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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Hello all!

I’ve titled this journal “High tech, low effort” which I acknowledge could be construed as an oxymoron. I won’t bore you with a long history, but a little background might help explain what I mean.

I’m not new to the planted tank scene, but this is my first tank in over a decade. I previously had a simple but very successful (as a CRS breeding tank at least) 3 gal picotope back in...wow, 2006...that was heavily journaled here. Unfortunately, I forgot the password to that account and the PT admins can’t help me recover it, I presume because it’s so old. Anyway, this was when CRS were relatively new in the US and considered difficult to breed, especially the S+ grades. That little tank that sat on my desk at work and churned out hundreds of CRS, almost all of which were sold, traded, or given away to members of this forum.

The proceeds from those sales funded a 75g completely custom tank (built by Glass Cages) with a 20-gallon sump, a BeanAnimal overflow, auto top-off, auto-dosing, and a homemade stand. I’d like to think that setup would have impressed even the most techie reefers around here. I enjoyed that tank for several years before having to move to an apartment where I couldn’t keep it. I never did, however, journal it - something I deeply regret. This new tank, however, will take a decidedly different approach.

Between shutting down the 75g and now I’ve gotten married, traveled to dozens of countries, moved across the US, and most recently welcomed our first child (she is exactly one month old today, in fact!). As my fellow parents know, particularly at this stage, time and energy are extremely valuable commodities. However, my company has a very generous paternity leave policy which, coupled with my birthday next week, created a perfect storm for me to convince my wife that she should gift me the permission to set up a new tank.

The trick here, however, will be to build as nice a tank as I can with as little time and effort as possible. That means no custom tanks, no custom stands, mostly off-the-shelf bits and pieces, kits where possible (i.e CO2), etc. Although, like @TheUnseenHand (whose awesome thread motivated me to finally pull the trigger on convincing the wife), I enjoy the build process more than the finished product, I will be foregoing all of that fun in order to hopefully instill my love of aquariums in my daughter (gotta start them young, right!?). Despite very good success mixing my own ferts for EI in the past, I’m even going to give off-the-shelf AIO ferts a shot. Maybe this will help those lurkers who are interested in planted tanks but haven’t bitten the bullet yet because of their concerns about how much time it will suck give a simpler approach a shot.

Here’s a quick rundown of the tank so far:


  • Innovative Marine Nuvo Fusion Pro 30g Long (all-in-one)
  • MICMOL LED Programmable light
  • 4 liters of ADA Powersand topped by 9 liters of Aqua Soil Normal topped by 9 liters of Aqua Soil Powder
  • Seriyu stone and a few pieces of either Rhododendron or Azalea (I’m not sure what I got from my LFS)

Anyway, that’s enough for now. The tank just arrived today and is currently leak-testing in the garage. I couldn’t be more excited about firing this tank up and I look forward to leaning on this community for some help along the way (particularly the old-timers that helped me along the way so many years ago).

Cheers!
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Tank passed the leak test and got filled with the ADA substrates today.

I bought my hardscape from my LFS last weekend and cut out a tank-shaped piece of cardboard to play with the layout. By "play" I mean obsessively reconfigure the rock and wood for 5 days, furiously taking pictures of about 40 different arrangements before I found something I was happy with. Unfortunately, when doing so I failed to account for the 4" of depth the overflow would occupy and I couldn't fit the second piece of wood that was a key part of my favorite layout. Oh well, I'm happy with what the result anyhow.

A few thoughts about the IM Nuvo Pro: I am nothing short of impressed with the build quality of this tank. The silicone is perfect. I wish the front seams were clear instead of black, but that's personal preference and doesn't detract at all from the tank itself. The return pump from the overflow is utterly silent. I don't have the best of hearing, but I have to have my head within 12" of the tank to hear the pump at all (wife is happy too, so I'm ecstatic). The tank will reside on a reinforced built-in cabinet in my living room that has a shelf above it which limits overhead space. I've found that I cannot remove the 3-tiered filter on one side of the tank when it's in place, but I can get the filter sock on the other side of the overflow out just fine. I've ordered a second filter sock and will run those on both sides with floss in one end bio rings in the other. I don't intend to remove the filters often, but at least now I won't have to drain the tank to do so. Overall I'm extremely happy with the tank.

