I have recently become interested in the keeping of tropical fish. As I jumped into this hobby, I first found that I needed to build my own aquarium stand, then I started putting together the other pieces I needed:
After I set up my stand and tank, it took over a week to find the laterite substrate additive I was looking for. I had read quite a lot on the net that laterite was a very good thing to add to your gravel when you set up a new planted tank (mostly from thekrib), but couldn't find any local store that carried it. One of the mail-order places said that they normally carried it, but it was out of stock, and didn't know when it would be back in stock. This is precisely the kind of thing you don't want to hear when you are itching to set up your tank. Finally, I checked with The Nippon Goldfish Company, which is a very large, well-stocked, and helpfully staffed LFS in San Francisco. That store carried Duplarit, but only had Duplarit K in stock, which is a ball form of laterite intended to be used in already established aquariums, not the granular Duplarit G I had been looking for.
I mixed laterite from Duplarit K balls that I broke up with a hammer with about 20 lbs of barely washed Jade Beach 1/8 gravel that I got at Dolphin Pet Village, and spread it on the bottom of the aquarium. I put the 3 rocks and 2 pieces of wood I wanted to use on top of this gravel & laterite mix, then added the other 30 lbs of gravel, that I had washed several times. It seems to me that for my aquarium, 40 lbs of fine gravel isn't really enough, and 50 lbs isn't too much.
With all the non-live decorations in place, I spread newspaper across the tank bottom, and began filling the tank with water, mixing in Amquel and NovAqua as I went. Amquel was really needed, because we seem to have chloramine in our water. With the tank about half full, I planted 2 Amazon Swords (Echinodorus bleheri), 2 Cryptocoryne wendtiii, about 5 Corkscrew Vals (Vallisneria spiralis??), and an annoying clump of some low growing plant that I have since gotten rid of. These plants gave some immediate gratification while I'm waiting for the plants I mail-ordered to arrive, although the tank seems pretty stark and empty with only these plants in it.
I should have let the plants get established for a few days before adding fish, but I just couldn't wait. Within hours, I had bought 8 Giant Danios and had acclimated them to my water conditions. My water is a bit alkaline (pH 7.5), and I had set up the heater in my filter for 26°C. 26°C is supposed to be too warm for Danios, but since I'm planning on some warmer water fish eventually, I thought it would be OK. Little did I realize that the warmer than usual water would inspire mating in the Danios. Soon I had about a dozen fry in the tank, which disappeared due to ammonia poisoning as the nitrogen cycle was getting started.
I didn't have the full complement of lighting for about a week, only the insufficient 20W 24" single bulb setup that came with my tank. However, a few days without much light let the plants begin to get established without algal worries. Now that I have 4 30W bulbs running 11 hours a day, all of the plants are putting on lots of new growth (the Crypts died back quite a bit after transplanting, but are coming back now).
After 2 weeks, ammonia is now reading zero, and nitrites are off the scale. Nitrates are beginning to come up just a little bit, and I'm starting to get some threads of algae primarily on injured plant leaves. If my nitrites will drop some, I can add a few Siamese Flying Foxes so the algae won't overrun the tank while I'm away for the holidays. I've got some pictures of the tank at this stage, but only a few are online as part of the tank stand page.
12/16: The plants I mail-ordered arrived today from "Gilberg Perennial
Farms" in Missouri. I barely managed to squeeze them all in the tank,
I'll have to do a major pruning if most of them survive.
I received 3 of each of:
1/7: I did have to buy 3 Siamese Flying Foxes before my Christmas vacation to keep the algae in check, even though the tank hadn't finished cycling yet. I also had a little ICH outbreak on one of my Danios, so I asked my caretaker to medicate the tank with Kordon Rid-ICH daily while I was gone.
During the vacation, the tank finished cycling, and I had an algae bloom
that we treated by darkening the tank for two days (no food, no lights,
and cloth covering the tank to prevent outside light from getting in).
After two days of darkness, the algae problem was much better, but the
ICH had reversed course from getting better to getting worse. However,
after another few days of medicating the tank, ICH is clearing up, and
I've had to trim and replant a bit of the Hygrophilia that had more than
tripled in size in less than 1 month.
Last updated 1/7/99
Copyright 1999 Steven Ellis