240 Gallon Planted Freshwater Tank Build

  • #1
Hi, I'm 17 and my dad and I(mostly my dad) are setting up a 240 planted tank with a sump. He's always asking me questions and I always tell him to set up a thread/journal on fishlore but he always asks me to so here I am. I'll try to take lot's of picture of what's going on and give a bit of back round. so my dad as a kid had a 100 gallon tank he kept everything in(lots of things he probably shouldnt have) but to name a few he at some point(not all together) had a gar, arrowana, discus, angels, cichlids, archer fish, butterfly fish, and even had the tank brakish for a while. MANY years later me and him set up a 60 gallon tank about 3 years ago. We started off with tetras and rams and then tried discus and now angels. Our 60 gallon is fairly planted and we're really into aquascaping and plants. I'm moving out in a year and I want to transition my 60 gallon tank into something a little easier to maintain. I'm moving the plants and fish out and am gonna have a single fish, maybe a flowerhorn.
Enough about the past. lets look at this tank build. We bought the tank used idk the price but it was really cheap(according to my dad but he "gets a good deal" on everything) anyway its acrylic and has an over flow with 2 drain holes. There is a sump that we made and is around 80 gallons. The tank will be heavilt planted as well as the sump. We built a stand made out of wood and I'll add more details on how we built the sump and stand later.
So heres what we still have to do. We need:
Lighting. we want to build some sort of hood but don't want it to be to obnoxious. The tank is in our family room by the way. We have been looking at these high power led square lights and bought 1 and are using it on a 10 gallon. its working well and grows the plants pretty well. Any ideas on lighting? we want it to be heavily planted.
Doors. We built the stand but have no doors yet. We are thinking of doing magnetic pannels that we can just pull off.
CO2 this seems very expensive so we might not put it in right away but we will have it eventually.
Bracings. We've been having trouble with the sump tank bowing. Ill upload a pic but we seem to have found a solution. We added 2 cross pieces and have started putting acrylic around the perimeter.
Plumbing. We want the tank to do a drip drain idk what you call it but automatic water changes where the water slowly drips in and drains out.
Filtration etc. we don't have anything in the sump yet. Idk the exact plans for that but we need to figure that out.
Hardscape. We want to do driftwood and dragonstone or some other cool rock. we have some long manzaneta already but we want some more. Ill upload a pic later.
Plants. we've grown lots of plants in the 60 and 10 gallon but we want to grow TONS in the new tank. We can move the plants we have over but that won't even cover 1/8 of the tank.
Finally fish. We still can't decide on the final stock. We want it to be amazon/south american/central american that area. We are curently thinking Altum Angelfish but we are not decided at all. We also thought about assorted cichlids discus apistogramma rams tetras corries to name a few. We could do Altums with some of theses maybe apisto rams tetras and/or corries. But we are not set on anything.
In the sump we want to make a sort of refugium and fill it with plants. There is a 40ish gallon section that is open for plants fish and/or shrimp. We have no idea what to put in there.
I'm starting this as a sort of journal but also to reach out to the fishlore community for help, tips, ideas, and inspiration.
I first got the idea from Drummindot and read her entire 260 gallon tank thread. recently I've started reading jojomo91 's thread too. On youtube I watch massaquariums and me and my dad love diyking we love all his tanks especially his 2000 gallon hes working on.
ANY ideas or imput is appreciated criticism or concerns are great as well as suggestions or really and thoughts. I'm sorry I don't havee any pictures right now but I'' add some tomorrow. My dad is Dan.
  • #2
Hey Austin!
Nice to have you here. Thanks for reading through the thread. I honored & humbled by your mention!

As for the sump bowing if you try euro bracing (Google it) it could simply get in the way when you go to do maintenance. You may want to build a rI'm for it. If it's acrylic (which it is if I read it right) you could make a rI'm for it with thicker acrylic. I don't always describe things well so I hope you understand. But there's always more than one way to do things!

I tried magnetic panels on the sides when we rebuilt our stand. They didn't work out very well but I'm also in a rural area and can't always get my hands on the best materials. We used magnetic cabinet latches and they just weren't strong enough. I ended up putting one screw in each side panel to hold them in place and that assists the magnets enough.

