125 Gallon Startup

Lots of progress on the 125. I should have made several smaller posts, but I’ve been distracted setting this huge tank up =)

The stand is finished, minus the doors. Actually, the doors are all cut I just need to stain and clear coat them. But, in my haste to finnaly get this thing going I decided to proceed without them, they can be added at any time and I’ll probably get them finished in the coming week. I spray painted the back of the aquarium with Krylon spray paint. It said on the can it was good for glass, and it applied well. I used a flat black and did several coats. I would do very light coats at a time, let it dry for a couple minutes than add another light coat. All in all I think I did 5 or 6 coats. Thin coats are better so you don’t get the paint running down in streaks and also each coat creates an irregular surface that the subsequent layers can better adhere to.

Friday and Saturday morning¬† my wife and I spent several hours outside in the street with a couple buckets cleaning all the play sand. We used a total of about 175 pounds of sand, that’s a lot of sand! The neighbors all drove by giving us the look of “What in the heck are you doing?” and it got even worse when we said we were cleaning sand for an aquarium.

I set up the Aquatop CF-400UV canister filter which went pretty well actually. This is my first use of a canister filter, but assembly of all the parts wasn’t too bad. The hard plastic parts for the intake and spray bar are a bit flimsy, but they work. I guess I can’t expect too much from a canister that costs about $50 less than the next cheapest alternative. Priming was rather difficult, but that may have been due more to my setup than an actual fault, I’m not sure. The cutout in the back of the stand for the plumbing to go through forms a U shape so it isn’t a straight downward shot into the canister. It took numerous pumps of the primer button to finally get a steady stream of water into the canister. Once filled though I plugged it in and it went right to work. It’s nice and silent too, once we put the doors on we will not be able to hear it at all. As is, we can only hear it if everything in the house is silent. This is a big plus because the tank is located in a bedroom.

For heaters I have a pair of Aquatop 300W submersible heaters. I have one in my 20 gallon and am happy with it so I decided to stay with that brand for the 125 gallon. We used an Aqueon Water Changer to fill the tank from the kitchen sink and used cold water, but night time the tank was up to 72 degrees and today in the morning it was holding steady at 78 degrees.

Throughout the day yesterday and this morning we boiled the Malaysian Driftwood. Several of the pieces were far too long to fit in any of our pots so we had to boil them half at a time, then turn them around to get the other. It has been a long process, but will certainly be worth it. In the pictures below I have all but one large piece added to the tank, the last big one is finishing up being boiled now. I’m boiling for two reasons, one to sanitize and two to release the worst of the tannins.

For a light I just got a 48″ dual T8 fluorescent shop light that has a reflector. The fixture rests on the reflector leaving the bulbs above the glass. The cost? A whole $16. The alternative is one made for fish tanks that costs over $100. Ridiculous! I don’t think the shop light looks bad at all, and if I really wanted to I could spray paint the outside black.

As a finally step while doing my weekly water change on the 20 gallon I took some Wisteria and Brazilian Pennywort clippings and added them to the tank. I also grabbed my baby Java Ferns and stuck them in holes and cracks on a couple pieces of the driftwood. Grabbed a few Amazon Frogbit as well for good measure to get the floating plants seeded. I bought a portion of Dwarf Water Lettuce from a member at tropicalfishkeeping.com that should come soon too.

The plan for today is to top off the tank with water (we left room to account for the driftwood), add Seachem Equilibrium to raise our GH by about 3 dGH since we have too soft of water for most plants, then finally start adding Seachem Stability to give the biological filter a boost. We ordered a massive shipment of live plants from an online store (Live Aquaria) that is scheduled to ship Monday and arrive Wednesday. I have 39 plants coming for sure, possibly more if any of the bunches or potted plants contain more than one (likely with the stem plants). Hopefully the plants combined with Stability will allow me to add fish on Wednesday. I will only add a single school, probably Harlequin Rasbora, to start with and see how the water parameters react. If everything is golden after a few days I’ll add another school and proceed in a similar fashion until I get it fully stocked over the next couple months.

So enough talking, time for pictures! Enjoy, I know I am!

125 Gallon Aquascape

I’ve got the basic groundwork completed on my idea for the 125 gallon aquascape. What I’d like to create is the appearance of a river flowing through a canyon of sorts.¬† Below is a rough drawing of my plan.

125 Gallon Aquascape

125 Gallon Aquascape

The terrace is the most difficult part of the entire aquascape, simply because it is not a good idea to have that thick of a substrate so I will need to put something solid in to raise the ‘floor’ of the aquarium a couple inches so my substrate is no more than two inches thick. I will then wall that in with a piece of thin, clear plexiglass. The purpose of the plexiglass is to hold the sand on the terrace and prevent it from flowing over time down to the lower levels. It should hopefully not be too visible since the ring of rocks should block most of the view of it.

For the ‘river’ I will just place small river rocks on top of the sand. It won’t be a solid layer of gravel as that would not work with the sand. Over time the sand and gravel would just intermix anyways.

The plant choices are more general than set in stone at this point. A lot of it will depend on what I can actually find at the time of ordering. I’ll try to order all my plants from a single store to save on shipping costs.

For driftwood I already have some as I posted earlier. I’ll try to fit as much of it in as I can, and I’ll likely end up with more Java Moss than just the one splotch on the driftwood indicated.

