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Thread: Don's 4x2x2 rebuild

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
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    Kenmore, Queensland
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    Default Don's 4x2x2 rebuild

    I decided to tear down and rebuild my 4x2x2. Partly because I like to cover the lounge in mud and rank smelling water, partly because I like to misuse kitchen utensils and mainly because I was not happy with the tank as it was.

    The tank itself has injected CO2 (PH controller & up-aqua ceramic diffuser), around 110w of DIY CREE LED lighting (so weíll call it a middlingly well lit tank) and a rather dramatic fake rock background behind which I can hide a lot of equipment. It used a deep, soil substrate with a bit of vermiculite and whatever else. To counter constant battles with poor water circulation, I upgraded to a monster Eheim 2080 a few months ago with a DIY spraybar across the back of the tank.



    Actually, in the (crappy) photo it doesnít look too bad. Maybe I should just put a photo in the corner and forget about an actual tank. In reality however, I was growing more algae than plants for everything except Riccia and the Riccia was driving me mad with its flagrant disregard for gravity. Honestly, you could araldite the stuff to iron girders and youíd still find it and the girder floating at the top of the tank within a week or so. Its growth was as explosive as it was annoying.

    For the stuff that wasnít Riccia, life wasnít so cruisy. A thick carpet of spyro had bonded at a molecular level to all the leaves after my failed attempt at iron therapy, the cyanobacteria seemed to be the only thing pearling and Iíd over-egged my too-deep substrate to be rewarded with pearly, black anaerobic zones and lacklustre root plant growth. Bubbles from the substrate had a suspicious sulphide flavour to them.

    Old photos of my tank showed me that things just werenít as good as they used to be.

    ďStuff itĒ I cried. ďLetís just ruin a whole weekend for the entire family and rebuild the bloody thingĒ.



    Figuring he couldnít do a worse job than Iíd already done, I decided to try 2Tonedís propagating sand substrate.



    As it happens, I had a bag of what was supposedly marble chips (sold as calcium grit) and amazingly, Bunnings had the rest. I didnít have any laterite laying around and the biblical monsoonal rainfalls dissuaded me from attempting a roadtrip to gather some but I did have red potters clay so created a few handfuls of shards and tried to dry them (not so easy with 27C and 95% humidity in a monsoon).


    Mindful of my last substrate, I piously restricted myself to a maximum of 5cm depth. I place the good stuff behind a terrace wall made of lawn edging (will be hidden by rocks and plants) and at the very front of the tank I used just washed propagating sand with a handful of gravel for visual effect.


    I threw the original tree trunk I had in the tank back into the pond and salvaged some more modest driftwood that I had stored in the same pond. Filling it wasnít too bad actually and it was possible to see the back of the tank right from the get-go.



    By the time Iíd pulled the dead leaves off them, many of my rooted plants did in fact appear to be rooted. I bought myself some stem plants that werenít dying from LFS and treated myself to a small pot of HC. I donít think there is enough light at the bottom of the tank for HC but there are a couple of ledges on the rear rock wall that are much closer to the 3W LEDs and do look to get high light. This theory would seem to be proven by apparent pearling (unless Iíve managed to brew up more hydrogen sulphide).

    Day 0



    Day 1



    My beautiful Stricta rewarded my hardwork and transplant by dissolving itself and losing most of its leaves :-(



    Day2


    The fish are happy at least. Upon return from the water-filled rubbish bin in which they'd been holidaying, most of the male Boesemani fought with each other whilst the smarter ones spawned with the available females.


    In the four day power outage from ex-tropical cyclone Oswald, I lost a whole bunch of my prized Trilineatus Cories. I've had them for years and they'd been slowly breeding into a self-sustaining colony. I had a generator but it spent more time running the fridge than the power filter and I think I got an ammonia spike that I couldn't see because the tank was in darkness. Now that the filter has cycled and I'm rebuilding, I bought some more and was shocked at how expensive they've become. I had C.Trinlineatus (sold as C.Julii). By scrounging some LFS I managed a couple of C.Sterbai (sold as C.Trilineatus) and a couple of left over C.Trilineatus (sold again as C.Julii). I guess before the internet, nobody noticed.


    Actually, I quite like the Sterbai. They have an interesting orange-tone to their pectoral fins and a hint of blue in their colouration. I'm going to try to find some more. If my lawn takes off, hopefully they'll spawn as the Trilineatus used to and I'll get a colony again.

    It's day 3 now. I took another photo but something went screwy with the camera (most likely the person using it) and its hopelessly over-exposed. I'm not seeing too many hints of plant growth yet but I did trim the roots back on most of the rooted plants (they were a bit rotten anyway) so perhaps I need to be a little more patient. My stricta has basically dissolved (like crypt melt) which is a bit dissappointing. Anybody can tell me how long it takes the plants to get into gear with that substrate?

