Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources

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Jeffrey 03-07-2013 03:46 AM

5 Gallon Desk Tank
 
Hi guys!
I just started a new aquarium after about 4 years away from the hobby. I'd have liked to do something around 40g but neither space nor money permit. So after doing a bit of research I settled on a 16x8x8 5 gallon heavily planted tank with scarlet badis.

Current plants:
1x anubias nana
10 stalks of bacopa
various tufts of dwarf hairgrass
some rotala

I'm not sure exactly what type the rotala and bacopa are, the rotala is red if that helps...

Intended stocking list:
2-3 Scarlet Badis
2-3 Otocinclus
a few shrimp

The tank was started about a week ago. I filled it up and tested it for about a day, then drained it, planted it, and refilled it with filtered drinking water. A couple days later once the plants had started to perk up a little bit I picked up a few ghost shrimp to keep the cycle progressing. I am currently just letting the tank mature before adding anymore livestock.I may look at adding the Scarlet Badis in about two weeks.

Let me tell a little about my setup:
The filter is built into the back right corner of the tank. It is just an acrylic partition I siliconed in. Water overflows into the top, and trickles through the different chambers by gravity. The first chamber holds three sheets of filter pad for mechanical filtration, next chamber is full of cut up drinking straws for biological filtration. I was going to use the pot scrubbers but oddly I couldn't find any. Finally the water ends up in the last chamber that holds the heater and return pump. The return gets piped out the side about 1" above the substrate. The pump I'm using is an eheim compact 300, which I had to turn down a bit as the flow was way too high.

Heater is a Marina 10W submersible. I think this is a little underpowered. The tank generally hovers around 76 degrees when the heater is supposed to regulate to 78.

For lights I made myself a DIY led fixture. It is currently just set across the top of the tank as I haven't finished the canopy yet. I'm using 15 1W Epistar diodes, 9x 6500K white, 4x 450nm blue, and 2x 660nm red. I'm pretty satisfied with the color and intensity, it was pretty easy to put together too. The diodes will just be attached to the heatsink with thermal adhesive, and the heatsink is big and sturdy enough to be most of the structure of the canopy. The diodes don't get as warm as I expected, I'm only seeing about a 20 degree temp rise from ambient at the most, and this should decrease after the thermal adhesive is applied.

For substrate I chose flourite black sand. I've always used play sand before but wanted to try something fancier and figured a smaller tank would be a good chance. I'm pretty happy with it so far. It's finer than I expected which should be good for the plants. It can be a little prone to clouding, but now that I have the shrimp sifting through the finer stuff is moving down, which is nice. It currently looks a little grayer than I had hoped, but I think once I get the light raised up a few inches and the plants grow in enough to make more shade I'll get the look I want.

For fertilizer I was planning to use flourish comprehensive and flourish excel. I'm not too interested in doing CO2 for this tank, but I'm open to the option if my lighting levels end up needing it.

I think that's all for setup, let me know if there is any other info I can provide.


I had a few questions about plant care, don't really remember some of the specifics for this part. The bacopa, rotala, and hairgrass were in pretty bad shape from the fish store. should I prune the damaged leaves? or let the plant repair itself? do I just pinch them off? I've read that to encourage thick growth you should trim the tops off plants, but on mine this is where the healthiest growth is, what to do? The bacopa seems to be trying really hard to grow, but all the new leaves curl about a day after opening, not sure what this is. The hairgrass has lots of very healthy looking bright green shoots, but also lots of old dead brown ones, do I just let these decay?

Ok I think that's everything. All feedback is much appreciated. Pictures are incoming!

Jeffrey 03-07-2013 04:32 AM

9 Attachment(s)
pictures!

Jeffrey 03-07-2013 04:34 AM

One of the bacopa shoots appears to be growing roots out the middle of one of the stems, can I cut this off and replant it?

essjay 03-07-2013 05:10 AM

Hi Jeffrey

I'm not going to be much help because I'm still in complete novice mode myself, but I wanted to say...

WOW!! What a fantastic looking tank! You've done a brilliant job.

:BIGcool:

JDM 03-07-2013 08:52 AM

Nice looking setup.

I like the light array. That's a lot of light for a small tank, you've got 9 watts of 6500k for 5 gallons. I have 8 watts for 37 gallons and my plants do well. You may have to watch that you keep the light period a little shorter and get some shade with some floating plants so the fish have somewhere to get out of the light... most like some shade. Did you set up the LED array for switching of the coloured lights?... it doesn't look like it.

