15 Gallon X-Tall – From September 2013

15 Gallon X-Tall Sept 2013

Looking back at these photos of my old 15 gallon setup, I wish I could go back in time. I love this initial setup, but wound up deciding that the large white rock was just too large for the tank. I tried to chisel off the back side of it to give the tank more space, but it tragically broke the rock into smaller pieces, none of which maintained the height I wanted for the rock centerpiece. Later a CO2 regulator malfunctioned and gassed the entire tank, killing all of the rasboras, ghost shrimp, and most of the Otos. The bacteria was killed, causing the tank to cycle again. Many of the plants died. The riccia fluitans tied down to the rocks took off, intermixing with the HC carpet to the point where I had to dig up the entire foreground to pull out the riccia. Basically, this tank went into a rapid downward spiral not too long after these photos. Maybe one day I’ll get back to such a beautiful state, but, for now, this tank is back to being a work in progress.

15 Gallon X-Tall Sept 2013

Tank – 15 Gallon High from Marineland

  • Same footprint as a 10 gallon, 20 x 10 x 18 [inches] – about 170 lbs when full
  • I had to get this specially ordered. Originally I wanted to build this tank into a bookshelf, viewed from both sides, with a very thin, jutting rock cliff and tall plants growing all around it, short plants and maybe a moss tree on the cliff. I couldn’t find a rock to act as the cliff, and I never setup the bookshelf, so this is what I went with instead.

Filter – TOM Aquarium Rapids Mini Canister hang-on-the-tank C-80, 80gph, available here

Heater – Tetra Submersible 100W heater, available here

Lighting – 24″ T5 Quad High Output Light Fixture with Timer 6500K, available here

  • Though tall tanks need higher lighting to reach the substrate with the same light levels as shorter tanks, this light fixture was overkill. I now run it with 1 or 2 of the 4 possible HO T5’s running. I’m still not sure if running 2 is too much for the tank, so I alternate days.

Substrate – CaribSea Eco-Complete in black

15 Tall 2

The tank used to home four female bettas, 5 Harlequin rasboras, 3 Otos, and between 4 and 10 ghost shrimp depending on how their breeding was going and how many I fed to my puffers. 15 Tall 3

11.33 Gallon – “Death Mountain” Update 1

Update on 11.33 Gallon - "Death Mountain"

Update on 11.33 Gallon – “Death Mountain”

I’ve decided to dub this tank “Death Mountain” for now, though this is certainly more lively and friendly than its namesake.

Death Mountain from Legend of Zelda: Orcarina of Time.

Death Mountain from Legend of Zelda: Orcarina of Time.

Here is how each of the plants have been doing:

Hornwort/Coontail (Ceratophyllum demursum) – Growing well. I’ve added some more to the tank. This stuff seems to be pretty indestructible. My main complaints are that it sheds needle like leaves everywhere, making the tank look dirty. The only other negative comment I have is that I wound up with trimmings of it that have exposed stem areas which don’t look nearly as nice grown in areas. 

Cryptocoryne wendtii – Had some initial melting, but overall it is doing well. I pretty much expect any crypt I plant to have an initial melting period. Same applies when making drastic changes to water parameters, which should be avoided if there are fish or inverts anyway. I’m liking the red shade its getting.

Water Sprite/Indian Fern (Ceratopteris thalictroides) – I love using this plant and keeping is trimmed low to the ground. Usually I’ve seen it allowed to grow freely, where it can easily grow to 24″ or more. Yet its finely detailed leaf structure makes it a good candidate for planted tanks. And it grows fast, keeping nutrient levels more consistent. This just means trimming or discarding overgrown sections.

Full Tank 4

Bacopa monnieri – This died off entirely. I’ve never been able to get this plant to survive in any of my tanks. I had a few pieces from a plant order earlier that day that I decided to try. Failure. Not sure why this always happens to it in my tanks. If you have an idea, let me know!

Dwarf Hairgrass (Eleocharis acicularis) – Growing well and spreading. It’s not a fast process to carpet a tank. This is the miserable waiting period. I’m trying to disturb it as little as possible and give it lots of light without giving algae a chance to grow.

Rotala indica – This is doing okay. It’s lost a lot of its coloring and is struggling a bit. I’m not sure if it will make it in the long run. For now I plan on leaving it alone as much as possible in hopes that it can adapt to the new environment. 

Full Tank 2

Microsword/Copragrass (Lilaeopsis novae-zelandiae)  – Also doing well. It’s going to take time to get this thick enough for my tastes, but there are already a few new growths visible.

