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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Hello all,



Getting back into the fishkeeping hobby after four years off, and trying a real planted tank for the first time. This is my journal for my 38-gallon low-tech planted aquarium that will eventually be home to fish as well. Here are the specifications, which I'll update as things change:



Aquarium dimensions: 38 gallons, 36"x12"x19"

Filter: Rena XP3 canister

Filter media: Eheim Substrat Pro, API Biostars

In/Outflows: CalAqua lily pipes

Heater: Hydor 200-watt inline, Finnex controller

Lighting: Finnex Planted+ 24/7[/B]

Substrate: 2" FloraMax capped with 1-2" National Geographic white sand

Hardscape: Malaysian driftwood, a few river rocks



Plants:

Anubias Nana

Java Fern (Microsorum pteropus), regular and 'windelov'

Java moss

Cryptocoryne spiralis

Cryptocoryne parva

Ludwigia repens

Ludwigia arcuata

Anubias nana 'petite'

Bucephalandra sp. (several different varieties)

Ludwigia sp. 'red'

Ludwigia sp. 'Atlantis'

Ludwigia lacustris

Rotala colorata

Rotala 'hr'a'

Alternanthera reineckii 'mini'

Staurogyne repens



[STRIKE]Wisteria[/STRIKE]

[STRIKE]Chainsword Narrow Leaf (Echinodorus tenellus)[/STRIKE]

[STRIKE]Balansae Plant (Cryptocoryne crispatula)[/STRIKE]

[STRIKE]Undulata Cryptocoryne (Cryptocoryne wendtii) [/STRIKE]

[STRIKE]Rotala indica [/STRIKE]

[STRIKE]Micro Sword (Lilaeopsis novae-zelandiae)[/STRIKE]

[STRIKE]Ozelot Sword (Echinodorus ozelot)

Chilensis (Sagittaria platyphylla) [/STRIKE]

[STRIKE]Amazon Sword Plant - Bare Root (1)

Myrio Green (Myriophyllum pinnatum)

Moneywort (Bacopa monnieri)[/STRIKE]

[STRIKE]Banana plants (Nymphoides aquatica)[/STRIKE]

[STRIKE]Cladophora aegagropila[/STRIKE]

[STRIKE]Blyxa japonica[/STRIKE]

[STRIKE]Willow moss[/STRIKE]



Intended water parameters: RO water, adding Seachem Equilibrium and Alkaline/Acid Buffers. pH range 6.5 - 7.0; KH 2 degrees; GH 6 degrees



Ferts: EI for low-tech (thanks NilocG for the dry ferts!), Seachem Flourish (stopped CSM+B), Osmocote+ root tabs, Flourish Excel (15mL daily)



Livestock Bolivian rams (6), Cardinal tetras (Paracheirodon axelrodi) (23), Nannostomus unifasciatus (13), Pygmy cories (Corydoras pygmaeus) (16), assassin snails (Clea helena)





Photos from first planting (09/03/2015):
 

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If anyone has thoughts on placement of the various plants, whether for aesthetics or health, let me know (for instance, do the "bunch" plants need to be planted with their stems all together in bunches as they are, or should they be spread out? And have I planted anything that needs to instead be affixed to driftwood, like the java fern, or vice versa?).
I would split up the bunched plants for planting. It gives them more room and light to grow. I typically plant them in small groups of 3-5 stems/nodes. For something like Lilaeopsis, dividing it up into smaller groups will also encourage growth.

The anubias and java fern should be the only ones you need to affix to wood/rocks. Make sure their rhizomes are above the substrate.

Oh, and also remove the steel wool, if any, that the potted plants were grown in.
 

