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)

Review of Truaqua’s Aquatop High Clarity, Low Iron Rimless Cube Tanks

I  recently bought four rimless cube tanks from TruAqua under the label of Aquatop. I couldn’t really find any reviews or comments on the quality of these tanks other than on their own website. Yet after a few days of searching high and low amid holiday sales, I couldn’t find rimless nano tanks that came anywhere near close to these Aquatop ones in price or quality. So I cut the cord and ordered FOUR of the following sizes: 2.11, 4.12, 7.13, and 11.33 gallons.

These tanks came with free shipping and were just generally dirt cheap compared to other similar tanks I’d been considering. Here are some shots of the initial unwrapping:

I’ve got to say, I love these tanks. Granted, I’ve never bothered to spend as much as would be needed to get an ADA or other such gold standard tank, but these Aquatop tanks are wonderful. Maybe one day I’ll be picky enough to really appreciate having some of the more expensive low-iron, high clarity rimless tanks, but, for now, these are phenomenal. 🙂

Update! 4/4/2014

This post gets almost daily traffic these days from people wanting to know more about the Aquatop rimless cube tanks. As this was one of my earlier posts, some of the pictures weren’t great. If you want to see more shots of how these tanks look in action or to get an idea of their size compared to certain fish, scaping materials, filters, etc, then check out some of my posts on the development of these tanks.

The tanks themselves have held up really well! All four are going strong. No leaks. No defects. Not easily scratched. Still super clear. Easy to use, easy to setup, sturdy, easy to clean. I’d probably buy more of them if I wasn’t running low on space and money at the moment. I’d like to hear if anyone has had any issues with them that I haven’t, and I’m also really curious about what the more expensive/prestigious versions of rimless, low-iron glass tanks could be doing better! So I guess this is my blog-style request that someone who has had both one of these and a pricey rimless cube let me know which they would get if they were to buy another/recommend one.