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Discussion Starter #1
Perhaps it's premature to start a journal thread, since I literally don't own anything I'll need for this tank - besides the betta, a bag of substrate, and some plants. But, the ideas for this tank are just floating around in my head right now, and I need a place to write them down!

A bit of background...I've actually never had a planted tank any bigger than 3 gallons. I had a number of failed small tanks, and then finally lucked out with my current 3 tanks. I feel like I finally have the knowledge (or, rather, memories of what not to do) to start a bigger tank, without just having an expensive mistake in the living room.

I wasn't planning on getting a bigger tank any time soon until I got Impulse. (Yes, his name tells his story.) He's currently sitting in my horribly scratched, rather unattractive 2 gallon. I was going to get him a 3 gallon round tank, but I figured, if I'm starting a new tank, why not go for a big one this time? Impulse has no idea how lucky he is. ;-)

I can't really do much until I get the actual tank. I'm waiting for the next $1/gallon sale to start at Petco. Over the next week, I plan to start gathering the supplies I need (everything). Once I get the tank, I think it'll fall into place nicely. It's tough to wait, though. :lol:

So, here's my plans for the equipment:
-Tank: 20 gallon long
-Lighting: Two or three desk lamps with 26 watt CFL bulbs
-Filter: Petco Power Filter (10-30 gallon size)
-Heater: Tetra Whisper Heater (10-30 gallon size)
-CO2: DIY yeast systems (I'll probably need 3 or 4 bottles)

Substrate/hardscape/dosing:
-Miracle Gro Organic soil
-Brown play sand and gravel cap
-Locally collected rocks/wood
-Some sort of background (which I'll probably need to make myself)
-Seachem NPK fertilizers, Nutrafin Plant gro, Flourish Excel

Fauna:
-Male betta
-3 platies
-8 to 10 orange von rio tetras
-some mystery snails
-some nerites
-bladder and pond snail hitchhikers (I have made peace with these)

Flora:
-Glossostigma (glosso) carpet
-Lagarosiphon madagascariensis (crazily-fast-growing pretty weedy thing)
-Ludwigia x arcuata (pretty red/brown weedy thing)
-Ludwigia repens (red Ludwigia)
-Pogostemon yatabeanus (slighty weedy pine-like thing that likes growing out of the water)
-Myriophyllum tuberculatum (this thing's name should be "magical melting plant")
-Clinopodium brownei (water mint)
-some sort of moss (Christmas moss or java moss?)

I'll post a photo of my plans for the aquascape in a little while. I went to a very beautiful part of Colorado a while back, with misty rolling hills, dense forests, and impressive rocky plateaus. This tank will be based on that. :)
 

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Discussion Starter #3
I'm a bit nervous about getting actual aquariums from Craigslist...it would suck to get a cracked/scratched one. I've been checking Craigslist for aquarium stands, but haven't found one I liked yet. If all else fails, I could move the 2.5 and the Picotope, and make the 20g a desktop tank. I have a big, very sturdy cherry wood desk, so I'm sure it would support ~220 lbs. Thanks or the tip :)
 

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Discussion Starter #4
So, I got the 20g yesterday. :blueyay: Still working on changing it from a disgusting, muddy mess to a less disgusting, cycling mess. Right now, I had to use some old live rock and smooth stones to prop up the sand. It's definitely not what the tank will ultimately look like, though. (Actually, it mostly looks like a mud puddle right now.) I'm going to go to some sort of garden/landscape store in the next few days to see if they have better rocks. I haven't been able to find any outside that I like.
 

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Discussion Starter #5 (Edited)
Regret of the day...adding sand without rinsing it first. I thought it would settle or clear up after a few water changes. I just spent 1 1/2 hours doing about five 50% water changes and picking out floating bits, and it's still a mud puddle. >.<

I should get paid on Tuesday and can get the light fixtures! I'm also getting a Walmart gift card, which I'm going to use to buy the heater. Then I'll have all the equipment I need to start. :)
 

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Discussion Starter #6
With the help of about 10 large water changes and a bit of Jungle Clear Water, the tank is finally almost clear! I think I finally decided on the final plans for the aquascape. Now I just need to find the darn rocks. I think I can get away with using some flatter, smaller rocks if I arrange them right.

