180 L Planted Aquarium Journal

Through building and maintaining beautiful nature aquaria people re-learn the intricate connections between forms of life, plants, fish, microorganism and humans. Riches and beauty come from harmony, from balance. Aquaria are great teachers of this truth. Takashi Amano


The END of my 180 L tank and the New beginning.

I introduced this interesting looking fan shrimp about a month ago. After not having seen it for 3 weeks, I thought it had died. But then 4 days ago after a serious water change it appeared nice and shiny, filtrating water for food. Am I happy about it??? Well, you bet I am :-)
This exemplar is a 4cm female (males have large front legs).

I decided to dismantle this aquarium of mine and start with new fish, plants and over all lay-out, aquascape. I am still thinking what to do with my SAEs, Otos and shrimps since they are something I don't wanna part with (my lovely algae eating army).
I have a very nasty green surface algae slime for a month now, and it doesn't seem to be leaving, no matter how many times I clean it. I believe the Amazon Sword is to be blamed for this, or better me, that use to prune it so that stalks would be left at about 3-4cm to rot and release green slime. That's it, no more Amazon Sword for me, thanks ;-)

I will lock this blog and start another one. Thanks for being around.

Kind regards, Dusko.
Photos by Dusko Bojic.


Back to the DIY CO2 :-)

Just for the record, I went back to the DIY Yest CO2. Its been about 4 month since I gave up on CO2 and the plants were doing fine but the leaves don't really look that nice. I had a problem with the Amazon Sword as well, leaves going bad in short time. This plant definitely needs more ground fertilisers, so I introduced lots of Iron rich Amtra balls. I will freez some potting soil together with some aquarium peat granules, so it is easy to be placed under the plant, once it is in an ice cube. Approx. month ago I lost one of my Angels. The female brutally killed the male one. Yeah, women ;-) Just joking.
I feel like changing my live stock. I will return my Angel and the 11 Cardinals to my LFS and get some Denisonii barbs instead.
Will keep this blog updated.


In just ten days ...

10 days is all Hygrophila polysperma needs to get to the surface. Few more days and it will over-run the left side of the tank.
Big changes; I stopped using CO2 Yeast DIY !!! Why? I would like my plants to grow slower, because of fertilising. I will change 25% of water every month now, and add 10ml of each PMDD + 10ml of TMG for Iron.
The real reason for doing this are the Amano shrimps. I will try to breed and raise them again, and fertilisers contain copper that can accumulate after some time and effect the shrimps.
Now I am better prepared for breeding this fantastic shrimp! I collected all I need. 3 of my Amanos are carrying eggs, so all I have to do is wait for about 20 days, to put them into the hatching tank. More info on Caridina japonica breeding Vol.2


New Aquascape :-) the 7th month

After approximately 7 month I decided to change the aquascape a little bit. Yes, Bacopa left the family together with the Alternanthera reineckii "roseafolia" . I added lots of rocks that I collected few weeks ago in Denmark.
Cardinal Tetras are very happy with this change I can tell. They shoal over the dark, newly added, gravel at all times. With the light gravel they would rather hide amongst the plants, but now they feel more secure I would say. It is lovely seeing them shoal like that.
I will plant some Java Moss soon beside the stone line, to get a more natural feel. At the moment I will try to keep my remaining plants happy so they can keep the water quality high.
Photos by Dusko Bojic.


Something worth mentioning

There is something I would like to share with all of you and especially with you that keep Angelfish. This happened approx. two moth ago. Every morning, after I make my self a tea, I go to the aquarium to check is everything OK and fish are happy. What I found out that morning was not pleasing at all. One of my Angels had severely damaged Dorsal fin. Two fin rays were split and the third one on the way. I thought it's the worst, the Fin Rot! But that disease looks different. Then I thought that this split fins are caused by poor diet...but wait a minute...I feed them twice a day with different type of food.
The second day, I woke up and ran out of the bed straight to the aquarium to check on my sick pet. The fin was half healed as you can compare on the photos. I was shocked, in the nice way of course.

