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Old 03-27-2017, 11:46 AM   #1
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My Aquarium Rebuild

As many of you well know by now through my multiple threads created over the months, I decided to rebuild my aquarium. I wanted to share how I did it, along with my mistakes and what I did right so someone after me can learn. I did take the expensive route, so my way may not fit for everyone. My view was that I would rather do this once the right way and spend more money.

My Fluval Accent 25 gallon aquarium has been up and running since January 2014. I always loved fish, and having an ecosystem in a box fascinated me. I had no idea what I was doing and did not know about cycling, or really what went into a tank. All I knew was that I wanted real plants. I quickly learned the hard way way cycling was however and went from there. Over the last few years my knowledge grew, and I really took pride in that I knew, along with my success in breeding German Blue Rams. I would say over the last year however, I felt how my aquarium looked did not represent how much I knew about the hobby, so I wanted a change. Here is what it looked like at the beginning of when I started:

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This all started because I wanted to change this filtration system. The original system was a water column in the tank that had a two stage filtration system an heater. This easily took up 10-20% of the aquarium space, and was also very loud. This in turn stressed me out because I knew the fish could hear it if I could hear it outside of the water. Once I committed to upgrading the filter, I decided to go ahead and upgrade everything as I was about to purchase a home and this aquarium would go in my living room, and wanted it to be a good representation of me. I was always annoyed with the gravel substrate as it was really hard to plant in, had no nutrients, and since it was light in color, algae showed up easily on it. I also hated saying to people, "Everything in the aquarium is real... except the fake tree root." The fish that were in the tank were a German Blue Ram (male died), Honey Gourami, Neon Tetras, Clown Pleco, and Nerite snails. Here is the tank the day before the changes were made:

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I bought originally a Fluval C3 HOB filter. I wanted my tank over-filtered so I went with a filter that was meant for a 50 gallon. This filter worked fine, but was incredibly loud. So, it returned it after trying it for a week, and bought the Fluval 206 canister filter. In an effort to minimize my tank re-cycling when the rebuild was done, I set up the 206 one week in advance with some old filter material to get the BB growing in the canister. The goal for this whole build was to make the tank look as clean as possible, limiting wires and anything else people can see, so the canister had to go under the aquarium. To do this, I had to drill two holes in the back panel for the input and output hoses to miniziae bends. See below:

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It was also this time I bought my new gravel, Seachem Flourite Dark Sand, and Dark Gravel. I chose this over other options like ADA Aquasoil as I knew after about 2 years the Aquasoil decomposes and leaves dust everywhere. I purchased it a week in advance and spent 2 hours everyday rinsing out the gravel with a hose outside and a bucket. For future knowledge, the new strainer inside the bag dose work, just put your hose on the jet setting and put it in the bag. The sand was like mud however.

Finally the day arrived (February 11th) where I would get a chance to make it the way I envisioned. I did this on a Saturday so if something went wrong, I had Sunday to fix it. I tore out all of my plants, and put them in my quarantine tank as I would reuse some, along with my fish, driftwood, and some cups with the old gravel in it to help restart the new tank. A little crammed, but it worked:

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Old 03-27-2017, 11:56 AM   #2
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Awesome write up on your transition.
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Old 03-27-2017, 12:08 PM   #3
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Once everyone was situated, I began to drain the tank. After most of the water was gone, I pulled the rest of the gravel out and cleaned the glass along with the acrylic sealant with a toothbrush. I left 3 inches of water in the tank with detritus on purpose to preserve some of the BB to prevent the tank to cycle again. This would also add some nutrients to the substrate as Flourite is known to not have much if any.

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First thing up was the substrate. The bottom layer was the Flourite sand, with the Flourite Dark gravel as the mid and top layer. Next the driftwood was added. The old driftwood was placed on the right, and the new driftwood that had been soaking for 2 weeks (boiled 7 times for 1 hour each) on the left. This was Mopani wood that has good color, and takes a long time to degrade. The only issue is it can leach tannins badly (not harmful to fish).

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Next up was to insert Seachem Flourish tabs directly into the substrate with my new aquascaping kit. These last for about 3-6 months and are good for root feeders. Next, the plants were added. I reused the Anubias Barteri, a few swords, and one Crypt Wendtii along with Salvinia Minima floating plants. I added Dwarf Hairgrass along with Rotala Rotundifolia and Frogbit for floating plants.

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Old 03-27-2017, 12:24 PM   #4
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After this, I filled the tank up with water using Prime, and the water was a little murky due to the gravel.

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Seeing this, I decided to keep the fish in the QT tank overnight until the water cleared up. I did put all three snails in the main tank. What I also did, was put two cups of the old gravel in the tank with some filter media to jump-start the cycle, if any.