The @co2art ProSE Series CO2 setup arrived yesterday and the @BucePlant Monte Carlo for a DSM arrived today. We're in the middle of a terrible heatwave in the Southeast and I think the heat took its toll on the MC. BucePlant had packed everything beautifully but about 30% of the MC was melted mush by the time it arrived. Buce was clear about heatwave complications on their site and I don't blame them whatsoever - I chose to order anyway. I think they weighed shipping quickly vs. shipping at better temps and erred on the side of making their customer happy with quick shipping. We'll see how it does overnight under cling wrap and admittedly inadequate light. The MICMOL lights should arrive tomorrow and will add some photosynthetic fuel to the remaining MC's rooting.

I'll post pics of the hardscape tomorrow and see what feedback you all have.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Unfortunately I don't think the MC is going to make it. To BucePlant's credit, I made it clear that I was willing to wait a few days to see if the remaining portion recovered but they've already processed a replacement order. Excellent customer service!!

The MICMOL lights arrived today. The light is a fine piece of design, but I've had a few episodes of flickering today. If it persists I'll have to send it back.

I interrupted the DSM for a FTS this evening (hence the cling wrap at the top and the condensation). Overall I'm happy with the hardscape but I'm rethinking the height of the slope on the right. As it is it will only leave me about 5.5" of height in the back right corner. If the MC doesn't wind up taking hold I'll probably drop the slope by 1.5-2" on the right side. I really like the way it looks but I don't want it to limit the plants I can keep in that corner.



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I personally like the slope. It flows nicely left to right. I would think that back corner would be perfect for stem plants rising to the surface to maximize that left to right flow. But I guess it depends on what plants you have in mind for that side.

I have the Nuvo 10gal and my shrimp go right thru those overflow slots. Here's my not so elegant solution made up from supplies I had on hand and have never bothered to switch out for better. Which also doubles as an iron injection system.

 

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Unfortunately, the DSM was a total failure. I think the MC just took too much of a beating during shipping. I woke up this morning and it was covered with white mold or fungus so I pulled all of it. There's also fungus that has developed on the wood. I've attached a couple of pictures for some help identifying it and developing a plan to address it. Frankly, at this point, I'm tempted to flood the tank and take my chances planting the replacement MC submerged. I've had success multiple times planting HC Cuba submerged and, based on what I've read, MC should be easier. I would love some suggestions here.








I've also got to figure out what about my camera is causing the blue hue on these photos. The light is certainly not this blue in real life - it almost looks like a reef tank!

Bump: Bump:
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I personally like the slope. It flows nicely left to right. I would think that back corner would be perfect for stem plants rising to the surface to maximize that left to right flow. But I guess it depends on what plants you have in mind for that side.

I have the Nuvo 10gal and my shrimp go right thru those overflow slots. Here's my not so elegant solution made up from supplies I had on hand and have never bothered to switch out for better. Which also doubles as an iron injection system.


Thanks pauld! I like the slope too. I'm still struggling with it. I also like that the height of the slope has the wood slightly emersed. The plants that I had planned for that corner included:

  • Vallisneria americana
  • Ludwigia Pantanal
  • P Erectus
  • Ludwigia palustris
  • Limnophila hippuridoides
I anticipated shrimp getting sucked into the overflow and siliconed some stainless steel mesh in there yesterday. Unforunately, the way that overflow is built, I had no choice but to silicon over the very bottom portion of it, but it's less than a half centimeter, so I don't think it will cause any water flow issues.






Bump: Also, LOL at "iron injection system" :D
 

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If you are doing CO2 then there is not as much incentive to do a dry start. It will carpet great with co2. Dry start is most useful the low tech folks that want to establish a carpet they would otherwise need to wait years to grow in.

As for the fungus, if its a type that will survive under water then your fish will likely eat it. Otherwise it will fall off slowly over the next few weeks after submerged.
 

