They’re alive!

My de-chloraminator hasn’t arrived yet but as of last week, I think my plants are done melting for the most part.  I’m seeing new growth and even a few that melted down to nubbins are starting to sprout new growth.  For example my Vallisneria spiralis ‘Leopard’ arrived as a multi-leafed foot-long plant and melted down to maybe 2 inches of 3 leaves.  I considered throwing it out, giving it up for goners, but in one week, I’ve observed 2 new baby leaves, one about 2 inches now, and the other 1 inch.

Another, the Rotala indica, melted down to just stems.  I left them because the stems were green and sturdy.  Now they all have new growth at the top of about 1/2  a centimeter.  I guess everybody just needed some time to adjust.

The only plants certainly gone with no traces remaining are the Bacopa caroliniana and Ludwigia repens.  They were ones that the Internet all agreed were great for beginners.  Grow like weeds.  Will take over your tank.  Will grow even in the crappiest conditions.

The growing plants are so cool to view that I’m holding off on adding any creatures.  It’s like instead of having an aquarium of fish, I have an aquatic garden.  They don’t do anything but I just like sitting there and staring at ’em.  Some aquatic plants grow noticeably fast and it’s encouraging to see that they have adjusted to the environment I’ve set up.  So far, I’ve done weekly water changes of about 1 or 2 gallons.  It’s not much but it gives me enough to water my regular plants and then I dose my aquarium with fertilizer afterwards.

 

Chlorine vs. Chloramine

With no treatment, chlorine dissapates after about a day or two.  Chloramine can last for weeks in the water.  I had been using Chlor-Out which only treats chlorine, as my dechlorinator not realizing our local water uses chloramine.  So maybe that’s why I was getting all that meltage.  I’ve ordered Seachem’s Prime which treats chloramine.  Hang in there little plants!

This is why I’m not getting animals until the plants get established.  If whatever it is I’m doing can’t support plants, it’d be a wonder how animals could survive. Not totally sound logic given that plants like ammonia and animals would belly up with ammonia but, at least it’ll get me that much closer to creating an environment that can sustain animals.

Not so sturdy plants

When I ordered my batch of aquatic plants I made sure to read all sorts of aquarium forums, plant websites, and even watched YouTube videos. I consulted the great and mighty Internet! In fact some of the plants I chose are even banned from some states (e.g. Hygrophila difformis from CA, AZ, TX, LA, EU) because they’re considered invasive and too risky if any bits got out in the wild! It means if you just dumped a piece in a lake it would take over! So I dumped them in my tank and they melt. They slowly lose their leaves. Then their stems get dark and soft and mushy and they just die. And now it feels like half of my plants are stuck on the intake of the power filter.

I spent a good part of the weekend siphoning out some of the mushy floaty bits. The Bacopa caroliniana and Ludwigia repens are all gone. There’s no hope of salvaging either of them.

I got 2 other plants to replace them. And now here’s my new list of plants:

  • Vallisneria spiralis ‘Leopard’ – 1″ or 2″ nubbin left
  • Ludwigia repens
  • Rotala indica
  • Bacopa caroliniana
  • Cryptocoryne wendtii ‘Green’
  • Hydrocotyle leucocephala (Brazilian Pennywort)
  • Amazon Sword
  • Lace Java Fern (Windelov’s Fern)
  • Hygrophila difformis – 1″ pieces floating about
  • Java moss
  • Hemianthus callitrichoides ”Cuba”
  • Marimo ball
  • Anubias barteri nana – added this weekend
  • Cryptocoryne wendtii ‘Red’ – added this weekend

My goal is to just get these plants established and growing.  New leaves, propagation, off shoots – anything but melting.

I got the 2 new plants from PetSmart. I’m not a fan of Pet-Smart/Co but they sell cultured plants that are grown in clean gel so they’re free of disease and snails.  I can get them online too but for only 2 plants, it’s not worth the shipping costs.  While I was there the store guy there was giving such bad advice to folks. It pained me to hear him talk about adding Stress Coat and other garbage into tanks.  One lady asked if she should replace her filter floss regularly and Store Guy said yes.  I tried to keep my trap shut, mind my own business, but then I couldn’t take it anymore and just interjected to tell her I would just take it out and rinse it in the dirty water when I do a water change.  That way I keep all that bacteria in the floss.  I’d only replace the floss when it’s falling apart.

They should just look stuff up on the Internet. Except sometimes the Internet underestimates how good beginners are at killing things.  Like my stupid plants.

