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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
After months of preparations and lots of sage advice from all of you, I recently started building a 30 gallon Waterbox Clear Mini tank in my home office. I have lots of reasons for wanting to take on this project, but the main one is to learn how to run and maintain the systems involved with a larger high-tech planted tank — canister filter, co2, programmable light, etc. I have a low-tech 10g planted tank now and maintained a low-tech 50g tank 20 years ago, but have never worked with advanced equipment before, and I feel like I need to figure it out before doing what I really want to do: get a 75 gallon (or larger) tank full of angelfish. So this 30g tank is really a trial run of sorts — a chance to learn by doing.

Here’s the equipment I am working with:
  • Oase BioMasrer Thermo 250 filter
  • Jardli 16/22 lily pipes
  • Fluval planted 3.0 light
  • Coralife TurboTwist 6x UV sterilizer (inline)
  • Co2Art pro elite complete co2 kit (inline)
  • 10lb co2 tank
  • pool filter sand + ADA Colorado sand
  • 7 or 8 pieces of spider wood
  • a ridiculous # of river rocks from Home Depot
  • Inkbird temperature controller
  • Kashi (sp?) smart plugs
- lots of other stuff I am probably forgetting

I think this is my first experience with everything on that list. Before now, I have only ever dealt with HOB filters, generic gravel, and basic stuff like that. So I’m sure I will royally screw up a bunch as I go.

The plan is to try for a nature-style aquascape, with kuhli loaches, a school of small fish (chili rasboras, CPDs, or something like that), and who knows what else.
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
The only place available for me to put this tank is a built-in office desk, so the first order of business was to reinforce the desk so that it could comfortably handle the weight of a decent sized tank. That project took forever and was pretty involved for a not-handy person like me. There was drilling, cutting, priming, painting, and all kinds of other work involved, and I had very little free time in which to do it. My spouse has told me more than once that I am crazy for doing all this. But I pressed on and eventually completed the DIY desk-fortification project.

The end result was not perfect, but still functional and, truth be told, really satisfying. It does the job, or at least I think it will. Details here: Converting built-in desk to aquarium stand?
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Once I finished with the desk, I turned to acquiring hardscape. This turned out to be more involved than I was originally planning on (notice a trend?). I bought 10 pieces of spider wood total from two different sources, and five different kinds of rocks from Home Depot, plus some dragon stone from a big box store. I knew I was buying way more than needed, but did so to have some choices and to be able to see (and experiment with) a range of materials.

The rocks from HD were a mixed bag, and I wasn’t able to get all the sizes I wanted. Even so, I was pretty happy with the results & decided to go with round river stones, as they seek to fit the natural/river like vibe I have in mind. I put the stones in 5 gal buckets, soaked them in water for a few days, then soaked them in diluted bleach for 24-36 hours, then rinsed them many times, and then soaked them in water with Seachem Prime for a day or two. Hopefully, after all that, they will be tank safe.
 

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The rocks from HD were a mixed bag, and I wasn’t able to get all the sizes I wanted. Even so, I was pretty happy with the results & decided to go with round river stones, as they seek to fit the natural/river like vibe I have in mind. I put the stones in 5 gal buckets, soaked them in water for a few days, then soaked them in diluted bleach for 24-36 hours, then rinsed them many times, and then soaked them in water with Seachem Prime for a day or two. Hopefully, after all that, they will be tank safe.
I use those Home Depot beach rocks all the time - no need for all that. Rinse 'em and throw 'em in the tank!
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Looks great. Waterbox tanks are really nice I have a the 16 gallon and wish I got a bigger one now.
I had a good experience ordering from Waterbox directly. The first tank they sent me got a small exterior chip in transit, and it wasn’t clear whether the chip will cause structural problems down the line, but Waterbox promptly sent me a replacement tank as soon as I filed a claim. Now I just need to figure out what to do with the first (chipped) tank.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 · (Edited)
I tried putting some river stones into the tank tonight to see how they would look with the sand and the wood. I felt like a complete novice as I was doing this — adrift. And that’s after watching a kajillion YouTube videos to provide ideas and inspiration. I suppose it gets more comfortable with time and practice.

