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Monster Tank 2 - The Revenge (part II)

by Francesco Zezza

Next comes the aquascaping issue, which needs an introduction.. This tank is scheduled to house – at least one – freshwater stingray in the future. Hence, a lot of open bottom space is needed! At this point I appreciated my idea to create a "river bank" for a number of good reasons.

Roots have been hand collected (I hope I will not have any problem with them: I have never dealt with so big, hand collected, branches in the past… I’ll keep you tuned.) and are placed almost vertically as you can see in the photo above… Of course, all pieces of wood (collected at sea and thus – likely – free of "fresh water parasites") have been cleaned (I AM fussy when I want to be … fussy!), brushed, "scratched", washed, soaked in clear water and, finally, left in the garden (I happen to live in a suburbs of Rome) under pouring rain and shining sun for – at least – two years!!! Before actually putting them in the tank the whole cleaning procedure was repeated in an attempt to disinfect the wood as well as possible. But, of course, a bogwood, branch, root (you may call it as you like) will hardly remain balanced upside down when not "glued" to an actual bank of mud and here comes the trick …

I used two different (and separated) branches to be able to regain even more space once the ray should arrive, by removing only one of them (the one at right when looking at the tank). Since a glass/wood cover has been designed the whole complex was cut to size to fit in. Here is how the final shape looks like (I expect loriicarids to thrive chewing wood, Pterophyllum (Angels) to hide among the roots, while Geophagus crassilabris will shift the sand and the Characins will swim in the open water - there is something for everybody in this aquascape !

The actual position of the wood has – slightly – changed. Sand has not been added at this stage and the plastic sheet seen at bottom is a plastic "bubbled" sheet (of the kind used to pack computers) to prevent direct contact between the decoration elements and the bottom glass. May be it is a "leftover" from my Malawi cichlid tanks - although there are no rocks here - but you know: better safe than sorry!

As you can see in the photo below, the "old tank" has been moved (it is still running) and the new unit (still dry) is placed in its final position (there is sand at the bottom, now). We are getting closer to the finished thing now...

+ Filling the tank and moving elements (techie stuff & aquascape) from the old unit.

One of the key elements in my plan was an almost "zero cycling" start since I can’t stay with the tanks in line for long, therefore :

      1. 50% of the water of the old tank will be moved into the new one. The whole water will be tretaed with generous amounts of conditioner.
      2. Filters will be unplugged (one at each time!!) from the old tank and plugged to the new one in minutes: that’s why tanks are in line…
      3. Fish will move in two (or three) steps to their new destination.

I feel it should work, especially if followed by a week of careful observation and little feeding …

+ Moving fishes from the other tank(s), the "intruders".

Moved fishes (genera printed in bold are wild specimens) will be:

  • Loriicarids: 3 specimens.
  • Other catfishes: 8 specimens.
  • Characins: 5 specimens.
  • Cichlids: 7 specimens (one angel and six Earth-eaters).

Additions:

  • Cichlids: one more Angel (hoping the bigger tank will reduce fights).
  • Cichlids: a Cryptoheros nanoluteus (from Panama) one pair out of the two I got from Juan Miguel Artigas Azas. Fishes stubbornly refuse to breed, by the way !

+ About Cryptoheros (formerly Archocentrus) nanoluteus:

Some F1 specimens were donated to JMAA in Switzerland and were then taken to Mexico. From there – crossing the ocean for the third time – four of them returned to Europe (in my tanks). Despite my best efforts (including a dedicated tank for long periods!) I haven’t been able to breed them and now – I regret to inform – one of the pairs has gone … WHAT A PITY!!!

+ The job is done (how it looks like).

Let’s go step by step: the two tanks (side by side) are working. The new unit uses, at the moment, the fluidized bed filter and one of heaters: that’s why the water is so "cloudy": No mechanical filtration is present in the new tank for now. Water parameters indicate NO nitrites/nitrates and the other values (pH/GH/KH) are a bit too high (a bit alkaline). The chemical play is on the go …

At this point (while the lamps are about to go on) the first group of "explorers" (three Corydoras elegans) is already patrolling the tank with no – at least apparent - signs of stress. The water is "muddy" and dark and looks like the water of muddy creeks surrounding the Rio Orosa. With passing time (and heavy filtration with activated carbon) the whole thing will become more and more clear .. I believe in mimicking the "real thing" but – above all – I want to see what’s going on in my tanks …

TECHIE REMARK: the lower part of the furniture was NOT available at the moment of these pictures (it is scheduled to be added soon ...)

