• Custom & Planted Shrimp Tank Set-up: Day 1-30

    For this follow on piece rather than take a day by day approach, I thought I would go by significant events or activities that stood out, fill in some of the gaps along the way and my thinking at the time.

    Once the tank was filled for the first time [day 0] and went to sleep, there was a sense of relief the next day that everything worked, all the second hand equipment was ok and there was no crashing sound of the tank cracking open in the middle of the night! Since the tank was so heavily planted I thought it was best to start the dosing on day 2, as I was sure the Wallichii had grown already. It took a while to get use to the feeling that I wasn’t planning anymore, I was up and running, plants bubbling away happily.

    Attack of the worms
    Day 5 started with one brownish flat worm being spotted by my daughter; it was a good 1.5 centimetres long and cruising across the glass. A quick internet search and I had a name for the beast, “Planarian” a type of flatworm and where there is one it was thought that there are probably many other planarians.

    By chance it was seen the very next day in a position to be removed from the tank. When out of the tank it looked like a 5mm leach. With some relief no more were ever seen.

    Day 6 was attack of countless tiny flat worms on the glass… like 2mm cotton threads and some tiny little white bugs in the water. If one looked closely the water was alive with activity, not knowing if it was a good sign or a bad sign, I assumed it was good, but all the same did not want the worms there. At this point in time I went to Biotope, my local LFS and got 4 guppies, knowing that guppies are rather hardy and will eat anything. I was shock at the speed in which the worms disappeared, the next evening it was hard to find the worms at all, a good sign I thought at the time. During the same observation however I noticed a couple of snails, and then the next day a couple more, then they were everywhere!

    Attack of the Snails
    Two small snails have multiplied with amazing speed, initially there was a strong desire to eradicate them by chemical means or via introducing a puffer fish, I did not care which. But held back, partly because no one could recommend an efficient chemical way of removing snails and adding a puffer fish just to do the job and then be discarded didn’t seem fair for the puffer fish.[/LEFT]

    So after watching them for three weeks, the snails seem to filling some kind of niche in the tank set up, they go up and down every blade of Hair Grass, they seem to fight each other, and they obviously reproduce with transparent eggs dotted around the tank. I have watched closely when they go over the glass, they must be eating the green dust algae and when they do go over a small piece of green spot algae, it is still there afterwards!

    The snail eggs are transparent jelly with white dots in the centre, so not really obvious, sometimes the Guppies eat the eggs, but on the whole the snails do not seem to be a nuisance [yet]. So after 30 days I am inclined to leave them there and see what happens.

    [LEFT]Changes in approach
    Added a water re-directional nozzle to give better water flow coverage, it came with the water change pump and meant that the direction of the water could be adjusted with ease.

    Skimmer. This $12 piece of equipment really made a difference and wonder why I didn’t think of it earlier. Within 30 minutes of attaching it, the surface was noticeably clearer of the bubbles that would rise of the plants and get trapped under a transparent film of what was assumed to be often called “protein layer”.

    UV Sterilizer, a wish list purchase brought forward. I wasn’t planning to get one until later in the year, but when returning from a business trip and seeing the soupy smokey water forced me to reconsider. I was hoping that it would assist in clearing it, but the purchase was preventative action, as the lighting conditions had been reduce dramatically for 4 days, the concern was green water or some other consequential negative that would cause me more grief. So whilst I had thought of it, it was a rapid purchase to give some control & piece of mind.

    The UV Sterilizer was hurriedly installed a little too fast as the water flow to the filter was impacted, so I only kept it on for a few days then removed it until I had time to put it on properly with no elbow joints. Elbow joints seem to reduce water flow, which is something that someone has surely worked out a mathematical model to predict the impact of each joint. I have read that UV Sterilizers will oxidize trace elements, really not sure if this is correct or not?

    Cloudy water
    I have had cloudy water from day 0. For the 1st day or it was probably just the dust from the substrate and other general plant-out activities, but from day 3 the water was a cloudy / smokey / grey haze. I put this down to not having a cycled tank or mature bacteria in the canister filter. The situation seem tenable as I knew it was just a matter of time, however as time progress the haze did not go away. There were times that it seemed to have a greenish tinge, probably from the green dust algae on the sides of the tank.

