47 gal hybrid UGF/fertilized substrate w sand, no CO2, heavily planted w fish.

daggaz

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Jun 6, 2024
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Hey everyone. My first tank, I researched for several weeks and went with kind of a hybrid idea: father fish inspired fertilized 1inch substrate and bogart inspired 3 inch deep UGF. The unifying goal here is to get a more natural style ecosystem tank going, with the minimum amount of water changes and maintenance.

For the substrate, I used NPK enriched low pH peat-based blueberry soil, mineralized lake bed soil, chelated iron and magnesium enriched lime, blood- and bone meal, osmocotes, and some dried leaf litter. Then I added a thin layer of lime, a good amount of half rotten organic wood chips, and a lot more dried leaf litter. I capped it off with washed beach sand (rough, moraine material) and some sand, mulm, and a few liters of water from a local pristine lake.

The UGF is sitting in a plastic tray and is filled with small grained gravel from the playground. I added more gravel around it as I leveled it with the sand, to hide the square edges. Then we added some rocks and branches from the beach and filled it up.
 

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daggaz

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Jun 6, 2024
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Then I planted it. Made some mistakes here as I didn't have as much time to research (and I should have learned about plants, first) but watching a lot of cory's aquarium co-op and alexander's fishtory on youtube hopefully taught me the worst errors of my ways in time.

Started with not enough plants, lived thru one apocalypse (RIP, fish friends), got gradually way more plants and some more fish. Algae is a thing. It's sort of under control but you can see the diatoms on the glass (the water has some tannins, too).

But now my plants are growing and the newer ones are not getting covered in algae even after several weeks (tank is 5 weeks now) and the fish and shrimp seem happy. I've got 20 chili rasboras, 5 otocinclus, 3 siamese algae eater, 2 amano shrimp and 10 neocaridians. And a young longfinned bristlenose named Casper.

Nitrites have been zero or close to it for two weeks, nitrates hover around 10ppm.
 

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daggaz

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Jun 6, 2024
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Anyhow, I bought some NPK fertilizer but don't use it, yet. I had been giving a few squirts of micro-fert but I don't do regular water changes so I'm cautious about building up.

We've got hair algae. We've got diatoms. I've got 2 red white and blue LEDs that came with the tank and 2 more strong white light LEDs to compensate, after my local fish shop guy's advice. I have those on about 8 hours a day, one hour in the morning ramping up to 50% and down to zero again. 7 hours in the evening with a 30 minute ramp to full light, and an hour of 50% to 0% twilight to finish. Plants are definitely doing better. Algae is just a thing but thats ok if my organisms thrive.

There was some diffuse daylight coming in the right side. I just let the algae grow and between that, the thriving Lilly that just exploded in only a week with big new leaves, and the heavy surface floaters, it seems to have dimmed. I've got a plant in the back middle that is pretty and grows like crazy; I cut out a big handful once or twice a week. But nothing else gets pruned, yet, unless it's dying surface leaves.
 

daggaz

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Jun 6, 2024
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Got some blue green algae in places. I think it's pretty and don't want to kill it as long as it's not murdering my plants. I've got daphnia and scuds in some buckets at home, would like to see if they can establish themselves despite the fish. I've got 5 nerites but they're dying... I think it's the anti planaria dewormer, put that in to prep for shrimp weeks ago and did a big water change afterwards so I don't know...
 

daggaz

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Oh yeah. Last thing, the UGF has a duck-billed powerhead. I've got it set to give small ripples in the area where it immediately hits the surface, otherwise the surface is in motion but flat. The powrhead is at about 45 degrees to the tank: there's good circulation but it's not overwhelming. The chili rasboras can swim easily in most of the tank tho they do choose to go surfing sometimes.

We had O2 problems at one point, so I dropped a small airstone in behind the powerhead. Haven't looked back yet, but I am considering to get a CO2 kit, if that makes sense?
 

Allwissend

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Well all plants will use CO2, so their growth and health may benefit when additional CO2 is present. Their growth will also use up the nutrients in your soil faster and means you may have to increase the amount of liquid fertilizers you dose.