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Enigma - My 20 gallon madness

NotoriousENG

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Hi everyone,

Having recently finished school I finally have time to set up a planted tank, my first since 2016. So this tank is my return (homecoming perhaps) back to the hobby. I had initially planned to use an old 20 long I had on hand along with leftover equipment from my last tank to get the tank set up quickly and cheaply. Then once running, I would slowly upgrade equipment to work towards my ultimate goal of having no equipment visible in the tank. As often happens, I saw red and things quickly spiraled out of control which led me to the current build that is nearing completion. The current builds specs are:

Tank: 20 gallon long drilled for Eshopps Eclipse S overflow
Stand: Cheap open stand from Petco. Retrofitted with a floating wooden top panel and sump shelf
Filtration: 10-gallon sump with a baffle-less layout for simplicity and to limit splashing. Media is three two-inch-thick sheets of poret foam. The powerhouse of the sump is the Jebao DCP 2500 return pump
Lighting: Old 36" Finnex Ray2 DS leftover from my last tank. This light is longer than the tank and much too powerful so I jerry-rigged a hanging system for it.
CO2: Pressurized fed into DIY cerges reactor that Tees off the main return line
Substrate: Planning on dirt with black diamond blasting sand
Flora: Planning to focus on rooted plants and epiphytes- mainly crypts, buce, anubias, moss, small swords, and a dwarf hair grass carpet
Fauna: Struggling with this as my water is a bit hard and alkaline. Tentatively thinking about white clouds and neo shrimp. Possibly a few peacock gudgeons once the shrimp population is built up.
Ferts: TBD, likely a dialed-back version of EI as that worked well for me in my last dirted high tech tank
Hardscape: Wild-caught driftwood and a yet-to-be-picked variety of rock.


Given that this a small tank and I thought cramming in a sump and a bunch of equipment was a good idea I've decided to tentatively call this tank "Enigma". Particularly because I'm planning to keep white clouds and few if any stems. Bit of a more unusual build from what I've seen, but maybe I just like to think I'm special ;).

Now the important part - pictures!

Here is the tank as it stands now, 24 hours into leak testing part two. Note that the light is not hanging in this picture as I'm currently using it to try and grow some cutting out emmersed while I wait on the last few parts of the build. Please excuse the chaos going on behind the tank, tank building is messy work. Also, don't mind the glaring white plumbing as I plan to spray it all black once it passes leak testing.

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This next picture shows how the sketchy light hanging system works. It also features two gorgeous pieces of seriyu stone that I sadly don't think I will be using since I don't want to make my water any harder then it already is.
Tank 2.jpg

If you look closely in the above pictures you'll notice that the tank is drilled for the return, but not in the first pictures. That's because I broke the first tank and decided to not drill in the return as the leaking bulkhead threads and stuck return union were the cause of the breakage. Instead, the V2 version of the tank uses an over-the-top return.
Return 1.jpg

Return 2.jpg

After the pipe is painted, I will be using pipe straps to fix the return in place to make sure its straight. I will also be using them on the drains to take pressure off the overflow bulkhead.
Here is the sump shelf prior to painting. Its made from scrap, end glued 2x4s that are cross-braced on the underside with more 2x4. Since dimensional lumber is never very dimensionally correct, I had to hand sand the top flush. This only took about 8 hours of constant sanding since a cordless is drill is the only power tool I have right now (downsides of apartment life).
shelf.jpg
 
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NotoriousENG

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Accidentally pushed post before I had the last picture in.

Here is the wild-caught driftwood I collected locally.
Wood 1.jpg


Wood in tank.jpg

I had to drill a few soft spots out, wire brush off the remaining bark, and cut the limbs down to get it ready. I also kilned it in the oven for 16 hours or so, even managed to set a branch tip on fire at one point, as there was some questions as to whether it was fully dry. It is currently soaking and most of the tannins seem to be gone. It still has a bit of musky woody smell, but hopefully, that clears up soon. It also has yet to fully sink even after 3 weeks or so of soaking. I suspect it might never fully sink so I will likely glue it to a rock.

I'm very bad at aquascaping, my last tank had zero. It was just an overgrown jungle of as many plant species as would fit. So I would really appreciate feedback and ideas on what kind of rock to use and how to lay things out!
 