    Water chemistry:

    PH 6.4 (without CO2 injection, it's around 7.25)
    GH 10 deg.
    KH 6.7 deg
    Nitrate 20 ppm
    Nitrite 0 ppm

    I'll let you know how it goes.

  2. #2

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    Looks great, looking forward to seeing it grow in

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
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    Currans Hill , Sydney NSW
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    Looks Great I have the same size tank and the same background keep us updated

  4. #4
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    Sep 2011
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    I know what you mean. A tank can look great in a photo or looking from the other side of the room. But up close you see all the dreaded algae which makes you think less of the tank overall.

    The question is: What are you going to do differently this time? more co2? shorter photo time? something else?

    I had a algae fest tank and I'm pretty sure the problem was insufficient co2. The little co2 added made the fish gasp, so i didn't thinking i could add any more. hence the algae.

    I like your re-scape a lot, looks very established already.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
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    Kenmore, Queensland
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dantrasy View Post
    I know what you mean. A tank can look great in a photo or looking from the other side of the room. But up close you see all the dreaded algae which makes you think less of the tank overall.

    The question is: What are you going to do differently this time? more co2? shorter photo time? something else?
    Yep, it's like cars... It was a great '10 footer' insofar as it looked great from 10 feet away.

    Different this time? Well, my substrate is 5cm deep and not 10cm. I'm pretty sure my old substrate was well anearobic in patches and I'd poked in far too many home made blood&bone bombs. I'm also going to use leaf plus at the recommended dose and frequency to keep up Fe & K in my water column. I was throwing in chellated iron and KN03 in my old tank as dry powders and I think it might have been a bit hit and miss. For CO2, my CO2 is dropping the PH from 7.26 down to 6.4 - that HAS to be a fair chunk of CO2 there. The photoperiod is 10 hours which I would have thought to be ok.

    It's day 4 now and my stricta has completely dissolved but one of my planted swords has poked out a new leaf - first sign of life since the rebuild but this tank is a SLOW start... I think I'm seeing more decay than growth still and my hand is itching to start throwing stuff into the water...

    I'm kind of hoping that the plants are throwing down roots and will strike some good stuff and take off although the bacopa and stricta has so far rewarded me by falling apart and floating away with rotting stems.

    Hopefully I'll have some more action by the weekend. The fish are plenty happy and the Cory's MUCH prefer the sand substrate.
    Last edited by dcm; 28-02-13 at 02:52 PM.

  6. #6

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    Looks good, looking forward to see how it turns out.
    Also love the rainbows! Their colour is amazing

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
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    Kenmore, Queensland
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    Default Week 2 update...

    The tank has now been running for two weeks. Itís a bit of a mixed story.

    Iíve experienced a LOT of dieback. I expect crypt melt on a tank teardown but I seem to have had more with this tank rebuild. I basically lost my blue stricta Ė a plant that Iíve been propagating from for about 15 years. It kept throwing out small, new leaves but was clearly in retreat and eventually the stems rotted. For the first time since the 1990ís, I went to the local fish shop and bought another bunch of stricta which is now similarly marking time.
    Some new growth on my big swords that Iíd been getting on my old tank after switching to more careful water column fertilisation (further evidence I thought that my substrate was stuffed) promptly died exhibiting what looked like nutrient deficiencies. I am however getting new leaves being thrown out now (they donít really show on the photo) but the growth is far from explosive. The substrate is again a little gassy - disturbing it releases a cloud of bubbles (I SWEAR I didn't over-do it on the blood & bone) although I can find no sulphide smell.


    The low-lying Ďroseí swords (donít know their name) at the front have started to (slowly) throw new leaves which is encouraging but the lobelia cardinalis I rescued from the local pet barn for $5 is actually doing pretty well being half as big again.


    The stand out grower in my tank is now beard algae. This could be again my fault. In fierce denial about the need for reading glasses Iíve spent two weeks adding about 150% of the quantity of Ďleaf plusí as I actually should have. Iíve now clearly marked the 20ml line on my measuring vial in texta. Here you can see some pearling nicely. Behind it you can see about 1Ē of tenuous new growth on the stellatus which spent the first week rotting and falling apart.


    The HC is actually doing ok. I (perhaps wisely) left it in its pot for now but itís been growing in there at a rate that is allowing me to regularly harvest strands and plant them elsewhere in the tank. Surprisingly, the show below seems to suggest that the tiny strand of HC I transplanted to the bottom of the tank is actually pearling a week or so later (having also grown somewhat). I didnít think my LED had the oomph to get pearling happening with HC 2 feet deep but there you go. The HC is a little leggy at the bottom as you might expect but growth seems steady.


