Daily tests: days 39 – 47

Filter is still steadily processing 2 ppm of ammonia in 24 hours. The Danio margaritatus have gone on hold because the breeder I was planning to buy them from sold their current batch to someone else, so I will move my Pseudosphromenus dayi into the aquarium first.

60_litre_asian_v8In preparation for the fish, I have just ordered the remaining plants, including some impulse purchases, and I have also ordered a piece of “red moor wood”, which does not look particularly red but will provide a good place for the new moss to grow on. The moss is Vesicularia ferriei, which is known by the name of “weeping moss” because it grows sideways and downwards, which I think will look good on the wood. For the moment, I have tied it to porous rocks, which were used as ballast in the Lindernia rotundifolia pots, with some black cotton thread. Cotton thread will eventually rot away, which is not a problem as the moss should have grown into the rocks by then. Alternatively, nylon string or fishing line can be used as these do not rot in water, but these can be dangerous to fish if they are loose because fish can become tangled the string and can cut themselves.

Plants layed out

In preparation for the new plants and fish, I have also replanted the Lindernia rotundifolia, so that the tallest plants are at the back and the shortest are at the front. The plants now form a very rough hemisphere. I am not so sure about the (apparently) general consensus that these plants as fast growing because they are yet to show that quality to me. So far, growth has been moderate at best, but steady and healthy… I will have to try measuring the growth rate at some point in the near future.

General maintenance update

I have lately moved to the reduced water change way of doing things, gradually reducing water changes over the last couple of months. This is working well, the with Amazon sword showing improved growth, although the rest of the plants suffered until I increased the lighting and finally switched to a “siesta regime”, which is 5 hours on, 4 hours off, 5 hours on, off for the night arrangement. This new regime seems to have helped reduce the hair algae.Since I removed the duckweed (Lemna minor), which was not a great idea, the Limnobium laevigatum (Amazon frogbit) had been flourishing alongside the Riccia fluitans.

Trying out Pogostemon erectus

Actual 60 litre plant layoutI have added two small Pogostemon erectus cuttings to the back right corner. This plant was on my original list from April, but was cut from the later lists because it is apparently moderately demanding. Because it came with a bundle of plants I bought recently, I decided to take a small cutting from the parent plant and see how it does in this aquarium.

Removing duckweed and adding reflectors

Once duckweed, a very invasive plant, is in the aquarium, it is very difficult to remove it again because even a single leaf is enough for the plant to take over. So, to remove the duckweed, I used fishnets to take as much out as I could, removing the rest of the floating plants in the process. Next, I removed all duckweed which was on the filter inlet and stirred all the plants because some of the duckweed was caught in them. After netting that out, I checked all the sides, under the stress bars, around the cables and tubing, then netted out all which I found. After about an hour or so, I couldn’t spot any more leaves floating around, so I rinsed the duckweed off of the floating plants I wanted to keep and put them back into the aquarium. The Riccia was quite difficult to separate, so I added some from a different aquarium.

Since I already had the lid completely off for removing the duckweed, I decided to add a reflector to the lights. I used super glue to attach some kitchen foil to the underside of the lid, which resulted in the aquarium looking twice as bright as it did before the reflector.

Daily tests: days 32 – 38

For the last week, I have been dosing 2 ppm which is being processed into nitrate within 24 hours.

So now, I am only waiting to collect the new fish, as the bacterial colony is stable. Because the Danio margaritatus will be so small, I am not going to move the Pseudosphromenus dayi to the new aquarium until the danios are large enough to not be eaten. I have also been unable to find any of the loaches I was interested in.

Actual 60 litre plant layoutThe plants are growing well; I currently have the light on a 5 hours on, 4 hours off, 5 hours on, off for the night regime: it seems to be working well. There are no problems with Cardamine lyrata and Hydrocotyle cf. tripartita. I have also added one pot worth of Pogostemon helferi, in preparation for the fish… I expect to be buying the remaining plants soon. On the other hand, the Lindernia rotundifolia has completely melted, worse than any Cryptocoryne melt I have ever seen. I suspect this is because the stems I received were grown emersed (above water, the word comes from the Latin word ēmersum, from which “emerge” is derived) and the leaves could not survive when submerged under water. Every single one of the original stems has now rotted, but every node has grown new axillary buds, which have developed into individual plants. For the vast majority, each plant is now 20-30 mm tall and growing well.

Given that the D. margaritatus are now ready for collection, so I will be looking to collect the remaining promised plants this week, or early next week, and to buy the rest as soon as possible.

Cultivating the plantsWater evaporation is still high, as I am not using the condensation tray yet, so I have had to top up the water a few times already. I used dechlorinated tap water, which raises the KH, but this is not an issue as there are currently no fish in the aquarium.

Picking plants…

60 litre plant layout planSince I have already decided to stock Asian fish, I am going to try aiming for the same from the plants. I used Tropica’s index of plants by origin as a starting place. My first attempt at creating a layout ended up with a few non-Asian plants which I liked the look of, but this was created long before I even had the aquarium itself.

60 litre plant layout planOn my second pass, I reduced the numbers of species and removed the most demanding ones from my list. I also removed the non-Asian plants, which left me with eight species in total.

For the background, I picked Cardamine lyrata, Cryptocoryne wendtii ‘Mi Oya’, Lindernia rotundifolia and Rotala rotundifolia as these all have the potential to grow very tall; mid-ground, I want Cryptocoryne wendtii ‘Tropica’ and Hydrocotyle sibthorpioides; the foreground plants will be Cryptocoryne parva, which I have never had much success with, and Pogostemon helferi, which I already have.

While I agree with supporting retailers, my LFS charges approximately € 7 – 10 per pot, which is relatively expensive. My usual online retailer is more reasonable, charging € 3 – 5 per pot or bunch of these plants, but because the set-up has already cost almost € 200 and because I want to heavily plant it from the start, I have been looking for these plants from fellow fish-keepers, mostly though forums and suchlike, but also via online advertisements. While I do have some plants to offer for trade, which is the usual etiquette, I will make an effort to pay for them in cash, same as any beginner would be doing.

My first two finds were Cardamine lyrata and a Hydrocotyle cf. tripartita (also known as H. species ‘Japan’ and H. sp. ‘Australia’, sometimes mistakenly identified as H. maritima because it looks similar to H. sibthorpioides) which I bought in a lot of 30 “bunches” for € 30 including delivery, so I will price these at € 1 for the C. lyrata and € 2 for H. cf. tripartita, as they were on the more common side out of the plants I received.

A few days ago, I had another piece of good luck: I received six pots of Lindernia rotundifolia from an unknown source, which I was not expecting. Maybe someone out there likes me, as these are usually € 5 – 10 EUR per pot.

I have also already managed to secure Rotala rotundifolia and Cryptocoryne wendtii ‘Tropica’ from a couple of forum members, once they need trimming again, both for the price of postage.

For the moment, here is how the aquarium looks right now:

Actual 60 litre plant layout

Daily tests: day 31

This morning’s test results were:

  • ammonia: 0 ppm
  • nitrite: 0 ppm

Some of the plants are starting to suffer from the higher temperatures and no light. Given that my first stock will be 9 × 10 mm Danio margaritatus, I expect that they will not produce more than 2 ppm of ammonia per day. So, while for a full stock I would be aiming to see 4-5 ppm of ammonia processed in 12 hours, I will settle for the 2 ppm in 24 hours for now. I will now gradually start dropping the temperature into the 22 °C range and I will start using the lighting. To avoid algae problems, I will also dose ammonia in the evenings from now, instead of the mornings, so that by the time the lights come on, there will not be much ammonia left left.