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Build Thread A high tech tank journey

ayman.roshdy

Active Member
Founding Member
Hospitality Award
Oct 31, 2022
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Egypt
Based on a very comprehensive discussion here (The water change - how do you do them?) I decided to start working on a high tech tank based on the advice I received so far, I will use this thread as a journal to create a new high tech tank from scratch, all recommendations/advice are welcomed of course, I will be considering this as an experiment and later when we finalize everything; I think this thread can be used as a high tech planted tank guide :)

1- The Tank
  • [12-Nov] The tank will be custom made so that I control the dimensions versus the location where I am going to place the tank, the tank dimensions are 80 cm in length - 35 cm in width - 35 cm in height (31.5 inch x 14 inch x 14 inch)
  • [12-Nov] The used glass is 10 mm which I believe is more than needed for this volume, but to be on the same side is better
2- The Substrate
  • [17-Nov] Based on the discussion I had with the rest of the members and some research, I am goign to do the following:
    • Buying a rich nutrient substrate is not an option as I couldn't find it locally plus it will cost me a fortune to import
    • Accordingly, the substrate will be mainly black gravel plus Tetra InitialStick root tabs, it seems that the plants love this at the very beginning; probably it helps in root creation
    • Won't cover the gravel with sand to avoid any aeration problems and to make sure that the substrate can absorb excess nutrients to be used as a nutrients store for the plants' roots
    • Vermicompost is very risky and can cause algae problems so this is excluded from the plan
    • Fertilization will be done mainly through liquid ferts which are easily to find locally and cheap to an extent
    • In case of plants nutrients deficiencies I will use extra root tabs in specific locations inside the tank, the one I found locally was Seachem root tabs but importing other types is an option in case needed
3- Filtration, Air, Temperature & Light
  • [12-Nov] No need for air pumps as probably the surface agitation from the filters will be enough
  • [12-Nov][Action Item] For filtration still didn't make up my mind whether to go with a couple of hang on back filters (will ruin the tank aesthetics but very cheap) or go to a canister filter (very good aesthetics but will cost almost the price of the tank + light + CO2), in general will go for filters that can handle 10 times the water volume per hour, and one last thing using a canister filter will give me the option of better CO2 dissolving if I used an inline CO2 diffuser connected to the canister filter
  • [12-Nov] Will add a water heater to stabilize the temperature probably something between 23 C - 25 C (75 - 77 F), can lower the temperature down but based on the fish I am going to add later
  • [12-Nov] A custom made WRGB light is in the making, it will contain 1 Red LED strip + 1 Blue LED strip + 1 Green LED strip + 2 White LED strips, based on a received advice I might need to add a second one but on a later stage, the light will come equipped with a remote control so that I can control the light intensity (8 different light intensity levels)
  • [12-Nov] Initially I planed to use a stainless steel DIY (baking soda + citric acid) cylinder to generate the needed CO2, but after several discussions; I will go for a 6 liter pressurized CO2 cylinder which comes equipped with the valve, solenoid & bubble counter, roughly it should last between 8 - 10 months before the need to refill it, and as per the advice I received I will need to go for ~ 5 bubbles per second
4- Monitoring
  • [12-Nov][Action Item] Still need to decide on what to use to monitor the following items, some study/reading is needed here:
    • pH
    • gH
    • kH
    • TDS
    • Chlorine
    • Ammonia
    • Nitrite
    • Nitrate
5- Tank Maintenance
  • [12-Nov] Weekly cleaning of the following items: glass panels & filters + 50% to 70% water change + Plants' trimming and removing dead leaves, in doing the water change will be adding the fresh tap water in an external container, add Seachem Safe, make sure the temperature is correct before adding it to the tank
  • [12-Nov][Action Item] Still need to decide on the fertilization regime which will probably be postponed until I decide on which plants to add to the tank

6- Live stock
  • [12-Nov][Action Item] Still need to decide on which fish, which plants and which snails to buy; this should include the cleanup crew whether fish, snails or shrimp
 
Last edited:
Hi @ayman.roshdy

Sounds like a good start. I like the dimensions of that tank.

I few things jumped out at me that I personally would change.

With a hang on back filter, there is likely no added benefit from running an air stone, you will have plenty of gas exchange with the filter running.

