28gal Build

Discussion in 'Freshwater Aquarium Builds' started by Lindsay83, Apr 14, 2017.

  1. Lindsay83Valued MemberMember

    Hi all.

    I've never been on afish keeping forum that has a section for tank builds, but I love the idea. Because of this, my "build" is maybe a bit further along than it otherwise would be.

    The tank is 36"x12"x15" (LxDxH), and, according to aqadvisor, it's about 28gal (US). I'm experimenting with compost as a base layer, and I did intend to use slate as a mid layer, followed by gravel or sand on top, but from what I've read since, sand on its own is an adequate cap, so long as it's deep enough.

    This is what it looked like before adding the base layer:
    2017-04-09 11.49.35.jpg

    This is a 2nd hand tank given to me as part of a "fish rescue" after the original owner sadly passed away a few years ago. The fish were common goldfish and 1 Blackmoor. The commons went to a colleague's pond, and my dad took on the BM in my 200ltr tank (I don't live with my dad, but the tank, stand and set up were bought and paid for by me).

    Anyway, after leak-testing the tank, I emptied and added the compost (organic). Mistake 1: I didn't completely empty the tank, there was about an inch left in the bottom of the tank. :oops:

    This is what the tank looks like now:
    2017-04-14 10.30.03.jpg

    I know, I need to fix that background, (not to mention the compost) or else, replace it, but I'm going to roll with it for now.

    I am going to heavily plant this tank, and going to try my hand at a bit of aquascaping. I'm thinking of adding some sort of rock, or maybe some more bogwood to the centre-left of the tank, facing the wood already in there.

    I intend to keep some sort of dwarf cichlid in there - either German Blue Rams, or Apistogramma Agassezii, along with tetras, but I keep swinging from Ember Tetras, to Rummynoses. I was going to go for a South American biotope, but I suspect the lighting is low in this tank, and, typically, it's the South Asian plants that seem to do better in low light. At least, according to the plant site I was on.

    I'll be keeping this thread updated, but I'm not in a particular hurry to get it set up. I'd rather get it right, first.
  2. Ed204Well Known MemberMember

    Sounds Good! Best Of Luck! :)

  3. Lindsay83Valued MemberMember

    Ok, got the sand in and found a beautiful bit of mopani wood at my local pet shop, which I think complements the feature piece. It still needs to be soaked, but I've temporarily placed it to give you all an idea of my intention.

    2017-04-21 13.58.58.jpg
    I've abandoned the idea of a complete S. America biotope, while still aiming for a S.A. theme. I've just thrown some Elodea Densa in the tank - it's behind the new piece of wood in the pic, but obviously you might not be able to see it very well with just a pool of water in the bottom of the tank.

    For the background (along with the elodea), I'm thinking Twisted Vallis, Java fern in the mid-ground, Amazon Swords along the sides, and Dwarf Sagittaria as a carpet, maybe some dwarf swords as a forground plant, leaving the centre and top as swimming room.

    I'm aware some of these plants may need better lighting and/or CO2 injection (I've made my own DIY CO2 set-up before, although I may be a bit rusty), so I am open to ideas/suggestions for alternatives.

  4. Lindsay83Valued MemberMember


    Added plants to the left side, and started the cycle. Currently on Cycle Day 4.
    2017-04-27 08.45.28.jpg

    Half-filled the tank so that the plants would have a chance to take root, and it seems like I'm going to have to sort out the new bit of mopani wood as it keeps leaning to one side. :hilarious:

    I could swap some filter media with my dad's *cough* mine *cough* external filter, for an almost instant cycle, but while I'm planting, I'm happy to wait and let the tank cycle naturally. Still have the dwarf sag and Vallis to go in, and I've seen some ruffled swords that i'm thinking of add it to the right hand side.

    As for fish, currently, I'm leaning towards a large shoal of Serpae Tetras (10-12, maybe?) and 2 small Cichlids, possibly GBR or an Apistogramma spp.

    Last edited: Apr 27, 2017
  5. endiglowgurlNew MemberMember

    Gbr are such beautiful fish. I love mine! I hear they are super sensitive to water quality though and best added to mature tanks, but I added mine before I even knew of cycling tanks and luckily they managed to survive a cycling tank!

    BTW, love seeing all the pics of your tank! Its looking really nice!
  6. Lindsay83Valued MemberMember

    I've had GBR before, and it was a nightmare. Fully cycled, mature tank, about a year old by the time I got the rams. Water quality and chemistry spot on - 0, 0, <10, day before a water change. PH 6.5-6.8, KH. .. about 30dKH. Can't remember offhand what GH was.

    Still seemed like every day was a struggle to keep him alive. Then I had a pH crash and it was panic stations - especially for him. He survived, but it took its toll and he was never the same again.

    I was on another forum at the time, and General consensus was that he was simply a badly bred fish. :( And, tbf, I seemed to have problems with most of the fish I got from that shop, but when you can't drive and have to rely on others for lifts, it's best to stay local.

