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‘Fairy Cay’: Twenty Gallon High

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I started by removing all of the plants, rock-work, driftwood, substrate, and mesh bags that were being used as the base of the scape. It was a mess, and felt somewhat devastating to do, as all the work I previously invested into the aquarium was being torn out piece by piece. Though, I was determined to get it done, as looking at it was becoming a downer.

I got the remainder of the substrate out, and used paper towels to soak up the remaining water to make the substrate easier to remove. After cleaning out as much of the substrate as I could, I heavily disinfected both the inside and outside of the aquarium, along with doing it multiple times as an extra precaution.

The tank was in the way of the air conditioning unit that would be placed next to it, so I had to move the tank off of the stand, and completely dismantle the stand, measure the new placement, and move back each piece in the correct spot. Then, I added the tank to the top, and I quickly fell asleep shortly after from all of the work. 


I had started started at 7pm, and finished roughly 10 hours later after continuous work, as I was wanting to get it all done and over with as quickly as I could. 

I threw out all of the substrate, filter media, and almost all of the plants. I did save a few Bucephalandra and two anubias, one large anubias nana and one anubias nana ‘pinto’. With those, I decided to set up a tub to attempt growing them emersed, using ozmocote plus and sphagnum Moss as the substrate, saturated with dechlorinated water.



It would have been wiser to cut the submerged growth off, and I lost a substantial amount of plants from rot, likely because of that mistake. But, it has been a fun experiment regardless, and I’d like to continue doing more of these in the future. 

Anything of the tank I saved: the driftwood, the rocks, and the filter, was disinfected as well. 

The driftwood was boiled, alternating which sides were in the water, and timing it. 


I scraped the rocks clean of spray foam, plant roots, and super glue. I then disinfected them in a bucket, let them dry, and then added extremely hot water over them. They sat there for a few days. 


There was still some residual spray foam, and the black spray painted coatings on them had been destroyed in the process, but they were ready for the next time I’d use them. 

I then disinfected anything I used on the tank, or had by the tank, including lids, test tubes, aquascaping tools, the siphon, and so on. After disinfecting, they also sat in extremely hot water, but for a couple of hours. 



I had taken a break before adding my Finnex light I kept from a 50 gallon that I dismantled years ago, after brain and spinal surgery, because I was becoming bed ridden and knew I wouldn’t be able to take care of it for much longer. The light was brand new, and I was never able to program it. 

 Needless to say, I was really excited to be able to use the light, this time around. 


PS: I was working on a setup for a certain crayfish at the same time as I was redoing this aquarium. In the reflection, the cardboard and tape is from the outside of his setup that I had just moved over days before (a funny little Easter egg for you all).


As the day was getting later, and I had taken many breaks at this point, I set up a quarantine tank, using the cycled filter from Gandr’s temporary tank that I had cycling on a small bucket.

I roughly marked the QT gallon by gallon, installed the rest of the equipment, added boiled leaf litter, and had the lid ready to go.


I finally had found the lost remote to my Finnex, which gets lost again multiple times later, haha.


Although I didn’t program it yet, I watched videos on how to and devised a plan, with the help of some aquarium lighting gurus on this forum later on. 

For the remainder of the night, I began the scape. 

I wanted something convenient, what I would consider as foam and super glue free, not very close to the glass, easily circulated, and simple to maintain. Those were some of the downsides to the previous scape, that I didn’t want to have again. 


I fiddled with a few ideas, and adjusted what I did like, until I added the last piece of driftwood I had available. 

I settled on this, before going to sleep. However, I change this slightly in the future.






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The following few days, after the aquarium was initially scaped for the first time, I ordered the plants. 

The plants arrived very quickly after ordering. 


Ludwigia peruensis:


Ludwigia arctuata (needle leaf ludwigia):




Bolbitis huedelotii ‘difformis’:




Cryptocoryne balansae:




Cryptocoryne undulatus ‘red’:




Red Tiger Lotus: 




Cryptocoryne petchii:




Hygrophila pinnatifida: 




Hydrocotyle tripartita sp. ‘Japan’: 



Bucephalandra kapuas ‘brownie ghost’:




I had all of the plants ready, waiting on the substrate to arrive.



