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About 3 months ago, a friend and fishkeeper called me to tell me of an abandoned fancy goldfish in his lobby. I've been taking in stray 'life' for years. First was a bearded dragon in college that was left behind by an associate. She stayed with me for about 5 years before passing on. Next was an orchid left behind in an empty office at my workplace. That one has been with me now for almost a decade and still produces beautiful flowers every year. It also started a bit of a horticulture hobby. Now, with the introduction of Jude, I had started thinking of translating some of my plant experience from emersed to immersed options.

With Jude, we started simple. Just a 10 gallon tank with a few random plants scattered in. All gravel. Low tech. Some river rocks I had collected on a trip along the central California coast. 6 different types of plants were scattered inside. Nicely arranged and placed in one by one. A decent sized crypt. A small annubias, some java fern, some java moss, some Christmas moss, and my favorite new addition, a tiger lotus lily. Over time, I started investigating how the plants grow. Proper nutrition, lighting, and things of that nature. The plants are doing well inside, growing slowly and expanding with some fresh new Java pups now scattered into the substrate.

Then my friend decided he was going to move apartments and needed someone to take his old 24 gallon Lifegard which was being used at the time for a marine setup. I thought about it and then accepted which started a massive research project on how to deal with a proper planted setup. Hundreds of hours poured into YouTube landing me on a variety of amazing channels. MD Fish Tanks was what came up first which spoke to me from a low-tech highly-DIY style. I was never prepared to invest hundreds of dollars into a fish tank and the content was well thought out, relatable, and crafty.

Then I landed on Green Aqua. A premium store with incredible setups and all kinds of aquascaping tutorials. This got me hooked as well as conflicted. DIY or High-Tech? What to do with this new piece of glass I had acquired? Since then I've discovered MJ Aquascapes, Juris Jutjajivis, The All Knowing George Farmer, Tank Tested, The Green Machine, Steve Scapes, PlantedTank, and Tropictank. I've found resources on Iwagumi, Dutch Style, Brazilian Styles, Jungle, Diaroama...The list goes on. I got to this forum based on the reasearch into ferts. Basically someone at Green Aqua was talking about the science of DIY salts methods and I had to check it out. That landed me here and the rest is history.

Anyway, when it came to planning out what to do next, the choices were impossible. I'm a bit of an artist and I couldn't resist trying to create a tank with perspective, depth, creativity, and creative uses of livestock/pplants. What I did know was that I wanted to compose something. A blend of DIY and high-tech. So I've spent an incredible amount of time mapping out my soil choice, coming up with a base substrate mix from pumice and lava rock, nutrition, CO2 options, and plant types. I'm researching DIY CO2 at the moment and have compiled an incredible amount of yeast based feedback and become somewhat obsessed with a dual-bottle setup of sugar and gelatin mixed with champagne yeast to reduce flocculation and maximize attenuation. Basically limit the clumping and make as dry a "wine" as possible to hopefully use up all the sugars without the yeast quickly dying by alcohol poisoning.

I've prepared a beautiful piece of driftwood that I had from years ago. Boiled and boiled and boiled it to get the tannins out. And collected some great pieces of slate to build my first little aquascape. I'm using ADA Amazonia v2 and have built terraces in the tank out of mesh bags and my homemade pumice substrate. And also mapped an awesome list of plants which you can see below in the table. Heavily planted is the goal and caring for the livestock. Still working on what will go in the tank, but I expect the first 30 days to be all about the plants regardless. Originally I had planned to put Jude in there with a new home, but I'm concerned now about him digging up all that hard work. Anyway, just wanted to introduce and tell a little of my story.

Will see how this all progresses and give some updates in time. Happy to be here.

p.s. if anyone has any feedback on my plant selection, please feel free to let me know.