I'll think on your other issues a bit and post later. I was about to go to bed when I got a notice about your post. I wanted to answer you so I would be sure to get notifications when someone posted in your thread.

I got the bug for aquariums when I was 13 or 14 and I've never been without one since! Glad to have you in the hobby!
  • #3
Saw your post about heating. So far, I can't comment on my heater. I only installed one, and it kicks on very little as the filters must be generating heat, keeping the tank at about 76. I won't truly know if the one if good enough until winter when things get chilly, but I really don't see it being an issue.
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  • #4
I can take pictures now but sorry if the quality is bad it's taken on my iPhone. Here is a picture of the sump. We wanted to see if this much bracing was enough before we did a full euro brace and it's holding up fine but we might to a euro brace anyway

There's 3 drains that will go right through the wall outside

Here's the pump

Water will travel left to right and there's a large open section we'll likely fill with plants


Here is the main tank there is the overflow on the left and the black acrylic box will fit around it to hide the pipes



Its 8 feet long. The wall that it's against connects to a bathroom so we'll drill right through the wall
The background is this translucent screen that we're trying out it's a bit hard to see in the pic

Here's the stand we built. We still need doors/panels


We're thinking of have a sort of control pannel on the left for lights co2 etc
Here's the light we're testing out. It's a full spectrum led flood light

The tank needs some cleaning

They're super bright and only 50 bucks
Here's my 60 gallon I'm redoing

Btw if you guys are curious we live in California and our tap water ph is like 8.4 so we usually mix it with ro water and put peetmoss in our tanks. We want tap water for the plants but ro water for the low ph for the fish. It's a balancing act. We could do ro water and add supplements but that gets expensive.
Also Drummindot I remember you made a water leak detecter and we were thinking of doing that maybe.
My dad said he's planning on doing 1 300 watt heater. Hopefully that's enough. Or LFS sells dragon stone for 5 bucks a pound put we found a store in San Diego that will sell it in bulk to us for 2 bucks a pound and we're going out there for a friends wedding in about a month. We haven't figured out any lids yet. I keep looking at these amazing flowerhorns online and I want one for my 60 gallon but my LFS has none. I might pick one up in San Diego at this fish store check them out in ig if you want I think they're fishspotsd they ship all over. Here is the driftwood we have already.

The manzaneta we got really lucky and found while hiking. The other piece my dad got for 50 bucks.
So here's what we've been thinking about and need some help on
1. Doors/panels
2. Lids
3.ro water or tap water
4. How to transport a fish in a car for about 4 hours
5. Where do we get Altums?
6. Any guides on the leak checker things?
7. If we add co2 later will it mess up our tank chemistry?
8 substrate. We've looked at turface I think it's called and other stuff. We just can't really afford a 240 gallon planted tank worth of fluoride or ecocomplete and we've never used dirt or peetmoss to plant in.
9. Lighting we have some ideas but we need to figure out how to build a good or rack or have it hang or something
As always thanks for all the input and fell free to share any ideas suggestions or concerns
Ps it says 10 pictures max so I have to split this up sorry if the pics are out of order
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Here are the last 5 pics






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Sorry it glitched out and multI posted if someone can delete the duplicated ones that would be great
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Or show me how
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Here is a declorinator we made. We will fill it with carbon. This is where the water will drip in from the tap. We'll cut holes in the bottom for water to come out with and have the drip hose enter on the top. We're a little worried that if it clogs it will spill out the top. However it's just a drip line so that shouldn't be a problem




This is the section we'll put filter floss and maybe bioballs or carbon. There are acrylic holders we build and "eggcrate" trays that lay on them that we can remove for cleaning.

Our LFS sells filterfloss in bulk
These big bags are 5 bucks a piece and one bag is good for my 60 gallon for like 2 years

This is the bag like half full

I think we're gonna get a new gate valve. This one is to easy to adjust. We want one that screws in and out.


We're thinking a lot about lighting. We're thinking of doing a pole on brackets so we can adjust the height of the light during maintenance
Something like this but without the shelf

We're just trying to figure out a way for it to look better.
We need make a drip plate too
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  • #13
Sorry it keeps double posting I'm not sure why
Stephen Hiatt
  • #14
How about a large cichlid community? You can use any size of aquarium for a planted tank, but it's only when you have a large tank that you have the opportunity to keep large fish.

