First time 3ft planted tank

goldfish_is_orange

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After months of waiting, I finally got my hands on a (relatively) cheap 2nd hand 50gal tank set with a cabinet.
It was supposed to be a goldfish tank, but I figured 2 goldfish are already a handful, so I'll keep them in their 20gal.
Decided to upgrade my wife's 15gal micro-fish planted tank instead.

It will be my first time to do a proper planted tank. I say 'proper' because, though I have live plants in all of my tanks, this is the first one I spent time planning and researching on.

Updates to come in the next few months.

50gal.jpg

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Tank dimensions: 90 x 45 x 50h cm, 6mm glass, braced
Tank volume: ~52 US gal
Cabinet dimensions: 90 x 45 x 75h cm

Equipment (all of which came with the tank)
Sunsun HW-702A canister, 1000 Lph (~262gph), with double taps
Odyssea aquatics LED lights
Lily pipes

Substrate/Hardscape stocking (from old projects/freebies with the tank)
Volcanic rocks to hammer into smaller bits (substitute for volcano mineral)
Aqua soil
Aqua soil powder
Sand
Variety of big rocks
Driftwood

Plant stocking - none yet. I want to set up the hardscape first before I purchase the plants. But here's what I have planned:
Foreground - Monte carlo and/or dwarf baby tears for carpeting, marsilea crenata here and there
Midground - anubias, java fern (trident), hygrophilia araguaia
Background - rotala, ludwigia, ??

Livestock from my current tank
An assortment of tetras
Otocinclus
Kuhli loaches
To add: more tetras? haha

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I've never used a canister filter. I have HOBs and sponge filters on the other tanks. The Sunsun has 4 baskets for media-- 3 same-sized ones and 1 thinner layer (for the sponge, I guess?).
The guy who sold it to me gave me filled 1 basket with media. Aside from the sponge, do I have to fill the other baskets? What media is good? I'm using sponge + ceramic media on my HOBs.

So excited to take on this new project while we're still working from home. I'll try to post as many updates as I can.
 

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Wills

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This sounds really cool are you planning to go with ferts and or Co2? For some of the carpeting plants they really help but limit you in terms of fish and numbers. If you are not wanting to add Co2 I would go for marsilea hirsuta it’s a faster growing plant and looks good once it’s established I I have it mixed in with hair grass in my aquascaper. Some of the grass type carpets work better in low tech like sagittaria, helanthium tenelum and littorella.

I’ve recently added some rotala to my tank and really like it so would recommend the fine leaves and thin stems look really good and seems quite undemanding but mine is getting Co2 and ferts.

Looking forward to seeing this develop
 
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goldfish_is_orange

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This sounds really cool are you planning to go with ferts and or Co2? For some of the carpeting plants they really help but limit you in terms of fish and numbers. If you are not wanting to add Co2 I would go for marsilea hirsuta it’s a faster growing plant and looks good once it’s established I I have it mixed in with hair grass in my aquascaper. Some of the grass type carpets work better in low tech like sagittaria, helanthium tenelum and littorella.

I’ve recently added some rotala to my tank and really like it so would recommend the fine leaves and thin stems look really good and seems quite undemanding but mine is getting Co2 and ferts.

Looking forward to seeing this develop
The old tank used to have Co2 until my kid played with the knobs and the bubble counter exploded (lucky he wasn't injured). I'm thinking about using what's left of it in the first month, to speed up plant growth, then go low tech after that. I Googled the marsilea hirsuta, and I like them! Thanks for the suggestion. They're not as dense as the crenata, and looks like it grows a bit taller? I hope I find them at our lfs. I'll have a look at those grass types, too, but the wife may not like it haha. The thing is, my wife was really set on the monte carlo and she has tried 3x to make a carpet out of it. All attempts where unsuccessful, but I think that's because we really didn't know what we were doing.

So, short term, Co2 + ferts. Long term, no Co2, yes to ferts.
 
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goldfish_is_orange

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Day 1 scaping progress.


Empty tank
50gal scaping1.jpeg

With the volcanic rock base
50gal scaping2.jpeg

Aquasoil and aqua soil powder, sand and the wood.
50gal scaping3.jpeg

I need to add more soil, I think. And I really don't like that the "river" is so close to the middle. I will make the right island smaller, and move the river closer to the base of the wood.
Looking at getting some dragon stones for the left island. The ones I have now don't really go well with what's in the tank--they're just plain slabs of rock with no character. haha

That's all for now. If anyone has tips on what to put on the 2 empty canister baskets, I'd appreciate it.
 