Unfortunately, Impulse died today. He was acting strange for the last few days, and he developed some raised scales yesterday. He seemed to be doing a little better today, but he was gone when I got home a little while ago. It's disappointing...he was just starting to color up. :-(

I might be getting a new fish from a member here, though! He'll probably end up going in this tank right away.
 

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So sorry to hear about Impulse, at least he wasn't suffering though. A new fresh tank and a new boy may be just the thing to help you keep your mind off of it, though. I know I'll just be heartbroken when mine pass someday.

Not rinsing sand is one of those mistakes you do once and never again, haha. I am glad you got it to clear down though! I made a mess like that recently with a dirted tank, ugh! Sand is my favorite substrate, way much more so than gravel. Being able to hover over it to clean it versus digging around is way easier. I think my plants like it more, too!

Remember you'll need to poke or rake it once in awhile if it's more than an inch to prevent noxious gas buildup, though! Cause I've seen it happen that people don't, and then the sand explodes, some fish may die, and there is sand... EVERYWHERE!!!

Can't wait to see updates! <3
 

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Discussion Starter #8
So sorry to hear about Impulse, at least he wasn't suffering though. A new fresh tank and a new boy may be just the thing to help you keep your mind off of it, though. I know I'll just be heartbroken when mine pass someday.

Not rinsing sand is one of those mistakes you do once and never again, haha. I am glad you got it to clear down though! I made a mess like that recently with a dirted tank, ugh! Sand is my favorite substrate, way much more so than gravel. Being able to hover over it to clean it versus digging around is way easier. I think my plants like it more, too!

Remember you'll need to poke or rake it once in awhile if it's more than an inch to prevent noxious gas buildup, though! Cause I've seen it happen that people don't, and then the sand explodes, some fish may die, and there is sand... EVERYWHERE!!!

Can't wait to see updates! <3
Thank you. I've lost enough pets to not be as affected when one of the smaller ones dies...but it still stings when a new, young one dies. I tend to get a new pet right away when one dies. I don't like looking at empty tanks and cages for too long.

I kind of got spoiled by pet store sand and gravel, lol. The play sand was just so filthy. I'm used to getting yellow water and floating bits from dirt, but this was just ridiculous! I'll definitely rinse it next time!

Yikes, I've never heard that about the exploding sand...do you think it would help to have plants with deep roots? There's a few inches of sand in some parts of the tank. It's the only way I could figure out to make natural-looking hills. I've heard there are also snails that dig through the substrate. Maybe I'll look into getting some of those...

Good news - I'll definitely be getting a new betta on Wednesday! His name is Tiger, and he's a black orchid DT. I'm thinking I'll name him Granite or Carbon. Here's a photo of him from his current owner's for sale thread...
 

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Discussion Starter #9
I got 10 lbs of lace rock today at a LFS. It looks really, really nice. :-D I think I may need a bit more sand to make the slopes look nicer, though. I'll rinse it a few dozen times this time around. :roll:

Tank finally cleared up!


The rocks...


And, after adding the rocks, the tank is back to being a mud puddle. >.<
 

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Discussion Starter #10 (Edited)
20 gallon mud puddle...er, tank, now with plants! I was a bit disappointed to see how small the cuttings look in a 20 gallon. :p I'm sure they'll take over the tank in no time, though, especially the 10 lagarosiphon cuttings.



I'll probably attempt to keep them in the sand (plant them) tomorrow. I might rearrange the rocks on the right as well.
 

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I hear malaysian trumpet snails help a LOT with aerating, and so do deep-rooting plants, but it is still a good idea to give the deeper areas a thorough poking (I like to use chop sticks) once a month or so.

I saw Tiger on a for sale thread, he is sure gorgeous colored up... Excited to see him in your tank!
 

