Saturday, August 25, 2012

Week 25 pics

Here's an updated pic from week 25, along with a macro shot of one of my pairs of rams which have just spawned.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Tank Diary: Week 12

A quick update today for week 12.

Unfortunately I've lost another male pearl gourami. My guess is that this was through bullying and harrassment rather than any other issues to do with the water parameters. I'm left with 2 pairs now which is ok.

Water parameters are stable and I performed my first water change in 6 weeks (but only 5%). Happy with how the tank has progressed now that it is growing in. The Val makes all the difference to the LHS of the aquascape.

I've noticed severe melt on the lower java ferns though. From what I've read this can happen, but so long as the rhizomes are in tact they should come back. Will see if this is the case.

Week 12

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Tank Diary: Week 10

New Val

Unfortunately after 10 weeks my corkscrew val is yet to show any signs of growth. Of the 8 bunches I started with, 3 remain. These 3 are not showing any signs of vertical growth or runners but do not appear to be melting.

Val was integral to my aquascape, so I'm now trying regular (thin) val sourced from the LFS to see whether I have more success. After picking up a few bunches, I'm really happy with the look. Fingers crossed it settles in! I also grabbed another pot of lilaeopsis to add to the left hand foreground. The original lilaeopsis is slowly spreading, but at a much lower height.

Day 67


I've added more DIY root tabs under the swords, chain swords, val and crypts. Since the first round of ferts a few weeks ago, the ambulia has really picked up and the chain swords appear healthier. Not entirely sure whether this is due to the ferts or higher nitrate levels.

I cleaned my eheim for the first time today to remove the charcoal. I replaced the charcoal pad with a few layers of sponge which has restricted the flow slightly. Wasn't as dirty as I thought it may be, but I have noticed the clarity improve a little.

Next Steps

I'm really pleased with how the tank is coming along. More red in the aquascape, and a couple of dwarf cichilds are the only things left on my immediate radar! :)

Update on chain swords

I thought I'd post a couple of pics showing the difference the osmocote ferts (and reduced water changes) have made to the health of my chain swords. Still not growing quickly, but much healthier. I've upped the photoperiod back to 8 hours (3 hr, 3.5 hr siesta, 5 hrs) on day 70.


4 weeks after adding osmocote & reducing water changes

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Tank Diary: Week 9

Some week 9 pics for you to enjoy...

Pregnant red wag platy

Male pearl gourami

Day 63

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Tank Diary: The first 8 weeks

The first 8 weeks

Here's a chronology of the first 8 weeks of my first dirted tank.

Just planted

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

Week 6

Week 7

Week 8

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Tank Diary: Week 8

Week 8 is my first week of major changes to the tank to address a few issues. Those being nutrient deficiencies and dirty water.

Unfortunately at the start of week 8, I've had two fish deaths. A male gourami that's looked crook for a while, and my smallest oto which developed fungus growing out of a wound on his head. Checked water params and these are all fine.

DIY root tabs

Here are a few pics of my DIY osmocote root tabs which in conjunction with water changes, I hope to use to address nutrient deficiencies in my swords. I went with the native osmocote plus with trace elements. The native blend is for phosphate sensitive plants, which I read somewhere will minimise the chances of an algal outbreak. Gel caps were used in preference to ice blocks (so I can store them easily). Managed to find the gel caps at chemist warehouse. Very expensive compared to online but I was in a rush to get them in! Set me back $14 for 100 caps, the osmocote was about $8.

On day 50, I've inserted 6 of these root tabs at the base of my chain swords (x3) and amazon swords (x3) as these are showing the most signs of nutrient deficiency. I inserted the caps through the sand capping and into the soil substrate. I have read that too much osmocote may turn the substrate toxic, so I went easy first time round. Apparently these should provide nutrients for 4-6 months.

I'll post a few pics of progress.

Size 00 gel caps, approx 0.9 grams
21/4 - Oh no.... I've just realised that the osmocote I've used in my root tabs contain a wetting agent! These are the little blue balls you can see in the above pic. They are suffactants which are essentially what's used in dishwashing liquid... not something I wanted in my tank given they are toxic to fish in small quantities. I'm hoping that given I've only put 6 of these gelcaps in the substrate that there aren't too many blue balls mixed in with the good ferts. They're also buried in the substrate and it's a 90 gallon, so any quantity that's released into the water column should be miniscule. Unfortunately here in Australia all the varieties of osmocote look to contain wetting agents. Next time I'll be sure to remove any blue balls from the gel caps.

