November 2001

November 2001


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DPH Tank of the Month questionnaire
With Martin Kamans

How did you get into keeping a Planted Discus Tank?
Well, I always had a planted tank, a 20 gallon (which I have had for more than 20 years, it survived two moves and has been empty in between) in which I bred Firemouths, Aquidens Rivulatus, Apistogramma's and, of course, Guppy's and Swordtails. So when I bought the large 400L tank I decided I wanted a Cichlid tank. I had good memories with the Rivulatus and wanted something like that. So, at first I got the strong plants that would survive the cichlids: swords, large Vallisneria and Anubias. I took some mid-size crypts with me also, just to try.
Then we (my girlfriend and I) went to visit Discus Centrum Amsterdam (DCA), their shop is about 500 meters from my house, so we just walked on in and started talking about which fish we would fill the tank with. Well, that was it. We were lost.
I then made the mistake of buying several different types (juvenile) from 3 different LFS's. So my tank was overcrowded and at the same time the fish were dropping like flies. This went on until I managed to save some and bought some adult fish at DCA. The tank then settled, though I did buy some larger fish at one LFS, that had some nice wilds one day.
At first I also had some Apistos in there but they did not like it too much and died. The Pleco's I had purchased killed each other, the largest killing the smaller one. The large one got too large, so I had to get rid of him. I replaced the Pleco with about 10 small Ancistrus. Most were eaten by the Discus but two survived. Of course there are Corys (10 pandas). Since then, I had a plague of snails, for which I bought 4 Clown Botias (between 3 and 4 inch).

I added more and more plants, fast growing ones to overcome the blue algae I have, and other plants because they were nice to look at, or good to fill that small place there, or just nice to cover the filter intake or whatever reason. I am finally overcoming the blue algae because my two largest Discus have moved to a breeding tank, so the lower bio-load and less feeding is bringing it to an end. Also the growing plant occupation of the tank might help.

What do you feel has been the most rewarding aspect of keeping such a tank?
One of the things 'to do it for' is having a breeding pair in the tank, so you know you are doing something right, although it is a hassle with cleaning. It is a problem to clean 'their' corner because he keeps attacking the hose...
Rewarding is the learning process; I know I can keep these fish alive right now, although I lost even more in that learning process. Buying sick or bad or too small fish from an LFS and keeping them in an overcrowded tank is impossible for a newbie.
Another aspect is the ìOoohsî and ìAaaaahsî, even of people that are absolutely not interested in fish, which makes me feel proud.

What has been the hardest challenge for you in keeping a Planted Discus tank and have you overcome it?
As I said above, just keeping the Discus alive in a planted tank is challenge enough. Another thing that has to do with that: offering clean water, in the meanwhile feeding them enough so they can grow, keeping the tank clean and free of algae while maintaining steady parameters... That has been a challenge; it still is.
My tapwater is pH 8-9, KH is 8, GH is 12-15. Hardly nice water for Discus, though good enough to keep them alive in. To make their lives more comfortable and the water less prone to algae, I let tap water run through activated carbon and peat before it goes into the tank. At first I tried to fill two buckets with water and add a bag of peat to that, but I found that that gave too much variation in the water parameters. So I then bought a biological filter for a pond, which is no more than a 5 gallon plastic barrel with two hose connectors and a lid, which I filled with carbon and peat. It brought the pH to 6.5-7, KH to 3.5-4, GH to 7-8. It stimulated the fish to spawn. I used to change 50% every other day and since I have been treating the water with peat, I now change 40% twice a week, and the fish think it is good enough. I think that is a compromise from my side between fish and plants; changing 50% every other day is too much for the plants.

What kind of approach do you take in maintaining your tank the High Tech way or a more Natural way?
Well, that is a tough answer; my answer would be that my approach is natural. On the other hand: my filtration consists of two large Eheims (2228s). One connects to a UV-filter and the other to a fluidized bed filter (the smallest I could find, itís capacity is for 300 gallons, I am only using it on a 100 gallon tank!). I also use a Carbo Plus device, an electronic (and expensive) way of adding CO2 to the tank. These three items are in my opinion high tech. But, I do not use bottom heating or automatic water changers or online pH-meters... (I do use a long garden-hose to empty the tank and a long hose, with the pond filter in between to fill the tank, to save myself from the bucket brigade.)