The third day, the fin was almost totally healed. It is amazing how fast fish fins can regenerate. In just three days! The 4th day you couldn't tell which of my two Golden Angels were the damaged one :-)
The possible cause was probably moving through the vegetation and the fish tried to go backwards or something similar... Any way everything ended up fine.

Photos by Dusko Bojic


2 weeks after PMDD Ferts

This is the way my Hygro polysperma looked approx 3 month ago. Small leaves indicates nitrogen deficiency. The lower leaves started developing black holes and after that, falling off. Today my Hygro looks much better, but the leaves are huge. They are at least 3 times bigger than they were before. The injected CO2 and PMDD fertilisation must be doing great job. Yes, it is true that plants can grow without extra CO2, but do grow much nicer if added.
Photos by Dusko Bojic.


5th month; New look.

I decided to take out all the Water Sprite since it was up-taking all the nutrients not leaving much for the rest of my plant family. As you can see I changed the aquascape a bit. The right corner is now planted with Amazon Sword at the back, covering the filter box, in front there is Java Fern attached to wood and some Anubias nana scattered around the tank . I moved the Bacopa to the back left, beside the Hygro polysperma. This aquascape is going to change in two month time. I will plant some Chain Sword as a foreground plant. I am fertilising the tank with PMDD (Poor Mans Dosing Drops). KNO3, KH2PO4 and NutriSI mikro. I connected two DIY Yeast CO2 bottles to my filter outlet. I am still dosing TMG for Iron. I hope my plants will grow lush and healthy from now on.

Photos by Dusko Bojic.


NitrAte (NO3-) deficiency !!!

Approximately 3 month after the first plants were added, I experienced something called the nitrAte deficiency. Almost all of my plants started developing yellow leaves with burned-like holes. My mistake was not having the nitrAte test kit!!! The photo above shows the Water sprite (C. Thalictroides) reaction to insufficient NO3-. It starts dying off. The leaves develop blackish color and pieces start falling off. This plant needs lots of nitrogen. It is a fast grower.

Next photo shows the Hygro spp. having yellow lower leaves with black pin holes. The leaves start falling off one by one in a 3 weeks period.

The last photo shows Alternanthera reineckii "roseafolia" lower leaf loosing the color and top of the leaf dying off. These are all signs of nitrogen deficiency.

I started dosing NO3- last week. I found it sold as Salpeter. It is not the recommended KNO3 (potassium nitrate) but NaNO3 (Sodium nitrate). My nitrAte levels went from 0 to 20ppm and my plants are already improving. The water sprite is developing beautiful green leaves and they stay green :-). Hygros are developing new side shots.

One more update; I started adding liquid fertiliser 8 weeks after the plants were added which was a mistake. I should start adding it two weeks after the plants showed that they are thriving.

I upgraded my CO2 system into the DIY Yeast Reactor, and is running since the beginning of May 2006. Now with right NO3- levels and moderate lights and CO2 my plants should see better days.

BTW my Caridina japonica released the eggs and I didn't witness that magnificent moment. The fish consumed it before I could spot them. Now I have 3 more Amanos carrying eggs. I will soon buy a small 28 liter aquarium where I will try to raise the Caridina japonica larvae. Wish me good luck, since it is not easy to breed this shrimp. They need specific salinity for certain number of days which can be very tricky.

Photos by Dusko Bojic.


The 2nd Month

I discovered today, that I have a pregnant Caridina japonica inside my tank. This is my first experience with it. As you can see on this photo, the eggs are held within the females pleopods. The larvae should hatch in about 28 days. I am not sure if my tank water is of the right range for them. Knowing that they like to hatch in brackish water, I believe all the larvae will...well, die.
Today I started adding liquid fertiliser without phosphates and nitrates, the Tropica Master Grow. I added only the half of the recommended dose. Will add it every week after the water change.


