New High Tech Tank - Beginner Aquarist

Jul 21, 2021
Hello fellow aquarists. First my setup, then my questions. I just started this hobby, tank was set up 7 days ago. I have read a LOT and watched a lot of videos over the months prior. A lot of my setup is leveraging the setup I had for my turtle and cichlid tank previously. (The turtle died from cancer and my 3 cichlids were done in by a failed pump.) My hubby is a coral aficionado with a huge salt water tank of his own and has helped me with plumbing, electric, chemistry, and such. (Day 5 tank pic below)

I have a 120g tank over a sump (not ideal, but it's what I had). On the other side of the wall, under the stairs I have C02 set up and we are using an auto water top-off (RODI) and will be doing automatic water changes of 8g a day. Temperature, UV and PH run off of an Apex system, as does dosing Flourish Excel (Liquid Carbon) and APT Zero (Fertilizer w/ Trace) daily. I have a 24x7 planted+ Finnex light that I am using on its 24-hour system. I started at 50% light to give the plants time to settle in and start growing. I am at 70% now.

The bottom of the tank has power sand, ADA amazonia, gravel, and rocks over 2/3 of tank. I have some wood (cholla and bonsai driftwood) in the tank which was soaked for 2 weeks prior to release tannins and water-log.) I also have seiryu stone, which is sealed in zoopoly to prevent calcium leakage and give me that dark black color with white striations that makes my inner designer happy. Inert substrate only over parts of the tank I don't want plants on. The re-used river rocks were cleaned prior to re-use, and the new gravel was all rinsed until the water ran clean.

I seeded the tank with a piece of shrimp + bacteria. I turn off the UV for 4 hours every night and dose bacteria (30ml), and change the socks 2x week and will be changing two other foam-like media out and cleaning once a month. We also have a carbon canister to keep the water clean.

I start gas C02 at 11 am, the lights go fully bright from 12-6 and the C02 turns off at 5 pm. Flourish Excel and APT Zero are gradually dosed during 7 hours of greatest light.

Tank parameters are currently looking pretty good. Iron is too low. (I have iron on the way), nitrites and nitrates were at the high end of normal, so I'm no longer keeping a shrimp in my sock. (I believe this is due to the tissue culture plants shedding leaves as they convert from emersed to submerged). Ammonia is totally down. PH ranges from about 6.2 - 7.2 (depending on time of day). Temp is 75.6. Alk is low, also, so I just started using an alk buffer. GH is very low due to RODI.

(Note: our tap water here is very bad - TDS of over 800 and Hardness of 50. So, I don't use any tap water.)

So far, the stem plants I bought are growing well. I have over an inch in growth on some plants. The floating plants all have new growth and are happy. The tissue plants (most of them) look pretty bad. Some of them came looking poorly due to the lids coming off (I have a coupon to restock if needed from the vendor). Others looked ok on arrival, but are of course shedding leaves. Some are putting out new leaves. All of that leads me to believe the plants are getting what they require. But I wanted to see if there are any suggestions you have about what I've said so far. I have not seen any algae at all. It's only day 7 though. I am planning to cut/replant as the plants grow rather than thickly seeding from the beginning.

Plant list (the more * - the more the plant is badly affected). All of the plants are attached to river rocks or black rocks or driftwood. Those that need to be in contact with the soil were pushed into the soil. The ones with rhizomes were just pushed into the gravel. The moss was glued onto the driftwood tree. The tissue cultures are doing significantly worse than the really thriving stem plants. Not sure if this is just emersed to submerged stuff or if there is some other difference that is making them do so much more poorly than the stem plants.
Roberts UV Temp Ph Probe plug and electric cord storage under sump lights.jpg

**water sprite (showing some new growth)
rotala macranda green - this plant is doing really fabulously
fissidens Fontanus moss - doing well
**anubias white nano petite (showing some new growth)
rotala butterfly mini
**alternanthera rosanervig (melting seems to have stopped 1/2 way on the way to dead)
**bucephalandra micro (no new growth yet, but melting stopped 1/2 way)
ludwigia pantanal - this plant is doing really fabulously
staurogne repens - doing well
***downoi (probably dead)
**Echinodorus Aflame (no new growth yet, but melting stopped 1/2 way)
tiger frogbit - this plant is doing really fabulously
Phyllanthus Fluitans Salvinia - this plant is doing really fabulously

Fish to be added in a month or so gradually:
3 pairs gouramis (3-spot, pearl, dwarf species)
8 australian rainbows (mixed varieties)
3 hillstream loaches (if I can find that many)
3 blue velvet shrimp
3 golden mystery snails

Aside from feedback on the above, I have questions about C02 (both technical and practical). Having a sump system, of course leads to C02 loss, which is why we are using an injection system. We also reduced water-falling in every area, to ensure we aren't churning the C02 up and out of the water. Even so, we have to really crank up the C02 (countless bubbles in the bubbler lol) to get our C02 checker to a medium green color. We used up a 5lb canister in around 2 weeks. That's not practical. So we are now dosing liquid carbon during the high light times. Will liquid carbon cause color changes in the C02 checker? (Because we are steadily at blue now.) In theory, I can just wait and see, I suppose, how the plants do. I would like moderate growth (not crazy high growth). So, it's not all bad, I suppose. But I don't want the plants to suffer either. Are there other things I need to address?

Appreciate you reading the epically long plant setup above and appreciate any feedback or discussion.


  • Roberts Automation Under the Stairs.jpg
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Jul 21, 2021
I thought I'd follow with a plant comparison from day 1 to day 8.
Water Sprite.jpg


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