A few to consider are Vieja Synspilum, Vieja Coatzacoalcos, Vieja Zonatus (in case you can't tell, there's a theme here), Oscura Heterospila, and Hoplarchus psittacus (Jeff Rapps currently has them for $18 each, a steal for how rare they are).

Polypterus are interesting fish that make great tank mates with cichlids, and in a 240 you could keep any species.
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  • #15
Oh wow they are pretty big. I don't think they would work well with plants. Very cool fish though. Maybe some smaller types would work potentially.
Stephen Hiatt
  • #16
Oh wow they are pretty big. I don't think they would work well with plants. Very cool fish though. Maybe some smaller types would work potentially.
Viejas are herbivores, so no they wouldn't work with plants. You could still get the same look with fake plants though. They're also cheaper than live plants, and you don't have to get an expensive light.

There aren't smaller species. Big tanks tend to be for big fish.
Stephen Hiatt
  • #17
I forgot to mention this earlier; you did a great job on the sump. It looks very professional.
  • #18
A big planted tank would love huge schools of cardinals and rummynose tetras. Sterbia Cory, leopoldI angels and a bunch of hatchets at the top
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  • #19
first, I'm sorry about the double posting. every time I post from my iphone it does that but I figured out how to edit it so it atleast takes less space.
Anyway, we're pretty set on a planted tank. We're really into aquascaping and love "thegreenmachine" on youtube. he has some really cool tanks like "nature's chaos" "crimson Sky" and "continuity" to name a few. I love the big south/central American chiclids but I just don't think they'll work in this tank. Thanks for the suggestions though. Maybe some smaller will work like rams or apistogramma or maybe even the mid sized ones like firemouth keyhole or
Thorichthys elliotI could work. I really like the bigger ones that's why I want to get a flowerhorn. I know its a hybrid and some people are aggainst that but I don't mind much. Jaguar chiclids are really cool to but way to big. The only big ones that I know don't eat plants for sure are discus and Angels.
BTW thanks for the compliment on the sump. Its the first tank we built so we were very nervous. It turns out we don't need a drip plate. the filterfloss spreads the water enough. If we put an "eggcrate" underneath the acrylic slots it holds the floss down. I'll add a pic later.
The post about tetras, We love tetras and we hear smaller fish emphisize the the size of the tank in an aquascape put we really want to try try some new bigger fish too. We might put some tetras in to but we've kinda gotten a little tired of the traditional neons and cardinals. I absolutly love congo tetras but have never had a tank they would work in. I forgot their parameters. Does anyone know if they work with south/central american chiclids.
Stephen Hiatt
Thanks for the ideas

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  • #20
big update
We plumbed the whole tank so now the sump and main tank are connected, the drain is set up, and a couple other things.
1st picture. this is the start of the sump, it goes through carbon and then filter floss. I also added a sponge since then.
2nd picture. This is the pump. it has 10 speeds. we need to set up the cord better
3rd picture. this is the tank filled with water. the light is temporary. we plan on getting 6 of these. they're 50 bucks each but we found the same one that changes colors for the same price. they're 50 watts each
4th pic. this is an example of how we might do the lights. imagine the lights are mounted to a 2x4 and then is chained or attached some way to a bar above that attaches to the wall with brackets. we could adjust the height during maintenance. Its hard to explain and we would make it look a lot better.
5th pic. we're water logging the manzaneta the other piece is already water logged.
6. here is a pipe that we can attach the gravel vac to and it drains right outside the house.
7. we added the substrate. Its super cheap. its called turface I think. its clay based so it has a low ph.

a couple things. We have since bought a sponge that we put in the last baffle on the right so fish and plants don't go over into the pump. we've also bought a 300 watt heater. we're gonna start adding plants and cycling fish soon. I have tons of media from my 60 gallon tank and I might move all my "dirty" substrate from there over too to speed up the cycle. The new substrate just needs some time to balence out.

