Stephens Plant Tank II... comments welcome

Stephens  Plant Tank  II                                   12  June 1995
or true confessions of a plant tank owner.

My first plant tank is now 4.5 years old... and looks it!  Like others have
found, this CO2 canister filter injected, metal halide lit, non-undergravel
heated, 75 gallon glass tank has seen better days.  Of the 25 species of
plants originally placed in the tank, mostly four are  remaining:
Hygrophila polysperma, Anubias barterii (?), Cryptocoryne wendtii (with
possibly C. becketii mixed in) and Nymphaea lotus "Red Tiger Lotus".  I'm
sure there are other odds and ends in there.  The H. polysperma fills most
of the tank.  Fish are fine... when I can see them.

It's time for a tear down.  There are several reasons for doing this.  The
two main ones are that it's in the bedroom where it gets hot during the
summer and I would like to add heating cables.  Eventually, once my
microcontroller development is near complete, I'll start adding pH and
heating controllers, but at first, it's back to the manual techniques.
I've also made some observations and mistakes over the years and I'd like a
chance to correct/apply to a new tank.

In no particular order:
1)  I've stopped toping off with deionized water as the deionizer is in the
basement and the tank is on the second floor... five gallons a week with a
slow deionizer and all those steps.
2)  The canister filter is an Ehiem, which is a very nice filtration
system, but it is the size of a small trash can... heavy and awkward and
again a trip to the basement to clean.  So guess what?
3)  The homemade suspended hood was designed to fit under a sloping gable
roof.  The MH bulbs are crowed in the middle and don't light the ends of
the tanks very well.  Why this unventilated behemoth hasn't caught fire...?
4)  Floating plants.  They look nice when there are a few of them but they
can cover the top in less than a week. Leave 'em for a month and they
become a fish death trap.
5)  The injection of CO2 into the canister works very, very well.
6)  The "wild" caught gravel from a local stream  still looks nice.
7)  There are very low nitrates despite the gunky filter (<1ppm).
8)  The anubias were supposed to be small and grow slowly.  I've made five
cuttings and all are now 12-18" tall.
9)  The plants were supposed to be more compact with those twin MH suns.
All the bunch plants reach the top in a week or so.  The polysperma in the
outside lilly pond was very compact, red and never got near the top
(granted it was 6" deeper).  It just looked better.
10)  I've never had a more entertaining tank in my life.

So.  What to do different?
1)  Get a trickle filter for one.  Correct if wrong, but I'm assuming that
the overflow box captures most of the gunk and is fairly easy to clean.
I'd like to get away from filtration systems which basically filter the
water thru the captured gunk ("UGF syndrome").  The idea of a settling tank
has appeal too.
2)  Redo that horrible hood.  Keep the MH and add four fluorescences giving
three separate controllable light sources.  Add a fan to keep cool.  Hope
it all fits.
3)  An automatic water exchanger would be a great time saver.
Unfortunately, the new location does not permit connection to the house
water & drain.  With a sump, two hidden garbage cans and two small pumps, I
should be able to rig up something easier to deal with.  The
microcontroller plays a part here.
4)  Add a heat coil.  I'm leaning toward the higher wattages.  In which
case I might get the Dupla coils with my own transformer circuit.  At first
this will be a low wattage coil (by limiting the current) with the notion
of adding a microcontroller later.
5)  Wash all the gravel (a definite July/August activity), use Dupla
laterrite again.  I'm up for other additives but the threads on vermiculite
et. al. seem a tad unsettled yet.
6)  Enjoy the tank again!

I have a 30XH (which will also be "plant tanked" after the 75er) to stuff
all the fish in.  I plan on adding an auxiliary 30 gal. garbage can to
increase the total volume.  It won't be pretty but it should only be there
a month or so.  The existing plants get a vacation in the lilly pond.  I'm
really not looking forward to being host to all the different types of
algaes I experienced in the first plant tank.  BUT I know they can be
conquered eventually.  On the other hand, I am looking forward to seeing
how different my experiences may be.

Comments are most welcome, esp. on what trickle filter and overflow box to
purchase.  I don't want to make my own but don't want them to be noisy or
have all those reef tank bins and shoots.  Keep in mind that this is
somewhat half baked!

mark stephens

Mark Stephens                        |   In constraint,
NASA / Goddard Space Flight Center   |   is
code 522, Greenbelt MD  20771        |   freedom.