2.27.2004: The tank the started it all for me. It's a AGA 40 gallon Breeder (36x18x16). My planted tank experience at the time was based on keeping assorted swords and Crypts under ~1wpg back in the late '70s-early '80s, thus my initial plant order included, among other things, 11 swords and around 20 Vals! The little flags were to mark plant positions.

Lighting was done with three 30W T-10 NO fluorescent tubes (one Hagen Power~Glo and two 6500K Varilux). Filtration is done with a Fluval 304 cannister. Still waiting for two Hagen Natural Plant Systems that I ordered to provide CO2.

3.10.2004: Two weeks in...Initial occupants are 8 Rummynose Tetras, 10 Cardinal Tetras, 5 Schwartzi Corys, and 2 Chinese Algae Eaters.

5.12.2004: By May the swords had outgrown their place in the tank and had to be removed. The removal of one particular Red Rubin Sword proved to be painful as the root ball was over 15" long, dwarfed only by the 20" leaf growth! Uprooting that large a plant caused a large Nitrate spike (~40ppm) that took several large water changes over the course of two days to get back under control.

Of the original plant order, only some Corkscrew Vals, and Ludwigia Repens (broad and narrow leaf) remain. New additions include Hemianthus micranthemoides, Didiplis diandra, Alternanthera reinekii (all from AquaBotanic.com), Bacopa caroliniana, and Pennywort (both from PetSmart).

New fish additions include six Congo Tetras and some Cherry Red and Amano shrimp.

Lighting evolved from the initial three NO tubes, to those three, plus a 96W PC Coralife Aqualight (50/50 bulb since I messed up and ordered the Saltwater fixture instead of fresh). Finally to removing the three NO tubes and adding a second 96W Aqualight and switching to 10000K bulbs in both fixtures. With the addition of the second Aqualight I removed the canopy and went open top.

Pressurized CO2 via a 5# tank and home made external reator (powered by a Mag5 pump) was added with the additional of the first Aqualight. The 5# tanks was later moved to a 29g tank and replaced with a 10# tank.

7.9.2004: The micranthemoides has become a weed and would totally fill the tank if I let it. Unfortunately, the Didplis does not share the same robustness as it increasingly developed necrotic stems and eventually had to be totally removed. I added some Cryptocryne wendtii 'bronze' that I picked up from both PetSmart and Ultimate Aquarium (San Mateo, CA). A trip to Albany Aquarium (Albany, CA) netted me some Limnophilia hippuroides, Dwarf Lobelia, and a Myriophyllum sp. Some trading with a fellow local hobbiest got me some Rotala rotundifolia.

I swapped the 10000K tubes for 8800K ones. In this tank the 10000K bulbs were blindingly white. The 8800K is softer without having that yellow/green tint found in the 6700K PC bulbs.

8.18.2004: The last of any attempts to 'scape this tank...

The Myriophyllum was becoming the target for snails and SAEs so I ended up removing what scraps were left. The Corkscrew Vals have long since been removed lest their plans for total tank domination (seems to be a common goal for most of the plants I've grown) succeed...only to replaced by the R.roundifolia.

12.5.2004: With the startup of my 125 gallon tank in the living room, this tank has become more of a free-form growout tank, both for the flora...

...as well as the fauna. It's become somewhat of a wildlife sanctuary as the Guppy and shrimp fry roam freely throughout the tank. It sems that any predatory instincts that the larger fish may have once had are now forgotten.

The L. hippuroides suffered a major meltdown, possible caused by an excess of PO4 (it got to over 5ppm for some unknown reason). What I could salvage was moved to the 125g. The frilly plant on the left is actually some P. stellata, that after a sluggish start has at least kept growing. It's nowhere near as beautiful as some I've seen pictures of, but at least my hard water hasn't caused a total meltdown (as happened when I tried planting some Ludwigia 'cuba').

The Hemianthus callitrichoides (HC) came as a half-dollar sized patch from Albany Aquarium back in late July. Initially it was a hair algae magnet, needing to be removed and 'groomed' almost weekly. Eventually, I got the upper hand on the algae and the HC has been taking off ever since.

In September things got to a point where the R. rotundifolia and C. wendtiis had occupied nearly 3/4 of the tank. I had to do some major pruning and removed several pounds of each, freeing up some much needed real estate in the center of the tank. I started adding the Riccia rocks to this free area when some Riccia in my 125g broke loose from their Java Fern roots moorings. A single rock was followed by a second...then third...until now there are seven with no more room to add any more. In general, the Riccia grows a lot cleaner in this tank than the 125. Any algae that may have been attached when I tied it to the rock was totally overwhelmed by the Riccia and Cherry Red Shrimp. I was always fun to see all the shrimp come out and attack the algae on a new rock within minutes of me putting it in the tank.

Lately I've been letting all sorts of plant bits (Riccia, HC, C. wendtii, H. umbrosium) float in the right front corner of the tank. All seem to be thriving and it gives my Red Flame Gourami a place to blow a bubbles nest in a vain attempt to attract a non-existant mate.