    So there you go. The plants arenít in any immediate danger of pushing the lid of the tank but it hasnít been an abject failure either. Iíll give it another couple of weeks and document performance further.

  8. #8
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    So here's the 1 month update (ok, maybe 1 month & 1 week...).

    The beard algae was loving it. One three day black-out and a few double-doses of Excel seems to have put that away. There's actually been more grow-in than I'd realised. The substrate is still quite gassy but quieter than it was. The tank is starting to look ok. I'll pull some rocks out this weekend and let the plants take the real-estate over.


    The HC has actually been doing fairly well and I have small colonies in the sand in half a dozen spots across the tank. I think I have at least 4 - 6 times the quantity of HC that I originally purchased so I'm going to call this one as a 'success'. I'm a fair way of an HC carpet just yet but things are clearly moving in the right direction.


    My Stricta is back in the game too (at last)... As is the pogo and the low-growing-sword-whose-name-i-can't-remember. In fact everything is growing ok, just not explosively but I'm ok with that. The bubble-mist is from my up-aqua diffusor - the CO2 was on when I took the shot.


    I'll update again in another month or so.


    Don

  9. #9
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    Apr 2007
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    Thankyou Don, please do keep updating. Aside from being very interested in the progress of the tank, I love your writing style - fabulous!

    Have you thought about putting the obligotory red plant or crypts in the tank? They seem to be the equivalent of the iceberg roses or Magnolia "Little Gem" from a few years ago. :P

    Please do keep the updates coming - for my entertainment as much as assistance & sharing anything for your tank.
    "Weeds are just plants growing in the wrong place" - Jackie French
    Gardening is just racism for plants - Amber, The Old Guys

  10. #10
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    Dec 2007
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    Well, itís been two months since I last trashed the lounge room rebuilding the tank and Iíve been overwhelmed by the raucous chorus of Aquariumlife members and their collective bellows for updates.

    Well, maybe notÖ

    Still, this is the internet: pixels are cheap and so possibly only for the benefit of DiscusEden, here is my second monthly update.

    Iíd have to say that the stand-out growers in this tank are the fish. This wasnít really the plan and Iíve been talking to them about the Japanese concepts of subtlety and miniaturisation as they relate to the Iwagumi aesthetic but Iím not convinced theyíre taking my constructive criticism on-board.

    In the shot below, some uber-Boesemani are getting in the way of my photographic proof that I have something pearling in my tank that isnít algae.



    Sadly, it seems that 40 odd years of keeping fish means if nothing else that most fish I buy die of old age eventually so theyíll be dominating my aquascape for some time to come.
    My ďHC carpetĒ isnít really a carpet yet. Iím thinking itís more like ďHC scatter cushionsĒ but weíre clearly moving in the right direction.


    As a side note, actually looking at that photo (as opposed to looking at the tank itself) has reminded me that the lilaeopsis behind the HC scatter cushion thus photographed has, for the want of a more correct botanical term, been going quietly apeshit. I'm pretending that the tiny amount of BBA featuring on selected stems isn't really there.

    Overall, growth is pretty good and the algae seems to be largely under control (although posting that has probably irrevocably screwed things). Here's a shot of the overall tank as it looked half an hour ago with my too-big collection of rainbows.


    As they say on the electric inter-thingy, cul8r :-)

  11. #11
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    Dec 2007
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    Kenmore, Queensland
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    Quote Originally Posted by DiscusEden View Post
    Have you thought about putting the obligotory red plant or crypts in the tank? They seem to be the equivalent of the iceberg roses or Magnolia "Little Gem" from a few years ago. :P
    Yes, I planted a red nymphea lotus at a golden-triangle-ish distance from the left hand edge but it only has two settings.

    1. Dead
    2. Has sent massive leaves to the top and plunged rest of tank into permanent darkness

    It is fairly red though.

    I'm not sure how people manage to get them to grow in a civilised fashion. I'm open to any suggestions about it though?


    don

  12. #12
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    St Lucia, Brisbane
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    Beautiful setup Don! Those rainbows are loving it!
    aLan

  13. #13
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    Aug 2011
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    I think its great too Don and loving those fish. Im guessing most people are just looking and not commenting so rest assured your efforts aren't going to waste.

  14. #14
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    Beautiful, lush plants and gorgeous rainbows. i will aim to scape something like yours when i get my tank upgrade for my rainbows! one question, do you vacuum the substrate?

  15. #15
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    Mt Gambier, South Australia
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    I really like this tank Don ...really like the journal as well, love ya writing.. Keep us updated!

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