90L Dirtied Planted Tank

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MattW3344

fishy wishy
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I planned to do this next week but had the day off, so I thought I'd start the tank today ๐Ÿ˜. It's a rimless 90L (600mm x 400mm x 400mm) aquarium. The plan for this is to home my expanding group of Sawbwa resplendens. I decided on the dirted-style aquarium mainly for its cost-effectiveness and hopefully fast-growing impact it will have on the plants. The hardscape choice was some cobbles and a terracotta pot. I do have some driftwood spare but I always have issues will algae taking over whenever I've previously used driftwood. The plants are all from my other aquariums (I will make a list later on in this journal). I didn't fill this aquarium to the top as I wanted room for the floating plants and a lid as I've had this species of fish jump out of my tank before. I'm hoping nothing will go wrong with this tank but time will tell๐Ÿคž.

Process and Plan
I started with a plan of a 1-inch layer of soil and a 2-ish-inch cap layer of sand and gravel as I only had a small amount of sand and gravel :/. Thanks again to @WhistlingBadger for the advice on a previous thread.
Untitled.jpg


Above the 1-inch layer of soil, I had a layer of black aquarium sand around the edges and horticultural grit in the center (1st image) I then added the terracotta pot above that. I didn't plug the pot as the plant going in there is a heavy root feeder when established, so I thought it could benefit from the soil. I then added the coarse sand above that to act as the other cap layer and finish off the substrate. I then added a few cobbles as hardscape (2nd image). I then began planting foreground plants and some stem plants. Sadly all my crypts have had a huge melt so I'm hoping they recover well in the new tank (3rd image). I also added some old aqua soil into the pot along with a root tab and capped that off with pea pebbles. The two cobbles in each back corner are where the heater and filter will be. I put them there to ensure no plants would grow beneath them and make it easier to do maintenance on them without the chance of me ripping a plant up with the equipment (I've done this before ๐Ÿคฆโ€โ™‚๏ธ)
3.jpg

After that, it was a case of filling up the tank, finishing off the planting, and installing the filter and heater. I also changed around some of the plants and put them in different locations as I scavenged for plants from my other tanks.

After filling up, the tank was remarkably quite clear. But I decided to get one of the sponges of an old sponge filter and squeeze it into the tank just to help seed the aquarium. This sponge also ended up being compacted into the filter as well. Also, some bladder snails hitchhiked across on plants which I don't mind as I now consider them test subjects for the water quality over the next month.

And here is the sort of finished product ๐Ÿ˜
4.jpg


Some more plants may be added in the future as well as hardscape but I'm happy at the moment with what I have. I will probably do an update in a week or two on water parameters and the plant list.
 
I planned to do this next week but had the day off, so I thought I'd start the tank today ๐Ÿ˜. It's a rimless 90L (600mm x 400mm x 400mm) aquarium. The plan for this is to home my expanding group of Sawbwa resplendens. I decided on the dirted-style aquarium mainly for its cost-effectiveness and hopefully fast-growing impact it will have on the plants. The hardscape choice was some cobbles and a terracotta pot. I do have some driftwood spare but I always have issues will algae taking over whenever I've previously used driftwood. The plants are all from my other aquariums (I will make a list later on in this journal). I didn't fill this aquarium to the top as I wanted room for the floating plants and a lid as I've had this species of fish jump out of my tank before. I'm hoping nothing will go wrong with this tank but time will tell๐Ÿคž.

Process and Plan
I started with a plan of a 1-inch layer of soil and a 2-ish-inch cap layer of sand and gravel as I only had a small amount of sand and gravel :/. Thanks again to @WhistlingBadger for the advice on a previous thread.
View attachment 335938

Above the 1-inch layer of soil, I had a layer of black aquarium sand around the edges and horticultural grit in the center (1st image) I then added the terracotta pot above that. I didn't plug the pot as the plant going in there is a heavy root feeder when established, so I thought it could benefit from the soil. I then added the coarse sand above that to act as the other cap layer and finish off the substrate. I then added a few cobbles as hardscape (2nd image). I then began planting foreground plants and some stem plants. Sadly all my crypts have had a huge melt so I'm hoping they recover well in the new tank (3rd image). I also added some old aqua soil into the pot along with a root tab and capped that off with pea pebbles. The two cobbles in each back corner are where the heater and filter will be. I put them there to ensure no plants would grow beneath them and make it easier to do maintenance on them without the chance of me ripping a plant up with the equipment (I've done this before ๐Ÿคฆโ€โ™‚๏ธ)
View attachment 335939
After that, it was a case of filling up the tank, finishing off the planting, and installing the filter and heater. I also changed around some of the plants and put them in different locations as I scavenged for plants from my other tanks.

