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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
So Christmas this year brought me a new perfecto 55 gallon tank - thanks Santa! I have never done a display biotope before, and love the naturalistic style, so I thought what the ****, go for broke time. This tank will be an all-out biotope, nothing that is not endemic to the lake will be in there, including plants - so if you see something that does not belong, let me know! This will be a long process, and I will document the entire thing.

I started the project by building the tank stand. See this thread for a detailed project step-by-step http://www.cichlid-forum.com/phpBB/viewtopic.php?t=160446.

This is the nearly completed stand in the living room - it still needs the center door that will be oak and will close flush with the frame having no visible hardware.



and another view.



I am pleased with the stain color - it very closely matches the base on my Ekorness chair which was the goal.

So, today I went looking for sand. There is a local river (Green River) that runs through my town that I do a fair amount of snorkeling in during the summer. It has the most beautiful grey-tan-brown sand/gravel in its bed. This will be the material that I will be using for the sand. Unfortunately, although today was quite warm (~45f.) the river is pretty solidly frozen over, so no sand today. The river passes over and through the Shelburne Falls Arc for those of you interested in geology. The shelburne Falls Arc was probably a volcanic island arc chain similar to the Japanese islands that was acreted (smashed into) the eastern margin of Laurentia (ancient supercontinent) about 470 million years ago. The rocks are extraordinarily deformed, as you may expect from this collision of 2 hefty landmasses. The dominant rock types along the banks of the green river are gneiss, schist and phyllite - a beautiful metamorphic rock with an amazing wavy texture. The sands are composed of sediment-sized particles of the same rocks, and hence is fairly dark in color.

As an aside (I know, this is an aside from the geology aside...), but it is interesting I promise you. One of the most famous incidents in early colonial history occurred in nearby Deerfield Massachusetts back in 1704 when a French and indian raid partially destroyed that town and took a large group of captives with them on the return trec by foot, during a New England winter back to Canada. The most famous of these captives was the reverend John Williams, and his wife Eunice, who had just given birth and was quite weak. The photo below shows a covered bridge that spans the Green river in Greenfield, MA. Just out of frame to the left is a small bluff where Rev. John Williams witnessed the execution by tomahawk of his wife as she was unable to continue on. The indians thought this a merciful act, as she would have succumbed to the elements if left behind. A small commemorative plaque marks the location of this event.



You can see a bit of the green color of the river in the photo. It is more pronounced in the spring and summer, but the water is still amazingly clear.

So... all fishkeeping from this point forward, sorry for the multiple tangents. At this point, I have not been able to collect my sand and my backgrounds have not yet arrived, so I am at a temporary end. I will be using two terrascapes background panels in their 'Victoria' pattern (below).



I chose this pattern because it is not as gray as their 'Malawi' and not as red as their 'Tanganyika'. I purchased 2 of the large sized panels (23.6"x21.6") from http://savethereefs.com/. Shipping was $20 bringing my total to $109. Not bad. I was going to go with an Aquaterra background from this site http://www.aquascapeonline.com/default.asp, but they wanted $50 to ship the background to me from New Jersey. Yeah. So... next time I will have some sand, photos of the collecting expedition including the beautiful rocks that line the shores of the Green river, background install, and some plumbing photos. May not be for a week or so, weather willing.
 

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That stand is gorgeous!! You need to get that tank set up so we can see it!! Plus I am considering the same background for a 75. If I cannot free up the time to make one. lol

Seriously, we want updates.

Good Luck!!!!

Jeff
 

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Your stand is absolutely stunning, and it looks like your tank is going to be beautiful. I'm just curious about your background choice. I know natural looking backgrounds are hard to come by, but that is going to have a VERY different look than the rocks that your planning to put in the tank. I would expect to see flatter, more angular rocks with a background like that. Was this background chosen for a reason?
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thanks for the replies! I chose the background because it being winter here in the northeast, I could not make the replica cliff that I wanted as laid out in this thread http://www.cichlid-forum.com/phpBB/viewtopic.php?t=160640.

