while. The cool green is a nice contrast to the bright P erectus. Just gotta figure out the best way to have them both running.

Might've noticed the H pinnatifida in the back right, Ive been trying to figure out a way to work that plant in. It's such a nice leaf.

Got the idea to attach it to a skinny piece of wood, which elevates it, and also allows it to be pulled out easy to trim off the wild bottom side shoots (weekly chore). Then just stick it back in the ground and you never see the wood. Not sure this will be a long term thing or not.

Bought 6 more Pantanal from a guy on facebook. We'll see how long it takes me to kill these. They arrived looking like hell, terrible shape. It's been about 6 days and they are coming out nice though...but so did the last ones I tried. We'll see what happens..

^ can see a couple sprigs of what I think is Polygonum 'pink' but Im not entirely sure. Guy threw them in and didnt know what they were either. Doubt I use it in this scape unless it turns into some sort of stunner. For now it's just growing out while I figure out what to do in the corner.

Need to come up with a nice green plant to use in the corner that contrasts with Oldenlandia (which desparately needs a trim btw). I like having greens in the far corners because it expands the tank from a visual perspective. Darker colors or reds tend to shrink it down

Ferts; I ran out of K2SO4. Thought I had another bag but turned out to be P. So now we have a 5 week experiment going without it, unless a deficiency pops up then I'll get some more.

I wonder if 6 ppm KNO3 and .75 KH2PO4 will provide enough, something like 4ppm 3x week

is that giant hairgrass or some type of vallisneria? very pretty plant! (plants)
Isoetes lacustris. Very stiff plant that can take some current without bending over, unlike Vals or grassy types.

· Planted Tanker
6,139 Posts
Discussion Starter · #69 ·
Thanks Burr740....... I appreciate you torturing me with your FTS. My tank is always a jumbled mess of indecision. But in all seriousness, the tank is really looking just great!

I was wondering, has going to the 120G enhanced your enjoyment of the tank? Has is brought any new challenges? I was wondering about the increased depth and how that might have an effect? Or is it just business as usual?
Dude stop talking nonsense. Your tank looks as good as anyone's, different styles is all. :)

Im definitely enjoying the 120 more. The extra front to back depth is really nice.

I didnt expect to like the added height very much, but Ive come to really appreciate it. Plants can grow taller and still have empty space up top. Makes it easy to blast a lot of flow across the tank, which hits the opposite walls and cascades downward and back across the bottom areas. Couldnt do that in the shorter 75, at least without keeping things extremely low.

At first trying to reach the bottom back seemed inconvenient as hell. Im about 5' 11" with fairly long arms, and still need tweezers to touch bottom back there. Now that Ive gotten used to it though, it just seems normal.

Thanks for the update Burr, great tank as always! I am curious to know more about your experience with Pantanal: what kind of problems did you have with it?
Two different times it'd grow well for a while, few weeks, then wither and die, for no apparent reason.

I just keep working on things like good co2 and flow, keeping biomass in check, space between groups, clean conditions, all the usual stuff - and hope for the best.
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