Wednesday, March 30, 2016

"Passionately Curious": Week 3 Update

It had been three weeks since the tank was setup. I decided to name my first planted tank "Passionately Curious" as part of my favorite quote from Albert Einstein. I hope to keep my curiosity remains for the whole journey of the planted tank and keep learning new interesting things. 


It might be the time to share the tank overall information as of now.

Tank Size:
60cm x 30cm x 36cm (High Clarity / Low Iron Glass: GUSH Crystal Garden 60M)
Gross Tank Volume:
64.8L
Actual Tank Volume:
54.0L (without substrate, hardscape...etc.)
 
Substrate:
ADA Aquasoil New Amazonia Powder (9L)
Filter System:
Eheim Ecco Pro 300 + 13mm Eheim inflow pipe / VIV glass lily pipe ouflow. 
Filter Media:
Seachem Matrix + Eheim BioMech + Eheim SubstratPro
Temperature:
About 29°C to 30°C 
Lighting:
Up Aqua Z-Series Pro LED Z-20 (60cm) 2nd Generation Version (30LED x 0.5W)
Light Duration:
6 hours (0700hrs- 1300hrs)- First week
7 hours: Second and third week
8 hours: 4th week onward
Pressurized Co2:
OceanFree Co2 System + ISTA Inline Reactor / 2bps / 25-30 ppm
Co2 Duration:
6 hours (0700hrs- 1300hrs)
7 hours: 2nd and 3rd week 
8 hours: 4th week onward
Carbon Supplement:
Seachem Excel / 1.25ml daily
Fertilizer:
Seachem Florish / 1ml weekly
Seachem Iron/ 1.25ml every other day
Seachem Potassium / 2ml every 2 days
Other additives:
Seachem Prime
WaterLife BacterLife / 5ml weekly
Fan/Chiller:
None
Water Change Regimen:
25% every 2-3 days
Flora:
Foreground
Eleocharis acicularis 'Mini'
Mid-ground
Rotala 'Bonsai'
Mid-ground
Riccia fluitans
Mid-ground
Staurogyne repens
Background
Pogostemon 'erectus'
Background
Echinodorus tenellus 'Green'
Background
Heteranthera zosterifolia

The plants so far have been growing very well under the routine mentioned above on lighting, CO2 and fertilizer given without any algae or snail issue, touch wood. I believe all of the careful preparation steps makes that happened. From boiling driftwood, rocks to choosing plants which were algae/snail free (i.e. Tropica 1-2 Grow!) really made the different and it is worth the investment. I bet no beginner would want to see algae and snails in their very first planted tank. :)

Some of the photos update on Day 18 that I captured here:-

Carpet Eleocharis acicularis 'Mini' has grown quite well and filling the foreground progressively
Side view from the right
Side view from the left. I am waiting for the inlet glass lily pipe to come to replace Eheim inlet pipe. It work well so far but I think the tank will look much better with both inflow and outflow glass lily pipe. :)
Heteranthera zosterifolia has grown so fast and touched water surface. Soon, trimming session will be done so that it can look more bushy and dense. :)
The tank from a side view
Front view of the tank. Behind background look a bit messy now, but I believe it will be better after few trimming sessions. 
Some videos recorded during the beginning period are posted below.

Day 1 to Day 7 Progress:-


Day 17 Progress:-


Overall, I am quite satisfied with the plants's growing progress so far. The tank, however is not cycled yet at this point of time. I might mention about cycling process in another post when the tank is fully cycled. Can't wait to see the first fauna introduced to the tank. Nevertheless, I really enjoy seeing the plants growing everyday. Cheers! :)

Friday, March 11, 2016

Planting Complete

I went to GC one more time to buy some new stock of Tropica 1-2 Grow! plants which would fill the blanks in the tank and complete my planting scheme. 

Mid-ground: Staurogyne repens: mid-ground
Background (left): Echidonorus tenellus 'Green'
Background (center): Pogostemon erectus

Ready for planting
Sketch of my planting scheme

This time the work was done very fast. In about half an hour, I was able to finish planting the new one to the tank. It looked more complete now with background and mid-ground plants. 

Echidonorus tenellus 'Green' was planted at the top left corner. There was only few plants in the tub, so that looked so little there. Pogostemon erectus was planted at the centre background. 
Staurogyne repens was planted at the right mid-ground and also some under the driftwood. Hopefully it would grow well under the shade since it is a hardy plants that can thrive under low light condition.
Staurogyne repens under the shade. :)
The tank's water was not clear and quite cloudy with whitish-gray hue colour from day 2. Hopefully, it would be clearer after the first week with few water changes. For now, planting stage has been completed. I had setup the schedule for lighting, CO2 and fertilizer dosing and will follow up according to the plan. Let's start the journey! :)

Planting complete

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Planting in Progress

The most important day finally came. Nerves of steel. No back down. :)

I purchased some 1-2 Grow! Tropica plants from Green Chapter and spent whole night setting up the tank. It took about 5-6 hours to finish all of this work since that was my first time hands-on. Hopefully, next time, if any, it would be faster. :) 

The photos below describes my work process to set up the tank.
5 pots of 1-2 Grow! was bought for this initial stage, including:
2 x Eleocharis acicularis 'Mini' - Foreground
1 x Rotala 'Bonsai' - Midground
1x Heteranthera zosterifolia - Background
1 x Riccia fluitans- Moss on Rock
Some of the plants were not in my initial planting scheme, however due to limited stock from GC, I chose alternate plants for replacement.
Tools and planting scheme were ready for the process
Riccia was attached to the rock at first by cotton thread. I did not have any fishing line available so this is the temporary method. I might need to tight it again if the cotton thread give way.
Water was spray on the surface of the soil gently so that the substrate would not mess up and floating once water filled in. 
Soil surface was damp and firm after water spraying
And it is ready for water filling process
Plastic bag / some floating material was introduced to cover the soil and hardscape below. It would help to protect the hardscape/soil from sudden movement when water being introduced. 
Traditional way to introduce water in to the tank :) Water was conditioned by Seachem Prime before being introduced to the tank. 
Water was filling up slowly
And at this level, that was sufficient to start planting. It can be seen there was no mess up on the soil and hardscape at all. :)
Plants was prepared ready for action

