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DJC - New Tank Journal

4425 Views 44 Replies 8 Participants Last post by  Mach5
A bit of background on my fish tank experience. As a kid we always had some kind of tank growing up. Mostly 5-20 gal. Generally cycled and cleaned out the tanks every few months, didn't keep live plants, and most of the time the fish lasted less than a year.

As an adult, my kid got a comet goldfish at a state fair. We were visiting from out of state and I never thought the fish would live (it was in a tiny plastic carrier). When it survived a week, we got a bowl and put him in there. Eventually I got tired of changing his water every few days, so I bought a 10 gal aquarium and put him in that. I eventually got an Anubias Nana and something else because I liked the idea of natural plants in an aquarium. That fish lived about 3 years until my daughter insisted on buying him a "friend" and we put a pleco in the tank and within a week both were dead. After that I cleaned and reset the tank and put neons in there, but they died, too. After a few other attempts I decided the tank was cursed and I wouldn't buy any more fish for it. But, then my older daughter and I got the idea to "fish" some mosquito fish out of a local culvert drain. We brought home about 30 and I put some java moss and a new Anubias plant in there and we were "off to the races." Those fish slowly died off over the first year or so until I got down to about 4, then eventually 3 of the remaining 4 died off until I was left with one. That fish seemed to do fine in the tank even after the java moss was removed. I have kept that fish and tank pretty much under control (save the constant battle against algae) for 3 years (unfortunately the last fish passed last night).

That 10 gal just had a single fluorescent light, was kept on a dark shelf, and had a timer to cycle the light so that it got daylight for about 8-ish hours. The Anubias has survived but hasn't grown much. When I last pulled it out I discovered it had a huge long root. The guy as the LFS says that means it was nitrogen-starved. The substrate was just cheap fish-store small blue gravel and I didn't change water or clean the bottom often so there was significant malm.

About 8 years ago we adopted a bearded dragon that came in a 55 gal aquarium. It was really too small for him, so I built him a home out of an old TV cabinet. That left me with a 55 gal aquarium just begging for me to do something with it. So I started researching and checked out books from the library on aquariums. That's when I discovered that Walstad method. I started reading up on the internet about it and learned bits and pieces. I decided that when I did my aquarium I was going to go for the low tech route. It seemed both less expensive and less involved than the CO2, heavy lighting route (though the latter do make for some amazingly beautiful set-ups).

About a year or so ago I got a new top frame for the 55 gal (heat lamp damaged the old one) and put it in the back yard on the cement slab and filled it. I let it run for a week or so and it seemed to hold water. But then it got an algae bloom so I drained it and put it back in the garage, as I didn't have time to start the project then.
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Discussion Starter · #21 ·
I'm looking for suggestions on how to get the dirt off of the plant leaves. Whenever I brush it off it floats up and then resettles on the plants. I hoped the filter would get it but it doesn't. Sucking it off seems not to work because the suction seems not to be powerful enough for the dirt but too powerful for the plants. It's like the dirt is magnetically attracted to the leaves.
 

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Discussion Starter · #22 · (Edited)
First water test in several days:

pH 7.2
Ammonia: 4.0
Nitrites: 2.0
Nitrates: 80

A water change would likely drop Ammonia and Nitrites and raise pH.

UPDATE: While doing a 10% water change I had the PH off. I discovered several tiny little hair thin red or white worms (or wormlike critters). Googled them but I'm not sure if they are blood worms or planaria.

Also some tiny little white bug about the size of a pin head. Again, from google it appears they may be copepods.

Should be great for fish, once I get the ammonia and nitrites under control.
 

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Discussion Starter · #23 ·
Tonight I was playing with the lighting and in the process discovered several snails in the aquarium.

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Discussion Starter · #25 · (Edited)
I did a 10-20% water change about 3 days ago, mostly to control the amount of tannin in the water (the aquarium still looks very yellow).

I'm starting to see "smudges" on the glass that I think is yellow algae. I did a scrub down with my sponge/scrubber, but it didn't seem to make much difference. Some of it is water spots on the outside of the glass.

The snails are growing in number and in size. I can easily count 10 now and one is about 1/2 the size of a dime. So, they are flourishing. I thought that was a good sign because I figured they'd eat the dirt on the plant leaves and the algae on the glass. But they might be eating plant leaves as well?

The plants seem to be going fairly well. The Pennywort is reaching the surface of the water now. The Melon sword has a lot of yellow in the older leaves. The blaaheri sword seems to be doing well. Both have new growth at the base. The Anubias Nana has at least one new leaf.