The 51st day

Today I added aquarium peat to the filter. The pH is around 7.8 so I am hoping to get it down a bit. There are already two big pieces of bog-wood inside so with the peat help it should go down to pH7.6 which would be very good for the fish I am keeping. All inhabitants are swimming/eating/shoaling readily and they don't show any signs of weakness. Plants are growing fine and fast. There are a few things to mention though.
I noticed Cardinal Tetras nipping Angels fins! Not often, only when very hungry I guess (the time before feeding). I can't see any fin damage. The Angels and Cardinals are trying to nip the Amano shrimps, but nothing serious happens (again before feeding time). The bigger SAE bullys the smaller one, but again, no one gets hurt at the end. Otos are very active in search for algae, they clean all the leaves and bog-wood. I can't see any snails, but do see gravel moving, which is a good indicator of healthy snail population. I found only one snail so far inside the filter box.
I am adding Tropica Master Grow next week because the Cardemine lyrata is showing yellow leaves.
Photo by Dusko Bojic


The 36th day

Its been 5 days since some of my "removed" fish showed signs of sickness. There are no signs that the rest of the inhabitants are affected. They are all eating readily & shoaling together. Plants are thriving and they are showing no signs of , nutrient or trace elements, deficiency.
I will start adding liquid fertiliser at the end of March. It is probably gonna be the Tropica Master Grow that has no phosphates. In a next few days I will add some aquarium peat to the filter. It is a good addition to a planted tank that has Tetras, Angels, Otos, SAE & Amano shrimps. So far so good.

Photo by Dusko Bojic


The 33rd day

I fed the algae eaters with blanched zucchini. The bigger Oto was eating it for a while but the SAE seem to be more interested in it later on. I am not sure for how long you should boil the zucchini. I did it for a minute or so. I will leave it in till tomorrow morning. Let the snails have a bit.
I read a lot of aquarium catastrophe stories and I was preparing my self for this 180 liter tank to be the opposite... the perfect habitat for my plants and fish. One of my Otos was euthanized cause it was getting some strange white patches on its body. This morning I discovered one of my Cardinals having golden patches, over the blue line only! Now, that is strange! My pet shop said that that kind of Velvet disease you can find only in brackish waters and that the freshwater velvet is white. It is true that one of my Angels and my SAEs are scratching against plants and driftwood which is a syndrome for this disease. The good thing is that the parasite dies in 24 hours if not inside the fish and that it needs lights to make chlorophyll. None of my other fish is having any dusty patches on their bodies. I euthanized the affected Cardinal. I don't have money nor space to have a quarantine tank. Sad but true. I removed the light reflectors to reduce the light and will have lights for only 10 hours. The temperature is 27-28'C which helps. The water is OK. The diet is fine. With all this the fish might resist the parasite, with a strong immune system. I can't use medication because I don't have extra place to move out the SAE, Otos and Amano shrimps. They can't survive the medication. I am sure that I introduced the Velvet with the fish. Any way, hope that this will pass away without any major casualties. Will know in a few days.
I don't want my story to be the catastrophe one.

Photo by Dusko Bojic


The 31st day

At feeding time the aquarium gets pretty busy. The Angels and the Cardinals are the aggressive eaters. The SAE, Otos & Amano shrips are scavenging at the bottom. The food they are eating at this photo is a spirulina tablet. I do have one problem, or better again, a have doubts about how to feed the Angelfish. Whatever I put in the aquarium they will eat no matter is it flake, live or tablet food. I don't feed much. Even though they seem to get the most of it, and as you can see on the photo they do develop after the feeding big, round stomach. I am not sure what should I do. The only way is to feed a very little amount few times a day so they have time to digest it. They do eat the Cardemine lyrata, Bacopa australis & Egeria densa which is very good for their healthy diet. Bellies usually go away after half an hour or so.

