AlannaFae's Aquarium Journal

  • #1
I thought I'd start a journal to document the progress of this tank.

Tank is a 4 foot 65 gallon (250 litres) open top. The plan is to do a faux blackwater setup (lots of driftwood, tannin stained water but not the super acidic water).

- 2 x Eheim 2213 canister filters
- 300W Hydor inline heater
- Aquasky 2.0 light

- sand substrate
- lots of driftwood
- leaf litter

- 'thor hammer' java fern
- anubias nana petite
- 2 tiny buce
- christmas moss
- red root floater
- Hygroryza Aristata floater

Planned Stocking:
- 4-5 Festivums (Mesonauta festivus)
- 12-15 Lemon tetras (Hyphessobrycon pulchripinnis) - I think, I've gone back and forth on what tetra species to add for weeks. The Lemons are the current front runner though.
- 1-2 twig catfish (Farlowella acus)

Progress so far:

Hardscape in.


Tank filled. No matter how well you rinse sand it always seems to cloud the water. I started a fishless cycle.


Water clearing up and starting to see the tannins. Rearranged the driftwood a little and added plants. I also moved one of the filter outlets so they're on either end of the tank now.


The tank today:


The fishless cycle seemed to take ages to get started but I'm starting to see both nitrites and nitrates now so things are moving along nicely.

I'm planning to add some more java fern and probably a few larger anubias but other than that I think I'll just let the plants fill in over time. Leaf litter will get added slowly once the cycle is done.
  • #2
This is going to be really good, I look forward to seeing how it develops.
  • #3
Following........That wood looks amazing!
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  • #4
Fishless cycle has been going for about three weeks now and seems to be progressing nicely. Ammonia is being processed at about 2ppm every 48 hours, nitrites are currently spiking (anything over 2ppm and I can't read the colour difference on the API test) and nitrates are starting to rise steadily.

I did notice today though that the pH has dropped to at least 6.0 (the API pH test doesn't go any lower). I haven't been testing pH every day so I don't know exactly how sudden the drop was but it had been steady at about 7.0 every time I tested including a few days ago. I tested KH and GH today as well. KH was 2ppm out of the tap and 0ppm (instant yellow) in tank. GH was 4ppm both tap and tank.

This is exactly where MacZ predicted my parameters would end up so I'm not too surprised (had actually been a little concerned that pH wasn't dropping) but I am a little concerned about it stalling or slowing down the cycle. I'll monitor things closely over the next few days and hopefully it continues to move along.

Any suggestions for a good pH test that will test below 6.0? I'd like to confirm that the pH isn't drastically lower than that.
  • #5
It is strange, my pH is usually 6.8 from the tap and has rarelly gone below 6.6 in any of my tanks though the KH is very low, 0-1. I doubt if yours is below 6 but I don’t know any kits that will measure lower, you might need a pH meter.
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  • #6
Wow, it’s been a minute since I last posted. Well overdue for an update.

Shortly after my last post I started having some health issues that meant I didn’t have a lot of energy. As I didn’t have fish in the tank yet I pretty much just let it go for a couple months – didn’t keep up the cycling but also didn’t tear it down (I’d regret that later).

Things started improving a little on the health front around August so I spent a weekend tearing the (now overridden with algae) tank down. I scrubbed all the algae off the driftwood to reuse and started to rebuild. I changed up the scape a bit, added new sand substrate, refilled with water and added some java fern to the driftwood clump on the left and a few floating plants (Brazilian pennywort, duckweed and red root floaters).

9 August 2022.jpg

I did a fishless cycle again. For some reason the pH never dropped this time round (it’s been steady at 7.0-7.2 since August). The java fern on the left had been growing in nicely so I moved some plantlets over to the right side. I think I also added some water lettuce about this time (the red root floaters never thrived and the duckweed had also slowly dwindled away so it was mostly just the pennywort by this time for floating plants). I added 15 lemon tetras at the beginning of October.

1 October 2022.jpg

Mid December – the tank was going well. I think I’d lost one of the tetras (it’s hard to count when they never stop moving) but other than that there’d been no problems. And then one morning I noticed this little guy (photo below – at the back just below the sponge covering the filter intake). The lemon tetras had bred at some point! A couple days later I spotted a second one, and then a third – they must have survived in amongst the java fern until they were large enough to venture out.

12 December 2022.jpg

And we’re pretty much up to date. I lost one more lemon tetra – found it on the carpet in the morning. (the three babies I found in December have all survived though so I figure we’re still ahead overall). I suspect they can get startled if someone walks past the tank after the lights have gone out (I rescued another jumper a couple nights ago). I’m considering dropping the water level a little more but I’ll need to reconfigure the filter outlets as they’re currently as far down as I can get them using just the bent outlet hose bit that comes with the filters.

I decided I didn’t like the look of the pennywort so the water lettuce is the only floating plant in there at the moment. I like how that looks so I’ll get some more if I can find it again (and the ones already in there are starting to produce plantlets). The java fern has really filled in. I’ve also added a pothos to the driftwood where it extends out of the water, with just the roots in the water.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to add the Mesonauta festivus. I’ve been looking since October but nothing. My local aquarium shop has also been keeping an eye out for them, but their distributers haven’t listed them yet. They have had festivums before so they’re not impossible to get here but it may be the kind of situation where there’s just one person in the area who breeds them now and then. So it may be time to rethink stocking…

The tank as it looks now:

11 February 2023.jpg
  • #7
Just be patient about the Mesonauta, they will turn up eventually. I had to wait months to get mine, like you I was checking everywhere and no one had them, but eventually they did, worth waiting for!
  • Thread Starter
  • #8
Turns out patience is a virtue. One of the online stores I've been monitoring got some Mesonauta in stock last week. I've ordered five, fingers crossed they arrive in good shape. They may not get shipped for another week or so (the store only ships live fish Mon-Wed and there's a public holiday here on Tuesday so they're actually only shipping on Wednesday this week) but I've waited this long, another two weeks won't matter.
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  • #9
Mesonauta have arrived!

They were delivered yesterday afternoon. They arrived in really good shape and have already settled in, are eating well and starting to colour up (more so than shows up on the photos).

These guys are so fun to watch. They're so curious, exploring in amongst the java fern (the lemon tetras tend to stay in the open water). They've been nibbling on the plants, algae, even making a few attempts at the pond snails.

There are five in there, just couldn't get a decent photo with everyone in frame.

Excuse the poor quality of the image - apparently I need to clean the glass :)

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