Making a new planted tank

Yesterday was an exciting day. After 3 months of buying all new stuff – the day to create my new fish tank had arrived.

I’m writing about how easy it was to do because it’s exactly the same whether you put fish or shrimp in it. I hope it might inspire you to care for a beautiful aquarium too!

Step one

Research what you need and get everything ready. Over the course of 3 months I bought:

  • 50 litre tank (Dennerle)
  • External filter (Eheim 150)
  • Scrapers soil (Dennerle)
  • 2 Lights (Leddy Smart Plant LED)
  • Heater (Tetra)
  • 1 unit to put the tank on.

The day before we connected up the filter and added an additional plug socket  in the wall. The empty aquarium had already been pre filled and emptied to check for leaks. The light and heater were added.

We had also collected 5 X 10 litre tubs of rainwater and filtered it through our home made filter station.

So this is how we looked the night before if you ignore the moist soil!


Step 2

On the day it took about 4 hrs to complete. We re -mineralised the rainwater and poured it into the soil until it started to pool. We then landscaped it – less at the front and higher into the back for perspective.

Step 3

Now for the fun bit. I already had wood planted up with a variety of plants that was in the fish tank. Basically I glued rhizome plants on the wood.  So that came out of the fish tank.

I also had some spare pieces of Dragon Stone (About Dragon Stone) and some green slate paddle stone from the outdoor pond. Paddle stone is slate which has been tumbled smooth to look like rock that has been washed by a river for decades. 

I washed it several times in a high vinegar to water ratio. This removed dust and tested for fizzing. If a rock fizzes when acid is poured on it this indicates carbonate is present which will increase pH. Vinegar isn’t a strong acid so it’s not the best test but the only thing I had to hand. It did fizz slightly so I will use with caution and check the pH. I can always take them out.

Next I took out masses of Pogostemon (See blog page About Pogostemon) from my shrimp tank. I also took out all their moss which had taken over and not stayed attached to any wood where I glued it!

 Now it was just a case of arranging it in the new tank.

I kept tall plants to the back (Pogostemon) wood plants in the front but away from touching the glass as much as possible. 

These are some overhead pictures before the water went in.

I also played around with some moss- more about that in another blog post.

Step 4

Next we added re-mineralised water very slowly so as to not disturb the soil or plants. 

About an hour later it was complete.

The filter was turned on, heater and thermometer used, spray bar adjusted and voilà! The filter is totally silent – superb. Plants have a good  sway to them and the water is crystal clear thanks to gentle pouring of water and polishing from added Purigen.

Bacteria were added, the soil has ammonia so just letting it cycle now for 4-6 weeks or until it’s balanced. Then it’s ready for aquatic animals.


Today in the shrimp tank


New observations this week

  • Rapid plant growth
  • Anubias leaves have pale patches
  • No algae on the walls which isn’t good for my Nerites .
  • pH is 6.4, TDS 230.
  • Dissolved a small amount of food and dropped the liquid around the tank to see if I can encourage some algae.
  • Lost a blue shrimp but all the others looking great. 
  • A few fungus spots on my wood. 

Collecting Rain Water

When it comes to filling your shrimp tank with water (or changing water or topping up) you have four options.

1) Rainwater

2) RO water (more about this later)

3) Tap water

4) Bottled water.

Tap water and the things to watch out for.

The easy option is tap water. I started my first tank using tap water. Anything from the tap has been through a massive chemical clean up to make it fit for human consumption. Chemicals which are added vary in different countries. They can include a range of things including adding chlorine (and chloramine) and ammonia.  That’s right – the key things you don’t want (unless you want dead aquatic animals).  If you have old copper pipes – then you can add copper to the list of nasties.

So, you then need a de-chlorinator liquid to add. These liquids usually get rid of both Chlorine and Chloramine – BUT check the table as there are some which are chlorine only.

Chlorine, eventually, will dissipate if you leave tap water for long enough (24 hrs or more depending on the amount/surface area). Chloramine is a problem because it is a mix of chlorine and ammonia. This will not dissipate and will kill aquatic life.

Using these liquids can bring up bad results on ammonia test kits – unless they actually measure both free and ionised ammonia (NH3 and NH4+)

Tap water for us is monitored – we are on a water meter so it would cost us to money we didn’t need to spend.