Latin NameCommon NameDifficultyCategoryTypeHeightColorLightingCO2Growth RateQuantityUnitPriceSourceTechnique TipsNotesTank RatingDesireability
Micranthemum TweedieiMonte CarloMediumForegroundCarpeting3-5 cmBright GreenGood Light; Light ShadowMediumMedium2CupsWhen planting bury quite deep but not entirely in the substrate. You can actually separate each piece of Monte Carlo and plant them one by one to spread the carpet over a whole tank. Can be used as an epiphyte as well as substrate. Will need liquid fertilizers if you do that. ****
Staurogyne RepensEasyForegroundStem3-10 cmBright GreenLowLowMedium2CupsPromote side growth by trimming the plant regularly.Revisit the quantity**
Eleocharis acicularis 'mini'Dwarf HairgrassEasyForegroundCarpeting3-5 cmBright GreenMediumMediumMedium2CupsWill not always carpet without CO2Consider the dwarf and the tall for perspective. Tall front leading to back short?****
Hydrocotyle verticulataMediumForegroundStem3-7 cmGreenHighMediumMedium1CupsRequires High Light. Can be floating or planted. Also requires acidic soil or it will not growMight be too tempermental. Very cool coin shaped like the money tree.**
Cryptocoryne beckettiiPetchiiEasyMidgroundRoulate10-15 cmOlive with violet undersideLowLowMedium1Cups****
Rotala rotundifoliaEasyBackgroundStem15-30 cmGreen with PinkLowLowMedium1CupsRequires higher light to get reds to come out****
Ludwigia palustrusSuper RedEasyBackgroundStem10-30 cmRedLowLowMedium1CupsRequires CO2 for brightest reds but will stay red without******
Bucephalandra redEasyEpiphyteRhizomatous5-10 cmGreen with Red StemsLowLowLow2CupsWants a cycled tank before planting.Buy these from reputable sources to ensure they are not coming from natural habitats which are being destroyed. Sources include: tropica, dennerle, aquaflora, aquadip****
Bucephalandra deep purpleEasyEpiphyteRhizomatous5-10 cmGreen with purpleLowLowLow2CupsWants a cycled tank before planting.Buy these from reputable sources to ensure they are not coming from natural habitats which are being destroyed. Sources include: tropica, dennerle, aquaflora, aquadip****
Bucephalandra brown blueEasyEpiphyteRhizomatous5-10 cmGreen with blueLowLowLow2CupsWants a cycled tank before planting.Buy these from reputable sources to ensure they are not coming from natural habitats which are being destroyed. Sources include: tropica, dennerle, aquaflora, aquadip****
Microsorum pteropsisJava FernEasyEpiphyteRhizomatous15-30 cmGreenLowLowLow0CupsHave some in the aquarium that can be used****
Anubias bateri Anubias petiteEasyEpiphyteRhizomatous3-5 cmGreenLowLowLow2CupsPrefers low light to ensure no algae grows.****
Alternanthera reneckii(AR) miniMediumMidgroundStem5-10 cmRedMediumMediumMedium1CupsPlanting should be done meticulously. Be sure to cut the stems first before pushing it deep through the substrate to prevent it from floating away.

The stems should be individually planted with a spacing of 1.5 inches from each other to allow light reflection to reach the lowest portion of the leaves.

Trimming the bush to 5-10-centimeter-height will give you more amazing results compared to a purple-red carpet spread on the substrate.
Grows well with
Downoi
Staurogyne Repens
Rotala species
Pogostemon Erectus
Hemianthus Glomeratus
Lysimachia Nummularia 'Aurea'
HC Cuba as foreground carpet
****
Ludwigia repensEasyBackgroundStem20-30 cmGreen with RedMediumLowMedium1Cups
Fissidens fontanusWeeping mossMediumAccentMoss3-5 cmGreenMediumMediumSlow1CupsRequires higher light than most mosses to do well.
Limnophila sessifloraAmbuliaEasyBackgroundStem15-30 cmGreenLowLowFast1CupsPlant in groups
Hygrophila pinnatifidaEasyBackgroundStem15-30 cmOlive to Dark GreenMediumMediumMedium1CupsRunners need trimming to ensure it does not overun the tank. Can be grown as epiphyte
Hottonia PalustrisEasyBackgroundStem10-20 cmBright GreenLowLowMedium1CupsTrimmings can be replanted to continue to fill out.
Pogostemon erectusEasyBackgroundStem15-30 cmBright GreenMediumMediumMedium1CupsTrimmings can easily be replanted. Will require frequent trimming.Emmersed state has beautiful flowers
Anubias Barteri RoundAnubias Gold CoinEasyMidgroundEpiphyteDark GreenMediumLowLow2CupsCan be grown emmersed too.
Taxiphyllum barbieriJava MossEasyAccentMoss3-10 cmGreenLowLowMedium0CupsAlready have some in the tank to use****
 
