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Planting a 10g Mining Tank

2895 Views 12 Replies 8 Participants Last post by  TheOtherGeoff
After having gone without an aquarium for a year, I have finally resurrected my old ten gallon tank. I got it set up originally for a baby painted turtle my fiancee and I adopted and named Lando.

All was going pretty well for a while. Lando would relax on his basking rock for a few hours at a time, and then would get feisty and go after the feeder guppies in the water. At the time, the tank contained one male beta, ten feeder guppies, and one dwarf gourami. It was something beautiful.

Enter the Wal-Mart 28 cent goldfish from hell. There were six of them, and I was against putting them in the tank to start, but my housemate insisted we put them in. Immediately one of them died. Then another. All of them swam a little off kilter, and several had some green discoloration around their pelvic fins. It was hazardous from the start.

One of the discolored goldfish died, and was eaten away by the turtle before I could remove the body. The next morning, at about 5am, I found the turtle drowned on the bottom of the tank. I pulled him out, preformed essentially turtle CPR (no, not mouth to mouth :icon_eek: )and got him back moving and eating a little. I went to bed then, and when I woke, Lando had drowned again, but this time there was no saving him :icon_cry:

The death of Lando caused my one housemate to feel guilty. Lando was a connection between me and my fiancee, something more than a pet, and she knew that her bringing in the goldfish was the cause of our loss. As a result, she drove out fifteen miles to the local aquarium shop and picked up another couple of feeder guppies and a tiger Oscar. Due to the Wal-Mart fish, we had all sorts of diseases floating around, and I truly did not want to waste her money by putting the fish in the tank, but she did. They all died.

So, what I am left with now is three feeder guppies and a ten gallon tank. the water has been replaced, and I have gathered materials from waters around the local copper mines that led to the development of this region. The substrate is essentially stamp sand (the remainder material from crushing mine rock), and all that I have for plants is some hornwort, water primrose, and what I suspect to be some sort of vallisneria. It is definitely not something to be proud of at this point in time.

The end goal I have in mind is to create a 10 gallon, fully planted tank, using mine rocks and byproducts as decor and substrate. The copper mining industry, while civilizing and developing the region, devastated the local waters in the Keweenaw Peninsula of Michigan in the mid to late 19th century, and only today are we fully recovering from the actions of the mining companies (one of the larger lakes, Torch Lake, was just removed from the Superfund Site list in the past month or so). It is a very symbolic idea I have in mind, and it may or may not work. I am also a college student who is planning a wedding for next summer, so I am trying to keep it relatively cheap to free/DIY

I have no pictures tonight (aside from the ones of Lando), only the backstory, as my camera has died, but I will upload and edit them in tomorrow afternoon.
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That's a really interesting idea. But I think you are aware that copper is toxic to many critters, including shrimp, perhaps your fish, maybe some plants, definitely microorganisms (it can be used as a medication). I think if you do it you perhaps could try for a local biotope tank. Collect plants and possibly minnows or water critters from your area. They may be more resistant. The copper will probably be high in your tank.

I collected some local rocks, but then I found out the green ones, serpentenite, are toxic to many plants, so we have endemic plants that don't mind it, but I didn't want to risk it with my aquarium plants. An innocuous looking slate like rock I collected was driving up the pH in a tank so I had to get rid of it too. So one has to experiment, research these things.

I live near the gold country in california and I recently collected some plants from one of our rivers and tried to grow them in a 2 1/2 gallon. Something in there was getting smelly and I tossed everything but a few plants but those are now growning in my tropical aquarium. I have no idea what they are, but they trap pearls of oxygen on top of their leaves. Very cool.
Who knows what you might discover if you go collecting...
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Alright, after about 24 hours, the tank has settled down, and I have a very, very basic setup.

Firstly, the tank had to be cleaned up. This is how it looked once I removed everything except for the gravel:

There is a bit of a green tint, and this is caused by my camera.

So, what it basically looks like right now is this:

The substrate is local stamp sand from around the stamp mills from the old mining days, and is topped by a layer of larger crushed mine rock. I understand that larger gravel is typically undesirable, but I prefer its look, since it appears frequently in the waters around here.