After filling up, the tank was remarkably quite clear. But I decided to get one of the sponges of an old sponge filter and squeeze it into the tank just to help seed the aquarium. This sponge also ended up being compacted into the filter as well. Also, some bladder snails hitchhiked across on plants which I don't mind as I now consider them test subjects for the water quality over the next month.

And here is the sort of finished product ๐Ÿ˜
View attachment 335940

Some more plants may be added in the future as well as hardscape but I'm happy at the moment with what I have. I will probably do an update in a week or two on water parameters and the plant list.
These DIY projects makes TFF very informative and reminds me that we think alike and speak one language. Waiting for updates.
 

Update and plant list ๐Ÿชด

I just completed a few tests on water chemistry after five days since setup. I did test ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, PH, KH, and GH levels.

Tests.jpg


Chart.jpg

KH - 35.6ppm - 2 German degrees / GH - 53.4ppm - 3 German degrees

Ammonia - 1ppm/2ppm
Nitrite - 0ppm
Nitrate - 10ppm/20ppm
PH - 7.2/7.6


I am not shocked by these results as I was warned of high levels of ammonia and Nitrate after the setup of a dirted tank, especially in such a short time frame from the tank being set up. I'm most likely not going to do a water change but I am at a crossroads on whether to do one or not. The one thing that I do need to change is the GH and KH levels. These are a bit too low for the fish intended for this tank which prefer a GH of 3-15. I've been thinking of adding crushed coral or crushed oyster shells to help increase the hardness levels. The bladder snail hitchhikers don't seem to be affected at all by these conditions as they have even laid eggs and the population has pretty much doubled since the tank was set up.

Plant List ๐Ÿชด

(Most recent Image)
Tank.jpg


Plants
  • Rotala rotundifolia H'ra
  • Hygrophila corymbosa compact
  • Cryptocoryne usteriana
  • Cryptocoryne undulatus
  • Cryptocoryne wendtii brown
  • Cryptocoryne parva
  • Staurogyne repens
  • Rotala Indica
  • Ludwigia Super red
  • Myriophyllum mattogrossense
  • Bolbitis heudelotii
  • Microsorum pteropus (Java Fern)
  • Hygrophila corymbosa (Siamensis 53B)
  • Elodea densa
  • Crinum calamistratum
  • Nymphea Tiger Lotus red (dormant)
  • Water Lettuce
  • Duckweed
  • Limnobium laevigatum (Amazon frogbit)
More will be added with time ๐Ÿ˜

 
Nice! Love the plant selection, looks like they'll fill in really nicely.
I'd actually say your nitrite reading is closer to 0.25ppm, considering a reading of zero is always a really strong greenish-aqua color. And I might go so far as to say your ammonia readings are actually somewhere between 2-4ppm. The key is to look at the hue, rather than the value (lightness). The ammonia scale goes from yellow to green, so 1-2ppm are still noticeably yellow-green, whereas your test looks like a more solid neutral green.
 
Nice! Love the plant selection, looks like they'll fill in really nicely.
I'd actually say your nitrite reading is closer to 0.25ppm, considering a reading of zero is always a really strong greenish-aqua color. And I might go so far as to say your ammonia readings are actually somewhere between 2-4ppm. The key is to look at the hue, rather than the value (lightness). The ammonia scale goes from yellow to green, so 1-2ppm are still noticeably yellow-green, whereas your test looks like a more solid neutral green.
You are definitely right after looking back at the photos. Perhaps I should add some beneficial bacteria to help with bringing the levels down. Or would a water change just be a better idea?
 
You are definitely right after looking back at the photos. Perhaps I should add some beneficial bacteria to help with bringing the levels down. Or would a water change just be a better idea?
You definitely do want some ammonia in the tank to keep the beneficial bacteria on the sponge alive. Depending on the bioload of the tank the sponge came from, the population is probably also a bit overloaded currently. The presence of nitrites is a hopeful sign, but you'll still want higher ammonia to help the colony build up more.

You could probably leave it for now. Plants can generally handle up to about 5ppm ammonia, afaik. However, I don't know enough about plants to tell whether some of the species on your list are more delicate. If you do have delicate plants, then I'd do a small water change to bring it down to 2-3ppm. The beneficial bacteria also can't hurt.
 