Stocking. We're thinking 2 schools of tetras maybe cardinals and rummynose. Maybe 15-20 in each. probably 30ish total.
We really want Altum Angels. We don't really like the overstocked looks especially my dad. I was thinking 12 but He was thinking less. It depends how many other fish we get and what species of Altum we get.
Apistogramma and rams. We're thinking around 12 total. maybe 4 rams and 8 apisto.
Plecos. we want to get the really pretty small ones that stay around 4 inches. They're really expensive though.
bottom feeders. We don't know what yet. maybe fancy cories. We don't need them because we will have TONS of plants but they could help.
This is not set at all. We still might swap angels for discus, drop tetras for south american chiclids, no cories, mor Apisto, we still can't decide. For now we're gonna slowly add the fish from my 60 gallon tank in. If you're curious here's what we have. 4 angels, 2 kribs, 1 red tail shark, 8 rummynose, 4 rams, I'm probably forgetting something.

for the sump we want shrimp but don't know what are compatible with each other.
if there's and shrimp experts who have ideas on really cool shrimp that can coexist with each other let us know. They would be totally separate from fish and have Tons of plants.

We still need lights, substrate in the sump, drip system for auto water changes, plants, fish, rock, maybe more wood, shrimp, 20 other things we're probably forgetting.

As always any thoughts are welcome.

here's what we're thinking about:
substrate for the sump. we could do floating plants with black sand
doors. We were thinking we could make the bottom look super nice and not put doors. this would make mantinence easier and encourage us to make every thing look good.
Dragon stone, other rocks like river rock, or more drift wood? some are expensive but look a lot better.
light hood thing.
how long till we add fish etc? we're going to San Diego in 3 weeks I think do we want to wait so we can get cheaper, higher quality fish and rock/wood?

hopefully the pictures attached. sorry if this double posts.

Thanks for any input,


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  • #21
Hey! Sorry about the delay in posting. I've been out of town.
Yes, I did leak detectors as well as an acrylic tray I built to fit under the sump. That way leaks have a place to collect and there's a place to put the leak alarm. It's not got deep sides or anything drastic. Just enough to let me know when something isn't right and gives me a little time to do something about it before any water actually hits the floor. I built the tank with acrylic from Lowe's and-believe or not-thin super glue b/c I couldn't find weld-on. Yes, it is water tight!

For whatever reason I can't get pictures to load in the app right now! :-/

We set the tray for the sump on foam board and the the sump in the tray. The leak alarms are simple hot water heater leak detectors you can get at Lowe's or Home Depot.

I also put a rain gutter (painted black) on the back of the stand under all the plumbing just under where the plumbing goes into the stand. That way if I have a leak or drip back there the rain gutter will catch it. I also installed it at a slight incline so the water would run 'downhill' and I put another one of the leak alarms in the low side. When we were first setting it up that came in handy until we got the plumbing set just right!

On eBay I found a Hi/Low water alarm for the sump. I keep it in the pump compartment to help me know when/if the water level gets too low so the pump doesn't suck air and get damaged.

Also in the sump I put one of the leak alarms so the sensor is hanging just in the top 1" of the sump. So if it goes off I know the water level is the sump it too high.

Yes, that's a lot of alarms and some are redundant. They all sound different so it one doesn't happen to work the other will pick it up.

It gives a ton of peace of mind (especially with the redundancy). There are fancy ones that text/email you as well. A Neptune controller comes to mind. They are prohibitively expensive (for us) and I wanted to put the money elsewhere. I'm home most of the time so I don't need a text/email notification. Believe the audible one has woken me up at 2am before when a sponge got clogged and the water level in the sump got too low.
  • #22
Following. I can't wait to see how this all comes together
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  • #23
Huge update!
we moved ALL the fish shrimp plants lights and gravel over from the 60 gallon.
I didn't count cuz I was trying to net them quickly but there was for sure 2 kribs, 1 red tail shark, atleast 10 amano shrimp, 6ish rummynose, 2 GBR, and 4 Angels.
For plants there was atleast 8 tall grassy plants, I think its a veriation of corkscrew grass, 4 Amazon swords, 7 anubias, and 20-30 other plants.
For lights I got that 50 watt flood light and a light bar I had on my 60g. I put all the plants on one side until we get more lights. We put a sheet of acrylic down as a temorary lid until we make the light hood/cover thing.