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FloraMax does not give any nutrients to the plants. It does have a good CEC value.
When the water is saturated/w nutrients it will absorb them and release them when
they get lower in the water. Shut off from the water by sand cancels that out more or
less till you add root tabs into it. Or Osmocote+ capsules. This will supply the FloraMax
with something to absorb and release. CEC is of hardly any purpose in tanks/w EI
regular daily dosing, but in a tank that gets ferts once a week or twice perhaps, it
evens out the fert level in there so the ferts are not so thin towards the next time they are dosed.
Depending on the type of sub etc, I have better luck using curved tweezers to plant stems/w. I hold them so the curved part faces up and grasp the tip of the bottom of the stem and pull them down into the sub.
I have a limited amount of plants in my tanks and I use a slightly modified version of the EI.
I just dose the macros once a week, but since the micros are said not to last as long, twice a week on them.
Remember that EI requires a 50% or more water change each week to prevent any build up.
But if any deficiencies are seen, then you can always increase the dosing to two times a week on the macros.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I would split up the bunched plants for planting. It gives them more room and light to grow. I typically plant them in small groups of 3-5 stems/nodes. For something like Lilaeopsis, dividing it up into smaller groups will also encourage growth.
Thought so. I will split up the bunches tonight.

The anubias and java fern should be the only ones you need to affix to wood/rocks. Make sure their rhizomes are above the substrate.
Okay. I don't think I planted any anubias, although I'm not sure what the broadleaf plants in the middle background are (fourth photo from top).

Oh, and also remove the steel wool, if any, that the potted plants were grown in.
Done -- I couldn't quite extricate all of it. Hopefully the tiny remaining bits aren't a big deal.

FloraMax does not give any nutrients to the plants. It does have a good CEC value.
When the water is saturated/w nutrients it will absorb them and release them when
they get lower in the water. Shut off from the water by sand cancels that out more or
less till you add root tabs into it. Or Osmocote+ capsules. This will supply the FloraMax
with something to absorb and release.
Very good to know. I plan to add Osmocote+ capsules; they're supposed to be delivered next week.

Also good to know that there's basically no good reason to have done both floramax and sand... oh well. I expect more and more floramax will rise to the top (or rather, sand will settle to the bottom) as I replant and mess around in the tank, so there will be some CEC effect with respect to the water-column ferts.

I have a limited amount of plants in my tanks and I use a slightly modified version of the EI.
I just dose the macros once a week, but since the micros are said not to last as long, twice a week on them.
Remember that EI requires a 50% or more water change each week to prevent any build up.
But if any deficiencies are seen, then you can always increase the dosing to two times a week on the macros.
Thanks. So I can calculate the EI dosage for my tank volume but do a 1/3 to a 1/2 of the recommended dosage?
 

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Okay. I don't think I planted any anubias, although I'm not sure what the broadleaf plants in the middle background are (fourth photo from top).
That looks like a sword so I think you're ok.


Done -- I couldn't quite extricate all of it. Hopefully the tiny remaining bits aren't a big deal.
I end up leaving bits in here and there as well and haven't had problems so I think you're OK. And correcting myself here: I think it's actually called stone/rock wool and not steel wool (that's what one would using to clean cookware :))
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I tinkered a little with plant placement -- spreading out some of the bunched plants, etc. I also added a couple "Windelov" java ferns and some more Anubias nana to the driftwood. Still very much a work in progress... my plan is to see what grows well (i.e., doesn't die) in the next few weeks, and then I'll re-scape with my favorite plants that do well.

Waiting on ferts and osmocote+ capsules to arrive, probably early next week... hopefully everything will hang in there until then (I've used some API root tabs as a stopgap). Dosing Excel daily.

After a little more research, I also decided to swap out my lighting for the Finnex 24/7 LED fixture, partly for higher light, and partly for the 24/7 setting, which sounds pretty cool. The fixture will arrive by Wednesday of next week. With that and ferts in order by then, CO2 will be my limiting factor. I'm a little worried about algae with the higher PAR lighting and only dosing Excel, but maybe my relatively heavy plant load will help? We'll see what happens.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 · (Edited)
I just wasn't happy with the aesthetics of my tank, so I went out and found another nice piece of Malaysian driftwood (s/o to Premier Aquatics in Marietta, GA). I was going to replace the boring piece in my tank, but after moving things around, I realized I could repurpose it by flipping it over. Much happier with the look now.

