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Karmicnull

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6 Sep 2020
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303
Location
Cambridge
"Look at me; I design coastlines. I got an award for Norway. Where’s the sense in that? None that I’ve been able to make out. I’ve been doing fiords all my life, for a fleeting moment they become fashionable and I get a major award. In this replacement Earth we’re building they’ve given me Africa to do, and of course I’m doing it with all fjords again, because I happen to like them, and I’m old fashioned enough to think that they give a lovely baroque feel to a continent. And they tell me it’s not equatorial enough. Equatorial! What does it matter? Science has achieved some wonderful things of course, but I’d far rather be happy than right any day!" - Slartibartfast

Reader warning: This is a low energy journal. The frequency of updates is going to be, well, glacial. And they will keep pace with, and possibly exceed progress.

Father Christmas (in the guise of my mum) was kind enough to deliver a 40cm rimless cube for my home office. The plan is to keep a Betta and a few other inhabitants in it. My rough plan has everything ready for the Betta by August. But that might prove to be too aggressive a timeline, so we'll see. The catch is that my home office has 3 outside walls (ex-garage) and the temperature in the summer gets pretty hot for sustained periods. so I'm going to run this tank warm in the summer (28 degrees) and cooler (23/24) in the winter. I take my inspiration from thisarticle in seriously fish that talks about temperature variation. The filter will be a sponge filter - or possibly two to provide some backup. And I'm going to run 50/50 tap water and rain water.

At the moment the cube is acting as a glorified stand for my shrimp quarantine tank and its solitary inhabitant. She's getting steadily better and I hope will be able to join her shrimpy friends in a few week's time. Her struggle with Cladogonium ogishimae is being documented here.

The scape will be Betta and shrimp friendly. I'm going to use this tank as the destination for any CRS babies that are reverting to wild type, to keep the other tanks marginally redder, and also because then they'll be harder for the Betta to spot so he'll be less likely to eat them.

The next purchase is going to be lighting. That will come in February (the New Ice Age has a monthly budget, and January's got used up paying the Christmas credit card bill :banghead:). I've been perusing lighting for Nano cubes for a while now and I am moving up, rather than down the confusion curve. Should I use a spot or an LED bar? If it's a spot what's the advantage of a Kessil over a Lominie? If it's a bar, why is it that Chihiros offer about 6 different alternatives that would all fit a 40CM rimless? As usual when faced with a daunting choice overload, I'm going to create a stupidly large spreadsheet of all the lighting options. It will have lots of columns in it and I will be able to filter on a tonne of variables. Lumens, PAR, Cost, Power, Degrees, Temperature, Star sign, etc. Whilst this will leave me none the wiser, at least I will feel like I'm in control.

Here's a picture of the (still wrapped) quarantine tank stand.

7500 - Nano Cube_small.jpg


Cheers,

Simon
 

afroturf

Member
Joined
12 Jul 2007
Messages
106
Location
Nottingham
Nice tank for the betta/shrimp combo, personally I prefer Kessil/spot light led's for small cube tanks I think they suit the dimensions more than the bar type light like twinstar etc. I too have a 45cm cube tank that I plan setting up in the future and am likely to go with either a Kessil or Aqua illuminations prime. I look forward to your choices and how the tank progresses.

p.s. hope the shrimp makes a full recovery
 

Mikefaz

New Member
Joined
9 Feb 2021
Messages
6
Location
North Wales
@Karmicnull, If you ever made that spreadsheet, I’d love to see a copy. I’m pretty much at the top of the “confusion curve” in my quest for lighting on a 40cm nano tank.
I don’t mind the thrill of the chase when it comes to buying new toys but this is getting ridiculous!
 

alto

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24 Dec 2014
Messages
6,241
then they'll be harder for the Betta to spot so he'll be less likely to eat them.
that so depends upon the Betta (or whatever the avid shrimp eater fish may be) ... have you never watched the ASEF focusing intently on the MC carpet, stalking shrimp movement beneath

S.l.o.w.l.y looking forward to this journal progress
 

Karmicnull

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Cambridge
*taps fingers...

I don’t mind the thrill of the chase when it comes to buying new toys but this is getting ridiculous!

S.l.o.w.l.y looking forward to this journal progress

Yeah Yeah, I get the message. Good things come to those who wait, my old Geography teacher would have said. Anyhow here is the lighting update. In fact - here is a picture of February's purchase:
7560 - 13-Feb Frodo Stone Hardscape_small.jpg


Ok - you got me. That's not a light.
As you might have guessed, this is all @Andrew Butler's fault.

