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JJs journey to mastering freshwater aquariums


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How did I get started in fish-keeping? Reflection on the past explains how I turned into the person I am today. The year was 1975 and I was a part of the counterculture of the time. I wouldn't say I was a full-blown hippie, but a Mother Earth type of gal (I still have the first issue of Mother Earth News). Stay-at-home Mom to 4 constantly thinking about enrichment activities for the kiddles as we did not own a television. Enter our first tank. The passage of years has faded my memories other than we all loved our African Cichlids eventually accruing 2 - 55 gallon tanks and a 20-gallon breeder tank. 


When my youngest entered 1st grade I went back to school to finish my Bachelor's Degree. Bright and dark days for the next two years. Classes during the day, home to run the household, and helping kiddles with their classwork before studying late into the night. We added a cross-state move due to a job change for my spouse. Moving meant the loss of my 1/8 acre vegetable garden, fruit trees, and herb garden. The most significant loss, however, was giving up the fish. Most of our fish had names and everyone had a hand in taking care of them. I like to think this is what inspired one of my children to start a school-wide aquaponics program! The kiddles were growing up and they were more active in school activities. After getting my Master's I entered the workforce. 


Fast forward to 2021! Kiddles are grown and live all over the US. I'm a Grandmother of 10 and retired from my career.  I grew tired of the 1-hour commute to my youngest child's home (we live in the same city)! Sold my home and my daughter and I bought a new one closer to her work. I told her that she and her significant other would have to start taking better care of their RES in a brackish 55-gal tank. She decided that a 125 gal was needed and we had a perfect place to set it up. 


Squirt's main activities are redecorating the tank in search of an elusive smidge of food. Plants have been attempted in many fashions. We decided to forgo the plants as he chewed them all at the base of the plant. His tank has Industrial strength driftwood that he cannot budge along with Star Wars decor that he topples from time to time. We leave it how it is to go for a battle look on Tatooine. The tank is clear and stable we've stocked it with danios and barbs along with shrimp. Fish are too fast for Squirt (although recently our barb count went down by 1) and we have enough hiding spots for the shrimp to survive. The Ghost shrimp are prolific. 


Because I have an abundance of time, I decided to plant a tank. I started the process over a year ago.  I read lots about starting an aquarium and because of my work background, I then had to go find proof of what people were saying before I adopted it. It took me a long time to settle on a few people to be my go-to's for information. I wanted something that I didn't have to climb on a ladder to manage but was big enough to have more than 6 fish. Settled on a 40-gal breeder tank. Before I even bought anything, I started seeding my bio-rings in the 125 tank.  

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Edited by JJenna
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11/6/22


For the past several days I have been rinsing and placing 3 bags of Seachem Flourite in the tank. I can't believe the amount of dust in the bags that just went down the drain. I didn't let that water go down the drain, I poured the extra into a tub in the garage and plan to use it in my gardens....the dust has to have some properties right? My R/O tank is only 2 gallons and takes time to regenerate, so filling a gallon jug and pouring it over a sieve full of the substrate until it runs clear takes a lot of time. Didn't want to pour it all in a bucket and stir in water...my thought being, "how long do I stir it around to wash away the dust" and "how long will I have to let the dust settle in the bucket" I can get obsessive with some of this stuff haha. I chose the Flourite is the life of the nutrient availability. I'm still unclear if I should still use Root Tabs in addition to the flourite. I like the look of it and hope it will keep the mystery snails from burrowing under it and disappearing for days on end like they do in the big tank. 


After the substrate was placed it was time to place my hardscape. I had this fabulous piece of driftwood that was going to be my centerpiece and some Dragonstone on either side. I hated it! Going to suggest to my life that they put in a small area where you can play around with hardscape but they are a pretty packed little place. 

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I like Dragonstone and found an artificial centerpiece that looked similar enough to Dragonstone so now my main hardscape is stone. Can't wait to see what it looks like planted so I placed my order with the Co-op for one of every kind of low-light plant they had. That would help me better decide which plants I would eventually want, giving my unwanted ones to someone else. 