My DIY osmocote plus root tabs

My new inhabitants

My new corys and platies enjoying an algae wafer

Upgraded filtration

After much debate, I've decided to add another eheim 2215 for filtration. I've had an old internal filter/powerhead in the tank since day 13 for additional flow. With the recent addition of the peppered corys the single eheim just couldn't keep up and I was noticing particles in the water (presumably stirred up by the corys). A few of the guys on plantedtank run dual 2217's in their 90 gallons so I'm confident this won't be too much.

I haven't had any problems with water params, so it's more for additional flow, mechanical filtration and a backup in the case of emergencies. I doubt that too much filtration could ever be a bad thing.

I'm a little unsure about the best flow, but am limited by the design of the eheim spraybar attachment and my hood which prevents me from positioning the spraybars on the back wall. I've currently got them setup at either end of the aquarium, 1 rippling the surface and the other directed down at 45 degrees.

 This is how I would have preferred to set them up for the best flow.

First major prune

The hygrophila and water sprite have both now reached the surface and are showing great growth. With the additional flow from the eheim I didn't like the look of this getting blown across the tank so I've cut back the stems. With the val and bacopa still not growing, I've added water sprite to fill in the left hand side. I'm still keen to try some regular val to see if it grows. It could be my imagination but I think the swords are looking a little bit better, presumably from holding off on water changes which have increased nitrate levels to 10 ppm.

Day 55
7.4 (pH), 0 (NH3/NH4), 0 ppm (NO2), 10 ppm (NO3), 4 (KH), 4 (GH) 

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Tank Diary: Week 7

Into week 7 and my plants (mainly chain swords) are showing some signs of nutrient deficiencies according to the guys over at

My assumption had been that the soil, combined with fish food would be enough nutrients for the plants. However, I've been changing the water regularly in an attempt to resolve my cloudiness issues (improved but not 100% happy still). In the process, I've been inadvertently depriving the plants of the opportunity to soak up the nutrients from the fish food and fish waste.

At the start of week 7, I'm still obtaining nitrate readings of close to zero. Which means that the plants are probably soaking all this up and I'm not helping the cause with frequent water changes.

Here are the things I'm going to do to try to resolve the nutrient issue:
  • Avoid water changes for a while
  • Up the fishload
  • Back off my photoperiod from 8 to 7 hours (which will reduce nutrient requirements)
  • Remove my water lettuce (which was inserted to soak up a potential nutrient spike from the submerged soil substrate)
  • Insert some DIY root ferts under my chain swords, amazon swords and val.
A couple of picks at the start of week 7 below.

Day 43
7.4 (pH), 0 ppm (NH3/NH4), 0 ppm (NO2), 5.0 ppm (NO3), 3 (KH), 4 (GH) 

Disintegrating chain swords (day 43)

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Tank Diary: Week 6

My wife is now back with the camera. Enjoy the week 6 pics.

Day 38

Two of my pearl gouramis

My SAE (the dominant one!)
In the last day or so my chain swords look to have been eaten by something? I'm hoping someone out there might be able to tell me if this is some sort of nutrient deficiency or whether my oto's or snails have not been getting enough to snack on!

My chain swords that have started falling apart!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Tank Diary: Week 5

Week 5

Well my wife's away in New Zealand with her camera this week, so the pics may be a bit light on!

On day 31, I've detected zero ammonia for the first time which means the tank should have fully cycled! Nitrates are still only 2.5ppm so that's a green light to increase stocking levels as far as I'm concerned. I went down to the LFS on day 32 and picked up 6 pearl gouramis which should be really nice with the neons. I'm pretty sure I have 3 males and 3 females. A bit worried the males will bicker a bit, but in a 90 gallon they should be able to escape the worst of it. I'll trim the water sprite soon to create some more floating plants which will make them feel at home. 

I'm still keen on a school of cory's and perhaps a pair of Rams or Apistogramma's if I can find them somewhere. Will give the pearl's a month to settle in before I add any other species though.

