Goodies acquired

Over the past month I have been acquiring the bits and pieces for my aquarium:

Substrate: I decided to go with ADA Aqua Soil, in the past I have always used EcoComplete. I chose the Aqua Soil because of the small size of the granolas, the color which is a deep brown (almost black), and because it is suppose to be full of nutrients. My understanding its kiln baked clay that is nutrient rich. After a few years I will have to start using fertilizer tabs (and probably some supplemental tabs in the interim) or swap some of the substrate out.

One small win… I ordered four 9L bags originally which was about 2L too much for my planned substrate depth. They ended up shipping me twelve 3L bags, so I can actually leave my extra in a sealed bag.


Driftwood: I purchased a box of random manzanita branches from Tom Barr. He is an influential person in the online community and from my perspective spearheaded the EI (Estimative Index) fertilizer dosing approach. He also takes a scientific approach to what works in the aquarium, exercising significant professional skepticism towards marketing claims. I linked his website above, I would strongly recommend checking it out if you are new to aquariums or trying to get a deeper understanding.

I received the driftwood on March 16 and immediately put it in a tub to soak. There has been a little bit of tannins leaching (nothing unexpected) and the wood is still buoyant after a week. I am hoping it’ll become water logged after about three weeks if I am lucky.


Fertilizer:  I prefer to use dry fertilizers rather than pre-made liquid mixtures. You get a whole bunch more fertilizer for a fraction of the price. Last time I purchased fertilizer it lasted for nearly 3 years and cost me less than $20.

I bought the below items at, you can get it a bit cheaper on some other sites but I have used these guys in the past and they were one of the first to start offering the fertilizer in small packages for aquarium hobbyists.

1lb – Mono Potassium Phosphate (macro)

2lb – Potassium Nitrate (macro)

1lb – Plantex CSM + Boron (micros)

1b – Barrs GH Booster (3 parts Potassium Sulfate, 3 parts Calcium Sulfate, 1 part Magnesium Sulfate by weight)

You will also notice 1lb of Potassium Permanganate in the image below, that is not a fertilizer, it is actually used to sterilize plants and will hopefully keep my aquarium snail free!



General status update

It has been over a month since I purchased my aquarium! The aquarium is currently being used as a mini-greenhouse for starting vegetable seedlings as I slowly collect all the necessary equipment and materials. I am hoping now to have water in by the second or third week of April as that is when I expect these plants to be big enough to go outside. I still have a second wave of seeds/pots I need to plant.

Mini greenhouse

Mini greenhouse

A few things have changed from my initial plan:

– No longer drilling the aquarium. After doing additional research the preferred area for drilling the aquarium (minimizes visible equipment) is the bottom of the tank. My Aqueon aquarium has tempered glass for the bottom which means it will shatter if it is drilled.

Another risk with drilling the aquarium is driven by my filter choice. I am going to be using an Eheim canister filter. When you plumb a canister filter into an aquarium that has been drilled, there is significantly more water pressure placed on the canister. Traditionally you loop the canister filter intake and output over the edge of the aquarium so the water flow is primarily driven by the siphon/gravity feed with a small pump to return the water. When directly plumbed, the weight (and pressure) of the water is directly applied to the filter intake which increases the risk that the filter will fail since it isn’t designed for that type of pressure. After reading various forums the jury is out as to whether an Eheim canister filter will survive long term and I do not want to take that gamble.

– 3D background is on hold. I am struggling to conceptualize a 3D background that won’t look hokey in my aquarium, so this is going to be put on hold until I have a few ‘dry runs’ under my belt. I probably will wait until the summer so I can work freely outside or in my garage.