Using ruthless second-hand car salesman tactics of awesome product, great value and fantastic delivery, he forced me into spending the February budget on Frodo Stone. Well, February and part of March actually. Inspired by the superbly constructed aquarium mockups that he and others have, I got out my parcel tape, raided our never-ending collection of Amazon packaging and built my own 40cm Cube sandbox. Since then the family have been trooping in and out of the room and trying different designs. Our household WhatsApp group has turned into a min version of the Ukaps Rate My Hardscape Forum. Here are some examples:
09-02 hardscape island.jpeg
09-02 Hardscape Corner Scape.jpeg

09-02 hardscape ravine.jpeg
7558 - 13-Feb Frodo Stone Hardscape_small.jpg


Having a range and variety of Frodo stone I now have means that I can experiment with different combinations without feeling the obligation to fit every stone in - This is advice I've read elsewhere on this forum, and it definitely makes a difference. On my first tank it was like "I've got these three stones and I'm damned well going to use them". Now I feel liberated. Except of course I've only got two pieces of wood. Clearly more wood is needed. The wood I've got was bought from the LFS back when I didn't have a clue. I think it's spiderwood, but I haven't really investigated deeply. I'm wondering what wood to get next. There's a ton on Ebay, or I could hold out until lockdown is lifted, and make a trek to Aquarium Gardens and browse in person. I've been pulling together a Pinterest board of nano-cubes that I really like. It reminds me of that point as a spotty teenager when I walked into the hairdressers holding a photo of Duran Duran and saying 'I want to look like that'. I ended up sitting in the pub with my mates squinting and going "If I look at it from this angle I can definitely see an element of Roger Taylor. If Roger Taylor had dead straight mousey-blond hair, that is." I have no doubt that my attempt will be the cut price pub-circuit Roger Taylor lookalike of the aquascaping world but I will still love it.

If you ever made that spreadsheet, I’d love to see a copy. I’m pretty much at the top of the “confusion curve” in my quest for lighting on a 40cm nano tank.
I'm about halfway through, having been distracted by the large injection of Frodo stone. Happy to share once I've done it.

Cheers,

Simon
 
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Mikefaz

New Member
Joined
9 Feb 2021
Messages
6
Location
North Wales
@Karmicnull the stone looks good. Never fails to amaze me the multitude of ways there are to combine a few object into different shapes. Currently going through the same with some river wood.
I bit the bullet with a light in the end, I was getting lost in the detail and loosing sight of the goal. Had a happy hour playing with my new chihiros c2 rgb earlier, first impressions are positive.
 

Karmicnull

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6 Sep 2020
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I may have to rename this journal 'the potting shed'. Certainly for the immediate future, at any rate. I have stolen a leaf out of @Hufsa's book and 'potted up' all my cuttings from the other two tanks in little glass jars. I picked up a couple of plants from UKAPS sales, and then @Aquarium Gardens finally managed to do a blockade run. I got all excited and bought a pile of plants from them. The result of which is that my potting shed is now full and I am most of the way though April's budget.

Current potting shed list:
  • AR. Mini (from the Marina, where it grows like a weed)
  • Anubias Nana (this is the one that melted completely away in the main tank, got shoved into the Marina on the off chance, and now has 2 tiny leaves)
  • Ceratopteris Thalictroides (Siliquosa) "Water Sprite"
  • Cryptocoryne Petchii
  • Heteranthera zosterifolia (Star Grass) - courtesy of @Kezzab
  • Hydrocotyle leucocephala (Brazilian Pennywort)
  • Hygrophila Costata (Touch and go whether it will thrive - it's been gradually languishing in the main tank)
  • Hygrophila Siamensis 53B - just a couple of little cuttings from the main tank
  • Limnophila sessiliflora (Asian Marshweed)
  • Ludwigia Mini Super Red
  • Microsorum xxx (various little plantlets that detatch from bigger ferns and go on adventures in the current until they wind up lodged in moss somewhere and I rescue them)
  • Pogostemon Erectus
  • Pogostemon Helferi (escapees from the Pogostomonster)
  • Potamogeton Gayi (slender pondweed) - thanks to @SRP3006
  • Rotala Rotundifolia Orange Juice (I know this is a bad idea but I really like this when I've seen it in other folks' scapes).
  • Taxyphyllum Barbieri (Java Moss)
  • Taxiphyllum Sp. 'Spiky Moss'
7723-March 09 -potting shed.jpg



