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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Ok! I think it's about time I started to get this journal going. If you're looking for photos of froggies and shrimp, it'll be a week or two before the tank is ready for them. ;)

So I decided one little Spec 2g on my desk at work just wasn't enough, and I wanted ADFs and shrimps. So after much consideration of various rimless tanks, cubes and the space itself, I decided to stick with the well-proven design of the Fluval Spec tanks, but in the larger 5 gallon size, for more room for scaping and critters!

This tank needs to be fairly low maintenance, as I hate staying after hours to do lots of work on my tanks, just to have to go home and do more maintenance there! Probably sticking with low tech. MAYBE Excel if I have to (but I hope not) but I'd rather avoid co2 in a tank with delicate critters.

Plan is for simple plants and mosses, and possibly some Hydrocotyle Japan if it works well with the tank. Maybe some Glosso? Going to be tough to carpet without co2, so that probably won't happen, but if I can keep a nice looking patch going, it's worth a shot. I unexpectedly ended up with a bunch of Glosso for $2 at a local club auction, so if it works out, great, if not, no big loss.

I started out by picking up a Spec V (and a requisite stick-on thermometer). I had a spare Cobalt NeoTherm 50w heater at home (from before I upgraded to inline heating on my bigger tank) which fits perfectly in the pump chamber for a gear-free tank, and a leftover bag of Activ-Flora, which is my favorite substrate. It's a bit cloudy when you first flood it, but it clears up reasonably quickly, especially with regular water changes.

Jan 26, 2015


Next step, of course, is to get the tank cycled. Put the substrate in. Put the sponge in with the ceramic bio-media in the bottom compartment. Throw away, or shove the charcoal into a drawer and forget about it... it's not needed. Then flood that sucker! (Using water treated with Prime, of course... accept no substitute!). Then in goes a bottle of Tetra SafeStart, and some fish food and a couple of "disposable" neon tetras from my main tank to provide an ammonia source. Pick up some simple low light plants (Java Fern and Anubias) from PetSmart, just so it doesn't look like crap on my work desk. They're just jammed into the substrate for now, but I'll get them properly tied onto stuff as we get closer to the final setup.

Jan 28, 2015


I experimented with a nice piece of Mopani from an old tank, but it wasn't nearly as striking as I want this tank to be, so that was short-lived. You can see the tank in it's full setting, here, though, along with my 2 gal Spec betta tank. (and part of my messy desk)

Jan 30, 2015


Over the weekend, I made the trek to the best planted tank store in the greater Los Angeles area, Nature Aquarium, to find a decent piece of wood for my hardscape, and found a lovely piece of spiderwood that should work nicely with my plans. It spent a night or two in a 5 gallon bucket at home, but it was still floaty, and I'm sure it will be a little while longer before the tank is cycled, but a spare rock from an old scape kept it pinned down until it's saturated and stays put.

Feb 2, 2015


Naturally, the stock LED light on the Spec V is pretty low powered. I want something with more flexibility. And as it happens, I have a spare Arduino controller for Sat+ lights, so I can have things as fancy as I want. :D I can dim it, of course, if it's too much light, so fully controllable, and the 18" Current USA Sat+ fits like a dream! You can see the difference in the lighting between the stock light and the Sat+.

Feb 3, 2015



I had hoped that the tank would be cycled sooner rather than later (patient? me? not so much!) so I tested the water yesterday. Unfortunately, no... ammonia is still measuring .25. Getting closer, I'm sure, but no more critters yet. It's been a whopping week and a half, so I really shouldn't be surprised.

The good news is the spiderwood soaked up water nice and quick, and already stays put! (albeit barely) So last night I decided to start off with adding mosses to the tank, and tied some Mini Fissidens to the center of the branch, as the first "permanent" scaping for this setup. The spiderwood is tied to a flat piece of slate with fishing line, both to keep it down, and give a little cave-like area for shrimp and/or ADFs to hide.

2/5/2015


That brings me current. In the next couple of days, I'll add some Mini Christmas Tree Moss along some of the longer legs next, and leave a few bare. Then I have to figure out what I want to do with larger plants (definitely keeping Anubias in here, and probably some Java fern, although I might change my mind and rotate those into another tank. I'm going to hate the sight of fishing line by the time this is all done...

I stuck the rock on the front corner for now, in case I need it again, but I doubt I'm going to keep it in here.

