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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
The tank I'm using for this experiment is a 32.5 gallon Fluval Flex. I wasn't loving the view of my wall through the back, so I used black rabbitgoo to quickly block it out.

The very bottom layer is about 1/16" of fine sand, mostly because I'm paranoid about putting any sort of hard scape directly against glass. The hardscaping itself is black lava rocks, which I favor because they're so light weight. The sand area is about 1-1.5" of fine sand. I'm planning on eventually having some sort of small catfish, so this is an area for them with lots of tiny caves around the lava rocks.

The "dirt" area of the tank is about a half inch of topsoil, with about 3/4 an inch of crushed lava rock on top to cap it.


Plant species so far:
Eleocharis pusillis
Eleocharis belem
Gratiola viscidula
Marsilea angustifolia
Cryptocoryne pygmaea


My house is on the chilly side, about 68F, so I threw in a jar of water with a heater to help bring up the temperature in the tank without drying out the plants. I've also connected a reptile mister.

Both the heater in the jar and the mister are attached to a monitering system, with two probes on the left side of the tank. The system will automatically turn the heater on and off to maintain a temperature between 72-77 degrees, and will turn on the mister to maintain a humidity of 90% or greater.


Unfortunately, I was so excited about my little automation scheme that I completely forgot to saran wrap the top of the tank. By the time I checked the tank and discovered my error, the tank had gone about 16 hours without it. I've definitely had some die-off, mostly the hairgrasses, but thanks to the mister it looks like not all hope is lost.

It's wrapped now, and my current plan is to keep the humidity around 95% for the next few days to a week. By then, hopefully the plants that are going to recover will have recovered, and the ones that are going to die will be obviously very dead so I can remove and replace them.
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
So, over the course of the week, all the plants died. My fault for forgetting the saran wrap the first time. I've re-set it up again with plants for another attempt, along with putting a mixture of moss species on the various rocks. The plants themselves are actually in bigger clumps this time around, and buried a bit deeper into the substrate, to see if that helps.

 

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lol, the floor shape is definitely odd! I found myself wishing that I had about six more inches of width to work with.

This morning I noticed the swords were starting to droop and look pretty terrible. I don't know for sure if this was the problem, but I'm thinking that the substrate dried out more than I thought it did when I had the tank uncovered. I went ahead and generously watered the substrate, then did my best to drain out the excess. The water is slow to make it to my little drainage dip in the sand, though, so even when I thought I was done, I looked back in later and saw I have about 1/4" of standing water in the bottom. Honestly I may have overdone it a little, we'll see.

This evening, about 12 hours later, I looked back in and didn't see any additional drooping/wilting/yellowing/browning going on, so the additional water seems to have helped. I also noticed that this time around, the exposed hardscape remained looking wet. I don't know if that's good or bad, I just know I need to keep a sharp eye out for mold. Air humidity in the tank is hanging out around 95-98%.


(Note: I'm wiping the glass on the inside immediately before every picture; it steams/fogs up almost immediately due to the humidity in the tank.)
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
One week in, and everything has gotten nicely established. Some of the sword plants had a few leaves go rotten, which I clipped, but every single plant that had clipped leaves has had new baby leaves start to emerge.





I'm also really, really pleased with how my moss mixtures are coming along. My favorite are the little bits of round-leaved pearl moss peeking out here and there from under the mixture (mostly java moss, christmas moss, and fissidans).




While all the ground cover is doing quite well, the Gratiola seems to be the one really taking off and growing. It won't surprise me if my carpet ends up being 80% Gratiola with clumps here and there of hairgrass and monte carlo



I've also got some healthy mycellium going on under the gravel, as every morning I find a single tiny mushroom somewhere in the tank. I'm not too worried about it, and they're not hurting anything. If nothing else, they're proof that tiny little plants should be able to work their way up through the lava gravel.



Just to keep an eye on what's going on under the surface, I also planted some hairgrass right up against the glass. It hasn't really spread any, but the tiny roots are going crazy below the surface. I hope the other groundcover is doing likewise!


And finally, I caught a pic right after my fogger kicked off. This tank always looks so cool when it's full of mist. I'm gonna miss that when it's time to flood it.

 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·

So, I fully intended to update this every week, but covid hit and took me out for about a month, then I completely forgot I'd been sharing updates on the tank.

Things are going quite well! I added water sprite, dried cactus chunks, a ghost wood branch I covered with tissue culture anubias, floating water lettuce, and small chunks of anarcharis. Much to my confusion, the anacharis promptly sank and rooted into the substrate? I've never seen it do that before, but I'm not complaining. Some duckweed hitched a ride on something, which I'm not thrilled about, but there's enough surface agitation that it doesn't seem to be causing a problem.

There's nerite snails that I added on purpose. Also pond snails, a golden apple snail, and a ramshorn snail that stowed away on the water sprite. My betta absolutely adores pond snails, so I've got a good outlet for them if their numbers explode.

This picture was taken before they were added, but the tank is also home to five cherry shrimp and nine glowlight danios (Celestichthys choprae, not GloFish).

The tank is teeming with colonized microfauna, most of which I'm very pleased with. Currently there are amphipods, ostracods, copepods, nematodes, lumbriculus, nematodes, and moina, all in great numbers.

Unfortunately, there are also hydra present in the tank. I'm thinking they probably came in on the water sprite as well, but I can't say for sure. I'm looking into methods of management that won't hurt the fish, shrimp, snails, or other microfauna. I've read that snails enjoy them, as well as many small fish, so hopefully as the pond snail population explodes they'll keep them in check.
 
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