I also generally re-scaped to fit the new look, and I added a few new species:

-Java moss and willow moss on each piece of driftwood
-Ludwigia arcuata (back right), which I hope will grow into a tall-ish thicket
-"Banana plants" (Nymphoides aquatica) front right
-a moss ball (Chladophora aegagropila)

I'd like to add a bunch of tiny Anubias nana 'petite' to the driftwood, but I haven't seen any locally lately. I would also like to add some red/orange/purple with Ludwigia red, AR mini, and Ludwigia lacustris... but not sure where they would go at the moment. Thoughts welcome.

Also, I have removed the Myrio green (turned brown from bottom to top), Rotala indica (melted), and chain sword (yellowed slowly). Not sure whether these were casualties of my early lack of fertilization, low CO2, light, or too-frequent rescapes.

The tank is still cycling -- I had a big nitrite spike, so I did some water changes, and I added some "Seed" for the heck of it (I have serious doubts that it will help).

Comments/advice welcome.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I'm getting a sprinkling of brown diatoms on the glass -- I recall I got them last time I was cycling too. Hopefully it will pass after I'm cycling. I'll scrape them off before I do the water changes at the end.

I also have my first inhabitant -- saw a tiny snail on the glass that must've hitchhiked with my latest batch of plants from the LFS. He may not survive since the tank's being cycled, but we'll see.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Update time.

Still cycling... stuck on the nitrite spike. I did a 50% water change last night, but still didn't lower nitrites to a point within the API test range. I may do another 50% change tonight.

On the plus side, I had a couple of new RO tanks and a new line installed, so I can do water changes much more efficiently (no more 1-man bucket brigades). I just add in Equilibrium or Replenish and buffers as it's filling. The only complication is that the tanks are in our crawl space, which will get a little chilly over the winter. I'm a little worried about the temperature swing's effect on the fish that will, someday, be in the tank.

As you can see from the attached photos, plant growth has been pretty good, especially the wisteria and moneywort. I also did a little rescaping.

Sadly, the new growth on the Ludwigia repens (in the middle) is green, so I'm left with no red plants in my tank. Trying to figure out what I might add that will stay red or reddish in these conditions.

Finally, I have a bunch of anubias nana and petite (and a couple buce) coming in this week, which I'll affix to the driftwood.

Thoughts and comments welcome!
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 · (Edited)
Lots of changes from the last update. I took advantage of TPT community and bought some new plants to add: more Anubias nana petite, Bucephalandra 'green wavy', AR mini, Ludwigia sp. red, 'Atlantis', and lacustris, Rotala colorata, and Blyxa japonica (thanks to klibs for the RAOK for the last two!). I also bought more Ludwigia arcuata. All are now in the tank. Eventually the L. arcuata will form a background, but that could take a while. I took out my remaining swords, which were doing fine but just never looked right in this tank (and the Amazon would have become far too large). I also took out the little banana plants, which were very cool but also just didn't fit in, and the chilensis, which was boring and not tall enough in the background.

After I was done planting, I capped off the white sand in front to make it cleaner looking -- just a thin layer on top of the floramax that had come up from my re-scapings.

The fishless cycle is also finished, and I've added cardinal tetras and an assassin snail. One tetra came in not doing well and didn't make it, but the other 19 seem lively and are coloring up nicely. (No photos of these yet.) I'll wait a little while and then add a group of corydoras pygmaeus, and then, eventually, 4 Bolivian rams.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Very nice. It's looking better as time passes! The new driftwood placement is much better now.

Thanks! I agree, adding the second piece and flipping the first helped a lot.

Now I just have to wait and see how everything grows... AR mini is the main one I'm not sure about without CO2... we'll see.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 · (Edited)
Added CalAqua lily pipes yesterday. Unfortunately, their suction cups are designed to stick to the back of the tank, but my tank back is spraypainted with a "rough" paint that the cups won't stick to... so I've jury-rigged them for now. If anyone has an idea for affixing these to the back of the tank, let me know...

