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The 20 Gallon Adventure Begins...

PostPosted: Sat May 12, 2012 7:20 am
by C. Andrew Nelson
This weekend begins the renovation, re-theming, revitalizing, and restocking project for my humble 20 gallon aquarium. For those of you who have missed the bahzillion times I've mentioned it, here's the backstory on my tank...

I've always maintained at least one fish tank since I was ten years old. I was deep into the hobby back in the late '80s with multiple tanks of varying set-ups. But then I married. Then we had kids. Then we acquired a mortgage. Then my career took off. Then my in-laws moved in so we could take care of them. In short, family took a front seat and my hobby had to take a back seat.

For the past few years I've done virtually nothing with my 20 gallon tank except water changes, feeding, and the occasional changing of a light tube. The fish population has dwindled down to a mere three fish: two hardy head & tail light tetras that I've had for about 4 years and a panaque maccus clown pleco that I've had for 26 years (see his thread elsewhere in this forum). The plants have grown wild and taken over most of the tank. The water tests very healthy and is crystal clear thanks to a RENA Filstar X1 filter. The tank sits on a low wooden cabinet stand that my grandfather and I built many many years ago.

Well, my wife is sick of seeing too many plants and not enough fish. She's given me the go ahead to return to the hobby I love and refresh the tank. Her only criteria is a) we buy some fish with color, b) she can see the fish because the plants have been cleared out, c) I don't go hog wild and spend a fortune, and d) I get it done now.

And so the adventure begins!

My plan is to turn the tank into a "South American only" aquarium, stocking it with nothing but fish and plants from South America. The three fish already calling the tank home can stay since they all originate from that continent. The plants, however, are mostly African anubias and therefore will have to go. Here is a photo taken an hour ago showing the current state of the tank.

Image

As you can see I have an absolute forest of anubias. These will soon be replaced by swordplants, sagittaria, elodea, pennywort, and other amazonian plants. Hidden behind those anubias are some very nice rocks and some bits of driftwood. You can see the largest of the rocks on the left side of the photo rising up in the background. It's huge and heavy, but it has always done a nice job of keeping the filter intake tube and the heater hidden from view. I plan to add some new driftwood once their is room for it.

I also intend to add a group of Rummy-Nose Tetras (one of my all-time favorite fish) as well as another group of tetras to be named later, depending upon what my local fish store has in stock. I also am thinking of getting two Otos to help with the algae, of which there is a considerable amount at the present time.

Updates and more photos to be posted as soon as the project begins. Stay tuned!

Re: The 20 Gallon Adventure Begins...

PostPosted: Sat May 12, 2012 8:20 am
by AnimalBoy333
Good luck with your adventure! And wow! When you said you had a forest, you weren't kidding! Otos are good for algae, no doubt about it, but watch out, they can have rough shipments and can be quite delicate (I don't know if I or someone else mentioned this on your other post, so just restating if so). Good luck again! I can't wait to see more. :waahooo:

Re: The 20 Gallon Adventure Begins...

PostPosted: Sat May 12, 2012 8:55 am
by KDodds
HOLY Anubias, Batman! Actually, It's SO nice and thick I'd be loath to change it... maybe leave it and go with a smaller school of Congo Tets (4-6) and Jewels or Kribs (1-2)? Anubias that thick, being such a slow grower, is a terrible thing to just toss aside. Jewels, in color, are some of the most stunning FW fish you'll ever see.

Then start a new tank for the SA fishes? Can you get that one past "the boss"? :)

Re: The 20 Gallon Adventure Begins...

PostPosted: Sat May 12, 2012 9:27 am
by BobCochran
Andrew,

Your plants are stunning! I agree with Kieron, maybe you should keep them and start a second tank. Would that work? Your plan is a good one...save the anubias though...I will check your journal and follow all the work you do so that I can learn from you.

Bob

Re: The 20 Gallon Adventure Begins...

PostPosted: Sat May 12, 2012 9:32 am
by ScottFish
You are off to a great start! Thanks for staring this journal.

Re: The 20 Gallon Adventure Begins...

PostPosted: Sat May 12, 2012 3:33 pm
by joemc
very nice healthy Anubias, it is a pity to make such a change to the tank, but then again you have been looking at it for a long time!
You will notice a big change with your new plant selection, you may need to buy yourself a sharp knife or sissors once they start to grow!
Fish wise, you have a huge list of potential species to choose from for a tank that size, I will only make one suggestion re your fish choice, pick species that will contrast and compliment each other, looking not just at color but also body shape, fin shape and size, the area of the tank they will inhabit and behavior.
looking forward to see how this tank progresses, apart from fish and plants, have you thought about substrate, and decor? rocks, stones, roots branches etc?

