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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Ok all here I go! First a little history....

This all started when my wife said to me... "are you gonna clean up that tank?".. And after about the 5th time she asked I had to actually do something before the unpleasantness of the algae and poop filled tank started to raise tensions.. "Yes" I said but inside I really didn't care for the fish tank anymore. The tank is a 29 gal with plastic plants and lame ornaments.. It was fun for a while but over the years I just lost interest. It just wasn't fun anymore. So I basically neglected it and let it run on autopilot. The guppies seemed just fine to keep on reproducing and loving their no fuss lifestyle. Get up eat and then go to bed. Not a bad life I figure...

Well I went online and started with buying a new filter to replace the old one and got a new hood. The current one was just full of hard water crystals, and the old filter just made too much noise... So I got the new filter and put it on the tank. My intention was to just vacuum the gravel and clean off the algae... But to be honest I would be right back in the same position a few months later with... " hey clean up that tank or get rid of it!"...

So one day I was surfing the internet looking for something new for the tank. Maybe a nice fake tree or something? I hit the search button for "aquarium tree" and I saw the wonderful image of a lone tree on a hillside with fish swimming in front of it. And the ground was covered with beautiful green grass and mosses... I couldn't believe my eyes! How could this be? How did he do that?!!... So I spent the better half of that day researching something called "Aquascaping" which I never knew existed, then excitement started to slowly build inside me.

I have had a fish tank for years, yeah it was cool but only marginally interesting... I also was into Bonsai and I loved that hobby. However after many years of trying to grow trees indoors and a few outdoor ones I slowly drifted away from it. It was mainly due to the fact that I just didn't have the room in my condo to grow the nice healthy trees I really wanted to. I did have a deck but I could only do so much with that space. Then it happened...another hobby came and took over.. I fell in love with Astromomy. So now I spend my time with a telescope rather than the fish or bonsai trees. The fish tank was neglected and I sold off all my prized trees on Craigslist... It was sad to see them go but they would be much happier with someone else who was excited about them... I had a few trees in my care for over 20 years... That says something about persistence.

So back to Aquascaping...I have spent all of my spare time in the last 2 months reading and absorbing all that there is to offer out there on the internet. I have purchased a few books and have been reading them cover to cover. It has been a blast so far just seeing what everyone is able to do in an aquarium... And how they actually do it...Why didn't I find out about this hobby before?

So my goals are the following:

1. I want a low light low tech aquarium that is easy to maintain. I don't want to have to resort to injecting Co2 yet... Just the Seachem Flourish Excel stuff if I need it. Along with trace fertilizers...

2. I want an Aquascape that resembles a wonderful old tree sitting on a nice slight hill. And I want to plant the tank in such a way to inspire peace and contemplation.

3. I want this tank to be something I can be proud of and want to show off to people who visit and say...Holy @&$# how did you do that? Much like my feeling when I first saw that tree Aquascape on that hill..(it was by Filipe Oliveira)

http://www.aquascapingworld.com/threads/aquascape-of-the-month-september-2008-pinheiro-manso.1182/


Now that you are all caught up I am just about to get my new fish tank going... I currently have a 29 gal tank with plastic plants, lame ornaments and quite a few guppies. I am going to change to, what I hope to be, a wonderful planted aquascape masterpiece... Well that's the goal. So to start this off here is the current tank.




I will tear this down and replace with a 37 gal version and hopefully get all the fish slowly transferred when the new tank is ready for them. I plan on using the old 29 gal as the temporary home while I get the new 37 gal up and running which will occupy the the current location of the 29 gal. This will mean I will have to move the old tank to the floor for as long as I need to get the planted tank cycled and ready to receive fish. This way I can take my time and hopefully do it right.

I have been accumulating all my "stuff" slowly and now I am ready to start on the first item... The TREE! I will keep you all posted on that as I think this is enough to report for now....

The "stuff" I have are the following...



37 glass aquarium
Full hood (plastic) which I plan on modifying to accept the LED fixture.
Current LED Satellite Freshwater Plus light fixture 24"-36"
Fluval 206 canister filter
150 w heater
Python siphon hose ( to make water changes easier)
Active Flora (black) on order as my substrate.
Seachem water conditioners and fertilizers.