As much as your heater may be a bit too small, you don't want the tank sitting at 78F, for the fish you've selected closer to 75F is better anyway.

More plants. I thought that the plant list would have filled out the tank more so I am surprised that it doesn't look fuller in the pics. If you double up the stems you can avoid needing to do the cycle and give the shrimp and otos more leaf area to graze.

The bacopa caroliniana and rotala wallichii are cool. I just got my first bacopa last week. It looks like it is best to let it go until it hits the surface... it might even grow out of the water... but you can cut it anywhere and replant it.... particularly if there are already roots as they help hold it in the substrate. I don't know much about the rotala but the same applies as it is a stem.

On the curling leaves, your mentioned using filtered water. Do you know the parameters? hardness and pH? The water may be very soft or if it is distilled or reverse osmosis there is no hardness. This can adversely affect the plants as I think the minimum is around 5dGH.

I don't think that you need both excel and comprehensive, comp alone should be fine.

As for CO2, your fish load may compensate. Your filter with the output near the bottom, likely won't disturb the surface enough to worry about CO2 off gassing either.

All in all that is one nice job you've done there. I'm looking forward to seeing it once everything is up and running.

BTW, welcome to the forum, great first post!

Jeff.

Jeffrey 03-07-2013 05:36 PM

Yes, there is a lot of light. In the past I have always had too little light, mostly by being cheap. This time I wanted to be sure I did it right. It's possible I have too much light now, but raising the light and shade from plants should help to mitigate it some. If that isn't enough I can always just bypass a few of the white diodes to drop the intensity a bit.

That's kinda what I figured for the heater, I'm just concerned that the slight fluctuations are bad for the fish. I really don't know much about how fish react to small but constant temp variation, but it seems to me that this would be somewhat natural.

The plants are definitely a bit sparse still. I'm considering pruning them, and then cutting them in half and replanting. This way they are deeper and get a little less light, as well as being more dense. I think this is ok to do with stemmed plants? I'd like more feedback on pruning if anyone can comment =)

The tap water around here is very hard. The lfs tells me it can be as hard as 400tds with PH around 8.4. I know not to use only distilled water. It was my understanding that the filtered drinking water was from a similar local source but would be a bit better than tap water. This seems to be the case. I have an API master test kit and have been testing daily, though I cannot currently measure hardness. The tap water measured at about 8.4, my filtered drinking water was around 7.4 on the first day and has been slowly declining. I think it is around 6.8 now but I can check tonight. I think this is because the buffering capacity of the water does not change, but organic processes are releasing acids into the water. Is this accurate at all?

Unfortunately I cannot use floating plants, they would get skimmed right of the top by the filter. Could I maybe grow something like lilies that would reach up to the surface and then make some shade?

My thought process on the CO2/excel was that with as much light as I have I should supplement some form of carbon. While my surface is not too disturbed, I think the super clear surface (courtesy of the skimmer), combined with the wet/dry filter would offgas quite a bit. On the other hand, it probably also does an excellent job of keeping the plants from depleting the water of natural levels of CO2.

Anyone have recommendations for plants I might like to add?

JDM 03-07-2013 06:16 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Jeffrey (Post 1458840)
Yes, there is a lot of light. In the past I have always had too little light, mostly by being cheap. This time I wanted to be sure I did it right. It's possible I have too much light now, but raising the light and shade from plants should help to mitigate it some. If that isn't enough I can always just bypass a few of the white diodes to drop the intensity a bit.

It looks like they are in series so just bypassing a bulb will increase the voltage to the rest, they will burn out faster as a result. Is there a voltage control on the power supply?

Quote:

Originally Posted by Jeffrey (Post 1458840)
That's kinda what I figured for the heater, I'm just concerned that the slight fluctuations are bad for the fish. I really don't know much about how fish react to small but constant temp variation, but it seems to me that this would be somewhat natural.

Up and down over the course of the day shouldn't be a problem as long as it stays in the range the fish are best in.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Jeffrey (Post 1458840)
The plants are definitely a bit sparse still. I'm considering pruning them, and then cutting them in half and replanting. This way they are deeper and get a little less light, as well as being more dense. I think this is ok to do with stemmed plants? I'd like more feedback on pruning if anyone can comment =)

That's pretty much it. The best thing about splitting them is that the one plant growing now becomes two plants growing which almost doubles the ammonia consumption... cheaper than buying more.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Jeffrey (Post 1458840)
The tap water around here is very hard. The lfs tells me it can be as hard as 400tds with PH around 8.4. I know not to use only distilled water. It was my understanding that the filtered drinking water was from a similar local source but would be a bit better than tap water. This seems to be the case. I have an API master test kit and have been testing daily, though I cannot currently measure hardness. The tap water measured at about 8.4, my filtered drinking water was around 7.4 on the first day and has been slowly declining. I think it is around 6.8 now but I can check tonight. I think this is because the buffering capacity of the water does not change, but organic processes are releasing acids into the water. Is this accurate at all?