Today I did a water test:

pH: 6.4-6.6
Ammonia: 0
Nitrite: 0
Nitrate: 80ppm+

So, ammonia and nitrites look good and it would seem the tank has cycled. I'm guessing that Nitrates are likely going to continue to be high because of the soil substrate?

The pH drop is significant and concerning. While it doesn't seem to bother the snails, I think it would bother some of the fish I'm considering. Remember, too, that this was after a 10% plus water change and that I'm using hard water with a lot of calcium in it that has a pH of about 7.6.

I think I've read that low pH can be a sign of a high concentration of CO2. That would be good for plants but not so much for fish. Also, that means that my filtration system is inadequate. I'm using an Aqueon QuietFlow 55/75 Power Filter that flows 400gph. Should I concern myself, or just add something to bring the pH up, or just do more water changes for a while, or???

Also, is there a simple (inexpensive) way to test for CO2 presence in the water?

I realize that I'm still early on in setting up this tank, but I didn't expect that a Walstad method tank would require this much fiddling. I tended to believe (naively? ) that it was pretty much a "set it and forget it" tank. This set up is still not even a month old, so I don't read too much into it.

More questions -- should I worry about the algae now or give the aquarium more time to settle in?

Should I trim the Pennywort and replant the trimmed stems, or leave it alone for a while?
 

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Discussion Starter · #27 ·
Added some grass and Java moss today. Pulled loose pennywort and tied it with filament and replanted it. The result is that the pennywort now doesn't look so much like it is taking over the aquarium and there is more light reaching the lower plants.

I also did a water change.









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Discussion Starter · #28 ·
Tank is really starting to look good. Lighting looks brighter in the photo than in real life. I cut the light time and trimmed down the brightness to keep algae at bay. May add some shrimp/fish soon.


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Just a thought;
* you have too little water flow going on, i.e. you will see dust, snail poo, and diatom building up.
If your braces allow, put the filter on the short side of the tank, so you have more flow through the tank, or add a small power head.
 

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Discussion Starter · #31 ·
I thought about that, but I think when I last thought about it I found out that the PH is too wide to fit the short side. It does seem like there is a lot of movement on one side of the tank and almost none on the other. The shrimp are feasting and cleaning the buildup on the leaves. I think the snails are just eating the plants, and not doing much about the algae.
 

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Discussion Starter · #32 · (Edited)
Update...I've had the shrimp for over a week now. About three days after I got them I couldn't find two, but I found what looked like remnants. Two remnants in 2 days. I assumed they had died and the others had consumed them, but the "bodies" went to just about nothing in the course of a day.

Today I was hunting for the three I had left. My wife found a couple upside down on the log branch. Turns out that all 5 were there! Yea! I was super happy about that. I'm guessing two of them molted and that's what I found.

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Discussion Starter · #34 ·
Update:

It's been a while since I last posted. All is doing well. My pennywort was doing too well. It was taking over the whole aquarium and blocking light to the other plants.

So today I did a little light rescaping. The pennywort was floating so I pulled it, trimmed and then pulled strands through openings in an aquarium rock I had. Then put the whole thing back in the aquarium. Now there is much more light reaching the bottom and the smaller plants aren't being covered. I also moved the power head to the other side, and put some unattached Java moss over the log.

The Amanos are a bit freaked out at the moment. They are all hiding around and under the log. I generally like this new look though it will take a bit of getting used to.

When I bought my two swords I planted them near each other. One took off and now it's leaves reach all the way to the water surface. The other - I think it is a banana sword? - did well for a while but all of the long stemmed parts eventually burned away. It has put out a lot of new leaves but they have stayed comparatively small and haven't grown much above the substrate. Any thoughts as to what might be going on?

Most of my longer grass like plants haven't faired too well either. Not sure why though I know at least the ones covered by the pennywort weren't getting enough light.





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I have been running a 5.5 gallon for about a month Walstad method and ran into the same issue with nitrates... Its good to see your tank doing well and everything is under control!

Bump: How many days since you set up the tank did you add shrimps?
 

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Discussion Starter · #39 ·
I think I waited over a month before adding shrimp. If you read through the thread and note the dates you'll see when I added. I started with plants right away and kept adding over time. Some will burn or die so you need to keep adding until you get a good balance. At least that's what I did. I didn't plant as heavily as some others on this forum have. I added the shrimp and then waited another month to add more fish. Also I got all the fish from the same lfs. That isn't a requirement but this particular store quarantines their fish before putting them on the floor, so presumably they're healthy and unstressed when bought. So far I've only lost one fish bought from there (a Danio).

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