1.8.2005: Here I'm attempting to grow Riccia between two pieces of cross-stitch screen (from Wal-Mart). I sewed the edges together using some 50# fishing line. Right now the screen is being weighted down by a couple of Riccia covered rocks. If this works I'll need to think of a better anchoring weight.

1.12.2005: The Riccia is starting to emerge from the holes in the screen. I was worried that the holes (~3/32") may be too small to allow the Riccia to grow through, but nature prevails again :^). If this works I'll be able to remove the rocks I've been trying my Riccia to and replace them with these screens. Should make for a lower carpet since I was using river stones as opposed to flat slate.

1.26.2005: The Riccia has made it through the screen. Looks like I can start swapping out the rocks for screen during future trimmings.

4.6.2005: After six months of aquascaping neglect, my 40 had gotten choked with Najas Grass and Crypts and the original large piece of driftwood had outlived its usefulness. So I rolled up my sleeves and spent the day tearing it down and building it back up to some semblance of being 'scaped. I got laid off from my job last month so I've been telling myself to take advantage of the off time—and this is the result. With the lighting and dosing this tank gets I figure I'll get a 3-4 week break before I need to start pruning again.

The thing about removing all the clutter in this tanks is that I can finally see the extent of my Cherry Red Shrimp population. I always knew I had a lot of them in here, but to see them all out and exposed is like seeing a roach-infested room...except that they don't scatter when the lights turn on.

Forground seeded with HC...hopefully I can keep the Cladophora at bay this time as it took me about an hour to clean out the HC of the stuff before I could start planting

The Riccia rocks have been moved to the back right to compliment a smaller piece of driftwood salvaged from the original 'scape. I'm hoping that in a few weeks it'll have filled in to become a grassy mound that the wood pokes out of.

5.31.2005 Time for an update...
I got rid of the Riccia covered rocks as I got tired of the maintenance involve with it. In its place I planted some Ranalisma, which is a grassy plant similar in looks to micro swords.

My Pellia covered rock, with some Ammania 'bonsai' stems in front of it.

Blyxa aubertii (the taller, red leaves) and japonica...

Finally, Potamogeton gayi.

9.14.2005 Update...
THe HC foreground was overrun by Cladophora algae so I pulled it all, cleaned out the algae and left it to float. I've decided to add a Riccia mat back to the left foreground. I've never been able to completely rid the tank of it so I might as well use it.

On the right side of the tank is some Pellia. Floating above the Pellia is a collection of Riccia, H micranthemoides, H umbrosum, and H callitrichoides (HC). I don't have the heart to toss any of it and also don't have space to plant it.

I've also removed the last of the driftwood from this tank. It's been too much of a breeding ground for the Cladophora.

9.23.2006 Tank redone...
After a year of neglect I finally redid the tank. Gone is the plain aquarium gravel, replaced with gray Turface Pro League. The mulm from the old gravel was left in the tank to seed the new substrate so it was a really messy changeover.

I'm again attempting to grow HC in the foreground. I'm hoping that since there is no Cladophora in the tank now that I can keep it this time.

Now that I've redone the tank I've finally tackeld a project I've been meaning to get to for months...hanging the Aqualights...

I built a frame out of aluminum that the two Aqualights fit onto. Then the frame is hung off of a tubular suspension rig made out of 1/2" galvanized steel elecrical conduit. I'll need to replace the picture hanging wire with some small chain next time I go to the hardware store.

1.10.2007 Updated picture time.
I did some clearing out of plants along the back wall, removing the Blyxa, L. aromatica, and Ludwigia 'cuba'. The Ammania 'bonsai' has really filled out the left side and the Lilaeopsis is a nice, thick carpet on the upper terrace, while the HC has filled in the foreground nicely.

That empty patch in the front left corner is where I pulled out a big clump of H. micranthemoides. It was pretty, but too much trouble to keep under control. In a few more weeks the HC will have filled it in.

As you can see, the Lilaeopsis respects no boundaries as it grows through the moss...

I'm still waging the good fight against the random Cladaphora outbreak—pulling out what I can and dousing the remainder with Excel. So far I've been able to keep it in check.

A pair of Otos resting on the glass. The upper one is a Niger Oto (Hisonotus leucofrenatus). The lower is a Redfin Oto (Parotocinclus maculicauda) although it displays very little, if any, red in it's fins

7.18.2008 A long overdue update...

First, the Aqualights have been replaced by a pair of DIY 70w MH fixtures. Less wattage than the pair of 96w PC bulbs with much better light. The shimmer is nice, too.

I bypassed documenting the stage when I reverted back to a bunch of Rotala, which I grew tired of trimming. So now the tank is filled with Java Fern 'tropica', Anubias 'nana', Echinodorus parviflorus 'tropica', and dwarf hair grass. Theres also a single stem of Hygrophila 'pantanal', some Echinodorus vesuvius, and Crypt. crodata 'rosanervig'.

My previous collection of fish were wiped out by a CO2 mishap so I've been restocking it slowly starting with a few wild neocardina shrimp from my 120g tank. I've also added some Otos. I'm still deciding on the main display fish...or perhaps I'll opt for a school of Aspidoras catfish.

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