PARAGUAY

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Welcome to the Not As Easy as it looks club. Go to to Aquascaping threads and take a look at sticky threads mainly George Farmers Aquascaping Basics . The wood set up looks good to me
 

Karmicnull

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. It also features two gorgeous pieces of seriyu stone that I sadly don't think I will be using since I don't want to make my water any harder then it already is.
If your water is already hard you probably don't need to worry about it getting harder as the water will be relatively saturated. I's more of an issue when you have soft water that you don't want to get become hard.
 

NotoriousENG

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Welcome to the Not As Easy as it looks club. Go to to Aquascaping threads and take a look at sticky threads mainly George Farmers Aquascaping Basics . The wood set up looks good to me
For real, DIY projects always sound much easier (and cheaper) in my head than they turn out to be. Gives me something to keep busy with which is nice since I don't know what to do with my free time now that school is finished. Also thanks for the suggestion on the sticky, I will give it a close read-through!

If your water is already hard you probably don't need to worry about it getting harder as the water will be relatively saturated. I's more of an issue when you have soft water that you don't want to get become hard.
That's what I thought but I"ve read some mixed opinions on this. Not sure if those rocks quite work with the wood or not so not sure if I'll give a try yet or not.
 

PARAGUAY

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A lot of aquascaping rocks contain a element of limestone but with regular water changes not a issue. You could just use inert granite or slate
 

NotoriousENG

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This weeks update,

After a week without any leaks, I've decided the tank and plumbing have passed leak testing. The only thing of note from leak testing is an issue with a cyclic filling and draining in the overflow box that I working to correct with advice from this forum and a few others.

Since leak testing passed I painted all the plumbing this weekend with Krylon fusion matte black spray paint. Despite my complete lack of spray painting skills it seems to have turned out decent. Once everything is dry I'll see just how bad the drips and overspray are.

I also took a hike out into the wood to collect some rocks to use in the hardscape. I found some I liked and packed them out which isn't something I'm eager to do again anytime soon. I've done my fair share of backpacking, but a pack back full of rocks is just not comfortable! After some scrubbing with a steel brush, they have great color but are a little softer than I thought. They seem to be sedimentary in nature and did not fizz when vinegar was poured on them. Hopefully, they won't pose any issues.

With rocks in hand, I started playing around with some possible layouts. Not sure how I feel about them yet. As a whole, they all are rather bulky and don't leave much room for rooted plants or a carpet. Any advice is appreciated!
Layout 1.jpg

Layout 2.jpg

Layout 3.jpg

Layout 4.jpg


Layout 5.jpg

Layout 6.jpg
 

NotoriousENG

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Quick sneak peak of the tank in its final home and the overall look of the equipment now that the plumbing is painted. Going to be a pretty nice view from the couch!

My goal with the wooden top was to color match the speakers since they are rather prominent in the room. I missed a bit on the color but I think it still looks okay.

Now to lock up the scape and get it planted before my flat mate moves in so he doesn't think I'm nuts.
d8dfa6ccfbeaf425128396b3d2e684ab.jpg
c68b51d0ea7df4407e53bb844a64d3d2.jpg


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Paul27

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This weeks update,

After a week without any leaks, I've decided the tank and plumbing have passed leak testing. The only thing of note from leak testing is an issue with a cyclic filling and draining in the overflow box that I working to correct with advice from this forum and a few others.

Since leak testing passed I painted all the plumbing this weekend with Krylon fusion matte black spray paint. Despite my complete lack of spray painting skills it seems to have turned out decent. Once everything is dry I'll see just how bad the drips and overspray are.

I also took a hike out into the wood to collect some rocks to use in the hardscape. I found some I liked and packed them out which isn't something I'm eager to do again anytime soon. I've done my fair share of backpacking, but a pack back full of rocks is just not comfortable! After some scrubbing with a steel brush, they have great color but are a little softer than I thought. They seem to be sedimentary in nature and did not fizz when vinegar was poured on them. Hopefully, they won't pose any issues.

With rocks in hand, I started playing around with some possible layouts. Not sure how I feel about them yet. As a whole, they all are rather bulky and don't leave much room for rooted plants or a carpet. Any advice is appreciated!
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Think the first photo of the Hardscape looks best. Really like it.
 

NotoriousENG

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if you're concerned about hardscape taking up space for plants. how about you get rid of it haha. it's an interesting challenge to create variation in plant color, texture, and hight with just plants.
Oh no don't tempt me! My last tank was hardscape free (well it had a very small piece of wood) and it just lead me to horde as many species of plants as I could till I had a jungle.

The goal for this tank is to have a nice looking aquascape instead of a jungle .

