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Creepy Hollow

Kogre

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14 Apr 2013
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212
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Derby
Hi all.

So in 2013 I purchased a tank from ND Aquatics. The size of it was 68"x24"x30". It was made to fit in the space I had at the time, now I'm wishing I'd bought a 7ft tank... anyway, nothing happened with it for some time as the threat of moving house was always close by with the missus yo-yoing on the decision for literally years until I decided in 2017 that we were going to move. It took a couple of years of looking but we finally found a house we all loved and moved into it in August 2019. Then there were the (and still are) typical projects of things to do around the house before the finances became freed up for the tank to be worked on. That was the middle of February.

Firstly, apologies for all the bad photos, I'm taking these on my phone and am no expert by any stretch of the imagination.

This is my first attempt at a planted aquarium. I'm hoping to try and make it heavily planted as I have a lot of space that looks pretty empty still, as you'll see in the later photos.

The first thing I wanted to do was check to see if it could hold water, just to sanity check that it had survived the move unscathed, as during the move it wasn't necessarily treated as delicately as I would have liked. It took four of us to lift it... the squeeze through doorways was the worst... and this had to be tipped onto it's side to twist it through the door into the study due to the proximity of the stairs to the room. It held water but this highlighted a problem that I'll get onto shortly.

Here is the tank in what was an overcrowded study that was used as a home office and storage room/dumping ground:

IMG_20210225_191355.jpg

I purchased a couple of Oase 850 Biomaster Thermos and plumbed them in. When I had filled the tank to see whether it held water, I'd seen that it wasn't level. I hadn't even considered that it wouldn't have been until I saw it with my own eyes. The tank was sort of angled leaning slightly forwards and off to the right. I began scouring the internet looking for ways I could fix this, even scrambling to another company requesting quotes to build me a cabinet with adjustable feet and build it on site. It was pretty silly of me to have done this, but I wanted to consider my options.

In the end I emptied the room of everything but the tank and moved the tank to where my desk was so it was facing a north-facing window. This was better for me, since lockdown I've had my back to the window and my screens have been reflecting the glare of outside. I managed to clear up the clutter by donating our books to BHF, emptied any boxes and discarded what wasn't needed and overall just made the room easier to navigate and work in.

I had ordered 20kg of grey mountain stone from Riverwood Aquatics. I hadn't seen or chosen the pieces so had to rely on the staff there on making the choices, overall I was pretty happy with the selections. Perhaps not with the consistency of the different pieces themselves, such as the colouring on them, but overall I was pleased. I had a 2 large pieces of wood that I had purchased from Wharf Aquatics and wanted to see what I could come up with as a layout, so laid a towel on the floor in front of the tank and messed around with various placements.

rocks and wood.JPG

This isn't what I settled for, but the more I played around with the layouts, the more I realised that both of these were too big to both be in the tank. They would have fit, but it wasn't worth wasting so much space with two feature pieces. I decided to go with the darker one on the left. It has a lot of visible grainy character, and I wasn't happy with the overall footprint of the one on the right, with it sprawling quite easily from the front to back of the tank and not able to twist it into different angles.

Anyway, losing one large piece of wood lead to more void space that needed filling, so I ordered another 15kg of the grey mountain stone.

Once again, I was really pleased with the rock selections. Once everything arrived, I decided to crack on and get everything into the tank.

IMG_20210226_194133.jpg

The base layer was Tropica Aquarium Soil. I think I ended up dumping four 9 litre bags of the stuff into the tank. With the background of the tank being black and the size of the pieces being so big, I wasn't happy with it, so this ended up being capped with 32-ish kg of Unipac aquarium silver sand.

Numerous schoolboy errors were made along the way:

IMG_20210226_224232.jpg

Don't judge the Uni Kitty cup, I was using it to scoop sand into the tank lol!

Anyway, I had a few stones I hadn't used and attempted to weigh this wood down. It worked for about 30 minutes, then I heard a crash and the stone had been chucked off and the wood was back coasting on the waterline. It had kicked up a lot of soil in the process too. I let it sit like this for about a week before I decided I didn't like what I had done with the rocks. They were too linear and I hadn't made good use of depth. Also, the cracks running through the stone weren't on full display with them being in the positions I had them in. My thought was to lay them down. That would create more void space, so I ordered more wood from Scaped Nature. I had ordered redmoor wood, 1* XL, 2* large and 3* small. These were reasonably priced and were exactly what I needed. This time, however, I wasn't about to be defeated by buoyancy! Well... that's what I thought anyway...

