May 20, 2007

Flourite Red Substrate

I spent most of yesterday replacing the previous freshwater aquarium setup gravel with Seachem Flourite Red substrate. This gravel is red clay, and has a mineral composition suited for freshwater planted aquariums. The reason I switched from regular stones to this clay is to start keeping live plants with the turtles and fish. The plants should help clean the water as well as provide a nicer living environment both cosmetically and functionally. Plus, it should provide a more comfortable habitat with more hiding places for the fish and turtles.

It was a very arduous process, removing the existing gravel and water. First I had to take out all of the various driftwood and plastic decoration, then put the fish into a bucket that had some of the aquarium water in it. The reason for this is because cleaning out the gravel would release a lot of organic waste which would get the fish sick. Plus, since I was using an undergravel filter there was over a year of organic waste trapped beneath the filter, and I needed to remove the filter. Catching the fish took a while, and I wasn't able to get all of them while the tank was full. So I drained most of the water leaving only a little water left, to catch the last few.

Since there was so much waste in the tank, I actually had to refill and then drain again. Without the undergravel filter, waste remains suspended in the water and flows freely while the water circulates through the canister filter. An undergravel filter can make things look cleaner, since everything gets pulled down to the bottom where you can't see it, but it's actually just making things really dirty in once place. But they make sense in some cases, where you might change the water very often and do not want to deal with an external filter. But I should have paid attention to the online discussions explaining how an undergravel filter really isn't worth it for any serious aquarium.

Once all the existing gravel was pulled out, after the second full water replacement, I wiped up the little remaining dirt and gravel and turned on the heater. I keep my tank at 78°F, which is an ideal temperature for both the turtles and the fish. Since I filled the water using a hose, it was all really cold water. I then poured the Flourite Red into the tank, which created huge clouds of red clay dust. I left things this way for a while, because the water was not fully heated yet, and then eventually put the fish back into the tank, along with some plastic plants and driftwood to provide them with hiding places. Unfortunately, I had to do this before the tank was fully heated up, but it was not too bad and the fish managed fine.

I also learned a lesson about incandescent light bulbs the hard way. I've purchased a new lighting fixture to provide more light and heat to the tank and turtles. The light will be more important for the plants, and the heat will help keep the turtles healthy. Unfortunately, I didn't know that water on a hot incandescent bulb will cause it to crack, shatter, or even explode (like a halogen bulb). I wasted three bulbs this way and thought it was a malfunctioning fixture until I searched online and found out you really can't use incandescent bulbs with an aquarium. They're fine for dry or relatively dry environments, but my tank is very humid. I've ordered some compact fluorescent UV bulbs instead, to increase the lighting.

I'll update again soon, once the new lights and plants I ordered arrive. I ordered a bunch of plants, focusing on what I read saying java ferns and cryptocorne plants are hardy enough for turtles and require relatively low lighting and no CO2 injection. There are some other plants as well in the package I ordered though. Anubias plants are also supposed to be a good choice. I'll attach the plants to the driftwood, some lava rock, and to the clay substrate as well. Once they take root, it should look really nice.

Posted by josuah at May 20, 2007 4:13 AM UTC+00:00

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