I was up at my old man's on the weekend and have a bit of tank envy! He's just re-done his 72" as it was suffering old tank syndrome after being up and running for 4 years with a bunch of large barbs as a fish only tank. I couldn't convince him to go dirted, but he's added some laterite to his gravel and he's getting some awesome growth out of his swords and crypts! That's with a T5 bulb he hasn't changed in 4 years either! I'll throw up a few pics when I get the chance. He's going for more of a stream look as his tank is really long but narrow and it's hard to get any depth in the aquascape. I reckon it looks pretty sweet though!

In terms of my plants, I've noticed a few of the leaves on my broad leaved amazon swords (ech. bleheri) are falling apart. They're not yellowing so i'm guessing its not a lack of iron. I think there are a few new leaves coming through though, so I won't panic yet. Possibly just jealous after seeing the growth in dad's 72"!

The otos and SAEs have made short work of that hair algae on my driftwood which seems to have disappeared. After getting rid of the worst of the mushed bacopa and val, they look to be rebounding a bit. The Bacopa is still growing where it hasn't disintegrated and the val looks to be sending out some new leaves, albeit very slowly. My water lettuce have also sent out new plants, so I'll divide them soon to help with the shade for the gouramis.

When I have some more emergent growth with the floating plants, I might up the photoperiod to 8 hours. I've also added another small powerhead to increase the flow. I will remove this powerhead and the internal, once the water has cleared up.

Cloudiness is no longer a major issue. Water isn't crystal clear, but it certainly hasn't got the bacterial bloom I had a while back. It's also got a slight tannin look to it, probably from the driftwood. I quite like it.


Thursday, March 29, 2012

Tank Diary: Week 4

Week 4

Well I've finally detected nitrate on day 24. Ammonia is still detectable in a very small amount, but I haven't detected any nitrite readings at all. I figure the plants are just sucking it all up before I can detect it. The tank can't be far from being fully cycled but I'll give it some more time before adding significantly to the fish load.

I picked up two oto's on day 24 to supplement the SAEs as I've noticed some minor algae on the glass and anubias. I know a school would have been better, but at $10 each and from an LFS tank store that wasn't the healthiest I'm a bit dubious having never kept them before and knowing their sensitivity over the first few weeks. 

Still debating what fish to put in here. I'll add to the school of neons at the wife's request and also reckon a school of cory's would look great. Not sure about the bigger inhabitants. Given the neons, I won't go with angelfish, perhaps pearl gouramis and a couple of Rams?
Day 24
7.4 (pH), 0.125 ppm (NH3/NH4), 0 ppm (NO2), 2.5 ppm (NO3), 3 (KH), 4 (GH)

My broad leaved chain swords
Assorted anubias

What looks like hair algae on my driftwood

I've noticed a tiny bit of thread and hair algae on one of the bits of driftwood. Not too worried about this yet, but I won't crank up the photoperiod just yet. I won't feed as heavily and expect the SAE's and oto's to clean it up.

I also had my first casualty today with a dead neon in the filter. This one looked liked it had a swollen abdomen, so I'm hoping it's just an internal issue. Oto's are going great. I'm pretty sure I have a male and female given the size and belly difference. Male is a lot more active. Have noticed that the SAEs bicker amongst themselves a bit, but nothing too serious.

Getting close to emergent growth on the hygro which is great. Bacopa is really struggling and most of the val has melted. I wonder if the soft water is the culprit? I trimmed a few dead leaves this week and removed a lot of the mulm from the val and bacopa.

Day 26

Friday, March 23, 2012

Tank Diary: Week 3

Week 3 

I've noticed some pond snails which must have come in on the water lettuce which I'm a bit disappointed in. The perils of buying plants from a garden centre! At least they'll help to fast-track the decomposition of dead plants.
Day 15
Another major water change (60%) on day 17 which has improved the clarity once again. Unfortunately my Bacopa is starting to melt halfway up the stems, even though there appears to be new growth at the tops. Chain swords, Hygro, water sprite are the standouts in terms of growth. Can't see any new growth on the large amazons which I would have expected by now.
Day 17 (post 60% water change)
7.4 (pH), 0.125 ppm (NH3/NH4), 0 ppm (NO2), 0 ppm (NO3), 3 (KH), 3.5 (GH)

Water parameters holding up, so I went to look for some algae control fish today. Picked up 2 SAE's and couldn't resist adding some neons (23 of them, which was nice for a $20 special!). No oto's so I'll need to search further afield for these.

