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Low-Tech, Planted 125g

Discussion in 'Journals' started by Butterfly Bettas, Sep 28, 2016.

  1. Butterfly Bettas

    Butterfly Bettas Junior Poster

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    SPECS


    Low-tech (no CO2)


    Dry-Start Method


    Gallons: 125g


    Measurements: 72" length, 18" depth, 21" height


    Lighting: (2) Finnex Planted+ 24/7 LED


    Filtration: Aquatop FORZA F213 Canister Filter


    Heating: (2) Cobalt Aquatics Neo-Therm Heater 200w


    Substrate: Safe-T-Sorb, pool filter sand, top soil


    Dosing: EI for low-tech (no Excel), water changes twice/year when tank is stabilized


    Plants: Amazonian (mostly) - RESEARCHING


    Hemianthus micranthemoides (HM)


    Micranthemum “Monte Carlo”


    Downoi


    Fissidens (blended & brushed on rocks)


    Pygmy chain swords


    Java moss


    Java ferns


    Anubias sp.


    Crypts


    Swords


    Vals


    Floating plant for shrimp


    maybe some stems


    Fish, etc.:


    Female bettas (have three, they get along well)


    Lemon Tetras


    Black Neon Tetras


    Harlequin Rasboras


    Bristlenose Plecos (have two females that do a great job on algae, so might not need Otos)


    Cories (pandas, adolfoi, concolor, or a mix)


    Kuhli loaches


    Shrimp (still researching)


    I’m currently sanding the wooden tank stand. It was previously kept in an underground room that was very damp, and the carpeting wicked moisture up to the bottom of the tank stand, which left the wood discolored. I’m using a hand-sander, but it’s still taking forever, due to the inclement weather (I also obviously need to sand the deck it’s sitting on).





    I’ve also decided to use the Dry Start Method (DSM) with Safe-T-Sorb as at least part of the substrate. I may mix it 50/50 with plain top soil. I seem to have three options here:


    Strain Safe-T-Sorb/rinse


    Strain Safe-T-Sorb/rinse/pre-load with ferts


    Strain Safe-T-Sorb,/rinse/mineralize top soil


    I’m using Safe-T-Sorb because of the low cost, the high CEC, and the nice, dark color. I have read that it can crash the KH/pH, although it’s less likely to do so in hard water. I’ve dumped 3” of STS in a bucket with water, and I’ll be testing the parameters over the next couple of weeks.





    The first result is from Tetra Easy Strips, and the second is from API. I know that the results from the Easy Strips are probably not as accurate, but my water’s pH falls right between API’s pH and High pH tests (the exact colors are confusing), so I’m using Tetra as a back-up.


    The very front of the tank will be unplanted pool sand for the cories to root around in. I may wait to put that in until the tank’s ready to be flooded.


    -----


    9/28/16 - Just did the 3rd day test results. The KH is finally budging, although the pH seems to be around the same. The GH definitely went back up, although the Safe-T-Sorb is supposed to lower the KH, not the GH. Not sure what originally happened there. The ammonia continues to rise.


    I’m going to get a pH pen. I had one 15 years ago when I was last in the hobby, but this time around I didn’t see them available at a large retailer I used to frequent, so I assumed they weren’t available anymore, but I’ve since read of someone else using one, so I’m just looking in the wrong place. It’s just to satisfy my curiosity since I’ve read that neither test strips nor liquid drops tests are very accurate. I’m also going to order the lights and ferts.


    Still haven’t decided if I will use top soil with the STS or not. Wish I had hundreds of $ to spend on Up Aqua substrate. I don’t doubt that I can still get good results this way, it’s just going to be more work.


    Speaking of work, I wish this rain would hold off another day so I can get further on the sanding of the tank stand! My mom asked me why I didn’t just paint it instead of sanding & re-staining. I didn’t have a good answer. :rolleyes:
     
    #1 Butterfly Bettas, Sep 28, 2016
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 1, 2016
    2 people like this.
  2. Butterfly Bettas

    Butterfly Bettas Junior Poster

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    About another week, and I'll have the stand finished. Then the tank will be brought up from the basement and cleaned. I found pool filter sand that was still in stock, so I'll buy that this weekend and also check out the ingredients of cheap topsoil. Also need to get more stain and possibly different sealant. Has anyone had good results with using a spray-can sealant?