22ce2e2711cc48a7367e21ba721c1770.jpg


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plantnoobdude

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The goal for this tank is to have a nice looking aquascape instead of a jungle //emoji.tapatalk-cdn.com/emoji28.png.
you can have a nice looking aquascape without hardscape;)
take a look at a few of my favorite threads

the added plants is always a bonus. if you want a considerable downgrade from the threads above you can always check out my journal;)
 

NotoriousENG

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First things first, the tank is planted! Today, 7/31/2021 is day one.



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Don't mind the HOB filter, I'm just using it to help clear the water faster. Luckily I had only minor clouding and seems to be clearing quickly.

The current plant list is:
Anubias Frazeri
Anubias sp. unknown
Crypt. undulata
Crypt. sp. unknown
Ludwigia repens
Hydrocotyle tripata
Eleocharis parvula
Narrow-leaf Java fern

Hopefully, this is enough plant mass to get things rolling. The Ludwigia probably won't stay long term but I needed a fast grower to help suck nutrients up.

I'm a bit worried I planted the hair grass too deep, tricky stuff to plant since it was tissue cultured and didn't have much for roots.

Working on getting my hands on some buce, moss, hygro. pinna. as well as more crypts and anubias. Will probably add a lily at some point as well.

CO2 is currently running at a pretty good clip so will need to get that dialed soon. Also wondering when to start dosing since this has an active substate, right away? Since I am not planning on any live-stock till the tank and substrate cycle should I go far full EI and blast CO2 right off the bat and ween it back later? Also not sure about the height of the light, guessed and put it about 6 inches from the top of the tank.

I did have run into some issues this week. First, off the dirt, I was mineralizing on my patio caught some pesticide overspray from the landscapers so had to be abandoned. I honestly didn't have the patience to wait another few weeks for the dirt to be ready (especially since I needed to get things planted and cleaned up before my flatmate moves in) so I went in another direction. The substrate I am now using consists of a very thin layer of boiled and baked worm castings mixed 50/50 with black diamond blasting sand and a little red clay. Everything is then capped off with more black diamond sand. I also placed a very light sprinkle of dolomite, KCL, and osmocote plus on the glass before adding the substrate. I will say that its very hard to tell how deep the cap is since the enriched and plain sand are the same color. As a result, I think the substrate in the front is a little thin, maybe an inch, inch and half total. The enriched layer is very thin so its mostly sand.



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It also appears that my return pump is surging causing the fill-drain issue I've been having with my overflow. I'm outside the return period on this pump but I will try to see if I can get swapped out anyways. If I am able to return it I will have to run the tank off a HOB filter and a needle wheel powerhead (for co2) until the new pump comes. Not ideal but should work since I don't have any fauna to worry about. I'll be putting media for the HOB in my sump to hopefully get the ball rolling on seeding.


Any thoughts, comments, suggestions are greatly appreciated!
 

NotoriousENG

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Seems way too early to me, but started popping nitrites today, pretty low but definitely a purplish tinge to the test. Ammonia also crept up a bit to between 0.5 and 1.0 so looks like a little leaching is going on. Three hours into the photoperiod I'm at around a 1 point pH drop (I think...). Really need to get a pH meter. The question is weather I get the new membrane/probe thing for my old Hannah pH pen or just get something new?

Started dosing at around half-strength EI so nitrates are in the 15 - 20 ppm range now. Since I'm currently doing daily water changes I plan to dose macros every day right after and micros every day in the morning before lights on.


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Still having a bit of a hard time deciding on how much flow to run overall and how much to run through the cerges reactor. Currently running the pump around 50% power which has most of the plants waving in the current a bit. I'm sending a good portion of it through the cerges. Getting some gurgling from the reactor so still not quite dialed in.

Plants seem to be fine, not really doing anything yet. Also no signs of algae so far so I'll take that as a win.

In other news, the cloudiness is the same if not worse. I gave up on running the HOB after I had to clean the sand out of the impeller for the fourth time. Hoping its just a bacterial bloom and not my rocks... Currently trying to brainstorm a way to stuff a bunch of polyfill in my sump.

The haze is bad enough you can actually see it in the picture. If you look closely at the top of the picture you can see faint smokey clouds of whatever it is being blown around.


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Also worried about whether I have my light (36" Ray2 DS) at the right height or not. It's so old that I am having a hard time finding a PAR chart for it. Ended up guessing and putting the light about 5.5 inches from the water surface which gives about 16" from the lowest point of the substrate to the light. Currently running an 8-hour photoperiod.
 