The Bacopa and Val are still melting. One bunch of the bacopa is a lot worse than the other.
Day 21
7.4 (pH), 0.125 ppm (NH3/NH4), 0 ppm (NO2), 0 ppm (NO3), 3 (KH), 4 (GH)
I've put together a sequence of shots showing the tank after 50% water changes over the first 3 weeks. Cloudiness is progressively getting better. Still not perfect, but not bad enough for the tank to look horrible.

Week1, Week 2 and Week 3 (after water changes)

Friday, March 16, 2012

Tank Diary: Week 2

Week 2

The cloudiness has subsided a bit this week and I'm getting nice growth on most of the plants. The val is the exception which seems to be melting majorly. The lilaeopsis also isn't doing much but I wouldn't say it's dying, just holding its own.
Day 8
With the unexpected failure in the val, I don't have as much plant biomass as I had hoped. I picked up a couple of water lettuce at a garden store today to ensure I have some emergent growth to suck up any excess nutrients. I've also added some more flow, courtesy of an internal powerhead. 

Day 12 (50% water change)

Day 13
7.4 (pH), 0.125 ppm (NH3/NH4), 0 ppm (NO2), 0 ppm (NO3), 2.5 (KH), 3 (GH) 

Still no major changes to water parameters and ammonia seems to have reduced slightly which is a bit unexpected. I wonder whether this is due to the soil substrate, plant mass or bacteria causing the cloudiness?? The cloudiness has definitely improved, but the water is definitely a long way from clear.

Very tempted to add some fish given the stable parameters, but will hold off for a bit longer.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Tank Diary: Week 1

Week 1

The day after establishment. I'm happy with the aquascaping arrangement, but a bit disappointed in the corkscrew val which was cut to about 4 inches long when it arrived. I have heard that it frequently melts though so this may be a good thing in the end, but at the moment the left hand side looks pretty empty.

Water has clouded up a little bit. Haven't turned on the filtration yet as I was up until midnight planting it out last night after the plants arrived in the post. I've just flicked on the eheim 2215 after taking this pic.

Day 2
 7.4 (pH), 0.25 ppm (NH3/NH4), 0 ppm (NO2), 0 ppm (NO3), 2.5 (KH), 3 (GH)
Major cloudiness has set in on day 3. I suspect that this is due to the pool filter sand, or eheim filter material not being rinsed thoroughly enough.

Day 3
The cloudiness is getting worse, which I'm putting down to excess nutrients and a bacterial outbreak. I can no longer see the end of the aquarium looking in from the sides. I'm prepared though! Everything I've read suggests that the tank will be very unstable for the first month or so.

Day 4
On day 5, I've performed a 50% water change and added a single neon tetra to kick start my cycling. I know neons aren't the best for this, but he/she was all alone in my Jebo that I will dismantle shortly. 

Day 5 (50% water change)
7.4 (pH), 0.25 ppm (NH3/NH4), 0 ppm (NO2), 0 ppm (NO3), 2.5 (KH), 3 (GH)

Day 6
7.4 (pH), 0.25 ppm (NH3/NH4), 0 ppm (NO2), 0 ppm (NO3), 2.5 (KH), 3 (GH)

Day 7 (50% water change)

After 7 days and no major algae outbreaks, I've upped the photoperiod from 6 to 7 hours. Water parameters over the first week have remained constant, with no ammonia spikes. I've noticed new growth on the hygro, water sprite, chain swords and bacopa. All going well with the exception of the major cloudiness which seems to be progressively setting in after water changes. Theres also some white fungus on the driftwood, but I reckon this will settle down. 

Cloudiness has improved since the latest water change, so I'm hoping it will get better over the next few days!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Welcome to my blog!

Hi everyone. This is my first blog and foray into low-tech dirted planted aquariums.

Thanks to the many contributors on various blogs, forums, websites and online communities that have assisted me directly or indirectly. I hope you find it interesting and learn as much from reading it as i did whilst putting it together.