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AquaTEK's 20G (75L) High Tech Planted Journal [Update: 01/09 - Algae Battle Update]

8877 Views 17 Replies 10 Participants Last post by  AquaTEK
I will provide 'jump' links to the updates (as well as videos) at the top of this first post to make it easier to find and follow the various journal entries in this thread as it grows.

Updates (Jump Links):
Post #06 pg.01 11/22 (Disaster to Awesome 20G Upgrade)
Post #14 pg.01 11/29 (Subraction/Additions + FTS w/o Equipment for Full Scape View)
Post #17 pg.02 12/03 (Macro Photos & RCS Video)

HD Video Links:
Tiger Barbs Feeding
Transition from Barbs to Cards
Red Cherry Shrimp

I finally got my ship date for BT, but it's all the way in Feb 2011. I now have a lot of free time on my hands. My father has always had aquariums ever since I was little, and just recently he started getting into planted tanks. Someone had given my father an ADA catalog (didn't know it was ADA at the time), so I picked it up and flipped through the pages. Three words... Aquatic Nature Porn. At that point I was totally hooked on aquascapes, scouring the web for photos on the subject/hobby. Since I had some time I decided to build my own aquarium, but this was my first tank so I wanted to start off with the basics to get accustomed to the science/hobby of aquarium keeping/maintenance.

I did some research on cycling/setup and fish that were hardy.
I decided to do a simple small 10 gallon with Tiger Barbs. I was aware that I may have broken the stocking/size rules. :icon_wink

First tank setup date: Early September 2010
I love Eheim + Purigen, and how the Tigers never leave a spec of food. Polish heaven.

Soon after I started to get bored and wanted to change things up a bit by starting on an aquascape project, but I realized I didn't really have much time to enjoy a full blown naturescape (at least at the magnitude that I wanted to do). I had seen some Tank Planters™ and was instantly sold on the idea and started getting to work converting my tank to planted. I loved the idea of pots and gravel for ease of scaping, especially since this was my first time dealing with plants.

Background (left to right):
Hygrophila difformis (Water Wisteria), Micromeria brownei (Creeping Charlie)

HC on the rock & driftwood

I'm thinking about giving away my Tiger Barbs and replacing them with either Cardinals or Rummies to go along with some Ghost Shrimp.

I do plan on filling in the mid ground with maybe more HC. I will also be trimming the background plants a bit to clean it up. The foreground will be left clear for the fishes.

Sadly the tank will be broken down in February of next year. However, after my 4 years are up I will come back to aquascaping with a huge bang. I can't wait to get decked out on ADA gear and do Iwagumi scapes and the like.

For now I will enjoy this 10 gallon till the end, and learn all I can.
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Great tank ! Which mode of filter are you using? Is it a 2213?
Its a good idea to give the Tiger Barbs away. That tank is too small for them and they can grow alot bigger (2") and looking at yours they look young so definiately +1 on getting some Tetras. Also what light are you using?

Yea, I knew they were gonna get to either 2-3" and require more swimming space but I loved their resiliency and color pattern. Plus this tank will have a total mileage of less than 5 months. They are definitely highly recommended from me (now that I've had time to care for them and observed them) as good first fish for those that are getting into aquarium keeping. Extremely hardy, can live in varied pH/Temp/etc water conditions, easy to transport. Of course I'd recommend a larger tank of 20 gallons or larger to other people. They put up very well with me through out my learning process and I'm glad I went with these barbs first. I know some of the small tetras can be a bit fragile/stressed when initially introduced to a new tank.

But it is time for them to go, as I want something more suiting to the backdrop. Small tetras like the cardinals to give the space an optical size boost, plus I've always wanted to see shrimp crawl around the HC.

CFL T3 6500k 26w
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I gave away my Tiger Barbs and replaced them with some Cardinals and CRS. Days went slowly by, and everything seemed fine.

Disaster Strikes!

