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Cheap Aquarium Plant Seeds Day 2

Welcome back to my experiment trying to raise a beautiful aquascape ground cover from cheap aquarium plant seeds.

I didn’t expect have an update so soon, and this is a brief update.  This is more of a tip if you’re trying this setup.  Be sure to properly bury your plant seed capsules.  It looks like a few of mine weren’t buried properly so some of the seeds began to float to the top.


Most of the seeds are still properly submerged so I’m not too worried.  This planted tank has a pretty shallow gravel bed in this spot, so it’s not unsurprising that some stuff got knocked loose.

Check back later for the next status update.

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Cheap Aquarium Plant Seeds Test Day 1

I’ve decided to evaluate the usefulness of aquarium plant seeds imported from overseas.  These can be had inexpensively, so I think they may be a good addition to the store.


I tried some before and they actually did germinate and turn into plants, but they floated to the top of the water and were eventually floated away.  Not great ground cover.IMG_0020

This time around, I had an epiphany.  Why not use gelatin pill capsules to keep the seeds under the substrate until they get properly waterlogged.  I happened to have a bunch of these capsules left over from my old DIY root tab project, so why not?

The process is very straight forward, the capsules easily pull apart.  Just load some seeds in on half then push the other half back on and you’re good to go.  The seeds are very small and pretty dense, so it’s not necessary to overfill the capsule.


Fill up a few of these, enough to plant these a few inches apart in the area in which you want carpeting plants in your aquarium.


Now the waiting begins.  Just like any other seeds, it will take a few days to a week or so for the seeds to germinate.  I’ll post updates as there are things to take pictures of, stay tuned.

Click here for Day 2

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Impulse Build: 29 Gallon Creek Tank

Setting up an aquarium on an impulse is not a smart idea.  Generally speaking, anyway.  I had a bit of an odd situation where I realized I needed to rehome some new aquatic inhabitants quickly.  This is the story of my on-the cheap one day build of a 29 gallon tank.

The backstory: There’s a creek in my neighborhood full of interesting wildlife (and lots of trash.) The kids and I built a 2-liter bottle fish trap and caught some minnows and tossed them in a 10 gallon tank I use for random guppy fry.

It quickly became apparent that the creek chubs we caught were going to need much more space, and soon.  I had two things going for me: an oversized filter in the well-established 10 gallon tank and a manager’s special at my local Pet Supplies Plus for 29 gallon aquariums.

I only needed to buy a couple things to get everything going, a 2nd light housing for an existing LED spotlight I had and some kind of substrate for the new tank.  Heck, I even had a nice piece of driftwood and some feature rocks I was hanging on to for a rescape of the 60 gallon main tank.  This was perfect!


With the tank acquired, I decided to spray paint the back glass black instead of using a black trash bag after everything was setup.  It’s a pretty simple process and looks great, I could even use the cardboard around the tank to serve as my mask for the sides of the tank.

Spray painting completed, I lugged the tank upstairs to its new location.  And then it happened.


Ok, so much for the low cost build, at least they were on sale, right?  Repeat steps 1 and 2, but this time don’t walk the aquarium into a doorjamb.

I chose regular ol’ playground sand as the substrate because it’s cheap; 4 bucks at your local home improvement store. The problem with playground sand is it’s dirty.  To clean, I put the sand in a 5 gallon bucket and ran a hose to the bottom of the sand.

IMG_0047I let the water run while painting the new tank (and cursing about my misfortune.)  Every once in a while, move the hose around to keep the sand that’s settled moving.  The idea is that the dirt and lighter stuff will float off while the heavier sand stays in the bucket.  Keep repeating the process until the water runs mostly clear.

Wet sand is heavy, I ended up splitting the sand into two buckets.  This made the weight much more managable to move the buckets upstairs.

Once the new unbroken aquarium was moved upstairs, I put it in its final place.  I used a wicker desk, it’s very sturdy and I can trust it to hold a few hundred pounds.  Don’t do that. I’m the guy who broke an aquarium on a door after all.


Get, or make a more appropriate stand. You can pick up a cheapie iron stand for around $30.