Drummindot Thx for the Info on the alarm and lights.
oOturquoiseOo I hope you enjoy the thread.

Couple of things.
The best filtration in clearing up the water has been the socks. we had to wash them every 30 minutes cuz they picked up so much debris.
I added the gravel to the top of the substrate fo 2 reasons. first, its full of bacteria and will Really speed up thecycling process and 2nd the other substrate is very light so its not super good at holding down plants.
We also are changing our mind on dragonstone. its still a posibility but we're now leaning towards mor wood or possibly a different type of rock.
The 60 gallonis empty completly but the filter still has all the used media. how long till the good bacteria in there dies? do I need to hook it up to the 240g to keep it cycled?

Here are the pictures I took. Sorry for the low quality. I'll try to get better ones later.



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  • #24
You'll definitely need to connect the filter from the 60 gallon to the 240 if you want to keep the cycle. I think the bb will start dying off within a few hours.
  • #25
If you want larger fish with tons of color that are totally plant-safe, what about rainbowfish?
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  • #26
oOturquoiseOo I realized its going to be a while till I can set up the 60 gallonand I'll be able to cycle it quick with media from the 240g. Thanks though.

vikingkirken I love rainbows. I kept them with my angels a while back. They're the perfect parameters and they're not giant and don't eat plants. My dad's just not super into them. I think I can convince him to get maybe 8 so I was thinking 4 boesemanI and 4 of another type perhaps blue or turquoises.

I forgot to mentian that a lot of the stuff I added in the last update is temporary. Its just there to start the cycling and so I don't have to run both tanks.

Thanks for your input,
  • #27
Definitely the easiest to just seed the filter from the 240 again later.
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  • #28





We added lots of rocks we had. They're probably temporary but we'll see.

The driftwood was waterlogged enough to hold down with 1 or 2 river rock

Sorry it's so merky the substrate is kinda dusty and we moved it around.

We still need lights. Plants. Fish. Eventually co2.

We're mostly set on stock the amounts are an estimate tho

I already said what earlier but I can't remember if this is the same

8 altums (we want them to school. With to many they just fill the tank. With the driftwood it wood be hard for a bigger school to move around.)
2 schools of tetras. Probably rummynose cardinals. Probably 15 of each.
4 pairs of apisto or rams. 2 GBR and 2 of a more unique type maybe EBR or gold rams maybe longfin or balloon rams. 2 pairs of apisto maybe
1 or 2 really cool small plecos the zebra or leaped print looking ones. Idk what they're called

Some rainbow fish. We don't know how many or what kind.

10-20 Amano shrimp. We have 10ish right now

We have the red tail and absolutely love it but it's a bit aggressive towards the rams. It will be less when we have more fish. I know from lots of experience with them. It's just a little tricky because it's right on the edge for parameters.

I love Congo tetras but they just don't work for this tank. If wish there was a way but I guess I'll have to set up a different tank sometime.

Any ideas for algae eaters? I hate Siamese and chines algae eaters and all the autos locally suck. They always die. The fish also can't eat plants. Any ideas? We're leaning towards some small plecos but that's probably not enough.

The sump is a whole other story. We'll get there eventually.

As always thanks for the ideas,
  • #29
I love your tank so much!
In the way of stocking you could go for bosmanI and red rainbows in a big school then add something like red tapajos or some other Geophagus to go with them.

Your tank is big enough for basically anything downwards from arapaima and rays so you have endless options. Another good choice would be a themed tank with Congo tetras, butterfly fish, leopard gourami, elephant fish, six bars and other African fish. (BTW I didn't check if those fish are comparable so please do research on them if u choose one of those species.)
  • #30
For Algae eaters I really love nerites, those things love to munch algaes, and they don't eat plants
  • #31
Another good algae eater are Amano Shrimp. They especially like hair algae.
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  • #32
a few days ago the angels laid eggs. As expected they were all gone the next day. Atleast we know we have a pair, however we plan on rehoming the angels and kribs when we actually stock the tank but that will be later.

We rescaped the tank with rocks and and the wood was waterlogged so now its in place. the scape is likely temporary put it looks pretty good considering all the rock and manzanita we got for free.

we put substrate in the sump

We got 2 50 watt color flood lights but we need to return them because they're about half as strong as the white full spectrum led flood lights.