11/20-11/21 Saturday to Sunday morning:

I flip on the tank light, feed the fish and leave for work. It was just like any other day... or so I thought. I came home and found a puddle of water on the floor. It was leaking from the bottom of the tank due to a bad silicone job (Walmart tank). The tank's water level at that time was at 75%. I got some towels to soak up the water and was planning in my head what my next step should be. I did not have a backup tank to fall back on. Those Cardinals/CRS were expensive and I was not about to let them die.

I left the towels around my tank (the leak was very slow) and decided to drive to Petco to see if they still had the 1 dollar per gallon deal, but it had already ended. It was during that time that I was thinking maybe this would be a good excuse to get a rimless ADA tank, but the problem was I needed it right away. ADG has a store/warehouse in Houston but I didn't know if they were open to public yet or if it was even open at the time. So instead of wasting anymore time I decided to go to Petsmart since their tanks are cheaper than Petco. I decided to go with a 20 gallon long since it would make no sense to get another 10. I also decided since I was there that I might as well get some planting substrate while I was at it and to make sure my new tank does not leak I bought some aquarium silicone. I knew I needed more light so I bought another light fixture (same as my old one) and a shelf to clip them both to.

I hurried on home and found that the tank's water is now at about 30-40%. I was getting a bit worried now, but I kept my calm as I set everything up for the transfer. I siliconed the bottom (outside not inside) of the tank for extra security. I carefully laid out the substrate and smoothed it out with a card. I filled it up slowly to about half way and dropped some prime in. Then I proceeded to gently put all of my plants in a bucket that I had prefilled with water. After that I started to transfer the Cardinals/CRS to the new tank. When that was done I got a cup to transfer some of the old water into the new tank. Finally I hooked up the filter to the new tank and finished filling up the tank. I let the tank settle for a bit, the Cards/CRS survived the whole stressful ordeal.

I replanted the tank but decided to change things up a bit. I left out the Wisteria because I didn't like the bushy look it gave and I didn't want them to block off any light to my ground cover. I centralized the driftwood/rock HC and put some Creeping Charlies behind it. Since I now have planting substrate I decided to break up the Glosso runners so that I can start a carpet. After that I setup the rest of the equipment and cleaned everything up. Total of 10 hours of nonstop work (4pm-2am).

I dropped in some Clarity to let it clear up. After 2 hours it was crystal clear and I stepped back to admire the work. I could not stop smiling. I stared at the tank until 6am, then went to bed.

(I don't have any photos of the disaster, but now that I think about it I wish I did)



I have some more CRS coming in early this week so I will have a new video of the 20G when they settle in.

I will do updates for the Glosso carpet as it starts to grow in. Once it becomes thick, I may think about a new rescape design.

For now I will enjoy this 10 gallon till the end, and learn all I can.
Looks like it ended a lot sooner than expected.

Life gave me lemons, so I made lemonade.


-Eheim Ecco Pro 130 (2232)
-WaterPlant CO2 System
-WaterPlant CO2 Indicator


-(2x) CFL T3 6500K 26w


-CaribSea FloraMax Midnight


-Pfertz Liquid Macro & Micro


-Micromeria brownei (Creeping Charlie)
-Hemianthus callitrichoides (Dwarf Baby Tears)
-Glossostigma elatinoides (Glosso)


-Paracheirodon axelrodi (Cardinal Tetra)
-Caridina cantonensis sp. Crystal Red (Crystal Red Shrimp)
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What camera / lens are you using?
What camera / lens are you using?
I was just wondering that. Those are some great photos.
Nice tank especially the first picture with the tigers, less is more :). You wouldn't happen to be related to anything that has to do with the aquatek store in austin would you? Also very nice picture taking, love the ripple effect from the eheim on the last pictures you took. Oh yea, l envy you because you live in houston (cough cough ada store).
Nikon D3s, 35mm f/2, 85mm f/1.8
Tokina 100mm f/2.8 Macro

The D3s saves me from not having to rely on strobes (had to use em when I had the D80 for crisp shots). Love the High ISO, Low Noise capabilities.