I probably have at least another week to go on the cycle before shrimp can come in (and the Neons can go back home). The shrimp (red cherries) at home seem perfectly happy in my hospital tank I threw together for them in the interim, with a clump of moss and a big anubias from my main tank, so they're fine for now, but I sure would like something more interesting than a pair of Neons to look at, here at the office! Once this tank is cycled and the shrimp are in for a week and all seems well, I'll pick up a pair of ADFs. Then both the real work begins, and the fun really begins...

Oh! I left out one important mod: Since this is tank is for small shrimp, the intakes (both the skimmer at the top and the emergency bypass farther down) are a big concern for anyone using a Spec-series tank. So I simply bought a small 2"x4" piece of fine Stainless Steel mesh (316 stainless, so truly won't rust) for the top overflow, and a 2x2" piece for the lower one. The lower one will be siliconed in place, and the upper one simply bends over and the filter sponge holds it in place beautifully. Works perfectly, costs little! Kudos to h4n (no longer on his board) at Han Aquatics for the excellent SS mesh, and to jrh in the Spec Mod thread for the simple yet brilliant idea. :)

 

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I'm excited to follow you're setup! I just got my fluval 5, but it is still sitting empty as of yet. I'm hoping to get started on it this weekend but the process for me is slow considering aquatic stores are few and far between here in good ol' Montana. To get anything descent like substrate that isn't gravel from petco I have to order online and wait for what seems like years! :tongue:
Love the light upgrade btw! It looks slick!
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Have you considered the black blasting sand? Black Diamond, Black Beauty, and other similar brands) I would have considered it for my tank, but surprisingly, there isn't any anywhere nearby me, and I already had the Activ-Flora. Pool sand would work, too, of course, but that's a very different look. All should be readily available even in more rural locations.

As soon as you get the tank filled and substrate put in, you can get the process of cycling started. :)

My plants came from PetSmart (ok, not the mosses, but the Java fern and Anubias did), as did the tank, stick-on thermometer (I'll add another at some point but the termostat on this heater is known to be quite reliable so I just need a general indicator if something is way out of whack), and Tetra SafeStart. So chain stores are a perfectly viable way to get a tank like this started, at least. :) So get your substrate and get started! :D

And of course, once the painfully slow process of cycling has started, you have plenty of time to kill, slowly locating and collecting other bits. :(

BTW, I didn't mention in my OP that I always toss the charcoal packet. It's entirely unnecessary for anything other than trying to remove medication. All you need is the sponge and the ceramic bio-media. I leave the top compartment empty.
 

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I've got a tank with a couple plants in it already (anubis, moss ball, and some other petco purchase) that are on standby waiting to be moved over. But the variety isn't very great beyond that in store.

I'd love to start this tank off with some aqua soil or some eco complete (I think I got the names right? keep mixing them up ha) For now I'm only doing a low tech so I figured my plants could use any extra boost I give them. We'll see how far my patience extends before I give up and just go with something like what you suggested. I was considering possibly experimenting with a dry start for moss... but I'm not sure I have the patience for that :hihi:

Great to know about the charcoal packet! I missed that somehow, I've been wondering what use that actually provides, apparently not much ha.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Aqua Soil is spendy ADA dirt, essentially. Great for plants. But with any inert substrate (which includes regular aquarium gravel, any sort of sand, Activ-Flora, and Eco-Complete), all you do is add some root tabs and it gives the plants the fertilizers they need.

You don't need variety to start the cycle, is the main point, though. What you have is fine, just add substrate, and get the clock running on the cycling process. Everything else can be fine tuned later. :)

Charcoal absorbs stuff. Which is great, unless you WANT stuff in the water column (ferts, meds, etc.). Also, it wears out, and then starts releasing all that stuff, so you have to replace it regularly. Turns out it's pretty rare that you need to absorb the stuff that charcoal absorbs, if your tank is otherwise balanced nicely. It's the exception rather than the rule, to use charcoal anymore, among people who are up with the latest procedures. There are reasons to use it, of course, but nothing that the average person setting up a planted tank needs.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 · (Edited)
Last night I started tying on the Christmas Tree Moss. It should look nice once it gets established. I'll add some more, too, probably on the thick horizontal bit going to the right. (it started getting late last night and I needed to get home)

2/6/2015


Picked up a few more small plants (Anubias and Java ferns) which will mostly go to other tanks, but it's convenient (and pretty) to cram them in here for the moment.

