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Build Thread 32 Gallon Dutch Corner

LRJ

Community Member
Joined
Nov 6, 2022
Messages
45
Reaction score
129
Location
Valdosta, GA
Hello All! I saw GreggZ post about this website on one of the Facebook groups and figured I'd come start a journal over here and join the conversation.

Specs
  • Dimensions: W24 x D18 x H18 (in)
  • Eheim Pro Ultra G90 w/surface skimming intake
  • Pressurized CO2 via inline diffuser
  • 6 x 24W T5Ho
  • 3 mm river gravel
This tank has been set up since 2015 and has gone through many iterations. I briefly tore it down in 2020 in anticipation of completing a 125 gallon build I had been working on. Here is a photo of the tank not long before I tore it down.

20190319_151703.jpg

Ultimately, I resurrected it when progress on the 125 stalled due to the pandemic and responsibilities at home. Since that time, the tank has essentially been existing in the background as a low tech set up without much thought given to it: sponge filter, in-tank ceramic diffuser, osmocote balls, little no water column dosing, unscaped.

Fast forward a couple of years, and I now have enough time to be engaged in the hobby again and ramp this tank back up. I started preparing for this over this past summer by making some modifications to the build. I wanted a glass lid to limit evaporation and keep fish from jumping. I re-purposed the douglas fir from the enclosure pictured above and used it to make a lid with openings for the filter inflow and outflow and a lip to hold a sheet of glass. I am very happy with the way it turned out.

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I also made some changes underneath the tank. I took a piece of white oak plywood Ieft over from the 125 build and installed a panel to hold electronic equipment. The open space on the electronics wall is where I plan to put a controller. I purchased a GHL ProfiLux Mini Wifi for the 125 that has been sitting in the box, so figured why not put it on this tank in the meantime. I also installed a proper mount to hold the CO2 cylinder upright and secure.

20221102_095948.jpg

For aesthetics and to keep the kids out, I made some panels to hide the equipment under the stand. I would have loved to have used douglas fir for this, but couldn't justify spending a couple hundred dollars to buy a sheet when I still had extra white oak plywood leftover from the 125 build. My wife doesn't care for the two-tone look, but I don't mind it too much.

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There isn't much to show in terms of the actual tank yet. Most of the plants are still growing out or converting over from emersed form, so I'll save tank shots for a later date. The plants I currently have in the tank are Dutch staples:
  • vallisneria
  • hygrophila difformis
  • green myrio
  • crypt wendtii tropica
  • bacopa caroliniana
  • red tiger lotus
  • ludwigia ovalis
  • cardamine lyrata
  • java fern mini trident
  • mini christmas moss
  • fissidens fontanus
The goals for this tank are:
  1. Dutch it up!
  2. Save time where I can. For now I'm buying premade ferts and mix for reconstituting RODI water and keeping light around medium intensity to make plant growth more manageable.
 
Great opening post and good to see you here my friend.

Based on the plant growing skills you have demonstrated over the years I am really looking forward to seeing where this goes!

And I love the pic of the old Dutch layout. It was always one of my favorites and good to see it again.
 
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Welcome and thank you so much for sharing your beautiful aquascape. I love it!

I have so many questions/comments:
  1. Is your substrate inert?
  2. Do you find the glass to lower your light's intensity on the plants? I've debated this quite a bit and finally just added a mesh top and an ATO
  3. Your woodworking skills are top notch. Love the metal wood combination.
  4. How did you do the moss wall? It's amazing that you have such diverse plants and they all look healthy with no algae in sight.
  5. Love how you tagged everything to make your life easier. A sticky note with the last time you cleaned the filter! Genius! Why didn't I think of that?
  6. How are you going to use your controller? I'm using an Apex.
  7. What do you think of the Eheim?
Thanks for joining and I look forward to seeing what you do with this.
 
Welcome and thank you so much for sharing your beautiful aquascape. I love it!

