IT’S UP AND RUNNING AGAIN!
Smile on my face, little fishes swimming around in sporadic clumps of
green with a splash of red…can ya say: “life is good!”
Well as you remember from last month I had finished off making a
riverbank for the Left side of the tank out of cork bark. It was a great
experience to work with the stuff and definitely added a look to my tank
that I had only dreamed about before. Thing was it now left the middle and
right side of the tank bare. I had two pieces of raw cork bark left and
decided to see about creating another smaller version of a riverbank on the
other side of the tank.
First though I had to figure out where I would put my root system, this
was the same root from the old set-up. I fiddled around with the root
placement for a bit utilising that cardboard cutout that I had made (see
last month’s instalment for picture). I was running into a bit of a problem.
No matter what I tried, any new configuration with the root always ended up
looking like my previous set-up. This was due to the fact that the root was
so big and the slate it was attached to was large also. It could only fit
into the tank a couple of different ways. The look that I was achieving at
this point was the same as the last set-up but with a riverbank in the
This bugged me. I wanted something a little different for this aquascape.
So out came the saw! I cut off one arm of the root system near the base of
the root ball. I then also decided that the piece of slate that the root was
attached to was still to big and would pose the same problem of placement in
the tank unless I adjusted it. Out came the drill and sledgehammer!
When drilling slate, use a concrete bit. If using a dual control drill
(straight drilling and hammer) use the straight drilling setting. If you use
the hammer setting you may end up shattering the slate due to the shocks
sent through it. To split a piece of slate into a smaller piece and you want
some control as to how the piece will split, drill holes all along the split
line. These holes do not have to go through the whole thickness, but should
go through at least half the thickness of the slate. Also the more holes
along the split line the better, again will give you more control where it
will split. Ok so you have drilled the holes now what.
Well there a couple of different ways you can go about this. First and
foremost always wear safety glasses for this procedure, the last thing we
need is to have a small piece of slate bounce up and imbed itself in your
eye. If the piece of slate is large enough take two pieces of 2 x 4 and
place on the floor (not in the living room your spouse will kill you) or any
hard surfaced area like a driveway. Place the slate on the two pieces of 2 x
4 with the smaller piece hanging over the edge of one of the 2 x 4’s
unsupported (this piece can be the one you keep it just makes it easier to
have the smaller piece hanging over the edge). Now stand on the larger piece
and with the sledgehammer hit downwards onto the overhanging area and it
should break along your drill hole line.
If the piece of slate is small to begin with you can do the same as above
but clamp the slate to a worktable again with an area that you want to knock
off hanging over the edge of the table.
Or get a stone cutter to do all this for you, or buy a small piece to
begin with heheheheeh.
So with all of that said there I am with the drill and am drilling away.
My piece of slate happens to be 3” thick and at least 2 square feet in size.
I get impatient and decide the hell with it I have enough holes (only three)
I want this tank planted! So I use the standing 2 x 4 method and whack away
at the stone with the sledgehammer. Go figure, what happens but the slate
breaks up not where I wanted but along where it wants to break! I had
already two drill holes in the slate for the screws that held it in place
from before. The slate cracks into about 5 pieces and along a line that
wipes out one of the attachment drill holes I wanted to use again.
Impatience kills hahahah. Ah well, I actually end up with a nice sized piece
that still has one drill hole in it for attachment and I use this piece.
I re attach the slate to the root and start again to fiddle with
placement. Looks great in the other corner so decide to put it there. I am
left with a piece of the root that I had cut off and decide why waste it,
let’s see what I can do with it. The main root comes out of the bottom right
hand corner at a nice gentle arc and almost touch’s down again in the front
middle of the tank. I take the cut piece and play around with placement near
this area (front middle) and looks great pointing straight up and just
behind the other root. So I decide instead of taking this piece of root,
using another piece of slate and attaching it to that. I am instead going to
attach this small piece to the main root. I drill a couple of holes through
the small root and screw this to the larger root with stainless screws. The
stainless screws are also used to attach the slate to the main root system;
last thing I need is to have rusting screws in the substrate. Mmmmmmmm Mind,
that might be a nice source of iron for the plants mmmmmm.
So looks good so far and I still have that excess cork bark to utilise. I
decide to make another riverbank for the right hand corner just behind and
above the root ball. This time round it is a lot easier to make then the
last one. I design it in such a way that there will be hidden nooks and
crannies between the root and the cork bark wall. This is designed in for my Ancistrus to have more places to choose from to breed in. In the last set-up
there was only one place they could use for this.