This background will work nicely for what I have in mind, although it does not have as much relief as I would like. I will make up for that a bit by placing the background in the tank on a slight angle, which will increase the shadows cast by the lighting and give it a more natural look. Plus with the coat of algae that will eventually cove the whole thing, I think it will look pretty good.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
So, the background finally came this morning, and after writing a few grant proposals this afternoon, I've gotten around to starting to put it in. I ended up going with the Aquaterra 'Canyon Rock' after all. It comes in almost the exact right length for a 55 gallon tank if you get the 20"x48" size - I'm going to have to trim about a half inch off of one side. This is what the DHL man brought this morning-



I had to cut the BG into 3 pieces to get it to fit past the center bracing in my tank, and it was quite easy to cut. I was originally going to divide the space behind the back into to 'compartments' and run return water into one side and intake water into the other, but there is only a largeish space on one side. So the hole in the front will receive a small fascia-type plastic vent that has been painted black with krylon fusion plastic paint and sprinkled with fine sand. This will be behind a large rock and will not be visible.

Here are some close-ups of the BG so you can see the textural detail.





Right now, I have the first 2 pieces siliconed together and into the tank. I have to wait for these to set up before I can fit the last piece in place and fit the grate into place. I will likely make a small hole for the returns, probably on the left side - haven't decided exactly where yet, though. Fortunately, once everything is cured, I won't have to cycle this tank as I will be using the same filters and substrate that is currently in the 50. The riverbank where I was planning on collecting sand from is frozen solid, so it will be a pool filter substrate - still quite natural looking. Then it will be off to hunt down a few more rocks. About 15 minutes ago - waiting for silicone to set up...

 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Today was day number 6 after using GE silicone I (W&D clear) to 'glue' the background into the tank. No acetic acid smell remaining, so the transfer began at around 1pm this afternoon. I began by removing all of my rockwork from the old tank - I had one piece of water-eroded gneiss in there that must have weighed 60lbs, and rounding up the inhabitants. They went into a temporary corral - a rubbermaid container I keep for just such occasions, and I attached one of the filters (fluval 104) and the inline heater to keep them warm. I then removed the old lighting diffuser from the tank bottom, trimmed it, and pieced it together into the new tank. The PFS from the old tank was then put into 5 gallon buckets and rinsed just a bit (didn't want to disturb the bacteria too much) to get rid of some of the detritus, and finally placed into the new tank. The natural color pool filter sand really goes well with this background. I originally wanted something just a bit darker - and the sand from the green river is just that, but this will look quite nice. Here's the old tank - a 50 with darkish wood trim - free to you if you come get it!!! (see my ads).



Then it was fill-up time. I am sooo sick of the bucket-brigade for water changes and fillings, so today I went and got a 50' python. Made filling the new and emptying the old tank much quicker - how did I ever manage without one of these before. Almost full... and wow, what a mess!



closeup.



I did routine filter maint on the 2 fluvals I use on this tank (a 104 and a 404) - I am a strong believer in overfiltration. I loaded the 104 with quite a bit of carbon - just in case there are any remaining chems from the silicone still in the water. I have decided that most of my rocks are a bit too yellow - and too rounded - to work well with this BG, so a rock hunting I will go next week. Still haven't got the brackets from the welder yet for the fixture I fabricated, so temporarily using a 30" current USA 'satellite' from the old tank with a 50/50 bulb (hence the bluish hue). A quick shot of how it looked about an hour ago.



So... next time, rocks... rocks... and more rocks, possibly some plants (if I can find some vals around somewhere), plant pots, and just possibly a few new inhabitants :D

Current stock:

9 Paracyprichromis nigripinnis - 3 different tank-raised generations
3 Neolamprologus leleupi
2 Julidochromis dickfeldi
2 Altolamprologus calvus
1 Callochromis pleurospilus
 

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I wonder if it crossed your mind to use the 50g that you had as a sump. Not that I am criticizing your project, I very much like it. Just hear me out.

Since your stand is a custom built, you could have built it to house the 50g underneath the new 55g and used it as a sump. That way your show tank would be clear of all the equipment and you'd have another 50g of water which means you can house more fish.

