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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
‘Simple but nice’ is the mantra here.

After exiting the hobby in 2016, I am getting back into it. I learned a lot with my previous 40 breeder and it’s starting to come back to me (thanks primarily to this forum). That one started as a low tech and quickly evolved into a maintenance heavy high light CO2 stem growing machine. This time around, I want to find a middle ground between low tech and high tech. Ideally being able to grow and sustain most plants but without being a complicated and maintenance heavy tank.

This is the equipment I have selected:

Tank: Landen 90p. I chose this due to having similar dimensions to a 40B and being familiar with that footprint. I’m a sucker for rimless tanks.

Stand: DIY but inspired by the UNS tank stands. It’s nowhere near the same level of quality, but much cheaper at only $75 in materials. Going DIY was also a good excuse to acquire some new tools.

Light: CurrentUSA Serene Sun LE PRO. I couldn’t find much info on this light, but I’m excited to give it a shot. I wanted a remote operated light with a built in timer, color adjustability, and a mid-grade price. CurrentUSA claims decent PAR and the spectrum will help support reds. Only time will tell if it works out.

Filter: UNS 120 with stainless lily pipes. Seems adequate for my needs.

Heater: Hydor in-line ETH-200. I perceive some controversy with these but I had good experiences with them in the past. I got a deal on an opened box that I couldn’t pass up.

CO2: FZONE Pro Series Aquarium Dual Stage CO2 Regulator with 5lb bottle. This one seems to be a mimic of the UNS dual stage regulator. It had decent reviews and was cheaper so I figured I’d give it a shot. For now, I’m using an Aquario Neo Co2 Diffuser and drop checker.

Fertilizers: For now, leaning towards ATP Complete with an autodoser.

For hardscape I ordered some Manzanita Driftwood and 15lb Manten Stone from Pet Zone SD. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t too pleased with what I received but that’s the price I paid for buying sight unseen. I think I’ll end up using it since I bought it already, but I would probably spend more and but WYSISWYG if I could do it again.

For substrate, I initially ordered 10L of extra fine Controsoil in black from Aquascape Supply. My plan was to use that for a carpet area with BDBS in the non-carpet area. Long story short, I found out they did not have it in stock like their site suggested with no ETA. It took entirely too much effort to find this out and I’m realizing I probably should have read reviews on Aquascape Supply before ordering. (Side note, I found out that Pet Zone SD and Aquascape Supply Co are one in the same). I can’t find Controsoil in black in stock anywhere so substrate is currently TBD. I’m considering Aquasoil, straight BDBS, or anything in between. Suggestions are appreciated!

For plant livestock, I am not set in stone on anything. I’m considering a dry start for a carpeted area, and will likely go with DHG or HC Cuba, or a mixture of both. When I do fill, I would like to plant heavily off the bat so the plant list will largely depend on what’s available when I do plant. These are the species I have shortlisted for now:

Foreground
-Hemianthus callitrichoides ‘cuba’
-Eleocharis acicularis 'Mini'
-Micranthemum 'Monte Carlo'

Midground
Reds:
-Alternanthera reineckii 'Mini'
-Alternanthera rosanervig
-Ammania senegalensis

Greens:
-Hygrophila 'Araguaia'

Background
-Pogostemon erectus

For fish, snails, shrimp, etc. I am still somewhat undecided. I had a GBR pair in my 40B and really enjoyed them. I’d like another ‘centerpiece’ pair again, maybe even two pairs. 44gallons may be pushing it for that though. I’ll refine this list when I get closer to adding livestock. Here is my shortlist for now:
-Electric Blue ram pair
-Apisto pair
-Tetra variety schooling fish
-Corys
-SAE
-Amano shrimp
-Assassin snail if necessary

So that leaves me with a substrate dilemma. I’ll continue doing research and will likely make a decision based on what’s readily available without breaking the bank. I recognize each has pros and cons. ‘Simple but nice’.

Questions I currently have:
Will BDBS with no root tabs be sufficient for dry-start carpet growth?
Does anyone have experience with this light? I’d like to hear your experience.

Pictures for now. Once I have my substrate, I’ll begin scaping and update then.

Property Floor Flooring Hardwood Bathroom

Floor Flooring Display case Transparent material Still life photography
 

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Following along..

Awesome start! I can’t really give you any advice at the moment, since I am a newbie in the beautiful world of nature style aquariums.

That tank looks very nice! How is the quality glass clarity and silicone work? Never heard of that brand but looks super clean.. Nice plant selection. learning the names as i go of the plants.. Hopefully I pick the right ones. I also recently also got a ADA 60P doing a build at the moment. First high tech attempt

I real your stand came real clean! Looking forward to your build bud!


