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Some Assembly Required

(a.k.a. The Super Show Tank)

From: booth-at-hplvec.LVLD.HP.COM (George Booth)
Newsgroups: alt.aquaria
Subject: New Plant Tank Series
Date: 11 Oct 91 17:01:33 GMT

This series of postings is a very detailed description of a new plant tank we are setting up. We are calling the tank the "Super Show Tank" or SST for short. For reasons that will become obvious, the series is titled "Some Assembly Required".

The tank was used for some experiments this summer, the results of which have been posted. I have slowly put together the support systems over the last couple of months, experimenting with the best way to assemble each one. The final results are described here.

The tank has now been running for one week with plants and initial algae eating fish. Like Vinny Kutty, I will post updates as new information and experiences become available.

The following will be covered:

  1. Concept
  2. Hardware
  3. Hardware
  4. Chemistry
  5. Plants
  6. Fish
  7. Maintenance
[Editor's note: There are several updates after the initial posts: ]


After our success in the past year with our "Almost Optimum Aquarium", we recently got the urge to go one better. The AOA adheres closely to the concepts presented in The Optimum Aquarium (Horst and Kipper, Dupla Press, 1987). The only deviation was not using substrate heating cables (for cost reasons). Even without the substrate heating, plant growth has been phenomenal and the tank has proved to be a wonderful environment for discus and a school of cardinal tetras.

Although we knew it would be expensive, we decided to set up a new aquarium fully compliant with the Dupla concepts. We have learned quite a few things from our other plant tanks and wanted to try some new ideas. With the new tank and our three other planted show tanks, we will have a full range of aquarium technologies for comparative purposes.

The AOA is a 100 gallon, heavily planted, discus show tank. The tank itself is a 60" long by 18" wide by 20" tall acrylic tank with a custom made oak stand and hood. Filtration is provided by a trickle filter and an Eheim 2217 canister filter. Two Ebo-Jaeger 100 watt heaters keep the water temperature at 83 degrees F. Lighting is supplied by 4 40w flourescent tubes (2 Triton, 1 Phillips 5000K and 1 Actinic). The substrate is 3" of quartz gravel with Duplarit G (laterite) mixed in the lower 1/3 (there is no provision for water movement in the substrate). The tank has an automated CO2 injection system. Dupla products are used to provide proper water chemistry and plant nutrients.

The AOA is heavily planted with various Echinodorus, Anubia and Ludwigia along with other assorted plants for texture and color contrast. An E. bleheri "owns" about 1/3 the tank and has spread from a single medium size plant into 3 enormous plants. The tank currently supports 8 medium to full grown discus, a school of 27 cardinal tetras and some assorted corys and algae consumers.

Besides the AOA, we have an 85 gallon Melanotaniea sp. tank (Australian and New Guinea Rainbowfish) which is also heavily planted. The tank and stand are almost twins to the AOA except the tank is 2" shorter. Filtration is by an undergravel filter (UGF) with 2 powerheads, supplemented by an Eheim 2217 canister fitler. Ebo-Jaeger heaters maintain this tank at 76 degrees F. Lighting is supplied by 4 40w flourescent tubes (3 Triton, 1 Philips 5000K). The subtrate is 2.5" of plain quartz gravel with no additives. The tank has a manual CO2 injection system. The same Dupla products used in the AOA are used here.

The Rainbow tank is planted with a mixture of plants including Anubias, Hygrophila, Bacopa and Crypts. It supports 16 full grown Rainbows and a assortment of corys and algae eaters.

The third tank is a very traditional 55 gallon tank, moderately planted and providing a home for 3 pairs of Angelfish and assorted maintanance fish. This tank has UGF supplemented by an Eheim 2213 filter. It is kept at 78 degrees. No CO2 injection is used in this tank. It is planted with Echinodorus and other odss and ends.

Experience with these aquaria gave us some ideas of what we wanted to incorproate into our new "Super Show Tank" or SST. Our current large tanks are very traditional in appearance with full hoods enclosing flourescent lights Over the years we have have always been "WOWed" when we lifted the hood for feeding or maintanance and saw the plants from the top. Ludwigia looks especially nice when it grows along the top of the tank. We have also seen plant tanks in local stores that had metal halide halide lights and really liked the brightness, color rendition and shadow effects that resulted. For our new tank, we decided to have an open top with suspended metal halide lighting.

The suspended lighting also allows us to try out the concept of having house plants on a shelf behind the tank. We have heard that philedendron roots in the water will help keep nitrates under control. We will be able to test this concept in the SST.

Height has always been a problem with the previous tanks. Twenty inches or less just never seemed to be quite high enough to really show off our plants to advantage. When shopping for tanks, we found that 24" was about as high as we could go and still have reasonable access for plant maintance. Both my wife and I are tall, but anything over 24" would mean reaching into the tank up to our shoulders. This didn't sound appealing!

Having an engineer in the family means the technical equipment also has to be of "show" quality. Cabinet lights, electrical systems and plumbing would to be well designed and look professionally done.

This tank should be able to support even the most "difficult" of plants if the substrate heating lives up to its claims. We will try some of the plants we have shied away from in the past. We especially hope to be able to support Barclaya longifolia in this tank. It will be a discus and dwarf cichlid tank, requiring higher temperatures. This would seem to rule out some plants, but we have found many plants that supposedly don't like high tempertures will thrive in the AOA.

[Continue to part 2 or up to contents.]
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