Tuesday 28 May 2013

32 Litre "Tapestry Garden" Tank - Week 2 Update

Quick update... the "Tapestry Garden" tank is now in its 2nd week and the plants have transitioned well. The plants are growing and still maintaining their bright green and red colors too.

I measured the various stem plants and the majority of them grew 1-2cm in height over the course of a week, sprouting new leaves and lots of new roots to anchor themselves into the substrate. The fastest grower so far is the Rotala Wallichii which grew around 2-3cm taller.

At this growth rate, the background stem plants would probably reach the water surface in about a month, so it'll be time for a trim then. I would probably rate the growth speed as moderate, which is what i was aiming for, so that the plants don't overrun the tank too fast, and i don't need to keep constantly trimming them every week. :)

Surprisingly, the Staurogyne sp. 'Repens' actually rooted in and grew quick enough that i was actually able to cut the tops off a few of the taller ones and replant them, had to clear a portion of the Hemianthus Callitrichoides on the left side to make space for them though.

The Cryptocoryne plants are growing new leaves too, which are starting to form a bushy look.

I'm currently dosing Tropica Plant Growth Specialised Fertilizer as well as Seachem Excel, both at double dosage to factor in the higher plant density. So far so good, no algae issues and plants are looking healthy.

Looks like the tank conditions are suitable for the plants and they are filling in well... though my main concern now is figuring out how to catch and transfer out all the fishes once my main tanks are ready, since they all like camping deep inside the plant mass. :)

Friday 24 May 2013

Custom 2-Tier Metal Stand & Tanks Setup Journal

Due to limited living space and my quest for additional larger tanks, i embarked on a project to customize a 2-tier metal stand & tanks setup.

I've spoken to other fellow enthusiasts who have also been keen on similar setups, so i've decided to post my progress to share the experience.


I wanted a metal stand which could hold and sustain the weight of 2 x 64 litre/60cm tanks (L60cm x D30cm x H36cm) positioned in a double tier layout, so i got a stand custom made to my specifications.

The height of the stand was to be 90cm tall. With the 36cm height of my intended tank on top, the total height of the setup will be 126cm. I've found that this is the ideal overall height for me to view the top tank while seated at my desk (the tank will be at eye level), and it'll still be easy for me to scape and maintain the tank too.

The middle section of the rack has a height of 56cm, with the 2nd tank there also at 36cm height, this allows for a 20cm working gap. From prior experience, this is sufficient enough for me to access the tank for setup and maintenance.

The bottom section of the tank has a height of 30cm from the floor, this allows me to place 2 x compact-sized canister filters underneath (along with the power plugs), so that they are somewhat hidden and less noticeable (compared to placing them beside the stand).

In addition, the stand was customized 5cm wider on each side, so that there is some extra clearance space on the left and right side of the both tanks.

Here is the completed customized metal stand.

The build quality was good and it was made to my specifications, unfortunately the metal stand maker could only paint it black... but i preferred a different color.

So i proceeded to spray paint the stand myself. I tried silver (too bright)... grey (too plain)... then i eventually found a dark metallic grey color that fit the tone i was looking for perfectly.

After hours of sanding, preparation and carefully spray painting multiple coats, this was the result.

I like this particular color because it resembles the ADA garden stand silver/grey color tone, not too bright, not too dark... looks neutral and matches my room decor well. :)


I prefer high clarity tanks, so my choice of tanks are made of low-iron glass with minimal silicone. I choose the popular tank dimensions of L60cm x D30cm x H36cm.


For flow and filtration, i'm using Eheim Ecco Pro 130 canister filters, along with VIV glass lily pipe sets. For lighting, i'm using Up Aqua Z-Series Pro LED Z-20 (60cm) light sets.

Here are the canister filters and power plugs positioned at the bottom section of the stand.

Everything is kept within the footprint of the stand, so that it is neat and tidy. This still allows for full access to the filters, double taps and hoses, which makes regular maintenance much easier.

Competed Setup

Once all the items are assembled and plugged in, this is what the completed setup looks like with the room lights on.

Here is what it looks like with the room lights off.

Another angle, this is the view from my desk.

Overall, i'm quite pleased with the setup.

Time come up with some inspiration and ideas to scape them. :)

Wednesday 22 May 2013

32 Litre "Tapestry Garden" Tank - Otocinclus Cocama

Otocinclus Cocama (aka Zebra Oto) resting on a leaf...

Looks comfortable. :)

As you'll notice in this close-up photo, otocinclus seem to have fine "hairs" on their skin. Those are actually referred to as odontodes, bony protrusions made of dentine/enamel material.

