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Not all heroes dare scapes

ScaperJoe

Member
Joined
20 Mar 2021
Messages
135
Location
Channel Islands
Hi Folks

I'll skip the introduction because I've managed to introduce myself in several places on UKAPS while stumbling around here in pure excitement. I was amazed to discover other humans also have planted tanks, because obviously I invented it when I became interested in the hobby 6 months ago ;). Long story short, I watched some Green Aqua YouTube videos during lockdown and was blown away by what these Hungarian aquatic wizards were doing with little glass boxes. Anyway, now I'm a tank-head or is it mulm-mate? (sorry guys, I'm new).

While working my notice period before starting a new job this year, I decided to take the plunge and bought a cabinet. Flat pack, a key made by some bloke called Alan, bish-bash-bosh --- now I'm a fish guy right?

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"Whoa there big fella, settle down"

My audience couldn't wait to see what I'd do:

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(this is our pet pigeon)

The only logical next step was to buy a little glass box. Easy right? No, not when you've convinced yourself that 'only ADA will do' because that's what the Hungarians were using in the videos, and you live on a rock in the English Channel where you'd be lucky to find a supplier for a cardboard box, let alone a glass one. Anyway, shout out to Scaped Nature and a shipping company that would sling it in the back of a lorry and park it on a ferry:

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(Arrived in one piece and my palpitations ceased.)

These things look so good, you could almost stop here. Could've even housed Alan's key in all its glory

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As you can see, I answered my lost calling as a plumber / electrician and became Mandy Han the handy man.

"Aren't you worried about the electric socket location, Mandy?" ... Yes I am, I lied about the palpitations.

Gas arrived together with all the relevant apparatus and my life support machine was almost ready.

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(Small note for the fact lovers - I ditched the in-line heater before fill-up for a more direct tubage to the tank)

What do normal people do once they've bought a fish tank, a light and a filter? Do they all go to a shop and agonise over which sticks and rocks to buy? I don't think I'll ever feel right about purchasing hardscape until I can visit a proper aquascaping shop. My girlfriend certainly didn't understand when I needed to go back for "MORE!?!?" - even the shopkeeper that sold the sticks and rocks gave me a look that said "No one buys the sticks and rocks mate, the world is full of stick and rocks..."

Anywho, I got straight to pressure washing my rocks and boiling my sticks like a normie... All so I could start playing with them on the bedroom carpet:

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"This shape pleases me."

My plants were in flight (from 4 different places - because Brexit) and I had some sacks of substrate I was itching to open, so I undertook the sweaty moment of placing my first rock in the little glass box. Seeing the Hungarians throw rocks around their tanks didn't make me feel any easier about this - every fibre of your being says "don't put the rocks on the glass you idiot." People who live in glass houses and all...

But that was old me, now I can dunk dragonstone like Kobe! Becuase I'm a bio-media buddy (... not that one either, huh?)

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"Like a GLLLOVE!"

Now it was finally time! The moment you wait your whole life for... surgery!

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I really hope someone else out there can relate, because this was a long-ass day!!! So many videos show the planting happen seamlessly; tweezer-pop-spray, smile at the camera, job done! <-- this was not my experience. My hands were shaking, I was sweating and grimacing, frantically grabbing the water spray to keep plants from drying out, getting substrate over everything, spotting a piece of rock wool I failed to remove, super-gluing my fingers together and treating the hardscape like it had betrayed my family. I reached for the beer well before socially acceptable timeframes.

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But we got there in the end... Day 1 as a Diatom Dude (eurgh!)

(2nd March 2021)
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What followed was weeks of relentless daily water changes (+ a lot of pushing plants back into the substrate) because I was damned if I wasn't going to make that planting day pay dividends!

Day 19

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Until I had tested the water into submission and could place my livestock order. Phoenix Rasbora (even though I asked for Chili's), Amano Shrimp (they call them Yamato Shrimp apparently) and Nerite Snails (they knew what these were).

And here came my biggest mistake and a shocking halt to the whimsy. In my haste and tunnel-viewed research into achieving a beautiful planted aquarium, my complete lack of fish-keeping knowledge reared its ugly head. I lost far too many of my Rasbora due to stupid human error on my part.

1. I 'acclimated' them while the CO2 was at its most prevalent and caused a huge amount of fish stress;
2. The surface skimmer claimed half a dozen;
3. I added all the livestock at once (approx. 25 creatures in all);
4. The lily pipe pictured was creating a flow too powerful for them;
5. I rushed a water change and caused osmotic shock;
6. I overfed thinking I was being kind and generous;
7. I learned that my CO2 settings were too much for them, despite the drop checker telling me "its fine and lime" (I was poor at reading the fish signs at the outset).

