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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
OK, I'm going to be converting my tank, which currently has small pebbles as a substrate and no lights, to a planted tank. My tank is 48 gallons, 36" wide, 16" deep and 20" tall. It is currently home to one fish, an 8-year-old male Megalechis thoracata.

Substrate

I plan on adding some fine sand with smooth granules for bottom-feeders to dig around in. I also want to add some plants that will grow on wood. I am not sure whether I will also add some aquarium soil in a different part of the tank for plants that need to grow in a substrate. Advice welcome!

Scaping


I already have driftwood in my aquarium. It has spent 10 years submerged and is starting to fall apart. Time for a driftwood upgrade!

First step: stick soup.

This is the bottom of the trunk/top of the roots of a lilac bush one of my neighbours pulled up last year. It spent the winter outside. Yesterday I boiled different parts of this piece of wood, rotating it and basting the emersed parts with the boiling water to kill any fungi and to soften the bark and the outer layer of the roots. This process took several hours and steamed up my home pretty impressively. Then I spent more than an hour peeling off the outer layer of the roots, which is delicate and tends to rot. (It comes off much like potato skin). When I was done with the wood, the giant pot of water had gone opaque with the tannins from the bark and roots, like oversteeped tea.

Snail question

Should I try to remove as many of the snails as possible before I get plants? There are lots of Malaysian trumpet snails in the substrate, a few small ramshorns, and possibly also a few small pond snails.
 

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Sounds like a neat project.
I love planted tanks.
In my opinion, I would simply get some assassin snails after you are happy with your setup, as you likely know, plants bring in snails all the time.
In fact, in my 20 gal snail less tank, I have snails again. as I moved a plant in. one time. that's all it took.
So now it isn't snail-less.

Some people love Malaysian trumpet snails. I thankfully don't have them, as I have heard you can't get get rid of them.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
OK, so I added the new wood to my tank a few days ago. Things looked great initially (see first photo -- new driftwood to the left, existing driftwood to the right, holding it down), but the next morning, the tank was so cloudy I couldn't even see the back wall (second photo)!

I took the wood out and did two 25% water changes that day.

The next day (yesterday) I did a 50% water change.

Today the water is still cloudy, but a lot less so, and my catfish was bugging me for food, so he's fine.

I will continue with more frequent water changes until the cloudiness goes away.

In the meantime, I scraped all the bark off the wood using a paint scraping tool and I have been soaking it in hot water in the laundry sink. No water clouding! Once things calm down in the tank I plan on reintroducing the wood.
 

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Sounds like a neat project.

I am a real fan of simple planted setups (because I can do them) as well as high light more complex setups (cause I haven't learned to do them).
I like the look of the large wood pieces, and would imagine with some tall plants along the back like vals that the tank would look quite striking.
In my tanks I try to stay to 3 or 4 species of plants so as to make them seem more natural.

I'm looking forward to the developments.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thanks, ksimdjembe!

Several days after the first introduction of the wood and water changes, the water is now clear but browinsh from tannins. My catfish is fine.

I scraped all the bark off the wood using a paint scraper, and let the wood soak for three days in the laundry sink. Removing the bark seemed to solve the water clouding issue.

Today I did another 50% water change and reintroduced the wood. It is still buoyant so I have jammed some of the waterlogged wood on top of it to stop it from floating. This is not the final configuration.

Meanwhile, I found out that my tank, which I bought used 10 years ago, is an unusual size that is no longer manufactured, i.e. 36" x 16" (it's 20" tall). I haven't been able to find a glass lid that would fit it. I searched in this forum to see if anyone recommended a place to get custom lids made, and I saw a post from 2015 that recommended C&H Glass in Scarborough. I've now emailed to see if I can get custom glass parts sent to me. I can order hinges from somewhere else.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Water's a bit cloudy today. The snails have figured out that the new wood is tasty. My catfish is up to his usual antics.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I'm still trying to narrow down what kind of fish I'd like in there, as well.
Vals at the back are definitely on my wish list. I also hope to put both leafy plants and mosses on the wood. I also want to keep a sandy area at the front for catfish happiness purposes, since my Megalechis thoracata likes messing around in the substrate.

