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Refurbished 40ish gallon dirted tank/aquascape

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Tacocat

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Hi!

I've been inactive for a while and I've just gotten back into the hobby because my family got a hand me down tank from my cousins. Today we just did the dirt, substrate, hardscape, and first plants while also adding some bacteria bombs.

We're planning to add more plants to fill in the tank in order to make it more hospitable for ABFs. If you have any recommendations for plants and tankmates let me know, but our list currently is as follows:
Current plants: Anubias, various mosses, monte carlo, ludwigia repens, and hygrophilia.
Future plants: Java ferns, more stem plants like rotala, water wisteria, and some eleocaris and floaters like salvinia.

For organisms we plan to start adding them probably in the next couple of weeks, and eventually we hope to have our tank established enough that by the time ABFs are in stock in my city.

Organism plan(in order):
First batch: nerite x2, cory cats, and a school of some tetra that won't get eaten by ABF(thinking emperors)
Second batch: more dither tetras and maybe more catfish(1 pleco?) and perhaps some neocaridinas from our 5 gallon
When we add the butterfly fish there should be enough foliage that they should get along fine with the other fish

Please let me know if you have any suggestions regarding the list and tips for ABFs, but otherwise thanks for reading!
IMG_7065.jpgIMG_7066.jpgIMG_7068.jpg
 
Some questions...

How are you going to cycle a tank in a couple of weeks? Optimistically it takes at least a month or so. "Bacteria Bombs" won't speed things up a lot especially as most don't even have the right bacteria.

Why do you want dirt in your substrate? Usually such organic media cause more problems than good. Also they don't last as to nutrients. Personally I've never used soil in a tank so I'm just going by what others have said in other threads.

Do you have a test kit to check the tank for being cycled before adding live critters? I would recommend the APII Master Test Kit.

Shoot, reading what I put above it tends to sound all negative as to what you are doing but that is not at all my intent. I'm just curious as to how and why you are doing things. Also answers to my questions may help others with more knowledge offer more help.

BTW, :hi: back to the hobby. :)
 
Some questions...

How are you going to cycle a tank in a couple of weeks? Optimistically it takes at least a month or so. "Bacteria Bombs" won't speed things up a lot especially as most don't even have the right bacteria.

Why do you want dirt in your substrate? Usually such organic media cause more problems than good. Also they don't last as to nutrients. Personally I've never used soil in a tank so I'm just going by what others have said in other threads.

Do you have a test kit to check the tank for being cycled before adding live critters? I would recommend the APII Master Test Kit.

Shoot, reading what I put above it tends to sound all negative as to what you are doing but that is not at all my intent. I'm just curious as to how and why you are doing things. Also answers to my questions may help others with more knowledge offer more help.

BTW, :hi: back to the hobby. :)
we’re using dirt simply because its cheaper for such a large tank. I now realize how much of a pain it was to deal with and when I get my own tank at uni I’ll use aquasoil but it’s too late now for this tank. The cycling bacteria bombs I’m using is stuff from existing tanks, as well as some plants from my established 5 gal. I’m going to wait until nitrite -> nitrate bacteria are in(I have a test kit), wait a couple of days, then start with minimal fish.

Edit: the addition of floaters with the first fish should also help take some of the bioload.
 
This is no direct reference to ytou, but we all learn as we go through this hobby. This fish, Pantadon buchholzi: First, they absolutely must have thick floating plants. Left on their own, they will be severely stressed and likely not come out of the corners. Second, you cannot safely keep anything else with them. Any fish that approaches the surface will be attacked, and these fish have enormous mouths. They are true ambush predators.

Second, plain inert sand is your best aquascaping medium. Dirt has absolutely no benefits, and it can be loaded with organics to send ammonia and nitrite through the roof.

The following from my online profile may help.

Compatibility/Temperament: Peaceful but predatory, they are generally a good community fish with appropriate tankmates. They will eat small fish that approach the surface. Should not be maintained with other surface dwelling fish. Fish in the lower levels of the aquarium must be peaceful. Any fish prone to nip fins must be avoided. A pair will do well in a 24-30 inch tank, or a small group in larger quarters.

Diet

In the wild this fish is primarily an insectivore. In the aquarium, they will therefore relish live insects (flies, beetles, spiders)but they will also appreciate freeze-dried, frozen and flake food once accustomed. They eat best when the food floats past their eye. Sinking foods will be ignored. Any small fish near the surface will usually be snapped up quickly.​
Description

Pantodon buchholzi is indeed a remarkable species. There are two distinct populations known in the wild, one in the Niger River basin and one in the basin of the Congo River, and only recently have these been shown to have significant genetic differences that have existed for at least 57.2 million years. In spite of this, the species is an example of what is termed "morphological stasis," which means that the morphology (the form or shape) has remained virtually unchanged throughout the species' existence. This constancy is believed to be greater than that of all vertebrate examples in fossil records (Lavoue, et al, 2011; cited in Dawes, 2011). Further study may determine that these are in fact two distinct species; the genetic differences between the two populations are so wide that "they might even be reproductively isolated owing to genetic incompatibilities." (Dawes, 2011).

