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Thread: My wifes 6x2x2 Axolotl aquascape step by step

  1. #1

    Default My wifes 6x2x2 Axolotl aquascape step by step

    June 15th 2011
    The plan...

    I am so FREAKING excited!
    I've managed to secure a 6x2x2ft tank (a little over 179US Gallons) and stand for $500 YAY!!!! It will eventually house 7 axolotls.
    Hubby went to look at it last night. It's only a year old and the only damage is one small superficial scratch on one side from a rock they had in it, some water marks that will wash off with the right products and a water satin on the shelf of the stand where the filter leaked otherwise it's PERFECT and looks brand new. Hubby knows the store it came from and they build REALLY good quality tanks and it comes with a very expensive heater that he will get to have so he's happy too. woo hoo!

    We pick it up Saturday morning. I can't wait!
    I will be stripping down one of my 4ft's and putting everything from it, filter included, into the new one to get it all cycled and to house a couple of lottles the ones from the 4ft ) while I source all the building materials I need to build my Axie utopia so it won't look to great for a month or 2.
    This is going to take a very long while by the time all the plants have grown properly but I will keep this thread updated as we go if anyone wants to follow it's progress.

    Still need to source the rocks and what not but I have at least figured out HOW to do it without sacrificing a lot of the water volume AND at the same time turn the hill into one BIG filter. It was kind of an impulse buy. I had planned or leaving all this for another 6 moths but seriously just how often do you find almost new tanks that size for $500? I HAD to buy it now

    Now I just need to completely re-arrange my lounge room to fit it in :rofl: Who needs book shelves when you can have an axie tank!


    Oh the ultimate goal is something that looks a little like this only better of course. Completely custom built for axie comfort.


    DARK caves 'carved' into the hillside, LOTS of layers to chillax on and get away from your tank mates and almost no filter disturbance. What more could a lottl ask for.

    Stay tuned for more updates.... hopefully it won't be to say the tank cracked in transit ok now I'm nervous!

    Mere.

    June 18th 2011
    It's here!
    more or less safe and sound and in position


    Time for a good clean out it was a salt water setup in it's previous life after all.
    Lachaln (3) decided he was going to help Daddy


    This is the AWESOME bit of driftwood that I don't get to keep it's in here for a little while being custom grown for a customer Apparently the moss and what not is growing faster under water at the moment whatever it's a cool bit of wood.


    All clean! We can start on the temporary aquascape while I find all the bit's I need for Axie Utopia.
    70kg of white sand (10 from the cycled 4ft and 60 new) the driftwood and half a tank full of water including all the water from the old tank later and the Diatom filter goes on to clear it so I can see the bottom clearly enough to sort out the sand and plant the plants from the old tank. :lol:



    All filled up for now and planted but I have no idea how it looks, it may look absolutely awful I can't see through the water BUT hubby has sorted out the hoses for the canister filter and it's now up and running.


    I'll let it clear for another hour or 2 and then add the hides and axies who have been waiting very patiently in their buckets for most of the day.

    So Still to come over the next month or so...
    I've managed to find the Pea gravel I need so the next step is to find the netting/mesh I need to make the bags for the gravel and get that sorted so that I can place them and the under gravel filter in, destroying all my hard work tonight in the process and making for a REALLY ugly tank and get the bacteria established in what will ultimately BE the biological filter once Axie Utopia has been built.
    Still having trouble finding the rocks I want to use but there are HEAPS more places for me to look over the net few weeks.
    I'll also do a more detailed step by step of how it's all done once I start the proper build. For now though I watch and wait to see if that much new water coursing through the filter will kill off my bacteria and throw me into a brand new cycle

    June 25th 2011
    It starts...

    We have a few of the bags of gravel in various sizes. Thank you Spotlight for having the mesh I needed at $4.00 a meter x 3.5m and I used about 50kg of the gravel in all which cost me $10. So, so far we're up to $24


    Hubby came though and we have HEAPS (20-30L) of bio-balls which float and while the looked to be big enough to not be a swallowing hazard I didn't want to risk it so bagged them up as well. I didn't pay for these so my total stays the same. You could purchase some or omit them in favor of more rock or gravel but they add a lot of surface area to the inbuilt filter.