The main problem is the pH – our water is very hard and has a high pH – so high that the shrimps were not coping very well. So for healthier animals, we switched to rainwater.

RO units – why I didn’t choose these.

The cost of purchasing the unit, and nowhere to put it were the main two factors for me.


RO water (Reverse Osmosis) is a way of passing water through a group of filters at high pressure. Dissolved organic solids are removed from the water through a membrane to remove impurities. It can involve a number of stages (from 3 to 6) which the water passes through.

How effective they are depends on the filter stages, water temperature and pressure from your mains supply. They can cost £40  to £400.

Filters include sediment, carbon and the membrane itself.

The pH is close to neutral and the TDS (total dissolved solids) measures around 0. Once impurities are removed, water must then be re-mineralized to the level that the aquatic animals need.


  • Pure water –  99% removal with higher end units. TDS around 0
  • Don’t use electricity – they run on your water pressure.


  • Plumbing it it – Installation is usually under a sink as it needs to attach to your water supply.
  • Uses tap water – so the expense of that water.
  • Can be slow – can take 12-24 hours to produce enough.
  • You need to keep the filters wet.
  • You will need a pressure pump if sending rainwater through it.
  • many require a connection to a drain for wastewater
  • Up to 50% reduction in the amount of water filtered if pressure and temperature are too low.
  • Filters need replacing every 4-6 months or as stated on the product
  • Units need maintenance – lubrication, filter replacement, replacement parts and flow valves.
  • Storage is needed for the clean water.


Rain Water – why I chose this method

The benefits:

  • Free (as a source)
  • Better for aquatic life
  • Better for the environment
  • Easy to add minerals to in the concentration that shrimp prefer.
  • No need to use chemical or chloramine removers.

Disadvantages are:

  • Not as pure as RO (TDS around 50)
  • Initial cost / time adding a way to collect it
  • Initial cost of making a filtering unit and buying a filter canister
  • Running outside every time it’s raining!
  • Storing the filtered and dirty collected rainwater
  • Time filtering it.
  • Storage

The benefits outweighed the effort and intial cost – simple as that.

How we collect and prepare the water.


First collecting it

  1. We set up a flexible pipe coming from the drain pipe
  2. Wait until it has rained hard for about 20 minutes (once the rubbish has been washed off the roof and the rain is less likely to bring with it pollutants from the air)
  3. Stick the pipe into a cheap collecting container to collect the rain.

These are 10L containers of food grade Polyethylene (so they are UN tested for Leaks and Impacts and certified safe for food storage). You get two for around £8. If it’s safe for humans it’s safe for shrimps! These are also stackable and very robust. We have about 6.




Next we filter it.

1) At a time that is convenient, we tip the water into our sediment filtration system and collect it in a clean container labelled ‘filtered water only’ containers.

I was only concerned with filtering out particles and do not run the water through carbon – although you could add another level of filtration. We store the unit in the garage and it takes a few minutes to filter 10L

The water flows, under gravity, into the filter canister (£22 from Vyair UK), through the 5 micron RO filter cartridge which is like a fabric/fibre roll with a hole down the middle (£7.99 for a pack of 3 and we use one a year) and out of the pipe into the container on the floor.

The filter is easily replaced – you just unscrew the canister and pop it it!

So it costs very little and produce a particle free water. Yes there could be bacteria and microbes in it but then that’s nature and a risk I’m prepared to take.

2) Sometimes I boil it – sometimes I don’t.

I sometimes boil the water before re-mineralising.  Daphnia and other organisms can still be present unless the water is boiled which seems to kill them. They aren’t harmful to shrimp but they ruin a good shrimp photo.

3) Finally I store the water in the dark until I need it to prevent algae growth.


I test the water in my aquarium. If the TDS meter says it is more than 230, I don’t add minerals – I dilute the tank with filtered rain water for top ups to lower the TDS back to what I want.

Salty_ShrimpFor water changes (or top ups if the TDS is 230), I re-mineralise. This is simply a case of adding mineral salts like this (left) until the TDS meter reads 230 or just under (depending on what it is in the tank at the time).

Then into the tank it goes!

The shrimp seem healthier, I get to choose what minerals go in and also the pH.