This very unique fish will spend all of its time at the surface, frequently motionless among the floating or overhanging plants, lying in wait for food. At any sign of insects, small fish at the surface or prepared foods, it springs into action remarkably quick. Its mouth is very large.

This fish is capable of aerial respiration using the swim bladder. And the eyes are designed so that the fish can simultaneously see above and below the surface of the water. This is of particular importance when one considers that this fish has over-sized pectoral fins which are used to propel them out of the water, in the manner of the freshwater hatchetfishes, to catch flying insects and they can glide several feet. A good secure cover to the tank is strictly necessary and all holes for the filtration systems, air hoses, heaters, etc. must be very small.

The tank should be sparsely planted, with a few floating plants for hiding and to feel at home. Water movement should be minimal, replicating the fish's natural habitats. The tank should be dimly lit, and a dark substrate will be appreciated.​
Spawning is not too difficult, and may be initiated by lowering the water level to just a few inches for a few weeks. Males have their anal fin curved with an even cleft whereas females have a straight-edged anal fin.

The appearance of the fish from above gave rise to the common name; this species bears no relationship to the true marine butterfly fishes.

This fish was described by W.C.H. Peters in 1876. It is the only species in the genus, and there are no other genera in the family. The name Pantodontidae is derived from the Greek pan [= all] and odous [= tooth, teeth]. The species epithet honours a Professor Buchholz who discovered this species. Two sub-species described by C. Bruning in 1911 were determined by Gosse (1984) to be conspecific with the subject species.

Pantodontidae is closely related to the family Osteoglossidae (Arowana) and these along with five other families that include the Arapaima, Elephantnoses and Knifefishes, belong to the Order Osteoglossiformes. The name derives from the Greek osteon [= bone] and glossa [= tongue] plus the Latin forma [= shape], and in English these fishes are referred to as the bony tongues. This is a very primitive order, with fossil records as far back as the late Jurassic period (roughly 161 to 145 million years ago). To put this into perspective, this was the period when the supercontinent Pangaea broke up into the two supercontinents Laurasia and Gondwana, which in time further divided into the continents as we know them today.​
 
This is no direct reference to ytou, but we all learn as we go through this hobby. This fish, Pantadon buchholzi: First, they absolutely must have thick floating plants. Left on their own, they will be severely stressed and likely not come out of the corners. Second, you cannot safely keep anything else with them.
I’ll keep that in mind when adding the floaters. I know you said no other fish, but surely bottom dwelling catfish and plecos would be safe right?

Also regarding mid level fish, if I add enough tall plants, would perhaps something like glass catfish be suitable? I don’t believe those are fun nippers and from what I’ve seen they’re peaceful.

If none of these are viable then I might reconsider my fish selection, but thanks for the advice

Edit: if I were to scrap the ABF idea would a school of hatchetfish work along with more mid-level schooling fish?
 
Last edited:
This is no direct reference to ytou, but we all learn as we go through this hobby. This fish, Pantadon buchholzi: First, they absolutely must have thick floating plants. Left on their own, they will be severely stressed and likely not come out of the corners. Second, you cannot safely keep anything else with them. Any fish that approaches the surface will be attacked, and these fish have enormous mouths. They are true ambush predators.

Second, plain inert sand is your best aquascaping medium. Dirt has absolutely no benefits, and it can be loaded with organics to send ammonia and nitrite through the roof.

The following from my online profile may help.