The cardinal tetras seem to be doing well, and I've seen evidence of the assassin snail's appetite for my pond snails in the form of, well, you guessed it, empty pond snail shells. Photos coming soon.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Not a whole lot to report since last update. I still have 18 healthy cardinal tetras, and they survived their first 50% WC (nitrates at 10ish after the change, so looking good there). I did bring home 5 more assassin snails, as the pond snail population has been booming of late. Hopefully these guys (and gals -- I found a couple mating yesterday) will take care of that. I'm seeing a little bit of BBA on anubias and maybe a little GSA on the glass, but that's probably due to skipping Excel for a few days while the tetras were acclimating. Hopefully it won't progress.

New photos attached -- ignore the floating B. japonica... I'll have to re-plant it :).
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
A quick rundown on what's happened since my last update:

1. Added 10 more cardinal tetras.
2. Said tetras introduced ich.
3. Lost 15 tetras to ich and related stress. (Boo.)
4. Removed dying Bacopa monnieri, Blyxa japonica Cladophora aegagropila; removed Lilaeopsis novae-zelandiae (micro sword) that looked fine but wasn't growing and didn't fit the look I'm going for; added more Ludwigia sp. red and lacustris, R. colorata; added some Staurogyne repens (small amount to test whether it will grow well in this tank); added Salvinia minima and then removed most of it (I love how it looks, but too much shade).
5. Significant rescape, including replacing some of the sand up front and sloping back left for a cleaner look. It'll look better when it grows out a bit (especially the Rotala), but I'm pleased with it overall.

All is well at the moment. It's been about two weeks since I last saw ich and a couple days since my last dose of Seachem Paraguard. I'm going to wait another week, and if all is well, I'll order some more fish. (Nannostomus eques, Corydoras pygmaeus, maybe some more cardinal tetras from a new source, and Bolivian rams.)

Constructive criticism on the aquascape would be appreciated; always looking for ways to improve the look.

Attached are photos of pre- and post-rescape. Sorry the post-scape photos are a bit dark; I took it when the lighting was down (9pm or so) on the 24/7 light. I'll try to get a brightly lit photo soon, maybe once it's grown out a bit.
 

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It looks nice! I think some bolivian rams will really make this tank! Did you get the lily pipes attached? I do think the back right corner looks bare, it's just a waiting game now. Post pics when it grows in.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
It looks nice! I think some bolivian rams will really make this tank! Did you get the lily pipes attached? I do think the back right corner looks bare, it's just a waiting game now. Post pics when it grows in.
Thanks!

I agree, the rams should look great in this tank -- I rescaped to create (1) space and possible spawning territories for the rams and (2) more open sand for the pygmy cories.

I did not get the pipes attached... they sit on some foam that they came packaged in. I don't know how I'm going to get them to stick to the back of the tank, which is too rough for the suction cups to suction to. I'd try something like duct tape, but I'm afraid it would pull off the paint. I may try painter's tape (tried it once, but I have a better idea for it).

Yes, the back corner had Bacopa monnieri, which looked great and grew well for a while, but then it slowly rotted as it got tall. There's Crypt. spiralis there now, which you can't see from the angle of the photo, and Rotala colorata in front of that. The Rotala will help as it grows, but I may end up adding something different to fill in that corner (suggestions welcome) and then move the spiralis behind the driftwood (and condense the L. arcuata to the middle-right).
 

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It looks nice! I think some bolivian rams will really make this tank! Did you get the lily pipes attached? I do think the back right corner looks bare, it's just a waiting game now. Post pics when it grows in.

I did not get the pipes attached... they sit on some foam that they came packaged in. I don't know how I'm going to get them to stick to the back of the tank, which is too rough for the suction cups to suction to. I'd try something like duct tape, but I'm afraid it would pull off the paint. I may try painter's tape (tried it once, but I have a better idea for it).
I've heard of people gluing a magnet to the suction cup, and then putting another magnet on the other side of the glass. Never tried it myself, but it sounds like it would work?
 
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