Once in place, the fun stuff starts.  I decided I wanted to do a simple aquascape, so I went with the classic valley in between a couple of hills.  One hill was larger than other and I tried to roughly go with the rule of thirds when building out the hills.

The thing with sand is that it will settle and gravitate toward being flat.  I used the driftwood and rocks I had plus lava rocks from my old volcano aquarium build to serve as structure to hold the sand in place.

Bolstering sand is a bit of an art I haven’t perfected.  The basic idea is to use your rocks or other material in tiers to keep the sand from sliding all the way to the bottom of the tank.


I only did a minimal amount of plants to start with, mostly java moss and a java fern that was in the old 10 gallon tank.  The planted Aquaclear filter from the 10 gallong tank also went into the new tank with some of the Pothos leaves submerged and the rest draped about the top of the tank.

IMG_20150628_170140960With the sand in place the tank was filled.  Despite my earnest sand washing, the tank was a solid cloud for several hours.

While the dust settled, I hung the lighting.  The placement of the tank was against a slanted wall, which made it perfect for suspending lamps above the tank. I used small inexpensive shop lights from the home improvement store.

For the lights themselves, I co-opted some no-name LED spotlights I was using for making videos. They actually worked incredibly well for the setup and I already had them.  Even if I didn’t I think I paid around 5 dollars each from one of those direct-from-China websites.


Other assorted equimpent was moved over from the old tank, along with a spare powerhead to make some current.  The residents were transplanted and we were off to the races.

Of course I could only get everything done in an afternoon because I had an established filter rated for the new tank.  Starting fresh, you’ll need to respect the nitrogen cycle and make sure your tank is ready before adding fish.

It was an interesting experiment, and a fun project to do with the family.  Well it was fun until I destroyed the first tank.

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Cheaper Flourish Excel: Generic at a Fraction of the Price

Metricide BottleIf you have live aquarium plants in your tank, you are probably familiar with Seachem Flourish Excel (or just Excel). It’s a liquid-based carbon source that helps boost plant growth and can help reduce algae.  I swear by the stuff, but it can be seriously expensive.

It turns out it’s the same chemical as found in the industrial sterilizer Metricide.  Hat tip to the good folks on Reddit for pointing it out in this thread.

Industrial cleaning chemicals are way cheaper than aquarium ones apparently.  You can get a gallon jug for 20 dollars including free shipping on Ebay. Talk about cheap Seachem Excel!

Important tip: the Metricide comes with an activator solution.  DO NOT USE IT. That activates the chemicals for sterilizing and would be very bad for your fish tank.

Click here to see the auction page on Ebay.

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Your Test Kit May be Lying to You: Fix Nitrate Readings

api kit

I’m a big fan of the API master test kit for testing the basic water conditions of my fish tank.  You test the water in your aquarium too, right?  If you don’t you should start, I highly recommend the API Freshwater Master Test Kit.

The problem is, my nitrates always read 0ppm.  For an established tank, that can’t possibly be right.  The nitrogen cycle should be converting waste and everything into nitrates.  I have a lot of plants in my tank, but not that many.

It turns out there may be a problem with some of the test kits where the liquid in bottle #2 settled.  Fixing it is easy enough. Just bang the bottom of the test solution bottle on a table or something a few times and shake well for a minute or three.

When you run your test again, you’ll find your nitrates no longer read 0.  Mine went from zero to about 15-20, right where they should be.  Hat tip to Fishlore for this one.

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Get Rid of Aquarium Snails with a Trap


If you have a planted tank, or any live aquarium plants, you probably also have aquarium snails.  A couple are no big deal, but a couple snails will quickly grow to way too many in your fish tank.  They always seem to be a pain to get rid of too.  There’s chemical treatments that contain copper, but it can harm things like shrimp and I don’t like to add chemicals if I don’t have to.

Another option I tried to get rid of aquarium snails is to get an assassin snail, which hunts and eats other snails.  I got one of those and it quickly disappeared into the jungle at the back of my tank. I have no idea what it’s up to.

Finally, I saw this gizmo on Deal Extreme today.  A snail trap! It’s a simple design really, the snails are able to creep into the dome shaped container, but then can’t navigate out.  Just let it collect your problem mollusks in the dome and then dump it out.

Check it out at