    It was when I was away on a business trip I was told that the cloudy water suddenly intensified making it impossible to see from one side of the tank to another. Since I was away there wasn’t much I could do but on my return I was a bit shocked to see how dense the smoke was, but a bit relieved to find it was not green water.

    At this point in time I brought forward a planned purchase of a UV sterilizer and used that for a couple of days with no impact. Then I reviewed my situation quite seriously, and made some changes. 20% Water changes every second day and full dosing of 50mls Dr Mallick’s LushGro Macros and 4mls of Micros. Po4 I was sure I was adding too much, but with 20% water changes every 2nd day I wasn’t too worried. The reading that I had done indicated a richer dosing approach with adequate CO2 was better than an insufficient dosing regime.

    The NO3 levels were a little bit low, but since I had some fish [16 guppies], 15 Yamato, untold snails, I thought they would bring it up a bit to 3.65 ppm that I wanted. My thoughts at present are revolving around the balance of NO3 levels vs PO4 and how much NO3 the fish, snails and shrimp are producing and how much NO3 uptake will PO4 drive and how much algae will be created if I get it all wrong.

    The water cleared up dramatically after the 2nd water change, the third made another small improvement, however at the time of writing this and after the 4th water change, the smokey water still exists but it is under control but the crystal clear tank is still elusive. At least the critters are happy; they seem to be happier than ever! Curing this problem has yet to occur and will go under the heading of unfinished business. Further reading: http://www.thetropicaltank.co.uk/cloudywt.htm

    Dosing Observations
    Lushgro Macro 50mls, Micros 4 mls and PO4 doesn’t seem to have a negative effect on Shrimp when added to the tank in one-go on their respective dosing days. During the first couple of weeks I didn’t dose much Macros as the tank nitrate level seemed to be sufficiently high so as to do without. Micro’s & PO4 were added quite regularly to assist the plants and maintain nutrient balance.

    If I mix the Macros in advance for the week then some solidification occurs within two days, the impact is not known so began mixing on the day of usage. There was a brief thought of mixing and keeping it in the fridge, but once mixed it looks like a strawberry drink and with kids visiting, one would not want an accidental poisoning.

    Cabinet & Tank
    When I look back on my tank & cabinet set up there are a few changes I would make. The oyama paper was a good step, the choice of black seems to have worked, but at the expense of the depth around the drift wood.

    The CO2 bottle cannot be placed on the right next to the filter because that side of the cabinet gets very warm and I would worry about the consequences on the pressurised CO2 Bottle with the chiller expelling such warm air, so it stay were it was originally placed.

    Shelving really didn’t work as I expected, whilst the shelves were useful, I tended to only use the front portion of each, in the end I took all the shelving out and bought an $11 stackable rack that seem to just as good and opened up some space so it all could be seen.

    Designing the set-up for ease of maintenance certainly paid off, I can easily remove the hood and lights by myself. The workbench really makes maintenance easier, safer and if maintenance is easy then it isn’t a chore, when done often.

    Other changes are really budget limitations, such as a desire to have more solid rose wood or mahogany design. But if budget wasn’t a limitation then I would have Starphire glass, Diatom filter... a cabinet on wheels so that maybe I could move the whole tank around would be perfection? The addition of a thin top draw cabinet width wide would have been useful, just don’t have any space to put it. And wouldn’t want to make the tank any higher to do it.

    The landscape is close to what I wanted, but feel that lacks depth. Going from the kitchen table to a tank with water worked, the missing ingredient was probably experience.

    With the addition of the black Oyama paper the triangular opening through the wood didn’t attract the eye; it was just too dark, a non visible black hole especially when the lights were off. Hence a light rock colour floor tile was chipped / hammered into shape, then tile was then positioned behind the wood to try and give the effect of somewhere to go. I did think of adding a picture on a sheet of plastic, but didn’t have the equipment to do what I wanted. A hammer is one of the few tools that I have.