One of my Otos were removed today from the tank and euthanized. Since the day I added it to the aquarium it was showing weak behaviour; not eating, swimming slowly, wobbly and at 45 degrees and developing white spots like the one shown on the photo. This morning I noticed two more spots on its face. Its stomach was completely fallen in showing that its not eating at all. The other two Otos are very active, especially when feeding time. One of my Angels and one of my SAE were scratching them selves against the plants and gravel. I am hoping that the temperature ( 28'C ), good diet and good water quality will stop this possible ICH break-out. I am not happy about the idea to treat my tank with medication. It was a mistake keeping the weak Oto for so long at the first place.
Photos by Dusko Bojic


The 30th day

I placed the second bog-wood today. It is a bit too dark but the Otos seem to like it. I am planning to break down the big contrast between the bog-wood and the white gravel by adding some carpet plants and by attaching some plants to the wood. I already attached some Java moss ( Vesicularia dubyana ) on to it. The ammonia and nitrite are zero. There are no signs of algae existing which makes me a little worried. I want to have some algae in the tank as a food supplement for the Otos. They are the only fish that does not eat the food I give them. I feed the spirulina after the light but the Angels find it first and of course eliminate it :) . Otos still look healthy except the smaller one that was skinny when I bought it. All in all the aquarium looks healthy.


The 25th day

The aquarium and its inhabitants are doing fine. The water chemistry is OK and the animal world is always in search for food. I am trying not to over-feed them; and to have all the food eaten in a few minutes I first soak it in a bit of aquarium water and then put it in so it sinks immediately. Otherwise the food would stay on the surface for too long and probably half of it would end up inside the filter.
I feed the fish twice a day, every day except Sundays when they fast. First meal is the flake/chips/tablets. The second I feed with freeze-dried Tubifex, Artemia & Bloodworm. Every Saturday I give them one Spirulina tablet after the lights are out. I break it in 4 pieces and stick it on the glass.
I reduced CO2 tablets to two per week. Monday & Friday.
One of my Amano shrimps shed its skin as you can see on this photo. They do that to make more space for their growing body.
Other than that everything seem to be fine, except one of my Cardinals is missing.

Photos by Dusko Bojic


The 22nd day

This is the day when 14 Cardinal Tetras joined my aquarium family. They are shoaling together. Their red bellies are a bit pale. Hoping that will improve with right diet and low pH. At the moment my pH is 7,8. It raised, last time it was showing pH 7,5. Can't wait for the second bog-wood to be ready for the aquarium to lower the pH. The bog-wood is still leaking tannins so I am keeping it in a water bucket for two weeks. It is hell, photographing Cardinals ! I made around 70 shots but I could only use a few.
Photos by Dusko Bojic


The 21st day

The tank is maturing very well. Algae eaters are keeping algae low. The plants are growing and some of them like the Rosanervig are doing better since the fish were introduced. Their waste is more than welcome. Ammonia and nitrite are zero and tomorrow I am adding the last group of fish. I decided to buy 15 Cardinal Tetras. Since all the fish I have at the moment are juvenile that will not be a problem. Once they reach the full size I will get a new tank. I took the Zosterifolia out of the tank since it is not improving. I got a very nice Bog-wood yesterday that is soaking in the water for a week or so. I will put it at the right side in front of the Thalictroides ( Water Sprite ).
In general, the fish is doing fine. The Angels are feeding readily on tablet food, young plant shots and believe it or not... the Hair Algae !!! As you can see on this photo they are most of the time picking on food that is trapped in the gravel which is a healthy behaviour.
Sometimes they are resting in the shadow between plants. They do feel much safer in a fully planted aquariums. They have several retreats.
The rest of the time they shoal together in the mid-water. They look very gracious when moving around the tank.

All photos made by Dusko Bojic


The 19th day

I added today two, 5 cm long, Golden Angelfish. They are absolutely adorable. I did not feed them today. They do eat the young shots of my Bacopa australis and old leaves of the Cardamine lyrata. I added also 5 Amano shrimps. They are feeding on algae all the time. Busy eaters and fast swimmers.

