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UNS 90U - 21 gallon low-boy
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi all,

I'm a long-time enthusiast but I've rarely done tank journals. Given the purpose of my latest build, I figured it might help someone if I documented this one. I will also be needing advice and counsel, so it should work well.

Purpose and Name

This is not a display tank. It's a bit of a Frankenstein setup intended to test out some concepts and study the growth of certain plant species. I also wanted to keep the costs involved down and purchase only equipment that those new to the hobby would likely be purchasing because of easy availability.

I'm also after simplicity and ease of maintenance. By this I don't mean low-tech. I mean relatively easy to maintain balancing technology with keeping things simple.

Lastly, the name is an homage to my wife who has patiently put up with my [strike]obsession[/strike] passion for so many years.

Tank Specs

The tank is an Aqueon 29 gallon purchased from Petco (yes, I know, don't hate me) on the $1 per gallon sale. The light is an Amazon purchased T5HO with 4x24 watt bulbs (Giesemann). The sump is a 20 gallon long purchased from the same Petco. The stand is the metal stand for the 40 gallon breeder. I wanted to have room on one side of the aquarium to hold items.

Updated Full Tank Shot

 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
DIY Power Sand

So, one of the concepts that I'm testing is using a DIY Power Sand underlayer. This is topped with an inert substrate (Turface).

It's been my experience that a richer substrate will result in better plant growth over the long-term. Of course, this assumes you are not an aquascaper and planning on re-doing your scape often.

Disclaimer: You can have a wonderful, healthy planted aquarium without a rich substrate. My comments are simply based on my experiences and opinions. I don't mean to debate rich versus inert substrates as a means to success. You can be successful with both.

I have tried soil, ADA Power Sand, laterite, MTS, etc. The best success for me has been with ADA's Power Sand as I think it balances a richer substrate without the potential downsides of soil. MTS is good but too much work for me. Therefore, over the years I've been perfecting a DIY Power Sand with the objectives of:

  1. Providing a good environment for the ecosystem in the substrate
  2. Nutrient re-cycling
  3. Low mess
  4. Low staining of the water column
  5. Low risk of causing algae

This is my formula #7:





The tank started just fine without a hint of tannins staining the water column. The plants seem to have had a good start even with me messing up like a rookie with the water column ferts the first few weeks.

Day 1:



Week 3 close up:

 

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This is looking great.
Nice first 3 weeks growth spurt and the full tank shot is very colourful.
For being a test tank, this looks wonderful.

So what is in substrate formula #7?
 

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UNS 90U - 21 gallon low-boy
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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
This is looking great.
Nice first 3 weeks growth spurt and the full tank shot is very colourful.
For being a test tank, this looks wonderful.

So what is in substrate formula #7?
Thanks for the kind words, Janci. It's a mix of pumice, peat, earthworm castings, greensand, charcoal, rooting bacteria/hormones and tourmaline powder.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Pre-storm and just before hitting week 4 on September 3rd. Brought down KH to 4 and R. wallichii seems to be coloring up and I see slight growth. R. macranda's growth has restarted and it's coloring up. M. mattogrosense seems to be only slightly better but not doing well.

Will be dropping KH to 1-2 today. Let's see what happens. Of course, Dorian may also be a variable to deal with...

 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Thanks! I purchased the ATI but it was DOA. I replaced with the Giesemann Super Purple. At the moment, I’m all Giesemann - Tropic x 1, Super Flora x 2 and the Super Purple.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·


Decided to use the spreadsheet going around now. Let's see how this goes. I think the variable is whether my doser is actually delivering 20 ml per day.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
So I figured I would give an update on what I'm dealing with in the hopes that someone learns from my experiences.

I added Rosy Barbs to this tank as my wife's name is Rosie. I didn't go back to check if they are known to be plant eaters. Well, you guessed it, they are not only plant eaters, they are plant destroyers, especially stems. Mistake #1.

I then left them in the tank too long. I would pick out a few stems every night that had been cut down by the barbs. A stem or two, what's the big deal. A couple of stems became four then four became eight and then entire bunches of stems were floating when I got home at night.

I resolved to remove the barbs from the aquarium which proved to be no easy feat. Those fish are fast. However, in the end, they found their way back to the LFS but the damage to the plants was done. Growth was definitely stunted and decaying matter that hadn't made it up to float was decaying at the substrate level. Dissolved organic carbon was going up in the water column. Not good. Mistake #2.

I was too busy to spend the time to vacuum the substrate during a couple of water changes. Although I changed 70%+ of the water, if you don't clean up what is causing the DOC, you only postponed the inevitable by dilution. Mistake #3.

A trip to the northeast to take my daughter up to school added to the issues. I have a Nest thermostat that does a wonderful job at trying to save me money. When it senses we are away from the house, it keeps the air in the house at 80F. This meant that the tank water would creep up into the mid 80F during the day when the lights were on. Not good. What happens when temps go up? Oxygen goes down. Not good.

