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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
75 gallon 48x18x21in
Temp - 80F
TDS - 69 ppm
pH - 6.4 (the value of 7.15 came from my poorly calibrated pH meter)
36" Finnex Stingray
48" T5 Sunblaster
Eheim 2217
Fluval 304
Hydor 300w inline heater
Substrate - pool filter sand with a few handfuls of boiled gravel from the creek
Various pieces of wood
40+ Magnolia grandiflora leaves

Stocking list:
7x Marbled hatchets
18x adult Colombian tetras
7x Sterbai cories
8x Checkerboard cichlids (Dicrossus filamentosus)


Plants - Hydrocotyle leucocephala

*latest pics, post #72*
*new video, post #86*


3/11/16


3/19/16




3/28/16





5/16/16





This is my second blackwater setup, the first was a 17g Mr. Aqua that housed some tetras, cories and rams. I wanted to try the same thing on a larger scale and throw in some different dwarf cichlids; Checkerboard cichlids caught my eye. I wanted something other than 3 shoals of tetras, so hatchets and pencilfish were also on my list. I haven't had much luck adding fish, there has been about a 50% death rate when I introduce new ones. The ones that do survive seem healthy though. The Colombian tetras have spawned at least twice and there's been a decent survival rate among the fry. I'd like to throw some more Sterbais in there and get them spawning too.

You can see in the second pic that I had about a billion leaves in the tank, I had to take about half of them. The water was getting really dark and light penetration was minimal. The few swords I had in there started withering away, so I took them out. The lighting was a Finnex 36" Stingray and I added a 24" double T5 fixture to add some more light, but it wasn't enough. So I replaced 24" fixture with a 48" Sunblaster and now the light levels look decent to my eye. The pennywort has really taken off...finally.

The pH was oddly high for the longest time, I really couldn't figure out why. The wood and leaves are leaching tannins and the water is fairly soft. I know stable pH is more important than matching native pH levels, but I'm striving for authenticity. pH should come down as the TDS levels drop. The water is AWESOME here (Greenville, SC) for these types of tanks - 20ppm out of the tap. Tampa was 250+! I'm doing weekly water changes of 10-15 gallons to reach a goal of 50ppm.

Once I add the checkerboards and 4 more Sterbais, I'll see how crowded the tank looks. In 4-5 months, I'm going to have a school of 25+ adult Colombians swimming around, so that might rule out the pencilfish.
 

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Beautiful setup! I love all the leaves, actually. I have a much less impressive 10 gallon that's set up similarly, but with Asian fish. I think the spare, simple look is nice. Maintenance/upkeep is such a breeze, too.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I love those Columbian tetras! I'm looking at getting a school myself. Love the blackwater look!
I had about 6 of them in a planted 55g a long time ago and I liked how active they were. They look a lot less wimpy than the average tetra too. I just can't believe they bred and that any eggs survived with the cories hoovering over every grain of sand in the tank.

Looks awesome. Totally addicted to blackwater setups myself.
Thanks. I was really debating doing a clearwater Geophagus set up with a shoal of Biotodoma cupido, but eh, maybe next time.
 

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Great tank, love the look of the dark water too. Some nice pics of the fish too.

I have a 75g geo tapajos with lemon tetras biotope-ish which is 3 months old
 

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How are the Magnolia leaves holding up?

(I have a Magnolia, this would be a great use for some of the leaves... I know there has been no pesticide sprayed on them!)
 

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Black water typically is almost plantless, I think largely due to the dark water, you are also missing out on the natural coat of mulm over everything :), nothing a bit of neglect can't fix.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
How are the Magnolia leaves holding up?

(I have a Magnolia, this would be a great use for some of the leaves... I know there has been no pesticide sprayed on them!)
I try to grab thick and sturdy leaves and they can last about 3 months in one piece, if undisturbed. It'll be 2-3 more months before they totally break down. I prefer them over oak; oak looks too familiar, not exotic enough.

Black water typically is almost plantless, I think largely due to the dark water, you are also missing out on the natural coat of mulm over everything :), nothing a bit of neglect can't fix.
I think floating plants might be biotope correct, large swords wouldn't be. And the java fern is just totally wrong. I'm sure there's a good layer of detritus under the logs and branches and the water is never truly clear.

Almost no nutrients in the water too.

Op - have you seen these folks? All - Tannin Aquatics
Nutrient deficiency is what I'm aiming for, which won't help any of the plants. Swords honestly may not do well at all. The pennywort is going nuts though.
 

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I live next to a tannic stream, the trees lining the water absorb lots of excess nutrients, so do brambles and fast growing reeds.
But up in the mountain where the water comes from is just granite and rocks.

If I were you, I'd start collecting rain water. it is possibly the closest thing.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
My tap water is extremely soft, 20ppm on the TDS meter. Rain water would be better still, but probably not worth the trouble of collecting it.

My fish seemed extra active after the last water change, I wonder if I'm getting the water into some magical softness and/or pH range they like.
 

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I have found even with our hardish water I could get neon tetras to spawn within a day or so by adding river sand to the tank... the eggs would just always mold over. Never raised enough to make it worth the effort.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
I'm looking to pick up either 8 Dicrossus filamentosus or 8 Dicrossus maculatus possibly next week. The D. filamentosus are wild caught, so I wanted to check my water parameters to make sure they were ideal. My inexpensive pH meter (which I calibrated with the enclosed solution packets and distilled water) said 6.95. Hey, the pH is finally creeping into the acidic range...finally. Let me double check that with my API testing kit...it comes out to be 6.4. I have my wife triple check it, yup, 6.4.

I'm inclined to believe the API test over the crappy pH meter, because with the low TDS and high amount of tannins in the water, a range somewhere in the mid 6s just makes more sense.

I tested the GH/KH as well:
GH - 2
KH - 1

Everything looks good, the pH is finally where I think it should be.
 

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lipton

What about lipton tea? Would that work or would it kill everything?

I use Rooibos tea bags when I want to add tannins, it is also antibiotic.
 

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No, Rooibos is a South African tea, it is very much different to the earl greys of the world, and contains no caffeine.
You will find it in many health products due to its medicinal uses. You might find it at a health shop. just make sure it is plain organic rooibos (red bush).
 
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