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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
This is a journal of my journey into the planted tank community. It is full of mistakes as I slowly stumble my way into understanding.

I recently purchased a Seaclear 46 gallon bowfront tank for my girlfriend as a fish tank. I decided to look into having plants in this tank, because it couldn't be difficult right? :)

So to start off, here's a photo of the tank as it first arrived. I got the tank and stand from petco/petsmart, with some crazy 20% off coupons and free shipping. Was a stellar deal.





She arrived and is a beauty. Girlfriend loves it, and so does our cat Render. Something I didn't realize when getting the tank, was how small the holes in the top were. There is very limited space for accessing the interior of the tank. (More to come on this later!)

The tank comes with a light assembly, that hoses an 18 inch 20 watt bulb. At the time, I think this is great. There is even space for an expansion! I could double it to 40 watts! All with no reflectors! Awesome!
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Colleen wanted goldfish in this particular tank, a mix of fancy styles. We settled on 6 goldfish. (Don't freak out yet, still writing in journal!). At the time, I was unaware of the tank requirements for goldfish (roughly 20-30 gallons PER fish).

So I decided to get an aquaclear 70, which was higher rated then the tank size, so it should be plenty of filtration! Got some rocks from an aquarium store that looked cool, and a piece of fake driftwood, gravel, and white (ug) pebbles from petco.



Luckily at this time I had started to catch up on my research. I learned a bit about cycling a tank, media types, and tank setup. So I got some seachem prime, and seachem stability and starting using them per directions.

We then began adding goldfish in small increments. Our first two tank mates were two black moors.



I love black moors, they're the closest thing to hammerhead sharks you can buy :).
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
We then added two orandas. At this point the tank undergoes a small bacterial bloom. The bloom lasts for about 24 hours, then subsides. Yay for seachem stability...probably saved the fish from my stupidity. (That and prime binding excess toxins).

I decide that this is probably a good time to add my first ever plant! I choose an amazon sword because it looks nice. We also add a slight blue gradient background to hide some of the equipment.





Keep in mind at this time, I know nothing about ferts, Co2, or lighting. It's a plant right? It's got light, and fish poop provides the rest!

I soon find out this is not the case, as the poor sword lasts about a week (roughly the amount of nutrients stored in its roots) then dies. :(
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
So when the plant dies, I try to figure out what might have caused it. (Keep in mind I've yet to test the water (ack). I get a thermometer to see what the tank temp is at. 64F...that should be good for plants right? I go online and start reading like mad, find out the tank is a bit too cold (even the goldfish like low to mid 70's better), and that I might need more light.



So I pickup a 200w fluval heater (it has its own built in thermometer) using a bunch of coupons and deals to get it below a certain price point, and double the amount of lighting in the tank to a wow producing 40 watts (with no reflectors).

I slowly raise the temp 2 degree's a day, until it reaches 74F. The goldfish immediately become more active and seem extremely pleased.

After installing the lighting however, I notice almost no difference in light penetration from the tank...money basically down the drain.

So for anyone with a seaclear tank...throw that crappy enclosure out the window...it's a massive waste of money.

I add two new swords, and two anacharis bundles, hoping that the changes in temp and lighting will help. I also move the cat stand back far enough so Render can't easily put his paws on the top of the tank. It works great. Now he can watch the fish, without actually disturbing them.

Right around this point, I find some articles on wpg and see I should be shooting for 2-3 wpg. I do some web searching, and find ahsupply AND THIS FORUM. WOOHOO!
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I order a 96 watt kit from ahsupply. It's amazing. The reflector is absurd. I get the whole kit put together in the enclosure, take the crappy lighting off the tank, and turn it on...it's like going from SD to HD. The entire tank lights up like someone placed the sun over top of it. Lighting reaches every corner of the tank, and it's BRIGHT!!



I'm ecstatic. The tank looks great, and the fellow at ahsupply was very helpful with answering my questions, and the kit was very complete with everything I could have hoped for.

But then something happens. Something I didn't expect. Within the week, the entire tank is packed full of algae.

I start reading this forum, find out about ferts and dosing, and excel. I absorb information as fast as I can. We also add a 5th goldfish (I know I know) a calico with a gorgeous tail.

