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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I'd like to start a tank journal for my ten gallon, even though I set it up more than two years ago. If nobody minds, I'm going to post a backlog of pictures highlighting the progress it's had, then continue from there. Current tank shot (10/08/20):

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Started in July, 2014:

It was a bare-bottom tank at first (until I realized how much I dislike looking at snail poo). I put a 50 watt heater on it, a small sponge filter on an airline, java fern and anubias on driftwood pulled from my other tank. Two small cherry barb were the first inhabitants.

7/9/14-
Moved one of the driftwood pieces back into the other tank, put into the tenner fake skull with java moss tied on it (from a betta bowl I got rid of), and some fake plants to fill a corner.

Tried tieing java fern rhizome onto a stone.

7/13/14- Added some gravel substrate.

I look at the tank from short end a lot, so tried to make that view nice.

Put in a tomato nerite snail and one malaysian trumpet snail (that's all it took, now I have hundreds).

8/10/14- Got a new betta, Oliver, for the tenner. [strike]He's still with me as of today![/strike]



8/13/14-
Lots of diatoms. Or fine debris off the driftwood, I was never sure which. Up to this point the tank just had ambient lighting from window, and the anubias kept on growing.

8/15/14- Started dosing some ferts (seachem flourish comprehensive) each week, and put a desk lamp with cfl daylight bulb over the tank 6hr/day.

8/29/14-
I was relatively pleased with the tank at this point.

I started seeing baby trumpet snails.

I put a piece of paper on the short end of the tank to block light from window. It wasn't direct sunlight, but enough I was getting hairy algae on edges of anubias leaves.

Java ferns didn't seem to be doing too well, although they had new leaves growing constantly.

I got a striped kuhli loach- you can just see his face peeking out from behind driftwood center of the pic here.

Anyone interested in seeing more...?
 

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Discussion Starter #2 (Edited)
Sept 2014-
I liked being able to move the java ferns around, on their little stones, but they never grew much bigger than this.

Realized my lone kuhli (Sam) in here would be better off in the other tank with companions and more room...

11/14/14-
I had a few blue platyfish in my other tank that were getting attacked by my betta in the larger community tank (he was also blue) so I tried switching fish- moved the cherry barb pair to the bigger tank, brought the platies over here into the tenner:

I thought at first Oliver would leave them alone, he followed them around but I never saw him flare at them, or actively chase.


Incidentally, my anubias lanceolata looked its best ever, at that time.

11/18/14- It took several tries but I finally caught my kuhli Sammy and moved him into the bigger tank.

12/19/14-
I got a picture of the nerite snail's teeth!

The blue platies were not safe in here, either. Even though I never saw Oliver actively attacking them, found fish in the morning with their tails bitten. I put them in hospital tank and tried to treat, but they didn't make it. I gave the last uninjured one to the pet store.


12/22/14-
Put up a mirror for a few min, got pictures of Oliver flaring for the first time.


Jan 2015-
I put a potted spider plant on the cover glass over anubias, to shade it more

The barteri seemed to appreciate that.

For a while I grew trimmings of the java moss in jars, kept on top of the tank they stayed just warm enough.

Feb 2015-

March 2015- Oliver still reigns alone with the snails.
 

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Discussion Starter #3 (Edited)
Added STS

May 2015-
I realized to be a proper low-tech tank, I need substrate holding nutrients for the plants. I started out by just adding some into the smaller tank. I bought fired montmorillonite clay, safe-t-sorb. It's really dusty and lightweight, floats up easy if disturbed. (This turned out not to be a problem, the trumpet snails turn substrate over so much, after the first week I hardly saw any safe-t-sorb at all, most was turned under the gravel). It sucks carbonates out of the water and until reached capacity will lower pH. That might be good, except then the pH will be unstable every time I replace water? I soaked it w/baking soda as well as ferts.

First I sifted the entire 40lb bag through a window screen, removing about a fifth of the volume in dust and fine particles. Then screened just a few pounds through an old plastic collander, removing half again of smaller particles so what's left is more even sized, larger bits.

Then I tried "charging" it. It soaks up a lot of stuff immediately (that's why sold for spill cleanups) so you soak it in a bucket of water with fertilizers, and then the clay holds them for your plants. The science on this is not precise, I read how some people did it- the important part seems to be keeping the fert ratios the same as when you normally dose the tank. I dissolved four EI doses of dry ferts and liquid micros into a gallon of water, then soaked the STS in that. For just over an hour while I did regular tank maintenance. I think now this wasn't long enough. Most people soak it for an entire day, or a week. Yeah, it's really dirty.

