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My 120 Gallon Planted Tank. How it's done.

Posted By: Dr. Momfish (by proxy) Edited by Martin Thoene. <martin.thoene@lakenheath.af.mil>
Date: Saturday, 5 February 2000, at 7:27 a.m.

Tank is 120 gallon,4 by 2 by 2 feet. It was first set up in December 1997.One year of major teething problems until I got things figured out. It's been doing great for the past year or so. I had a lot to learn...........

First off the gravel is just regular nothing special stuff (but not the dyed stuff) with some Terralit and Seachem Flourite added to it here and there. It's about 3 to 4 inches deep. There are peat pads in the right corner area under the gravel, because the cryptos really like sinking their roots into them.

The lighting consists of 2 x 48 inch Perfecto Sholights with 110 watts compact flourescent in each at 5400K. There are people who prefer 6200K because they think the 5400 looks to yellow, but the 5400 is what the plants would be getting in their natural environment, so that's what I'm sticking to.

Temperature fluctuates from 79 to 81F.

My tap water is pH 7.6, KH 4, GH 6, so I don't have to fiddle with it. There is a 20 pound CO2 cylinder and an Aquiline Buschke CO2 kit with reactor, bubble counter, etc. Their headquarters is in Texas, by the way. The rate is about one bubble per 3 to 4 seconds,. This keeps the pH at about 6.8. Sometimes when there are too many plants in the tank, the pH can go down to 6.5 because they don't allow for too much gas exchange at the surface.

There is Duckweed, some Salvinia, and Watersprite on the water surface. I skim off 3 netsfull every week, break off tiny plantlets from the Watersprite and throw the big ones out every other week or so, depending on how big they are getting.

The Cryptocorynes on the right side of the tank are beckettii, wendtii, lucens, and balansae (the tall, thin ones that are near the right, and there are others going back on the diagonal). In the middle of the tank there is an unusual Crypt with the really big leaves. That's C. moelmannii - rare. Discovered in 1977. I didn't know what it was when I bought it (and neither did the guy at the store), and it really seems to like the conditions because it's got a mess of baby plants growing all around it. This is what gives the picture a greenish tinge, because I didn't use a flash. I'm working on taking better pictures. It's difficult to get the entire tank in one shot and still have good definition.

The funny plant with the long crinkly leaves on the right side is a Crinum. That's been moved since the picture was taken. It's at the back now, about a foot from the back right corner.

The small, grassy plants at the front centre are Echinodorus tenellus. I had to rip half of them out so that the fish have a feeding area.

The back left corner has a stand of Jungle Val. I'm not giving that any substrate fertilizer or it gets too big. It spreads slowly (mercifully), but it's leaves are 6 feet long. I have to trim them with scissors. Every few months I have to throw out the biggest of the bunch and leave the babies.

Then there's a lot of Rotala indica on the right mid area, and another fine-leaved rotala. I'm slowly replacing these with another plant with the round leaves.

In the right corner there's Hygrophila polysperma which needs radical pruning every 3 weeks.

In the left-hand corner is an Echinodorus rubin, which was only 5 inches tall when I bought it in July '99. I thought it would stay small......oh well........

There's also an Echinodorus paleofolius in the right off-centre middle - that's gone now.

What you can't see is the Mopani wood. I've got about 5 or 6 pieces kind of stacked against one another, and interlocked running along the length of the tank about 6 to 8 inches from the back. That's Loach Headquarters.

There's another plant in there with roundish leaves, but I don't remember the name. It's easy to propogate. Just snip at a junction where it's branching off and plant. The underside of the leaves turn red when it gets closer to the surface.

There are several "Windelov" ferns stuck to the Mopani wood, and a bit of Java Moss, but you can't see them on the picture,. It's for the fish, their comfort, not necessarily for my prying eyes. Oh yeah,....and a couple of Anubias in the front around the Echinodorus rubin.....

For substrate fertilization around the Crypts, I use Seachem Flourish tabs, Aquarium Pharmaceutical Plant tabs, and Jobes flower spikes broken into bits. Same with around the Echinodorus rubin - which is why it's turned into a Monster.

