First planted tank- Two Towers

Discussion in 'Journals' started by Spider Pig, 4 Jul 2008.

  1. Spider Pig

    Spider Pig Member

    So here’s my set up journal of my first proper planted tank. Here’s a picture of the tank beforehand:


    Here’s my plan for the new set up, which like all good plans, is only a vague guide:


    Equipment Specifications
    • Tank- Juwel Vision 180 (92cm W x 40cm H x 55cm L), 180L
    • Lighting-
    o 2x 25w T8 (arcadia freshwater + juwel nature),
    o additional 2x 39w T5 (856 + grolux- )Hagen GLO T5 controller-
    • Filtration
    o Juwel internal- 600 Lph
    o Tetratec ex1200- 1200 LpH
    • Pressurised Co2 with timed solenoid control.
    • Fertilisation planned-
    o Seachem Flourish 5ml 2x/ wk
    o PMDD 9ml/ day (KNO3, KPO4)

    Plants currently in tank:
    • Java fern
    • Egeria densa
    • Amazon sword
    • Water wisteria
    • Mushroom plant
    • Vallis
    Plants ordered from Greenline
    • Monoselium tenernum
    • Christmas moss
    • Taiwan moss
    • Eleocharis parvulus
    • Glossostigma elatinoides
    • Echinodorus paniculatus
    • Echinodorus brevipedicellatus
    • Ceratophyllum demersum
    • Ludwigia natans

    So, Wednesday morning, got everything cleared away and ready to spring into action as soon as the plants arrived, which they did at 1100. Very good service from Greenline by the way, well recommended. Good healthy plants (to my untrained eye), well packaged, not crushed. Washed and arranged the plants, keeping them moist with a damp tea towel.

    Then took out the big piece of lava rock to tie the moss onto that. I thought that it would be quite fiddly and take a bit of time, so best get it out of the way first. Have attached some monoselium near the bottom which is a bit shaded, then Taiwan moss midway and Christmas moss at the top. I’d read that taxiphyllum species grow quicker than vesicularia so hoping the Taiwan moss will spread quickly. Left a small grid to grow on its own as well.
  2. Spider Pig

    Spider Pig Member

    Next step- turned everything off and drained the aquarium. The fish were transferred to a 30L tub with aeration, heating and some egeria. I also transferred the old filter sponges to a bucket of water. I felt that this should be suffient as I only expected them to be there for a couple of hours and the water was fresh treated tap water, and the fish hadn’t been fed that morning, so the build up of ammonia should be minimal.. I was soon to realize that this was a fatal error.

    Time for a bit of DIY- drilled a couple of holes in the back of the cabinet for the filter pipes to feed through. Replaced my backing picture with a sheet of black plastic. Set up the external filter- very easy to do.

    Finally time for the actual scaping and planting. I had to diverge from my plan as there wasn’t the space to do what I hoped, so the volcanic rock is further to the left than I planned. Also there isn’t as much room for the eleocharis around it. In my plan I’d completely forgotten about the vallis, so placed it behind the rock to give it extra height.

    Refilling the tank was a doddle with the external filter- just put the intake into the jerry can and emptied in less than 5 minutes. Also because the spray hits the glass it doesn’t disrupt any of the scaping.
  3. Spider Pig

    Spider Pig Member

    Next was bodging the lights. I’ve got the juwel reflectors on the t8s so first straightened the longer side out.

    Have the arcadia reflectors for the t5s (much better than juwel IMO). The clip has a sliding attachment, so I attached mine so that the distance from the bulb to the edge was longer than if attached at the other side. Bit hard to explain really. Then I used the clips provided with the hagen ballast to clip on to the tubes where they would touch the t8 endcaps (as those tubes are shorter), so they acted as a buffer.

    Attached the hagen endcaps and slid the new t5 reflectors, with bulbs clipped underneath, under the old juwel ones. In this way the reflector holds the bulb above the brace bar, and the juwel reflector prevents it from tipping into the water. To remove, just slide out.
    Only problem is that there is a slight gap at the front:
    Up and running:
  4. Spider Pig

    Spider Pig Member

    Fish returned, all apparently healthy. Lights on- quite dazzling having been used to weak juwel lights for some time:

    It's a bit hard to see what's going on from these shots but the idea is to have a slope down from right to left. The background is a mix of swords, with the egeria densa, wisteria, ludwigia, mushroom plant dotted around to break it up. The midground is the java fern to the right giving way to a line of cryptocoryne wendtii. In front of this to the left is a field of eleocharis with a small experimental patch of glosso at the far left. The centre point is the volcanic rock rising from the plain shrouded with moss and backed by vallis. The front gravel is to remain bare and I hope to get some bark to cover the filter plus may be a moss wall. The java fern on the rock is temporary- just left it there to grow. Will move it down/ remove it later.