    I had originally considered pearl gouramis for this tank and leaving the top open, but now I'm going to use the glass tops I have and put the betta girls in instead (one of them is quite a jumper). The tops will also keep the moisture from the LED lights.


    This is my current 28g bowfront. Sad, I know, but everyone's healthy. It houses 3 betta girls and 2 female bristlenose plecos.


     
  3. Butterfly Bettas

    Butterfly Bettas Junior Poster

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    About another week, and I'll have the stand finished. Then the tank will be brought up from the basement and cleaned. I found pool filter sand that was still in stock, so I'll buy that this weekend and also check out the ingredients of cheap topsoil. Also need to get more stain and possibly different sealant. Has anyone had good results with using a spray-can sealant?


    I had originally considered pearl gouramis for this tank and leaving the top open, but now I'm going to use the glass tops I have and put the betta girls in instead (one of them is quite a jumper). The tops will also keep the moisture from the LED lights.


    This is my current 28g bowfront. Sad, I know, but everyone's healthy. It houses 3 betta girls and 2 female bristlenose plecos.




    28g.jpg
     
  4. Butterfly Bettas

    Butterfly Bettas Junior Poster

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    Does anyone know what kind of plant this is? Some type of crypt? It's about 3" across, and grows extremely flat with a slight wave at the edge of its leaves. The aquarium light is an old, 15w florescent bulb. I have two of these plants left that I'd like to move in to the new 125g for the DSM.





    Edited to say: May be Cryptocoryne wendtii "green". It will be interesting to see how its growth pattern changes in the new tank/lighting/substrate.

    IMG_2938.jpg
     
    #4 Butterfly Bettas, Sep 30, 2016
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 3, 2016
  5. Butterfly Bettas

    Butterfly Bettas Junior Poster

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    7 day water testing. Ammonia continues to rise slowly; everything else has stayed the same. It looks like my hard water is keeping the Safe-T-Sorb in check.


    I've purchased pool filter sand and top soil, and today my aquarium lights, planting tools, thermometers, and pH pen arrive! :eek: And we FINALLY have a beautiful day outside, so I can hopefully finish sanding the stand. Tomorrow should be nice, too, so perhaps I can make some progress on the staining. Then 3 more days of rain. :( Come ON!




    Untitled.jpg
     
  6. Butterfly Bettas

    Butterfly Bettas Junior Poster

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    Well, I might have overdone it today, but the tank stand is now sanded! I did two grades of sandpaper, and I have to admit that I didn't sand the innermost part (figured that no one will see it). Maybe this weekend the weather will cooperate enough to stain it.


    I received my Finnex Planted 24/7 lights yesterday, and I am very pleased with them! It took me awhile with reading threads online to realize that the plastic stands that came with the lights can be moved inward from the ends (I kind of had to force them) so that (2) 36" lights can truly span my 72" tank. With the plastic stands in the position that they "default" to, the two lights end-to-end were too long for the tank. Nowhere in the instructions or on their website could I find any information about it, so I thought for awhile that I would have to stagger them on the top of the tank to make them fit. Thanks to everyone who shared their experiences online so that I could figure that out!


    The tank itself is still downstairs; I'm going to have to ask (bribe) some friends to come over and help my husband move it. I can't believe that 20 years ago I was able to move the tank and stand downstairs (different house) by myself!


    Here's a photo of the sanded tank and the lights. Does anyone know, can I control both Finnex lights with the same remote? It seems that maybe I can if I have the lights' sensors positioned together. Also the driftwood I have to play with.







    Sanded-Tank-Stand.jpg

    Driftwood.jpg
     
    2 people like this.
  7. Jason King

    Jason King barrreport.com
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    Looking good I really like the rustic stand, nice hardscape also.
     
  8. Butterfly Bettas

    Butterfly Bettas Junior Poster

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    Thanks, Jason! I'm planning on having sand in the foreground and then having it run deeper under the large piece of driftwood to make a cave under the back substrate, if that makes any sense. The curved driftwood and house ornament will sit at the edge of the back/higher substrate. They'll be a slight slope going up to the back of the tank. I also have a hollow wood log ornament (I used to collect antique aquarium ornaments) and another piece or three of driftwood to put in.


    I'm going to need a lot of plants!
     
  9. burr740

    burr740 Micros Spiller
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    Great stand. Looking forward to seeing the tank set up

    Are you sure about those dimensions? A 125 with the same footprint would be around 24" tall.
     
