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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Hi BCA,
I am going to try a tank journal for this build. I original set this tank up December 2011. It was my first planted tank and I was pretty happy with it. But! I had put some java moss in there and I regretted it ever since. A maintenance-time nightmare. This rebuild is my attempt to get rid of the java moss. Also some of the plants I had grew so fast I was always in there trimming. So now I've learned more, I'm changing up the plants. I'm also going to try a Dry Start Method.

I planned out my new layout on paper first...
layout on paper2

Bare with me...I'm trying to figure out how to embed a photo in a thread...pulling them off my flickr account. I'll post this thread and if the photo worked I'll continue the thread...

Jan10th: (I've sorted out the photo embedding so scroll down a bit for the continuing journal)
 

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Discussion Starter #2
Sorry, that photo embedding didn't work at all. When I figure out how to post the photos, I'll continue the saga.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Another attempt at putting in a photo...nope, my computer keeps telling me it's an invalid file. Help!
 

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Discussion Starter #5 (Edited)
I sketched the layout on paper first. The paper is the same dimensions as the tank. I found this helpful for planning
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Who knows, as I plant it may go out the window!
 
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Discussion Starter #6
Hey! Stuart, how'd you do that? What did you do? Curse my ignorance but thank you!
 

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Discussion Starter #7
When I first set up the tank, we couldn't find a stand that matched our living room. So my wonderful husband rolled up his sleeves, put on his safety glasses and produced this....
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The wood "skin" is salvaged from a very old (100 yrs?+) logging bridge that was to be demolished. The hardware is from Lee Valley.

Our house is a timber frame so lots of visible wood in the room. Here is a pic showing the house and you can see how nicely the stand fits in.
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EQUIPMENT
lighting: TekLight 48" 4 x 54w t5HO
bulbs: SunBlaster daylight (from a hydroponics shop)
filter: XP3
heater: 250w Eheim-Jaeger
CO2: 5lb tank, reg, solenoid, bubble counter, diffuser
UV: LifeGuard 15watt

I will run an air stone at night. That's on a timer. The light fixture has one switch per two bulbs so with timers I will have 2 on for 12 hours, the other two join in for 6 hours. I won't run this much light at first while the plant load is still new, however. LED's are so tempting but I went with the t5's because start-up costs were a bit steep (this was two years ago) for LED fixtures. I'm hoping for LED's to become more affordable as the technology progresses. I've looked at the fancy EcoTech radions...but um, ya..um, no. The CO2 will run on the same timer as the "all-day" bulbs. I'd put it on its own timer but the power bar in the stand won't fit a fourth timer. I never intended to use a UV sterilizer but within a month of the old build I had some persistant cloudy water issues. I finally solved it with a TurboTwist. I left it in place and never had a problem. The unit conked out on me a few months ago (did water get in?) and rather than replace it I'm trying an inline version. I hated the visible tubing and pump in the aquarium. Not sure exactly how I'm going to install the new UV yet...it's a pretty good size.

SUBSTRATE
ADA "Malaya" and Flourite. I put the flourite in the deep spots. ADA recommends their "power sand" for this but I figure the Flourite will do just as great a job and for way less bucks. I had great success with the ADA before so am using it again. I have to watch for a pH crash when I first fill and run the tank. Apparently the ADA Malaya will do this at first. I believe it releases amonia into the water. So, no fish at first!

So all my equipment is assembled!
 

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Discussion Starter #11
THE HARDSCAPE
For this build I wanted to try two different things. I wanted to play around with elevation and have a sand "river".

