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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
After keeping 30cm nano cubes and losing 2 bettas, decided to upgrade up to the biggest tank I could fit on my desk, a 60p. Weekly maintenance on my original 30cm all-in-one cube was also getting tiring so figured a bigger tank would be easier to care for in the long run. Since I'm definitely stuck in the hobby after almost a year, decided to invest in an ADA tank.

Gear so far:
Tank: ADA 60p (W60cm x D30cm x H36cm)
Filter: UNS Delta60
Light: Chihiros WRGB2 Slim 60
Substrate: ADA Amazonia v2 soil
Hardscape: Lava rock and Dark Forest wood

The only way I could fit the tank on my desk was in a peninsula layout in between my wife's and my desk. We only have IKEA tabletops so I had to fortify them a little before I started, I talked about it in this post.

The theme I wanted to go with was autumn. There are a lot of lovely red plants in the hobby so I wanted to try and play with the contrast of red and green to make it look autumn-ey. I'm going to try and make the reds a little more orange via tannins.
Some inspo for the theme (images not mine):
Water Ecoregion Natural landscape Plant Branch

Plant Plant community Branch Natural landscape Wood
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks! Just wanted to reiterate that the above images are NOT mine, I don't think my scape will look as impressive as Watana's (he's got some other amazing looking scapes as well!)
That being said, I think it'll look pretty cool. Here's how I imagined the layout for it sitting on my desk, along with the angles it's mainly going to be viewed at.
Font Art Pattern Drawing Creative arts

Being a peninsula layout with the main viewpoint being at the front corners, I wanted to make the foreground green-ish, the "island" a forest of red, and the background would be yellow, kinda similar to Watana's. I love how he's pulled off a lush green foreground, then the red layer, and the yellow background layer. The main criticism I would have of Watana's scape is that I wish it would have more punches of red, with more Rotala Blood Red.
Here's a front-ish view of what I want:
Rectangle Font Art Slope Painting

I want that red to be STRONG and dense enough that I have a hard time seeing through the other side of the tank. We'll see if I can pull it off but the density I was able to get the Rotala Blood Red in my shrimp 30 cube makes me hopeful.

Plant Branch Wood Twig Organism

Plant Wood Gas Twig Metal

Setting up hardscape pics. I wasn't able to get nice thin straight pieces of wood to make that classic autumn forest scene but this was the only dark branchy wood I could find in LFSes nearby. I think it'll work but the twisty-ness does make putting my arms through them to do planting and maintenance a little challenging. I'm trying to build a trough in the middle with rocks and some large pieces of wood so I can stack it with soil for the stem plants. The front and sides were bare because I was still deciding if I want it to be sand. The trough later collapsed though and soil spilled out all over the tank so I guess I got a soil bottom now. Luckily I had saved half my soil.
Also, great time of year to be setting up a tank, Black Friday sales helped with some of the hardscape and equipment.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Organism Wood Art Tints and shades Trunk

The second time I filled it up. I wish I had taken pictures but the first fill-up was a disaster. I thought sitting the large-ish rock in the front on top of the large branch on the left would be OK but I underestimated the floating power of wood. A slight bump and the wood rocketed up, destroying my trough and throwing soil all over the tank in the process. Attempting to shift the soil back made it super cloudy too.
I cut a large bit of that branch to stunt its buoyancy and tied it with string to the rock. One thing to be careful of is if you have taut bits of string sticking around that are fish-sized, they can get themselves stuck in it and hurt themselves. As I'm eventually looking to get a betta, who are experts at doing dumb stuff, I tied the wood to the rock via a figure 8 pattern, minimising stray taut bits.
I also superglued some pitiful bits of moss here and there. I probably need to buy more. I have a bunch of mini Christmas moss in my other tanks but that stuff grows like a weed in CO2 and high light and I would like less maintenance please. So I'll try sticking with Pellia, some Phoenix moss, and I'll try a little bit of Christmas moss. Maybe the tannins and being low in the tank will stunt it.
Organism World Art Glass Wood

