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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Apparently I've never gotten around to posting a tank journal here (to my everlasting shame). So, having just re-done my small tank, I'm taking the opportunity to do one from scratch.

The old version of this tank (featured here), was a bit of a pain. The lighting was incredibly overpowered and made the tank more work than I was really happy with. I also was too cheap to shell out for a precise CO2 system (which I'd really need for a small volume like that); which didn't help either. The substrate was also impossible to clean (fluval stratum works reasonably well... but it combines the dirt-trapping characteristics of gravel with the cleaning-nightmareishness of a lightweight plant substrate. End result: messy substrate eventually contributing to a moderate BGA outbreak) and the hardscape took up more of the tank footprint than I really liked. I also lost my SB to some sort of parasitic problem (presumably introduced in the live food).

Anyway, a few months ago I took it apart and rebuilt it in a slightly saner fasion. New specs as follows

Specs

Tank: Fluval Spec (2 gallon)
Lighting: 3w Zetlight mini (courtesy of Frank at aQ.LED)
Filtration: More or less stock... I've cut some holes in the tubing in the rear compartment to reduce the hurricane-like flow a bit. Also helps circulate water around the heater a little better.
Heating: 10 watt Marina C10 heater. Preset to 25 degrees C. Not strictly necessary for my livestock (in some ways I'd probably prefer the temperature to be lower), but it helps keep the temp stable (which is nice to have in a small volume).
Stock: Cherry shrimp
Plants: Some kind of dwarf hygrophilia, pygmy chain sword, and two different species of dwarf crypt.
Fertilizer regime: Hopefully none... I'm a lazy, lazy man.
Substrate: Pond soil capped with black sand. Cheap (well... sort of. The sand is the new Nat Geo Stuff from petsmart. They only had 25 lb bags... I used about a tenth of that. But hey... I've got enough leftover to set up a whole new tank!) and effective (you know... hopefully).

Setup process.

First layer of substrate. Muddy goodness. About 1 1/2-2" deep. Note the stylish moat around the edges.
2014-05-02 15.10.09.jpg

Filling the moat with sand... hides the dirt from outside the tank.
2014-05-02 15.22.45.jpg

Capped the rest of it with sand and added hardscape. The rocks are temporary until the wood becomes waterlogged.
2014-05-02 15.40.03.jpg

Plants added and tank filled. Apologies for the cloudiness. Used powdered limestone in the tank water to add some mineral hardness to the tank. Takes a while to dissolve.
2014-05-02 16.28.54.jpg

Finito! Overall shot of the tank.
2014-05-04 17.52.11.jpg

Hopefully this will be a much less finicky tank than the original. The dirt substrate and reduced lighting should reduce the need for CO2 injection, fertilizer and trimming (which isn't exactly easy in a 6"x6" space... tweezers are required for everything).
 
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Discussion Starter #2 (Edited)
And now, thanks to the magic of procrastination, we can jump forward two months and see what's happened.

DSC_0732.jpg

Seems to have worked out pretty well so far. I didn't get around to introducing the shrimp for a few weeks. In that time a fair amount of green hair algae popped up; but it all disappeared within a few days of adding the shrimp :) . I'm really happy with the new setup so far; it's way less work. The new LED light is pretty good too. Nice plant growth without being too insane (not using CO2 or fertilizers at the moment), low power (nice with the heat we've been having), and it looks way better than the old one. It seems I've made a bit of an aquascaping faux pas though; the plant heights did not work out as I expected (the initially shorter crypts I put at the front have gotten much taller... so much for that). I'm not changing it though (first rule of dirt tanks... never move stuff unless you have to).

The shrimp are doing well. I put them in a couple weeks ago. Somehow I got some young ones in there (I didn't see them go in; and there weren't any berried females up until recently. They just showed up one day... not that I'm complaining) and one of the females is now berried. Gratuitous shrimp photos enclosed.

DSC_0750.jpg DSC_0742.jpg DSC_0749.jpg DSC_0752.jpg
 

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Looks great Rockman! I miss my shrimp tank, just wish it didn't get so hot during the summer in it or I'd still be enjoying it.
 

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Gorgeous little tank, Rockman!
I really like the look and shrimp are so much fun to watch. :)
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Thanks.

Looks great Rockman! I miss my shrimp tank, just wish it didn't get so hot during the summer in it or I'd still be enjoying it.
Yeah... I had to move mine yesterday (it was a bit toasty where I had it). New spot backs onto a brick wall located far from any sun... nice and cool. One of the few advantages of a tank this small.
 
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