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The Sad Bowl is back, V7.0

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For some on the forum the saga of The Sad Bowl is old hat and for others welcome and we will commiserate together on that one tank or vessel that just seems to defy you as an aquarist. This is my journey with my 11 g bowl. 

Let’s start with some history in pictures: IMG_0427.jpeg.03bf8ba10a31f3cfb87a7a8c75eee862.jpeg

this was my first effort here in Seattle, the pea puffers struggled with parasites and the constant treatments just never let the biome form Properly.


At its best I think, 2022 before the move to Seattle, fireball dwarf platys, blue neo shrimp - so blue LRB and a hermit on the Oregon coast combined to form that line, Madagascar lace plant, some crypts! Magnificent!


this was a bowl at its best look at that Madagascar lace plant go! 


a really stark composition. The lace plant brought it alive. 


This was when a strange protein source wouldn’t stop that foam from forming on the top. Guppy grass couldn’t save it!

To date I think we are on version 6.0. At least 2 versions never allowed any life to be in the bowl. If you look at my main journal you will see it mentioned many times. Since our move to Seattle it has taken 2 forms. 1. A pea puffer community 2. As a mixed Caridina or mischling tank. Alas there’s something amiss in the soil and the gH is solid but I keep getting little blips of kH that kill or stress shrimp. 

The other issue and thankfully the fish wife is not a forum member I think that she has some behaviors that have thwarted the bowl. She loves to throw open all the windows in our bedroom and the temps can fluctuate massively. 

Now my thought is this - switch this to a low energy tank - no heater. I will use a new light setup I got from Hiro https://www.hiroaquatics.com/products/full-spectrum-fish-tank-light-led-grow-light-bamboo-stand-terrarium-light

I will use a combination of laterite, pond soil, some crushed coral and some aquarium soil maybe with some gravel to cap for the plants. I will use plants that can handle things on the lower end of the plant spectrum heat wise which is actually a lot of plants - room stays around 60-65 most of the time but in winter she can throw open the windows and it can get in the 50s. I have this beautiful piece of driftwood that has a natural opening that would be perfect as a planter. It will be air driven with a homemade UGF. 

Here’s a couple rough sketches. IMG_0261.jpeg.a92f1e10894c9c0542be5fa75b9be3ee.jpeg

My other idea is go back to what I had before go with wood, a big centerpiece plant like Madagascar lace or crinum, or a big crypt. IMG_2709.jpeg.db5abae2e2a422e78e43908ccde861f1.jpeg

Stocking is going to be 1. Celestial Pearl Danios - I bought 20 juices/babies at auction I’m growing out in my sons 10 g. I’m thinking of Neocaridina maybe start a new blue shrimp colony. 2. Go back to the future and do dwarf platys - I’ve got a line on some of Cory’s someone in the club has, and maybe some blue shrimp. 

Thoughts and prayers are appreciated as we start  Version 7.0 of The Sad Bowl! Have fun everyone! 




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I have struggled most with tanks that had significant amounts of wood in them.  The tanks that had little or no wood are easier to keep stable for me.  Keeping the wood limited relative to the size of the tank has reduced struggles in my more challenging tanks.  I would lean towards a small amount of wood, pick a fairly large / tall crypt with an interesting color or form that also gets fairly dense or plant a group close together so it forms a dense clump, and make that crypt the focus of the scape.  Maybe some smaller species of crypt around the edges.  Then some nice contrasting shrimp to go with your CPD’s.

Just for instance:  Crypt wendtii ‘Red’ surrounded by Crypt lucens plus your CPD’s and Bloody Mary or fire red shrimp to bring out the fins on the CPD’s or golden backs would be a good contrast and maybe bring out the dots on the CPD’s.  Or a clump of Crypt balansae for even more height and interesting, slightly textured, long, narrow leaves surrounded by Crypt lutea for a really nice color contrast giving you a very distinct “shoes and socks” effect with their much lower form or with Crypt nurii which is a wider, sometimes very textured leaf plus they tend to lay flat with more light where balansae gets very tall and would lay over across the top of the water in your bowl.  Even Crypt spiralis would be a very cool effect as the tall, narrow leaved plant without laying over as much as balansae and spiralis comes in red and green versions.  Nurii also comes in MANY different color forms with several pink versions like ‘Rosen Maiden’ or ‘Pink Line’, or green versions like ‘Luminous Green’ so you could pick one that contrasted well with whichever color of spiralis ‘Red’ or ‘Green’ you choose.

