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UNS 120U Build

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One of the very first things I've always wanted to do when I bought a home is getting a big tank. My largest tank so far was a 60 starfire glass reef ready cube. Having lived in apartments most of my adult life, I've always been limited to smaller sized tanks. I bought my first home back in July last year and took down my last reef tank. I had 3 reefs going for about 10 years with only one left up and running until the move last year. My last foray into planted tanks ended in 2012 or so and it was always something I wanted to keep going but couldn't due to lack of space.

I really hemmed and hawed over the decision for this tank. I initially was set on a standard 125 gallon. I began planning the build and created a spreadsheet with all of the equipment and accessories I'd need, and then I saw a 125 in person at Petsmart when I went to get some dog food for my pup. The length was great, but the tank just seemed really long and narrow which limited my options as far as scanning.

I saw the UNS 120U's dimensions and a few YouTube videos to get a sense of what the tank looked like, but I wasn't totally in love with it being only 48" long. I think an ideal tank size is 60X24X24 but there aren't many options out there. I did find one like that from a company SC Aquariums. Pretty nice tank with Starfire glass and an overflow. One of the main reasons I didn't go this route, which would have been less expensive than the UNS tank was that it had an overflow. The overflow opens up the possibility that a year from now I tear down the planted tank and set up another reef tank.

While I loved my reef tanks, they were just obscenely expensive. It was a huge toilet that I flushed money down. You can have a plant melt on you in a planted tank and you can just buy another. But if you buy a $120 acropora colony and it dies on you, that stings a lot more lol.

Anyhow I settled on the UNS. After bring the tank into my basement and waking up this morning to back pain, in hindsight I maybe should have gone with acrylic lol. The back pain will go aways in a couple days though.

This will be a slow build since the tank wasn't inexpensive and the equipment isn't inexpensive either. In the past I'd get inpatient and charge everything on my credit card, but you wind up paying way more for your purchases if you're not paying the balance off right away. So I'll take my time and acquire the equipment a piece at a time until I have everything. The one thing I will do is pick up any hardscape that catches my eye as I stop by all my local shops.

The first project is to build a stand. I'll reserve post #2 for the stand build.

Tank: UNS 120U
Stand: Custom build
Filtration: GLA 15L Infinite Nature Filter. Oase 850 Biomaster Thermo. Stainless lily pipes, one set with build in surface skimmer to be used with the Oase, the second set is without surface skimmer to be used on the GLA
Lighting: Twinstar 1200SP
Heating: Heater included with Oase controlled by Inkbird
UV: Decided against this but it can always be added on later. I'll account for adding one on in the way I plumb the return if I change my mind down the road.
CO2: GLA Pro DS 1 Dual Stage regulator with two 10 lbs tanks along with a NilocG Advanced reactor.
Substrate: Pool filter sand
Hardscape: Two xl pieces of spider wood. About 90 lbs of dragon stone.

I'm 100% open to feedback, ideas, or alterations I should make to my plans.

This week I'll begin acquiring lumber and paints/stains and hardware for the stand.

My plans on stocking are up in the air. There are a whole bunch of different stocking plans I have, but I really need to settle on one. Back in the day I would buy 2 of each fish until I realized it seemed like I was stocking Noah's Ark lol. This tank will have fewer different species and more schools of fish.

I'll get a pic of the tank once the stand is built and it's sitting on it. I'll also do the leak test when I get the tank on the stand. I may as well do that sooner rather than later.

I did want to thank everyone who has provided help thus far. There are so many things I hadn't considered that were a HUGE help so I appreciate it greatly!
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Personally I think the rule of thirds is more forgiving with a two-island scape. The main branch on the left is of center and you could add a rock or move a rock to extend one of the islands to "move" the open-area a bit. Looks good, make sure you can clean the glass all the way around it.
 

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I'm thinking once I get the dragon stone in there, that "path" will look a lot different especially if I specifically add larger pieces on the right side, and more narrow pieces on the left of that path. It'll give the illusion of being a bit more left.

The good thing is that if I wind up needing more dragon stone, it seems like SR Aquaristik ships ridiculously fast and I get it a day or two later. I also have an LFS I can run over to and pick some pieces out, but worst case I can order a box of medium stones. I won't really know until I start getting stone in the tank. Hopefully I can the next day or two.
Oh I must have missed this, your covering up the LR and adding DS? Also I assume your pre-soaking the Spiderwood.
 

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Yep, I have a bunch of dragon stone. The lava rock is just being used to build up the two islands.
My plan is to glue the spider wood to the dragon stone so that I don’t need to pre soak it. With the size of some of these pieces of dragon stone the wood will be held down sufficiently.
Ah, got it. You'll get tannins from the SW without the pre-soak, but they're usually not as heavy as some of the other woods like manzanita, malaysian, etc.
 

