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Pseudo-saltwater journal


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I have very hard water.  Very.  I know this might me anathema around here, but I am tired of trying to grow plants in my water.  I'm largely abandoning planted tanks.  But, I am not abandoning aquaria!

I've decided to rework a 42 gallon bowfront tank that I have filled with N-class Endler's and cherry shrimp. (Don't worry, they happily live down in my aquarium rack in my basement now.  Their tank is just not as pretty.)  I've decided I wanted to start a tank that looks like saltwater, but in fact contains freshwater fish.  My plans are to stock with some Julis (as stand ins for striped blennies) and Cyps (as somewhat less colorful stand ins for Anthias sp.).  I have some other plans too, but those two are anchoring my effort.  Tangs should love my water and that will make things easier.  Plus, it will be fun to have a tank like this I think.  I've always liked salt water, but I'm not into the workload that goes into maintaining it.

I'll post photos of what the tank looked like at some point, but for now, I'm curious what folks think of the rockwork.  It's been a challenge this morning to get it to meet what I am aiming for: not too look too much like a pile of rocks, have caves that will fit the Julis' needs, will potentially province enough space for two Juli territories, and rearranging rocks when my entire arm is numb because the water hasn't warmed up to room temp from my well (which comes out at a balmy 5.5C).  Okay that last one could be fixed with patience. 

So here is a shot of the tank as it is now.  What do you think?

422276645_pseudosaltrocksonly.JPG.260e81eda507216917cac549f029fc0b.JPG

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Following. I have a tank with Julidochromis ornatus, and another with Paracyprichromis nigripinnis. My water isn't too hard from my well, so I add baking soda and epsom salt to increase ph and hardness. I am trying out some hardy plants however to see how they do.

I think I prefer the second, two island scape, to the first.

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19 minutes ago, OnlyGenusCaps said:

And here it is with the antler coral removed.  Not sure if that makes it too crowded.  Certainly it will be easier to have two Juli territories with the space in between.

I think the layout of the two islands looks best, but I really like the antler coral. I wonder if it can go somewhere slightly to the back of one of the islands so it is peeking out? or substitute it for one of the smaller rocks in the left island?

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1 hour ago, ererer said:

I have a tank with Julidochromis ornatus, and another with Paracyprichromis nigripinnis.

Good to know.  I might have to pester you with questions in the future.

1 hour ago, ererer said:

I think I prefer the second, two island scape, to the first.

Thanks for the input!  I think of it as a canyon between, but islands works too.  😛

1 hour ago, Brandy said:

I think the layout of the two islands looks best, but I really like the antler coral. I wonder if it can go somewhere slightly to the back of one of the islands so it is peeking out? or substitute it for one of the smaller rocks in the left island?

Thanks for the input!  I like the coral piece too.  If I'm honest, it was bigger than I thought it would be when I bought it online. 

Integrating it into the rock is a good idea.  I did try that, but sadly, it doesn't really fit visually or structurally.  The two just don't interlock well, and the structure becomes tippy.  A more skilled scaper might have done better, but couldn't get it to look like I didn't dump a hunk of coral on a rock pile when I tried to have them integrated.  The only way I could make it look decent, and not have something liable to fall over, was to have the coal "do it's own thing". 

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1 hour ago, eatyourpeas said:

Loving choice number two. As someone who is not keen on symmetry, the balanced space in between the rocks invites the eye to explore behind the left side rocks and circle back to the front of tank and then to the right side. Can't wait for more! 🙂

Thanks for the input!  I'm feeling like nice as that piece of coral is, it just might not fit into this particular scape.

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Looks great Caps. I would keep the antler coral somewhere in the tank. It is a beautiful piece, you should display it.

Now what I would suggest, get a couple rubber bristle worms or better yet, a 5 foot bobbit worm so it just like a real saltwater tank😁

So the rocks are ancient coral reefs dug up in florida, correct? I wonder if they will function as freshwater live rock ie: filled with bacteria munching on  ammonia/nitrites. 

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1 hour ago, madmark285 said:

Now what I would suggest, get a couple rubber bristle worms or better yet, a 5 foot bobbit worm so it just like a real saltwater tank😁

Thanks. You are ever helpful, Mad. 😂

1 hour ago, madmark285 said:

So the rocks are ancient coral reefs dug up in florida, correct? I wonder if they will function as freshwater live rock ie: filled with bacteria munching on  ammonia/nitrites.