Slowly coming together

It took a lot of shuffling furniture around but I finally settled on a nice little corner between a window and bookcase in the living room.

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I picked up as many used items as I could to reuse.
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I got a 29 gallon tank, heater, filter, gravel, driftwood, and a few rocks big and small.

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Then I bought a new LED light and it’s already starting to look like a proper aquarium. It’s the light that does the trick.

Despite all my planning and reading and researching, I still messed up. I ordered my plants before the fertilizers. I could’ve added the root tabs after, but I decided to wait. And in the meantime, the plants languished in this here bucket.
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In hindsight, I could’ve set up the tank with the plants then added the fertilizers after. Duh. But the bucket soak helped me treat the plants of any buggies, hitchhikers, and trespassers. I saw a snail in the bucket but I didn’t see it again when I was assembling and planting.

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And here is the planting. This is right before I added water. I used superglue gel to glue some stems that were hard to get in the gravel or ones that shouldn’t be in gravel (java fern) onto medium rocks.

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The new best seat in the house. The first thing I notice when I walk into the living room is how loud the water filter is. The tinkling of water is soothing but loud too. It sounds like a fish tank. With the plants, I won’t be installing an air pump.

Sturdy plants coming

Today, my order of the LED light fixture arrived.  I got the Aqueon LED Modular light fixture. It’s not that bright, even with all three LED lamps installed, but I like that the LEDs are replaceable in case something burns out.  Yes – I’ve had LED bulbs burn out (in less than a year too; made in China of course).

I placed an order of aquatic plants from extraplants.com and it should arrive tomorrow or Saturday.  Here’s what’s coming:

  1. Vallisneria spiralis ‘Leopard’
  2. Ludwigia repens
  3. Rotala rotundifolia
  4. Bacopa caroliniana
  5. Cryptocoryne wendtii ‘Green’
  6. Hydrocotyle leucocephala (Brazilian Pennywort)
  7. Amazon Sword
  8. Lace Java Fern (Windelov’s Fern)
  9. Hygrophila difformis
  10. Java moss
  11. Hemianthus callitrichoides ”Cuba”
  12. Marimo ball

Gosh it didn’t seem like a lot at the time, but now typing it all out, it seems like a lot.

Except for the HC Cuba, they’re all supposed to be easy to grow; good for beginners and aren’t too demanding with the light.  I’m partly counting on the fact that the tank is by a window for extra light and partly counting on the durability of these plants to “grow like weeds” even under moderate conditions.

This weekend I plan to add the plants and then start cycling the tank.

Current plan:

  • 6 Sterbai Corydoras
  • 10(?) Red cherry shrimp
  • 2 German Blue Rams (maybe)

 

 

 

Practice in patience

One small detail.  Not having a hose from a big (outdoor) faucet, I will have to literally carry 29 (maybe more like 25) gallons of water to fill the tank.  That’s a lot of hauling water from the kitchen sink and running it to the tank.  I wish I’d saved all my 2.5 liter bottles of vinegar now.  Maybe this will be an opportunity for me to practice mindfulness if I do nothing but focus on the task at hand.  Needless to say, my tank is currently full of nothing but air right now.  Air and gravel.

Setting up

I picked up my 29 gallon tank this weekend.  Along with that, I found a working power filter, air pump, air tubing, heater, gravel, and thermometer.  So I’m almost ready to start my fishless cycling.

This week, I’ll be cleaning everything up.  Scraping the old algae off the tank, rinsing the gravel, washing the driftwood and decorations, and then I’ll be ready to start fishless cycling.  I’d love to get some plants in the tank before I start the cycling process too.
Fishless Cycling –
The short of it is, I need to get some beneficial bacteria in my tank (on the surfaces, gravel, and filter media) that will eat the ammonia (waste) and turn it into nitrites.  Then I need to also get some bacteria that will eat the nitrites and turn it into less harmful nitrates.  So all I have to do is dump ammonia in my tank, crank up the heat a little (80-85 degrees), get the filter and air pump going and leave it alone for a week or so.  Then I’ll add more ammonia (to keep feeding the bacteria), maybe wait another week and then for the final test, after 24 hours of adding more ammonia, the tests for ammonia and nitrites should come out to zero or close to.  Then it’ll be done and I’ll be able to throw in some fish.  I’m thinking I’ll let it run for about a month or two just to be safe.  That’s why I want plants in there.  At least it’ll have something going on in there.  Maybe observable growth.  Something to tide me over until I get fish.
My ideal world (if I could be as greedy as I wanna regardless of tank size)*:
Apistogrammas (they’re beautiful)
Dwarf Rams (German Blues)
Cory cats
Angelfish (a pair maybe)
Shrimp
Realistically:
Dwarf Rams (2 to 4)
Cory cats (6)
Shrimp
*All captive/farm raised because they’re easier to adjust to and will survive better in an aquarium.