    My planned lighting is to have the t5s on 0900 to 2100, then have the t8’s come on 1300 to 1700- and gradually extend this.
    My planned fertilization as above. I would love to do EI but I know I wouldn’t be able to keep up with the water changes. I’m going to aim for 50% every 2 weeks to start. I’m trying to think of a way of rigging a tube from the in/outflow of the external to a sink which would speed up water changes.
    I also have some easycarbo if things are getting green and sticky.

    Unfortunately all was not well however. 2 hrs after I reintroduced the fish 2 of the cardinals and one of the dwarf rainbowfish was showing signs of buoyancy problems. An hour later and they were dead. The next morning more cardinals had died and so far I’ve lost all my cardinals (12), 3 guppies, and the dwarf rainbowfish. Some of the fish had signs of a white spot on their eye so I suspected some toxin in the water (NH4/ NO2/ NO3 all 0, pH 7) did a 50% water change and put in carbon in the filter. This morning things seem stable but will just observe at present. This may have been from the stress of the move, or leaving them in a tub without filtration for so long, but in retrospect it probably could have been avoided.

    Bit of an essay, will try and keep this updated.

    Any comments/ advice welcome- especially re: lighting and fertilisation strategy.
  5. beeky

    beeky Member

    Chippenham, Wiltshire
    Nice start.

    It's difficult to say why the fatalaties occured. You seem to have quite a lot of fish. Even with the aeration in the tub, it's possible that they were weakened by the lack of oxygen and the stress of the move finished them off. Difficult to say though.

    Keep us posted on progress.
  6. GreenNeedle

    GreenNeedle Member

    Lincoln UK
    I would suggest was definately something in the tank that caused the deaths. Probs something you added changing the water parametrs. I assume you did the standard acclimitisaing when reintroducing them.

    Reason for saying this is when I change scape the fish will normally be in containers with lids on and no filtration/heating (just wrapped in blankets) for as much as 24 hours while I do the work, then let the tank settle, get to the desired temp etc and I haven't had any problems with the fish from this.

    When you buy fish online they will be in less water and unfiltered and don't have many DOAs. I would keep an eye on the survivors and if any more deaths then it maybe the lava rock or a plant that has brought a contaminant into the tank.

    Other than that it looks a nice start and using lava rock is definately different to the usual standard rocks/wood combos we see everywhere.

    Good luck and keep us posted.

  7. Spider Pig

    Spider Pig Member

    Thanks for the comments

    With regards to the health of the fish, I'm more convinced that there was some toxin in the new tank that caused the deaths as oppose to ammonia toxicity from the temporary tub, although the stress of that may have contributed to it. I did two 50% water changes and after that fish seemed alot better. Also the white film over the eye has disappeared. The only new additions were the plants (the lava rock had been in the tank for 3-4 months), however these had been washed prior to use. May be should soak them for longer in the future.
    I didn't reacclimatise the fish gradually as when adding fish from the store. The reasoning for this was that the water chemistry would be similar, both being fresh treated tap water and I ensured that both were at the same temperature. I also wanted to get the fish back into a filtered environment as soon as possible. I think that in the future I will stick to using the old tank water.

    I hope that the volcanic rock will look quite striking once covered with moss, the contrast between brown and green should be quite nice. However one of the main reasons for leaving it in there is that the fish love it as cover.

    Haven't started any fertilisation yet due to the toxicity problems but will do so in the next couple of days. Lovely to see lots of pearling and o2 production already. Will post some photos soon
  8. Spider Pig

    Spider Pig Member

    7 days later…

    Here are the latest pics from the tank after the carnage passed. The final death toll was 12 cardinals, 3 guppies, 2 neon rainbows. Definitely not going to make that mistake again and stick to using established tank water in the future.

    The plants seem to be settling in OK. A few, especially the grasses, have been uprooted and needed replanting. The hornwort grows at a ridiculous rate, at least 1-2”/ day. I’ve already trimmed and replanted the stuff in here.

    The ferns are pearling nicely, and late in the day the water gets cloudy with all the bubbles being kicked off.

    Not so sure about the hairgrass and glosso at the moment. No obvious pearling or growth, but not going brown either- watch and wait I guess. Does anyone know how long it takes to settle in and create a nice carpet? The crypts seem to be doing ok, no melt that I can see- not sure if this occurs later though.

    Couple of pics of the fauna:

    So fertilization continuing as planned- 9ml/ day PMDD, traces 2x/ week. Lighting 78w t5 0900- 2100, 50w t8 1300-1700. Might drop the t5 time to 10 hrs and increase the t8 time so that the plants get a shorter more intense lighting period.

