The Planted Tank Forum banner
1 - 20 of 60 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
115 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Intro

This is my first attempt at a planted aquarium. I previously had a 20 gallon aquarium that was fish-only with fake plants. I had to take it down when I moved two years ago. I had the itch to set it up again for a while, but I couldn’t find a stand that I liked (or that the wife would approve of). So, I waited.

My boss has a 30 gallon saltwater aquarium, and he was in the midst of upgrading to a 65, when his wife became pregnant. Needless to say, the upgrade was abandoned, and he was left with a brand new Marineland 65 Gallon Corner-Flo aquarium and stand. I went over to his place to take a look at it, and knew it would fit perfectly in my apartment. So, I bought it and brought it back home.

Set-Up

Display Tank: 65 Gallon with Pre-Drilled Interior Overflow (36”x18”24”)
Substrate: Miracle Gro Organic Choice Potting Mix (MGOCPM) capped with Pool Filter Sand (PFS)
Lighting: AquaticLife Dual T5HO 39w (1x 6000K & 1x 650nm Roseate)
Filtration: 20 Gallon Long Sump with 3 Compartments (30”x12”x12”)


  • Intake: Pond Filter Sponge Material, BioMax, and Filter Floss
  • Refugium: Emergent/Emersive Plants
    • Substrate: MGOCPM capped with PFS
    • Lighting: Dual T8 17w 6500K
    • Heater: 200w set to 76 degrees
  • Return: Rio 2500 Submersible Pump

Flora (Ordered from aquariumplants.com. Expected delivery: Friday, February 1)

Vallisneria Spiralis (Leopard Vals)
Microsorium Pteropus (Java Fern)
Cryptocoryne Wendtii, Red
Cryptocoryne Wendtii, Green
Anubias Barteri v. Nana
Egeria Densa (Anacharis)
Didiplis Diandra (Diandra)
Hygrophila Difformis (Wisteria)
Echinodorus Amazonicus (Amazon Swordplant)
Java Moss

Fauna (Undecided at the moment)

Big school of 10-20 small rasboras/tetras
A small school of Cories or Otos
Lots of Red Cherry Shrimp
A couple of Nerite/Trumpet/Assassin Snails
2 or 3 Angels or maybe a Gourami/Betta as centerpiece fish

Goals

I have a friend who has been running a Walstad setup for about 2 years now that was my main inspiration. He has had a few setbacks, but overall his plants grow like wild and his fish are very happy and healthy. He actually recently had his German Blue Rams spawn, which was pretty exciting considering he wasn’t even trying! Either way, I’ve always been jealous of his tank and decided to go for a similar setup. Maybe even show him up!

My main goals with this tank are to keep it as low tech and low maintenance as possible. I am willing to add fertilizers and do some kind of DIY CO2 system, although I would like it best if it could be kind of a “Set it and forget it” type of tank. I really do like the overgrown/jungle look, so that is what I am shooting for. I even like the look of some types of algae; I’m not trying to go for a picture perfect Amano artistic aquarium. I kind of want to just see what the plants want to do, trimming when things begin to “get out of hand.”

Concerns

I am concerned that my lighting may be too low light. It comes in at only 1.2 watts per gallon, although I know that is not an effective way of gauging lighting anymore. According to Hoppy’s research on the PAR of certain light fixtures, I would put my light at about 45 PAR for the distance it is from the substrate. From what I understand, this should be sufficient for most low to moderate level plants. I do have a glass canopy for aesthetic, noise, and anti-cat reasons, so I am hoping that as long as I am good about keeping it clean, it won’t affect the level of lighting too much. If anyone wants to chime in on their theories considering the plants I have picked in conjunction with my lighting, I am all ears.

I guess my overall biggest concern is failure. Some people make the low tech approach seem so simple, but I understand how easy it can be to spend 90 bucks on plants and have them all look like crap and then die in a month. I have a tendency to be very hands on, especially in the beginning. I worry that I will be constantly troubleshooting, rather than just “letting things be.” Hopefully, you all will be able to offer advice when I need it, and tell me to chill out when I’m overreacting.

Future Plans

I am expecting the plants to arrive on Friday. Between now and then, any suggestions on where to plant which species would be very helpful. Also, any tips on how to plant each type of species would also be appreciated. I got a nice pair of 10” tweezers, so that should hopefully make planting such a tall tank less of a hassle.

I will probably start adding fish towards the end of February, once the tank has settled and finished its cycle.

Thanks for reading and I will try to be vigilant about updating the journal as I go.

Pics to come!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
115 Posts
Discussion Starter · #2 · (Edited)
Pictures From Setup Phase [56K]

Everyone knows a tank journal is no fun without pics! This is obviously a work in progress as you can tell by the tannins and other junk floating all around. I am going to do a total water change and big clean up when I add the plants. Enjoy!

The Beginning



Installing the baffles in the sump.



Original hardscape after adding substrate.



Re-scape Part 1



Re-scape Part 2



"Final" scape



Tank in room.



Some sump images.