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Now having the plants, I knew the substrate would arrive soon. I spray painted all of the rocks Black, and had them all ready to go in a bucket, after they had dried. I let them cure on the porch, until the smell was completely gone. 

Shortly after the plants had arrived, the substrate had been delivered the next day. 

I chose Eco-Complete, as I was unhappy with Seachem  Flourite that I had previously used.

I then finished the scape, and planted the tank. After that, I filled it up, making sure to use bubble wrap to prevent any disturbance to the plants and substrate. 




After filling it up fully, the aquarium looked pretty good. I knew I was going to make adjustments in the future, but I was certain as to what those adjustments would be. 

I left a lot of space for plants to grow in, hence why some spaces do not have rock. 



I then added my filtration and heater. They were placed in a temporary spot, as the only outlets I had available were on the left side. The QT was using the outlet I initially planned on using. 

The next day, the aquarium was extremely cloudy. 





But, a few days after, it began to clear up. 



I did take a few photos of the plants that I thought were adorable, during this less cloudy phase.




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The same day, my male Super Red Giant Plakat arrived. 

After a lot of deliberation, I settled on having one vibrant and hopefully personable fish, as I felt that the risk of something going wrong would be much lower, than with having multiples. 

Someday, I likely will have a group of ADFs (African dwarf frogs) with him in this aquarium. But, I am wanting the plants to establish themselves well, and I’d like to wait until my mom and I move out. 

He was very interactive in his shipping bag, and I was extremely happy to see him looking well. 


I then temperature acclimated him. I’ve never been a fan of the drip acclimation method, so I just did this way, as I typically do.




When he was released, I placed the lid on, and let him relax until I added Kanaplex and API General Cure. Kanaplex dissipates after some time (I believe 48 hours, if I remember correctly), so I was dosing whatever that duration was every time.

I did also take some occasional photos of him. He’s adorable. 









He didn’t present symptoms of anything after a week, so I water changed the medication out. 





I then made medicated food, using his pellets and Fenbendazole. I froze them, so they would bind better, as I didn’t have any medication binders available to use. 

This worked extremely well, and he would eat it very quickly. I’m surprised he liked it as much as he did.

I named him ‘Grume’, since he is large and a vivid red. I thought about naming him after something in the DOOM game franchise, but all of the demon names didn’t fit him, however the name I chose could still be appropriate for this, because of what it means, medically. If anyone has ever played the DOOM games, you’d know it has intense and epic visuals, especially DOOM 2016 and DOOM Eternal, which I used to play often when I was able to play video games. 

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The following week, I performed the first water change. 

During this, I realized that I had completely messed up with the stem plants. I planted them by mistake, and they started to rot, I lost a lot of the plant, and cut it, then adding weights. I didn’t bury the remaining plants this time, but, my mistake was going to come back at me, because they started rotting again later on. (Oops).





Later on, in the evening, I photographed some of the plants. 

There was a lot of new growth on the Cryptocoryne balansae that I had completely cut back, along with the Red Tiger Lotus putting out new leaves as well. 









After a week or so, I had ordered more plants: Cryptocoryne ‘flamingo’, Echinodorus ‘rose sparkle’, and stems of Hygrophila pinnatifida, as the TC melted and rotted away into mush within two days of adding it. 

When adding them, I redid the scape, not only to make room for them, but because I wanted it to look more fanciful. I did also adjust the placement of some plants I previously had.

My mom said that it reminded her of a Island for fairies, so I named the aquarium, ‘Fairy Cay’. 





I really enjoy looking at it at night, because the glares aren’t there. I can’t avoid all of them during the day, because of the location of the aquarium. 

Here is my Cryptocoryne ‘flamingo’, looking very sad (it was difficult to have to trim away all of the pretty pink leaves, but this is for the best).



