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37g Community Therapy Restart


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Life has been throwing me curveballs, with lots of stresses in my personal and work life. I decided that I needed a therapy tank to help break out of the depression I had fallen into. I had been away from the hobby for too many years and this would be a way to hopefully recapture some joy.

About a year and a half ago, I picked up a Top Fin 37g kit. Just as a 20g long is a short version of a 29g, a 37g is a tall version of a 29g. I wanted a 55g or larger, but the 30" footprint was all the space I had available. I put it on an Imagitarium Brooklyn stand. I made a wooden frame with 1x2's to provide a better base for the tank.

The Top Fin kit came with a Silentstream 40 HOB filter. I had seen Cory's video on optimizing HOB filters, so I tossed the cartridge from the start and filled it with 15ppi foam and put a large prefilter sponge on the intake. I still felt that the filtration would not be enough, so I also set up a UGF driven by airstones.

The only thing I had kept from my previous aquarium adventures was the gravel. The kids in the family I gave my equipment to wanted colorful gravel and mine was boring natural tones. The best I can remember, it is a mix of Carib Sea Super Naturals peace river and blue ridge.

I used a corrugated black plastic craft board as a background for the tank. I also used black golf club sleeves to hide the UGF uplift tubes against the black background.

The LED hood for the tank seemed to be better than the fluorescent hoods that I used in the past, so I used it.

I decided to go with a native Florida tank. Actually a biotype based on the canal in my back yard. So I just caught what I could from the canal. I ended up with mosquito fish, bluefin killifish, least killifish, ghost shrimp, various snails, various plants. I removed as much of the algae from the plants as I could, but way too many algae made it into the tank.

This setup was always on the edge, with several outbreaks of algae. It was never really balanced. At one point I pulled all the plants and replaced them with store bought plants, but the algae already had taken up permanent residence. The gang of mosquito fish, being the thugs that they are, setting out to murder all other fish species in the tank, then turning on themselves did not help with the balance. I kept catching replacement fish from the canal.

I kept this tank going for over a year, but eventually, it crashed with a major algae bloom. While the tank gave me much joy, and renewed my interest in the hobby, I considered it a failure. Looking back, my goal was to recreate the canal in my backyard, and it was a success. I had recreated the canal, algae blooms and all.

This takes me to the restart. I had an opportunity to address the issues I had with the previous scape.

Filtration: Even with the addition of the UGF, i still felt I needed more filtration.

I souped up the UGF by replacing the airstones with a pair of AquaClear 20 powerheads.

I also replaced the Silentstream 40 HOB with an AquaClear 110 HOB. I replaced all the filter media with layers of 15ppi foam. The plan is to clean the bottom layer and move it to the top, rotating each cleaning cycle. I also put pieces of foam in the channel around the intake tube. And I used a large prefilter sponge on the intake.

Lighting Hood: I hated the tiny feeding door on the hood. To do any maintenance the hood had to come off, but then I lost the light. Where was the product testing?

I replaced the hood with a glass lid. Why doesn't the Top Fin 30" glass lid fit on a Top Fin 30" tank? I had to trim about 1/4" from the side.

Now I needed a new light. I decided to try the Hygger HG-957 light. It has proven to be a huge upgrade over the kit LED light, but it is not quite a premium light. It has proven to be a capable but quirky light.

Hardscape: I needed a better way to create height.

I had tried to slope the gravel higher in the back than the front and even higher in the back corners. I had tried to do this with only gravel, but gravity had other ideas. Over time the slope kept leveling off with the various tank maintenance operations. I decided to use the corrugated black plastic craft board to form a terrace. I made an arch stretching from one front corner to the middle of the back wall continuing to the other front corner. It is wedged in tightly and is quite sturdy. I made it 8" tall to have an elevated terrace in the back corners. This gives much more swimming area than a sloped bottom would have. I added larger river rocks to accent the top of the terrace and the base of the terrace wall. They were an impulse buy at the craft store but worked out great. I was originally planning to attach some mosses to the terrace wall, but I like the black wall. It matches the black background.

I thoroughly cleaned the gravel. I even used a few cups of bleach to try to kill any remaining algae.

The plain gravel scape was boring, so I picked up some pieces of spider wood.

Plants: I was able to salvage some of the Vallisneria and various Cryptocoryn from the previous scape. 

Vallisneria (left terrace), 

Pogostemon Stellatus Octopus (right terrace)

Java Fern (left midground)

Bacopa Caroliniana (center midground, blocking prefilter sponge)

Moneywort (center midground, blocking prefilter sponge) 

Various Cryptocoryne (left and right midground)

Micro Sword (left foreground)

Dwarf Hairgrass (right foreground)


6 Zebra/Leopard Danio

8 Harlequin Rasbora

1 Siamese Algae Eater

1 Red Neocaridina Davidi Shrimp (gift from a friend that made me get a shrimp tank)

1 Green Neocaridina Davidi Shrimp (stowaway from LFS when I bought reds for my shrimp tank)

? Bladder Snails


Panda Garra

Odessa Barb or Black Ruby Barb

Neocaridina Davidi Shrimp (as my shrimp tank colony grows)

Missing Fish:

I have lost 2 Danio and 3 Rasboras over the last 2 months. I have not found any bodies in or out of the tank. I have seen the Danios and Rasboras in territorial squabbles. I hope that as the plants continue to fill out there will be enough safe places to reduce this.