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One way I’m planning to combat that is with carbon. Based on my experiences with actual wood in tanks, if you can change out carbon weekly, within a few weeks the wood stops leeching tannins.
That oase 850 has a ridiculous number of media containers so one or two will be loaded up with carbon. Once tannins are done leeching I usually pull carbon out and don’t use it again unless I need to.
Yes the carbon will help. Many are afraid to use carbon in planted tanks thinking it will remove ferts, but I always use carbon for the first two months. During startup is when the the bio-filter/plants are weak so the carbon acts as a bridge to remove organics/toxins, etc before the tank really gets going. You can also use it, to help with an algae issue if one arises down the road as it will aid in removing organics in addition to water changes.
 

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Does carbon remove ferts? Would help explain why the plants in my 20 are doing better than my 75 despite lower fert dosing...
No, not to any extent that I could see. I've used it with every startup and never had a problem. I can't account for low-tech, but with high tech and regular dosing never a problem. This is actually how ADA recommends setup your filter for the first 1-2 months.

 

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Absolutely. One of the other things I'm going to add, perhaps not right away or at least until the tank is done cycling, is purigen. I've never used it before but it seems like it's what a lot of folks are using in planted tanks.

The thing I dislike about carbon is depending on how "dirty" the tank is, it really requires replacement on a regular basis otherwise it just turns into more biological filtration media lol.

The GLA filter will rarely be maintained. I'm thinking something like once every 6 months I might crack it open and shake the bag of lava rock in a bucket of tank water. The Oase will be maintained a bit more regularly, but only as much as needed to replenish the purigen. I need to read up more on that to learn. But the prefilter module will be removed weekly since the surface skimming lily pipe is being attached to the Oase.
I hear you on the carbon, I've used purigen too, but I have personally found carbon more effective.
 

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Yes, it is.

I tend to overkill preventive maintenance since most of my setups are hardscape heavy and less plants so I feel the carbon is another tool in addition to regular water changes, good light mgmt and co2. I also don't use many fast growing stems these days and my tanks are mostly epiphytes, but I still use good light and co2 since I feel the growth is fuller. It's much easier to prevent algae than dealing with it after it occurs.
 

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Purely what I see

I think it really depends on your planting. If your covering up most of the wood with plants it won't matter, but right now the rocks are swallowing up the wood. I think the wood should either by higher to expose more of the branches or use just one or two of those size rocks you have there and the rest smaller scattered around.

I would also remove any rock you have behind the wood. Leave that for green and more light to enter if your planting stems. Ultimately it's your setup and YOU should be satisfied.
 

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That's more or less what I was going for. I was trying to make it look as natural as possible, like sticking your head underwater and not being surprised seeing a scene like this.
I kinda understand, but I still think the rocks are too big in the front. Definitely don't think you need more rock, maybe break the ones you have. Also if your going to put plants on the rocks it will cover up things even more. You'd be surprised at how much hardscape gets hidden after planting and growth.
 

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After I head out to the LFS after work I'm going to try three different things:

1. Find the pieces of rock that will fill in the sections that I drew above.

2. Remove the wood, put the rock in the way I want it and then set the wood in there and fiddle around until the wood is in there sufficiently with spots that I can glue to the rocks

3. Go with a mountainous background, set the wood in the mid ground, and smaller dragon stones in the foreground, and/or laying some of the pieces more flat, or if on an angle a very low angle.

The fourth option which I didn't list because it would require moving sand and lava rock is to go with a center island combining both pieces of wood, with dragon stone jutting out at different angles surrounding the wood. The challenge with would be moving all the lava rock and repositioning in the center.

I'm going to follow the order above and not even consider the 4th unless the other three don't seem to work. I have no intention of setting this tank up any time soon because there's still a lot of work that needs to be done on the stand and sorting out the equipment inside the stand, so I have plenty of time to play around. I do like the two islands, so the fourth option probably won't happen.

The one thing I tried before putting the sand in was one island, one one side of the tank connecting the two pieces of wood where the longer one stretched out to the other side of the tank. I didn't like it so I went away from it.
Wow, I'm impressed by all the thought going into this. I'm sure whatever you decide it will come out great in the end.

If your looking at top IAPLC tanks I would pick a style you like and go with that, but keep in mind the pics get the most out of those tanks by exploiting depth, etc. To me there are 3 things you need to do a good scape. An eye for it, healthy plants and hardscape inventory. Many if not most of the IAPLC entries you see they are somehow connected to the industry and have endless hardscape to choose from. Doing a five stone iwagumi is much harder if you have only 5-7 stones in your inventory, but if you have 100 you'll find the perfect pieces.

Also as your probably aware Dragon stone is very brittle, so with a basic screw driver and hammer you could break them.
 