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Within a few days, the Red Tiger Lotus began shooting out new leaves.




The Cryptocoryne ‘flamingo’ was starting to develop a leaf as well, which was very exciting. 



And shortly after seeing this, I woke up to find a leaf. 



I was cycling this tank for a little over a month I believe, while the plants were in, and while Grume was in quarantine. 

I finally got it fully cycled, and so I preformed a water change before adding him. 















Since I then dismantled the QT, I moved the heater and filter in the spot I wanted them to be, at least for now. 





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A day later, I took a few more pictures of Grume. 









I also spotted a second leaf growing from my Cryptocoryne ‘Flamingo’. 



I fed Bloodworms to Grume for the first time (Gandr got all of the extras). 





The following days, he made the biggest bubble nest I have ever seen. He was very proud. 




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A few more days later, the plants were continuing to grow. I was really surprised by how quickly they were growing. I am actually really happy with this Eco Complete, and the fertilizing regiment I have in place. 

I did try and figure out what past deficiencies I had with the other scape, and purchased nitrogen, potassium and phosphate liquid supplements based on what I thought.

It seems to be working really well, although I am lowering the phosphate because of some brown diatom algae that I have been getting. I will up it in the future, if needed. 





There was also new submerged growth forming on the Hygrophila pinnatifida, which I weighted down and didn’t plant, and it worked very well. No rot. (I learned!).




I later did a water change, and trimmed some of the plants for the first time. I unfortunately destroyed Grume’s bubble nest in the process. 





I later saw more leaves open up on the Red Tiger Lotus the following evening. 





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Grume often flares at my phone, so I got a few photos of his flaring in action. 







His ginormous lips make me laugh. Look at that permanent frown. 

So grumpy. 



I did a little bit of cleaning in my emersed plant tub. Most of the plants are growing okay, and are putting out some emersed leaves. But, my Bucephalandra ‘dark skeleton king’ hasn’t, and I did have to clean it up a bit. But the roots and base is pretty healthy. 








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I preformed a water change, and did some maintenance, which made everything look pretty okay. 










I adore this next photo. He was resting under the Red Tiger Lotus, and came out when I was taking a photo of him. He just looks so cute. 




Not long after, I was seeing even more growth on the plants. 




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Yesterday, I did a substantial amount of maintenance to the tank, and did a water change during it. 

I didn’t realize how much brown algae I let build up on the leaves, and when I swiped one of the “brown” leaves of the Cryptocoryne petchii with my finger, I realized that it was actually bright green. Whoops! 

So, I make sure to get every leaf I could, on every plant. I did disregard the emersed growth on the Hygrophila pinnatifida, because it’s dying off anyways. The submerged was looking great. 

I cleaned the driftwood pretty heavily, siphoned the substrate, trimmed some leaves off, and planted down the remaining parts of the new growth I had from the Ludwigia peruensis and the Ludwigia arctuata. They’re pretty much just very tiny stubs, but did have little white roots. I’m hoping they make it. 

I was so tired, that I spaced out severely while the bucket of water was filling up in the kitchen. I snapped out of it, and ran to find the bucket overfilling all over. 

I unplugged every outlet, and tossed the toaster and blender over to a dry counter. I bolted down the stairs, got as many towels as I could, and through them over the water, which was on the counters and floor. I also shut the blinds because I didn’t want my grandpa, who was mowing outside, to see. 

I luckily got to it fast enough, and cleaned it all up. I finished my maintenance afterwards, and curled up for over two and a half hours in exhaustion. 

My grandpa never noticed, but my mom opened the drawers to find water, which I forgot would occur, so I told her what happened. She wasn’t necessarily surprised, I’ve almost set the home on fire five or six times now because of how bad my memory is, or if I pass out from my fatigue when I’m cooking something (I’m no longer able to use the stove, but I still somehow set fire to the microwave). Thankfully, my family is with me often. 



I did also photograph my Red Tiger Lotus, because it has been looking awesome! So much color, and the leaves are getting huge!