I've seen a few tanks with sand rivers and wondered how they kept the sand and substrate separate. How did they keep plants from creeping into the sand? I decided to make some acrylic forms in the shape of the river. I knew acrylic was aquarium safe. The plan was to make some forms, fill sand on the inside and my substrate on the outside. I have no experience in working with acrylic. I visited the local Industrial Plastics store and the fellow there was most helpful when I explained what I wanted to achieve. He advised some 1/16th inch acrylic. Thin, flexible and clear. I dug through the scraps bin in order to save some money! At first I thought I'd have one big piece to go on the bottom of the tank. That was too expensive so I thought I'd use some Corplast and bond the acrylic to that. The fellow at IP sold me some bonding agent called methylene chloride and an applicator bottle.
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Use in a well-ventilated area! Safety glasses aren't a bad idea either. I did get a bit on my hands but it didn't burn or cause redness or anything. I washed it off. This stuff isn't like glue, its consistency is more like that of water. First I drew my pattern on my corplast. Using tin-snips, I cut strips of acrylic about 1" high and a foot or so long for the "banks". I used masking tape to hold one side while I bonded the other. It didn't work at all! The masking tape didn't hold very well, the bonding agent bled through and soaked the masking tape. To top it off, the next morning the acrylic hadn't bonded at all and when I removed the tape, the river burst its banks. So disappointing! I pulled it all apart. Obviously I needed an acrylic floor for my river.

I cut some larger pieces to cover the footprint of the river and by butting them end-to-end bonded them together. I learned that you MUST make straight cuts if you want your acrylic to bond properly! After the base had set, I replaced the banks. I sanded the edge smooth again and cut the long piece into smaller pieces. Easier to work with. I also got help. The extra pair of hands was very, uh, handy. One person held the bent piece and the other ran the bead of bonding agent. Within minutes the piece was being held in place. I let it set for 24hrs. Here is the finished piece, in place.
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I wasn't sure how to achieve a slope that would stay put over time so I experimented with making some acrylic "T's" to act as retaining walls. I have no idea how this will work in the long run but hey, I'll give it a try. It was a bit of work to know what height to make my T's. First I poured the substrate into the tank (river bank is in place) and shaped it how I wanted it. Next I looked at where I'd want my T's. How many would I need? Of what length? Then I measured the depth of the substrate using a marked chopstick If the substrate was 3" deep I would make the T 2 and 3/4" tall. I figured this way the acrylic would be buried under a wee bit of substrate. After my measuring, I made my T's. I measured and marked out my dimensions on the acrylic's backing paper. Using my tin-snips again I cut all the pieces. Vertical portions and bases. The bases were a bit longer than the vertical pieces were long and about 2" wide. The bonding went easy. These were a breeze after that river! While they were setting I took all my substrate back out again. After the T's were set, (About 3 hours was all I had the patience for!) I put them in place...
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Then filled the flourite substrate carefully around them...
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Then topped it all off with ADA substrate and put the hardscape in place et VOILA!
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I can see a few little corners of acrylic but I'm sure when the plants grow in they will be invisible. Here is a picture of the other side of the tank. I had two heights of T's here because the elevation was steeper.
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I put the sand in next. I bought a bag of pool filter sand after reading about it here on BCA. It was frozen solid! I had to thaw it first! Putting the sand in was a challenge because I started with wet sand. Mistake! It clumped, it stuck to everything. Ack! I dried it in the oven for a bit. Then I was able to pour it out of a kitchen measuring cup and smooth it with a spatula. Come to think of it, kitchen utensils are very useful for aquascaping!

After that, the two stones went in. Great Christmas present, eh? I poked toothpicks all over to mark out my planting zones. I need this kind of visual to help me plan. I put a bit of water in the bottom to get things wet. I'm now ready to plant!!
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Discussion Starter #14
PLANTING

Okay! Been waiting for this since early December! I had a bad cold while planting. Less than fun to hang over your aquarium for hours on end with your sinuses going crazy! Anyways!

Plants...Here are the first batch of plants I'll do in my DSM. I will be planting others but I'm ignorant of how they'll do in a DSM. I'll do up a list of my remaining plants and folks are welcome to advise me if they are okay for DSM or not! But for now....

elocharis parvula
hemianthus callichtrichoides "cuba" (HC)
hydrocotyle leucoephala
staurogyne repens
microsorum pteropus
anubia barteri "nana"
glossostigma elantoides
bacopa monnieri
pogostemon helferi

The gloss, e.parvula, HC, staur. repens and hydrocotyle are AquaFlora emmersed plants. Thanks to Joseph Uy of Miyabi Aqua for all those emails! These were purchased at Aquarium's West in early December and I've been sitting on them for weeks. They all did great during the wait. I kept them in their pots and put a grow light over them for a few hours a day.

