April 2003

April 2003


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DPH Tank of the Month questionnaire
With Greg Segal

How did you get into keeping a Planted Discus Tank?

I have been keeping aquariums on and off since I was a little boy. I got my first 5-gallon tank with corner box filter from my grandfather. A few years later I graduated to a larger tank. Then, in my late teenage years I lost interest in the hobby. In 1998, I became interested in the hobby again, purchased a 35-gallon tank and filled it with community fish. At the beginning of 2000, having become interested in Discus, I purchased a 65-gallon tank. My intention was to keep a planted Discus tank, but I learned quickly that this would not work. So, I went with a bare bottom Discus tank. At the same time, I converted the 35-gallon community tank to a planted tank to learn how to keep plants. One day I decided that I was sick of the bare bottom tank so I took the knowledge I had from the 35 gallon planted tank and of raising Discus in a bare bottomed tank and converted the 65 gallon into a planted Discus tank. I then purchased some new wild Discus.


What do you feel has been the most rewarding aspect of keeping such a tank?

Like any hobby, it’s the work you put in and the results you get out of it. It’s enjoyable and relaxing to watch and fiddle with equipment, water and layouts. It’s the ever-challenging quest of achieving the perfect layout. Planting and replanting hoping to create the perfect underwater garden for Discus.

What has been the hardest challenge for you in keeping a Planted Discus tank and have you overcome it?

After planting the tank and letting it sit for a while, I began to inject CO2. I over saturated the tank with CO2 and a week later, upon putting the Discus, Cory’s and Otto’s into the tank, the Cory’s passed on from CO2 poisoning and the Otto’s and Discus struggled until I figured out the next morning that the CO2 levels were way to high.

At the first water change, one of the Heckels freaked out and crashed himself into the driftwood and ended up with a big gaping hole in his side. I saw the entire incident with my own eyes and was not happy. He did not make it more than a week after that.

Then, eventually the blue green algae hit so I reduced feeding. As a result, the Discus ended up with HITH.


I did not like some plants and other plants got covered with algae, so I had to redo the aquascape. Then, just as everything was settling down, June of 2002 became a right-off as I was not able to service the tank, perform water changes or feed for that entire month. The auto-feeder fed one cube of freeze-dried Hikari bio-pur Tubifex a day for the entire month. To recover from June, in July, I had to clean, replant, weed out the hair algae and rescue my Discus. Four months later and the tank is finally taking shape.

Basically, my story above shows that the hardest challenge is simply keeping everything in order and facilitating the transformation from aquarium to aquascape. Creating a planted Discus tank is not an easy task and it is a constant battle to keep the Discus healthy, the plants healthy and the tank clean.

What kind of approach do you take in maintaining your tank the High Tech way or a more natural way?

A few months ago I would have said a more natural way. But, after recently reading a book called Ecology of a Planted Aquarium, I realized what low-tech really means. That book advocates an extremely low-tech natural method for keeping plants. This tank is probably somewhere mid way. I once used a Carbo-plus CO2 device, which is extremely high tech but found it was not working and was making my Otto’s go crazy and die. So, now I just use standard CO2 injection. Look at my equipment list… I am probably somewhere in between.

What piece of advice can you give to others who are thinking about setting up a tank like this?

Three points:
(1) don’t be afraid to experiment;
(2) don’t be afraid to give up on certain aspects of the tank if it means making everything else easier; and
(3) keep a second planted tank for practice. I experimented with many layouts and plants until I was happy. At one point I just gave up on all stem plants. My time commitment was such, that I could not properly prune these plants, so I gave up on them. Instead I have concentrated on broad leaf plants such as swords, and grass like plants. In my experience these are somewhat easier to maintain. I also recommend keeping a second planted tank with some cheap community fish. I find this second tank great as a plant to experiment on aquascapes and to quarantine new plants. I find that new plants sometimes have trouble adjusting to the warm water of my discus tanks. So, I let them sit in the community tank until they become a little stronger and can survive planting.

Equipment:

  • 65 gallon Miracles brand aquarium 36”L x 24”H x 18”D
  • Eheim 2215 canister filter
  • Eheim 2013 canister filter
  • 250 Watt Ebo Jagger heater
  • Walnut colored gravel with some laterite mixed into the first layer
  • 36 inch All Glass brand compact fluorescent strip with a total of 110 watts (2x55).
  • 36 inch Oceanic regular fluorescent strip with a total of 60 watts (2x30)
  • 10lb CO2 tank, regulator and needle valve
  • Azoo CO2 diffuser and bubble counter
  • Mopani African wood

Fish:

  • 4 discus - all wild. 2 are "Matalimpa Reds" and two are "Royal Nhamundas”
  • 1 bushynose pleco
  • Otto’s

Plants:

  • Echinodorus bleheri
  • Echinodorus tenellus
  • Echinodorus osiris
  • Echinodorus palaefolius
  • Crinum thaianum
  • Crinum calamistratum
  • Cryptocoryne crispatula var. balansae
  • Nymphoides aquatica (Banana Plant)
  • Unknown grass plant.

 

Davis

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