    One Under gravel filter kit. I think this one worked out to cover just short of 2 square feet but you can go with whatever size would suit you. NOTE: Do NOT leave this thing out on the floor for 3 days where your children can get it. We spent a good half hour locating 2 missing pcs. of the base the adapter that the pipe goes into to attach it to the base and the pipes themselves This one was $25 which brings me up to $49


    Some PVC Storm water pipe (90mm) cut into lengths with caps on one end that cost me $28 all up. Cant risk them pushing out behind the pipe and getting tangled in netting etc. Plus a few small holes drilled in the bottom of each pipe at the capped end to allow water to flow into it and flush out anything an axie might leave in there.
    Plus one surprise that you will just have to wait to see ($10.98) for a new total of $87.98


    Other miscellaneous items I've needed that I forgot to take pics of
    From good old Bunnings or any good hardware superstore ~ A roll of 20mm silicone tubing for plumbing up the filter ($6). 1 straight length of 20mm silicone pipe to go into the base of the undergravel and up to the top of the tank ($4), 1 20kg bag of washed white sand from the cement/brickies section ($4.98) and finally from a local-ish landscape supplies place 30 larger bits of rock and another 20 smaller bits that they charged us $20 for. Not sure the washing I had to do after the 3 boys spent 15 mins playing in an enormous muddy puddle in the soils yard was quite worth it Bringing us finally to a total spend excluding the cost of the tank and filter rounded to the nearest dollar ~ $123 I do still need to find a couple of nice bits of driftwood and stock it with moss and plants.

    June 26th 2011
    On to the build...

    So having moved all 3 of my precious babies into their temporary accommodation for a little holiday. They are so cute and this is the perfect reminder of just why I am doing all this!!!!!


    It was time to drain the tank and get all 70kg of that sand OUT again This is most easily done with a dustpan (no brush) that has a soft rubber edge


    You can just see the base of the under gravel filter floating at the top of the water. Can't for the life of me figure out why they made this thing out of a plastic that floats

    Once it's drained you will need to wrap the base of the filter with filter wool. This will act as the first stage of our filter and be the part that prevents larger particles from being sucked into or blown out of the filter. It's recommended that you reverse the flow of an under gravel filter every now and then to stop the build up of muck. It will also keep the sand from falling through and under the filter base should it get back there. This stuff can be expensive when bought from the pet/aquarium store BUT you will find that fabric stores will sell you bonded wadding by the meter for a fraction of the price. It's almost exactly the same thing and will save you a fortune!

    Place the intake/outlet pipe into the filter base and then place the filter into the tank and into position.
    You'll need to add your other intake pipe in the corner now as well before you go stacking things and discover you need to pull it apart again to get the pipe down into the corner All I did for this was take a 2 part spray bar (the one in the picture of the draining tank above) and drill the holes a little larger then placed a length to silicone pipe between the 2 pcs so it was long enough to run from the top to the bottom of the tank and slid it down into the back left corner. The idea is that while it will draw most of it's water from the pce of spraybar that is closest to the top and not obscured by anything it will also draw a small amount from the section of spraybar that is behind the hill keeping that corner of the tank from becoming stagnant since it doesn't have an under gravel filter under it. You could by all means add another under gravel filter there as well for the intake to pull through but it's not essential. If you stack it carefully you will be able to slide the intake pipe in and out to clean it.
    Put the bag of Bioballs directly on top and then you're ready to start adding the bags of gravel, pipe hides and rocks until you're happy with how it all looks. Be warned that pea gravel is covered in clay and despite it having been washed before it was bagged, washed twice after it was bagged up and having left it our on the grass in the rain for a few days there was STILL a heap of clay on it and it will turn your water a lovely shade of orange. Don't be too worried once it's all settled the clay will stay in place and your water will be nice and clear again. You will stir it up if you move the gravel around again and will have to wait for it to settle again so make sure you're happy with it before you fill it with water.
    The live plants when they eventually go in will absolutely LOVE this clay and should grow a little better for it being there.
    Here we are about half way done.


    Keep adding rocks and gravel...
    I want the sand to look like it goes all the way up to the entrance of hide #2 (7 in total but I hope to add one or 2 more somehow) so I secured a piece of filter wool over the gravel to stop the sand going missing into the gravel.