The long-awaited pogostemon helferi has been sitting in my temporary tank. On my previous build, the MTS ate all my pogo. helf. That could be why I dislike the MTS now! I searched for some replacement plants for a long time. Finally got in on the Tropica shipment at Aquarium's West.

The bacopa, anubias and microsorum were from my previous build. I carefully checked for any remnant of java moss as they came out of the tear down. They've been sitting in my temporary plant tank (DIY Co2 and my mother-in-law's grow lights suspended overhead) for a few weeks and no java moss had returned on these. Phewf! I inspected all "old" plants carefully under the bright lights of my light fixture. No new moss! Also checking for snails/eggs! Clear! I hope. I didn't dip the plants. I hope if I missed some snails/eggs the DSM may do them in. We'll see.

e.parvula went in first. I used almost the whole pot. Used my best kitchen paring knife to slice up the clump. Here's a pic
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This took waaaaay longer than I thought to plant. However, I see one major advantage in a DSM already. It is much much easier to plant without water! The plants stay put! No floaters! When you ease your grip with the tweezers they stay in the substrate! Yaaa! I wiggled the tweezers a bit to work the plantlet down, released the plant slightly and wiggled my tweezers back out again. My aquascaping tweezers are too big for this. I borrowed my mother's fancy little sewing tweezers. They are fine tipped.
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I think the e.parvula took about an hour to do! Back-breaking!

I wasn't quite sure what to do with the hydrocotyle. I planted a few stems at the base of the wood and just draped the rest of the plant on the wood. I'm hoping the roots will gain hold on their own. It's supposed to have vigorous growth so it should be okay if I can keep it wet.

The gloss was a breeze after the e.parvula. I only needed about half the pot. I spaced these out quite far because apparently it is a fast grower too. I'm hoping this plant doesn't become a maintenance nuisance. So three plants are in...Here's a pic. Glosso on the left.
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This all took so long I couldn't finish it in one day. Yet another advantage to DSM! You don't have to have a planting marathon all in one day! Very useful for busy people with large tanks!

Next day the staurogyne repens went in. I'm liking the striking colour of this plant already! This was easy to divide with my knife and easy to plant. I used most of the pot.
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I was feeling more confident in my planting skills by now so tackled the HC next. I had two pots and used it ALL! This was more fiddly to cut up into plantlets. One pot gave me this many plantlets...
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Using those little tweezers, it wasn't too hard to plant. Nice big root portions. I planted them as close together as I could. Just enough space to get the tip of my finger in between the plantlets. The same wiggle technique worked well. The slope wasn't any more difficult to plant than the flat part. Actually, it wasn't too hard to plant this plant. I just laid my finger on the plant gently as I pulled the tweezers out. Here's a close up pic...
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Then came the pogostemon helferi. I have two pots of this but only planted one. I wanted to see how it liked switching from submersed to a DSM. If it goes well, I'll plant the second pot. It was hard to plant because the pot had tipped over in my temporary plant tank and the stems were all bent. Here, the slope helped! The bacopa monnieri was a cinch to plant. I got quite an area covered. I have been growing this plant from about 8 stems originally so it was satisfying to have lots left over. So here is the left side complete (for now)
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Two days later I put in the java fern. I tied it to the wood. I took the wood out to do that. I had to mist it frequently to keep the hydrocotyle happy. Used my husband's fishing line. He helped me tie the knot. Ha-ha, pun intended? We're already married!