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If you are doing CO2 then there is not as much incentive to do a dry start. It will carpet great with co2. Dry start is most useful the low tech folks that want to establish a carpet they would otherwise need to wait years to grow in.
Yeah, co2 will be fine. I got away with using Excel in the beginning of the 10gal with MC. It spread but the leaves were not quite right and growth fell off after the aquasoil settled in. I switched to co2 and everything just took off.

That screen looks nice! I was worried that debris would pile up on mine but it doesn't really. Never to the point of clogging.
 

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If you are doing CO2 then there is not as much incentive to do a dry start. It will carpet great with co2. Dry start is most useful the low tech folks that want to establish a carpet they would otherwise need to wait years to grow in.
Good deal, thank you. I flooded the tank tonight and will have the CO2 filled tomorrow before the new plant shipment arrives.

I decided to boil the wood once more just to get a clean start without the fungus. I think it was overkill but it was low effort so why not? :)


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That screen looks nice! I was worried that debris would pile up on mine but it doesn't really. Never to the point of clogging.
It backed up a little bit tonight after I flooded the tank (just a bit of Aqua Soil debris) but I think it will be easy to keep clear every few days if necessary. The screen is certainly small enough to keep all but the tiniest of shrimp from slipping through. If this tank breeds shrimp anything like my nano did, I won't miss some here and there (I've also probably just jinxed all shrimp breeding efforts for good....).

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Despite the setback with the MC yesterday, I'm excited about moving forward. I finished everything necessary to get the tank planted today, including getting the heater installed, the light programming dialed in, the CO2 tank filled and the solenoid on a timer, and testing all of the water parameters for a baseline. I also dialed in the last of the organization of all of the electrical components. Lastly, since I was tearing everything apart anyway, I took the opportunity to rescape a little and, while I was happy with the previous scape, I'm even more happy with the new one. I think it looks more natural while highlighting the best of the character in the stone.

Finally, I placed an order for a bunch of plants, including:
  • Ludwigia Senegalensis
  • Micranthemum Umbrosum
  • Rotala Macrandra Red
  • AR Mini
  • Vallisneria Spiralis
  • Ludwigia Palustris Super Red
  • Tonina Belem (I've literally wanted to grow this plant for 10 years - I'm super excited)

This is all in addition to the MC carpet. I'll post some pics of the rescape tomorrow.
 

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Lots more progress today. My laptop is dying soon so I'll document more (and ask questions about LED lighting - never used this stuff before - I learned today that nothing was wrong with my camera, I had just totally screwed up the white/blue settings on the lights, LOL) tomorrow. Here are a couple of shots of the final hardscape. Not too much has changed. I reduced the slope a little bit to give myself more height for stem plants in the back-right (the entire left will be just Monte Carlow) and rejiggered the rocks a bit.

FTS:


I love the character of the rock:
 

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Way to capture the sense of scale, it looks MUCH larger than 30 gallons.
Thank you, sir! This is why people should shop hardscape (and other supplies, for that matter) at their LFS whenever possible vs. buying stone and wood online. Yes, you might get a better deal online, but the character and scale of the pieces are too important to leave up to somebody else to choose! My wife and I spent a solid 45 mins digging through rock bins at our LFS before settling on these ones (well, I dug while my wife questioned why I wasn't happy with one of the first 20 stones, but I think she gets it now
).

The replacement Monte Carlo arrived today and has been planted. I'm still working on dialing in the CO2 flow so I dosed 8.5ml of Metricide 14 to boost the bio-available carbon until I get the CO2 concentration right. I used to use Flourish Excel as an algaecide, particularly against BBA in the past so I got some Metricide in advance of the inevitable algae battles down the road). I figured a little extra carbon couldn't hurt in the meantime. Plus, stepping up the BPM on the CO2 slowly extraordinarily slowly has worked well for me in the past, so I'll try that again and it will probably take me 4 or 5 days to get it right. True to the low-effort ethos of this tank, I also dosed 3 "pumps" of Ultum Nature Systems AIO fertilizer. We'll see how this goes!