That's the story I've been told.  Unfortunately, I've also been warned they spew phosphates for a while, contributing to impressive algae blooms.  So it might look like some sort of live rock in no time. 😉  Actually, I do anticipate a serious algae bloom.  But I have a plan for that...

In the meantime, I've got to figure out how to get the water clear.  That aragonite is filthy stuff!  I went with the coral-less configuration and then added 50lbs.  I rinsed the crud out of it, and the rinse water was clean in each batch when I put it in, but as soon as I poured it - pea soup!  I've been running the water pump for hours now and there is a barely noticeable improvement.  It's going through a 200 micron filter sock too.  Those particles must be tiny!  Plus, there are surface bubbles, and the arm I used to mix the stuff in the rise still smells like it just got back from the beach.  Not that it's a bad smell, just not confidence building for putting in freshwater species.  I think there is a lot of changing out water in my near future! 

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This will probably be the last update for a little while.  After this I need to do loads of water changes to try to get the water clearer.  It took a day and a half with the 200 micron filter sock to get the water looking even this clear.  But here is the final rockwork:

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I've not worried much about shaping the sand at the bottom as I figure the Julis will have their say about that anyhow.  I did a quick check about the water conditions just to see where I was at.  My TDS is 320ppm and my pH at 8.6.  So, essentially the same as my tap water!  I don't think I can dissolve loads more calcium in my water, so I think the hardscape will be pretty stable over time. 

The next step is to do several water changes.  I took out my old trickle tower sump and then put in a new 10 gal tank sump with a different configuration.  It's going to need a lid fast  The humidity under the stand is way too high now that the heater is on!  Then, I'll do my cycle which will involve my fearless male Endler's for the fish-in cycle (haven't ever lost one yet - they are very, very hardy and have quite a low bioload when only a few are put in).  The journey begins.  Thanks for looking!

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  • 1 month later...

Well...  They were a smaller species than I am accustomed to.  I put them into the tank when it was dark, and despite that the seven, small, male Endler's I have in there had a feeding frenzy.  By morning they were all gone.  So, that was a short lived experiment!

But their small size, like that of brine shrimp, means I now plan to order more and setup a colony for live feeding.  I've had these Endler's for years and I've never seen them so amped up.  And that's saying something for Endler's!  Once I get the cichlids in there, I figure these will make a splendid live food for the fry.  So I'll have amphipods in there - temporarily.  Might be as good as I get.

I'm planning on ordering the fish soon to put in QT.  I have snails in there now.  But, I need to quiet the sump.  So I have to drill the back while the snails are in there and re-plumb a bit.  Not ideal, but necessary.  That's the current delay.  Thanks goodness it's acrylic or I'd absolutely have to break the whole thing down to make these changes.

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This is mostly an update to show of a fun photo.  I've been a bit stalled on getting the stock in there (ordered really) as I'm not happy with how noisy the sump overflow is.  This was the first time I made an overflow for one of my tanks, and if I could go back and do it again, it would be different.  But I think I've figured out how to do a modified Herbie style to cut down on the noise.  It's just doing it with the tank running is...  Challenging.  And frankly not all that advisable.

Still, there are fun moments even without the final fish in there.  I've added snails to help the male Endler's cycle the tank.  It's pretty well cycled at this point as I have no signs of ammonia and I'm churning out nitrates.

I added orange Tylomelania snails (a.k.a. "rabbit snails" although I have no idea why they are called that as they look nothing like rabbits to me).  I know they are snails, but they are so slow!  For anyone who hasn't had them they move along with this inchworm, lumbering gait, dragging their pointed shells behind them.  The cool thing is with no fish that disturb the substrate in there I'm getting these really cool zen garden patterns in the aragonite!  Here is a photo:

1374380517_Zensnail.JPG.5b7567c99b13b2c92868410d50221245.JPG

You can see the pattern best before the lights come on when indirect sunlight is coming in at an angle.  Gives me an idea for another tank (which I need like another hole in the head).  Do other people's Tylomelania do this, or is this a weird thing about butting them on the aragonite?

Thanks for looking!

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On 6/17/2021 at 9:41 AM, OnlyGenusCaps said:

This is mostly an update to show of a fun photo.  I've been a bit stalled on getting the stock in there (ordered really) as I'm not happy with how noisy the sump overflow is.  This was the first time I made an overflow for one of my tanks, and if I could go back and do it again, it would be different.  But I think I've figured out how to do a modified Herbie style to cut down on the noise.  It's just doing it with the tank running is...  Challenging.  And frankly not all that advisable.