The "muddy" water mentioned earlier is clearly visible in this picture. Tomorrow will be the day:

  • moving the main filter: Eheim unit, with a remarkable quantity of activated carbon in it, to the new tank,
  • moving the main heater,
  • netting and moving fishes.

The week following the fish transfer will be characterized by little feeding, use of bacteria booster products, and massive water changes This should allow water to regaing it’s normal "colour" (actually become colorless or slightly amber because of the presence of tannic acids in it) and keep chemical "spikes" under control. It is evident that we are almost crossing the finish line … From now on, only time will reveal possible mistakes like doing things in a hurry while switching from one tank to the other (which will result in water chemistry related problems), possible troubles with bogwoods (resulting in rotting), fights among fishes etc. I refer to fights because - due to lack of space - I will have to put together two Pterophyllum sp. "Peru" males again. Those two males used to fight in the previous tank. I hope larger quarters will help to overcome this problem …

And here comes the "final show". That’s how the new Amazon tank with its inhabitants looks like! … Enjoy it!!!

The overall view is much better as you can see in the photo above. The water is clear but still shows that "acidic/tannin filled" colour … almost close to what I was looking for, some plants are going to be added soon (Vallisneria gigantea in the right corner opposite to the service area, and Anubia sp. among the branches although I have to admit that I am afriad of the "pruning" activities of my loriicarids … See below a more detailed picture:

At the center of the tank (in what I describe as "open area" you can see one (large) Pterophyllum sp "Peru" while the second one is hidden among the roots, in the foreground you can see a Cryptoheros nanoluteus, the characins are grouped at the left side while the eartheaters (Geophagus crassilabris) are sifting the bottom looking for morsels of food. A last point: if you look carefully at the extreme right of the picture you should be able to see/guess one of the loriicarids. I really like this tank !

IN THE END: I hope you ’ve enjoyed my efforts to focus on this dual target. First to provide a certain environment but without considering it in "absolute" values : see mixing of fishes, and some "dark spots" in my aquascape. Second, to come up with a tank which is correctly set-up, balanced, easy to run and possibly pleasant to look at … This tank can be considered an "upgrade" of the previous one (all in all the only thing that has really changed has been the gross capacity) but all the same it was an easy, quick set up (always keeping finger crossed) which proves once more a rule that should be clear to every one: Biotope tanks (even after the inevitable adaptations and compromises one may have to make to suit his needs) run better! Always try to focus on one "target" in terms of water chemistry, aquascaping and the rest … and go for it. Taking this point as a start, you may go for some "exceptions" (in my case fishes from Panama: C. nanoluteus and G. crassilabris) which have to be carefully selected to match the demands of the rest and thrive in the specific conditions of your tank. Of course, the rule of thumb is to avoid extremes at all costs. This approach has worked for me for too long so I guess you can also use it as a trustworthy guideline.

Last comes a picture of the final result. All the fishes are settled, the plants have been added (Vallisneria and Anubias), all filters are running and water chemistry is within the expected limits. Time has come for me to relax and … enjoy!!!

 + A quick look to technical details/specs.

 Last (but – to me – not least) a complete "specification" table of the new tank. Nothing actually new but – sometimes you have to fix a point or two. Here we go:

Item.

Technical data/needs.

Remarks.

Kind of tank.

All glass.

Glass thickness: 10 mm (all).

Size.

Cm 130*60*60.

European measures (metric).

Gross capacity.

468 lt.

European measures (metric).

Canopy.

Wood, with glass top.

Wax finish, hand made. Glass cover offers the "side effect" of lighting the room hosting the tank.

Furniture.

Wood.

Wax finish, hand made. To be installed as soon as possible.

Stand.

Welded, square, iron beams.

Black painted finish, hand made.

Main heater.

100 watt.

Target temp 25/26° C.

2nd heater.

75 watt.

Target temp 25/26° C.

Lighting.

2* 30 watt lamp.

"daylight time" 11 hours.

Aquascaping.

Bogwood, gravel.

Hand collected bogwood.

Plants.

Anubias sp. (barteri?) and Vallisneria sp. (gigantea?).

Fertilized twice a week. Some concerns for Vallisneria being kept in low light environment.

Scheduled water changes.

90 lt (at least).

European measures (metric). Water change performed every two weeks.

Main filter maintenance.

Cleaning/replacing filter media.

Every three months, or when needed.

Back-up filter maintenace.

Check of actual pump flow, sand refilling.

Every now and then. Sand refilling when needed.

Lamps maintenance.

Replacement.

Scheduled every eight/twelve months.

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