15 gallon hex journal

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jbradt

this is bat country
May 9, 2008
3,197
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outback, NY
Real Name
I. P. Daily
Hi all,

It's been ages since I've logged in here because it's been ages since I've had a tank set up. So recently while cleaning out my shed I found an old 15 gallon hex tank. I'm currently testing it for leaks, so it'll be at least a couple of weeks before I really move forward with it (plus I still have to talk the wife into finding space in the house for it). I figured I'd talk though some of my thoughts and see if I can get some feedback since it's been a long time.



So far it seems to be holding water. If that keeps up, I'll plan to start cleaning it up this weekend. Once it's ready, the plan would be to get it set up in a wifey-approved spot and start a fishless cycle while setting up the hardscape and starting to get it planted. I think that by adding the shrimp first in such a big tank, the cycle would likely be silent anyway, but if I can take a couple of weeks and jump start it, that could only help.

My plan is to have it heavily planted and stock it with shrimp (rcs or the like) and a relatively large school of galaxy raspboras, or potentially a betta. Ideally, I'd like to have all 3, but I think if that has half a chance I'd have to add the shrimp first and let them get established, then add the raspboras, then finally the betta. I have the beginnings of a hard/plant-scape in mind already which includes little shrimp caves so they have a place to hide and feel safe. I'm interested in any thoughts on how many of the galaxy's I could put in there safely. I'm also totally open to any suggestions for cool shrimp that would look good in a planted tank.

For substrate I'm thinking of just going with eco-complete since I've had good experience with it in the past. If anyone has any thoughts on alternatives, I'm all ears. I was looking at doing a aquatic compost layer/gravel later/sand layer type thing, but I've never done it before and I honestly don't know if there's much advantage.

Filtration I'm still wavering on, I was thinking either sponge or HOB, then I started thinking why not both. Due to the height of the tank it might be a good idea to have some filtration on the top and mid layers, with the sponge on the bottom where the suction from the HOB probably won't reach. But then I don't know if both would be going overboard since I don't think the bio-load in this tank will be huge. Any suggestions for current brands of HOB or sponge filters would be appreciated. I used to use aquaclear, but don't seem to be able to find them anymore.

I"m also interested in any suggestions for lighting. I'm planning to get a piece of acrylic to make a top, and I'm only planning on having low-light plants, but I know these tall tanks can be tough to light and any advice here would be greatly appreciated.

So that's where I am at the moment. I'll add more updates as things progress. Hopefully it remains water-tight and I get to start moving forward with it this weekend. Please feel free to share any thoughts/suggestions/etc.

IMG_20230709_204010359.jpg
 

jbradt

this is bat country
May 9, 2008
3,197
13
38
48
outback, NY
Real Name
I. P. Daily
So the tank seems to be holding water fine, and looks much better after cleaning up the outside some. I've ordered a filter (AC30) and plan to run an extended intake pipe on it so I shouldn't have to fuss with a sponge filter too.

The next step will be substrate and some plants. I'm thinking of starting off with some java moss, anubias, dwarf hairgrass, and vals to start. Eventually I'll get around to some crypts and stuff once things start to get settled. For substrate, I'm thinking of doing 1.5 inches or so of aquasoil, then a cap of sand on top of that. Planning for 3-3.5" total substrate. From what I've read, this should be a decent analogue for a deep-bed tank. I've never used sand before, so any tips on what kind to use would be greatly appreciated. I know there are different grades/particle sizes, but not sure what would be the best to go with.

I'll start a fishless cycle once the plants are in with some sinking food pellets. Hopefully, after a couple of weeks I'll be able to start putting some shrimp in there.

For lighting, I'm looking at 3d printing a fixture and hooking up a system of LED's. Hopefully I can balance it right so it's not too much, but still gets some light to the bottom of the tank.
 

dougall

...
Mar 29, 2005
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Sounds like a decent filter
. I'd honestly use a smaller canister, but mostly because I like them more, no technical reason.

For substrate, a couple of things..

What sort of aquasoil are you planning to use?

Why not just use aquasoil alone? Cost reasons? Or something else? Modern aquasoils aren't designed to be capped.

And why a deep bed? Are you going for a way to keep nitrates down?

Personally I'd do all aquasoil, depending on the kind.. or something like safeTsorb if I wanted to keep costs down and supplement that with root tabs of some kind, just being sure to get ones that contain all macro nutrients.

As for lighting, I think more details are needed, like what sort of LEDs.. you have to remember that it's a tall and narrow tank, so having light with a narrower beam of light will help it reach the bottom; your hairgrass and vals will need more light and at the substrate, so think spotlight vs. floodlight
 

jbradt

this is bat country
May 9, 2008
3,197
13
38
48
outback, NY
Real Name
I. P. Daily
Sounds like a decent filter
. I'd honestly use a smaller canister, but mostly because I like them more, no technical reason.

