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15 gal fluval flex planted community tank

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I mention the specific tank as it's a popular recommendation for first-time aquascapers, which is why I got it...I looked at a bunch of scapes in this tank model before making mine so, I wanted to make this journal easy to find for similarly-situated newbies 

I started my tank with plants (...and hitchhiker bladder snails) only in November 2023, added my first intentional livestock mid-January 2024, re-did the scape with the same materials (plus some more plants) at the beginning of this month, and added my centerpiece fish, a pair of peacock gudgeons, on March 30. 

Here's how the tank looks now: IMG_2129.jpg.d49b59f670a107cf67fcc3dfac86585b.jpg

and how it looked when I first set it up: IMG_1737.jpg.f5511fb4a537aea13e26f69629056dd0.jpg

The inhabitants are: 1x Mystery Snail (Gale of Waterdeep), 2x Otocinclus (Dot and Dash, named for the respective shapes of the markings on their tails), and 2x Peacock Gudgeons (as of yet unnamed). 

Temp is 74 F, pH about 7.2, GH a work in progress (6 at the moment, adding Seachem Equilibrium to bring that up 1 degree at a time every 3 days bc I'm worried about Gale's shell, but I don't want to shock anybody by changing it too quickly), Nitrate about 10 ppm -- actually trying to increase that for the plant health, Nitrate/Ammonia both 0. 

I'm running CO2 using a DIY system (the kind where you mix citric acid and baking soda in a reactor) with a solenoid. Usually, the drop checker goes green by the end of the CO2 period but is blue most of the day -- all the plants are easy/beginner plants that don't strictly require CO2 so this fine by me, as I'd rather have less CO2 and not risk fish health issues. Goal with the CO2 is to speed up things growing in for a jungle-y look...and Gale was eating the plants I'd added from in vitro pots so I figured they could use a boost. 

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On 4/1/2024 at 7:16 PM, clownbaby said:

Honestly, both look great!!! Amazing job... I am so jealous!! What floaters are you using?

Thank you! It's a mix of red root floaters, amazon frogbit, and duckweed that I did not intentionally add but I'm not mad about either lol. The frogbit is definitely winning out overall. I'd say it's 80% frogbit, 15% red roots, and 5% duckweed. I thin it out a little bit every couple of days to make sure light still gets down below but I love the green hue it gives everything and the root structures. Gale does weird acrobatics hanging off them, which is also fun. So I never thin them back particularly aggressively 🤪

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On 4/4/2024 at 2:26 AM, FLFishChik said:

Looks great! I’m low key jealous of your floaters (I have to much surface agitation in my tanks to keep them alive)

With the first layout, I had thought I would get a betta for this tank, so I was intentionally baffling the flow a lot. When I re-did the layout one of my key changes was that the big piece of driftwood had been too close to the filter outflow nozzles, so I had been struggling to manipulate them. That piece is now a lot more to the center of the tank so I can get my hands around the sides of it better lol. Anyway. I did increase the flow a bit, but by that point I already had tons of floaters going, so I could see when they were getting pushed around more than I'd like and I redirected the flow to the hardscape (on one side) and the side of the tank on the other to slow it down a little. TBH I worried about the inhabitants too which is definitely just me projecting because at that point it was only the otos and Gale and if anything they'd probably prefer higher flow, but they looked like they were struggling with it compared to what I was used to seeing and I felt bad. 

By way of a tank update for today, this morning my gudgeons were huddled together under the moss ball.


Here they are from the side...they must've both moved the moss ball and moved the sand around a little because I swear, it was more even last I checked 


The female seems to be carrying eggs, which the seller mentioned to me when I picked them up this past weekend (he'd special ordered them in from his wholesaler for me). Here's a shot of her from earlier in the week -- they've both colored up a bit since and her belly is now looking a bit more yellow. 


So at first I was worried they were trying to spawn in like, the weirdest and least cave-y place in the tank. But later in the day they were both swimming around more actively so, now I think maybe they were just sleeping? Given that they've recently moved in etc I'd be surprised if they are successful if they spawn soon...but you never know. We'll see. I'm not planning to remove the eggs from the tank and hatch them myself -- my plan is more along the lines of 'if any successfully get to be free swimming and I catch them before they get eaten by their parents, I'll try to grow them out a bit'. Both of the current pair are eating well and generally pretty active when it isn't within the first hour of the lights being on.

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The gudgeons definitely spawned! I was thinning out my floaters and came across a substantial algae patch I'd previously thought was maybe just moss growing off the cholla wood in the top of the tank. I went to remove a section of it and a very cranky little gudgeon face looked back up at me, surrounded by small white eggs. Clearly they decided on 'indent in the driftwood toward the top of the tank' as the way to go....I of course apologized and put back down the algae mat lol. We'll circle back to clearing that out once the parental care period ends. 

I'm glad they've spawned, since I hope it means they're settling in to the tank well and feeling healthy overall. I know the male probably won't exit his hiding spot to eat while the eggs are hatching. They're still so new to me and so small that I do worry about him having the body mass etc to maintain that....I'll look into gudgeon breeding more. I saw one source say they would hatch in 8-10 days and another say 2-3. Pretty big difference there! 

