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The Beginner Aquarium Is Done!

By King of DIY on

Joey Mullen: I love this tank and I hate it. let me explain what happened last night. All right, the tank is cleaned up and is ready to go. Of course, we have a problem, a problem that is making this aquarium even more fun, more challenging and more interesting for me to set up. Let me show you. Of course, we're going to be scaping this aquarium and what do we need to do so? We need scaping supplies. Perhaps we need some wood, some rocks. We already have plants but I need woods and rocks.

Now you guys know I have a tremendous amount of both of those. I got a couple pallets of it and you know what I forgot?

I didn't forget, but, everything's frozen. I went outside trying to pick out some wood and dig through it. It is just absolutely frozen. I have tons of Manzanita wood in and tons of Malaysian bogwood. I decided you know what?

I'm going to grab one of the biggest pieces I can find, break it loose, take it in, rinse it off, clean it up, and we'll go with that. As for rocks, I don't remember where I put them in. Even if I did, I probably wouldn't be able to unfreeze them or unthaw them maybe in a couple of months or something like that. Or maybe run a bunch of hot water over, I don't know.

I going with this challenge of sticking with the idea that this is like a beginner's aquarium where we got beginner's fish, we've got beginner plants, beginner aquascaping materials. I mean, what is that truly? I would argue that it's probably not that treasure chest with bubbles and a submarine diver. I would argue that it's usually not much materials. Usually, most beginner hobbies don't invest a tremendous amount of money into scaping supplies. A few rocks, maybe be a little bit of wood. That's what I'm going to do. If you guys remember the rocks that were originally in this, [grunts] like this one here. I'm just kidding, they're hollow. These are from I've got four of these of various sizes. I'm going to work with what I got.

As for the piece of wood that I found, I went and got this large piece of Malaysian bogwood. I'm not excited about it but we're going to use it. I like it because it does match the color of the background and that's pretty important. You do want to do that. That's another challenge trying to get the scape to look like the background. That's my scaping materials, a piece of wood and four rocks. I think we can pull it off. Let's take a look at the plants and the fish. I'm thinking we should just use all of them and see what happens.

You guys remember we're stocking this with a bunch of barbs. We've got Cherry barbs, Odessa burbs and so forth. The Wisteria is fine, the Gayi is fine- Oh this is killing me- and the Java fern is fine. Everything actually looks really, really green in here, but I suppose it's probably because of the contrast of the blue. The fish look fantastic. I haven't lost a single one, believe it or not, which is typically not the case with tiny fish. A lot of the times when you're transporting them, and you say you ordered 20, you might lose two or three overnight just from the transportation. That's just because they're such tiny, delicate little fish. As they become established in your aquariums barbs can be one of the hardiest fish in the hobby.

Man, they are going to look great in this aquarium. Shoot. One thing I was thinking about is, how am I going to get this big old piece of wood into this aquarium because it's a big enough aquarium to require a brace. Well, you guys remember these aquariums? They're from custom aquariums and one of the selling factors it was for me was that I can remove the brace after I drain the tank. The couple of screws and it comes right out. Put it back in, screw back down and of course fill the tank back up.

I don't know what the goals or plans are here, I'm always wing it. I'll spend maybe 20 minutes doing this and then we'll call it quits, maybe 10 minutes and call it quits. I'm not looking to follow any rules. I'm not looking to impress anybody. I'm looking to make this aquarium aesthetically pleasing and have the fish interact with it and display beautifully in it while still creating something that's pretty unique and interesting. The difficult part is trying to make all of these aquariums look different. Let me see what I can come up with.

Obviously, it would have been bright or smart of me to attach any plants I wanted to this wood before putting it in just because it'd be easier to handle and manage but I didn't know how I wanted it in here. I did try to put it in earlier, but I still wasn't entirely settled. I think I do want this corner like this, right? Oh, you know what I just forgot to do? Of course, we will have some plants in here. I guess this just can come up for a sec. Just like that. I'm going to have some plants that require nutrients coming from the soil so I need something more than just this sand. I don't have a tremendous amount of plant tank soil, but I'm going to mix it into this.

While this isn't ideal and I'm not going to get the most out of this this plant soil, it's much better than I had. The goal here is just to mix it in. It is the same color. Once filled up, I think it'd be fine. Alright. One piece of wood is really making this a challenge, but again, I want to make an aquarium that you can actually be inspired by, by just using very minimal equipment, very minimal items.

Mind you, this is just being lit with a shop light. One piece of wood, we use four rocks. I think it's going to turn out. I'm going to try to get the most out of this one piece of wood by trying to find the best side that has the most character. While I think I might use some of those rocks to angle it up like this, create some height from the tank and the fish be able to enforce and to interact with the entire aquarium, creating visual blocks, almost separating the tank down in two. It'll be interesting to find out what we do with tank place or a plant placement. Because I'm not really one to put plants where they're supposed to go. I'm not one to follow those rules. I always found them frustrating. How can I call this being creative if I'm just following a predetermined recipe? I want to find out what I like and what I think looks good.