Anyhow, here’s where I have landed for the moment. I have mixed feelings about it, in part because it doesn’t quite feel natural in the way I was aiming for. I also suspect that I used too many rocks (probably a consequence of buying too many rocks). I made my 10g too busy and I’d like to avoid that here. (I plan to add progressively smaller detail stones clustered around the larger rocks once I finalize the design, similar to what MD Fish Tanks did at 7:40 in this build video:
.).

So be brutally honest with me: What would you change, and more importantly, why?
Wood Art Twig Sculpture Natural material
 

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You will be amazed how the details of the rocks matter less once there are plants! So don't stress over it. One suggestion is that the rocks look relatively too uniformly on top of the substrate, in my opinion. If just some of the lowest ones in the pile were pushed in deeper, it would have a more natural look, in my opinion. So, just snug them into the sand a bit and they will probably look better. It looks like a great tank!
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
You will be amazed how the details of the rocks matter less once there are plants! So don't stress over it. One suggestion is that the rocks look relatively too uniformly on top of the substrate, in my opinion. If just some of the lowest ones in the pile were pushed in deeper, it would have a more natural look, in my opinion. So, just snug them into the sand a bit and they will probably look better. It looks like a great tank!
Thanks for this suggestion. I took a shot at implementing that change and also added the ADA Colorado sand on top, plus some smaller detail stones. I’m still thinking about whether I like the outcome and might make some more changes. Also, I am now wondering whether I have too much substrate in the tank. Any views on that?

Current FTS:
Wood Natural material Art Plant Twig
 

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One suggestion is that the rocks look relatively too uniformly on top of the substrate, in my opinion. If just some of the lowest ones in the pile were pushed in deeper, it would have a more natural look, in my opinion. So, just snug them into the sand a bit and they will probably look better. It looks like a great tank!
I agree with @Marc_G - there was something that didn't quite seem right with the hardscape, and I believe he nailed it. If you think about natural environments, you typically don't see rocks sitting on top of finer substrates unless there is current, like a fast stream or beach with wave action. They usually are partially covered, and peeking out of the sand / muck / gravel to some extent if the current is slower or in a pond / lake setting.
 

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Thanks for this suggestion. I took a shot at implementing that change and also added the ADA Colorado sand on top, plus some smaller detail stones. I’m still thinking about whether I like the outcome and might make some more changes. Also, I am now wondering whether I have too much substrate in the tank. Any views on that?

Current FTS:
View attachment 1043438
Looks super. I actually like the deep substrate and think it gives you some flexibility for later sloping. You can always suck some out later. I say roll with it!
 

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I think the scape looks fantastic. My suggestion would be to sleep on it a couple days because certain things will jump out at you. It's definitely a process that requires a lot of patience. Usually what I do when scaping a tank, whether it's a reef or freshwater tank is getting it to the point where I think to myself "this is it, this is exactly what I was going for". The folks here are also super helpful with ideas and suggestions.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Looks super. I actually like the deep substrate and think it gives you some flexibility for later sloping. You can always suck some out later. I say roll with it!
Thanks. I measured and the sand is roughly 2” deep in the front and 3” at the back, so that seems reasonable enough. I expect that the Kuhli loaches will appreciate some depth too in case they decide to burrow.

Next up is to glue the hardscape together in a few places (after I have let the tank sit for a few days to make sure I like the setup). I plan to use the cotton pad method described here (at 2:35):
 

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I love how this is looking!!! Just make sure that wood isn't touching the glass/ too near it because once you want to get in there with an algae scraper and it's too tight, you will be cursing everything under the sun (ask me how I know lol)
 
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