Photos by Dusko Bojic


The 16th day

Today I took cuttings from the H. polysperma and planted them beside Egeria densa. As well as that I pruned the Bacopa australis and cut of the old leaves covered in Brush algae. I had to take out of the tank the H. angustifolia since it was melting. I am not sure why this plant is melting on me. Angustifolia should be fast growing and easy to care for. Any way, no more angustifolia!
Beside Brush algae I have a few more to present :
The following photo shows Hair algae that grows around the plant base and slow-growing leaves. It forms matted clumps. Strands can reach around 6 cm in length. I removed it with my fingers and by twirling the toothbrush around it ( bought a new one just for this purpose ). This algae is a good food supplement for fish but can be a problem if left unchecked. I still don't see my 3-4 cm SAE eating it. : ) The Thread algae grows thin and long, up to 30 cm. You can clean it the same way as the Hair algae. SAE likes to eat this alage as well as the Brush algae. Thread algae indicates an excess of iron.My aquarium inhabitants look very happy so far. I have seen 7 Malaysian Trumpet Snails today, eating the debris of the gravel. Sometimes it is possible to see small Trumpets on the glass that are white colored. Snails stay on the lower tank level which indicates a good water quality. When water quality is bad its been known that they head towards the water surface in large groups. The two Siamese Algae Eaters are most of the time feeding on algae together but resting separately. This youngster chose the drift wood as it's resting place. This fish is a very active swimmer and is a joy to watch. Can't wait to see them a bit bigger cause their bodies then look much stronger and they get that nice torpedo shape.
My Otos are getting more and more comfortable with plants. In the first two days they would hang on the aquarium glass all the time. They look much better when eating or resting on plant leaves. They do clean the leaf very good. I give them 10 out of 10 !!!
In two days if the ammonia and nitrite stay zero, since my SAE are very small, I am adding 5 Amano shrimps. Different algae eaters have different eating patterns. The more algae eaters the less algae. Again, NO FEEDING !!! I let them feed on the minor algae that are aways present in healthy planted aquariums.

Photos made by Dusko Bojic


The 14th day

By adding this beautiful photo background the aquarium got its visual depth. It created an illusion of a blue-grey stone bank. The aquarium photos look now much better against this dark background. I am very happy with the created effect. The Siamese Algae Eaters are adapting well to this new environment and are shoaling together while grazing on algae. Two of the Oto's are shoaling together and eating algae of the glass. The third one is a loner preferring the algae of the plant leaves. I have some beard and brown algae appearing all over the lower leaves of Hygrophila spp., Bacopa australis & drift wood. I will try to brush them off tomorrow and take some of the old leaves off to promote the growth of young shots. Excess iron causes this problem. The water parameters are : pH 7,5 temperature 26-28'C KH 6 GH 8
No sign of ammonia or nitrite.


The 13th day

Since the plants are thriving, ammonia & nitrite are zero and there is some algae appearing I decided to add the first few algae eating fish. I added two 3cm long Siamese Algae Eaters & three OTO's.
I decided to plant a bit more. I added to the "plant family" a gorgeous looking Egeria densa ( dark tall plant on the left ). But the reason for choosing this plant was not of the decorative but more of the practical nature. As you might know that Egeria densa secretes antibiotic substances which can help prevent blue-green algae that are known as Cyanobacteria and can be very unpleasant for plants & fish.
Thanks to the DIY reflectors the plant growth is significant. H. Zosterifolia is the only plant that is holding back & today I took it from the left corner where I planted instead the Egeria & placed it in front of the Thalictroides. I cut of all the old leaves & left only the young shots with roots. Will give it one more week. Few hours before adding the fish I made a 25% water change & conditioned it with Aqua Safe from Tetra.


The 10th day

In just two days the Thalictroides ( Water Sprite ), on the right tank side, grew up so much you can tell by compering with the 8th day photo. It is an incredible plant !!! It is a perfect starter plant. My Polysperma is growing fast enough but not as fast as Thalictroides. Thanks to this plant I will be able to start adding algae eating fish next week. The plant is an excellent nutrition absorber, which means no ammonia.
I put the light reflectors so you can notice the difference in photos. With reflectors the lights perform 100%.