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This morning the male was out swimming through the tank again so it looks like he abandoned his nest...fair enough, I wasn't really expecting them to be successful on their first spawning attempt given the female already was carrying eggs when I introduced them to the tank so, I figured it would be a little soon. The eggs are still in the driftwood divot he selected. I've got to figure out if I should try to remove them or not. The nitrogen cycle in the tank is quite robust so I'm not too worried about that, more like, 'will removing them encourage or discourage their next attempt' etc. The tank's not set up for breeding and I wasn't (and still am not) planning on hatching the eggs in a separate tank myself....I'm indifferent on if I get surviving fry, mostly just curious and along for the ride. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

been a minute but here are some updates: 

- I've got a filamentous algae breakout up by the cholla wood at the top of the tank that I'm having trouble clearing out....not sure if it's that I increased fertilizers a bit over a month ago or if it's that the cholla wood is maybe breaking down too quickly. Planning to do some research on how long cholla usually lasts in tanks; I've seen it at fish and aquascape places of course but that's no guarantee  it's actually a good call lol. I did notice (pretty quickly after adding it tbh) that it's a lot softer and spongier than before I added to the tank, and there's some greenish algae deep in the wood that doesn't bother me so much because, unlike the filamentous crap, it isn't spreading in to the roots of my floaters. I've been thinning out the floaters a bit more the last week or two, mainly to pull out heavily algae'd roots, which in turn is increasing light in the rest of the tank so, hard to tell if that's helping anybody or not. The cholla wood is easily removable (see re: break down, the glue points to my spider wood did not last very long) so I might take it out and dip it in a hydrogen peroxide solution this weekend. It has some bucephalandria well-rooted in to the top that's actually growing mostly out of the water since the cholla sits so high in the tank....I like it a lot, and I like seeing the contrast between the fully submerged vs emergent growth. Might replace with a different piece of cholla or with a ceramic pleco cave it it turns out that all cholla degrades so fast. Anyone else had issues with cholla wood? 

- last Sunday 4/14 the male went in to the cave -- the actual coconut hut this time. For the first couple days I did see him come out at feeding time and quickly go back in, but I haven't seen him since. It sounds like peacock gudgeons usually take about 5 days to hatch so I'm getting a little nervous. I don't want to disturb him but also like, I do kind of want to make sure he's alive? Water parameters remain good and everyone else in the tank is acting normal so, I'll give him until the middle of next week if I can restrain my curiosity, just to make sure the longer end of 'about 5-7 days' is well past before I go poking my nose in his business. Maybe the first couple days he was still in the 'enticing the female' stage and she hadn't laid yet, and that's why he was willing to come out? 

- I'm debating my stocking plan again. I was thinking 'upper water schooling fish so there's activity in all levels of the tank and I get to see a variety of behaviors' but a) the floaters are so thick -- would they have sufficient access to the water surface? would they be visible given the floater roots and the fluval's waterline dots or not so much? and b) the female gudgeon at least does come up to the water surface; maybe I should just get more gudgeons instead? 

Originally I thought, 'only 1 pair of gudgeons because I only want to put in one cave' but it's now coming to my attention that, even though I didn't build in other intentional caves, these guys are not that picky. At first I heard some advice that was like, 'include one more cave than you do male gudgeons' and I thought 'well that's a no then' but now I'm wondering if that advice wasn't geared toward optimizing breeding instead of general peaceability in the tank, because I've also seen a lot of stuff that's like 'they're not aggressive with each other or other fish and are a great fish for aquascapes'. Certainly mine are not aggressive with Gale or the otos at all. And 'great for aquascapes' implies to me that maybe the cave requirement isn't as strong a necessity? Also I'm kind of worried that if they are somehow successful in hatching fry and any survive to adulthood, we'll have inbreeding issues since it's a pair and not a colony. Obvs one way to avoid this is to net them out and sell them. But on the other hand, maybe I'd like to maintain a colony instead? The most likely outcome is that they will eat the fry. But as the plants increase (fingers crossed), I know sometimes without netting out to a separate tank folks are successful in a small amount of fry making it adulthood. 

As always any input is strongly welcomed, especially on the stocking front 🙂

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All right, tank matainence day today, and I dipped the cholla log in a 5ml hydrogen peroxide/2 gallons water solution (rinsed before and after) and a lot of algae definitely came off....we'll see how that goes. 

Curiosity also got the better of me and, especially since Gale the snail was in the coconut hut and I was worried that maybe somehow my nitrogen cycle was just so efficient that the gudgeon was dead in there and the tank was just processing it without any ammonia or nitrate spikes, I lifted the hut a little today. He's definitely alive and really nicely colored up so, I put the hut back down on top of him. No sign of eggs or fry but it was dusty from the hut being moved + disturbing the sand...and I didn't look super closely before replacing it. 

So we'll see when he comes out again. I miss seeing his stupid chonky head, which maybe is another indication in favor of 'get more gudgeons' 

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