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Thread: Desktop 20G (first planted tank in 20+years) build

  1. #1
    SCAPE Member SCAPEr jayo's Avatar
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    Desktop 20G (first planted tank in 20+years) build

    I decided that the end of my (home office) desk needed an aquarium. I'm budget-conscious and somewhat lazy so I'm going for an "easy-ish" tank. Since this is my first planted tank since my 55g high-ish tech planted tank in college it is also somewhat of an experiment.


    Basic specs:

    20G high (the largest tank that "fits" on the end of my desk) from Petco $1/gallon sale

    Manzanita wood (Nature Aquarium in Santa Monica - 2 pieces I have ziptied together)

    3/4" to 1.5" backyard soil on the bottom (with about a teaspoon of Osmocote+ mixed in)

    Turface Pro "Champion Brown" cap (1" to 3") - this is a calcined clay, similar to Flourite, but much cheaper and slightly smaller grain size - and I have a ton left over

    Beamswork DA Fspec LED light controlled by TC420, so I can dim it, ramp the lights up and down slowly, etc.

    Aquaclear 50 along the "back" wall, so the outflow goes along the tank lengthwise. Hopefully this will be sufficient flow.

    This will be a tapwater tank. I've fertilized the soil to get myself started, and plan to supplement carbon with Excel.

    I have been dry-starting some mini hairgrass (tissue culture) and dwarf sag (tissue culture). They've both been in the tank about a week and I can see good root growth already.

    The wood went in today. I've been soaking it, and today I ziptied it together (and squeezed some branches on one piece closer together so the piece fits).

    The aquarium will be seen from three angles - me sitting at my desk, the end cap from the worktable in the room, and my comfy chair (opposite side of tank from my desk chair).

    The wood was the best combo of aesthetics, fitting in the tank with 1.5 inches clearance for algae cleaning, and stability. I'm really happy with how it came out.

    I'm thinking peacock moss on the wood along with some java fern at the "back" of the tank (where the base of the wood is resting), plus fast growing stems at the back wall, and some combo of green crypts in the center, plus some light green bushy plants like M. micranthemoides and Hydrocotle japan to bulk up the back third.

    Not sure how long I'll keep going with the dry-start. It's hard not to fill it. But the current plan is to buy a bunch of plants at the Feb. meet at Lotus, go home, plant the rest of the tank, and flood it then.

    The three pictures go from my desk chair view, around the end, to the other side with my comfy chair view. Comments welcome!

    side1_small.jpg

    endcap_small.jpg

    side2_small.jpg

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  3. #2
    SCAPE Board Member Pro SCAPEr Kole85's Avatar
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    Awesome start so far, its looking good. May I suggest Pogo Erectus for the stem plant behind the wood next to the wall, its bushy enough that you could use it to hide the zip tie at the base of the wood and the Java Fern would give a nice contrast next to it with the darker green. And maybe include a crypt flamingo for some color with your green crypt in the center. Some moss on the wood is definitely gonna look cool. Can't wait to see what you decide on and the progress!

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    SCAPE Member Sr. SCAPEr Aquaman's Avatar
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    Great job, I really like what you did with the setup. Did you soaked the backyard soil before putting it in the tank? If you could take a pic of the led light control it would be great. Looking forward to see the tank mature.
    Last edited by Aquaman; 02-03-2018 at 07:23 PM.

  6. #4
    Pew Pew Lazor 5000 posts, Officially addicted to SCAPE! Zenzu's Avatar
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    No moss on the wood, tie plants! Anubias, Buce, Crypts, Ferns, H pinnatifida. It should look pretty cool.
    THE CAKE IS A LIE!

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    SCAPE Member Pro SCAPEr geektom's Avatar
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    Off to a great start! Where are you going to place filters and things?


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    SCAPE Member Sr. SCAPEr angeltre's Avatar
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    Nice lights, with a deep tank like that it will really help. Tanks looks great.

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    SCAPE Member SCAPEr jayo's Avatar
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    Thanks for the plant suggestions. The P. erectus looks great but might be too demanding for my tank. I hope to get a stem or two of lots of different options to see what seems to do well in my tank conditions. I am planning to replace the white ziptie with a black one, though I still will need something bushy to hide it.

    The only thing I did to the soil before tossing it in the tank was to sift it through a very fine screen. that removed all sticks, rocks, bugs/worms, etc. I didn't bake it, boil it, or soak it. However, it is soaking now in my dry start (so it will have soaked about a month when I flood the tank). I'm planning to do a bunch of water changes in the first few weeks in case anything weird leaches, but I expect it to be fine - I collected it from a place far from buildings and that hasn't been treated in pesticides/herbicides or fertilizers for many years.