    Update next week.
  9. Spider Pig

    Spider Pig Member

    Week 2

    Things trotting along nicely although do have some algae problems. Had some BGA growing on the side glass facing the window. Removed it manually and covered up the bottom with some black plastic- seems to have done the trick of preventing it. Also had some tufts of hair algae growing. I think this is due to the fact that I’m underdosing the fertilizers as when I tested the water before my water change it registered 0 nitrates. Going to double the dose and recheck next week.
    Shot before pruning. The Hornwort does grow at a ridiculous rate- about 1 ½ ft a week- might have to change that soon:
    Shots after
    Pictures not great unfortunately as got a lot of glare from the gravel and some of the plants so had to underexpose. Will have to play around with the camera to see how I can get a better picture.

    The glosso does seem to be taking and I’ve spread it further around the front, having to painstakingly replant it, as the corries have other ideas. Well worth getting the fine tweezers for this.

    A few problems I’d noticed. One was abnormal growth at the tips of some java fern. I read that this may be due to nutrient shortage so hopefully can be rectified by upping the fertilizers. Any other ideas what might cause this?

    Also the moss doesn’t seem to be growing at all. However the pelia is showing signs of new growth. Is this normal, should I just wait and see?

    Some of the crypts are showing signs of browning- I assume this is crypt melt- Does it affect all crypts and how long do they take to regrow?
    All being well, thinking of adding 4 ottos next week to go help algae cleaning duties.

    Any comments/ advice welcome.
  10. Mark Evans

    Mark Evans Expert

    newark notts.
    ottos, shrimp, true Siamese flying foxes, they'll all help. you might want to invest in some flourish excel too. should help rid you of some algae varietys. and maybe some roots tabs in the substrate?
    it appears to be an inert substrate?

  11. ceg4048

    ceg4048 Expert/Global Moderator Staff Member

    Chicago, USA
    Hi spider,
    Analysis of your photos suggests the onset of GSA. The poor performance of glosso is most likely due to low CO2 at the substrate level. As saintly points out regular dosing of Excel will help, but you might also consider simply increasing the injection rate, which is a cheaper solution. In your original post you mentioned a dosing of 9 ml PMDD which is ambiguous since no one can tell how you prepared that solution. It's likely that your tank is PO4 limited. Some of your plants grow well with the current dosing but this is simply because some plants are better at feeding or are in a better location where nutrients are more adequately distributed.

    You ought to be able to resolve most algae issues with increased water column fertilization and CO2. I'm not one to depend on fish to rid the tank of algae (since algae eaters don't answer the question of why you have algae) but algae eaters do help clean up. In my opinion root tabs are a placebo as they don't add anything more to the substrate than what your fish are already adding via feces - and your fish do a better job at distribution. :D

  12. Spider Pig

    Spider Pig Member

    Thanks for the comments

    Dosing-wise I'm adding 3 tsp KNO3 and 1/2 tsp KPO4 to 500ml of water. From James' website this is 18g KNO3 and 3.3g KPO4. I started on the 2ml/40L calculation giving 9ml/ day for a 180L tank. I've just looked at the website again and think I may have got confused between the all in one and pmdd, and so should be dosing 5ml/ 40L. I'm putting 20 in now which is a bit closer to this- will tweak it properly tomorrow. Substrate is inert and was hoping to stick to water column dosing if possible.

    I'll up the co2 a bit. At the moment it feeds directly into the filter inlet so should be dissolving in well enough. The glosso is at the bottom of the down draft of the spray bar so it should be getting to the co2 first. The drop checker is nicely green, although I know that this isn't a good indicator of co2 levels throughout the tank. Is it worth adding excel on top of this, i.e. does excel have any anti-algae properties other than providing carbon to other plants?

    In stable, well planted tanks do you still get algae on the glass, or should you have none if your fertilisation is correct? I hoped that by having the hornwort this would outcompete the algae, but it appears to be outcompeting the other plants instead.
  13. Mark Evans

    Mark Evans Expert

    newark notts.
    are you using 4dkh water in your drop cheker? thats important apperntly.

    good point!

    personly i have stable co2, a fert regime and dose excel. from start up 5/6 weeks ago until signs of algae!
  14. Spider Pig

    Spider Pig Member

    I've upped the co2 and will add easycarbo on top of that over the next week to see how things go (use 4kdh in the drop checker). Do you still get algae on the glass? I think the fact that the glosso keeps getting uprooted probably isn't helping, but it's definately growing. Just wish the eleocharis would start spreading as well. What do you think about the moss, does it normally take a bit of time to get growing?
  15. ceg4048

    ceg4048 Expert/Global Moderator Staff Member

    Chicago, USA
    Hi spider,
    You need to completely purge your mind of this concept. It could only have been invented by someone who failed to comprehend the role of algae within an ecosystem. It is such a debilitating concept that it continues to ensnare its victims as if it were a Venus flytrap.