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Surprisingly he does know a lot about plants. Probably the bulk of his clientele own nano tanks, whether they're planted or reef so he's set the store up to cater to those clients, and the rest are geared more towards community tanks. One of the reasons I didn't get my spider wood from him is he just didn't have pieces large enough since most were more suited to smaller tanks. But great selection of dragon stone, seiryu, elephant, and probably another 6-8 different types of rock. But again most of the rocks were better fits for nano tanks, which was great for me yesterday since I didn't really need any more big rocks.

ETA: lol, but he did try to sell me what effectively was a German companies version of ADA's power sand 😂
Ok, well at least the power sand is plant appropriate. Whether you really need it is up for debate.

It's a rare to have a LFS knowledgeable in plants. Funny story, I went into a LFS that has great fish, but typical plants. A few tanks with 10 or so species of half dead weeds. So I decided to give some advise in the form of a question. Now doing this is always risky, because many can't accept advise. After all it's his business to know this stuff.

So I asked "have you ever considered co2"? The response was classic and I know @LidijaPN is gonna love it!

His response to me was "that's cheating" I wanted to laugh so badly, but out of respect I didn't. He's running a business and it's cheating to get your plants to look better and last longer?
 

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TC HC Cuba is pretty great. I usually get 15-16 1/4" "plugs" from one cup. The smaller you break it apart, the more "plugs" you can get. There's even a video out there (I believe it's George Farmer, though I could be wrong) where he plants an entire HUGE carpet of HC with 1 cup. He painstakingly separated the cup into about a million individual plantlets and planted them 1 by 1.
I did that in my 3 footer (46 Bowfront) I planted it one stem at a time. HC is just a very tiny stem plant. The thinner you make the groupings the better and cleaner it grows in.
 

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You know one thing has been going through my mind while watching aquascaping videos from ADA and other channels where they're tying moss onto branches.

They're basically taking the thread in hand, and winding it around the moss and branches. Why don't they just use a fly tying bobbin? Seems like it would make it much quicker and easier lol.
No one uses thread anymore. You just glue it with an Cyanoacrylate based glue.
 

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I used glue in my nano.Works well, but it’s definitely not the “ADA way”. I just wondered why they never thought of using a bobbin. It would make it way easier.
OH, OK didn't realize you knew about the glue thing. Yeah not sure, but glue works on everything even a wide rock so why not? Many people admire the ADA stuff but they don't go full ADA in terms of product/practices.
 

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There are a handful of people who believe that the ADA is the only right way. You find this a lot in hobbies....the "purists". They basically turn a method into a religion lol. While I do like ADA's approach to planted tanks, basically if you do what they do, you're more or less guaranteed to have good results, I also don't think they're the only way.

I personally think a lot of their stuff is horribly overpriced. For example their pincers are ridiculously priced. I did have an opportunity to play with one since a friend of mine had some of their equipment and they are world's apart in terms of quality over some of the junk we can order on Amazon. I'd even go as far as saying that they're very close to surgical quality instruments. I'm just not sure they're worth the money when you can buy actual surgical quality tools for a lot less lol.
Yep, definitely expensive, but image is everything LOL. The aquasoil is really what's purchased mostly from them. Most don't use the full product line or even close to it, although they do copy from other companies that are less. Funny thing is ADA only uses in-tank diffusers even on large tanks (4-6 feet). They don't use powerheads and their filters aren't over powering. Most here use reactors, in-line diffusion and powerheads on big tanks.
 

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Well I don’t think CO2 is cheating lol.

But I think I get what the guy means. If his store caters mostly to amateurs/low techers/casual aquarists who aren’t going to be running CO2, using CO2 to ‘inflate’ the plants just to later have them deflate and sag in customer tanks, or struggle converting, isn’t necessarily best business practice.

My lfs has separate tanks for high tech and low tech plants tho. But you gotta know your clientele.

I don’t love glue because it leaves marks... so if things don’t work out and you have to reuse that piece of hard scape you have to wrestle with the old glue blobs. I still use it tho because thread is so unwieldy. But I hate it.
Buying submersed plants grown with co2 from a LFS is a thousand times better than buying dead/dying ones or buying plants from a retailer online that are usually grown emersed. Much harder to convert those.

Pretty much all the plant you buy online are grown emersed. The retailers don't grow them differently for low-techers, LOL. There getting far more co2 from the air than they are from the water regardless. With the store it's a matter of throwing out the plants basically or having them grow so he/she can sell them, eh. So are you saying you only buy submersed plants from people with low-tech tanks?
 

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Now moving onto the scape, I think the funniest reaction I got from friends I've sent the most recent FTS to was "dude, don't even put plants in there, you'll ruin it" lol. I'll really need to be very careful with choosing plants and locations.
I always tell people that with hardscape heavy scapes. The hardest thing is to hold back. It's true with the Spiderwood in your scape if you put anything more on it than some nicely placed moss and keep it from growing wild you'll lose the wood. Same with the rocks. You would need to pick small buce, moss down low to not lose the rocks. You could also pick out some rocks that you won't cover at all and those will remain.
 
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