The algae turns nasty. Black hair all over the swords. I get sad.

It's around this point that I found out that we should really have about 20 gallons per goldfish. We plan to expand to a larger tank in about a year or so, when the goldfish start getting much larger. The 46 gallon will become a tropical tank at that point, and is designated the "learning tank."

I order a 2 liter bottle of excel from dr foster, with coupons that net me another good deal...roughly enough excel for 1.5 years of dosing in this tank.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
So I start excel dosing. In just the first day I see something I've never seen before...bubbles everywhere....coming from all the plants. Poor things just needed some carbon!

I add some iron tabs under the swords (I add a 3rd one), and also add two water sprites. The goldfish promptly decimate the water sprites.





We also get a few moss balls as they're on sale. The goldfish love them. They don't actually eat the moss balls, but vacuum them while pushing them around like fluffy ping pong balls. I also removed the large rock on the right. I noticed it seemed to be creating some debris, and was worried it might be effecting tank chemistry...plus it was displacing a few gallons of water just by itself!)

I also get the flourish plant pack, and some standard flourish. Within a day, there is a substantial change in the growth in the tank. Things aren't just surviving, they're finally growing!

The black moors launch an assault on the black hair algae. Within a few days (with the excel) and the moors, all the black hair algae has been eaten and turned into poop.



One of the swords decides to escape, and grows straight up, over an inch a day. I finally trimmed it after it made it out of the tank.

You'll also notice that I added a second filter. I added an aquaclear 50 after reading more about how my tank was overstocked, so I wanted an excess of filtration. Also thanks to this forum, I swapped out the chemical media, and doubled up on the sponges, as well as buying some micron filter media in bulk and cutting it to aquaclear size, providing some much needed polishing.



I should mention around this point I get a full test kit, and find everything happily in the green!
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I was starting to get a little pissed off at maintaining the aquaclears. Though the media baskets were setup to be easily removed and accessed, anytime you lifted them, all sorts of crud from the bottom of the filter would come flying out, completely saturating the tank. Thus to properly "rinse" the sponges, required removing the entire filter assembly away from the tank...which was a chore based on the tank placement.

Thus when I come into a lot of side work recently, and learned about the secret "CK" dr foster's code, I picked up a rena filstar XP3, along with an inline heater.

Thanks to this forum, the install of the filstar went a lot better then it could have gone. Those hose connections were absurd! Luckily I just used some light vegetable oil and heat, and they slid right on without issue!

The flow of the XP3 is actually pretty good for the tank. Though I'm thinking of adding a small little power head in the back rear to get some flow in the back. I found an awesome giant prefilter sponge for the XP3. It easily pops on/off so I can clean it, and now I won't have tons of plant debris flying through an impeller. I'm leaving the aquaclear 70 on the tank for a few weeks while some biological colonies get started in the XP3. I've also taken the Aquaclear 70 and 50's bio media and placed it in the XP3, hoping to speed the process.

I also went a little plant crazy, and got some moneywort, and water wisteria, as well as some vals. Oh and some green camboa? I forget the spelling.

Basically I went insane and ended up with this.



Pretty disorganized and all over the place. Also some of the leaves of the swords needed trimming, as the algae had done its damage and they were not doing so well.

At this point I'm doing a full seachem dosing routine. Excel daily, the rest once a week after a water change. (macro's and flourish).
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
At this point I decide to do some major trimming and reorganizing.

I remove the original petsmart decoration, and add a new more vertical one, along with a uv green killer to see if it helps with algae on the sides of the tank. I trim about 75% of the leaves off the swords, chop the destroyed water sprite stems, and basically move the plants around.

I end up with this.



I was able to tuck the uv system into the corner, and set it up so after it filters, it basically ejects right into the intake of the XP3. The decoration really distracts from the inlet, sponge, and uv device now.

The center of the tank is a lot more open, and the plants seem to be doing quite well, except for the moneywort.

Next up is a change of background to black, and some eco-complete replacing about 50% of the gravel. If the money wort doesn't make it, I'll probably replace it with more green Cabomba.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Swapped out the blue gradient background with a black one. Trimmed some more plants so all the damaged leaves are gone (from the massive algae outbreak), also removed the aquaclear 70, now that the XP3 has had some time to be established.

