So, I set up my first NPT last week: a Fluval Chi (5g) for my desktop, and I ordered a gorgeous betta for it that should be arriving this week. I put down soil and cap, planted heavily, and was really pretty proud of the result.
However, I'm new to this hobby, and I quickly realized that I had used a sub-optimal soil for the substrate: Miracle-Gro Organic Garden Soil rather than Miracle-Gro Organic Potting Mix. Several days later, I discovered that I actually have amazingly wonderful clay for aquariums in the woods behind my house.
I still wasn't ready to tear down my first attempt at an NPT, though. I was so proud of it. I checked the water parameters a week after I set it up and was rewarded with a favorable finding of 0 ammonia, 0 nitrites, and 10 nitrates. I was pretty happy and looking forward to getting my new betta.
In accordance with the betta exporter's directions, I dosed the tank with Tetracycline to ensure his health when he arrived. This turned the tank water rather tea-colored, which I expected.
What I did not realize, however, is that Tetracycline reacts with sunlight in aquarium water and turns it a rather shocking pinkish brown. (You are supposed to stay out of sunlight when you take Tetracycline, and I suppose this is why. If you dose a tank with Tetracycline, I recommend you ensure it has no sunlight at all.)
I still wasn't prepared to give up on my masterpiece and so drained most of the water.
I drained the water, salvaged by pretty little stones, took a picture of how I'd had the plants arranged, and dumped everything else. (The manure in the garden soil stank, by the way. I'm glad I got rid of it.)
Now I was free to start over! I dug up a bucket of this nice clay I have, sifted it through a colander, and tamped it down in the bottom of the tank. I know from experience, now, though, that I don't particularly like the gray color of this clay, and I want this nano tank on my desk to be as stunning as possible.
With that in mind, I pinched out a finger's-width of space all along the edge of the tank and filled it with a small amount of Eco-Complete I had around. (I didn't have enough of it for a proper cap, but this seemed a good use for it.)
I spread the remaining thin layer of Eco-Complete across the top of the clay, tamped it down hard, and topped it all with an inch of black sand. My thoughts are that the sand will sift through the Eco-Complete substrate at the edges when I add water and create a more uniform color.
I added water--slowly, slowly, for pity's sake slowly--and stood back to look. It's murky still, of course, but I can get a general notion.
I ended up with too much substrate and/or cap, by about half an inch. Damn.
In general, too, I don't feel the whole effect is as pretty as when I put it together the first time, though it's possible that the plants simply aren't as fresh now from having gone through all this change.
I'll let the filter run tonight and decide what, if anything, to change in the morning.
The tank had cleared up quite a bit by this morning, though the poor plants do look a bit bedraggled. Personally, I find Eco-Complete hard to plant in and wish I hadn't finished off the bag with a layer on top of my easy-stick clay. Clay is fantastic to plant in--you push the plant in, moosh the clay around it, and it just stays. The plants tend to float with Eco-Complete or sand.
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