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Bridge O'er Blackened Water

Courtneybst

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Fun Across the Pond
I recently returned from a 2 week aquarium extravaganza in the USA. If there's such a thing as fishkeeper's indulgence, this was it! SO much fun was had and memories made.
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The first part was spent at the Aquatic Gardeners Association (AGA) Conference. Within the first 12 hours of arriving at the hotel we were off to the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago!
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It was followed by interesting talks from the likes of Rainbowfish legend Gary Lange, Our own George Farmer, Aquabase's Andre Longarco, Macroalgae and Creek Geek Johnathon Butkus, Tank Tested aka Alex Winchel, and more! I also mentored 2 individuals during a live aquascaping workshop, where they physically set up a scape to take home and I assisted with hints and tips, holding things until they glued together and general life chat. I also got recognised by someone who asked for my autograph! (That was very surreal).
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In that same room, there was a plant auction to end all plant auctions, and trust me the battles were fierce! I've never seen so many plants up for grabs. Everything was there!
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The vendor room next door had lots of equipment, fish, plants and artwork for sale, all of which I thought I was immune to as I had an upcoming transatlantic flight. That was until I stumbled across a UNS 45L... Firstly, I'd legitimately been eyeing up this tank for a little while online, since the dimensions fit perfectly on my windowsill. Secondly, the tank was LESS than half price compared to the UK. Thirdly, it was within the weight and dimensions requirements of my hand luggage...so I obviously bought it lol. It will be an upgrade (and replacement) to my shrimp pond, this time with very minimal plants and botanical method.
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Say it with me: Manzanita Is Life
When I returned I was actually quite bummed out. Going from spending two weeks with aquascaping and friends constantly buzzing every day and night, to the stillness of home was quite a come down. Not only that, but my travel partner tested positive for covid upon his return. Whilst I didn't test positive (a miracle tbh) I did catch something because I was ill for the same period and still have a messed up throat. With all this happening and life slowly settling again, I had ZERO motivation to do anything. I was truly immobilised. But once again, aquascaping came to the rescue. Once I felt a little bit better, I had the urge to get this tank setup and I spent hours in the zone and came out a bit more pumped.

The idea to do botanical method came from wanting something simple and less vigorous than pond plants, and also having spent time with the blackwater Queen; Melanie Holmes, in Chicago.
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(Scape by Melanie Holmes - Photo credit: Alex Vella)

The design is inspired by several people including Jordan Stirrat and Christine Crites who did also created archway tanks earlier this year.
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(Scape by Jordan Stirrat - Photo credit; Jordan Stirrat)

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(Scape by Christine Crites - Photo Credit: Christine Crites)


Another is @doylecolmdoyle who's 5ft blackwater shallow is just beautiful, check it out if you haven't seen it already. Aquaflora also have a similar designed tank which went in the mood board.
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(Scape by Colm Doyle - Photo Credit: Colm Doyle)

Tank: UNS 45L (45cm x 17cm x 17cm)
Light: Chihiros C2 RGB (subject to change, maybe)
Filter: Small Internal Filter
Hardscape: Manzanita logs and twigs crammed together, WIO Wetland Artist substrate mixed with sand, WIO druid pebbles a mix of botanicals.
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Ironically, I bought this because of its perfect dimensions for my windowsill and ended up preferring this stand that I originally bought for my contest tank. I used this door as practice for my acrylic pour which is why it looks similar to my macroalgae stand. My plan is to get the tank up and running, seeded with a bit of filter media from my bigger tanks and microfauna from the existing shrimp tank.
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Then I'll move over the shrimp once things have settled, the botanicals have sunk and I'm happy with the parameters. The idea is to keep it the same way as it's been running for 6 months; water top offs only.
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Last edited:

dw1305

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nr Bath
Hi all,
It was followed by interesting talks from the likes of Rainbowfish legend Gary Lange, Our own George Farmer, Aquabase's Andre Longarco, Macroalgae and Creek Geek Johnathon Butkus, Tank Tested aka Alex Winchel, and more! I also mentored 2 individuals during a live aquascaping workshop, where they physically set up a scape to take home and I assisted with hints and tips, holding things until they glued together and general life chat. I also got recognised by someone who asked for my autograph! (That was very surreal).
Well done @Courtneybst that is absolutely fantastic.

