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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I originally purchased this tank to start a pico reef but decided to go much bigger. I am basically using this to house my long-time aggressive Betta that lives in my 8.5 gallon riparium (realistically 5-6 gallons). That riparium tank is being upgraded to a 15.8 gallon to become a high-tech community riparium with grasses, carpets and moss. Therefor all the stem plants will be transferred into this 5 gallon Marineland Contour all-in-one.




I am going to refrain from letting this become another wild directionless riparium, however this photo has inspired me to add a terrestrial fern to the back of my tank to compliment any emerging driftwood. I have already located the fern and it seems to be doing fine in my riparium so far, it is not a Boston Fern I have one of those as well and I put them side by side so you can see the difference. The Boston is on the right, the one on the left stays narrow.





I began gathering plants for the Contour 5 in the corner of one of my tanks, you can see the terrestrial fern above in the rear. I have a large species of Amazon Sword as a background centerpiece since this tank will be so tall. To its left I have Vals and Elodea which will sway in the return pump nozzle. To its right I have Moneywort and an unidentified Coontail/Parrots Feather from the corner of my local pond it does really well in the aquarium and will survive in extremely low light, it is a very thin version of the Elodea on the opposite side. Moving away from the back wall, next row forward left to right would be Madagascar Lace, Crypt Beckettii, possibly dwarf sword/unsure yet. I will also have some Anubias in there somewhere as well as a Banana plant, with some carpeting plants/grasses around the outer rim where there is no dirt.




I used this "organic" soil I have not seen before, I picked out any chunks of bark/wood/mulch and formed a mound in the center. I do not want any soil near the edges because the gravel will be too thin, so I started with the edges to hold the soil in place then I capped it and raked the gravel upwards toward the center from the edges. All the gravel is from an established tank, I rinsed it with my top off water.






This is what I decided to go with, I removed the bio-sponge from the filter media basket and I am going to instead use a Purigen bag rated for a 100 gallon tank there. This is because I will be using just the mechanical filter basket frame to stuff with filter floss instead of replacing it and paying for cheap floss glued to the basket frame with a sprinkle of cheap carbon inside. As a domino effect I now need to replace the bio-media since I removed bio-sponge, so I added a ceramic media bag rated for a 50 gallon tank in the sump by the surface. This may not be in the media baskets flow path but it has a much greater surface area than the sponge had and it may get more oxygen where it is rather than down in the media basket, I traded the flow-path for more surface area I guess...not like this is a big deal because the substrate will hold lots of bacteria. I added a capful of Jungle bacteria blend to the ceramic bag before adding it to the tank as well.





The light is okay but minimal, but there is room to add more lighting in the hood fixture. I had a spare 10 gallon LED hood around I was able to rob the lights out of, they are perfect I can add one to each side of the factory LED strip. Just holding them in place with my fingers and toggling the switch on and off I can tell it doubles the lighting and makes what I thought would be okay stock lighting look useless!




I used aquarium sealer to attach the lights, came out great!




The tank is now cycling, it is very cloudy white (lights off) I am afraid of doing a water change too soon but I think this is all minerals from the soil. If I do a water change I will dump more bacteria blend into the ceramic bag to compensate for the cycling loss. I am waiting until the cycling is complete to add my Purigen bag.
 

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Discussion Starter #2 (Edited)
I did a 60% water change then added more bio-solution to my ceramic bag. Seems to have stayed clearer so I think it was the initial soil minerals, I am still waiting to add my Purigen. I had a piece of driftwood I made from a blueberry branch that was made to be used horizontally in a 15 gallon tank. I was able to finally put it to use in this tank only I used it vertically, I am quite happy with it and somehow the light barely fits between the branches! I tried to make it look as if it was growing from the bottom left corner, this will get very interesting now! I kind of regret using this color gravel though, black gravel might have looked cleaner...I will just try to cover as much of the gravel with plants so you can not see it.

 

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Looks great dude! I love the fern idea, and the driftwood stretching out of the tank makes it look like it's reaching out into the space around it. Love it!