Planting some of the stems. Even after cutting that wood, it's still too strong for that rock, you can see it semi-floating in this pic. I moved over my DIY CO2 system from my 30cm cube to this tank and am seeing if moving to a more efficient Aquario Neo M diffuser can handle this tank. As you can see by that pine green in the drop checker, it doesn't, so I'll eventually need to boost it.
Plant Organism Terrestrial plant Glass Art

Today's tank. I retied the wood to the rock so that it's more secure and planted the rest of the stems I had been growing in my 30cm cube. Definitely needs more density of the Rotala Blood Red but it's starting to get there. I also planted some Ludwigia Super Red on the outsides of the trough to give it some extra red pops.
Tonight's task is to plant some Monte Carlo to weep over the rocks and wood near the front and sides. And another water change. I did a test last night and ammonia was at like 6ppm.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
After some more planting. I think I'm pretty much complete with planting now
Plant Flower Grass Terrestrial plant Aquatic plant

Flower Plant Wood Grass Twig

I salvaged a lot of the Monte Carlo carpet in my 30cm cube and all the Staurogyne Repens. The Monte Carlo is mainly stuck at the top of rocks and wood and I'm planning on letting them weep down. I probably wasted the moss on the wood if they turn out to be particularly prolific. But they're easy to move as they're not actually tied or glued to the wood.
Terrestrial plant Plant Ingredient Flowering plant Thumb

I actually just clamped some lead plant weights to the roots so I can perch them wherever. I did this as an experiment in my shrimp tank and look at how well this one is growing:
Plant Terrestrial plant Groundcover Grass Flowering plant

Ammonia is still sky high, so another 50% water change. No nitrites, maybe the BB on the filter media and the plants wasn't enough so I'm going to try adding some API Quick Start I have laying around and some shrimp baby bacteria food to help it along. Doing 50% water changes on a 60p is way more tedious than a 30cm cube. I'm purposefully keeping the water level lowered as well, just so I don't need to change out so much water.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Flower Plant Window Leaf Nature

Daily water changes on something as big as a 60p is a pain! The tank is still cycling and the aquasoil is still pumping ammonia.
Font Rectangle Terrestrial plant Paper Advertising

I'm finding all sorts of conflicting info on cycling a tank based on my specific circumstances.
  • On my first tank, I did a dark start for 2 weeks before planting, that was easy and great.
  • On my second tank, I seeded with filter media from the original tank and didn't use much aquasoil. That tank cycled in something like a week, maybe less. I couldn't do a dark start for that tank because I had moss attached to the hardscape, so I had the moss and a decent plant load from the start

On this tank, I have a similar situation with the moss blocking me from dark starting but I think I didn't have enough filter media to seed. I've been trying not to use media from my first tank because that might have nasties that killed my bettas in it still (I did use plants from it so might be a moot point). I can't touch my shrimp tank too much because those guys are sensitive. I think I already screwed up the cycle by taking some filter media already.
So it's just daily tests that tell me I need to do daily water changes and throwing API Quick Start. I read some advice online that says that I need to chuck KH into the water to buffer the pH above 6.8, otherwise the ammonia becomes unusable ammonium. That seems like it'll quickly exhaust my soil's buffering. I'm trying to use mostly RO water this time around to avoid that. But then the ADA recipe just says: use PowerSand and Bacter powder with your soil, daily water change for 1 week, then slowly back off. I've been doing daily 40-50% water changes for about 2 weeks and it's still at 2.0-4.0 ppm. No nitrites. Just a smidge of nitrates.
At least most of the plants seem to be doing OK. Except for the Staurogyne, about half of them just melted their leaves, but that's kind of expected of that plant. The Rotala seems to be growing and I've been adding more trimmings from the shrimp tank, it's almost at maximum density in that middle part already. The handful of snails seem to mostly be doing OK aside from some hitchhiker baby snails. I'm not in any real hurry to add fish or shrimp, I'd just like to be able to take some time off doing frequent water changes someday.

As far as the look is going, I think I need another tall branch in the centre. As the Rotala and Ludwigia are growing, I'm digging that contrasting black and red look, but there's not enough black and a giant mass of red in the middle. The issue is going to be weighing down a tall branch like that with something that won't take up too much space in the trough and won't exhaust my aquasoil.
 