I took a trip to the local pet store for 20 gallons of R/O water so I can begin planting. One of the perks of having white streaks of hair is I never have to cart heavy things out and put them in my car! Once I'm home is a different story though. I can lift the jugs and hold one comfortably in my arms, but it's beyond my capabilities to lift to shoulder height to pour in the tank so time to McGyver something to get that water in the tank! Here's my first iteration of my hardscape-Excuse the poor photo, getting better at pictures since I got some good advice from the Co-op FB page. 

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Edited by JJenna
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On 11/19/2022 at 12:30 PM, TheSwissAquarist said:

Can’t wait to see how this journal turns out! What fish do you breed?? Apart from “easy” livebearers of course 😊

I have a wish list of fish I want to put in it, but I probably won't be thinking about that for another month. Want to introduce Shrimp next week and let them get established. Killifish are top on my list of fish to get but I'm concerned about them being egg scatterers and if the mystery snails or shrimp will eat the eggs. Next thing to go and start researching. 

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On 11/19/2022 at 6:56 PM, JJenna said:

I have a wish list of fish I want to put in it, but I probably won't be thinking about that for another month. Want to introduce Shrimp next week and let them get established. Killifish are top on my list of fish to get but I'm concerned about them being egg scatterers and if the mystery snails or shrimp will eat the eggs. Next thing to go and start researching. 

@Fish Folk and @Schuyler have been keeping (or attempting) to spawn Nothobranchius Eggersi, maybe they could give their opinion?

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Hey you decided to start a journal!

On 11/19/2022 at 10:02 AM, TheSwissAquarist said:

@Fish Folk and @Schuyler have been keeping (or attempting) to spawn Nothobranchius Eggersi, maybe they could give their opinion?

I really like my Killifish they have a ton of personality and really inhabit all levels of the tank. They'll weave in and out of all the plants and rocks, loads of fun to watch and really colorful.

That spawn in coconut coir or peat moss and then the make kicks up the dirt to bury them. I've seen a few snails crawl in but I'm guessing they can't get to the eggs or at least most are safe because they are buried. I will say that I haven't actually collected any eggs yet or tried hatching anything yet.

But I would be less worried about your killi eggs and more worried about the shrimplets. From what I've seen the killis are quite the hunters. If you're going to keep shrimp I would make sure you have a well established colony before adding the killis. Even then make sure they have lots of places they can hide that the fish can't squeeze into (they can be quite determined).

Another option is you could go for a perennial species of Killifish. Still lots of color but they live longer and stick their eggs to things. Something like a aphyosemion bitaeniatum.

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On 11/19/2022 at 9:13 AM, JJenna said:

I like Dragonstone and found an artificial centerpiece that looked similar enough to Dragonstone so now my main hardscape is stone. 

One word of warning about the artificial rocks: if you use this Ick Off tablets it will stain them blue

On 11/19/2022 at 9:13 AM, JJenna said:

That would help me better decide which plants I would eventually want, giving my unwanted ones to someone else. 

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I would just put an the plants in there and see what grows for you.

I recognize that spray bar! Looking at yours it feels obvious to put both tubes on the same side. One thing in considering is getting another piece of pipe and cutting more holes to get less intense flow. What size filter did you get?

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On 11/19/2022 at 2:22 PM, Schuyler said:

One word of warning about the artificial rocks: if you use this Ick Off tablets it will stain them blue

I would just put an the plants in there and see what grows for you.

I recognize that spray bar! Looking at yours it feels obvious to put both tubes on the same side. One thing in considering is getting another piece of pipe and cutting more holes to get less intense flow. What size filter did you get?

Wow, this is such great information to know about the Ick Off tablets. 

I have a Fluval 407 but I'm really curious to see if the flow is too much, I like being able to slow the flow down. I opted to go with the Spray Bar because we have a kitty who loves airline tubing to chew on and has been able to find even the smallest piece of exposed tubing to chew on in the big tank. 99% of small diameter cords are covered yet a couple of nights ago she drug the air pump out, heaven knows how, and managed to chew holes right at the pump. Pic of her to show why we haven't strangled her yet! 

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On 11/19/2022 at 4:05 PM, Schuyler said:

You can look and see if there is a local Killifish club in your area

Not that I'm aware of...just the Circle City Aquarium Club. Going to post to a small group I belong to on Next Door and see if they know. 