No relations to the aquatek store in Austin. I was actually talking to my friend the other day that if I start selling my own line of aquarium products (thinking about opening a LFS in the future) that I'd want to trademark my screenname, but then I was thinking someone may already have the name. I googled and low and behold I found that aquatek store you were talking about, as well as others (i.e. aquatek water treatment systems). I was a little bit sad when I found that out.

Most of my SN(s) are derived from my old email account tekno0o. I usually frequent automotive/tuning forums so I have names like CelicaTEK & ScionTEK, etc.

Yea I was very surprised and happy when I found out there was an ADA distributor in Houston. I haven't been, but I will definitely have to make a visit before I leave.

Some little additions/changes have been made to the tank, I'll update the journal later on in the weekend.
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Bahahaha, I was thinking the same thing. I started to read part of it, and then was more interested in the clarity and awesomness of the photos. You're tank is going to look sick once it fills in!
AWESOME shots! i am SO jealous! i have a DSLR and i dont know how to properly use it apparently lol

technically we (ADG) are not open yet, but we always welcome hobbyists to come by and pick up orders or see how things are coming along. I think you might lament leaving for 4 years!

Let me know if you want to stop by.
The waiting game is hard, I hope to see 70-80% coverage by January.

Use it in full manual and get an understanding of ISO/Aperture/Shutter Speed/Custom White Balance/Spot, Center, Matrix Light Metering. Change each setting one at a time and observe the changes and get a feel of how they all relate to each other in regards to light and exposure. Eventually you'll get to the point where you'll be able to dial in your camera to exactly how you want the scene to look.

Some tips for those that are interested.

(S) Shutter priority (you choose shutter, camera automatically sets the other parameters) is used for when you want to pan (freeze) the subject but blur the background for dramatic effect, or for when you want to soften waterfalls, movement, etc.

(A) Aperture priority (you choose aperture, camera automatically sets the other parameters) is used for when you want to either control the speed or DOF (depth of field). The wider/larger (lower f-stop number) it is the more light it lets in (faster shutter speeds) and the DOF becomes more shallow. As you raise the f-stop (getting more narrow) you let in less light (slower shutter speeds) and the DOF becomes more narrow (the fore, mid, background all starts to come into focus). This is the same concept with pinhole cameras or using your fingers to make a circle (when you look through it everything looks more in focus). The focal length of the lens actually also plays a role in DOF. The wider the lens the narrower the DOF gets whereas with longer telephotos the DOF gets shallower with respect to the same aperture for both (different focal length) lenses. There are a few more variables, but I won't get into it.

(M) Manual priority you control everything.

A tripod should be your best friend.

Forget about (P) Program [Auto] & Scene selections (if you are using consumer grade). Mainly you should be using either (A) or (M) most of the time. (S) is for special occasions/effects.

Of course you also have to think about metering, white balance (although most use auto and post process) & ISO. All of this will affect the outcome. Always use RAW whenever you can so you can get the most out of post processing.

And then there is the whole thing with external flash/strobes... I guess I'll stop here for now.

Sorry I kinda went a bit too deep there, but photography is my other passion. Sometimes I can't stop myself when it's about something I love.

@Francis Xavier
I'm already thinking about how I'm gonna miss my aquarium already! This is such an extremely addicting hobby, I wish I could build more tanks right now. I love anything that has to do with customizing/design or art in general. I'll definitely let you know when I have some free time to drop by the shop.


I took out the creeping charlies because I didn't really feel like they belonged. They started to bug me after a while. I still love the plant in general, but just not in my setting.



-18" T8 4200K 10W


-Ludwigia glandulosa (Ludwigia Peruensis)
-Nesaea pedicellata 'Golden'
-Lilaeopsis mauritiana (
Narrow Leaf Micro Sword)


-Petitella georgiae (False Rummy-Nose Tetra)
-Neocaridina heteropoda sp. Red (Red Cherry Shrimp)

I bought the 4200K T8 for the sunrise effect (backlighting). I trimmed down the
Ludwigia Peruensis & Golden to make them look like flowers, I love the red & gold colors. I planted the Narrow Leaf Micro Swords behind the wood to create a small shrimp haven. I also blocked off the NLMS from running out by placing clear plastic barriers. However I may replace the NLMS with something with a bit broader/taller leaf.