Grume also was photographed, while he was investigating for food. 



When I woke up this morning, the tank was really clear! It was nice to see. 




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I took some more photos of Grume today. I’m really trying to take it easy. 

He was being very cute, and I caught him resting a few times. 

















I also spotted a young snail that I’ve had for a while. I did find another snail today, but they disappeared. 



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Cryptocoryne has got to be one of my favorite genus of aquarium plants. These are my Cryptocoryne petchii, which are looking so much better, after I removed all of that brown diatom algae. They’re slowly getting taller.




My Cryptocoryne undulatus ‘Red’ melted back previously, but I see a tiny leaf growing from it. The position of this plant makes it look like it’s running away from the other Crypts, lol. 


The Cryptocoryne ‘Flamingo’ put out two small stems recently. I’m excited to see more leaves on it. I’m hoping to eventually have a small field of pink in this area. 



Adjusting the phosphate supplementation seemed to lower my brown diatom algae enough to where it is much slower growing. ‘Water Change Wednesday’ is coming up, and the tank definitely won’t need as much maintenance as it did the previous week.




I’m really happy, seeing the Cryptocoryne balansae taking up more of the background, and my Hygrophila pinnatifida is showing great submerged growth. 

Grume is still as grumpy looking as ever. Too cute. 


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  • 5 months later...

Ah yes, I am at least 5 months behind on our updates here. But, don’t fret, for I have made an album of everything I need to add, minus anything video related (I have a companion channel on Telegram, where I post my videos and photos, but I don’t want to put them on to YouTube in order to share them here).

Starting from where we had left off.. June 15th, where Grume was winding down above the Red Tiger Lotus before nighttime..




After typical maintenance, the water change was complete. I always love seeing how, after a few hours, the clarity improves greatly, when the water change originally had stirred everything up. 



Grume, of course, was checking out all of the plants afterwards. He gets very curious. 

During a water change and when I perform maintenance in the aquarium, he’s always around and looking at what I am doing. He’s often so close that I occasionally accidentally gently bump into him with my hand. 




The aquarium plants were really starting to fill in, and the Red Tiger Lotus wasn’t too far away from being as tall as the driftwood. 



The Cryptocoryne petchii had darkened significantly, gaining slightly orange hues on the undersides of the leaves as well, which I found to be an appealing look. 

The Cryptocoryne undulatus ‘Red’ lost more leaves, due to the continuous melt back. But, tiny green leaves were poking out from the substrate. 





The aquarium had been maintaining a more pristine look for a longer duration between water changes. This is the day before receiving a water change and maintenance, and it’s difficult to notice what needs to be worked on. 



At night, it was always calming to watch. When I’m able to, I’ll lay down on my side and turn to face the aquarium. I’m unable to sit that way for long, but the times I’m able to, it’s very relaxing. 



A water change was done the next day. The aquarium definitely took a long time to settle in, after I stir up everything during the maintenance I do. But, once it did settle in, it didn’t look too bad. 






The aquarium is slowly requiring less significant amounts of water to be changed out. Originally, it was close to 50% weekly, but, it’s been able to be lowered to 30-35% weekly. 

After I had missed Gandr’s paludarium, I noticed that Grume wasn’t too pleased with seeing the misting nozzle. He triumphantly chased the nozzle away (I moved it, but, don’t tell him that). 




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I straightened out some parts of the hardscape that moved, along with my typical maintenance during my water changes. 

You can really see the difference routine water changing and maintenance can do. 







In order to encourage a carpet to form, I cut down the Hydrocotyle tripartita sp. ‘Japan’, before replanting the cuttings back into the substrate. 

I don’t think the aquarium has high enough lighting to encourage more horizontal growth, and in this instance, some addition of CO2 would likely have made a significant difference. I wanted to increase the lighting in the future, but didn’t feel the aquarium was ready for it yet. 

After the aquarium settled, a few hours later, both the aquarium and Grume looked great. 