I have so many questions/comments:
  1. Is your substrate inert?
  2. Do you find the glass to lower your light's intensity on the plants? I've debated this quite a bit and finally just added a mesh top and an ATO
  3. Your woodworking skills are top notch. Love the metal wood combination.
  4. How did you do the moss wall? It's amazing that you have such diverse plants and they all look healthy with no algae in sight.
  5. Love how you tagged everything to make your life easier. A sticky note with the last time you cleaned the filter! Genius! Why didn't I think of that?
  6. How are you going to use your controller? I'm using an Apex.
  7. What do you think of the Eheim?
Thanks for joining and I look forward to seeing what you do with this.
Hi Art,

Thank you! Sorry it's taken me so long to respond.

You ask some great questions. I'll do my best to answer them. But before I do, let me say thank you for establishing this community! I look forward to watching it grow.
  1. Is your substrate inert? I don't think it is. I assumed and hoped it would be, because it's the Oliver Knott Aqua Natural gravel that's meant for planted aquariums. However, my pH consistently rises throughout the week after the water change. Only thing I can think is that the substrate is adding KH. I'd be curious whether anyone has any alternative thoughts or similar experiences with this gravel.
  2. Do you find the glass to lower your light's intensity on the plants? I've debated this quite a bit and finally just added a mesh top and an ATO I'm not sure how much the glass affects the light intensity. When I get a chance I will take some PAR measurements. In my case it doesn't matter much though. The tank being only 18" deep, the six T5s are more than enough. Currently I am running the ATI fixture at a maximum of 40% intensity, and that is enough to provide medium light. I would guess 70 PAR at the substrate with the glass lid on.
  3. Your woodworking skills are top notch. Love the metal wood combination. Thank you! As far as woodworking goes, I have improved a lot since I first started. I really don't have advanced woodworking skills, but I've learned how to do a handful of simple things pretty well with the tools I have.
  4. How did you do the moss wall? It's amazing that you have such diverse plants and they all look healthy with no algae in sight. Well, I think there's always some algae if you look close enough! :D But thank you. For the moss wall, I used several panels of stainless steel mesh. I spread a thin layer (ideally one frond deep) of moss across an entire panel and then I take clear plastic mesh (the kind used to make mesh aquarium lids) and stretch it over the steel mesh to hold the moss in place. It works very well and is quick; much faster than messing with fishing line or thread.
  5. Love how you tagged everything to make your life easier. A sticky note with the last time you cleaned the filter! Genius! Why didn't I think of that? Yes, the tagging has been helpful. I didn't always do that, but one of my goals with restarting this tank was to make life easy for myself and save time wherever possible.
  6. How are you going to use your controller? I'm using an Apex. Mainly I was going to use the controller for CO2, but with the substrate potentially not being inert I am reluctant to do that now. I am not 100% sure at this point. Eventually, I plan on setting up a bigger tank, and I will use the controller for CO2 and dimming the lights.
  7. What do you think of the Eheim? I like the Eheim quite a bit. I think it's a good filter for this tank. I have had this filter running almost continuously since 2014, and it still operates well. I do think it needs an O-ring replaced now, because I had it sitting for a while before ramping this tank back up. No big deal though. That said, I don't have anything to compare it with. I have always used Eheim canisters. When I finally get my big tank set up, I may try a Fluval FX6.
Plants are finally starting to fill in some, so I will share a few pics of the tank itself.

20221123_163747.jpg

I'm nature style trimming the ludwigia ovalis in the corner, because I think it will work best for that location and the look I want to achieve. Everything else is getting tops replanted. The bacopa caroliniana has not been trimmed yet. Still only has about 3 inches of submersed growth. Vallisneria isn't very happy. I'm going to start adding some GH and see whether that helps. Up to this point I've been using pure RO/DI. You want algae, check out the BBA on the driftwood. Thankfully it's not anywhere else...yet.

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Love the douglas fir pieces on the lid and stand, they are so beautiful! Might wanna spot dose some hydrogen peroxide on the BBA though
 
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Love the douglas fir pieces on the lid and stand, they are so beautiful! Might wanna spot dose some hydrogen peroxide on the BBA though
Thanks! Yeah, I probably should hit the bba. Honestly though, it doesn't bother me that much when it's just on the wood.
 
Leaving town in a couple days and won't be back until the new year. Tank won't receive any ferts or feeding while I'm gone. Here's the state of the tank after today's water change. I'll post another one when I get back for growth comparison.

