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My Second Aquascape: 15 Gallon Rimless

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Hello all, I'm in the middle of cycling my new 15 gallon tank and had a few questions so I figured I might as well try and turn it into a tank journal.

This will be my 2nd aquascaped tank as I have a 10 gallon waterbox cube that I've posted about before. I also have a small ~7 gallon aqua one lifestyle tank that I received from a friend a while ago (this was my first ever tank and what brought me into the hobby :grin2:) it currently houses 6 neon tetras and 3 Darwin Algae Eating shrimp, they've been there for almost 2 years now but I wanted to give the neons an upgrade as it seems a little cramped for them and I also find the tank a bit too obstructive to do regular maintenance on.

Hence why I decided to go for a 15 gallon rimless tank.


Here you can see the hardscape setup:

I scaped it in an island style, positioned in a left to right fashion rather than the typical centred island. This was largely because I liked the idea of an open swimming space on the right side of the tank for the neons to hopefully school in. I used a nice main of golden vine spider wood (as well as a smaller piece too) and "black kole stone". Now I'm not exactly sure what "black kole stone" is as google doesn't yield any results except for the website I got it from which describes it as a "iwagumi scape stone". So, I'm unsure how it'll affect the hardness and ph of the water but I hope its neutral as it looks similar to black lava stone.

For the substrate I used ADA Amazonia soil II with ADA power sand beneath that and some generic white sand.

Now for the plants I used:
Java Fern
Windelov Java Fern
Amazon Sword
Hygrophila Kompakt
Hydrocotyle tripartita 'japan' mini
Pogostemon helferi
Limnophila aromatica "Green"
Alternanthera reineckii
Cardamine lyrata
Anubias
Cameroon Moss
Taiwan Moss

The planted tank:


Now that was a week ago. Here it is as of today:




As you can see the classic white growth has appeared all over the wood, there's little bit of brown diatoms here and there and the water is slightly cloudy. At the same time some of the plants seem to be melting, they are turning yellow/browning. Mainly the big java fern is showing this and the anubias. Some of the stem plants at the back corners seem to be yellowing at the lower stems, I think its because of the light not reaching that far into those bottom corners. Although they look suprisingly fine so far, I'm also worried about the hygrophila compakt not receiving enough light as they are situated beneath big java fern leaves. No sign of green algae as of yet!

My questions:
Should I bother trying to clear out the white growths and brown diatoms or will they go away by themselves? would it be detrimental to he plants to leave them there? My initial plans were that if they were still around by the time the tank cycles, the livestock will take care of them.
On the other hand, does anyone have any tips for the melting plants? or is it normal in a new tank and the plants will regrow alright?

I've also noticed this small brown rings that look like fish/snail poop and they are all over the tank. I've only seen 3 snails so far that i immediately got rid off, I'm trying to make sure this tank doesn't get a snail infestation as my others have. Regardless, I dont think it is snail poop and I think its just more brown diatoms? Can anyone confirm what they are?

The hardware I'm using:
Lighting - 1x Finnex 24/7 Planted + HLC
Filter - Aqua Clear 20 HOB filter
Heater - Aquael 70w heater/thermometer
No C02
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Amazing composition of the scape. To me it’s more a triangular scape than an island.

The while film thing is from the driftwood. Going through the same thing myself and have been told on the forum that it’s biofilm and it’s benign.

I have sucked it out during partial water change. Whether it would come back is to be seen in coming days.

When animals are introduced this film issue will certainly go away, but for me it’s at least a month away from introducing animals in the tank.


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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Nice scape! That definitely looks like snail poop in the last picture.
It does eh, but its all over the tank, like every inch but no sign of a single snail which is why I dont think its snail poop.

Amazing composition of the scape. To me it’s more a triangular scape than an island.
You're right, I didn't realise they were called triangular scapes and just thought they were a variation of island scapes. Thanks! I've renamed appropriately.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
You do have a point there and its something that I've been questioning regarding my scape. I have planted some smaller plants around the wood and there are stem plants at the back but like you said, because of that big java fern some they are kind of hidden. Now while im not worried about the stem plants in the back as eventually they'll grow tll enough, I am worried that some of the smaller plants at the front will be overshadowed by the big java fern both literally and figuratively. I am considering swapping out the big java fern for a couple of smaller ones, might move it around first and see if I can come up with a better position for it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 · (Edited)
So update/question about the cycling progress.
Last week (end of week 1) and a day after doing an ~80% wter change I tested the following:
Am - 1.0-2.0
Nitrite - 0.25
I Didn't bother testing Nitrate as I could see the cycle had begun.