I've narrowed down my fish choices to these top two, both of which have very similar soft and tannic water in the 24-27 C range:

1. South American
Plants
various Echinodorus
Myriophyllum
Limnobium laevigatum
(Amazon frogbit)
Heteranthera zosterifolia
(stargrass)
Lilaeopsis brasiliensis

Christmas moss

Fish -- some combination of:
7 Corydoras (formerly Brochis) splendens -- emerald cory
up to 3 Acestridium dichromum, if I can find them
An Adontosternarchus nebulosus (spotted knife fish), if I can find one
Possibly two Monocirrhus polyacanthus, the Amazon leaf fish, if I can find a few that are trained to eat something other than live food; I can offer worms any time from my composter and could buy frozen foods as well, but I don't have the patience to raise crickets or buy feeder fish. These fish might eat cories so I wouldn't get cories or anything else small if I find them.

If I can't find any of the larger oddballs that might eat them,
7 rummynose tetras
5 pencilfish

2. Congo
Plants
various Anubias
various Aponogeton
various Bolbitis
Crinum calamistratum
the reddish Nymphaea lotus
and also some kind of moss for the wood.

Fish
2 Ctenopoma acutirostre (leopard bush fish)
7 Congo tetras

What do you think? I prefer larger fish but don't want to get anything that would feel cramped in the tank.
 

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biotopes

I love the ideas of biotopes, and trying to provide the same plants and general characteristics in which the fish would be found in nature.

I like the idea of both of your options, but am less interested in the ctenopoma, due to more difficult keeping requirements, and possibly needing more live foods. I mean, really neat, but I'd be more concerned for its care in my house.

I'm contemplating a pair of black paradise fish when all this is over. Maybe. I really don't need more to care for.

a simple 10 gallon with lots of low light plants and some floating plants can't be that hard I guess....
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Black paradise fish are pretty neat. I researched samurai gouramis as well because Angelfins has some right now and they're beautiful, but they prefer a lower light setup than what I plan on having. But maybe they'd suit you? They seem to need a minimum of 20 gallons, though.

I'm leaning more and more toward the Congo tank. From what I have seen, ctenopoma will eat pellet food as well as live food, so they should be OK. (It's the Amazon leaf fish that are really picky about live food).
 

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Black paradise fish are pretty neat. I researched samurai gouramis as well because Angelfins has some right now and they're beautiful, but they prefer a lower light setup than what I plan on having. But maybe they'd suit you? They seem to need a minimum of 20 gallons, though.

I'm leaning more and more toward the Congo tank. From what I have seen, ctenopoma will eat pellet food as well as live food, so they should be OK. (It's the Amazon leaf fish that are really picky about live food).
I'm xmegatron10 I have a male paradise fish I'm getting a female it's about their marriage and economy territory they'll rule the tank. I will add 2 dwarf algea eaters and 1 single male empire gudgeon fish he will live in a dragon cave.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 · (Edited)
@ksimdjembe, thanks for reaching out!

Edit: I upgraded from a 48 gallon to a 90 gallon a year and a half ago. The wood is the same (plus I added more). That's about all that's the same. My Megalechis thoracata died at the age of 10, but he was able to enjoy the sand in the new tank before he did.

The tank is going well! I would have taken pictures earlier, but I had to mess with one of the filters today so everything got clouded up.

It's a Congo biotope (give or take). The animals are in my signature line. The plants are Bolbitis heudelotii (fern), Nymphaea (probably N. nouchali var. caerulea; it has bloomed twice and has purple flowers), Crinum natans (2) and C. calamistratum (1), Bacopa monnieri, Ceratopteris (water sprite) and multiple species of Anubias, including A. barteri (regular and nana), A. congensis, and A. hastifolia. Last year I installed CO2 because I was having nonstop problems with black beard algae. The plants are now thriving. You can see some of the fish doing their thing here (my pets' YouTube channel).
 
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