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I put the fish in the tank the next day (Sunday). Here is where I went wrong, and I implore anyone to read what I am bout to say very carefully:

Even with all of my research, and precautions to get the tank not to cycle all over again, it cycled. Nothing too bad. Ammonia was only up to .25 PPM. But ammonia was still present. I made the mistake of only pulling gravel from the top, which is where the BB that converts Nitrite into Nitrate, not Ammonia to Nitrite. I never had any Nitrite reads because of this. But, remember I had a German Blue Ram, which was my pride and joy, but very sensitive. I taught her hand commands and everything. She reared many children in my tank and I loved her dearly. I was not thinking and kept her in the main tank. After a few days I noticed she seemed like she did not know where she was going and was easily scared. I found out, she was now blind. All because of the small amount of ammonia. I am living with that guilt everyday, over something beginners should know. She is now living in the QT tank with soft objects around her. It took her 2 weeks to realize my hand was trying to help her and she started to eat again. She is 2 years old an may not live much longer, but I work very hard every single day to make sure she is as happy as the can be.

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Please make sure you cycle your tank before any fish are added. Please learn from my bone-headed mistake. FYI, my tank took 9 days to cycle with daily 50% water changes, so not too long, but still cycled.
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Old 03-27-2017, 12:34 PM   #5
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I also received Seachem Excel, so I started using that everyday until my CO2 and fertilizer were set up. The following week (February 25), I added my CO2 system, thanks to everyone on here that helped me with this. I purchased a GLA Pro-1 regulator and LED indicator with a 2.5 pound tank, atomic diffuser with a check valve, and Nano drop checker. Everything was easy to set up and went next to the filter. The only issue was the 2.5 tank tipped over, so I had a remedy for that the next week. Currently it is propped up against the Excel bottle. The nano drop checker is nice because it is blown glass, but is a little too small for a tank this size. I will also replace the clear tubing the next week. The lighting was also replaced and upgraded to a Current Satellite+ Pro. I love it, and would recommend it. Very customizable.

The lighting schedule is now:
11:00 AM the CO2 turns on
12:00 PM sunrise
6:00 PM feed fish
7:00 PM CO2 off
8:00 PM Sunset
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Old 03-27-2017, 12:39 PM   #6
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Looks awesome very impressive. I enjoyed reading it all.
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Old 03-27-2017, 12:41 PM   #7
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March 5: The CO2 is running at about 1.5 BPM (bubbles per minute). At this point I am fertilizing with PPS-Pro from Green Leaf Aquariums. Very easy to use and it lasts forever. You can see the bottles in the second picture below. Again, out of sight when the doors are closed. The clear tubing was replaced with black tubing to keep everything constant, and the clear would look bad after a while. Also, when the Rotala Rotundifolia gets too tall, I cut it and re-plant it. My goal to to make them thick enough to look like a forest. My Dwarf Hairgrass is having a hard time, which is known to be an easy plant. It might be because it was a tissue cultured plant grown out of water.

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To keep the CO2 tank from falling over, I purchased a rubber strap meant for NOS tanks on cars. The rubber would not scratch my tank, and was sturdy. This was velcroed to the side of the wood wall. I also added an LED light for me to see when I fertilize my tank in the morning since I am up at 5:00 AM, and the lights don't come on until 12:00 PM.

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Old 03-27-2017, 12:52 PM   #8
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March 12: I moved the sword from the front left, to the back middle. In my old tank, it never got very big, so I thought it would stay small. That was not the case with correct lighting and fertilizer.

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March 19:

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Old 03-27-2017, 01:00 PM   #9
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And this brings me to yesterday, March 26th. I have continued to replant the Rotala Rotundafolia. I also tried Dwarf Baby Tears with no luck, although the Monte Carlo is doing really great. I will try to get it to grow up the wood and have it hang down over the entrance of the cave.

Everybody is doing great, and my German Blue Ram is still alive. My plan is to tend to her until she passes. Then I will stock the aquarium up again. I will post every month or so for an update as well. As you can see, my plants are pearling and doing well. Thank you to everyone on here over the past few months for helping me. I am very pleased with the outcome.

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Old 03-27-2017, 01:35 PM   #10
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Well done.
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Old 03-28-2017, 10:26 AM   #11
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Love it! What's your maintenance routine like? And if you don't mind my asking, how much did the CO2 & fert setups cost you? Those plants are looking great! 👍😄
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Old 03-28-2017, 11:39 AM   #12
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Quote:
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Love it! What's your maintenance routine like? And if you don't mind my asking, how much did the CO2 & fert setups cost you? Those plants are looking great! ����
So the CO2 and lights are now fully automated so I thankfully never have to deal with turning those on or off anymore. Every morning before I leave for work (or before the lights come on), I dose the aquarium with the fertilizer. Every three days I top off the water, and every Sunday I do a 50% water change. For this water change I always clean the glass as well. Once a month, or every six weeks I clean the filter out.