I used the old tank water to rinse out the STS. Even after the two siftings I'd done, it still took about twenty rinses before the water was relatively clear. And then when I sprinkled it into the tank, it was still cloudy for about half an hour.

I wasn't sure if this would benefit the plants. I had all epiphytes in this tank. They do have little runners that go down into the substrate, do those grab nutrients? or do they only feed from the water column. But it can't hurt and this tank didn't have deep enough substrate anyway. It did make the pH drop. I dissolved into the tank some baking soda, pH stabilized after 2 more tsp of that.
 

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Nice tank. I am interested in sts as substrate for my 10 gallon as well. So, you did about 20 rinses and how much baking soda altogether? Can you load it too much with ferts?
 

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Discussion Starter #5
I'm not sure if you can overload it w/ferts. It was totally an experiment for me. I thought if I put a good amount in, it would hold that and continually soak up more nutrients from fish poo and I'd be good. Turns out it didn't quite work like that- I still have to dose ferts each week or my plants suffer. Maybe I did not put enough in during the initial soaking. But I think it is helping by holding nutrients in the tank longer, between doses.

I sifted the safe-t-sorb to remove dust and really fine particles initially, to avoid having to rinse so much. It was still a lot of rinsing. I ended up putting about a third of a 40lb bag into a five-gallon bucket, covered it with 3 gallons of water, dissolved four weeks' worth of ferts doses into that. You can see the water bubbling crazy at first as the clay soaks stuff in. I could even hear it. I didn't want the pH bouncing around so I put in baking soda, tested the bucket water, and kept doing it until I didn't see a sudden drop in pH. I figured once the safe-t-sorb had reached its capacity to absorb carbonates, it would stop absorbing so much so sharply w/each addition. It was 5 TB in the initial soaking. Tested tank water after it went into the aquarium, and added small doses of baking soda when I saw pH swings, until they stopped. It was 2 tsp more to get it stabilized (added in 1/4 tsp increments).

I was prepping the safe-t-sorb for my 20 gallon tank as well, that's why I did so much quantity. The ten gallon only got a few handfuls of it initially, to test it out. I added another layer later on.
 

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Discussion Starter #6 (Edited)
Found a few more early pictures- of things I don't have anymore

Feb 2015
I really did like the platyfish- they were cute and I love blue color. Sorry that I couldn't keep them, but the betta rules. This was the last one I had that was given up at the petstore.

I didn't realize it at the time, but now I think their blotchy appearance was due to stress, from their aggressive tankmate.

This was my favorite picture of that last one.

I took the java moss out. It wasn't doing anything for me. After all that time tied down, this was the best I got for moss clinging by itself:

I tied the java fern onto the skull instead. I don't like fake decor anymore, but it is my betta's favorite hideout so I am reluctant to remove it. Trying to naturalize and soften its appearance by having a plant grow over it.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
6/8/15

I took the blue background off my tank. Wanted a brighter, cleaner look.

Sometime mid 2015 I started doing EI ferts. I used the recommended EI dosing amount but for low light/low tech only give it once a week- 1/16 tsp KNO3, 1/32 tsp K2SO4 and half again that of KH2PO4. I have tiny fractions of teaspoons to measure but the smallest one is 1/32 (smidgen). To get half of that I dissolve 1/32 tsp into 10ml of tank water and dosed 5ml of that into the aquarium. Here finally started to see some improvement in my java fern-

I like taking overhead shots occasionally. (Plants on the right against the back wall are still fake plastic).
 

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Discussion Starter #8 (Edited)
My betta fish had his moving day!

6/10/15-
In the summer moved to a new house- only a five minute drive from my old apartment so I transported the plants, driftwood, and snails in a clean five-gallon bucket w/some tank water, just two-thirds full so it wouldn't spill over (should have covered the top with plastic wrap or something, but I didn't think of it)

I brought Oliver in another bucket with his skull cave for some security. I think that was a good idea- he did keep hiding in it.


I set it all up again in the new place, returned to the tank water from the plant bucket. Replaced the driftwood and plants. Then started running filter and filled the tank with new water. It was very cloudy at first.

After half an hour still cloudy so I lightly rinsed out the sponge filter- it was overloaded with silt.

It wasn't really clear again until the next morning. I kept the lights off for a full day to reduce stress for the fish.
 

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Discussion Starter #9 (Edited)
New lighting

6/16/15-
Bought a new LED light for my tenner. Finnex Stingray. It just goes on/off, none of the sophisticated programming options. I didn't want that because those seem too strong for my low-tech with low-light plants. Even so it's a lot brighter than the cfl bulb I had. Makes me notice all kinds of little flaws in the glass, specks of things.