Day 38

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This all made me very stressed and second guess ever entering into the hobby. The Amano's and snails all survived to my surprise, but they must be a lot more rugged and ready than the little nano fish. I had to quickly engage with the steep learning curve and fix all my mistakes as quickly as possible. My girlfriend was asking me "how many killings" each day and I was determined to get to "zero darling, I'm a fish whisperer don't you know"

Day 52

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I finally got the surviving 4 Rasbora to stop stressing by getting the CO2 just right, making the skimmer manual under my supervision, slowing the water changes, changing the lily pipe to a 'spin' outflow, adding an air stone and a supplementary HOB filter and also, probably, just time - time for the biological filter to adjust to the new bio load. I decided not to order any more fish until I was confident it wouldn't happen again.

I had some cloudy water issues and a pretty scary algae bloom at one stage to get to here, but it was the wellbeing of the fish that was the most troublesome and upsetting.

Thank you for reading if you made it all the way down here, the next post ends lot more cheery as I show you where this is at today (1st May 2021) and hopefully it showcases the fruits of my labour.

If not anything else, I hope you'll enjoy the cheesy royalty-free music! ;)
 

ScaperJoe

Member
Thread starter
Joined
20 Mar 2021
Messages
135
Location
Channel Islands
If you’ve never kept aquaria before that’s a mighty impressive effort despite the casualties. What’s there’d broad leaved plant and wasthat part of the initial planting?
Ian
Thank you Ian! That's Alternanthera Reineckii Mini from Tropica 1-2 Grow cups - just one cup actually and yes, they were there from day 1. You can just about see them, but I actually thought they were dead when I planted them. They really bounced back though!
 

Nick potts

Member
Joined
25 Sep 2014
Messages
625
Location
Torbay
An excellent read, thanks for posting :)

I wish my first tank looked half as good as yours, always horrible when you lose livestock, but hopefully a lesson learned and it happens to most of us.
 

Jayefc1

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Joined
2 Sep 2017
Messages
2,248
Location
Swadlincote
what an excellent read very enjoyable and also a beautiful accomplished scape for a first timer sorry for the loses but the zero loss day feels good don't it
Keep up the good work and please keep us updated
 

ScaperJoe

Member
Thread starter
Joined
20 Mar 2021
Messages
135
Location
Channel Islands
An excellent read, thanks for posting :)

I wish my first tank looked half as good as yours, always horrible when you lose livestock, but hopefully a lesson learned and it happens to most of us.
Thanks @Nick potts that's encouraging to know, in a bizarre way. I'm sure 'they'll' make a nano-bot fish one day with an app for your phone that will upload copious amounts of data about what your water is doing and when its 100% safe to add critters.

what an excellent read very enjoyable and also a beautiful accomplished scape for a first timer sorry for the loses but the zero loss day feels good don't it
Keep up the good work and please keep us updated
It does feel good @Jayefc1 :D - thank you! I will keep this thread chugging along slowly, since I'm about to add some more plants to my second tank (30cm cube) which is a week old and cycling. So I should be able to post progress updates on both tanks (and probably a third, but no one tell my partner please!)

Great little tank and love the video, well done :clap::clap::thumbup: thanks for sharing :)
Thank you @LondonDragon - the sight of my survivor fish + new fish behaving normally spurred me on to buy video editing software, create a YouTube channel and write a mega post! :thumbup:

Lovely tank, and to confirm your suspicion, yes: ending up covered in superglue and resorting to alcohol is perfectly normal on planting day!
:lol: Cheers @Karmicnull - you must be relishing the thought of getting glued up and quaffing pints over on The new ice age - or is planting day a long way off?
 

ScaperJoe

Member
Thread starter
Joined
20 Mar 2021
Messages
135
Location
Channel Islands
Hi Folks

Pleased to report 0 casualties in Tank #1 since the introduction of the second batch of Phoenix Rasbora, so my aquascaping energy has been returned to 'insatiable' status :D

Here is an update on my 2nd project and a return to whimsy:

Tank #2 - 30cm cube

While storing all my excess bits and pieces from #1 and surveying the unused gadgets, it occurred to me - "there's enough stuff here for another little glass box" - so I visited the corporate monster's website and found a 30cm cube for £23.