You definitely do want some ammonia in the tank to keep the beneficial bacteria on the sponge alive. Depending on the bioload of the tank the sponge came from, the population is probably also a bit overloaded currently. The presence of nitrites is a hopeful sign, but you'll still want higher ammonia to help the colony build up more.

You could probably leave it for now. Plants can generally handle up to about 5ppm ammonia, afaik. However, I don't know enough about plants to tell whether some of the species on your list are more delicate. If you do have delicate plants, then I'd do a small water change to bring it down to 2-3ppm. The beneficial bacteria also can't hurt.
The sponge was from my fry tank about 20+ fry and โˆž bladder snails. Surprisingly the crypts are doing very well after a few meltings and most of the stems already have new shoots. There is a growing amount of hair algae and a white fuzz on the gravel though, but nothing is dying or polluting the tank. I have a 10L tote so I might do a 10L water change then and look for bottled bacteria. I've also set the lighting to 6hr 20min (13:00 to 19:20) using a smart plug. Thanks for the help and advice also :)
 

Algae takeover​


The amount of algae has exploded over the last few days. The main type from what I can tell is hair algae. It's on the plants, hardscape, and glass there are also small amounts of diatom algae and a suspicious white fuzz focused on one cobble. Apart from that the more positive news is that the plants are growing well with already a couple of new leaves on the crypt wendtii brown. The stems are doing well also with the rotala growing the fastest out of the 4 stem plant species in the tank currently. The other good news is that the Tiger lotus is finally sending out new leaves ๐Ÿ˜ and the floating plants are duplicating quickly. I did a 10L water change the other day and added some bottled beneficial bacteria today. Here's hoping the parameters will stabilize in the coming weeks ๐Ÿคž. I will be testing parameters again next week just as a check-up.
Image.jpg
 
I found a bottle brush useful for combing away hair algae! Fiddly, and have to be careful and gentle (I'm always accidentally catching a stem from my crinum when doing maintenance on that tank, but love that plant! I haven't had to deal with hair algae for a while, but since your plants are clearly growing, I bet between manually removing as much hair algae as you can with a bottle brush or by hand, that the plants will soon outcompete it. The hair algae I was dealing with in my first tanks went away after some bottle brush battles and once plants were more established.

This looks wonderful, I'm so tempted to copy!! I lost a lot of plants because I forget to add root tabs and ferts, and just didn't have time in the last year to maintain the plants. But still have the crinum, my hardy crypt (I think wendetti brown, not sure), and a bolbitis, so was excited to see yours, and it's amazing the way the bolbitis perked up so much in the space of a week or so!

Hope it all goes well, following! ๐Ÿ˜

ETA: Oh, may I ask what the advice from @WhistlingBadger was, or which thread that was, please? I want to learn too. :D
 

Changes to the tank​


The tank has been set up for two weeks now. During this time the algae has been growing rapidly in the tank, but the plants have been settling in well overall. However, the java fern started to turn brown and was quickly becoming infested by bladder snails. I removed the java fern and bought a supposed "sword plant," which turned out to be a terrestrial plant ๐Ÿคฆโ€โ™‚๏ธ. I then replaced that with an Anubias congensis, which I put in the tank today. I had to glue a small pebble to a section of the rhizome to weigh it down, and I hope it doesn't develop Anubias rot. I have also ordered some Hornwort and Anubias Nana from Etsy, which I plan to use to fill in some of the empty areas of the tank.
1.jpg


I also decided to test the water again. Ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate. Thankfully the ammonia levels have dropped but now the nitrates have gone up. I've done a 10% water change today and will test in a couple more days if there are still high levels of nitrate I will most likely do a 20% water change.
2.jpg
 

First Inhabitants!​


It's been 25 days since set up and the first inhabitants are in. I got some cherry shrimp I've never kept Neocardinia before only Amano's so I thought I'd try something new. I bought 12 but ended up with 15 (including a baby). All seem healthy/scavenging and have been in the tank for over an hour. They also look to be decent-grade cherry shrimp, which I guess is always a bonus. I'm hoping they can control the hair algae issue I'm currently facing๐Ÿคž They were temperature acclimated for 20 minutes and drip acclimated for 45 minutes. The sawbwa will most likely be added in 1-2 weeks.


Tank Picture
Photo 25-02-2024, 15 08 37.jpg
 

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