I canceled my CRS order because the vendor (name remain disclosed) I was ordering from did not ship them out in a timely fashion. I ordered them on Friday and they were suppose to be sent out Monday to be received on Tuesday. But that never happened. Instead I went to my LFS and got some RCS. They've been doing a great job cleaning up the algae and decayed matter. One of the Cherries also has eggs (but I'm not going to take any special precautions to make sure they survive or anything, not looking to breed). My two original CRS (one adult & juvie) are MIA though...

I got some Rummies because I wanted to test out the canary effect. I may thin out my Cardinal school to give more emphasis to the scape.

I noticed my plants were pearling when I shut off my filter, I guess the current was hiding/blowing it away.

The Glosso are growing quite nicely. They have spit out runners and I can see new sprouts.

Some photos of the new additions:

LP & Golden 'Flowers'

Shrimp Haven

King of the Hill

Walking the Fields


I will have a video and some macro shots posted later on.

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I loved how you reminded me of some star trekkish technology that would basically transport the inside of your 10g right into your 20g long fully intact with the way you put those plants in the center in this "After" pic!

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If you're running Co2 and ferts and have the correct lighting, you should have no problem reaching 70% coverage by January. Nice and clean set up!
DAY 12

I decided I didn't want/like the NLMS anymore and plucked them out. I will just leave the area behind the wood empty until I find something I think connects with the rest. It's a good learning experience though, eventually I'll get an idea of what I personally want to get out of my scape(s). This knowledge should translate well into my future scapes/tanks. I like to get my hands dirty and figure things out myself, learn from my mistakes and grow from it.

The RCS have been molting lately. The exoskeletons are usually gone/eaten by the next day. I kinda wish I could have snapped some photos/videos of the molting process, but I'm not about to stare at my tank for hours on end waiting for the opportunity. Maybe I'll get lucky one day. I'm addicted to shrimp now. I think for my future tanks I'll have mostly shrimp (probably majority CRS) and just one very small school of top level swimming fish. I kinda hate the low (sometimes mid) level swimming that the Cardinals & Rummies do. It's a love/hate thing though. I still love them for their colors, etc. My father has some beautiful Altums, I'd love to do a large planted tank with those one day.

The Glosso carpet is doing well so far, there are more/new runners/sprouts around the tank now. Although slowly going, it's nice to see progress here and there.

I took some macro shots and also made a new video. The video just showcases the shrimp. I did have some clips of the tetras but they were being too hyper so I rejected the footage. I'll have some proper clips of the tetras one day. Maybe I'll do a feeding one.

I think I may reinvest in some strobes (I had sold my old flash/lighting equipment to fund the D3s) so I don't have to jack up my ISO, etc.

Video Link:

Red Cherry Shrimp


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This is a copy & paste from my ASW journal. I haven't updated this one in a while so it's going to be a massive journal entry onslaught.

DAY 27

I removed the Ludwigia (the roots on the golden were so healthy and white I was tempted to just have it float around so that I could enjoy the root system, I should have took pictures of it), moved the wood over to the right a bit and went back to creeping charlies in the back. I removed the HC covered rocks and planted the HC around the empty areas of the tank. I know the glosso will eventually overrun the HC. When that time comes I will remove the HC, but for now it's just there as a place mat to fill in the empty areas. With the HC rocks out of the way the shrimp hangout is now visible. I was going to do a major rescape but I decided to keep it simple and green for the time being (I actually had some Rotala Indica for a while before the recent rescape). I trimmed down the cardinal school and got an oto. I may get some Horned Nerite Snails (the smallest of the Nerites), I like the fact that they don't easily reproduce like crazy unlike other snails. I changed my co2 (now waterplant) and heater (now hydor 200w) equipment to inline. I also changed my lamp fixtures out for some aluminum Bayco work clamp lamps to reduce light spill/leak. Time sure does go by fast, it's almost Christmas! Won't be long until I have to bid farewell to this tank.

