Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Setting up the Aquarium - "The Amazonian Ruins"

Well back after a while now. Reason? Setup is done but as I continued with the original layout, I was not happy how it all turned out, plants, texture and layout. So was experimenting with it over about a month now till I was satisfied with the look to leave it alone and let the plants grow lusher and occupy the open space. As far as the plant combinations go, lot was changed. The final set contains
  • Ammania Gracillis
  • Rotala Indica
  • Rotala Macandra
  • Star Rotala,
  • Pogmostenon Stellata
  • Gaint Val
  • Hairgrass
  • Dwarf Bacopa
  • Sagittaria
  • Blyxa Japonica
  • Java, Amano & Christmass moss


  • 12 Cardinal Tetra
  • 7 Platy (4 born in the previous tank)
  • 3 Discus
  • 3 SAE
  • 3 Otto
  • 2 Mountain Minnow
  • 1 Leopard Danio
  • 1 Pleco (the ones which grow about 3-4"...don't remember the whole name)

Also added some rocks to get it a rugged look. Mixed some ideas inspired by Takashi Amano's aquascapes and named it "The Amazonian Ruins"

Monday, June 2, 2008


These are hand drawn sketches of my planned aquarium layout. These are a bit old so it still has some plant names that has been removed or replace from the list. But overall it would give a good idea of what's in my mind.

Substrate Layout

Planted Layout

That's all for now. The next posts will start coming in from July 9, 08 with pictures of my day to day progress.

Routine Maintenance

This is my plan for routine maintenance based on my experience and information from different websites. This will be modified as required

Daily - Feed Fish and add iron supplement
Wednesday - Measure parameters
  • Measure parameters
  • Scrape walls
  • Prune plants as required
  • Vacuum
  • Change 20% water
  • Add aquarium salt and starter bacteria (routine maintenance dosage)
  • Add plant nutrients
  • Measure parameters and adjust PH, GH, KH
  • Feed fish

Electrical Setup

The Heater and filter (pump) will run 24X7. The other devices namely, light, atnic light, moon light, aerator, Solenoid valve and CO2 diffuser will all be run with timers. The planned lighting would be like

Till plants are added - Only flouroscent light will be on for 4 hours a day
After plants are added -
  • Flouroscent light will be on for 10 hours (7:30 am to 5:30 pm)
  • Atnic lights will be on for 4 hours (7-9 am and 4-6 pm). This is to create the dawn/dusk affect
  • CO2 diffuser and solenoid valve will also be timed from now on and will match the flouroscent light timings

After fishes are added

  • Moonlights will be timed from now on and run from 6 pm to 7 am (13 hours)
  • Aerator will be started from now on to match moonlight timinings


  1. Heater - Direct to plug
  2. Pump - Direct to plug
  3. Timer 1 - Connects Moonlight and Aerator
  4. Timer 2 - Connects Atnic Light
  5. Timer 3 - Connects Flouroscent lights, solenoid valve and CO2 diffuser

Setup Process

Measurements to be taken
NH3 - Should be 0 to introduce fishes
NO3 - Should be 0 to introduce fishes
NO2 - Between 10 and 20 ppm to introduce fishes
PH - 6.5 to 7
GH - 100 ppm in my tap water. good enough
KH - 50 ppm (or 3dKH). Tap water has 120 ppm.
CO2 - 30 bubbles / min after planted

Day 0
  1. Assemble Stand and cut hole for hose
  2. Place tank on stand and sump inside the stand
  3. Connect the plumbing between tank and sump
  4. Place Hospital tank inside stand (beside Sump)
  5. Clean tank interior
  6. Soak driftwood to remove tannin (continue till no more tannin)

Day 1

  1. Fix heater (set to 82F) and thermometer
  2. Fix CO2 diffuser (not entire system)
  3. Fix Aerator
  4. Fix electrical equipments and timers (see next post on electrical setup)
  5. Layer substrates (except gravel and stone from old aquarium)
  6. Fill up tank and sump with water
  7. Start pump and electrical equipments
  8. Add ammonia with dropper and record number of drops to measure upto 5ppm
  9. Add Fritz Zyme
  10. Place gravels and stone from old aquarium
  11. Measure parameters (NH3, NO3, NO2, KH, GH, PH)

Day 2 - Day n - These steps will continue as long as NH3 & NO3 gets to zero. Measurements will continue forever and adjustments made as necessary

  1. Measure parameters
  2. Add ammonia to reset to 5 ppm

Day 11 (Hoping NO2 started to build by now)

  1. Buy plants
  2. Clean aquarium and do 20% water change if required
  3. Fix Co2 system with diffuser
  4. Set Soleniod valve to timer (see next post for electrical system setup)
  5. Reset lighting timers
  6. Attach moss to driftwood and place in aquarium
  7. Attach riccia to riccia stone and place in aquarium
  8. Plant other plans as per layout planned

Day 22 (Hoping NH3 & NO3 has zeroed out by now)

  1. Do partial water change
  2. Add aquarium salt to water
  3. Fix timer to moon light (see details of electrical setup in next post)
  4. Attach feeders
  5. Add 3 danios
  6. Discontinue adding ammonia

Day 25 - Add betta and pleco

Day 28 - Add corys

Day 31 - Add Platties

Day 37 - Add 2 discus

Day 42 - Add 2 more discus

Measure for ammonia build up between Day 25 and Day 45 (more critical than ever)


Well this has been the most difficult thing to choose at this point. I haven't had much success with plants yet. My 20 gallon has some, but except for a few, most did not do well, so this will be the most challenging part for me I guess. While I have to decided upon the plants yet, following are what I am considering
  • Riccia tied to Riccia stones covering half of foreground. Goes well in Discus environment (PH 7, Temp 82 F) and relatively easy to grow.
  • Hair-grass for rest half of foreground
  • Amazon Sword for some of mid and back ground
  • Moss (Java or Peacock) on driftwood
  • Didiplis Diandra and Rotala Magenta for mid and background. These will give some accent to the aquascape. Both need high lighting and does well in Discus PH and temperature levels. But both are difficult to grow so we'll see how it goes


I have 80 gallons. By theory 1 inch of fish / gallon.