Still, there are fun moments even without the final fish in there.  I've added snails to help the male Endler's cycle the tank.  It's pretty well cycled at this point as I have no signs of ammonia and I'm churning out nitrates.

I added orange Tylomelania snails (a.k.a. "rabbit snails" although I have no idea why they are called that as they look nothing like rabbits to me).  I know they are snails, but they are so slow!  For anyone who hasn't had them they move along with this inchworm, lumbering gait, dragging their pointed shells behind them.  The cool thing is with no fish that disturb the substrate in there I'm getting these really cool zen garden patterns in the aragonite!  Here is a photo:

1374380517_Zensnail.JPG.5b7567c99b13b2c92868410d50221245.JPG

You can see the pattern best before the lights come on when indirect sunlight is coming in at an angle.  Gives me an idea for another tank (which I need like another hole in the head).  Do other people's Tylomelania do this, or is this a weird thing about butting them on the aragonite?

Thanks for looking!

Thats so neat!! I made a sandy spot in our tank. That would be fun to add these snails. I have been wanting this kind. Maybe this tank! 

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Another couple small updates.

For a start, the fish arrived today!  They are happily sitting in their cycled, quarantine tanks.  They are F1, so I have med-trio on hand in case I see any issues arise.  Two species, Cyprichromis leptosoma Mpimbwe ''Fluorescent'' (no, not a gene edited GloFish®, just a descriptor in this case) and Julidochromis ornatus Congo ''Yellow'', each in their own tank.

I've also finally finished the plumbing upgrade on the tank!  I added a gate valve right before the sump to lower the flow and prevent air from entering the drain line, which was creating an awful, thundering, gurgling, sound.  Thanks to @madmark285 for convincing me to go with a gate rather than ball valve and teaching me the ancient ways of the PVC masters!  That gate valve absolutely allows you to fine tune the drain line so much better than a ball valve ever could.

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No the tank is so suspiciously quite I keep going back to check on it to make sure nothing is going wrong, or flooding, or...  Whatever else could go wrong.  That valve is going to be a game changer for the noise level in my house.  Once I get used to it. 

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"Never declare victory too early in battle or in plumbing." - If that wasn't in Sun Tzu's "Art of War", it should have been!

So as it turns out, the upper part of the drain, which had previously been partly or mostly filled with air, causing the loud, and consistent toilet-flush noise, once filled with water and silent, leaks!  Unfortunately, this means I get to remove the snails and fish drain the tank to access the plumbing behind it, cut the top portion out which includes the bulkhead, and then make a new top portion of the drain to re-fit onto the tank - and hope the new one doesn't leak.  So close and yet so much further to go...  🤪

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I am a firm believer that it is important to share the struggles we experience along with the successes.  I think that sort of transparency allows, especially new hobbyists to see that there are pitfalls along the way, and that success is born out of overcoming those challenges.  This is my long-winded way of saying it's not an update with loads of amazing progress.

For a start, I lost one of the Cyps yesterday that came in on Wednesday.  They came in beautifully packaged and thriving.  But, I went to check out the QT and it was being munched on by one of the large Colombian ramshorn snails in there.  Upon examination, I didn't see any signs of disease, so I've opted to hold off on the med-trio for the time being.  I have shifted to twice daily water changes, at about 8% each time.  I'm on a well, so there is no danger of this introducing a bunch of chlorine into the tank.  Plus, I am mid-build on an Auto Water Chance system (AWC), with the drain lines already in.  Thus I can simply pour water behind the mattern filter and let it drain out, making water changes take under a minute.  Hopefully this will keep everyone else healthy. 

I've decided to take PTO on Monday to try to re-plumb the thing.  This time properly.  No flexible line.  All schedule 40 PVC with the better PVC glue.  I'll even put in PVC unions the way you are supposed to, so I can take out the middle segment, allowing me to easily clean the plumbing to the sump once a year or so.  I figure if I have to do this, I may as well take the time to do it properly. 

I'm a little bummed that I'll have to pull the stock, but added to that I really don't want this to sit dry for long because the ReefSaver rocks are finally growing multi-colored algae.  They really have the beginnings of starting to look like live rock, which is the look I am aiming for:

1315402898_42algaestart.JPG.94a95c2ed927815ee6e883c660d7f966.JPG

I'm hoping I can get this done quickly so that I don't set the algae back too much.  I mean look at that stuff, it's gorgeous!  I'm hoping the green doesn't completely take over in time, but for now it is a promising start for sure. 

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