Today (end of week 2, Day 16 to be exact), again a day after doing a ~80% water change I tested the following:
Am - 0 (maybe between 0 and 0.25)
Nitrite - 0
Nitrate - 0 (from what I could tell. I tested twice just incase I didn't shake the API bottle hard enough)

Is this normal? Is the cycle finishing? or did I mess it up by doing too big of a water change? All I've done so far is an 80% water change once per week for 2 weeks. I wouldn't have thought it would cycle this quickly as I have heard 3 weeks is usually the minimum. Its mainly the lack of nitrates that has given me doubts, but my other tank, a 10 gallon cube that has been running for almost a year now also tests for 0 nitrates the past few months. Both tanks are heavily planted.

I will test again tomorrow to confirm, just to give it more time after a water change.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
1 Month Update

So I've hit the 1 month mark for this tank and it seems I am still fighting off issues I think are typical of a new tank.

Firstly, the white slime on the driftwood didn't seem to go away. Secondly, brown diatoms covered every surface in the tank, particularly the sand and rocks. A lot of the mid-grown plants were covered by the white slime and diatoms and suffering as a result. The only [plants doing well is the Taiwan moss and the Cardamine Lyrata.

Once the tank was cycled, I added 7 Aussie algae eating shrimp. Then 3 days later 7 Neon Tetras. It seemed like the shrimp were doing their thing and grazing on the plants and driftwood, however I don't think they ate the white slime or at-least they didn't make a dent in it. They did however clear up a lot of the diatoms off the bigger plants like the java fern but most of the plants lower to the ground still had a layer on them.

A week later I added 3 Panda Corys. They definitely graze on the driftwood and especially through the sand substrate but again didn't seem to eat the slime and kind of just pushed the diatoms around.

Yesterday I decided I would try to manually remove the slime and diatoms with a toothbrush and siphon. I was kind of successful but there was ALOT of gunk everywhere, I had to stop when I had drained about 70% of the water because I didn't want to do too big of a water change. I'll have to wait till next week to get the rest (probably would take 2 more cleaning sessions). Additionally I trimmed a few of the plants. The Limnophila 'Green' were rotting at the stems, so I cut of the healthy tops and replanted those. I trimmed all the dying leaves off the big java fern. Now light can actually get to the plants below it but again they are still covered in slime and diatoms.

Today I added 13 mixed cherry shrimp culls. I also I turned down the lighting schedule for the Finnex HLC Planted+ from 100% (12-6pm) to 60%. So far there has been only a little bit of green algae growing at the tips of the driftwood.

Hopefully the tank reaches a balance soon! If anyone has any tips please let me know!

Here is a 3-week update video:
The 1 month-update video will be out soon :grin2:

Cheers!
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Day 42 Update

At day 42, the tank is still sorting itself out. The tank has gone from covered in brown diatoms to being covered in green algae, which I think is an expected transition and a good sign? Just means I have a lot of maintenance to do. As I mentioned in my last post I have turned down the lighting intensity from 100% to 60% from 12-6pm with a 3 hour ramp-up/down (so 9am-9pm in total), but it hasn't seemed to make a difference in my to the rate at which algae appears.

Of all the plants in that tank, it seems the Anubias and Pogostemon Helferi is struggling the most. Both were situated in the shade of the big Java fern which I thought might be a problem for the Pogostemon but not the Anubias. I decided to trim the Java Fern since a few of its leaves were also melting. It seems to have stopped melting now. I also replanted the Limnophila Aromatica 'green' by trimming off the dying stems and planting the healthy tops. Rest of the plants seem ok albeit still getting a bit covered in brown diatoms.