This is the layout I decided to go with:
IMG_20210305_185306.jpg


I used this as an opportunity to weigh down the largest wood with a stone after I'd laid more sand over the exposed soil. I used some expanding foam to stick four pieces together and bond them to stones to the right. I did the same to the XL piece on the left. I was still a little unhappy with the stones appearing linear on the right, so I moved them a couple of them to a different position.

I filled the tank to about 2/3 and let it run for a couple of days. The noise was terrible and the humidity in the room went up to 55%. I did this as I was afraid the buoyancy would pop something out of position and I didn't want the soil to be disturbed by the movement of any wood.
IMG_20210307_011039.jpg


That was until last night, when I ended up just filling it. I was really pleased with how it looked.

IMG_20210307_180147.jpg


Until the inevitable happened. 😭

IMG_20210307_221038.jpg


I only turn lights on for a minute when taking pictures, but I noticed some thin algae on some of the wood that looked like snot. I scraped this off this morning.

This is where I am at the moment. I'm still waiting for nitrites to show up, but I've disturbed the cycle a couple of times since setting it up. I think I'm going to consider it as a restart from yesterday.

Many thanks to @Wookii for suggesting I post this in a journal and for kindly donating some used filter media. I was put off posting this as a journal initially when I saw how awesome and impressive other users aquariums looked and I felt comparatively embarrassed.

Once again, sorry if there are too many pictures and the poor quality of them. I'm quite excited to about this project due to it being almost 8 effing years in the making. 🤪
 

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Karmicnull

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Cambridge
I was put off posting this as a journal initially when I saw how awesome and impressive other users aquariums looked and I felt comparatively embarrassed.
Don't feel embarrassed! There are a ton of us without a single artistic bone on our bodies whom you're already streets ahead of; My first post on the forum I'd more or less flung a plant and a rock in a tank and was dead chuffed with myself (it has improved since then but only marginally :cool:). The wood will eventually sink. It will get some mouldy fuzz on it for a while but that will go in time. And then you'll be off and running.
 

Kogre

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Derby
Don't feel embarrassed! There are a ton of us without a single artistic bone on our bodies whom you're already streets ahead of; My first post on the forum I'd more or less flung a plant and a rock in a tank and was dead chuffed with myself (it has improved since then but only marginally :cool:). The wood will eventually sink. It will get some mouldy fuzz on it for a while but that will go in time. And then you'll be off and running.
That's very kind of you to say so. Thank you. :)

I think your way of describing it as mouldy fuzz is certainly better than my own descriptive use of "snot". 🤣 I'm glad this is something that will leave eventually presumably with little to no intervention?
 
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Wolf6

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Yeah dont worry too much about the mold. Amano's and otto's like to eat it sometimes, otherwise it disappears on its own eventually. I like the look, feels kind of ominous so the name seems to fit :) Good luck!
 

Wookii

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Glad you decided to start up a journal @Kogre - really nicely written!

You have absolutely nothing to feel embarrassed about, the tank looks awesome, and it’s a fantastic size. I’m looking forward to seeing it planted out, but you’re doing the right thing getting the wood sunk and everything in order first. The other thing you can do to help with the wood is use some brown or black grip ties to strap them to spare rocks and anchor them down.

It’s easy to hide the grip ties with moss or epiphyte plants where they are visible.
 

Kogre

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Yeah dont worry too much about the mold. Amano's and otto's like to eat it sometimes, otherwise it disappears on its own eventually. I like the look, feels kind of ominous so the name seems to fit :) Good luck!
Luckily I have both amano's and otto's on the stock list. Thank you! I reckon when it's planted in it'll lose some of the ominous feel. I'll try to keep it going somehow.

You have absolutely nothing to feel embarrassed about, the tank looks awesome, and it’s a fantastic size. I’m looking forward to seeing it planted out, but you’re doing the right thing getting the wood sunk and everything in order first. The other thing you can do to help with the wood is use some brown or black grip ties to strap them to spare rocks and anchor them down.
Thanks @Wookii! I think I have a single rock left which is pretty small. If it isn't heavy enough to weigh the large piece down, I'll stick some gravel from my driveway into a filter bag and use that to weigh it down by zip tying it as you suggested (I think I have velcro ties somewhere to hand). Thank you for the idea and feedback! :)

This is a very nice sized tank, and i like the placement of the hardscape.
Thank you for the compliment and feedback @Gill!
 

