I really don't enjoy those shows on TV where they take a plain unattractive person and "change their life" by redoing their physical attributes. That seems so superficial.
However, my 55 gallon freshwater tank is badly in need of just such attention.
As spring approaches, It seems like a good time to act.
I've been keeping fish off and on for a long time. You don't need to know! Suffice to say that I know what Jewel Aquarium Cement is. I don't feel like I've kept up with recent developments, so don't assume I know what I'm doing WRT current practices and equipment. I am, however, aware that the UGF has fallen from favor. ;)
The tank - is a standard Perfecto 55 gallon with dual hoods including fluorescent lighting that would make the prince of darkness proud. I have a Supreme heater - I sold the same model when I worked at a pet shop in high school about 40 years ago. I have an Eheim cannister filter with the media they included - 1 tray of rubble, 1 tray of little ceramic tubes and 1 pad on top. Once in a while I rinse one of these out in tap water.
At present I am using plastic plants and they are dieing. Seriously. They disintegrate after a while and I'm tired of that look.
Present population includes:
1 kuhli loach. He's so old he has lost his white bands and is now solid black.
2 yoyo loaches
2 skunk loaches.
1 diamond tetra.
several glow light tetras
several bleeding heart tetras.
3 clown plecs
So. I would like to base my makeover on a switch to live plants. I really like the way they look. I think that rules out a switch to large African Cichlids. ;) But I haven't really decided what else I might like.
Here are the areas that I think I need to address:
I am using tap water (conditioned with Tetra conditioner.) This is Lake Michigan tap water which starts out at about 135-165 ppm hardness. To that they add all kinds of crap including chlorine and polyphosphate. SWMBO is going to set up a reef tank and I may install an RO/DI unit to provide water for that. Can this be used for a FW tank? It will be extremely pure and I always thought that some minerals were a good thing for both plants and animals as well as to provide some buffering capacity in the water. Are there additives for RO/DI water that would make it more suitable? Could I just keep a piece of lime stone in the tank to provide some hardness?
My first thought is to upgrade the existing fixtures with a PC kit from AH Supply. I think the two fixtures will each hold a 55 watt kit. Should I be looking at other options? I recall that the light should be close to the front of the tank to provide the most pleasing effect and the hoods I have place them closer to the rear to allow for the front to open up. Maybe I should just turn the hoods around and feed the fish at the back of the tank. Are there replacement hoods that would be significantly better?
I use an external canister filter as mentioned. It is the Eheim Pro 222n (maybe a 2222 or 2224 - I cannot see a marking on the filter and that's what it looks like from a web search.) I'm still using the media it came with. Is there something better to use? It seems to me that activated carbon (bone charcoal for us oldsters ;) ) has also fallen from favor. Or does it have a place?
My son has a DIY yeast based CO2 system on his tank and gets phenomenal plant growth. I think I'd like to do that for my plants too. I've found some sites with DIY instructions but feel free to point out anything you have found that is particularly helpful for someone about to embark on this.
I have a mix of two grades of red flint gravel. One is about 2-3 mm size pieces and the other looks like it is about 6 mm diameter pieces. It's about three inches deep and has been mostly undisturbed since I removed the UGF plates several years ago. I don't have a burning desire to remove it, but will consider suggestions for an alternative.
Should I plan to do this in place? It there is a significant benefit, I could set up another tank to house the fish temporarily so I could tear down this setup. Or can I just upgrade the pieces in place and pitch the plastic plants as the live ones take their place? It seems to me that the one thing that would require a complete tear down would be to upgrade the substrate. Barring that, I think I can get by with an in place upgrade.
I know I'm not cleaning my filter as often as I should. When I do, I don't do a complete change either. Once I did rinse both hard media and found my fish gasping at the surface the next day. I'm pretty sure I upset the cycle by disturbing things too much. At present I'm doing daily partial water changes. I have a 'J' shaped siphon set up in a funnel connected to a jug to collect overflow. That makes it incredibly easy to pour a gallon of water into the tank at any time. I do 2 or 3 gallons on a good day. I just need to do a better job of hiding this contraption because it is a bit unsightly. I did have the thought of growing this into a trickle system where make up water was constantly added to the tank and the overflow was routed to a drain. This could easily provide a daily water change of up to 50% (probably) which could be good - depending on the quality of the makeup water. I would probably go no higher than 5-10% daily.
Lurk and search. I haven't been lurking. I'll start now. I'm sure I will pick up a lot that way. I did try searching but didn't seem to have much luck. That really depends on the right search terms, so if you want to grit your teeth
and tell me "search first!" - do so, but help me with search terms please.
If you have read this far, thank you! If you have thoughts, questions or suggestions about this, please let me know! I really appreciate your help.