RIP: 54G Aquarium

November 28th, 2009

Well, my native plant aquascaping experiment has come to an abrupt end. The night before I left for vacation a few weeks ago, I was feeding the fish and noticed that the left side of the stand was a little damp. Upon closer inspection, the inside of the stand had some water pooled up, and upon even closer inspection, the bottom rim of the aquarium was overflowing with water dripping out of it.

54G - New Native Aquascape!

I think, “wonderful, I’ve got a siphon somewhere in my auto-doser setup that’s leaking out.”  – Nope

I look, “maybe the powerhead is forcing the water too hard against the top rim and it found a gap in the silicon up there, and is dripping down the side into the bottom rim.” – Nope, the black posterboard background was only wet along the bottom, so nothing dripped from top to bottom.

“Crap! My tank has developed a leak from some new rocks I put in it a week prior!” – Bingo!

I scrambled to net out the fish, siphon out the water, remove the plants, remove the substrate, and clean up the water on the floor. While this wasn’t how I planned to spend 2 hours of my evening prior to catching a plane in the morning for 2 weeks, I’m so thankful that I noticed this leak before I left for vacation. Had it leaked out during the 2 weeks I was on vacation, the floor around the tank surely would have been ruined, and the fish dead. My wife and I have been looking to move that tank out of the our living room for awhile, and since I don’t have anywhere else to put it while it was being repaired, I was fortunate to find another GWAPA member to take it off my hands, and put it back in service. It was a nice tank to have, and I hope it does well in its new home!

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54G – Haircut or No Haircut?

August 26th, 2009

Today I did water-changes on my aquariums, and while looking at the 54G tank, I decided to actually try trimming back the hairgrass a little bit. I had talked about trimming it down for awhile, but various folks said they liked the long-wavy-look, so I put it off. I ended up deciding to just try it once and see how it goes.

54G - After Hairgrass Cut

Above you can see the trimmed tank immediately after the water-change. Below is the tank, immediately prior to the trim and water change. Which do you like better? To me, I think the trimmed look brings out the hardscape a little bit more. I know that the rest of the plants are a bit of a mess right now. That’s my next problem to solve!

54G - August 26th, 2009

The good thing is that the plants are actually starting to grow quite well, and assuming I keep my dosing regimen and water-changes on schedule, I haven’t had near the issues with algae that I have had previously on this tank. The Potamogetons in this tank are doing wonderfully.

54G - August 26th, 2009

I did have a beautiful stand of Lindernia dubia in here, but I trimmed it very hard to send to a friend. I may have trimmed it too hard. Fortunately, I have more stashed away in my emersed setup. Overall, this tank is starting to come into its own. Please let me know if you like the haircut or not. Comments welcome!

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54G – What Happened?

July 11th, 2009

I’ll start by saying that this 54G aquarium is giving me more trouble than just about any aquarium I’ve setup before. It’s not the aquarium itself, but I just can’t seem to get the darn thing balanced and happy without ending up with beautiful views like the one below. I am using a few things that I don’t usually use in this aquarium. It’s my first time using a metal halide pendant, so I’m still figuring out the best light duration. Additionally, I’m using leftover parts for my CO2 system, and not the filter I’d prefer to use. So, those are my excuses.

54G - Uh Oh, Algae!

Now, what I’m trying to do about it. At least according to my test kits, my nitrate is at 10ppm and phosphate 1ppm, which is exactly where I want them. Nevertheless, I’m not sure I can trust those values because the plants aren’t looking like they’re that happy, although the algae is. I also decided to rearrange the rockscape that I did have in this tank, adding a large rock with much more character than the previous one. This allowed me to add a bit more height to the rockscape than I had before. Before repositioning, I pulled all of the rock out, and scrubbed them to get as much of the black-brush-algae as I could. I’m sure it’s a matter of time for it to return, but hopefully I can get my water parameters inline before then.

54G - New Rock Arrangement

I may be forced to bend a few rules for this tank if I can’t rectify the situation entirely through water/light/CO2 adjustments. Unfortunately, there are no native plecos (or other suitable suckerfish) to Maryland, and grass shrimp are just quick treats for the bluespotted sunfish. If I have to add some bristlenosed plecos, it probably wouldn’t be the end of the world, but I’m going to try and avoid that for the time being. Comments welcome!

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54G – Getting There…

May 17th, 2009

I wanted to provide an update for my 54G native fish and plant aquarium. I have, however, broken my own rules for this aquarium to help it mature a little bit. I added some non-native floating plants to the surface temporarily, to help soak up some of the excess nitrate from the aquasoil. In doing so, the algae on the hairgrass and the rest of the plants is almost entirely gone. As you can see, that’s not quite the case for the rocks though.


The rocks are completely covered in black brush algae, but I have increased the CO2 output and have refined my dosing routine, so I’m confident that it’s just a matter of time before I’m able to get rid of it. I will likely end up manually scrubbing the rocks at the next water change, and then let my adjustments do the rest.


