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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Hey all! I wanted to start my Tank Journal. I'm starting from scratch with a 75 Gallon tank and I'm trying to save as much money as I can while meeting the aesthetics I'd like and the needs of my livestock.

This is my first planted tank, so while I've been doing tons of research - the learning hasn't even begun!

This is my tank - 75 Gallons, purchased second hand (Stand and Tank) for $100:


For Filtration I have a Fluval FX6 and a Fluval C4.

I will be doing CO2 injection. My brother got me this CO2 Setup for my Birthday! Can't beat Free! I still need to get a tank for it though.

For lighting I bought a
(the light claims it is between 6000K - 65000K) and a
. They both are rated IP-68, but I'll probably crack them open and put some silicone in the seams just in case, they are from China. I also have a 48" T8 light that came with the tank that I can use if extra light is desired. I bought a 52" Light bar because it was a dollar cheaper than the 48" light bar. I was thinking of putting it diagonally, but I probably won't. Should have just stuck with the 48" light bar.
The Light Bar is powered by a 350W PC Power Supply.


Here's a picture of the light bar in my basement. There are no other lights on.



Here is a picture of the LED Grow Light and the Light Bar together. It is more Red/Purple than I expected, but I think once I get them mounted in the tank this will remedy itself.


Here is the tank in the room it will be in with the LED Light Bar tested to see brightness. This is not the final resting position of the light bar - only placed in tank to test fit, etc...




Here is the tank with the Light Bar and LED Grow Light:
*I added white paper at the bottom to check for hot spots on the Light Bar

 

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Grow lights which come from a horticulture source will frequently be red since other
colors are a waste when going just for optimum growth like any type of plant farm.
But you will eventually find yourself watching the tank at mostly the same times each
day so once those are established you can always set your light timer(s) to have the red off at the times you normally watch the tank.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I will be painting the back and left side of the tank Black. I think this adds depth and looks much cleaner.

Soon I will be building a Tree stump and "background" out of Foam, PVC, and Concrete. I'll post pictures of that when I start it.

I'm thinking about adding a "Light Box" to the top of the canopy so that I can adjust the height of the light from the water. I will also be adding some light diffuser (eggcrate, etc..) to help disperse the light into the tank.

Bump: Raymond S.: That's a good idea! The Light Bar is pretty dang bright, so I'm hoping that once I disperse the light it blends in with the whiter light.

In the picture of the tank with the Light Bar and Grow Light, you can only see the Red/Purple hue on the back wall of the tank. That's where there isn't a lot of white light shining. The middle lights in the Light Bar are Spot Lights, so they are a pretty narrow beam.

Fingers crossed it works out how I envision it!!
 

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Will be watching/w keen interest, the foam decco as I'm contemplating a similar
effort in a 30L tank(36"x12"x16"tall) on one end of it.
But I have a specific reason. To hide/include a new filter I'm thinking about.
I've been fairly successful in making DIY built in bio-only filters in my 10g tanks.
Now for a change in the basic design, but trying to hide it in a "tree stump".
So how natural yours comes out looking is a serious interest to me.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Hey Raymond,

Sorry it's been so long - school and my job search got pretty intense for a hot minute.

I'm going to start building the tree stump within the next two weeks. I will be sure to document this as best as I can (not only for the community, but for me in the future as well). I liked the idea of turning the stump in to an internal filter, however, I won't be doing exactly that. I decided to use the stump as an overflow (surface skimmer) for my filters and to hide the heater in there (if it'll fit). The design I'm using will definitely be able to hold a filter in there.

Apologize for the delay!! It's time to get the ball rolling. Hope you're still watching - did you start your stump project yet?
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Started!

I started building the stump!

1. I measured the inside tank dimensions. This probably didn't matter since I can cut down to make it fit, but I wanted to try and build it without major cutting after the concrete is on.

2. I used a piece of cardboard and transferred the dimensions to it so that I could use it as a template




3. I laid out the design I want on the template.

The silver marker is the Tree Stump. The stump will be "hollowed" out up to about 10" from the bottom of the tank. I will cut holes where the roots are and allow fish to use it as a cave. I am planning on hiding my heater and filter return within the upper portion of the stump, essentially turning it into a weir.​
The black line is where my rock wall will be. The idea is to put caves in this section and on top of those caves is where the plants will be (aka the Green Area). The rest of the aquarium will be Pool Filter Sand.


