I have wondered how long you can go in a planted aquarium before you need to rescape. It is definately less than two years. I know this because that is how long our tank has gone since the last rescape and it is long overdue.
We were blessed with some free time on New Year’s day, 2019 and decided to dive in and makeover the Spec V.
Why (and When) Do You Need to Rescape a Planted Aquarium?
I have previously written an article about how to rescape an aquarium. I won’t rehash the whole thing here, but the high points are basically about the degradation of your substrate, equipment, etc.
Over time, detritus (decomposed organics – looks like dirt) builds up in the substrate of any aquarium, and especially in a planted tank with so much living and dying going on. Also, those that use a clay or dirt based substrate, like the Up Aqua Aquasand that I have been using in our tank since December of 2014, experience a degradation in substrate quality. The individual pieces of hardened clay start to dissolve, and break apart with time (and degrade from plants boring roots into them); as they breakdown they produce more dirt in addition to accumulating detritus. The result of all this, over time, is a tank that is very cloudy and dirty with any disturbance.
Additionally, the substrate becomes deficient in nutrients. Plants are constantly extracting nutrients as they grow. Also, nutrients simply dissolve out of the substrate material and into the water column. Regular plant trimming and water changes remove some of these nutrients permanently.
In a planted tank, you also battle overgrown plants that need to be removed and replanted on a large scale. It’s not only what you see, but what you don’t see – a massive collection of roots that are causing unhealthy competition.
All this causes a need to occasionally break down the entire planted tank and re-aquascape, or ‘rescape’ your tank.
Regarding our tank, I have neglected the tank over the past year, so the issues that normally occur with an old tank have been magnified. Algae has taken over and we are dealing with unhealthy plants from overcrowding.
Aquarium Rescape Process:
I’m in a unique situation (from past tank rescapes) in that I have a new Spec V tank that we are switching to. The old tank that has been in use since 2014 has taken a beating. It is eaten up with algae and has some scratches on the glass. Having a new tank as spare makes the process easier.
I first got out all the aquascaping hardscape materials – some driftwood and some Ohko stone.
I put down one layer of plastic light grid to protect the bottom from the rocks. Then it’s time to play around with different stones and layouts to see what works.
Aquascaping a nano tank like the Fluval Spec V is challenging. Not a lot of room to play with. I ended up with a single major stone for the aquascape. It seemed that another stone or two would be nice, but real estate is precious and I know that ultimately I will want room for plants, not rocks. At least the one rock is somewhat large scale in this tank. I had one other stone in there that was used to prop up and stabilize the main stone.
I siphoned the water out of the old tank as much as possible, leaving all the critters inside. This includes dozens of red cherry shrimp and a single Green Neon, ‘Uno’.
With most of the water and weight out of the tank, I unplugged everything and simply lifted the tank onto another staging area. I added Seachem Prime dechlorinator and refilled the old tank in it’s temporary location. I plugged in the pump and heater as life support. With the tank setup in a new location, I could take my time getting the new equipment setup.
Setup for the new tank involved first getting it into the new location, taking care to center it properly.
Next, I used a small cup to fill in with new substrate. I am still using Up Aqua Aquasand. Once happy with the level of substrate, I carefully started adding water.
I ended up filling by putting the straight attachment from our DIY Python water changer directly into the filter section. I turned the water on as low as possible and let it overflow into the main display section. If you do this very slowly, the substrate will stay put.
Once full of water, I hooked up all the electronics. The tank is new along with a new pump and filter media. The light (a Finnex Planted+), temperature controller, and automation plugs are the same as we have used previously.
One notable change in equipment is with the CO2 system. I have previously use a diffuser stone inside the display tank to diffuse the CO2 into the water. With the new tank, I have incorporated an inline CO2 diffuser and hidden it in the pump section along with the heater and pump. I’m still testing but hope to be writing about this soon.
After letting the new tank percolate for a night, I took to getting it planted the following day. I did not get any new plants – the plan was to move over existing plants from the old tank. I started pulling up various species and going through to trim down good examples for planting.
I’m going back with Rotala Rotundifolia, Staurogen Repens, Blyxa Japonica, and hemianthus callitrichoides ‘Cuba’. Since the rescape, I got a few stems of Rotalla Wallichii from ebay. It is a lovely addition!
Planting in Up Aqua Aquasand is very easy. Just push the plant in with pinchers, wiggle a little and give a quarter twist. Then slowly move the pincer tips up and away. My replanting of HC was sparse – not many chunks and they are spaced a good distance apart. We will see how fast it fills in.
Later that evening, we rounded up ‘Uno’ and as many shrimp as possible and put them in their new home. The activity level of the shrimp was amazing – they were zooming all over the new tank.
Two Week Status
Two weeks in, the new tank is doing very well. My big battle in the old tank was green dust algae. It is coming back a little on the new tank, but I’m working some new techniques to limit it’s accumulation. HC growth is slower than expected; however, it is alive and looks healthy. I trust it will take off. Not much growth with Staurogen Repens either, but I trust it will start spreading soon.
The two sprigs of Rotala Rotundifolia I planted were absolutely pathetic. That is a plant I was having major trouble with late in the lifecycle of the old tank. The little sprigs are now taking off and I trust that portion of the tank will soon be taken over by it.
The new plant, Rotala Wallichii is super enjoyable. The lower parts (portion that was shipped and possibly grown emmersed) are not great looking, but the top few inches are new growth that looks much more healthy. I hope that when it gets closer to the light the tops will turn redder.
I’m super excited about the future of the tank and it will motivate me to get back in gear with regular maintenance and fertilizing dosing so that this planted tank can reach it’s potential.