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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Following along..

Awesome start! I can’t really give you any advice at the moment, since I am a newbie in the beautiful world of nature style aquariums.

That tank looks very nice! How is the quality glass clarity and silicone work? Never heard of that brand but looks super clean.. Nice plant selection. learning the names as i go of the plants.. Hopefully I pick the right ones. I also recently also got a ADA 60P doing a build at the moment. First high tech attempt

I real your stand came real clean! Looking forward to your build bud!


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Thanks for your kind words. I've never owned a "name brand" rimless tank like ADA or UNS so I can't compare to their quality, but it seems well built with nice uniform silicone. Glass clarity seems fantastic, but I'll likely be able to judge that better once something is in it.

I just checked out your journal! You've made nice progress so far with a nice selection of top notch components. I'm very jealous of that stand! That is the exact stand that inspired my DIY version.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I found UNS Controsoil in stock in brown through Buce Plant. I wanted black originally, but figured brown will be fine since it will primarily be covered by plants and hardscape. I wanted this particular substrate because it does not leach ammonia but still fosters beneficial bacteria (versus an inert substrate like BDBS) and provides beneficial nutrients for plants. After further research, attempting a carpet of any type in an inert substrate seemed futile. Controsoil will also balance well with my desired fertilizer approach, which ideally will fall somewhere between EI and ADA methods.

I’m considering get an RO filter to make mineralized water with my desired parameters. Although, I tested my tap water parameters today and they’re not bad at all.


My tap water conditions:
PH 7.6
3.2 dHG
3.0 dKH
TDS 43ppm


My ideal water conditions:
pH around 6.8
GH around 4-6 dH
KH can be relatively low due to the presence of my buffering substrate
TDS less than 100ppm is satisfactory


I also purchased the DD Jumpguard PRO DIY net screen cover. I hope this doesn’t interfere with the light to much but I’ve had problems with fishes jumping ship before. There’s also cats in the house, but I’m not so sure if this will hold the weight of the cat.

Lastly, I purchased a Kamoer X1 Single Bluetooth Micropump Doser for fertilizer. This will make things easier if and when I travel for work, and is modular in the sense that additional pumps can be added later down the road if necessary.

Now to decide if I should go the DSM route (with DHG, HC Cuba, etc.) or flood right away using high biomass and the silent cycling method.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
The UNS Controsoil arrived today so I promptly began aquascaping with excitement. The left side of the tank is in a corner of the room so primary viewing will be from the front and right side. I knew I wanted to have a carpeting plant along the front and right side with mid and background plants filling in and around the driftwood. I used 20L of Controsoil fine and then mixed in 3L of extra fine where I anticipated the carpet growing.

This is my initial scape, but I will likely make refinements over the next few days. I most unsure about rock placement. I do like the brown substrate much more than I thought I would. Comments and suggestions are appreciated!






I’ve decided to pursue to the dry start method (DSM) for the carpet in an attempt to limit variables while the carpet establishes itself. When the tank is flooded, the carpet will only need to focus on transitioning from emersed to submerged rather than that plus root development.

For the carpet, I’ve chosen the infamous HC ‘cuba’.

I’ve ordered tissue culture plants from Buce and am expecting them early next week. I also ordered a hygrometer to monitor humidity during the DSM process. I’ve never attempted a dry start before, so research will continue up until planting.

For now, I am planning on filling the substrate to 1/4” below the substrate line, maintaining 90% humidity by lightly spraying soil with dechlorinated water when dry, and covering the tank with Saran Wrap. I plan to have the light on 10-12 hours per day, with a vent in the corner for air circulation. I will remove the Saran Wrap 15 minutes or so per day to promote air circulation and hopefully prevent any mold.

I expect this process to last 3-4 weeks, maybe longer. Fortunately, this gives me time to save up some money, pick up a CO2 bottle, and do more research on the plants I want.
 

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Looks like you are off to a good start. I am in a similar boat and just started up again. For the meantime, I am using the CO2 reg off of my kegerator. Have you used the FZONE Pro Series Aquarium Dual Stage CO2 Regulator yet? Any thoughts? I was thinking about picking one up so I can get the kegerator back up and running.
 

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nice build! landen has been around awhile! did you order it online or get it local? alot of these tanks are made in the same place and then branded q/c'd by an agent operating for the company that will endorse the product. any pics of your filter/co2 setup?
 