    So this is where we are right now. I've had to fill the tank so I could turn the filter back on before it died or I would have left it as above until I'd planted it out and attached all the moss. Now I will have to drain it to about half again for the next step but when have I ever done things the easy way
    The bones are now in place though and I have all the components of the new hill filter in place and starting to get covered in lovely bacteria that will be being pumped through it by the well cycled Aqua One CF-1200.
    I have to say I am extremely happy with how well the filter is working. This pic was taken this morning and it's pretty good if you consider you couldn't even see the closest of the rocks after it was filled last night



    Next steps
    *Siphon out as much of the settled clay off the bare glass at the front as I can.
    *Add the white sand which I left out so it didn't get covered in clay dust.
    *Plant it out with all the stem plants and swords etc.
    *Tie moss onto the rocks and stitch it onto the gravel bags
    *Fertilise the new plants and kick up the light to get the plants off and growing as fast as possible while the tank settles for the final time, the bacteria gets established in the hills and while it's future residents are still in their holiday house.

    and finally.....
    Take a nice pic of that surprise in the corner when the water is clear again then all I can do is wait for everything to grow while I track down some drift wood.

    June 29th 2011

    OK as promised I've managed to get that left corner more or less done even with 3 very sick kiddos all day.

    Tada


    The house on the hill :lol:
    OK so an explanation of just why it's so awesome.
    You remember that Piece of T pipe from a few posts ago well it's under the house so they can crawl into the pipe and then up into the house and out the windows or the other way around if they want to.

    And the whole corner for good measure.


    Going to give what I've done a few days to settle and for my body to recover from being up a stepladder and hanging over the edge of a tank before I do any more.

    So what do you all think so far?

    For anyone who's wondering the sword right at the back is an Oriental sword plant, the moss around the house and in front of the pipe entrance is Java moss. On the rock to the right is Christmas moss. The big sword in front of the house is a true amazon sword. The moss on the rock front left is Willow Moss and last but not least the little grassy plant in the sand is Liliopsis.

    July 3rd 2011

    I am glad this little project is inspiring some of you to redecorate a little

    Good luck convincing your mum Chris

    Of course I have some more pics. Finally got around to adding more of the mosses to the remainder of the tank last night so here you go.
    The middle section of the tank

    Left side of the above section

    Right side of the above


    Right had end


    Full length tank


    The bubble river and the bridge that I'm not really happy with. It was supposed to be right up against the glass but it's too long so I will have to find an alternative that fit's the gap. The river's not quite sitting flat either so I'll fix all that when I find a new ornament.


    I still need to add some more sword plants, hairgrass, liliopsis, water sprite and some other stem plants maybe some ambulia and of course I need to find some driftwood. Had a look at one store over the weekend and didn't find what I wanted but I will keep looking.

    So that's where it is now.
    I'm expecting the new filter late next week which should have given the bacteria a good chance to get into the hill's gravel and all over the tank so in theory I'll be able to just swap them over and wait a week or so to add the axies
    REALLY excited to add them back but don't want to risk them getting squashed if a rock falls while I'm playing around with plants.

    I'm thinking maybe I'll add the 5 babies into this tank and give them another 6 months to grow before I add Dillon Chrysta and Fish in (who will have moved into the babies current tank which was their original tank for those 6 months), so the Lucistic that I'm hoping will be moving in can go into the then empty axie safe tank in the back room for her 30 days quarantine YAY. I'd leave D,C and F in the tank they are picture in above but it's hubbys tank and he's trying to sell it so he needs it back asap.

  2. #2
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    I think the arrangment of rocks looks really good, personally I'm not a fan of fake ornaments but that's up to you, I'd like to see some long drift wood braches making it look a bit more like a river bed and building a bit of height right along the whole tank, also a few clumps of valisneria growing throughout would look really natural.

  3. #3

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    Mere's beautiful tank!!!
    (Member of Caudata here).

    Absolutely stunning, I love it - and the 'lotls will too.
    Lots of imagination in it, and I really like how the axies can swim from the house on the hill, through the pipes.

  4. #4
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    This tank and thread is awesome Mere. Keep it coming.

    Great idea with the bioballs in your hills, gonna borrow that one if you don't mind. I kind of imagined an axolotyl like a dopey horse staring at nothing in a paddock all on it's own, that obviously would frolic, run wild and free with free reign in the wild with a pack of likeminded creatures given half a chance. Can they really fit up a tunnel & make a 90 degree turn in the T shaped pipe? Please tell us more about how these characters interact in such a playground. Are they inquisitive, are they social, do they have individual personality traits & quirks?