  10. Butterfly Bettas

    Butterfly Bettas Junior Poster

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    You're right, I was off on the measurements. A closer approximation would be 72" length, 18" depth, 21" height.


    Thanks for pointing that out! :)
     
  11. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    I would likely do large water changes every 3-5 days for the 1st month, then stop. See how the tank responds.


    If you can take some of the old dirty filter muck from the other tank and add it to the new one, thumbs up.
     
  12. Butterfly Bettas

    Butterfly Bettas Junior Poster

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    Thanks, Tom! I was planning on using top soil with mulm, capped with Safe-T-Sorb in the back of the tank and pool filter sand in the front. After 8 weeks of DSM, I'll flood it and perform large water changes for the first month to stabilize the tank. Depending on the water tests at that point, I'd love to go to water changes 2 times/year with only topping off in-between.


    After that, I'll be redoing my current tank, so its established filter can move over to the new tank (along with its filter) temporarily to help finalize the cycling.
     
  13. Butterfly Bettas

    Butterfly Bettas Junior Poster

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    Next to final water tests before the 125g is set up. No surprises here. The pH pen read the same as the API kit. Although it seems that my 28g is 7.8, and my tap water/STS water is 7.4. I don't know what in the tank would have caused the rise. I do 50% water changes every week, and there's only wood, some plants, and aquarium decorations in the tank. The substrate is inert gravel. Hm, I suppose it could be the aquarium decorations? In any case, .4 is not anything to worry about.


    I'm finalizing the hardscape and then will decide about planting. Thanks to the many people who have shared their aquarium photos, I have plenty of ideas! :)




    Untitled.jpg
     
  14. Butterfly Bettas

    Butterfly Bettas Junior Poster

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    A bit farther along on the 125g. :) I think I’ve got the hardscaping done, although I may put a few rocks in. It’s a little difficult to understand what I’m going for in this pic, but once the substrate is laid down (and sand put in front), it will be more obvious. I KNOW that the driftwood layout is super-predictable, but it will hopefully play well against the plants, and while I would love to be a “natural” gardener (many flower beds outside), I’m just not. I’m an artist, but I’m drawn towards the geometric and balanced. I’ve given up fighting it.


    I found the center driftwood piece at my LFS. He said that some guy obtains it from overseas and then spends the rest of the year driving a truck around the U.S. to sell it. He stops at my LFS around 4 times/year. The selection they had was astounding! Not cheap, but an incredible piece, and it will make a wonderful cave for the cories. I look forward to attaching many plants/moss to all the driftwood.


    The final staining of the stand itself (doors are done) will be this week, and I’ll clean the tank. DMS/planting will be the start of next week. Many plants are on their way here (still need to find some large swords/crypts), and I’ve set up a temporary plant tank, as my established tank is extremely low for lighting. One of my cats found the plant tank today. He was freaked out that I saw him. I can’t wait to see what his reaction to the 125g will be once the fish are there (2 more months - ack!).


    Testing on the Safe-T-Sorb water is done. As hoped, my liquid-rock water kept its softening capabilities down, and there shouldn’t be much of a pH drop in the tank.


    Thanks for following!










    IMG_2963.jpg

    IMG_2962.jpg

    Untitled.jpg
     
  15. rajkm

    rajkm Article Editor
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    That KH is very high. Close to 13 dKH. What plants are you planning to keep?
     
  16. Butterfly Bettas

    Butterfly Bettas Junior Poster

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    This is the plant list so far. Our (small) city water comes from 3 wells, according to the city's website.


    Dwarf Water Lettuce


    Hornwort


    -----


    Fissidens fontanus “Phoenix Moss”


    Callicostella sp. Pancuraji


    Bali Moss


    Vesicularia dubyana “Christmas"


    Brazil Moss


    Taxiphyllum sp. “Peacock Moss”


    Pilotrichaceae sp. "Pilo moss”


    -----


    Dwarf Hair Grass (DHG)


    Glosso elantindoides


    Baby Tears


    Downoi


    Pennywort


    Stauro "Low Grow"


    Alternanthera reineckii "Mini"


    Cryst wendtii "Green"


    -----


    Blyxa japonica


    Monte Carlo


    Echinodorus parviflorus


    Crypt lucens


    White Water Buttercup


    -----


    Anubias "nana"


    Crypt red metallic affinis


    Crypt bronze


    Java Fern Needle Leaf


    Bolbitus


    -----


    Anubias "coffeefolia"


    Anubias "nancon"


    Echinodorus I have no idea whatsoever


    Java Fern


    Dwarf sag


    Rotala rotundifolia


    Bacopa carolinians


    Water Wisteria


    -----


    Anubas "nana petite"


    Buce "Velvet Leaf 4"
     
    #16 Butterfly Bettas, Oct 17, 2016
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 25, 2016
  17. Butterfly Bettas

    Butterfly Bettas Junior Poster

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    Ah, man, I went to turn on the light to my 28g (which currently houses all my (female) fish) this morning, and I said, "Good morning, swimmin' women". My sense of humor is so lame.