It feels nice and sturdy too. That doesn't look that bad. Now, what if we were to take a few more rocks and place around the base here and go from there. See what that looks like. Maybe there's another little one to fill in the void here and the final rock, where could we put this? I'll most likely make some adjustments here, but I'm not hating this. I like that.

I don't mind. Just feel like this one rock here that's holding this up, should turn. I don't mind that. What do you think? Come here. That doesn't look horrible. I mean I guess in the camera you can never see everything about it. We have a cable winding down here that's taken away from it, but you get the idea.

A little clump of rocks looking like it's the anchor that finishes this off over here. Maybe I'll just turn it around. It gives tons of height. It matches the background to an extent. I guess, of course, it just needs some plants and whatnot, but I think it looks good. I don't know what to tell you guys. What are we, four minutes into the scape? That's all it takes. I think the problem with a lot of hobbyists and the people that are terrified to scape--

It's like we're all so scared about what everybody else thinks. I'm not a pro scaper, it doesn't look that good. Let me know what you think. We're so down on ourselves. Meanwhile, inside you're just bursting with excitement. You can't believe how awesome it is. Then you post it and somebody takes you down because, in comparison to a pro aqua scaper, you don't match up. You know what? Neither do I.

Ultimately, I've got four rocks and a piece of wood. What more could I have done? What would you have done differently? The other thing I was thinking was lay it flat straight across or angle to the corner straight across and the wood or rocks piled up behind it, leaving it completely open. But I don't have a ton of plants to fill in the voids. I don't even know what I want to do there. Where do I put the plants? [chuckles]

That's true. I do have some string so we could take some of the mosses and start tying it to the wood, right? I also think with this Cuba, it's not going to fare well in this aquarium. Oh, that smells delicious. Oh, wow. Well, I don't mind eating vegetables and this smells really good. I think what I'll do with this stuff, to be honest with you, instead of trying to attach something, I'm just going to put it in the substrate here and there and we'll see what happens. I'm going to break it apart a little bit so I could space it out, maybe wrap it around the rock a little bit. This isn't going to grow very well without CO2 source, so I don't have high hopes for it or at least highlighting type of thing. It's probably going to float.

I got a pretty decent flow in this tank, but you know what? Let's give it a shot. Down below we're going to do some weeping moss. Oh my Lord, this is beautiful. Would you look at that? Can you see this? I'm not going to have nearly as much success tieng this down as the other one because this seems to be falling apart almost. But man, isn't that-- It's like very thick. That is gorgeous.

Now ideally what should happen here is the moss-- we're tying it down now and over time the moss is going to actually attach itself to the wood. We can remove the string. Ideally, I'll probably never actually have to remove the string. You do want to use quite a bit of string because once you get water in this, it's going to start to float.

The moss that was up top branch before, I only had one of those. The rest is actually Christmas moss and weeping moss. We've got weeping moss in the front half, Christmas moss in the back half. I thought that looked way better than what we had previously. Instead of three different types, two different types. I've already used the first type anyways. We did an entire 375 gallon in it. It looked absolutely incredible. I wonder what this is going to do. I wonder if this is even going to work. I wonder if this is going to survive. I don't know. Let's keep going.

All right. All the moss is in, let's move on to some of the other plants. I'm pretty sure we're going to focus them all over here. I'm going to take this Java fern, I'm going to tie it to this little clay tile, give it this weight so I can just place it in the back, or if I ever need to move it, I don't like where it's at, easy to do so, too. This is a plant that does not need a substrate, unlike the other plants that we're using.

Put this right in the back, I think, and on top of this. Sort of like this. See now they're filling the back there. Let's keep going. I just moved some of the substrate over here, took out one of the rocks. Now I can just put plants in there. Move the rocks out. The substrate is just building up the bank so we can plant more plants in there. Let's move all this out later. You only want to plant most of these stems, two to three stems to be planted, to give them room to grow. This tank is difficult to get into.

First and foremost, I did get the rest of the moss attached to the wood. We've got some here, here. Just up on the branches. Let's see what happens over time. We also got the Gayi planted through at the front. The Java fern in the back here, which I had to attach to something to it, like I showed you, so it would sink. Then, of course, the Wisteria in the back which lines the entire back. You're not going to be able to see it all there, but there's some peaking out over here. What I'm hoping will happen is this will get big and bushy. I'll continue to trim it. Hopefully, over time, this is going to overtake the entire background in this section.

The Java fern, we can propagate that. That's easy, just snip off at the [unintelligible 00:12:55]. We can attach it to new rocks and use it in a lot of other tanks. I'm hoping this stuff, the Gayi will fill out the entire front here. Of course, this is not what it looked like a moment ago. The Cuba, I noticed that a lot of it was already dead. Anyways, I was having problems planting all of this so I put some water in it. As I was slowly filling the tank, guess what happened? This wood here, which is a Malaysian bogwood started to float. Malaysian bogwood never floats. It always sinks because it's a bogwood, it's been submerged. But this is more of a branch-type look.

Now that it's wet, it doesn't necessarily really match the color of the background, but over time, it'll get algae on it and begin to look the same. It is the same consistency and size and shape. That's going to look fantastic over time. I had to take a rock out of the 375, weigh it down here. In the back, you can actually see that the Java fern is sitting on top of it.