And I saw for the first time that Oliver's eye was cloudy. I tested the water quality- no ammonia, no nitrite, pH at 7.6, nitrates 20 (to be expected, I dosed ferts the day before). So the water is clean and biofilter working fine, I guess its just stress from the move. I started doing small partial wc (half gallon) every other day, siphoning off some settled debris on the broad leaves. Fed him some garlic-soaked food too. His eyes seem a little clearer next day (but of course he's camera-shy and I can't get good focus on it).

6/19/15-
One thing I soon disliked about the new LED was the glare across the top of the tank, and the visible blue, red, white spots. Annoying.

Also really noticeable how much of a shadow the black plastic hinge casts across the tank. I happened across this idea on the forum and tried it- use silicone sealant to make a colorless hinge.

Mine's not quite even, and the surface I worked on wasn't completely flat like I thought, so the glass panes do not lie exactly level. But this is not noticebale when on top of the tank, and it is very strong. Downside is that the hinge was fairly stiff, it wouldn't prop open by itself and I had to hold the back panel down with one finger when lifting open the front.

For a few days while the silicone was curing I kept the tank covered with a sheet of plastic wrap. I did notice that this gave an overall softer look to things. Less glare off the sides and not so annoying the spots of color lights above the tank either. Hm. Makes me think that if it turns out this light is too much for my low tech setup, I could reduce it down a notch by replacing the glass with polycarbonate... (been reading about this on the forums too- it cuts the light down by 20 or 30%, I might actually need to because I don't want to get driven into using c02 to keep up w/the higher light...) It's a subtle difference, hard to get a photo showing that but you can kind of see it compared here:


I know that sounds counterproductive- I redid the hinge off because I wanted more light, and now might switch to plastic because I want less light? Really its that I want an even spread of light- not a strip of shadow across.

6/28/15-
It didn't take long to realize the Finnex Stingray was too much light for this plant. In just a week or two my anubias went from looking like this

to getting a coat of brown algae-

But other plants seemed to be doing better- for the first time ever, the java ferns in this tank had little fiddleheads coming up! They were responding either to the safe-t-sorb or the new light, not sure which but I'm definitely pleased. I tried shading just the anubias by putting plastic wrap over the glass lid on the one side, to see if it helped.
 

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Been enjoying looking at all your pictures. :)

I saw this vid (the idea originally came from this forum somewhere) for a DIY sliding glass lid (no hinge) using an existing top. Perhaps that would work? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EQ6Xzi51Sqs
 
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Thanks for doing this. Most tank journals take awhile to get exciting since you start at day one and have to wait. This is like binge watching TV shows on Netflix.

Oliver is super cute. I love the pictures of him following the Mollies. Too bad he was snacking on their fins. I have Rasboras in with my Bettas. The boys chase them, but usually can't catch them. Except that one time... I still don't know if Finn found an already dead one or if he actually managed to catch it, but it made a hefty tummy ache inducing meal for him (he was a teenager at the time and a Rasbora was larger in comparison to young Finn than now older Finn).
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Thanks for doing this.
You're welcome! I'm glad it's appreciated. I have a gardening/aquarium blog elsewhere that I post a lot more often on- and keep track of all my mishaps and mistakes. But most of the pictures on there -for my own reference- are plain embarrassing now, so I wanted to just show some highlights from the last year and a half of its progress.

And maybe get some pointers/feedback, too.

Bump:
I still don't know if Finn found an already dead one or if he actually managed to catch it, but it made a hefty tummy ache inducing meal for him
Yikes. How awful to find a fish eating the other. Especially if you're fond of them both. Once I had a smaller fish crash in my tank- I was keeping a close eye on it because couldn't bear to euthanize but I knew it wasn't going to make it- and the moment it rolled over dead on its side the other fishes moved in- probably to eat it. My betta Pinkie was first to get there. We were having dinner at the table near the tank and I jumped up to scoop the dead fish out before the kids realized what was happening. I think they would have been horrified (not to mention put off their own meal).
 

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Discussion Starter #14 (Edited)
July 2015

7/12/15-
I was bothered over black algae marks- on anubias leaves and plastic plants in particular. I took a few measures against that- raised the tank light a quarter of an inch (on stacked popsicle sticks, temporary means)

and lowered the biggest anubias plant itself by retying further down on the driftwood log. This moved it about two inches further from the light source.

Java fern still plugging along. It was looking poorly for a while. I dosed a tiny amount of epsom salts for magnesium. Read that Mg deficiency can cause the veins to look darker than the rest of a leaf. A few days later, the color on the leaves seems to have evened out. Now the trick is to get the light level balanced just so- low enough not to prompt algae all over the anubias, but high enough to grow the java fern.