2/6/2015


I've definitely decided on some Hydrocotyle Japan for this tank, but it's "busy" right now, providing a chill space for my shrimps to hang out in the otherwise bare hospital tank (well, other than that Anubias, snagged from my main tank), until this new tank finishes cycling. :)



The light timer is working well, as intended. Very pleased with how the whole thing is coming together! Now if only the cycle would finish... come'on bacteria, get to work! ;)
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Well, good-ish news, and bad-ish news.

Good news is I tested the water this morning, and after Friday evening's water change, and after the weekend, the ammonia levels have dropped a little bit further. Now reading approx .125 ppm (color is halfway between .25 ppm and 0 ppm). I think later this week, the cycle should be done. FINALLY!!! :D



BUT, the bad(ish) news is over the weekend there was a bacteria bloom of some sort. The water is all hazy and some parts of the spiderwood are showing the fuzzy white gunk that so often comes in with new wood. Not a big problem, since that's all pretty normal in a new setup, but it could delay bringing the shrimp in: I think I want the white fuzz to be gone or mostly gone before I bring in the shrimp. (Unless, does anyone know if the shrimp actually like to eat that stuff?)



Regardless, this stuff generally clears up on it's own in a week, maybe less, so perhaps there is still a chance I can get the shrimp in the tank later this week? Only issue with that is I'd like to be with the tank on a daily basis to monitor how well things are going. If I dump in all the shrimp on Friday afternoon, I won't see them again until Monday, so if anything is going wrong, there is zero chance for be to take any emergency remedial action.

Tough call. I guess I'll have to wait until later this week to see how everything goes. I'll do a water change today to help clear out the hazy bacterial bloom, and monitor ammonia levels daily to see if they drop. Perhaps if we hit zero by Wednesday, and the white fluff is gone (or if someone can tell me whether it's an issue for cherry shrimp or not), I can introduce the shrimp to the tank on Thursday, so I have at least a day or two to monitor things before I leave the office for the weekend.

Oh, the one other timing issue would be that I really wanted to tie on some more Christmas moss before setting the wood in the "final" position, since it's going to be a lot trickier to pull it out once there are lots of itty bitty shrimp zooming around and crawling all over it. I don't think I want to do that while the white gunk is still on the wood. :(
 

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Great new with your ammonia! I need to go pick up some testing supplies, I won't have any flora in there for a little while so I'm not too worried about it at the time being. Bummer about the bacteria bloom but at least it's easily fixable!

I got the back of my tank painted, found some substrate and added some gravel from my existing tank along with a small amount of bacteria starter and my 2 plants. I found some eco complete for pretty cheap so I went with that over painted gravel :) I've just got to get some root tabs in there and can start adding more plants!

I'll be crossing my fingers that your bloom clears up fast so your shrimp can be introduced to their new home!
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Thanks! :)

Hmm. Background. I should think about whether I want to put a background on this one, I guess. I put black backgrounds on all of my tanks, usually. Of course, my Spec 2g is oriented with the black filter wall to the rear, so no issue, but you're right: The Spec V, since it sits sideways, would probably look better with a nice black background like my other tanks. Easy enough to lift this tank, even full, so that's good! I use black contact paper so it's really simple to do (and remove), even when it's full. (at least for small tanks like this that can be lifted when full, as compared to bigger tanks)
 

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Looks great so far! When I get my Spec V, I'm going to use it as a sort of desk divider, with the filter end facing the wall. That way, I'll have a good view from all three open sides of the tank. The black contact paper is a brilliant idea, though!
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Wonderfully done, Mizliz, that looks great!

Probably a somewhat superior finish to the contact paper (unless you get it on just right), but the contact paper is definitely faster and easier, no doubt about that.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Thanks! I still think the contact paper is a brilliant way to go!

Any progress with the bac bloom?
The wood's white blight continues to spread actually, but the good news is my ammonia is down to zero, with zero nitrites and 10 ppm nitrates.

Also, it was confirmed to me in another thread that the white wood gunk is not harmful to the shrimp, in fact, they'll eat the stuff. :D

This means that I MAY bring the shrimp to work tomorrow and move them into the main tank!