What I have
  • 1 Betta - 2"
  • 7 Platties - approx 1" each - total 7"
  • 2 discus - approx 4" each, expecting them to be double that size so considering them as 16" total
  • 3 Danios - 1/2" each, total 1.5" let's say 2
  • 6 Corys - 1" each, total 6"
  • 1 pleco (pigmy variety known to grow upto 4")

So I have about 37" of fish. Accounting for the growth I will consider them to be upto 50". That leaves just about space for 4 more discus. I plan to add 2 after setup, watch for 6 months or so and decide adding more.

Now, does Betta, Pleco and Discus seem a wild mix. For me they work out just too good. I kept the 2 Discus to check their compatibility with these fishes and for the last 3 months, all of them are at perfect harmony.

Things to Buy...except fishes and plants

  • 80 Gallon Bowfront Truvu Aquarium with built-in overflow and black background. Why this? Well, for it for an amazing deal of $314 from my local store (tax included)
  • Sump and Pump - Wanted to keep the beneficial bacteria separately so that regular vacuuming of the tank does not affect them. Got both and all the plumbing kits for $419
  • Hospital tank - 10 gallon. Got it for $80
  • Green NRG Advanced CO2 System with 74 gram cartridges. The advanced system can be fitted with other CO2 cartridges. To start with I will continue using the cartridges that come from the same manufacturer. Total $185
  • Aquarium stand for bowfront. Check this out, the best stand I could find was from drfostersmith.com for only $173. The other's that would fit my aquarium costs 399 and up. Or I have to make my own. That's a different project. The only compromise that I had to do is that my stand does not have any cut-outs on the platform for sending the overflow connection to the sump. So I got a wood hole cutter from Home Depot and cut one out. Those tools cost me an additional $50 or so, but still cheaper than a $399 stand
  • Lights. I got the 48" Coralife Aqualight (Atnic) with moonlights. Cost me $255. They are mainly meant for saltwater aquariums, but I chose them for the lights which can penetrate deeper in a thibkly planted discus aquarium. Also with some timers, I can create a nice morning, day, dusk, night, dawn effect.
  • Couple of cone feeders (less mess)
  • Heater (1 small extra for the 10 gallon tank)
  • Hydor Ario Turbo Aerator. $25
  • Power Sand Special - 6L as bottom substrate. $70
  • Aqua Soil Amazonia II - 9L as background substrate. $46
  • Aqua Soil Amazonia Powder - 9L as foreground substrate. $ 40
  • Pure Ammonia from Ace Hardware and a dropper
  • Test kit for Ammonia, Nitrite, Nitrate, PH, GH, KH and Chlorine

Still to get

  • Fritz Zyme Starter Bacteria
  • 3 timers
  • Plant Nutrients
  • Solenoid Valve to control CO2 injection
  • Riccia stones and Riccia line....yes some of the foreground will be covered with Riccia
  • Moss Cotton
  • Driftwood (for growing moss)

What I have already

  • One big chunk of rock which will provide some landscape and hiding place for the frys and my Pleco
  • Thermometer
  • Gravels from my old tank. The curved section in the front will be filled up with gravel with no plants. These gravels are the ones that come with Biorb. Excellent for their porous nature where beneficial bacteria can grow, easy to clean so these will be just below the feeders. Also they are not good medium for plants as I figured out, so they will help restrict plant growth in this area.


As a beginner aquarist, I did not have much luck with planted aquariums. Water would get messy, I was not well equipped with cleaning tools, dreaded ammonia and nitrites kep invading over and over....you get the idea. Meanwhile my pair of platties started spawning and 7 frys made it to young adulthood, which got me thinking of a bigger tank. Coupled with that I accidentally came across a Discus farm and was absolutely overwhelmed by their beauty. After some studying I figured out that they are not meant for a 16 or 20 gallon that I had. Also I found a store specializing in aquascapes and was totally mesmerized by the sheer beauty of a large well planted and maintained aquarium. That's when I decided that I needed to setup a bigger aquarium, with a pleasing aquascape, lots of space for some discus as well as my florishing family of fishes.

First some studying. What did I cover?
  1. Discus would govern the primary aspects of my new aquarium. That meant that all other inhabitants in the tank need to be compatible to that setup. So I checked if my current set of fishes are compatible with Discus?
  2. What plants to choose. I have an aquascape in my mind with an idea of what layout I wanted, what kind of color scheme and size and density. Next I had to get the right set of plants which can provide all of those and florish in a Discus environment
  3. What kind of tank I needed, what kind of filtration, lighting, aeration, CO2, plant fertilizer and fish food.

I will cover these in details under separate posts later.....till then wish me luck.

And yes, this time I want to experiment with fishless cycling. Not necessarily to speed up the process, but to reduce stress on "starter" fishes. As far as time is concerned, I am taking as much as I need...no rush!!! Why? I plan to spend till end of June to explore and find out good products in a cost effective way. Also this is my time to continue with my studies and plan out my approach well. July 9, I plan to start up my process and if all goes as planned I should have my tank ready with all the inhabitants by August 15. Why these dates? Well of course, my family will be out for vacation for these 6 weeks and I want mess up the house as I wish, just as long as I make to to tidy up everything before they are back. Ssssh, thats a secret :)