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My First Planted Tank Journal

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I tried some plants when I was young and they always died.  Well, now I've done tons of research and I'm ready to put together my first serious attempt at a planted tank.  I was able to get a good deal on a 55 gallon from FB marketplace.  It had some scratches and bad mineral build up, but it fit in my budget.  I was able to remove the majority of the mineral build up with vinegar.  It looks pretty good for what I paid for it!  This is going to be a bit of a budget build.



I am using Quikrete pool filter sand as my substrate.

Filtration: two ACO medium sponge filters, one on each side of the tank.

Light: Finnex Stingray 2 

Plants: Mostly anubias and java fern with moss on the wood.  One side will have a patch of vallisneria hopefully.

Hardscape: This is what will be interesting.  We had a Japanese Maple tree die this year unfortunately.  The wood doesn't really have any sap of any kind and I researched it online and people say it is a hardwood.  So my plan is to use wood from that tree in this tank.  For rocks, I have a large piece of petrified wood I collected awhile ago that I plan to use.

Fish: The plan is to have one or two pairs of bolivian rams, a school of black neon tetra, a school of cherry barbs, and a school of corys.  Eventually I may want to add an angelfish, but we'll see what happens.

I am really excited to be starting this project and look forward to sharing updates!

For now, I have 3 questions that I'd love to hear from people on: 1) I am curious if anyone has ever tried using Japanese Maple wood in an aquarium or knows anything about it, 2) can any type of petrified wood be used in an aquarium (I've seen some for sale for aquascapes), 3) is christmas moss a fairly easy plant, someone in my local club said they will have some at the next meeting and I am thinking about using it for the wood.

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1. Never tried Japanese Maple Wood in a tank nor do I know much about it however I don’t see why you couldn’t it is a natural wood. That being said it will most likely effect your water in some way shape or form but if your journaling and monitor the parameters and make adjustments it sounds like a decent idea to me.

2. Any type is quite a generalization to which most of the time I would say there are probably exceptions to the rule however for the most part or majority of them it shouldn’t be harmful.

3. I’ve had back and forth success with it personally, finally dialed it in and it’s growing like weeds. I basically set it and forget it. When I was catering to it it didn’t succeed, when I left it alone it thrived.

this is a really cool project I can’t wait to see more of it, I want to do a similar journal as well for a tank I have one day when I’m actively trying to breed it’s inhabitants, keep up the good work 

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Is that actually a 55? It looks bigger front to back

1) I haven't worked with Japanese maple specifically. I would clean as much bark off as you can. In my experience, heating it up by boiling a few mins or pouring hot water in it and using a paint scraper worked well. Using a pressure washer ate into the wood some and messed up that nice smooth look. I don't know if that thought had crossed your mind but in case you're like me a guy tired or scraping after a few hours of picking are bark on roots then that's something to consider.

2) Petrified wood can be made up different things. I'm not a geologist so I don't know exactly. But I personally would be more worried about any kind of varnish or polished parts if it's cut. The other thing to consider is how much you have to put in the tank. I had some that I thought were nice and big then I put them in the tank and it just felt... Understanding.

3) I have Christmas moss and Java moss in my low tech tank that I keep a pH in the 7's mainly an temp at 76 F. The Christmas moss is much more dense and uniform vs the Java moss which kinda looks tangly and sparse.

If someone in your club has some that's doing well in your local water then the sounds like a good move.

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  • 2 weeks later...


On 2/6/2023 at 12:43 PM, Schuyler said:

Is that actually a 55? It looks bigger front to back

It's the standard 55 gal measurements.  I think my phone's camera lens was making it look deeper.

I've spent the last 2 weeks working on the Japanese Maple branches.  I've removed almost all of the bark now (that is a lot of work!).  This weekend I will be going to my first local club auction to hopefully pick up some plants.  It's being held at the best LFS for plants in my area, so between the two I'm hoping to have what I want in order to start.  Also looking to do my first order from ACO this weekend.  

I had originally planned to do two medium sponge filters on each end, but I am wondering if one large sized filter on one end would be enough for filtration, flow, ect.  Would love to hear some thoughts on that.

This Sunday or Monday I hope to post some pictures of the beginning of the tank setup with plants and hardscape in there!

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  • 2 weeks later...

I went to my local club auction and the store that was hosting it and got my plants!  I also received my ACO order with the sponge filters and fertilizers, so the initial setup is up and going!

IMG_8207.jpg.9fce1d07fabe41afededb44c76eee452.jpgMy Phone doesn't work well with my light so the colors are off a bit.  I have dwarf sagittaria, java fern windelov, needle leaf java fern, a crypt, java moss, anubias nana petite, and two anubias whose names have slipped my mind.  Some of the anubias leaves have some holes, but I don't think I was putting in enough easy green, however, I am dealing with some brown hair algae which I think is due to me being too worried about the plants and putting in too much easy green.  Oh the joys of beginner mistakes!  IMG_8208.jpg.9c5368d39f86a67e64897e8f414af680.jpgThe hair algae is on the plants as well as the sand.  The dwarf sagittaria has quite a few brown leaves, but I think (and hope) it is still adjusting.

 The Japanese Maple wood seems to be doing fine except for a white fuzz covering it, which I have read is normal and will eventually go away.

IMG_8209.jpg.8a175f6a1cbf3308853857fe2e10f9cb.jpgJust being patient and waiting to see how the plants do as time goes on.  The tank has been setup for a week now.  The fish store was having a sale, so I went ahead and picked up a school of cherry barbs which have been in my quarantine tank.  The water parameters in the big tank have been looking good, so I'll probably add them soon.  Just not sure if I should add them while the wood is still covered in fuzz.  Thinking about getting some hillstream loaches or otocinclus to help scrub the algae and possibly some amano or cherry shrimp eventually.

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On 3/3/2023 at 2:11 PM, Plechoeco said:

The Japanese Maple wood seems to be doing fine except for a white fuzz covering it, which I have read is normal and will eventually go away

Yeah you're fine. It's a bit intimidating but unless it lasts for like a month or takes over your tank somehow it's fine.

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