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Gorgeous fish! Yeah, you want to poke/rake the sand sometimes... and make sure there isn't more than 3 inches of it (I think is the rule)... If you want taller hills, you can use gravel on the bottom to boost it up like I did with my paludarium. (That lets water under the sand, if you do it right.)

MTS would be an excellent addition to this kind of tank! They're awfully cute and they do benefit tanks with lots of sand or dirt.

You'll be glad to hear I've got some lovely java ferns growing along nicely c: I don't think you want to do the plant trade I suggested a few weeks ago right now because it looks like you're awfully busy populating this tank, but if you like, I can send you some bigger ferns early to help cycle! Then you can send along whatever you feel is a fair trade later on--I'd definitely be interested in some MTS if you get them, all you have to do is overfeed them a bit and they'll reproduce.

Oh! And I have spearmint cuttings if you can keep the leaves out of the water, that'd help cycle things too. They grow lots of roots and make the water smell nice--Felix likes them. :) You'd have to find a way to float them upright, though. (I'm envisioning tiny float rings like kids have in pools.)

As for the sand, I suggest you take a big tub and rinse the whole bag thoroughly, and then store it in a container where it can't scrape around. For the leftovers from, say, a five-pound bag of sand, you can use paper towel rolls duct taped shut... but I don't think your leftovers can fit into such a thing. Maybe a couple storage bins. Just not a bag, that'll have the sand grinding against itself and producing dust.

I don't know if putting your filter in would hurt it... probably not a good idea, I'd think. I'd suggest a scheme involving a big funnel, quite a few of those papers used for gravity filtration, a siphon, and a roll of duct tape, but I realize that normal people don't solve their problems by mishmashing Chemistry class with Red Green (a dangerous combination). Of course, I don't know you well enough to judge your weirdness level...

Let me know if there's anything I can do to help!

Edit: And you mentioned you were having a die-back with your plants... I do have wisteria I could spare if yours ended up getting hit badly.
 

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Discussion Starter #13 (Edited)
I think its a bit too late to add gravel, unfortunately, since the plants and sand are already in. :-( (And I have very little motivation to move around the dirty sand, lol). It seems loose and wet when I stick my fingers in, so hopefully a bit of water gets in there. I'll definitely get some MTS and poke the sand with chopsticks.

You know, I may still want to do the plant trade. My small tanks are still wildly overgrown, even after trimming everything.

I figured out that my melty plants with brown holes had a potassium deficiency. (Well, I'm 90% sure. It matched the symptoms, anyway.) This causes the old leaves to get brown pinholes and yellow/melty leaves. As soon as I started dosing some new Seachem fertilizers, the plants went back to normal. They're still a bit damaged looking at the bases (the old leaves don't heal once they're damaged), but their growth has taken off. Thankfully, I corrected the problem before any of them died entirely. Moral of the story: don't skimp on your NPK ferts! I think they got enough from the soil at first, but I'm not surprised that they needed extra ferts after 4 1/2 months, considering how heavily planted the tanks are.

I appreciate the offer of wisteria, but I think I'm good. :) My wisteria is growing like a weed again. I got five decent size cuttings just from the recovering ones in the Picotope. :shock:

I apparently can't keep mint alive. I mean, my water mint is doing great, but I can't keep any other kind of mint alive. I've been trying for years, but it always dies one way or another, usually without me knowing what caused it. I get a little angry when someone tells me how mint took over their yard. :lol: Got any spearmint secrets?

That's a good idea for the sand. I had about two pounds left, so I rinsed it in a bucket and dumped out the water about five times. I did lose a good amount of sand down the drain, though. It doesn't kill the filter or anything, but I've already been through a couple of filthy filter sponges.

You may find that I am weirder than you'd expect. :)

Edit - odd idea - what about teething rings for the spearmint? They float, I think. They're definitely non-toxic as well. I'm thinking of the plain, hollow/water-filled ones like this: http://thumbs.dreamstime.com/z/teething-ring-11962071.jpg
 

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You wanna know why your water mint survives when your on-land mint doesn't?