Not terribly happy with the look of the tank now- it's all too even in height. I think I need more plants in there....

7/13/15-
I have had poor success with otocinclus in the past. But I took a chance with these because they looked so good in the store- alert fins and round little tummies. Thumbprint mark of stomach against the glass. I brought five home yesterday. Some went in the other tank. They're so little! I put them right into the tank- two here with Oliver, who didn't flare or bite but has been following them around curiously. I didn't quarantine because never could keep otos well-fed in QT. I actually saw them eating off surfaces and one of them pooped, so I am more hopeful that these will make it. Eating and digesting is a good sign!


7/14/15-
Next day otos still looked perky

and were feeding off the big anubias leaves

Oliver doesn't seem to mind them. He sometimes cruises close enough to disturb one off its perch but doesn't actually threaten or chase. Seems more curious than anything.

7/19/15-
I added a small amount of magnesium with the ferts last week, 1/32 tsp of epsom salt. Looks like it helped my anubias lanceolata- veins are no longer darker than the rest of the leaf. You can see the affected leaf on the left, new leaf grown out in center looks better.


7/20/15-
Glad I often pause to watch the fish. Noticed this day I'd only seen one otocinclus busy around Oliver's tank- where was the other. Then I saw him headfirst down the output tube for the sponge filter. Just his tail sticking out. He must have been feeding down the airline, or went in after the green algae inside of the tube- pretty determined against the pressure of air flowing out! I jiggled the filter a little- he wiggled his tail but didn't budge. I turned off the air flow, he wiggled his tail more but still couldn't get free. I lifted the filter up near the surface, turned it horizontal, was trying to gently pull the pieces apart when he wiggled again and slid out. Seemed a bit distressed- he sat on the substrate in a corner not moving for a long time after. Didn't appear to get any injuries. Now he's moving about the tank once more, so far he hasn't approached the filter- I hope he doesn't repeat the maneuver and get himself stuck again!

(Every time I look at this tank now I check where the otos are. They do go up and down the airline tubing but I've never seen one in the outtake tube again. I think the fish remembers the mishap and stays clear)

7/21/15-
Really enjoy watching the little otos. Always busy!


It's so cute to see them follow each other up and down the tank sides, resting and feeding together. I wonder if they are different otocinclus species (or subspecies)? one has a mottled gray back and spotty/broken midline stripe- the other is a more even gray, its stripe a clean line.

Oliver still seems okay with their presence, but I'm keeping a close eye on him.

I put a zucchini slice in the tank. It took half the day for an oto to find it. Oliver himself saw it right away and kept slowly circling it, inspecting, taking curious nips. When one of the otos finally started nibbling away Oliver glided over and the oto abruptly moved off. He hasn't gone back to it. But I did see him eating, so I plan to keep offering zucchini a few times a week, to supplement their diet.
 

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Discussion Starter #15 (Edited)
August 2015

8/10/15-
This was my one-year anniversary for Oliver.

I was glad to note I can't remember ever having any serious concerns about his health- aside from the cloudy eye issue after we moved. He's always looked well and had a good appetite. Inspects anything new in his little environment. Continues to appear accepting of the otocinclus. But I was still unable to feed the otos zucchini because although Oliver doesn't eat it himself (I had another betta who would), he keeps hanging around it and keeps the otos off. He used to ignore gnats or fruit flies I catch and drop into the tank, but now he responds to the opening of the lid by coming to see what's offered, and eats the flies readily. (Not anymore- now he ignores gnats and only goes for the larger fruit flies).

8/13/15-
Two nerites feeding near each other on the glass. I used to think tomato nerites were so striking, until I found the horned nerites and I like them even better. My four-year-old named the tomato snail Mavis and the smaller horned one is Bumblebee Snail. I just saw a pic somewhere of these pale gold horned snails, they were called sun thorn nerites. Is that a common name for this shell shape and color? I like that: sun thorn.

8/29/15-
Oliver showing the red and blue highlights in his fins:

My anubias barteri is growing new leaves that look cleaner, but the older ones still have ugly black algae marks on them. I've been gradually cutting off the oldest, most ragged leaves- just one at a time, every other week or so.

I bought a grassy-looking plant from the pet store, I didn't know what it was but think I identified it later as cyperus helferi? Too demanding a plant for my experience or light level! It was deteriorating in my bigger tank, I put a piece in here behind the anubias and to my surprise it did better for a while.

Also planted a bit of rotala and some water wisteria to see if it would grow, because I'd rather have live plants in the back than the plastic ones. Not big enough to get a picture of yet. I've been finding some long strands of java moss here and there in the tank, that I missed before. The java fern is grown, and it holds on by itself now. So that's something.
 