    Look forward to hearing more. Thanks for sharing your passion.

  5. #5
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    I dont think ive ever seen such spoilt axolotls. Nice =]

  6. #6

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    Mere. Here hijacking Darrens account so if you wanna flame me then fine but he's off having surgery today so I thought I'd address a few things

    Quote Originally Posted by To Many Choices View Post
    I think the arrangment of rocks looks really good, personally I'm not a fan of fake ornaments but that's up to you, I'd like to see some long drift wood braches making it look a bit more like a river bed and building a bit of height right along the whole tank, also a few clumps of valisneria growing throughout would look really natural.
    I'm glad you like the rock arrangement and I agree it does need driftwood and some more height across the length TMC but did you even bother reading the text that went along with the images? I suspect not since I stated several times that I was looking for just the right bits of driftwood to go in there and that I still had many plants to add including some more swords, ambulia, water sprite and taller stem plants . And what plant in the world do you know that grows up that much higher than the hills and is all strapy? There will at this stage be no vallis. It's not finished yet, the only thing that might be finished is the mosses which I must now wait to grow and cover the rock and bags of gravel.
    Had you read the text you would also know that I am not a fan of that bridge in there either. I bought it to go right at the back but clearly I should have actually measured the gab before purchasing it. I swear that gap looks bigger through the glass at the front of the tank
    I'm not a fan of ornaments in general either BUT that river does need a bridge across it to complete the look I'm after and the sizes of the driftwood I would need to add to keep them to scale in the river would be entirely unsuitable for an axolotl tank and at best would be constantly dislodged and at worst could do some serious damage to an axolotl and their soft marshmallow like skin. There are many things I would dearly love to add such as smaller stones to link everything together a bit better but such stones pose a serious impaction threat.


    hehe hey Banana. Caudata Rocks! well if you're into caudates anyway

    @Bardus.
    feel free to steal any ideas you like.
    The axolotls name of 'water dog' is well deserved as they are similar to dogs in many respects. Most are extremely inquisitive and will readily check out any new addition to their tank. They will also happily play with sunken ping pong balls and the good old moss balls rolling them around their tanks. They seem to enjoy hanging out at various levels in their tanks. Just chilling in the top of a plant or hanging off the roots of floating plants so I have no doubt they will have a ball in this tank.
    Their soft bodies allow them to turn right around in some very small spaces so getting up through the T section will be very east for them.
    They are absolutely fascinating critters and yes they all have their own unique personalities, likes and dislikes. They are also, when given the chance, very social animals who I have seen many times 'playing' with each other or just relaxing one on top of the other. Now you do get the odd bad tempered axie that is terribly antisocial and will actively bully tank mates but 99% of the time they get along really well and while there is the occasional nipping incident it's usually quite a minor injury and more often than not it's because one has mistaken the movement of it's friends appendage as that of food and has had a go at catching it They are not known for their intelligence after all.

    I'm sure Darren will post more pics as I add more to the tank (and caudata) but alas that will have to wait a little while, while the days continue to get a bit longer and the plants in the hothouse get to growing again after their winter sleep so I can raid them without feeling guilty that I'm cutting them back too far Hopefully I can find that driftwood by then.

    Mere.

  7. #7
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    Cool Mere, I guess the occasional missing limbs are not of such huge consequence seeing Axies are the only creature I know of that can regenerate them!!!! Good luck with the rest of the tank and good luck with Darrens recovery. I look forward to reading more as the tank progresses

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    That is fantastic, I might have to find an excuse to buy some more plants off Darren so I can come around and have a squiz! Really great. I am not a fan of ornaments but the pagoda house looks great. I wonder if you could make a bridge out of various small pieces of driftwood siliconed together? I saw some big pieces of vine wood on sale at City Farmers, that have enough straightish branches that when cut up into 50mm lengths you could easily make a nice japanese style bridge.

    Another idea to help soften the appearance of the PVC pipes would be to coat the outside edge in some silicone and dip into some gravel. You could also soften the hard lines by using a rounded file and file some contours.

    Anyway just some food for thought - it is a great project and I am very envious!!!