Now my Apex controller alerted me to the increased temperatures. It worked. However, as I was only going to be a few days, and there were no fish in the aquarium, I figured it would be OK. Why cool the house when no one was home? Save a little money! And, so, the tank, already in an injured state because of the beating the plants took and the increasing DOC, sat for 3-4 days in 82-84F temps. Mistake #4.

When I got back home, the temps returned down to the normal low 70s. However, I saw what I should have known would be there, cyanobacteria in spots. You may know it as blue-green algae (BGA). You see, I know BGA is a risk in a new aquarium where a) the plants are not growing well, b) DOC is high, and c) oxygen is low. I've been here before. I didn't panic.

I quickly took evasive measures by correcting all of the issues. Quick water change with vacuum, increased ferts to get the plants going again, increase circulation with a pump and add granulated activated charcoal to soak up the DOC that remains in the tank. This is my standard protocol that I've used for many years to deal with BGA. And, typically, because I act before it has had a chance to "settle in", it works. I let it go for 2 weeks. Mistake #5.

Unfortunately, this time, I was too late. It had taken a solid hold and my evasive measures spurred it to grow even more.

Now, as I have been through this many times, I'm not panicked. More frustrated with myself, really. I know exactly why I have a bad case of BGA/Cyano. There is no mystery. It's more of a lesson for me - you are never too old or experienced to not make the same newbie mistakes. You need to pay attention and be proactive with a planted aquarium. This is especially true with the high-energy tanks full of delicate stem plants.

Well, I hope the above helps someone. I'm on day 4 of an erythromycin treatment. It's my preferred method. I remove the biological blocks I use in the sump to preserve the nitrifying bacteria. So far, the tank still looks pretty ugly but at least the plants are growing wild. No trimming during this time. Nothing that can impede plant growth.

It'll be a month before things look good again. A lot of work and frustration. I regret not just doing the simple things that would have avoided this.

Planted aquariums teaching the importance of diligence and of the little things...
 

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That is not so good news.
But a good reminder for us to keep up with maintenance and not waiting for that other day...
 

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DIY Power Sand

So, one of the concepts that I'm testing is using a DIY Power Sand underlayer. This is topped with an inert substrate (Turface).

It's been my experience that a richer substrate will result in better plant growth over the long-term. Of course, this assumes you are not an aquascaper and planning on re-doing your scape often.


I have tried soil, ADA Power Sand, laterite, MTS, etc. The best success for me has been with ADA's Power Sand as I think it balances a richer substrate without the potential downsides of soil. MTS is good but too much work for me. Therefore, over the years I've been perfecting a DIY Power Sand with the objectives of:

  1. Providing a good environment for the ecosystem in the substrate
  2. Nutrient re-cycling
  3. Low mess
  4. Low staining of the water column
  5. Low risk of causing algae

This is my formula #7:





The tank started just fine without a hint of tannins staining the water column. The plants seem to have had a good start even with me messing up like a rookie with the water column ferts the first few weeks.
Apologies if I missed it, but what was your DIY PowerSand recipe? I saw the pics, but no captions describing what the ingredients were?

Enquiring minds......
 

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Thanks for the kind words, Janci. It's a mix of pumice, peat, earthworm castings, greensand, charcoal, rooting bacteria/hormones and tourmaline powder.
Post #5 gave us the ingredients, but I too would like to hear more about it. Being called recipe #7 leads me to think it's evolved quite a bit!
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Hi, how is the tank going?
Hi Janci, thanks for asking.

The tank is going "OK" but certainly not where I would like. The results of the instability caused by numerous errors stated above are still being felt. Growth of the plants is not where I want it and algae, particularly BGA, continues to be a pain.

To be fair, I have been traveling so doing the more frequent water changes and consistent/frequent fertilizer additions that I would normally do to fix things has been impossible. I must admit that the auto-dosing that I set up is proving less than ideal. I haven't been able to dial it in yet to equal my manual dosing.

Always more to tweak and fine tune!

Art

Bump:
Post #5 gave us the ingredients, but I too would like to hear more about it. Being called recipe #7 leads me to think it's evolved quite a bit!
Thanks. Yes, all of the ingredients are listed up in post #5.

I call it #7 because it's the 7th version of the formulation using these ingredients. I've been testing different percentages of each ingredient based on observations. So far, this mix is proving to be very good at the start with no water tinting or spikes in ammonia. I suspect it will do well longer term as well but that is yet to be seen. The plants that I've uprooted so far have shown very good growth and root structure telling me that the substrate environment seems to be good.

I am trying to see if it good be a source of my persistent BGA that I'm experiencing with this tank. I can't imagine it because I do boil everything before using and I've gone through a round of erythromycin which, theoretically, should have taken any bacteria out.

Anyway, still testing. Thanks for asking.
 
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