Plant fertilization is from the Sears Conlin paper on www.thekrib.com. Any good liquid fertilizer is fine, like Kent, Seachem, Tropica, etc., but when you've got to make up 130 gallons of water changes per week total with all 7 tanks, the name brands get a bit too expensive. I do 36 gallons water change weekly (sometimes twice a week if I'm in the mood) on the tank, and add only dechlorinator (Little Giant from Home Depot), and 7 to 10 ml of liquid trace element/potassium/magnesium mix to the tank. I don't use any of the water conditioners sold at the LFS, because they take the Iron, etc., out of the water.

Filtration is by a Fluval 403 and a Fluval 203 on eother ends of the tank. The spray bars are as far beneath the surface as the boot allows, and the water flow is directed in a slightly downward direction, so there are no significant surface currents. The Fluval 403 spray-bars go along the left side, then turn and go along the back. The back spray-bar exits against the back glass. (Gourami hang-out) The cannisters have no Carbon in them, only sponge and Ceramic rods. There is a sponge pre-filter on the 403 intake which gets cleaned once a week (Actually, I just replace it with another one, and rinse and dry the one that's been in use for the week - it helps to keep the volume of garbage down in the canister which gets cleaned out every 4 to 6 weeks depending on my mood).

In a way it's KISS, because my routine work is not very much. For the past 2 weeks all I've done is change water, remove dying leaves, skim Duckweed, and clean the front glass. Other times, it's a lot of work because of the pruning, etc. I only vacuum the gravel when I pull up plants. There are Malaysian Trumpet snails in the gravel, and they keep it very loose. They also eat any and all detritus that's in the tank, leaving behind only a brownish, powdery stuff that settles almost immedeately after the gravel is disturbed. Some areas never get vacuumed because the plants don't get moved around. Other areas, like where the rotala are, get vacuumed every other time I tear them up, cut off their bottom halves, and replant. Or if I remove a plant, Then I clear up the area before replacing it with another plant. Every so often I'll tear up the entire Hygrophila stand, vacuum the gravel, and replant cuttings which grow at the rate of 8 inches per week.

Water changes are done by filling 18 gallon muck buckets (from Home Depot)in the bathtub. 80 degrees F water, add the dechlorinator and fertilizer, let sit for about 20 minuites. I've got a 45 foot long Python hose with a Rio 2500 pump attatched to one end. I use this to pump water out of the tank and into the toilet, and then reverse, so that it pumps water from the muck buckets into the tanks. I don't use the hose for cleaning the gravel. For that I have the smallest sized gravel-cleaner. With plants, you can't just go in willy-nilly and vacuum gravel, or you damage the roots. Go deep where there are no plants, and justv shallow where there are (i.e. maybe half an inch). The smaller the gravel cleaner, the more accurately a tank can be cleaned.

All but 2 of my tanks are open-topped......Wow! the evapouration rate right now is phenominal.

I grow my own African Red Wiggler worms in a home composting kit, and there are fish who just love these. I've also got Grindal worms growing on the inside of the composting box lid for the smaller fish. Other than that, the fish get frozen Bloodworms, frozen Brine Shrimp, all sorts of Tetra flakes, and Hikari Sinking Wafers. I've figured out how much they all need to eat, so there's no leftovers. Every so often I give them some Krill/Plankton/Squid, etc., just for variety. I don't know who eats it, but it's gone.I used to give Lettuce to the Loaches, but recently they don't seem too interested.

The big tank has Gouramis which spawn successfully, and because of all the floating plants I end up with babies........Cool! There are Apistogramma borellii living on the bottom,which have successfully reared broods, except that I now have a "Shovelmouth" Satanoperca leucosticta living in there, and she barrels in everywhere, but does not uproot the plants. Also, there's 5 camera-shy Clown Loaches, 4 Corydoras, 4 Harlequin Rasboras, 3 Golden Phantom Tetras, and a bunch of Guppies.........you'd think the other fish would eat the new-borns wouldn't you? Ha!....Given how many baby Guppies there are in there, it would seem that predation is not a significant factor.

There's 3 Pearl Gouramis, 4 Honey Gouramis, 5 Dwarf Gouramis, and one 3-spot Female who is a model citizen.

Now if there are kids in there right now, I don't know about it. I suspect the borelliis are up to something, but I don't pry. If they are successful, I'll see the kids when they get big enough.

In general, all my tanks are set up to be comfortable for the fish. Then to be pleasing to the eye.

Dr. Momfish. (with minor editing by Martin Thoene)


My 120 Gallon Planted Tank

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