Plant variation like this would give your CPD’s plenty of hiding space and still plenty of swimming space without overwhelming and crowding the bowl.  There would barely need to be any trimming, especially if the shrimp take off enough.  The CPD’s would tend to stay higher and the shrimp would tend to stay in the lower plants and shrimplets have a good chance of hiding and surviving from the CPD’s hunting.

I’m looking forward to what you decide to do with the “Sad Bowl”.

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Well life is interesting- Karma, dharma, flow, all the things we talk about that guide and shape us as beings lead us to where we are or should be.

Father’s Day is always tough for me. I didn’t have that ideal Father and instead had many father figures, friends and mentors who’ve guided me. I had a step-dad who’s been more than my own “dad” and well he’s been ill lately and then my biological father decided with my grudging blessing to come for Father’s Day weekend. It was a lot. My wife was coming down with something so childcare plus emotional journey it weighed on me all weekend. But it also Led me to information that one of our amazing fish shops had Betta albamarginata the Strawberry Betta the smallest mouthbrooding betta we have in the hobby if I’m not mistaken. The Fish Wife said hey bud you need some me /dad time of your own go and explore! 

This is the shop Cory mentioned on a stream that carries the blueberry snails and has a number of really cool fish species. They carry ADA and high end aquascaping supplies north of Seattle. I’ve been coming here since they opened over a year ago now and it’s really progressing as a shop which is great to see. Chang Wu the owner did indeed have not only Betta albamarginata but also Betta api api so we discussed my build and project. He gives good advice as he has bred both and in the end I went with the Betta albamarginata. In addition, with the Fish Wife’s input we decided to go with Chili rasboras which was fun since Chris Lukhaup had been discussing them recently and they really are a beautiful aquatic animal. 

I’ll post the progress. I took some of @Odd Duck’s advice with big crypts as I’ve got a few around the house and fishroom. IMG_0296.jpeg.ea53087dedcd565ae87878860d9feb21.jpegIMG_0297.jpeg.3cbbd26b5a7d38e165371debf9061601.jpegIMG_0298.jpeg.b01dfc4cf61dffe367dec0b0a10e5d81.jpegIMG_0299.jpeg.188958c3f6fcfb6e3462ed9cae3e2c18.jpeg
Pardon the initial murkiness. I’m working with akadama soil. This is a Japanese volcanic clay that is used in bonsai. Many shrimp breeders use it in Caridina setups as an alternative to aqua soils. The fish wife likes the natural tones that soften the aquascape. She is tired of the harshness of the typical black aquasoils. I’ve had some Brightwell Rio Oscuro cafe before but there’s something about the more clay like akadama that really makes this a different scape. 

In terms of the Betta albimarginata I bought a pair and they’ve tolerated each other very well. She’s definitely the dominant fish. In discussing this with Chang Wu if they get to breeding and she’s forced him to breed more that she should then I can buy another male to disperse the breeding energy. 

The stones are all lava rock, the piece of wood was something we found on Kona and brought back, it might be from a palm tree trunk. Substrate system is some laterite, pond soil, and lots of akadama.

Filtration is one of those double sponge filters that I rotated the fenestrated plastic pipes to run parallel with the bottom of the bowl then covered them with small lava rocks then put the substrate over the top to make a sort of UGF. 

Here’s some videos of the setup. I’m having fun and I think it shows in the fish and the scape. 

I am really having fun and appreciate y’all coming along for the ride! 




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LOVE IT!  That Fissidens is also an excellent choice and is going to look amazing as it continues to grow!  Nod to the excellent and most appropriate music choices for the videos.  😉 

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@Odd Duckits a great idea but I’m worried about neos or caridina being shrimp food. Maybe amano shrimp? Only concern there with Amanos if I get betta babies will they be shrimp food? Maybe just some nerites? I need a clean up crew as I’m getting a little bit of crypt melt as well! It’s exciting as the tank starts that ugly duckling phase you know you’re getting deeper into the maturing of the tank. 

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True that shrimplets might become snacklets, but if they reproduce at the right rate you’ve got a natural built in food chain.  🤷🏻‍♀️ Enough moss and you have shrimplet cover with its own built in cleaning system.  I know some people deliberately grow shrimp in the tank with certain fish so they are a self renewing food source plus a water quality monitor, too.

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