It took 3 weeks to reach me from China, but I wasn't disappointed when it got here. Sure the silicone is a bit slapdash and its a long way from Takashi's standards, but it looked like it would hold a drop or two. I had failed to warn my partner that this was coming and she entered the room as I was placing it on the squishy matt on the chest of drawers... Nobody said a word, but we both knew I had done something wrong.

So I set about quickly testing and affixing gadgets in order that I could start the fun part, "STICKS AND ROCKS BABY!"

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I wanted to use this hardscape on #1 but there just wasn't room, so I thought maybe I could make it a centre-piece for #2. I quickly realised that if I went with this horror tree, maintenance would be an ache in the pistachios and the last thing I wanted was more difficult maintenance, #1 has that covered in spades. This was going to be a low tech, ZERO MOSS, no CO2, carpet free, 20 minutes a week, stress-less bundle of joy... and I tell it that every day while my eyelid twitches!

This is what I went with in the end:

1 Hardscape.jpg


"Ta-DAAAAAaaaaaoooooo ... oh" :rolleyes:

"2 rocks and a stick, Mandy? There's low-tech and then there's no-tech mate."

This is Joe-tech. Ok, so it's not as sexy as #1 but there really isn't a great deal of room in there and I was determined to use #1's leftovers, like the aquascaped equivalent of bubble-and-squeak. Damn it, I was determined to 'Susan Boyle' this thing.

Tank #1 has a kind of 'Asian Alpine' vibe going on, so I wanted to go somewhere different with #2. The theme music was stuck in my head, so I knew where I wanted to go, Jurassic Park! I ordered the plants and checked if science had managed to reconstitute dinosaurs from amber-encased bugs yet... no such luck.

x - AG Crypts.jpg


Crypts arrived (10 mixed from Aquarium Gardens - legends) and I exhibited my lack of knowledge again by plonking them in a bucket of water until planting day. I had done this with plants for #1, but I didn't have any crypts then and didn't know that they immediately begin to protest underwater by turning to Jelly. As planting day approached, I found myself mournfully singing "wibble-wobble wibble-wobble..." as I peered into the bucket each day and a single tear splashed on the surface.

I needed to get them into their final resting place pronto and so, last weekend, began 'planting day 2.0' - I was prepared so the fridge was full of beer.

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I had hack-sawed the stick into a slight more pleasing orientation and glued it to the alpha-rock. Scattered in the base-layer fertilising substrate and sprinkled the Amazonia for my dino-slope. This all happened so much quicker than #1 and I have to say the whole process was a lot less stressful the 2nd time. However, rockwool can go 'fun' itself and anyone who derives pleasure from dealing with it. Top tip though - use running water and a clean toothbrush.

3 Planting.jpg


Bosh-bash-bish and in went my jelly friends, plus 4 Bucey-buddies and an anybody's-Anubias for good measure. I was tempted to dig out an old toy box and see if I could squeeze in a velociraptor, but there wasn't time - the clock was ticking on the crypts ability to support their blancmange-based foliage. It needed water, so all I could manage was a Jeff Goldblum impression ("See, here I'm now by myself, uh, talking to myself.") while I started the painfully slow drip.

Day 1 (25 April 2021)

Day 1.jpg


This may be the best it will ever look, because what followed was days of disintegration. I could hear the Crypts at night screaming "I'm mellllting!" and they did.

It didn't look finished to me, Susan was in the wrong key and the brontosaurus eggs were scrambled, I got straight on to a second order. "More Crypts and more Buce please, AG! - I need to save this soup!"

Here is the soup on Day 8 (oh yeah, I added floating plants - Salvinia Auriculata Tropica 1-2 Grow!)

Day 8 - 1.jpg


And the most sickly looking Crypt, Melty McMelterson:

Melty.jpg


Place your bets on whether he can make it :confused:

I did the next planting session while it was half full of water <-- this provides its own unique challenges and you really need to man-handle plants to get them to stay down. The addition was 4 Crypto Parva, 3 more Buce (because Bucer is better) and a cup of Marsilea Crenata.

Day 9 (1).jpg

"She can sing, she can sing!"

Very aware that I was heading into the territory of overdoing it ("maybe one more Buce...") - I have left it there. Now its a game of waiting and watching who survives and getting the water to life-supporting levels.