4. I measured the stump to determine how large of a piece I needed to cut. I made sure to remove the plastic that is on the foam. I used my shop vac as the form (which wasn't perfect, but I think it'll add to the "natural/imperfect" look). I used a heat gun to warm the foam up and shape it around the vacuum and then clamped it in place.





Here's how it turned out:


5. I marked where I wanted the tree roots to be and cut pieces of foam and siliconed them to the "stump". I will go back and shape them how I like before I put the concrete on. There will be a total of 3 roots. There will be two openings one on either side of the middle root.

First Root


Second Root


Overhead Shot of Roots


6. I tried to bend a 6" tall single piece of foam to shape for the rock wall. It ended up snapping about halfway through. The cardboard is not a good medium for bending it, there's no where to tack it down. Also, after I laid it up, I was thinking that the 1/2" thick foam I'm using might be too skinny to give me the 3-D effect I'd like. I think I'm going to go get 2" thick foam and build it up and then shape it to my desired form. I think that will give me the depth and intricacies without the pain of bending it.


In case anyone is wondering. I will be doing dirt where the plants will be planted and will most likely do a Pool Filter Sand cap, but I like the idea of doing a Flourite or Blasting Media cap to keep the dark look and add depth.

More to follow!...
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 · (Edited)
Update

Sorry for the delay! Ended up adding another Major and a Minor to my degree... so, life has been a bit hectic!!

*it looks like the image hosting site I previously used is down. Here are some pictures of what I started with:

TANK:


BEGINNING OF STUMP:


STUMP:




So, I've shaped the stump, rocks, and branch:

STUMP:




ROCK WALL:




STUMP & ROCK IN TANK:




ROCK WITH CAVES:


BRANCH:






STUMP WITH BRANCH:


FINAL:





The idea with the branch is that I'm going to seal the ends with silicone leaving air in the PVC pipe. I'm hoping that the air in the pipe will add buoyancy and move with the water current (as well as keeping the weight off the foam when tank is filled with water). Will it work...? We'll find out!

Let me know how it looks. I'm still not sure about the way the branch looks, but I don't want to mess with it too much. I've learned that when I try and make it "perfect" I end up having to start over (more often then not).

All of this will be coated with concrete. I hope all goes well!
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Practice Concrete

Ok, so I got time to practice putting the concrete onto the foam. This is using only water, when I put the mixture onto the final product I'll be using an acrylic bonder/fortifier to help with adhesion and flexibility. Right now I'm just playing with colors and textures. This was the first pass and wanted to see what it looked like with some wet shaping, some sprinkling of dry powder onto wet mixture, etc...

I don't know what I think about the stone color.... I think it's a little too brown for me. I'm going to try a lighter brown. I was thinking about mimicking sandstone, but I'm going to have to get some more colors if I decide to go that route. I will also be trying a grey stone color (and shades there of).

*Images are links if you'd like to see them bigger*

Here are some pics of the stone:






As for the stump... I went with a darker brown to mimic the coloration of wood when it gets wet. I actually like the color of this, so I won't do too much messing with it, but I'm definitely going to experiment some more with highlights, shading, and texture.

I like the texture on the left side of the image below, but I think the color may be a tad light:


That being said, I do like the deeper grooves on the right side as well. I'll definitely be playing with this more.

Here are some more photos of the same stump:





Remember, this is only one pass at applying the concrete. I'm going to let this cure for 24 hours and then come back in and add more layers in order to play with the color and texture.

I also need to roughen up the PVC and play with how the mixture adheres to that. I don't think there will be any issues there.
 

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thats gonna look amazing when its finished. the details you've added in the wood look great!
im not sure how i feel about the branch though. its weird to see a branch that close to the roots of a tree. maybe you could not have the branch attached to the stump, but rather have it as a fallen branch that ended up leaning on the stump?
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 · (Edited)
TheMakani:
I had the exact same conversation with my wife about how the branch location looks unnatural. I figured, why not try it and if it doesn't work just patch the hole in the stump. I didn't even think about treating the branch as if it broke off of a tree. Definitely an excellent alternative. I'll have to take a deeper look into how I'd want that to look. If I used it as a branch, I'll probably fill it with sand to add weight.