Yes, more or less.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Jeffrey (Post 1458840)
Unfortunately I cannot use floating plants, they would get skimmed right of the top by the filter. Could I maybe grow something like lilies that would reach up to the surface and then make some shade?

I assume that the water flow down through the filter is not going to be a vortex... you say wet dry, is it planned to be a waterfall affair or is the surface of the water going to be above the lip of the filter wall and the pump is going to suck the water through? I think that the higher surface level would best for a few reasons. Waterfall will make noise and off gas CO2. No waterfall lets you not worry about floating plants as they could float around in there too. Also, if a fish gets in there, it's not the end of the world for the fish and higher water level just means more water to help buffer the whole system. At five gallons you want every ounce in there that you can get.

Any lilies that I have looked at have leaves that I thought were too large for my 37 gallon, I think they would be over powering in a 5 gallon.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Jeffrey (Post 1458840)
My thought process on the CO2/excel was that with as much light as I have I should supplement some form of carbon. While my surface is not too disturbed, I think the super clear surface (courtesy of the skimmer), combined with the wet/dry filter would offgas quite a bit. On the other hand, it probably also does an excellent job of keeping the plants from depleting the water of natural levels of CO2.

I don't understand the bolded statement.

If your water is so hard and the KH is a high component of this, then there may be enough carbon without supplementation as the plants may take up the carbon from the CaCO3 in the water as well as the CO2. I wouldn't recommend a liquid supplement, some chemical ending in "hyde" as a preservative or something... reminds me of formaldehyde and anything related shouldn't be in a tank with live stuff.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Jeffrey (Post 1458840)
Anyone have recommendations for plants I might like to add?

With the light levels you have, most plants should do very well, in fact you might want to stay away from the lower light plants as they might be overdriven. I've heard that crypts don't do well in too much light. I'm a lower light LED guy so I can't help with high light plants much.

Oh, some sort of dwarf sword , chain sword or similar.

Jeff.

Jeffrey 03-07-2013 06:47 PM

The leds are driven by a constant current driver, if I remove a few diodes the driver will drop the total voltage so that each led are driven at the same power and current as before.

The filter is currently set up as a waterfall. The water flows down through the chambers and is pumped out the bottom. The amount of water sets the level in the filter, while the level in the tank is fixed at the top of the partition. The waterfall is very quiet as it just trickles about .5" down the side before hitting the first media. I definitely could just raise the water in the filter until it was even with the rest of the tank to eliminate the skimmer and wet/dry portion. I may do this if having floating plants would be such a benefit to the tank, though I do really like the pristine surface I get from the skimmer.

My understanding of the interaction between carbon and plants in water is shaky at best, I need to read more about this. But my thinking was that if the plants were using lots of CO2, a turbulent surface would help to replenish the CO2. I guess this could only work if plants were using so much CO2 that levels were lower than I want anyway. But that's hypothetical. If I start having CO2 issues i can make some changes/ worry about specifics.

JDM 03-07-2013 08:10 PM

Oh. A turbulent surface removes CO2... I don't think that the plants can use enough that there would be any draw out of the air that the turbulence would let replenish. I did find that my KH lowered by as much as 25% due to plant activity in the tank which I first thought was due to the plants using calcium... which was just guess work at the time, it was the carbon from the abundant CaCO3. This effect has reduced now that I have lots of fish producing CO2.

Cool power regulator. So you could put switches on the LEDs to control them in banks if you wanted to vary the intensity. Was this a kit or something you sourced parts for?

Jeff.

Jeffrey 03-07-2013 08:37 PM

The parts were sourced independently, not sold as a kit. The driver is intended for LEDs though, I think drivers of that type are pretty standard.

I also got the parts for the hood cut today. Some of them are a bit off, I just was dumb and forgot to update some measurements. I'll clean them up with the dremel and hopefully have new pictures soon! Perhaps if I get along to it I'll do some work on the plants too.


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