    I'm going to be using a HOB (aquaclear 50) on one long end. I've modded it a bit - I cut off a corner of the lid so I can stuff a small titanium heater inside, and cut a slit on the lid to hold the lip of my lights.

    IMG_20180208_155124.jpg

    Here's a pic of my power strip with the light controller resting on top. Eventually I'll screw the controller to the wall. You can see the wires I have attached to the controller - those wires are from a DC extension cable I ordered, so that I wouldn't have to cut my light's wires. So I can just plug the DC connections from my light into the extension plugs, which are wired to the controller.

    IMG_20180208_154535.jpg

    The ramp-up with the controller isn't as smooth as I hoped - it jumps the light from 1% to 2% etc. to the chosen light level (100% while I dry start), but each jump seems to slightly overpower so there's a slight strobe effect with each jump. But it is very nice to be able to ramp up/down, and this will make it very easy to adjust my light levels because I can set any level from 1% to 100% for whatever times I like. Right now I just have one "mode" programmed that goes from 0-100% over 10 minutes, then stays at 100% for ten hours, then goes from 100-0% over 10 minutes and it is working great.

    Here's a picture of my desk to get an overall impression of what the space looks like. I'll probably move the power strip over behind my big monitor so I don't have to look at it all the time.

    IMG_20180208_155006.jpg

    One of my 'goals' with this tank is not to have a bunch of equipment to look at - and right now I have the filter intake and the thermometer (which I may replace with an LCD stuck on the aquaclear, or a temperature probe if I get super fancy), so I'm pretty happy.

    I'd like to try frosted window film for the background - right now I have some blue felt on there because I already had a giant piece of blue felt. But the background will definitely change around while I figure out what I like.
    Last edited by jayo; 02-08-2018 at 05:41 PM.

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    SCAPE Member SCAPEr jayo's Avatar
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    As for tying plants on the wood, I'm planning to tie on some Java fern, does that count? I don't think I can afford to cover the wood with Buces. And honestly, I don't get why Buces get so much love - they just look like fancy anubias to me. I probably need to see some in person to understand it.

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    SCAPE Member SCAPEr jayo's Avatar
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    Because I've got the HOB on the narrow end, a standard glass top won't fit this aquarium. I'm thinking of making a sliding top out of a couple pieces of 11.5x11.75 glass. I'm concerned that the overlap along the middle will cause a visible shadow. Anyone done this and have any words of wisdom for me? Also, any ideas where I can get cheap glass would be welcome. I've started looking at craigslist for old/broken windows or broken aquariums, but I'm open to other ideas.

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    SCAPE Board Member Pro SCAPEr Kole85's Avatar
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    You've got quite an awesome setup there!
    As far as the Pogo Erectus being a demanding plant I have not had any problems with it whatsoever, high tech or low. I have it growing in my high tech 29g dutch style tank as well as a low tech 10g. The 10g is 1/2 inch of Miracle Grow Organic and Osmocote+ capped with some ADA Amazonia and Contro Soil, Azoo Mignon HOB Filter for up to 20g tank, and light is a clip on desk lamp with a 23w CFL bulb hooked into a $5 appliance timer from Harbor Freight, no co2 dosing or fertilizer dosing at all. 29g is black sand with Osmocote+ and LOTS of root tabs, pressurized co2, high fertilizer dosing, Whale200 canister filter, powerhead, and lighted with a Finnex Ray2. I honestly haven't really seen a difference in the growth between the tanks, both grow very nice and bushy.
    Its quickly becoming one of my favorite plants.

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    SCAPE Member SCAPEr jayo's Avatar
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    Sounds like the Pogo Erectus might do well for me, then. Now I definitely want to try some.

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    SCAPE Board Member Pro SCAPEr Kole85's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jayo View Post
    Sounds like the Pogo Erectus might do well for me, then. Now I definitely want to try some.
    Heres how it looks in my high tech 29g and the low tech 10g. The pogo erectus in the 29g has been going for about 2 months now starting from tissue culture. The 2 stems in the 10g were trimmings from the 29g, been in the tank about a month.

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    SCAPE Member SCAPEr jayo's Avatar
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    That's beautiful. I love the leaf shape and the bright green color.

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    SCAPE Board Member Pro SCAPEr Kole85's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jayo View Post
    That's beautiful. I love the leaf shape and the bright green color.
    I should have some for the auction at the meet at Lotus next weekend.

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    SCAPE Member Just Planted royaldragones's Avatar
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    Your tank looks great even while dry. I can't wait to see it with all the plants you got from the auction!