The not-so-pretty side of aquariums

Every day I learn something new about some aspect of fish keeping so I’m constantly changing my mind about how I want to set up my tank.  I think that’s the fun part about this hobby.  The planning and possibilities.

The one aspect that I didn’t consider (until now) is how terrible it is to keep fish.  They’re shipped from all over the world.  They’re captured from the wild and many die in the process of getting to your home.  Or they’re raised in a farm and fed a diet of other fish that are captured from the wild or raised in a farm.  They’re kept in tight quarters.  They’re loaded up with antibiotics and antifungals due to the overcrowding.  Then if they’re “lucky” they might end up in a somewhat comfortable tank that will never be big enough because whatever your tank size is will never match the Amazon River.  Not to mention the amount of electricity and water to run the show. All in all, it’s not a great thing for the planet or for the fish.  Any pets really aren’t good in general.  I’ve made my peace with this though because I really enjoy having pets and I want to do something selfish.  Still, I’ll do my best to minimize the impacts and resources and just be cognizant of these factors.

With that in mind, I researched which fish are farm raised and I think I’d rather stick to those fish.  I know it’s not as simple as farm>wild but I think I’m more comfortable with the idea.

Current plan:

  • 29 gallons
  • Substrate – Pool filter sand
  • Hang on back power filter with fishless cycling
  • Plants: Anything easy to grow.  I’ll need to add plant tablets for fertilizer since I’m not using flourite.
  • Possible fish –
    • Acara cichlid
    • Angelfish pair or Dwarf ram cichlid pair
    • Corydoras (4 to 6) – panda, aeneus, adolfoi
    • Gold algae eater

Maybe obsession is an understatement

Maybe what I have is a case of crazy.  It is 3:30 AM and since dinner I have rearranged the furniture for the gajillionth time to try to find a suitable place for an aquarium and then spent the next 7 or so hours reading aquarium forums.

I have been taking photos of our entire place in the hopes of finding that perfect corner.  Literally trying to picture it.  Last night before falling asleep, I figured it all out in my head.  I even managed to find a spot that’s hopefully big enough for the 29 gallon tank.  Originally, I thought I only had space for a 10 gallon which would make it a nano (supersmall) tank that can barely hold anything.  And by anything I mean cory cats.  I want cory cats because they’re cute.  Like little mice in the tank.

So after getting second and third opinions and even trying to poll an unsuspecting coworker who has no idea what my place even looks like, I have finally got it all figured out.  It involved moving a bookcase, a nightstand, a coffee table, two lamps, the couch, some plants, the dining table and chairs, a large mirror, and an end table, to get the 29 gallon tank in here, but it fits and I plan on picking up my tank and equipment this weekend.

In the meantime, I’ve been trying to figure out the substrate situation.  I want about a 2″ foundation where I can grow aquatic plants and that will provide a nice visual effect. Originally I was planning to use Seachem’s Flourite Black Sand.  But after reading Planted Tank’s forums, I’ve learned that blasting sand that you can get at hardware stores or pool filter sand is much cheaper and just as good.  But then I considered the cleaning issue – it’s hard to vacuum sand (as opposed to gravel) and the sand could clog our drains, so now I’m back to gravel.  Supposedly, cory cats like sand.  I’ve read that sharp gravel can cut their barbels and I’ve also read that it’s not true.  There’s non-sharp gravel, and I’m leaning towards that.

I’m also browsing around for aquatic plants.  I have no idea what to avoid or what’s easy to grow.  But one thing I don’t like is the ubiquitous presence of snails and other cling-ons that come with the plants.  The last time I tried to bathe my anacharis to get rid of the cling-ons, I killed it.  I don’t know why anyone would bleach their plants.  That’s a death sentence.  I learned today that a saltwater bath would do the trick.  I’ll try that next time.  There are also aquatic plants that are cultured meaning they’re raised in air in a gel medium and they don’t have any buggies on them.

I’m so tired right now I can hardly think straight.  This is a sickness.