We got a bunch of inacais and hornwort for the refugium.

we got a filter shrimp and 3 boesmanI rainbow fish.

I'm heading down to san diago tomorrow so I might pick some stuff up. They have every fish rock wood plant- everything. Any ideas?

The driftwood with river rock created a banked substate section that we wanna put duckweed on the top and hair grass on the bottom.

The rainbows look super good. They are best i've ever seen in store. They're healthy and active. It's hard to see in the pics.

The pic with angels show they're eggs.

Thank you RafaelAmorI'm and Drummindot for ideas on algae eaters. I think we'll stick with amano shrimp for now and add a small pleco and maybe nerite snails later too. We've always had a hard time with snails. Any ideas?

Thanks for the ideas and compliment ark_fish



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  • #33
We made a light fixture and set up the auto water changer. The angels laid eggs again. Tomorrow I'm buying 10 rummynose 15 cardinals 4 apisto full length hair grass and baby tears. I'm also getting a flowerhorn I'll buy in the sump until I reset my 60 gallon. Sorry if the pics double post.
Thanks for ideas as always,
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  • #34
Here's the pictures.


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  • #35



Heyo, it's been a minute. Our tank has changed a bit and I figured I'd update it a bit. The plants are doing great. Even though we have no ferts or co2 the lights have been plenty. All the plants have probably doubled in size and we've gotten a few new ones too. We got 1 lucky bamboo and yesterday 3 java ferns and 1 "el niño" fern and 2 Anubis. We tied them all to the driftwood.

We've had lots of problems though. For plants the baby tears aren't growing at all. I think it's because we have no co2. The right side of the tank is very bare looking as a result. Eventually we want to replace the river rock with dragon stone and have the whole right section covered in low carpeting plants. We want to heep the top very open to leave room for large fish to swim.
We've had lots of problems with fish too. Our original 20 or so fish are all fine but whenever we add new ones most die.
We added 3 rainbows and they all died after a month. For tetras we started with 10ish and got up to maybe 25 now we're back down to 10 again. All 4 angels are fine. We have 5 GBR's and a red tailed shark 2 kribs 10ish Amano shrimp. 3 apistogramma and 4 blue shrimp in the bottom. I forgot there Latin name. There's also 4 autos in the sump as well.

We think we don't have enough biological filtration. We added lava rock and we're gonna buy some ceramic or bio balls. Any ideas? We have that whole far left section.

So we really need help on knowing how to improve filtration or why they die. Is it just not cycled?
I did a water test and nitrite and nitrate 0 but ammonia is .50. We've had the tank for a few months it's really confusing. We're going to start acclimating new fish in a different tank but it's always the new fish who die. Any ideas on plants that can stick out of the water?
Thanks for any help,
  • #36
You probably mentioned it way back in the thread, but what's your pH/KH/GH? Also, gph on your sump?
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  • #37

My ph right now is 6.8 but was 6.4 about a month ago. I don't know the rest off of memory but I think the water was pretty soft. Also if you're curios my tap water is like 8.5 ph and really hard.
I'll have to check the other parameters later.
One thought I had was maybe it's my substrate that's causing a problem. It's mostly turface I think it's called and I hear that could take a while to stabilize.
I'll test the rest soon, any ideas anyone,
  • #38
Most boesemanI come from areas with water more like your tap water. They may not have adjusted well to your low pH.

Also, if the water in your area is hard and you're buying locally, those fish may be used to higher pH as well. Fish don't adjust well to a sudden drop in pH.
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  • #39
I see. So what's a good way to acclimate them? Should I use a acclimation tank with a ph around 7.5 to slowly adjust it?
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  • #40
I forgot to mention we also have 2 bristle nose plecos and a flying fox algae eater I think it's called.

Long term we want to take out the kribs and angels and red tail. The angels will be easy to net but we're having a really hard time with the red tail and kribs. Any ideas on easy ways to catch fish? Draining it is difficult at we have plants at the top and it's a large volume of water. Is there maybe some sort of trap? We've just been using 2 nets to try and catch them but it's difficult.

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