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I have an established 20 gallon long low tech that I'd like to update to high tech. I've never kept a tank with CO2 before and in light of my imminent graduation I'd like to treat myself.

Plant Natural environment Rectangle Pet supply Water


The current set-up has a shallow (less than an inch in places) pool sand substrate decorated with smooth rocks and a single piece of Mopani wood.

The plantings are an amazon sword, ocelot sword, Cryptocoryne crispatula, Cryptocoryne wendtii, Java fern, other crypts (unsure sp.), Anubias barteri, a stem plant I don't remember, and amazon and normal frogbit.

The inhabitants are 8-12 rosy loaches (no idea how many I currently have), a marble Betta, an unidentified, probably female, splash tetra, 7 old X-ray tetras, a few juvenile Apistogramma bitaeniata, 2 Otos, and a single mysterious amano shrimp I never see.

Currently, I think the tank is deeply nutrient starved. I dose with NilocG thrive during weekly water changes. The stocking is somewhat light. I think this tank runs with negligible to low nitrate most of the time (at least that's what I see when I test it). Basically all the plants are doing poorly except the anubias which is LOVING the low light environment. Until recently, the tank was actually doing quite well, but that changed a little over a month ago. I'm not sure exactly what changed. Anyway in the last month or so, I've seen a massive java fern and frogbit melt. The anubias stopped putting out leaves, and I noticed some staghorn algae (not a lot, this tank usually has no algae at all, I never have to scrape the glass). It seems like things are a little better in the last week (the frogbit is actually growing roots, and some of the java fern is looking better, and the anubias put out another leaf). However, I would like to make my first foray into CO2.

Random thoughts on the current tank
  • The substrate is too shallow and completely lacking in nutrients.
  • The lighting is currently really low (9W LED bulb). I actually like how low the lighting is, but I think I need to boost it just a bit. I also want a light with better color rendering, the current light is purplish.
  • I have a bit of a Malaysian Trumpet Snail problem, or at least there was a problem. I haven't seen many of them recently.
  • The flow in the tank feels low, maybe too low.
  • This tank was originally intended to grow mostly crypts. I completely failed though and ended up planting the tank with other stuff. I would like to try again.
  • The current scape is cluttered. I would like to go for something more structured.

Proposed major changes
  • Get a CO2 injection setup (<$200).
  • Add a layer of about 1 in of mineralized top soil.
  • Change plantings to just be crypts, buce, and moss.

Proposed minor changes
  • Increase flow with a powerhead or two.
  • Increase lighting slightly and get a bulb with better color rendering.
  • Move Betta, remove X-rays and Apistogramma bitaeniata, replace with something else.
  • Remove driftwood
  • Rework the stone scape (perhaps add more small stones)
Vision for the revamped tank

My goal is a low/medium light tank with low/medium CO2 injection and an authentic Borneo stream look. I don't want crazy fast plant growth, I just want steady and dense growth. I want the plantings to have good color and texture, and I want the final composition to be pretty natural looking. I'm thinking a cluster of rounded stones similar to what I currently have with buce and moss attached (perhaps with a preference towards one side). I might add some smaller stones. I want the crypts growing between and around the stones. I might have two islands of stone, one smaller than the other, or I might have a single island of stone with a spacious open area on the other side.

First steps
The first step in this process is going to be starting the soil mineralizing process as this can take a while. Second, I need to learn more about CO2 set ups and figure out exactly what equipment I will be getting.
 

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