Man!!! I'm just so glad for that suggestion! That idea didn't even cross my mind, but in hindsight it's so obvious it blows my mind that it didn't! Thank you!

I wonder if I could use the PVC pipe idea and use it to replicate a mangrove root system for the next tank?



Lisals:
I'm using grout. The brand is Polyblend from the Home Depot. I'm using a mixture of Sanded and Non-Sanded grout. The black is quikrete cement colorant.
I'm using Polyblend because it is the only grout I could find that doesn't contain mildewcide/anti-bacterial. Grout is cement, just a more fine, fluid version. It also doesn't contain lime.​
 

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That stump is a great idea, but like the branch it's too perfect. I would use your fingernail to take some random chunks out. Really tear it up. It will make it look more natural and add a place to stick in ferns and moss. Give it some character. Real wood and vines and knotty and mangled with odd imperfections. It's a cool idea. When I did my background I stuck cocoa fiber, small rocks, moss, anything and everything I could do to make it look natural.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
The Dude1:
That's good advice and I'll be sure to make it look as natural as I can!
You did a great job on your background; the rock texture and color do look really good!

Thank you for your advice Dude1!


Remember that these two pieces are strictly test pieces; I'm using them to test application techniques, color, shrinkage rate of grout, shadowing & highlighting techniques, and to get comfortable with the medium.

At one point I thought about adding a stainless steel mesh "screen" to the stump for moss, but I decided against it. Although, I don't think it'll be difficult for me to add moss to the stump in the future (if I decide to go that route). I was planning on adding moss to the branch, but that's as easy as using fishing line.

There is an area I built into the middle root that I designed to be able to nestle a plant in there. I was thinking of a fern/anubias or something similar.


All that being said.... Keep watching this thread because I will most certainly be asking for advice on how things are looking. This is my first time doing this process and my first time doing a planted tank, so the more advice the better!!
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 · (Edited)
Shading Update

So I went ahead and added some shading to the test stump. I think it looks really good. I'll be mimicking the left side of this test piece for the entire stump & branch as best I can.
**Images are links to bigger photos**

Picture of it underwater:



Picture of it wet, but out of the water: [This is to show texture detail]




I'm still working on the rock color and trying to decide the route I want to take on it.


The Makani:
I mulled over your suggestion. While I agree with you for the most part (about it looking a bit out of place in regards to branch proximity to roots), I set it all back up in the tank and decided that I'm going to try it with the branch attached to the stump. I don't know... there's just something about the way it looks that I really, really like. So, I'm going to try it out and see what the finished product looks like. I cannot thank you enough for your point of view though; if it just doesn't turn out to look good at all, I'll definitely do what you said.​
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Alright, I added some green coloring to the stump and I've been playing around with colors for the rock. I don't know what I think about the green for the stump. I like it, but at the same time I don't. I think it adds age to it and it makes it look like it has moss/algae on it.... but I just don't know... I think I like the color of the previous post (the brown with shading) more than this. I'm wondering if I should just stick to that and then allow algae/moss/etc... to grow on it over time.

**Picture is link to bigger size**

Here's a picture of green added to the test stump:




Please let me know what you think. I'm on the fence with this stump color.

As for the rock, I've been playing with highlights of reds, yellows, browns, etc... My idea was to mimic lichen on rock, but I don't think lichen exists underwater; maybe in tidal zones. Am I right on this?

Thanks again! All input is very much appreciated!
 

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I think maybe a bit too much of the green. might try a different brown in spots to simulate places where the bark split/came off. the green for the mossy look is cool but it looks almost too... thought out? sorry not sure how to word that thought

Edit: I think the idea of adding some color to the rock is a good one. Kinda mimics the veins of various ores and or things running through natural rock.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
I think maybe a bit too much of the green. might try a different brown in spots to simulate places where the bark split/came off. the green for the mossy look is cool but it looks almost too... thought out? sorry not sure how to word that thought

Edit: I think the idea of adding some color to the rock is a good one. Kinda mimics the veins of various ores and or things running through natural rock.
I think that hits the nail on the head. It's too thought out... It looks good, but there's just something off about it. Thanks for the opinion khaotickross!

As for the rocks, that's what I was going for. Kind of a metamorphic or sedimentary style rock. Jagged and cliff like rock, not smooth like river bed rocks. After further research I am not going to mimic lichen, it definitely isn't found underwater.
 
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