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Post-vaction update. The tank was left alone for four weeks while I was out of town over the holidays. It received no ferts, but had CO2 the whole time.

When I returned, two of the ATI fixture bulbs were out. These two bulbs are wired to a ballast that I just replaced. The bulbs and ballast are fine, so I think there's something else going on with the fixture, maybe a relay going bad. I've managed to get all bulbs working again for now, but the tank was operating with 2/3 normal light for some amount of time.

All considered, plants are still pretty healthy overall. The tank was very overgrown of course, as you can see from this shot of the surface.

20230114_171151.jpg

The lower parts of the moss walls got completely shaded and died, so I pulled them out to re-do them. I plan to get them back in the tank some time this week.

Below is a pic of the tank tonight after trim and water change. The bacopa in the left corner is all bent over from trying to reach for light from under the surface overgrowth. Really tough to get any sort of neat grouping when it's like that. It will straighten out some now that it has access to overhead light, and then I'll re-plant the group. Despite being a classic Dutch style plant, I find it a bit of a pain in the ass to scape with. May look for something else for that corner.

20230114_204913.jpg
 
Wow 4 weeks no ferts and lower light.

I'd say the tank did way better than I would expect. There must some lessons in there somewhere??
Greggz, that's a good point. Probably there are some lessons. In terms of why the tank didn't suffer too much, I have a few thoughts.

1. CO2 was steady the whole time. I swapped in a full cylinder before leaving. If CO2 went out I'm sure the results would have been much worse.

2. The two bulbs going out may have actually been beneficial. Slower growth probably helped the water column ferts and plant reserves last longer in the absence of dosing.

3. The lid limited total evaporation to just a couple inches. Spray bar holes were still below the water line when I returned. I expect this helped keep tank parameters relatively stable.

4. The tank's robustness to neglect over the four weeks underscores something that is good to be reminded of, which is that our plants and aquarium ecosystems often operate on a longer timeline than what we perceive. I see this with beginners especially, but it's easy for experienced hobbyists to forget as well. We make a change and expect to see results quickly, or we think that the initial changes we observe are the new equilibrium when really they're transitory. The timeline is inversely proportional to the amount of light. My tank only had 70-80 PAR at the substrate even before the bulbs went out, so things were probably moving pretty slowly. A well balanced tank with relatively low light and healthy plants can apparently cruise without ferts for longer than we'd think.

5. Also worth pointing out that none of these plants in my aquarium are considered demanding. Generally speaking, they are some of the most robust species in the hobby.

I'd be curious to hear your or anyone else's thoughts as well.
 
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We make a change and expect to see results quickly, or we think that the initial changes we observe are the new equilibrium when really they're transitory. The timeline is inversely proportional to the amount of light. My tank only had 70-80 PAR at the substrate even before the bulbs went out, so things were probably moving pretty slowly. A well balanced tank with relatively low light and healthy plants can apparently cruise without ferts for longer than we'd think.
Yep well said and that's what I was thinking, especially about the light levels. I am sure it was likely a blessing that light level was low. And I agree the type of plants make a big difference. Some light hungry plants will get very weak with low light, and will spend all their energy trying to get closer to the light. This results in increased spacing between nodes, thinner weaker stems, and smaller heads.

Also a great point about observing change in a tank. Patience is a real virtue in this hobby. If you don't have it someone can end up changing so many things at once that they never understand the effect of anything. The whack-a-mole approach.

So if lower light is easier what do you give up? I see it in what looks like some type of Ludwigia on the right side of the top down picture. Loss of color. I am guessing that Ludwigia is capable of much more color at higher light levels?

Of course if you use lots of plants that are prewired to be colorful at any light level like the crypt and red Lotus like you are using keeping it low energy might be a good choice for many.
 
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Yep well said and that's what I was thinking, especially about the light levels. I am sure it was likely a blessing that light level was low. And I agree the type of plants make a big difference. Some light hungry plants will get very weak with low light, and will spend all their energy trying to get closer to the light. This results in increased spacing between nodes, thinner weaker stems, and smaller heads.

Also a great point about observing change in a tank. Patience is a real virtue in this hobby. If you don't have it someone can end up changing so many things at once that they never understand the effect of anything. The whack-a-mole approach.