Kogre

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Apparently my remaining stone was heavy enough to counter the buoyancy. It's now back down. Cheers for the helpful suggestion, @Wookii.

In this post for Kinabalu, you used twigs or vines or something that gave amazing detail and scale to the setup. May I ask what this was and where you acquired it from?
 

Wookii

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Apparently my remaining stone was heavy enough to counter the buoyancy. It's now back down. Cheers for the helpful suggestion, @Wookii.

In this post for Kinabalu, you used twigs or vines or something that gave amazing detail and scale to the setup. May I ask what this was and where you acquired it from?

The detail twigs were just small bits of manzanita and spider wood twigs. They can look quite effective, but in all honesty I don’t think I’d use them again, unless it was on a rock or area that I knew would be completely devoid of plants.

It’s a lot of time, effort and frustration getting the twigs glued in place, for them to completely disappear under the plants a month later 😂
 

Gill

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Apparently my remaining stone was heavy enough to counter the buoyancy. It's now back down. Cheers for the helpful suggestion, @Wookii.

In this post for Kinabalu, you used twigs or vines or something that gave amazing detail and scale to the setup. May I ask what this was and where you acquired it from?
You can get them in packs from the superfish brand. So any MA can get them in, or just hunt for twigs that have fallen off and are just scrap in the hardscape displays.
Its what I do.
 

Kogre

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I think based on the fact that they'll probably never be seen again once the tank has grown in, I might just skip them entirely. A nice touch though.

Just had a great conversation about the stock for this tank with Sami from Sims Tropical Fish. Very helpful and friendly.
 

Kogre

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I really want this densely packed in with plants. I have a style in mind and wrote to Aquarium Gardens requesting a quote for a plant list. My jaw almost dropped when I saw the figure, costing more than the stock of fish I want to keep. Dave was nice enough to put a 10% discount on which put a decent dent in the price and made it easier to digest. I just won't tell my missus what I'm spending. 😑
 

Courtneybst

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5 Sep 2016
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Yeah densely planting a 7ft tank won't be cheap in any way. It was expensive doing mine and I only have a 4ft track with the front relatively open. It can seem a lot but it's honestly so much better to just plant densely from the beginning. You'll likely save money, time and headache by having less algae and your scape will look better. But there's definitely options, that's just one quote.

You can get around it somewhat depending on your plant choices. Some plants will take up more space, some will fill in really quickly.
 

Kogre

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It's 68" long not 84, but I get your point. And you're absolutely right, I don't want to slowly populate it with plants, I want it as heavily planted as I can afford as soon as possible. As it's the room I happen to work from, that's another reason. I couldn't bare to look at it as an eyesore. It's bad enough looking at it as it is.

Keep in mind that this is my first planted tank, and also first fishless cycle, presumably I won't want to add plants until after the nitrates show up and the filters are fully cycled so no ammonia and no nitrites?

If I want to heavily stock the tank with all of it's inhabitants from the outset, will I need to build up my dosing to larger and larger quantities of ammonia up to a certain amount (5ppm? 10ppm?! (how would I even measure this at this stage?)) before adding the critters or is it better to add the critters in three lots separated by a week or two?
 

Courtneybst

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It's 68" long not 84, but I get your point. And you're absolutely right, I don't want to slowly populate it with plants, I want it as heavily planted as I can afford as soon as possible. As it's the room I happen to work from, that's another reason. I couldn't bare to look at it as an eyesore. It's bad enough looking at it as it is.

Keep in mind that this is my first planted tank, and also first fishless cycle, presumably I won't want to add plants until after the nitrates show up and the filters are fully cycled so no ammonia and no nitrites?

If I want to heavily stock the tank with all of it's inhabitants from the outset, will I need to build up my dosing to larger and larger quantities of ammonia up to a certain amount (5ppm? 10ppm?! (how would I even measure this at this stage?)) before adding the critters or is it better to add the critters in three lots separated by a week or two?

In terms of your cycling, even if fishless, you should add the plants from day 1. They'll only facilitate the cycling process further. It will also make your life a lot easier.