    So, the tank stand is FINALLY done! I am definitely not getting into furniture refinishing for a career. Two grades of sandpaper, three coats of stain, and three coats of surface sealant/fine sanding later, I'm very tired and sore. But I'm glad it's done; I couldn't have afforded a new one. The brasses have been spray painted a darker color to go with the stand (not that it really matters - when the doors are closed, you can barely see them).


    The tank is mostly cleaned out. Tomorrow I'll take a razor blade and go after the hard water stains that are left. I had no illusions that it would ever look new again. I need to visit my LFS tomorrow to get new plastic strips for the back of the glass covers and handles to lift the fronts. While I'm there, I'll see if they have any large sword plants for the background.


    Today I strained 4 bags of top soil. I was expecting pieces of wood or the like, but it was all nice, black dirt with the occasional clay ball. Still, what's left is quite fine and extremely soft. Tomorrow, I'll strain the Safe-T-Sorb (keeping the larger pieces), cut and lay down the bottom piece of plastic crate, and then put the front driftwood in. Then I'll fill the tank a few inches to test the seal. It didn't seem to leak yesterday, but after we got it on the stand last night, we noticed some wet spot on the chairs that we used to jack it up. It might just have been from the tank washing I did yesterday, but best to test. If it holds, then I'll cut the further levels of plastic crate for the substrate incline and put in the rest of the driftwood.


    Here's the latest photo of the stand and tank (followed by the photo of the stand in its original condition). I am very glad that's done.







    Finished-Stand.jpg

    Unfinished Stand.jpg
     
    #17 Butterfly Bettas, Oct 25, 2016
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 25, 2016
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  18. Butterfly Bettas

    Butterfly Bettas Junior Poster

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    Here's the tank up with the plastic eggcrate cut and laid in with the hardscape on top. I'll use zip ties to bind the layers together next, then cut some plastic sheet I found to separate the front sand layer from the back dirt/Safe-T-Sorb layer. I did have a black background that I was going to put on, but I forgot before we lifted the tank, and I'm not doing that again. I have other tanks that I can eventually cut it down for and use it on.


    I got the Safe-T-Sorb strained. Next time, I would gladly spend the money for a commercial substrate (assuming I have it). That was a LOT of work. More than I thought it would be, of course. It's always like that. The dirt/STS is currently in the aquarium room in large, plastic buckets. Here is also a pic of my two insane cats "helping". Actually, they're about to fight (the small, orange female is always the instigator. The white male is quite gentle). He's sitting on a towel on the dirt, which is as soft as cake flour after being strained. Yes, I'm watching to make sure all he does is sit on it.







    Tank-w-Eggcrate.jpg

    Tuffy-on-Soil.jpg
     
  19. Butterfly Bettas

    Butterfly Bettas Junior Poster

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    Didn't need all the strained top soil and Safe-T-Sorb. I think I could do three 125g tanks with the amount I have. Oh, well, I still need to make a raised, terrestrial garden at the front of the house next year; I'll just save this for it.


    I'm pleased with the way it turned out. Keeping the sand and dirt/STS separate is tricky even with the plastic sheet in between. Maybe the plants will help with that (or maybe they'll just make it messy). I know that others have used this technique - any advice, experience you all could share? Maybe I shouldn't even bother trying to keep it neat with the bristlenose plecos joining the tank in a couple months. LOL They are gonna have so much fun.


    There are still a couple vintage, Japanese aquarium ornaments to put in, but besides the plants, I think that's it. And also some beads: I used to make glass (lampwork) beads for a living. I'm out of it now, but I've saved some of them. They're completely inert, so I'm going to put some in the tank near the front that are too big for the fish to eat.


    Now I get to plant!













    Tank Substrate.jpg

    Left.jpg

    Right.jpg

    Dtiftwood.jpg
     
    #19 Butterfly Bettas, Oct 29, 2016
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 29, 2016
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