So if lower light is easier what do you give up? I see it in what looks like some type of Ludwigia on the right side of the top down picture. Loss of color. I am guessing that Ludwigia is capable of much more color at higher light levels?

Of course if you use lots of plants that are prewired to be colorful at any light level like the crypt and red Lotus like you are using keeping it low energy might be a good choice for many.
Yes, you are correct about the Ludwigia ovalis. Can definitely get a much more pink/orange color under higher light. That's the tradeoff with lower light, and I guess less compact growth and a narrower range of plants that can be grown attractively. As you point out, I've intentionally chosen these plants for the lower light, lower maintenance setup. It's all I can manage right now with limited time for the hobby.
 
As you point out, I've intentionally chosen these plants for the lower light, lower maintenance setup. It's all I can manage right now with limited time for the hobby.
I get that. As you know, a high light tank full of fast growers is a real commitment.

In my view this is a great example of a low/medium energy tank that looks healthy and beautiful. For many this would be a great example to follow.

And I have to say I am glad to see you back. How long before you get the itch to turn up the energy again?
 
I get that. As you know, a high light tank full of fast growers is a real commitment.

In my view this is a great example of a low/medium energy tank that looks healthy and beautiful. For many this would be a great example to follow.

And I have to say I am glad to see you back. How long before you get the itch to turn up the energy again?
Thanks. It's good to be back. As far as turning up the energy, I'm not sure...

My main interest in the hobby for a while now is the classic Dutch style of aquascaping represented in the NBAT competition. That's the sort of tank I want to create.

I suspect that the typical level of light in a classic Dutch tank is closer to medium-high than very high, but I could be wrong. Vin or Joe probably know for sure. But definitely, the ratio of green plants to red plants is higher than what I think a lot of people realize, and you don't often see the ultra vibrant, fluorescent colors that require ultra high light to achieve.

All that to say that medium-high light may be perfectly suitable for my current goals of running a classic Dutch style tank. Once I have more time, when my youngest gets a little older, I think I'm more likely to invest that extra time into finishing the 125 build and operating a bigger tank, rather than a higher energy tank.
 
Thanks. It's good to be back. As far as turning up the energy, I'm not sure...

My main interest in the hobby for a while now is the classic Dutch style of aquascaping represented in the NBAT competition. That's the sort of tank I want to create.

I suspect that the typical level of light in a classic Dutch tank is closer to medium-high than very high, but I could be wrong. Vin or Joe probably know for sure. But definitely, the ratio of green plants to red plants is higher than what I think a lot of people realize, and you don't often see the ultra vibrant, fluorescent colors that require ultra high light to achieve.

All that to say that medium-high light may be perfectly suitable for my current goals of running a classic Dutch style tank. Once I have more time, when my youngest gets a little older, I think I'm more likely to invest that extra time into finishing the 125 build and operating a bigger tank, rather than a higher energy tank.
125G of classic Dutch......I am very much looking forward to that.
 
I restarted the moss walls and got them back in the tank today. In case anyone is curious, this is how I do them.

1. Take a panel of stainless steel mesh. Cut a slightly larger piece of aquarium mesh and lay it over top so you have about 1/4 inch overhang all around. Use about three zip ties to secure the mesh to the panel across the top edge, then fold the mesh back. Place a pile of moss in each quadrant of the panel.

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2. Distribute the piles in an even and thin layer across the panel. I aim for about one frond deep.

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3. Fold the mesh back over the moss layer and stretch it over the panel at the sides and bottom. Using a pair of tweezers let's you stretch the mesh over the panel edges without cutting your fingers.

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4. Back in the tank.

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This is just a quick update. I've been having issues with two lights not firing in the t5 fixture. I replaced the ballast for these lights a little over a month ago, but the lights went back while I was away for the holidays and have not been functioning since.

Today, at the advice of ATI, I opened the fixture back up and installed new sockets for the affected bulbs, given that the original sockets have been in use for 7 years or so. This indeed seems to have solved the issue!

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It will take a few days of smooth operation before I'll feel confident declaring victory, but for now, sure is nice to have all the lights working again!

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