Day 9 (2).jpg


Day 9 (3).jpg


And finally for the fact and plant lovers:

Tank #2 plants.jpg


I hope you enjoyed :)
 

ScaperJoe

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Joined
20 Mar 2021
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135
Location
Channel Islands
I had a right proper photo session with the inhabitants of Tank #1 tonight after work with my iPhone and I'll be sharing soon with some livestock questions, but Tank #2 needed a water change and some TLC for my jelly-Crypts. Here's a cool jungle shot I got of #1 though :thumbup: (the Althernanthera are taking a battering from the Amanos though :oops: )

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ScaperJoe

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Thread starter
Joined
20 Mar 2021
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135
Location
Channel Islands
Residents of Tank #1

The Amanos

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The Algae-eating capacity of these guys is no joke, but neither is their Alternanthera-eating capacity either. I definitely wouldn't be without them though - they got to work immediately and have been through a few molts already. The algae has reduced significantly and is easy for me to remove any small patches that bloom.

I started with 8, bought a further 6 and have only lost one down to it being inquisitive about the world outside the tank. They are getting fairly big now and I think 13 is just too many for the 60P, so a small number will be relocated to Tank #2.


The Phoenix Rasbora

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These tiny 2cm fish are brilliant. I actually ordered Chili Rasboras (Boraras brigittae), but this is what arrived (Boraras merah) and I'm so chuffed they did. They are far from shy, to the point that they'll get in your way on maintenance day. Their colour seems to get deeper and deeper everyday and they love to school and shoal in equal measure.

My plan is to try and breed them soon, perhaps in Tank #2, to bring some kind of balance back to the world for the early ones I lost from my inexperience. There are a full dozen in Tank #1 right now, all looking well.


The
Cherries

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Acquired these two shrimp accidentally. They were ordered by someone else who didn't want them - neither of the two fish shops on the island sell them as standard. I had ordered Celestial Pearl Danios which arrive as just Pearl Danios, so I decided no to take them, but walked out with 2 Cherry Shrimp. Really pleased with them.

Hoping I have a male and a female - can anyone tell from the pictures above where they are both together? Do we have a shrimp expert in the house?

These two may end up in Tank #2 also, but I'm not sure yet.


And last but not least, The Beefs Snellingtons

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I've got 3 Zebra Nerites - absolute legends!
 

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Hufsa

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22 Aug 2019
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446
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Looks like you have two girly shrimp, one for sure and the other one probably.

Tank looks good and your alternanthera looks tasty :lol:
Keep em coming!
 

ScaperJoe

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20 Mar 2021
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135
Location
Channel Islands
May I know what kind of moss that is? What is your secret to making it to grow so well?
Hi Michael, no worries. There are three kinds of moss in Tank #1 - weeping moss, spiky moss and flame moss - all from Tropica 1-2 grow cups. I even bought Christmas moss at the start (I like moss), but didn’t use because I could see I was over doing it on the moss front!

To be honest, I don’t know what the secret is since these are my first aquatic plants, but I can tell you what I do / use. The water is remineralised RO (to TDS 120ish), I fertilise with the Seachem range - nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, flourish, flourish trace + iron <— as directed on the bottles. I trim the moss regularly because it grows like a beast and my light is high intensity (no dimmer function) 7 hours per day 👍 - tank is 23 to 24 degrees C

I hope some of that is useful 🙂
 

Hufsa

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22 Aug 2019
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@ScaperJoe

shrimpsexingchart-471x1024.png


Personal notes:
Females do not always have visible saddles, and in opaque shrimp may be hard to see through the body color.
Usually the rounded belly will be most visible in shrimp that have carried eggs before, maidens can be a little more inconspicuous.

Males also have longer top antennae that they use to sniff out females ready for mating.
The straight belly is often angled upwards in my shrimp, on this infographic they are more horizontal, not sure if just a posture thing.
High grade male shrimp can have as intense colors as the females.

Young shrimp will look a lot like males
 

ScaperJoe

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20 Mar 2021
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That’s brilliant Hufsa! Thank you - I’ll be holding up my iPad to the tank tonight and making the shrimp feel uncomfortable 😀

I don’t suppose theres any cross breeding between shrimp species - like I can’t expect any rose-tinted ‘Chermanos’?

and I guess the don’t change sex... asking for a friend
 

Hufsa

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No Chermanos and no sex change unfortunately :hilarious:

Neocaridina can mix with neocaridina, so cherry shrimp can mix with yellow, orange, blue dreams etc etc. They are selectively bred varieties of the same species of shrimp. Mixing two colors will result in dull transparent wild type colors. All strains must be kept highly colored by removing weakly colored individuals, otherwise in a handful of years the population will revert to wild coloring.

Caridina can mix with other caridina varieties, you dont have this species so not so relevant. Mixing of these will result in new interesting varieties instead of wild colors. Shrimp population retains color better. Picky about water parameters.
 
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