Wolf6

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Starting with my usual disclaimer that I'm no expert, just tend to have tanks with little/no algae:
For a starting tank 8 hours seems very much, I always start with 6 hours max, and only when everything is growing well do I increase with 15-30 min increments over many weeks. Second thing I tend to do is set the CO2 to the level I want for that tank and then keep it stable, keeping plantmass into account (so either cut back plants or increase CO2 as mass grows). I know people here tend to blast with CO2 at the start since there is no livestock, but the tuning usually takes me a while and I prefer to get the tuning out of the way before it can hamper plants/mess things up. Plus I aim for lower CO2 then most, going for 20mg/l instead of 30 as I have found fish seem more active then. Spot dose anything suspicious looking with liquid carbon such as easycarbo. Remove dying leaves etc. Light intensity if you can lower it, that can help, but its not neccesary, duration makes more impact provided you dont light your tank with intensely powerful lights. The haze could be bacterial bloom or eh floating algae, I'm not sure how the dutch word for it translates into english. That also occurs with too much light.
 

NotoriousENG

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Realized last night that after settling my substrate had ended up being less than an inch thick in total in the front. Since I have worm casting under there I was worried there wasn't enough of a cap so ended up uprooting the whole tank, adding more blasting sand, and then replanting. I also rearranged the scape a bit and think the tweaked layout feels more open. Still not 100% in love with it, but its an improvemnt. It also gives a bit more planting space which is nice. When I uprooted everything, it looked like the crypts had already started growing some good-sized roots so it appears they like the substrate. Personally, I am really liking the blasting sand - the color is great and its very heavy so planting is easy. At the same time, since the grain is irregular it doesn't seem to pack together very tightly and feels pretty airy. The big negative of the whole experince was the hair grass. I think the uprooting caused some of the clump to break up more so I had probably double the number of clumps to replant. So many clumps that using the tweezers for so long that it caused an old thumb injury to flare up with a vegence!
New Scape.jpg


I also added a sheet of Polyfil brand projecdt fleece to the sump to help clear the water. The fleece is great since its a sheet instead of a big puff ball so its easier to use in the sump. It also seems to be more tightly woven. The water is now pretty clear aside from some yellow staining I suspect is from the wood.

Today I noticed that the top leaves of the ludwigia looked a bit pale and yellow. Not sure if its am iron defieciency or just still getting used to the tank. To be safe I increased the trace dosing to full EI levels. I also increased the time the CO2 is on before the lights to two hours. Best as I can tell I am getting atleast a one point drop within the first few hours of lights on now. I will have to get a pH meter to confirm since the liquid tests are hard to read.

For a starting tank 8 hours seems very much, I always start with 6 hours max, and only when everything is growing well do I increase with 15-30 min increments over many weeks.
Thank you for the advice! I keep going back and forth on the light. Since I can't find a PAR chart for this light (they do exist I rembering seeing them back when the light was new) and the light may have degreaded due to age I really have no idea what lighting level I have. All I have is that my last tank, which was much taller, seemed to be on the lower end of medium light with 16~18" distance from the substrate. Since no sign of algae yet I guess I'll probably stick with the current length and height. At the first signs of algae I will adjust the light and hit it with excel.

I am also very curious to see how the anubias on the wood does since its dead center and very close to the surface. I've noticed some pearling from it the past few days which is suprsing since its direclty in the path of one of the nozzle so is surrounded by heavy flow.
 

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NotoriousENG

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Been a bit since the last update so first things first - pictures!




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I apologize for the poor full tank shot, the glare from the hanging light makes it tricky to photograph




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Close up on the wood featuring some new plants I glued to the wood yesterday.




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View from the side of the tank, I find this view very artsy.

New plants:
Anubias Barteri round leaf (yesterday)
Bucephlandra Sp. Green (yesterday)
Another Crypt. Sp. Unknown (last week)
Ludwigia sp. Unknown (salvaged from the failed emersed bin) has longer and thinner leaves than the L. Repens
Rotala sp. Unknown (salvaged from the failed emersed bin)

Now that the pictures are posted on to the boring details. Since my last update, a number of things have changed or been tweaked. The largest of which was uprooting all of the plants three days after planting to add more blasting sand I realized that after settling my substrate was under an inch deep in places. During that, I also took out some of the rocks from the wood mound and shifted a few to the right rock ring I'm now referring to as the "Stem Den." Still not sure if the scape is right but I'm pretty happy for my first real attempt at a real scape.