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11/9/22


My order from the Co-op arrived so I've been planting. I know at some point this is going to get easier to do but it's a pita right now. Either the plants float right back out or I've planted them crooked. It's hard to look straight down in the tank and see if they are upright or not. I realized unless I want my shirts continually wet, I'm either going to have to use a little step stool or go topless (and as the temps are hovering around 30F that's a no-go). The priority now is to get plant weights to see if that helps. The root tabs are more of a challenge and after chasing around the capsules for a while I managed to finally get one down. Back to reading how to get them to stay down. Too bad they don't come in the spike form I use for my house plants. For now, I'm declaring surrender and will try another day. When I finished planting I see some big holes so it was time to go to my lfs and see what they have to offer to fill in. They were very helpful in identifying low/med/high light plants. I got my Fluval Plant 3.0 light on today and know I will have to do more reading about that. Right now it's set on auto, but 12 hours on seems excessive, maybe that's the factory preset. 


One thing that I have learned with all this new equipment is the instruction manuals suck at telling you how to install, troubleshoot, etc. Thank god for YouTube, so far have been able to find videos for every piece of equipment I'm using. 


The other thing I notice is my backdrop is bubbling and pulling away from the glass. I'm so disappointed because of the $ spent on it. I have little room to fit a squeegee in and as the day goes on more and more bubbles appear. Will have to figure out something to fix it. 
 

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On 11/20/2022 at 6:23 AM, JJenna said:

Right now it's set on auto, but 12 hours on seems excessive, maybe that's the factory preset. 

That does sound like a recipe for algae. It's at least not on full power for 12 hours hopefully.

On 11/20/2022 at 6:23 AM, JJenna said:

One thing that I have learned with all this new equipment is the instruction manuals suck at telling you how to install, troubleshoot, etc. Thank god for YouTube, so far have been able to find videos for every piece of equipment I'm using. 

No kidding! The Fluval canister filter instructions didn't even say what order the media baskets we supposed to go in.

Your tank is coming together nicely! That seems like a good idea putting a thermometer on each side.

What's that red plants on the left in the corner? Is that something that floated up or do you have it attracted to the side of the glass somehow?

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I agree planting new plants and placing root tabs can be a test of patience at times. I’ve heard people poke little holes in those root tabs that comes in capsules so they sink immediately. It looks like you did a great job though! Usually the first time I plant up a new tank it looks terrible until I get some new growth. Lots of ugly phases for my tanks.

I wish I had a cool tip for the separating background. Hopefully the plants start covering up the back so you don’t even notice or you find a way to get it squared away.

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On 11/20/2022 at 6:23 AM, JJenna said:

Either the plants float right back out or I've planted them crooked. It's hard to look straight down in the tank and see if they are upright or not. I realized unless I want my shirts continually wet, I'm either going to have to use a little step stool or go topless (and as the temps are hovering around 30F that's a no-go). The priority now is to get plant weights to see if that helps. The root tabs are more of a challenge and after chasing around the capsules for a while I managed to finally get one down. Back to reading how to get them to stay down.

I've definitely had my share of issues with this. Depending what plants you might do better with letting them float for a little bit or leaving them in a pot to acclimate.  Question though, what is the substrate you're specifically trying to plant in and having the most issues with. 

I often find my mistake is not going deep enough, or just having way powerful flow on the tank.  I feel like almost everyday I am replanting something.

On 11/20/2022 at 6:23 AM, JJenna said:

Right now it's set on auto, but 12 hours on seems excessive, maybe that's the factory preset. 

Start with 6-8 hours if that (less is more) and definitely be sure to update the light and go in and turn mostly everything down. Pretty much no matter what the tank is, a good starting point is 30% on pure white,  blue at 1-5%, and 20% on everything else. Then slowly do research and learn about it.

On 11/20/2022 at 6:23 AM, JJenna said:

Will have to figure out something to fix it. 

Try a chopstick or dowel from the sides.

Edited by nabokovfan87
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On 11/20/2022 at 10:35 AM, Schuyler said:

What's that red plants on the left in the corner? Is that something that floated up or do you have it attracted to the side of the glass somehow?

It's a tiger lily, was letting it float until it grew a few more roots, it's planted now. more pics with more plants upcoming.

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On 11/20/2022 at 10:37 AM, OceanTruth said:

Lots of ugly phases for my tanks.