 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Well at least people are looking at the journal, if they aren't posting in it! Well happy new year anyway! :icon_smil

Here's a January update. Based on forum threads, I decided to relocate the spray bar for the xp3 on the same side as the intake, spraying towards the opposite end of the tank. The fish seem happier with this configuration...though I still haven't figured out the exact flow adjustment that provides 100% water circulation throughout the tank.



Though I haven't started injecting Co2 yet, the plants seem to be doing really well. The val's are spreading like crazy, with little shoots popping up here and there. After trimming the swords way down (getting all the damaged leaves off), one of them went and had babies!

I've put together a second tank upstairs (20L) that I had laying around from some old hamsters a year or so ago, and am setting it up as a plant only tank, using offshoots from the main tank to grow them up. This second tank (I'll start another journal), is my CO2 learning tank. I'll be starting with a DIY setup for now, and moving eventually to a full GLA pressurized setup within 6 months, which I then hope to hookup to the main aquarium via a CO2 rex style reactor.
 

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I am not a fan of the subtrate, (I know your changing it) but the tank looks really good! Great photography too!
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Thanks Jake! I have 30 lbs of Eco complete rdy to go in, just waiting fir the 20 gallon to get settled to use as a temporary holding tank fir the goldfish while I tear up the 46.

I'm also still debating replacing all the gravel and getting another 20 lbs...I know it's bad to replace all the gravel in an established tank, but I'll always have blue pebbles if I don't!
 

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Thanks Jake! I have 30 lbs of Eco complete rdy to go in, just waiting fir the 20 gallon to get settled to use as a temporary holding tank fir the goldfish while I tear up the 46.

I'm also still debating replacing all the gravel and getting another 20 lbs...I know it's bad to replace all the gravel in an established tank, but I'll always have blue pebbles if I don't!
Nice job with the journal.

I suggest removing all of the blue gravel before adding the eco-complete for the reason you mention. It'll look much better and probably be more beneficial for your plants.
 

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As long as you have an established filter and you can do some WC's, I think you will be Ok if you change it all. Good luck!
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
The goldfish are destroyers of all things plants. It's a challenge trying to find things they won't attempt to eat. I watched one of the black moors eat an entire val like a guinea pig, all in one long line...then poop it out an hour later...lol.

The plants (other then algae issues still) are still winning slightly vs the 5 grazing cows, and have been sending off babies and little shoots everywhere. I've thrown together a separate tank, to handle some of these extra plants. Any offspring I'm placing in the 20L, as well as any plants the goldfish dislodge.



It's a bit of a mishmash right now, as it's using spare parts to run. You will notice a few things...

1) It's got actual plant gravel! (eco-complete)
2) It's got a DIY CO2 system, with the hagen modded distribution system!

Trying to apply some of the lessons I've been learning :). The 20L also has the lighting from the original seaclear hood, (2x20 watt 6700K), the fluval 200watt heater, and the goldfish aquaclear 70.

I don't know about the lighting so far...after dealing with the AHsupply lighting, the seaclear lighting seems weak and pathetic. I'm watching the growth, and it's not as rapid as I would have thought. The seaclear hood doesn't even have reflectors for it's two lights. Just some standard bulbs in some sockets.

Should I look into getting an 55watt AHsupply kit for this tank? Thoughts? Ideas?
 

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How long have you had the plants in the 20L? Plants often times need to adjust to the new parameters and develop roots, and this might be why you're noticing slow growth. Still, you're only receiving 2WPG (yes, I realize the WPG rule is not very reliable) and that might be limiting your growth too, as you noted. If you have the money, I don't think you can go wrong with the 55W kit. Just so you know, with increased lighting there is a chance for more algae; however, it sounds like you don't plan on stocking the 20L so if algae becomes an issue you can increase your CO2 levels.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Dj,
Thanks for the reply. I guess the one thing I haven't yet learned with planted tanks is patience. I'll give it a few weeks before I invest in another lighting solution. Maybe instead I'll figure out a way to separate these two lights and mount them to AHsupply reflectors. That at least would be quite a bit cheaper!
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Some small updates. For my birthday I got a nice dr fosters gift certificate, and with the help of this forum and multiple coupon codes/CK goodness, got a load of goodies. Part of the goodies is the new substrate that will be replacing the "blue" gravel from petsmart. Right now I've got about 70 lbs of eco-complete, but might order one more batch and put another 10 lbs in the 20L, and 80 lbs total in the 46 bowfront. (Current gravel amount is 50 lbs of generic blue crap in the 46).