  21. #16
    SCAPE Member SCAPEr jayo's Avatar
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    Post-Feb. meeting update:

    I bought a ton of plants at the auction at Lotus (thanks everyone!), came home, planted everything and flooded the tank. I used the "medium stuff in the middle, tall stuff at the back" approach (what can I say - it was late!). I tied some of the moss onto the wood (and stuffed the rest under a branch to deal with later), tied the Java ferns onto the wood, and hooked the H. japan around some branch tips until I have a better idea where to put it. I planted everything and then added water. HOORAY! For the first night I held the wood down with a can of coconut milk, but it seems to be stay down on its own now.

    post-plant-2-20-18.jpg

    post-plant2-2-20-18-.jpg

    It is so great to have the aquarium flooded. It has made me realize that:

    1. I need to get a move on making a top. Just need to find some glass. Until then I'm putting my plastic cutting board over it at night and removing it in the morning.
    2. Prime dechlorinator is a pain to dose (1 cap thread is ~1mL is not a practical way!). I ordered some 3mL plastic graduated pipettes so I can actually measure mL. I'm going to have a LOT of pipettes left over if anyone else needs any. I'll be measuring my excel dose with these too.
    3. I need a handy towel around the tank. Maybe I can install a towel rack on the edge of my desk.
    4. My filter rattles a little. I'll give it a few days to settle in until I start trying to fix it.
    5. I should have done a leak test with the aquarium actually on my desk and the filter running. I woke up EVERY HALF HOUR the first night and ran into the office to make sure it hadn't flooded my desk and the electronics on it. Everything was fine, of course.
    6. It is not a good idea to set out your brown thread before the SCAPE meeting because you know you're going to need it when you get home to plant and want it handy. I came home and couldn't find it anywhere. Ended up using dark green thread instead.
    7. The heater in my filter does actually work, but it took a bit of fiddling. I have to set my heater at 77 to maintain my desired temp of 72. Either the heater temp is off, the thermometer temp is off, or it's due to where I've placed it in the filter. I'll have to get a second thermometer to check it. I don't care about the temp differential, just want to make sure the tank is the temp I think it is.

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    SCAPE Member SCAPEr jayo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by royaldragones View Post
    Your tank looks great even while dry. I can't wait to see it with all the plants you got from the auction!
    Thanks! It was great meeting you at Lotus - I'd love to see a pic of your tank. You should start a build thread.

    I looked up peacock gudgeons too. They look AWESOME. I hope you can find some for your tank.

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    SCAPE Member Just Planted royaldragones's Avatar
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    Your tank is looking great with all the plants!

    I don't think my tank is classy enough for this thread... so I've been told... I would be teased :P Maybe I'll private message you a pic if I can figure that out

    Yes, I'll be calling the petstore about those gudgeons again tomorrow, they get fish in today and told me to call tomorrow to see if they get any this time. My tank is all ready for them!

  24. #19
    SCAPE Member SCAPEr jayo's Avatar
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    Update: Stowaway

    It's been two weeks since I bought the plants and planted everything. I'll post some pics in a few days with a plant update.

    Two evenings ago, a stowaway popped up. It's swimming right near the surface, in a high-current area, working its little tail off. I'm guessing it was from an egg since I definitely haven't seen it for 12 days and then it was unmissable.

    I expect it to starve, but I am encouraged that my tank can support life.

    Anyone who sold me plants at the Lotus Meet (spikey moss, P. erectus, needle leaf java fern and regular leaf java fern, ROAK plants, H. japan, Ludwigia peruensis, some kind of Hygrophila, Lindernia rotundifolia, Crypt wendtii green, amazon frogbit via royaldragones' purchase), have any candidates? Given the behaviour I'm confident it isn't a Corydoras, and it has a shiny bit on the side.

    fry1.jpg

    fry3.jpg

    fry2.jpg

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    SCAPE Member SCAPEr jayo's Avatar
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    March 9 update

    Let's pretend I was updating this as I went along. Here's the update from March 9:

    It's been three weeks since flooding the tank. Here's what's happened:

    Dwarf sag all melted, but in stages (from comfy-chair side to computer side), and has been coming back in strong.

    Rotala rotundifolia did nothing. Wouldn't root, stem rotted away, no growth, very sad. I tore off a couple of side shoots and tried planting them in a brighter area (center near the pearlweed) to see if it would take.

    Hygrophila stems insist on growing sideways. Not loving it.

    Lugwigia are starting to grow pretty well.

    Cardamine Lyrata growing into cute little puffy bushes.

    H. japan grew well at first, then stopped and is starting to get some green spot algae. Getting green spot algae on the walls as well. Not worried, figure it's part of the initial settling in.

    IMG_20180309_101239.jpg
    IMG_20180309_101305.jpg
    IMG_20180309_101505.jpg

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