This is the digital timer I got. It's pretty sweet. Half of the outlets are on a timer, the other half run constantly. Only 20 bucks at Lowe's.



Here's the Amazon sword I picked up from my LFS. I trimmed the roots and planted it like this. Does it look like I planted it correctly?



Here's the java moss and the raw shrimp inside nylon pantyhose that I'm using to cycle the tank.

 

·
Registered
Joined
·
614 Posts
I'm liking the sump idea lately. I've seen various setups and I've been making some plans as to how to create the proper sump design. I'm a bit curious about your sump baffle design. It seems that there really isn't any trickle effect that you would generally see. Did you use a plan for your sump or did you come up with your own design? I'm really just trying to learn. Thanks!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
115 Posts
Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I'm liking the sump idea lately. I've seen various setups and I've been making some plans as to how to create the proper sump design. I'm a bit curious about your sump baffle design. It seems that there really isn't any trickle effect that you would generally see. Did you use a plan for your sump or did you come up with your own design? I'm really just trying to learn. Thanks!
My main reasoning for the sump was to have a place to hide filtration, heating, wires, etc. The extra volume is a bonus, too. In retrospect, I may have gone with a wet/dry "trickle" filter in lieu of the baffles. It is a pretty cost effective method of filtration, and it seems like a good way to get a lot of biological filtration.

This article is awesome for sump ideas and basics. Some of it is saltwater specific, but there's a lot there on function and design of any sump.

This article was a big help in learning how to plumb the system. I didn't end up using PVC pipes, but the author, Cliff, has a lot of knowledge and is very thorough. Definitely worth reading.

I guess a lot of people with planted tanks don't use a sump design because of gas exchange and the loss of CO2. I am hoping my sump won't require the use of CO2, but we'll see. :icon_roll
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
115 Posts
Discussion Starter · #7 · (Edited)
Latenight Planting Session - Very Happy with the Results!

The plants came a day early, so I threw them in the tank until I was ready to plant them after the wife went to bed. :icon_smil









I knew I wanted to add some rocks to my hardscape, so I picked up a bag of pond stones from Lowe's for $3.50. They came in handy when planting the Java Fern and Anubias, as well. They were dirty, though! Took a while to clean them in the tub.



While I was cleaning stuff, I decided to clean off the driftwood, too. It had begun to grow that white filmy stuff that usually comes with a new piece of wood in the tank.



Threw the rest of the crypts, Java Fern, and moss down in the sump. So many tannins leeched from the driftwood; the water looks like tea!











So this is what it looked like while I was planting... quite the elaborate setup.



Drained the tank.



The Anubias looked super healthy.





Some nice laves on the Wisteria.





Anacharis was good and chunky.





Diandra was super delicate, but definitely healthy and lush.





Java Fern was nice and sturdy.



I love the little brown dots running up the leaves.



Nice roots and rhizomes, too.



The green and red Crypts were nice and big, with big sturdy root systems.







I'm psyched about the red ones :icon_smil.







Here's the Amazon Sword that I bought from my LFS. It held up for the past week down in the sump. I love the flower up at the top. The roots are small, but look promising.







Here's the Java Moss that I bought from my LFS. It's nice and sturdy and thick.





Aquariumplants.com was nice enough to throw in this big hunk of Java Moss with my order. It's not as nice as all the other stuff they sent, but it came in handy when I decorated the driftwood.





So this is everything all laid out and trimmed. This is probably my favorite picture of the setup process. I felt like Takashi Amano with all these plants to pick from in setting up the tank :icon_surp.







Covered everything up with wet paper towels, misting it every once in a while so things wouldn't dry out.



Decided to bust out the sewing thread and tackle what I figured would be the most time consuming, tedious part of the setup. It was tricky tying down the Java Moss to the driftwood, but after a while you learn a few tricks and it goes a bit faster. Keep in mind it's probably around midnight/1am as I'm doing this.









Here's the finished product. I am REALLY happy with the way things turned out. I'm hoping it will grow out to completely cover the wood. Probably took me about an hour to do it all.



So cool!





Makes me want to have a riparium...





Threw in some rocks to liven up the boring substrate. I'm not crazy about it, but it's something.





Started planting the Vals first.



Put in the Java Fern and Anubias next. It's probably around 3am at this point and I'm pretty deliriously tired. I was definitely getting frustrated tying them to little rocks to bury in the substrate.



Added the Crypts in the corners and filled up the tank a little bit more.



Lulu was not happy with all of the latenight commotion. She was running all over the place. She didn't know what to think! :tongue:



Wasn't crazy about the placement of the Java Ferns when I started to see everything coming together.



Still wasn't totally sold on the final scape at this point, but it was 4:30am and I knew my wife was going to be getting up for work in half an hour. And my alarm is set for 7:45. Scrambled to clean things up and took a few minutes to snap some pics and admire the hard work.











I put the Anacharis down in the sump, by the way.





Here's a closeup of the Crypts and Vals on the left side of the tank.



