Full Fish Ahead: Part 1

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.

(Ignore the flags, the background was a map of Germany with the flags of the federal states on the lower end. It will change to a dark blue sheet later.) ©Avalus, all rights reserved

©Avalus, all rights reserved

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.

©Avalus, all rights reserved

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.

©Avalus, all rights reserved

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.

©Avalus, all rights reserved

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.

©Avalus, all rights reserved

©Avalus, all rights reserved

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.


  1. says

    @johnson catman, I am glad I am not the only one who saw that.

    This central piece of wood is why I feel guilty, because this is a piece of mangrove wood.

    This is the reason why I do not have any rare & exotic woods on stock, I do not buy them and I do not intend to use them for knife handles if I can avoid it. Local grown woods from fruit trees can be just as beautiful as those, but they are not from species that are being endangered to near extinction (like some species of ebony) just so people can have pretty things.

  2. lochaber says

    nice setup, it looks like the plants are starting to settle in nicely.
    are you adding any ammonia for a fishless cycle?
    I’m a pretty big fan of gathering driftwood locally, but that only works if you have a decent body of water nearby. I’ve had decent luck using the satellite photo option on google maps to look at beaches and such to try and identify an area with a lot of driftwood.

  3. avalus says

    Thanks all!
    I forgot to add, the tank was set up 16. Feb (first water and Daphnia), the first picture with the plants is from 24. Feb.

    Johnson Catman and Charly: Now I cannot unsee it :D

    Charly: Yes! But now that I had it, it felt wrong not to do anything with it. Well, I had a talk with my vendor at least. (Saying that you will not buy this ever again really has not a lot of punch, if the thing you bought will last a lifetime anyway… .)

    Lochhaber: They do, but there are a few plants missing, my vendor had them not in stock. I like my tanks jungley.
    Driftwood looks great, but most drift is just way to big. My old vendor from 10+ years ago had made their own pondwood from wastewood.
    No, I added nothing to the water yet. German water is sanitzed with ozone, so no problems with chlorine/hypochloride. I will not add ammonia directly, the tank is in my bedroom and I smell ammonia enough in the Lab, Thankyouverymuch :D. The tank has lots of snails to start the nitrogen process with an occasional snack of a fishfoodtablet per week. Nitrate is measurable, nitrite never was and it has only a slight planty smell. I am in no rush, if I put fish in in two weeks or two months … I don’t really care. I can let things evolve slowly and watch, which is fun too!

  4. fusilier says

    Thnak you for this.

    1) What johnson catman and Charly Said. (I’m sorry, I’m sorry.)

    2) I appreciate the amount of time you take for set-up. When we had an aquarium for Daughters #1 and #2 we always were …impatient…. and the results varied. Usually with teeny snails everywhere.


    James 2:24

  5. dakotagreasemonkey says

    It’s great to see an aquarium being set up, again. I’m really enjoying the slow, natural way you are doing it.
    Brings back great memories.

  6. avalus says

    Thank you Rick! You made me feel very welcome so I hope to bring back more good memories then :)!
    Fusilier: Thank you as well! Ah, snails… . You will definitly get memories!

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