    Desired effect Tile after being hammered into

    Tile just after being positioned with the Java Moss making it look a bit messy[/CENTER]

    The intensity of the heat being expelled from the chiller needs to be experienced to be appreciated, the fact that I have the chiller inside the cabinet often surprises people, but the simple partition that I put in place to prevent hot air backflow is an efficient necessity. The chiller doesn’t come on for 15 minutes for each hour, this is a myth. Chillers come for a duration of an hour or so, then drag the water temperature down to their cutoff setting, then hibernate. To bring 420 litres down takes a while and many hours for it to creep back up to the level that triggers the chiller to start. I haven’t measured how long the chiller is on over a 24 hour period, but about ¼ of the time or less is probably close.

    The MH’s are great, but the speed of developments and plant growth can be quite amazing, after 17 days the Wallichii had grown taller by 20 CM and expanded with new branchs so much so, that the original plant-out shape is an old memory. By 30 days the plant has expanded in every direction, to the point that it really dominates the rock and middle space of the tank, it must be more than 55cm in height now.

    Days 2, 4 and 6

    Days 6, 9 and 13

    Day 23 with cloudy water and Day 29

    The Wallichii issue I have been struggling with is should I trim it, how to trim it and what will happen to the environment when I do trim it? I haven’t done this as I do not know the plant well enough yet, plus it is my fastest growing plant and is probably the plant that has the greatest stabilising influence during the cycling process. The Wallichii colour intensity was green at first, then a good red/pink, but recently as it heads towards the water surface the intensity of its colour in my opinion has diminished, reason not yet determined.

    My other observations of Wallichi is that it absorbs via stems/leaves maybe more so than the roots. It did not have any roots when I got it and it grew the instant it touched the water and was given high light requirements.

    Hair grass grew up, but not out, and with an early 15th day trimming to force it to send out lateral runners. I will made the comparison with lawn mowing and trimming the Hair Grass, in that it is not so much what you trim, what is important is to remove all the cut bits so no decomposition can occur. However this is difficult and surely contributed to the cloudy water when I was away a few days later. At 30 days the grass is spreading, but not at the pace I would like.

    The Aponogeton Longiplumulosus after 17 days was already touching the water surface a good 30cm growth for many of the leaves. 30 days later numerous leaves are touching the surface, no surprises from this plant. I am looking forward to seeing it flower.

    Java Moss is a quiet plant, which in two weeks developed a rich green carpet of shoots. Java Moss I thought would be soft to the touch, but it has a rather course feeling. Wallichii almost has no density to it at all, like long flowing hair.

    The Japonica melted, it caused a mess, it disappeared totally only to slowly reappear with prominent gaps in the layout still to be filled. At first I thought I had made the mistake that I shouldn’t have planted it first, that I had cooked it. I did try a couple more pots a few weeks later, this time trimming the leaves severely, kept it at a constant temperature only to have the same thing happen, so at this point in time I don’t think that it will give me the bushy concentrations that I was hoping for, a disappointment that stands out for all the wrong reasons.

    Rogue plants. My hair grass had quite a lot of rogue plants in it, they were too small to be seen on planting, but have gradually shown themselves only to be plucked out by me. The Wallichi has a long tentacle thread like plant coming out of it, which was fine and grew rapidly. These rogue plants have been more of a nuisance than anything else so far.

    I regularly remove java moss debris to keep the tank tidy and to make sure it isn’t hiding anything that is worse.

    Changing water,

    I have changed my approach a bit, I now stick my pump in the water at the top of the tank, it then extracts the water at a much faster rate than if I allowed my canister filter to do the work. This has reduced my water change time dramatically and allowed me to either keep the filter/chiller/co2 working or to turn them off to change the pre-filter sponge at the same time.

    On day 11 the top filter pad was changed, it was quite filthy. I did want to look at the bottom blue one, but thought better of it. It probably has a ton of filth there but it also has the bacteria as well and so left it a few weeks to check & refresh it.

    I can remove and replace about 20 - 40% of the water in 45 minutes. I often put some containers of water into the freezer the night before so as to bring down the ambient water temperature of the tap water during the process. Perfection would be a single push of button water change. A chloramines removal agent is used each water change

    Glass Cleaning
    Every time I look I can see knew fingerprints on the glass, so have got good at cleaning it. The inside is a different story; I have this green dust algae that settles on it. Whilst I use to clean it during the water changes, this seemed inefficient as green dust would just move around the tank.