I've had it with the MICMOL lights. Today I ordered a 36" Fluval 3.0 LED strip to replace them. I'll return the MICMOL fixture when the Fluval arrives. I'm going to miss the svelt, modern look of the MICMOL (it really is a sexy light) but the controller for it sucks. After fidgeting with it for 4 days trying to dial in a natural light cycle, I gave up when I came down this morning an and all three spectrums of light were on at 100% when it should've been set to 20% blue light only. The display also read 0% white, 20% blue, 0% special, so either the unit is screwed up or it's just so difficult to program that I (a software engineer) can't figure it out. Regardless, I've had it and I'm looking forward to the arrival new light despite it pumping significantly less power.

Lastly, the Nuvo Fusion Pro comes with a "CustomCaddy media basket" for one side of the overflow and a filter sock for the other. As you can see below, the tank sits on a (reinforced) built-in cabinet in my living room. The shelves of the built-in seriously limit my overhead space and with the tank positioned in its final resting place and I couldn't get the rigid media basket out of the overflow because of the shelf above it. Instead, I ordered a second filter sock and am running filter socks on both sides. One side is filled with Biomax bio rings while the other is half bio rings and half filter floss. This is a filter setup I would have run 10 years ago. If anybody has suggestions for something more optimal, please suggest away.


 

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What a difference a day and a few plants make! Here's an FTS and a labeled image with what's where:





Virtually all of these plants are new to me. In fact, Val Spiralis is the only one I've grown before. I'm looking forward to watching the tank grow in and learning how to keep these new species happy!

One last thing: I ordered one extra tissue culture of AR Mini than I can use. I'll be happy to pass it along to a forum member in need/who wants to try it out at no cost. PM me if interested.
 

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After a week of letting things settle in, the real battle has begun.

I've had a surprisingly difficult time getting the Monte Carlo to thrive in this tank. Almost all of the foliage that the plants arrived with has wilted and died. There is new growth that leaves me optimistic but there hasn't been any spreading whatsoever. The Rotala Macaranda has had a really difficult time as well and has wilted about 50% but also has some new growth. Everything else is doing really well, especially the ludwigias are doing really well. Unfortunately the green hair algae is doing really well to!!

I think the combination of the ammonia leaching from the Aqua Soil and the deterioration of the foliage has resulted in a significant (not huge but not pretty) algae bloom. The ammonia has tested consistently at 4 PPM every day except for a few hours after water changes when it drops to 2, but 8 hours later and it's back.

I've started doing 50+% water changes every other day, halted all ferts, cranked the CO2 to fish annihilating levels (haven't added anything except a few snails that hitchhiked in on the plants so that's fine), cut the photoperiod to 4 hours, and busted out the toothbrush to keep the algae at bay. Fortunately it hasn't hit any of the plants yet and is sticking to the rock and wood.

I've ordered a few more pots of MC that will helpfully get the carpet going a little faster. With a little luck I'm hoping to start stocking fish in another 4 weeks.

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Oh man. Good luck! Hoping you prevail over your battle with algae.

I had similar things happen with my plants. First week, 99% of my Red Root Floaters melted and some other plants that I'm not sure what the ID's are. Third week in and everything else seems to be doing well. I also have hair algae.

Again good luck! Looking forward to seeing more of your endeavors.
 

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Nice setup!

With an aquasoil-based tank it's very important to be preventive at startup. You do water changes everyday for the first week. Start with a short photo period 4-5 hrs and use carbon in the filter. All this will help reduce ammonia and prevent algae.

I wouldn't halt all ferts. All you need to dose is K and micros for the 1st 6 months or so.
 

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This was exactly a month after adding MC to the tank. I had lower light (at the time I thought it was adequate but have since doubled light output). Dosing Excel instead of co2. The brown is a die off of older leaves and I had some considerable growth considering my lack of co2. But I never got an algae bloom from it. I wonder if that's due to the lower light and the use of excel. I didn't get any algae at all until I stopped Excel and swtiched to co2. Of course there were also 2 different batches of plants that went in before algae started to show itself.

Not sure if that will help, just my recent experience with MC startup and aquasoil.



FYI, this is what it looks like now.

 
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