Actually, no, I'll give it one more day to be sure. And while I'm at it, I'll finish up with the scaping. I need to pull some of the anubias for my other tank, and attach the ones that are staying to the wood or to rocks, and the java fern is moving to another tank, and I may want to plant some glosso and Hydrocotyle Japan before I start adding tiny critters that are hard to plant around!

So I'll be staying late at the office tomorrow, I'd bet. Then hopefully I can get the shrimp in on Thursday, if all goes well! :D
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Stayed late to prep stuff for tomorrow. :)

Glosso is in. I might play with the overly-sharp dividing line there, or I may let it naturally spread. Not even sure if it's going to take, at this point, and it wasn't the healthiest Glosso I've ever planted, so I guess we'll see! Also: I hate Glosso. Next time I consider adding Glosso to a tank, even if it's free, someone smack me. Planting that stuff is hell.

It's not especially visible in the photo, but I added more mini Christmas moss to the wood, to the right of center.

The Anubias on the right is now tied to the wood. I'll have to evaluate that placement as things grow in, though... I'm not sure I like what it does to the flow. (visually, that is) Good thing they're easy to move!

The Java fern on the left is now properly tied off to a chunk of lava rock. The Anubias on the left is just stuck into the substrate again, because apparently I'm out of good appropriate rocks. :/ The rest of the Anubias and Java ferns have been moved into my Betta tank, as planned.



So tomorrow I'll bring in the Hydrocotyle Japan, and get that planted. Assuming the WQ is still good, the shrimp can go in Thursday!

Umm. Now I have to decide where to put the HJ. Opinions? The plan was sort of along the edge of the Glosso, from the border to the left, stopping before the center of the wood so it's not completely hidden behind a field of HJ. Now I'm wondering if that was a good idea. Maybe I need to figure out a way to raise the wood a bit higher by mounding the substrate under it? Or by rising the substrate level a few inches on the back left, sloping down to the Glosso. That might get the wood higher.

Indecision strikes! :D
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
I went ahead and added substrate in the back corner to give me more of a slope. I think I like it, but time will tell. I may need to find something to use as a substrate support so it doesn't slide over too much over time, but this should be ok for now.

I still need a good small rock to attach the remaining Anubias on the left.

I planted the Hydrocotyle Japan... that stuff is REALLY annoying to plant! It looks far from ideal at the moment, but it should get a lot better once it starts growing and gets established. :)

Water was still a little cloudy when I got in this morning, both from the added (brand new, unwashed) substrate, as well as from the bacterial bloom/white wood snot, I think. So after confirming the water tested ok (0 ammonia, 0 nitrite, approx 10 ppm nitrate), I did roughly an 80% water change just to clear the cloudiness out.

I have to say I'm not 100% thrilled with the overall appearance out the gate, at the moment, but I think as the plants get established and start spreading (I'm looking at you, Glosso and HJ!), it still has a lot of good potential. :)

Shrimp tomorrow, if all seems well! :D

 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
We have achieved shrimp! :bounce:

I pulled out the two Neons (that was fun... not!). They may be ok with the shrimp, they may not. Why take the chance? So at the moment, my tank is 100% shrimp only. The Neons can rejoin their friends back in my main tank.

I'm going to let it run for a while now. The plants need time to get established. I do still need to yank the Anubias out of the substrate and tie them to the rocks I picked up last night. But otherwise, I think we're good for a while. Perhaps 3-4 weeks, so the plants have time to start rooting and everything can get nice and stable. Then I'll consider picking up the pair of African Dwarf Frogs.

But meanwhile, the shrimp are having a blast, exploring every inch of the tank. They really seem to love swimming up the pump output vent, and getting a free ride, blasted to the other side of the tank. Then they swim around and do it again! LOL




 

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Yay Shrimpies! They're so cute! And your setups looking great! Like the ground cover. I think when everything is grown in it will look awesome! Were the shrimp at all interested in the white?
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Yay Shrimpies! They're so cute! And your setups looking great! Like the ground cover. I think when everything is grown in it will look awesome! Were the shrimp at all interested in the white?
Thanks! I'm a lot happier than before, I think.

No interest in the white gunk so far, but they're still settling into the tank. I'll report back if I see them actually digging into it. :)

A few more pictures, taken with the good camera (albeit handheld) instead the iPhone:



 
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