mcordelia

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looking good! I was just thinking regarding the co2 - I dont have plant experience but I'm wondering whether you will get die-back if you first use co2 and then take it away? Thinking about terrestrial plants, if you all of a sudden remove light or adjust something else, the plants respond by dumping a bunch of leaves until they get acclimated to the new situation and start growing again, so you may just end up having to clean a bunch of dead plant matter up in your tank if you suddenly remove co2. Unless you're replacing the co2 with fish after the tank is cycled or something, maybe I just didn't read the above carefully enough...

what an exciting project though!
 

mcordelia

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looking good! I was just thinking regarding the co2 - I dont have plant experience but I'm wondering whether you will get die-back if you first use co2 and then take it away? Thinking about terrestrial plants, if you all of a sudden remove light or adjust something else, the plants respond by dumping a bunch of leaves until they get acclimated to the new situation and start growing again, so you may just end up having to clean a bunch of dead plant matter up in your tank if you suddenly remove co2. Unless you're replacing the co2 with fish after the tank is cycled or something, maybe I just didn't read the above carefully enough...

what an exciting project though!
 

DAnCSF

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Tank looks great, but I was wondering how do you expect to the keep the hills? over time wouldn't the black hills just erode to level? will you be using rocks etc...to keep the hills?
 
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goldfish_is_orange

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looking good! I was just thinking regarding the co2 - I dont have plant experience but I'm wondering whether you will get die-back if you first use co2 and then take it away? Thinking about terrestrial plants, if you all of a sudden remove light or adjust something else, the plants respond by dumping a bunch of leaves until they get acclimated to the new situation and start growing again, so you may just end up having to clean a bunch of dead plant matter up in your tank if you suddenly remove co2. Unless you're replacing the co2 with fish after the tank is cycled or something, maybe I just didn't read the above carefully enough...

what an exciting project though!
That's the idea. I will keep the Co2 on while cycling, and then take it out gradually as I add fish. Or I could skip the Co2 altogether and just stick to ferts!
 
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goldfish_is_orange

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Tank looks great, but I was wondering how do you expect to the keep the hills? over time wouldn't the black hills just erode to level? will you be using rocks etc...to keep the hills?
Thanks! There will be rocks at the base of the hills and the wood. I'm also going to widen the base of the hill and reduce the foreground sand area, to create more space for the rocks and plants. Still a long way to go!
 

Colin_T

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I can see the black gravel mixing with the yellow every time you do a water change.
 
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goldfish_is_orange

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Update! That comment from @Colin_T made me rethink my scape again. So here's version 3, with a little bit of water.

50gal scaping v3.jpeg

The plant stocking was disrupted by the missus, so the original plan is out the window. We went to 2 LFS and she got the plants she wanted: UG for carpet, a bunch of red plants, cabomba(!!!).. I got to put some crypts in the mix, so I guess that's a win for me :p
After 3 hours of planting:
50gal scaping v3-planted.jpeg50gal scaping v3-planted 2.jpeg50gal scaping v3-planted 3.jpeg50gal scaping v3-planted 4.jpeg

As you can see, the soil is now walled-off by the front of the tank and the smaller stones at the foot of the hill. I hope that would help with the erosion.
I also put a lot of bigger stones on the hill, to make different levels on the hillside. The cave at the bottom was a request from the missus. The cave on top was her own creation :)
We have an assortment of plants, different colors, different textures.. I think it turned out OK, even with that cabomba forest behind.
What I would like to do is to add carpeting plants on this side, too. Maybe something other than UG, for contrast.
50gal scaping v3-planted 7.jpeg

On the island side, we have a tree with another cave underneath. The back of all caves are also walled off by stones, by the way. We put most of the carpeting plants on this side. I must say I like this side better than the other one. Maybe I'm more of a hardscape kind of person. haha! 2 of my red crypts are here, one on top of the cave, and another on the wood. There's a golden anubias nana on the side. I'm still missing the weeping moss for the wood because we couldn't find any.
50gal scaping v3-planted 8.jpeg

Questions which I hope those more experienced in planted tanks can answer:
1. With the UG and all these red plants, is Co2 now required?
2. Do I have enough plants to keep the algae at bay? I'm worried that huge area of unplanted substrate would invite algae to party soon. I'm starting with 6 hours of light.
3. I can't put the lily pipe on the sides of the tank because of the brace. So I placed it at the back, with the outflow slanted towards the front/right side of the tank. Should I ditch this and get another one that would fit? I ask because I don't know where to put my Co2 diffuser if it's set up that way. What I've seen online and at the LFS was an outflow on the top left, with water flowing towards the right, then the Co2 diffuser on the bottom right. It makes the Co2 distribution more effective.
4. What other plants would do great on wood? So far I've considered only weeping moss and anubias nana petite.

That's all for today's update. Comments are welcome on the scape, plant stocking, etc. Good, bad, happy, sad, I'm all for it!
 

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