Welcome to a brand new series here at Affinity penned by Avalus who’s going to take us through the process of setting up a new aquarium and talk fishkeeping in general.
Let’s begin with the start. I found this big piece of gnarly wood in a shop in early December 2018 when I helped a friend shopping for (and carry) cat-equipment. It just had beautiful depth to it so I just bought it, as I had an idea for a new fishtank and remembered having an old tank in my parents’ attic. In January I picked up the tank from my parents, where it sat for 3 years or so.
I first put the tank in a friend’s washing-cellar, filled it up with water and let it sit for 3 weeks to see if it was still waterproof. I would have used my balcony, but it was freezing cold. The tank is 80 cm long, 35 cm deep and 40 cm high, I gave away most of the technical stuff when I mothballed the tank like the filter and the lighting, so I had to buy new stuff. The tank is now lighted by a LED powerstrip for aquarium use (waterproof!), which only uses a lot less power for equal brightness (18W, the old fluorescent tubes used more than 56W). They are however quite expensive up front.
I sawed a middle part of the wood off, you can see that part on the right. I formed a terrace with plates of shale that are glued to glass sheets with silicone glue. The wood was glued to the glass as well, supported by more stones.
After letting the glue set for two days I filled the terrace with fine gravel (2-4 mm) and nice red lavastones. The foreground is filled with reddish sand. I thought about black sand as underground but that was way too expensive. I began to fill some water in and released some Daphnia, to see if there were any toxins released. You can see them as tiny white grains in the water. I also prepared bamboo sticks, but forgot to add them here. The water level was kept low as it makes planting very easy, which is what I did next. I will go into details about the plants in a later post.
Now the plan is to leave the tank to evolve. No fishes until my filter has run for 2 weeks. But there will be happening quite a lot, as we will see. To move the water around a bit, I plugged an airpump in to create a slight current by bubbling air in the water.
Now this is the tank at the 10th of March. You can see that algae and bacteria are growing all over. The water is now a bit murky with life, I also put some plants from my other tank in to suck up free nutrients. The black … let’s call it a circle indicates fresh ramshorn-snail eggs. (You can tell by the red hue). Not much going on, yet. Each egg is smaller than 1 mm in diameter.
Here is a different kind of snail grazing on the whole bacterial/algae lot, leaving a trail of semi clean glass in its wake. It will be grown over again in a matter of hours.
Now to a bit of a self-reflecting rant-thingy, which I will make a regular thing with my project:
This central piece of wood is why I feel guilty, because this is a piece of mangrove wood. A habitat should not be plundered, so that I can have a small, not really natural and dead piece of it in my room. I only found that out in February, when I visited that shop again and saw the label. I like wood in aquariums, but the other times I used some, I made sure it was locally grown.
This brings me to a problematic aspect with fishkeeping: plundering of sensitive environments for profits. That is true not only for wood, but of course for many plants, fishes and invertebrates. A recent example is the hype about a family of plants called bucephalandra. They grow very slowly and so the stock needs a long time to regrow. With them being a hype and as such in high demand, the natural stocks were plundered and will take a long time to regenerate. Now as the hype ebbs, you can get these plants from local growers and as such they are not fresh and new anymore. (They are still amazing plants and now with more eco-friendly sources at hand, I got some. I hope I can get them to bloom!)
So one should think about that before buying. Ask your vendor for the source of their goods and tell them why you are not buying this or that. With the emergence of in-vitro plants, there are now many plants available that do not come from questionable sources.
Next time, I will write about how “well meaning” aquarists got in trouble with the EU parliament.