    Algae and higher order plants do not share the same niche in an ecosystem. Their needs are worlds apart and therefore they cannot possibly compete with each other. In order for your plants to thrive under high lighting they may require something like a weekly supply of 3 ppm (parts per million) of Phosphate. Algae can thrive under the same lighting conditions with as little as 3 ppb (parts per billion) of Phosphate. That means that there is 3 orders of magnitude, or 1000 times the difference in the nutritional requirement of GSA versus the nutritional requirement of hornwort. It's not even close. It's the difference between the nutritional requirement of an elephant versus the nutritional requirement of a mouse.

    You therefore need to feed the elephants and forget about the mice. The good news though is that algal spores are able to sense the aquatic environments. They sense when the conditions are favorable for their development. Favorable conditions for algae are the opposite conditions of those that are favorable to plants. Nutrient rich waters, high in CO2 and low in NH4 are favorable for plants. Nutrient poor waters, low in CO2 and high in NH4 are favorable to algae.

    If algae are present in your tank in significant quantity this means that your tank water has satisfied at least one of those (algae favorable) conditions. Poor nutrient and/or low CO2 waters also causes plants to suffer structural failure and to leech NH4 into the water column thereby satisfying the conditions which facilitate the rise and dominance of algae.

    The way to suppress algae therefore is optimize the environmental conditions for healthy plants. Can you see now that there is nothing to do with competition? When plants are healthy algae is abated. When plants are unhealthy algae dominate. It's that simple. Hornwort would vanish into oblivion if it had to depend on winning a competition against algae because it needs 1000 times more food to survive than algae does.

    If the algae on your glass is GSA then this is an indication that you need to feed your plants more PO4. Since you have already increased your dosing, wait 3 weeks for the effects to be fully realized. If GSA persists after that time then consider enriching your mixture with more PO4.

    Hope this makes sense. :D

  16. Spider Pig

    Spider Pig Member

    Purge completed. Definately need to do some more reading. Thanks Ceg

    The dosing I'm doing now will be adding about 4ppm of phosphate a week so hopefully kick start the other plants and stop the algae overrun. Just looked closely and can see the glosso roots running between the glass and the gravel and can see it extending runners so at least something is working.
  17. Spider Pig

    Spider Pig Member

    Week 4 update

    Things have moved on a bit with a few additions and plant moves.

    Added 4 ottos just under a week ago- all seem to healthy and well. They had been in the LFS for 7-8 weeks and had nice fat stomachs so hopefully will be ok with them.
    Moved the vallis from behind the volcanic rock to the right rear corner. Was getting annoyed with the number of runners being sent out and also it was disrupting the slope too much.
    Also moved the co2 diffuser to the back behind the volcanic rock. Lots of gas was getting trapped in the filter and it was getting really noisy. Surprisingly I didn’t need to up the co2 rate in the new position.

    The main addition is the moss wall, xmas moss courtesy of Dan Crawford. Moss looked nice and healthy and can already see it poking through the grid so hopefully will have more luck with this than the last lot.

    Still having a problem with GSA and crypt melt (I assume). Hopefully this will respond to the increased fertilization. Using James DIY all in one, dosing 30ml daily for the 180L which is just above his recommendation. This should add 2.6ppm nitrate and 0.6ppm phosphate so should be adequate. However I did test the nitrate level at the end of the week and this was 0, although I’m not 100% confident in the test kit (API) Is it worth upping the dose? I’m also using easycarbo 7ml daily in addition and hope this will bring the algae under control.

    Glosso doing well, carpeting nicely. Can’t say the same for the hairgrass, but it isn’t all dead so there is some hope left.

    Always nice to see plants pumping out oxygen

    Advice/ comments welcome.
  18. LondonDragon

    LondonDragon Administrator Staff Member

    Looking great :) just the mesh you used for the wall is not ideal, it will take a very very long time before you see any results. Specially with Xmas moss as it grows very slow indeed, keep us update on the process.
  19. aaronnorth

    aaronnorth Member

    worksop, nottinghamshire
    looking lovely, you have hidden the diffuser line well, but how will you get it off to clean it? It will be very fiddly trying to thread it around the back of the net every time!
  20. LondonDragon

    LondonDragon Administrator Staff Member

    Also when the moss grows it will just block the space above the diffusor and not sure how good of an idea it is for the bubbles just to go into the moss! ;)

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