Nice to have this part done. Now to the tank! A week before I had removed
all of my potted plants from the tank that I had saved from the last set-up
and also all of the fish. Scrubbed the tank, every square inch of it, and
drained a couple of times and refilled. The day before getting ready for
this step, I had drained the tank fully and had dried it out. At this time
also I had taken the filter off of the tank and placed on the same tank that
now housed the plants.
A siliconing we will go, a siliconing we will go, hi ho a dairy oh, a siliconing we will go…
Well didn’t actually take that long at all, about 1 hour and was pretty
easy going. Only because I had the presence of mind to make the template and
get the cork bark fitting as close as it could. I didn’t have to use props
at all; the stickiness of the silicone held the cork bark in place all by
itself. Also, as mentioned in the last instalment, I had forgotten to cut in
a hole into the left side riverbank to accommodate my intake hose, I did
this before siliconing. So with that done and four days of waiting for the
silicon to cure off I headed to the local garden centre to get my substrate.
This time round I decided to do a little experimenting with what I was
going to use as my substrate. I had decided that I wanted to try using
potting soil for my lower layer of substrate instead of gravel this time. At
the garden centre there are a lot of potting soils to choose from. If going
this route make sure that you pick a potting soil that has no fertilisers
added. I found one that is all organic had no fertilisers and had peat in
it. At the same time I also picked up a couple of little bags of pure,
long-fibred Sphagnum Moss. I figured I might add some in if at the time of
mixing I felt like it. As in the last set-up I also wanted to add in some
red clay. I picked up a bag of this at my work (teach at a local art
Four days later I was ready to start adding my substrate to the tank. I
put down a nice layer of potting soil into the tank, half of what I was
shooting for, about 1inch at it’s lowest to 4 inches at it’s highest. I also
filled the in the cavities in back of the cork bark walls, these area’s had
the thickest area’s, about 10 inches worth of potting soil. After this I
took some of the Sphagnum Moss and cut it up and placed it sporadically on
top of the soil. The red clay I had mentioned was also added at this stage.
In small pieces I also placed it around the whole tank. I then mixed the
whole bunch together gently in the tank. After this was done I put the
remaining half layer of the potting soil overtop. As with the last set-up
the top layer of my substrate would be fine grained quartz silica sand.
All laid out and ready for the water! Off I go and start filling it. I am
still a little concerned as to the weight of the substrate in behind the
cork bark and am hoping that the silicon will hold. I am about halfway
filled and I notice that the water is a lot cloudier then the last time I
had filled a new tank, what’s going on?
OH MAN, what an idiot! In my excitement to finally after almost 6 months
of not having my planted tank I had forgotten to rinse the sand! What a NID!
Ah well what was I going to do now, no choice but to keep on filling the
After the tank was full, I took about 4 hrs to plant all of the plants I
had remaining from the last set-up. Quite a few did not make it from the
move and I was sad to see them go. But on the bright side was a blessing in
disguise. For this set-up I had wanted change. I had decided that I was not
going for the “Geographical” look. I wanted to play and just use whatever
plants took my fancy. A friend in the hobby that also has planted tanks had
by chance emailed me and said that he was doing a bit of pruning to his tank
and that if I wanted some of his cut-offs to just let him know. So I found
myself in the possession of some Java Moss (Vesicularia dubyana), some Windelov Java Fern (Microsorum pteropus Windelov) and some Vals.
Cool! One of the things I have always seen and wanted to try was that
Amano style of taking a tree root and having it covered in moss accentuated
with ferns or other plants. So there I was with my hands in the tank in an
awkward position trying to tie down the moss and Java Fern to a couple of
different area’s of the root. And yes probably would have been much easier
to do this if the root had been out of water and just used a spray bottle to
keep the plants hydrated. But remember I always have to make things much
more difficult for myself otherwise would not be any fun hahaha. Also I had
to install that cork bark over the slate base of the root, so wouldn’t have
been able to do it anyway.
With the tank planted and looking good to my eyes I now let the water
settle. I still had the problem with the cloudy water from me not doing any
rinsing of the sand. Every day for the next couple of days I did a large
water change to get rid of the sediment that would settle on the top layer
of sand. This actually worked and I am happy to say that after a week it is
all gone now.
During the same week I went out and purchased some algae eating shrimp (5
of them), some Otto’s (3 of them) and a school of 11 Black Neon’s. I also
added two Albino Ancistrus and one Golden Spotted Ancistrus. As luck would
have it I was still hit with green water even though I had not added in any fertilisers to the tank. Seems to be my nemesis every time I do a new
Black out the tank and see if after 4 days it has disappeared…