The anubias nana went in next. They were not too happy about being yanked out of the water. They got quite wilty, quite quickly. I just wiggled the roots into the substrate. This part of the substrate was very wet. Hopefully they like that. They were kind of a pain to plant because the roots grow the whole length of the rhizome and I could only grab some of them. So far so good. Here is a pic of the anubias looking sad...(the e.parvula is a few days planted here)
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Here is a pic of the java fern in
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That's all the plants for now. Instead of saran wrap I used my versa-top. I had almost no evaporation when the previous build was running. I figured if I jammed the holes in the back with plugs of saran wrap, the seal would be pretty good. One of the holes I left open. It's about 2cm by 2cm and the filter pipe is still hooked there. I have lots of condensation.
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That's a neighbouring house plant that can't believe its good luck with the light fixture so close! It's growing like stink! My lights are on 12 hours/day. Just two of the bulbs.

The plants get misted with some RO water. I have some metricide 14 on order but so far (1 week) I don't have any mould. My toothpicks did get some mould. Maybe from my cold virus? I mist once a day. Especially the anubias, hydrocotyle and java fern. I don't really vent the tank but it smells OK in there. Kind of like visiting a tropical rain forest. Maybe I shouldn't flood it and get some nifty frogs? Haha, no way! I miss my fish!

Wow, long post. More later! Thanks for viewing! Thanks for commenting!
 

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Good luck on the new plants. Be interesting to see how the pogostemon helferi turn out using the dry start method. I'll be following this closely as I'm interested in adding in the same plant to my tank.
 

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That's a lot of work. Good job on getting it done. 90 gallon is deep too so you have to bend over further to plant. I feel for your aching back.

With regards to the Anubias, you should really attach them to rocks/wood instead of into the substrate. Sometimes that works but often the rhizome starts to rot as they are ephiphytes just like java fern and really do better in the water column.

Keep the water level below the top of the substrate and you shouldn't get any mould. I used Metricide when I did my dry start just because I had some and I used just a tiny amount, but most often it's not needed.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
That's a lot of work. Good job on getting it done. 90 gallon is deep too so you have to bend over further to plant. I feel for your aching back.

With regards to the Anubias, you should really attach them to rocks/wood instead of into the substrate. Sometimes that works but often the rhizome starts to rot as they are ephiphytes just like java fern and really do better in the water column.

Keep the water level below the top of the substrate and you shouldn't get any mould. I used Metricide when I did my dry start just because I had some and I used just a tiny amount, but most often it's not needed.
Okay, thanks!
The water level is creeping higher, the more I mist! I had these anubias growing like mad in the old substrate so thought I'd try it again. The rhizomes are not really touching the substrate much and I'm keeping an eye out for rot. If they rot, well, I have a bunch more to plant. I could lash them to that corner of wood. Thanks for looking out for my anubias! I'm planning to put a large variety in at the back and will secure that to the wood and not try to "plant" it. Ephiphytes, cool word!
 

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Discussion Starter #19
One week in...
An update on the DSM...things are looking good after one week. The hydrocotyle is sending out little white roots on the wood. The anubias are alive but still looking quite wilty. Maybe they aren't fond of the DSM. They aren't rotting, at least. The e. parvula is looking fine, the glosso is already growing. So is the staurogyne repens. The bacopa monnieri is showing the most growth of all. The HC is not really looking too different but I was told to expect that. Most important to me is the pogostemon helferi. It looks like it's coping fine with the switch from submerged to the DSM.
I have no mould whatsoever. I mist once a day with my spray bottle of RO water. Sometimes I spray the java fern, hydrocotyle and anubias twice a day. But only a little bit on the second spray. The water level in the tank is rising. I guess I've used a few litres of water over the week. I'm not really keeping track as the spray bottle gets topped up before it's empty.
The lights are still on a 12 hour period. When I open the lid to spray, it seems quite warm in the tank. Warmer than the house temperature, anyway. I think the lights must be keeping things warm?

Next I want to plant my cyperus helferi and the rest of the pogostemon helferi (pot #2).

And now some photos!

Here are two pics of the whole tank. One taken from each direction...
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A close up of the HC
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And the staurogyne repens
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The pogostemon helferi
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The e.parvula and anubias
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The roots growing on the hydrocotyle
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The left side showing the HC carpet
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Okay! Thanks for looking. I'm a bit behind "real time" in my build so "week 2" will be posted shortly
 
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