With CO2, a tank the size of yours will be using so much CO2 to achieve optimal concentrations a bubble counter will be a constant stream of uncountable bubbles. A previous tank of mine similar in size to yours was using almost 5 bubbles per second (I didn't even use a bubble counter, I listened to the bubbles entering my reactor and matched them to a metronome to count beats per minute, and did the math to convert to seconds).

The test kit will be good for the initial tank setup, but after that you'll only ever need the nitrate tests. So for my money, I would opt for the API or better yet the Salfiert NO3 test (if you can source it) and a half decent pH probe that can be calibrated. You'll also probably want the API gH and kH test kits.

Tetra root tabs are mostly inert filler material, and provide very, very little in terms of nutrients that plants need the most of. You can get away with water column dosing only if you want. If you really would like to use tabs, opt for a DIY tab using Osmocote+ fertilizer or try and source some pre-made ones that are made with granular fertilizers.

Couple of questions:

What fertilizer regime are you thinking of?
How are you dissolving CO2?
Do you know your tapwater parameters?

Best of luck, I hope others will chime in and we get get you set off to a great start! looking forward to seeing how you make out. New tanks are always exciting.
 
@Quagulator noted, I will try to check what you recommended regarding the test kits and the root tabs to see if I can purchase them, will probably check then re-update this thread in a day or two

And HYG the answers to your questions:
  • What fertilizer regime are you thinking of?
    • I am going to get my high tech plants from a local breeder who happens to create his own fertilizers, the regime will be mainly using Estimative Index, but once I get the fertilizers will add more details here, probably will create a new section with the fertilizers details
  • How are you dissolving CO2?
    • Mainly CO2 diffuser, I used to use a ceramic diffuser in a glass casing but was always breaking them, so currently I use a plastic diffuser, can go for a ceramic diffuser in a stainless steel casing if this is better
  • Do you know your tap water parameters?
    • Only the TDS currently in the range of 200 - 240 ppm, but after purchasing the test kit will be able to get the rest of the readings (pH, gH and kH)
 
First of all agree with everything @Quagulator said above.

As to temperature you may or not need a heater. Myself and many others do not run any heaters at all. Tank temp in the low 70's is actually preferable and easier to manage.

Be sure to assess how much PAR those lights will be providing at the substrate. With a tank at only 14" (35cm)in height depending on the light that could be a LOT of PAR. If you can get access to a PAR meter it would be helpful. The naked eye is a poor judge of light intensity.

And just to add to what Quag said about CO2. One bubble per second is basically nothing into a roughly 26 gallon tank (98L). It's best to try to start thinking in terms of pH drop from a fully degassed state. I am not against drop checkers but they are basically a lagging reading of a liquid pH test and are not a very precise measurement. They are more of a ball park estimate. If you are planning to go high light and lots of stems, dialing in CO2 becomes more important. A decent calibrated pH meter is a better solution.

If you need help with the pH drop method reach out. It's worth taking the time to get it right.
 
First of all agree with everything @Quagulator said above.

As to temperature you may or not need a heater. Myself and many others do not run any heaters at all. Tank temp in the low 70's is actually preferable and easier to manage.

Be sure to assess how much PAR those lights will be providing at the substrate. With a tank at only 14" (35cm)in height depending on the light that could be a LOT of PAR. If you can get access to a PAR meter it would be helpful. The naked eye is a poor judge of light intensity.

And just to add to what Quag said about CO2. One bubble per second is basically nothing into a roughly 26 gallon tank (98L). It's best to try to start thinking in terms of pH drop from a fully degassed state. I am not against drop checkers but they are basically a lagging reading of a liquid pH test and are not a very precise measurement. They are more of a ball park estimate. If you are planning to go high light and lots of stems, dialing in CO2 becomes more important. A decent calibrated pH meter is a better solution.

If you need help with the pH drop method reach out. It's worth taking the time to get it right.
You are right, can give it a try without a heater and see how things will go

I don't think I can find a PAR meter, but can put my smart phone in a water resistant transparent bag and try to measure the PAR using a mobile app if this works as I didn't try it before

For calibrating the CO2 based on pH does this need anything else other than a pH measuring pen like the one in the picture below? I can purchase one of these as it is available on my local Amazon store

Screenshot 2022-11-07 at 5.43.13 PM.png
 
You are right, can give it a try without a heater and see how things will go

I don't think I can find a PAR meter, but can put my smart phone in a water resistant transparent bag and try to measure the PAR using a mobile app if this works as I didn't try it before

For calibrating the CO2 based on pH does this need anything else other than a pH measuring pen like the one in the picture below? I can purchase one of these as it is available on my local Amazon store

View attachment 129
Like most things in this hobby, it depends on how far down the rabbit hole you want to go, what your ambitions are, and how long you plan to be in the hobby. If you're ambitious and have long term plans then paying more up front for better equipment is almost always worth it.

