Aqurium 48"x18"x26"

Light: 6x T5 39w  (6hrs) 

Fertiliser: Diy fry ferts:  40ml Marcos x2 weekly , 20ml Trace x2 weekly and x2 caps of Seachem Iron

Co2: None

Sunstarte: Bonsai Moler clay, Osmocote,Clay

Maintenance: 30 water change weekly

So after awhile using moler clay as my main inert substrate to feed my plants, I recently started noticing that the plants stems where slowly dying and releasing from the substrate. While some plants where doing fantastic some clearly need more root nutrients, so I decided to redo the tank and place a base layer of plant food which should sustain the plants and their growth.

Date 23/12/11

The plan:

This is the tank the day of the redo. This picture where taken at 3am in the morning as I decided to have an early start on the tank. From the picture the plants looks quite lush but most of them have detached from the substrate and started to uptake from the water column with their roots.


First Step:

Getting organise

I got everything organised for the redo. Here are some 5ltr bottles that I will use to store some of the aquarium water to add back into the tank. The amount of bottles will hold about 30% of the tank's capacity. I aimed to reuse 50% of the aquarium water then do a water change within a few days to not disturb the bacteria colonies in the filter.


Second Step:

Start draining the tank:After unplugging the heater and filter I started on the time consuming bottle filling.


Almost there, a few more bottles to go. I ended up filling 17 bottles with a capacity of 85 litres which is close to 25% of the tanks capacity.


Birds eye view of the tank as its being drained.  The DWL have grown quiet well, there are about 7 mother plants in there which produce all those runners you see in there each week.



Wow, am I still at the second step. This is taking longer than I thought. Now I am draining some of the tanks water into a plastic box which holds 80 litres which will sum it up to about half the tanks capacity along with the bottles of water.


All done draining the tank to the half way mark, and added the dwarf water lettuces to the container to reduce any ammonia which will build up when the fish are added.


Tank is half way drained and some the dwl removed. It’s time for the fun part of removing the plants and looking at the roots from the plant which loved the clay substrate. It was a shame rooting up the red tiger lotus as it was just thriving in the tank.


All plants removed except one sole aponnogeton which was in a pot so was left for last. I managed to catch some of the fish and added them to the container, now the hard part the tetras, phew! It’s been a few hours since I started. I was limited to the amount of pictures I could take because my SD card was broken and could only take 2 pictures at a time on the camera's memory, “darn you Samsung". So I was able to take some pictures of the plant roots.


Third Step

Laying the substrate

After draining the tank I tried to give it a clean before starting on the substrate, “this isn't easy when your tank is over 5foot tall". With my trusty ladder I mange to clean the bottom of the tank as best as I could. Now it’s time for the substrate.


First layer


The recommended dosing amount of osmocote is 5g per square foot. I needed 8 tablets for this tank but added another 2," I'm so bad; just don’t know when to stop". I smash the tablets to get the individual beads and spread them evenly over the base of the tank.



 I added some clay to the mix to supply iron to substrate. It was very hard locating some clay in the UK to use, but in the end I ended up finding some.


Second layer

Graden Soil:

Now this is where thing get interesting because this is a new venture for me. In the tank are 2 nylon bags with dirt enclose in them. I originally wasn't planning to use dirt on this tank but had an idea on how to control the dirt in the tank which was my main issue with dirting my tanks. The nylon bags will do just that. They have small holed big enough for roots to penetrate through but small enough restrict the dirt from exploding everywhere. This will also solve the problem with the osmocote leaching too much in the water and retain the capsule after they turn buoyant. I should have bought 2 o the bigger size bags which would make a great fit leaving the front with a 2”-3” gap. Anyways it will do the job.


Third layer


To reduce as much of the excess which will leach from the soil, clay and osmocote I added a thin layer of sand and moler clay over the nylon bags. This is a great way to reduce the excess from leaching into the water column at a fast rate.


Mulm is added to the third layer. It is used to start a bacteria colony going. It is also packed with essential chemicals for plants. This was collected from a filter.


Final layer

Bin of moler Clay ready to be reused. That’s what attracted me to this substrate; you just keep reusing it over and over.

