Tom's list of credentials is impressive: Water Treatment, Sacramento State; B.S. Aquatic Biology, UC Santa Barbra; M.S. Botany, Univ. of Florida; and an ongoing Ph.D. in Plant Sciences at UC Davis. An environmental consultant, a Biology teacher, and author of the Estimated Index Aquatic Plant Fertilizing Method, Tom has been planting aquarium tanks and guiding hobbyists since 1989.
The aquarium being featured today is one of many Tom has set up in his Sacremento home, a 120 gallon custom-built rimless tank.
- 120g rimless built by the fishtankfactory.com
- ATI T5 48" fixture with dimmer (bulbs: 1 ATI purple; 2 ATI blue specials; 2 GE starcost; 2 Aquawave red; 1 Giesemann aqua flora)
- CPR overflow box; sealed with duct tape to prevent CO2 loss
- CO2 injection into return pump via Rhinox 50mm diffuser
- Outflow via a PVC pipe, at ~900 gph
The 120g tank rests along a wall, nestled between an entryway and a livingroom couch.
Setup and Maintenance
The tank was first set up in August, 2011, through the past 9 months, it's gone through countless mowings and plant changes. The substrate used is ADA Aqua Soil, and the tank is kept at 80F degrees. Glass lids are used from November to March to reduce evaporation.
The ATI T5 lighting fixture comes with a controller and automatic dimmer, it's calibrated to average ~60 umols for 8 hour cycles throughout the day (the sun puts out about ~2000 umols). The various colored bulbs allow Tom to tweak the spectrum to minic dawn, mid-day, and dusk.
Water changes typically take around 35 minutes, to clean the prefilter, catch and cull shrimp, trim plants, and do some rearranging.
The goal of this tank is high production, meaning high light and CO2 to factiliate speedy plant growth. The excess plants produced here supply Tom's hobby aquarium business, and you can often catch him selling off excess exotic "weeds" on forums such as the Planted Tank, or at local Sacremento aquatic club meets.
UG trimming and re-growth
Tom pioneered the Estimated Index Aquatic Plant Fertilizing Method, the following two images highlighting two weeks of growth under an EI dosing regime:
Flora & Scape
The current scape is actually a rescape, this time Tom opted for a loosely based Dutch-style (colorful and high contrast) over his previous Amano-style (natural, minimalist and green) layout. The beautiful manzanita dirft wood Tom collects himself in the untamed regions of Southern California, and he keeps a larger and cheaper selection of driftwood than any fish store at his house.
The plants are planted in a way to distract you from the jagged hardscape, so that you notice the plants first, then the eyes flow to the outline of the wood.
As for plants, well, Tom is constantly "weeding" out different species and experimenting with new ones. The following is an inconclusive list of plant species that at one point or another grew in this tank (red & color plants are in red, plants taken out are struck through):
- Erio kimberly
- Erio tiandra
- Ludwigia peruensis/glandulosa
- Ludwigia pilosa
- Ludwigia inclinata red
- Ludwigia senegalensis
- Propersinaca palustris
- Rotala macranda
- Rotala butterfly
- Utricularia graminifolia (UG)
- Staurogyne porto velho
- Painted fire red shrimp (neocaridina), 500+
- Amano shrimp
- Double trunk elephant nose (gnathonemus petersii)
- Gold nugget plecos
- Red phantom tetras
- Dwarf rainbows
Evolution of the Tank
The slideshow below covers changes to the tank over the past 9 months:
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