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update:4/14/14 Hand-me-down Evovle4

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Gave up on the Evovle4, its idea of a filtration system is [censor], doesn't get debris off the bottom, just skins the top. Tore it down and was literally about to throw it in the trash when I heard my niece (the one who's bad with fish) got a new betta and wanted her >1g cube back (that I'd used for my no-tech collection for a bit). Gave her the Evolve so it had more swim room. There won't be any further updates to this thread unless the tank somehow gets handed back.. though I'd probably just throw it in the trash...

So I gave my mate my Cycled but unloved Evovle4, I could not use it for my original purpose but it's perfect for getting him into the hobby (and giving me more excuses to get plants and otehr fun aquarium stuff [rings hands in an evil plotting manor]. While its technically his tank I will be helping him along and learning some new stuff myself so thought I'd keep this journal updated even though the tank changed hands.
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Timeline photos:

Original Title:Tiny Tank Tales, a Planted Evolve4 Journal
[original post]
So I picked up a Evolve4 at Petsmart this past Friday only because it was on clearance and I got it for just under $30 and it was the last one! Originally I naively didn't realize it was plastic, but I am going to give it a go and try to make it a small betta tank for my desk. I've researched the web a little, and seen several people grow low and medium light plants with the stock light.

Tank: Evovle4 9x9x9 (display area is 6.3 width x 9 long x 7 w/ substrate)
Light: Stock
Filter: Stock with minor mods
Substrate: Organic Miracle Grow Potting Mix with recycled petco brand gravel cap
Heater: Ehiem Jagar 25 watt

Stating Flora: Echinodorus Argentinensis and Egeria densa
Desired Flora: Riccia Fluitans, Cardamine lyrata, Echinodorus parviflorus 'tropica', Echinodorus tenellus, Echinodorus Argentinensis

Starting Fauna: 1 or more Snails (stow-aways on anacharis)
Desired Fauna: 1 male plakat betta

Starting water perimeters:(10/12)
Nitrate: unknown (not enough test tubes..they keep breaking..must get more)

I originally was cycling a small cube I was given for free but it was so tiny, internal space of 5.5 x 5.5 x 5.5 no room for heater or filter so scrapped that, took the partially cycled gravel from it, plus some more unused gravel of the same type and capped a 0.5-0.75 inch high soil bottom in the Evolve with about 1 inch of gravel.
Currently have my old Argentinian sword in there, still trying to get it to grow back after my pleco ate them down to virtually nothing. I put some anacharis I got from Petco in there, it has snails on it but I don't much care, I suspect the eventual betta inhabitant will eat them.
Pulled tiny air-stone/pump from "55" to help aerate the Evolve.
1 small hole was drilled into the sumps hose near the hose to let out some water and keep the pressure down at the outlet. The entire filter was wrapped in foam cut from a previously unopened paint roller and tied on with fishing line. This really helps absorb the vibrations/sounds from it running. Also put some fluval black thin foam over the outlet and tied with zip-tie to diffuse the flow a bit. I don't know yet if the outflow is low enough for a betta but can mess with it more if needed.
Can you see the tiny snail in the second photo? hint: its on the left by the glass.
Anacharis was added after lights out for the night so will add photos of it tomorrow hopefully.
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Looks like your off to a good start. I have the same evolve 4 for my betta. You are correct in adjust the flow way down. You can also reduce flow by replacing the stock filter panel with a piece of plexiglass/ lexan or half of a thin CD/ case. Cut a knotch in the bottom and use your own filter media. I use egg crate foam and lots filter floss with fluval biomax. My betta loves the almost zero flow. O have to look in the sump to make sure it's still flowing. I'll try to post pics of how I have it set up.

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Discussion Starter · #3 · (Edited)
Cycling Log: (10/16-23)

Looks like your off to a good start. I have the same evolve 4 for my betta. You are correct in adjust the flow way down. You can also reduce flow by replacing the stock filter panel with a piece of plexiglass/ lexan or half of a thin CD/ case. Cut a knotch in the bottom and use your own filter media. I use egg crate foam and lots filter floss with fluval biomax. My betta loves the almost zero flow. O have to look in the sump to make sure it's still flowing. I'll try to post pics of how I have it set up.