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View attachment 1049207
Daily water changes on something as big as a 60p is a pain! The tank is still cycling and the aquasoil is still pumping ammonia.
View attachment 1049208
I'm finding all sorts of conflicting info on cycling a tank based on my specific circumstances.
  • On my first tank, I did a dark start for 2 weeks before planting, that was easy and great.
  • On my second tank, I seeded with filter media from the original tank and didn't use much aquasoil. That tank cycled in something like a week, maybe less. I couldn't do a dark start for that tank because I had moss attached to the hardscape, so I had the moss and a decent plant load from the start

On this tank, I have a similar situation with the moss blocking me from dark starting but I think I didn't have enough filter media to seed. I've been trying not to use media from my first tank because that might have nasties that killed my bettas in it still (I did use plants from it so might be a moot point). I can't touch my shrimp tank too much because those guys are sensitive. I think I already screwed up the cycle by taking some filter media already.
So it's just daily tests that tell me I need to do daily water changes and throwing API Quick Start. I read some advice online that says that I need to chuck KH into the water to buffer the pH above 6.8, otherwise the ammonia becomes unusable ammonium. That seems like it'll quickly exhaust my soil's buffering. I'm trying to use mostly RO water this time around to avoid that. But then the ADA recipe just says: use PowerSand and Bacter powder with your soil, daily water change for 1 week, then slowly back off. I've been doing daily 40-50% water changes for about 2 weeks and it's still at 2.0-4.0 ppm. No nitrites. Just a smidge of nitrates.
At least most of the plants seem to be doing OK. Except for the Staurogyne, about half of them just melted their leaves, but that's kind of expected of that plant. The Rotala seems to be growing and I've been adding more trimmings from the shrimp tank, it's almost at maximum density in that middle part already. The handful of snails seem to mostly be doing OK aside from some hitchhiker baby snails. I'm not in any real hurry to add fish or shrimp, I'd just like to be able to take some time off doing frequent water changes someday.

As far as the look is going, I think I need another tall branch in the centre. As the Rotala and Ludwigia are growing, I'm digging that contrasting black and red look, but there's not enough black and a giant mass of red in the middle. The issue is going to be weighing down a tall branch like that with something that won't take up too much space in the trough and won't exhaust my aquasoil.
Please ignore all advice saying you can't cycle a tank at 6.8 ph. In fact, you may wish to make note of where that information is coming from and ignore everything else they have to say as well.

There are probably dozens to hundreds of tanks on this site (counting old threads) that have a ph below 7 and yet they are all cycled.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Please ignore all advice saying you can't cycle a tank at 6.8 ph. In fact, you may wish to make note of where that information is coming from and ignore everything else they have to say as well.

There are probably dozens to hundreds of tanks on this site (counting old threads) that have a ph below 7 and yet they are all cycled.
Glad to hear that, thanks for the confirmation! With the aquasoil, RO water (remineralised with Seachem Equilibrium), CO2 injection, and wood hardscape, it's already below 6 so getting it to up to 7 will be a tall order.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
How are you doing your water changes, geraldk? Do you use a pump to help you get the water in?
I'm just using a length of plain old aquarium piping. Suck water to prime it, use gravity to dump it into a bucket. I live in a small apartment with only small buckets so I need to fill and dump about 3 buckets of water into the toilet, then refill the tank with water from my RO container. One of the buckets I chuck back in I remineralise with Seachem Equilibrium. That pretty much empties my 25L RO container so I need to refill that from my small RO filter for about 1.5 hours. Rinse and repeat every day. I also only keep the tank 3/4 filled atm so I can save some water.