I tried to physically remove the white slime off the wood and oh boy was there alot! I couldn't get all of it out because I didn't want to do too big of a water change in a short period of time. Yet in the days after that attempt, it seems the slime has come back!? Maybe the wood still has a lot to give off before it disappears and hence why it has persisted for so long... Unsure though. I will keep trying to remove it again.

Snails have also been annoying. I dont see more than 2-3 at a time and I take them out when I do, but everyday I'm still finding them. I don't want this tank to get overrun like my other tanks.

Anyhow here's the 1 month update video:

Enjoy!
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Gone Green!

So 2 days after my last post, my tank has indeed transformed into a green box haha. Although they aren't forming the glass anymore, as you may notice in the picture, on the substrate the brown diatoms aren't letting up!

These pictures below were taken 2 days apart, the first being right after a cleaning and water change.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
How do people keep their white sand clean? 4 months update

At almost 4 months, the tank I think has finely reached that sweet spot where I'm no longer seeing algae buildup only a few days after a clean. Plants have filled in nicely and the fish and shrimp have been for the most part doing fine.

I lost 1 cherry shrimp a week or 2 after they were introduced which I attributed to acclimation issues and more recently I sadly lost 1 of my 3 Panda Corys. I don't really know what happened as water parameters seems fine (0 Am, 0 No2, <5 No3). Everyone else is ok and my only thoughts are is that the Panda's arent getting enough food, as I believed that as scavengers, all the food that sink past the mouths of the tetras would be enough for them. I now am doing a small feed at night, when the tetras are sleeping and the cories are still active. I also started supplementing their diets with frozen bloodworms as I read meaty foods were important for cories, something I was neglecting.

Apart from this, the only issues Im having with the tank is that, I find that the white sand gets quite dirty quite quickly and I'm pretty sure its just shrimp poop building up on the surface. The day after I clean the sand, shrimp poop appear almost like I didn't do anything haha. I wonder how other people keep their sand clean?

Secondly, I'm having issues with limpets! There seems to be hundreds in the tank, all over the glass and it is quite annoying. I was focused on keeping snails out which worked but now im contending with the limpets which I've never had before. My thoughts are to potentially get an otocinclus or 2 which I have read have been now to eat limpets on the glass.

Oh and I've also found my centre-piece fish, a beautiful male betta, I've named Cicero! Pictures below. On his first day, he had 1 swipe at each different inhabitant almost as if he was curious and asserting his dominance. Since then he has been very passive and doesn't anyone. If anything I've found that the neons tend to nip him during feedings. I'm trying to figure out how to feed them separately.

Anways enjoy my 2 month update video log here for more details :)

Tank Comparison, you can really see how much the plants have grown and filled in.

1 month -


3 months -
 

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that is a beautiful beta !

yeah, the plants are definitely grown in nicely.


I think everyone's sand always looks like yours but they literally clean it for 15 mins, take the pictures, post and then the sand goes back to the regular state. no way to keep them all clean unless there's no livestock or low flow.

maybe adding bigger/smaller transition stones near the base to keep the substrate there less noticeable and make a smoother transition?
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
So my tank has stabilised in terms of algae buidup etc. however, limpets are still everywhere! My plan to combat the limpet infestation was too add an otocinclus as I've heard they can eat them as they graze on a surface. I bought 1 a few days ago to add to the tank just to test the theory (and it was the last one at my lfs), drip acclimated for an hour before adding to the tank. I was surprised however to find it dead the next morning :( From research online, it seems this is a common occurrence with newly bought otocinclus', due to their gut bacteria and the shipping process. That one being the last one at the lfs probably wasn't a good indicator. Bought 3 more today and decided to put them into my 10 gallon CPD tank first, in which Im dealing with an algae outbreak (https://www.plantedtank.net/forums/23-algae/1315945-help-algae-bloom.html), so that I maximise the chances of getting them to eat. Apparently getting them to eat within the first 24 hours of introduction is a good indicator of whether or not they will make it. So fingers crossed no dead ones tomorrow!
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Sigh, the 3 new ones lived past the first day which was a good sign and were clearly moving around eating algae as I noticed at least 2 pooping as well. But 3 days ago, I found one dead and today another one has died. Only 1 is left alive and it doesn't seem to behaving abnormally...
 
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