32 Litre "Tapestry Garden" Tank - A Closer Look

I've been receiving a number of queries about the plants in this tank, seems there is some interest in them. I'm new to these plants too, so this is also a learning experience for me.

To share some additional insight and a closer look, here are some of my own preliminary observations on the various plants in the tank.

Ludwigia Glandulosa

This plant is quite unusual in that it has a very striking purplish-red coloration on the stems and undersides of the leaves... the color is very intense and it looks almost "unreal" when one sees it for the first time. I had people who looked into the tank asking me if this plant was real or fake. :)

The stems and leaves on this plant are strong. Easy to plant into the substrate and it grows side roots very quickly.

Hygrophila Polysperma 'Sunset'

Very interesting plant, it has leaves which range from green on the bottom to pink at the top. The leaves have an whitish vein patten which is apparently caused by a virus in the plant that blocks the production of chlorophyll in the leaf veins. The virus is only specific to this plant though.

This plant is a fast grower, so i'm looking forward to propagate it for my other tanks once its starts growing taller.

On a side note, as the current flow at the left side of the tank is much stronger, i found that the Hygrophila Polysperma 'Sunset' ended up getting constantly buffeted around and bent by the strong current (this plant has rather soft stems and leaves), so i swapped its position with the Ludwigia Glandulosa (which has a much stronger stem and leaf structure).

Rotala Wallichii, Bacopa Caroliniana, Ludwigia Palustris, Bacopa Monnieri, Lindernia Rotundifolia 'Variegated'

All fast growing stem plants, each in different shades of colors. Some interesting features of note...

The top leaves of Rotala Wallichii have a nice pink/orange coloration. The leaves actually close up during the night and open up during the day.

Bacopa Caroliniana has spade shaped bright green leaves, while in contrast Bacopa Monnieri has rounded tear drop shaped leaves with a more neutral green color.

Ludwigia Palustris has a deep maroon coloration on the stems and undersides of the leaves, with the reddish color fading into green at the tips.

Lindernia Rotundifolia 'Variegated' has round light green leaves with a striped patten, at certain angles they kind of resemble mini watermelons!

Cryptocoryne Parva, Cryptocoryne Willisii 'Lucens', Cryptocoryne Wendtii 'Mi Oya'

Cryptocoryne plants are relatively low demand, adaptable to different conditions and come in a wide variety of different shapes and sizes, ideal for both low and high tech tanks. 

Interestingly, the ones in this photo were only planted a week ago and they have already started sprouting fresh new leaves.

Overall the plants seem to adapting well to the tank conditions so far, hopefully over time they'll grow large enough to be propagated too.

Tuesday 21 May 2013

32 Litre "Tapestry Garden" Tank - Nitrate Consumers

Testing time... this is what happens in a tank full of fast growing plants after a week.

Nitrates still showing yellow color on an API test kit, the effects of faster growing plants and higher plant density is very noticeable.

Looks like i'll have to dose a higher ratio of macro fertilizers to prevent nitrate/nitrogen shortage.

Monday 20 May 2013

32 Litre "Tapestry Garden" Tank

I decided to re-scape my previous 32 Litre "Tree Scape" Tank and convert it into a flora/fauna holding tank, as i'm currently in the midst of preparing larger tanks for my future scapes too.

To stock up on some plant selection in advance, i sourced assorted suitable plants from the various LFS, then properly cleaned and quarantined them before adding them into the tank.

Although it wasn't my intention to create a scape (its just meant to be a holding tank after all), i still followed the usual layout of placing fast growing tall stem plants behind, slower growth lower plants in the middle and carpet plants in the front. I also made sure each plant group had some space between them to accommodate horizontal growth and propagation too.

After arranging everything in the tank, it somehow turned out to be a rather pleasant layout. It kind of reminded me of those "dutch style" tanks with plants arranged in neat groups, or those "collectoritis style" tanks with masses of different plants. :)

The plants are abit short at the moment, hopefully they eventually grow and fill up the tank soon.


Here are the tank stats:

Tank Size: 45cm x 30cm x 24cm (High Clarity / Low Iron Glass)
Substrate: ADA Aqua Soil New Amazonia (Powder Type)

Filter System: Eheim 2224 + 13mm gUSH Lily Pipe Set
Filter Media: Seachem Matrix

Temperature: 29-30°C (Day) / 27-28°C (Night)

Lighting: Up Aqua Z-Series Pro LED Z-15 (45cm)
Light Duration: 2 x 4 hour shifts (9am-1pm / 5pm-9pm)

Pressurized Co2: None
Carbon Supplement: Seachem Excel
Fertilizer: Tropica Plant Growth Specialised Fertilizer
Fan/Chiller: None