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Thanks for the tips, will keep that in mind. I am still unsure where I want to go with the filter system, but I'd prefer to heavily mod the sump and intake/outflow than buy a new filter.

Cycling log: (10/16)
Received Ehiem Jagar 25 watt Heater today (along with test tubes and some tetra safe start and aquasafe+), hopefully I can wedge it into the back compartment without causing more vibration from the sump.
Temperature before heater:74F
I'm surprised how warm the want was without a heater, I hope it doesn't mean 'm burning up the sump and that's raising the temp.
Ammonia: 2
I'm already disappointed in buying this tank.. the cheap plastic already has stress fractures (look like several tiny scratches) and there is no fixing that. maybe I'll order some custom cut glass and just hand make (aka silicone together) a tank. If i do I will probably get some plastic to use as a divider to separate the heater and filter from the display area, I rather like the idea of keeping them away from the fish and it looks better that way too.. But for now this tank is my guinea-pig for capped soil planted style tanks.
In less than an hour the new heater brought the tank up to 80F, I had it set for 78 so going to do minor re-calibrating to make it accurate, love these heaters so effective ^^
Sorry no new picks of tank, the stock light is so bright it ruins the photos I try to take with my phone so have to find another light to slap over the plants for photo-ops.

Cycling log: (10/21)
Ammonia: 0.5
Nitrite: 5
Nitrate: 40-80
Temp: steady 78F now
Nitrate has gone up so there must be some nitrite eating bacteria growing, but not enough to plummet the nitrite to 0 yet. I pulled the anacaris I had in here out as I kept having snail problems (they lived and laid eggs on it). All the anacharis from both cycling tanks (see signature for other tank journal) have been moved along with one few the two "55" gallon's light to my driftwood soaking bin (anahcaris can supposedly stand cold water so hopefully it lives till I'm ready to use it). I currently have some of the old java fern that had been in my "55" in the Evolve now, mainly the peices that were small and broken up with new plantles on them. I didn't want them tog et sucked into the filter so they're in the Evovle now.
Still can't get a decent photo without the exposure making the plants look white and glowing, but one of the java plantlets looks like it wants to be a 3 leaf clover o_O its got two rounded bumps instead of one pointed leaf... silly java.
I am starting to debate about changing my plant list for the final set up of the Evolve. I still want rooted plants since I did a capped soil substrate.... what would be the point of all floaters/mosses/non buried root types (java/anubias) with that right? My issue is size and low tech limitations. From top of the gravel to water line is 7.5 inches.. 7.75 at most, so it has to be something that can stay short or be trimmed without killing the leaf. My lighting will remain medium-low and I won't be using co2, though I am going to try out diy fert capsules for the sword I have in there now, so nutrient sucking plants (via roots) aren't limited at least.
I was thinking of switching the Echinodorus tenellus for Lilaeopsis Mauritiana (pygmy chain for micro sword) as a foreground carpet, I micro believe it can be trimmed unlike the chain sword? I've also be considering trying out some crypt species but I'm not sure if I like them. Also considering finding the smallest breed of Val plant and trying that since it can be trimmed... but I worry about it blocking up the intake for the filter system with its long grassy-ness..hmm
I'm also wondering... I know anubias and java fern can't have their rhizomes buried, but what about their roots? the two newer anubias nana in the "55" have monster roots, can those go into the substrate or do they need to stay up in the water column?
Any suggestions for other rooted plants for a nano tank?

Cycling log: (10/22)
[Que Paul Revere impersonation]
*ahem* I brain farted on taking a photo of the test tubes before dumping them but my nitrites in 24 hours plummeted from 5 to 0.5!! I was in such disbelief I redid the test with a fresh tube... 0.5!
Ammonia: 0
Nitrite: 5
Nitrate: 80
Figures the tank I'm not in as big a rush to cycle is closer to finishing first... but when you think about it 3.1 gallons<"55" gallons so needs less bacteria.. but I put all the seed material and supposed boosting agents into the larger tank and nitrites still haven't budged *sigh*
Will have to start seriously deciding final flora so I can get it in and start looking for my fauna. I want to find a male plakat betta with mustard gas colors, I don't care if its a halfmoon, double tail, or plain plakat.