cheers Darrel
 

Courtneybst

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All the Leaves Are Brown
The tank has been running with water now for just over a week and is seemingly smooth sailing so far!
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I wasn't sure how to tune my lights as it's not only low energy but tinted water too. After a bit of playing around I settled on R40% G20% B30% for 12 hours a day. At this time of year the sun is obviously much lower and so direct sunlight does cast on it in the late morning/early afternoon but I don't think this will be an issue.
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(Just after adding the botanicals. Nice spoopy vibes!)

So far no nuisance algae and minimal melt. There's also a good coating of biofilm developing on the wood and botanicals. I'd actually like an even deeper tint so I may get some catappa leaves to boost it up.
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In terms of plants, I've added Cryptocoryne albida 'brown' in the furthest two corners, followed by Cryptocoryne parva and Cryptocoryne lutea 'hobbit'. I've also tucked in a mini microsorum (unidentified species but grows really small and compact in my other tank), Anubias nana 'mini coin', Anubias nana 'petite', Anubias nana 'pangolino', Bucephalandra sp. , Riccardia sp. 'graeffei' and Phyllantus fluitans to float.
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A friend of mine (and blackwater pro) told me if there are microfauna in the tank it's usually safe for other inhabitants. I had seeded some from the pond tank at the start and some are still clearly visible so last night I drip acclimated a few shrimp over and they're all still kicking this morning! I will leave it until tomorrow or Thursday to transfer some more. I don't actually want to break down the pond tank yet as I'd like to use some emersed growth for wabi kusa, so getting them out is going to be a bit of a nightmare lol. It might end up being a more gradual process...
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Wookii

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Looks fantastic @Courtneybst!

I may get some catappa leaves to boost it up.

Alder cones work really well to add tint, they contain a lot of tannins, and they’re easy to swap out every week or two.

Or you can use Rooibos teabags either directly in the tank (as long as they are good quality bags) or steeped in hot water, adding the liquid to the tank.
 

Courtneybst

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Soooooo pretty, I love it!! Such good rich textures and colours.
Thank you!

The blend of botanicals, small pebbles and leaves really do it for me. Really works for this setup. Can't wait to see it once the plants are more mature too!
Looks fantastic @Courtneybst!
Thanks mate!
Or you can use Rooibos teabags
Oh yeah I've heard about people doing this. This is something you can get in the supermarket?
 

Wookii

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Oh yeah I've heard about people doing this. This is something you can get in the supermarket?

I think most supermarkets do them (certainly Sainsburys and Morrisons do), and they’re the cheapest ones, but don’t put those in your tank as most have tissue bags disintegrate.

More artisan ones (eg Teamonk - on Amazon) come in better bags, but are a bit more 🤑
 

Courtneybst

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I think most supermarkets do them (certainly Sainsburys and Morrisons do), and they’re the cheapest ones, but don’t put those in your tank as most have tissue bags disintegrate.

More artisan ones (eg Teamonk - on Amazon) come in better bags, but are a bit more 🤑
Awesome thanks! I'll give that a go.

I think I'll boil it in RO water and add the water. I wouldn't mind so much if it was botanicals but a tea bag just seems odd in the aquarium lol.
 

Courtneybst

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Easiest and cheapest way to tint is alder cones, IMO the best coloured tint came from mahogany rolls/bark
Added to the list!

I have some alder cones in there now and I'm assuming they'll continue to release some tannins over time. I'll keep a look out for the mahogany. What kind of shade does it impart? I know some are more red/brown, others more amber/gold.
 

Steve Buce

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Added to the list!

I have some alder cones in there now and I'm assuming they'll continue to release some tannins over time. I'll keep a look out for the mahogany. What kind of shade does it impart? I know some are more red/brown, others more amber/gold.
IME mahogany bark gives a rich amber shade; don’t bother with the cheap Catappa T bags not much tint and a bit of a dirty colour to the.water, Larger botanicals like monkey pots work well but can look out of scale in a small tanks, but can be hid behind hardscape
 

Courtneybst

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Trouble in the Village
So I've noticed that something's not quite right...

