After years of stockpiling equipment to create a living reef aquarium, I've finally had to face facts--time and money are short since the big financial crash. So I am pivoting toward a low-tech planted tank designed as a playground for Cories and other small fish. I'll be creating a Zen breakfast nook around the aquarium.
I have been reading a lot and assessing how much of my marine equipment I can use or repurpose and what I can sell to pick up the few things I need. Speaking of which, I may have jumped the gun by buying a 48" Finnex Planted+ 24/7 fixture. I don't have a good understanding of light levels yet. Did I buy a low light or medium light fixture? Either way I will live with it. Nothing wrong with watching plants grow slowly.
While studying up, I've plowed ahead with my aquascape. After looking at many beautiful tanks, I came up with a design that is compromise between natural beauty and my "playground" concept. I made a crude mockup in photoshop (attached).
Black: internal overflow and other equipment:
Brown: Planting substrate
Yellow: Pool filter sand for unplanted area
Light green: carpet area. Probably Java Moss. Not sure if the Finnex light fixture makes other carpet options feasible.
Medium green: Mid-ground plants. Variety of low light favorites.
Dark green: Jungle Val. I do not want to see any equipment.
Reddish Brown: Driftwood
Blue: River rocks
I then went shopping. I settled on some crazy expensive pa-hai stones and some Malaysian driftwood. I bought them over the internet, so I had no idea of what I was getting.
I created a life size printout of my mock up and went to work trying to fit the pieces of hardscape into my vision. I've attached a photo of my progress.
The planted area will be sloped towards the back corner and feature a large vertical driftwood piece. I have one large driftwood piece I would have to cut down to size. Or, as in the photo, I would have to build a Franken-tree out of medium pieces. The Pa-Hai rocks turned out bigger than I wanted, but they are cool and I did not want to break them. So I adapted my design to add a canyon wall feature along the sandy river.
I plan to have two groups of eight Cories. One striped species and one spotted. Maybe C. metae and C. sterbae since they seem readily available. The Sterbae are a little big. I'll key an eye out for a smaller spotted species when the time comes.
I have not settled on what my school of swimmers will be. Any of the three neon species would be fine. I got a copy of the book on nano species so I'll research that too. Otos and Sparkling Gouramis are top choices to add later when the tank matures a bit.
Well that's the plan. I hope to get started on the plumbing in October. I'll post a list of my "parts" next.
I had a little time to put together a sort of inspirational visual shopping list of plants for my low tech system (Finnex 48" Planted + 24/7), attached below. The photos are copyright LiquidCreations.com, AquariumPlants.com, and Tropica.com. Very impressed with LiquidCreations site and their "low light" package. Also AquariumPlants.com and HanAquatics.com.
And after that, I had to update my layout plan with ideas about plant placement.
Just finished a huge project at work Friday. I'll have more free time now through the end of the year.
So, step one is to reconfigure the sump and plumbing. I spent the weekend designing a manifold on paper to double the returns from two to four, when I wasn't sleeping.
I have an Eheim 1262 pump which is ridiculously overpowered for a standard 90. It makes it sound like Moses is parting the Red Sea in the dining area. I had to put a ball valve on it to slow the flow down. So I figure if I add two more lines and drop the returns down to 1/2" PVC pipe there should be plenty of pump power for extra circulation.
The two existing returns use loc-line flare nozzles to agitate the surface. The new two will deliver circulation from the tank's corners from about half way down. I just finished ordering all the parts. I got some black pvc to keep the new returns invisible against a black backdrop. The new returns will function like lily pipes.
I have a crude drawing of the plumbing I'll post later.
Thanks to this site, I've made some changes to my original plans:
* I'm not going to use the oak canopy. I'll create some mesh screens to stop jumpers. I think this plan will make life a lot easier. I have a fancy ATO which I will use to make up for evaporation.
* I AM going to set up a quarantine tank. I have a 16 gallon bowfront which was supposed to be a clown tank. It will be in my dining area, so I have to make it attractive.
* Not going to do snails.
* I am beginning to warm up to shrimp. I may add some once the tank stabilizes.
* I got an unexpected cash award at work and bought some ADA Aqua Soil. The main reason is that if I start with aqua soil, that will give me a lot of time to learn about water column dosing.
Consider doing the whole tank with one substrate if you can (or layered, but evenly) because it will mix, and that doesn't look good. Especially with Cories, foraging. Also you may change your mind on the scape and want to rescape and then mix the substrates. I've tried many times and it never worked for me.
I like the idea of spotted and striped Cories! Some more spotted cories:
Peppered, Juli/False Juli.
One of my favorite combinations for tetras are regular neons and ember tetras, they look amazing together.
Last night I stopped by the LFS that I will be using to get a close look at the schooling fish. I was shocked, at first, at how how colorless they were in the bare tanks. But they were all healthy and active. So not a good place to compare fishes for color. The Glolights had zero color. The embers actually looked good. The neons and cardinals where recognizable but with muted colors. Embers are back on the maybe list!
My current thinking on the Corys is just to get a large school of Bandits, maybe 16.
This weekend I have to track down and organize the rest of my aquarium stuff from storage.
Next weekend I will set up the quarantine tank and start the cycle. I consider it "training"
That's a nice plan too! My sterbai corys spawned regularly, but I had to get eggs out of the tank (ropefish would eat them for sure) and this way I got 4 new corys. Now all of them live in guppy tank at work. Oldest are around 9 years old now! Raising corys is a great idea, small ones are so cute... Big ones too