Water Change Regimen: 50% Weekly

Water Parameters:
Tested using API Freshwater Master Test Kit
pH = 6.6
Ammonia = 0 ppm
Nitrite = 0 ppm
Nitrate = 0-5 ppm


Hemianthus Callitrichoides
Hemianthus Glomeratus
Staurogyne sp. 'Repens'
Eleocharis Acicularis

Cryptocoryne Parva
Cryptocoryne Willisii 'Lucens'
Cryptocoryne Wendtii 'Mi Oya'

Hygrophila Polysperma 'Sunset'
Rotala Wallichii
Bacopa Caroliniana
Ludwigia Palustris
Bacopa Monnieri
Lindernia Rotundifolia 'Variegated'
Ludwigia Glandulosa

Danio Margaritatus
Corydoras Habrosus
Otocinclus Macrospilus
Otocinclus Cocama
Neocaridina Heteropoda

Hikari Micro Pellets 
Hikari Micro Wafers
Hikari Sinking Wafers


I would have liked to add even more selections of plants, but this tank is really out of space... maybe i might use one of my larger tanks to create a dedicated plant collection tank too. :)

For now, i'll just be monitoring the growth rates of the plants and tweaking the conditions (adjusting flow, excel and fertilizer dosage, water changes etc) and see how well they acclimatize to the tank environment. It'll be a good opportunity to observe how the various plants grow over time.

Although there is a relatively high fish and shrimp bio-load in the tank, the large amount of plant mass naturally consume nutrients and nitrates from the water very quickly, i tested the nitrate measurements using a API test kit and the results came up yellow, which means almost 0 nitrates in the water.

This indicates that the plants are consuming more nitrates (and possibly more nutrients) than the bio-load can produce, hence i now have to regularly dose fertilizers which contain both micro and macro nutrients to keep up with the plants demand. At the end of each week, a large water change is done to remove the excess nutrients and reset the nutrient levels.

On a side note, most of the plants i choose are in the easy-moderate demand range, which are able to grow without pressurized Co2 injection (albeit at a slower pace, therefore less need to trim the plants as often). The approach for my future tanks will also be based on similar lower maintenance conditions.

Will update on the tank progress over the next few weeks. :)

Friday 10 May 2013

32 Litre "Tree Scape" Tank (Week 16) - Update

Here is a photo i took of it today after doing some tank maintenance and cleaning the front glass panel (nowadays i leave the sides and back glass panels with abit of green algae for the shrimps and otos to graze on).

Tank at 16 weeks / 4 months.

The main area of HC carpet on the left and middle of the tank still looks good, but the HC under the fissidens tree on the right side has mostly thinned out, from this experience i can see that any blockage of light to HC plants will affect their growth and they'll eventually wither away and disappear (you can even see the bare patches mirrored directly under the shadow of the bogwood branches). The flow is also relatively weak on the right side (almost no circulation there) so that also affects the HC growth in that area.

Next time i'll position the majority of my plants in areas with more flow, and perhaps less plants (or just plain open spaces) in areas with less flow.

The slope has unfortunately started to flatten out over time too, without additional rocks or wood pieces to support the back section of the tank, water movement and constant shrimp picking gradually shifted the fine powder type aqua soil. As a result the HC at the back of the tank ended up with exposed roots, which looked rather unsightly, so i removed them to let newer growth spread back properly.

Moral of the story... always support and reinforce slopes from the start to counter natural erosion, especially for fine grained soil.

So far, i've still not dosed any fertilizers yet and the plants still look okay, no nutrient deficiencies spotted yet, most likely the ADA aqua soil still has enough nutrients for the plants at the moment... i guess once the soil's nutrients run out, then it'll be time to start dosing fertilizers.

No significant algae issues so far (fingers crossed), only the usual green algae film in the glass panels.

Although my fish bio-load is kept low to balance the waste/nutrient cycle (currently only 8 x Danio Margaritatus and 2 x Otocinclus which are all very small fishes), there has been a population boom in cherry shrimps, so much so that i have to keep transferring them out to other tanks or it becomes abit overcrowded.

Oddly, those few small pieces of rocks in the tank turned out to have some pH increasing properties... the tank's water pH is now around 7.2-7.4, up from 6.4-6.6. As the pH change was gradual, the fishes and shrimps didn't display any visible problems so its not a big issue.

It seems even with ADA aqua soil's pH reducing characteristic, just a few small rocks can still move pH up over time. I'll probably remove those rocks soon and test if the pH drops back down again.

Overall, the tank is quite easy to run and not much maintenance required. Its been an interesting experiment, but i'll likely be taking it apart over the next few weeks as i'll need the soil and plants for another new tank project. :)