HC Cuba/Dwarf Baby Tears (Hemianthus callitrichoides) – Still not sure if these will make it. They are very CO2 reliant, and I’ve been hesitant to setup the gas CO2 system (should get a better regulator to keep consistent CO2 flow) or dose with Seachem Flourish Excel (shrimp not settled). The other half of my battle with this plant is in the keeping it planted well. I have a decent number of Malaysian Trumpet Snails (MTS) that are wonderful for maintaining substrate, but they do this by digging around just under the surface. With HC’s delicate and shallow roots, this is slowly driving me mad. I had a nice carpet of it in another tank tanks to CO2 gas and later maintaining it with just Flourish Excel.

Full Tank 1

The big circle of light above the tank in the first two photos is due to the floating plants being right under the light. I have both frogbit and salvinia floating to keep the tank in balance and nutrients in check. They also help disperse the light evenly throughout the tank. I usually keep the floaters in place using another new addition to the tank, Vallisneria spiralis in the back left corner. My original plan was to keep all of the plants short and low growing. I was going to have the crypt be the tallest, and maybe even remove that once the carpet grew in. This plan also coincided with an Iwagumi style rockscape. Since my rocks weren’t good for Iwagumi, I am now trying to find a good way to use them that creates balance, perspective, and depth within the tank. Suggestions welcome!

Also, I added chili rasboras and cherry shrimp! I’ve be doing creature profiles on them soon.

11.33 Gallon Walstad – Initial Setup Process

I originally intended this 11.33 to be an Iwagumi inspired tank, but the rocks I had for the tank weren’t right for Iwagumi. Iwagumi uses rocks/stones as the basis of the structure, sort of like a skeleton. The rock I wanted to use broke into rather roundish pieces, making it hard to have any jutting pieces. It also made it hard to find ways to position the rocks near each other. So I had to pick between scrapping the beautiful white marble I’d found in my backyard or try to find a way to use it effectively. I’m not entirely sold on how the tank has come out; I expect there to be some major changes or re-scapes in the future.

11.3 Gallon - Day 1 - That's the filter insert on the large rock.

11.3 Gallon – Day 1 – That’s the filter insert on the large rock.

Initial Tank Setup Process

  1. Gear: Placing the filter intake and outflow along with the heater can affect the balance of a tank. I usually get all of the “gear” ready beforehand to make sure it all will work and electrical cords will reach. Then I see how intrusive the submerged elements will be. You can plant and prepare the tank with these in place (but not running yet) or without them.
  2. Soil Layer: Mix prepared Miracle-Gro Organic Choice Potting Mix with conditioned water to make mud. Spread a 1″ layer, pressing it down gently to remove an air pockets. This layer cushions the rocks.
  3. Rock Layout: Place stones/rocks on top of soil layer. Mine had obvious cleavage/fracture lines, which I pointed in the same direction for each rock. I tried to create a valley of sorts toward the right side of the tank, having the far end of the valley be the vanishing point.
  4. Substrate: Add enough soil to seat the rocks comfortably and create an upward slant toward the back of the tank. Then cap the soil with sand. I used CaribSea Tahitian Moon Sand, but a few weeks later I added a mini layer of black CaribSea Eco-Complete to tone down the substrate. I chose black to offset the white rocks I chose and bring out colors in the planned tank inhabitants.
  5. Water: Add enough conditioned water to soak the entire substrate. Due to the slanting, there was about an inch of water above the substrate in the front. Pour water slowly and direct it onto a plate or piece of plastic to protect the substrate.
  6. Planting: I used mostly scraps from other tanks for this one. Initially I planted dwarf hairgrass, microsword, and others – see the diagram below. Plant everything deep enough to keep it anchored. I recommend using fine tweezers to reduce substrate movement during planting.
  7. Fix-up Sand Layer: Planting a Walstad bring soil up to the surface, so add additional sand where needed to cover soil and fill any tweezer holes.
  8. Water: Fill the tank slowly and, again, pouring onto a barrier to protect the substrate. Use water from an established, healthy tank if you can.
  9. Gear/Cycling: Turn on the heater and filter. I always seed my filters with media from established tanks. In addition to the HOB with cycled filter pads, I also placed a filter insert on one of the rocks below the filter outflor. It was too big to fit in the HOB and looked rather gross, but it definitely helped the tank cycle almost instantly.

Here are all of the names of the plants I used, labeled in the images below.

11.3 Day 1 Plant Labels

11.3 Day 1 Plant Labels 2

Hornwort/Coontail (Ceratophyllum demursum)

Cryptocoryne wendtii

Water Sprite/Indian Fern (Ceratopteris thalictroides)

Bacopa monnieri

Dwarf Hairgrass (Eleocharis acicularis)

Rotala indica

Microsword/Copragrass (Lilaeopsis novae-zelandiae)

HC Cuba/Dwarf Baby Tears (Hemianthus callitrichoides)