Compatibility/Temperament: Peaceful but predatory, they are generally a good community fish with appropriate tankmates. They will eat small fish that approach the surface. Should not be maintained with other surface dwelling fish. Fish in the lower levels of the aquarium must be peaceful. Any fish prone to nip fins must be avoided. A pair will do well in a 24-30 inch tank, or a small group in larger quarters.​
Diet
In the wild this fish is primarily an insectivore. In the aquarium, they will therefore relish live insects (flies, beetles, spiders)but they will also appreciate freeze-dried, frozen and flake food once accustomed. They eat best when the food floats past their eye. Sinking foods will be ignored. Any small fish near the surface will usually be snapped up quickly.​
Description
Pantodon buchholzi is indeed a remarkable species. There are two distinct populations known in the wild, one in the Niger River basin and one in the basin of the Congo River, and only recently have these been shown to have significant genetic differences that have existed for at least 57.2 million years. In spite of this, the species is an example of what is termed "morphological stasis," which means that the morphology (the form or shape) has remained virtually unchanged throughout the species' existence. This constancy is believed to be greater than that of all vertebrate examples in fossil records (Lavoue, et al, 2011; cited in Dawes, 2011). Further study may determine that these are in fact two distinct species; the genetic differences between the two populations are so wide that "they might even be reproductively isolated owing to genetic incompatibilities." (Dawes, 2011).​
This very unique fish will spend all of its time at the surface, frequently motionless among the floating or overhanging plants, lying in wait for food. At any sign of insects, small fish at the surface or prepared foods, it springs into action remarkably quick. Its mouth is very large.​
This fish is capable of aerial respiration using the swim bladder. And the eyes are designed so that the fish can simultaneously see above and below the surface of the water. This is of particular importance when one considers that this fish has over-sized pectoral fins which are used to propel them out of the water, in the manner of the freshwater hatchetfishes, to catch flying insects and they can glide several feet. A good secure cover to the tank is strictly necessary and all holes for the filtration systems, air hoses, heaters, etc. must be very small.​
The tank should be sparsely planted, with a few floating plants for hiding and to feel at home. Water movement should be minimal, replicating the fish's natural habitats. The tank should be dimly lit, and a dark substrate will be appreciated.​
Spawning is not too difficult, and may be initiated by lowering the water level to just a few inches for a few weeks. Males have their anal fin curved with an even cleft whereas females have a straight-edged anal fin.​
The appearance of the fish from above gave rise to the common name; this species bears no relationship to the true marine butterfly fishes.​
This fish was described by W.C.H. Peters in 1876. It is the only species in the genus, and there are no other genera in the family. The name Pantodontidae is derived from the Greek pan [= all] and odous [= tooth, teeth]. The species epithet honours a Professor Buchholz who discovered this species. Two sub-species described by C. Bruning in 1911 were determined by Gosse (1984) to be conspecific with the subject species.​
Pantodontidae is closely related to the family Osteoglossidae (Arowana) and these along with five other families that include the Arapaima, Elephantnoses and Knifefishes, belong to the Order Osteoglossiformes. The name derives from the Greek osteon [= bone] and glossa [= tongue] plus the Latin forma [= shape], and in English these fishes are referred to as the bony tongues. This is a very primitive order, with fossil records as far back as the late Jurassic period (roughly 161 to 145 million years ago). To put this into perspective, this was the period when the supercontinent Pangaea broke up into the two supercontinents Laurasia and Gondwana, which in time further divided into the continents as we know them today.​
Also about the dirt, it’s a little too late to replace that. Is there anything I can do to reduce the risk of ammonia spikes? While there’s still no fish I’ve been trying to poke into the substrate to try and release any gas bubbles. Is there anything else or is it a list cause. My main issue is that my parents are managing this tank and are urging my brother and I to hurry up with the process, and the dirt option was cheapest.
 
I know you said no other fish, but surely bottom dwelling catfish and plecos would be safe right?

No, I do not consider this wise. I had a group of this fish (male and female) back in the 1980's and even a catfish that came up to the surface to breath was attacked. This is a very serious predator. And most fish will come up to feed.

Also regarding mid level fish, if I add enough tall plants, would perhaps something like glass catfish be suitable? I don’t believe those are fun nippers and from what I’ve seen they’re peaceful.

That is a very delicate fish, and not something you want in a tank with a predator upper fish.

Edit: if I were to scrap the ABF idea would a school of hatchetfish work along with more mid-level schooling fish?

Depending upon other fish, yes, without the Butterfly Fish. You do need more floating plants for any of these.
 
Also about the dirt, it’s a little too late to replace that. Is there anything I can do to reduce the risk of ammonia spikes? While there’s still no fish I’ve been trying to poke into the substrate to try and release any gas bubbles. Is there anything else or is it a list cause. My main issue is that my parents are managing this tank and are urging my brother and I to hurry up with the process, and the dirt option was cheapest.

Cheap rarely works. Nothing is much cheaper than play sand, if it is Quikrete Play Sand which you can get at Home Depot or Lowe's for about 6 dollars a 25kg bag which would more than work here. You mention cories, they must have this, dirt is too full of organics and bacterial issues.
 