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nice build! landen has been around awhile! did you order it online or get it local? alot of these tanks are made in the same place and then branded q/c'd by an agent operating for the company that will endorse the product. any pics of your filter/co2 setup?
Landen (or their supplier) makes a very nice tank. I set up a 60cm(25 gallon) version about 5 months ago. I liked it so much that I decided to go for their 120P 72 gallon version. I could not find a Landen 120P available anywhere. In fact I could only find two vendors that would even take an order for a tank that size: Waterbox, with a long wait, and Glass Cages, who custom makes them in the US but will only ship to a local freight terminal. I ordered the WB which in theory should ship to me next week, two months after I ordered it.

I could find no UNS or ADA 120cm tanks in stock either. For some reason the supply chain, especially for larger low iron rimless tanks, seems to have dried up. I suspect it is either due to Covid or shifting import regulations.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Looks like you are off to a good start. I am in a similar boat and just started up again. For the meantime, I am using the CO2 reg off of my kegerator. Have you used the FZONE Pro Series Aquarium Dual Stage CO2 Regulator yet? Any thoughts? I was thinking about picking one up so I can get the kegerator back up and running.

I haven’t used it yet but the quality seems to be decent. I hope to flood my tank in the next week or two, and I’ll let you know my initial impressions.


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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
nice build! landen has been around awhile! did you order it online or get it local? alot of these tanks are made in the same place and then branded q/c'd by an agent operating for the company that will endorse the product. any pics of your filter/co2 setup?

I ordered it off Amazon, surprisingly. It arrived well packaged in a wooden crate and passed a leak test with flying colors. I’ve never had a UNS or ADAD tank before, but I’m very happy with the build quality of the Landen. You’ll notice I placed the tank with the logo at the rear, but I only did that because I didn’t like the chrome look.

Here are pics of the undercarriage as it looks today. Some tidying up is necessary, but overall I’m happy with it.


 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Landen (or their supplier) makes a very nice tank. I set up a 60cm(25 gallon) version about 5 months ago. I liked it so much that I decided to go for their 120P 72 gallon version. I could not find a Landen 120P available anywhere. In fact I could only find two vendors that would even take an order for a tank that size: Waterbox, with a long wait, and Glass Cages, who custom makes them in the US but will only ship to a local freight terminal. I ordered the WB which in theory should ship to me next week, two months after I ordered it.

I could find no UNS or ADA 120cm tanks in stock either. For some reason the supply chain, especially for larger low iron rimless tanks, seems to have dried up. I suspect it is either due to Covid or shifting import regulations.

I was heavily considering a WB, they look very nice! I chose the Landen largely due to lack of availability with the better known brands. I have no regrets going with Landen though.


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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
This thread is long overdue for an update. I’m just over 4 weeks into my DSM, but that didn’t come without hiccups due to being evacuated (wildfire) and going on a 5 day vacation. Being away from home for 2 weeks since starting the DSM made it hard to stay consistent with letting the tank breath and ensuring proper humidity. I encountered few instances of mold, but those plants were removed entirely in an effort to limit spread.

This is my first DSM and I’ve learned a lot. Here are my key lessons:

1) Everyone says it, but don’t add too much water.
2) Taken the time and effort to create even-sized bunches and plant in an even distribution.
3) Just as you would with a flooded tank, remove any die-off or signs of poor health.


I did not give myself enough time to plant the HC in the way I hoped. It resulted in uneven bunches and uneven distribution across the tank. I expected it to take about an hour, so I attempted to plant with limited time prior to other commitments. I realistically needed 3+ hours to do it the way I had hoped (even sized clumps and even distribution). This was the result:


(Side note: I hope to improve photo quality with a better camera soon)

I initially sprayed the soil with RO water until everything was moist (I previously mentioned using distilled water, but I was wrong. Don’t do that. Use RO water.). I then laid each plant on the soil and misted each plant to use gravity to bring the roots into the soil. I added the cheapest hygrometer I could find on Amazon, and set my light schedule to 10 hours per day. I tried to maintain humidity around 85% by misting the glass and I let the tank breath about 30min per day.

Mistake 1: buying the cheapest hygrometer I could find. Turns out it is poorly calibrated and read about 25% too low. I was adding way too much water and was likely over 95% humidity for the first week or so. I started to encounter mold and had a suspicion the hygrometer was faulty. I promptly purchased a slightly better hygrometer which confirmed my findings.

After taking care of the mold, I found my rhythm maintaining about 85% humidity and only adding water every 3-5 days or so. I never added water to the point that there was standing water above the substrate surface.

I also found that using a bottle like this works much better than a spray bottle. I found it in the grill section of Walmart and it allows me to add water in precise places without getting the leaves wet (therefore in theory helping eliminate mold).

(Middle bottle).