Have you thought about that? If so what made you decide against it?
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
So I went looking for a similar rock type to what the BG is modeled after yesterday - I found some sandstone that is quite rugged looking and about the same color. However, the outcrops are mostly covered with about a foot of snow and embedded in frozed ground. I may want something a bit more rounded as well. In any case, I collected a few medium sized rocks to throw in there until things thaw out a bit here in New England.

I also picked up some vals at the LFS today. Not sure of the species, and the guy at the LFS had no idea either. They look like either V. gigantea (aka 'jungle' val), or V. spiralis (aka 'Italian' val). I have to count leaf veins to find out. Quite healthy looking and sending out runners every which direction. I'm going to try them directly in the substrate for now - I'll see if I can get away without pots and without ferts. Although I hear they like a nutrient rich substrate, so we'll see. So this is what it looks like right now. I may change the plants around a bit - possibly consolidate them into larger groupings.



So - I guess this is where I'll leave it for now - until it gets a bit warmer 'round here and I can get out and do some more rock hunting. I think I may add a small driftwood branch on one side as well. Just a small twisted twiggy thing if I can find something around the local streams this spring - if not, no biggie.

Comments and suggestions (especially) welcome.
 

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well, i'm gonna have 2 say i am really starting to like the looks of this tank.

looks GREAT! :thumb:

:D now i'll tell you what, if it wasn't for actually seeing the tank in the pics, i'd probably say it was atually the lake from the looks.

i think, even if you bought a nice piece of driftwood from ebay store "rockartsource" (they have beautiful pieces) and boiled it, it would look just perfect b/c they have alot of branchy "twiggly" like pieces. sometimes costly.

8) but keep it up. looks great.
 

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I absolutely LOVE your tank.... one of the nicest, most natural looking tanks I've seen! Great job!

So, now what kind of fish are you housing in that tank? Can you get some more close-ups of the tank and it's inhabitants? I'm dying to see more! :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Thanks for the comments!

Current stock:

9 Paracyprichromis nigripinnis - 3 different tank-raised generations
3 Neolamprologus leleupi
2 Julidochromis dickfeldi
2 Altolamprologus calvus
1 Callochromis pleurospilus

I have 2 pair young adults of Opthalmotilapia ventralis kipili 'white cap' flying in on friday from Rocky Mountain Cichlids - Kurt is a great guy and the experience has been a pleasure. So with the incoming featherfins, the stock list might be adjusted, but we'll see how it goes. I'll get some more pics this weekend and post them here.

Sorry tahw - didn't see your question before. No, I never really considered a sump, as this is only a 55. If I had gone with a 75 I probably would have thought about it more. As for equipment, not really a concern - its all hidden from view as it is, but good point on the extra water volume. I overfilter for the same reason.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Here are a few pics of the inhabitants...


Callochromis pleurospillus


Dominant Paracyprichromis nigripinnis


Close-up


Altolamprologus calvus
 

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i'll tell ya what, that is one, dang good looking calvus.
..just seeing what all i've been seeing, i'm thiking about trying a tank for them.

jcollette, do you know, are the calvus hard to keep?
simple fish, or alot of specials just for them?
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
ArcticCatRider: Not at all - very unassuming fish. Very easy to keep, no weird requirements at all. They grow quite slowly, and I have not bred them, so I can't tell you what conditions they like for spawning. Thanks for the compliments. I'll post some pics when the ventralis come in on Friday - CAN'T WAIT!
 

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Nice fish! You have a wonderful tank. :thumb:

If you want your tank to be a little more African, there are a few other plants you might consider:

Aponogeton Boivianus
Aponogeton Ulvaceus
Bolbitis Heudelotii (ph of about 7, but you never know?)
Crinum Calamistratum
Crinum Natans
Nymphaea Lotus Zenkeri

Also, I don't know how bright your lights are, just thought I'd offer you some plants to research :)

You had asked about the water onion in another post and I misspelled Crinum, sorry. Hope I didn't massacre the spelling on these plants :oops:

Alicem
 
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