Re: The 20 Gallon Adventure Begins...

PostPosted: Sat May 12, 2012 5:28 pm
by C. Andrew Nelson
AnimalBoy333 wrote:Otos are good for algae, no doubt about it, but watch out, they can have rough shipments and can be quite delicate (I don't know if I or someone else mentioned this on your other post, so just restating if so).


My LFS never puts any fish out on the floor for sale until they have gone through a long and thorough quarantine period. The Otos I've seen for sale there are always happy, chubby, lively little fish. However I will myself be very careful when handling them and adding them to the tank. I believe they will be the last fish I add. Rummies are the top priority.

Re: The 20 Gallon Adventure Begins...

PostPosted: Sat May 12, 2012 5:37 pm
by C. Andrew Nelson
KDodds wrote:HOLY Anubias, Batman! Actually, It's SO nice and thick I'd be loath to change it... maybe leave it and go with a smaller school of Congo Tets (4-6) and Jewels or Kribs (1-2)?


I'm sticking with South American fish for this tank renovation so Congo Tetras, as pretty as they are, won't qualify.


KDodds wrote:Anubias that thick, being such a slow grower, is a terrible thing to just toss aside.


No worries! I'm not tossing ANYTHING. I'm taking a bunch of the anubias down to my LFS to see about a trade in. I talked with the owner and he said if he likes them he'll give me store credit for them. Even if he can't sell them he'll find a home for them.

KDodds wrote:Then start a new tank for the SA fishes? Can you get that one past "the boss"? :)


Not at the present time. No place to put another tank. We're actually working towards selling our home along with my in-laws' old residence and then purchasing a bigger house with plenty of room for all of us. That's when I'll chat up the "boss" (or the "CFO" as I like to say) for permission to expand my aquatic empire. ;)

Re: The 20 Gallon Adventure Begins...

PostPosted: Sat May 12, 2012 5:55 pm
by C. Andrew Nelson
joemc wrote:very nice healthy Anubias, it is a pity to make such a change to the tank, but then again you have been looking at it for a long time!


Don't get me wrong. I love the appearance of Anubias and they are the easiest plants I've ever grown. The ones you see in the photo originally came from an old tank that my grandfather had. When he passed away eleven years ago my grandmother never bothered to do anything with the tank. Those crazy Anubias kept growing with hardly any light, no fish, no filtration, and half the water evaporated. You have to love a plant that hardy.

[NOTE TO SELF: Check the condition of my grandfather's old acrylic tank and see if it can be restored and used again.]

joemc wrote:You will notice a big change with your new plant selection, you may need to buy yourself a sharp knife or sissors once they start to grow!


Good advice. I will get some "gardening" tools just for use in the tank.

joemc wrote:Fish wise, you have a huge list of potential species to choose from for a tank that size, I will only make one suggestion re your fish choice, pick species that will contrast and compliment each other, looking not just at color but also body shape, fin shape and size, the area of the tank they will inhabit and behavior.


Point taken. As an artist (visual effects, animation, cartooning, etc.) I was feeling the same way about it. Aesthetically the tank will look better with a variety of fish body types, plus each type of fish gets to shine and be noticed instead of blending together as one big multicolored crowd.

joemc wrote:looking forward to see how this tank progresses, apart from fish and plants, have you thought about substrate, and decor? rocks, stones, roots branches etc?


Believe it or not there is already plenty of landscaping and decor hidden behind and underneath the forest. There are rocks, driftwood, and interesting stones, and the substrate is tiered so that it is higher in back and lower in front with rocks acting as sort of a low retaining wall. I don't plant on changing any of that other than to put in different plants and add more driftwood to make my clown pleco happy.

Re: The 20 Gallon Adventure Begins...

PostPosted: Sat May 12, 2012 6:36 pm
by joemc
aah, but before you remove the Anubias have a chat with your local store owner, you may get a much better deal if you trade the Anubias attached to rocks and wood over loose cut sections of plants, mail him a picture, he may take it as it is, price wise here i could buy a piece of Anubias, maybe 3" of stem with 5-6 leaves for about 4-10 euros, the same piece attached to a stone or piece of wood would cost about 15-20 euro. very large plants, sold as mother plants cost 30-50 euro, and they would never be any where as big as what you have there, they would have approx 20-25 leaves in total on the plant

Re: The 20 Gallon Adventure Begins...