The fish are all doing very well, kept happy with a healthy diet of blackworms, and a few extra pellets when they’ll accept them. I still haven’t seen any spawning behavior, but I don’t really expect to see much of that since I didn’t chill these fish over the winter. They’re probably wondering why their summer has lasted 9 months!


All in all, I’m very pleased with the direction of this tank. I will soon be able to collect some more native plants to fill out the background. After that, I’ll focus a little bit more of the aquascape itself. Comments welcome!

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54G – Two Months

April 2nd, 2009

It’s been roughly two months since I converted my 54G aquarium into a native plants/fish tank, and thus far it’s been a bit of a bumpy road, with a few bright spots here and there. I’ve been having some algae issues due to very high nitrate levels leeching out from the ADA Aquasoil. I’ve never had problems like this before with Aquasoil, so I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt for now.


Despite having a bit of algae, the hairgrass is really starting to carpet the aquarium. The rocks are pretty well coated in fuzz algae, but I’ve recently started dosing more macros (N/P), and it has improved a little bit. Right now, I’m seeing better plant growth than I’ve seen in awhile, so I’m confident that given a little more time, I’ll be algae free.

Hairgrass with Algae

All of the bluespotted sunfish and banded killifish are in the aquarium now. They’re an interesting group of fish. Sometimes, I’ll look in the tank and it’ll look like an overcrowded zoo. Other times, I’ll look and not a single fish is visible, as they’ve blended themselves in-between rocks or in the hairgrass. I don’t see anyone getting beat up, so I think I’m okay in terms of fish load.

Bluespotted Sunfish

The killifish seem to especially like to dart in and out of the hairgrass. They’re also the fish that are more likely to accept commercial pellets, whereas the sunfish are hit or miss with anything but live blackworms. (About half of the sunfish will eat pellets, but not vigorously like commercially raised fish.)

Banded Killifish

Overall, I’m happy with the direction of this aquascape, but I am looking forward to warmer weather so that I can go out and collect a few of the plants I ultimately want to feature in this tank. Comments/critiques welcome!

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54G – Native Plant Aquascape – 2 Weeks

February 16th, 2009

The aquascape utilizing plants native to my area is now 2 weeks old in my 54G corner aquarium. Starting last week, I began getting lots of green spot algae on the glass indicating that the initial burst of phosphates in the ADA Aquasoil was starting to run out. So, after conducting a few tests, I did a water change, and began dosing phosphate, potassium, and traces, and soon after, the plants (and algae) are responding well.

54G - Native Plants, 2 Weeks

After my initial planting, I have added Elatine americana and Eleocharis acicularis. I wanted the hairgrass around the rocks to be a little bit taller, so I used Eleocharis acicularis there. I’m in the process of acquiring Eleocharis parvulus, which is much shorter to use in the more wide open areas. Elatine americana is the beautiful fine-leaved plant to the right of the large rock, which some club members collected in NJ, but is also native to Maryland. I’m still planning on putting Proserpinaca palustris and Rotala ramosior in this tank once I grow out a few more stems in other aquariums. Once my plants are little more established, I’ll add the fish, but that’s likely at least a month away. Comments/critiques welcome!

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54G – New Native Aquascape

February 2nd, 2009

54G - New Native Aquascape!This weekend I finally got around to tearing down my old aquascape in the 54G corner aquarium, and setting up the basis for a new one that I’ve been wanting to do for some time. The theme of this aquarium will now be all native plants, rocks, and fish. I do not consider this a biotope tank as it currently stands because I plan on using plants from the Maryland, Virginia, and D.C. area, but not necessarily plants that all reside together in the same waterway in the wild.

The hardscape is made of up slate that a few GWAPA members and I collected several years ago. I would have liked to add more rocks to this aquascape, but many of the rocks in my backyard are frozen in the ground, as I reused a number of them this past summer to fill some groundhog holes. (Not the greatest foresight, admittedly!)

For fish, I will be moving my Blue-spotted Sunfish and Banded Killifish into this tank once it settles in. For plants, I’m hoping to fill in the foreground with a field of Eleocharis parvulus (dwarf hairgrass) once it comes into my local shop. Otherwise, I’m using Ludwigia palustris, Proserpinaca pectinata, Proserpinaca palustris, Lobelia cardinalis, Potamogetonaceae sp. (looks like P. diversifolius or Stuckenia pectinata), and a local Eleocharis species that gets about 1 foot tall. I’ll likely add Rotala ramosior once it grows out for me a little bit in another tank.

54G - New Native Aquascape!