Sent from my VS985 4G using Tapatalk
 

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Discussion Starter #4 (Edited)
Thanks! This was the tank I bought for a pico reef that you were following. I added some plants to start with, Jungle Val, Crypt (unplanted), Amazon Sword, Elodea, Madagascar Lace, and Moneywort. I will avoid Duckweed in this tank but I may add a single Frogbit plant. I can add some Java Moss and Petite Anubias to the driftwood, but I also want some sort of a vine to grow around the driftwood as well...possibly one that grows out of water as well so it follows the branches to the tips! I am unsure if I should hit the tank with Excel to prevent algae or if that will disrupt the bacteria colonization, as well as that Purigen...not sure if that can have any effect on start-up cycling.



 

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Discussion Starter #5 (Edited)
I followed through with my plans, I took one of those suction cup organizers and I cut it down so it is shorter since it tapers off at the bottom. It fits perfectly just above my ceramic media bag, as a minor of fact it sits/floats on top of it!



I used a hole saw on a drill to make an opening in the rear cover for the fern to grow through:



I took the light out of a 1 gallon Betta bowl thing, it is just enough to keep the fern growing straight and healthy. When the tank lights are off it creates an amazing shimmering effect across the bottom:




I used green thread to attach two varieties of Anubias to my driftwood, the lower one is a typical original Anubias that will grow taller and stretch out, while the upper one by the water surface is a petite version that stays tight with small leaves.





I also attached Java moss along the top horizontal branch, in hopes that it will grow horizontally along it!
 

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Discussion Starter #7 (Edited)
Thanks, I am saving the best update for later this week. The bottom is growing in very well! The tank literally cycled silently and I have already stocked it, actually I added shrimp 2 weeks ago and my Betta just a few days ago. Everything is 0-0-0 I am happy with it!


This is how I setup the mechanical filtration, these cartridges are very restrictive even when new. If you replace the entire plastic frame with a large piece of filter floss the flow rate goes up. What I did was strip that blue filter pad away so I had a frame to work with:



Next I used a Dremel tool to remove all these carbon dividers so that I could maximize the room here for mechanical filtration:




A piece of thick and higher quality floss from In-Tank cut to size fits snug in the frame, you can barely see the white part on the sides that fills the basket:





The packet of Purigen rated for 100 gallons would have been great if it only fit, so I got media bag made to size for the space they had a bio-sponge in:



This is the finished and stitched Purigen packet rated for 50 gallons, you can see it is the size of the original bio-sponge on the left:
 

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Discussion Starter #8 (Edited)
Here is an update, I am loving this tank so much. I am keeping 'Giant Duckweed' and a single Amazon Frogbit as floaters, I do not want any small Duckweed because the giant version has a red underside to the leaf with white roots. I also added an unidentified non-rooting floater that appears to be a variety of Coontail?




I ended up planting the Crypt right where I had it sitting, weighted down. I added a second Jungle Val, more Elodea, more Moneywort, a dwarf sword on the right, Parrots Feather in the center, a ball of Java Moss in the front left corner, along with some rocks I pulled from a river then boiled (with java moss tied on), and a Crypt Parva in the front right corner. I am trying to leave a space between the Elodea and Moneywort for a red plant, I am thinking Ludwigia Repens.





I had to turn the pump all the way down for my Betta, the water is still clear gotta love that Purigen. He is a senior Betta I have had him a while, and he seems to like to use the skimmer as a magnet to park himself at the surface. The suction is so gentle it does not affect his fins/tail...if anything the shrimp do more damage trying to snack on his tail.



I have 4 Nerite snails: a Tiger, Horned, UnKnown, and a Zebra that was absent for the family portrait. Luckily they like to eat wood when there is no algae present, they have eaten away a lot of the top layer of my driftwood which I am fine with. My special unknown Nerite that I am now calling a Leopard Nerite was a rare find at my LFS, appears to be a cross bred snail between a Racer and a Tiger...it is by far the fastest moving Nerite I have ever owned up there with the speed of a Mystery/Apple snail and it eats like a tank.