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Discussion Starter #16 (Edited)
Sept 2015

9/4/15-
Tank is a good two months old now (well, since setup after the move). I had a setback in august when I was gone on vacation for two weeks. Leaving the fish alone and unfed is fine, but I didn't know how to leave a planted tank which gets dosed with nutrients weekly, and mine always suffers at any deficiency. I finally decided to bump up the light period, because my worst fear was that the otocinclus would starve- if the trumpet snails being hungry without food to scavenge became competitors for algae. I put the photoperiod at ten hours. Came back and to my surprise it's doing relatively fine. (Gradually cut the hours back, now it's at 7.5 hrs). The broad anubias leaves do have more black marks, but newest leaf seem unaffected and I hope to get it looking good again soon.

I cleaned the inside of the glass, makes for much better pictures. Plenty of biofilm left on the back wall, lower edges and all the plant surfaces and decor items for the otos. I figure if they didn't eat it sparkling clean in the few weeks I was gone, they're not going to deplete their sources and starve anytime soon.



9/5/15-
Here's how my tenner looked early Sept:

I took out a plastic plant. It was getting ugly with black stuff on it- algae I thought, but it was very hard to get off. I soaked it in a bleach solution to kill whatever it was and rubbed and scraped but still didn't come all the way clean and I broke off some of the plastic leaves. Didn't know they were so brittle. Water wisteria is in its place.

As for the other newer plants in here, rotala indica stem is doing absolutely nothing (but at least it's still alive) and cyperus helferi the outer leaves are rotting but inner leaves still green.

I like the short end view.

9/7/15-
The day I put duckweed in my tank. Not intentionally at first. I brought home from the pet store two new nerites and another cherry barb for my other tank, and one more oto for the tenner. This one looked alert the entire time it was being transported and acclimated, and colored up right away once in the tank, not pale with stress.

It did look a bit thin to me, but I saw it feeding on surfaces and pooping already. The others have been with me nearly two months now so perhaps finally I will have some success keeping otos.

And in the bag with the fish I had a surprise freebie- this tiny green floating plant

It's duckweed

I know a lot of people don't want this plant (just like they don't want malaysian trumpet snails). It's invasive. It multiplies like crazy. It looks cute, but I've heard it is awfully hard to get rid of. Well, I've been warned and I'm trying it anyways. I took a chance when I found it, and let it float in my tank. I'm not worried about it clogging filter intakes because my sponge filter sits on the bottom- so the only annoyance would be it clinging to my own hands, tools I put in the tank, etc. I don't think it will be too much trouble to just scoop some out each week to keep it in check, plus I want shade for my anubias. Looking close, I see that the lower anubias leaves which are shaded by upper ones, don't have the algae marks. Some leaves are half clean and half blotched with algae, a dividing line exactly where the light hits. So I'd been thinking about getting some floaters- azolla caroliniana or frogbit or well, duckweed. If the mild current in Oliver's tank keeps it more or less on one side, maybe I could get it to stay over the spot where the anubias grows...

Oliver keeps grabbing the little plant and spitting it out again, to see if its edible I guess. If it survives that and this one tiny bit turns into numerous plants, hey that would be impressive.

9/10/15-
Third day in and the new oto still looks alert and active. But pale, compared next to the others.

One of the older ones, resting upside-down on a driftwood twig!

9/12/15-
It follows reason that if there is an imbalance with the nutrients in my fish tank, that the water I take out and give to houseplants will have the same imbalance. I noticed recently that the anubias lanceolata has pale leaves with darker veins, and it looked like the java fern was starting to develop that, too. So I dosed magnesium in that tank again.

And now just a few days after doing water changes and watering houseplants with the tank wastewater (as usual) the younger, lower leaves on my avocado plant show similar symptoms:

Older leaves aren't as affected. Maybe I should be dosing the magnesium once a month, or once every other month.

9/18/15-
Late Sept tank shot. I trimmed off some roots on the side of the biggest anubias barteri that were getting all messy-looking. It's gripping very solid on the driftwood, has some thick roots that have gone down conforming tight to the wood all the way. Read that these hairy, thinner side roots aren't really essential to the plant.

Cyperus helferi isn't looking so good. I trimmed a lot of dying material out. Put a few handfuls more of gravel around this one and the wisteria, and gave them each a piece of root tab.

Still have the bit of duckweed, but it hasn't multiplied yet.