Cycling Log: (10/23)
Ammonia: 0
Nitrite: 0.5
Nitrate: 80+
Nitrite is staying low but still not that magic "0" yet. Got some DIY made fert tabs today and pushed one in between my Argentinian Swords after pruning off the translucent and browned leaves. Hopefully it helps kick start them to grow healthy.
I am still debating if I want to go with swords for my nano. I'd love to, but until the recuperating swords I have in there show that they can grow healthy with that light/soil/fert, I won't buy more. If they fail maybe I'll try my hand with crypts.
Here some unsightly photos of the tank so far. No where near what I want to do with aqua-scaping mind you just threw java scraps in so they weren't sucked into the "55"s canister, most if ti is tried to a clear piece of hose, some is free flaoting. Light for photo is from a Marina 'betta' cube (ignore the black tape... ignore it I say!!), the Evovle4 stock light next to it is turned off for a moment as it is too bright for photos.
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Can't wait to do real aquascaping in here... someday

Cycling log: (10/24)
pH: 7.4-7.6
Ammonia: 0
Nitrite: 0!!
Nitrate: 80-160
View attachment 226697
Its cycled! I'm surprised it was done so fast once it started showing signs of munching up the nitrites! Unfortunately I still am not 100% sure if the stock light will be enough for a medium light tank, and if not.. what will be? Have to find some light recomendations for a nano fast...

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Discussion Starter · #4 · (Edited)
reserved post

[crunching posts down so reserving this for future photos]

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Just a mini update

Tank is staying cycled (adding ammonia daily to keep bb fed) and the Argentinean swords are loving the root tabs I pushed in between the bunch of them. The largest sword is so rooted now I can't pull it out, I was trying to expose more of the crown.. but it won't budge so I had to just push gravel off it. Still having some brown leaf issues with new growth, not sure if that means too much or too little light. I hope I can figure out if the light is enough for medium plants soon so I can get plants before its too cold to ship them. Then its the long wait for the right betta to catch my eye.

Have a guest plant in the tank for a while. My niece's betta died recently -of old age its believed- and she had a marimo ball in the cube with him. I am currently keeping the moss ball in the Evolve so it doesn't die from lack of light/nutrients, and I'm also re-cycling her cube (after a good cleaning just in case it wasn't old age) for a future fish. She listens to me enough to let me help with what she has... but not enough to upgrade to a better tank or to do more maintenance work (daily/tri-weekly water changes) herself ... At least I can make sure when she gets her next betta that it doesn't die immediately from new tank syndrome (aka ammonia poisoning).

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·

So I ordered some duckweed that arrived today, hoping between it and the anacharis I can keep nitrate/algae from going crazy while I feed pure ammonia to the BB till I figure but and set up my final scape.
Currently duckweed is housed in the back filter chamber area of the Evolve, using filter sponge to block the over flow (to avoid duckweed getting in the display area, but still let water through) and over the cut out for water to go to the pump after passing through the media. Hopefully it holds up at keeping the duckweed there.
My biggest concern is the fast growing plants (mainly the duckweed) will screw over my java fern and sword pant for nutrient in the water column.. or just flat out starve out the beneficial bacteria... but I'm probably getting worried for nothing ^^

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I have a Betta in my evolve at the moment. No cracks or fractures in nine luckily. My female Betta doesn't seem to mind the flow rate at the lowest setting with no mods so that is nice. I plan to make mine into a shrimp tank. I will be looking forward to more info on your tank!

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Fudge it

I'm 'bout ready to give up on this peice of junk, filter pump is too powerful on lowest setting alone, and mods to it make the flow to low for the BB in the filter media to get enough flow, I keep getting mini cycles (no fauna yet still only flora).
I am getting diatoms (semi translucent algae) on the plastic walls and hair algae on the plants. The clear plastic walls are already covered in stress fractures and if I were to try to use my aquarium scrubber magnet I'm quite sure it would just get worse.
I originally bought it because reviews from people claimed they could grow medium light plants with the stock light, but after contacting the makers and being given a par and lumes graph its clearly low light at best and only right under the light (corners get too little for low light plants at or below 10 par).
I will probably gut the filter media and put it in my "55" which I am still having trouble (fish-less) cycling, the nitrites just won't go down...

