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definitely consider the plants you'll be using as you decide on the hardscape. Too many rocks will limit what you can have, unless you lean heavy on epiphytes. But the look may not matter as much as you think. I spent so much time (and a fair penny!) on figuring out my hardscape, laying it out just like you are doing. Only to find out months later I can hardly see any of them since they're always hidden by the plants. If yours is going to coming out the water that part will probably be fine, but depending on the plants the underwater part might be fairly irrelevant.
 

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Discussion Starter · #22 ·
definitely consider the plants you'll be using as you decide on the hardscape. Too many rocks will limit what you can have, unless you lean heavy on epiphytes. But the look may not matter as much as you think. I spent so much time (and a fair penny!) on figuring out my hardscape, laying it out just like you are doing. Only to find out months later I can hardly see any of them since they're always hidden by the plants. If yours is going to coming out the water that part will probably be fine, but depending on the plants the underwater part might be fairly irrelevant.
This is definitely good advice. The plants are going to mostly be coming out of Walstad bowl. So there will be a fair amount of hair grass, micro sword, juncus repens and ludwigia. There is also some buce brownie ghost, and some anubias nana and nana petite. To this I am going to add some java fern because.. yeah a lot of rocks. I am aiming for a moderately planted tank with little out croppings of plants so hopefully the hardscape can shine through. On the emerged rocks I am planning some terrestrial moss and some strands of Peperomia Prostrata (string of turtles) which will hopefully drape down into the water in a most artful way ;P

With all that said..

Small Update:

I continue the hardscape layouts including going to my rock store (ie the woods) and picking up a new giant rock.









The last one I am liking but time will tell :)

Speaking of time, I don't have much of it left! I got word that my Waterbox was shipped on Friday and will be arriving sometime on Monday. Hopefully Monday night (but more probably Tuesday) I will be scaping this tank.
 

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I love seeing DIY projects and yours is well done! Very impressed by all the work you put into it so far, and looking forward to seeing the end result!
 

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Discussion Starter · #25 ·
I vote for the second one (if I get a vote). It feels well balanced and not too "heavy."

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Everyone gets a vote! But mine is the only one that counts ;P I do worry about there being too much rock but when I look at some of the really awesome contest tanks they have crazy amounts of rock as well. Plus at least parts of these rocks are going to be buried in substrate.

I love seeing DIY projects and yours is well done! Very impressed by all the work you put into it so far, and looking forward to seeing the end result!
Thank you! Its been fun so far, I'm excited to get this tank rocking and rolling so I can get my newts in ! :)

Very small update:

I think I finally found a layout that is working for me. Here is the layout from straight on plus a few extra angles thrown in.









Tomorrow my tank arrives so I will need to boil my rocks and wood before then. Assuming I get that done I should be able to get right into scaping this tank. I want to boil these rocks because they came from the wild and I'm a little concerned about weird persistent types of algae that they might harbor.
 

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Discussion Starter · #26 ·
Update!

The tank came in on Monday as expected. I knew the dimensions in advance but I was still thinking, 'huh this thing is bigger then I thought' ;P

Here it is in place with some egg crate down to protect the bottom from all the stone I am using:



It took 2 days to get the scape back the way I liked it (or a reasonable approximation) despite the pictures I took. Eventually I got it to look like this:



At that I point I was ready to add some aquasoil. This is dennerle scapersoil I got off of amazon a few months back.



You can't see it but there is some matala mat in the back of the tank that protects the glass in case the rocks ever shift.

Then I was ready to add the sand and flood the tank!



And that's where I'm at now. Its been a couple of days, I got my filtration running if not running how I want it. I have not planted anything in the tank yet nor added any livestock. All the plants are going to be coming from an existing walstad bowl, so I will be taking it very much in little bits and pieces. Before removing half of the plants I want the new tank cycled so I can move over the livestock.

I am also not happy with the two intake tubes I am using (one being used as a return due to the lower water level). I was hoping to get stainless steel lily pipes for this but I had trouble finding someone who would sell me 2 intakes as opposed to a set of intake and return. I prefer not to pay the premium of buying 2 returns I don't need. (if that makes sense).

I did find someone a few weeks ago selling exactly what I wanted on ebay and ordered from them (shipped from china). Those came in on Monday as well but they do not exactly match the picture (holes up too high) and will not work for this tank.

After looking into it a bit I decided to try to make my own stainless steel lily pipes. I bought some 3/4 thin wall stainless steel tubing and a bending spring and watched some videos of folks making it happen.... So yeah, I'm going to give it a go ;)

In the meantime, the plastic bits will be functional till I can get something a little more aesthetically pleasing.
 

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Discussion Starter · #27 ·
Update

Aaaaaaannnnd, I changed it up ;P

I didn't like the hardscape nearly as much once the tank was flooded.

I really thought changing it up was going to be horrible now that the sand was in but honestly it wasn't a big deal.

Here is the new hardscape:





Thanks to using cycled media from another tank the cycle for this tank only took a few days to complete. Earlier today I added the first few plants from my walstad bowl. Plus 1 snail (I shall name him Tester the Fearless).



