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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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August ‘Scape Update

If you follow this site (why don’t you? Just click the button on the right), you’ll know I recently had to re-scape my creek tank thanks to some feline hi-jinx. I also recently re-did the setup of the 60 gallon tank, so I figured I’d share some pictures.

29 Gallon Creek Tank

Before:

IMG_0134It was  a decent enough setup that somewhat resembled a creek, though the lava rock and java fern aren’t exactly native.  I kind of felt that the driftwood messed with the rule of thirds and didn’t look natural.

After:

IMG_20150809_190622213_HDRI decided rather than two hills with a valley in the middle, I’d go with a large, pronounced hill.  Originally I wanted a drop off, but this ended up more like a hill.  It’s barren now, but I planted a tiger lotus in the back and an apogenton in the mid ground.  That should fill out that hill nicely once it grows out.

Similarly, the Java fern will hopefully grow out into a nice, bushy background.  I have some random native stem plants in the corners and back to add some variety when they grow out.

The driftwood is more natural laying down and draws the sight line across the bottom third of the tank. There’s some java moss which hopefully will take off and lend a softer, more natural look in time.

60 Gallon Planted High-Tech Community Tank

Before:
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This is my main tank, and the one I spend much of my time on.  There wasn’t anything in particular wrong with the setup and I was very pleased with how well the java fern took off.

Basically, I was just bored and decided to mix things up.

After:

IMG_20150809_190539917_HDRFirst thing to note: I didn’t go crazy planting the ludwigia repens. This photo was taken about a week after I did the aquascape.  I had cut those plants way down, most were only a couple inches tall.  These things just blew up like weeds.

It’s great for background, but they are effectively choking out the tiger lotus.  That is the problem with a jungle scape.

I have to say I’m still not 100% happy with this setup.  I wanted do something more like a rock cliff with driftwood protruding from it.  Turns out my giant fake driftwood there is way too big for the tank and will only fit a couple ways.

The new setup does make for some nice hidey spots for shrimp and fry. I’m hoping this will also get more light on the dwarf swords so they’ll spread out and cover the open ground.  But, I have a feeling, this setup will look different come the next update.

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Dedicated Aquarium Stands: Goood

Cat aquarium balancing act

If you read my previous build article on my 29 gallon creek tank, you may have noticed I took a shortcut in the aquarium furniture department. I warned against doing so, but I kind of learned the hard way to take my own advice.

No, the fish tank didn’t come crashing down in a tidal wave of broken glass, water and flopping fish.  I stand by my assertion that that you could park a car on that thing. No, instead something more unexpected happened.

Cat aquarium balancing act

Yes, that’s my acrobatic manx cat balancing along the edge of the aquarium.  Since the desk is bigger than the tank, he was able to hop right up and get an up-close view. A later census of the tank inhabitants confirmed that he had a small snack while he was there as well.

Fortunately, the stars aligned and that same day one of Petco’s 20% off deals landed in my inbox.  I got a pretty sweet deal on a simple, but not bad looking metal aquarium stand making it less than $40 shipped.

Putting the stand together was simple.  Moving the fish tank to it, not so much.

Here’s another word of sage advice that I actually followed:  Always completely empty an aquarium before trying to move it.

So I pulled out all the plants, transferred the fish to a bucket of aquarium water and got the sand out.  Don’t forget the substrate, that stuff can be heavy.

That was a pain in the butt, but the biggest problem was the creek chubs kept jumping out of the damn bucket.  One of them very nearly met its fishy demise.  I found it when I moved the desk out of the way to place the stand.  It was barely breathing by the time I got to it.

Fortunately, the fish seems no worse for wear after jumping over the Great Wall and is back to mercilessly harassing its tank mates.  That wasn’t even the only jumping incident.  Another of them made the leap while I watched.  At least after that I got smart enough to cover the bucket.

One re-scape later, and we’re back in business.  I need to clean up the wires since they’re visible now, but the setup looks pretty nice.  The cat is relegated to watching the action from the safety of the floor.

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The moral of the story is do it right the first time or else it’s way more work down the road.  Either that or, don’t have an athletic cat.

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Use Inexpensive Equipment for Automatic Aquarium Dosing

If you regularly add anything to your aquarium like fertilizer for planted tanks, you know what a pain doing it every day can be. There are sweet precision dosing pumps available online, but they are expensive. There is a cheap pump out there called the Aqualifter.  It’s less than 20 bucks, but the problem is it’s not metered, it just continues to pump about 3.5 gallons per hour. But, with a few additions, you can set up one of these pumps to dispense much smaller amounts of liquid for a shorter time.

DIY aquarium dosing pump setup

Here’s a list of what you’ll need (there’s a link to Amazon at the end of the article too).

  • Scissors
  • Small measuring cup to measure the dose you’ll need
  • Aqualifter pump
  • Airline tubing
  • Air control valve
  • Digital timer
  • Bottle or other container
  • Air pump (optional)
  • Extension cord or outlet splitter (optional)

The basic setup is pretty simple.  You just connect the inlet port from the Aqualifter to the bottle with air hose.  Run tubing from the output port to the top of your aquarium and connect the valve.  You can add additional tubing after the valve if desired. 02021401 I recommend you do not put the tube in the aquarium water.  When the power is cut off, tank water might siphon back into your dosing system and make a big mess.  If you need to do it that way, add a check valve to your setup.

DIY Dosing Pump Calibration

IMG_8497Once you have everything where it’s going to go, it’s time to test and make adjustments.  Close the air valve and then plug in the pump.  Slowly open the air valve until your liquid starts dripping out.  I used water during the calibration. Make sure there is additional space in the bottle for air to enter.  If it’s perfectly sealed, it will create a vacuum and nothing will flow. Adjust the outflow until the setup dispenses the amount of liquid you want in the time span of 1 minute. Once you got it dialed in, put the pump on the timer and set the timer to come on one minute per day at the desired time. IMG_8499Now your dosing will happen automatically.  Pretty sweet. One note, when you do the calibration step, it’s important to do it with everything in the place it will be permanently.  If you test outside the tank and then move it, the difference in height or tube length might alter the liquid flow.

Add a mixing pump to dosing setup

Ok, I have to admit, this isn’t new ground, I found these tips online in plenty of forums.  My addition is the optional steps I’m going to share now. IMG_8498I use dry fertilizer mixed with distilled water.  As a result, things tend to settle.  Since I probably won’t shake the bottle regularly, I need something to occasionally stir up the solution. That’s where the air pump comes in.  All I did was plug an air pump into the same timer as the lift pump using an extension cord.  Then I ran the tube into the bottle. Now, when the timer kicks on, so does the air pump.  Since it’s just a tube in there, it generates huge bubbles which stir up the liquid just fine. To be honest it kind of sounds like the engine from a 1978 Buick when it’s running, but it sure gets the job done. I pretty much had the gear laying around already, so for just the cost of the Aqualifter I got a nifty setup that did the same thing for me that a much more expensive metered pump does. You wanna do this project yourself?  Hit the link below for an Amazon list of all the stuff you’ll need.  (I get a small commission for anything you might buy) Equipment List for Project

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Beautiful 3D Backdrops to Dress Up Aquariums

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I think one of the hardest things about doing a nice aquarium is what to do about the background.  I’m frugal, so I’ve used black plastic trash bags taped outside and then plants and decorations to take emphasis away from the fact I’m using a trash bag.

Perhaps you want something a little more… professional.  3D aquarium backgrounds are a great choice, but most are insanely expensive.  I just ran across some really beautiful ones on BangGood that cost one heck of a lot less than the other ones I’ve seen.

Check out the backgrounds here.