    My solution is to get kitchen paper towels, cut one piece in half and then fold into thirds and place on my magnetic glass cleaner. The cleaning action in the tank is then like cleaning a window in that one tries to avoid reversing directions and taking out of the water carefully to avoid the algae going back into the tank. It works surprisingly well at removing the dust.

    Green Spot algae, only seems to be one way to remove this and it is by a scraper. My preference is to use a plastic one I got from a local hardware shop. Green Spot algae is not soft, it has a hard coarse composition.

    Algae count
    Just cannot avoid algae, but in order of appearance:
    1. Green dust
    2. Green Spot
    3. BGA
    4. Hair algae

    Green dust and green spot algae I disrupt as much as possible and introduced PO4 to assist the plant growth. But I am not too concerned.

    BGA worries me, but it was found in such a prominent spot on one clump of hair grass, so I just removed it in its entirety, it was seen on the gravel, but removed in the same manner and now not visible and perceived to be under control. I was surprised at the nice colour it has and its foul smell.

    Hair algae, I had a piece on my wood inform of the main rock, again in a prominent spot, so watched it for a few days to see if it would be eaten and how it grew. The Yamato would inspect it, but it was never eaten. 3 days later removed it as much of it as I could with tweezers; it has a quite coarse in feel. About 2 weeks later I saw 3 spots amongst the hair grass, a bit of panic, but it was removed so easily. Hair grass is a good place for hair algae to hide, so expect to find more.

    Testing & Test kits
    I tested in the beginning because I had no idea of the basic variables and needed something to do to feel in control.
    • KH is a must, so easy to use and required. My tap water always needs additional NACO3.
    • Nitrate another must, but often doubt its accuracy as the colour scale is a bit difficult to compare to the sample being tested and then the lowest scale reading of 12.5 isn’t low enough. I now look at my critters to see if they are happy.
    • NH4, I must say I regretted buying the NH4 test kit, but I felt sorry for the 4 shrimp that I calculated I had lost to something… which turned out to be CO2 and consequential temporal speed of the pH fluctuations. I use this test because I have it, rather than need it.
    • pH I don’t test for this as I have a controller, but is a worthy topic by itself

    pH Controller
    The experienced enthusiast might be comfortable without one, which is kind of ironic that pH controllers tend to pitched to this audience and seen as “over-kill” for the newbie. I disagree in the tank [sea] of unknowns for the new enthusiast, knowing something for certain is worth its weight in gold. So many events & actions around the tank environment which one responds too have a link back to pH.

    The pH controller probe is great for testing the water in which your newly bought critters are swimming in, allowing the variance to be worked out, thus giving you a better chance of correctly determining the acclimation period and give them a better chance of surviving it.

    The real time pH information at your finger tips gave me a better appreciation of the speed in which changes can occur, add some NACO3 and watch the pH go up within seconds, or just the daily ebb and flow of pH during the 24hr cycle is interesting.

    Then there is the piece of mind in that when one is away that it will do its job of turning on /off the co2. Plus anyone can read the controller reading and tell you over the phone if required.

    What is missing and what would make it the pH controller and other devices perfect is to be able to have internet access to view the statistics of the aqua environment. The ability to store/download/chart/graph the pH levels, temperature over a weekly cycle, visibility index, CO2 inject times & durations… I bought mine second hand but the pH controllers are expensive and one expects richer functionality now a days.

    My impressions of CO2 was turn it on during the lighting period and that was ok, with the reactor/diffuser just an efficiency device to get the CO2 dissolve into the water. When I got the pH controller, my expectations were simplified, connect it to the controller and make sure the valve was open. I used the Dennerle formula for the minimum of bubbles per minute [BPM], Water Volume in Litres x ◦dkH divided by 50. eg Effective volume 420 litres x 4 ÷ 50 = 33.6 BPM, or 0.5 bubbles per second, then did some research reading and settled on 3 bps, assuming more the better.

