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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
So.. Ive had this tank about 2 years and its been a frustrating thorn in my side the whole time. I put in a bed of about 3-4 inches eco complete not knowing anything about substrate. Got a supercool programmable high power plant light not knowing anything about lighting. Set it to maximum warp speed. Got plants, put them in, they look great a few weeks then spindle away and get algae. Scrubbing wood, scrubbing glass every week.
Local water is hard as heck, GH 18, KH 22.. Too hard even for my shrimp.
I switched to RO initially for shrimp tanks but start making water for this tank too. I have foolishly chosen all softwater tetras bc I like peaceful fish. No torn fins or beat up fish please. Water changes are a challenge, 50% weekly is out of the question.

Im starting to hate this tank.
My shrimp tanks with sand are effortless. Everything is green and algae free, thriving on pure neglect evidently.

Learn about liquid ferts and start dosing those weekly and root tabs. Algae explosion. Learn about lighting.. dialed it way back. Started noticing what lives in this tank, put more of that in.

Read walstads book. Light bulbs go off. Plants are starving, no wonder! Carbon, whats that? I thought fish exhalation was enough.. orders of magnitude insufficient for my conditions. I dont trust myself with CO2.

Starting conditions FTS
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 · (Edited)
Decide to go for dirt. Buy 2 8 qt bags, and filter out all the floating coco noir (sounds like a perfume) and perlite. Whats left doesnt fill a bucket. Luckily I have a half bag of amazonia soil leftover from the 5g project. In the book walstad says you only need an inch anyway to prevent anaerobic conditions. Seen some folks on here say 1/2 inch even. Wanted to cap it with black sand. Visited 4 stores before giving up. Imaginitariums spray painted sealed mystery pebbles in black will have to do.

Prepare the fishes temporary home, walmart special with sponge filters and light on a timer. Have a lid in case of cat but she doesnt seem overly interested. Transfer them in and all the shrimp I can find. Happy to find both Amanos in spite of their best efforts to evade.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Drain and clean the tank top to bottom, including removing the background. What a job! Pot scrubbers and melamine sponges but finally done. Reposition it leaving myself more space to get behind the tank this time. Luckily no curious toddlers or large pets to make this a risky move.

Spread out the dirt, looks about right. Add the mystery gravel layer and the few handfuls of black sand left from another project. Add the dragon stone to make a bridge, with only 2 points touching the gravel.. hoping to avoid dead pockets. Add a lot of pogostemon clippings from the big shrimp tank and rehome one of the 3 swords from it. Transfer the best looking water sprites and bronze Crypts.

Fill it up with dechlorinated tap water.. 7 or 8 5gallon trips to the bathtub. Fill the Sunsun with all polishing pads and no prefilter being sure to "touch the perfection" for luck. Start everything up.. wavemaker, heater. Add the ammonia monitor.

Now to wait!
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 · (Edited)
About 10 days in, so far going great. The water took a long time to clear, but I also kept adding new plants and cuttings from the shrimp tanks and tub. The dirt is a very fine silt with a not very deep gravel cap so kind of to be expected I think.
Still no WC bc still no ammonia. Not sure if its bc I planted enough or bc I rinsed the dirt first.. just wood pieces left to supply decay, not wet organics.
The plants seem happy, everything I put in is still alive and making roots. Look green and algae hasnt started.
Tried to set my lights for a siesta period midday but its tricky. These lights do a ramp up, ramp down thing to the light levels you program. In 3 hour blocks. So to get true darkness for a time you have to program 2 blocks of no lights, and then its more like twilight.
Pics are just to show the variety of what I put in, I didnt know what would live. Its not pretty aquascaping yet 😃
Plants are: AR, water sprite and wisteria, cryptocorne wendtli bronze, vallisneria, amazon sword, pogostemon octopus (the unruly stuff) bacopa carolina and subwassertang

So far very much enjoying dirt!
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 · (Edited)
Added a bunch of shipped plants from liquid creations and aquabid. There was some melting on shipping (dang texas heat), but hoping most things recover. The right side .. Elodea? by the crypts was the worst, and the hornwort. But we will see!
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Discussion Starter · #9 · (Edited)
Transferred the fish and shrimp back from their near month in the tub. They did not like the clear sides of this tub, even with the double handful of plants for cover. Very pale and colorless, but color is back now they are home again. Not the best shot but
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After a few water changes Ph 7.3 GH 6.0 KH 8.0 (tap starting water KH was pretty high). Making RO replacement water for changes at 6/2 but don't think the higher KH hurts anything. So far nitrates still low and no nitrite/ammonia. Feeding lightly.

Still enjoying the dirt :D although I will say I see why people don't like moving/adding plants in a dirt bottom. Maybe I need a sand rather than gravel top, or a little deeper topper, but adding extra stems and replanting floaters does tend to tint the water a little yellow. Maybe I need to add a polishing pad back to the canister?
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Sep 1, Some plant losses, some doing great, glad I added a variety. AR seems to be doing the worst, guess it really needs CO2.
Pogostemon taking over, but its a good fast grower so no complaints

Water Plant Rectangle Fluid Pet supply
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Sep 21
Trimmed back the Pogo. Really liking the rotala and wish more had survived the shipping.
The main thing Im noticing about this tank is so little maintenance. A light rub w the melamine sponges before water changes and still really no algae.

Been keeping the lights much lower with a midday siesta, and lower surface agitation to try to maximize CO2 availability to plants (no CO2 added, obv).

Maybe Im starting to get this aquarium thing?
Plant Vertebrate Water Nature Pet supply
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Been a while. I just love this tank. A few plants died back, others are really going. Trimmed back the pogo again. Added water lettuce and duckweed.
The bladder snails are getting huge. Added a couple black mystery snails and green cories. Neo shrimp colony is holding steady.
Hardly any algae, just a pleasure to maintain and watch. Feels like a real ecosystem.

Water changes are monthly, with RO topoffs.
 

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