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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello all! It's been a while, but I've decided to completely restart my currently sad and overgrown 5 gallon tank. Unfortunately my endlers came down with some callamanus worms, and since fish deworming medications are not sold in my country, I ended up rehoming them to someone who had the means to treat them, and I'm taking this opportunity to tear everything down and rescape.

Due to the disease outbreak, I wanted to sterilize my tank's contents to prevent the sickness from being passed on, but I found so many conflicting reviews on what works and what doesn't for plants. From people's experiences, it sounds like hydrogen peroxide often isn't enough to even kill snails, and bleach can damage the plants. So I'm thinking I'll just wait at least a month and hope that any remaining larvae attached to the plants dies off.

I used miracle-gro capped with eco-complete for my last setup, but it's been extremely messy and difficult to plant in, so I decided to invest in some Tropica aquarium soil this time. It arrived today, and it looks great but it's a bit less that I hoped. I think I'm going to mix in some of the old eco-complete (baked in the oven first to kill the nasties).

I attached a sketch of my plan for the tank, let me know if you have any constructive criticism on my layout! I've always admired "island" style scapes, and I would love to have some emergent growth. I'm planning to eventually house a single betta in this tank.
 

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That looks like an awesome layout. Personally I think your before tank looked great too. I was a big fan of dwarf sag when I had it in a ten gallon many years ago. Hopefully the new substrate will be easier for you. I have only ever done dirted tanks and have never ventured into these premade substrates for planted tanks. You’ll find keeping the dwarf sag and jungle Val easier with this I think. Looking forward to seeing it all unfold for you.


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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thank you! I just tore down the tank and honestly it was a nightmare - dirt everywhere! I was surprised at how extensive the vals’ root systems were, and the entire substrate was pretty much one big chunk. After 2 hours of elbow grease, the tank is finally cleaned out. These jungle vals have given me endless frustration over the 2 years I’ve had them, and I think I might sell them and replace them more moderately-sized corkscrew vals. Although the jungle vals are beautiful plants, they’re just too large and fast-growing for my little 5 gallon tank.

Going to buy some plants tomorrow, stay tuned.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Bought the plants; my picks for the tank were Hygrophila Siamensis 53b, Ludwigia Repens, and Windelov Fern. I also had some dwarf Sagittaria and Crypt Wendtii from my old tank which I added.

I also got some neat driftwood. I boiled it for 1 hour but that did not work, so I just kinda trapped it under some rocks to keep it down. I'm pretty happy with the hardscape, it's the first proper layout I've done.

Planting was a breeze, as I finally invested in some proper planting tongs. The Sagittaria is probably a little big to be used as a foreground plant in this tiny tank, but I'll keep it for now - any suggestions on what to replace it with eventually?

The back right corner looks a little bare right now, but I'm going to pick up some potamogeton gayi tomorrow to fill it. Water has been pretty cloudy since I filled it, I did a 50% water change but it didn't really help. I'll just keep doing daily water changes until the problem fixes itself I guess.

I also picked up some Flourish Comprehensive, but I'm trying to decide whether to keep it or exchange it for the Tropica version. Not sure which one's better.
 

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Looks good! The wood fits nicely. Like your already thinking, i also think that your dwarf sag is going to dominate the scape. But with your chosen substrate it will be much easier to keep in control because you can pull it up with out to much of a mess.


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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Looks good! The wood fits nicely. Like your already thinking, i also think that your dwarf sag is going to dominate the scape. But with your chosen substrate it will be much easier to keep in control because you can pull it up with out to much of a mess.
Yes I am definitely appreciating the cleanliness of this Tropica substrate. I've already made a few minor changes and it didn't make a mess at all. Only time will tell if the plant growth will rival plain old organic soil though!

General update: It's the second day since the tank has been set up, and the water is cloudier than ever. I added some potamogeton gayi to the back, but you can barely even see it, lol. Most of the sites I looked at said to let cloudy water run its course, so I'm trying to resist the urge to do water changes. Hopefully not too much longer of this!
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I got my water tested at the LFS today, but they used test strips and gave me some strange results. 6.2 pH and 300+ gH?? I mean it's possible (if unusual), but I'm hoping to find a place that does water testing with a proper liquid test kit and confirm the results. If my pH is indeed very low, it's likely that the Tropica aquarium soil is buffering it down, so I may invest in some kind of alkalinity booster depending on how low it actually is.

Tank is looking a little less cloudy today, I'll upload some more photos once it fully clears up.
 

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It's worth it to get your own test kit like the API Freshwater test kit and do your own testing. You can then also test your water out of the tap against that in your tank.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Update: things are getting bad. The cloudy water disappeared but was replaced with a horrible surface scum, and white fuzz that covers all my plants. The water smells awful. I woke up today to find that half of my hygro siamensis had melted completely, and when I tried to pull it out it made a huge mess in the tank. The picture is of the surface after a water change - it looked much worse before.

I'm currently running filterless, as I never had an issue with lack of filtration with my previous dirted tanks. I'm going to try adding in a sponge filter and see if that helps with the surface scum at least. But honestly I'm pretty worried, because I don't know what's wrong and I'm concerned that more plants will die.
 

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Hey,

to me it sounds like your tank is simply going through a phase of bacterial bloom. If I was you i would just sit it out. There are no animals living there yet - so no reason to rush.

Regards,
Heide
 

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I see some white fuzz, it's alright, probably coming from your driftwood, it'll pass over time, your tank is still cycling! Before I had a skimmer what I used to do is use a net on the surface to remove the scum.
 

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Sounds like normal tank cycling stuff to me. I’d def get your own API master test kit then you can be very informed on your water parameters. Maybe do some small volume water changes a couples times a week. There is a lot to be said for waiting things out and giving the tank time to figure it’s stuff out.


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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Thank you for your kind words everyone! Things are definitely still tumultuous lol. I'm trying to just trust that everything will resolve itself!

I had some more plant melt today, this time it was about half of my ludwigia repens. I removed the dead portions and tried to replant the tops. The plant melt is a little concerning, although I know that these particular plants were grown emersed, which might explain it. My submerged plants (dwarf sag, crypt wendtii) have been losing a few leaves but nothing too worrying.

A few days ago I got my water retested at a specialized aquarium store in my area, and the results were much closer to what I expected. 7.0 pH, medium hardness, and no ammonia or nitrates yet. Since the Tropica soil hasn't been leaching nearly as much ammonia as I read it would, I might look into an amano shrimp to eat the brown algae starting to grow on my plants.

The shop employee convinced me to buy an Aqueon 3 gallon internal filter instead of a sponge filter, but it's been awful so far. Hasn't disrupted my layer of surface scum at all so far, and it's super loud to boot. I think I'm going to go back and exchange it for a sponge, unless there's another 5 gallon sized filter you all would recommend? Unfortunately if it's HOB, it has to be small enough to fit with my glass lid (which is not much space).

No pictures today because the tank still looks terrible :(
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
The water has finally cleared! I got a small air pump which helped a lot. Now I’m just dealing with some leftover white fuzz and brown algae on the plants. I wanted to get some Amano shrimp, but they only had one tiiiiiny one left (under 1 cm). I’m not sure if my little boy can clear the brown algae all by himself, but I believe in him!
 

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