In the video you can see one of the RCS fanning her eggs.


I'm itching to setup more tanks... but the time just isn't there, makes me sad. I already know what the first two tanks will be when I get back into it. An iwagumi (I want to try my hands at DSM HC) and a driftwood hardscape nonplanted Altum tank (I like the sterile look). Once those two are established I'll carefully layout a plan for an original naturescape design tank, hopefully I'll get some divine creative inspiration. I would also like to maybe try out a Dutch style scape and get acquainted with it's unique trimming style/technique. Once I get into something new I just can't stop thinking about it. This was the same with automotive tuning, home theater, and photography... man I need to stop getting into such expensive hobbies.

I have no regrets though, and I've learned so much with all of the hands on exposure with my tanks. The various aquarium communities has also given me a lot of knowledge and insight. It has helped me create my own systematic methodology.

I have been dosing macro/micro although I cut back a bit recently. The 20G has always been feed co2. There have been problems with diatoms lately, and some clado (from the wood) have been strangling the HC, but I've been taking steps to combating it as well as manual removal. It's slowly getting better. Despite everything though, the glosso from day one till now has never stop spitting out runners, almost like a weed. The whole tank could use a major replanting (refreshing the plants) but with my time constraints I'm just going to ride it out and do the best I can, and learn to combat it along the way. I hope to gain some profitable knowledge from all of the tribulations for future projects. As I've stated before I'm not afraid to make mistakes if it will help drill things into my head. The creeping charlies are actually doing well, it's just the lighting blows out the color in the photography. Also ever since the recent shuffle and new equipment the plants have been pearling a huge amount during the whole photoperiod everyday (although it has done it before, but in very small amounts). So if anything I do have some indication that at least some photosynthesis is going on. Before this current state I had actually got a hold of a new driftwood that I was trying out in the tank, but I ended up taking it out because I didn't like how it looked. During that time I had stirred up the substrate quite a bit releasing debris and excess nutrients into the water column, which thereafter the diatoms started to show up. I may just end up taking off the HC and do a bleach dip (or just boil it) for the wood to get rid of the clado and not worry about it too much. With the wood cleaned I may tie on some moss.

DAY 38

Well I eventually won the algae battle. I made sure not to resort to chemical warfare, as I wanted to control things manually and naturally. I removed all HC (from substrate & wood). I boiled the wood to kill the Clado, and I manually removed Clado that were on the substrate/glosso. I did aggressive glosso pruning for infected leaves. Manually removed BGA. The diatoms went away on their own as expected. I recently went back to my normal fert schedule. I will do some aggressive trimming of the creeping charlies soon (very fast growers) and propagate the stems all along the background. It's pretty cool watching the glosso grow in from day 1. I find it to be an extremely hardy carpet/foreground plant, nothing seems to knock it down. The substrate is very close to being fully covered.

DAY 50

I have had great success with using H2O2 (spot treatment) in completely eradicating BGA (None of my Flora/Fauna exhibited any problems to the treatment). I currently also dose Excel along with my normal ferts. I had some hair/brush/beard algae but my two SAE(s) have been taking care of it.

Surprisingly I've been seeing a lot of little shrimp babies swimming around and grazing under the glosso leaves, so I guess some survived being fish food or succumbing to the filter grinder.

I gave away my rummies and my creeping charlies as well.

Current fauna stock:

(15x) Cardinals
(20+) RCS (most are living in the hollow driftwood)
(2x) Oto
(2x) SAE

Equipment upgrades:

Milwaukee Ma957 Co2 Regulator
2.5lbs Co2 Cylinder

I downgraded my lighting from 26w cfl(s) to 14w cfl(s)

This has been a very informative journey so far, and much has been learned. But I am defiantly going to go the Dry Start route next time for my carpet. I can't wait to do my first serious planned out naturescape in the future.

Glosso carpet is currently ~90% coverage.

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