Clearly, this is not a good example of a planted tank, at least not yet.

And since this tank is a bit devoid of life, it is always good to see at least something alive and kicking.

It seems rather appropriate that the tank start out this lifeless. Over the next few weeks I will be introducing more plants and seeing how the water quality changes over time.

If any of you have some suggestions for me, I am more than willing to take them :) I am sure that a lot of you know more than me in this field.
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Thanks for all the suggestions!

I tested the water after two days for copper, and sure as rain, there was copper in the water. The ruddy red rocks on top of the stamp sand were the culprit, so the tank got dumped and everything in it got washed.

I decided that the tank needed a good background, because the clear glass back really took away any semblance of a decent tank. I got some ultra-flat black spray paint (designed to work on glass) and got to work on the back.

So this is essentially what the tank looks like now:

All of the plants in the tank have come from local waters, so they didn't look like something you might get from an LFS or a trade. One of the subgoals of the project is to get the plants collected looking decent and healthy. After only one day in the new setup, most of them are looking better (save for the vallis).

So as of right now, no, the plants don't look like much, and there aren't too many of them yet (studying for summer semester finals at the moment, so I don't have much time to gather them).

The main lesson I think I have learned so far is that the mines killed off the fish and plants, so that might not be the greatest idea to base a tank off of :icon_roll

Any suggestions?
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To say the least, the tank is not doing well.

I suspect that there was indeed copper hidden away in the gravel. I hit an ammonia spike a while back and I believe that the ammonia leached out the copper from the gravel that would have otherwise not been a problem. My plants have all but died off (even the hornwort, which was a pretty clear indicator something was wrong. Hornwort never seems to die, no matter how hard I try to kill it, in my other tanks). Could this actually be the case?

My plans for this week are just to empty the tank (yet again) and start fresh, using something guaranteed safe as substrate (LFS, I've got money for you). I will continue to use the local aquatic plants though.

Anything I should keep in mind?
Yeah, Before you visit your lfs, if you plan to buy a specific brand of substrate know what the substrate is selling for on the internet. Alot of lfs sell stuff like that for a crazy amount compared to what it would usually sell for. Sometimes you can even buy the eco complete on the internet including shipping cheaper than what some lfs offer.

Good Luck!
You might also want to check any places that supply turf products for ball fields or golf courses, if those are around way up there in Houghton, lol (I'm originally from midland). Anyway, if you can find anything used to sop up moisture, it is probably great for planted tanks, you might have seen talk about products like Turface, Soilmaster Select, Oil Dri, etc. They are a great, cheap alternative to over priced subs marketed to aquarists, and you'll usually have enough in one bag to use in quite a few tanks. These products are filled with tiny pores that are nutrient magnets (high CEC) , and are derived from different types of clay that have a high iron content.

Sorry to hear about Lando, baby turtles can be heart breaking if they go.
That's a shame about the crushed mine rock, though I'm not surprised. It had a really nice color and texture, and I agree with you that the coarseness looked nice.
If it was copper mining, you would likely not have elevated copper only. There would be elevated iron, possibly arsenic, and then other leachates from the treatment of the ore. I would leave that stuff alone.
Good point. There seems to be a lot of toxicity reports and what not for Keweenaw sediments and water. Too many scientific PDFs for me to bother with, but looks like there might be a zink poisoning issue also.

I agree, I'd leave all of that stuff alone.
Sweet. I call Midland home right now, as that is where my fiancee lives.

Some quick photos. Went to the larger gravel that I had lying around while I work a bit extra to afford some decent substrate next month (saving for wedding right now). All the plants are from the local waters. The fish is a bit unusual (who do you know keeps sunfish in an aquarium?), but I liked him. He was only in temporarily while we filleted our other catches from the day.

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(who do you know keeps sunfish in an aquarium?),
I is my Green Sunfish. It used to take food out of my hand.
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i had a tank of natives for years. had green sunfish, bluegill, longear sunfish, orangespot sunfish, rock bass, largemouth bass, black crappie, black bullhead the list goes on. they get very tame and have great personallities.

and i like that tall plant with the fan of leaves on it
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