As the more astute amongst you will have inferred (or spotted in the pic above), in order to have plants, I need to have light. And that's one of the interesting challenges of this tank. As well as being in a room that's going to get pretty hot in June and July, it's also in a room that gets a lot of daylight. Largely because of the ceiling.
This is the ceiling:

7725- March 09 -Ceiling.jpg

Based on this I came to two conclusions. First off, I don't need a full on light - I just need a top-up light. Secondly, I might as well go for the long photoperiod (12 hrs) that @dw1305 and @Geoffrey Rea are using. Geoffrey has a really well laid out explanation somewhere in UKAPS that sets out the difference between intensity and duration for lighting. In essence high energy CO2 tanks are doing 6 or 7 hour sprints under supercharged conditions. My low tech tortoise will amble along happily for 12 hours with the equivalent of a fiat punto's horsepower. That's the theory, anyway. I'll let you know how it actually works out in six months or so.
Anyhow, based on all that I got a cheap 15 quid, 15 watt light off Amazon (I was too impatient for an even cheaper £6 one from Ebay/China). At the moment I'm using a free and pretty unreliable manual timer (I switch it on when I start work, and I switch it off when it starts getting dark). I'm going to upgrade to a more reliable timer - that operates at weekends too - at some point towards the end of April. Or May if the budget accidentally gets spent on something else more glamorous. Or June... Yeah, alright, maybe Christmas.

Also some hitchers rode into town on my new plants. Bladder snails and Ramshorns. They have immediately set about their cleaning duties (that's the deal: if you move in you have to do the cleaning so that I don't), and have been made welcome. Despite the fact that I've already got diddy little Ramshorns, I'm particularly pleased about the new ones as they are a lot bigger and, I reckon, leopard Ramshorns. They are gorgeous.

7731- March 09 - Leopard Ramshorn.jpg


Meanwhile we've carried on trying out new scapes in our highly sophisticated mockup cube. The interesting challenge is how to make it look interesting from three sides, and also a comfortable envornment for a betta and its tankmates. This is the view from my desk:

7730- March 09 -View from desk.jpg


I like the corner setup most, it has a pleasant vibe and plenty of planting options.
Yeah - that's definitely the advantage. Across the family our votes are split widely - each option has pros and cons.

Never fails to amaze me the multitude of ways there are to combine a few object into different shapes
And that's absolutely the kicker at this point. There are just so many options! The need to experiment with lots of potential hardscapes also prompted a test £15 purchase of wood using Ali-express, which is breaking new ground for me. This was successful and rather more exciting than expected due to fantastic parcel tracking capability which let us watch wood from two different sellers get packaged up and make its way from the seller to the airport, across europe to the uk, through customs and eventually to our front door. Interestingly one took 3 days longer than the other even though they were both part of the same basket when checked out, and both arrived at the airport in China on the same day.

Here are a couple of the consequent "Oooh look - lots of new wood!" hardscapes.

7610 - 04-March Ravine Hardscape.jpg
7760 - March 15th Hardscape - Two Bridges.jpg



Geeky Stat section
I was playing with my plant stats the other night, and did a little pivot table on the plant requirements (light, temperature, PH, hardness, C02), their rating (hard/medium/easy) and my success with them. What I found was this:

1615889980494.png
1615889995368.png
1615890113944.png


Based on the available data it seems that lighting requirements are the biggest indicator to success (or not) in my low-tech tanks, convincingly ahead of CO2. Using this info I'm going to make a prediction about my new plants:

1615890351964.png


Cheers,
Simon
 

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Karmicnull

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The bottom layer is Tropica plant growth substrate, then next is Tetra Active Substrate, which as far as I can see is clay balls, and then topped off with some decorative gravel from the LFS. The gravel is there primarily to stop the clay balls floating around, as the Tetra substrate on it's own is a PITA to plant into. Also it makes the jars look pretty.
I did the same in the Marina, and my working theory is that's why the AR Mini has gone bonkers. In retrospect I put way too thin a layer of soil in my main tank. This is corroborated by the H. zosterifolia in the potting shed which has already put on a good couple of inches since the photo above. You can see the root growth from the AR here:

PXL_20210316_120428767_AR Mini roots.jpg
 

Karmicnull

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It's the 12th April. Unlockdown has started. Everyone is celebrating by going to the pub! Well, almost everyone. My priority was a visit to @Aquarium Gardens which is booked in for Thursday morning. Yay! I will be buying a big piece of statement wood. Although if I'm honest with myself, the chances that I'll leave without accidentally buying a plant or two are vanishingly small. One I've done that it will be time to finalise the hardscape and plant up. I am mildly excited.