My reading so far has been.
Ecology of the Planted Aquarium (Diana Walstad)
The 101 Best Aquarium Plants (Mary E. Sweeney)
Encyclopedia of Aquarium Plants (Peter Hiscock)
Greg Watson's Guide to Dosing Strategies (Greg Watson)
The Beginners Guide to Planted Aquariums (Brent Boettcher)
Web sites: The Barr Report and here The Planted Tank. With specific focus on low tech low light plants, fish less cycling, lighting, substrates, and all that fun stuff.


Wish me luck and I hope you share this journey with me as I take my first try at a planted tank.. Success or failure... I will post my progress...

And of course I welcome any and all tips and comments as to my choices so far.. This is gonna be great!

Thanks!
Daniel
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Update: I found my driftwood on eBay that I will be using for my tree.



I have received it and been soaking for about a week. It is really nice but I I need some additional branches if I want this to be my underwater tree. So I ordered some Manzanita tree branches (sand blasted) from "Blooms and Branches" and spent an evening picking thru the pieces and arranging loosely and I think I got it..











Now I just have to figure a good way to affix the branches to the driftwood. I have some small stainless steel screws and some brads that I will attempt to pre drill and set into the pieces to affix them. I am currently soaking the Manzanita branches in a witches brew of tea and food coloring to get the color more close to brown. It seems to be working. However I will have to soak the colored branches for a while in clean water to make sure they don't leach color back into the tank..



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Glad to hear and see some of the excitement! driftwood with the Manzanita tree branches is looking great thus far! I'm new to aquascaping as well and so far it's been a learning curve. I'm about a month in for my tank. Initially, my plan was to go for a low-tech tank but now I already got co2 injections; not a pressurized system but instead, a nutrafin co2 system similar to a DIY one. The plants are just so much more vibrant with Co2 and it really expands the type of plants you can keep. Good luck!
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Glad to hear and see some of the excitement! driftwood with the Manzanita tree branches is looking great thus far! I'm new to aquascaping as well and so far it's been a learning curve. I'm about a month in for my tank. Initially, my plan was to go for a low-tech tank but now I already got co2 injections; not a pressurized system but instead, a nutrafin co2 system similar to a DIY one. The plants are just so much more vibrant with Co2 and it really expands the type of plants you can keep. Good luck!
Thanks for the reply.. This has been a learning curve for me as well. I think Co2 will be in my future but I will give it a go without for a whole at least. My substrate should be arriving in a day or so so I will have no excuse for not getting this going...
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Hey Guzas, just FYI if you're using some copper wire left over from you bonsai days to tie those branches together, copper is toxic to a lot of fish and all invertebrates. I would use fishing line instead. Otherwise, great looking driftwood! Good luck in your endeavors. Your story sounds just like me a few years ago.


Thanks for the heads up. And yes you are absolutely right. I have been struggling to find alternate "wire" to use to get the branches attached to the driftwood. I intend on using stainless steel screws and stainless steel brads (once I find some) to fasten the limbs. One other note.. I found out that most bonsai wire is actually anodized aluminum.. At least for the thicker gauges.. I have quite a bit of this stuff and I need to look at it closely to confirm that it is not copper. I know the thicker ones are indeed aluminum but the thinner ones may indeed be copper.. It seems from the research I have done so far aluminum is OK to use in a tank as it is "inert". At least that us what I have read..

This is something I have been thinking about quite a bit!!!


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Thanks for the heads up. And yes you are absolutely right. I have been struggling to find alternate "wire" to use to get the branches attached to the driftwood. I intend on using stainless steel screws and stainless steel brads (once I find some) to fasten the limbs. One other note.. I found out that most bonsai wire is actually anodized aluminum.. At least for the thicker gauges.. I have quite a bit of this stuff and I need to look at it closely to confirm that it is not copper. I know the thicker ones are indeed aluminum but the thinner ones may indeed be copper.. It seems from the research I have done so far aluminum is OK to use in a tank as it is "inert". At least that us what I have read..

This is something I have been thinking about quite a bit!!!


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Ahh, I did not know that about bonsai wire being aluminum. However aluminum can be toxic to plants if the water isn't hard enough (finally my environmental studies degree is useful!!), but I do not know if the same applies to anodized aluminum. I believe some people also use silicone glue on their driftwood, I think the same stuff used to glue aquarium glass together. That might be another avenue worth researching.
 