Pictures (to prove it happened)

13 Jan (diatoms)20220113_070944.jpg.225ef3ec5f91b96aa3338729382b355e.jpg

25 Jan (BGA)20220125_130311.jpg.1eb34682a142e4a2baa9f18953f7333e.jpg

11 Feb20220211_074159.jpg.a3174c35b5ddff7556c291621791d223.jpg

08 Mar20220308_120007.jpg.6f1004e66ccde5737b223ba5ca5c9423.jpg

15 Mar (2 days after trimming)20220315_190106.jpg.94d3e6121b508f43ae21f131d5cd3fac.jpg

20 Mar (before trimming)20220320_090556.jpg.72c2cc25f73f48b006496858762951e3.jpg

Edited by Widgets
Shrimpy details
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Not really an update, but I uploaded an old video that I had taken. YouTube kills the resolution, but you can still see everyone including the red shrimp and the SAE. I didn't have the green shrimp yet.

I had the powerhead venturi's making air bubbles. I somewhat like the bubbles, but I also like the clean look without the bubbles.

Edited by Widgets
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In my youth I caught a Florida Flag fish. It was beautiful, but I had no idea what it was or how to care for it. This was long before cell phones and the internet, so I had no way to research it. I ended up releasing it at the end of the trip. I have never seen one since in the wild or at a LFS. I see them for sale online, but never in person.

That all changed Thursday, when I stopped in my LFS they had Florida Flag fish, and at a more reasonable price than mail order. I really want to catch them, but I don't think there are any in the canal. So, Community Therapy now has a pair of Florida Flag fish.

When I introduced them to the tank, the male went into hiding. He was at the base of some plants, sitting on the gravel like he really didn't want to make this move. The female was swimming around checking out the neighborhood and meeting the new neighbors. The next day they had reversed. The female was lurking in the plants and the male was exploring. This morning they were both exploring; but if anyone gets near the tank they both go into hiding.

Here are some pictures. The male has colored up a little, but these pictures do not do him justice.


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On 4/6/2022 at 7:31 AM, Widgets said:

A quick picture of Community Therapy this morning.

One of these days when you're doing a water change and the filter happens to be off. I highly recommend viewing the tank from the top like a pond and looking at the bocopa. One of the reasons why I purchased it for my tanks originally was for just that one view.

Amazing tank. Nice work. Nice recovery from the algae.

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On 4/21/2022 at 7:09 PM, nabokovfan87 said:

One of these days when you're doing a water change and the filter happens to be off. I highly recommend viewing the tank from the top like a pond and looking at the bocopa. One of the reasons why I purchased it for my tanks originally was for just that one view.

Amazing tank. Nice work. Nice recovery from the algae.

Thanks. Every week I get that view as I am trimming the PSO and Bacopa. Any stems that would reach above the low water mark get trimmed back, with the clipping being replanted here or in another tank. I spend a lot of time on a stool looking down and looking from the side. I look from the side to find the stem to trim, but I have to cut and replant from above. The 37g is a bit too tall for me, but I wanted more water than the 29g.

There is some form of Bacopa looking something in the canal in the back yard. I am always looking at that stuf from above. My first cut at this Community Therapy tank (no pictures 🙁) was with all flora and fauna collected from the canal. The wild Bacopa looked a bit different and didn't grow well. At least not better than the wild algae that tagged along with my collection. I was also trying to use the light that came with the tank kit.

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My how the color of shrimp can deepen as they grow. When I bought my red Neocaridina Shrimp there was an bonus green one that was unlucky to have been scooped up with the reds. I put the green one here in the community tank.


I only occasionally see this shrimp, and it has been a long time. I was afraid it was a goner. Then this morning I saw what she grew into.


The only other shrimp in this tank was the original red Neocaridina that got me interested in keeping shrimp. The redcone was moved in with the other reds, so the green was the only shrimp in the tank.

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On 4/21/2022 at 8:25 PM, nabokovfan87 said:

I found this photo when trying to find a top down view. Just makes me wish I had a pond or something.

Very cool that you have that view outside every day.


Very reminiscent of sterogyne repens

This time of year we have a pretty bad algae bloom on the canal. Today they came by and sprayed something on the algae scum on the top of the water. I am not sure what it is, but it will knock back the water hyacinth and water lettuce too.

My neighbor is having to take down his dock, as it was never permitted. Here is a shot of the relatively clear water under the dock, where the plants have been growing in indirect light.


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