9/20/15-
I made a new lid for my aquarium, out of clear panels of lexan (polycarbonate) that I got cut to fit at the hardware store. Even though it's not perfect (the cut was not right so I cut again at home with fine-tooth saw and tried to get it smooth with sandpaper but it has scratches on the edge now) I'm pretty happy with it. I followed examples found here. Basically it's two panes (most people use glass) that fit into this plastic piece meant to edge tile. One sits in the channel, the other rests on top, and to open you just slide one back. The op recommended having the bottom pane slide to open but after a few weeks of using this I found I prefer to slide the top pane, from the front. It sticks less.

My only issue is that contrary to what I read online, the lexan does start to sag in the middle. So I cut a piece of wire from a coat hanger for a center brace, and flip the panes each week to re-correct. I'm using a lot of coat hangers. I hate wire coat hangers for clothes, so those left around the house I've been cutting up for this brace. Three pieces out of each hanger. Every few weeks I replace it because it starts to rust a little on the ends. Someday I'll find something else to use.

I was going to glue a handle on, then thought of drilling a hole just big enough to put a finger into (or drop food through) but in the end I just left it as-is. It's easy to slide open with a push of fingernail, and nudge close from the other side. I like this a lot better than the hinged lid because I don't have to hold the lid open with one hand while I'm doing something. Also, I colored the top side of the plastic edging black, for appearances. I simply used a permanent marker. Not on the side that comes in contact with condensation- just in case it could get something toxic in the water.

Also since it's not glass, will probably cut out a little more light.
 

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Discussion Starter #17 (Edited)
Fall 2015

10/6/15-
Since I put a root tab under it, the watersprite has quit looking like it wanted to die and staying green instead.

The anubias seems to be proving my assumption that it got black algae marks from too much light. Newer leaves show none. Third oldest leaf has the pale marks of Mg deficiency, I think that's corrected now as long as I do the epsom salts once a month.


Finally some duckweed multiplying - very slowly though, which suits me just fine. There are now three little clusters of tiny leaves, instead of just one.

Java fern is really improving in here. Smaller plants I tied on the month before have new leaves emerging now, too.

11/6/15-
Transferred over some little windelov java fern pieces from the bigger tank.

Still two small clumps of cyperus helferi in here, barely hanging on, I don't think will last much longer. I should just pull it out and call that one a goner.

Water wisteria in the corner has grown. Some smaller bits were floating and I'm trying to anchor them down to root. The leaf shape is different.

I am not worried about the java fern in here anymore. (See that tiny plant behind it, just in front of the sponge filter? That's one little rotala indica cutting. It hasn't grown at all).

Duckweed seems to be doubling itself every week now.

I do want more plants in here. If the windelov fern does well, I'd like to put in more of that. Maybe vallisneria in the corner where cyperus helferi is dying, ludwigia across the back (replacing the plastic plant) and little stems of rotala in front corners... For now it looks like this:

11/18/15-
I've been "farming algae" on rocks in a sunny window for the otos. Put this one in and took a picture in the morning (before tank lights were on). The otos quickly congregated on it.

Before mid afternoon they had eaten almost all of it! Quick work.

I don't have enough jars of rocks to give this to them every day, or even once a week- have to wait for more rocks to grow the algae and bio-film. It's more just a treat for them, once every other week or so.

11/19/15
Replanted some stuff into my tenner (out of the other tank). I threw away that last bit of cyperus helferi that was dying in the corner, and transplanted some vals there instead.

A few in the front corner on the same side, but it probably gets too much shade from anubias barteri and the substrate is very shallow there so not sure how they'll do.

I put some small trimmings of rotala indica around the fake skull. That one tiny bit of rotala in the background of this tank has not grown noticeably in months. I thought if something in these tank conditions keeps the rotala stunted, perhaps I could simply use that as an advantage and put it around the foreground.

Java fern is not doing well in my bigger tank for some reason. When bits come loose off the driftwood in there, I tie them down to the fake skull in here. They're doing better now.

More bits of windelov fern got moved over, too.
 

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Discussion Starter #18 (Edited)
Dec 2015

12/08/15
Duckweed continues to multiply, and so far is no trouble to maintain. Last week I noticed there were some pale, disintegrating leaves and I simply scooped those out when changing the water. Baby trumpet snails move up to the surface film and cluster in the duckweed floaters.
I like seeing how Oliver swims up from below the scattered cover of plants, to look for his food offering.


12/11/15
Vallisneria I planted seems to be doing well.

Pieces in the front tend to get uprooted, though.

I've stuck more rotala trimmings in here. They tend to come loose as well, I just leave in the ones that manage to hold on.

Looks better from the short end.

A few weeks ago I took a sheet of scrap plastic (off toy packaging) and laid it over the sliding top on the left side of the tank, blocking a bit more light above the main anubias. It seems to have helped, this plant is looking better. No more impulse to trim out algae-blackened leaves.