There are several ways to measure pH. Some use pH test strips or liquid test kits. I have tested both over the years against a high quality calibrated probe and you'd be surprised at how far off they can be.

The next step up is going with a calibrated probe. There are two types that are generally available. The "pH pen" type probe like pictured above, or a BNC connected double junction probe.

The plus of the "pen" type pH probes is that they are cheap. The minus is that they are prone to early failure. Many times it's because they aren't stored properly. They need to be kept wet. I started with that type but after replacing several of them decided to make a better investment. That being said it's probably the most common type that folks in the hobby use. The one thing I don't like about that one is the pH powder used to make the reference solutions. Brings in another way to mess things up. I'd prefer liquid reference solutions.

The minus of the BNC connected double junction probe is that it costs more up front. The advantages are that they rarely drift, last for many years, and can be left in the tank full time so that you can check the pH at a glance.

And all that being said you could use your drop checker and slowly bump up CO2 and observe fish and plants. It's not very precise but can work. But the deeper you dive into the hobby and the higher tech you go the more using the pH drop method makes sense. With very high light the difference between a 1.0 pH drop and a 1.3 pH drop can be pretty dramatic. Tom Barr has been saying for years that many problems in a planted tank are because of poor CO2. IMO he's right.
 
I'll chime in on the part no one has said API Test kits are crap look into the Hanna Nutrifin test kits instead. Everything else has been answered. If anything Id say don't overthink it. Oh also use the pH drop method to measure CO2. Measure pH before CO2 comes on. Measure a few hours later. We are aiming for a 1.0 pH drop which correlates to +- 30ppm CO2.
 
Lots of super good info/experience, will probably use the coming weekend to digest everything written here, Google a few things out, summarize again in this thread before taking any actions (just note that not everything is available to buy on my side, so will do my best and get what you recommended - will have to hide the extra expenses from my wife though 😇)

Really appreciate you all, I feel humble to be with all of you hobby experts and will definitely make use of all your expertise to enhance my knowledge 😊
 
I updated the main post on this thread, added dates plus highlighted items that still need some action items; so that everyone including myself can easily read the updates ...

Probably this setup will take like 1 - 2 months to finish as the tank will need ~2 weeks to source the glass then rebuild the tank, will take my time anyway as I am taking this opportunity to learn everything about high tech tanks

Thanks
 
@Quagulator @GreggZ @BigWave searching around for better root tabs instead of Tetra InitialSticks and found a local fish store selling 'Seachem Flourish Tabs'

What do you think, should I go for these for the new tank? From what I read I believe one pack should be enough for like 3 - 4 months

Thanks

If you look at the analysis of flourish tabs you’ll see that they are over 70% inert filler material. The remaining 30% has virtually no macro nutrients that plants need the most of.
 
If you look at the analysis of flourish tabs you’ll see that they are over 70% inert filler material. The remaining 30% has virtually no macro nutrients that plants need the most of.
Hmm, didn't notice their ingredients page !
What do you suggest for the root tabs or just skip it all together, use some vermicompost and depend mainly on liquid fertz?

Screenshot 2022-11-12 at 6.38.07 PM.png
 
Hmm, didn't notice their ingredients page !
What do you suggest for the root tabs or just skip it all together, use some vermicompost and depend mainly on liquid fertz?
You've hit on the bigger issue. Do you need or want root tabs?

What type of plants are planning to grow in this tank? If it's going to be high tech with lots of stems there isn't much need for them.

Personally I don't use them, nor do most of the best plant growers that I know in the hobby.

If you do use them, use them sparingly. Too many can cause issues as they leach into the water column. The people that I know that do use them put a couple of individual Osmocote balls under a few plants here and there, but they don't fill the substrate with full capsules or large tabs.
 
You've hit on the bigger issue. Do you need or want root tabs?