Over the next few days I will add more and more plants and livestock to the tank until the bowl is essentially empty. Stay tuned!
 

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Discussion Starter · #29 ·
I was going to comment that I didn't love the wood, since I felt it took away from the main rock, but you read my mind. Looks much better IMO. Is that mini pellia emersed?
Thank you! Yea I really wanted to use that wood but every time I took it out I was like 'wow that looks better' ;P

Once it was gone the scape just kind of came together almost instantly.

It is not pellia, it's actually terrestrial moss I found in the woods. I also replaced it with a different species that I was able to get a bigger piece from. Speaking of which..


Update:

For the new moss I secured it with a small dab of aquarium safe silicone. I also moved over all the plants I plan on using in this tank from the Walstad bowl. In so doing I discovered what destroyed that tank ;P You see I have been unhappy with the Walstad tank for a while because I had a very persistent algae that my snails and amanos were not touching. I couldn't get rid of the stuff, it grew crazy quick and no matter how much I manually removed it would just be back again the next week.

Well........ heh it turns out it was not algae. It was instead a rootless plant I purposely added to the tank somewhere around 10 months ago. I found this plant in local streams and mistook it for an aquatic moss. I purposely added it to 3 tanks, my spec V, my 40 breeder, and the walstad bowl. I forgot about it because it was quickly eaten by fish in the other 2 tanks. In this tank it took over and grew in a way that was more reminiscent of algae then a plant. It wasn't until I was looking at handfuls and handfuls of the stuff during the tear down that I realized what it was. Anyway it was a real pain to deal with because any plant I wanted to reuse needed to be cleansed of this stuff (think a bad java moss infestation, but worse since the strands are smaller). It took hours but eventually I got the plants pretty clean. I won't say perfectly clean, but hopefully clean enough that any infestations that start to crop up I can jump on quickly and kill.

Anyway in addition to moving over the plants I also made a new lid to fit this tank. Here is how the tank looks now:







I also tried to make my own lily pipes for this tank using 3/4" stainless steel tubing... that did not work. I tried manually bending the pipe around a fulcrum but it was beyond my strength. Then I used a hydraulic press and it was hard even for my press which made me feel better about my own strength but still. Anyway it also flattened my tube a bit too much so I abandoned that project as unfeasible without better equipment. Instead I went ahead and bought a inflow/outflow set which is shipping from china. If that works I will buy another one. Till it gets here I have the rather ridiculous situation with the current plastic inflows.

So why bother with putting the top on now? Well as it turns out its needed. I found a reputable breeder on facebook who sold me 2 unsexed alpine newts. They were shipped overnight fedex yesterday and should be arriving sometime this morning. So finally the newt tank is going to get some newts ;)
 

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I’m still loving this! I’m not a fan of high tech tanks but everything else is great! I love that wood rim. It really compliments the hardscape and sand and brings the whole thing together for me. Are you going to place the in and out tubes through the wood?

Are you putting a background on the tank?


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Discussion Starter · #33 ·
I’m still loving this! I’m not a fan of high tech tanks but everything else is great! I love that wood rim. It really compliments the hardscape and sand and brings the whole thing together for me. Are you going to place the in and out tubes through the wood?

Are you putting a background on the tank?


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Yes I will definitely be putting the intake and return through the wooden lid. I am trying to get some stainless steel returns and use them for both intake and return. Its more difficult then I first thought it would be because not every seller actually sends the same set they have pictured. I think I found a good set but we will see. I will probably add some frosted window film to the back of the tank at some point, no other background.

Any updates? I need to see some newts!
You ask, I deliver!

Update:

It's been almost a month since I set up the tank and last posted. A lot has happened and when I saw SteppingStones asking for an update I realized I really should update this thread with all that has happened.

So first off I will get out of the way that the plants in this tank are doing great, maybe even really great. This is an aquasoil tank so there should have been a lot of nutrients in the water this first month but other then some start up diatoms on the anubias leaves, there hasn't been a spec of algae in this tank. I think a lot of this has to do with using established plants that had already transitioned to underwater conditions and because my light is pretty low powered compared to some of my other setups.

With that out of the way the rest of this post is going to focus on the newts.

So I got the newts shortly after my last update. They arrived in very good condition, the breeder clearly being someone who takes care of their animals. I allowed the newts to come to room temperature and then put them into the tank on the 'land' portion. They spent the next hour or so swimming around in the tank exploring it and all looked well. Then they crawled back up on the land portion and pretty much stayed there for the next 2 weeks.

This was a problem.