Lastly are my shrimp, I added two very large Amano shrimp which are imo a necessity in every planted tank. They are large enough that my Betta should not try eating them, he has been doing great with them partially due to the fact I introduced him to a tank with shrimp in it already instead of adding shrimp to his old home with him in it. I also added an odd Ghost shrimp that literally will not die, I have had this immortal thing for a long time moving it tank to tank. It has white whiskers with red bands, and an amazing personality...it actually follows my 2 Amano shrimp around sometimes and the two species get along wonderfully. Next I am going to add 2 red Cherry Shrimp for contrast and color, hopefully as the tank matures there will be plenty of hiding places to hide from the Betta...and if he eats a shrimp oh well good for him he got a snack. He will not eat frozen treats, nothing but NLS, those tiny white flatworms that live in the substrate, and sometimes live dwarf shrimp.


 

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Looks awesome! I have the exact same tank and know how hard it was to scape such a small/tall tank. Good job! Mine has the stock lights on and a bunch of anubias in it and they grow like crazy! I get a new leaf just about every week and one of them just flowered!
 

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Discussion Starter #10 (Edited)
It has been almost a month, time for an update! Starting at the top my fern has melted away as I await new growth, I may have to try again if it does not come back...they do fine in other tanks. I decided to remove the non-rooting unidentified floater, now I just have 'Giant Duckweed' and Amazon Frogbit.




The Elodea seems to want to float I have been having a hard time keeping it rooted in the substrate so I am down a few. The Parrot's Feather which is usually invasive was mangled by my Amano shrimp I think they started eating it, then one day I found it bent over and within a day it melted away and was eaten. The Amazon Sword has blown up and I had to trim the right side of it to make light for the Elodea, I will continue to prune the right side of it. It is a good thing the Crypt is a super low light plant because the sword is eating all its light above it. The Crypt Parva has been melting, I am waiting for it to establish itself along with the Dwarf Hairgrass I added it is also melting away. I added another species of moss to the Java Moss ball on the left side corner, I had some terrestrial moss growing on the tip of an emerging rock above the water line in another tank. That was moved to a deeper tank after 6 months and the terrestrial moss became submerged...blew up and started growing like crazy which surprised me! It's a bit darker than Java Moss and it grows in straight lines without branching. My Bettas has adjusted very well and has come to peace with his new home I feel he has plenty of space and has recently started hanging out on the bottom of the tank in the plants finally instead of just at the water surface. Another thing I want to point out is the gravel, I sucked away the very top layer and replaced it with micro gravel more suited to the tank size, and feathered it in where needed. The Moneywort is staying put and finally starting to show new growth on the tips!







I forgot to mention I added 8 Red Cherry Shrimp about 2 weeks ago after seeing my Betta remain tolerant and peaceful. I think the trick was introducing him into a tank with shrimp in it already, I was trying to do it in reverse by introducing shrimp slowly to his old tank he was established in and used to being completely alone. A few days after adding the Red Cherry's though he did eat one of them and got extremely bloated (not the first time he has eaten a shrimp but they were Ghost and Amano) I think he learned his lesson with red shrimp and not to eat them lol because he does not even chase shrimp anymore! Doing a head count this morning I realized one of my RCS is pregnant, you can see all the white eggs in her stomach. I am not sure how long it will take, but I really hope some of them make it without my Betta eating them. One Ghost and one Amano have made it over the backwall and into the rear sump section at least a week ago, and I have left them back there to do some cleaning as punishment for leaving haha.
 

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Discussion Starter #12 (Edited)
It has been 7 weeks since the last update, my button fern is making a comeback finally! I made a custom light bracket using a gooseneck and a glass shelf mounting bracket, and have been experimenting with different bulbs. Right now I am using a 15W PAR20 LED bulb. I added a third floating plant species to my Giant Duckweed and Frogbit, it is some sort of a floating fern.





Elodea has finally rooted and stayed down, and is now thriving. Still pruning the Amazon Sword, and the Crypt below it. The Parva is now established and making a comeback, and the moneywort is doing great. I added some Ludwigia in the back centered, that is redding up with my Iron dosing. I do not think I will have success with the Hairgrass in this tank, so I am thinking about removing it and rescaping the front of the tank...I have a few ideas in mind. I removed all Amano shrimp from the display, they are too aggressive and overpowering for the red shrimps. I have begun selectively breeding my red shrimps since they are breeding so well in here. I only keep higher grade fully red shrimp with red legs, anything that does not pass gets hulled into another tank I have to keep my population genetics in check.