I'm probably being overly careful but I live in the city and it's been raining this week, I've had an LFS warn me that they chuck extra chloramines into the tap water to make sure it's clean when it rains. Sometimes I don't have enough RO water so I throw in a bucket of over-Primed tap water. Once this is all set up, I'm hoping this tank becomes more stable and less maintenance in the long run vs my 5-gallon, that needed a 50% water change every week.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
That's a good idea. There's an old Aquarium Co-op YouTube video where he uses a powerhead and a long pipe to power water in and out of his tanks. Maybe I could forego my buckets and just power pump it straight into the toilet/sink and then from the RO container up to the tank. 🤔
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Plant Terrestrial plant Grass Wood Twig

Ok, I think I'm on the tail end of cycling now. I think the tank cycling was just a little slower than I'm used to, it took roughly 3 weeks for me to see nitrates. I think I saw a blip of nitrites for like 1 day? And then back to zero. At the moment, it's around 10-20ppm of nitrates and the tank is just spewing biofilm on the water surface. I've swapped the filter output to be just through the pipe instead of using the spray bar, I think it's helped flow and biofilm breakup. That means I might be able to upgrade to lily pipes with a skimmer in the future, woo!

My pH is a little worrying though, my API Master Test Kit can't even read it, it's so low. The Seachem pH Alert says it's somewhere around 5.6-5.8. I swapped the wood wall on one of the sides for some lava rocks to try and eke up the pH a little (also I think it looks better, more gradient). I don't plan on adding fish for another 3 weeks so I still have time to figure it out. The snails I added into the tank do not appreciate it, a few have passed away with shells that are practically falling apart so I'm now trying to feed them stuff with calcium in it.
All the red stems are just blowing up but are a bit green, so I've started stepping up my light intensity, it's currently at around 50%, 8 hours a day. Some of the Monte Carlo that was a bit shaded has started to melt, so definitely need more light. As far as fertilisers, I've only been dosing Flourish twice a week, will probably wait another month before I switch to the all-in-one fert.
 

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My pH is a little worrying though, my API Master Test Kit can't even read it, it's so low. The Seachem pH Alert says it's somewhere around 5.6-5.8. I swapped the wood wall on one of the sides for some lava rocks to try and eke up the pH a little (also I think it looks better, more gradient). I don't plan on adding fish for another 3 weeks so I still have time to figure it out.
This is normal for ADA Aqua Soil Amazonia products. You're not going to be able to alter pH without exhausting your substrate and shouldn't bother trying. Don't go chasing parameters.

Which specific fish do you plan to keep? pH is likely not going to matter much.

I am assuming kH is 0 or near there? What's your gH?
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
This is normal for ADA Aqua Soil Amazonia products. You're not going to be able to alter pH without exhausting your substrate and shouldn't bother trying. Don't go chasing parameters.

Which specific fish do you plan to keep? pH is likely not going to matter much.

I am assuming kH is 0 or near there? What's your gH?
Yep! I got some good advice in another forum that I shouldn't even bother measuring pH with aquasoil and CO2, they make everything so wonky. I have 0dKH and about 6dGH. I'm only using RO water that's been remineralised with Seachem Equilibrium. Looking to eventually house a giant betta and maybe a small group of 4-5 Corydoras. A few local breeders have bronze and albinos available
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
This tank got really overgrown!
Before:
Plant Flower Botany Vegetation Grass


After:
Plant Plant community Flower Terrestrial plant Organism


It was mainly the Rotalas and Ludwigias. I replanted the Ludwigia tops around the edges, it gives nice bright red pops. The Rotala trimmings I'm giving away to a local hobbyist, I was quite surprised at how much I was able to harvest. I'm not used to the growing power of a tank this large! Maybe I can start selling my trimmings in the future. The stems were growing so big, it was shading the plants on the bottom, hopefully those guys can perk up now. I've pumped my light from 60%/6 hours a day to 70%/7 hours a day, let's see how that goes.

Still waiting for bettas to come in stock in the online shop, just gotta be patient. Going on holidays in a few days, after I come back, might start looking at getting a small school of corydoras. I'm starting to break down some of my other tanks and moving their shrimp and snail inhabitants here. I have 3 cherry shrimp which seem to just do laps of the outside part every now and then, it's nice to have moving inhabitants. Red shrimp and red plants is probably not the best combo, but gotta put my culls somewhere. And the parameters of this tank can handle caridina shrimp as well, if I can stop accidentally killing them in my shrimp tank.
 
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