I also moved the rocks in closer to give it a more cluttered look. What I'm hoping will happen is this entire section is going to grow in with a ton of plants and we'll have a nice open section, open swimming space, which I think contrasts quite nicely. I'm not looking for a certain look or feel, I'm just looking to make sure that the fish have tons of open swimming space yet have a sense of protection over here. Plus, I simply just enjoy that area.

The one thing I should've done differently and the one thing I definitely should've changed is instead of spreading out the planted tank soil everywhere, I should've just dumped it back here where I was actually going to use it. Then again, in my defense, I didn't really have a plan going into this. I never really do. I get a general idea and I just start running with it. That's part of the fun for me. It is just exploring, having fun, and coming up with something that's truly unique. Nothing that's too contrived or too pre-planned out.

I didn't imagine it going like this, but this is how it ended up and I love it. Which definitely goes against the saying of always have a plan when moving into a planted aquarium. I guess I don't really listen to those types of plans. Look at the barbs. These guys are just enjoying life right now. They're so tiny, it's difficult to see them all. These guys are definitely going to be the life of the tank at first, and then of course--

The golds are really small. The only thing that concerns me is the size difference between a lot of them. It's not too dramatically different. I just hope that the big guys leave the little guys alone. I have a feeling the little fellas are going to enjoy the plants. In behind it, look, they can get in behind, they can go under the wood, they can hide in the plants, et cetera, et cetera.

Worst case scenario with this tank, I'm going to have to tear out the plants, which is easy, just the ground plants, dump in some more planted tank soil, put the plants back in, not that big of a deal. If I notice the plants aren't really doing well, I can do that, plus I can double up on the shop light. I mean, these are what? What did I say? $20, $30, something like that, no big deal. If they still don't work, we're going to switch to the AI Primes which I know will grow plants. That's what we started with in the first place.

All right. The next thing we've got to do obviously is I've got to make sure this tank is completely cycled and move the fish over. I actually have a video on how to cycle-- I think it's five ways to cycle an aquarium. I've also shown you ways that I immediately cycle an aquarium. First and foremost, moving water from an established tank to a new tank doesn't cycle an aquarium. Water is not cycled. There's bacteria that lives within it, but certainly not enough to sustain life. Bacteria lives on surfaces like the biological media. When we're cycling an aquarium, we're technically cycling the filter media.

I could put this on its own filter, take established media from other aquariums, dump it in, and we're good to go. Obviously, we want to keep an eye on parameters because no real bacteria is living within the substrates or anything like that. However, with this tank, we did already have some established substrate in there.

Because these guys are going to be on their own system, it's like moving them from one quarantine tank to another. It's not going to be that big of a problem. I have been monitoring them closely over the past couple of days and I don't see any signs of anything, not even any weakness, they're all eating, they're all doing just fine. Let's feed them.

Give these little critters tiny little pellets. Just because the fish are not coming up and eating at the surface, doesn't mean it's not going to sink and they can not nip at it once it softens up at the bottom. All these guys look to be doing quite well. Again, I haven't lost a single one unless I'm seeing things or not seeing it. There's no floaters, there's nothing in the overflow, there's nothing dead on the ground. These guys surprisingly have a 100% survival rate, which is totally uncommon with these tiny little fish.

Anyways, guys, I hope you enjoyed today's video. That's going to wrap it up for today though. I'm going to monitor this tank a little bit closely, make sure that everything stays where I put it and we'll go from there in a future video, adding in the fish and getting an overall look and appeal of what this tank is really going to be like. I hope you guys did enjoy this video.

If you're not subscribed and you want to watch the fish being added, and to see the other beginner style-type tanks that I might do, there's one more that I have a really good idea on. We're either going with live bearers but we'll see what happens. I want to do a scape that I truly love. It's one of my favorites. I've actually did it before long before the gallery. I wonder if one of you guys can guess what it was.

You know what, I really got to say though. For just having four rocks, a piece of wood and some pretty beginner-style plants, just a handful of them, I don't think it's all that bad. I hope this instills far more confidence in people that want to do a nicer scape or maybe play around with some plants and you don't have much scaping supplies or anything like that. I know this is not the best, but that is not the point. Again, I just hope it instills confidence and inspiration into at least some of those that are watching. Certainly, it has for me, and I'm excited to do the next one.

About King of DIY

Joey is THE King of DIY, and when he built his gallery of aquariums he chose the Custom Aquariums rack system with 120-gallon tanks...a lot of them!

Joey Mullen is also known as the king of DIY, uarujoey or the DIY fishkeeper on social media. Providing education and inspiration for aquarium enthusiasts on YouTube, he is also the author of The Ultimate DIY Handbook; for the DIY Aquarist. His channel is about educating all levels of fish tank hobbyists who are passionate about caring for fish and keeping an aquarium of their own. Joey's aquarium rack systems were custom made by our professional fish tank engineers, here at Custom Aquariums.

Please watch the King of DIY's videos for some helpful information and great tips on diy aquarium keeping.

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