They suck water. Seriously. I have to water my mint plant heavily every two days. It doesn't look like its pot could hold that much, but it can. (They also like to be rootbound.) Mint doesn't mind if the soil is soggy. That's why it grows so well in my paludarium. Just needs the leaves in the air. They also like lots of light. Some mint sprawls, other kinds send up stalks from a base.

I got my mint plant at Wal-Mart, it doubled in height in a few weeks, and I've had to trim it back multiple times. There's a vase of cuttings on my desk that I haven't even been able to fit in my tank. I'd gladly pass some on.

That... is really, really funny. XD Teething rings might just work. You could tie a bundle together and just float it like that. :p
 

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Discussion Starter #16
See, that could be the issue with my mint. I normally only water my garden plants and houseplants every 2-3 days or so, or else I get fungus gnat infestations. It's really dry here, so they get very little rain in the summer. That explains it perfectly!

I keep trying to envision what it'll look like in a couple of months, when it's heavily planted and full of fish. It's a bit hard to do, when all you can look at is a muddy sandy thing. :lol:

I'm not sure if Impulse was pineconing. He had a few patches of slightly raised scales on his sides, and he was less active for a few days...then he just died. He was just recovering from popeye (which caused him to lose one eye), so I can't help but feel that it was related to that.

I'm going to get the lighting fixtures today. :-D I'm also going to get two DIY CO2 systems going. That should help the plants get established.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Let there be light! (and plants)






I definitely need a third fixture. The 20 watt daylight bulbs came in 3-packs, so I have an extra one lying around anyway. :) The plants are doing nicely. The only ones that melted were a couple of small stems of lagarosiphon - but they were floating in my Picotope for a couple of days, so I'm not surprised. The rest are all looking nice and green (or red).

Note: the sand isn't actually flaky and pink. I dumped in a huge amount of fish food two days ago to see if it's cycled. I put in two established sponges from my other tanks at the same time. I'm going to test the water tonight. I had tested it a few times before, and was only getting low or no ammonia/nitrite readings - but the 100% water changes probably had something to do with that.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
That wad is a ball of frustration...uh, er...plants that floated out of the sand. There's definitely a dark spot in the middle. I'm going to pick up a third lamp in a few days - would have done it today, but the store I went to only had two steel colored clip-on lamps. :p

I certainly am! :) Although, as much fun as it is to start up a tank, I like it a lot more when the tank is successfully running and full of fish and plants. I feel like I'm enjoying myself just a little bit each day. :lol: Not much you can do with a cycling tank once the water is tested/changed and the plants are adequately fiddled around with...
 

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Oh, but it's the anticipation! You know? Like when you're a kid right before Christmas and you know there are lots of presents waiting for you?

Well I guess not so much if your parents did the Santa Claus thing and you couldn't see the presents beforehand. My 'rents never bothered, just put everything under the tree once it was wrapped so we could enjoy the pretty gifts before all that careful wrapping was torn away :)

Hmm. Have you tried putting the bottom of the stems in at an angle, and weighing them down with a small rock or something? At least until they set up shop a bit better, maybe? Or tie a piece of acrylic thread around a stem and bury/"stake" the thread in the sand as well?

I'll see if I can get myself a flat-rate box while I'm out tomorrow. It looks like you're ready for some planties. Do you want some mint, or just the java ferns? (seriously I have so much mint.)

And I have this little knitted betta tube I could throw in... it's made of acrylic yarn, so it won't bleed or decompose in the water. I had it in Felix's old tank for a while and all I got were some fibers in the filter (but he never used it). It's royal blue. I don't have room for it in either tank, but if you have a fish who might like it, I'll send it too. I made it in thirty minutes, it's not a lot of work or anything.

I was gonna post a comic (click at your own risk) jesting about the idea of controlled, slow-release enjoyment, but realized after I'd made it that it was a hilariously terrible double-entendre involving some pretty bad toilet humor. The context of this post makes it sort of make sense, but it also makes it worse...

I clearly need sleep, I can't believe I didn't catch that as I drew it. One would think I never attended middle school...
 
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