What type of plants are planning to grow in this tank? If it's going to be high tech with lots of stems there isn't much need for them.

Personally I don't use them, nor do most of the best plant growers that I know in the hobby.

If you do use them, use them sparingly. Too many can cause issues as they leach into the water column. The people that I know that do use them put a couple of individual Osmocote balls under a few plants here and there, but they don't fill the substrate with full capsules or large tabs.

Still didn't choose the plants, but what you are saying is that steam plants won't need them and I believe most of my plants will be stem plants so no need to go this way all together, and I believe the nutrient rich vermicompost won't be needed as well, good (y)

So the liquid fertz should be enough, right?
 
Still didn't choose the plants, but what you are saying is that steam plants won't need them and I believe most of my plants will be stem plants so no need to go this way all together, and I believe the nutrient rich vermicompost won't be needed as well, good (y)

So the liquid fertz should be enough, right?
I don't know of anyone that I follow who uses a compost in their substrate. That being said doesn't mean it won't work well. I just haven't seen it.

And yes water column ferts should be enough for most stems. As to liquid ferts, I would go with dry salts, but that depends on availability where you are. Try to start thinking in terms of how many ppm of NO3, PO4, K, and micros you want in the water column.
 
Flourish Comprehensive (liquid fert) and Flourish Root tabs are pretty much the same product in a different form. So as mentioned earlier you want something with more NPK if not fully dosing the water column.

This is in the FAQ section on Seachem's website. Kind of a weak argument to use both:

Q: I am using Flourish®. Do I need to use Flourish Tabs™ too?

A: As Flourish® and Flourish Tabs™ are similar in function, we generally suggest using one or the other; however, in some situations a greater benefit can be derived from using both. Some plants take in more from their roots, and some take in more from their leaves, so using Flourish and Flourish Tabs™ addresses both needs. Also, if you are one to forget dosing, Flourish Tabs™ are an excellent solution as they are placed in the gravel and provide a time-released source of nutrition.
 
You've hit on the bigger issue. Do you need or want root tabs?

What type of plants are planning to grow in this tank? If it's going to be high tech with lots of stems there isn't much need for them.

Personally I don't use them, nor do most of the best plant growers that I know in the hobby.

If you do use them, use them sparingly. Too many can cause issues as they leach into the water column. The people that I know that do use them put a couple of individual Osmocote balls under a few plants here and there, but they don't fill the substrate with full capsules or large tabs.
YES! This.

In my humble opinion, rarely are root tabs needed. I've never used them but I've helped other hobbyists with the problems they've caused.

This is one of those things that should only be used for very specific cases with plants that are a) big root feeders and b) as a result, you will not be pulling up and replanting. Even with these, rich substrates usually have enough nutrients (to start and that accumulate over time) that you won't need anything for quite a while.
 
Still didn't choose the plants, but what you are saying is that steam plants won't need them and I believe most of my plants will be stem plants so no need to go this way all together, and I believe the nutrient rich vermicompost won't be needed as well, good (y)

So the liquid fertz should be enough, right?
While I think most understand something about this, it is just too easy to think in a way that creates a barrier between the water column and the substrate. This just isn't true.

Yes, they are two separate environments due to conditions (roots versus leaves/stems, anaerobic/anoxic versus oxygenated water, low versus very low pH levels, etc.), there is an exchange between the two. It occurs both ways - out of and into the substrate. Fluid dynamics play a part as does the transport system in plants and, of course, the microscopic ecosystem that develops.

Rich substrates, like the ones we use now in planted tanks, will function as a nutrient storehouse over time, making nutrients available for plants to take up via their roots. This happens much less with inert substrates as has been proven several times.
 
Very valuable details, but let me conclude here my understanding so that I mark the above ferts related action item as closed :)
  1. I am not going to use a plant specific substrate like ADA, Fluval ... etc. (since I can't find any) then I will go for inert gravel
  2. The nutrients will come mainly from the liquid ferts where I am going to use a local brand that has good reviews already
  3. The liquid ferts dosed into the water column will be absorbed by the plants stem, leaves and even the roots since it will go directly to the gravel which by time will act as a nutrient storehouse (probably)
  4. In case of plants' nutrients deficiencies then I can supply root tabs for these specific plants, this might happen to specific plants that depend mainly on the roots and it will be on a case by case basis
 
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