Pinsette made planting under water much easier
Planting is easier with shallow water fill in the tank. 
Planting done and water was filled up till the top using similar method mentioned above. Water volume at 2/3 of the tank was recorded so that I might calculate the actual volume of water in the tank after minus hardscape and substrate volume. For my 2ft tank, actual water volume was 51 litters out of 64.8 total volume. It can be seen volume for hardscape and substrate took into account about more than 20% total volume of the tank. Recording the water volume will be useful in the future when dosing fertilizer and medical for fauna in later stage.
Crystal clear water after water fill up
Direct front view
A view from angle
After done, CO2 drop checker was installed. It was blue colour at first since no CO2 was introduced to the tank.
Filter inflow and outflow was set up. Still waiting for my inflow glass pipe to come and in the meantime, EHEIM inflow pipe took the job. :) Canister filter started working. Many tiny bubbles came out at this initial stage.
CO2 was activated and connected to the main system. 
After setting up, everything was working as planned.
Water quite clear at this point of time. 
Front view of the new setup
Angle view of the setup. Definitely need an inflow glass pipe to make it look nicer. :P
After done setup, I started dosing the first batch of fertilizer to the tank, followed instruction of the supplier accordingly. Dosing is as follow for the first day:-

Descriptions Frequency Dosage Per 50L (ml)
Seachem Prime Water Change 200L - 5ml 1.25
Seachem Excel Daily 200L - 5ml 6.25
Seachem Potassium 2-3 times / week 125L - 5ml 2.00
Seachem Iron When needed 200L - 5ml 1.25
Seachem Flourish 1-2 times / week 250L - 5ml 1.00
BacterLife 1 time / week 50L - 5ml 5.00
I dosed more Seachem Excel according to instruction given for initial tank setup. After that, I might follow 5ml per 200L water. 

There are still some background and mid-ground plant to be in place. So, wait for the stock to be available. Tank cycling started. :)

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Equipment Setup for Aquarium

After hard-scaping work for aquarium done, next step was to install the equipment like CO2 supply system, canister filter and lighting for it. Since that was the first time I really hands-on this kind of "plumbing" work, it was quite nervous but also very excited process. I read the instruction manual carefully and also search "how-to" on youtube and internet to make sure the process were correctly followed.

CO2 system was kind of straightforward to install thanks to the useful video from EastOcean on youtube. The video really shows step-by-step of cranking up the CO2 system for a planted tank, it helped the newbie like me understood the process clearly. I, however did not use CO2 diffusers since I don't really like the "7-up" effects in the tank later. In order for CO2 to absorb more on the water, I used ISTA External CO2 Reactor instead. Furthermore, there would be no tiny bubbles flying around in the tank later on. 

For canister filter, EHEIM Ecco Pro 300 has existing filter media and I decided to use EHEIM bioMech and EHEIM SUBSTRATpro for the first 2 trays of the filter. The last tray was Seachem Matrix. The media was rinsed under tap water until the water clear and was placed in the filter accordingly. I noticed each tray can store up to about 0.7L-0.8L of media material. 

Media filter material was being cleaned up under tap water
EHEIM SUBSTRATpro
EHEIM bioMECH
Seachem Matrix
Since I did not use the filter right away, I just leave it outside until canister needed to be used.
Lighting and CO2 also needed to be linked up with the electrical timer plugs accordingly.

Timer were ready! :)
It took me quite long to finish the equipment setup work for this first time. Next time, it would be better since I have already known the process. End of the day, equipment is ready for the next step: planting! :)

Equipment were ready to be utilized

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Hard-scape Setup

Finally, I could hands-on the hardscaping setup after many days preparation. To create the backbones of the aquarium, I have read and reviewed through many layouts and resources. It is really convenient to do research nowadays with tremendous resources from internet. Also, thanks to AquaticQuotient forum, I got many helpful advice from the experienced hobbyists. It makes the learning process much shorten and enjoyable.

I decided to choose triangle style for my first planted tank since I was so impressed by the work on "Sticks & Stones" layout from James Findley. This layout got sorted out after many trial on the available driftwood and stones that I have on hand. Process of hard-scape setup was described on the photos sequence below:-

I use this drain board to cover the tank bottom to prevent direct contact of stones to glass surface, which may cause crack due to point load. With this board, force would be distributed more equally on the glass surface.
Two drain board were nicely fit my 2ft tank
After that, ADA Amazonia Aquasoil (Powder Type) was added with slope upward to the right back corner.
I also use post-it notes and marker to draw the guiding lines which followed "rule of thirds" accordingly. The front part was marked with 2.5cm for minimum soil depth required, so that I would not keep it too thin.
Big piece of driftwood was put as the focal point of the aquarium. Counter part is a smaller piece on the other side. River pebbles were added that made me feel more balance.
From the top view, I tried to create more space for planting in later stage.
Plastic card case was used as substrate support in my layout.  
Small pieces of plastic were used to support the substrate base
Substrate support was pegged into aquasoil and covered later by another thin layer later on to make it invisible.
Finally, the hardscape setup was done
I was quite happy with the final product and the process was really enjoyable. I also found out that sometimes the piece of driftwood or rocks that I like at the beginning might not be always suitable for my layout. So the more materials that you have, the better. More options, more choices. The next step is equipment setup. :)