The moss is becoming a headacke to get rooted to the substrate making it hard to clean the tank and such, so during my foreground rescape I think I will only keep the moss that is attached to the rocks. I will be attaching some Riccia to some rocks and adding that as well, along with de-tannined leaf litter for the front. Overall I am very happy with the background plants it is very thick back there!




 

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It has been 7 weeks since the last update, my fern is making a comeback finally! I made a custom light bracket using a gooseneck and a glass shelf mounting bracket, and have been experimenting with different bulbs. Right now I am using a 15W PAR20 LED bulb. I added a third floating plant species to my Giant Duckweed and Frogbit, it is some sort of a floating fern.

the cat tongue like textured floater between teh frogbit and giant duckweed is salvinia minimia, very durable floating plant, does well under bright light and lids (unlike fogbit and water lettuce which can burn, or rot from condensation). I use it in most of my betta tanks.
 

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Discussion Starter #14 (Edited)
Thanks for the identification AquaAurora!

I went away on vacation for a week, and I was really worried about this tank on its own but it did fine. My Betta was overly excited to see me when I returned. This tank requires a lot of top off pretty much daily. So I rigged up a Hydor ATO to maintain the water level (with a very low voltage pump power supply). I also used an EHEIM Everyday Fish Feeder to feed my Betta. The circulation pump is on a timer that shuts the flow off 2 min before the feeder dumps food, and remains off for 30min so the food can be consumed without sinking.





You can see the sensor switch on the right side, and the ATO tube in the background zip-tied to a piece of emerging driftwood.
 

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Very cool to go through all this! Now that I have mine in person I'm seeing just how crazy the proportions are! Hoping to go to the aquascape store today and get some hardscape and substrate. I really love your filter mods. I was thinking about putting some ceramic in where the bio-sponge is now, but the tips on the pre-made filter pad is really helpful.
 

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Amazing solution to topping off the tank while you were away. Great idea!

This is the first time I found this journal. I was smiling when you mentioned your Betta stopped eating cherry shrimp after overeating on the first one. My Betta had a similar experience with a Rasbora. Now everyone in the tank are pals.

How old is your Betta? Except for his tail, he looks great.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
I really need to update this thread it has been too long, but I have been SLOWLY making drastic changes to the tank (without killing my fish and inverts). I have made substrate changes, some plants have been removed, some new ones added...anything that has been here since the beginning is fully established and thriving now!


Very cool to go through all this! Now that I have mine in person I'm seeing just how crazy the proportions are! Hoping to go to the aquascape store today and get some hardscape and substrate. I really love your filter mods. I was thinking about putting some ceramic in where the bio-sponge is now, but the tips on the pre-made filter pad is really helpful.
Please PM me your thread link, I want to follow your tank! There is plenty of room for bio-media in the sump save the high-flow area the sponge is in for Purigen trust me it makes the water beautiful with polished water. If you like to mess with your tank too much this may be a bad choice, or a good one if you need help letting it be since it sucks to work on. I am considering blocking up some of the lower intake to get more of a surface skimming effect.


Amazing solution to topping off the tank while you were away. Great idea!

This is the first time I found this journal. I was smiling when you mentioned your Betta stopped eating cherry shrimp after overeating on the first one. My Betta had a similar experience with a Rasbora. Now everyone in the tank are pals.

How old is your Betta? Except for his tail, he looks great.
My Betta no longer touches snails or cherry shrimp, not even babies! I breed RCS in this tank now with no problem.

What is wrong with my Betta's tail? He is a few years old. There is no rot in his tail it is now enormous.
 

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I really need to update this thread it has been too long, but I have been SLOWLY making drastic changes to the tank (without killing my fish and inverts). I have made substrate changes, some plants have been removed, some new ones added...anything that has been here since the beginning is fully established and thriving now!




Please PM me your thread link, I want to follow your tank! There is plenty of room for bio-media in the sump save the high-flow area the sponge is in for Purigen trust me it makes the water beautiful with polished water. If you like to mess with your tank too much this may be a bad choice, or a good one if you need help letting it be since it sucks to work on. I am considering blocking up some of the lower intake to get more of a surface skimming effect.




My Betta no longer touches snails or cherry shrimp, not even babies! I breed RCS in this tank now with no problem.