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Discussion Starter · #9 · (Edited)
Epiphany... nvm

[strike]I realize I can gut and reuse the tank (throw the filter and either replace or supplement the light).
I can peal the black tape off the back filter area, carefully cut out the plastic insert that divides the tank (making swim area about 3.4 gallons instead of barely 2.5), get a HOB specific to nano's, get a new light to get to medium lighting, and turn the aquarium around losing the bent corners (and more specifically the ugly stress fractures that frustrate me).
I thought about doing this after looking up other cubes online. Since I bought this for $30, its cheaper than other cubes near its its gallon-age that don't have any other accessories.
If I can avoid further stress fractures on other sides I can live with it being plastic instead of glass. If it fails I'll have to look into a new cube *is a cheap [bleep] and doesn't want to spend the $50-$200 for a new one (with or without filter and light)*[/strike]

Strike that thought, believed the back was clear plastic with black tape.. turns out its solid black whole planed scrapped, tank soon to be scrapped.

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Soon to be under new management

So I've been really bummed that the Evolve didn't work out how I'd hope, but my husband is such a sweetheart he wants to share the hobby with me and will take over the Evvole4 and do something with it himself.
In the mean time I keep the BB fed with ammonia, and the plants (and growing algae) are doing just fine on the nitrates and soil. It looks like crap for now but its just in a holding pattern till I'm ready to take the plants out and clean the tank for my mate to take over. I'm excited to see what he decided to do with it (scape/flora/fauna wise).
Will update with photos after its under new managements and re-done.

Plus side I can get a nice nano tank now, so new journal for that in the future! Hoping to hint hard enough to get it for Christmas, if not my birthday's not too far past it.

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Discussion Starter · #12 · (Edited)
Moving along

So my husband took an interest in Pea/Dwarf Puffers and after much searching decided on a moss based scape plant wise. I am buying and setting up the plants and then getting the fish as a holiday present ^^
I ordered about 6 different mosses to mess with from two users on here that hopefully will arrive in good shape. I am going to try using a non metal mesh to make a carpet of moss as well as fishing-line-tie or hair-net-on some moss to a "tree" my husband made from pieces of mazantia branch (which had a fungus fit but seems to be better after a good scrub and re-re boil (its been boiled 6 hours total with several water changes now). My mate also found a lovely quarts rock at a nearby stream that's in there as something of a mountain and a good line-of-sight break up. Will posts photos of tank later when I can get better lights on it (stock light washes out whole thing with my phone camera).

used my husbands old work lamp for lighting, its actually a darker brown hued setup but the camera makes it all look yellow-y, my phone camera really doesn't do the rock justice.
View attachment 241889

The reflection does not lie! I am a head-less, toros-less pair of floating arms! FEAR ME BWAHAHAH *aham*

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Discussion Starter · #13 · (Edited)

First order of mosses arrived. Bought from user herns on here.

  • 3x Peacock moss (golf ball size potion)
  • 1x Singapore moss (golf ball size potion)
  • 1x Christmas moss (golf ball size potion)

The box was pretty much destroyed, one of the containers/zip-lock bags leaked and 'melted' the cardboard; it was 1 of the 3 peacock moss balls' containers, the moss is a bit dry compared to the others but hopefully it will recover.

My hubby wants to try his hand at aqua-scaping so I will buy some supplies for him to attach the moss with different ways (a non wire mesh, possibly some small weights, and hair nets.. we already have clear fishing line). He took a liking to the peacock moss when I showed him photos so it will most likely be the one used for the "tree", the other two might be used on the rock or as a "carpet", not sure yet. I'm hoping there will be some left over as I might try throwing a bit in the 15 gallon.

Currently acclimating them to the tank then will plop them in. No photos till after 'scaping sorry ^^

:EDIT: 12.5
Went to Michele's today and picked up plastic mesh (1x: green, black, brown) some cheap glass beads to use as weights, and some wrapping paper (not for tank... for presents lol dyed paper not for the fish-ies). I also got my second order of moss in today from the user h4n, arrived literally as I pulled into the driveway so yay for no "exposed to the elements" time.

  • 3x Flame moss (golf ball size potion)
  • 1x Weeping moss (golf ball size potion)
  • 1x Java moss (golf ball size potion)

Intend to try to make a little hiding spot with the flame moss for the future fish to hide behind once it grows in. Weeping and java gotten to experiment with, not sure if/were they'd be used.