    But I did run into one problem, I was 12 days into the cycling process and noticed that the Yamato’s were not happy; my mortality rate seemed to be one a day. I would come home the CO2 had been on for a while and as usual, there was this one reddish Yamato doing laps of the tank, it might go pale, but inevitably it would be the next Yamato that would die. Now this went on for four days, a death a day. The plants were growing like crazy, which was good, so assumed that it was nothing complicated, just the cycling process occurring, maybe the Yamato were added a little too early? So it was just a matter of being patient and letting cycling continue and everything should be ok. I was testing furiously during this period and actually bought a NH4 kit as I knew something was wrong, just didn’t know what.

    Noticing that my external reactor was expelling some bubbles, a sign that some of the CO2 was not getting dissolved and getting wasted. One adjustment was made, changed the CO2 from 3bps to 2 bps. It was noticed that it took longer for my pH come back down that evening from 6.75 to 6.66. [Morning ~6.57, Evening 6.75].

    Well the next day by accident I saw for the first time some normal behaviour and no deaths, with no problems since then. My hypothesis, it was not the magnitude of the pH fluctuation or CO2, rather the temporal duration in which the fluctuations occurred was too short, thereby stressing the shrimp. When the BPS were reduced the speed of the pH fluctuations were reduced.

    This was an important event. Unknown problem, effect observed and solution found. What I like about Tom Barr’s advice is not to tinker around with too many variables, so that cause and effect are easily seen. If you tinker with too many variables you cannot easily differentiate between cause [action] and effect [outcome] with any degree of confidence especially if there is temporal bridge between the two and the observable change is gradual. The hard part is sticking to a course of action until the effect is seen; changing one variable at a time avoids complexity.

    Here is the mathematical formula the CO2 charts are based on, I used it more to double check the information found on the internet.

    • CO2 (in PPM) = 3 * KH * 10^(7-pH) where KH is Carbonate Hardness in degrees.
    • Example 3 * 4 KH * 10^(7-6.6) = 30.14

    Mistake: The mistake made was not appreciating the transition from “planted tank” to “planted tank with critters”. I should have recognised that I was making a fundamental change by adding fish & shrimp and revisited my check list that I had created for myself.

    Check List
    In order of attention, with critters behaviour at the top as they often show their unhappiness with unusual behaviour first. Then I review the other checklist options, taking into consideration what changes have been made, what variable could have downstream consequences?

    1. Critter behaviour
    2. Lights
    3. CO2 [in conjunction with pH]
    4. NO3 [Dosing]. K [Dosing] this was part of my starting checklist, but haven’t found a way to observe it. K is part of the LushGro series so have removed it from my list.
    5. PO4 [Dosing]
    6. Water flow, water changes.

    In regards to the four Yamato deaths incorrectly assumed that my CO2 was ok and it wasn’t. I didn’t go back and reevaluate the entire checklist, just assumed it was nitrate levels.

    I originally thought that Cardinal Tetra would be the fish of choice with the guppies being secondary. But the guppies really dominate the tank visually, in a manner that I have no desire to see other fish. Plus guppies reproduce at such a rate that within 10 days I could see numerous fry in the tank. The original 4 guppies that I used early were transferred to a small 12 inch nisso tank for my daughter. I had to get this as it is hard to say no to every request for getting a new fish, now I can say “if it can fit in the nisso and you will look after it” you can have it. I look after the nisso!

    Initially I was looking for a Guppy strain called “Full Red”, but found that many used the “Full Red” categorisation rather loosely when in fact they were just “Red”. Then the prices for “Full Red” were much higher than others, but the main limitation was that I wanted to buy approximately 10 or 20 at once and I couldn’t find anyone selling in such numbers.

    My requirements were, only one strain wanted, with definite knowledge that the females had only been paired with the same strain so the offspring would not be mongrels. Then a bright colour so that when they were together there would be a wall of colours. My second choice of fish was a local strain called a Snake Skin. Now these are cheap $1 a fish, but I could get what I consider good looking fish, with good presentation. 16 fish bought with an approximate ratio of Male:Female 2:1.

    Introducing the guppies to the tank wasn’t hard, but clearly they had not been in a large tank or a planted one before and it took a few days for them to come down from the water surface and explore. Guppies get excited when they see you and the females can jump as well; this is how I lost one female about 12 days later. I wouldn’t have believed that they could jump unless I had seen one come out of the water with my own eyes, I scooped it up and put it back into the tank with no harm done.