Acclimatising Shrimp

So your new shrimp arrived and it’s time to put them in your aquarium.

Like all aquatic animals, your new shrimps won’t appreciate the trauma of being put straight into new water. 

With fish, you might be familiar with the old ‘float them in your tank and add a little of the new tank water to the bag’ method or similar. 

This brings in two elements we need to do with shrimp – get them used to the temperature and water parameters of their new home.

With shrimp, they are more likely to withstand the shock if you do it very VERY slowly. 

Sensitive shrimp

Freshwater shrimp are sensitive creatures. They can easily be stressed by new changes – even a water change can freak them out! They    can start to frantically swim around, moult ( shed their skin) and lose their colour. They can die because of this.

The best way to introduce them is with such small changes that they don’t even realise. This gives them the best chance.


So, this is what I do. 

I put my shrimps into a casserole dish with some moss to hide under. I have a thermometer as well to check the temperature. 

I now gently, with slow movements, take out about 2/3rds of the water with a yogurt pot. 

Next I set up my drip. This consists of an enema bag I got cheap on eBay for just such an occasion.  I flush it through with tank water and adjust the tap to get a flow of about 1 drip per second. 

Next I tape the nozzle so it drips into the bowl with my shrimp. 

…. then I use this 3 hr window to coo over my new shrimps and post their photos on FaceBook. Once my friends are fed up with shrimp, I take out the same amount of water and repeat. This time I go faster with the water – 2 to 3 times faster. 

If they aren’t the same temperature as the tank I use an ice wrap or heat pad around the bowl.  

So now they are used to the water parameters and temperature of my tank – so in they go. I prefer catching them with a glass shrimp catcher and keeping the bowl water out of my tank.

Tips for buying shrimp.

Shrimp_buyingSo your new aquarium is planted, cycled and ready for the excitement of adding shrimp. A lot of people aren’t sure where to buy them from or how to have the best chance of healthy shrimp.  I’ve seen a lot of people complain their shrimp died before they arrived or after a few days.

I’m adding new shrimp this week – so I thought it would make a useful topic to write about, today it’s about buying shrimp, next time it will be about acclimatisation and putting them in your tank.

Some of the things I do / have done and what to look out for.

First up – where to buy them from.

First batch – from a local aquatic shop (who got them via a breeder):

My first ever batch of shrimp (a few tiger and cherry shrimp) I ordered from a trusted aquatic shop attached to a garden centre. If you are buying them from a shop, some things you should consider:

  • What is the health status of the fish/shrimp/plants in the shop. I’ve been into places like my local Pets At Home and seen some very sorry sights – half dead animals or high incidence of disease (or staff who don’t seem to be knowledgeable).
  • Do you know what a healthy shrimp should look like? Watch some YouTube videos to get an idea of normal behaviours.
  • Do you know what the type of shrimp is – are you being sold what you think you are (as some shrimp need different water parameters or are for more experienced keepers).
  • Don’t get mixed up with names e.g. a Red Fire shrimp with a Fire Red Shrimp – one is saltwater the other is freshwater!
  • Shrimp colour – some places actually feed shrimp food which changes their body colour – so without the colouring, your blue shrimp might actually be clear after a few days and never go blue again – and you will have been conned.
  • How knowledgable about shrimp are staff?

The first aquatic shop I tried (attached also to a garden centre) had tanks of dead fish and when I asked staff if they were getting any shrimp in, the response was ‘no they don’t breed at this time of year’. I had read that shrimps will breed all the time given the right habitat – they don’t just mate a few months in the year. This is a Neocaridina shrimp we are talking about not a panda.

The next shop was the one I normally bought my fish from. The stock was healthy and the staff very knowledgeable. I asked which shrimp they could get in and learnt about Cherry types and colours and Tiger shrimps – so went for a few of those. As soon as they came in, the shop called and I went to pick up my new tank mates for the fish (at the time my shrimp lived with my fish). They looked healthy and just like I’d seen on the internet (bagged and taken care of nicely – and I saw the tanks they had kept them in at the shop).

So I was very pleased and they moved into the fish tank and produced lots of babies and were very happy.



Second batch onwards – I had them posted from a shop I found on the internet.