One of the things that had been preventing me from doing this tank is the fact that these corner tanks are so difficult to light. Previously, I had a JBJ 2x65W PC fixture on top, which did an okay, but would never grow hairgrass in the foreground. So, I saved up a little bit, and ordered a nice fixture from Catalina Aquarium, which is 4x24W T5, with a 250W metal halide bulb in the center. I made an ADA knock-off stand out of electrical conduit to hang the light from, and now should have more than enough light to deal with. I hooked up the CO2 tank, added some ADA Powersand and Amazonia Aquasoil, and am ready to go. Hopefully these plants will grow quickly into a great centerpiece for my livingroom, where I’ll have collecting stories for many of the things within.

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Goo Obo Gudgeon

May 12th, 2008

Across two months of GWAPA meetings, I brought home four Goo Obo Gudgeons from the auctions. The Goo Obo Gudgeon is a small unidentified fish that was collected at Goo-Obo Falls in Papua New Guinea. According to the documentation that I got from the seller, while unidentified, this is probably either Allomogurnda or Mogurnda nesolepis.

Goo Obo Gudgeon

When I brought home the first pair, I was admittedly a little bit disappointed. Shortly after adding them to my 54G tank, they disappeared into the hardscape, and weren’t seen for at least another week. Eventually, I started noticing them, hiding in the shadows underneath large anubias or cryptocoryne leaves, or between pieces of wood and rocks.

Goo Obo Gudgeon

That’s when I decided to try adding 2 more to the tank, in hope that with four total, I’d see one of them more often. Fortunately, this strategy seems to have worked. Also, I started feeding the tank blackworms, which has definitely drawn them out of their hiding places!

Goo Obo Gudgeon

According to the Baensch Aquarium Atlas Vol. 4, these gudgeons “inhabit small, frequently swift-flowing, gravel to mud-bottomed rain forest streams.” They also enjoy the cover of vegetation and plant roots, which exactly what I’ve experienced in my tank.

Goo Obo Gudgeon

As young fish, they were not very attractive, but since feeding them blackworms, they have increased in size (max about 3″), and have definitely gone from rather drab looking to fairly colorful with bright yellow fins. I doubt that they will be able to successfully raise any young in this tank due to some very active catfish, but they’re very interesting fish to keep. (And they’re great additions for rainbowfish themed tanks.)

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54G – Low Tech Aquascape Filling In

May 9th, 2008

It’s been almost two months since I setup this aquascape, and it’s finally starting to fill in a little bit. The crypts in the foreground are beginning to cover up the substrate, and everything else is fanning out a little bit. The only thing I have been dosing is a few milliliters of Seachem Flourish every day, which seems to prevent most of the deficiencies that would creep up otherwise. I also have Flourish tabs in the substrate to feed the crypts.

54G - 5/8/2008

I do have one sad note regarding this tank. One of the two oldest fish, both chinese algae eaters, I had had since I got back into aquariums nearly 6 years ago passed away last weekend. All of the other fish in the tank are healthy, so I’m guessing that he simply died from old age. RIP CAE. As far as the aquascape goes, if anyone has any comments or criticisms, please leave them in the comment section — I’m always looking to improve my scapes. 🙂

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Face-to-Face with Catfish

March 31st, 2008

In my 54G corner aquarium, I’ve got quite a few different kinds of catfish. All of them are different looking, and each has a unique character.

The Ancistrus sp. L279 bristle-nose plecos stay around 3-4″, and are usually found sucking on the driftwood in the tank. They’re fairly timid, but do come out often enough to enjoy.

Ancistrus sp. L279

The Siamese Algae Eater, SAE, is a very common algae eating fish. They are commonly confused is the Flying Fox, which is not nearly as effective an algae eater. Becoming popular once they were observed eating black brush algae, they are often recommended to new aquarists as a means of algae control. Unfortunately, most people do not initially realize that the small fish they purchase in the store, turn into 6-7″ blimps. Despite their size, they’re usually lazy enough, lounging around most of the time in their old age, that they do not disturb the aquascape.


The Botia sidthimunki loach is a fantastic little catfish that stays small, is constantly active, and is very social when kept in a group. I have five of these in the tank, and they’re always scurrying around, chasing each other throughout the aquarium. They do not harass other tank mates, however, well, except for snails or shrimp!

Botia sidthimunki

I have a couple varieties of corydoras in this tank. Cories are also very social catfish, constantly searching the bottom areas of the tank. Occasionally, you will see one shoot from the substrate all the way up to the water surface, and then dart back down. Apparently, cories have adapted to be able to breath air from the surface, allowing them to survive in poorly oxygenated water. I’ve also witnessed them playfully swimming upside-down at the water surface for awhile before swimming back down to the bottom.


Overall, I can highly recommend all of these catfish, for different reasons. The A. sp. L279 are great little plecos that eat algae, but don’t overwealm the tank. The SAEs get bigger, but are peaceful, and also eat algae. The “sid the monkey” loaches are a great, active, addition to any tank, and will eliminate snails from your aquarium. And corydoras are just plain fun to watch!

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