    Cheers

    Jase

  9. #9
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    Hey
    na mum is all good with me and my fish, although i am restricted to 9 tanks.
    also sorry to sound stupid but how does hte bio balls and everything in the bags act as media? as it doesnt have hte water moving through it if the tank has no flow?
    Also how does the underground filter handle the big HUGE craps that axies do?
    Also how do all of htose mosses go growing with no light? or do you have a light on it and just use all the caves as protection for them?

    i think that is all for now, i am sure i will have more questions, also awesome idea with the holes in the pvc pipes incase of left over crap :P
    Cheers,

    Never stop learning, continue to be a sponge for information and you will never be bored

  10. #10

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    oooh good idea for the bridge Jase, thanks I'll have to give it a try.
    lol come over any time but you may wanna leave it a couple of weeks. I spoke to him tonight and I fear he won't be of much use to anyone for anything for a little while yet
    The theory and hope is that the mosses will grow over the entrance of the pipes and hide them from the human eye this unfortunately is going to take some serious time so for now I'm not terribly worried about softening the pipes. I could silicone some gravel on but it's been my experience that silicone given a little time under water is fairly easily parted from rock and any loose gravel would pose a health risk to an axolotl.

    Quote Originally Posted by ChrisG View Post
    Hey
    na mum is all good with me and my fish, although i am restricted to 9 tanks.
    also sorry to sound stupid but how does hte bio balls and everything in the bags act as media? as it doesnt have hte water moving through it if the tank has no flow?
    Also how does the underground filter handle the big HUGE craps that axies do?
    Also how do all of htose mosses go growing with no light? or do you have a light on it and just use all the caves as protection for them?

    i think that is all for now, i am sure i will have more questions, also awesome idea with the holes in the pvc pipes incase of left over crap :P
    Yeah what's the odd foot and tail tip between friends when you can grow a new one

    LOL gosh only 9? why not just make it an even 10 oooh has she put a limit on the size of them all? 9 6 footers maybe

    There is some flow I believe I said low flow or ALMOST no flow. The REVERSE undergravel pumps a more diffuse and hopefully even flow up through the bioballs from the bottom of the tank (I've blocked up against the glass as best I can to make the bioballs the easier rout for the water to take) and then through gravel in turn creating one huge biological filter and also leaves very little water movement through the main body of the tank which is where the axies will be inhabiting, as the incoming water is spread well out over the surface of the hill. Now this breaks a LOT of fish keeping rules I know but there aren't any fish going in there Axie poop large though it is does tend to turn to poop powder when disturbed and any light debries would, in theory, be gently blown toward the front of the tank away from the waters source where it would be easily removed with a siphon during a 'weekly' water change or alternatively into the lowest point of the tank which is where I've placed the intake pipe, our floor apparently slopes slightly down into one corner. If you wanted to do this for fish then you could by all means use a much bigger pump I'll only be using a 2000L/h in here.
    The lights will be on for 6-8 hours a day and it has 4, 4ft tubes which I can have on in two combos of two or all 4 at once in the top directly over the back half of the tank but not at the front making the foreground a little 'darker' than the back but they will have plenty of hides to chill out in should they choose to be out of the light. The problem is they lack eyelids so prefer to stay out of bright light and as long as they have the option they will be fine as will the plants. Speaking of plants there will eventually be a fair amount of canopy for the light to filter down through providing some shade.

    I think I answered all that
    Mere.

  11. #11
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    No no limit on size and yer i tried to go for the double figures but nope :P
    So yer i htink ill end up going with all 4fts atleast, i kind of understand everything except are you having a canister as well as the underground and the hill massive bio filter?
    Cheers,

    Never stop learning, continue to be a sponge for information and you will never be bored

  12. #12
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    Hi Mere, I hope Darren recovers soon. And yea I forgot about the moss that will take away the hard edges from the PVC. I will really look forward to seeing this evolve and start filling in - really great stuff.

  13. #13
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    I love axies and used to have one in my 3ft until he mysteriously died. RIP Axel Foley
    While the tank is settling in, i'd throw in as many glass, cherry, chameleon shrimp that you can get your hands on. If you can start a decent colony breeding in there your axies will always have something to eat and keep them active hunting them.
    Mine LOVED them.
    I'll try anything twice.

  14. #14
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    Cool thread, Axlotl's are awesome, the tank should look really cool when the moss fills in.

  15. #15
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    Hey Mere, another thought on the wooden bridge - super glue will probably be better and easier for the construction should you go down that path.

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