Ideas or comments are always welcome. Who knows, by the time I actually go to set it up it may be completely different =) And it might, I’m not sure if the terrace idea will work out or not. I have to keep reminding myself the width of the tank is only 18.5 inches which isn’t a lot of room to work with and this idea might be better implemented in a 2 foot wide tank.

Ups and Downs

General log update for the day.

The tanks are still chugging along, plants are thickening up nicely. In the 20 gallon I had to trim down and spread out the Wisteria as it has really taken off, one stem in particular has gone crazy. I’ve also replenished the root tabs as we’ve hit the 3 month mark. In the 10 gallon the Wisteria, again, had to be trimmed back. This is defiantly the all star plant for growth that I have.

I’m surprised that the Amazon Frogbit floating in the tanks hasn’t taken off. It’s growing, but slowly which I feel is unusual as people often claim they must thin it out weekly from their tanks. A couple possible reasons, not enough nutrients or the water is too soft (which is really again just a lack of nutrients). I’ve increased the dose of Flourish Comprehensive to twice weekly to see if that helps. I’ve also ordered Seachem Equilibrium to raise my water from 1.9-2.5 dGH to somewhere in the area of 4.9-5.5 dGH. I’ve read that 3 dGH is the minimum for plants so I want to bump that up and see what happens. Equilibrium is formulated in a way that it will only increase GH while leaving KH (and thus pH) alone.

In addition to the Wisteria taking off, my Red Tiger Lotus has also gone mad, shooting up a new leaf every 3 or so days, and all of them are staying fairly low to the substrate. I moved the sand castle that houses the Java Fern a little to the left and forward to give the Amazon Sword more room, and to keep the Java Fern from touching the heater. This is causing the Java Fern to somewhat shade the Red Tiger Lotus and it isn’t happy about that. It’s sending its leaves up to clear the Java Fern, but that’s okay. Believe it or not but I actually wanted it to send leaves up to the surface so they could provide shade, which is the opposite of what most people want it seams. Oh well, it’s truly a nice looking plant.

Here are a pair of photos showing off the tanks.

10 Gallon April 5 2012

10 Gallon April 5 2012

20 Gallon April 5 2012

20 Gallon April 5 2012

Red Tiger Lotus

Red Tiger Lotus New Growth

Unfortunately I did come across a problem. One of my Oto Catfish developed what I’m guessing is an injury. I can only assume that one of the Serpae Tetra chomped onto his back end because there is red going all the way around his body. It dosen’t fit the pictures for any disease that I could find, so I don’t believe he was sick. Unfortunately, he didn’t survive so I am down one Oto.


Hurt Oto Catfish

Hurt Oto Catfish

To see if it was a water quality issue I tested everything in the tank. The pH has dropped to 6.4 which wasn’t unexpected. It has slowly been going down from the 7.2 I started at since my KH is so low and 6.4 is a good number for soft water fish like what I keep. Ammonia is 0 ppm and Nitrite is also 0 ppm which is perfect. The Nitrates however were by best guess 20 ppm which is higher than I’d like, I prefer it to be more around the 5 ppm mark. It’s hard to tell though, on the color card 10 ppm and 20 ppm look far too similar. To be safe I changed an extra bucket of water during my weekly water change (6 gallons instead of my usual 4). I may have to continue doing a 3 bucket change to keep the Nitrates as low as possible. I know 20 ppm isn’t something to worry over, most people with non-planted tanks see values of 40 ppm or higher, but still, planted tanks should be fairly close to 0 ppm.

For the 125 gallon I haven’t posted any updates recently. The project is still moving along. New carpet is getting installed this week which is the first major objective to getting this thing on the road. The next is the stand, I have the basic frame 99% completed and even have the inside completely painted. The only thing left to make the frame 100% is to cut access holes in the back plywood for hoses and power cords to go through. Then to finish out the stand I need to skin it in oak and put the trim on. I’ve had the oak plywood on hand for weeks, but am just nervous on actually cutting it. The cost is very high for the plywood so any mistakes will make a huge dent to the wallet. I’ll have to get on that this week though so I can buy the trim and get the entire thing stained so it can hopefully be ready this next weekend to start setting up.

After the stand is completed, and the carpet is installed, it will be time to do the hardscape. I’ll need to shop around some local landscape supply stores to try and find some very coarse sand which is more like gravel but 1-2 mm in size. If I can’t find any, I’ll just go with play sand which is very inexpensive but does require an enormous amount of cleaning. The hardest part of the hardscape will be the terraces and I’m still not 100% sure on how I’m going to go about it. People have said styrofoam, but I’ve also read that it can break apart when kept under water and I don’t want to deal with that sometime down the road. I’ll probably have to find some bricks to use, small ones.

Then once all that grunt work is done, it will be time for the fun part, finally! Ordering plants and stocking with fish! I already have the equipment on hand. A canister filter, two 300W heaters, two floating thermometers, and a 48″ dual T8 light fixture with two 6500K bulbs. For the canister filter I have the Fluval ceramic pre-filter rings, a sponge, filter floss, and some bio rings. I don’t think the bio rings will be necessary with all the plants but it is better to be safe than sorry.

Wish me luck!