This was about the time me and my SO left for a 5-day vacation. I added water before we left, ensured the plastic wrap was sealed (with a small gap on both ends), and crossed my fingers hoping I wouldn’t come home to any catastrophes. It went well for the most part, but I did encounter more mold. More mold = more plants removed.

I was hope for another week, and maintained the same rhythm meanwhile the biggest fire in Colorado’s history started closing in on our home. We were forced to evacuate. This is what it looked like right before we left.




Similar to last time, I added water before I left and ensured it was sealed up with a gap on each end. Fortunately, our house is still standing and like last time, i returned to more mold growth.

Fortunately, every time I’ve encountered mold so far it has been relatively isolated and easy to remove. I suspect there are still mold spores, but it has never appeared in force through these four weeks. Most plants have rooted well, and about 25-35% have shown signs of new growth.

I’ll add a picture of what it looks like today once the sun sets and there is less glare on the tank.

As mentioned in a previous post, I hope to flood the tank in the next week or two. Part of me wants to wait until I see better new growth, but my patience is running thin.


In other news, I ditched the CO2 diffuser and opted to DIY a cerges reactor for about $50. I hope this will improve the growing conditions for more sensitive plants like the HC (as well as others I may add). If there is interest, I’m happy to provide more details on how I built it.

I also opted for the UNS all-in-one fertilizer which tends more towards the EI method. Again, I opted for this in hopes to improve the growing conditions. I originally was going to go with the ATP variety, and might still try it later down the road in favor of smaller and less frequent water changes.

It’s about this time I’ve decided to throw away the “simple but nice” mantra. Adding HC Cuba alone voided that, and going EI also does not help.

In the end, the fun is in experimenting and I welcome the challenge to learn and master new things.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
The tank has been flooded! I filled it on November 2nd, and planted the following on November 3rd:

Staurogyne repens
Homalomena sp. Sekadu South
Alternanthera reineckii ‘mini’
Alternanthera reineckii ‘lila’
Rotala sp. Nanjenshan
Pogostemon stellata

I chose these for a nice blend of challenging and easy, along with reds and greens. Here is a photo from today, November 5th. Everything appears happy and I’m already seeing new growth, especially with the HC Cuba. What a relief!




Water parameters have been relatively consistent at:
KH: 2 dKH
GH: 2-3 dH
pH: 6.3
Ammonia: 0.5 ppm
Nitrite: 0 ppm
Nitrate: 0 ppm
TDS: 65ppm
Temperature: 78°F

I’m a little consider about the softness of my water. I understand that nitrifying bacteria grows better under harder water conditions. I also would like to increase kH to better buffer any potential pH swings. As such, I will begin dosing Equilibrium and Alkaline Buffer by Seachem. Hopefully this will give me a better idea if nitrifying bacteria are growing. Right now it is unclear if I simply do not have a strong enough ammonia source (aqua soil only at the moment) or the plant load is absorbing all remaining ammonia, nitrites and nitrates. It was my understating that doing DSM would jumpstart the bacteria colony.

A couple lessons learned:
1) I initially had very low flow from my filter (I’d call it a trickle). I was having trouble priming it with the cerges reactor so I assumed I just had significant air build up. I primed the filter with the reactor disconnected but still had low flow. I then assumed I had air/co2 trapped in my reactor. I tried purging it and flipping it over to no avail. I eventually decided to disassemble and inspect the entire system only to find I forgot to remove a cardboard piece from the reactor housing. Doh! Once removed, flow was much more aligned with what I would expect.

2) I should have soaked the driftwood again. While there has been minimal tannin release, the wood has become buoyant again. It should come to its final resting place soon.

3) Don’t buy cheap check valves or times. I bought a pack of 6 check valves, 3 of which were faulty. I bought a cheap mechanical timer, but it hasn’t kept time consistently. I’ll be replacing it ASAP.


All in all, I’m happy and relieved with the first few days. I lowered my photoperiod to 7 hours per day and I’ve been blasting CO2. I’ve been dosing fertilizer every other day. The plants seem to be happy! Pearling is evident and there has been minimal melt so far. I did a 50% water change the first day and a 20% water change the second day. I am planning another large water change tomorrow, which will be day 5.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 · (Edited)
Looks like you are off to a good start. I am in a similar boat and just started up again. For the meantime, I am using the CO2 reg off of my kegerator. Have you used the FZONE Pro Series Aquarium Dual Stage CO2 Regulator yet? Any thoughts? I was thinking about picking one up so I can get the kegerator back up and running.

@Sotty I wanted to follow up on this now that I have used the regulator. Everything has worked smoothly and I have been able to dial in the bubble count with precision. I’ve been pleased with it and wouldn’t hesitate to buy another. Only time will tell if my perception remains the same.