In the days since the shrimps were added I've noticed several shrimp deaths each day. What's weird is that 99% off them have been juvenile Neocaridina. The adult Neocaridina and the rest of the Caridina seem fine so far.

I tested the parameters of the tank and they were as follows;
TDS 343
KH 4
GH 10
Nitrate 0 (or negligible)
Nitrite 0
Ammonia 0

As for the TDS/KH/GH, I think I know what happened there. I think when I was preparing the new water I was testing the water too quickly between adjustments, not giving it time to mix around the tank and therefore I've ended up with a much higher than ideal range. As a result, the shrimps dying could be victim to osmotic shock considering the old tank was at KH 2 and GH 2 and I imagine juvenile shrimps moult more frequently than more mature shrimps.

The tank was seeded with filter media from my 300L tank and so the 000 on the nitrate/nitrite/ammonia makes me theorise a few things;

1. Either the tank is cycled and the plants have bottomed out the little nitrate that was present. Considering its very low lighting I'd say it's unlikely considering it was originally cut with a bit of tap water and I've done one dose of liquid fertiliser so far, but it's definitely not impossible.

2. The tank was cycled and didn't have enough to keep it going and subsequently crashed. Although I would have thought the literal decaying leaf litter would have been sufficient but I'm new to this.

3. The cycle never started in the first place and I'm a grade-A idiot.

Either way it's some kind of error on my part but I'm unsure what it is as of yet. I've been removing the dead ones to avoid polluting the water and will keep an eye on parameters.
 

Hufsa

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As a result, the shrimps dying could be victim to osmotic shock considering the old tank was at KH 2 and GH 2 and I imagine juvenile shrimps moult more frequently than more mature shrimps.
From what I understand the juvenile shrimps are better at adapting to sudden changes precisely because they molt more often. So if they need to perform an "emergency molt" to adapt to a change in parameters it is supposedly less of a burden to them than to the adults who molt more infrequently. This is why its often adults who die from molting issues.
This makes me wonder if they are dying because the tank might not be mature enough yet, I think that would be more likely to target the juveniles.
But not sure about this
 

Wookii

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As for the TDS/KH/GH, I think I know what happened there. I think when I was preparing the new water I was testing the water too quickly between adjustments, not giving it time to mix around the tank and therefore I've ended up with a much higher than ideal range.

That’s why it’s always best just to calculate your correct remin dose (the IFC calculator makes that a breeze), and stick to that. Then do a confirmation test a few days later.

You’ll need to get that TDS down otherwise you’re Caridina might start flaking out too.
 

castle

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Hard to say, shrimp are generally very hardly, but they’re also robust in unicycles tanks.

Some spike in a concentrated area would be my guess.
 

Courtneybst

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This makes me wonder if they are dying because the tank might not be mature enough yet, I think that would be more likely to target the juveniles.
It's definitely possible. Seems like a massive oversight looking back at it now.
I don't know in your case, but I found that Cherry Shrimps are <"definitely better in harder water">.
The weird thing is the water is now harder than what they were previously in. But maybe they just didn't handle the change well? Or I didn't acclimate well enough. I'm never in doubt the the error is mine lol.
You’ll need to get that TDS down otherwise you’re Caridina might start flaking out too.
Oh yes, definitely on it! I didn't want to cause any more extreme changes so I did a 25% water change yesterday and refilled very slowly with pure RO.

I figured since the parameters were roughly double what I had anticipated, two 25% water changes should bring that down by half? That would sit me at KH 2 and GH 5, which is roughly what it was before.
Hard to say, shrimp are generally very hardly, but they’re also robust in unicycles tanks.

Some spike in a concentrated area would be my guess.
Tis a conundrum!
 

Hufsa

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I figured since the parameters were roughly double what I had anticipated, two 25% water changes should bring that down by half?
Not entirely, two 25% changes do not replace as much water as one 50%.
The second 25% water change will also remove some of the RO you put into the tank on the first 25% change, giving a slightly smaller total water replaced :geek:
 
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