Capped the tank with the rest of the moler clay. It's about 2.5" to 5" to the back creating a slope.


Hard scape

Scape was almost the same to the original except the rock on left and one of the drift wood repositioned. I wasn't able to take any pictures from this point on. The battery died and I was getting tired of taking 2 pictures and moving back and forth from the pc to remove the pics to get the space to take more. Sorry guys!


After 14hrs of work I was finally able to sit and rest my feet and look at the tank. It’s all planted back up with the plants and fish added back straight away. Water test was done a showed no rise in ammonia/nitrate etc all 0.  It was the day after the picture below was taken and all is well. I in cooperate some more rocks din the scape also to give a more balanced scape. Thanks for reading guys, Hope I didn’t bored you!



 Look out for updates on this tank.


Views: 1217

Comment by Nick's Wet World (0_o) on February 2, 2012 at 5:00pm

Date 02/02/12

Since the last update on the tank I have replaced the 10,000k bulbs to 6500k mainly because the 10k bulbs have passed their prime and was showing on the plants. Also another reason and maybe teh biggest , was to have a much suited lighting which 6500k are.

Since the changing the bulbs I have notice new growth and the plants looking much healthier.

Picture from the left side of the tank. Plants have been growing quiet well and look a bit more dense than  the last picture.  Hygrophila polysperma have been propagated and leggy leaf less stems were cut away to promote new healthy growth.  Few stems have been cut away from the Red tiger lotus to promote lower healthier leave.

Hygrophila Corymbosa have been addedto give a defined look.

New addition to the plant collection are two stems of Hygrophila Defformis growing at the back beside Limnophila Aromatica. This part of the tank is hit with more light than any  where else.A bit of algae have attached it self to the driftwood before the tank redo " should have taked the chance to srub them off".

Ludwigia newly added to the tank also. 

Comment by Nick's Wet World (0_o) on February 2, 2012 at 5:39pm

Right side of the tank.

Right hand side, the growth is not as lush as the left. As you can see that the Polysperma on this side is a bit leggy  as I have not yet cut back the stems, " wanted to show how these where before the trim".

Java fern also newly added to the tank, was previously in another tank growing out.

Foreground Plants

On the left side of the tank the Crypt Parva is the foreground plant. This is one of the slowest growing cryptocoryne but have send out new leaves and looking lime green.

Wendtii amongst some dwarf sag.


Comment by Adam Carbary on February 2, 2012 at 7:34pm

After reading your posts I am sold on dirting my tanks using your bag technique. I am moving on the 15th and I have to demo My 45 and 20 gallon and transferring them into 2 55s. Opportune time to dirt the tanks and use the old substrate as a cap. Thanks for sharing an incredibly helpful step by step!

Comment by Nick's Wet World (0_o) on February 13, 2012 at 12:15am

I'm glad you find the thread helpful. The only problem I had with dirting my tanks were that it's hard uprooting and planting new plants as the dirt will get distrubed and make a mess, this way by using the bag will retain the dirt from being distrubed and making a mess. I have to move in a few weeks too, so the tank will be torned down once again. Hopefully this time I can get some peat in their as that was one of the layer I couldnt get my hands on for the mix. So far the tank have been growing quiet well and no dirt eruption:), even with moler clay as a cap which is a very light substarte.

Comment by Kenneth on February 16, 2012 at 3:05pm

awesome dude

Comment by GSP on February 28, 2012 at 9:40pm

Subscribed for updates ;)

Also theres a forum section for tank journals too!

Comment by Nick's Wet World (0_o) on February 29, 2012 at 7:28pm

aww, didnt really notice that there was a part for journals.

Comment by GSP on February 29, 2012 at 7:40pm

Well your blog is fine, reposting this in the forum journals  will just net you some more feedback and readers. :)

Comment by Nick's Wet World (0_o) on March 1, 2012 at 8:43am

just had a look at the aquarium journal section and it would suite this post perfectly. If only I notice that section before. I dont think a lot of people visit the blog section on the site.

Comment by Robert Jango on March 8, 2012 at 6:48am

Definitely not boring Nick. You got me going with some new ideas. We'll talk later.


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