What piece of advice can you give to others who are thinking about setting up a tank like this?
Read. Read the forums (I still read nearly all Discus forums daily). There are people out there that know more than you about plants, filtration, water chemistry or fish, and you can learn a lot from them. Talk with different people that can give you advice. Never overcrowd your tank, which is fairly easy with Discus; you'll always want more fish and the balance is easily disrupted. Experiment carefully, bring lots of money, be patient and don't give up.

My setup

Tank: 160cm x 50cm x 50cm (400 liters, 350 liters net).
It is a Schwartz tank, which I bought with the standard cabinet and hood. It is a top quality tank with thicker glass than a juwel. It is supposed to be hardened glass but I managed to scratch it in several places all ready.

My girlfriend built a large scratching pole for the cats next to the tank. So the tank is sort of integrated with the cats home... The cats love to sit on the hood (nice warm), they sometimes try to catch the Clown Botias, but they leave the discus in peace, I think they do not recognize them as fish.

Lights: 4 x 58 watts tubes, two are white (Arcadia tropical), one purplish (Arcadia) and one yellow one (Dennerle Trocal). Two of the tubes are on timers and turn on automatically. One tube turns on at 11:00, the second at 12:00. In the evening I switch on the other two manually for three hours or less, to have four tubes on permanently is too much (algae). Lights out at 23:00.

Filtration: Two Eheims, (2228ís), filled with sponges, ceramic pipes, cotton and some peat (I would like to end that, as it is unstable on the parameters). One Eheim has an UV-filter connected to the line, on only from 11:00 to 23:00. A Fluidized bed filter, (Rainbow Lifegaurd FB300) is driven by the other Eheim. I have had it for little over a year, cleaned it once, it looks like it stays clean longer now.
On one Eheim, I use a spraybar get some surface agitation, so I do not need extra aeration in the tank.
To have two of these large filters is a bit of an overkill, one should have been good enough for a tank this size. But I am very happy to have two, I clean them every two to three months, one at a time, so there is always enough biological capacity available.

Heater: one Ebo-Jaeger 300 watt, it is positioned diagonally in the tank at the outflow of the filter, so heat is spread evenly throughout the tank.

CO2: Carbo plus, electronic CO2, I have it on full, these are rated for tanks up to 500 liters. I have to replace the coal-thing every two to three months, so it is fairly expensive, but it is easy.

UV: Superfish 9 watts lamp for ponds up to 7.000 liters.

Fish:

  • 2 Ancistrus
  • 4 Bothia Macracantha
  • 10 Corydoras Panda

Discus:

  • 1 Cobalt Blue
  • 1 Pigeon blood
  • 1 Marlboro Red
  • 3 Wild Browns
  • 2 Red Turquoise which are normally kept in the planted tank but are now in a 80 liter breeding tank (Juwel Lido 100)

Substrate:
I have gravel, but due to vacuuming I have lost a lot, I filled it up with sand, so it is a mixture of sand and gravel now. I will keep filling it with sand, so one day it will be mostly sand.

Plants:

  • Bacopa Caroliniana
  • Cabomba Green
  • Ceratopterus Thalictroides
  • Cryptocoryne beckettii
  • Cryptocoryne wendtii ''green''
  • Cryptocoryne wendtii ''brown''
  • Cryptocoryne crispatula var. balansae
  • Cryptocoryne parva
  • Echinodorus Bleheri (Paniculatus) (Normal Swords)
  • Egeria densa
  • Hygrophila Polysperma
  • Lemna Minor
  • Sagittaria platyphylla
  • Hygrophila difformis (Synnema)
  • Vallisneria americana (natans)
  • Vallisneria americana (Gigantea)
  • Vesicularia Dubyana
  • Crinium natans (Onion plant)
  • Nymphaea lotus Lotus
  • Crinum thaianum

Davis

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