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Starting a 40 liter planted tank - Just for the fun of it

by George & John Reclos

Sometimes fish keeping can be extremely rewarding. You can have all the usual goodies that go with it (like learning, decorating your home or just being proud for spawning a particular species) but you also have the ability to create a small water world just for fun. All you need is an empty tank and the mood to do it. Some months ago, our 40 liter tank was not needed any more since all the fishes had been transferred to other more spacious compartments and we felt it was about time to get it out of my office thus yielding some precious space. While discussing it with my son we came up with an idea. Since we had been cutting plants from our discus planted tank which, after donating to whoever wanted them, were simply thrown away.. why not get some livebearers and create an almost "no cost" planted tank ? Well, indeed, why not ? It would be refreshing to keep something else.. apart from cichlids, marine species and catfishes. Something that wouldn't require too much attention but also beautiful and colorful. We started with an assortment of plants with different requirements as far as KH, GH and light are concerned and we were simply waiting to see which of them would grow. The plants that could not adapt to the new situation (KH=8, GH=8, pH=7.7) would be discarded and replaced with the ones who adapted better. The key issue was the light level in the new tank. There is only one 15 W lamp and no carbon dioxide injection (things which existed in the tank those plants came from). Of course, this lamp has a nice reflecting area over it which adds some extra light and the tank is much shorter (35 cm compared to 60 cm for the original tank). Thus, the light difference should have less effect than anticipated.

The plants chosen were Hygrophila difformis, Limnophila sessiliflora, Anubia sp., Hygrophila polysperma, Myriophyllum tuberculatum, Echinodorus ozelot, Crinum sp. (this will have to be removed anyway if it adapts)  and Rotala macrandra. The fish included 4 Xiphophorus variatus (1 male, 3 females and some fry), five Corydoras sterbai and one LDA016 Brown pleco. There are also two populations of snails.. Seachem products are used for fertilization (less than recommended by the manufacturer) while the bottom is (as always) plain sand. We change about 30% of the water every week.

The centerpiece of this small tank is a piece of wine tree wood with two Anubia sp. on it. Since this tank was for our fun only, why not try something new ? We hoped that the Anubia would use the texture of the wine tree wood to their advantage - and they did.

 

Those two small plants were donated by Nikos Mpalaskas with some green algae on their leaves. We cut back the rhizome and then removed the yellow or badly infected leaves. Then we were ready to go. This "masterpiece" was created in January 2003.

The final layout of our Anubia wood. The wine tree wood looks almost black but as you can see in the following pictures it is actually a dark brown wood with a good texture as opposed to the almost smooth bogwood.

In March 2003, more plants have been added. Some fast growers, some red plants (would they survive?) and finally some slow growers (like the Anubia in the foreground)

In early April the plants seem to have adapted - at least they are not dying. In order to help the red plants to keep their color we arranged that the tank received one hour of direct daylight just before sunset. This proved to be the magic recipe since both the Myriophyllum and the Rotala showed a remarkable in crease in their growth rate while the red color stayed there. Sometimes I wonder.. do we really need all those Watts and the carbon dioxide ? 

The tank in early May. As you can see the Myriophyllum is now visible while the green stuff has gone wild. Keep in mind that most of the green plants have been cut back twice during this month. For some reason (we wish we knew what it is) this tank doesn't have even the slightest algae particle in it. If we take into account that we are fighting against algae in all our planted tanks, we keep wondering what keeps it from growing in this particular tank setup. Needless to say, it has become my office's jewel. If you have a tank left somewhere in your home, why don't you give it a try ??

This tank is our small toy. However, to some others it is a great place to live.. see next page for more.

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