T
Cheap rarely works. Nothing is much cheaper than play sand, if it is Quikrete Play Sand which you can get at Home Depot or Lowe's for about 6 dollars a 25kg bag which would more than work here. You mention cories, they must have this, dirt is too full of organics and bacterial issues.
The entire bottom is covered in some aquarium sand we got from the LFS, which should work for cories.
IMG_7066.jpeg

As for the issues you mentioned earlier about butterfly fish, I might reconsider with hatchetfish instead, which would be compatible with much more.

I’m currently planting more fast growing stem plants to try to kick-start the plant cycling process, and I’m following the cycling guide as I haven’t set up a tank in a while.
 
I've added some more plants and it seems that they're starting to get settled in. I just took my first water test of this tank and got back 0.25 ammonia, 0 nitrites, and 5 ppm nitrates. I'm not sure where the nitrates came from, but I think it might have to do with the bacteria bombing, as well as the bacteria that came on the plants.

I plan to do a water test every other day over this week, and next weekend when I have time I'll be adding some more wood/rocks and plants.

Also, what's your experience with seiryu stone and increasing PH? I just realized I may have screwed up by putting it into an ideally acidic tank. Should I just add more wood or is there something else I can do to keep the ph low as the rocks leach calcium carbonate into the water?

IMG_7069.jpg


I'll also be updating when I notice new plant growth.
 
Day 4 of the tank: noticing increasing ph, probably due to the seiryu stone. This weekend we're going to try to buffer it using leaves and more wood to bring down the ph.

IMG_7071.jpg
With regards to the water parameters, I'm a little confused with regards to the nitrate. When I did the first test two days ago, I got about 0.25 ppm ammonia, no nitrites, and about 5ppm nitrate. Now this time we have 0.5-1 ppm ammonia, 0 nitrites, and somehow less nitrate than last time. I'm just a little confused as to where it the nitrates could have disappeared. Also, do these readings mean that ammonia-nitrite bacteria are there yet, and that nitrite to nitrate bacteria are just using all of it the moment it is made, or are they simply not grown yet? There are plants that have been in previous tanks before and have good bacteria on them, it's just that the readings are curious.
 
Give it all a bit more time as initial tests can be misleading especially when it comes to PH and nitrates. Have you tested your source water for these levels? If not you need to do so but don't just test the 'tap water' right away. Put some in a decent sized container of at least a gallon and let it set for at least 24 hours. After letting the source water set for a day the results can be surprisingly different that if tested straight out of the tap.

Others may correct this but your tank is probably cycled but, of course, not mature. 5PPM of nitrates is nothing and could probably even be lower with more plants. On the other hand plants sort of delay the development of the good bacteria as they will suck ammonia faster than bacteria.

I would test a few other things but I think your tank is about ready for some hardy fish.

As to the ammonia being 0.5-1.0 PPM it really isn't as most is actually ammonium. Use the calculator linked below to find the true level of harmful ammonia; just plug in the numbers. Just as an example let's say that your ammonia test reads 1.0PPM, water temp at 78F and a PH of 7.0 and salinity of 0.0. Under these conditions the actual harmful level of ammonia (NH3) is 0.006PPM which is nothing to worry about. The rest is actually Ammonium (NH4) which isn't really a major concern.

 
Give it all a bit more time as initial tests can be misleading especially when it comes to PH and nitrates. Have you tested your source water for these levels? If not you need to do so but don't just test the 'tap water' right away. Put some in a decent sized container of at least a gallon and let it set for at least 24 hours. After letting the source water set for a day the results can be surprisingly different that if tested straight out of the tap.

Others may correct this but your tank is probably cycled but, of course, not mature. 5PPM of nitrates is nothing and could probably even be lower with more plants. On the other hand plants sort of delay the development of the good bacteria as they will suck ammonia faster than bacteria.

I would test a few other things but I think your tank is about ready for some hardy fish.

As to the ammonia being 0.5-1.0 PPM it really isn't as most is actually ammonium. Use the calculator linked below to find the true level of harmful ammonia; just plug in the numbers. Just as an example let's say that your ammonia test reads 1.0PPM, water temp at 78F and a PH of 7.0 and salinity of 0.0. Under these conditions the actual harmful level of ammonia (NH3) is 0.006PPM which is nothing to worry about. The rest is actually Ammonium (NH4) which isn't really a major concern.

Oh ok I see. That's good to hear, but I'm still going to wait a bit and play it safe just to see the parameters settle down properly, and so that I can have time to add more hardscape and plants.

Thanks for your input though.

Good article I found in research:
 
Fish added! We got 12 kerri tetras and 2 nerite snails to start, and then 2 weeks later we'll perhaps get some shrimp and maybe cories.

IMG_7101.jpg


Edit: you'll also notice we added some leaves to lower the ph and hardness as well
 

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