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:D you remind me of myself only a few months ago. I had fish as a kid for years and years, occasionally buying real plants to put in along with the wood/stones/pipes I had in there but they always died and I never thought to research how to keep them alive.
When we moved we visited a local garden centre and I saw all the aquarium plants in their little pots. I had never seen so many different species. I got home and typed in 'planted aquarium' or something and I discovered the world of aquascaping. just like you I had never heard the word before. and so much of me wished I had discovered it as a kid, how much fun I would have had! but i know about it now and that is better than nothing :)
And, just like you I have the book 'The 101 Best Aquarium Plants' and as soon as I got it I read it cover to cover, bookmarking all my favourite species. I took it to the garden centre and was there reading about all the different species they had for so long. its all so exciting isnt it

I love your tree btw :D cant wait to see how this progresses
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Starting to make my plant list and sketch a layout. My local fish store has most of the varieties I have listed but a few.. Like the Taiwan Moss and Fissidens I didn't see there.


I want to plant heavily at first per all the recommendations. I think I have made some good choices but I will need to look further to see if all these varieties will get along. As you can see I am a fan of smaller leaf plants. Not so interested in the large leaf variety..


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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Got the tree back together with the "stained" branches and I think it looks really good.



Another view





I affixed the branches to the base of the driftwood using stainless steel brads drilled into the branch base and then pushed into the driftwood. I followed this up with pre drilling a hole to accept a stainless steel screw. This made quite a strong connection. However it was hard to find the correct angle to get the screw thru the branch and the driftwood at the same time. Even with the pre drilling of the holes the base of the branches split slightly but not enough to be an issue thankfully.

I also took some of the branch pieces and wired them together with anodized steel wire to make for a better branching structure for the eventual moss support. I decided on anodized steel in lieu of the stainless because I didn't want to see all that shiny wire. I thought about using some of my Bonsai wire but the thinner pieces are copper. Which from what I read is a no no. I also has some anodized aluminum wire but decided to go with the steel. I hope that was the right decision..





Tree in the tank for the first time.









Being weighed down to soak some more.. It still wants to float.. Plus this is my tank leak test. Seals look good.





And just an example of the pre and post stained manzanita branches..




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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Well the steel wire started to rust like mad so that was a poor choice.



So I took the tree out and re wired with anodized aluminum bonsai wire. The good news is that even the thin bonsai wire is aluminum so no worries about copper leeching. The tree is back safely soaking in the aquarium.. It still wants to float so I will probably have to fasten it to some sort of ballast.




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I've built similar trees by shaving the branch to an angle that matches the angle of the big branch and super gluing the small branch to the drift wood. I used a zip tie to hold it in place while the super glue set, then removed them and it worked great. That way you don't have any wire or screws messing up the look of your beautiful wood centerpiece.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
I've built similar trees by shaving the branch to an angle that matches the angle of the big branch and super gluing the small branch to the drift wood. I used a zip tie to hold it in place while the super glue set, then removed them and it worked great. That way you don't have any wire or screws messing up the look of your beautiful wood centerpiece.
Now that's a great idea!... Hmmmm. I might try that as I have zip ties and super glue! The truth is that I was not too concerned about the appearance since the intent it so completely cover the branches in moss to make for an "underwater Bonsai".... But I really do like the idea of the shaving of the branches and gluing them together...:proud:
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Since the 37 gal tank has a center brace it didn't allow for the cover to fit. So I has to make some modifications.



I drilled holes and made up a stainless steel bracket to minimize the strut and lower the brace point a bit.



This is what it looks like on top. Just to make sure it is all snugged up.









Then installed the cable brace under the plastic strut. And removed the plastic strut.







 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Made some progress tonight. Moved the old tank to the floor and moved the new one in its place.





So so far so good. The driftwood tree has been submerged for about a month now and most if not all the tannins / food coloring has pretty much leached out. I also made a egg crate base for the tree to help keep the "hill" in place.









 

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Loving the potential I see in this tank, can't wait to see what you do with it :)
I always get a little jealous of people with room for larger tanks, you can pick such lovely pieces of driftwood! Someday... haha. Until then I'll just admire. Good luck with it.
 
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