As far as cost, I definitely went the expensive route. I wanted top of the line equipment. GLA (Green Leaf Aquariums) is known for having the best CO2 equipment, so I purchased the GLA PRO-1 regulator for $255 with an LED indicator for $20 extra. The Atomic+ CO2 Diffuser 50mm with the check valve was $36. The Nano Drop Checker was $38.

I did not purchase a CO2 tank from GLA as I needed a 2.5 pound tank, and they only offered 5 and 10 pound tanks. So I purchased a 2.5 aluminum tank off of Amazon.com for $70.

The fertilizer was the PPS-Pro was also purchased from GLA and I recommend using them for sure. It was $25, and you will also need an electronic scale ($8), and some distilled water ($2). I also added 5 ml of Excel to each fertilizer bottle to minimize any algae in the tank.

I hope this helps! Let me know if I can help any further.
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Old 03-28-2017, 11:55 AM   #13
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Great work!
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Old 03-28-2017, 11:58 AM   #14
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Yep.....pretty sweet set up
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Old 03-28-2017, 12:15 PM   #15
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Thank you everyone!
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Old 05-01-2017, 08:58 AM   #16
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4/30/17 Update:

Tank is continuing to do well. The plants are all healthy and happy. If you look closely, a lot of pearling is going on as well. I cut the Rotala Rotundifolia in half once every 2-3 weeks. This encourages the plant to thicken out, which I want. I have noticed green spot algae on the Anubia Barteri, and I dose with Excel after water changes, but with no luck. I also noticed some BBA clusters on my driftwood, but a toothbrush does the trick before I do the water change. The plant in the center has also sprouted a stem that is growing towards the surface. I am hoping it is a flower. Another surprise, the Baby Tears are sprouting out of nowhere, and competing to create a carpet with the dwarf hair grass and Monte Carlo on the left.

I did upgrade my heater, which was the last piece of equipment I had to fix. Before I was using the Fluval heater that came with the Accent aquarium. It was doing the job fine until a week ago, when it was starting to fail. After careful consideration, I chose to go with the Fluval E200 heater. This is supposedly the newest technology out there regarding heaters (with a price tag). It measures the water temperature through the glass, not the air in the glass, so it gets a more precise reading. It also has an LED screen that gives me feedback on the temperature, up to .5 degrees. When it is too cold, the LED screen turns blue, when too hot it turns red, and when just right, it turns green. It will also tell you if the heater is not getting enough current running by it by indicating "Low Flow," which is good to know. Lastly, it has a guard on it so not animals or plants get burned. I saw my Honey Gourami get burned and that was terrifying to watch. So far I love it. The only downside is the LED indicator is underwater and provides a green moonlight at night, which with it in my room, and me liking pitch black when I sleep, is a little irritating, but the fish do not seem to mind.

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Another update: My blind female German Blue Ram is still alive, and seems to be happy. She is a tad overweight as I do not think she moves around like she used to, but is now on a diet. Her tank is fully cycled and I put floating plants and some Crypt Wendii in there to help her feel at home. As you can see, only soft objects are in there so she doesn't hurt herself.

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Old 05-01-2017, 09:37 AM   #17
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The planted tank looks very healthy. That's a good sign if the DBT are growing on their own. Since the Rotala are growing so well and seeing that you can prune it on a regular basis, you might consider "shaping it". Meaning, trim low in the front and taller in the back. Think of people in a group picture on a staggered stage. It will make it look like there are more plants than what you see now. It may help with thicker plant growth down the stem as it prevents a light blocking canopy from forming at the top of the hedge.
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Old 05-01-2017, 09:40 AM   #18
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The planted tank looks very healthy. That's a good sign if the DBT are growing on their own. Since the Rotala are growing so well and seeing that you can prune it on a regular basis, you might consider "shaping it". Meaning, trim low in the front and taller in the back. Think of people in a group picture on a staggered stage. It will make it look like there are more plants than what you see now. It may help with thicker plant growth down the stem as it prevents a light blocking canopy from forming at the top of the hedge.
That is actually a really good point. Thanks for suggesting that. I will do that today.
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Old 05-15-2017, 11:07 AM   #19
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Good morning all,

A pleasant surprised happened last week. My plant front and center developed a stalk and was growing towards the surface. I have had this plant for 3-4 years now and it has never once done this. At first I thought it was trying to get to the top, but one morning it started to bloom, and white flowers appeared. This just proves that with proper care, plants can be a night and day difference in their behavior, just like schooling fish can be when put in proper schools.

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Old 05-15-2017, 12:44 PM   #20
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Well, by the looks of the plant, it appears to be in great health. Congrats!
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