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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Change of plans regarding my water hardness. I realized last night that my substrate is taking care of the buffering so I don't need to worry about KH being low. Adding Alkaline Buffer would increase both my pH and KH, but would also deplete my substrate's buffering capability. Thats not what I want so this will be returned.

I plan to keep Equilibrium, but am no longer planning on adding anything until the tank has had some time to mature. I was getting a bit ahead of myself, and am trying to remind myself to not change too much at once. Stability is the most important factor right now being such a new tank. Time will tell if the Equilibrium is necessary.

I'm still struggling to determine if my tank is actually cycling or not. Parameters this morning remain the same:
Ammonia - 0.5 ppm
Nitrite - 0 ppm
Nitrate - 0 ppm

My concern is that there is simply not enough ammonia being provided by the substrate (possibly already depleted during dry start) to jump start the cycling process. I am planning on dosing a small amount of ammonia to see how the tank reacts. I am hoping to see a spike in Nitrates, thus proving the nitrifying bacteria is present.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
My tank has been flooded for a week and I’ve already seen plenty of promising growth. I’ve been blasting CO2 and dosing my UNS plant food fertilizer every three day. Here is a comparison between day one and today.




The HC cuba seems to be happy and is beginning to fill in. In the last two days, a couple clumps have shown signs of melting but I’m attributing this to being a new tank.

The Rotala nanjenshan was in poor shape when it arrived, but I seem to have salvaged a few stems which have been showing new growth after most of the original leaves melted off.

I lost my largest Homalomena after the leaves melted, but the other two seem to be okay. I’m guessing the rhizome was damaged.

The Pogostemon stellata had a little melting but seems to be bouncing back nicely. No signs of red or pink yet, but I believe that will come in due time.

Both Alternanthera varieties are settling in and beginning to show off their red hues. The S. repens have shown no signs of melting and also appear to be happy.

Parameters have been pretty stable, and I’ve begun dosing ammonia to ensure Im building a colony of nitrifying bacteria. If I dose to 5ppm, it will be back down to 1ppm around 12 hours later. Nitrites are about 0.10ppm and nitrates are at 0ppm. Im guessing that the plants are taking up any excess nitrogen. I hope to see elevated levels of nitrite and nitrate after keeping ammonia levels elevated.

I also wanted to touch on this light since there doesn’t seem to be much real world info about it yet. I don’t have a PAR meter, but the growth I’m seeing in the HC cuba suggests it is at least meeting that critical threshold. I am really enjoying the sunrise/daytime/sunset/moonlight feature. The built in wireless timer has also been great. I’ve never had a light with an adjustable spectrum, but this is what I have settled onto now:

Daylight
White 100%
Red 100%
Blue 35%
Green 20%

Sunrise/sunset
White 30%
Red 100%
Blue 100%
Green 0%

(Taken a few days prior to this post)

Moonlight
White 0%
Red 5%
Blue 15%
Green 0%

(It’s hardly this bright in person, my camera doesn’t do it justice)
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Adding ammonia may have been a mistake. Ever since I started dosing it, I’ve started to see melting in the HC as well as some algae growth on the driftwood and AR mini. A little research has made me realize that tissue culture plants like my HC are very sensitive to elevated ammonia. Likewise, the algae is likely starting to prosper due to the induced instability.

I have also seen increased levels of surface scum, which means the plants are growing, but also that there is an imbalance somewhere between light, CO2, and nutrient availability. I’m not sure where to make adjustments yet, but I’m inclined to keep CO2 high while there is no livestock.

I’m going to refrain from adding more ammonia for the time being and just continue to blast CO2 and dose fertilizer 3 times per week. I may reduce my light schedule from 7 hours of ‘daylight’ to 6. As growth rates increase, I’ll feel more comfortable increasing light as well as slowly adding a clean up crew which likely include Amano shrimp, SAE, or Otocinclus.
 

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Thanks for sharing your progress. I'm in the process of a dry start (day 30) of a 60p tank with just HC so far. My HC has even been finicky during the dry start. But hopefully bouncing back. I might go as long as 45-50 days b/c I want to buy a RO/DI system on Black Friday. I had measured my tap water parameters and decided it was too hard / alkaline for a planted tank. At one point I asked the Green Aqua guys via YouTube whether I should use DI water. They said just RO. Not sure what KH levels they have in their tap though. I have 7 or 8 (I forget) dKH, which might be a touch high. I think I will end up trying just RO water and seeing if I have issues. Even switching to distilled water halfway through the dry start seems to have improved conditions a bit.
 
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