For the livestock you can add a fair amount if the system is cycled but adding them gradually is definitely better if you intend to do so from the beginning.
 

dw1305

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Hi all,
If I want to heavily stock the tank with all of it's inhabitants from the outset, will I need to build up my dosing to larger and larger quantities of ammonia up to a certain amount (5ppm? 10ppm?! (how would I even measure this at this stage?)) before adding the critters
I would <"very, very strongly"> recommend <"not doing this">, but have a read through <"Dr Timothy Hovanec's comments"> before you go any further.

I really like a floating plant for start up, any will do, but my favourites are <"Amazon Frogbit (Limnobium laevigatum)">, Hornwort (Ceratophyllum demersum) and <"Indian Fern (Ceratopteris thalictroides)">. You might be able to get some fast growing stems <"from other members">. @GHNelson is an advocate of leaving stems floating until they are growing before planting.

In terms of your cycling, even if fishless, you should add the plants from day 1. They'll only facilitate the cycling process further. It will also make your life a lot easier.

For the livestock you can add a fair amount if the system is cycled but adding them gradually is definitely better if you intend to do so from the beginning.
That would be my advice as well.
Some plants will take up more space, some will fill in really quickly.
Have a look at @Filip Krupa's <"big tank"> it is planted with big plants.

cheers Darrel
 

Kogre

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Many thanks for the response guys. I'm not sure where I read it but it was my understanding that planting out a non-cycled aquarium was risky to the plants. I don't plan to co2 but will do some generic water column dosing of ferts. I'm sure I bought Tropica concentrate but will confirm tomorrow.

I don't think I want to spend over £800 on plants only to have them shrivel and die unless I have confidence. Which at present I don't have a lot of.

I kinda guessed that I would have to trickle in the full stock. It's not a big deal, I'm impatient but can wait out a few weeks.

I'll post plant list and stock list tomorrow. Please feel free to let me know whether I'm doing okay or going too far. It could save me money, effort, time and heartache in the long run and I would really appreciate that.
 
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Wookii

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As Darrel says @Kogre you don’t need to add any ammonia to the tank, it’s not beneficial. You also have aquarium soil as a base layer which will be releasing small amounts of ammonia through your sand capping layer into the water column anyway, so get rid of the additonal ammonia and run the tank as is.

You also don’t need to wait before adding your plants. The only time I personally would recommend running an initial dark start is if you have an aquarium soil only substrate, as it’s helps (with large daily water changes) to prevent some of the damage than can be done to plants from the initial high ammonia levels.

In your case, with the sand capping layer, you should be good to go and start planting straight away.

Even after planting through, I would wait a month or so for the plants to be actively growing in before considering slowly adding any livestock.

Please do post up your proposed plant list too - aquarium plants are very expensive, but even so, £800 appear incredibly excessive, even for a tank the size of yours. Assuming the average price is £5-£6, that’s 130-160 individual plants/pots?!

I’m an advocate for high plant mass at start up, but that can be achieved with easy fast growing stem plants and floating plants (I throw these away almost weekly so I can send you some if you want any) in the first instance, to compliment your other species, and then swap them out later on for your preferred (perhaps slightly more demanding) plants once everything is becoming more established. That will give you an easier route to success and less risk of expensive losses early on. Buces for example are a plant you might consider waiting on until the tank is biologically mature.

Given the size of your tank I would recommend going with dry salts for your water column fertilisation. Get a starter kit from Aquarium Plant Food UK (when they next have stock) along with some measuring spoons, it’s very easy to make up the mixes and dose. If you can’t get that soon enough, TNC complete is perhaps your next best option, which you will need to triple dose I believe. (@Zeus. might be able to confirm).

Start the full dosing regime as soon as you add the plants.
 
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Zeus.

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Hi,
If you have no plants, turn the lights off and just run the filters and wait for it to cycle 4-6 weeks, TGM ( The Green Machine) used this technique on there tanks which doesn't always come across on the vids. Then drain 70% plant and fill.

TNC would need to x6 to reach EI levels but x3 may be enough but after all the effect I would advise x6 but not cheap. Making your own ferts with your size tank is a must IMO. The starter kits may be sold out but nothing stopping you just buying the salts on there own. If you need help ask. We do have the IFC calculator but it is not for the novice and DIY ferts is a very daunting at first. You can also use Rotala Butterfly or Zofoxs fert calculators but will need pen and paper or spreadsheet to add everything up ( IFC does all the maths for you)
 
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