12/19/15
Went to the pet store. Found a pretty little horned nerite snail. A softer, golden brown color not the bold bumblebee black-and-yellow like most I see. And a ramshorn which I got for free.


12/20/15
I scraped spot algae off the inside of the glass on friday. I hadn't realized how much there was, and it's really hard stuff. So maybe the light is too strong still. I'd hoped the duckweed would screen some light out, but it's not growing that fast.

My water tested fine, but one of the otots didn't look so good after I cleaned the glass. The speckled gray one. He seemed to have a pale patch in front of the dorsal fin on one side. And tail fin seemed a bit degraded on the edge too.

I started doing extra water changes, taking care to siphon the bottom. Oliver's clouded eye came back. Crap.

He seems to like hanging out below the broad anubias leaves, lately.

And in terms of plants- I was so pleased the wisteria has doubled in height, even put out a few side shoots near the base. And the itty bitty windelov ferns seem to be getting a hold on the driftwood.

12/23/15
I was looking back on old photos and remembering how much better my tank looked, when there was less light- how nice and clean the anubias used to be. And the skull never had black smudges of algae all over it before, and the glass didn't used to get so gritty with BSA. Such nice healthy greens, just before the move and the new LED. I decided to cut the light coming into my tenner. I took that extra plastic panel off the sliding top and used it to block some light from side end, instead. (The tank is flanked on both sides by windows).

Nicer to have the sliding lid unobstructed again. I cut some plastic (recycled packaging from some item) into narrow strips just wider than the LED panel and taped them over it, with an extra layer or two on the left side above the anubias. I also put a sheet of white cardboard on the back of the tank.

Doesn't look very different, but I do hope it will improve things. I'm still dosing dry ferts (macros) and liquid micros on this tank; it usually has very low nitrates as so little goes in via fish food- I feed Oliver lightly and the snails and otocinclus eat what's naturally growing in there. I wonder about Oliver's overall health, now. He's always eaten great, looked fine, fairly active. Aside from occasional cloudy eye, he's never been sick or had any fin rot. But he's also never made a bubble nest... So is he content as I've always thought? Is he stressed at sharing a tank, in ways I can't discern? Or maybe he's just not interested in nest-building, never felt the urge. But his face is turning gray now, loosing color under the chin. My best guess he's probably two years old now.

The gray mottled oto looks better this morning after another partial water change- the pale patches on him gone (I think it was fungus) tail still a little ragged but I hope that heals up quickly.

12/26/15
My gray spotted oto died. I thought it was doing better. I was doing 20-25% water changes every day. The pale patches seemed to be gone. But it suddenly looked very skinny the day before yesterday, and then crashed on the tank bottom. Gone. Trying to think why that oto got fungus (or whatever it was). It seemed to happen after the last time I put an algae rock in the tank. I do rinse those windowsill jars out once a week and put new tank water in. I didn't think it was that scummy, but maybe something on there made the oto sick...?

I still have two, and they look fine.

I took a stone with windelov fern bits out of the bigger tank, moved it in here to the front corner that had vallisneria (put that in the back corner with the other vals).

 

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Discussion Starter #19
Jan 2016

1/10/16-
Got some plants from the pet store (in pots). In the betta tank I put some ludwigia and bacopa stems in the background. They looked disheveled at planting time, but already today are standing up straighter and have nice color.

Seen from above-

I planted rotala rotundifolia, also called dwarf rotala. This one out of a gel packet. It's very small, the foliage is incredibly fine, and it was really hard to handle!


Lots of little stems in the front, now.

I also switched positions of the heater and sponge filter. I like the heater position better now- it's more hidden- but moving the sponge filter didn't have the effect I wanted. I thought its current would push the duckweed over to shade my anubias barteri, but its not really doing that.

1/11/16
I do enjoy overhead views, but it's really hard to get a good photo of it all. My patching job in photoshop is not so great- and here I took the pic of the right side at a different angle (to avoid a glare from window, even with the curtains drawn) so couldn't make it line up right.

Closeup of the left side- I'm really happy how my anubias barteri is looking. Shading its side really helped this plant.

On the right, I swear the fake skull is looking a bit whiter, maybe that nasty black algae on it is dying off now.

1/14/16-
Dwarf rotala in the tenner is not doing so great. A few pieces are holding on and their leaf size is increasing- but every day I find more floating on the surface. I thought it was caused by these guys (funny oto perching just past vertical on a bacopa caroliniana stem)

but saw something else- the little trumpet snails are elbowing their way down to eat the rotting bits off the dwarf rotala stems, and setting them loose from the substrate! They look a mess now. rotala indica on the other hand, is holding on and grown quite a bit.