[Any comments on this? 40 lbs in the 20L and 80lbs in the 46 bow?]

I've also being doing lots of research into pressurized Co2, and have begun prepping for it's install as well. Going to go with a GLA (GLA Model) regulator, with a 10 lb tank, with a rex reactor for diffusion. I'm going to be running a day/night cycle, with the co2 shutoff an hour before lights out, and turned back on an hour before startup. Turns out there is a roberts oxygen within walking distance to me, so now I just have to figure out where to get a used 10 lb tank.

In the meantime, my local LFS got some nerite snails in stock...i bought 5 of them, and a few days later, went back and bought the remaining 2. Sorry if anyone was hoping to get any! These things are incredible. They've completely eliminated any remaining algae on the sword leaves in a matter of days. They also seemed to have "flushed out" where some of the remaining pond snails have been hiding, which i quickly squashed.

Here's a photo of the recovered sword. I almost killed 3 swords while trying to learn how to fert and such...pretty much lost 90% of their main leaves, but now have recovered and are slowly coming back up.



White balance is off (iphone photo)...and the fish love to steal the spotlight. But you can clearly see some of the snail poop on one of the leaves I was about to trim off a few days ago, and now is completely cleaned off.


As for the goldfish grazing/destructors, here are my successes and failures so far.

Baby tears. Were devoured within a few days.

Duckweed that came with another plant by accident. Gone in hours.

Swords. Generally left alone, unless a leaf is damaged, then the moors slowly tear off pieces. On a happier note, the black moors also ate ALL of the hair algae off of these.

Vals. Inital planting was very thin strands. The moors ripped these up pretty good. But each strand that was removed, was replaced by a 4-6x thicker strand of grass, which the goldfish no longer attacked. The amount of Val's in the tank has quadrupled since the original planting, and are slowly filling the back of the tank.

Anacharis : The goldfish can't beat this plant. No matter how much they eat, it grows back, basically creating an endless cycle of goldfish auto trimming/growing.

Moss Balls: The goldfish vacuum these daily. They are very slowly swelling in size.

Money Wort: The moors tore and damaged the leaves of these plants so severely that they began dying off. I moved the healthiest remaining plant to nursery tank upstairs.

Water Wisteria: These leaves are too fragile for the goldfish, and one bunch of plants was eviscerated. They're regrowing in the nursery tank now. The remaining bunch seems to have thickened it's leaves and the goldfish are leaving it alone now.

Green Camboa: I love the way this plant looks. The goldfish leave it alone generally, as it slowly grows upwards to the top of the tank. One piece grew high enough to enter the xp3 outflow stream, and snapped its stem.

The mystery unnamed plant: I originally purchased this plant as a "water sprite"



The goldfish tore its leaves down, and left it as bare stems. I noticed some leaves growing at the base, so I trimmed the long stems off and waited...eventually getting this regrowth.



The regrowth of leaves is much different. They are significantly thicker and broader, and have a yellowish/red tint to them. I believe this is the plant in question, but am not entirely sure.

Rotala Indica
http://www.liveaquaria.com/product/prod_display.cfm?c=768+1618&pcatid=1618

Any thoughts?

Upcoming plant types I'm attempting, are a java fern, and some dwarf rush grass. (The randomness is due to local plant sales :) )

Last but not least. Someone on the forum was showing how to make an extremely cheap but somewhat ugly looking lighting setup for tanks that aren't show tanks. I took their advice and setup up 3 vertical cone reflectors with 23 watt CFL's. (about 22 bucks in total) The effect blows the default 2x20 watt seaclear hood away. I thought I had pearling before...ha!



That's my latest update! Thanks for reading!
 
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