So I've had the itch to setup an aquarium lately and finally got around to doing it. On a bit of impulse my wife and I picked up a 29 gallon aquarium and stand. While I kept several aquariums when I was younger I really consider this my first "real" aquarium. Real in that I'm doing more than just filling a tank with water and putting fish in that I think look cool. Back when I was younger the internet was still a new and crazy fad, so being able to research things like cycling tanks and fish compatibility generally had to be learned via those book things and helpful
pet shop employees - obviously I didn't learn much. I thought it would be cool to keep a log/journal of sorts online as I stumble my way through this new hobby. Hopefully by doing this I can pick up some helpful input as well maybe provide a guide of what not
to do as I screw things up.
Getting Up to Speed
At this point I've had the aquarium running for about two-three weeks. So I'll get everybody up to speed on where I'm at.
So initially I started out with some basic gravel and polished stones. The tank at this stage had the basic hood/light that came with the aquarium, running a 17w T8 if I remember correctly. I replaced the filter with an Aquaclear 50 after reading around some. Pretty quickly though I decide that I wanted to do a planted tank. I decided that I really wanted several anubias' in the tank, primarily the nana variety. I also wanted to work in some java moss as well as a couple of cryptocorynes and maybe some kind of carpeting foreground plants. So off I went searching for plants and other decorations...
We struck gold by finding some really nice rocks and a piece of drift wood by a local river. We paid for it though...our little adventure took place in below freezing temperatures in 4-6in of snow. Luckily the shore was pretty clear of snow and ice so we were able to pick out things easily, getting them back up to the car was the fun part. I had very little luck with the plants, however. I was only able to find some java moss and a cryp, which I pretty sure is cryptocoryne wendtii brown. I also decided that I didn't really like the gravel and switched it out for some nice light sand. I had zero luck finding anubias, which honestly was main plant I was after. I did find some at Petco but was unable to determine the variety (I only wanted the nana or "dwarf" variety for now). So I called every local pet/fish store as well as several nurseries in the area to no avail. I did find one that said they would try to order it, and call me if it came in.
Shortly after adding the plants we added in some cory cats, nerite snails, and malaysian trumpet snails. I want to note that at this point I knew that the tank needed to be cycled before adding in a large amount of fish, but I was unaware that this could be done without adding fishing (and potentially harming them). A local fish store said that cories would do fine for cycling the tank... If I'd done my homework a little better I would have started with a fishless cycle, but unfortunately these guys are going to have to take one for the team.
Lucky day! I just happened to stop into the fish store that I spoke to about ordering the anubias var. nana and they got them in! They didn't call me, but...meh. They only got three in and I cleaned them out, I had to pay way more than I expected ($10 a plant) but was honestly just so happy to find them I didn't care. I guess that's not too bad considering my alternative was to roll the dice on getting some online, paying an ungodly amount of shipping, and still paying $10 or more per plant and risk getting a dead one. On impulse I added in some dwarf sag, but after reading that it will most likely grow taller than I'd like because of my lower lighting I plan on replacing it with some micro sword soon. I also picked up a few stashes of anacharis to keep in the tank to help during the cycling period, I don't expect to keep this once the cycling is complete.
I also upgraded the aquarium lights. I removed the single T8 fixture and replaced it with a 2 bulb T5 fixture giving me 48watts. This gives me 1.66 watts per gallon, which is still on the low light side. I really don't want to invest more than what I did on lighting so this will have to do. While I don't plan on using a C02 system I will be using Seachem's Flourish Excel, I've read good things about it.
I made a few adjustments to the Aquaclear filter after reading a couple of guides on tweaking filters like this. You may notice that I added a layer of filtering to the intake on the Aquaclear. I took the black filter pad (some sort of black mesh, not the carbon pack or anything) from the crummy filter that came with the aquarium and cut a portion and zip tied it to the bottom of the intake, this seems to help keep the larger crap from finding its way into the filter. It's zip-tied tight enough to stay in place, but can be removed easily for cleaning. I also removed the carbon pack from the Aquaclear and replaced it with another bacteria sponge thing.
My plan is to create a bed of the anubias on a flat rock. The rock is hidden behind the front rocks so I was able to get away with securing the anubias in a less than pretty way until they take hold with their roots. Rather than tying them down with fishing line, as I did with the java moss, I weighted them down with two fishing weights attached two the ends of a tiny strand of fishing line. I figured this would make it easy to remove the weights without having to lift out the whole rock, it also allowed me to position (and reposition) the plants easily. Worst case the roots get tangled in with the weights and I just clip the line and remove them. Rather than using lead fishing weights I used some sort of "eco-friendly" weights. No sure if this will make a difference or not but at like 10c more I'm not exactly breaking the bank. I plan to watch the weights to make sure they don't rust.
Since I don't plan on keeping the anacharis once the tank is cycled I secured it in a similar, temporary fashion. I just tied the bunch up with fishing line (not too tight) and attached a weight to the other end of the line and hung it on the back of the aquarium. This keeps the bunch from floating all over the place (like into my filter or something) and also allows me to easily remove them when the tank is done cycling.
So that's pretty much where I'm at now. The tank seems to be in the nitrite portion of the cycling process as the ammonia levels have dropped to around 0.25ppm. I'm doing frequent, small, water changes to keep the nitrite levels manageable to help ease the stress on the cories. So far they seem to be doing fairly well. They've had a bit of color loss, but are swimming actively and eat regularly.