The newts I got are called alpine newts and while some species of salamander spend significant time on land, these newts in captivity spend almost all of their time in the water. For them to spend so much time on the land essentially meant something was wrong. Over the course of those 2 weeks I did a number of things, the first of which was talk to people with more experience including the breeder. I was told that newts take a bit to settle into a tank and a week out of water would not be unusual for them. After that week went by I started considering other options. You see the newts were not alone in this tank. I did something that is frowned upon in the newt world which is have some fish in the same tank with the newts. In this case I put my ricefish from my walstad bowl in this tank. The fish are super peaceful so I wasn't worried about them hurting the newts and they could certainly tolerate the same temperature ranges (the 2 reasons most often listed for why you should not cohabitate fish and newts), but as it turns out they were just plain stressing my newts out. I didn't want to remove them though because I don't have another tank they can go into. It came to a head one morning when I found my last male ricefish almost bitten in half.

Soooo yeah, the remaining 4 female ricefish got moved to a temporary tank while I try and rehome them. That was problem 1.

But still I had land bound newts.

I eventually decided that my temperatures were simply too high. The tank was getting as high as 73 degrees at its peak, and while that was technically within range of these newts I think it was just too much for them given they were in a new home. I put a fan on the tank and that dropped the temperature down to 66 at its peak and within a day one of the newts was in the water. The other newt... not so much. This is now 1.5 weeks after introducing them and the remaining newt would stay out of the water for another week. It actually got to a point where I was convinced I needed to take more drastic action and made a hospital tank so I could closely monitor this newt and was just about to put it in the hospital tank when I found it happily swimming about in the water. What changed? Basically different food I believe. I was feeding flightless fruit flies on the land portion and pellets to the newt in the water. I was advised to switch to frozen bloodworms for both and I believe that made all the difference.

I have since also introduced earth worms to their diet and I ordered a white worm culture to throw that into the mix as well.

Flash forward to present time and both newts are looking healthy and spending all day in the water. I haven't seen either on the land portion in days (which is how this critter is supposed to act).

But I have a silly fan on top of my tank. I really want that thing gone, which means I need a chiller. I'm going to try and DIY one together but if that fails I will just bite the bullet and buy one.

And so without further ado, here is a bunch of pictures of newts.




















And a full tank shot as of this morning:



That's all I have for now. Next time I will hopefully have something to talk about concerning the DIY chiller.
 

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Thanks for the update and the newts are looking great!
 

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Discussion Starter · #38 ·
Looks great!! Where did you get your newts?
I made a post in the facebook group named something like 'salamander and newt rehoming'. I got several responses from this within a few minutes. The first to respond was a fellow named Bradley Wilson. I looked him up and he had a great reputation as a breeder and hobbyist so I went with him. This is his website.
 

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Discussion Starter · #39 ·
Update!

Its been a couple of months since I last updated and more things have happened so its time to talk about it.

On the food side I have switched over to almost exclusively earth worms with a few pellets thrown in every so often. I have also switched to an every other day feeding so my newts don't become obese (which is a thing that actually happens). All the worms I'm feeding right now are collected from my yard by means of digging a hole and picking out any worms that make an appearance. I also have an earth worm 'ranch' that I made using an old storage bin a burried in the ground. To make it I first drilled a bunch of 1/8 inch holes in the bottom for drainage:



Then I added a bag of rocks in for additional drainage protection and on top of that put some dried grass:



And then added some coconut coir and dried terrarium moss to act as worm bedding.



I made a top out of some scrap wood so my kids (which are still too young to know better) can stand on it without any danger of it falling in.



Over the course of a few weeks I added about 100 worms to the 'ranch' along with some leftover vegetable scraps from the kitchen. Now I just need to wait for my worms to multiply and I can start feeding from the ranch and stop digging holes in my yard ;P

Regarding the diy chiller.... complete failure. I tried I think 6 variations on my design using different parts etc and in the end I was only ever able to alter the temperature by a single degree. Thats not exactly very useful. So I just sucked it up and attached a fan to the light post. Here is how that looked:



In my last post I mentioned that I moved the fish out of the tank and into a temporary tank? Well another rice fish died in that temporary tank. I decided at this point my ricefish are getting on in years (they only live 2-3 years anyway and mine are right at that 2 year mark) and my newts had calmed down a bit so I would try them back in the tank. The results were better then expected. The newts were jumpy for a day or 2 but have since acclimated to the fishies and no longer seem to mind them. I also haven't had any more of the ricefish end up as newt dinner so all seems to be well.

Meanwhile my newts are almost a year old and I still wasn't sure what sex they were. I know they all start off looking like females and as they age the males develop coloration which is different from the females and juveniles. I wasn't sure though WHEN that happened. So I posted a picture on a facebook group of my newts and discovered that I definitely have 2 females since the males would already have started showing their colors by now. This was a bit of a let down since I really wanted at least one male for their colors. This means.... I need more newts ;P Specifically I want 1 male newt. Its unusual in the hobby to find someone willing to sell a newt old enough to be sexed so I either have to get lucky finding someone willing to sell,. or I need to get another juvenile and get lucky with it being a male.

Anyway for this update I broke out my macro lens and my real camera. So without further discussion here are some pictures of the newts and other tank inhabitants.

















and the obligatory full tank shot:



That's all for now. Hopefully at next update I will have a new newt to show off.
 
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