    That was a few years ago, and now I can drive, so I'm going to check out a couple of more reputable stores a bit further away. :D

    If I'm not happy with the quality, I'll drop the rams, but they are stunning fish.
  7. Lindsay83Valued MemberMember

    Any feedback on Serpae/GBR or Serpae/Apistogramma compatibility?

    I haven't had Serpae Tetras before, but from what I've read, they can be aggressive. Seem a bit like Tiger Barbs (which are/were on the Maybe List .... along with Dwarf Gourami, Harlequin Rasbora, Cories, Ember Tetras, Dwarf Pencilfish :meh: :hilarious: ) in that, larger number diffuse aggression, and tank mates should be chosen carefully.

    Basically, I want 1 large shoal of [Tetras/Harlequin Rasbora/Pencilfish etc], and 1 Centrepiece. Both species from the same area.

    If I went with Tiger Barbs, it would be a species tank.
  8. Jocelyn AdelmanFishlore VIPMember

    @TexasDomer is our stocking expert around here, (Anders as well but I can't remover the numbers at the end, maybe @Anders247 ) hopefully they can help.
    Just wanted to add that with the compost decomposing (first time I've ever seen it in a tank, interesting!) and the sand cap top you will need to keep an eye out for gas pockets
  9. Anders247Fishlore LegendMember

    I believe serpaes need cooler temps than GBRs, but you can do them with a Apistogramma borelli.
  10. Lindsay83Valued MemberMember


    I'll keep that in mind, but what fish I want changes from one week to the next (or, when I go to the LFS, every day, :Hilarious ), so I'll probably end up with something completely different yet again. :D
  11. Lindsay83Valued MemberMember

    That's why I've stayed away from sand until now. Thanks for the reminder. :)
  12. Anders247Fishlore LegendMember

    Sand is fine, you shouldn't have to worry about gas pockets, that is way overhyped as an issue in my opinion. Never had an issue with it. It's easier to clean than gravel ime.
  13. Jocelyn AdelmanFishlore VIPMember

    Not from the sand, but from the compost decomposing below
  14. Lindsay83Valued MemberMember

    I see.

    Well I haven't gone into this blind. ;) I carried out loads of research in the beginning, otherwise I wouldn't have risked it. There's a lot of anecdotal evidence on aquascaping forums/fora(?) and YouTube, about using organic compost as a base-layer in a fish tank. MiracleGro Organic compost, John Innes #3 and even supermarket-variety topsoil are all frequently mentioned, with varying degrees of enthusiasm and recommendation. It seems that so long as it isn't manure-based, which mine isn't, and free of fertilizers and pesticides, which mine is, it should be safe to use.

    There is a process that soil and compost go through when fully and permanently submerged that usually takes 1-2 months. I can't remember the name of it now, but it will release ammonia into the water column until the substrate converts and settles.

    Therefore, while there's an inherent note of caution when the tank already has fish in it, it can be used as an ammonia source in a fishless cycle. Obviously, I don't have fish in the tank atm.

    The release of ammonia into the water column is mentioned in this link here, about the Walstad Method:


    Not that I really knew I was trying to emulate the Walstad method, otherwise, I would have referred to it sooner.

    Here are a couple of links I came across when researching using organic compost as a base-layer:



    I know forum links aren't usually allowed, but in my defence, the above forum isn't strictly about fishkeeping - more about aquascaping. I did look on this site, but couldn't find the answer I was looking for.

    If you Google "Organic compost in aquariums" there's a wealth of information about it. :)
  15. Anders247Fishlore LegendMember

    I don't think you should worry about things getting underneath sand, unless you buried it there yourself. Waste stays on top for you to vacuum off.
  16. OnTheFlyWell Known MemberMember

    Very cool tank project. I am going to attempt something very similar starting tonight.
  17. OnTheFlyWell Known MemberMember

    Now that you have some experience what are your thoughts on minimum depth of soil and top layer of sand? I am concerned I will eventually make an unsightly mess unless I do both in black in case they get stirred up at some point. Planting, netting fish, adding water too fast or whatever. It looks very nice stratified, but I will somehow disturb that at some point by accident.

  18. Lindsay83Valued MemberMember

    My original intention was to go for black gravel or sand, too. That way, it won't matter whether the cap comes through.

    Sources seem to be varied as to whether you want a thin cap layer, or thick, but in general, and IME, to avoid the soil coming through the cap, you'll need to aim for about 2-2.5" of sand/gravel.
  19. OnTheFlyWell Known MemberMember

    Thanks, my initial thought without experience is you don't need a lot of soil for a reasonable good result for plants. They will grow in gravel with some additional nourishment and the soil should easily meet that need until nitrates eventually appear from fish.
  20. Lindsay83Valued MemberMember

    You're right - you don't. A thin layer just covering the base of the tank can be enough.

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