I didn't expect it to become a favorite plant, but I keep admiring the little windelov ferns in here. Seen backlit with ambient light, their little fingers fairly glow

I took another full tank shot- it's kind of a mess right now and will look different tomorrow when I add more plants (a package coming soon!

1/16/15-
Received a plant package (did a swap) and put a sampling of each kind in here to see how they do. Creeping jenny (very small delicate stems)

Ludwigia repens- beside the other ludwigia that came from the store- did the commercial growers stuff that plant with hormones or is the new one just really really different growing conditions? so much smaller and narrow leaves.

Bacopa monnieri. I kind of ran out of room for new stuff in here so put this one in a midground area. Probably not the right spot, my guess is I'll have to move it later. In foreground is a bit more of that staurogyne repens (which I don't expect much of- I think it needs more intense light than what I've got)

Fissidens on the driftwood! This bare vertical end of the log is just where I've always pictured moss growing. I can already see keeping it clean might be an issue- I don't have shrimps to pick through it. I will probably have to keep it trimmed short and siphon the area clear of fine debris each time.

P. helferi downoi

Monte carlo. I did a terrible job of planting this. Root hairs sticking up all over. This morning bits of it floating loose. I can't get it to stay in the substrate. Not sure how much will take (or if I even want it, really).

I'd much rather keep the pennywort (I think it's hydrocotyle tripartita) if I can get it to take hold. I've seen pics of it flourishing in others' aquariums, and it's so pretty. You can barely see the runner stem here, which I've tried to weigh down with pebbles.

Bit of subwassertang on a rock.

Can't see much of them yet because most of the new plants are just little pieces still...

I had to move some plants to make room for the new ones. In particular, took out all the rotala indica from the front (since now I have species actually meant to be carpeting foreground plants) and put it behind the skull. It was a shame to pull up those indica stems because they had really taken hold! Lovely white roots on each one. I should have gotten a picture of that nice growth but couldn't stop in the middle of things to dry my hands for the camera.

The dwarf rotundifolia went back there, too. Discarded half of it and only replanted the best stems. So here you can see arranged behind the skull from left to right there's rotala rotundifolia (dwarf), rotala indica and creeping jenny.

End view:

Other notes- I removed the scuffed and dingy plastic panel from the other short end of the tank (blocking ambient window light) and replaced with a thinner plastic sheet that's more transparent. I hope it will continue to cut just enough to avoid the GSA coming back. I like being able to see clearly into that end of the tank again.

Ludwigias seem characterized by their aerial roots. Funny, I went to move a piece of this in the background, and found that some of those side roots coming out of the stem, were burrowing into the sponge of the little filter!

A little bit of windelov fern had come loose from the driftwood so I fastened it to the stone in the corner. Now there's three bits on there making a neat little cluster.

Anubias barteria is sending out a new leaf. Already it has 'walked' its rhizome nearly all the way off the driftwood moorings. Soon I will have to trim and retie it to keep in place.

I have found a good tool for cleaning hard GSA off the glass- promotional credit/membership cards, the fakes that come in mailers. They scrape nicely and are a bit flexible, easier to reach into corners and alongside plants than with the algae scrubber pad. Just have to be sure there are no infant snails on the glass- I accidentally made a scratch already. But my four-year-old noticed the difference after I'd cleaned some hard algae off: "Mommy, the tank looks so clean!"
 

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1/20/16-
Every morning now I've had to get into the tank with tweezers to replant what come unmoored again. I kind of expected to have carpeting plants float loose easily- the staurogyne repens and monte carlo. More frustrated that creeping jenny keeps coming up- its lower foliage quickly melting, new tiny leaves emerging at tips but not enough hold yet. I want that one to hold. (Not a single rotala stem has dislodged- their little roots are strong enough!)

Yesterday it was at the point that whatever I found floating was pretty much too decayed to try and put back. So picking out plant debris to discard.

Meanwhile took a few pics of other stuff that's doing better. Such as the anubias barteri unfurling its newest leaf.

Oliver came over to see what I was doing

Java fern busting out some real growth

Windelov fingers translucent to the light

1/23/16-
I got a few more buces- thanks to Ebi! -and there were enough I could try a few here in the tenner. Bucephalandra 'Isabelle' went onto the driftwood piece, sharing space with anubias barteria (who sacrificed a few older leaves to avoid shading her too much).

Small segment of buce 'selena' tied to a rock.

Even smaller bits of rhizome that were a long, trailing piece. Not sure which species. I think more 'selena'. Hello, trumpet snail!

A bunch of little 'blue bell' bits tied onto a rock.

Now this tank journal is current.
 
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