When I decided to start a planted tank just for shrimp – I wanted more choice, so I searched the internet and found two shops – both who specialised in shrimps.

I would never buy shrimp from a random eBay seller or person on a forum – there are sellers out there who breed shrimp properly and ship them with the greatest of care – but unless I knew them well, I personally would only trust a specialist shop.

Things to consider when using an internet shop:

  • Wider choice of shrimp and products
  • Usually very knowledgeable and can help you with your choice
  • Usually well packaged
    • Expect to pay around £10 postage and choose a delivery date (if you are like me, you will be excitedly waiting for the postman anyway and not likely to be out!!)
    • A good shop will provide heat packs during the winter – although I have had a package of shrimp survive being left outside the door on a frosty day with a failed heat pack – they were icy cold.
    • Good packaging is double bagged with a small amount of moss or something for the shrimp to cling to is often added – and the bags may be padded with polystyrene or similar to protect from banging around.
    • Double check whether all shrimp will be put in one bag – you might not want them interbreeding if they are to live in tanks just for their own type – and you never know what might happen during their transit!!
  • Don’t be afraid to buy through the post from a reputable place.
  • Accidents happen – maybe the parcel was kept next to something cold, maybe a heat pack failed, maybe the shrimp got too hot or were handled badly in the post? Sometimes accidents happen that is out of the control of the seller.
    • A good dealer will have a policy on what to do to get a refund if your shrimp arrive dead (usually take a video or photo of the packaging intact clearly showing shrimp that are dead – so they can determine if they really did arrive dead or died because of how you opened the bag for example)
    • You usually have to tell the store within so many hours of them arriving or within the first day – so read the details and don’t just dive in, open the bags and realise you can’t claim if you see any dead.
    • Order shrimp in smaller quantities – if you spend hundreds of pounds for one shipment – and that shipment goes wrong or there is a problem you can’t prove was the postal service, you could lose a lot of money.

Personally, I buy from Sharnbrook Shrimp most of the time, I’ve never had any dead shrimp on arrival and the quality of shrimp has been excellent. I’ve used a few other places for things they haven’t stocked and never had any dead shrimp or nerites arrive or problems with my on-line orders.

Shrimp / fry net box – my thoughts.


So I wanted to catch my shrimp, and hold them in one place whilst I did the new tank (and have a holding place to breed shrimp separate from the main tank inhabitants).  This was £3 (16x13x12cm) from eBay and when assembled was pretty good for the price. The net was fine and easily went around the frame and it hung on my tank fine. I liked how easy it was to assemble, felt study enough, and you could take off the bag to wash it out.

However, what I didn’t realise was that the shrimp could get stuck between the net and the frame – you know how they are so curious they crawl around anything. So when I thought the were all out of the net – they were hiding under it (and at this point out of the tank and about to be stored away in my cupboard!). Shrimp crawled between the grooves of the frame and wouldn’t come out without a lot of hassle.

So, I think for large adults, it would be ok as a mating box, but smaller shrimp, they can easily trap themselves or wedge themselves out of view.

It is a good little basket for growing out moss – put in a little from a new plant, and it can grow to the amount you need for a project without escaping – so thumbs up for plants, thumbs down for shrimp.

Glue for aquascaping – best thing ever

DUPLA_PLANT_FIX_LIQUID Glue is my best friend. The hours I spent with fishing line, aquarium/aquascaping nylon, hair nets, plastic grids etc, trying to get the darn plants and moss to stay where I wanted … ah ha…. not any longer. This time I glued them on and it was much less stressful, very quick and …. well a no brainer to do it any other way.

What I used: I used Duple Plant Fix Liquid. It’s basically a gel type of superglue and costs around £16-25 depending from where you get it from (It is generally imported from Europe and not usually stocked in shops where I live).   It comes in a metal tube which is easy to squeeze and control with a fin tip nozzle. The glue lasts about 6 months from opening. It will glue your fingers together somewhat – but you can’t really use it for aquascaping without getting it on your fingers.

IMG_6106 How I used it: First up, my Anubias (a plant with rhizomes that needs the main root to be above the soil) was glued onto a piece of stone – just a few dabs, hold in place, press, unglue fingers, and easy as that. Fixed.