I don't mind the messy look, I'm pleased that in just a few days I'm seeing new growth.

On 11/20/2022 at 11:34 AM, nabokovfan87 said:

what is the substrate you're specifically trying to plant in and having the most issues with

Seachem Flourite, I think the issue is when I poke a hole in the substrate it stays open and I have to be quick about pushing substrate around plant with my free fingers.  

On the light I have made some adjustments after watching Pascoe's videos and it's on only 8 hours (that includes sunrise and sunset) and I'll be dialing that up slowly.

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On 11/20/2022 at 10:27 AM, JJenna said:

Seachem Flourite, I think the issue is when I poke a hole in the substrate it stays open and I have to be quick about pushing substrate around plant with my free fingers.

Are you using tongs or your fingers?  Sometime the biggest thing is letting the substrate fall back.  You pull the plant underneath, slowly release the tongs, then let the substrate fill the void, slowly repeat that until it's back.  Once you get the substrate to settle, then go ahead and cover up the surface a bit if you need to.   I have the same substrate and it can be pretty fickle without a lot of roots.

If you're using your fingers, same thing, just a little more difficult.
 

 

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On 11/20/2022 at 1:35 PM, nabokovfan87 said:

Are you using tongs or your fingers?  Sometime the biggest thing is letting the substrate fall back.  You pull the plant underneath, slowly release the tongs, then let the substrate fill the void, slowly repeat that until it's back.  Once you get the substrate to settle, then go ahead and cover up the surface a bit if you need to.   I have the same substrate and it can be pretty fickle without a lot of roots.
 

I loved that video, don't know why I didn't think of using both of my hands haha!

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11/15/22


I think I'm done planting at this point! Filled in some of the empty spots and got some Christmas Moss on a grid to put on top of the centerpiece. I removed the backdrop and went to the local office supply for a poster board. Found a tri-fold foam board that was 36" wide. I cut off one of the sides and while it doesn't cover the entire back of the tank you can't see it because of plants, etc. 

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I bought 5 mystery snails and they are happily bopping around the tank. One of the dogs saw one moving on the glass and she was mesmerized by the movement. It was funny to see how she changed her position to look through the front of the glass. 

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I did a test strip and Nitrates-0, Nitrites-0,  GH-25, KH-40, PH-6.8, Chlorine-0 and ammonia-0. Good to see the GH, KH, and PH parameters creeping up, just have to be patient. I'm becoming more confident about putting critters in the tank and yesterday I went to the lfs and got 5 Amano and 10 assorted colored shrimp. I'm not worried about the colored ones breeding, if I start seeing more wild colors I'll just cull and feed to the turtle. I made the simple drip acclimator and after 90 minutes was ready to put the shrimp in the tank. When I looked at the bucket I saw that Piper, who likes to put her squishy egg into things had dropped it in the bucket. I sure hope the dirt and dog slobber doesn't kill the shrimp. 

It's feeding day and I don't know how much to give. The instructions are pretty standard, feed as much as they will eat in so many minutes. The flakes match the substrate perfectly and I can't tell how much they have eaten. They don't come swarming at feeding time yet, so I'll assume they got enough food.  

I put in 1 nano banquet block for the shrimp and an Algae wafer for the snails. My daughter commented that my snails are so much more active than hers. Hers disappear for days at a time (I'm assuming into the sand substrate) and we don't see them much on the glass. It may be that the big tank doesn't have many algae that are visible to me. She moved all of hers into my tank thinking they will be happier. Now I have 8 mystery snails and 15 shrimp in the tank. The shrimp are clustered on my Xmas moss and eating the hair algae, moving the light more toward the back of the tank appears to have slowed the growth of the hair algae. 

One of my Amazon Swords has a vertical runner, I know they don't have runners don't know the term for the stem that you cut from the Sword to propagate another. It's like an upwards spider plant so I'll call it a Sword baby. Will let it grow for a bit more to see. I wonder if I could stake down the baby into the substrate, much like you can do with Spider Plant babies before you cut the stem. Would have to fashion some type of stake, maybe just bending a plant weight in half and have that hold the sword down. 

My lfs store had a few of these little beauties on the shelf for a princely sum of $90 US. If I ever do a tank teardown I will consider this with moss growing on it. 

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