Hopefully we'll (because I want to play with the moss too [insert silly kid face]) scape tonight/tomorrow and have pictures up soon after ^^

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Moss Works

photo heavy project, moss-ing up the tank! sorry for blurr-age

Mosses used:
Tree: Peacock moss, Christmas moss, Singapore moss
"Grass": Flame Moss
Rock moss: Weeping Moss

We used riding hairnets (from a tack shop), fishing line (right off the reel), a curved needle (from sewing kit), and some plastic mesh (for screen doors), and glass beads (from art store). Not all items are shown in supplied below, as they were improved in through the WIP.

Tree design was re-done to minimize possibility of fish getting netted (originally was an open loose bottom hair net idea) with the intent that the moss with grow out enough to hide the net completely so there's nothing for the fish to get caught on. The flame moss grass was made using plastic screen and fishing line, tied on with a large curled needle. The weeping moss was attached using a glass bead and fishing line to grow out and down over the large rock.
All the leftover moss was hair-netted onto rocks and put into my holding tank for growing out java plantlets (sorry no photos of this)


W.I.P Featuring: my Husband:

Will post updated photos in a week or so to see growth.

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Moss growth at 10 days

So growing slow, but noticable growth non the less for the moss. Added from frogbit I got from the user drewsuf82 as a free throw in with a recent shipment of plants. Don't know if the light will be enough for the frogbit, if not I'll move it to the 15 gallon. Please pardon the dirty tank I didn't realize the plastic needed cleaned till after.
floating: amazon frogbit
left on rock: weeping moss
middle in "tree": peacock, Singapore, and Christmas moss
bottom: flame moss

the last of the flame moss I pushed between two pieces of mesh, hoping it would grow through the holes, but its looking more like a messy sandwich... maybe it will make a cool hiding spot for the fish once it grows in

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
So the "tree" is starting to fill in more, I can see lots and lots of little Christmas, Singapore, and Peacock moss tips poking through the hairnet now yay! The flame moss seems to be the only one not doing as well in the tank. I don't think its an issue of light or nutrients and Temp is about 77-78F max, it just hasn't gotten the straight upward growth look and has a bit of browning. If it dies I may order some more of a different moss to replace it.
Unfortunately the mazantia is hell bent on having a "fungus covered" phase ever after the several thorough scrubs and boils =.= There are also several frogbits floating around on top of the tank I got as a free throw in with some java fern for my 10 gallon a few weeks ago. They had no roots but are getting some decent long roots and one even became mother plant with an offshoot forgbit attached so they seem to be doing ok at least. I'd planned for them to be in the 10 gallon but the mild current form the HOB pushing them behind the filter and out of the light so they went in here until l I can rig something up (suction cups and fishing line to keep them in one corner).

A few weeks ago the tank was constantly making an intensely annoying clicking noise so after removing all variables, it was determined its the pump clicking when it has back pressure from the outflow being covered. After much tinkering my hubby made a quick temperary spray bar from left-over siphon tubing and re-wrapped the pump in foam to keep it form vibrating in the back chamber. No more clicking and gentle-er water flow now. Its not the prettiest to look at but he's looking into ordering small parts to make a much more professionally done spraybar (lfs don't carrying squat for supplies and the hardware stores only have fittings he wants in brass not pvc/plastic).

My husband also finally replaced the cheap looking lid that comes with the Evovle4 with a home made one from Lexan polycarbonate (like a flexible glass/plastic.. you can find it of cheap at HomeDepo and just need a metal or plastic cutting bade (lots of small teeth) on a circular saw or jig-saw to cut it). Anyways when he measured the tank to cut the lid it became apparent the cheap plastic of the Evovle4 can't handle the pressure 3 gallons of water, it was warped and no-where-near straight squared/rectangular, its bowed. So he cut the tabs of the original hood and super glued them onto the new one he made and left a little room in case the tank expands more. So its not a super tight fitting top, but its 1000x better looking than the old one.. will share photos eventually.

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Dreaded Hair algae

Well the moss is growing slowly but noticeable, but unfortunately there appears to be some hair algae growing on top of the "tree" moss that I'm going to have to deal with. I hope dosing hydrogen peroxide won't kill the moss. No updated photos yet, will try to add some after getting rid of the algae though.
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