What is wrong with my Betta's tail? He is a few years old. There is no rot in his tail it is now enormous.
Sorry, in one of the photos, his tail looked a little odd, but maybe it was the angle of the picture. That is awesome he can coexist with the shrimp.
 

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Discussion Starter #19 (Edited)
Okay so wow, it has been a while again. I will likely only update this thread every 2 months or so. Where to start, well my Lemon Button fern is still making a comeback but it is a very slow growing plant. I am looking into adding some Spanish Moss to the emerged driftwood allowing it to dangle down at the surface. I have removed the Frogbit because the roots get too long for this tank, and I also removed the Salvinia because it grows way too fast...faster than the Frogbit and Duckweed. The only floater I will rock in this tank is the Giant Duckweed (Spirodela Polyrrhiza).




The Ludwigia has taken off I love the contrast next to the Anubias. I had to cut back both Anubias plants they are growing well, and the Java Moss on the rear branch is thriving look how much coverage I have now...I trim the Java Moss every week on maintenance day.




A lot going on down here, lots of changes. First off you may not notice but I did a substrate change (very carefully and slowly!) without harming my inverts and Betta. Luckily the old and new are the same color or this would have never worked, I started with AquaCulture gravel from Walmart. I then came across National Geographic brand tiny gravel I liked much better, and it holds plants better as well. Pictured is one of the last piles of old gravel I netted off the surface to show size comparison, every time I make changes I end up surfacing some old substrate. I removed the stones I had in here and replaced them with one giant 'dragon sandstone' of some sort. I do not know why I can not grow hair grass I think I do not get enough light at the bottom of my tank for it? I have had to cut the lace plant back it exploded out of nowhere, I know they have a dormant period maybe it was dormant but it never shed its leaves. After fighting the Amazon Sword I finally removed it, but I had to pull it up an inch and cut the main roots to avoid making a mess...hopefully the root system dies!! It never grew the way I wanted it, I planted it too far out for one and I was constantly cutting one side of it to make light for other plants in the center of the tank. So I replaced it with a Java Fern which has narrower leaves I just hope they reach as high as the sword did. The Micro Sword kept bothering me after the hairgrass went, it was just so out of place so I uprooted it just to move it 2 inches tucking it around the rock.




The Jungle Vals are not growing as fast as I want them to, and they are not propagating. From my experience they have an establishing period then they take off...I must be right around the corner from take off but they are certainly growing I have a few laying across the top surface. All the plants along the back are doing great, they get just enough light to grow with constant trimming of other plants around the tank. I am very happy with this tank I put a lot of TLC into it, and I spend a lot of time thinking before I make any changes it is next to my bed after all! I have the tank perfectly balanced, it consumes more nitrates than it produces yet my ammonia and nitrite remain 0. Technically the tank idles at 0-0-0 and I dose nitrogen on maintenance day after a 15% water change, it gets up to 3ppm for 1 day then drops back to 0ppm. Not sure that I want to add more nitrogen at a time because the algae is almost non-existent in this tank.




I removed 2 of the 3 large Nerites because I feel they were hungry so now I only have 1 large Nerite (that hybrid dotted one) and my horned Nerite. They compete with the shrimp for algae, and I certainly will never but an Amano shrimp in a tank like this again way too aggressive. I do have lots of red cherry shrimp though, my Betta leaves them alone and I am actually successfully breeding them in here to the point I have began to take it seriously and I am selectively breeding them and hulling undesirables to another tank. Here is one of my mothers, they are high grade Sakura's that I have slowly come across one or two at a time at my LFS. My standards I have set for females are entirely red with minimal or no racing stripe, with red leds and I try to avoid ones with striped red legs. The males need to be entirely red, these are the hardest to find but I gladly welcome entirely red males with clear legs as long as they do not have transparent bodies. My goal is breeding out the racing stripe and clear legs, to have high pigment 'mini lobsters' haha.
 

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Looking fabulous! The change in gravel and adding the large stone makes it look like a totally different tank.

I'd be careful about the spanish moss. It will look amazing, but I wouldn't let it actually grow into the water where it will rot. Adding a few other small tillandsia species could be really neat, too.
 
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