I tucked the Amazon Sword in the back left corner behind the driftwood. I know it's going to get big, so I want it to stay in the background of the driftwood centerpiece.



These are the crypts on the right side of the tank.



All the cute little Anubias.





Here's the Diandra and Wisteria in the back/midground on the right. These were the plants I was the least excited about, and I think I like them the best. So light and fluffy.



Java Fern.



A little yellowing on the Crypt leaves. I've read that Crypts will almost always melt when moved to a new tank. Then they regrow new leaves in a month or two. I'll be sad to see them go, the leaves are so big and healthy :icon_frow.



Here is a closeup of the planted Vals; I hope they aren't in too deep. They really make the look of the tank, so I am hoping that they are successful. I put some API root tabs (I know they're not the best) underneath them in the hopes that it will help them establish roots faster.





As I was staring at my tank today, I noticed this on one of the Vals. I think it might have been snail or fish eggs? It was slimy and pretty sticky. I took it out just in case it was something weird.



Okay... so here it is. The final scape! Leave some comments and tell me what you think.





 

·
Registered
Joined
·
115 Posts
Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Thanks! I hope I can keep it that way. The plants have been in for about 4 days now.

The Crypts are still holding up, as are the Anubias. My friend is afraid the light might be a little too intense for the Anubias and Java Fern. As long as I don't get any algae, I'm happy for now.

The Vals still don't look very strong - some of the tips are browning and getting very "flimsy". I'm hoping that they will establish some roots and make a turnaround soon.

On the bright side, the Diandra and Wisteria are looking great.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
46 Posts
looking good dude. i'm still waiting for my aquariumplants.com order (ordered last monday) apparently its still processing......
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
115 Posts
Discussion Starter · #12 ·
looking good dude. i'm still waiting for my aquariumplants.com order (ordered last monday) apparently its still processing......
Yeah they only ship stuff on Wednesdays. I ordered 2 day shipping and it came overnight, so once they get the ball moving it gets where it's going quickly.

I can't recommend them enough though. The proof is in the pudding and as you can see from the pictures, they have great plants.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
423 Posts
Love it.
Vals are notorious for melting as well, so if they go away on you just wait it out, they'll be back.

Once a few of those plants get established you'r going to have a lot of trimming to keep up ;)

Those were snail eggs by the way.

Also I would do the cories and otos both, corys stay on the bottom and otos on the glass.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
115 Posts
Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Ah, that's good to know about the Vals. I've read so much about how they are tricky to plant, so I'm hoping that they are at the right depth and not too close to each other.

I know cories are happiest in schools of 6 or more. Can otos be kept in smaller numbers?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
115 Posts
Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Water Testing, Cycling, and Petco Discrepancies

Okay, so I have been using two pieces of raw shrimp to cycle this tank for about a month now.

About two weeks before planting, I used my API Liquid Master Test Kit to check the water parameters. The results came back confirming that there was a healthy amount of Ammonia, still no NitrItes or NitrAtes.

The day before planting, I checked the water again using my API Liquid Master Test Kit, and the results came back with no Ammonia, plenty of NitrItes, and still no NitrAtes.

Then, I did a complete water change while planting. I knew this would set back the cycle a bit, but I wanted to get rid of the tannins in the water, etc. The decaying shrimp has remained in the tank the whole time.

Yesterday (4 days after planting), I checked the water parameters again. I figured that since the tank was now heavily stocked with plants, they might be absorbing/using all of the excess NitrItes and NitrAtes. Once again, the results came back showing no Ammonia, some NitrItes, and no NitrAtes.

I was a little disappointed with the results, but not totally surprised. However, my API Liquid Master Test Kit is around 3 years old, give or take. I have heard that they become less reliable, and expire after about 3 or 4 years. So, I decided to take a sample of my water to Petco to have them test it.

Much to my disappointment, they used the API Test Strips to test the water. I know that if the strips are exposed to any moisture at all, the results that they give are pretty much totally bogus. Either way, I was curious, and the test strips came back reading nothing across the board.

So, should I trust the crappy test strips, or my old liquid test kit? I'm not used to cycling with plants, so I'm not sure how to proceed. I would like to start adding some fauna, but want to make sure everything is safe and not have to change the water a million times until the tank is fully cycled.

(I know the short answer is to buy another Master Test Kit, but I'm looking to see if you have any insights on cycling with plants and where you think my tank might be in its cycle, given the information above.)
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
488 Posts
Subscribed. As a newbie, I found your step by step pictures helpful. Beautiful layout. Cant wait to see how the plants grow in.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
115 Posts
Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Wow, a subscriber! The blind leading the blind, I guess! :red_mouth Thanks for following along.

Thanks for your comments on the layout, as well.

I will be trying my best to stay vigilant about posting pics of the tank's progress, even when it looks less than presentable. I have a feeling that the first month may look a little melty/brown, but once things get more established, it will take off.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
42 Posts
I love the wood. It looks really nice. I would agree that this looks like a good start. I only hope that I can do as well when I set mine up.
 
1 - 20 of 60 Posts
Top