45 Gallon tank set up in Oct 2001
This tank is a favorite of mine. It sits next to a large, south-facing
window that gets dappled sunlight. Overhead is a strip-light containing two
40 watt fluorescent lights (cool-white and a GE "Plant & Aquarium" bulbs
from the hardware store).
For substrate, I layered the tank bottom (1 ft X 4 ft) with 1 inch (16
lb) of potting soil recommended for growing houseplants. It contains
organic compost from mushrooms and forest peat fiber, sand/bark fines,
vermiculite clay, perlite, and dolomitic limistone. I covered the soil with
25 lb of ordinary gravel.
The well water that I use for all my tanks is quite hard (GH = 17).
Rainbowfish were put in immediately after tank was set up and have done well
ever since. No deaths!
Tank was well-planted from the start. The left side contains a dense
grove of Cryptocoryne balansae and Valisneria. The right side is all Java
moss, Anubia sp, Val, etc. Center focus of tank is three C. blassii, which
I like very much for red color and fine form.
Tank went through a period when Rotala indica grew everywhere resulting
in a lot of "weeding". Also, for about 6 months because of some mat algae
problems, I kept a sheet of aluminum foil taped to the back of the tank to
block out sunlight. Now the tank has stabilized.
I've never added plant fertilizer. Filter is an Ehiem canister with no
internal packing except a few inchs of ceramic noodles. I don't change
water more than 30% every 6 months, if that. I've never vacuumed the
gravel. Easy tank.
50 Gal Tank Setup
I reset up this 50 gal tank in May 1993. I layered the tank bottom (1.5
ft X 3 ft) with 3 gal of topsoil mixed with 3 tablespoons of powered
dolomite lime (to bring soil pH up). Soil was top layer from a nearby
pasture and is a typical Southeastern red clay soil, nothing special. I
covered soil with about 1.5 inches of gravel.
Lighting is from a window (Western exposure) and two strip lights containing
a miscellaneous assortment of three 30 watt fluorescent bulbs (Phillips Home
Light, Sylvania DayLight, and a Penn-Plax "aquari-lux").
I use well water, which is quite hard (GH = 17).
I filtered the tank for many years with an Eheim canister filter, but about
3 years ago I substituted it with a $15 internal pump (Aquarium Systems
"Mini-Jet 606"). I made my own "hose return" by attaching and stoppering
plastic tubing (with drilled holes) to the pump's outlet. The hose return
provides a moderately strong current across the tank.
Amazon swordplants have always dominated this tank making it difficult to
keep anything else in the tank except Anubias, Java fern and Cryptocoryne
wendtii. About a year ago I took a razor blade to the most dominating
Amazon swordplant and sliced off the entire top part, in essence, killing
it. I left the root system intact, because I didn't want to create a
mammoth mess in the tank (I don't mind uprooting smaller plants). Not
unexpectedly, there were consequences. Within a few months there was
significant algal growth in the tank and an opaque film on tank's surface.
I'm sure that the dying root matter released plenty of organic matter and
I added an apple snail, floating water lettuce, potted plants, and just
waited. Tank is recovering nicely (as expected). Fish were fine
Now I keep the 3 remaining Amazon swordplants either in pots or severely
pruned. Cryptocoryne usteriana, which has beautiful leaves of 2-3 ft
length, has reproduced despite the swordplants into 3 thriving specimens.
Recently, I added a small clay pot containing a couple stems of Rotala
macrandra. The plants, which have done poorly in the past when simply stuck
into the substrate, have surprised me with their good growth in the pot (see
The Rotala are potted in a small clay pot containing a brand of potting soil
that seems to work very well for plants, at least in pots (I haven't tried
it as a tank substrate yet). The potting soil I used is: "Miracle Grow"
Potting Mix listed as containing 50-60% Sphagnum moss, composted bark fines,
perlite, wetting agent, and inorganic fertilizers; N:P:K =
0.18%:0.06%:0.12%. Although it contains fertilizers, I detected (after 3
days submergence) no significant ammonia or nitrite release in a "bottle
For potting plants, I generally, cover the bottom hole of a clay pot with a
stone or a big gravel piece (from the driveway), then about a ½" layer of
aquarium gravel, about 1-2 inchs of potting soil, and then a top ½" layer of
Unlike my 45 gal, mulm collects in this tank. So I gravel vacuum about
every month or two resulting in a 10% water change.
The Rainbowfish have thrived in this tank for many years and haven't "missed
a beat" since I replaced the canister filter with the Mini-jet pump.