For substrate, a couple of things..

What sort of aquasoil are you planning to use?

Why not just use aquasoil alone? Cost reasons? Or something else? Modern aquasoils aren't designed to be capped.

And why a deep bed? Are you going for a way to keep nitrates down?

Personally I'd do all aquasoil, depending on the kind.. or something like safeTsorb if I wanted to keep costs down and supplement that with root tabs of some kind, just being sure to get ones that contain all macro nutrients.

As for lighting, I think more details are needed, like what sort of LEDs.. you have to remember that it's a tall and narrow tank, so having light with a narrower beam of light will help it reach the bottom; your hairgrass and vals will need more light and at the substrate, so think spotlight vs. floodlight
These are good things to think about.

For the substrate, I've been doing research into quasi-walstead tanks, and from what I've been reading the deeper bed of substrate is good for helping to keep the water chemistry in check and helps to bring more nutrients to the plants that are root feeders. I keep going back and forth on this. What sort of aquasoil would you recommend? I've always used eco-complete in the past, so anything different is totally new to me.

The lighting I'm going to need to play with a bit since I am very aware of the height of the tank. I'm looking at a way to put as many LED's in a small space as possible. Still haven't worked out all the details on this yet, and will likely have to do some experimentation before I find something that is acceptable.

A lot of what I'm doing is trying to keep costs down, but I'm more interested ultimately in setting up a tank that will be relatively self-sustaining and require a minimal of effort to keep it healthy and balanced.

For the filter, I'm trying to keep the whole tank as low-tech as possible. I'm not going with a canister on this one due to the footprint vs height. I think a canister will be too much current, even a small one. With the HOB, I can use a diffuser so that there won't be too much flow. This is something else I'll have to experiment with, and will also depend on the final stocking of the tank. If I end up getting a betta, then the lower flow will be better for him.
 

dougall

...
Mar 29, 2005
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Lots to take in here.. but I can try...

There are basically 3 big groups of substrate...

1. Inert - like sand or gravel
2. Inert but with a high CEC - like Flourite or EcoComplete
3. Nutritious aquasoils - contain nutrients for plants for example Fluval Stratum, ADA Amazonia or Oase ScaperSoil

If you like you could include terrestrial soil, but it generally has to be 'capped' with something to prevent it mixing with the water and just making it cloudy

Only 3 and 4 contain any sort of food for the plants, so if they are root feeders, say a sword or crypts or such you will either have to add something for the plants like root tabs or cross you fingers that fish poop will cut it, especially initially.

As for the Walstad method.. she normally does soil capped with sand, low stocking and seldom uses a filter on anything under 20g.. and then mostly to move oxygen through the tank. Most everything waste wise is left to sink and decompose.

I can't say I'm a huge fan, not do I completely agree with the science she bases this all on.. but it will work if you want something slow growing and low maintenance.

A deep sand bed will just create the conditions for bacteria to turn nitrates into nitrogen gas that bubble off; the big problem is that you shouldn't have high nitrates if you stock lightly, and lowering nitrates will starve your plants of one of their macro nutrients.. I have always kept plants, so haven't seen anything that would make me feel it's worth taking the risk.

You will create a current with any filter really.. if you diffuse the output of a hob, you aren't doing anything with the inflow and you can prefilrer that if you want too. I've never had a Betta that couldn't handle a flow of water, sometimes they need to build up their muscles to handle it.. but maybe stick away from ones with the longer fins, and maybe give them some hardscrpe in the tank to catch their breath after swimming against the tide. (I used a canister on a plain 10g with a Betta in the past, I want to say an eheim ecco, and didn't have a problem with flow)

You should start a new thread for your lighting.. if you are going completely DIY, look for 5-10000K COB LEDs and find a way to mount them and don't forget any optics. If you want simple, maybe a daylight spotlight or 2 in clip on holders.. or just look at commercial offerings on Amazon, chances are there are a few pendant light solutions that would work for you.


But the best of luck !
 

jbradt

this is bat country
May 9, 2008
3,197
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48
outback, NY
Real Name
I. P. Daily
Wow. I really appreciate you taking the time to type all that out. I'll have to go back and reread it a couple times to digest it all fully.

Initially, now I'm thinking of doing one of the nutritious aquasoils with a top layer of sand for the substrate. It could look really cool, and seems like the best way to get the desired effect. Also, the light colored sand might make the shrimp easier to see.