In the meantime, the potting shed has acquired a gardening team. Largely because I'm far too lazy to deal with algae myself.
7822 - 11th April - Potting Shed Crew.jpg


True to its name the potting shed has had a few comings and goings. About half of the Potamogeton Gayi and the H. zosterifolia have moved into the main tank where they are doing a great job - finally! - of hiding the filter intake pipe. Conversely I bit the bullet and pulled out the remains of the Hygrophila Costata from the main tank and potted it up here. We'll see if it recovers now it has some decent soil to root into.
FTS and view from my desk below. To date the long duration low intensity lighting approach seems to be working, but it's early days yet.

7833 - Cube FTS ish.jpg


7821 - 111th April View from my desk.jpg


One thing I noticed which rather surprised me was that I was seeing pearling. That's not supposed to happen in low energy tanks! I thought it might be a symptom of not enough flow (local O2 saturation and no current to move it away from the plant). So I added another sponge filter, which had absolutely no effect whatsoever, but made me feel better, so I'm leaving it in. I actually quite like the aesthetic, tbh. My current theory is that the airstones driving the sponge filters must be doing a reasonable job of oxygenating the water, especially near the surface. That coupled with the long lighting period is meaning I get pearling in the top 1/3 of the tank from about mid-morning onwards.

7847 - 11th April Cube H. zosterifolia pearling.jpg


Cheers,
Simon
 

Karmicnull

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My priority was a visit to @Aquarium Gardens which is booked in for Thursday morning
I spent a very happy hour this morning with the excellent folks at AG getting inspiration, wood and plants in equal measure. Got back home, popped the new plants into the potting shed and went back to work for the rest of the day. Sue came in at about 5pm. She looked at all the plants, looked at all the wood, looked at all the Frodo Stone, and said "You're going to need a bigger tank."
 

Karmicnull

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I'm going to take this opportunity to pass on my first ever pro tip. This was shared with me by one of the chaps at AG, and I've resisted the desire to keep it to myself. Instead I shall wow everyone with my new scaping nous.
I was having a moan about how long it takes me to do WCs - in contrast to some people on this site who spend at most 6 hours a month on all their tanks, I can comfortably spend 6 hours in just one weekend across my three. And that goes up if I have a bit of a potter whilst I'm at it. In particular I reckon at least 25% of my WC time is spent peering into buckets full of tank water trying to find the cherry shrimp that are inevitably in them. Especially the little shrimplets that I am fabulous at hoovering up even though I can't even see them when they are in the tank.
When I explained this to the fellow at Aquarium Gardens, he nodded pensively. "What colour are your buckets?" he said.
"Black."
"Well there you go." He nodded in the direction of their store room, where half a dozen orange buckets were stacked neatly against a wall. "If you use orange buckets it's much easier to see the shrimp."
Whilst this was not a direction in which I expected the conversation to go, I have taken this advice to heart, and now, like the seasoned pro I am becoming, I have squishy orange buckets. Here is an arty photo of them.
Orange_Buckets.jpg


I am confident that with squishy orange buckets, I too will be able to do water changes in less than 6 hours a month. Onwards and upwards!

Cheers,
Simon
 

dcurzon

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4 Jul 2020
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342
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Essex
Yes!!! I picked up an orange bucket in B&Q for 97p and it does seem easier to spot cherry shrimp (despite being a reddish colour) that in my black bucket!

Sad to say it doesn't speed anything up though, I still have to lug a bucket of water either up or down a flight of stairs
 

Karmicnull

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Cambridge
A post WC update. As @dcurzon has already confirmed the use of orange buckets is definitely a major step forward on the shrimp-spotting front. I stress tested this by doing a full canister rinse-out. Unsurprisingly I found half a dozen RCS all happily living inside my Aquael, and was able to spot them and rehome them with comparative ease.
Sad to say it doesn't speed anything up though
I'm not quite in the same boat here. Whilst the heady 90% reduction in WC time I was dreaming of has mysteriously failed to manifest, I do think I will save about 30 mins all told across the three tanks, which is probably more a commentary on exactly how rubbish I am at catching shrimp in a black bucket than anything else. But I will gladly take that 30 mins!
 
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