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May 28, 2022
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Not sure if this is how you use this Journal, but figured I might start documenting the steps of setting up this tank as I've gone through them while I wait for my local aquarium store to get me a quote on the plant list above. The 24 gallon tank I have is more like a 20 with a back filter space of around 4 gallons built into the tank setup. This is where the filter and quite a bit of media can be housed. The following supplies have started my journey pre-water introduction into the tank.
1. 30W LED floodlight running about 6500K on the color spectrum. This was recommended by MD Fish Tanks and I've seen them used in a number of successful tanks. Though it remains to be seen how it will work in the long run, I'm working on a DIY stand/brace for it to sit properly above the tank.
2. 8 Quarts of quality crumbled pumice stone. Have used about 5 quarts between the substrate and the filter media.
3. 10 Aquarium filter media bags. Got these to terrace the tank setup and also to help keep the base layer substrate contained. I've seen a number of reviews of ADA Powersand where when people go to replant, the roots have really grabbed onto the pumice and it gets pulled into the aquasoil. Knowing I'll likely want to do this again (and may make mistakes or need to make changes with the layout later), I figured this might help me keep the soil intact.
4. .20 Cubic Feet of crushed lava rock. This was to mix with the pumice stone to make a home made base as well as to give some weight and texture to the bags of pumice. I've used maybe half of it in the pumice mix and a little in the filter media.
5. 9 Liters of ADA Amazonia Version 2. Couldn't find the Amazonia Light anywhere and the Amazonia Ver 2 sends the nutrient supplements separately to be mixed when setting up your tank. Figured that would be approximately similar to the Amazonia Light. Although who knows? Just wanted a rich substrate.
6. 2 surge protector powerstrips and 2 inexpensive mechanical timers. Will likely only use 1 and 1 respectively for this setup, but you can never have enough of those around the house.
7. 1 Bottle of Aquarium silicone. It seemed online that you could use any pure silicone, but there were so many with weird mold additives and most brands are not perfectly clear about what they've put inside, so I wanted to be absolutely sure that I wasn't going to leech some poison into the tank. I'm using it to seal a bottom filter hole in the tank (designed to be sealed) as well as potentially to "glue" some larger structural elements together for the hardscape.
8. 1 small bottle of Gorilla Glue cyanoacrylate. Again, it seemed that you could use any brand of cyanoacrylate, but again I wanted to be sure and this one popped up everywhere for aqua-safe use. It also was not terribly expensive.
10. A 1 food long, 5 lb piece of very seasoned driftwood. Vary wide base, natural taper, and lots of nooks to stick some epiphytes into. Actually for about a year or two I was growing an orchid in the biggest nook which is about the side of a small fist. The boiling of this thing has been intense. Even after 3 2-hour sessions it is still releasing tannins. It is going into a tub of water to steep while I wait for my plants.
11. 4 pieces of hand me down slate weighing in at around 20 pounds. Really nice, textured pieces. One of which I'll be using to split into smaller "pebbles" to give some detail to the aquascape.
 

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So I've finally received my first shipment of plants. 17 pots in total. Still have another 5 or so on the way. Very happy with how the layout is starting to come together. Although it is surprisingly hard to find good plants and reliable delivery in the North East United States. With all the delays of getting my plant order squared away, it has given me time to soak my driftwood. Glad I did because even after boiling it for 8 hours, it still leaked tannins in a cool water soak for another week or two pretty aggressively. Now it's completely water logged and I've started filling it with mosses and epiphytes. May start posting some pictures here as I catalogue things. Starting with a slightly dry start setup only because I have some carpeting plants I'd like to get into the soil while the water level is below the substrate. However, I think I'll move right into an immersed setup as soon as the last shipment of plants arrives later this week. I have 8 species currently in the tank. Working on getting a bit more variety before it is all said and done. More to come.
 

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While the first shipment of plants has come in, I've come to realize that in the United States, and specifically in the Northeast, it is very difficult to find good aquatic stores. Especially for quality livestock and plants, but also for hardscape and supplies. I've been trying to shop local to support small businesses, but my last two shipments of plants have been "short" where the supplier was saying something was in stock and the order came up with only half the inventory or different items than what was on the list. And even the plants I'm seeing kept locally in the shop tanks are really not properly cared for. Algae problems or dying specimens are kind of all over the place. Since I've already started building my tank out, I have no choice but to finish purchasing online to fill things in.

The other thing that is unfortunate is that the local businesses that are in the area have very poor websites despite being in a major metropolitan area. So it's difficult to find the true quality distributors and shops because there aren't ranking webpages for aquatic stores and their facilities. Very discouraging to not be able to figure out reputable shops and work with owners directly. The online community is where I'm getting all my best information these days.

I want to try to connect with some of the local aquatic clubs to see if there is a way to suss out the good shops from the bad ones. At the moment, most of them are no more than mediocre.
 

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I've now placed an order from Aquaplants.com. Bought the following. 1 Mystery Buce tissue culture. 2 Buce Kedagang (get 1 free). 2 Buce Brownie ghost (get 1 free). 2 Monte Carlo tissue culture. 2 Lobelia Cardinales Mini (get 1 free). Will see how it works out.
 

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My local fish guy was unloading some old inventory in the store and gave me a steep discount on an AI Prime Freshwater light. Had no intention of getting a new light for the aquarium but given the price I couldn't see why I shouldn't give it a try. It's pretty incredible what a new light will do to an existing setup. This tank is only about 1/3 through a dry start and the difference inside of the tank is incredible. You don't really get a sense for the depth and detail that a high quality light will provide until it's up and running. The detail, colors, and shadows of the hardscape and the plants are significant. Anyway, I'm excited for my last shipment of plants to come in to finish up this setup and let it grow in slightly. Then I can place a shrimp order followed shortly afterwards with some schooling fish to complete the project. (For now...)