I guess I should explain what I mean by "quasi-walstead"... basically I'm trying to use the good ideas from that method to make a tank that will be very low maintenance. Don't get me wrong, I'm a big believer in water changes and will let the nitrate levels guide that end of things. But If I can use the deep bed therory and lots of plants to largely eliminate the need for vaccing the gravel, then that would be a huge plus in my book.

I'm also not planning to stock particularly lightly like a true walstead. I know I want a colony of shrimp. then I'm thinking 8 or 9 CPD's. I'd like to then be able to add a centerpiece fish... preferably a betta (assuming I could find a relatively docile one that would not murder everyone else). But that's still all up in the air. I don't think this will be overstocked by any means, but certainly more heavily stocked than a true walstead tank.

So ideally what I'm trying to do is create an environment where the bed and plants will (for the most part, at least) take care of keeping the water stable, and hopefully eliminate the need to vacuum the bottom of the tank.. The filter (which I should mention I definitely plan to put a sponge pre-filter on) will be there just to ensure stability and for water flow.

So it's all a work in progress in my head, and I appreciate the feedback and suggestions. I'm really looking forward to seeing it slowly come together.

Last but not least, the lighting. I never even thought of the spotlight idea. I was way overthinking. You are a freaking genius! I can just get one of those spotlights and hang it over the tank. I'm embarrassed I didn't think of that... lol.
 

fishorama

AC Members
Jun 28, 2006
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dougall knows waayy more about this stuff than I do. But I'd skip the dwarf hairgrass without co2. I've tried it several times in lower tech tanks (TY plant club). But it doesn't work well, sparse spreading at best for a bit; & got both hair algae & BGA always. Maybe a dwarf chain sword like lilaeopsis novo zeelandia. I was given this & it seems much happier in low tech. It's not a dense groundcover for me. More like wandering sparse clumps but I like it!

I'll think about your tank some more...
 

dougall

...
Mar 29, 2005
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900
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There is lots to take in here.. it might be easier to separate the different things into different, separate threads.

My issue with hairgrass of any old size is getting enough light to the substrate and there being enough nutrients for the roots... I have never had CO2 be needed.

If you have something for the roots, capped regular soil, aquasoil or anything with root tabs you should be fine if you can get the light to it (not gonna talk about algae, I'm not one for tall tanks for the most part, but it probably depends on nutrients in the water and too much light that is needed)

If you just want something as a carpet you can try chain swords (genus Helanthium rather than Echinodorus), crypts like lutea may be small enough, dwarf saggitaria if you can find it (lots are regular sized)

I am tired of scrolling up and down on a phone.. but stockwise, if you want to breed the CPDs, don't keep shrimp as they will scavenge the eggs. If you want a Betta, I wouldn't get emotionally attached to the shrimp they are likely to become expensive food.

And I wouldn't try to cap aquasoil with sand, the sand has smaller grains and will eventually settle on the bottom with aquasoil on top.. so not great unless you like the salt and pepper look. If you want a light color, UNS mae a light brown or tan version of controsoil which is a decent aquasoil.
 

jbradt

this is bat country
May 9, 2008
3,197
13
38
48
outback, NY
Real Name
I. P. Daily
This is all good to know. I still have a lot to think about in the setup. I'll have to do more research on the plants you guys mentioned. I do want to eventually have a pretty good groundcover, but I know that in this tank that's going to take a lot of patience.

It's a good idea to start different threads. I'll keep using this one to brainstorm ideas and get some feedback. This has been really helpful. Thanks, peeps!

I'm not really interested in breeding anything except letting the shrimp build a healthy colony. I'm planning to add them long before any fish and let them build up a good colony. I'm ok with a few being picked off here and there once they're established, but I don't want to add anything that will wipe out, or even put a noticeable dent in the population. I've been looking at ways to build hardscape shrimp caves with holes that are too small for the fish to get in so the shrimp have some safe space.
 

Borrego

AC Members
Jun 30, 2023
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This is all good to know. I still have a lot to think about in the setup. I'll have to do more research on the plants you guys mentioned. I do want to eventually have a pretty good groundcover, but I know that in this tank that's going to take a lot of patience.

It's a good idea to start different threads. I'll keep using this one to brainstorm ideas and get some feedback. This has been really helpful. Thanks, peeps!

I'm not really interested in breeding anything except letting the shrimp build a healthy colony. I'm planning to add them long before any fish and let them build up a good colony. I'm ok with a few being picked off here and there once they're established, but I don't want to add anything that will wipe out, or even put a noticeable dent in the population. I've been looking at ways to build hardscape shrimp caves with holes that are too small for the fish to get in so the shrimp have some safe space.
 
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