Plants have been growing well but perhaps a bit slowly. The hair grass is starting to put out some runners and will probably need a trim soon. All of the crypts are putting out new leaves and the large anubias is looking like it's maybe thinking about putting up a leaf soon. The java ferns have started rooting into the wood and one of them is just starting to form what looks like daughter plants. The hydrocolotye seems very happy and is putting up lots of much larger leaves. The ludwigia's seem perked up quickly but started showing yellowed new growth. I suspected it was an iron problem that motivated me to get my dosing to a consistent plan vs. random chaos. However, I am now wondering if it wasn't actually a deficiency since the same leaves are starting to develop a slight but nice-looking orange tinge. Really looking forward to being able to top the stems to get rid of the old damaged emersed form leaves. Luckily I have seen no algae (knock on wood) except for a little bit of brown slime-like stuff on the old leaves of only a single crypt. Once it gets a few more leaves I will snip its old leaves off.

Current dosing:



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I also moved the lights a few inches closer to the tank, bumped CO2 up to two bbs (nearly double), and spent a few hours dialing in return nozzle positioning. Took some more pH readings today.



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The left two viles are the tank right before CO2 turns on (two viles since it's at the cross of the high and low test kit). The middle vile is two hours later at lights on and the rightmost vile is around the midpoint of the phot period. If I am reading the colors right I am getting a drop from 7.8 to 6.8. Drop checker is turning green (not sure if it's the right green since I've never had a drop checker before) around the 1.5-hour mark from lights on. Still planning to get a pH pen but I need to do more research on brands, calibration, and proper storage before I spend the money. The plants seem to be very responding very well to the new ferts, light, and CO2 so things seem to be on the right track!

The next steps going forward is to finish populating the rocks and branches of the wood with buce, anbuias, and moss. Still going back and forth on what to put where.

As always any comments, suggestions, or thoughts are appreciated!
 

NotoriousENG

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Been a while since my last update since life got pretty busy for a bit. The tank finally cycled a week or two ago and is now home to one mystery snail, two nerite snails, four (supposedly) Amano shrimp, a couple of trumpet snails, and about a billion limpets that must have come in on some of the plants.
A few weeks ago I was having issues with new growth coming in very pale, almost white. Since my pH before co2 is well over 7 I picked up some Fe-DPTA to hopefully keep the iron in solution longer than the EDTA in CSM+B. The plants are still coming in a bit pale, but definitely seem to have improved. I'm hoping things will continue to improve with time. In the past week, I have had some issues with necrosis on old-growth which I suspect might be an after-effect of the iron deficiency?


I'm still having issues with diatoms on plant leaves. Hoping this will go away on its own but any advice or suggestions would be welcome.


I also got some tissue cultured buce and anubias a while ago. Pretty much all the leaves on the buce melted but the rhizomes are still greenish so I'm hoping they make a comeback. The tissue-cultured Anubias hasn't really done much either way.


Did a trim today and hacked all the plants back pretty aggressively. Here is the tank post trim.
FTS 9-19-21.jpg
 

NotoriousENG

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Two weeks since my last update and saw some good growth on the hydrocoytle. The tank was getting pretty overgrown so gave it a good hack and whack to open things up a bit.

Before trim FTS
FTS 2.jpg


After Trim FTS
FTS 1.jpg


Still having some issues with leaf necrosis, pale/yellowing, and loss of leaves on the ludwigia. Nitrates tested in the 30 ish range so decided to bump up my potassium dosing a bit on a whim to rule it out.
Melting plant.jpg

Leaf.jpg

Current Dosing
Current Dosing.JPG


I also picked up 20 blue diamond shrimp this weekend from a local seller. I don't really know anything about shrimp grading but they are gorgeous with a very deep, dark blue. The shrimp are so dark that they show up as black in all the pictures I've taken.
Shrimp 1.jpg

Shrimp astride his steed.jpg


I also found out that the 'Amano shrimp that were currently residing in the tank are likely wild-type neos. Since I don't want my future generations to lose their blue the "amanos" have been banished to the large open chamber in my sump. So far I've managed to catch two out of the four. The remaining two have proven themselves worthy adversaries and will require force of will and gumption to catch.


A few more random pictures of the tank I took this week that I thought looked decent:
Close up 1.jpg

Close up 2.jpg

Side view 1.jpg
 

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