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.