Next up was the moss. I wanted to glue it onto a stone and the the ends of some twigs to make some trees. So I smeared the gel all over the top of the twig (pre soaked and gently patted dry with kitchen paper), grabbed a bunch of damp moss and pinched it onto the twig. Water oozed out, some bits broke off. It was a bit messy as some moss then got stuck to my fingers and they looked more like a tree than the twig. However, most of it stayed on – and I just kept adding it until it looked good. I then glued the tree onto a stone – holding it in the glue gel for about 10 seconds. Job done. I placed each item in a bowl of tank water to keep the moss wet.

Result: I am super pleased with how easy this was and I’m never trying to use thread again to hold down moss. At first the glue goes bright white when placed in the water – but as the moss grows, you can’t see it. I can’t see any glue on the Anubias root – it just look like it magically holds.

Other glue: The active ingredient in the gel is: Cyano Acrylate which hardens under water.


Instructions: Available in pdf from their web site and in the box.

Using Dragonstone Rock 

Dragonstone (also known as Ohko stone or Honeycomb rock) looks great but, as I discovered, needs to be prepared for a tank.

It’s a beautiful rock that is said to resemble dragon scales – orange, brown and yellow with hints of bluey grey in places. The rock has many pits and holes that remind me of Swiss cheese!

It doesn’t affect pH but may break down over time.

This is my rock after hours of cleaning which I’ve detailed below. 


The rock arrived in a large block. It easily shatters into smaller pieces . My first attempt involved throwing it onto the ground! Second time around I used a chisel for a flatter break.

It will probably arrive ‘dirty’ and needs to be cleaned. Prepare to get dirty!


Next I soaked it overnight in water. Imagine the hard rock is the skeleton and soft clay fills all the holes so you see what appears to be a block of rock without the deep pits and holes.

With a toothpick or similar, you need to scratch at the rock to remove the chalky clay filling. It feels like unearthing dinosaur fossils!

This is the colour my water turned on its first dunk after soaking! The stone looks good after being picked at.


Picking away all the crumbly soft clay parts of the rock.


Sometimes the rock fractures or is so soft you can poke right through it with no pressure at all.

It took three bowls of water to rinse it well. 

On the plus side it is a great natural cave for shrimp and for anchoring moss. It’s also light weight.

On the down side it took 2 hrs to prepare and crumbles easily.

Handy conversions for Nano tanks

The number of times I forget how US gallons translate into litres or dosages of things. So I’m noting it here.

1 US gallon = 3.78 Litres or

1 Litre is 0.26 US gallons.

Popular UK Nano tank sizes:

10 Litre =  2.64 US gal = 2.19 Imperial gal

20 Litre = 5.28 US gal = 4.30 Imperial gal

25 Litre = 6.6 US gal = 5.49 Imperial gal

30 Litre = 7.92 US gal = 6.59 Imperial gal

For my 30 L tank …. (20 L of water to treat)

* remember, dosages are for the WATER volume – not tank volume so it’s bit of a guess as to how much room all the wood/plants and substrate take up. Also I have an external filter and cooler which will hold an amount of water. I’m going for 20 litres.

Fenbendazole – 0.1 g per 10 US gallon, 0.1g per 37.8 Litres of tank water (10 US gallons), 0.05 g per 20 Litre

[ 0.1 / 37.8 ] x 20 to treat for worms  / planar / hydra

Malefix by API = 5ml per 10 US gallon, 2.6 ml per 20 Litre of tank water,

[ 5 / 37.8 ] x 20 = 2.6 ml for  antibacterial, fungus and cracks.

Paraguard by Seachem = 5ml per 40 L,

[5 / 40 ] x 20 = 2.5 ml per 20 L of water to treat external fungus/bacteria and viruses

1ppm = 1mg /litre


Water Hardness Degrees and PPM

The concentration of calcium and magnesium and other ions in the water. Measured in degrees. 1 degree = 17.9mg/l

The symbol for degrees hardness is dH

4-8 dH = very soft water

12-18 dH = fairly hard water.

  • In parts per million (ppm) this is:

4ppm = 4 mg/l  =  4 ml/l

20 degrees =  20×17.9 = 358 ppm

6 degrees = 6×17.9 = 107.4 ppm

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