    Guppies are omnivores and they go around the plants tiding them up, the hair grass get special attention as they ‘bunt’ the grass to get what they want. I have yet to see any noticeable impact on nitrate levels in the tank as a consequence, so my dosing regime remains largely the same.

    How smart are guppies? I am not sure, but I would like to teach them to school for their food then go from one end of the tank to the other. I am using a technique called “Operant conditioning”, whereby I put a piece of paper on the side of the tank a couple of minutes before I feed them, then remove it after feeding. I cannot with any confidence say that this is working, more time is needed.

    With the guppies freely reproducing, some guidance will shortly be needed on what traits are seen as desirable so that when I cull them I begin to improve the population as a whole.

    Shrimps are what I really like, but it will take a while to get where I want, which is a tank with them everywhere, so this section is just a precursor to further work.

    The Yamato is an enjoyable shrimp that seems hard working and hardy, always doing something. A fellow ShrimpNow forum member had some special NikoNiko water sent over from Japan, which had a longer English name, “Japanese Shrimp Shit Water”, so I was lucky enough to be able to get some and add it on day 1 with the intention of dramatically improving the cycling of the tank for shrimp. So when the 10 Yamato were added on the 7th day, it was with the best of intentions. But the Yamato were not happy, they swam around like then the next day they were doing an activity I call “playing dead” where they rush up to the surface only run out of energy and fall backwards like they died. Then after a few minutes of playing dead on the bottom they would do it again. I took the Yamato out but lost one and waited a few more days before reintroducing them back into the tank which worked successfully. The Yamato regularly moult with their discarded skins regularly giving a first impression that one has died.

    The Wood Shrimp, too shy to be seen, disappeared as soon as put in the tank forcing me to use a torch late one night to catch them out. The Wood Shrimps eye’s reflected the dim touch light, so I suspect that they find high light conditions difficult.

    Cherry Shrimp, well I got 30 of these from a fellow ShrimpNow forum member. Whilst small, they have developed a nice red colour. A population of a 200 would be needed in my tank for them to stand out. Most of the time I only see a couple Cherry Shrimp visible, so I hope their reproductive rate is as good as the guppies.

    I do not feed the shrimp anything at present, this is not seen as bad, rather it is thought that there is enough algae to keep them going.

    Now I am considering some Crystal Red Shrimp [CRS], but not sure if I have enough experience and my preference are for CRS that are almost all red, possibly a breeder’s rejects where their desirable trait, the white bands are not visible. So someone else’s discards will become my treasure.

    The lighting photoperiod was brought forward as a consequence of watching the circadian rhythm of Wallichii opening and closing in a response to the diffuse light from the windows about 3 metres away. The plant would tilt itself towards the windows then within an hour towards the FL.

    No. of Hours light is on: FL 1130 am - 9:00 PM [Total Duration 9.5hrs]
    MH 1.00 – 8:00 [Total Duration 7 hrs]

    When the MH’s come on, they roar into life with a definite sound of electrical strength coming from them. It can give one a fright if you are not expecting it.

    Maintenance is either a way of keeping in contact with the environment or an unfortunate necessity; I think it somewhere in between. One way to reduce maintenance load is via automation. All the gadgets need to do something that keep you in control or informed. Then one can focus on the aquascape itself, trim, move, quarantine, medicate, the kind of work that automation is not possible for.

    The Chiller controls water temp and required with the outside temperature today already 34C with tomorrow expected to be warmer. The pH controller informs you at a glance of this vital metric, but more importantly controls the CO2. Pressurised CO2 is a must although I respect the DIY followers as I am sometimes part of this group. Timers control the lights.

    Test kits… I need more experience before I say they are not needed. If you know your tank, your bio life and have some ups and downs, then observation is probably sufficient, but you need a body of stored knowledge to do this, new people to the hobby just don’t have this in the beginning. I hope to be able to stop the frequent testing in a few weeks/months once I get to a point of environmental equilibrium and dosing requirements are predictable.

    If you have a predictable environment, then dosing should also be predictable. Now it only takes me a minute to dose in the mornings before going out the door to work. The problem arises when one is away, so I will probably investigate what the salt water enthusiasts do.

