Hello guys! I just want to share my experience in setting up my first planted tank.
I found an old 65 gallon tank in our garage (I remember my parents used this for 20+ cichlids tank when I was little) and figured that it would be cool to set up a fish tank once again. And so I did.
I researched intensively the kind of fishes, and type of tank I want, the care I can give, and came up with this decision:
>>Planted Tank with semi-aggressive species, using the most readily available materials for substrate and decorations, and whatever ready available food I can provide -- all with minimal maintenance since I work Mon-Friday, and travel to surf on weekends<<
I also read about how long cycling takes, and the risks of using local dirt and decorations(bacteria, parasites), but decided to just give it a go.
My initial materials:
65 gallon tank
1 pail of Garden Soil/dirt
Twigs and rocks
Pebbles from a gardening/landscaping store
two old desk lamps
Small sponge filter
Step 1: I positioned the tank beside my window, exposed to 3 hours of morning sun everyday, and indirect light throughout the day
Step 2: I put 1 to 2" of dirt, then another 1 to 2" of pebbles as my substrate
Step 3: I filled 1/4 of the tank with water, then put some rocks and branches for a tropical stream look
Step 4: I planted 4 kinds of plants: Vallisneria (grass), Moneywort, Amazon sword, and Red Ludwigia
Step 5: Filled 1/2 of the tank when the plants, rocks and branches were set in place
Step 6: I thought of cycling the tank first, as many said it will take weeks, but out of my hard-headedness, decided to buy and put 5 Tiger Barbs, and fully-filled the tank with water.
The tank was bluish-grey cloudy for two days (not sure if bacteria, or simply the pebbles that I did not rinse, probably the latter as the color was immediate when I disturbed the pebbles), but started to clear starting the third day. Looks crystal clear from 5th day, onwards. Tiger Barbs were fine from day one, though a little faded in coloration during their first night.
I then added 5 mollies (4 females 1 male) hoping to see fry soon, as alternate food for my barbs. The male is relentless in mating the females, and two are obviously round(pregnant) from store. The barbs chased them around for an hour or two, and resumed to schooling on their own. They all get along now, and even eat together without issues.
For the first two weeks so far, I feed them: hotdog bits, grocery-bought raw shrimp heads (this one is their favourite, swarming and frantic feasting), bits of white bread, veggie scraps -- As mentioned above, I am not planning on buying expensive foods, opting for whatever available edibles from my kitchen.
On my 2nd week
- Algae started growing on the rocks and branches - which the mollies are always munching on. But the glass and water stayed clear. Good sign.
- All of my plants are growing new shoots, and leaves/branches (after melting for the first week)
- I also started adding twigs and dry leaves to imitate the natural environment of tiger barbs in the wild
- No water change from day 1
Now my questions:
1. I sure did not do a proper cycling, so what happened? was it luck? or did I do something right that I wasn't aware of? Or am I due to experience a bacteria or algae bloom soon?
2. Do you think this setup will hold, and be ready for my future additions? - planning on adding 4 more barbs for bigger shoal, and a red tail shark, also considering to get Boeseman rainbowfish to turn my tank into a pure Southeast Asian tank.
3. What other things I must do to make my tank more "self-sustaining" (I am planning to go for an 8 day surfing trip soon)
Photos from start to present: