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Rescaping 30 gallon - Dirted Tank Tips

4175 Views 7 Replies 3 Participants Last post by  Bananableps
The last time I scaped my 30 gallon, I set out to make it as simple as possible: hairgrass, blyxa japonica, moss, java fern, some anubias. I wanted a tank that would be easy to care for while I was in law school. I was also in a phase where I preferred aquascapes that had a smaller variety of plants.

I'm still in school, but I've got my schedule figured out a little better. Also, I'm in the mood for something a little more luxurious looking. Got some pretty stemmed plants coming in the mail next week. I have documented some of the process of ripping down my tank, redirting and rescaping it. I had to complete this project today, which was a mistake: in the end, I'm not very satisfied with my hardscape. I wish I had spent more time working on it. But I've got too much to do this week, and my fish were all waiting in a bucket for me to finish, so here's what I've got.

Old Tank:

And out it goes!

These guys are going to be hiding from me for weeks after this.

Should have cleaned the glass for these pics. Sorry :/


[In addition to this soil, I will be adding in some soil/sand/gravel mixture from the previous scape]

The leaves were gathered from Riverside Park in New York, NY, so I boiled them in three changes of water to remove most of the industrial waste and dog urine.

This is the third change of water. Didn't quite get all the tannins out, but I don't mind tinted water.

Cutting some driftwood to size. I believe this was a cedar (smells like a hamster cage), collected from the coast of Maine.

Have to disguise the cut edge and hollow a planting area out in the top. Drill + dremel

Doesn't have to be perfect - moss will hide all crimes.

I don't have time to waterlog this thing. Attaching a takeout container lid to the bottom, and then placing dirt and substrate in that should keep the wood from floating to the surface (spoiler: it wasn't. Needed to weigh down with a small stone)

Planning out the scape. Really wish I spent more time on this. Assumed it would all work out when I filled and planted - it didn't.
The driftwood on the left was in my old tank. I believe it's cedar, so the wood on the right should take on the color with time.

.75" dirt layer. Higher in the back for the stemmed plants. You really don't need much though.

Using old substrate should help colonize the tank with bacteria, hopefully shortening the dirt acclimation period. I place this over the new soil because it has some gravel and sand mixed into it, which helps prevent mess if the cap gets breached for some reason.

This is my secret sauce. A layer of dead leaves between the dirt and sand cap really helps to make cap breaches cleaner. The decomposing leaves also provide a long term source of carbon for the tank.

1.25" sand cap

So so sorry about the dirty glass.

I like to refill over layers of plastic wrap to prevent cap breach

To be continued!
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I absolutely love the leaves over the dirt cap. Genius. Rescaping while in graduate school is the worst. I feel you. I like what you've done with the tank. I hope the blyxa I planted eventually looks as nice as yours. Is it sensitive to excel/metricide?
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I absolutely love the leaves over the dirt cap. Genius. Rescaping while in graduate school is the worst. I feel you. I like what you've done with the tank. I hope the blyxa I planted eventually looks as nice as yours. Is it sensitive to excel/metricide?
Thanks! Haha yes, but it's also nice to do something with your hands after spending an entire day in the library.

I can't speak to the long term effect of excel on blyxa. I do not dose excel - dirt provides all the carbon I need.
Before the tear down, I did some fert dosing experiments on the old tank (which was already getting good growth) and ended up with some algae problems (don't fix what's not broken!). Before transferring the plants into my new scape, I dipped them in hydrogen peroxide and then excel as an algaecide treatment. The blyxa got this treatment as well. I'll let you know how they fair. Right now, they're looking a little beat up from the transfer. Will post pics either after the silt settles down, or maybe after the stemmed plants come in the mail. Will also do a post on why this aquascape did not turn out as I hoped it would.
Fun thread. Like the leaf mulch layer.

Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
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Update: dipping blyxa japonica in hydrogen peroxide was a huge mistake. They are almost completely melted. I had enough blyxa to cover the entire left side front of this tank, but now, pretty much nothing. I put a couple of stems in a pot of dirt outside in an unstocked pond container - maybe something will spring back. For now, just waiting for the new plants to get in the mail.

The tragic part is that there wasn't really any algae on the blyxa: the dip was just a precaution. Oh well.
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Yikes :( well.... Lesson learned! And thanks for the warning!
It's not really what I had in mind, but at least the fish like it. The roots create cave areas for the sunfish to be moody little [censored][censored][censored][censored][censored][censored][censored]s in, which is pretty much their favorite pastime.

A good amount of the javamoss died during peroxide treatment, and I needed to add a rock on top of the new driftwood to keep it from floating up. The takeout container anchor has definitely reduced the size of rock normally required to keep a piece like this down.

Here is the tank, 1 day after adding the new plants. Most of the sunfish have been in hiding, only coming out for feeding. They'll loosen up eventually. Stemmed plants aren't looking so hot yet, but things will be better when they acclimate and reorient themselves in the direction of the light.

From left to right: ludwigia peruensis, myrio red, nesaea pedicellata "Golden", tiny spec of bolbitis heudelotii (tucked between rocks), pellia spread over the rocks, alternanthera reineckii in front of the rocks, javafern babies and annubias nana on the driftwood, peroxide-damaged javafern on the driftwood, monte carlo inside the driftwood stumps, cardamine lyrata growing in behind the driftwood, peroxide-damaged staurogyne repens in foreground.

[Gotta be more careful with that peroxide... really not looking very pretty.]

My window:
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Progress has been slow for three reasons:
1) I did not start out with many stems, so it has taken awhile to cut and propagate everything.
2) I have used more leaflitter and a thicker sand cap than usual. I believe it is taking awhile for the roots to make it down to the dirt.
3) Some of the plants, in particular s. repens and monte carlo, are still recovering from the hydrogen peroxide dip.

Sorry I'm crap at taking photos.

A little disappointed about the "myrio red". I had wanted Myriophyllum tuberculatum, but ended up with Myriophyllum heterophyllum. M. Hetero is a fine looking plant, but it sort of dissapears with the black background. Might replace it.

To get some more color out of these plants, I am considering taking some of my old powdered ferts and stuffing them into gel capsules for use as root tabs. I am not sure how comfortable I feel about this, though: the dirt is giving me good growth and no algae right now. I don't want to fix what isn't broken.
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