    Water changes take 45 minutes to an hour every time and is the most manual of task that still persists that I cannot see going away, but the frequency should stabilise to weekly, then it will not be a chore rather an activity that keeps the critters happy.

    Power& water bill
    I did the power consumption calculations before the tank was planted out, fortuitously on the day of setup the power/water bill came; it was double what we normally get. I use the word fortuitously as my tank could not be blamed for the increase as it was probably less than a few hours old. So the power/water bills are not a good indicator of additional items added to the household expenditure such as a planted tank.

    Things that caused extra work.
    • Cloudy water and resulting water changes.
    • Removing fingerprints off the glass.

    Mistakes or near misses and good luck
    • Not appreciating the transition from “planted tank” to “planted tank with critters” - Mistake
    • First water change not needed. - Mistake
    • Trimming Hair grass, not sure if this was a mistake, probably a bit early. - Mistake
    • Japonica, not willing to call it a mistake, but has not lived up to expectations.
    • Water flow coverage, another pump or canister filter is needed – near miss as the 2080 has just enough capability to do the job.
    • Workbench – good luck

    Forum usage.
    I have really noticed that my forum usage habits have changed, whereas before I use to read everything, on my three favourite sites, I now typically tend to really live within two. AQ & Shrimp now, with occasional ventures out into others.

    The number of posts that I use to make has declined, as I am caught in between not needing to buy anything, not really having enough experience to assist others and happy with what I have got, so not selling. Although some FOC Wallichii is probably coming someone’s way.

    I tend not to post problems, partly because there is so much knowledge on the subjects that I am looking for that it is just a matter of doing research. Often seen is someone with a problem, then so many options are presented to them, that the “newbie”, heads must spin in regards to considering the choices and their consequences. The paradox of having so many choices is that, no matter which option is taken there would be residual dissonance on “did I do the right thing”. Dosing is a good example where everyone has a point of view, which may or may not be correct?

    I find it better to try and understand the point-of-view, do some more research, which slows down the impulse to act, then implement and observe.

    Good ideas, Unfinished work, next steps
    I must have collected all the Takashi Amano pictures that were possible and have put them on a DVD so they could be watched on TV. Truly amazing set-ups, great body of work, but showed some people these when they were visiting, well it must be the quickest way to depreciate my own set up. Here are two good sites:

    • AGA Competition photos, 2001, 2002, 2003.. http://showcase.aquatic-gardeners.org/2004.cgi
    • ADA Competition photos, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 http://www.akwarium.org/

    Water flow coverage concerns me, I would prefer to have two inlets. The current configuration is Inlet Lillie pipe/skimmer => UV Sterilizer => Eheim 2028 => Chiller => External CO2 Reactor => outlet Lillie pipe, the water flow is impacted. It actually took me a while to get the UV Sterilizer pipes aligned in a manner without any right angles. Removing right angles makes a big difference on water flow. But I will be looking soon for another second hand Eheim 2028 to run the UV Sterilizer separately and improve water flow.

    I saw this very red cherry shrimp in a great position and couldn’t share the moment, so I need to get a good point & click camera which enable me to take some decent photos.

    Unfinished work – transparent Lilly pipe. Just haven’t had time to take the prototype further, glass is a great medium, but doesn’t offer the manufacturing economies of scale I am looking for, so still looking for a plastic manufacturer that can made an injection mould for transparent Lilly pipes, using the same plastic that Coca-Cola bottles are made of.

    Still need to find a source of good transparent silicon based piping as the current transparent piping is more suitable for garden hoses and it’s elasticity is insufficient. I find it hard to understand why green piping is so prevalent? I want transparent so that I can see the accumulation of filth in the pipes, then they can be changed or cleaned. If I didn’t want to see it then I would want black pipes, but green achieves neither.

    Last but not least invite those from Biotope & Tank_Maker, which helped over for a beer in front of the tank and a critique of what I have done, not done or should have done better.

    Day 1 versus Day 30
    The first 30 days has gone rather quickly and in retrospect rather uneventful. The temptation to tinker around with major variables needs to be resisted; this “itchy hand” syndrome seems under control, well almost under control. The consideration now is how to stabilise the growth, keep the colours, increase the bio life and maintain in a predictable environment.

    So what does one month mean:

    Day 0 at 1 hour - Day 30