PostPosted: Sun May 13, 2012 1:22 am
by C. Andrew Nelson
Thanks for the info. I had not thought that keeping them anchored might make them more valuable. It's a moot point for me. I have no interest in giving up any of my rocks. I've had them in this tank for ages. If you excuse the pun...
...I've grown rather attached to them. :tomato:

Re: The 20 Gallon Adventure Begins...

PostPosted: Sun May 13, 2012 6:10 am
by KDodds
Just so you know, around here, Anubias usually goes for about $7 per 1" segment. I have no doubt whatsoever that your LFS will pay you MUCH, MUCH less than that and, despite what they say (and possibly how poorly they look upon your "pitiful" Anubias), they'll make a killing. If you had your own outlet for sale, you could easily make 5-10 times what your LFS will give you based your selling them at $1-2/1" segment. I seriously doubt you'll get more than $20 credit for the whole mass, which is another part of why it's such a shame to let it go.

Re: The 20 Gallon Adventure Begins...

PostPosted: Sun May 13, 2012 6:19 am
by C. Andrew Nelson
Saturday I began thinning the forest of Anubias. Although the goal was take them all out and replace them with South American plants, two thirds of the way through I stopped. I couldn't bring myself to yank them all out. So for now one third of the Anubias plus a few Java Ferns that I uncovered (hidden by the Anubias) are staying. Here's the tank after the deforestation...

Image

(I apologize for all the reflections of our family room furniture.)

The other thing I uncovered was a huge pile of filth. Never saw it and could get at it with the siphon hose because the plants had grown so thick. Of course it kicked up everywhere as soon as I uprooted the Anubias. Moments later, as the above photo shows, the water was crystal clear again. I love my RENA Filstar XP1 filter!

Here's a closer look into the tank and the tall rock in the back corner...

Image

You can see the bald patch in the algae where the Anubias had anchored itself. Oh, that was a lot of fun removing plant without damaging it. Got all the Anubias out unscathed and with all their roots intact. You can also see one of my two Head & Tail Light Tetras wondering what was going on. Neither of them panicked like I thought they might. And you can see the filth that was kicked up now settled over all the leaves in that corner of the tank.

My local fish store had given me a big plastic bag and rubberband to package up the Anubias and bring it down to the shop for them to consider accepting in trade. As I began to pull those plants out of the tank I quickly realized there was no way it was going to all fit in that bag. I filled a bucket with water and started putting the Anubias in it. I could not believe how much I was pulling out of that tank. It was like a magician's trick! There was more and more and more of it. It had grown so densely in that tank.

On the phone the owner of the LFS was very gracious, yet hesitant to get my hopes up over the trade. He told me that he had just gotten a shipment of Anubias in, but that he'd take a look at mine anyway. When I arrived at the shop the place was jumping with business. It took quite a while before the owner could get to me. My kids had come with me and I sent them to look around the store while I waited for the owner to have a free moment. Eventually my daughter and son asked if they could go back to the car. The love fish. They hate standing around waiting. :roll:

Finally the shop owner was free to peruse the plants I brought in. I think at first he thought it was only a few floating at the top of the bucket. As he dug down in he couldn't believe that it all had come out of one 20 gallon tank. He also did his very best to keep a good poker face, but I could tell he was thinking my Anubias were way better than the shipment he had just gotten in. He took the whole bucket's worth in trade. :thumb:

At the end of it all I got a nice big fat store credit to be put towards new fish and plants.

Before I left two of the store's employees both said they had to get some of my Anubias trade-ins for their own tanks.


Coming up next time on The 20 Gallon Adventure...Andrew "vacuums" the "floor" and "dusts" the "shelves", plus find out how he uses his hefty store credit. Stay tuned!

Re: The 20 Gallon Adventure Begins...

PostPosted: Sun May 13, 2012 6:26 am
by KDodds
Wow, a big fat trade, eh? One of the few scrupulous shopkeepers left, I guess. Congrats on the successful trade. You should easily be able to stock teh whole tank (and then some) with your "windfall". :)

Re: The 20 Gallon Adventure Begins...

PostPosted: Sun May 13, 2012 3:09 pm
by ScottFish
Gorgeous tank and great journal entry! I think you now have establish a good rep at the store, and with your wife. "Yes dear, this hobby really is paying for itself!" (Wink, wink.)