As time went on, the plants were growing huge. 




Even my Cryptocoryne undulatus ‘Red’ had been putting out multiple leaves. 



The leaves on the Red Tiger Lotus were developing an almost metallic sheen. 



A week later, a leaf of the Red Tiger Lotus finally touched the water’s surface.



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Grume had an array of photos taken of him. There’s times I have to pretend to take photos of other things, in order for Grume to want to be in front of the camera. He will wiggle and then strike a pose for the camera once I angle it at him. 












During my water change and usual maintenance, I cut down a lot of leaves, as the Red Tiger Lotus was blocking out light for my attempted carpeting plant. I also continued planting more cuttings back into the substrate. 



The Ludwigia arctuata gained more leaves off of their stems, making them look much fuller than before. 

Later that evening, I caught Grume exploring, and took photos of him doing so, because he looked like he was in a meadow. 











Many weeks later, my newest filter had broke, and I did not notice for a long time, as I was recovering from my Tilt Table Venogram procedure, performed on August 5th. 

Grume cutely continued to beg for food, regardless of it not working. 






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I later replaced the filter with an older one I was much less of a fan of, but one that has been working well since. 

Here are more photos of Grume, looking as wonderfully grumpy as ever. 










Further into my recovery from my Tilt Table Venogram procedure, I attempted a small amount of maintenance on the aquarium, and my mom helped me with the water change. 


I started with the front panels, clearing them off, and then I continued on with a water change, and some trimming and replanting.




I had taken some photos of Grume once the water cleared up a bit more. 














The next morning, he was begging for me to feed him as usual. I couldn’t help but smile at his constant expression. 



The aquarium had cleared up nicely as well, though not entirely. I also adjusted the lighting spectrum a small amount, though the difference is minute.




A stem of the Hygrophila pinnatifida finally grew enough to peak over the driftwood in front of it. 

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I woke up to seeing that Grume had bonked his head. It was very minor, and healed up just fine, like expected. He was completely unfazed.




My Golden Pothos in the aquarium had put out a few new leaves, one of which looking very pretty with the heavy flecks of gold. 



Grume considered eating a floating plant root, and was making some very funny expressions.

He looks to be very deep in thought,  and I couldn’t help but laugh. 












Later on, I had photographed him and zoomed in extremely close on his face. I do not regret this decision, and to this day, I am sent occasional photos of this with various styles of eyebrows drawn onto it. 



That evening, he was once again begging and staring at me expectantly for food.





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September 11th, I spotted Grume resting before he noticed me staring at him and started begging for food once more. 







I enjoy when I can take photos of him, without him wiggling and the photos ended up extremely distorted, which is 99% of his photos that I attempt to take. 










Bored of begging to me for food, he decided to forage for some pellets that may have ended up on the substrate. 









I love the one with his mouth open. He looks so cute, and he’s adorable focused on trying to eat anything he finds. 

I caught him resting adorably, before he noticed me and rushed over. 










His quick response was, of course, to wiggle at me, and the “photo-shoot” ended there. 



I performed a water change a few days after, and the tank was substantially foggy afterwards. 



The plants were growing in very well. 

On September 26th, I accompanied an 8 hour drive to pick up a kitten, who was originally found in Oklahoma. We named him ‘Cosmo’. During the end of our ride, our car was totaled and we were stuck in the middle of nowhere for multiple hours, until the tow truck was no longer lost and could take the car home, along with my mom’s boyfriend who had thankfully picked us up (they did not tell us they could only pick up one person in the tow truck, until they got there, even when knowing there was my mom, a kitten, and I).

We don’t regret anything though, as I adore him. It was a lot of work getting rid of his fleas, but, afterwards, he’s been nothing but amazing (with a copious amount of kitten feistiness). 

We cuddle together every day, and he loves to watch the aquarium and interact with Grume, who seems to be amused by Cosmo. He will watch us play together as well. 

From time to time, I will watch Grume wiggle and Cosmo, and it makes me laugh. 


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